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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

What to do when skunks move into the neighborhood

We’re a little worried about our new neighbors. They’re a well-dressed couple, but their reputation precedes them — malodorously.
    Skunks are more often smelled than seen. Now that we’re seeing them, can smelling them be far behind?
    Not necessarily, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It costs a skunk a lot of energy to spray a load of musk at you or your dog. That’s energy they’d rather preserve, especially this time of year when they’re fattening up for lean months ahead.
    Food is the most likely reason skunks are checking out the neighborhood. They’re omnivorous, glad to feast on mice, voles, your trash or the veggies growing in your garden.
    Except for their legendary spray, skunks are defenseless. With a full pouch of musk a week in the making, a cornered skunk wants only to escape. Encountered, it will try to run away. Next, it will try to warn you off by stomping its front paws. If that doesn’t work, it will turn around, lift its tail and spray.
    Though not 100 percent effective, Neutroleum Alpha works way better than smearing yourself with peanut butter or tomato juice:
1 quart fresh three percent hydrogen peroxide
1⁄4 cup baking soda
1 tsp dish soap as a degreasing agent
    Mix in large open container. While the solution bubbles, use it to thoroughly wash skin or fur. Then wash with soap and water.
    Better is to discourage skunks from moving into the neighborhood by securing your trash. Try placing ammonia-soaked rags in places that attract them.
    A final resort is hiring a trapper. You’ll pay for the service, and caught skunks will be euthanized under Maryland’s rabies vector law. Though they are seldom rabid, they rank as one of four main species that can carry the disease.


Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Nuisance Hotline: 877-463-6497.

Why your vote matters

To a lot of us, Election Day means no more than Push-the-Peanut Day.
    A record low of 21 percent of Marylanders voted in June’s Primary Election. General Elections about double that percent.
    That indifference I don’t quite get, for I love to vote. Election Day is as patriotic a date to me as the Fourth of July. True, punching my ballot, even for the candidates I most believe in, isn’t as much fun as parades and fireworks. But I feel pretty special exercising the right won for me not only by spunky rebels in britches but also by long-skirted Suffragettes. My grandmother marched so I can vote.
    Patriotism is one reason I vote — but not the only one.
    I vote because the people we elect have huge influence over our lives, for better or worse, and I’d prefer it be for the better. From statewide candidates like governor to local ones like North Beach mayor and city council, they’ll be making and enforcing the rules we have to live by.
    For that reason, Election Day amounts to more than peanuts for all of us.
    We give particular power to the people we elect to the General Assembly. They infiltrate our lives in all sorts of ways, even putting their hands in our pockets as they dictate the taxes we pay. In turn, we depend on them to give us value for those taxes.
    Interestingly, for most of us who live in this part of Chesapeake County, delegates are also the people we can hold most accountable to represent us. It’s a simple fact of numbers. Anne Arundel County’s half a million citizens are represented by only seven council people. (Annapolitans and citizens of tiny Highland Beach do better; incorporated as towns, they elect mayors and councils). Delegates, on the other hand, are broadly accountable to only about 40,000 of us. Given the number of citizens who develop the relationship, it can be pretty intimate.
    That same close relationship holds in Calvert, though that county’s form of government also gives its 91,000 citizens five commissioners to represent countywide interests. Citizens of the towns of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach have local representation, as well.
    In this week’s issue, you’ll be meeting many of the people seeking control over and responsibility for your life.
    We reached out to Anne Arundel and Calvert’s applicants for top state jobs — senator and delegate — in the General Assembly. Twenty-eight replied.
    We asked one question: How do you use the Bay, and what will you do to keep this great resource alive and well?
    Our readers, we told them, value the Chesapeake as our environmental, cultural and economic heart — and they vote their values.
    Candidates who answered our question seem to agree. From tax-overboard tea partiers to tax-and-spend liberals, they professed dedication to the Chesapeake and its restoration. Over Bay Weekly’s 21 years, Bay restoration has risen to orthodoxy.
    Over the years, the General Assembly has voted Bay values in hundreds of ways huge and small, by reducing the polluting flow of nutrients, both nitrogen and phosphate, from our sinks and toilets, water purification plants and septic systems, farm fields and yards, roof tops, roads and parking lots. That work takes money, and they’ve often made hard decision on where the money will come from.
    Will the people we elect this time do even more, as Bay restoration demands? They all say so, and they all sound good. So how can you foresee the actions that will follow the words?
    Look for specifics, and be wary of candidates who suggest that Bay problems are somebody else’s fault. Bay restoration is a job for which we each have first-person-singular responsibility.
    This feature gives you grounds to judge the Bay bona fides of job seekers whose prospects depend on you — and more.
    You’ll also meet these candidates as people seeking your trust. It’s harder to tar all politicians as scoundrels — harder to use that I-don’t-vote excuse — when you get closer to them as individuals.
    Read on, and I promise you will.
    I’m looking forward to November 4, when I’ll wear my i voted sticker as proudly as others wear their American flag lapel pins.
    I hope you’ll join me at the polls on Election Day.
    Or, if it’s more convenient, vote early. Early voting runs eight days, from Thursday, October 23 through Thursday, October 30, both weekdays and weekends, from 10am until 8pm. (Find early voting at www.elections.state.md.us/voting/early_voting_sites.html.)

