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Letter from the Editor (All)

My favorite stories of 2016

Together, we read a lot of stories over the course of a year. Many of them give you a moment’s insight or delight. Others tell you just what you need to know. Some of them stay in your mind, even after all those words have come between you and them all that time ago. So I can still recount stories we ran five, or 10 or 23 years ago.
    Before I close the book on 2016 (yes, I really do have a large, heavy book labeled Vol. XXIV), I want to revisit some of my favorites this year.
    Following the pattern of this Best of the Bay edition, I’m awarding them categorical bests. Some categories have more than one winner.


Best Story on a New ­Technology — and How to Use It
Bob Melamud’s Printing in Three Dimensions: How I learned to make my own cookie cutter at the library: www.bayweekly.com/node/36221

Best Heart Warmers ~ TIE
• Victoria Clarkson’s Mary Francis Christmas: www.bayweekly.com/node/36240
• Kelsey Cochrane’s Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Cut Off Your Hair: I couldn’t cure anyone, but I hoped my hair would give hope: www.bayweekly.com/node/35827

Best Halloween with a Little History Story
Diana Dinsick’s The Haunting of Crownsville’s Rising Sun Inn: ­www.bayweekly.com/node/35438

Best Profiles ~ TIE
• Robyn Bell’s Shooting for Fun, Bringing Home the Gold: ­www.bayweekly.com/node/33556
• Diana Dinsick’s The Two Faces of Tom Plott: www.bayweekly.com/node/35016
• Alka Bromiley’s Balloon Man of Annapolis: www.bayweekly.com/node/34431

Best Animal-Related Story
Karen Holmes’ Easy to Bee Passionate: www.bayweekly.com/node/32566

Most Useful Story
Kathy Knotts’ 8 Days a Week, plus Summer Fun Guide and Season’s Bounty Holiday Guide

Most Helpful in Your Own Backyard
Dr. Francis’ Gouin’s weekly Bay Gardener column

Best Reason to Get Out on the Water
Dennis Doyle’s weekly The Sporting Life column

Best New Feature
Christine Gardener’s weekly Chesapeake Curiosities

Best Play Reviewers on the Bay
Jane Elkin and Jim Reiter

Best Reason to Go to the Movies
Diana Beechener’s The Moviegoer

Most Likely to Keep Bay Weekly in Your Hands
Coloring Corner artists Sophia Openshaw and Brad Wells

Best Bay Weekly Cover of 2016
Joe Barsin’s Blue Angels cover of May 19: citizenpride.com

Most Missed Feature
J. Alex Knoll’s Sky Watch, on sabatical

Best thanks to all these writers for bringing us good stories in 2016:
Kelsey Cochrane, Beth Dumesco, Laura Dunaj, Jerri Anne Hopkins,
Diana Knaus, Karen Lambert, Aries Matheos, Kristen Minogue,
Mary-Anne ­Nelligan, Susan Nolan, B.J. Poss, Elisavietta Ritchie,
Mike Ruckinski, Selene San Felice, Caiti Sullivan and Peggy Traband.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Maybe, just maybe, you will

