Monday, August 29, 2016

Mammal Monday -- the Przewalski's horse!

This week's mammal is 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:
  1. It is the only truly wild horse remaining in the world (it’s never been tamed for riding).
  2. I’ve never fallen off a Prezwalski’s horse (I’ve definitely fallen off a thoroughbred)
  3. Prezwalski’s horses can make it through winter in Mongolia without a horse blanket.
  4. The Mongolian name for these horses is “takhi,” which means “spirit.”   That’s way cooler than names like Chicken Lips or Buck Naked.
  5. 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:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Quick PB&J Breakfast

I haven't tried this one yet, but I thought it might be good for the start of school or for a "breakfast for dinner".  This recipe comes from the September 2016 issue of Family Circle.  Please post a comment if you give it a try!


  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • strawberry preserves
  1. Simmer all ingredients, except preserves, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Cool slightly and pour into 4 microwave-safe jars or containers and cover with lids.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Reheat in the microwave and top with strawberry preserves. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mammal Monday -- So stinkin' cute

It's a busy Mammal Monday at the greenmomster household, so I'm sharing this great skunk video.  Kudos to the biker for staying so calm!  More details on skunks to come....

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Athletes doing green stuff -- "Seeds of Hope"

Opening Ceremony, Rio 2016, Olympics, Rings

Every one of the over 10,000 athletes who entered the 2016 Olympic opening ceremonies was given a seed to plant -- the little trees will eventually be part of the Athletes Forest in Rio.  If you watched the opening ceremonies, you saw children carrying larger trees of the 207 species that will be found in the forest.  This gesture was one of the activities that Rio organizers used to try to shine a light on sustainability and climate change.  Granted, Rio has plenty of problems with deforestation, solid waste mismanagement, and water pollution, but it was good to see the organizers trying to bring climate change to the world stage.  (photo credit: AP Photo, Tim Donnelly) 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Celebrities doing green stuff -- Olympics edition!

David Rudisha of Kenya has successfully defended his gold medal in the 800 meter race from London -- way to go!  But did you know he's also defending lions in his home country?  He now encourages fellow Maasai warriors to compete in the Maasai Olympics (now in its 3rd year), rather than killing lions as a rite of passage into adulthood.  A great example of looking at your own lifestyle and figuring out ways to make it more sustainable!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pull that peach!

Peaches are in season, so be sure to try this delicious cold soup from the September 2005 Gourmet magazine!Sammy Thompson
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.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Palm oil update

(photo credit: © Shah / WWF )

I've posted in the past about the link between palm oil plantations and orangutan habitat, the nutritional issues associated with palm oil, and a global day of action against conflict palm oil.  Now Conservation magazine has a new article summarizing two very interesting studies on the sustainability of palm oil production.  With palm oil in many of the products we buy at the grocery store, the issue of sustainable production is an important one.  

What can you do to encourage sustainability?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mammal Monday -- the candy bars of the prairie!

Today's Washington Post included an article about prairie conservation on U.S. farmlands, so I thought it might be interesting to take a look at prairie dogs for  Mammal Monday.  Earlier this year, I wrote about black footed ferrets and bison and their roles in the North American prairie habitat   The prairie dog is the species upon which the bison and ferrets depend.  It holds things together on the prairie, because it is the "keystone species" for this habitat.  A keystone species is a species that, in spite of its biomass, plays a pivotal role in its ecosystem.  The prairie dog definitely fills that bill on the prairie.  It's the key prey species for black footed ferrets.  Its burrowing lifestyle provides shelter for many other species.  And its "grooming" of the grass around the tunnel openings affects plant species that other animals depend on.

And they're just so darn cute!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Why Eat Low on the Food Chain?

It's #MeatFreeWeek, so everyday I'm reposting some of my favorite meat-free Friday recipes.  For #MeatFreeFriday, we'll talk about why we want to go meat free -- enjoy!  And be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook and Twitter for more recipes and environmental news!

Have you heard the latest announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO), stating that processed and red meats increase your risk of cancer?  Not really new news, but now WHO is making the info a little more well-known.
But if you don’t want to eat less meat for your health, how about eating less meat for the environment?  Here’s a repost on that topic:
Why Eat Low on the Food Chain?
A great environmental goal is to “eat lower on the food chain.” What exactly does this mean? Well, let’s start at the beginning. When we talk about a food chain, we’re talking about a series of plants and animals that are related to one another through predation. Food chains always start with a plant (an autotroph, in ecological terms) which converts sunlight energy into energy that can be used by plants and animals. Plants are the source of energy and nutrients for all animals. As we move up the food chain, we’re looking at animals (heterotrophs) that eat certain plants. Moving further up the food chain, we’d see animals that eat the animals that ate the plants. A sample food chain would be:

Grass ---> grasshopper ---> bird ---> hawk 

So why do we want to “eat lower on the food chain”, that is, eat more plants and less meat? The way that our food is produced in our industrialized society, much energy goes into the production of food. The higher one eats on the food chain (meat, that is), the more energy that must go into producing that meat. So, if you eat a 2,000 calorie per day diet, a diet of vegetables will require much less energy input, than a 2,000 calorie diet that contains substantial amounts of meat. Another way of thinking about it -- for the same energy input, much more plant-based food can be produced. Eating lower on the food chain can also help to reduce greenhouse gases – the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that meat production is responsible for 1/5 of global greenhouse gases! 

