Sunday, April 27, 2014

7 types of nature lovers–which one are you?

I’ve noticed that many people enjoy nature, but they do it in distinctly different ways.  Here are 6 examples of the ways I’ve seen folks enjoy nature -- what type of greenmomster are you?

The Hands-On Greenmomster – Some folks really enjoy touching, smelling, seeing, and hearing new things when they’re out in nature.  We’ve got a couple of folks in our family who just aren’t happy with a hike unless a salamander is caught, a millipede is wrangled, a sea turtle is cheered on its journey to the ocean, or an owl pellet is dissected.  These folks would rather spend an afternoon fishing than hiking.  IMG_20140419_193248 

The Party Animal – Is being outside more fun when you’re with a group?  climatechange8 Maybe you enjoy guided nature hikes or joining a group for the 4th of July Butterfly Counts.  Nature’s great, but for you “the more, the merrier”!

The Lone Wolf – Do you prefer to enjoy nature on your own – no conversations to distract you?  Then maybe you’re a “lone wolf”!  A dog companion is OK, but the humans need to stay home when you’re headed into nature (be sure to let someone know where you’re going!) snowy amos

The Nature Athlete – Some folks like being out in nature, but it’s the physical challenge that really excites them.  We’ve got members of our family who’ve done 24 hour speed hikes (not my idea of a good time), or enjoy 100 mile bike rides (in one day).  They love being outside, but they REALLY love combining the experience with a physical challenge!

The Armchair Athlete – Do you love nature, but the bugs and the heat get you down?  Don’t like getting your shoes dirty or working up a sweat?  Maybe viewing nature through nature shows, movies, or photography magazines is more your speed.  I personally can’t wait to see Disney’s Bears  Tickets and the Island of Lemurs:  Madagascar

The Scientist – Maybe learning about the science behind nature is what really excites you!  skymeadowsastronomy3 Nothing like a little astronomy to help you enjoy nature at night!

The Farmer – Your favorite way to experience nature is through your garden or beehive.  You love watching plants grow and knowing all of the insects that depend on them.  DSC_0013

Tell us what type of nature lover you are – or maybe add to the list!

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Stay low on the food chain with Cheesy Chard!

It was called to my attention that I’ve never tried this recipe, submitted by Susan Stillman, May’s Treehouse Chat environmentalist.  So this week, it’s Cheesy Chard at our house!  Susan says know one has ever been disappointed by this recipe!  Cheesy Chard from “Recipes for a Small Planet” by Ellen Buchman Ewald (photo from

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3/4 cup raw brown rice, cooked
1/3 cup grated cheese
One large bunch chard (or other leafy green)
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
soy sauce to taste

1. Chop the chard and stems separately and add stems to the onions.
2. In a large pot or wok, saute the onions, garlic, and chard stems until onion is transparent.
3. Stir in the cooked rice and put the chopped chard leaves on top. Cover and let steam a few minutes until the chard is wilted, then stir into the rice.
4. Add the cheese and soy sauce, stir and serve.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lessons learned from the Passenger Pigeon

A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to ExtinctionIf you ever wanted a detailed account of the fate of the passenger pigeon, then A Feathered River Across the Sky, The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction by Joel Greenberg is the book for which you’ve been searching.   Mr. Greenberg is a research associate with the Field Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and he attacks this topic with the attention to detail of a top-notch scientist.   He begins the book by describing the almost unbelievable sizes of flocks in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and follows up with the equally unbelievable wastefulness of humans as they “harvested” this natural resource.  Mr. Greenberg’s writing is pretty clinical, but he keeps things interesting by including interesting stories about individual characters in the passenger pigeon story (like Etta Wilson and William Butts Mershon).  And I learned the origin of the term “stool pigeon”!  Although it’s a very sad story about the extinction of a species, Mr. Greenberg does a good job of sharing an important lesson as he tries to focus attention on human-caused extinctions through this story and his Project Passenger Pigeon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Green Getaways–Shenandoah National Park

I am the queen of the mini-vacation!  As Julie McCoy , cruise director of the SS Greenmomster, I find that planning vacations is almost as much fun as going on them.  So this year, I decided that we were going to take a mini-vacation at the beginning of spring break.  Lucky for us, we live less than two hours from Shenandoah National Park.  This time of year, the trees aren’t quite budding (except for an early blooming dogwood or redbud), but there’s plenty of beauty to be had.  The views are stunning 2014springbreak18and the early blooming spring ephemerals were out, including this cute little Hepatica (thanks Dirck!) 2014springbreak40  Spring is also a great time for waterfalls 2014springbreak35 , searching for salamanders on Fox Hollow trail  2014springbreak2, finding salamanders on Milam trail (one of my favorites)  2014springbreak5, and catching those first millipedes as they warm up 2014springbreak17.   And there’s always time for relaxing in the leaves 2014springbreak33.  Where’s your favorite National Park getaway?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Potato Bliss!

