Monday, July 16, 2018

Mammal Monday -- koalas

In ecology, we talk about "generalist" species and "specialist" species.  A generalist is a species that is able to eat lots of different foods, can bed down in a variety of different places, and is relatively flexible in its lifestyle strategy.  If a generalist were a human (which we are), she'd be a good travel companion.  On the other hand, the specialists usually won't eat many different types of foods and are very choosy about habitat.  As Billy Crystal said in "When Harry Met Sally", they're "high maintenance."

Koalas are most definitely specialist species.  They're a marsupial that is able to eat eucalyptus leaves, which most animals find toxic.  Thanks to their unique genetics, koalas can produce an enzyme that breaks down the toxins in the leaves.  And although there are about 600 different types of eucalyptus, koalas focus on about 120 of these types of trees.    Koalas have many other unique characteristics, such as very limited genetic diversity.  To learn more about koalas and their evolution, check out this Washington Post article about koalas by Joel Achenbach.

Specialist species are often at greater risk of extinction, simply because they can't easily adjust to environmental changes.  So what's being done to protect koalas?  Check out this video and visit the Australian Koala Foundation website where you can learn about koala protection and help out by donating, planting a tree, or adopting a koala.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Meat-free Friday -- Peach Gazpacho!

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!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Living with the neighbors

I ran across this blog post the other day, regarding the number of non-invasive species killed by a division of the USDA.  The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (part of USDA) reports that in 2017, 2,307,122 animals were killed, with 987,047 being invasive species.  Invasive species included feral pigs (65,264), nutrias (2,094), and brown tree snakes (21,886).  As I've written before, non-native invasive species can have huge environmental and economic impacts; thus the removal of these species is often necessary to protect ecosystems.  A little more puzzling is the removal of native species.  Sure, some individuals become nuisances or prey on agricultural species, but others are harder to explain.  The non-invasive species included downy woodpeckers (21), beavers (23,644), eastern bluebirds (yes, the ones we set up all those nest boxes for, 4), bobcats (983), brown-headed cowbirds (285,657), coyotes (68,913), great blue herons (564), and eastern meadowlarks (1,474), ospreys (92).  For a full list, see the USDA website.

After reviewing the website, it seems to me that there are ways that we can reduce these lethal animal removals, but it's up to us.  If we don't request unnecessary animal removals, USDA personnel won't be required to kill animals.  So check out these helpful fact sheets that USDA has produced before you consider killing pest animals:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Mammal Monday -- a change in plans

OK -- I was going to go in a totally different direction for Mammal Monday today, but there was this great video posted over at Osler's Razor today that I just had to share.  In case you've ever wondered about wildlife after a fire (I've posted about wildlife in a hurricane), here's some info on baby bears and fire, plus an odd appearance by Smokey the Bear...

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tasty stuffed zucchini!

This one's a little more work than usual, but well worth it.  I found the recipe in the June 2012 issue of Cooking Light. Make extra, because your family will really like the unique flavor!

Persian Rice – Stuffed Zucchini with Pistachios and Dill

  • 6 medium zucchini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 tblsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup jasmine rice (I used brown rice)
  • 6 cardamom pods (or the equivalent in ground cardamom)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I just used about 2 tsp of ground cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper (I used a little extra)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 8 dried apricots, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup – I added more because I love dried apricots)
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tblsp fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped shelled dry roasted, unsalted pistachios (I used salted and didn’t chop mine, because I like lots of pistachio crunch and taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp, leaving about 1/2 inch thick shell. Chop pulp. Place zucchini halves, cut sides up on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tblsp oil. Add rice, cardamom, and cinnamon, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 tsp salt, cumin, red pepper, and 1 1/4 cups water (I usually use double the water as rice, so if you have 3/4 cup rice, use 1 1/2 cups water) Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Cover and let stand 10 minutes. 
  4. Discard cardamom (if you used pods) and cinnamon stick (if you used a stick)
  5. Spoon rice mixture into a large boil.
  6. Combine remaining 2 tblsp of oil, remaining salt and pepper, orange rind, and juices in a small bowl. Stir with a whisk. Add dressing, reserved zucchini pulp, pistachios, and remaining ingredients to rice mixture and mix.
  7. Preheat broiler to high (I set mine at 450 degrees)
  8. Spoon rice mixture into each zucchini shell and broil for about 6 minutes or until lightly browned.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

National Parks and Recreation Week -- Bryce Canyon!

July is National Parks and Recreation Month! To celebrate and kick-off this wonderful month, I'm going to repost some of my favorite write-ups of various parks we've enjoyed. So far, we visited Shenandoah National Park and Bear Creek Lake State Park in VA. Today we're off to Bryce!
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, July 3, 2018

National Parks and Recreation Month -- Bear Creek Lake!

July is National Parks and Recreation Month! To celebrate and kick-off this wonderful month, I'm going to repost some of my favorite write-ups of various parks we've enjoyed. Yesterday, we visited Shenandoah National Park; today we're off to Bear Creek Lake State Park in VA!

For my birthday back in February, my family gave me something I’ve been wanting for several years – a new BIG tent with 5 comfortable cots. Yes, greenmomster is no longer camping; it’s “glamping” for me! So I decided to take my beautiful new tent out for her maiden voyage to Bear Creek Lake State Park in Cumberland VA, about an hour west of Richmond. What a pleasant surprise this park is! This 326 acre park includes a 40 acre lake and is surrounded by the 16,000 acre Cumberland State Forest. Our campsite sat right next to the lake, so we woke up to million-dollar views of the lake out our tent window! We tried a little archery and took a canoe tour led by the very friendly park staff and interpreters (can you believe that $5 paid for a 1 1/2 hour archery lesson?) Of course, we went fishing, hiking, and swimming at the lake beach. And what camping trip would be complete without a campfire and s’mores? But our campfire had an international flare, as we shared s’mores with our camping “neighbors” from down-under! Now we know a little more about camping in Australia!
Definitely a park to visit, Bear Creek Lake will certainly be on our “to do” list again next year!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Happy National Parks and Rec Month!

July is National Parks and Recreation Month! To celebrate and kick-off this wonderful month, I'm going to repost some of my favorite write-ups of various parks we've enjoyed.  First stop -- 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 and the early blooming spring ephemerals were out, including this cute little Hepatica (thanks Dirck!) Spring is also a great time for waterfalls , searching for salamanders on Fox Hollow trail , finding salamanders on Milam trail (one of my favorites) , and catching those first millipedes as they warm up . And there’s always time for relaxing in the leaves . Where’s your favorite National Park getaway?