Sunday, September 9, 2018

Food for Thought on a Sunday

Ever notice how your appliances (and a lot of other things you buy) are not made to last?  This feature of modern manufacturing is a HUGE waste of resources.  We're told to reduce, reuse, recycle, but it's tough to reduce when we're forced to buy new stuff, instead of simply fixing things when they break.  Here's a great opinion piece on the topic:  To a refrigerator dying young.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Meat-free Friday -- Lemon Pasta

image from wikipedia
I always find September and May to be super-busy months, thus I need a recipe that super-easy and super-delicious. This recipe works well for a hot dish at dinner or a cold dish for lunch leftovers. It's adapted from one I saw on the Today Show.

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 lb farfalle pasta
  • 1/3 cup basil
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
1) Cook pasta until it's al dente.
2) Mix together olive oil, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil.
3) Pour liquid over pasta and toss with pine nuts or almonds.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Mammal Monday -- Przewalski's Horse

Greenmomster's been a little spare on the posts lately, because I've taken on a new job -- I'm now a high school science teacher!  But now I'm back in the saddle, so what better mammal for this Monday that the Przewalski's Horse (pronounced “sheh-val-skee”)! This horse is native to plains and grasslands of Mongolia, as well as other parts of Asia and eastern Europe, but I first saw one at the National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA. Although these horses are small (about 13 hands high and between 550 and 750 pounds), they’re impressive with tan fur on their bodies and a short, dark mane and tail. They have evolved to survive the harsh winters in Mongolia, but in the 20th century the species had trouble surviving in the face of habitat loss, loss of water sources to domestic animals, and overhunting. The Przewalski’s horse was declared extinct in the wild by the World Conservation Union in 1970.

Thanks to an active captive breeding program, Przewalski’s horses were reintroduced to the wild in 2008. There are currently 1,500 horses in captivity worldwide, and approximately 400 horses in reintroduction sites in Mongolia, Kazahkstan, and China. All of today’s current population of Przewalski’s horses come from 14 ancestors. Thus, the gene pool for this horse is very narrow. Scientists must very carefully coordinate breeding between the captive horses to try to maximize genetic diversity and make the population more able to withstand various stresses, such as disease.

So Przewalski’s horse is beautiful, but why should we care about its survival? Because a species like this one tells us when we’re negatively impacting the ecosystem. Humans are part of the natural world; we depend on natural resources for our survival. But sometimes we take more than our share, and the ecosystem on which we depend begins to suffer. Species like Przewalski’s horse tell us when our agricultural or hunting practices are unsustainable.

And if you needed more reasons to protect the Przewalski’s horse, here are 5 Reasons Przewalski’s Horses are cooler than thoroughbreds:
  • It is the only truly wild horse remaining in the world (it’s never been tamed for riding).
  • I’ve never fallen off a Prezwalski’s horse (I’ve definitely fallen off a thoroughbred)
  • Prezwalski’s horses can make it through winter in Mongolia without a horse blanket.
  • The Mongolian name for these horses is “takhi,” which means “spirit.” That’s way cooler than names like Chicken Lips or Buck Naked.
  • Przewalski’s horses have 2 more chromosomes than domestic horses(66 vs. 64).
  • Oh, and did you know that horse vasectomies can be reversed? Greenmomster’s always here for you with fun facts!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Zucchini palooza!

In spite of all the rain this year, we've got a little zucchini at our house, so this week’s recipe once again features this plentiful vegetable. The recipe is adapted from 101 Things to do with Zucchini – enjoy!

Egg Stuffed Zucchini

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper, red pepper flakes if you like a little zippier dish
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese

  1. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp, leaving about 1/2 inch of shell. Chop the pulp. 
  2. Pour the water in a baking dish and put the zucchini shells in the dish, facedown. Cook the zucchini in an oven at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender.
  3. Saute pulp and tomato in butter until tender. Add the eggs, salt and pepper. Once the egg is cooked, spoon it into the zucchini shells. Top with cheese and cook in the oven until cheese melts.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Mammal Monday -- Maned Wolves

I’m a very fortunate person, because I’ve actually had a close encounter with this week’s mammal and endangered species, the Maned Wolf. Maned wolves are beautiful creatures who live in the grassy areas of central south America (parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and possibly parts of Peru and Uruguay). These wolves (people often say look like “foxes on stilts”) are omnivores, hunting at night and eating a diet which includes fruits and berries as well as small animals like rodents, reptiles, and insects. Because of this diet, the wolves play an important part in their ecosystems, controlling animal populations lower on the food chain and acting as seed dispersers. One of their primary food sources is the lobeira berry -- this fact caused some difficulty when zookeepers were first trying to raise the wolves in captivity many decades ago. Zookeepers knew that the wolves were omnivores, but didn’t know about the importance of lobeira berries in their diet. Until they worked out this puzzle, the wolves often suffered from dietary problems in captivity.

