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Riding and Knitting with BunRab
While carrying a large saxophone
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  • Thu, 16:00: OK, now that we've notified the relatives, it's official: we're engaged!

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  • Mon, 14:51: @fadeaccompli I have all my fingers + toes crossed that Adverb's barking plus the wall actually work as they're supposed to against rain.

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  • Mon, 13:13: In PastaBlitz for 1st time in 10 yrs - Steve + I ate here every wk when we lived in Elkridge for 4 mo. before buying house in Catonsville.
  • Mon, 15:11: By the time lobster is mixed w/ ricotta, wrapped in dough, + covered in sauce, it's just a vague shellfish taste. Might as well be clams.

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  • Sat, 11:50: We're at Frostburg + the leaves are /finally geeting some nice colors - lower altitudes, they're real late turning this year.

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  • Wed, 12:22: I was thinking Indian buffet, L was thinking English pub, so we're having Vietnamese pho.

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  • Wed, 10:37: Passed a field w/ goats, cows, horses - all had same coloring + similar markings, white w/ brown spots. Coincidence or OCD?

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  • Fri, 13:39: Discuss merits of "The only easy day was yesterday" vs. "The only day you're guaranteed to survive was yesterday." as inspirational quotes.

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  • Wed, 13:14: There are probably sillier things I could be doing than singing Mairzy Doats to a guinea pig, but offhand I can't think of any.

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  • Tue, 12:53: Reminder that DE mostly a suburb of Philadelphia: cash registers at DE Welcome Center rest stop have "I heart Pope Francis" mints for sale.

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  • Tue, 09:29: Dynamic sign: Misplaced truck exits 21 to 20

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  • Sat, 19:55: Is SmartCar tipping a thing? Because it seems well-nigh irresistable, and I'm not even inclined that way normally.

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  • Thu, 21:12: @fadeaccompli Teacher (f) is -in tacked on. Like Panzerkommandantin, which is a real thing Steve + I saw on German vrsion of What's My Line

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The Montgomery County fair is the first one Larry and I went to together, once we were dating, and it's definitely the one we measure all others against. At the time we first went to it, we didn't realize that it is the largest county fair in MD, and somewhat larger than the State Fair in several respects, so that it's rather unfair to expect other fairs to come close. But there you are - it's what we think of as a real fair.

The largest county fair in MDCollapse )

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  • Sat, 23:02: That was a wedding. 170 of my nearest + dearest. Well, to be fair, a score were groom's family + a dozen were the bride + groom's friends.

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  • Fri, 22:38: Whew. Family. Lots and lots and LOTS of family. In-laws and the the inlaws' inlaws. And their sisters and their =ousins and their aunts.
  • Fri, 22:39: Rehearsal dinner was only 45 or so of the nearest and dearest, not like the wedding tomorrow.
  • Fri, 22:40: @fadeaccompli and I'm one of the QUIET ones.
  • Fri, 23:10: @joncosmos indeed I do. Remind me to recite to you, when I get there - it sounds more like Biblical begats than G+S, or like an epic poem.
  • Fri, 23:20: @JonCosmos as she lives only a couple blocks from you, I believe this could be accomplished if all parties are willing.

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  • Tue, 21:22: @Fadeaccompli I read The Door for years in Austin. Even had a letter printed in it once. As an avowed atheist.

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This is a really long post about the Howard County fair, so best I put it behind a cut, though I'll leave a couple of pictures to entice you to read.
Week of August 9: the Howard County fairCollapse )
Cake display, highlighting this year's Owl theme for Home Arts.
In the 300+ lb. category, which is a very, very good size for this early in the year!More pictures behind the cutCollapse )

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Week of August 2: Carroll County Fair. We went early to this one - Sunday the 2nd was early in the fair. Some of the animals weren't even there yet, if their judging was later in the week. However, there were more activities on the schedule on Sunday, than on any weekday, so off we went. First thing to note: this fair does NOT have a carnival. If the carnival rides are what you go to fairs for, this one's not for you. Second thing: admission is free all the time; parking is free as long as you arrive before 4 p.m. So the price is certainly right. And from where we live, it's less than half the distance to this fair than to last week's fair, and a very pretty drive it is, too. We got there a few minutes before 11 a.m. - first scheduled activity was for noon, but all the animal barns were open (we had telephoned and checked on that, because the fair website http://www.carrollcountyfair.com/ does not anywhere list what time the "gates" open for the public; it just lists when special events and entertainment are.

