TLC's Blog (170)
I am fascinated by water.
Humans can only survive a few days without it, and our bodies are 65% water. Less than one percent of the water on planet earth is available for people to use because the vast majority of water is in the oceans (where it is too salty for humans to drink) or it is locked in the polar ice caps.
Water is so essential to life, yet so often taken for granted.
Here in McHenry County, all of the water people use comes from the ground. Municipal and private wells reach down into “groundwater aquifers” and pump water up to the surface.
Aquifers are not underground pools. In this area, aquifers are found where deposits of sand, gravel, or sandstone have water filling the spaces between sand particles (or filling cracks in the rock).
If the water in these aquifers is not replenished, they can run dry just like a river or pond can go dry. And the source of water to refill an aquifer is the same as that which fills our rivers and ponds – precipitation (rain-sleet-snow).
We had a severe drought last year. On average, our area receives about 37 inches of precipitation each year. In 2012 we received about 25 inches.
The drought of 2012 led many local rivers and streams to run dry (like the one on the left side of the accompanying photo). Many ponds are very low, and some have dried up altogether. Farmers are able to cultivate parts of fields that were too wet to farm just a year or two ago.
Groundwater aquifers face a double whammy during a drought. First off, people pull more water out of the ground to water their lawns, gardens and farm fields to compensate for the lack of rain. Additionally, with no precipitation, there is no new water to replenish the water we are pulling out of the ground.
There is one final challenge that aquifers face when there’s a drought. They take time to recover even when rain starts to fall again. After all, the precipitation must be able to soak into the ground is areas where the soil is permeable enough to allow the water to pass through 100 to 400 or more feet of material. It can take several years for water that hits the ground today to make it to the nearest aquifer where it becomes available for a well to pump to the surface.
So, if you are still looking for a resolution for 2013, how about “I won’t take water for granted”?
I posted this once before, but thought the weather forecast warranted running it again! Hope you don't mind!
When first married, my husband and I moved to Vermont from Chicago, motivated by an image of that state as a beautiful, rural paradise – the antithesis of Chicago where our car got broken into every few weeks. We thought Vermont would be a great adventure. Turns out “adventure” wasn’t quite the right word.
Our moving date was in early November, and after we arrived, it was at least 30 days until we saw the sun. Our trusty VW Rabbit had a stick-shift – which had not been a problem in Chicago where the landscape is fairly level. But, in Vermont, we couldn’t even get in or out of our neighborhood without going up and down a couple of hills. On streets covered in snow and ice.
We expected Chicago winters would prepare us for anything, but we were wrong. The sheer volume of snow that fell in and around Burlington, and the absence of sunshine for weeks at a time, made that first winter pretty tough.
That first winter was when we heard about “Snowflake” Bentley – the man who first observed that no two snowflakes are alike. In 1885, Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley, a farmer and resident of Jericho, Vermont, became the first person to photograph a snowflake. In 1925, after photographing thousands of snow crystals, he wrote:
"Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind."
That fact never occurred to me – if each snowflake is unique, then once it is gone, there will never be another like it.
According to a story on the Smithsonian’s website, “Snowflakes start as ice crystals that freeze around small pieces of dust in the air. As they fall to the earth, the ice crystals join together to form snowflakes. The shape of each snowflake is determined by temperature, wind, the amount of time it takes to fall to the ground, and the amount of water vapor in the air.”
For example, the classic snowflake shape – some variation on a six pointed star with delicate branches (called stellar dendrites) – is most likely to be formed when the air temperature is below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. At higher temperatures, snow crystals may be more disc-like, cylindrical or stick-like.
After living in Vermont for three years, Tom and I came to understand why it was a Vermont resident who figured out that no two snowflakes are alike: First off, there are a lot of snowflakes to photograph; plus, there are about five months of the year where it is so snowy and cold that one needs to have a hobby to keep from going stir crazy.
Wilson A. Bentley chose a winter hobby that took advantage of a resource available in abundance right outside his front door – and more than 100 years later, every child still learns that no two snowflakes are alike.
I never thought a hobby could make someone immortal.
