Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Go West, Greenmomsters!

Want to learn more about green getaways?  Be sure to "Like" greenmomster on Facebook!

Our family just returned from a fantastic trip to visit some of our nation’s most beautiful national parks.  First stop – Bryce National Park!  With its beautiful red canyons and Dr. Seuss-esque landscape covered with “hoodoos”, this park became my favorite of the trip.  Hikes into the canyons are not overly strenuous (assuming you brought lots of water), but they’re extremely rewarding with unbelievable views in every direction.  Bryce gets chilly in the winter, but if you’re from the humid east, you’ll find the summer weather in Bryce to be very comfortable (as everyone says, “it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat”).  Until you can visit on your own, enjoy a few of our shots: 

Bryce15  Bryce27brycecanyon7

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Moth Week–Way better than Shark Week!

It’s National Moth Week!  It’s the perfect chance to learn more about those beautiful and fascinating creatures that flock to our porch lights at night.  Most of us are familiar with silk moths, creating the raw material for one of our favorite fabrics.  My son tried to raise silk moths in our house once, but somehow (I honestly have no idea how), the silkworms escaped their enclosure (despite a lid weighed down by a brick) and disappeared in my house (singing “Born Free”, I’m sure).  I usually see the best moths on the walls in the ladies’ room bathroom at night when we’re camping at a Virginia State Park – I’ve seen some real beauties!  But you can see moths in the most common places.  I saw this beautiful Luna Moth in the Safeway parking lot!  IMG_20130608_181751_483  Here are some fun facts about moths and butterflies:

  • Moths and butterflies are members of the the order Lepidoptera, loosely meaning “scaly wings”
  • Butterflies fly during the day; most moths fly at night.
  • A butterfly changes from caterpillar to adult in a chrysalis; a moth does the same in a cocoon. 
  • Butterflies and moths basically liquify as they change from caterpillar to adult (so cool!)
  • Butterfly antennae look like little clubs, while moths have various styles of antennae including the fringed type seen on the Luna moth (above)

If you’d like to learn more about moths and celebrate National Moth Week, check out this great interview on Science Friday

Friday, July 26, 2013

Peachy Keen!

If you’re a gazpacho lover, here’s a fun twist using the fruit that seems to be everywhere this time of year – peaches!

Peach Gazpacho

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
3 lbs fresh peaches, pitted and chopped
1 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1)  In a blender, puree the tomatoes, half of the peaches, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 of the onion, 2 tblsp olive oil, 1 tblsp vinegar, 1 tblsp tarragon, salt and pepper.  Make sure the mixture is very smooth.
2)  Add remaining peaches, water (you may need to add a little more), olive oil, vinegar, onion, and tarragon.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.
Enjoy with some bread and a side of your favorite veggies!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We adopted a stream–and it’s alive!

Want to catch all the updates on our stream and other green adventures?  Be sure to "Like" greenmomster on facebook!

About a year ago, our family adopted a local stream, Difficult Run.  We’ve been monitoring and blogging about the stream for the past year.  Unfortunately, many sections of the stream have very little invertebrate life (due to pollutant runoff, siltation/erosion, etc).  But this weekend, we surveyed our newest section of the stream and good news – it’s alive!  It’s not healthy, but it’s alive!  Yay! 

It was a toasty summer afternoon, and we headed off to survey the stream in a county area near Great Falls National Park and the Potomac River.  We headed out into the stream with our net and conducted the first of our one-minute “stream dances” – twisting in the stream in order to stir up and catch invertebrates.  When we headed back to the bank with our catch, we found invertebrates! IMG_20130721_145015_569  Netspinners, scuds, clams, beetles, even a few mayflies!  IMG_20130721_150029_388  The fact that we found invertebrates was great!  Despite finding invertebrates, we know the stream isn’t totally healthy due to the type of invertebrates we found.  Some invertebrates can live with quite a bit of water quality deterioration (think of them as the rats, crows, and pigeons of the stream world), while others demand cleaner water.  The majority of our species were pretty tolerant of polluted conditions.

Our stream isn’t perfect, but we’re counting this one as a “win” – with the proper attention, our stream may someday be in the healthy range!  IMG_20130721_151238_396

Monday, July 22, 2013

Maned Wolf Update!

I’m a big fan of maned wolves – in fact, they were once Greenmomster’s endangered species of the week.  There’s good news on the maned wolf front!  The Friends of the National Zoo facebook page reports:  Photo: These maned wolf pups are part of the recent baby boom at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Keepers have nicknamed the pups “Bold” and “Shy” for their distinctive personalities.<br /><br />Only 85 maned wolves are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, and these pups account for 40 percent of successful maned wolf births in the United States this year. A leader in maned wolf conservation, SCBI has had 74 pups born there since 1975—more than any other institution. <br /><br />Photo Credit: Janice Sveda

“These maned wolf pups are part of the recent baby boom at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Keepers have nicknamed the pups “Bold” and “Shy” for their distinctive personalities.
Only 85 maned wolves are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, and these pups account for 40 percent of successful maned wolf births in the United States this year. A leader in maned wolf conservation, SCBI has had 74 pups born there since 1975—more than any other institution.
Photo Credit: Janice Sveda”

Next time you’re in DC, be sure to check out the maned wolves at the National Zoo.  If you’re not going to be in DC, you can get the latest news via their facebook page.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Got Figs? (a re-post)

Enjoy getting your meat-free Friday recipes and all the latest green info?  Then "Like" us on Facebook for updates!

