Pets, Places, & Things

Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Preserving Your Summer Garden Produce for Delicious Winter Meals

By Melinda Myers All your hard work is paying off with a bountiful harvest. Fresh produce is filling your garden, countertops, and refrigerator while the garden keeps producing more. Preserve some of your harvest to enjoy throughout the winter with some tried-and-true or updated variation of food preservation techniques. Hanging bundles of herbs to dry is a long-time practice that works. Harvest herbs in the morning just after the dew has dried off the leaves. Rinse, allow them to dry, and remove any damaged or dried leaves. Gather the dry herbs into small bundles and secure with a rubber band. Use a spring-type clothespin to hang the bundles from a clothesline or hanger in a warm, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight. A modern twist on this tradition is the space-saving Stack!t Herb Drying Rack ( hung from the ceiling. You will be able to dry large quantities of herbs in any narrow, out-of-the-way space. Extend the life, flavor, and nutritional value of squash with proper harvesting and storage. Only store blemish- and damage-free fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of mold and decay developing during storage. Harvest zucchini when the fruit is six to eight inches long and scalloped squash when three to six inches in diameter. Store these in a plastic bag inside the vegetable crisper drawer in your refrigerator for several days. Wait to harvest winter squash when the fruit is full-sized, and the rinds are firm and glossy. The portion touching the ground turns from cream to orange when the fruit is ripe. Use a pruner to harvest the fruit, leaving a one-inch stem on each fruit. Cure all winter squash, except for acorn, in a warm, humid location. Then move to a cool, dry, well-ventilated area to store for several months.  In the…

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Financial Focus, Pets, Places, & Things

Paying down debt vs. investing

By Carl Trevison and Stephen Bearce Paying down debt is often difficult, especially in a challenging economic environment. You may be wondering which to tackle first — pay down your debt or invest for the future. Balance is best A balanced approach to wealth management serves both today’s needs and tomorrow’s goals. For some that may mean paying off some debt today while simultaneously investing for the future. Your own needs and circumstances will be unique. The following guidelines can help you evaluate alternatives and find an approach that fits your situation and goals. Don’t forget your emergency fund In addition to paying down debt and settling on an investment strategy, make it a priority to set up an emergency reserve. Traditional “rules of thumb” suggest setting aside three to six months or more of living expenses in traditional savings or very short-term, highly liquid, low-volatility investments. While ideal, that goal may not be realistic for everyone. Start by building up a reserve of a month’s expenses and make it a goal to increase your emergency fund over time as resources permit. Your future first When making decisions about debt and investing, be a long-term thinker. Consider “what position do I want to be in 10 or 20 years from now?” Then evaluate what actions today should be most effective in helping you achieve your long-term financial goals. For example, if you have high-interest debt that is compounding, this could eventually become a serious impediment to reaching your long-term goals. In contrast, you might not be in a hurry to retire low-interest debt if the potential return on long-term investing would be greater. When making decisions about debt reduction vs. investing, keep in mind that the need to eventually pay off principal is certain but investment returns are not. Investment…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Something in the Water

By Steve Chaconas Lake Anna anglers have been wary of the blue green algae that’s been spreading over the 13,000 acre lake, one of the largest freshwater inland reservoirs in Virginia.  For the last four summers, swimming has been restricted as Cyanobacteria, a harmful algae that causes skin rashes and stomach illnesses, dangerous for children and animals, has been covering shallow coves of the recreational lake. The Department of Health has issued notices to steer clear of contact with the blooms, warning swimmers to “avoid discolored water or scums that are green or blueish-green because they are more likely to contain toxins.” The Lake Anna Civic Association (LACA) is launching a pilot Cyanobacteria Mitigation Program. It addresses causes of the harmful algae and the elimination of it. Long-term solutions are based on prevention and that points to reducing nutrients, primarily phosphorus and nitrogen, entering from the watershed or from deposited sediments. A mix of runoff input from urban or agricultural areas is a big challenge as Anna has 200 miles of shoreline. Runoff from nearby farms and homes overloads the lake with nutrients allowing algae to flourish. In addition to the effects on humans and pets, algae can cloud the water creating more turbidity blocking light to other aquatic vegetation. To address nutrients flowing into the lake, experts have created a plan to reduce nutrient loading in each basin and provide substantial water quality improvement, especially in sections where nutrients remain high.  Watershed Management Best Management Practices (BMP) include street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, buffer strips, and filtration systems. Hydrogen peroxide-based treatments are also considered a BMP. Chemical treatments are fairly low cost and can offer immediate solutions to treat visible outbreaks, but still can be up to $1500 per acre and also used for spot treatment of outbreaks. Estimated…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