When one enters the fair from parking, one is in the vendor area - mostly farm equipment vendors. There was also a mechanical bull ride set up there (with super-easy settings, so no minimum age or size limit other than being able to comprehend the instructions without a parent holding onto you) and a few farm-related, non-equipment booths. And a couple of churches. Anyway, one walks up a ramp to the "midway," the main paved corridor through the fairgrounds, and right in front of one is the first building. This one is actually three long buildings in a row. The left-hand one is the dining hall, which is one of the really nice things about this fair. For one thing, staff had told us on the phone, it's open even for breakfast, so if we had arrived at 8 a.m. Monday to see the rabbit show, we could have eaten breakfast there. We decided to go through the largest, middle building, first. This fair is entirely a 4-H & FFA fair, so all exhibits are by kids - no outside adult entries. There were pieces of restored farm equipment being judged, and lots of furniture, both made and restored/refinished (in fact, the restored/refinished was a very popular category.) Lots of the standard 4-H dioramas. Their theme this year is "Feeding Carroll County in More Ways Than One" along with a sub-theme of "4-H is open to all." By the content of the dioramas and displays, they mean that they are handicapped-friendly; nothing to do with diversity. Carroll County is, if I remember my census bureau stats correctly, the least diverse county in MD, over 90% pasty white, non-Hispanic, non-Asian, non-African-American, non-Pacific Island, etc. And certainly our time spent at the fair bore that out. So 4-H may be open to all there, but all is still going to be pretty homogenous. Anyway, at the end of that building, one could exit out the side and down a few steps to the Poultry Barn, which had a nice assortment of poultry. I love the various Wyandotte Laced, that's such a pretty breed. Some of the silkies, the ones that don't even look like birds. Some impressively sized Orpingtons - that's a large breed. Walking all the way through poultry brought us back to the first end of the first building we had been through, and it was almost noon, so we went into the dining hall for lunch. Now mind you, there was plenty of fair food along the midway. But we had heard about the dining hall and wanted to try it. It's a big, air conditioned hall, seats about 150 at long tables, and has a cafeteria line right in front of the kitchen. (Staff refer to it as the cafeteria, rather than the dining hall.) An $8 platter got us some excellent fried chicken, 2 sides (we both chose corn on the cob and baked potato) and a roll and a drink. They had unsweet iced tea in the big dispensers, as well as sweet tea. Larry reports that the sweet tea had lemon flavor in it, something he's not fond of and that wasn't mentioned on the signs. Other than that, we can say that that was a really good deal, and it's run by the fair - all the proceeds go to supporting the 4-H and FFA, rather than to commercial vendors, and the servers include some of the older kids, as well as a few supervisors. Friendly and chatty people. Given that admission is free and parking is free, if you happen to be in the area, go over and have lunch in the fairgrounds dining hall to support them, why not?

