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.