Summer Plans Laid to Waste

By Lori Welch Brown Seems like just yesterday I was convincing myself that this was going to be THE ‘summer.’ The summer I dropped my extra COVID 19 pounds of flesh and rocked my bikini aka my mommified high-waisted two piece with maximum-hold spandex. The summer that I felt like a million bucks in my sundresses (as in my arms didn’t look like bat wings).  The summer I’d start running again—maybe even sign up for a half marathon.  Heck—maybe a whole.  The summer I started eating healthy, maybe even committing to a plant-based diet.  The summer I actually relaxed. I had a vision, but no plan other than a nightly regimen of chowing down on carbs with an ice cream chaser.  Oh well.  There’s always next summer… It’s hard to focus on these (shallow?) desires when there is so much heaviness in the world.  It is challenging to get out, move, and have fun when you feel as if the universe has gone utterly bonkers.  But, finding joy is important—especially during the summer months.  It’s almost our duty to enjoy some down time, indulge in some ice cream, and dip our toes in the sand.  Joy and happiness—and FUN—are important to our mental health.  Unrealistic goals and beating ourselves up when we fail, however, is detrimental to our well-being. During the dog days of summer when August presents itself as a horse hair blanket coated in hot embers, it is especially important to practice self-care whether it is a midday nap in the air-conditioning, thirty minutes in the hammock with a summer read, or an early morning bike ride. Sure—push yourself a little to pedal an extra ten minutes or log another mile on the treadmill, but do so with caution and an awareness of the big picture.  It’s hot…

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Pets of the Month, Pets, Places, & Things

Celebrate the Dog Days of Summer With One of These Cool Canines

By Gina Hardter Louie If good things come to those who wait, then 11-year-old Louie deserves all the best!  This American foxhound mix has the patience of a “Zen Master” and is ready to wait as long as it takes to find his perfect Best Friend.  Louie’s hobbies include leisurely strolls with his nose to the ground, cuddling with his friends and the occasional bouts of zoomies.  Louie is currently enjoying a stay with one of the AWLA’s amazing foster families, and his adoption fee has been paid by a generous donor, so schedule time to meet him by emailing Serena Serena is ready to sing her siren song, straight into your heart!  At 9 years old, this sweet terrier mix is all about her human friends, and she loves to shower them with puppy kisses and wiggly snuggles.  She’s also an energetic gal who loves to show off her excellent walking skills and sprint with her favorite toys around the yard.  Serena’s adoption fees have already been paid by a generous donor, so learn more about meeting Serena by emailing Chance How does 4-year-old Chance stay cool during the dog days of summer?  By showing off his “chillest” self, of course.  This red and fawn terrier mix loves a good run around the yard, but when the weather’s hot, he’s just as happy to cuddle with his friends in the comfy A/C.  Chance is recognizable by his trademark goofy grin and his wiggly.

Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Mountain Lake Lodge…More Than Just the Home of Dirty Dancing

By Bob Tagert That is, the movie Dirty Dancing! With the 1987 iconic movie celebrating its 35th year along with young people and dance, we decided to take our Road Trip to the primary filming location. Most of us are familiar with the movie and when we had the chance to visit and stay at the site of the movie we took advantage of the invitation. Don’t be fooled, however, there is so much more to Mountain Lake Lodge than Dirty Dancing fame. Mountain Lake Lodge is located in the southwest mountains of Virginia in Pembroke, VA. Nearby is the campus of Virginia Tech, the New River, Appalachian Trail and plenty of mountains. At approximately 4,000 feet on Salt Pond Mountain you will find the stone lodge, rustic cabins and cozy cottages that make up Mountain Lake Lodge. Upon our arrival, after a winding, uphill climb, we arrived at the lodge nestled in a bowl and surrounded by an old growth forest. The stone lodge is very impressive on first sight and more so after entering the beautiful hotel. We checked in and they gave us directions to our cottage in the center of the compound. We were given a cottage named Norfolk. All of the cottages and cabins have names from back in the days they were built. Our accommodations were very comfortable and complete with a balcony overlooking the volley ball and badminton courts, the two pools, Baby’s cottage and in the distance the dried up lake (we will get to that shortly). The cottage included a king size bed, stone fireplace and a jacuzzi tub. The tub came in handy after a day of kayaking on the New River. Even though the evenings were cool, it didn’t warrant a wood fire in the evening, however we did…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Medication Mojo 101: Dosing Pets Can be Stress-free