While driving late one night between Woodstock and Harvard, it struck me how dark it seemed. Most house lights were out, so the landscape visible along Route 14 was dark. It was a new moon, so there was no moonlight from the sky to illuminate the ground. I thought to myself: the world must have looked like this for the early settlers.
Not even close.
When early settlers arrived in this area, they would have found actual darkness. The kind of darkness where the Milky Way was not only clearly visible, but where the Milky Way actually cast a shadow on white surfaces!
There are still a few places in the United States where true darkness can be found, but these dark spots are increasingly rare. According to information found at www.cleardarksky.com, there are no places in the entire state of Illinois that have no light pollution. In fact, east of the Mississippi River, a person would have to travel some distance into the Atlantic Ocean to reach a place with zero light pollution.
Woodstock is right on the fringe of a light bubble that surrounds the City of Chicago and most of the suburbs. This light bubble stretches from University Park in the south to Deer Park in the north, and from Lake Michigan in the east to the Fox River in the west. In this area (a place where it never actually gets dark), the sky is perpetually grey or brighter, and only the brightest stars are visible to the naked eye. In technical terms, this bright zone is considered Class 9, Inner-city sky.
Woodstock is in an area considered Class 6 or 7, Urban/Suburban sky. The Milky Way may be visible if directly overhead, and the horizon glows with a faint light that obscures all but the brightest stars.
Heading northwest from Woodstock, the sky is rated a Class 5, Suburban Sky. In this area, the milkway is visible when overhead, but is washed out. Clouds appear brighter than the sky behind them.
In a truly dark, Class 1 or 2 sky, clouds will appear as “black holes” that appear deeper than the starlit sky around them. This is because there is not ground light pollution to illuminate them from below.
Now, there are those who will ask: “so what?”
The sky is part of humanity's cultural inheritance: a door to the Universe, part of the rural environment, and a social amenity. Light pollution reduces the celestial spectacle to a pale imitation - a few pin-pricks of light from the planets and brightest stars - and robs us of a source of inspiration which until recently could be taken for granted.
Some folks may think that with the onset of winter, we can stop thinking about invasive plants - after all, they aren't growing in winter, right? Well, while we may not have to worry about them growing during the dormant months of winter, natural area managers find that this is the best time to work on removing invasive shrubs, trees and vines. After all, one doesn't have to deal with ticks and mosquitoes, plus, with the leaves off, it is much easier to cut and mulch (or burn) brush.
The picture above shows Oriental Bittersweet - an invasive vine that literally strangles trees like our beloved oaks. Artists seem to value the twisty stems, and florists love the prolific orange-clad berries for fall flower arrangements. However, left unchecked, this vine will pull down mature trees in just a few years.
Fortunately, this is an invasive plant that can be managed easily during the winter months once one knows how to identify it, and provided you have the proper chemical to apply to any cut stumps.
For those who dislike even the idea of using herbicides, I have to tell you that the alternative is to keep cutting the same plant every year. And, cutting these plants just encourages them to come back more aggressively the next year. Seriously. It is like the stories of Medusa - cut off her head, and seven new heads grew in its place. Cut one honeysuckle stem this winter, and you'll be cutting at least seven new stems next year if you don't give it a shot of herbicide.
Fortunately, herbicides will work when applied correctly in very small quantities. Since they are a poison, it is vital to wear proper protective gear and use the proper application technique to avoid harming yourself or native plants that may be growing nearby.
There is a lot of good information out there to help manage invasive plants in winter.
Friend Chris Evans coordinates an "Invasive Species" (eradication) Campaign in Illinois, and he often shares great information about best practices for recognizing and controlling invasive plants in Illinois. He posted a useful article recently that covers the basics of winter management of several of the most irritating invasive plants: Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, and Oriental Bittersweet. The article can be accessed here: Winter Management of Common Woody Invasive Species.
The article is on the site "Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month," so you will find a lot of additional helpful advice about managing these pesky invaders.
“The fog comes on little cat feet” wrote Illinois poet Carl Sandburg in 1916 as he watched the fog roll in at the Lake Michigan shore in Chicago. The next line, “It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on” describes the fog as it settles in for a while before retreating again.
