view counter

Articles by All

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

To make a film in the Fast & Furious franchise you need three things: Flashy cars, hulking biceps lathered in baby oil and heart-pounding action sequences. What you don’t need are actors or plot.
    Furious 7 keeps this tradition alive with a film so filled with screeching tires, machismo and surprising sentiment it almost distracts you from the abysmal performance of the lead and ridiculous plot.
    In a London hospital, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham: The Expendables 3) stands over the broken body of his baby brother Owen (the baddie from Fast and Furious 6). Swearing vengeance on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel: Guardians of the Galaxy) and his crew of racers, Deckard hunts them down one by one.
    He kills one and hobbles Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: Hercules), Toretto’s law enforcement ally, before finding Dominic. Toretto goes on the offensive, reuniting his team for one last ride — just as in the past three movies.
    Dominic’s brother-in-law and partner in crime Brian (Paul Walker: Brick Mansions) is facing his own crisis. Now a father and husband, he’s chaffing at driving a minivan instead of a muscle car. He tells his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster: Dallas) he misses the bullets, and she worries that he’s unhappy with family life.
    Can Brian settle into domesticity? Can Toretto and his gang defeat Deckard? Who is buying these idiots million dollar cars to destroy?
    Director James Wan (Insidious: Chapter 2) continues a brainless and still popular formula as old as Sylvester Stallone.
    The problem with Wan’s brand of mindless action is that it’s toothless. To earn the lucrative PG-13 rating, he must make a hardcore action film that’s kid-friendly. As a result, bullets and fists fly, but it’s a bloodless affair with seemingly few consequences. Women are dressed as sex objects, but to ensure parents bring their teens, there is no actual nudity — just plenty of up-skirt shots.
    Wan does surprisingly well within the restrictions on violence and nudity. Two of the hand-to-hand combat scenes are brilliantly choreographed and paced. The fight between Johnson and Statham is a brutal highpoint with both actors throwing everything they have at each other. But the real star of these movies has always been the cars. When we’re watching preposterous physics-defying car chases, it’s a fantastic spectacle that perfectly complements a fistful of popcorn.
    Impressively, Wan manages to inject a little sentiment into this ode to macho posturing. His tribute to Walker, who died while making the film, is both touching and fitting to the franchise. Wan and the editors should be credited for cobbling together Walker’s final performance using doubles, digital editing and the few scenes filmed before his demise.
    What Wan and his team of talented editors couldn’t fix, however, was Diesel’s performance. Blank, meaty and potato-like in both expression and demeanor, Diesel is an abysmal actor. His lack of a human personality was less noticeable in the first films; here, with the addition of exemplary supporting actors, you notice. Both Statham and Johnson crackle with charisma, and international action superstar Tony Jaa commands the screen in a nearly wordless performance.
    In spite of the wealth of action talent, Wan chooses to subject us to Diesel’s lumbering attempts at acting for seemingly endless stretches of film. Pairing him with Johnson and Statham seems like a cruel joke.
    With fantastic action and a bit of heart, Furious 7 isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been — if you can ignore Diesel.

Fair Action • PG-13 • 137 mins.