As mentioned on the ARKive website, these solitary wolves live in home ranges of 25 to 50 square km and only come together during the breeding season. Females reach sexual maturity at one year and can give birth to litters of 1 to 5 pups. The primary threat to these wolves, as is the case with many other endangered species, is habitat loss. Scientists and conservation managers are working hard to protect these wolves from loss of their habitat, as well as negative contact with humans and road kills.

I just read about Rogerio Cunha de Paula, one of the leading biologists working to protect the species. He is working to protect the Serra da Canastra National Park in Brazil from logging, mining, and conversion of habitat from soil plantations (see the book Wildlife Heroes by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken for more info). Many other people are also working hard to protect the wolves, and that’s how I got my close encounter. The National Zoo has been involved in maned wolf conservation for over 30 years and is the coordinator of the Species Survival Plan for the maned wolf. As a volunteer with the zoo, I was an “interpreter” about maned wolves for the public. One of the keepers at the maned wolf exhibit, my friend Kim, took extra time with me to teach me how truly special these animals are – she shared her knowledge of the wolves and gave me an unforgettable look at these fascinating creatures! What a treat to see these animals close-up, to hear their specific vocalizations, and yes, even to smell their (very strong) scents during mating season. Based on these encounters, I can say that the world would be a poorer place without the beautiful maned wolf.

Friday, August 17, 2018

It's that time of the year again!

Zucchini time!

Mexican Zucchini Soup

  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 28 – 32 oz. veg broth
  • 3 cups unpeeled chopped zucchini (peel it if it’s as big as our zucchini)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 can hot Hatch chiles, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tblsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions for garnish
  1. In a pan, saute the onion in butter until soft (2 or 3 minutes)
  2. Stir in broth, zucchini, corn, chiles, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until zucchini is tender.
  3. Add milk and heat the soup back up, but don’t boil it.
  4. Serve garnished with pepper jack cheese and green onions

Monday, August 13, 2018

Happy World Elephant Day!

Yesterday was World Elephant Day, so I'm re-running the Great Big Elephant Quiz.  Enjoy!
This week’s endangered species is the African Elephant (Loxodonta cylclotis) (photo from David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust). Found in sub-Saharan Africa, these elephants are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, due to human/elephant conflicts and poaching for their ivory tusks.
Most of us have seen elephants, on TV or in zoos (or in the wild, if we’ve been lucky enough), but can you pass the GREAT BIG ELEPHANT QUIZ? See if you can answer the following 10 questions:
  1. T/F Elephants only use their trunks for smelling
  2. T/F Elephants can use their ears to cool their bodies
  3. T/F African elephants are the largest land mammal on Earth
  4. T/F Herds are led by dominant females
  5. T/F Male elephants live in herds
  6. T/F Elephant gestation is one of the longest pregnancies on Earth
  7. T/F Both male and female elephants have tusks
  8. T/F Elephants are carnivores
  9. T/F Elephants have great memories
  10. T/F Elephants are big sleepers
Answers (from Wildlife Heroes, by Scardina and Flocken; National Geographic website; and Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick)
  1. False – elephants also use their trunks for breathing, drinking, and picking up small objects. The trunk contains about 100,000 different muscles!
  2. True – thanks to radiation of heat through their ears
  3. True! Asian elephants are a little smaller
  4. True – elephant herds are made up of family groups of females, led by one dominant female
  5. False – once they hit maturity, these big guys are loners
  6. True – yes greenmomsters, your pregnancy may have seemed long, but it’s nothing compared to the 22 month gestation of an elephant. Oh, and you thought your 9 lbs baby was big? Try 200 lbs!
  7. True!
  8. False, thank goodness – elephants survive on grasses, roots, and bark. Up to 300 lbs per day!
  9. True – not just a myth! For a fascinating book on elephants, their memories, and one woman’s love story and lifetime of trying to save orphaned elephants, check out Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick
  10. False – elephants don’t really sleep for long periods of time
Need more reasons to care about elephant conservation? From Wildlife Heroes, “Elephants shape the environments in which they live by opening up forests, controlling brush and tree growth, and digging for water and minerals, which benefits other animals. Their copious amounts of dung also help fertilize the landscape and disperse seeds.”

How’s a greenmomster to help?