When I first read those words in grade school, I admit that they didn’t make much of an impression. The cats I knew were like my pet Tuppence who thumped when he walked. Did fog thump? As a kid, I really didn’t know fog.
Reading the poem today, I actually experience a slight chill, for as an adult I have experienced the beauty and mystery of fog in its many forms.
For example, there is the winter fog that coats the tree branches with a thin film of ice, creating what is known as a hoar frost. This fog is a type of evaporation fog which results when cold air passes over water or warm, moist land. Evaporation increases the amount of moisture in the cool air, possibly to the point that the air can no longer hold all of the water it contains. And that is when the fog arrives.
Several years ago on a camping trip, I saw the fog roll in off the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes California (one of the foggiest places in the world), and then watched it return to sea. This is an example of advection fog where wind blows warm moist air over a cool surface – in this case, the ocean.
Fog is essentially a cloud at or near the ground. Fog occurs when the air temperature reaches its dew point – meaning the point at which the air is nearly 100 percent saturated. Fog generally does not occur under windy conditions – the air will be calm, and any wind will be light.
In this area, the most common type of fog is known as radiation fog. On clear, calm nights, fog will form as the ground surface cools rapidly, dropping the air temperature to its dew point. This type of fog is most common in the fall and winter, and if the air is still, can last all night long, disappearing as the sun rises and the air warms.
For all its beauty, fog can be hazardous. In 1945, a B-52 airplane actually crashed into the Empire State Building in New York because of heavy fog and in 1977 two airplanes crashed on a runway in Tenerife (Canary Islands) because of limited visibility due to fog.
Fog has been blamed for fatal car accidents across the planet, in places as diverse as California, Dubai, and Tennessee. The fog not only reduces visibility, it also reduces contrast, muting everything to shades of grey, which in turn reduces one’s ability to judge distance and speed.
Fall and winter are the peak fog seasons in the Chicago metro area, including McHenry County. So, when driving in the fog, slow down, turn on the low beams, don’t pass other cars, and do not talk on the phone. It may come in on little cat feet, but don’t be fooled, that fog can be a killer!
Did anyone else notice that the President mentioned climate change during his victory speech early Wednesday morning? Specifically, he said: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
That sounds like three priorities: reduction of the National debt, equal rights for all Americans, and doing something about climate change.
For months, I have been frustrated by the absence of a National dialogue about climate change. The topic did not come up during the Presidential debates – not even a passing reference. This, despite the fact that our own Defense Department has stated that global climate change will have national security implications for the US, as rising sea waters inundate US military bases as well as low-lying nations and as changing weather patterns cause water shortages in some countries and flooding in others.
“We will pay for [climate change] one way or another,” Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine and the former head of US Central Command, wrote in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory board. His report goes on to say that America can pay dollars today to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, or it will pay later through loss of life as the US faces more military conflicts through the political instability that climate change will cause.
So what? How does that affect us here in McHenry County? Why should we care?
Well, aside from concern about the impact to habitats and species, consider that McHenry County will have young people whose lives will be at risk in future military conflicts as nations fight over water and possibly land for their citizens. And, there is every reason to believe that the United States will continue its long tradition of welcoming refuges from throughout the world, and those people will need to have places to live. Population pressures in the US in the future will impact McHenry County, especially with our location within the Chicago metropolitan area.
I hope the next four years brings rational discussion in the US aimed at taking meaningful action to address climate change and to reduce the risks of future global instability that will result if nothing is done. Let’s not push this problem off onto a future generation.
Has this election cycle left you with a bad taste in your mouth? Well, at least no one’s making you eat kale.
I’m a fan of eating seasonally fresh foods, but that has never included certain vegetables that are common this time of year: brassicas.
Broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and bok choy are all members of the Brassica family. Some folks refer to the group of vegetables and other plants as the "cabbage family" or the "mustard family," because who has ever heard of a brassica anyway?
For many years, I thought my dislike of these particular vegetables was a hold-over from being a “picky eater” as a child. I assumed that Brussels sprouts were an “acquired” taste or something that one grew to like in adulthood. But not me. Several decades into adulthood, and I still avoid the bitter-tasting brassicas.