With white and yellow perch running, you want a rig that works

Casting my rig up underneath the big tree leaning out from the opposite bank of the river, I paused to give my lures time to settle near the bottom. I then began a slow retrieve, starting with a small twitch. Detecting a sudden resistance, I set the hook, and my rod tip surged down. Fish on!
    Actually there were two fish on. The occasion marked my discovery of a new springtime yellow perch hangout, one that would deliver big fish reliably over the next several seasons.
    We were using a two-lure, tandem rig with a yellow-feathered gold Tony Accetta spoon in size 12 on the long leg and a one-eighth-ounce shad dart in chartreuse on the short one. A small three-way swivel joined everything together. Adding a lip-hooked minnow to the spoon and a grass shrimp to the shad dart gave the lures the added scent that pretty much ensured their success, assuming fish were present.
    This rig is the one we use when exploring new water or starting the day from our skiff. Navigating quietly along a shoreline, one of us casts while the other steers to likely looking laydowns and brushy edges. When a fish strikes, we anchor and work the area thoroughly, since perch are a schooling fish.
    The setup also fished well from shore, especially with the addition of a small bobber to keep the lures from fouling the bottom. The only downside  was that the rig is tedious to replace if lost in a snag. But it is so productive that we usually spend the time to retie it.
    The Tony with the minnow moved through the water with a pronounced flashing, undulating action that really drew the strikes. It was the lure the big fish usually hit. The shad dart with the grass shrimp on the shorter section had multiple aspects. If the water was deeper than we anticipated or the current stiffer, we could substitute a heavier dart to get the rig nearer the bottom where the perch always were. Besides being activated by the action of the spoon, the brightly colored lure proved irresistible to any fish drawn to the struggle of a perch hooked on the spoon, resulting in a double hookup. It also worked for those days when the perch (white or yellow) would eat nothing but grass shrimp.
    White perch tend to cruise the shallow river or stream edges during high tide and when they are spawning. Yellow perch seek out flooded shoreline brush or downed tree limbs to hang their accordion-like tubes of roe.
    During low tide, perch tend to hold in the deeper holes or travel the channels. Then, too, the setup works. We simply anchor up in the center of the cuts or up-current of large pools. The current alone induces the spoon’s serpentine action, so we can often set our rods down and wait for strikes.
    The next most productive setup for fishing shallows less than five feet of water is simply one-eighth ounce shad dart under a small weighted bobber rigged so the dart is suspended just off of the bottom. The rig can be retrieved or still-fished. This is one of the most commonly used perch rigs along the Chesapeake and for good reason: It works.
    When a lot of fish are present and competing for food, the setup can be used with just the shad dart. But when prospecting or if the perch are reticent to bite, adding a grass shrimp, a piece of worm or a small minnow can make it instantly more attractive.
    When searching for fish, work your casts out in a fan pattern to explore all around your position. After throwing the rig, let it sit until the water calms. Then twitch it back methodically. Vary the count that you let the lure sit between movements until you find the rhythm that draws the most bites.

‡   ‡   ‡

Conservation Alert: Blue Crab Management Strategy

    The blue crab population has been in a nosedive the last few years with numbers indicating another crisis may be at hand. Add your voice to Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Blue Crab Management Strategy Plan: http://tinyurl.com/ntebjb3.
    DNR has set female crab harvest limits for the commercial sector this season at about the same as last year except there will be no season closures. Harvesting female crabs remains illegal for recreational fishermen. Read more at dnr2.maryland.gov/Fisheries/Pages/notices.aspx.

Make a bed or make way for stalks now pushing up

Time to turn your attention to asparagus. One of spring’s earliest crops, asparagus is typically ready for cutting in Maryland between April 25 and June 15.
    If your bed is already planted, it needs prepping. Winter weeds have most likely covered the beds, and the old asparagus stems are still sticking above ground. While the soil is still cool, asparagus roots are not yet energized. As soon as the soil dries sufficiently so it will not clump on the hoe or tiller, adjust the cultivator or tiller so that the blades will not penetrate the soil more that two inches. Cultivate or till weeds and those old asparagus stems into the soil. Allow the soil to dry for at least a week, then repeat. Cultivating the soil will hasten its warming, which will hasten the sprouting of asparagus stems.
    If you wish to delay the emergence of asparagus spears, cover the cultivated beds with four to six inches of straw. The straw mulch will shade the soil, retarding warming.
    Under normal conditions, asparagus beds should not be fertilized or mulched with compost until after harvesting. But they should be kept weed-free. Hand weed with a hoe immediately after making a harvest of spears.
    If you’re starting a new asparagus bed, now is the time. Choose a full-sun spot with well-drained soil. Dig a trench 10 to 12 inches wide and eight to 10 inches deep. Place one to two inches of compost in the bottom of the trench, and spade the compost into the soil to a depth of four inches.
    Place the asparagus crowns over the spaded soil at eight-inch intervals, spreading the roots uniformly flat. Cover with about two inches of soil amended 1-to-1 with compost. As the asparagus spears begin to grow, continue adding amended soil to the trench until it is full.
    Do not harvest any asparagus spears for at least two years. Allow the foliage to grow to its maximum height, cutting the stems to the ground in late fall when they have completely turned golden-brown. By delaying cutting, you allow residual nutrients in the stems and leaves to return to the roots.
    After you have cut the asparagus back to the ground in the fall, mulch the bed with a two-inch-thick layer of compost. This not only helps to insulate the bed, it also supplies all the nutrients for next year.
    In the third year, you may start harvesting asparagus spears in the spring. During the first year of harvesting, you should limit your harvests to two. For maximum recovery, cut the asparagus spears just below the surface of the soil using a sharp knife.
    If you prefer eating French-style asparagus, white spears, build a low frame, 10 inches to a foot high above a section of your asparagus bed and cover it with black plastic. The same wire hoops used for building small tunnels can be used to support the black plastic. To prevent heat build-up, leave both ends of the tunnel partially open. Asparagus that develops in total darkness will be white and tends to be tenderer than green asparagus.


