4 ounces walnuts, toasted well and roughly chopped (1 1/4 cups)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, very thinly slice garlic with a mandoline (you should have 1/4 cup). Add to oil, and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is pale golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain garlic chips in a sieve set over a large bowl (reserve oil). Spread garlic chips on paper towels; season with salt.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until just barely al dente. Drain. Add pasta to oil, and toss. Partially cover, and let cool at least 20 minutes and up to 1 1/2 hours.
Roughly chop 3/4 cup parsley leaves, and add them with parsley stems, lemon zest, and walnuts to pasta. Toss to combine. Dot with cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine, being careful not to fully incorporate cheese. Garnish with remaining parsley leaves, and serve with garlic chips.
You may have been hearing a lot lately about tar sands oil, various pipelines across the U.S., and other issues related to oil production and refining. The Sierra Club has produced a quick video to give you an overview on the subject (from the environmentalist’s point of view) – it’s a good place to start your further research into the topic:
This week’s endangered species is the small Karner blue butterfly, found in the northern range of the wild lupine including the Albany Pine Bush (NY) and the Concord Pine Barrens (NH) (photo:karnerblueforstatebutterfly.org). Like many butterflies, these little guys like to nectar in open areas or fields – in their habitat, these open areas were created by natural wildfires. Karner blues are currently threatened by fragmentation of their habitat, due to suppression of wildfires and development of the forests on which they depend. Karner blues are called a “specialist” species; they depend on a very few types of plants and on a very specific type of habitat. Without the environment on which it depends, the Karner blue can’t survive.
So why should we care about the Karner blue butterfly? As stated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s really not just the Karner blue butterfly that we should worry about – we should be wondering about the straw that will eventually break the camel’s (that would be our ecosystem’s) back:
“Since the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies and varieties of our nation’s plants and animals are known to have become extinct. In contrast, during the Pleistocene ice age, all of North America lost only about three species every 100 years. This recent, catastrophic loss of biological diversity is continuing at an unprecedented rate. Each and every species has a valuable ecological role in the balance of nature and each loss destabilizes that fragile balance. Once a species is extinct, it is lost forever. Experience has proven that many plants and animals have properties that will prove beneficial to humans as sources of food and medicine. With the loss of each species, we lose a potential resource for improving the quality of life for all humanity.
In addition, some species of plants and animals may indicate to us whether or not their environment is healthy. The Karner blue butterfly’s disappearance from fragile pine barren habitat tells us that something is wrong. Protecting pine barrens will affect not only the fate of the Karner blue butterfly, but also that of many other specialized plants and animals.”
Check out the recent Pollinators Week post for ways you can help the Karner blue and other pollinators in your area.
OK, I know this recipe sounds a little odd, but it’s really tasty! It comes to us from our friends Howard and Trish – Howard’s my husband’s biking buddy and time-trial coach. The recipe doesn’t have specific amounts, so just use your greenmomster kitchen skills and keep tasting as you cook.
1 watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 sweet onion, sliced
about 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1) Combine watermelon, onion, and cheese.
2) Toss with balsamic vinegar and enjoy!
This week’s endangered species of the week isn’t listed under the Endangered Species Act, but it’s population is depleted and now is the time to protect it – it’s the American Shad (Alosa sapidissima)(photo from Chesapeake Bay Program). The American Shad is the most common shad in the Chesapeake Bay area. It sits in the middle of the food chain, eating plankton and serving as a food source for larger species. American Shad are anadromous; like the better known salmon, they are born in freshwater streams, live in the ocean for most of their lives, and return to their natal streams to spawn (up to 100,000-600,000 per female per spring, according to the Chesapeake Bay program!) Here’s another cool think about shad – do you have serviceberry in your yard? Serviceberry is also known as “shadbush” locally, because it blooms at about the same time as the shad begin their migration in the spring (there’s even a book about it, When the Shadbush Blooms).
So what is threatening the shad? Overharvest (the fishery has been closed for many years), pollution, and dams that block migration are the main threats. Shad are swimmers, rather than jumpers, so even the smallest dam can be an impossible barrier for shad. Check out this informative short video from the Chesapeake Bay program on efforts being made to remove dams and protect shad.
