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Meet Helen Tawes and Dawn Lindsay

History months — whether February for Black History or March for Women’s History — strike me as being as much about the march into the future as the march from the past.
    That’s my excuse for commemorating Women’s History Month in our pages as March 2014 marches into history.
    I don’t know about you, but I find it easier to relate to the people of the here and now than people in the past. The great thing about my job is that it brings me into touch with so many real people. Each one has a story that opens a window on history, and I get to hear those stories. Sometimes I ask, for that’s my job, but just as often stories that want to be told come seeking me out. If I’ve heard your story, I remember it, and I cherish it.
    For this Women’s History issue, I sought Dawn
Lindsay, president of Anne Arundel Community College. I hadn’t met her and was curious to, as I’d interviewed Lindsay’s predecessor, Martha Smith.
    Part of the lure is that college president is not an accidental job. It’s a choice — as Lindsay will tell you in her own words, as you read our interview. Women of deliberate and notable achievement have prominence in Women’s History Month, whose point is the achievements we’ve made, often against the odds. The odds in their favor are why men, at least white men, don’t get a special history month: History was written about them.
    Just as much, however, I wanted to talk to Lindsay because I liked the flash in her smile as I’d seen it in pictures. She looked friendly, as she indeed seemed in our hour and a half together, where her energy filled the room. She also looks pretty womanly for a college president, attractive, fashionable and a center of interest in the we-can-have-it-all style pioneered by Michelle Obama.
    I had a serious subject, as well: jobs and living wages — the two big national issues of this decade, in my book — and the role community colleges play in helping people get there. That’s a story dear to my heart and one I know a bit of first-hand, as I began my career teaching writing in a community college.
    Still, it was the person I wanted to meet. The stories of women in the here and now, like Lindsay, are the bridge that makes me able to travel back in time to appreciate the stories of women who’ve been making history all these centuries. Living women give those in history back their vitality, showing them as people beyond their causes.
    Anne Arundel, our county namesake, became a wife at 13 and gave birth to nine children before her death at the age of 34. Her marriage to Cecil Calvert, our colony’s founder, made her name live on. The obligations of her short life make her story poignant, especially to women.
    Helen Avalynne Gibson Tawes, who you’ll meet
in these pages, also earned her fame through marriage, hers to a governor of Maryland rather than a colony proprietor. But her abilities, including in the kitchen, where writer Emily Mitchell introduces her playing politics, make us wish we knew more of her.
    My point is simple: Women stay women, complexly human, no matter what their achievements. That’s how I like to know them. Nowadays we’ve got a college president named Dawn. That’s quite an achievement.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

I went 1,000 miles for this catch

By the time I got the 20-pound-class rod out of its holder, our mate was urging me to reel and reel fast. A fish had just taken a live herring bait, throwing lots of slack into the line. Winding madly, I eventually felt some tension. When the line came tight, I set the hook hard. That might have been a mistake.
    My rod jerked down, and the spool blurred as something strong tore out line against a firmly set drag. The centrifugal force created by the whirling spool threw out a wet mist dense enough to cloud my sunglasses. Some 150 yards away, an iridescent royal blue and silver missile launched out across the water’s surface. Voices behind me yelled sailfish, sailfish!
    I could do little but watch my line disappear. Large ocean swells generated by stiff overnight winds rocked our 42-foot sportfisherman, and I wedged my feet into the deck and leaned into the gunnels for stability. It was a sunny 80-degree morning and we were already having an awesome day.

Miami, Yes!
    Florida in March has some great angling. The weather can be wet and windy, but temperatures are in the 80s.
    My oldest son and I were on the first day of a week-long adventure exploring Miami waters. This was our first stop, blue-water action for billfish and dolphinfish.
    We and another father-son team, Allen and Chris Young, had chartered a day with Captain Jim Thomas and his brother Rick on their classic 42-foot sportfisherman, the Thomas Flyer out of Bayside Marina in the heart of Miami.
    The Gulf Stream — that incredibly fertile warm ocean current that runs north from the Gulf of Mexico up along the Atlantic coast all the way to Newfoundland and then to Europe — comes within two miles of the Miami coast. With it comes one of the greatest densities of pelagic (off-shore, surface-dwelling) game fish in the world.