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

Let us count the ways

A couple of tried, true and trite figures of speech can help you understand the week’s layered news on the health of the Bay.
    Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Practicing that feat of coordination will prepare you to understand the new Chesapeake Bay Program take on how we’re doing in cleaning up the Bay we all say we love.
    The good news is the Bay diet is working.
    We’re actually cutting back the fast-food diet of nutrients and sediment streaming into our Bay.
    Except for a two percent rise in nitrogen and sediments between 2013 and 2014.
    Got that?
    In 2009, the EPA set the equivalent of a strict calorie limit on how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment the Bay could swallow. By 2014, nitrogen loads dropped six percent (15.83 million pounds). Phosphorus dropped 18 percent (3.40 million pounds). Sediment dropped four percent (327 million pounds).
    All this is happening because of pollution controls put in place over the last five years by Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District.
    But our poor Bay’s calorie intake is enormous: 282 million pounds of nitrogen a year; 19 million pounds of phosphorus; almost nine billion pounds of sediment a year.
    So you won’t be surprised that there’s still a long way to go before the Bay gets to its ideal nutritional balance by 2025. For nitrogen that’s 217 million pounds, 14 million pounds of phosphorus and seven billion pounds of sediment.
    Just what is the Bay’s junk food? Agricultural runoff is tops, followed by wastewater and sewer overflow, fallout of airborne pollutants, urban runoff and septic systems (for nitrogen).
    A walk in the park, understanding that, isn’t it? Now let’s add chewing gum.
    How does that two percent rise in nitrogen and sediment fit into those millions of lost pounds?
    The “slight increase,” the Bay Program report notes, “is due in part to a short-term shift in agricultural commodities.” Higher prices for corn spurred in large measure by ethanol meant more corn was planted. Corn craves “nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can leach off the ground and into local waterways.”
    Find the full report — including methodology — at chesapeakebay.net/presscenter/release/22587.
    If you’ve managed to walk while chewing gum, you’ll have figured out that you’ve got a part to play in reducing the Bay’s junk food diet.
    Hence our next truism: Put your money where your mouth is.
    To get the Bay to it best nutritional balance, that’s what we’ve all got to do. The Flush Tax is reducing nitrogen from our plumbing in water purification plants and septic systems. But given the resistance to controlling our stormwater runoff — with its junk-food load of nitrogen and sediment — you’d think robbers were knocking at the door.
    That paranoia helped elect Gov. Larry Hogan and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh. Now it’s feeding revision of laws already passed in the General Assembly and in the Anne Arundel County Council. On April 6, the council upheld the fee (lacking a better alternative) and principle of putting our money where our protestations are.
    Calvert citizens, you can keep your money. This fee is special to your 10 biggest neighbors. (On the other hand, they’ve got curbside county pickup of trash and recycling.)
    At the same time, newly agreed on Phosphorus Management Tools and timelines will help cut down on animal manure reaching the Bay from farm fields.
    We lawn growers — turf grass is the largest crop in the Chesapeake watershed — can mind our own fertilizer Ps and Qs. Learn the full story at www.mda.maryland/fertilizer. Consider hiring a pro like Blades of Green (who described the right way in last week’s Home and Garden Guide) to do a lawn-friendly and Bay-saving job.

