Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wild Mushroom Farro

This tasty recipe comes from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen, by Chloe Coscarelli.  The only change I made was to add about 1-2 tblsp of red pepper flakes to add a little zip!  Enjoy!

Wild Mushroom Farro with Lemon, Mint, and Artichokes


  • 3 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 14 oz. can quartered artichokes
  • 1 tblsp jar garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cooked farro (cook like you'd cook rice, with about 4 cups of water)
  • 2 tblsp chopped fresh mint
  • zest of 1 lemon (plus I added the juice from the lemon as well)
  • 1-2 tblsp red pepper flakes
  1. In a large pot, heat oil and saute mushrooms with salt and pepper until soft.  Add artichokes and garlic and saute another couple of minutes.
  2. Add wine and cook until the liquid is almost gone.  Add broth and farro and cook again until the broth is almost gone.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in mint, lemon zest, and lemon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Migrating monarchs

My neighbors took in a few monarch caterpillars this fall in the hopes that they could raise them to the butterfly stage.  Lucky me -- I got to witness the last one as it emerged from the chrysalis (it was my "work from home day")! 

The excitement started when we all noticed the monarch was very close to emerging:

(Fun fact:  did you know that the caterpillar basically liquifies in order become an adult butterfly?  They don't just grow wings.)

All we had to do was wait.  First, the adult emerged with its wings still folded and wrinkly.  After a little time (pumping hemolymph into the wings -- this substance brings nutrients to the cells), our boy was ready to fly!

How do we know it's a male?  Check out the little pheromone spot on the lower vein of his wing (the black line that gets a little fatter).

Now he's off to Mexico!  If you've never learned about monarch butterflies and how the eastern North American population takes 5 generations to complete the annual migration, be sure to check out Four Wings and a Prayer by Sue Halpern.  This migration is an incredible feat of nature that's right under our noses!


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Act locally!

"Our class had just finished watching a video about plastics and their impact on the environment. The students enthusiastically debated the best ways to influence public behavior – how could we get people to decrease their purchases of single-use plastic bottles and disposable plastic bags? The answer that the students came up with is the same one they come up with every semester – education! If people just understand the impact of their actions, they will change their behavior.

Unfortunately, research strongly suggests this assumption is not accurate. Understanding environmental impacts doesn’t seem to lead directly to pro-environmental behavior. Research indicates that two of the tools that do seem to encourage pro-environmental behavior are:
  • the removal of barriers to pro-environmental behavior, and
  • modeling of pro-environmental behavior by role models."

Want to learn more?  I detail how we can promote environmentally sustainable behavior and provide an example of how this behavior is supported at the local government level on Virginia Tech's Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability blog -- check it out!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mammal Monday -- seals!

To ring in the arrival of Fall, this week we have an arctic two-for-the-price-of-one deal.  Let’s take a look at two cold-weather-loving species that are protected under both the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Both are threatened by the loss of Photo: Ringed seal just below the surfacesea ice due to climate change -- ringed seals (Phoca hispida)  (photo from Paul Nicklen at and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus),

The ringed seal is the smallest seal (averaging 110-150 lbs and 5 feet in length) in the arctic, feeding on fish and invertebrates.  They are generally solitary animals.  Females reach sexual maturity around 4 years, while males don’t mature until about age 7.   Gestation lasts about 9 months, and the females give birth in ice “lairs” that they build out of the thick ice in their habitat.  These small seals can live 25 to 40 years.  Seal fun fact:  these guys can dive for 45 minutes without a breath!

On the other end of the spectrum, the bearded seal is the largest seal in the arctic, weighing in at a hefty 575 to 800 lbs!  These seals also have a lifespan of about 25 years and are thought to reach breeding age around 6 to 7 years.  These seals are divers, feeding on benthic creatures such as shrimp, cod, crab, octopus, and clams.     For a very cool video of the bearded seal, see this Arkive video!

Seals are an important indicator species regarding the arctic and the effects of climate change.  Just another reason to get involved – write those letters and reduce your carbon footprint!  

Still want more info on seals?  Be sure to check out Arkive's 10 Epic Facts about seals!

National Geographic.  2012.  “Ringed seal (Phoca hispida)”  Accessed online 12/23/2012.
NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. 2012. “Bearded Seal (Erignathus barbatus)” December 21, 2012. Accessed online 12/22/2012.
NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources.  2012.  “Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida)”  December 21, 2012.  Accessed online 12/22/2012.