Back to That Sailfish    
    It took more than 20 minutes to persuade my sailfish to the side of the boat. Wrapping the leader in his gloved hand, Rick leaned over the side and planted a tag in the fish alongside its large, graceful fin, then clipped the line close to the hook. With a sweep of its scimitar tail, the handsome fish vanished back into the deep blue.
    That was the third sailfish of the day, with more to come including one big fella of over 60 pounds that had Allen down to bare spool twice before we chased it down. The smallest that day was maybe 40 pounds.
    Interspersed with the sailfish were schools of hungry dolphinfish (mahi mahi) to 15 pounds.
    With a final tally of some five sails, all tagged and released, and almost two dozen delicious mahi marked for some serious dinner parties, we headed for the marina.
    Later that week my son and I would hook up with a Florida legend, guide and author Steve Kantner, who came out of semi-retirement to acquaint us with Florida’s springtime spinner shark run. Fishing 10- and 12-foot surf rods with our feet in the warm, sandy beach, we tangled with over a dozen of the 90- to 120-pounders in a long afternoon of excitement.
    The last day was spent stalking Miami’s freshwater canals for their famed peacock bass with longtime guide Alan Zaremba from his 17-foot Florida flats boat. The fish were in spawning mode and attacking anything that approached their nesting sites. Sight casting and pitching small jigs, we lost count of the numbers that we battled.
    Two days later, arriving back at home, mild 50-degree temperatures greeted us. But as we awaited our baggage, a weather broadcast warned of another snowstorm coming to Maryland.

As the sun perches over the equator, spring begins

Perhaps you’ll be at lunch Thursday at 12:57pm. Or maybe you’ll be busy at work or school. At that particular time, however, the sun shines directly above the equator. That morning it rises due east, and that evening it sets directly west. This is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring for the 90 percent of the world’s population living in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the first day of fall. Regardless of where you live, your day will be more or less split equally between daylight and night.
    More or less, because the earth is not a perfect sphere, it is tilted at a 231⁄2-degree angle, and its orbit around the sun is not a true circle. As a result of all this imperfection, our day of equal night and day along Chesapeake Bay was Monday, March 17. From now until the autumnal equinox in September, our days will boast more light than darkness, and our sunlit hours will continue to grow until summer solstice 13 weeks hence.
    The waning moon rises a little before midnight Thursday, with golden Saturn just two degrees ahead of it. As the two shift to the west, Saturn pulls farther away, but they are still within a binoculars’ field of view high in the south at 4am Friday. Early morning Saturday the moon is less than 10 degrees above Antares, the red-glowing heart of Scorpius, the celestial harbinger of spring. By Thursday the 27th, the thin crescent moon rises just 90 minutes before the sun and is accompanied by brilliant Venus less than three degrees below.
    Each year as Scorpius rises in the east, Orion sets in the west. At 9pm he is high in the southwest, but by midnight the hunter already has one foot beneath the horizon, and each night he marches farther from our view.
    So for one last time, Orion is the focus of this year’s Globe at Night Campaign, an international effort to involve ordinary sky-watchers like yourself in gauging the darkness of the night sky. This session runs from March 21st through the 30th. The data help determine the effects of light pollution. Thousands of observers from all over the world have already compared their own sightings to those on the supplied star charts and uploaded their findings to the group’s website: www.globeatnight.org. Now’s your chance to join the cause.