We expect great things this time of year.    
    No wonder, for the winter holidays set expectations high.
    December 21’s winter solstice promises us that, Big Picture, everything will turn out all right. Despite the gathering chill, we will not spin off into the frozen blackness of space. Light now begins its slow gain. Sunset moves later day by day from its earliest, 4:44pm on December 12, until by January 1 we have gained 10 minutes of evening light. Sunrise soon moves earlier each morning from its latest, 7:25am on December 30, until by January 31 we have gained 12 minutes of morning daylight. Warmth will return with the light. By vernal equinox in March, Earth quickens with life.
    Christmas on December 25 makes an even bigger promise. That holiday celebrates God’s coming to Earth in the form of a human baby. Growing into a man, he knew our joys and sorrows even until death. Rising from the dead, he promised to lift us up with him. Nowadays, even on the feast of his birth, Christians know what’s coming at Easter — and into eternity.
    As if that’s not enough, here comes Santa Claus, flaunting the laws of physics to ride down from the North Pole in a reindeer-drawn sleigh filled with toys destined to be delivered — in one long night — to every girl and boy the whole world over.
    Next comes Hanukkah, beginning at sunset on December 24 this year, illuminating the Jewish world with its own miracles: victory over oppressors and enduring light, symbolized by the eight days of the feast. Nowadays, that’s eight more reasons to bring out the gifts.
    Not to mention New Year’s Day, when we agree to believe that we, too, will change for the better.
    No other time of year sets such high stakes. Or makes such high demands. So try as we might, our holidays do not always live up to our expectations. Your festive efforts mean less to everybody else than they do to you. One side of the family feels slighted comparing their share of your attentions to the share on the other side. The people who join your celebration don’t join you in values. The wrong present breaks somebody’s heart. The plum pudding falls. Or worse, sets the kitchen on fire. You’re all alone on Christmas.
    Try as you might, the transformative promise of the season doesn’t trickle down to you.
    Disappointment is the pivot point of the annual Christmas story you’ll read in this very paper, written this year with heart, skill and humor by Victoria Clarkson.
    Christmas morning, she writes, “found me sitting in holiday traffic on a two-hour journey to my mother’s house, crammed in the minivan with six cranky kids, listening to holiday music for the sixth week in a row. Three of the children had already asked Are we there yet? One child had to go to the bathroom, and another was torturing her baby sister.
    “Christmas at Mom’s house was never going to be like the homecoming at the Walton’s or George Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life.”
    Read it and rejoice with her in that holiday’s redemption from a most unlikely source.
    Victoria’s story is truth, not fiction, and therein is cause for wider hope.
    It’s solstice hope, of the sort that comes in tiny steps — steps as small as one minute a day — but stealthily reaches a critical mass as when winter yields to spring.
    That’s how I expect the light — the rebirth of hope — to come.
    May you have a bright solstice. A blessed Christmas. An illuminating Hanukkah. And a happy new year!

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

When you think about it, a homemade Christmas cookie is quite the thing

As a taste treat, it’s hard to complain about an Oreo. Still, you’ll find in these pages reason after reason why store-bought cookies — even Oreos — can’t compare with homemade. Especially at Christmas, which is for cookies what Thanksgiving is for pumpkin pie and Hanukkah is for latkes.
    Taking advantage of that season — and under the influence of my fondness for Christmas cookies — we’ve made this issue the Bay Weekly Cookie Exchange. Just as in a person-to-person cookie exchange, it brings you into the good company of a friendly gathering of Chesapeake Country bakers sharing their cookie traditions, memories and recipes.
    For each of us, Christmas cookies come with memories. If you come from a baking family, you surely have yours. Over the years, your memories grow into stories.
    Those stories enrich our cookie exchange. Reading them is almost as satisfying as tasting the cookie.
    Stretching from a spring boat trip as a child in Texas to gather the fruit for jelly-making to the Christmas baking to gift-giving, the story of Linda Davis’ Mayhaw Thumbprint Cookies is the essence of this season.
    John Janosky’s memories, and cookies, come from Poland. Audrey Broomfield’s Buttergebäck are German. My girlhood cookies, baked by my mother’s friend Margaret, were Sicilian. Where we come from is another part of the story that lives on in our Christmas cookie traditions.
    Your memories are an ingredient — maybe the butter — in who you are. Sharing them, like giving a tin of homemade cookies, extends your family circle to include us lucky recipients.
    Love is another ingredient baked into homemade cookies. Maybe it’s the sugar.
    “I bake to show people I care,” Marion Graham told us for this story.
    Words like those make cookie sharing downright philosophical, one person reaching out to another in the intimate connection theologian Martin Buber described as the I-Thou relationship. Plus, cookies taste good.
    Ingredients are another distinction.
    “I don’t like artificial ingredients,” Marion tells us, “so I bake cookies from scratch and try to make them healthier.”
    Healthier for her means oatmeal, the substitution of egg whites for whole eggs and adding Sugar in the Raw into the mix.
    Whole wheat pastry flour is another step to healthier cookies, as are honey, molasses and, in a couple of recipes I use, olive oil instead of butter. Strange as that may seem, the cookies are delicious.
    Local ingredients from neighborhood chickens and regional cows and wheat fields are another way that at home we can bake a philosophy of living into our cookies.
    Are those reasons enough? They are for me. It’s time for me to get home and bake the spice cookies, made with olive oil, that have been chilling in the fridge. My husband is looking forward to eating some tonight.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Could that be the season’s best gift?

