Mid-Shore Wine: Crow Farm is Building Memories and Serving Wine


There is something special about spending time on a farm, particularly for someone raised in a busy metropolitan city. My childhood memories include how quiet and dark it was, away from all the traffic, noises and lights that were part of my everyday life. There were animals who typically didn’t make appearances on urban sidewalks–cows, pigs, horses, and chickens; and even those that did, such as dogs and cats, roamed unleashed and unrestricted. There was a sense of leisure yet busyness, calm yet purposefulness.

Harvest time (photo credit Lotte Bowie Loblolly Productions)

I no longer live in a city, recently moving to a small town, and when given the opportunity to visit and write about Crow Winery, a vineyard and 365-acre working farm in Kennedyville, MD, I jumped at the chance.

Seeing the silos as we drove down the long road leading to the farm brought back all the beautiful memories. But there was also much more that this grown-up could appreciate as I stepped out of the car– the sweet smell of ripening grapes on the vines that reminded me of Autumn, harvests and well, yes, a fine crisp wine.

Owner Judy Crow, fresh from attending the birth of a calf, met us. After introductions to a new addition to the 100+ herd of Angus cattle, she took us to her home, an 1847 farmhouse which also accommodates a 3-bedroom B&B that they call a ‘farmstay’ experience. “We opened up the B&B,” she said, “so people could come and spend the night with us, learn about farming sustainability, have a farm fresh breakfast served family style, and if they want to be a part of delivering calves or going out to move cattle on the pastures, they can do that. The farm is an opportunity for the public to integrate themselves into the farm business.”

But Crow is so much more than a farm; it’s also an award-winning winery. And for a good reason. Take the 12 and a half acres of beautiful vines, imported years ago from the New York Finger Lakes region, now pregnant with grapes and ready for picking and managed by Judy’s son, Brandon Hoy, along with Vineyard and Winery assistant C.T. Wright. Or the state-of-the-art 5,000-case production winery where a bottling and labeling machine stood idle, but ready for the 200 cases a day it produces, where polished and gleaming fermentation tanks, sorting tables and wine-stained oak barrels are carefully monitored by winemaker Michael Zollo and consultant John Levenberg. Or the Tasting Room, formerly a milking barn, where you’ll probably run into Joe Rieley, the sales manager who will expertly guide your selection and your palate to sample a flight of wines, maybe even accompanied by the local cheeses.

The story of how it started goes back years ago when it wasn’t always about vines, wines, or tasting rooms. Then it was about Roy Crow who had a three-generation family dairy farm which grew wheat, corn, and soybeans and had 10 Angus cattle. Ten years ago, after meeting and marrying Judy, they began to consider other options. Why not wine, they asked? They knew that Maryland’s climate did not produce the types of wines that customers were used to (such as the sweeter Cabs and Merlots), so why not create something new and local for these consumers to enjoy using only grapes they would grow or those grown within a 50-mile radius of the farm?

“Early on we decided to stick with dry premium style wines,” Judy explains. “The B&B was driving business to the farm, and our first customers were from metropolitan areas, such as New York, Philly, and New Jersey–wine savvy people, who wanted nice quality local wines. So, we stayed with that model, even though it’s harder in Maryland, as Maryland wines tend to be sweeter and our wines are drier, our price points are higher, and we either grow our grapes or have local growing partners. It’s a different style of wine that means that people have to come here and experience them or go to finer establishments that stock our wines.”

She was right. Soon, reviewers began to talk about their wines and Crow began to win awards Two years after building their winery, the Crow Vidal Blanc received a gold medal at the International Wine Competition. That same year, Crow took the Best in Class and Double Gold for their Barbera Rosé in both the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup and Governor’s Cup. The accolades have never stopped. A corner of the Tasting Room is dedicated to showing off just some of the medals Crow wines have won. This past summer, Crow was voted this year’s “Best of the Bay 2018 for Maryland Wineries,” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine readers.

