Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

In praise of the Ginkgo

props to avlxyz on flickr for the image

props to avlxyz on flickr for the image

In the category of clearly underappreciated, the Ginkgo tree has taken a beating in the DC blogosphere lately, here and possibly here. And so I feel the need to post a defense.

According to Casey Trees, there are about 4,200 Ginkgo trees in DC.  As one of the Earth’s oldest plant species, Ginkgos make excellent street trees.  The Ginkgo tree was also a favorite of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. And they’re yummy — Ginkgo nuts (aka “white nuts”) are roasted and eaten as snacks, and the extract from Ginkgo biloba leaves has all sorts of health benefits.

The city has a Ginkgo injection program that — okay — could have more resources and be more effective.  It has to be difficult to treat that many trees at just the right time.  But if everyone could step carefully when the fruit falls, we can all enjoy the beautiful foliage, cleaner air, reduced stormwater runoff, carbon sequestration, and cooler climate.  Trees!

Headphones on the bike trail?

W&OD Trail
Photo by ktylerconk, used under Creative Commons license

I’ve got a couple of weeks off of work – despite House Republicans’ best efforts, Congress has adjourned for the traditional August recess and things at the office are slow – so I hit the W&OD bike trail yesterday afternoon.

I got into riding thanks to an old roommate who was an avid outdoorsman and competitive cyclist. One of his safety tips for the W&OD trail is that you should never ride with an iPod on. Naturally, I ignored that bit of advice yesterday. I was only out for a relatively short trip – 20 miles, from my house to Reston and back – but I much prefer working out with a soundtrack.

Any of you who also read DCist will have seen some of their extensive comment threads on cycling in and around the city. This is one point, though, that I haven’t really seen addressed extensively. Is it kosher to ride/run/rollerblade with the music on while out on a bike trail?

Just about every jogger I saw yesterday had headphones on, though none of them seemed to have any problem hearing me when I passed. I’m not about to go out on the trail with tunes on a sunny Saturday afternoon when every yuppie with tight shorts in Northern Virginia will be out for a stroll, but aside from that, I say go for it. Just use your head – and, obviously, keep the volume at a reasonable level for those “on your left” calls. I can’t imagine that it’d be a good idea on the Capital Crescent trail in Bethesda, either, but maybe you Murrahlanders disagree.

And for goodness’ sake, please, stop at the stop signs!

Screen on the Green: Arsenic and Old Lace

screenongreen.jpgThough Amy covered most of the city’s summer films a couple weeks ago, I want to shine a special spotlight on DC’s Screen on the Green.

I’ve been a big fan of this outdoor film festival since its debut nine years ago. I remember stuffing a blanket into my brown leather backpack, emailing friends with a meeting location before I left work, and finding a prime viewing spot by the Washington Monument (when the films were screened on the Mall between 12th and 14th Streets).

Little has changed in that time – except now the giant screen is set up between 4th and 7th Streets in front of the US Capitol.

There are three films left. Tonight’s feature is Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace

All of the films are shown on a gigantic movie screen in front of the Capitol Building and start at dusk around 8:30-9:00 pm. Diehards claim their spots on the lawn as early as 5 pm, so you might want to consider getting to the Mall an hour before the classic begins.

Farmventures, Week Two

Picking in the Fields Yesterday morning, the three of us who split a full share at Great Country Farms in Bluemont hopped in the car and headed for the farm to do some picking, and to retrieve our CSA boxes. Last week’s trip had been in the middle of the pre-summer heat wave that had the mercury pegged in most folks’ thermometers, and had us sweating a ton as we picked strawberries. This week’s trip turned out to be a more pleasant pastoral affair.

We hit the fields at about 10:30 in the morning, when it was only just in the mid-70s and the breeze made it mighty pleasant. We ended up with about 8 pints of strawberries between us, plus our farm boxes which had asparagus, lettuce, more strawberries, spring onions and a small cilantro plant. Farmer Ray showed us where the peach orchard was, as well, and showed us the fruit that was setting in the branches already. He says about three weeks ’til the peaches are ready. Judging by the heavy-laden blackberry vines, we’ll be in blackberries next week or the week after. After that, it was off on an adventure.

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Out at the Farm

The specialsMost of the Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) efforts in the area started their disbursements of crops this weeks, and we headed out to Bluemont, VA to Great Country Farms to pick strawberries and get our farm share. The drive out to Bluemont is not for the totally-city-mouse, as once you get past Leesburg and out past the last of the exurbs, you’re into deep farm country, with narrow roads and large farm vehicles looming over the cars. Don’t let that discourage you, though, as what’s at the end of the hour’s drive is the farm, and fresh produce.

We were not deterred by the intense heat advisory that all the news channels have been on about since the weather advisory hit the wires on Friday. We got to the farm around 12:30 or so, and checked in with the office in the main building of the farm. Thankfully, their AC was working well, and they hooked us up with the “You Pick” implements so that we could go out into the fields and pick our strawberries.