20140417173854This Friday’s meat-free dish is an easy one – a baked potato bar!  Just poke some holes in your potatoes and microwave until they’re soft.  Saute some peppers and onions in olive oil and some mushrooms in butter.  Put out some shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa (red AND green, of course), salt, pepper, and red pepper.  How about some hot sauce?  Serve with a side salad and enjoy!  Anything else you like to add to your potato?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Saving the monarchs

sammybutterflyWe’ve written about the decline of monarch butterflies and planting milkweed to help them during their migration.  Want to know what’s being done in their wintering grounds in Mexico?  Then check out this fascinating study regarding the protection of the monarch’s wintering grounds:  Vidal, O. and  J.Lopez-Garcia, E. Rendon-Salinas.  2014.  Trends in deforestation and forest degradation after a decade of monitoring in the monarch butterfly biosphere reserve in Mexico.  Conservation Biology, February 2014.  Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 177-186.  This study provides information on the amount of canopy protected in the reserve thanks to local alternative-income generation and employment (as opposed to jobs from illegal logging).  The authors recommend that a multi-stakeholder, regional, sustainable-development strategy is needed.  That means all hands on deck, even here in the north!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Keeping our Furry Friends Green

In past posts, greenmomster has included info about the environmental impact of man’s best friend.  As an owner of 3 dogs, I felt I had some perspective on the issue.  Cats are another story – I like cats, but I’ve only ever had one in my life.  Thus, I refer you to this interesting article in Conservation magazine, Cat Fight, for the latest on the fascinating debate about cat population and songbird mortality.  Good reading, as you cuddle with your favorite furry friend!

If you’re really interested in this topic, and how the two extremes of opinion might reach détente, check out this scientific article regarding the attitudes of people regarding feral cats in the Hawaiian Islands:  Lohr, C.A. and C. A. Lepzcyk.  2014.  Desires and Management Preferences of Stakeholders Regarding Feral Cats in the Hawaiian Islands.  Conservation Biology, April 2014.  Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.  392-403.


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Onion Quiche

I've adapted this recipe from Family Circle Magazine (photo from  Perfect for a quick Friday night meal!

1 frozen pie crust
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups chopped onions
5 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tblsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup shredded swiss cheese

1)  Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2)  Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until browned and soft (stir once in a while), about 30 minutes.
3)  In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and nutmeg.  Remove pie crust from freezer, and sprinkle cheese evenly on bottom of crust.  Spread onions on top of the cheese.  Pour egg mixture over cheese and onions.  Bake quiche for 45 minutes or until eggs are set.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Lights, camera, action!

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Over the weekend I had the pleasant surprise of watching Ann Curry’s Our Year of Extremes:  Did Climate Change Just Hit Home?  At last!  An hour during primetime devoted to a documentary about climate change!  The program was very user-friendly and clearly presented the issue for folks who aren’t very familiar with the details.  If you missed it, we’ll keep you posted regarding re-runs, because it’s worth a watch.  Interested in some other green films that have come out lately?  Then check out the following:

(photo from

Friday, April 4, 2014

One-pan Pasta with Chickpeas and Olives

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I found this week’s recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine.  The interesting mix of olives, arugula, and pasta was a big hit at our house.  Here’s the recipe, plus my personal adaptations, since I can’t always go fully “Martha” on a weeknight!

  • 12 ounces oriecchiette (I don’t know where Martha finds 12 ounce boxes of pasta – I used the standard 16 oz of pasta shells, since I couldn’t find orecchiette)
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used 2 cans)
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted (I used closer to 1 cup)
  • 2 tblsp tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (I used about 2 tblsp of the chopped garlic in a jar)
  • 1 8-inch sprig rosemary (I was too lazy to go out to my garden in the snow, so I left this out; but I’ll definitely include it next time)
  • 3 tblsp extra-virgin olive-oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I used closer to 1/2 to 1 tsp)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese to garnish at the table
  • 2 cups baby arugula (I used closer to 3 cups)
  1. Combine pasta, chickpeas, olives, tomato paste, garlic, rosemary (if you use it), oil, pepper flakes, and 5 cups of water (I used closer to 8 cups, because of the increased pasta) in a large pot.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then cook over medium heat until the pasta is al dente and there’s enough liquid to make a light sauce (you can always remove excess liquid, if things are too watery).
  3. Remove pasta from heat, discard the rosemary if you used it.  Divide the arugula between the bowls and ladle the pasta on top.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Now will we listen?

For decades, scientists have been reporting that the Earth’s climate is changing.  Greenmomster has written posts about the health, environmental, and security issues associated with climate change.  We’ve written letters, met activitists, and attended protests.  At a local level, I’m thankful for many folks who spend several weeks each year working with state legislators to enact climate change legislation. 

Now the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a new report regarding the effects of climate change.  The report discusses necessary actions to slow the causes of climate change, and also encourages actions to adapt to the changes we can’t avoid.  Here’s the Summary for Policy Makers.  Be sure to scroll to the charts at the end that outline the possible outcomes of climate change on each continent and their probability (ie. high confidence of increased human deaths due to temperature extremes in North America and high confidence in North America of “urban floods in riverine and coastal areas inducing property and infrastructure damage; supply chain, ecosystem, and social system disruption; public health impacts”).  If you’d like a short summary and video on the report, check out this Washington Post article.  The future for North America isn’t great, but think about the folks in Kiribati: