Monday, May 30, 2016

Mammal Monday -- the Bison!

Of course the Memorial Day Monday Mammal is our new national mammal -- the bison!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Chopped egg and avocado sandwiches

This week's meat-free Friday recipe comes from the Washington Post, where they adapted the recipe from Mexican Today:  New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens by Pati Jinich.  It's a little different take on an egg salad sandwich, and much tastier!

  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • 3 tblsp chopped red onion
  • 2 tblsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp sauce from canned chipotles in adobo (I used the entire small can, chopping the chipotles and adding them to the recipe)
  • 1 sliced avocado
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 slices of brioche, challah, or soft bread (I used brioche rolls, but would probably go with bread slices next time)
  • 4 slices of Monterey jack or Muenster cheese (optional)
  • sliced tomatoes (optional)
  1. Combine egg, onion, parsley, dill, mustard, mayo, and chipotles in a medium bowl.  Add avocado, salt and pepper, and mash the mixture together.
  2. Scoop onto bread and top with cheese and tomato.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Turtles rock!

In honor of World Turtle Day, I’m re-posting about my favorite animals – the loggerheads at Edisto Island SC! 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the high points of my summer each year is visiting the beaches of South Carolina and watching the baby loggerhead turtles head for life in the ocean.  This year was no different!  It’s been a great year for loggerheads in SC; both Bull Island and the Edisto Beach State Park reported their second highest number of nests (last year was number 1).  One of the naturalists speculated that since the turtle protection project is in its 30th year, and it takes roughly 30 years for loggerhead turtles to reach sexual maturity, the program is just now beginning to show the product of all the hard work.  Turtle project managers hope that this is just the beginning of many more successful nesting years for these endangered turtles.

Loggerhead turtles are truly impressive creatures.  They start off small, but grow to a whopping 200-300 lbs!  IMG_20130815_190125_501  Following a harrowing run to the ocean, avoiding hungry seagulls, the baby turtles hitch a ride on an ocean current and make their way to the Sargasso Sea.  There they float in the sargassum until they grow large enough to continue their 30 year journey north through the Atlantic Ocean and then down to the Caribbean.  Only about 1 in 1000 eggs laid reaches sexual maturity!

Here’s a myth-buster!  Have you heard that sea turtles always return to the same beach to nest?  Well, recent DNA research is showing that this isn’t always the case.  One female turtle this year laid eggs in three states!

So what is this turtle protection program I keep mentioning?  Many naturalists, turtle researchers, and volunteers deserve credit for this successful program.  Tiny turtles hatch from the soft eggs IMG_20130815_184203_296, which the females lay in deep holes above the high tide line in the middle of the night.  Early each morning, researchers and volunteers head to the beach to mark the location of new nests and protect the nests with flags and fencing.  If staff believe that the nests are below the high tide line, they may decide to move the nest further toward the dunes to avoid flooding of the nest.  After the expected date of nest hatching, staff again spring into action.   This volunteer is digging up a nest which has already hatched, to see if there are any hatchlings alive but trapped in the nest (they didn’t make it out with the rest of the baby turtles).   IMG_20130815_184059_922  After digging up the hatched nests, volunteers and program staff log the number of eggs hatched and the number of unhatched eggs:  IMG_20130815_184641_381.  The nest in the previous picture had many unhatched eggs; staff hypothesized that the nest was laid below the high tide line.  After the volunteers find any turtles still trapped in the nest, they set the tiny creatures free to begin their ocean adventure.  turtle hatchling at sunset
Sea turtles have been on Earth for millions of years and are currently threatened by human activities including entrapment in fishing gear, boat strikes, and pollution which turtles can mistake for food.  You can help these incredible creatures and the programs designed to protect them:
  • Never litter on the beach.  Pick up any litter you see (cups, plastic bags, bottles) to protect turtles from accidental ingestion
  • Only buy shrimp from fleets that use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on their fishing gear (it’s a law for U.S. fleets)
  • You can adopt a turtle or adopt a nest – what a great way to help protect these magnificent creatures!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Go west, Greenmomsters! The final installment.

The final re-post on our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the national parks!  Be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook for more green getaways!

Next stop on our Utah adventure was Zion National Park!  This park, settled over the last 12,000 years by the Anasazi, the Paiute, and European settlers, is Utah’s first national park.  The scenery is very different from what we found at Bryce and the Red Canyon.Zion20   This park is filled with towering cliffs Zion10and slot canyons.  In order to avoid the traffic problems of the past, transport through the park is either on foot, by bike, or via shuttle bus.  Since the buses run very frequently, the driving restriction really isn’t inconvenient. 
We really enjoyed the hike to the Emerald Pools,zionemeraldpools2 as well as the challenging Angel’s Landing hike.  I was a little shocked by the danger of the last half mile of Angel’s Landing Zion7and much preferred the hike leading to a higher viewpoint overlooking Angel’s landing.    We also enjoyed an interesting introduction to all things condor at the top of the hike – that’s my daughter holding a condor feather.  Zion1Another great area of the park is Kolob canyon – undeveloped and stunning!  Although we didn’t hike it, we heard that the Narrows Trail is definitely worth the effort.  The high point of our visit to Zion was a half-day horseback ride through the park.  Cowboy Bob made our trip memorable! (photo credit:  Zion Rides)  zion rides 10 - Copy

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Go West Greenmomsters, continued!