If you’re lucky, like I am, and have a fig tree in your backyard, then this is the recipe for you – so simple, so tasty, and such a short time for fresh figs!  Photo from anotherperfumeblog.com.

Arugula and Fig Salad

Figs, stems off, cut in half
shredded parmesan cheese
italian dressing, optional

1)  Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl.  I never use the dressing, so test it before adding any dressing to your salad.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

So you slept through science class, part 7–healthy streams…..

Many of you have been following our family’s stream monitoring adventures and know that the streams in our area are not particularly healthy.  Several readers have been asking me why the streams are in the shape they’re in.  Urban streams are often “sick” for a number of reasons, including nitrogen and phosphorous runoff, the speed of the water moving through the streams (which increases erosion and decreases the soil’s natural filtering of pollutants), temperature changes in the water, and various toxic pollutants.  Here’s a  short, informative video from a division of NBC that does a nice job of explaining some of the threats to our local urban and suburban waterways: 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

4 lies we tell our children

Any parent knows that once in a while we aren’t completely honest.  Maybe we tell a little fib to save someone’s feelings, or we don’t tell the entire truth because the kids wouldn’t understand all the details. IMG_20130703_171958_273 But I’ve heard 4 whoppers that I just have to share:

  1. “If you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything!” -- Nope.  Not true.  I will never be an opera singer, no matter how many voice lessons I take.  My husband will never be a jockey in the Kentucky Derby (he’s 6’2” and over 200 pounds).  My son will never be an egg donor.  Success is 80% showing up and working hard, and 20% luck (do you have talent?  support?  money?  opportunity?)  When I was a kid, I wanted to be an Olympic long jumper.  Fortunately, I’ve always been a hard worker with lots of drive.  Unfortunately, I’m not a gifted long jumper.  I spent an entire summer jumping into a baby crib mattress, trying to “reach my dream.”  I ended up on crutches with torn cartilage in both knees, but not with a spot on the school track team.  We should encourage our kids to dream; encourage our kids to work hard.  But we also have to let them know that sometimes things don’t work out and that’s OK – they’re not failures if they gave it their best shot.
  2. “You can’t judge a book by its cover!”  -- Actually, a lot of times you can.
  3. “There’s no such thing as a stupid question!”  Oh yes there is.  Anyone who’s been a parent for 30 minutes or a teacher for 30 seconds has actually heard one of these stupid questions.  Example:  I’ve just explained to the class how to read the syllabus (which outlines test dates, etc) AND explained that the first test is on March 1.  The student in the back row, who’s been secretly (he thinks) checking his phone for texts from his girlfriend, raises his hand and asks, you guessed it, “when is the first test?”  Stupid.  stupidstupidstupid.
  4. “We can use technology to fix any environmental damage we create.”  And you were wondering when I’d get to the environmental stuff!  We can use technology to create many environmentally-friendly inventions that will make our current way of life more sustainable, including renewable energy and engineered wetlands that clean stream water.  But there are some issues that can only be addressed through conservation and preservation.  The biggest of these issues is biodiversity.  Only by actively protecting and preserving species, soil, and land can we hand these resources down to future generations.  Once soil is gone, it takes thousands and thousands of years to make more.  Once a species is extinct, it’s gone forever, despite what you saw on Jurassic Park.

Got any other lies you’d like to share?

Corn and Mango Tacos!

If you like the meat-free Friday recipes and other environmental news you read here, be sure to “Like” greenmomster on Facebook!

I’ve adapted this week’s recipe from Martha Stewart Living Magazine.  It’s a perfect summertime dinner – light and tasty!

2 lbs corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
2 cups feta cheese
5 tblsp lime juice
4 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup sliced scallions
20 corn tortillas
3 or 4 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, and sliced

1)  Heat the corn kernels on the stove or in the microwave.
2)  Combine corn, lime juice, olive oil, cayenne pepper, cilantro, and scallions.
3)  Broil tortillas until they’re warm.
4)  Make tacos with corn mixture, feta, and a few slices of mango.  Serve with a side of black beans.  Enjoy!

Red, White, Blue and Green 4th of July

It’s the 4th of July – one of my favorite holidays!  So how can we make the 4th of July red, white, blue, and green?  Sure, you could forgo the home fireworks, serve organic food, and use re-useable plates and silverware.  DSC_0029But here’s what I suggest for a REALLY patriotic 4th:

  • choose an environmental issue that’s near and dear to your heart
  • find a 15 minute slot of time
  • write a letter or e-mail to your local, state, or federal representative, telling them your opinion about the environmental issue
  • head out and enjoy the festivities, knowing you’ve participated in a truly patriotic 4th of July!

Have a fun and green 4th of July!

fairfax va 4th of july

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Magazine Mountain Shagreen endangered no more!

The Magazine Mountain Shagreen (photo by Ron Caldwell, Lincoln Memorial University) this year became the first invertebrate to be delisted under the Endangered Species Act!  A small snail on a rockThis tiny snail (its shell is only about 1/3 inch tall and 1/2 inch wide), which is only found in the highest parts of the Ozark mountains in Arkansas, likes cool, moist habitat in leaf litter.  Listed as threatened in 1989, it is found in 27 locations on the mountain (covering roughly 22 acres).  Check out this little dude on the move!



Ashley, A. 2013.  “Arkansas Snail Removed from Endangered Species List.”  in NWA Hompage.com.  Accessed online 7/2/2013.  http://nwahomepage.com/fulltext?nxd_id=431562

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  2012.    “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Delisting of Magazine Mountain Shagreen – Another ESA Success Story Nears Completion.”  Accessed online 7/2/2013.  http://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2012/034.html