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

Keep him in the lab and out of my kitchen!

Call him Drosophila melanogaster in the lab, where a century ago the fast-breeding creature helped scientists understand chromosomes and set out mapping genes.
    At home he’s the common fruit fly, aka the vinegar fly.
    Each autumn the tiny winged pests arrive in your kitchen. There they swarm, hovering intrusively over edibles you’d rather they had no part of. From the bowl of fruit to the compost container even to the fridge, they are with us. The tiny pests enter through open doors, windows, even screen mesh. Inside, they multiply.
    They’re here to stay until the frost, unless you take measures against them.
    Though they’re glad to drown in your glass of wine, the better trap is a paper funnel directing them into — but not out of — a bottle or jar baited with an ounce of wine or vinegar. If that doesn’t work, visit your hardware store for disposable fruit fly traps baited with nontoxic lures the flies like even better than your apples.

Temptation awaits at the Boat Show

We Americans love progress. We love to see how technology is surpassing all past inventions to create a new, better and brighter future. Even more than seeing it, we love hands-on exploration. Invite us to put our best foot forward and step right in, and here we come.
    No wonder we’re drawn like magnets by the U.S. Boat Shows — which for two weeks every October transform Annapolis into a world’s fair of marine technology.
    We not only see what’s new but touch it. We not only touch it but step aboard. We not only step aboard but sink into the cushions, inspect the engine, open the cupboards and even measure the comfort of the head. These boat shows are full sensory experiences.
    To the Sailboat Show last week or the Powerboat Show this Thursday through Sunday, we go hungry.
    With everything new under the sun before us, what we’ve already got pales. The millionaire owner of the Hinckley Talaria 43 will be eying the 52-foot upgrade this week.
    Every one of us who exchanges $18 for the wristband that allows passage into this expo will be in the same no-longer-quite-satisfactory boat. We’ll be checking out the next step up. Exhibitors feed our desire, typically offering a range of models in every brand so we can dream bigger.
    The fisherman committed to Parkers will find six models, ranging from 18 feet to 33. Not to be outdone, Grady White offers five fishing boats, from 23 to 33 feet. Prefer Sea Hunts? Six boats are coming to the show, from 19 to 25 feet.
    The stages of temptation are even worse for yachters: Beneteaus from 44 to 51 feet; Jeanneaus from 40 to 58 feet; Princess yachts from 46 to 72.
    Speed lovers will find eight Formulas, from 38 to 48 feet. Tug lovers who want to cruise through life’s waters encounter just as much temptation. From a 33-plus-foot Nordic starter tug, you can upgrade your cruising home to 39 or even 44 feet.
    Is a Nordic still your love boat? With brands strung out on floating docks for easy comparison, you’ll see the Nordic stacks up to American Tug and the Rangers. Maybe you’ll fall in love all over again.
    This show lures us to better as well as bigger. Bayliners are fine; SeaRays finer. Wouldn’t a Back Cove be more commodious than your Albin? Wouldn’t a Saber be better still?
    If you count covetousness a sin, the confessional had better be your next stop after the U.S. Boat Show.
    I’ll be sinning in all these occasions. But what I’m really looking for is the boat that calls me out of my ­pretty-good present into a bigger, better, bright future that’s beyond my imagining.
    A couple of years back, the Eco Trawler 33 nearly reeled me in; husband Bill had to take the checkbook out of my hand and lead me away.
    That boat’s back. Will I feel the same this year? I can’t wait to see.
    A rational decision-maker like Bob Melamud, who previews the Powerboat Show for you in this week’s paper, can enter these gates alone. He knows what he wants — luckily for him it isn’t a boat — and what he’s willing to pay.
    Me? I don’t dare go alone. If you’re impulsive, you had better not either.
    No matter who you are, I bet you leave the show with at least one wonder of technology, one hallmark of progress.
    Maybe you won’t be cruising home when the show ends Sunday in the boat of your dreams. But just maybe this weekend you’ll buy that smart fish finder that’s sure to improve your catch. Or the perfect mop you’ve been seeking all these years. Or the boat wax guaranteed to shine through a whole season.
    If you walk out empty handed, I want to know how you did it. If you don’t, I want to know what you bought. Send me your boat show experiences at editor@bayweekly.com.