By Carolyn Cockroft “This is the medicine for Marigold’s condition,” the veterinarian informed me. She held up a package of pills as I stroked my cat reassuringly after a stressful checkup. Handing me another bottle, she continued, “And this is for you once you try giving Marigold her medicine.” Yes, this is a joke. But the reality, where Marigold is concerned, is NO joke. Dosing a pet can be challenging. Having someone to assist you is ideal but going solo can be stress-free if you apply a few tricks, lots of patience, and stay calm. Preparation is Key Before administering medicine, consult with your veterinarian for any tips (some will even demonstrate for you and let you practice in front of them with your pet).  Have at hand a towel, gloves (if needed), and a proper applicator, if required. Most importantly, have some yummy treats—a special delicacy your pet gets only at the time of medication. Delectable Disguises Hiding a pill in tasty food can turn medication into “treat time”. Check with your vet first since some medications shouldn’t be taken with food. With dogs, a spoonful of peanut butter (with no xylitol), a chunk of meat or cheese, or ice cream can work. Commercial pill pockets or paste mask the taste of medicine when wrapped around the tablet. Try a bait-and-switch approach. Give your pet a treat (or two) that’s not laced with medication. Then offer one that contains the pill. Follow up with a treat without medication. Open a capsule or crush a pill into powder and mix it into a small portion of your pet’s food. Monitor your pet’s eating to make sure all the food is consumed. Cats have an uncanny ability for knowing when they are being tricked. Their sense of smell can detect medicine even…

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On the Road, Pets, Places, & Things

On the Road

Longtime Alexandrians and Old Town Crier readers David and Laurie Norcrosse took the July copy with them on their latest trek up north. Little did they know it would turn into an impromptu Family Affair. Both David’s father’s parents and mother’s parents starting going to Loon Lake in Rangeley Maine in the early 1920’s. His mother and father met there, eventually married and produced David. The Norcrosse’s in this picture are the result of that meeting one hundred years later. Two spouses (and a significant other) with four grandchildren. Laurie is pictured in the center with the OTC in hand and David is to her right. This photo was taken about ten miles from Loon Lake on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. (Yes…..that is an actual lake!) If you would like to see your photo featured in this space, grab a copy of the OTC, pack it in your bag and take it on your next adventure. Snap a few photos of you or whomever you choose reading the issue and send it/them to with information for the caption and a return address so we can send you a hard copy. You photo will appear online and on our Facebook page as well.

Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

July In the Garden

Thanks to our friends at, here are a few gardening tasks and projects that you can do to help keep your garden looking it’s best for the rest of this season as well as what you can do to make sure your garden comes back in full force next spring. We have been utilizing the “expertise” of these “experts” off and on for several years. Watering The amount of water that your garden will need is going to depend on the weather conditions in your area. The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time and to allow the soil dry out between waterings. Deep watering will allow the plant’s roots to grow deeper, where they are less likely to dry out, as well as the added benefit of anchoring the plant into the ground better. Light, surface watering actually wastes water, because the water never actually reaches the root zone of the plant, and the moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil. The best way to tell if your plants are receiving enough water is to take a trowel or shovel and dig down a few inches. The soil should be moist at least 3 or 4 inches deep to insure that the water is reaching the root zone of the plants. Of course, if you planted drought resistant plants in your garden, you won’t have to water as often, but the principal of deep watering still applies. As the weather dries out, your container plants may need daily watering, especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight. Push your finger into the soil in your container plantings at least once a day (more often on hot, dry days) to feel for moisture and be certain that plants are…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Fells Point – Our Favorite Part of Charm City

By Bob Tagert With gas prices still high, we decided to take a road trip closer to home. About 55 miles north-east of Alexandria you can find Fells Point along the Patapsco River near Baltimore, Maryland. In 1726, English Quaker, William Fell bought land he named Fell’s Prospect. This eventually became Fells Point and it appears that you can spell it Fell’s or Fells. I’m going with use Fells. My relationship with Fells Point began over 30 years ago when I crewed on the Patricia Divine, a two-masted schooner, in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. The race actually starts in Annapolis and ends along the waterfront at the Norfolk Mall in Norfolk, Virginia. The boats gather in the Patapsco River around Fells Point a day or two before the race to prep for the great race. This is how I first discovered Fells Point. Looking ahead to a few days on the water racing we all took a little liberty and visited the town of small shops, restaurants and an array of really cool bars. We spent the majority of the night at the Cat’s Eye Pub, truly a sailor’s kind of place. Back then the area was undergoing a revitalization period and the results show today. The main attraction is still the selection of watering holes and restaurants along Thames Street, the main drag. Like Old Town Alexandria, they have all adjusted to the additional outdoor dining space (result of the pandemic protocols) that takes up former parking spots. There are also a number of fine establishments a block or two off of Thames Street. One of these popular places is Bertha’s Mussels. Bertha’s was established in 1972 when the area was run down and trying to find its way…similar to the situation in Old Town Alexandria around…

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