Help! I shouted as the tide of all I had to do threatened to overwhelm me.
    My to-do list is so long that I expect it to outlive me. That’s the way it is in my family. My mother never forgave her third husband, John Allison, for dying — with dirt on his hands — before he’d finished planting her rose bed, leaving her in burgeoning spring with a legacy of chores undone. Any new season piles more on the list, none more than this holiday season.
    What I really want for Christmas, I said to myself, is someone who loves me enough to give me a couple of hours help.
    Then I heard the retort of the nail gun my home-improver par excellence was deploying to lay my new wood floor. And up the stairs came my husband, serving as errand boy, with another load of wood. As they worked, my job — removing carpet tacks and nail strips — shrunk to proper size.
    Comfortable as self-pity occasionally feels, it is not a woe I deserve. In managing my home and in doing my newspaper business, I have people I can rely on.
    For at Bay Weekly, as at home, the work is endless. Like a hungry family, Bay Weekly barely digests one meal before it needs another. I’d never manage even my part — just the writing and editing — by myself.
    Nor do I have to. 2016 is no different from 2006 … or 1996 … or 1993. In every one of our 23 years, good people have stepped up to help. Writers continue to find such satisfaction in making stories — and in all the learning this craft takes — that they write for love, certainly more than for wages.
    In all the other jobs it takes to make a paper, that run of good fortune continues. Sales people step up to keep us going, convinced — and convincing buyers — that advertising in Bay Weekly helps a business thrive. Drivers keep their routes for decades, bringing each new edition of Bay Weekly to just the spot you expect to find it.
    If anybody deserves self-pity, it’s Betsy Kehne, who’s done her job unassisted for most of her two decades as Bay Weekly’s production manager. And general manager Alex Knoll, who ought to be an inch or two shorter after carrying it all on his shoulders these many years.
    Not me. I am a woman fortunate in people on whom I can depend.
    Not everybody has the luck of people they can call on to join in seeing their projects through.
    That’s why I want to spend a few words in this gift-giving issue on Partners in Care, a helping organization unique to Maryland. In four regions, including Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, it’s the place to turn when you need a little help but don’t know who to ask.
    Partners in Care (www.partnersincare.org) is an exchange community. Members exchange services — rides, errands, chores both heavy and light, professional services like tax advice and grant writing, even friendly visits or a game of Scrabble. Amazingly, there’s no cost but participation in whatever way you can.
    “Our expectation is that each member will contribute time (volunteer), talent or treasure (money),” says Barbara Huston Partners in Care founder.
    Gently used clothing and household items are resold at Partners in Care’s Upscale Resale Boutique at 6 South Ritchie Highway, Pasadena. That’s where Patricia Caldwell, who you’ll meet in All I Want for Christmas, volunteers. Sales and monetary donations support all Partners in Care programs.
    Age complicates both managing your own to-do list and finding helpers. So many people needing help are older. Members are 50 and older, with volunteers of any age welcome. Often families join together. In 2015, for example, Partners in Care exchanged more than 500 services each week.
    Partners in Care Anne Arundel’s Linda Dennis talks to Southern Anne Arundel residents hoping to age at home Sunday, December 11 at 1:30pm at Captain Avery Museum. You’re welcome to learn more.
    Beyond Partners in Care, you may decide, as you seek to please people you love with gifts this holiday season, that help may be the gift they’ll most appreciate.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