June 18 to 24 is National Pollinators Week – time to think about the important role pollinators play in our environment and how we can help protect these valuable species. As we all learned in elementary school, plants are fertilized through pollination. Pollination either occurs via wind or various types of animal vectors, like butterflies, bees, flies, and even bats. Pollinators are important to the natural ecosystem, as well as to our tables and our economy. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, bees pollinate more than $15 billion per year in U.S. crops, including apples, almonds, berries, cantaloupes, and cucumbers. They also estimate that honeybees produce over $150 million in honey each year. A recent United Nations Report recently stated that, of the 100 plant species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees!
So how can the greenmomsters celebrate National Pollinators Week?
Plant a butterfly or pollinator garden! It’s easy and relatively low maintenance. We have butterfly gardens all around our yard, and as you can see from the photo at left, they don’t get in the way of other backyard uses, including laser tag parties! For more info on planting a butterfly garden see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s instructions. Maybe visit a local FWS pollinator garden, just to see what it will look like in your yard.
Avoid or limit pesticide use. Remember, most pesticides kill lots of insects (even the beneficial ones), not just the ones that are bugging you.
Work to change your community to more sustainable energy sources. Climate change can have severe impacts on pollinators, since it affects both the pollinators and the plants with which they’ve evolved.
Join the Xerces Society, an international non-profit working to protect pollinators and other invertebrate species.
I hope all the green dads out there have a terrific day! I’d like to send out a special “thank you” to all the green dads in my life --
To my dad who introduced me to the beautiful world of nature. Although he doesn’t like to camp (“Desiree, I’m in the army. I camp for a living”), he brought me to countless zoos, aquariums, nature centers, and national parks. He showed me the Grand Canyon, the Alps, and the mountains of Peru. He even allowed me to try to cross-pollinate the roses at our house!
To my brother, a terrific vegetable gardener! We’ve had some fun hikes in the Smokey Mountains and near his family’s cabin in PA. To my father-in-law, who raised my husband to love the great outdoors and still hikes regularly with my mother-in-law (an expert hiker in the Pacific NW). He and my mother-in-law live in an entirely green high-rise in Portland OR. My husband still talks about their first backpacking trip in the Rockies!
To my husband, who puts up with all of our family’s green experiments. He was a bike commuter, even before biking was cool. My husband was a bike courier in Boston, biked across the U.S. and Norway, and still bikes to work daily, come rain or shine. He’s doing his part to slow climate change!
I’m re-posting a recipe this week for my new buddy at Whole Foods – I hope this recipe is a hit at the birthday party! (from Girlfriends Forever by Susan Branch (photo from africanmangodiet.us)).
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tblsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tblsp sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper
¼ tsp salt
3-4 mangoes, firm but ripe, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. To the bowl, add remaining ingredients but don’t toss until an hour before serving. Keep chilled.
We’ve been assigned our stream for monitoring – it’s in Eudora Park in Vienna VA! The stream is part of the Difficult Run watershed that eventually feeds to the Potomac River and then the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a beautiful spot off the hike-and-bike trail; a small stream with good flow that provides oxygen for all the little critters. 4 times per year we’ll be invading the stream (costumes optional) to check for invertebrates and evaluate the health of the stream. Once we have all of our equipment (waders, nets, trays, tweezers, etc), our first survey will be in July or August. We’ll keep you posted!
Anyone who’s been to the greenmomster’s home knows that we’re dog people. When you’re visiting, the dogs will greet you, and you will probably share the couch with a dog or two. The dogs “own” a specific section of the backyard, and we know all the other dog owners in the neighborhood by their dogs’ names. We love our pups! According to the Humane Society of the U.S., approximately 39% of American households have at least one dog, leading to 78.2 million dogs owned as pets in the U.S. Up until recently, when we’ve had to put two of our beloved dogs to sleep, our household was one of the 12% of dog owning households with three or more dogs. Now we’re graced with just two pooches, putting us in the 28% of dog owners with two dogs – still on the wagging tail of that bell curve.