It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion

Based on the popular but story-bare video game series, Need for Speed follows racer and mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul: Breaking Bad). A small-town racer trying to keep his father’s auto shop afloat in a tough economy, Tobey scrapes by winning local street racing competitions. But his monetary problems need a long-term solution.
    Along comes Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper: Fleming), the small-town rich kid who made good. We know Dino is evil because he wears black and sneers at everybody.
    Dino challenges Tobey to a street race using supercars that aren’t street legal. When the race goes south, a friend is barbequed in a crash. Tobey tries to save his friend while Dino, who caused the accident, frames Tobey.
    After two years in prison, Tobey is back. How will he exact vengeance on the man who sent him to prison and caused a car wreck that killed his best friend? By racing him in another illegal street competition.
    Again, you don’t need to be smart to star in your own street-racing movie.
    Need for Speed is guilty of the cardinal action-movie sin: It’s boring. Races are dull, acting uninspired and story pathetic. It’s a failure on every possible level. Director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) has a terrible sense of editing, and his rapid cuts drag out action sequence into mind-numbing eternity.
    A toddler with a set of Matchbox cars could have devised a more complex, plausible and compelling story than writers George and John Gatins.
    Paul emerged from Breaking Bad as one of television’s most promising actors. Here, he gives a performance worthy of a thesaurus of pejorative descriptors. If this performance is indicative of what he’s capable of on the big screen, he had better go running back to LA before pilot season ends.
    You don’t buy a ticket for a movie titled Need for Speed expecting tight plotting or even amazing acting. At best, you’re paying to see some exciting car chases, flashy cars and attractive actors. This one stalls at the gate, delivering boring race footage, terrible acting and a cast who seem to be counting the seconds until Waugh calls cut and puts them out of their misery. Mine continued for two hours and 12 minutes.

Abysmal Action • PG-13 • 132 mins.

Fired by the kind of love that transcends reason and leaves you weak in the knees.

From the thunderclap of their meeting to their untimely deaths, the power of Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other resonates throughout the play, and throughout history.
    So promises Compass Rose Theater in program notes to the youthful production of William Shakespeare’s classic. Yet the thunderclap failed to sound at the play’s pre-opening pay-what-you-can matinee. Blame it on a delayed opening due to technical problems, non-traditional casting or inexperience. Whatever the reason, there was no passion. Passionate debate and sword fights, yes, but passionate kisses, alas, no.
     Seventeen-year-old Ely Pendry, a Compass Rose alum dating back three years to Lost in Yonkers, is the best Romeo I have ever seen. He is fired by the kind of love that transcends reason and leaves you weak in the knees.
    Fourteen-year-old Sydney Maloney as the child-bride Juliet, however, does not yet have the depth of understanding to transcend emotions beyond coquetry, fear and tantrums. Similarly, this promising production feels immature. From the previous show’s recycled set to Friar John’s (Kyle Lynch) forgotten opening monologue and a conspicuous lack of equity players central to the theater’s mission, it left me unmoved. This despite many fine performances.
     In brief: Family tension is palpable from the opening clash in which the Prince of Verona (Brenna Horner) orders Romeo Montague’s father (Lynch) and Juliet Capulet’s father (Dan Reno) to rein in their feud. Romeo and his friends Benvolio (Shaina Higgins) and Mercutio (Emily Kaye Lynn) recklessly crash the Capulets’ party — and the lovers first meet.
    Juliet’s nurse (Renata Plecha), sympathetic in the extreme, arranges for the lovers’ secret marriage. Then Juliet’s kinsman Tybalt (Michael Robinson) kills Mercutio in a duel and is subsequently killed in like fashion by a reluctant Romeo who is banished from Verona, leaving Juliet inconsolable.
    Capulet and Lady Capulet (Maggie Robertson) arrange for her speedy betrothal to the haughty Count Paris (Matt Miller), an elder suitor whom she despises. Thus Friar Laurence (Thomas Hessenauer), who performed her wedding, arranges a fake death to buy time until Romeo can spirit her away from the crypt. Miscommunication results in their serial suicides.
     There is great action and acting in this show. The sword fighting is tight and treacherous. Lynn’s Mercutio sparkles with charisma and energy. Robinson’s Tybalt is a menacing hot head who commands attention. Plecha and Hessenauer bring the wisdom and compassion of age to their nurse and friar characters, and Reno demonstrates a mercurial temperament as Juliet’s father that well explains her fear of displeasing him.
    The period costumes are beautiful and tailored. Of the four women in pants roles — a reversal of the norm in Shakespeare’s time — only Lynn has the hairstyle to pull it off with aplomb, and the Prince looks strangely androgynous. Another disconcerting turn, which is probably accurate for the time and therefore a brilliant decision on the director’s part, is actors in their late 20s playing the parental roles. Do the math and be amazed. There is some music scattered throughout, but inconsistent in period and style.
     Despite the shortcomings, there is still much to enjoy in this blossoming production, not least Pendry and Lynn’s outstanding performances. As a professional show, it earns a B. But as a student project from an educational theater, it’s a real winner.