I learned recently that I’m not just being “picky,” I actually have a specific gene that heightens my sensitivity to foods that contain a certain type of chemical compound. And that chemical is found in high concentrations in brassicas. And for billions of people on the planet, those vegetables have a bitter taste.
Still, as the primary cook in my household, I am called upon to prepare brassicas by my partner who does not share the bitterness gene. So, over the years, I have found ways to prepare many of these vegetables. For instance, broccoli is quite good when combined with potatoes to make a creamy soup. Brussels sprouts become palatable if baked in a casserole with cream cheese and parmesan cheese. Bok choy is actually tasty when I chop it and stir fry it with mushrooms, red pepper flakes and sesame oil. In effect, I use other vegetables and spices to mask the bitterness.
There is just one brassica I will not eat: Kale. I know, I know, kale has lots of vitamins and is really good for me, but it is one taste I am not going to acquire.
I want to share an inspiring story that I heard earlier this week:
Some years back, Michael Howard, Director of the Fuller Park Community Development Organization in Chicago, learned that his neighborhood had the third highest levels of lead of any neighborhood in the US. Its location between the Dan Ryan and the Chicago Railyards had led to deposition of lead from cars and diesel trains for decades before fuels were made unleaded.
Being an economically depressed area, there were many vacant lots, which served as de facto parks that kids would play in, all the while inhaling and ingesting high levels of lead. Michael wondered how those kids were ever going to learn anything in school with high lead levels in their systems. He launched a campaign to get the area cleaned up which resulted in 200 tons of lead being removed from the neighborhood.
Along the way, he realized that the Fuller Park organization he ran needed to get into the environmental education business, and so Eden Place was established 15 years ago on land that had been abandoned and used for dumping for many years. It is a 3 acre oasis with farm animals, a duck pond, vegetable gardens, chickens laying eggs, etc. They have 10,000 visitors a year go through the property including 1,000s of school kids who learn from the animals and plants.
What struck me like a lightning bolt while talking with Michael, was the power of a place like Eden Place to influence future generations of citizens - voters, politicians, workers, parents, on and on.
The majority of school kids in Illinois grow up in places more like Fuller Park than Woodstock or Algonquin. If those kids are not given the opportunity to experience nature in their neighborhoods, how will they learn to value the land and all it provides? If their only experience with nature or farming is a field trip once in their school careers, why would they ever see these things as relevant to their lives and their families?
There is so much that so many of us take for granted (myself included) - not having to worry about your kid being hit by a stray bullet while playing in the street for example - and Michael's story reminded me of that. So, I intend to be more mindful of that in my work. Not that the work we are doing in McHenry County is any less important, but now my eyes are opened to the fact that it is not enough. If I believe that land preservation is important for the benefits it provides to people, then I have to care about every kid growing up in Fuller Park (or any other nature deprived area of the state) just as much as (if not more than) the Whooping cranes that may visit the future Hackmatack NWR.
Thanks for reading.
We worked with a group of 9 volunteers the other day to plant 120 oak trees. While taking a mid-morning donut break, folks were talking about whether or not we should be planting species other than native oaks because of climate change. The concern was that as the climate warms, the more northern species will not fare as well as species that are found further south.
I explained that the species of oak most commonly found in McHenry County – white, bur, red, black and scarlet (or Hill’s) – occur throughout the State of Illinois. That’s right, one can find these same species of trees in the southernmost part of the state with a climate more similar to southern Missouri than northern Illinois.
A couple of folks also mentioned the summer drought, wondering how we could possibly water the 2-4 year-old seedlings enough if there is a drought next year.
Frankly, we couldn’t, and we won’t. The oaks are on their own, as trees have been for millennia. I pointed to ten young oaks that were planted just two years ago, noting that they were all doing fine despite no additional water during the recent drought.
Just imagine, oaks were thriving on every continent except Antarctica long before humans were much more than food for larger animals. I’m guessing they have a few tricks up their genetic sleeves.
As we resumed digging and planting, I looked over at a nearby bur oak that was close to 300 years old. It grows on the fence line between the planting site and the adjoining farm field. That tree was growing in that same location before the Declaration of Independence was signed. That oak survived a series of droughts in the 1930s (known as the Dust Bowl years) and a severe drought from 1954-56.