Still celebrating the 100th anniversary of the national parks -- this time at Grand Canyon!  Be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook to see all of the national park reposts!

For the final leg of our trip, we hit the north rim of the Grand Canyon!  I don't think there's a national park with a more fitting name -- this place is GRAND!  My one piece of advice would be to get off the beaten track.  Bring your hiking boots and take a short hike.  The viewpoints were very popular with visitors, but just a short hike can get you to spectacular views that you can enjoy without any crowds.  I'll let the photos speak for themselves.  

 grandcanyon9  grandcanyon12  grandcanyon17  grandcanyon20  grandcanyon23  grandcanyon34  grandcanyon43

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Nature that can freakin' kill you!

Continuing on our week-long series of reposts on the national parks, here are my thoughts on Old Rag and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Be sure to "like" greenmomster on facebook!
Scrambling up Old Rag
Last weekend, our family took a terrific guided hike through the Harper’s Ferry, WV area led by Larry Broadwell from the Maryland Sierra Club.   We bushwhacked through brambles and up hills to find old Civil War forts that are now covered with weeds and trees.  This was not an easy hike.  The kids were covered with scratches from tangles of vines, burns from spring-growing nettles, bruises from falling down hills, and smiles from the fun they were having!  We imagined ourselves as civil war soldiers, climbing up hills to surprise the soldiers in the forts.  We really got a great sense of how difficult it must have been to be a soldier, wearing a wool uniform in summer, carrying a heavy rifle, and probably fighting on one meal a day.

This hike reminded me of a friend I had many years ago.  We were at a party and people were talking about all sorts of interesting strolls they had on various nature trails in the area.  My friend, who worked in organic agriculture and lived for many years in a house-trailer in Kansas responded, “Nature! These people don’t know anything about nature, the real nature!  Nature that can freakin’ kill you!”  Now, I don’t advocate doing fool-hardy stunts or ignoring dangerous weather conditions, but my friend did have a  point that’s applicable to my life (he also gave my family a great catch-phrase).  I’ve often found that although my kids always like getting outside, they really love experiences that involve some challenge and they really respect Mother Nature more when they feel her power.  Like bushwhacking up a hill to find a long-forgotten fort or climbing through the rock scramble to get to the top ofOld Rag.  Like getting wet in a cold stream while hunting for salamanders and crayfish (and then getting pinched by those same crayfish).  Or hiking in the snow.  I still remember camping as a kid and waking up to snow all around our tents – and that was back in the days of cotton sleeping bags, brrr!  (Full disclosure:  I do prefer “glamping” these days and just bought some very comfy cots for this summer’s outings).

Planting trees in the rain
On our trip a few years ago to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the most visited park in the U.S.), one of our most enjoyable hikes was one we took in a rainstorm (no lightning or thunder – again, I’m not stupid).  Because the weather was lousy, the crowds were fewer (a big plus in the Smokies), and the waterfalls were spectacular in the rain.  The kids loved telling their friends about that particular hike!  And my kids aren’t the only ones who love a challenge.  Just last week, I photographed a small group of girl scouts planting trees for Earth Day at a local state park – it was 50 degrees, raining, and they were laughing the whole time!  My in-laws in Portland OR, never let a little snow or rain get in their way – they’re always off snowshoeing or hiking in the mist!  And those of us who live in warmer climates can grab the sunscreen and water and head into the summer swelter for a few adventures.

The bottom line is, we don’t have to wait for 70 degrees and sunny to venture out with the kids.  Some of their most memorable experiences will be when nature wasn’t at its easiest!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Go West Greenmomsters!

Day #2 of our week-long celebration of the National Park centennial!  This re-post is about beautiful Bryce National Park:

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Green Getaways -- Shenandoah National Park

This year, the U.S. is celebrating the centennial of its national parks -- definitely one of our best ideas ever!  So in honor of the national parks, I'm re-posting several posts on some of my favorite national parks -- enjoy!

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?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mammal Monday -- Naked Mole Rats!

One of my favorite exhibits at the Smithosonian's National Zoo is the naked mole rat exhibit.  I love watching these little guys crawl through their tunnels and over one another.  But many people aren't as fascinated or charmed by naked mole rats as I am (we'll agree to disagree), so why should we be interested in these creatures?  Here are a few reasons:

  • they're the only ectothermic mammal that we know of
  • they're the only eusocial mammals that we know of -- they live in a social structure similar to honeybees
  • their cells may hold keys to helping us age better and cure cancer!
Check out this ScienceFriday video on these wonderful creatures:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mammal Monday -- Grevy's Zebra!

It's Mammal Monday and time to celebrate the Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi)!  (image is from   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 ofEthiopia.  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.