Even with all of this notoriety, Judy worked on a new business model. Crow Wineries was in a great location–an hour from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and minutes from historic Chestertown and Rock Hall on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The problem was they were near other wineries, in other counties, and each was competing for the visitors, tourists, and residents. There had to be something they could do, which with Judy’s encouragement, they did. Crow, Broken Spoke, and Chateau Bu-De Vineyard and Winery decided to form a collaborating relationship.

“Our idea was to bring people to the area and for our businesses to integrate and work together. So, we created a marketing strategy that encompassed our various counties. This made it good for all of us,” Judy said. “One winery may not bring people out; with two you have a better chance. When you add other wineries and interesting places for people to visit, it becomes a destination for people to come and experience these small waterfront towns.” Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City saw the value in the concept and bought a 15-passenger limo that would take their guest to the various wineries.

This past year, the Rivers to Canal Wine Trail, as they are now known, added centralized events that would benefit all. Crow Fest 2018, in early September, brought hundreds of visitors and featured live music, vendors, food, tours, grape stomping, games, and hayrides. The Rivers to Canal winemakers led tastings and discussions. It was a win-win for all. Events, such as this, and others planned throughout the remainder of the year, guarantee that there is something happening weekends that would interest everyone. The group is growing even larger with Casa Carmen Wines, Bad Alfred’s Distillery and Bayhead’s Brewing Company joining them.

This joint effort appears to have paid off. At a recent Wineries Association meeting, where other wineries were discussing disappointing profits, Crow’s sale numbers were up. Crow Wine Cellars recently opened at Queenstown Outlets selling wines, beef, and local products, all with the ultimate goal of luring people to come to the area. Their wine club has grown to over 250 couples–only 15% of which are local Kent county residence. This means that the area’s tourism industry is growing as well. 

To Judy, it all comes down to involving the community, whether that community is other wineries or people who want to experience and create memories about being on a farm. She remembers years ago when they first started and about 12 people expressed interest in learning about harvesting wines and working on a farm. This year that number is around 40-50 people. “It’s important to us that the public comes out and harvests grapes and works in the winery or at the farm so they can see first-hand what it means to have a vineyard and winery in their community. These are all things that people value. This is why we are here.”

For more information about Crow Winery, go to http://crowvineyardandwinery.com/.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.


District One in 2018: A Spy Goes to the Lower Shore with Salisbury Mayor Jake Day


This Election 2018 profile is the fourth of a six-part series on the intricate makeup and character of the 1st Congressional District of Maryland. Each month, the Spy will be interviewing different 1st District residents from the Western Shore to the Lower Shore, both Democrats and Republicans, to discuss their unique sub-region of one of the largest congressional districts in the country, and the issues and political climate of those communities.

It only takes a few minutes with Salisbury Mayor Jake Day to realize how terms like “Democrat” and “Republican” lose meaning as he discusses the political landscape of Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties. While Day is clearly a Democrat with a capital “D,” his views on increasingly the military budget and his deficit hawk tendencies could easily fit in with the GOP’s conventional platform.

This becomes even more of a gray area when the mayor suggests that Congressman Andy Harris has been soft on supporting turbine wind power off of Ocean City; a form of alternative energy that finds Harris and many environmentalists on the same side of this issue. In Day’s mind, wind power could bring up to 500 jobs to Salisbury, and as the city’s mayor, his number one job is to create an economically vibrant community.

But, as Day told the Spy a few weeks ago, the 2018 midterm election will not be focused on the issues of the day as much on a referendum on the moral direction of the country. Those whose political “brand,” like the one Harris has, is now intertwined with Trumpism, and will pay a high cost in the 1st District. The question is whether that cost will defeat an incumbent in one of most reliable GOP  congressional districts in the nation.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length.

For Land’s Sake by George Merrill


A day or so after the hurricane struck the Carolinas, I sat on my porch. It was a relentlessly hot Maryland day, without of hint of breeze, and the air was as dense with moisture as a sauna. Our porch overlooks a small cove at the head of Broad Creek. It’s a popular feeding spot for blue herons.