We know that people have “environmental footprints” (the impact of our daily living on various aspects of the environment), but what about Fido’s footprint? How do our dogs affect the environment and how can we decrease their impact on the environment? In the book, Time to Eat the Dog, A Real Guide to Sustainable Living by Thames and Hudson (full disclosure, I have not read this book), the authors have been reported to claim that a pet dog’s carbon footprint is double that of an SUV, because dogs are carnivores. Remember, we know from earlier posts that eating high on the food chain does, in fact, lead to higher CO2 emissions, because of the way our food is produced. That said, the statement about Fido’s footprint being greater than an SUV has led to a lively discussion on the internet. An article in the Daily Green disputed this conclusion on both qualitative and quantitative grounds. The Daily Green writers claim that the actual calculation of the amount of food eaten by an average dog is off by about double, and they state that because dog food is actually made up of scraps and byproducts of the meat industry, the impact of their carnivorous diet is lower than calculated.
Regardless of the actual numbers, since dogs are carnivores they’re going to have an impact on the environment based on their diets. What about other impacts? Dog waste is often cited as a source of nutrient runoff to lakes and streams (10,000,000 tons of poop annually as estimated by webvet.com), and wrapping dog waste in non-biodegradable plastic bags just adds to the waste problem. In order to keep our dogs free of fleas and ticks, we often use chemicals to kill the insects – how should we dispose of these products and are there any environmentally friendly alternatives?
Since I don’t know of anyone willing to get rid of his or her dogs for the sake of sustainability, here are a few tips for making Fido’s footprint a little smaller:
I’ve never had an excess of flea or tick products (the containers are so small, we don’t have leftovers), but if you do, dispose of all flea and tick products properly. Check with your local wastewater treatment plant for instructions on disposal.
Always recycle empty dog food cans or other pet food containers.
Try to use veterinarians, dog parks, groomers, and pet stores within walking distance – take Fido for a walk and get your errands done without any fossil fuel emissions!
Use eco-friendly cleaning supplies. As stated in campingroadtrip.com, “The phosphates used in cleaning products such as stain removers and other products are harmful to our environment and health. High phosphate levels can kill life in our rivers, lakes, and streams. This is a real concern and efforts have been made to curb phosphate use. Next time your animal has an accident on the carpet or floor, you might think twice about traditional cleaners.” Many natural and enzymatic cleaners exist today and they work well – trust me, I had four dogs
That would be our endangered species of the week (who’s embarrassed by all the attention) – the Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi)! – image is from www.arkive.org The Grevy’s zebra is one of three species of zebra and is found primarily in Kenya (95% of the population), but also in small areas of Ethiopia. According to the National Zoo, Grevy’s zebras can grow to about 990 pounds, with males being about 10% larger than females. They graze primarily on tough grasses found on the African savannah, and can live up to 20 years in captivity. The adults mate in August, September, and October and gestation lasts a whopping 13 months!
Estimated to have declined in population by up to 50% in the past two decades, Grevy’s zebras are on the IUCN’s list of threatened species primarily due to habitat destruction, human disturbance, and competition with grazing domestic animals. According to the authors of Wildlife Heroes (Scardina & Flocken, 2012), the social system of these zebras makes them particularly susceptible to threats: “Grevy’s zebras have a totally different social system than the more numerous plains zebra, which served them well in their ecological niche until resources and numbers began to decline. Breeding males remain on their territories year-round – sometimes even in times of severe drought. Females and nonterrritorial (bachelor) males will migrate to more habitable pastures. As fewer than three thousand Grevy’s zebra’s remain over thousands of square kilometers in northern Kenya and Ethiopia, the strongest, most territorial males are often left with a territory no females traverse. On top of habitat loss, water shortages, hunting pressures and human disturbance, this certainly makes a successful breeding season more difficult, so the downward population spiral continues.”
A few reasons why we should care about zebra populations:
1) Zebras, wildebeest, and antelope participate in a complex migration each year. Zebras eat the toughest grasses first, which stimulates new, more tender growth for the next wave of migratory herbivores. *
2) Zebras are prey species to carnivores such as lions and hyenas. Grevy’s zebras, in particular, expand the range of these carnivores by inhabiting areas that other zebras do not (Scardina & Flocken, 2012)
3) Saving zebras helps to protect other species that depend on this complex landscape.