How Chesapeake Country turns winter from darkness into fun

This season of year, we count on divine intervention to brighten the sun, warm up the days and fertilize the earth. But to assure that the powers that be — the good hand of God or the harmony of the spheres — know we’re paying attention, we pile on human intervention.
    We fire up our lights to combat the darkness.
    We strike up the bands to both cheer ourselves and knock on heaven’s door.
    We feast, give gifts and play out stories that remind us of our good intentions.
    Our contrivances get pretty elaborate as, over the years, we refine them into traditions on which we come to depend.
    These are our winter pageants.
    This issue, Bay Weekly writers report on pageants to which they’re tied by sentiment or amazement.
    Jim Reiter, for one, acts out his love of theater in more ways than one. You know his Bay Weekly play reviews. You may not recognize him as an oft-disguised character — or behind-the-scenes director — in Colonial Players’ productions. This week, he tells you what it’s like to look out on the audience as a character in Colonial’s 35-year homegrown tradition, A Christmas Carol.
    Reporting on another theatrical tradition, staff writer Kathy Knotts tell how Twin Beach Players’ The Best Christmas Pageant Ever turned her doubting sons into theater lovers.
    Music inspires writer Louise Vest, who reports on the friendly competition between Annapolis’ two Messiah productions: those of the U.S. Naval Academy’s and the Annapolis Chorale’s.
    For the secret behind another musical phenomenon, how a 10-story-high Christmas tree bursts into song, read Victoria Clarkson on Riverdale Baptist Church’s Living Christmas Tree.
    For holiday gifts that give twice, Kathy Knotts directs you to the ALS Artisan Boutique, which may be the oldest show around featuring locally made gifts and which, in its 14 years, has raised more than $300,000 to fight ALS, all in memory of one of its victims, Nancy Wright.
    Of course we don’t leave out the lights, for they are the force field we set up to draw the sun back to our side. In Chesapeake Country’s enthusiastic wave of brightness, homes, boats, parks, gardens and whole towns glow in lights. In this issue you’ll read how five hotspots do it.
    We want to leave room for you. Write your own appreciation (100 to 300 words) for publication in one of our next issues: editor@bayweekly.com.
    For now, read with pleasure and book the date you’ll see, hear and delight in these spectacles first-hand.
    Remind yourself, as you enjoy them, that each sound and sight sprang from the imaginations, hands and voices of your Chesapeake neighbors, responding as we all do to the deep and ancient urgings to lighten winter’s long night.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Spoiler alert: Don’t let the kids read this

Santa Claus is coming to town. Love him or hate him, he’s a fact.
    You’ll see him everywhere in the weeks ahead. If you shop at Westfield Annapolis Mall, you’ve been seeing him since the day after Veteran’s Day. With this issue, we acknowledge his inevitability. And we take a closer look at the man behind the snowy white beard.
    Santa is a man of many faces, writer Diana Dinsick tells us in this week’s feature story. Over many centuries, he’s traveled great distances — a speedy form of transportation is always part of his legend — changing with each destination to resemble the hopes and dreams of the people he visited.
    Woven into each culture’s bigger legend are our many personal stories of Santa. In looking back, I think maybe our Santa stories stay with us forever.
    My son was Santa deprived. That may account for a lot. For one thing, his children, now 15 and 16, are still believers. At least not deniers.
    “Do the kids still expect Santa?” I asked him as I contemplated my Christmas preparations.
    “They haven’t told me otherwise,” he said. “Which is pretty clever on their parts.”
    Indeed, for Santa and company are very generous to them.
    As Santa was to me.
    I was the only child of a very poor little girl, an immigrant daughter who truly found the proverbial lump of coal in her stocking. She and my father — who shared Santa’s build and liked to give gifts — did so well with their restaurant that Mother was able to give me, as she said, “everything I never had.” So Santa climbed down the chimney of our house with a very big bag of gifts.
    Yet from the chronology of photos of Sandra on Santa’s lap, I can tell that I was suspicious of that old man from the beginning. I loved the excitement of visiting Santa Land with my grandmother in our favorite department store, Famous Barr. I put out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. But I knew in my heart that my mother was behind all those gifts, and I must have wanted her to get the credit.
    I know what I was thinking when my son’s first Christmas came along. His father and I imagined ourselves conscientious new Catholics. We were so much smarter than our parents; certainly too smart to be tied to old traditions. So Santa Claus skipped our house (which didn’t have a chimney). Our son’s Christmas gifts were moderate, and all of them came from people who loved him.
    By the second child five years later, our house had a chimney and Santa Claus put us back on his route.    Many of our values had changed over those tumultuous years. But not all. I still wanted my children to connect the gifts they received to the labor and devotion of their parents. But I also wanted fun and fantasy, imagination and infinity of possibility in their lives.
    So we put out our shoes on St. Nicholas Day — or a few days later if I’d let December 6 get by me. We rushed to the tree on Christmas morning for a bigger load of presents from Santa Claus. If we could have claimed any Jewish traditions, we’d have celebrated Chanukah, too.
    As time goes by, I’ve even grown fond of pictures with Santa. I haven’t posed for any lately, but our dog Moe did. Both he and Santa were smiling.
    Once again, Santa Claus has come to town. Read his history, recounted by Diana Dinsick, to appreciate the generosity of his beginning, the scope of his influence and remember — if you can — how much he, and the reality of celestial flight by reindeer-drawn sled, once meant to you.