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

It brings us boat shows for one; holds back flooding for another

Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Boat Shows flood the economy of Chesapeake Country with $50 million. In Annapolis, the shows create an autumnal wetland of value, invigorating much of the local economy. From Annapolis, the dollars flow outward in many rivulets to the boating world.
    Chesapeake Bay has brought the shows to Annapolis for four decades.
    The recreational dollars generated by these shows are one small part of the wealth the Bay brings us, which amounts to $107.2 billion annually, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Clean up the Bay, and the value will rise to $130 billion every year. That’s the conclusion of The Economic Benefits of Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, a “first-ever analysis” just released by CBF.
    All six Bay states, plus the District of Columbia, share in the bounty.
    Just how is that figured?
    It’s pretty deep economics. But basically, seven land uses — from forest to open water to agriculture — were first assigned baseline values of ecosystem health and productivity. Baseline figures were calculated and compared according to what we citizens choose — or don’t choose — to do to take care of Chesapeake Country waters and lands.
    The billions in benefits come to us in many forms, including agricultural and seafood production, recreation, property values, air and water filtration and protection from floods and hurricanes.
    Invest the $5 or $6 billion the big cleanup will cost Bay wide, and economic benefits soar to that big $130 billion figure.
    Make excuses for doing little or nothing, and the Bay gives us less in return. Received annual value drops from the 2009 baseline of $107.2 billion down to $101 billion.
    Billions are pretty hard to grasp. What those billions mean for us, our kids and our grandchildren are real economic benefits such as higher housing values and more productive soil and land.
    Drinking water is another real value, especially as water scarcity becomes an issue for the world, from California across the Southwest and on to drying wells in Chesapeake Country. Three-quarters of the 17 million people in the Bay watershed drink surface water, with many straws sucking from the Potomac.
    Short-term thinkers are trying to convince you that Bay restoration is a bottomless pit of spending and regulation.
    It’s true that cleaning up the Bay is a big and expensive job that demands each of us to do and pay our share.
    But it’s a job with big dividends.
    In our neck of the woods, a cleaner Bay translates directly into dollars-and-cents value.
    Take the tourists drawn by the Chesapeake, for example. Tourists — many arriving right now for this month’s boat shows — spent an eye-popping $58 billion in 2009. That money fed the economies of waterfront communities up and down the Bay and is distributed “among diverse industries, individuals and communities” throughout the watershed.
    Take flood control for another. High-tide floods may triple in 15 years and increase ten-fold in 30 years in many coastal towns, according to another report, this one just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The study stretched from Texas to Maine. In Atlantic Coast communities, increases in flooding are expected to be “pervasive.”
    In Annapolis, 2030 could bring 180 tidal floods a year. 2045 could bring 360 floods a year, 50 of them extensive. “Without substantial measures to defend against rising seas … parts of Annapolis could never be dry again.”
    The may in the Concerned Scientists’ study depends on what we do — or don’t do.
    That’s one more reason for us to stop complaining and get to work.
    The Bay Foundation study proves for the first time and without a doubt that Chesapeake restoration is far more than a government excuse to take your money and wrap you in red tape. It’s a vital economic issue for all of us in Chesapeake Country.