With Casey Baum as Romeo’s servant and Sydney Knoll as Juliet’s servant. Director: Lucinda Merry-Browne. Costumes: Julie Bays. Fight director: Casey Kaleba. Lights: Megan Lang. Sound: Kathleen Boidy. Set: Amy Kellet.
Playing thru April 20. Th 7pm, FSa 8pm (Sa April 12 & 19 also 2pm) Su 2pm at Compass Rose Theater, 49 Spa Rd., Annapolis. $35 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-980-6662; www.compassrosetheater.org.

To recover from cold weather and salt, your landscape needs TLC

It’s been a hard winter for plants as well as for us. Damage to landscapes reminds me of the winter of 1976-’77, when the Bay froze as far south as Norfolk. Compounding problems are the tons of salt and chemicals used on roads, sidewalks and driveways. On state highways alone, 480,000 tons of salt were spread this winter, more than double average usage over the past four years.
    Everywhere you look, you’ll see symptoms of winter injury to plants. The foliage of many ground cover plants such as liriope, pachysandra, St. John’s wort and creeping junipers is brown and brittle.  Many azaleas, Japanese hollies and camellias have dead branches, and many small flowering trees have broken branches from the weight of the snow and ice.
    Most of the ornamental plants used in landscaping are survivors. With patience and time, they will recover and resume growth come spring — providing their roots were not killed by low temperatures.
    Roots are not as cold-hardy as the aboveground stems and leaves. If the majority of the roots are growing in mulch as a result of over-mulching, it is highly possible that the roots died in killing temperatures of –4 degrees. If the majority of the roots were killed, the entire foliage of the affected plants will gradually turn brown as daily temperatures rise. The only solution is to wait and see. If half or more of the plant dies, it means replacing and avoiding future over-mulching.
    For injured ground cover, the best solution is to adjust the cutting height of your lawn mower to about three inches and mow the tops down so they won’t look so conspicuous. Most likely the roots of these ground covers have survived and the new growth will emerge form the crowns or rhizomes. Dead branches in juniper ground cover will have to be pruned away one dead branch at a time. Junipers are conifers and cannot rejuvenate unless there are live green or gray-green needles firmly attached to the stems.  If the entire plant appears dead, then the only choice is to replace it.
    Dead branches on azaleas, rhododendrons and Japanese hollies need to be pruned back to a main stem or branch that is alive. If the entire stem is dead, cut it within a few inches of the ground. If the root system is alive, these plants can regenerate from the stumps on stems smaller than one inch in diameter.  Recovery will be slow, however, and it may be best to replace the plant.
    Do not try to bolt together broken branches on trees and large shrubs. This will only result in rot problems in the future because the sapwood has already been exposed to rot-causing organisms. Bolted together, they will rot from the inside out. Broken branches should be pruned to a healthy stem with the cut made perpendicular to the broken branch. Never make a flush cut with the stem. If the bark on the stem has been damaged, use a sharp knife or chisel to smooth the bark and exposed sapwood so as to promote the growth of callus tissue. Do not paint with tree-wound dressing.
    Damaged grass and plants along sidewalks or driveways may be dead. Do not fertilize as this will only contribute to the salt problem. The best solution is dilution. Spade a one-inch layer of peat moss with a dusting of limestone into the affected layer to dilute the salt concentration to a tolerable level. During the growing season, the sodium concentration will be further reduced by leaching.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Or two ... Or three.

