Friday, February 27, 2015

Chickpea and Spinach Couscous

I haven’t yet tried this recipe, but it comes highly recommended from my friend, Gretchen.  Should be an easy and tasty Friday recipe – I can’t wait to give it a try!  Here’s the link. (photo from loveandlentils.com)

vegan chickpea and spinach couscous

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

So you slept through science class–part 11: What is a watershed?

I often ask my students, “what is a watershed?”  They immediately focus on the “water” part of the word.  Actually, a “watershed” is about the land; it’s an area of land that drains to a specific waterbody.  My local watershed is the Accotink creek watershed.  If we zoom out, I live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  What’s the name of your watershed?

So why is it so important to be familiar with your watershed?  Because, everything that happens on the land, eventually impacts the water.  Let’s take a look at my watershed, the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  This watershed has the largest land to water ratio in the world – 16:1!  Areas from 6 states (about 64,000 square miles) drain into the Chesapeake Bay, and the activities of the 17 million people who live in the watershed directly affect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.  Every time anyone in the watershed fertilizes his garden, washes her car, drives her car, or salts the sidewalk for ice, it affects the quality of water in the Chesapeake Bay.  The same is true for every watershed.

Learn which watershed you live in using this simple website where you can search using your zipcode.  After you know your watershed, the website can also help you find groups working on water quality issues in your area!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Like I’ve been saying…..

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Ever since I started this blog about 4 years ago, I’ve been encouraging folks to eat lower on the food chain – it’s good for you and it’s good for the planet.  Today, there’s more support for this idea.  The Washington Post reported that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2015 report suggested that eating a more plant-based diet is better for your health AND more environmentally sustainable.  Here’s the report for your meat-free Friday reading.

Feeling motivated to eat a little lower on the food chain?  Then have I got a recipe for you!  Try these Avocado and White Bean Salad Wraps – very tasty!  Next time I make them, I plan to add more hot Hatch chilis for a little more zip.  Enjoy!  (photo:  Deb Lindsay for the Washington Post)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Climate change–time to speak up…..again!

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Today’s Washington Post editorial page included a letter from George F. Steeg of Potomac Falls.  In his letter, Mr. Steeg presents several points which he feels bring into question the validity of climate change science and the causes of climate change.  It’s surprising that the W. Post chose to run this letter, because many of Mr. Steeg’s arguments are the same old stuff brought up time and time again.  But for those who need a refresher on the topic, let’s go through a few of the arguments:

  1. Mr. Steeg states, “atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have exceeded current levels multiple times in the life of Earth, and the planet has recovered.”  Right you are, Mr. Steeg!  But here’s what you left out – each of these carbon levels was followed by a mass extinction of species on the planet, and although the planet did recover, it always took several million years
  2. Mr. Steeg states, “Correlating climate change only with carbon dioxide concentrations ignores variations in sun intensity and Earth’s orbital dynamics.”  The correlation actually doesn’t ignore sun intensity, etc.  Scientists have checked into the sunspot hypothesis and others, and the evidence seems to overwhelmingly point back at greenhouse gases coming from man-made sources.
  3. Mr. Steeg states, “Some scientists argue that changes in Earth’s climate occur every 1,500 years and conclude that the cycles are unstoppable by human intervention.”  Really?  How many scientists make this statement?  The current changes are not part of a cycle.  They’ve occurred over approximately 100-150 years and they’re happening faster than species can adapt.

I know climate change is scary, but burying our heads in the sand is not the way to address the issue.  As generations before have done when confronted with daunting challenges, we must look the challenge of climate change in the eye and find a solution.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is it snowing where you are?

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It’s definitely snowy in my neck of the woods, which makes me wonder, “what are the environmental impacts of all the salt that’s spread on the roads?”  It turns out, the salt can affect drinking water, but it has an even more significant impact on freshwater ecosystems.  Here’s a great article from Smithsonian.com which explains the impacts and some of the attempts at reducing harm while keeping us safe on the road. 

skymeadowssnow7march72013

Friday, February 13, 2015

Kind of weird, but in a good way

IMG_20150211_184119_720I found this recipe for Penne with Arugula Pesto in Martha Stewart Living magazine.  It has an unexpected zip, if you’re used to basil pesto, but my family really liked it!  Super simple, too – perfect for a quick meat-free Friday!

Ingredients

  • 5 oz. baby arugula
  • 3 tablespoons blanched almonds, toasted and chopped (I just used plain old chopped almonds, no toasting or blanching)
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped (I used 1 tblsp of the chopped garlic in a jar)
  • 3 tblsp fresh lemon juice (It’s winter.  I used bottled lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • 1/4 extra-virgin olive oil (I used a little bit more)
  • 1 lb. penne rigate

Instructions

  1. Combine arugula, almonds, garlic, lemon juice, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor (I used a blender).  Season with salt and puree.  Martha says to slowly drizzle in the oil while doing the puree, but I just tossed in the oil with all the other ingredients and all went OK!
  2. Boil pasta to al dente and drain.
  3. Add pesto to pasta and mix to coat the pasta.  Add a few extra leaves of arugula and some almonds for crunch.
  4. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saving the Magical Monarch!

There’s been some good news on the monarch front this week – the Obama administration has authorized funds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to encourage the growing of milkweed in monarch migration routes.  For greenmomsters new to the monarch and it’s conservation issues, I’m re-posting this earlier article about the monarchs. 

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sammybutterflyI love butterflies!  I studied butterfly ecology for my dissertation and eagerly await every spring when these insects reappear in my garden.  One of the most popular butterfly species is the monarch (Danaus plexippus).  I’ve written posts about why monarch butterflies are cooler than British monarchs and other fun facts about monarch.  That’s why the news about the monarch butterflies, reported in the 1/30/14 issue of the Washington Post, really got my attention.  Joshua Partlow’s article reported that monarch butterflies covered only 1.6 acres of forest in their wintering grounds in central Mexico, down from a 20 year high of 45 acres.  Threats to the monarch occur in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico – herbicide use in the agricultural fields of the U.S. and Canada, and illegal logging in Mexico.   Although monarchs rebounded from a similar crash in the 1930s, scientists are very concerned about the population of monarchs known for their 5 generation migration through North America.  Karen Oberhauser, a monarch researcher at the University of Minnesota was quoted in the article as saying, “I am deeply saddened by the terrible news….To preserve the monarch migration, we need a groundswell of conservation.”  Well greenmomsters, I know a call to action when I hear one.  Here are some actions you can take today to help save monarchs in our area:
  • Create a Monarch Waystation!  Plant LOTS of milkweed and nectar plants in your yard.  It’ll provide habitat where female monarchs can lay eggs.
  • Try tagging monarchs!  It’s a fun way to learn more about the monarchs and their migration. Here are some pictures from a tagging event at Sky Meadows State Park last fall.
  • Read about the migration!  Four Wings and a Prayer, by Sue Halpern is a great book about the migration.
  • Support Monarch Watch!  This organization helps to educate the public, support research, and protect the habitat of monarch butterflies.
  • Support the Xerces Society, which has programs to protect western overwintering sites and restore breeding sites in the U.S.
  • Support the World Wildlife Fund in their efforts to preserve overwintering grounds in Mexico through community-based conservation.
  • Write to the President and your congressional representatives to tell them about your concern for monarchs!  This week’s news is great, but we need even more formal protections for this beautiful and fascinating species.
Let’s make sure our grandchildren can witness the incredible monarch migration!