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Road Salt as a Water Quality Issue

This summary was written by Mark Southerland for the Howard County Environmental Sustainability Board.

road saltWe are all familiar with the use of road salt to melt ice and snow from paved roadways in the winter. There are a variety of deicer products, but the vast majority of what is used is common table salt—sodium chloride (Na-Cl). Road salt improves tire adherence to the pavement, greatly increasing vehicle safety, but has adverse effects on property and the environment beyond the road surface.

The types and extent of these adverse effects are becoming clearer through recent (more…)

Million Frogs Calling

Spring peepers

Image used by permission from Michael Benard’s Spring Peeper Page

I wonder at times if the suburban area in which I live is more biodiverse today, or less so, relative to the farmland it once was. Has the onslaught of development left our natural green infrastructure – that we depend on for clear water, clean air, and healthy soils – better or worse off than 50 or 100 years ago? Yes habitats have been reshaped a great deal in the last 500 years, but is it possible that we are doing a (more…)

Back to My Roots – Guest Post on Local Farming Movement

Darryl discingGuest post by Darryl Pastor

On April 10, 2015 my 3,500 mile journey from Florida to Oregon had ended and I was at Dancing Roots Farm as an organic farming apprentice, seeking to improve my relationship with food, the land, and work.

Like many people, my relationship with food started in the grocery store or restaurant and concluded at the end of my fork. This was my reality until my final semester as a public health graduate student (2013), when I led the development of a community garden and produce stand in a food desert in Gainesville, FL. This is when I began to recognize the power of sustainable agriculture to unite, educate, and nourish communities. The realization led me to leave my job in academia, in search of more meaningful work, a journey which ended in Corbett, Oregon, living with my dog, Ty, in a 12 foot (in diameter) yurt on a 10 acre organic vegetable farm.

high hoop tunnelFor seven months, I would rise with the sun, spend my days caring for the land, and my evenings enjoying the literal fruits of our labor. When I was not on the farm, I was enjoying the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, and its endless number of hiking trails, including the famous Pacific Crest Trail. I was in natural paradise.

After 12 years, I have returned to Howard County and I find myself looking at everything through green colored lenses. When I see wide open spaces, I automatically begin calculating the potential yields of tomatoes, peppers, kale, collards, and lettuce heads. When I come across an overgrown lawn, I can’t help to think of how many goats it would take to mow it down in a day, and how great that goat poop would be for the fertility of the soil. My parents are thrilled to have me around, in my new role as compost enforcer of the house. But most importantly, I have a much greater appreciation for locally grown/raised food and am always looking for opportunities to support local farms that produce food using environmentally sustainable and humane practices.

Now that I am back in Howard County, I am excited to see initiatives like “Live Green Howard” and The Howard County Conservancy. I look forward to using my experiences and my green lenses to help strengthen this community.

Darryl Pastor

Take-a-way: It does all of us good to get out and learn more about where our food comes from so that we can all work to save our farms and support locally grown foods.  Thanks Darryl for your interest and your commitment to helping make things better right here in Howard County. Editor

Best Places to Visit in Howard County, Maryland

brightonI am often asked “What are the best places to visit right here in Howard County?” This is a tough question because there are so many interesting spots across the county. Visiting them all would literally fill up your weekends for the entire year. I therefore am not going to start with just a short, limited list.  I think you are better served if I group many of them together into general categories for this post. Throughout the coming year I will try to be even more specific as to my favorite places within these larger categories. That approach will be easier for you and will (more…)

Better Governance – Getting All the Players Together

webOne of the key challenges in making good decisions relative to sustainability issues is getting all the key players together. The important players often reside in a wide range of government departments, non-profits, volunteer groups, and in the business community. To be effective, they all need to meet, listen to the important issues, and work things out. This does not happen enough.

Fortunately, we are trying to take steps (more…)

Ned’s Top Ten Maryland Hikes

Billy_Goat_Trail_bouldersI have not done all the trails in Maryland but these are the memorable ones that I have done that are easy to locate. Many of the places I have hiked were along rivers or shorelines where there were no trails. Some of these required walking in the streams or in the shallow estuaries. It was all fun. But the ones listed here can all be found on maps and are (more…)

The New and Enhanced Office of Sustainability

IMG_26152The Howard County Council recently passed a bill introduced by the Kittleman administration to upgrade and enhance the seven year old Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES).  The vote was unanimous. This is the result of a thorough assessment of the effectiveness of the OES over the past seven years during Ken Ulman’s Democratic administration and the important role it will play in Allan Kittleman’s Republican administration. It is a clear sign that (more…)

How Do Communities Benefit from a Local Food Movement?

Roving_Radish-300x238What do you do when suburbanites realize that the farms they have been displacing can provide them with fresh and nutritious food if there was a financial incentive for them to stop growing corn and meet the growing demand for local vegetables, fruit, and meat? You bring the players together.

Over the past year a Food Council has been meeting here in Howard County to determine (more…)

A Piedmont Christmas Tree Farm

NedTillmanChristmasTreesI grew up on 110 acres in Harford County, Maryland. In the 1960s, forty acres of our farm was taken by eminent domain for the construction of Interstate I-95. We were devastated by that event. (More on that part of the story can be found in the prologue of the book Saving the Places We Love).

To block out the sight and the sound of the highway, we planted 30,000 evergreen trees – a very slow-growing sound barrier. Six years later, (more…)

Could Your Water Supply Be Cut off?

Photograph 2 Lake Erie Algal BloomThe loss of our water supply is not just a risk in dry areas where there is a very limited supply of water and water must be rationed during droughts (e.g., in California today). Losing access to potable water can happen anywhere. Last winter 300,000 residents of Charleston, West Virginia were told not to drink or bathe in their water. This past summer 400,000 Toledo, OH residents were told the same thing about their water coming from Lake Erie (  The irony of course is that there was plenty of water in these moist areas of the country. Water quantity is not the problem in the East. Water quality is.

The WV problem was the result of a 5000 gallon chemical spill (more…)

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