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

Scientists succeed in gene sequencing the nasty pests

The first one broke in on August 29. Throughout September, every warm, sunny day brought more. Wiggling though cracks a fraction of their size, smearing windows, crawling up walls, hibernating in curtains, under cushions, behind pictures and among magazines. As humans and dogs basked outdoors on the last Saturday in September, a persistent hailstorm of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs pinged house, windows and doors.
    Nothing stops them but the suction of a vacuum cleaner or Bugzooka. So armed, we’ll catch hundreds. But many more will live among us until they swarm again to leave in spring.
    “Few treatments deter Halyomorpha halys, the damage it causes or its ability to spread,” say investigators at the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
    “Growers consider the invasive stink bug to be the single most important pest in the mid-Atlantic region, and they have tried desperate measures, including the increasing use of broad-spectrum pesticides to control the problem.”
    They’re so pesky that Dr. Francis Gouin, the Bay Gardener, cut down his peach orchard rather than war with stink bugs over the fruit.
    Those bugs are pretty smart, but humans ought to be smarter.
    So University of Maryland geneticists and entomologists have devised a new strategy to quickly sequence the bugs’ genes. Their findings, they say, “could lead to new ways to control this abundant and costly pest.”
    The Maryland scientists developed a way to skip the time-consuming first step of breeding genetically identical individual animals in the laboratory. Instead, they managed to sequence and analyze all of the genetic variants that arose in their population of stink bugs, and to do so at all points in the insects’ life cycles, from the egg stage through late adulthood.
    “This is the first step in our ongoing work to develop a pest control strategy that employs molecular genetic techniques to manage the stink bug invasion without affecting other, potentially beneficial insects,”
says Prof. Leslie Pick, chair of the University of Maryland Entomology Department, who guided the research.

Here’s the help you need to tackle fall’s long must-do list

There is so much to do!    
    That’s the fact that hits me on stepping out of my car at day’s end.
    I’ve just pecked at the landscape transformation plan I began, with professional advice, last spring — though I’ve been at it ever since.
    The Bay Gardener’s prescription for lawn renovation is tacked on my garden bulletin board from our 2013 Fall Home and Garden Guide — still waiting to be followed.
    In the vegetable beds, tomato plants are a shambles with late fruit still ripening. Soon, it will be time to follow Dr. Gouin’s advice in this year’s Guide and plant a cover crop of rye plus some beds of garlic and short-day onions. Among the fading perennials, pansies need planting and sweet William seeding.
    Out in back, those azaleas need digging up, soil replenishing and on their return sparkleberry holly and blueberries for company. Up the hill, another holly — a big one — needs moving.
    Oh and all that brickwork I’m imagining …
    That entire inventory announces itself before I get to the front door, which wants replacing. Just as my wood siding needs painting … my windows washing … and, worst of all, my basement waterproofing from the inside out.
    Inside, I’ll see more walls in need of fresh paint. My kitchen I must enter in sunglasses, lest I see counters that need replacing, which opens the door of desire to new cupboards …
    As night falls, autumn’s chill reminds me of more serious issues than these cosmetics: Chimney sweeping, weather stripping, insulating, heating-system checking.
    So much to do!
    Fall, like spring, is time for taking stock. Once I’ve taken stock, I’m so overwhelmed that my only thought is to head out to Second Wind Consignments for the fainting couch I’ve been admiring.
    What I need even more is expert help — and lots of muscle.
    I know where to get both. In the early copy of this year’s Fall Home & Garden Guide, I’ve met the experts. Now you will, too.
    This year’s annual Guide, like its spring partner, showcases the products and services of the advertisers who bring you Bay Weekly. Most weeks you get to know them through their ads. This week, they also speak to you directly, explaining how their work meshes with your inventory of must-dos.
    If you’re like me, you need their help. To get it, all you have to do is call. And, please, say you found them in Bay Weekly.