I saw a heron wading in the shallows. He was stalking something. He paced slowly with furtive steps that bespoke his intent to surprise his prey. The heron did surprise a hapless critter. He stopped pacing, brought his head up and back, and with lightning speed, thrust his bill forward like a rapier, snatching a sizeable crab from the water. How could he ingest it? How could the shell’s jagged edges pass though his long skinny neck into his stomach? I couldn’t imagine. In minutes, he’d swallowed the crab. I couldn’t believe he ate the whole thing.

I live near the water. Too close. I often wonder whether I belong here. The mystique of tidewater is alluring, but fragile. There’s the pungent smell of Sulphur that the marshes exude, and the parade of wildlife I see from my studio window: herons, deer, turkeys, otters, loons, buzzards and eagles. Turtles lay eggs in the driveway. There are ospreys, seagulls, raccoons all going about their daily routines except for the owls and raccoons; they prefer the night shift.

I don’t know just how long I sat watching the heron feed. I realized that the heron had commanded my full attention. For those several minutes I was wholly absorbed, enthralled. My entire attention was fixed on the bird while something else was happening to me at the same time; I was keenly alert and paying attention in a way that I rarely do, not because I decided I would, but simply because the heron seized my imagination. To say it was like seeing some creature from another world would be accurate. The heron was just that. The heron shares all the requisites for life on this earth just as I do, but his world is far beyond my ken; he seems exotic to me and, in that moment in the shallows of the creek, I was almost lifted out of myself by becoming fully conscious of another living creature that was my geographic neighbor.

The cradle of life on the planet began with and is sustained by the world’s wetlands. Moses may have reached the mountain top, but he was launched from the marshes.

Unfortunately, a beautiful land is an invitation to live there. With the large metropolitan centers within one and a half to three hours driving time to the Shore, an elderly population retiring and wanting to live their last days in an idyllic setting leaves the Delmarva a sitting duck for what’s euphemistically referred to as “development.” Development is an economic concept and has no respect for the characteristics of land other than as a commodity to be bought and sold. We know little of land’s needs, the meaning of its habits and what role weather plays in the cycles of its life.

Like Adam and Eve, we’re complicit in our own expulsion from this global garden of extraordinary beauty. We ate of the forbidden tree of knowledge and learned enough to profit from the fruits of the garden by practicing density development even while destroying it by the same means. We want the glories of the garden to inhabit it again, but are woefully ignorant of the land’s integrity, that is, what rights properly belong to the land as we plan to occupy it.

There are environmental saints in history, prophets speaking for the earth. They give our earth a voice. These saints have gained notice, but corporations have muffled their voices. John Muir, the preeminent American ecologist founded the Sierra Club as one way to provide nature with advocacy. He once said, “No synonym for God is so perfect as beauty.”

Rachel Carson documented the toxic effects of pesticides on the ecological food chain. The world is interconnected physically as it is spiritually. Its essential unity is undisputable.

Fourteenth century mystic Meister Eckhart wrote: “Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is the word of God.”

The American visionary of wilderness, Aldo Leopold, wrote of the earth as though it were a symphony.

Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote this about listening to rain: “. . . the talk it makes by itself all over the ridges and the talk of the watercourse everywhere in the hollows . . . as long as it talks, I am going to listen.”

Walt Whitman wrote, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

There’s far more to the earth than lots of dirt.

I’ve been thinking about the integrity of land after learning about the effects of the hurricanes in the Carolinas. Building homes on land that will be predictably inundated by water at one time or another is a failure to recognize the appropriate boundaries of land use. I know my house should never have been built so near the creek’s edge. Erecting structures so close fails to recognize that there is a natural rhythm between land and water that includes what we call periodic flooding, but I suspect it’s a form of ecological purification, a kind of realignment of natural boundaries as they are reconfigured by wind and weather. To ignore those boundaries violates the land and we suffer as a result.