We’ll keep planting oaks.
The latest news is that I now have a blog about nature on the NW Herald's website:
It is called "Speaking of Nature," and the purpose is to raise awareness of how global and national environmental issues relate back to McHenry County. Folks who know me know that I am not short on opinions. And people who have known me the longest are well aware of my need to have some cause that I can fight for or rale against!
Now this blog feels like one of those paintings where the artist paints a picture of himself painting a picture of himself painting a picture of himself painting a picture of himself...
I promise, I'll try not to be so self-indulgent in the future!!
As the crops are harvested in the fall, the land’s forms become more clear. Gentle swells and swales that were obscured by corn are suddenly prominent. If one takes the time to learn the language of the land forms, the land has a lot to teach.
Most of McHenry County lay under a half mile of ice just 16,000 years ago. That may sound like a long time ago, but to a geologist, 16,000 years might as well be yesterday.
Imagine a wall of ice over 500 meters thick moving slowly across the landscape. Everything in the path of the glacier was crushed, and anything that could be moved was pushed along by the ice. Trees were pulverized. Jagged boulders were rubbed smooth.
Looking at the land today, the remnants of the immense force exerted by the glacier can be seen all around. Here’s a description of some of the more common elements of the county’s glacial heritage that you are likely to see.
Erratics. This term describes any rocks that were transported by a glacier from one place to another. In our area, any rock is likely an erratic, as there isn’t exposed bedrock nearby.
Esker. This refers to a long, thin, snake-like hill of sand and gravel that was likely formed by a stream that carried rocks and sediment within a glacier. I know of one esker in McHenry County, although I am sure there are others. Sadly, it is likely that local eskers were removed as part of gravel mining operations. Eskers are treeless and very well-drained, providing ideal habitat for a unique assortment of grasses and wildflowers that are adapted well to perpetual drought conditions. The photo was taken on an esker northeast of Hebron. The reddish grass is little blue stem, and you can see how it covers the top of the hill. Where the grass ends, the land slopes sharply away.
Kettle. This is a depression in the landscape that was caused when a chunk of ice broke off from a retreating glacier. Glacial “outwash” (debris) then covered the ice chunk, and once the ice melted, a depression was left behind. Some kettles are lakes, as they hold water throughout the year. Others lie atop deep sand and gravel deposits, providing rapid infiltration of any rain or snowmelt. The latter are found throughout McHenry County. There are several kettles visible from Fleming Road and also in the Sanctuary of Bull Valley. The photo on the right is of a kettle off of Fleming Road in Bull Valley.
Kame. A kame is a small hill of sand and gravel left behind by a retreating glacier. Glacial Park in Ringwood has outstanding examples of kames. Like their cousin the esker, kames are very well drained, typically tree-less and provide habitat to a unique community of plants and insects. Kames come in all sizes, and are typically conical in shape. Many of the local kames were removed years ago for their sand and gravel.
Moraine. In its simplest sense, a moraine is a big pile of trash left behind by a glacier. As the glacier receded, all of the debris it pushed ahead of it was left behind in a heap that geologists call a moraine. Marengo Ridge just east of Route 23 in western McHenry County is a moraine that marks the western extent of the Wisconsin glacier.
Outwash Plain. Glaciers contain large amounts of silt and sediment, picked up as they scour the underlying land when they move slowly downhill. As the glacier melts, these materials are carried away and deposited in a broad area called the “outwash” plain. The Big Foot prairie area west of Harvard is an outwash plain that was formed as silt-laden melt waters flowed off the Wisconsin glacier.
So, next time you’re out for a drive, try reading the landscape. It’s a very well written old story. I think you’ll enjoy it.
When The Land Conservancy of McHenry County did a survey of members and other community stakeholders last year, one of the frustrating results was that even some people who know me personally still think TLC is something other than what it is! The confusion is understandable, because there are a lot of local groups that would be described generally as "environmental" in nature. But it is still frustrating!