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

Southern migration underway

Say good-bye to an osprey — if you can find one. My neighborhood nests are all empty and their eerie whistle waded into memory.
    Beginning in mid-August, the fish hawks left their summer homes all along the Eastern seaboard for winter grounds in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
    Where osprey go we know from the work of osprey followers like Rob Bierregaard, who has tagged with transmitters birds all along the coast.
    Migration of his tagged birds began on August 14, one day short of the earliest migration date.
    Snowy, the first to head south, “was a bird on a mission,” Bierregaard writes. “She arrived back at her wintering area in northern Cuba just eight days after she left her staging area in Long Island.”
    Not all migrating osprey make a beeline. Many circle and dally for weeks at good fishing grounds.
    Doing things “the normal way” was Crabby, a young female osprey tagged by Bierregaard.
    “From Kent Island in Chesapeake Bay, she started south on August 25 at 10:55am,” he wrote. “She spent her first night at Kerr Lake on the Virginia-North Carolina border. Next stop was the Congaree Swamp just north of Lake Marion in South Carolina. She blew through Georgia and spent the night of the 28th in northern Florida and made it to the Everglades in southern Florida on the 29th.
    “That was the last we’ve heard from her, but this is pretty typical of our cell-tower birds. From here on, they can make it to South America without being near a cell tower (the only way we hear from them). We’ve had birds that we last heard from on the eastern coast of the U.S. in the fall only to have them show up again the next spring. But we’ve also had a remarkable number of cell-tower birds find towers in Haiti and down deep in South America.”
    Learn about migrating osprey and follow the migration at www.ospreytrax.com.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival has more cars than 16th-century England

Ye olde good times flow in the reimagined 16th-century English village of Revel Grove in the Maryland Renaissance Festival’s 30th season at Crownsville. In the festival’s nine-weekend season from late August to mid-October, itinerate festival craftspeople live at Revel Grove and tens of thousands of visitors drive in to play make believe.
    The popular festival is outgrowing its 25 acres at Revel Grove. After several years of searching, festival owners chose a 238-acre farm about 20 miles south in rural Lothian in Southern Anne Arundel County.
    Whether the move happens hinges on roads. Getting to the new site requires special exceptions to county zoning on two issues:
    1. “Access to a Renaissance Festival shall be provided directly from an arterial road.”
    2. A “Renaissance Festival located in an RA district shall be located on a road other than a scenic or historic rural road.”
    The variances were refused this summer by a county zoning officer. The Festival appealed. This month and next, public hearings are underway, in preparation for a decision by Anne Arundel’s Board of Appeals.
    Just what roads would traffic follow if the Maryland Renaissance Festival rebuilds Revel Grove at the junction of Anne Arundel, Calvert and Prince George’s counties?
    Inspired by the research of Bonnie Sudnick of Churchton, we took a look at the existing and proposed roads.
    Maryland Rt. 4 is the arterial road approaching the new location.
    Maryland Rt. 4, speed limit 55mph, runs as Pennsylvania Avenue from Washington, D.C., to Upper Marlboro. The freeway crosses the Patuxent River at Hills Bridge, where a bridge has existed since 1855. It enters Anne Arundel County at Wayson’s Corner, taking the name Southern Maryland Boulevard. Turning southeast, the road intersects the western terminus of Rt. 258, Bay Front Road, at the village of Bristol. By now, it’s traveling through country.
    Beyond the Rt. 258 intersection, Rt. 4 turns south and downgrades into a four-lane, at-grade, divided highway. At the Calvert County line shortly below, it interchanges with the northwestern terminus of Rt. 260 at Lyons Creek, then continues south.
    Between the interchanges at Rts. 258 and 260 is ground zero.
    Between them are Upper Pindell Road, the Festival’s potential new address, and its southern partner, Lower Pindell Road.
    Both lead to where the Renaissance Festival wants to be. But you can’t get there from either. That’s because both are “scenic and historic roads,” protected from heavy traffic.
    So how do you get there? Sudnick reports from the first two appeal hearings earlier this month:
    The state road witness stated that “traffic would make a right-hand turn onto the access road” that leads from Rt. 4 to Upper Pindell Road — to be followed by an immediate left turn and finally a right turn into the property. This pattern in theory would avoid use of Upper Pindell Road.
    Traffic outbound on Upper Pindell would have to make a left turn onto the access road and travel either to the next stop sign to make a right onto Rt. 4 South … Or cross over at Talbott Road to go left onto Rt. 4 North … Or continue to the Rt. 258 interchange.
    “The proposed exit from the Renaissance Festival will,” Sudnick continues, “have traffic going south toward Calvert County to go north on Rt. 4.” The turnarounds can be made by “sliding left to make a U-turn at Lower Pindell Road or going under the Rt. 260 overpass to make a U-turn.”
    Those are the facts, folks, confounding as they are.