After lunch, we headed down the other end of the grounds, to the Shipley building, the largest one - it contains an arena and is the main livestock barn. What we noticed right off in livestock is that there were a lot more sheep and swine than we'd seen at the first two. Goats are still the most numerous livestock; at least in MD, 4-Hers seem pretty big on goats. But there were a good number of sheep. The swine were mostly asleep; pigs sleep as much as cats do, it seems. Not all the cattle were there yet, but the area for them wasn't that big - goats would be more numerous even were all the cattle stalls filled. When one goes out the far end of the Shiply building, one comes to the Rabbit Building, and since the rabbit show is Monday morning, all the rabbits were being checked in this Sunday afternoon. Really a large bunch of them, biggest we've seen so far, and I think probably at least as big as the rabbit selection at the MoCo fair. I don't like the cages they use - not enough ventilation - but they had a lot of them, and all in good condition, and the building IS air-conditioned, so not going to get as hot as some. We saw a few lionheads, and a couple of Rhinelanders, as well as the usual assorted lops and so on. As I say, looked like it was going to be a large rabbit show. Walking out of that, we came to the truly large farm equipment, the stuff too large for the vendor lot. The stuff that costs in the six digits. That was the largest combination furrower-seeder I have /ever/ seen, and Larry wondered, what farm anywhere around here is big enough to need that big a piece, and who can afford it? It's not like the Midwest where there's miles of corn on one farm.

From there, I hopped a ride back uphill on one of the many "gators" (small  cross between a golf cart and a pick-up truck) and Larry walked up, back to the midway ice cream booth. Where we had a BIG serving of ice cream, better bargain for the money than the Cecil County one, of the same Turkey Hill flavors. We then walked into the last third of the long building, which was the Home Arts stuff, and it was a small selection. Every single jar of canned something had a ribbon - it was a little silly-looking, so many ribbons it nearly obscured the shelves. I'm not sure about that as a teaching tool. And we walked over to the pig races, back in the vendor lot, and watched a couple of those - cute. It turns out that the main motivation/training tool for the pigs is: Oreos. That's right, the pigs love 'em. Then we went back over to Shipley, to watch the pet show - the juniorest division of 4-H is called the Clovers, and they are little kids new to exhibiting, so a general pet show is easy on them. Everyone gets an award and their picture with the King and Queen of the fair. Cute stuff, nothing cuter than a five-year-old hugging her pet chicken for dear life. We could have stayed for more shows after that - there was going to be poultry judging, and then an animals-in-costumes contest - but it was getting quite warm for us. So we took a short-cut across the track/stadium/thing-where-big-outdoor-entertainment-will-be, which was more level ground than going back up the midway, and a last pass through the vendor area to the handicapped parking. It was very easy to spend some 4 hours there, and we would have been happy to spend more time if we weren't getting too hot. If one wanted to buy tickets to the big-name evening entertainment, one could easily arrive shortly before 4 and find several hours of things to do before the show starts. (One could also buy a LOT of kettle corn, from various vendors, though we resisted.) Verdict: the price is right, and if you're in one of the nearby counties, certainly worth a visit, as long as you don't mind the lack of carnival rides.

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We are visiting fairs this summer - it's a project. The first couple of fairs were in July - quite early as ag fairs go.

Week of July 26: the Cecil County fair, up in Elkton. Admission to this one is only $2 for seniors, and that's 60+ so that we both count as seniors, so we didn't bother aiming for Senior Day, though if we had, according to the schedule, there would have been several hours of senior-specific things going on. We went on Wednesday. This fair opens to the public at 9, but several of the shows aren't until afternoon, so we aimed for getting there at noon, as with last week. This is our longest drive, 75 miles to get there, and thanks to roadwork and random traffic, it took us nearly 2 hours, so we actually got there at 12:30. This was instantly, obviously, a better-run fair than Washington County; they had guys directing parking, and marked handicapped spaces, and an actual front gate with cheery young people staffing the admissions kiosks. We asked about food, and the young lady pointed us toward it. The midway wasn't open at this one either - according to the website http://www.cecilcountyfair.org/ it opens at 5. So no fair food here, either - the Lions Club has their own little permanent building and they were serving lunch, a limited menu but the fair special of "Chicken Fingers and Freedom Fries" was quite reasonably priced and lots of food, and despite the silly name, the french fries were good. They have a picnic table area in the shade.  The food area has wi-fi - of /course/ it does; there were several people with their laptops, who appeared to be exhibitors (you can sort of tell them - the uniform of shorts and well-worn tall boots tells you who's mucking out stalls.)