Unless you live in an area with a very short growing season, a plant-based diet is a realistic goal. But many folks say they can’t or don’t want to go totally vegetarian. How about 1 night per week? The Utah State University Cooperative Extension website states that if “1000 people replaced one meat meal per week with a vegetarian option, it would save 70,000 lbs of grain per year!” That amount of grain would really feed a lot of people, with much lower environmental impact. Our family eats meat-free in our home.  Outside of the house, the kids and my husband eat whatever they want. Why not give it a try? Once a week, I will post a recipe that has been a success at our house. I’ll also include meatless products that I like, because people often ask me which products I like best, but you can substitute any brand that you like. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy “Meat-free Friday!”

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Virginia Vegetarian Pasta Fazool!

It's #MeatFreeWeek, so everyday I'm reposting some of my favorite meat-free Friday recipes -- enjoy!  And be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook and Twitter for more recipes and environmental news!

There are roughly a jillion ways to make this dish and everyone claims that theirs is correct.  Most versions are “soupier” than ours, but here’s how we do it at our house and there are rarely any leftovers!
1 lb ditalini, cooked al dente
2 packages Smart Sausage Italian Style
olive oil
2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 25 oz. jar prepared red pasta sauce (or an equivalent amount of your homemade sauce)

1)  Slice “sausage” into 1/2 inch pieces.  Fry in an excess amount of olive oil until brown (you should have some extra liquid olive oil in the pan when you’re finished cooking).
2)  Add “sausage”, cooking oil, kidney beans, and sauce to the pasta and warm through.  Garnish with parmesan cheese and enjoy with a salad!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Egg and Green Chile Casserole

It's #MeatFreeWeek, so everyday I'm reposting some of my favorite meat-free Friday recipes -- enjoy!  And be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook and Twitter for more recipes and environmental news!

Who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner every once in a while?  Here’s a meat-free Friday recipe that’s tasty like breakfast, but has enough heft to keep away the hunger until morning!

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Egg and Green Chile Casserole (source unknown)
  • 18 eggs
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 16 oz. of non-fat cottage cheese, drained
  • 1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles (hot is best)
  • 1 can (16 oz.) sliced black olives
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 cups grated cheddar or taco-mix cheese
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of lemon zest
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Grease a 13x 9 casserole dish.  Spread the cottage cheese, grated cheese, green onion, and green chiles in the bottom of the casserole dish.
  3. Beat the eggs with the milk, nutmeg, lemon zest, and slat and pepper.  Pour over the cheese mixture.
  4. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until casserole is a little puffy and the top is slightly browned.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Jaska's Gazpacho

It's #MeatFreeWeek, so everyday I'm reposting some of my favorite meat-free Friday recipes -- enjoy!  And be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook and Twitter for more recipes and environmental news!

What to do with those last tomatoes in your garden?  Here’s a great gazpacho recipe from my mother-in-law – enjoy!
2 stale rolls or 3 pieces or bread pre-cooked in a little water
1 thick slice onion
1/2 green pepper
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1 clove garlic
3 or 4 peeled red tomatoes or canned tomatoes
2 tblsp wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

1)  Put first 5 ingredients in a blender and add tomatoes to the top.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
2)  Chill in refrigerator several hours, until icy cold.
3)  Serve topped with croutons, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and onion.  You can also add a dash of curry or chili powder to vary the flavor.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mammal Monday -- the Solenodon!

This week’s Mammal Monday is a re-post from guest blogger, Noah Thompson.  Noah wrote this post when he was an 8th grader.  His post this week was part of a year-long writing project assigned by his English teachers (way to go, teachers!)

The Solenodon  is a rodent which populates the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Solenodon paradoxus is the species found in Hispaniola.  It is believed that Solenodons have been around for 75 million years, meaning they were around at the time of the dinosaurs!  Though Solenodons have survived for this huge amount of time, they are unfortunately in danger of becoming extinct due to human activity.

It is unfortunate that the Solenodon is slowly becoming extinct for two reasons.  First, the Solenodon kills and eats many unwanted pests that annoy humans.  Second, they are one of the weirdest animals in the world.  The Solenodon gets its name from the grooves in its teeth through which it injects its venom into victims.  It is the only mammal which can inject venom.  Even though these animals are aggressive killers (it is recorded that in captivity one literally shredded a live chicken before eating it), they are extremely clumsy.  When frightened, the Solenodon will either put its head toward the ground and stay still, or it will run away and, in many cases, trip on its feet causing it to roll. This inability to get away from threats is one reason the Solenodon is so close to being extinct.

The Solenodon originally thrived on its two home islands because it had very few predators. When the Europeans colonized the islands, however, they brought with them dogs, cats, and, later on, mongooses. These three predators can easily kill a Solenodon, and they are believed to be the main cause of the creature’s endangered status.  Another problem is the deforestation of the islands on which it lives.  The forests provided a habitat for the Solenodon’s food: insects, lizards, and plants.
The Solenodon is part of the Last Survivors Project. This project was created to raise awareness about Caribbean land dwelling rodents and preserve them. The project’s work on Solenodons is mainly focused on learning more about the animals. The project managers believe that the more they know about the animals, the better they will be able to help them.
Photo from:
Morelle, Rebecca. "Solenodon Hunt: Close Encounter with a Bizarre Beast." BBC News. BBC, 06 Feb. 2010. Web. 11 June 2013.
"Solenodon." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013
Theusch, M. 2002. "Solenodon cubanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 11, 2013 at