Our full share gave us the opportunity to ride out into the fields and pick 6 more pints of strawberries. Farmer Ray was running the tractor shuttle, a hefty tractor hooked up to three large carts, each able to hold a dozen or more people. We climbed up into the cart, and headed off to the fields. The ride it self was 5 or 6 bumpy minutes along a farm road back into the fields of strawberries. Great Country had set up a water station at the drop-off, which was much appreciated in the heat. Farmer Ray gave us a few tips to finding the best strawberries, and we headed out into the fields to grab our share.
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Oberon, and the Fruits of the Farm

Some of us need no season to barbeque, and choose to do it year round, but Memorial Day weekend is the official start of the summer and the barbeque season. Yesterday, we fired up the charcoals, cooked burgers and dogs, and toasted our country’s fallen heroes.

This delightful fellow in the photo, though, is the thing I’m happiest about for summer. A mini-keg of Oberon, from Bell’s, now available from all manner of beer suppliers around the area. Went down mighty fine with all the food.

We’ve been working on doing more local eating, and last night’s barbeque was a lot of that. We had Buffalo from Cibola Farms in Culpeper, and pork and chicken sausages from Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah. We also had a ton of persian cucumbers and tomatoes from Toigo Orchards. Dessert was ice cream made with Toigo’s Bourbon Peaches, milk and cream from one of the other stands (I promise you a name next week) and also strawberries from Westmoreland Berry Farm. There are a lot of great local food options that aren’t at Giant or Safeway or any of the major stores. They’re at the farm markets in the region, and there’s very little between you and them.

Oberon. — Originally uploaded by tbridge

Stroke that cock, Vegan!

As we were coming home from the Lewis Black show on Friday night, this was the ad on the Orange Line train back to Clarendon. I appreciate that being vegan will allow you to play with chickens, or something. Those folks I know who participate in farmers’ markets and CSA will frequently be able to go observe the chickens in their habitat.

So, I’m not sure that going vegan will really help the chickens anymore than, say, buying your eggs and chicken from a local farm who treat their chickens right.

But really, this whole entry is an excuse for the headline. Put your alternate headlines in the comments.

Stroke that cock, Vegan! — Originally uploaded by tbridge

Way less cute when they give you lockjaw

Photo courtesy of ericbegin2000Although there’s a number of people in this town who could do with a good case of lockjaw, I personally think the frothing at the mouth could get distracting, not to mention a little worrisome for the tourists. So you should keep that in mind when you interact with our wildlife and when you ponder if you should keep Fido and Fluffy’s vaccinations up-to-date.

Just over the river in Arlington, a woman was bitten by a fox which turned out to be rabid. Apparently the shots you have to get now are less horrific than the traditional dozen in the belly, but personally I’d just as soon not experiment. The location where she got the bite is pretty densely populated and close enough to the District that we can be pretty confident that if there’s rabies in one place it’s also in the other.

The linked press release has some good information, though some of the advice strikes me funny.

Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas where they might come in contact with people or pets.

Personally bats don’t scare me and I’m glad to have them around eating insects, but still – nobody had to remind me to keep them out of my house.

Red fox pup ( wild ), courtesy of ericbegin2000

First Rose

My First Rose of the Year! We’re usually 7-10 days behind the beautiful exploding vine of roses that my neighbors, two doors down, have planted along their walkway. The aphids stayed away this year, mostly distracted by the wild rose vine that sprung up last summer. There’s something about this year, I think I’m in for a good garden.

My tomatoes went in on Monday, and my Tomato Ladders came via fedex this morning. The dill is starting to take root, and my lavender pot is overflowing. Excellent.

First Rose — Originally uploaded by tbridge

Hiking Old Rag


I tried out a Meetup group this past weekend, with lots of success. While looking for something else online, I found a group–the DC/MD/VA Adventure Meetup–that does fun things like hiking, jumping out of airplanes, whitewater rafting, and so on. Actually, I’m not interested in the more adventurous adventures–all I really want to do is go on day hikes. I never feel like organizing them myself, and none of my friends is particularly passionate about hiking. Thus, this group.

The organizer had proposed a hike up Old Rag mountain, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The only problem was that he wanted to “beat the crowds” and do it at 6am, which meant leaving DC at 4:15am–and getting up at 3:30am. Second problem: it rained all night. But I stuck to my guns and, after about 3 hours of sleep, stumbled out of bed and made it to the meeting point. Two hours later, we were ready to climb the mountain in the grey fog.

It turned out to be really terrific. First of all, Old Rag is amazing. It’s just the right length (about 4.5 hours for us, including a half hour at the top) and rigorousness (rigorosity?) to feel like you’ve genuinely accomplished something. The path we took on the way up gave way to rocks towards the top, so we had to scramble and at times truly climb over the rocks, which was a challenge. Apparently the views are amazing, but we were in fog the whole time and largely missed them–but the verdant forest and lichen-covered rocks were impressive enough. And we had the whole mountain to ourselves.

What was also very cool was the whole meetup thing. Because of the rain, only 5 of the 28 who’d RSVP’d showed up. But that made it even better, as we were able to get to know each other quite well and really look out for each other throughout, particularly on the treacherous parts of the train. Meeting 4 strangers and having a great time talking and being kind to each other–it’s enough to give heart to any cynic.

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