Calling All Cookie Bakers

    Bay Weekly’s Cookie Exchange is set for December 15. Now’s the time to send us your holiday cookie recipes and stories: editor@bayweekly.com.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Three destinations to enjoy mild days while you can

At Halloween, we passed the halfway point, 45 days from past the autumnal equinox, 45 days until the winter solstice. Halloween, you’ll remember, shortens All Hallows Eve, the lead-in to All Saints Day and All Souls Day, feasts of remembrance and reverence for the dead, borrowed from Roman Catholic liturgy. These are the Days of the Dead, as they’re celebrated in Mexico.    
    Another old story tells us what we’re in store for: Persephone, daughter of fruitfulness, is stolen by Hades and held captive in the underworld, meaning her mother Demeter and all the northern hemisphere mourn until her spring escape.
    In Chesapeake Country, the news is not so bad. November usually begins as a gentle month, with temperatures often in the 60s till mid-month and seldom dropping to freezing. Trees are at their colorful best right now, and while this year’s color will not be full-blown, it’s not bad. Butterflies and bees still have flowers to feed on. At home, we’re still eating ripe tomatoes from our own plants. These late autumnal good days are fleeting, which is all the more reason to enjoy them while we can.
    Thus, Bay Weekly’s November 3 issue offers you excursions. I recommend them particularly as I’ve been on them all myself.
    For a hike, alone or with your dog, or a horseback ride, I suggest Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, 198 acres of rolling terrain with lovely pastoral vistas. As this is a recently retired farm, most of the land is native grasses filled with birds and wildlife. Artful mowing of wide paths and meadows improves the views. You can see a long rolling road, named for its original use: rolling hogsheads of tobacco to the water to be loaded on boats for market. Hardwood forest of about a half-century’s growth trims the edges, including Battle Creek. Historic farm buildings still stand. Trails are marked on a map you can pick up at the unattended park, including the Cathole Trail, which takes you by the centuries-old native homesite you’ll read about in this week’s story Digging Back into Our History.
    This Calvert County Park is south of Prince Frederick and just south of Battle Creek Nature Education Center, another distinctive natural destination with a boardwalk through Chesapeake Country’s northernmost cypress swamp. There is no charge to visit Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, but equestrian use requires a permit (410-535-5327); open dawn to dusk.
    At Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, you’re only 20 minutes by car from Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, about which you’ll read in New at Calvert Marine Museum.
    That’s good reason to visit both in a day, especially if you’re coming from Anne Arundel County. If you’re ambitious, that is, for Calvert Marine Museum can fill a day on its own. The museum campus, a pretty spot with waterviews, is perfect for a picnic, reading, drawing or painting, if the day is fine. Outdoors is also where you’ll look for the playful otters in their pool. Inside this fascinating museum, you’ll see other live animals, including skates and rays; get close-up views of prehistoric life; and step back in maritime culture.
    You can’t bring your dog or horse, and admission is charged to the museum: 410-326-2042.
    For an Annapolis excursion, visit either campus of the expanded Annapolis Maritime Museum, about which you’ll read in A Giant Step into the Future. The museum proper, in Eastport, offers an Annapolis view of maritime history and a lovely waterfront space to be outdoors on a good day, to fish, read, draw or simply enjoy the feel of the place. Across Back Creek — three miles by car though Eastport and down Forest Drive — the museum’s new campus, the Ellen Moyer Nature Park, offers retreat from the city into 12 acres of mostly untamed nature, where you can explore or launch your paddle craft. Free admission on both sides of the creek: www.amaritime.org.
    Enjoy the spots now, and you may want to come back in winter for very different experiences.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Like coffee, Bay stewardship may be an acquired taste

