Thursday, June 28, 2012

We're Moving!

It's official. Just Saying and Adventures in Container Gardening are fully immersed in the merger and development of our new site:

Just Saying posts will now appear under Organic Matters on the new site are are but one of many fun features of the website.

Adventures in Container Gardening will be expanding - alongside the size and scale of its associated garden - to include a Kitchen that will feature a recipe database searchable by course, ingredients, season, culture and food preferences.

And that's not all! We'll be highlighting fantastic farms and vineyards in our region and posting (plenty) about our future farm. Read more and explore on the site, in our About Us section, and be sure and check out the latest posts.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Maryland True Blue

How many crab cakes can you make after an hour out on the Choptank River with a trotline, hand-bagged clam bait, a heavy-wire net, an experienced captain and a handful of regional bloggers? Not as many as you might think. In fact, probably only one or two. If that.

I think this is the message that Steve Vilnit, the Director of Fisheries Marketing for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, hopes to send home with the local chefs and bloggers that he takes on experiential adventures in Maryland Seafood - one of which I had the pleasure of participating in this weekend (read all about it in EatMoreDrinkMore's post here).

Catching and picking crabs in our region is a labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor with costs that can't be recaptured (let alone sustained) if the majority of "Maryland Style" crab cakes are made with less-expensive crab meat imported from the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela or the Far East (ah'hem: not sustainable). Unfortunately, many restaurants are capitalizing on the illusion of "local"crab meat without supporting the Maryland seafood industry directly.

According to Vilnit, only a small percentage of restaurants in Maryland reliably make their crab cakes from local crab meat and the state does not require restaurants to identify the source of the meat. So how do you tell the difference? Look for the True Blue label.

The new True Blue Certification Program aims to boost the use of local crab meat and the local seafood economy by certifying establishments that can verify at least 75 percent of the crab meat used annually is harvested and/or processed in the state of Maryland. Qualifying restaurants are then able to advertise their certification with the True Blue logo. A list of restaurants and retail venues selling Maryland certified crab meat can be found on the Maryland DNR's website.

If you want to purchase delicious, sustainable Maryland crab meat directly, check your local Whole Foods for Epicure Crab Meat. The authentic "Blue Crab crab meat" is harvested and processed naturally (without chemicals. additives or preservatives) by the J.M. Clayton Seafood Company, a fifth generation family operation (that just so happens to be the oldest working crab processing plant in the world ).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Butterflies at Brookside Gardens

In case you haven't been or heard about the Wings of Fancy Exhibit at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, allow me to suggest a visit or two be added to your summer day-cation list.

From early May through September 16th (10a.m. to 4p.m. daily) you can surround yourself with hundreds of African, Asian, Costa Rican and North American butterflies fluttering freely inside the South Conservatory.

The $6/adult $4/kids 3-12 admission fee allows entry to the exhibit all day long and includes a quick instructional on the butterfly life cycle.

Butterfly populations are decreasing due to habitat loss, pesticide use and pollution. The folks at Brookside not only offer a protected greenhouse habitat for rare and/or endangered butterfly species but also have host and nectar plants throughout the grounds and encourage visitors to build their own native butterfly habitat at home. For details on how to do so in our region, check out How to Build a Butterfly Garden and Gardening for Butterflies.

There are also tons of great picnic spots, educational gardens, signs and takeaways throughout the grounds so if you are planning a visit, this is an easy spot to spend the entire day. Be sure and bring your reusable water bottles too, since Brookside banned the sale of disposable bottled water bottles.

Brookside Gardens
South Conservatory
1500 Glenallan Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902

Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lily Goat!

Well, actually TWO Lily goats.

When the Eco-Goats were on the weed-eating job at Adkins Arboretum one year ago, one of the goats (Maggie) gave birth to triplets. Three babies can be a strain on a mom so when Arboretum Maintenance Coordinator Allison Yates told Eco-Boss, Brian Knox, she was interested in adopting one of the triplets and bottle feeding her, he was thrilled for her to be welcomed into a happy home.

Maggie's Triplets (both Lily and Lily visible), June 8th 2011

The folks at Adkins Arboretum named their new kid Lily and over the past year she has grown up alongside fellow goats, Rosie and Puffer Fish, in their goat barn near the Native Plant Nursery.

The other two kids that Maggie gave birth to that day returned to Eco-HQ. The littlest one struggled to grow as healthy as her siblings and ended up in need of a lot of special attention in the recovery suite. Because she was so little, we started calling her "Little," then "Lil" and eventually "Lily," at this point completely unaware that she her sister had been given the same name.

Larry and Lily at the Davidsonville Green Expo

Against all odds (and with a lot of love from Larry, the largest Eco-Goat who took a particular interest in looking out for little Lily), she pulled through and she and Larry have become a popular pair on the road. Had Adkins Arboretum not mentioned that it is their Lily's first birthday in an email newsletter this morning, we may never have realized this cosmic connection between siblings.

So it is with immense joy that we wish the Lily sisters and Happy First Birthday! Do you think we should we start calling them "Lily East" and "Lily West" in relation to their residences?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blink Blink: It's Firefly Season

With so many of us busy as bees on a daily (and nightly) basis, it is easy to find ourselves overlooking the small wonders in our own backyard. Sure, we notice the unusually colorful migratory birds and chat with neighbors about the raccoon breaking into trash cans, but rarely do we stand or sit still long enough to admire how the littlest species (littlest yet visible to the naked eye, that is) communicate with one another and how we can communicate with them.