It’s one more way we try to coerce nature into conforming to our will and not accommodating to hers.

And what about herons during hurricanes? They hunker down until it blows over. Then they pick up and nest nearby. They own nothing. They just live on the land . . . gently.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Relishing the Sauces


As summer comes grinding to a halt this weekend, we hope for cooler days as the leaves fall, and the crisp air lures us back outside. We haven’t started to wear our aprés ski togs just yet, so we are still imposing on Mr. Friday to do the bulk of the weekend cooking, outside on the grill. He is such a good sport, that we tolerate, nay, we encourage, his experimental cooking. He has taken a page from Ron Swanson’s book lately, and everything is about meat. And if we can wrap bacon around it, it is even better.

Ron Swanson was the blustering, endearing, meat-loving character on the network television show Parks and Recreation. Mr. Friday has had a Ron Swanson-sized hankering for ribs lately, but hasn’t quite hit upon the ideal combination: rubbed, braised or smoked short ribs? Grilled baby back ribs? What kind of sauce? Vinegary barbecue sauce that is the regional favorite of North Carolina? Root beer based barbecue sauce? Kansas City? Smoky? Tomato-y? Sweet? Savory? Piquant? Red or white? Heavens to Betsy.

Luckily, these sauces can also be used on chicken, so you needn’t worry about your heart stoppage from a massive intake of cholesterol via chunks of beef and pork. You could probably be creative with these and tofu, but I can’t go there.

Instead – let’s try the startling and unusual!

Root Beer Barbecue Sauce
1 cup root beer
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon mild-flavored (light) molasses
1 teaspoon liquid smoke*
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Combine all ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Cool slightly. Transfer to bowl. Cover and refrigerate. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead; keep refrigerated.)

*We do this recipe minus the Liquid Smoke – Mr. Friday has high standards. And when he is feeling adventurous, he’ll switch out the root beer for Cheerwine. Sometimes we lead a very intrepid National Geographic-kind of life.

There is a variation for smoked ribs, too. https://heygrillhey.com/smoked-dr-pepper-ribs-recipe/ Mr. Friday has a smoker that gets lots of use in the winter. I might just be able to position myself as the chief salad maker all winter long if he keeps up his experimenting with ribs.

That being understood, we are fond of Vivian Howard’s Blueberry BBQ Sauce. It is her rather unique take on the vinegar-based barbecue sauces of Eastern North Carolina. We like to think we have mastered this recipe, but sometimes we delude ourselves. But it is nice to have blueberries for dinner, and we can do this in the oven all year long. I like having a bit of summery Maine in January. https://www.pannacooking.com/recipes/blueberry-bbq-chicken-vivian-howard/

Mr. Friday is fond of beef short ribs. I prefer pork baby back ribs. But I also recognize which side my bread is buttered on, so I will scarf down whatever he has decided to prepare. And I can get by licking the sauce off my fingers, no matter what the meat turns out to be. I even like barbecue-flavor potato chips, so that will tell you how deeply fussy I am.

Smoky-Sweet BBQ Beef Short Ribs
https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/smoky-sweet-bbq-beef-short-ribs-30742 This recipe link has a helpful video, too.

Here is a recipe with the best of two worlds – using both a rub and barbecue sauce. https://www.thespruceeats.com/kansas-city-rib-rub-recipe-335915 It is versatile and you can use it on beef, chicken and pork. They suggest that the rub can even be used on sweet potatoes. Hmmm. Let me know how that goes.

And finally, for a real change of pace, a white barbecue sauce. Crazy! https://keviniscooking.com/alabama-white-sauce/

Enjoy the Autumn Equinox. And let’s say goodbye to a long, wet, hot summer!