The single best general-purpose fishing rod for Chesapeake perch is a six-foot-six-inch medium-power, medium-light-action spinning rod rated to cast one-eighth to one-half ounces of weight. Arm that with a light, good-quality spin reel that can carry approximately 100 to 125 yards of six-pound-test monofilament or an equal amount of eight- to 12-pound braid. That’s a great perch stick.
    This outfit can easily cast lip-hooked minnows or grass shrimp on a small shad dart suspended under a weighted bobber. This bobber and dart rig is right for the spring runs of both yellow and white perch. It’s also the traditional setup for most perch fishing in shallower Bay and tributary water the rest of the year.
    The tackle is likewise robust enough for deeper waters in the summer with a hi-lo rig with No. 2 or No. 4 hooks, a one-ounce sinker and blood worms, grass shrimp or — better yet — small pieces of peeler crab. Using the ultra-thin braided line to get deeper easier is the most productive technique in hot weather months when the fish are schooled in 15 to 30 feet of water throughout the Bay. In this deeper water, you’ll generally be fishing over shell bottom.
    That one setup will generally get the job done just about anywhere on the Chesapeake. Still, many dedicated perch anglers prefer very different tackle. One of my favorite outfits is designed for throwing small spinner baits around jetties and piers. It’s a short five-foot-four-inch extra-fast-action spin rod with an all-cork handle rather than a screw-type reel seat.
    The thick cork handle is especially comfortable to hold, even when wet, and the shorter rod allows me to shoot flat, underhand casts beneath docks and piers to reach the shaded areas that white perch love during the daytime.
    The setup is also ideal for working shoreline in the early morning when distinct shadows cast by overhanging trees tend to concentrate fish seeking shelter from the rising sun. In spring fishing on small creeks, the short rod also avoids overhead foliage and allows an angler to drop a bait precisely into very small openings.
    I fish strictly four-pound-test mono on this outfit for its stealth factor and the challenge of handling bigger fish. To tempt strikes, I rely on one-sixth- to one-quarter-ounce Super Rooster Tail spinner baits in Clown Coach Dog and Chartreuse Coach Dog colors. The short rod accentuates the stubborn fight perch give when the tackle is matched to their size. The extremely light setup makes an all-day casting marathon much easier on the arm.
    When I want to target citation-sized whities that hold on structure in the shallows starting in early June, I will often go to a seven-foot, light-action finesse casting rod with a Chronarch 50e reel spooled with 10-pound Super Slick Power Pro and a six-pound fluoro leader. With this rig, I can stand off at a distance to avoid spooking the older, smarter fish (a 12-inch perch is often 10 years old) and throw quarter-ounce Rat-L-Traps, Cordell Super Spots and No. 13 and even No. 14 Tony Accetta spoons.
    Larger perch like to key on bigger baitfish, such as young menhaden and yearling spot, so lipless crank baits like these and the Tony spoons are ideal imitations. The larger size of the lures also means you won’t waste a lot of time reeling in and releasing undersized perch because they can’t get the lure in their mouths.
    Coincidently, our Bay perch are a very under-rated fly-rod species. Try a four- to six-weight fly rod of from seven to nine feet, a floating line and throw a small Clouser Minnow in sizes 2 through 4 in just about any color, but especially chartreuse over white or olive over white. You can have a wonderful and productive day fishing the skinny water.
    Keeping a long-handled crab net on board during any of these sorties is a good idea. It’s perfect for scooping up any big perch that you hook. It also avoids the agony of losing a lunker trying to lift the fish into the boat with just the rod. It only takes the escape of one citation-sized fish to convince you of the value of this tip.
    White perch are the most numerous fish in the Bay, and Maryland anglers harvest more of them than any other species. They are superb on the table, and, if you use tackle matched to their size and strength, you can make each and every catch more memorable and a far richer sporting experience.