Percolate is a big word in Chesapeake futures.
    Hereabouts, the same word once synonymous with how America made its coffee describes the best way for water from heaven, rainwater, and its gushing next stage, stormwater, to make its way back to our watershed. My mother’s percolator kept the brew cycling through the grinds, making coffee more watchable than drinkable as it spouted against the little glass top cap. In our watershed, drip coffee makes a better metaphor but not so particular a word.
    The comparison is that passing through the natural or constructed equivalent of grinds — rocks, roots and earth — water leaves its impurities behind, while if it rushed directly into sewers and waterways, stormwater would be a heady brew flavored with pollutants and sediment. Even apparently pure rainwater carries a load of exhaust pipe pollutants from vehicles and power plants.
    So neither drip nor percolate gets it quite right, for we want coffee water to pick up the flavor of its grinds while we mean for stormwater to leave its additives behind.
    Managing our stormwater so it percolates its deposits out is one of the top ways at work in cleaning up the Bay. Watch water running downhill during any torrent, and it seems like a pretty smart idea. But it’s a bumpy road between thought and action. After half a dozen years, Maryland’s stormwater management plan just can’t keep out of the news. Gov. Larry Hogan lives on Chesapeake Bay when he’s not in Government House, and there too he’s not far uphill from our defining natural resource. Yet just days ago he approved county stormwater management plans that substitute who-knows-what funding in place of the despised Rain Tax — which of course it really isn’t.
    Half of Maryland voters, according to a 2015 survey by the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition, incorrectly believe that people will be taxed when it rains. Many voters are not sure, leaving only 29 percent who know they will not be taxed when it rains.
    Tax is one of those words to which our collective allergy has worsened since Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s early 21st century bright idea that became the related Flush Tax. Year by year, we seem to have transferred much of the hatred Americans used to feel for communism, Nazism or fascism to our own government.
    That antagonism roiled a meeting I went to last month. It was a small gathering on Anne Arundel County’s plan to assess the Herring Bay watershed. Stormwater management money would be percolating way down to those little streams. The grumbling started when the presenters explained that this benefit was the drip down from President Barack Obama’s 2009 Executive Order putting the Bay on a pollution-reduction diet. Total Daily Maximum Loads of pollutants would set the Bay’s pollution calorie limits. Stormwater management plans help achieve one standard of reduction.
    Like storms, farms are another pollution-producer due for reduction. Money is percolating our way to help achieve those reductions, as well. Almost half a million dollars to accelerate conservation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is up for grants in November for Maryland farmers to better manage farm animal wastes.
    One local farm, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Clagett Farm in Prince George’s County, has become the first farm in the state to adopt best management practices for achieving farm Total Daily Maximum Load goals ahead of schedule. By achieving Agricultural Certainty certification, Clagett Farm gains a 10-year exemption from new environmental laws and regulations. That, I suppose, makes sense if it’s ahead of the law.
    This is how percolation works. It involves us all, touches us all, rewards us all in this great work of cleaning up the Bay.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

A little cause for hope and a lot of good eating

Oysters have been around a long time, in the vicinity of 500 million years.
    Arriving somehow in the Chesapeake, which came into being only 35 million years ago, oysters made themselves at home. In the prehistoric broth, temperatures were moderate, oxygen abundant and food plentiful for the filter-feeders. In synergism over the eons, thriving oysters both kept the Bay clean and made welcoming reef homes for many species seeking shelter and prey. For immobile creatures, oysters got a lot done.
    Longtime Baltimore Sun food writer Rob Kasper paints a vivid picture. “Up it came from the bottom of the Bay dripping mud and with all of these creatures on it, and when the captain popped it open, I was a little ascared,” the native Midwesterner says of his first encounter — aboard a skipjack — with a raw oyster.
    Reefs grew so enormous that Captain John Smith and the Europeans who followed him in big ships had to navigate around them.
    Oysters put Chesapeake Bay on America’s map.
    “They’re historic, they’re part of our tradition, wars have been fought over them,” says John Shields, whose family ran a seafood packing plant on Tilghman Island.
    In the bivalve’s heyday when as many as 17 million bushels were dredged from the Bay from October to April, refrigerated railway cars chugged them across the country to delight inlanders at least as far west as the Mississippi.
    Even in 2016 — with harvests of wild Bay oysters collapsed to a high of 400,000 bushels — Crassostrea virginica remains a talisman of bounty — and good eating.
    Shields, Kasper and I saw the vitality of that tradition last weekend at the U.S. Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County, conceived by Rotary Club of Lexington Park a half-century ago and still going strong. (Read more in this week’s feature, How to Cook a Prize-Winning Oyster.) You might have shared the spirit last Sunday at Captain Avery Museum’s Oyster Festival.    
    Oyster festivals, roasts and dinners are favorite autumnal events in Chesapeake Country. On Sunday October 29, you can get into oysters at Calvert Marine Museum’s Aww … Shucks Oyster Social or St. Michael’s Oysterfest at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. On Saturday November 5, Deale Volunteer Fire Department takes its turn, serving all the oysters you can eat — on the half shell, steamed, fried, frittered and stewed.
    Despite all the celebration, oysters have been near to becoming just a memory in our Chesapeake, down to one percent of their historic range. Not so many years ago, in this very century, both Maryland and Virginia came close to giving up on Crassostrea virginica and repopulating its home waters with an Asian import. Surely that was the low point. In the last decade, both Chesapeake states have invested heavily and seriously in wild oyster recovery.
    Will it work?
    Oysters are adaptable survivors. They have “developed a wide variety of genes and proteins to help them deal not only with changes of temperature and differences in the salinity of the water, but also with their exposure to heavy metals … and the various harmful bacteria” to which filter-feeders are constantly exposed, Kristian Sjøgren explained in a 2012 article reporting that their complex genome had been mapped.
    Yet they can’t get up and go, so they are tremendously vulnerable to environmental influences, from low oxygen to imported diseases to the heat of such summers as this one.
    Thus the rise of aquaculture means an alternate future — for oyster culture, oyster eaters, the oyster economy … even the Bay, as aquacultured oysters are busy filterers even though they do not form reefs.
    “With oyster farming, I’m enjoying seeing a resurgence in how we enjoy Chesapeake oysters and how they’re sold, here and across the U.S.,” says Shields, cookbook author, PBS cooking show host and proprietor of Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
    A little good oyster news is worth savoring. That’s what you’ll find, along with savory oyster recipes, in this issue.