“Leslie, you need to understand that we are headed to the most special place on earth. When I’m done eating a Mulligan’s meal, for weeks afterwards there are flecks of meat in my mustache and I refuse to clean it because every now and then a piece of meat will fall into my mouth.”
-Ron Swanson

Spy Spotlight: Kent County’s Community Foundation with Buck Duncan


Imagine for a moment that Kent County had a community foundation that every year provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for educational scholarships, donated almost an equal amount of funds to help support non-profit organizations and local special projects, and was the fiscal agent for over eighty  philanthropic funds and programs under the direction of highly respected Kent County volunteer board members. All of this to help Kent County meet the needs of its citizens.

It would come to the surprise to most in the area that this charitable community foundation not only exists but has been in operation in Kent County since 1992. And that foundation would be called the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, which has close to $80 million in assets.

Perhaps it due to the fact that all five counties on Mid-Shore benefit from this extraordinary asset, but, as the Spy found out in our recent chat with Buck Duncan, CEO and President of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Kent County is not only getting its “fair share” of philanthropic support, each year the number of giving goes up.

We caught up with Buck at the new Spy HQ on Queen Street last week to talk about Kent County’s community foundation, otherwise known as the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, for a current snapshot of its activities.


This video is approximately eight minutes in length For more information about the Mid-Shore Community Foundation please go here. Full disclosure; the Chestertown Spy’s fiscal agent is the MSCF.

Chesapeake Film Festival Spotlight: ‘Riverment’ Director Shayla Racquel


While every year the Chesapeake Film Festival brings to the Mid-Shore the best examples of independent filmmaking, with many of their annual selections going on to be full feature success stories with awards and a broad public audience, some of the really exceptional parts of the festival are devoted to showcasing the work of an entirely new generation of directors.

Independent to the core, creative, and with sometimes the simplest of equipment, like using only a smartphone camera, these young filmmakers can produce the same quality of storytelling in short form as their older, more experienced colleagues can do with full feature films.

Shayla Racquel is one of those new filmmakers, and Riverment is one of those films.

In 2018, Shayla completed Riverment, a short film that discusses intergenerational trauma while comparing and contrasting movements. The film follows the relationship between a grandmother and a granddaughter to highlight how women have been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of all political and social movements.

The Spy sat down with Shayla in College Park last month to talk about her life and film work.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Film Festival please go here 

The Spy Columnists: Craig Fuller


There have been more than a few lucky moments in the Spy’s nine years of existence but none more so than the serendipitous formation of a unique team of volunteer public affairs columnists who now grace its pages every week. These highly respected leaders in their lifetime careers, gifted with intellect, imagination, and passion, spanning from the political left to right, has been one of the most significant assets of our hyper-local and education-based news portals.

The commentaries of Howard Freedlander, Craig Fuller, George Merrill, David Montgomery, and Al Sikes have considerably enhanced our community’s civil debates on the most pressing issues of our times. And while the written word is their chosen medium, the Spy, a great believer in multimedia with now over 2,000 video productions, has been grateful that they have agreed to be interviewed as our country enters into one of its most important elections in recent memory.

We continue our series with Craig Fuller who started his remarkable career in politics as a real “Reagan man” while a student at UCLA during the future president’s two terms as governor of California. Connected to Reagan through a issue related to  state-funded internship programs, Fuller had all the traits that Ronald Reagan sought out with his top aides; a gentle form of conservative thinking, a congenial approach in building relations, and, of course, a genuine sense of humor.

Fuller was tapped early on in Reagan’s successful campaign for the presidency in 1980 and joined the Reagan-Bush Administration in 1981, first as Assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs and then becoming Chief of Staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush during the second term of the Administration. He co-chaired the President Bush Transition and then entered the private sector in Washington leading public affairs consulting firms, associations and serving as an officer of a major consumer packaged goods company.

After years enjoying Bethany Beach as a retreat from Washington’s hectic pace, he and his wife, Karen, eventually decided to move to Talbot County a few years ago as their permanent retirement home to play a more active role in the community, be closer to old friends, and enjoy easy access to the Chesapeake Bay for their beloved “Ranger Tug” boat.’