Some folks think that TLC is the McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD), which is a unit of local government that obtains the majority of its income from property taxes. MCCD owns more than 25,000 acres, and manages much of it for public uses such as paddling, hiking, bird-watching and x-country skiing. MCCD's board members and budget are approved by the McHenry County Board. TLC works with the good people at MCCD sometimes, but the organizations are unrelated.
Other folks know that TLC is a nonprofit, but assume that we are part of "The Defenders" - the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, a 40+ year old nonprofit organization that has played an important advocacy role on projects ranging from the "Fox Valley Freeway" up by Richmond, to recycling, groundwater conservation and watershed protection.
The Defenders started TLC as a committee to figure out how to help private landowners preserve their land. As the committee defined the purpose of a "conservation land trust," the Defenders' board decided that it made more sense to incorporate this new entity as a separate nonprofit. In 1991, The Land Foundation of McHenry County received its official recognition from the IRS. In 2003, the organization changed its name to The Land Conservancy of McHenry County to avoid confusion with another local Foundation that was formed in 2000.
The other Foundation is the McHenry County Conservation Foundation, which primarily supports MCCD's land acquisition mission. The Foundation was started in 2000 with a $1 million settlement from a pipeline company. Since then, the Foundation ran two successful referenda for MCCD - one in 2001 and the other in 2007. Combined, the referenda raised about $140 million for land acquisition by MCCD. The Foundation has about $600,000 in the bank to help run a future referendum. The Foundation has an office at MCCD's Lost Valley Visitor Center (at Glacial Park).
The other source of confusion is the word "Conservancy" in TLC's name, which prompts some folks to think we are The Nature Conservancy, or somehow affiliated with them. I worked for The Nature Conservancy's Illinois Chapter for 5 years, and I can guarantee that TLC is in no way connected with them (I wish we had their money and their million+ members though!). Once upon a time, TNC had a program in the Fox River Valley, but that was a long time ago.
So, that's a little bit about what TLC is not. Since you are reading this on TLC's blog, I'm going to direct you to the "About Us" tab at the top of the page if you are looking for more information about what we are!
Thanks for reading.
This year, Tom and I decided to get a box of fresh veggies from Angelic Organics every-other week. We've tried other CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), but wanted to try the Grand-daddy of all CSAs.
Angelic Organic's farm is located in Caledonia, northern Boone County, about a 30 minute drive from Harvard. It's a peaceful, beautiful drive past farm fields. The final approach to Angelic is on a gravel road and down a long gravel driveway to the farm.
Tidy fields of vegetables surround the farm buildings, and each time I have been there, young people are at work in the fields weeding and harvesting. The farm has a drip irrigation system, so the drought has not been a problem.
Angelic Organics was started in 1990 by John Peterson on land his family has farmed since the 1930s. Farmer John, as he is called, began using organic farming methods, and in 1993 started operating the CSA. Today, the farm provides vegetables to over 1,200 families throughout the Chicago and Rockford area through a network of 30 pick-up sites.
We have had four boxes so far, and each has had a great variety of vegetables, as well as the occasional melon.
The last two boxes included an abundance of sweet corn, beets and eggplant. The sweet corn is easy - it is delicious cooked on the cob. Tom likes his with a little butter, and I like mine with a little salt. Tom eats his by working his way around the cob, and I always eat mine from one end to the other (it takes three passes to eat it all).
Beets have been more challenging, but we've found a couple of recipes that are quite delicious. Here's my favorite. It's a unique taste - a little bit sweet with a nice texture.
Beets with Pasta
Pasta for four (I prefer angel hair)
About one pound of beets, roasted and chopped into one-inch pieces
Six tablespoons of real butter
One tablespoon of poppy seeds
Cook pasta according to directions
While pasta cooks, brown butter in large skillet
Once butter is browned, stir in poppyseeds
Add beets to blender or food processor with a half cup of pasta water and process into a rough puree
Stir beets and pasta into butter, mix well and heat thoroughly
Serve topped with goat cheese to taste.
Eggplant is the most challenging since Tom's attitude is "I hate eggplant!" But, with the right recipe, he changes his tune. The easiest way to fix the eggplant is to dice it and add it to a stir-fry with other vegetables. It doesn't have a particularly strong flavor, so blend well with other veggies and spices.