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

Truth doesn’t matter if you yell loud enough

Who do you trust? When experts debate on television an issue like climate change, do you believe that both are qualified?
    Most often, the debaters are experts in speaking, not science.
    It turns out that the news is just another TV show. Lively debate, doubt and fear-mongering make for great ratings. There is little incentive to seek out facts when bread and circuses bring in money and viewers.
    In 2004, science historian Naomi Oreskes became interested in a phrase common in the Global Warming debate: “No consensus has been reached among scientists on the matter of climate change.” Oreskes read through every scientific paper on climate change published in journals from 1993 to 2003. Out of 928 articles, she found none that refuted climate change.
    If there was no disagreement in the scientific community, where did this dissent come from?
    Hint: It’s not science.
    Pundits are hired by think tanks and corporations to argue their case, not sift through the facts or do independent research. To that end, they manipulate data, suggest that scientists have a hidden agenda and lie. These experts also become the faces for volunteer groups backed by major corporations that depend on the status quo for their profits.
    Based on a book by Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt is a documentary that takes a troubling look at how easy it is to lead people away from the facts. Using the tobacco industry and the climate-change debate as his two main topics, director Robert Kenner (Food Inc.) examines how corporations manipulate citizens, government and the law to further their interests.
    Kenner interviews scientists who have been battered by the press and professional spin-doctors. Ill prepared by a life of research to deal with slick PR men, many of these researchers look befuddled when confronted by misinformation. James Hansen, one of the fathers of the climate change movement, admits that he wasn’t prepared to become the face of global warming. Nor was he prepared for the backlash. Death threats, smear campaigns and aggressive politicking.
    Those on the other side seem to enjoy being contrarians. All pundits readily admit to Kenner that they don’t conduct research; they merely interpret. Marc Morano, founder of Climate Depot, seems to revel in the fight if not the facts. He enjoys going after scientists who question his view that global warming is a liberal hoax, often publishing their personal email addresses and encouraging his followers to send hate mail.
    Kenner’s only misstep is his over-reliance on metaphor. To liken pundits to magicians performing card tricks, he uses a repeating motif of shuffling decks and sleight of hand. The framing device seems silly compared to the seriousness of the issues.
    Like most documentaries that take a bold stand, Merchants of Doubt will likely make you angry. Whether you’re furious at the pundits or Kenner’s take on climate change largely depends on what side of the debate you fall.

Good Documentary • PG-13 • 96 mins.

Intimate setting, top-notch acting, taut direction and high production values bring this classic to life

For this classic, less is more.
     The Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, uses a script nicely streamlined and adapted to the stage by Jon Jory, whose versions of other classics like Pride and Prejudice the company has presented over its brief history. As impressive as the script’s fidelity to the novel is Annapolis Shakespeare’s confidence in its ability to tell a complex story with nary a set piece other than a few chairs and a trunk.
    After spending time at the Bowie Playhouse, Annapolis Shakespeare moved into its Chinquapin Round Road facility just a couple of years ago, and began doing its plays there even more recently. By using a less-is-more philosophy — and knowing that solid talent and direction are quite a bit more important to good storytelling than extensive sets and facilities — producing artistic director Sally Boyett nicely adapts to the company’s small, 70-seat space.
    In the case of Sense and Sensibility, Boyett gives us the classic story of two young sisters. Elinor is filled with sense and prudence, a level-head. Marianne is filled with sensibility — emotion, romance — and always speaks her mind. Though written in the late 1700s, Austen’s work remains loved, read and performed because she captured ideas and feelings that are essentially timeless.
    This story of love, laughter and heartache is brought to us by a cast of actors led by Laura Rocklyn as Marianne Dashwood and Rebecca Swislow as Elinor Dashwood. Rocklyn’s Marianne is a charmer, attracting us via her refusal to hold her tongue as well as the humor of what she says when she does speak. Rocklyn and Swislow work very well together; this is a pair that you can believe are sisters.
    They and their widowed mother, played nicely by Sue Struve, are forced to move into a small cottage after their half-brother (the elegant Brian Keith MacDonald) and his wife, played to the hilt of vanity by Renata Plecha, decide that they prefer to take the family estate and force the trio out.
    Evicted, they settle in a small cottage in Devonshire, near the home of her cousin John Middleton and his wife, who welcome the three openly, soon introducing them to local society. As Middleton, Richard Pilcher is gregarious and warm, quite the opposite of what they had experienced before being forced out.
    But Sense and Sensibility is not so much about society connections as it is about the two girls and the suitors who come calling: Edward Ferrars (Patrick Truhler), whose engagement to another is kept secret but who becomes attracted to Elinor; John Willoughby (James Carpenter), a charmer but a cheater whose engagement to Marianne is presumed by many but never official; and Colonel Brandon (Joel Ottenheimer), a tall, good guy who takes on the charge of the daughter of a woman he loved but was not allowed by family to marry, and who falls in love with Marianne.
    All three give us tightly drawn and distinctive characters, each bringing their unique backgrounds to bear on the present, and each revealing to us the chemistry that has formed their affections for the sisters.
    As always with Annapolis Shakespeare, costumes are expansive but true to the period, lighting of the small space is imaginative and evocative and Boyett’s choreography of scene changes keeps things moving apace, with each scene blending into the next clearly yet with nary a visual or verbal gap.
    In other words, less is more: an intimate setting, top-notch acting, taut direction and high production values are more than enough to bring this classic to life.


Production stage manager: Sara K. Smith. Lighting design: Colin Dieck. Costumes: Kat McKerrow. Dialect coach: Nancy Krebs

Playing thru May 3: FSa 8pm (and 2pm, Sa April 4); Su 3pm: Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s Studio 111, 111 Chinquapin Round Rd., Annapolis; $35 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-415-3513; www.annapolisshakespeare.org.

Sometimes, we could have used an expert

In my early memory, mother is tearing down a wall, a sledgehammer shattering the plaster and lathing. One of us, I don’t remember which, stepped on a nail and had to have a tetanus shot. As mother struck her blows, my father may well have been telling her a story. That was the role she sweetly assigned him when they shared a job.
    If there was a job that needed doing, Mother was the woman to do it, whether or not she knew how.
    Can you see where this story is heading? Maybe I should have stuck with telling stories.
    After a day’s work at Bloomington, Illinois’ Eureka Williams vacuum cleaner factory, husband Bill’s father climbed a ladder to paint houses. Eventually he fell.
    But that’s not where this story is going, yet.
    As the children of a pair of determined do-it-yourselfers, Bill and I have climbed many a ladder, though we’ve not yet fallen. I came closest when a spring gust tried to snatch the old-fashioned, wood-framed, five-foot-tall storm window I was unhinging as I stood on a ladder outside the dining room of my 1908 bungalow in Springfield, Illinois.
    I painted every radiator and room of that house once or twice; set tile and knocked down part of a bad plaster ceiling. All without knowing a bit about what I was doing. Eventually, I got smart and called in the experts to knock down a wall, finish the dormer level, refinish the nice inch-wide maple floors and — eventually — paint. But only after stripping the many coats of paint and sometimes dark old cracked varnish from the oak trim.
    In Maryland, Bill and I worked together, painting not only the inside but also the outside of our Fairhaven Cliffs cottage, which is three floors tall on the down-slope Bay side. In some spots I had to hang upside down like a bat, but neither of us fell off the ladder, though on one of my fool’s errands, Bill did fall off a stool when I moved it from the place he expected to find it when he stepped down.
    He laid a brick patio, two down-slope outdoor sets of steps (twice each) and about a mile of six-by-sixes to hold back earth’s effort — seeming as determined as water’s — to reach its own level. Fairhaven Cliffs is a name that’s not kidding.
    We’ve been at work on the earth, too, composting and digging and planting, digging up, cutting down and replanting.
    This house and its little piece of earth has been ours for 27 years, so a lot of that work is maintenance: the perpetual campaign to keep not too far behind wear and tear. A good deal of the labor, however, is correcting mistakes we’ve didn’t know we were making.
    Every time Bay Gardener Dr. Gouin visits, he writes a new column about another folly committed by “many homeowners” who don’t know plant and soil science from Shinola. I worry that his visits coincide with my demands for a series of new columns.
    As the sun sparks off our ceilings, a painting contractor mildly suggests that semigloss may not be the best choice up there, unless you like living in a hall of mirrors.
    Who knew, until the mason came, that paving brick should be set on stone dust, not sand? Or that brick walls needed concrete underpinning?
    Or, until our recent home landscaping class at Adkins Arboretum, that you should plan a landscape before you plant it? Now some of our mistakes tower 50 feet above us.
    It’s slowly dawning on me that there’s something to be said for calling an expert.
    In this week’s Home and Garden Guide, we’ve asked the experts. They’ve got a lot to offer, in ideas, energy and skill. Listen and learn; then judge what’s right for you.
    And, when you do hire an expert as your partner, take the advice of Eddie Knudsen at Hodges ’n’ Sons Home Improvement: Ask questions and get references to ensure the contractor has the expertise and credentials to do what you want and are paying for.

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

Abandon all hope, you who enter the Divis Flats

British private Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell: Unbroken) wants a station in Germany. He wants an easy assignment and money to provide for his son, in care while he’s serving. Instead he’s sent to Belfast, where the IRA is waging a bloody war against the British Crown.
    Fresh out of training and uneasy in the tense streets of Northern Ireland, Hook tries to keep his head down and collect his check. Wish again.
    An inexperienced officer leads his platoon into a riot. Sent into a swarm of protesters to retrieve a stolen gun, Hook sees his comrade’s head blown off and his fellow soldiers beating a hasty retreat — without him.
    An easy target in his British fatigues, Hook flees, evading IRA gunmen and angry citizens. To survive the night in Divis Flats, an IRA stronghold, he must also avoid IRA spies and steer clear of the roving gangs of Molotov cocktail-wielding rioters.
    Hook’s run through the Flats drives a wedge in the already segmented IRA. The old-school members are horrified at the murder of a soldier and fearful that killing Hook will bring the British in bloody invasion. The young IRA want blood and don’t care whose.
    With a soldier stranded in enemy territory, the British military turns to undercover agents. But the spies have their own agenda, a planned counter-strike against the IRA. Hook’s death might just further their plans.
    Can anyone leave Divis Flats alive?
    Director Yann Demange (Top Boy) uses handheld cameras to follow Hook on his dashes through the shadows as the city burns around him. Though handheld can become pointlessly shaky, here the technique compliments Hook’s frenetic journey through the night. Demange also keeps his film looking authentic by using a muted color palate and soft focus that looks like it was shot during the 1971 Belfast riots.
    At the heart of ’71 is O’Connell, who is masterful as the frantic Hook. In his previous starring role in Angelina Jolie’s run-of-the-mill Unbroken, O’Connell was forced into the generic hero role. In ’71, Demange unleashes O’Connell on the screen with brilliant results. Hook is a barely competent kid utterly terrified of the men with guns chasing him. A man without a plan, he simply reacts to what’s happening around him with more luck than skill. When he must fight, his barely contained panic fuels his blows.
    Don’t bother to buy popcorn; you’ll be too breathless to eat it.

Great Drama • R • 99 mins.