After lunch we started walking around - this is still a small fairgrounds, compared to some, but they have enough permanent buildings to put on a good show. We went through the commercial building first, which was pretty dead in the water except for a Tupperware lady and a Bible Association; all the other booths were unstaffed. There was an additional tent with more vendors out back of that, nothing I wanted to buy, and 2 whole booths taken up by a Baptist church - even though we didn't meet anybody's eye, they still started calling out to us. Anyway - Home Arts, small but larger than Washington County. Several quilts, some crocheted items, lots of sewing, and lots of canning - three multi-shelved stands full of jams and pickled veggies and corn relish and so on, very attractive. Lots of kids' art. Decent array of baked goods, though since the building isn't air conditioned some things were sagging. Lots of fans - the temperature was comfortable enough in the shade, and they did not stint on the fans anywhere. Next building over rabbits and pigs. A very few pigs - not a great swine turnout. There were probably as many rabbits as at Washington, but they were poorly caged and poorly labeled; I felt quite sorry for the poor buns; they didn't have enough space or enough ventilation, and a lot of them weren't even labelled by breed. Then on to Poultry, of which there was a decent assortment, a few turkeys and quite a few varieties of chickens. Not as wide a variety as Montgomery County (more later on that) but still a decent variety for a small show, including some of the really silly ones where it's difficult to tell that it's a bird, let alone what species of bird it might be. Onward: goats, and more goats. A few sheep, lots of goats. In fact, the goats took over one of the horse barns as well. Goats like Larry; we always have goats trying to stick their faces up into Larry's face. A couple of cow barns.

By then it was getting warmish; we didn't slog all the way over to the other horse barn, the big one, because it was set off from the
rest, and besides, it was almost time for the afternoon entertainment to start. That's right, real scheduled entertainment, during the day! (The night-time entertainment Wednesday night would be a rodeo; we weren't going to stay for it, but it's apparently a big deal there, and people come specifically for that.) First up, Skybound Canine Entertainment - trained dogs catching discs and jumping through hoops - well, sort of trained: these are all rescue dogs, and part of the point of the show is to show how much you can do in the way of training and playing with even an older dog. The fanciest part of the show was the dock-diving: they had several dogs doing dives into a large pool, and a mini-Australian-Shepherd name of Ray-Ray did a 21 foot dive into the pool. Ray-Ray truly loves his job. A few seconds watching the chainsaw-wood-carving guy (the carvings weren't for sale during the day, but were being auctioned and raffled off at night.) Then over to the Kachunga Alligator Show. Yes, real alligators. No, one can't teach an alligator to do tricks. It's mostly an educational thing; the guy sits on an 8-foot alligator and opens its mouth and explains the teeth, and the alligator's various water adaptations (did you know that alligators can hold their breath for up to an hour?) and then after dragging the alligator around by the tail, he let it go back in its shaded cubby, and brought out 2 baby alligators, and invited all the kids in the audience to come have their pictures taken holding a real live alligator. I found it educational; Larry hadn't though it would be real alligators, so he was surprised. Then, after a few minutes' break, a magic show - nice enough, though the fancy showgirls painted on the sidings were in reality one young man assistant dressed in black. The neatest trick, to me, was turning a white dove into a much larger white rabbit into a full-size white standard poodle. The magician did have each of them wave to us before turning them into something else. He asked for a child volunteer from the audience to help on one trick, but the 2-year-old who volunteered wasn't quite up to the task. Part of the problem was that we were all sitting in the upper bleachers in the shade, rather than the bleachers closer to the stage but out in the direct sunlight. That made it difficult to talk people into things. And it /was/ getting hotter. So, at that point the Young Farmers had opened up their ice cream booth, and we went over and had ice cream, and then headed home, having spent almost 3 and a half hours there.

Verdict? A bit of a long drive for us, but the cheap price of admission, plus the vast improvement in most things over the Washington County fair, made us feel that we did get our money's worth at the Cecil County fair. And if it wasn't so hot and Larry didn't have to work Thursday, staying for the rodeo (included in the price of admission!) might well have been fun.