Insect interactions are incredibly complex and warrant fields and fields of study far more engaging than this little blog post can accommodate, but the call and response mating rituals between fireflies can be observed and contemplated by interested backyard bug-lovers after a few moments reading up on the topic in Carl Zimmer's 2009 New York Times article: Blink Twice If You Like Me

In the article Dr. Sara Lewis, an evolutionary ecologist at Tufts University, offers insight on the insects and a few patterns to look for when the fireflies emerge - at that perfect evening hour to coincide with winding down - and throughout their fascinating nightlife. Take a few moments to take a closer look and you may observe the following:

  • Each firefly species has its own pattern of flashes, discernible by the number of pulses (flashes) and seconds of delay in between.
  • Fireflies flashing in the air are males. The females stay down in the grass observing and looking for the flash patterns of males of their own species.
  • Female fireflies will sometimes respond with a single flash of their own, always at a precise interval after the males.

If this topic captivates you as much as it does me, you may want to check out this Tufts Now news article about the 2011 findings in Correlated Evolution of Female Neoteny and Flightlessness with Male Spermatophore Production in Fireflies (Coleopetera: Lampyridae) and start practicing the double blink of the male Photinus greeni on your penlight.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Potomac Snakehead Tournament: This Weekend

In previous posts, Invasivore > Vegetarian and Eating Invasives, we've discussed the many benefits of eating invasive species and are thrilled to see that the trend is catching on. A group of local outdoorsmen will be gathering for a large-scale (pun intended) snakehead fishing tournament this weekend.

Beginning at 5:00pm on Saturday June 2nd, teams of anglers and bow-fisherman are gathering for talks about the species then setting out to remove as many invasive snakehead fish from portions of the Potomac as possible within the 18.5 fishing hours of the Second Annual Potomac Snakehead Tournament. The teams will fish/hunt through the night and weigh in their fish at 1:00pm on Sunday where the team with the most snakehead meat, and individual with the largest single fish, will be awarded cash prizes.

For those of you who - like me - may not be entering the contest but are interested in the mission, you may want to plan your trip to the tournament location, Smallwood State Park, around the guest speakers and the "Invasive Species Tasting" prepared by Alewife Baltimore's Executive Chef Chad Wells who has pioneered the mission to get invasives on Baltimore menus. See you there!

June 2, 2012: 5:00 p.m. Pre-Tournament Conference

Speakers -  Joseph W. Love, Ph.D. Tidal Bass Manager, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Joshua J. Newhard, Fisheries Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

June 3, 2012: 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Invasive Species Tasting and Flying Dog Beer Sampling - Snakehead Tasting (Prepared by Chad Wells, Executive Chef, Alewife, Baltimore, MD); Blue Catfish Tasting (Provided by ProFish prepared by the Whackfactor Outdoors Pro-Staff); Flying Dog Beer Sampling (Ben Savage, VP Marketing and Brand Development, Flying Dog Brewery, will share some amazing beers)
2:45 p.m. Closing Remarks From: Steve Vilnit, Fisheries Marketing Director, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Find the full schedule of events here

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ReFRESHing News for Farmers Markets and Shoppers

This morning, Tim Carman for the The Washington Post reported great news from a new W.K. Kellogg Foundation Survey: Three quarters of Americans say they would support a national program that would double Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP or Food Stamp) benefits at farmers markets. And that's not all!

  • 70 percent of respondents said they have purchased fresh produce from a farmers market or stand in the past year 
  • 68 percent of those surveyed say they eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables than they did five years ago
  • 63 percent of respondents say they know a lot or a little about where their fresh fruits and vegetables come from.
  • 89 percent say their source for fresh fruits and vegetables is within walking distance or is a short drive away.
  • 45 percent say they acquired fresh fruits and/or vegetables from their own garden within the past year.
  • 93 percent say they think it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” to “make sure all Americans have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
  • 64 percent say it’s “very important” that produce be grown in an “environmentally friendly way.
  • 64 percent say it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” that produce be organic.
  • 83 percent of those surveyed strongly or partly agree that “Washington, D.C., should shift its support more toward smaller, local fruit and vegetable farmers and away from large farm businesses." 

Check out what is going on in Maryland with regards to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and USDA here and here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eco-Goats Back on the Road

In this photo, one of the Eco-Goats, Little Richard, is chowing down on problem vegetation in a Woodland Conservation Bank in Prince Georges County, just outside of Upper Marlboro. The weed pictured, Mile-A-Minute (Persicaria perfoliata, previously Polygonum perfoliatum) is also being eaten by tiny weevils (Rhinoncomimus latipes) because the folks at Straughan Environmental are seriously awesome. Talk about Integrated Pest Management!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, Mother Earth!

Just a quick shout-out to the mother who makes it all possible: Mother Earth! The miracles of nature are the truest gifts. Every flower and fruit that blooms in the "native soil" at the Public Health Garden is an example of a miracle to those of us involved in cultivating and improving that piece of land. Check out the all the beauty that has bloomed there on our Flickr stream.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Secret Life of Peas

Check it out! The common pea is capable of processing, remembering and sharing information with its neighbors. Michael Marder, for the New York Times Opinionater, reports:

"...a team of scientists from the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in Israel published the results of its peer-reviewed research, revealing that a pea plant subjected to drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil. In other words, through the roots, it relayed to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as though they, too, were in a similar predicament."

Any scientists/geneticists out there know if these findings have anything to do with how or why Mendel was able to study and and demonstrate inheritance through peas? Were those peas co-evolving with us and telling each other that being relevant in modern scientific experiments would foster future generations of intelligent peas that could one day outsmart their human predators? Nah... probably not... but it certainly doesn't surprise me that they grow and work together. 

Read Marder's full article "If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?" examining the ethics of eating such intelligent life forms here