However, my favorite way to prepare eggplant is to fry it and serve with pasta and tomato sauce. (And if I am home alone when I fix it, I am liable to eat the eggplant by itself.)
Crisp fried eggplant
One large eggplant sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
One large egg
One third cup corn starch
One half cup breadcrumbs
1. To prepare eggplant, salt both sides of each slice and place in a single layer between papertowels. Place weighted object on top of eggplant for about 30 minutes to press out moisture.
2. Heat oil in large skillet
3. Place corn starch, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls
4. Coat each slice of eggplant in corn starch, then egg, then breadcrumbs and add to hot oil
5. Brown each slice on both sides, adding additional oil as needed. Remove browned slices to plate with papertowel to help remove excess oil.
Serve over pasta with tomato sauce.
Both recipes reheat well. I suggest reheating beets and pasta by cooking in a skillet with a little bit of butter. Eggplant slices reheat well if placed in a toaster oven until hot (that keeps them crispy).
Both recipes were found on my favorite recipe site: www.epicurious.com
Okay, someone has to say it, and it might as well be me. The average temperature on the planet is rising. It has been for some time. Sea levels are rising. Weather patterns are less predictable. Violent storm events are becoming the norm.
In the United States for the month of June, there were over 2,000 record-setting high temperature events. A drought covers much of the country. Sure, the US has had droughts before, and heat waves, and out-of-control wildfires, but never of this magnitude, never so widespread and never so relentlessly. Statistically, the odds of a year like this happening by chance are on the order of one billion to one.
For most people, this is not news, but one would not know that from listening to the mainstream media and politicians in this country. The refusal to take action – or to even acknowledge that warming is happening in some quarters – will cost millions of people their lives, livelihoods and/or homes.
There is a deep irony afoot in the world today. The people who have the least impact on the planet will be most affected by global warming. These people are also the poorest and most vulnerable. And that makes me sad.
Low-lying, Pacific island nations will disappear as oceans rise. Parts of Bangladesh have already disappeared under rising water levels. Countries like Bolivia that depend on melt water from mountain glaciers will lose their water supplies as the glaciers disappear.
Many of the poorest nations on the planet have populations where a majority is descended from indigenous cultures. In the Indigenous view, Mother Earth is neither an inert object nor the source of resources but a home with which humans are related. How very sad and ironic it is that these countries will be most affected by the changes – and are least able to do anything to mitigate the effects.
Bolivia, where 66% of the population is descended from indigenous people, is feeling the effects of a warming planet as the glaciers in the Andes melt. The glaciers are the primary source of water in the country. The seasonal glacial melt waters feed streams and rivers, providing fresh, clean water for Bolivians. During the winters, snowfall rebuilds the glaciers.
But what happens as the glaciers shrink, as they are? And what will happen when the glaciers disappear altogether?
Glaciers release water slowly, and the water tends to be cool and clean. Rain water tends to be more “flashy” with more forceful, shorter duration flows that have a greater erosive impact on the land. Rain events are also more unpredictable than water from snow melt.
Bolivia and other poor nations have spoken up at United Nations’ Climate Change meetings, in the hopes of persuading wealthy nations to take significant steps to minimize the human contributions to warming. Poor nations have asked the wealthy nations to compensate them financially for the impacts of rising waters, melting glaciers, desertification and increased rainfall. They have begged for assistance with mass relocation efforts as low-lying areas are inundated. But their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
In 2010, representatives from many of these nations gathered in Bolivia for a Summit which resulted in a resolution asking the United Nations to recognize the rights of Mother Nature as being equivalent to those of humans.
Then, in early 2011, the nation of Bolivia adopted a set of laws that gives nature rights equal to those of man. The law established 11 new rights for nature, including: the right to life and to exist, the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration, the right to pure water and clean air, the right not to be polluted, and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.
The laws are derived from an Andean spiritual worldview, in which all organisms, humans included, are of equal importance to earth’s well-being. Seems to me those early people – people who some consider primitive or unsophisticated – were pretty smart.
Believing that the vast biodiversity in nature has a right to exist without being polluted, genetically altered or destroyed sounds quite sensible to me.