Since that move took place, Craig has made good on his commitment to dive in and help on the Mid-Shore. From joining the Board at the Academy Art Museum, growing a beard for the “Cover Your Chin for Charity:” in Talbot County, or even helping Chestertown find a new restaurant, the native Californian has fully embraced his new Eastern Shore commitments.

This new life also includes the world of politics. As someone who still considers himself a Republican, and as recently as 2016 was supporting Jeb Bush for president, Fuller has grown disillusioned with Trumpism. The current administration’s confrontational approach to policy, its inability to compromise, the use of fear and Tweeter-based intimidation, and lack of moral standards,  stands in such great contrast to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, that Fuller is now fully committed himself to Jesse Colvin’s efforts to replace Congressman Andy Harris in the November midterm election.

The Spy sat down with Craig at the Bullitt House a few weeks ago to talk to him about the America’s state of affairs, his frustration with his own party, and his hope that the country can once again return to Reagan’s famed “shining city upon a hill.”

This video is approximately seven minutes in length.


On Having Opinions by George Merrill


I’ve been thinking about opinions, lately. I’ve noticed how time has altered many of my own.

If we have nothing else in life, we have opinions, hundreds if not thousands of them. Sharing our opinions is one of the ways that we affiliate with one another, get fresh perspectives, gain a feeling of the personality we may be dealing with, or just catching up.   Take a dinner party; there will be typically more opinions expressed around the table than there is food on it. If you are unfortunate, you will have been seated next to a person who is opinionated. Such people don’t just have opinions, they have answers. They have answers for questions you’ve never asked or even more for some you’ve never even considered. They never entertain questions of their own that indicate they have any doubts. I’ve found such people possess the remarkable ability to hold court nonstop while showing no physical signs that indicate they have ever taken a breath.

Newspapers and magazines welcome our opinions. They thrive on them. The press sets aside space for readers to text their opinions on just about anything. Opinions are also heard on the air and seen on TV regularly. Politics is particularly popular in opinion pieces. Since politics occupy such a significant place in our common lives, it’s a subject about which almost everyone has an opinion and, I would add, for at least the average citizen like me, marginal knowledge of how it all works.

Of the many blessings of American democracy, one is that we are not expected to actually know anything about the opinions we express, and particularly the issues where politics and religion are concerned. Has not folk wisdom warned us regularly not to discuss religion or politics in polite society? It has always been regarded as perilous terrain: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Years ago, I remember a couple came to my office seeking help for their marriage. Their complaint: All we can talk about any more is religion and politics. Although I remained cautiously hopeful, their complaint did not suggest an encouraging prognosis for a happy reconciliation.

I have been writing essays since 2002. I have written op-ed pieces in righteous anger only later to cringe when some new data appeared which made it clear to me that I had only a minimal grasp of the complexities expressed in my rant; I’d gone off half-cocked. I must confess there is a kind of fleeting intoxication that occurs, especially if the opinion – at least while I’m expressing it – is as right as rain. The need to be right can be hazardous to our health.

The kind of opinions being expressed can often be identified by the tone and the volume by which they are delivered. Opinions that share general observations are delivered in well-modulated tones that are collegial and inviting. If the opinions being shared are in the service of correcting what somebody sees as my misguided opinion, or trying in some way to win a point, the volume steadily rises while the tone loses any lyrical quality and grows increasingly dissonant.  

Anyone who has raised children, gone through their adolescent years and survived to tell the story, knows that being right has limited value in maintaining a happy family. This truism has found expression in the playful quip: Would you rather be right or stay married? The point here is that there are some things that are critical for our ongoing happiness and being right is rarely one of them.