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We are visiting fairs this summer - Larry's semi-retired, so we can travel in the middle of the week, when the crowds are reduced, though as it turns out later, that's not as important as we thought. What's more important is that he's over 65, so he gets senior admission rates every day (sometimes I qualify for them too) and we don't necessarily have to aim specifically for "Senior Day."

Week of July 19, we went to the Washington County Fair - in Boonesboro, in between Hagerstown and Antietam battlefield. About 60 miles, a very pleasant drive, since as interstate slabs go, I-70 is a scenic one. We went on Tuesday, which was Senior Day - free admission for 65+. So it cost us $7 for me to get in; Larry was free and parking was free. Now, the website http://agexpoandfair.org/ had told us that the fair didn't open to the public till noon - lots of 4-H stuff and judging in the mornings, but the public isn't let in for it. And the midway didn't open till 3 p.m. That seemed odd, but off we went. We got there about 11:30, and sure enough, no one at admission. So we spent half an hour in the Museum of Rural Heritage, which was nice. If we go back that way in September to visit Antietam, we might stop and look at a little more of that museum. They had some interesting types of looms, and lots of quilts, and a complete scale model of a farm, a set-up about 10 feet by 20 feet, in the years-long process of being built and improved by a local resident - a re-creation of his family's farm from the 30's. The ladies running the museum were very friendly.

Anyway, finally, at noon, a few guys appeared and opened up the booth in the parking lot that serves as admission, and we went on in. We were able to park right up near the fairground entrance because there was virtually no one there. Well, it being lunchtime, lunch was in order, and there was only ONE place to eat open - none of the midway food, and most of the tents for various organizations were closed up tight, too. The oyster sandwiches from JB Seafood were quite good, but we really would have liked a choice. Extra thumbs-up for JB's: they carried Gold Peak UNSWEETENED iced tea, which is drinkable and most places only carry the sweetened and diet stuff, so yay for unsweetened.

Well, the rest was a let-down; this is pretty much the teeniest fair I have ever been to. Really teeny. Home Arts was pitiful, not even a full table of jellies and canning, ONE quilt and a few beginners' crocheted things, really not much at all. There were some ladies demonstrating weaving; there's a strong heritage of weaving from the German original settlers of the area. The produce was also piffle, very few fruits and veggies. A few awards for decorated baskets of vegetable arrangements, but no decorated gourds or painted potatoes or weird mutant eggplants. The Rabbit and Poultry Barn - which was just a large put-up tent - was more rabbits than poultry, and most of the poultry that was there was plain white turkeys. There was a good assortment of rabbits, though, all nicely labeled; a few families of 4-Hers appear to specialize in them, and had dozens of entries apiece. Lots of Holland Lops and mini-Rexes, some meat rabbits. Anyway, that was the highlight of the livestock; there were a few goats and sheep; a few dairy calves, one cow barn, one small horse barn. One commercial building, and I have to say probably for me, the highlight of the fair was stopping and talking to the agent for Modern Woodmen - if you don't know what a fraternal insurance organization is, then you're in company - most people don't, but I of course do, having worked for the Texas Department of Insurance, and so I chatted with the guy for 15 minutes, and picked up some swag. I did get a tote bag from one of the county agencies that had a table, and a pen from an Allstate agent as well. No special activities or exhibits for seniors, even though it was senior day; they didn't have anybody from a county agency for the elderly or Social Security or Medicare or even anybody trying to sell Medicare Advantage health plans. Which is probably because they knew no one would be there; there were exactly TWO other seniors wandering around the whole fair. What, nobody over 65 in Hagerstown is looking for something free to do??? Anyway, in an hour and a half, we had done absolutely everything the fair had to offer, and didn't feel like waiting around another hour or so doing nothing until the opening of the midway. So we left, and drove over to the outlet mall in Hagerstown to shop for shoes. Overall? Not worth the price of admission. We were disappointed that a rural county such as Washington didn't have more to offer.

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  • Sat, 22:53: @ landley Glad your headache cause came out. I remember when those started!

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