If it’s right, the EPA needs to hear from us

This week we celebrate Maryland Day.    
    It’s a great thing to live in a state that knows its past and keeps it alive in legend, song, story and opportunity.
    Our feature story, Time Out from the March of Time, guides you to dozens of ways to experience segments of Maryland’s 380-year history, right in the places where history lives on.
    We’re also a state that puts great thought into our future. Smart Growth, renewable energy, restoring the Chesapeake are all on our agenda.
    With such good intentions, detailed in so many plans and agreements, I’d like to think we were getting our future right.
    But every good idea has opposition that calls it bad.
    And every step forward is countered by steps back.
    What’s a person to believe?
    Often, knowing what to believe takes science, analysis and judgment beyond our reach.
    So we take the word of others, forming our beliefs on faith.
    When I make that kind of a leap, I feel safer when I follow link by link along a strong chain of reasoning.
    That’s how I felt reading the Citizens Bay Agreement.
    Even though the Citizens Agreement calls the EPA’s 2014 draft Chesapeake Bay Agreement “fundamentally flawed.”
    That’s a conclusion I’d rather not reach. Now that the EPA has the authority — conferred by the president — to set standards and sanctions for all of us in the Bay watershed, I want us to get it right.
    I was initially willing to consider the bad news of fundamental flaws because of my faith in the integrity and expertise of the environmental leaders making the claim. (Even if they are all men.)
    The executive council making the charge includes former Maryland senators and Bay champions Gerald Winegrad and Bernie Fowler; former governor Parris Glendening; former congressman Wayne Gilchrest; Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman; Bay scientist Walter Boynton; Bay chronicler Tom Horton; and Bay gadfly Howard Ernst.
    The guys also did their homework, analyzing not only what was in the draft but also what was not. Indeed, all the major problems seem to be omissions.
    “Together with other fatal flaws, the omissions of polluted runoff from farms and stormwater and the failure to even mention the major threat of population growth and sprawling development, sadly makes the current draft a nothingburger,” said Winegrad.
    The Bay Agreement a nothingburger?
    It’s pretty easy to pick holes. We editors do it all the time. The rest of the job is coming up with fixes.
    The Citizens Plan proposed by this executive council and seeking signatures of readers like you and me proposes a 25-step action plan. The steps are grouped in six categories based on the EPA’s alleged omissions: 1. Significantly reduce farm runoff. 2. Control development. 3. ­Protect forests / Plant trees. 4. Upgrade septic systems. 5. Clean air. 6. Improve wastewater treatment plants.
    Will it make as much sense to you as it does to me? You won’t know till you read it: www.bayactionplan.com.
    I hope you’ll add that intellectual investment in our shared future to your celebration of Maryland Day. The Citizens Plan is brief enough to leave you plenty of time to go out and enjoy Maryland Day fun this weekend, when the weather forecast is good. It’s deep enough that it will give you plenty to think about whatever the weather.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

On lawn and garden; never in the compost pile

If you’re burning wood, you get ashes. A reader asked if he could dump his ashes in the compost pile. My answer was a resounding no.
    Wood ashes are basic in nature and contain high levels of oxides, making them very reactive in raising the pH. Composting systems perform at their best when the feedstocks — those materials that are undergoing decomposition — are slightly acid. So adding wood ashes to an active composting pile will delay and/or stop the composting process.
    Store wood ashes in covered metal containers and keep them dry. They should never be stored in an open container where they can absorb water. I can remember watching my grandmother pour dishwater over a bed of wood ashes to extract a lye solution she used to make lye-soap. (Remember the song “Grandma’s Lye Soap”?) I can also remember the strainer she used becoming very hot after the lye water had drained away.
    Wood ashes are best applied directly on the garden or on the lawn. Ashes must be cool and dry when they are applied. Ashes spread in a garden and covered with dry leaves can start fires. I know because I’ve seen it happen.
    When applying ashes on lawns with a fertilizer spreader, first screen them through a half-inch screen to remove pieces of charred or raw wood. Directly from the container, they should be spread as uniformly as possible; use a lawn rake to spread them around to avoid creating hot spots that can kill the roots of the grass. Spread the ashes on a calm day, avoid inhaling the dust and wear safety goggles to avoid eye contact.
    In general, I recommend spreading a five-gallon pail of wood ashes over 100 to 200 square feet, especially on lawns. Higher levels can be applied on garden soils that are to be rototilled.
    Wood ashes are a tremendous source of calcium, potassium and some phosphorus as well as essential trace elements. If you are using wood ashes to maintain the pH of your lawn or garden, have your soil tested to avoid excessive high soil pHs and to assure that your soils contain adequate amounts of magnesium (Mg). Wood ashes tend to be almost free of magnesium, which is essential for the manufacturing of chlorophyll in plants.
    Save some of your wood ashes to spread around the zucchini plants this summer to help in controlling the stem borer. Before the zucchini plant starts spreading, apply a thin layer about two-feet wide around each plant. It will not provide 100 percent protection, but it does reduce infections.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