Speaking of Food …
    Send us your holiday cookie recipes and stories now for Bay Weekly’s Cookie Exchange, out on December 15: editor@bayweekly.com.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

It’s all connected

Toe bone connected to the foot bone    
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Ankle bone connected to the ­shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the backbone
Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone

Unless we want to end up as Hoarders on reality television, keeping house is work we do day by day.
    Put away the groceries. Wash the dishes. Sweep the floor. Harvest the last of the tomatoes. Bring home a pumpkin, plant a mum or two.
    The every-day chores roll in and out like the tides. Interplaying with their circadian rhythm are weekly chores … and on top of them monthly chores … and on top of them seasonal chores … and on top of them annual chores … and on top of them chores you might do every five years or 10 or once or twice in the lifetime you and your home spend together. Put them all together and you get some pretty complex harmonies.
    How much is your homestead asking of you this fall?
    I’m sorry to ask. But that’s the kind of devilish question Bay Weekly’s annual Fall Fix-Up Guide provokes in my head. The image dancing in my mind is appropriately seasonal for the month that brings us Halloween: It’s a skeleton, singing about the toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the heel bone.
    Indoors, fall fix-up starts manageably. First comes the seasonal rotation of curtains and rugs. But of course the textiles coming and going have to be cleaned, stored and unstored. The windows under those curtains have to be washed. In the process, a little furniture has to be moved.
    That housekeeping done, I’d like the refreshment of some nice seasonal decorating. I’d like to say, Ha! fixed up for fall and relax until the Christmas season makes me a new set of suggestions I can’t refuse.
    But once the skeleton starts rattling, I see how one bone moves another.
    Starting in on fall fix-up reveals many more chores waiting in line for attention. They’ve been patient, at least a little patient, while summer kept us otherwise occupied. Now we see that the lawn needs more than cutting. It needs reseeding. That, as Bay Gardener Frank Gouin reminds us in this issue, is fall work. Of course reseeding doesn’t start with seeding; first you’ve got to prepare the soil.
    Heel bone connected to the ankle bone …
    So it follows that you can’t just harvest the last of the tomatoes. You’ve got to make compost of the vines, along with the late grass cuttings, in preparation for the certain addition of fallen leaves a few weeks hence. You’ve got to plant the fall garden. And then bulbs for spring — plus the longer-term investment of shrubs and trees.
    Ankle bone connected to the shin bone …
    Also jostling in line are chores that come due every year, like chimney sweeping and HVAC checking.
    Shin bone connected to the knee bone …
    Plus some of the chores that come due every so many years, like interior painting: Safe! Did that last year. Ever since, those freshly painted walls have been telling me it’s past time to pull out carpeting upstairs for replacement with hardwood flooring. That’s this year’s project, already started.
    Knee bone connected to the thigh bone …
    So exterior house painting will have to shuffle impatiently in line till next spring’s spruce-up. When I’m likely to have to deal with replacing two exterior doors …
    Thigh bone connected to the hip bone …

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com