Not long ago among the letters to the editors in the Star Democrat, there appeared a heated exchange of opinions on whether trickle-down economics works. For a few days, letters shot back and forth as each delivered his opinion with the measured authority and profound conviction. One letter explained that the policy was a success during the Regan era, while marshaling facts and figures to prove it. Another opinion piece quoted facts and figures that demonstrated how it had clearly not succeeded. Who knows the truth of the matter? We are so often left only with opinions, some interesting, some tedious, each defended fiercely, eloquently documented, and at the end of the day, hardly any are reconcilable.

It is both a blessing and a curse in how differently we can see the same things.

I do not propose that any of us should refrain from expressing opinions.  I do suggest that the wise treat their opinions tentatively, the way I once plotted courses during my sailing days. In determining the course, I chose to follow. I’d remain alert to any changes in the atmosphere that may indicate that maintaining my present course will be hazardous. In exchanging opinions without creating a storm and for safe sailing, Miss Manners and Bowditch’s, American Practical Navigator, are a must read.

Opinions, should have an element of flexibility and never be doggedly clung to as if they are eternal. Change is at the heart of all existence.

An old tale tells of the student who went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel distracted; I can’t focus, I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!” “It will pass,” the teacher said. A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so focused, so peaceful!” “It will pass,” the teacher replied.

Time and experience, if our minds remain pliable, are supposed to change our opinions and if not, at least modify them for no other reason that everything is changing. An inability to change them suggests a kind of psycho-spiritual paralysis, or worse still, that rigor mortis has finally set in. American poet, James Russel Lowell, said of such intransigent folk: “The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinion.”

It’s really ok to change our minds.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Hurricane Prep!


The Spy Test Kitchens are facing a new challenge this week – Hurricane Florence. We are getting ready for the storm, and are planning our emergency supplies in case we lose power, or worse. The kayak might be our only reliable transportation in a couple of days.

Still, we are smiling through the stress as we check off the many lists. We lived for twenty-something years in Florida, so this should be rote behavior. Forgive me if you have already made your plans, or if you have Dade County Code-approved hurricane impact windows, motorized rolling hurricane shutters, or are conveniently located atop a hill with a generator and a big deep freeze full of home-grown delights. We felt we fended off hurricanes for a few years because we bought a second cat carrier. Laughably, we no longer have the cat, or the carrier, thus putting ourselves in our current pickle!

We do have to be responsible for Luke the wonder dog, so I have made sure that we have a new bag of kibble, plus a traveling bed, bowl and a baggie of treats in case we decamp to a hotel. He will also have a couple of gallons of drinking water.

This should make my heart sing, not having to cook for a few days. But absence does make the heart grow fonder. I am sure that after a couple of days of apples and peanut butter sandwiches I will be longing for complicated and subtle bouillabaisse: http://www.slowburningpassion.com/how-to-make-a-classic-french-bouillabaisse/ or boeuf bourguignon: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/boeuf-bourguignon-104754. Until then, it is survival of the fittest. And Dinty Moore beef stew, straight from the can. Yumsters.

Here are things to stockpile because you never know when bad weather will keep you marooned at home:

Water, juice boxes, Gatorade
Apples – they stay fresh without refrigeration for a long time
Peanut butter – or almond butter – and jellies
Long-life milk, rice milk or soy milk in individual or family-sized boxes
Pasta and rice
Marinara sauce
Canned ravioli
Canned veggies
Canned tuna, salmon https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/tuna-white-bean-and-red-onion-salad

Dare we say it? – Spam
Protein bars
Pudding cups
Trail mix
Low-sodium soups
Ramen noodles
Mac and cheese
Packets of sauces: mayonnaise, mustard, catsup, soy sauce

Store everything up on high shelves. In case of flooding.

Don’t forget to check your batteries. The Dollar store is a good place to stock up on candles.

Fill a cooler with ice. Make extra ice by filling gallon sized baggies with water and then freezing. It never hurts to have extra.

Before the storm comes, clear out your fridge. The smell of rotting meat is something that you will never forget.

Boil the eggs, cook the bacon, make hamburgers. Have a pre-hurricane feast.

Be careful!

“The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind.
Carl Hiaasen