Clip right to force branches of flowers

Now is the time to force forsythia, quince, magnolia, crabapple, lilac and weigela branches into flower. Select heavily budded branches from the center of the plants so as not to distract from the natural appearance of the plant when it flowers later in the spring. Flower buds are easily distinguished this time of year because they tend to be plump as compared to vegetative buds. In many species, the ends of the flowering buds are rounded.
    If the container for your arrangement is large like a crock, you will achieve a better effect if you first make a large loose ball with chicken wire. The holes in the chicken wire enable you to stand the branches upright or at any angle. Fill the container two-thirds full with 100-degree water.  
    Cut the branches longer than needed so that when you bring them indoors you can make a second cut just before arranging them in the container. Using sharp pruners, cut the stems at a slight angle and quickly immerse them in the warm water. Freshly cut woody stems will absorb more water when placed in warm water than if placed in cold. Cutting the stem at a slight angle also makes larger openings in the stem’s sieve cells, which absorb the water.
    Don’t bother misting the branches and buds. Misting actually delays flowering because as the water evaporates, it causes cooling.
    To maintain a succession of flowering branches, wait 10 to 12 days before harvesting more branches for forcing. Put them in warm water in an out-of-the-way place, adding these just-flowering branches to your arrangement when the first batch starts dropping petals. As outdoor temperatures become warmer, it will take less and less time to force branches into flower.
    Try mixing forsythia branches with saucer or star magnolia branches. The magnolia will be slower in forcing but will add additional color to your arrangement.


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

Spring has us out in fellowship, purpose and celebration

March 20 was the last day of winter. March 21 was the first full day of spring.
    As you’ll remember, a season divided those days. Winter threw a hissy fit on its way out. Spring warmed our chilled hearts and invited us out.
    In Southern Anne Arundel County, the neighborhoods of Fairhaven and Arkhaven accepted the invitation. Close as we live, many of us hadn’t met for weeks; the weather wasn’t fit for fellowship. Mother Earth was a stranger, too, hidden beneath snow or whipped by wind and wintry mix. Spring’s first day was our reunion and the appointed date for our neighborhood cleanup.
    Garbed in boots, gloves and good spirits, we met at the corner for greetings and indefatigable organizer Kathy Gramp’s coffee and banana bread. By the time we reunited for community lunch, we’d not only have caught up on community gossip but also have made a better world. Behind us, dozens of heavy-duty black plastic trash bags proved our achievement.
    The hours in between were dirty work.
    Mud sucked off boots and trapped cars. In Arkhaven Dan Westland’s ancient tractor came to the rescue. But winter is not the nastiest mess maker of one entrapped car.
    Human trash is worse.
    The Arkhaven crew conquered a very large manmade dump, including a mattress. Farther up the road, mattress springs were hauled out by Barbara Smith, who also got the work of cleaning up the remains of butchered deer.
    Were cranes working with us, we could have added at least one abandoned boat to our refuge piles, plus a half-dozen rusted hulls of cars deeper in the woods. Of automotive junk, we collected only a half-dozen or so of tires, one still on its wheel. Years of cleanups, together with ­neighborly everyday pickups, have made a difference.
    Aluminum and glass are scarce nowadays. Even the bottles we pick up are mostly plastic, with beer the exception. “Miller Lite is the most popular beer of those who litter Fairhaven Road, outnumbering all other beer bottles and cans by better than 3 to 1,” Don Stewart reported.
    Even fishing line is plastic, though the virtues Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle extols — invisibility and indestructability — make it a deadly hazard when torn off a reel and left as litter.
    Metal rusts, but plastic will tell our story for ages to come.
    With spring, opportunity abounds to deprive future anthropologists of that story. Get together to clean up your neighborhood, your stream, your watershed.
    April 11 is the Chesapeake’s largest watershed-wide clean up day. Organized by the Alliance for the Bay, Project Clean Stream aims to bring out 10,000 volunteers at over 500 sites across all six Bay states and D.C. The goal is to collect one million pounds of trash.
    Find a cleanup site at cleanstream.allianceforthebay.org.
    After the dirty work, clean yourself up for a party. Ours was swell in food, company and the satisfaction of knowing our mother, Mother Earth, approved.

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