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

Plumbing the depths of change

“Our world changed yesterday,” I wrote on September 12, 2001. “Like you, we’ll be a long time plumbing the depths of this change.”
    Thirteen years later, the blue clarity of September 11, 2001 — before 8:46am — seems a farewell look at innocence. Adam and Eve might have seen just such radiance in the Garden of Eden as its gate shut them out.
    It’s a nice image, and there’s some truth in it. Certainly the new millennium seemed to promise a clean start. Certainly this absolute penetration of our defenses was not within our expectations. Certainly we have never felt the same since. Nowadays optimism is in scarce supply.
    Some truth, only. As a nation and as individuals, we had lost our innocence many times before 9/11 — in wars and faulty peace, in slavery and Indian oppression, at Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg, in depressions and assassinations.
    But still some truth. Before, we Americans started things — or we finished the work others were unable to complete. We took this land and settled it. We put our shoulders to the task. We invented and aspired. We lent our might to ending two world wars. We flew around the world and to the moon.
    Since 9/11, we have become a nation of first responders. Our dearest heroes are the firefighters and police who rose to the unprecedented occasions of that terrible day — and the soldiers who followed in their footsteps.
    Since that day, we have been mopping up mounting woes.
    In the Middle East, where outrage begets outrage, we wage our own wars and try to throw our weight on the side of justice — wherever that may be — in the wars of others. We’ve killed Osama bin Laden, but the sorcerer’s apprentices are rising up, lately the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Two American journalists beheaded is not the World Trade Towers. But it is enough.
    In the East, the ice left over from the Cold War is breaking. Russia’s hungry bear is reawakening. China is threatening us not with communism but with clever frauds and computer hacks.
    Here at home, nearly every aspect of life seems in turmoil: police armed for Homeland Security … the old economy trashed before a new one is created … cities bankrupt … infrastructure crumbling … schools leaving children behind … immigrants crashing the borders … health care in divisive crisis … waste — from nuclear to plastic — engulfing us … climate change threatening to drop the bomb.
    And now our America seems the only world force big enough to take on Ebola in Africa.
    So yes, some truth. For all we’d seen and done before 9/11, we still had innocence to lose and experience to gain.
    I read Hillary Clinton this past Sunday, writing in the Washington Post about the new book by her predecessor as secretary of state, World Order by Henry Kissinger.
    “There really is no viable alternative,” she wrote, speaking of “the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.
    “No other nation can bring together the necessary coalitions and provide the necessary capabilities to meet today’s complex global threats.”
    How much that role costs may be a lesson of each generation. Certainly it’s one lesson we’ve learned since September 11, 2001.

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