Want to help protect the Grevy’s zebra? Adopt a Grevy’s zebra at the Cincinnati zoo or support the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, which works to employ members of the local community in zebra monitoring programs.
Grevy’s zebras are part of a breeding program and there’s good news – just last month, a baby Grevy’s zebra was born at the Cincinnati Zoo. Check out the new baby!
* source = McNaughton, S.J. 1979. “Grassland-Herbivore Dynamics” in Serengeti, Dynamics of an Ecosystem, edited by A.R.E. Sinclair and M. Norton-Griffiths. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 389 pp.
Peaches are in season, so be sure to try this delicious cold soup from the September 2005 Gourmet magazine!
Yield: Makes 4 first-course servings
1 1/2 lb tomatoes, chopped (4 cups)
1 lb peaches, pitted and chopped (2 cups)
1/4 cup crushed ice
2 tablespoons chopped shallot (1 medium)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1) Purée two thirds of tomatoes and half of peaches with ice, shallot, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 teaspoons tarragon, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute. Force through a medium-mesh sieve into a large glass measure, discarding solids. Stir in water to desired consistency.
2) Toss together remaining tomatoes and peaches with remaining tablespoon oil, remaining 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, remaining teaspoon tarragon, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl.
3) Serve soup in bowls topped with tomato peach salsa.
If you’re living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, chances are you like to visit Virginia Beach, Ocean City, or Rehoboth sometime during the summer. The Chesapeake Bay Program has just come out with a list of 8 great pit-stops or side trips that you can make on your way to the beach (the photo is from Dutch Gap Conservation Area, credit to www.chesapeakebay.net). Check out these beautiful places and try something new this summer!
Back in February, we talked about frogs for the Leap Day post. As stated in that post, “One-third of all frog species are in danger of extinction due to a fungus commonly called the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Habitat loss is an even bigger problem for frogs and other amphibians. Often, frogs are viewed as the “canary in a coalmine” when it comes to the health of various ecosystems. When we start losing frogs, scientists recommend that we really start paying attention.” One of the most endangered frogs is the Panamanian Golden Frog (Atelopus zeteki) (photo credit Smithsonian CBC), which has been extinct in the wild since 2007. Now there’s a little ray of hope shining from the Smithsonian’s Amphibian Conservation Center at the National Zoo. As the zoo reported last week, scientists may have developed a probiotic that could protect them from the chytrid fungus. To learn more about this new, positive development in amphibian conservation, check out this report from the Today Show.
What can you do to help in frog conservation? Consider these ideas:
Locally, be sure to protect frog habitat; the areas where frogs live are often sensitive areas that affect the quality of water. Is there a new road or housing project being put into your neighborhood? Have the builders checked for the presence of frogs and other amphibians.
Join Frogwatch USA and help with citizen science to keep track of local frogs.
Have you ever lamented the numerous plastic baggies that end up in the trash at your house? Just one brown bag lunch can produce 2 or 3 dirty baggies that end up in the trash. What’s a greenmomster to do? You can’t really switch everything to washable glass or plastic containers; they could break and they take up too much space in the lunch box. Why not try washing out those plastic baggies and reusing them? I’ve been using this cool baggie drying rack for quite some time and it really comes in handy. I just wash the baggies out like I would dishes, and they can be used many times before they wear out. Check out amazon.com to find several manufacturers of the baggie drying racks.
My husband says the fact that I use this drying rack proves that I’m either crazy,or cheap, or both (he says this in the most loving way…), but I say that the simple fact that these racks exist proves that there are a lot of greenmomsters out there!
It’s that time of year again! Time for a favorite pasta dish that can be served cold (good news for the brown bag lunches). There are no set amounts for this recipe – I’m going to give you “guesstimates,” and you can adjust to taste.
1 lb pasta – any pasta will do, but I like the farfalle, because they’re sort of festive
1 lb fresh mozzarella – I like the tiny little balls (boconccini or ciliegine) sliced in half, but you can also slice the bigger pieces into bite-size pieces
2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn into smaller pieces
about 8 oz grape tomatoes – I leave them whole, because they keep better for the next day, but you can also slice them in half
about 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1) Cook pasta to al dente and rinse in cool water
2) Toss pasta with remaining ingredients