St. Patrick’s Day Greening

The saint’s day gives us the first green of the year — plus an Old Country lesson in sustainability

With spring one more tantalizing week away, we’re grasping at straws that bespeak the awaited season.
    Meteorological winter is over and temperatures rising, sometimes imperceptibly, but inevitably until July, our hottest month, has us wishing for a trip to last winter’s icehouse. Peepers and their amphibian brethren are singing, as you know or will on reading this week’s Creature Feature. Crocuses are blooming, at least in some sunny yards. Daffodils are rising, their leaves now standing four to six inches above ground.
    Yet on the doorstep of spring, we stand amid winter’s detritus. Salt’s gray pall is everywhere. Roads are scraped and potholed. Roadsides are pocked with litter. Lawns are muddy and leaf-packed. Half your landscaping is dead, done in by salt and cold. Green is a good raking and a few sunny days off.
    In between, St. Patrick’s Day gives us a welcome touch of greening.
    No wonder so much of America goes crazy over this celebration. St. Patrick’s Day is Mardi Gras for Celts and Anglo-Saxons, the first excuse for revelry since New Year’s Eve. Coming out of the season of deprivation calls for a fit of wildness, and both feasts do that, with drink and food and excess.
    Comparing feasts, St. Patrick’s Day has the advantage. Mardi Gras introduces six more weeks of deprivation for Christians observing Lent, while the Irish holiday has been so secularized in America as to avoid the obligations of fasting and abstinence. It’s also easier to remember. Everybody knows St. Patrick’s Day is March 17.
    Until we reidentify as Bayou Weekly, St. Patrick’s Day is how we enter spring.
    This year we’ve taken that celebration to extreme. By way of Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore, we’ve not only claimed Irish roots for all of Maryland but also followed them back to the Old Country.
    This week’s feature, A St. Patrick’s Day Visit from Southern Maryland to Southern Ireland, depicts the Greening of the Emerald Isle. It’s not spring I’m writing about, nor Irishmen and women decked out in green for their saint’s day, for they don’t. My subject is Ireland’s emergence as a world leader in sustainability. Its greening began long before the economic crash of the last decade, when the Irish Tiger lost its roar. But that turn-around expanded the island nation’s determination to build on its roots.
    Roots tourism is a major sector of the economy, with an annual influx of visitors larger than the Irish population of 6.4 million enriching the nation by 5 billion Euros. Irish descendants who travel to the Old County to discover their roots find them quite lively. They’ll see Irish printed alongside English in public notices. They’ll eat very well from an Irish table fully cultivated from local seed to local sheep.
    Foraging was a strategy of sustenance for all our Irish ancestors but the richest. Now it’s a revival art. Foraging with celebrity roots chef Darina Allen was the centerpiece of my trip. After my class of about three dozen foragers gathered weeds and wildflowers, seaweed and wild shellfish, Allen prepared a feast. Stinging nettles roasted on a white pizza … sweet Cecily sweetening a rhubarb compote … chickweed, cress, dandelion, sorrel, wildflowers and wild garlic tossed in a salad with smoked salmon … more salmon with horseradish cream, scraped from a freshly dug root.
    The French, whose language gives us Mardi Gras, call it terroir. The English equivalent I learn in Ireland is the grounded table. It’s a nice image, the table spread in green with legs rooted in the earth like potatoes or beets. It’s also a concept strong to hold a sustainable economy.
    Travel with me by story to see what I saw in the environs of Ireland’s Baltimore — including a glimpse into the future of sustainable energy.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com