Dewey Simplified

IMG_2159

A summarized reflection on John Dewey’s 1909 Moral Principles in Education.

Dewey is one of the most referenced names in education. His book Moral Principles in Education is one of his most well known works and is a valuable resource for any student of education. Yet his book does not just speak in terms of education as a separate profession. Though he does use many references to the traditional formal school system, he more so speaks of education as an integral part of any citizen’s life. Therefore, this reference would be of interest to anyone attempting to better understand what morality in learning really means. Educators, he says, are not just those that are found in the school setting, they are those responsible for creating moving ideas.

Moral Principles in Education is broken down into several parts. In each he addresses a different aspect of moral training. What is moral training? Dewey claims that “it is not out of the question to aim at making the methods of learning, of acquiring intellectual power, and of assimilating subject-matter, such that they will render behavior more enlightened, more consistent, and more vigorous than it would otherwise be” (Dewey, pg. 3). Dewey defines the concept of moral ideas as “ideas of any sort whatsoever which take effect in conduct and improve it, make it better than it otherwise would be” (Dewey, pg. 1). In other words, education should be preparing students with the proper experience and skills to make positive contributions to society as a functional social being.

Although students are learning how to act morally while they are in school, Dewey does not propone training for the future, but instead preaches preparing for the present. One of his biggest criticisms lays in the “eternal emphasis upon preparation for a remote future” (Dewey, pg. 25). This, he explains, is evident in the way that passing an examination to get a good grade, to get into a good college, to get a good job, is too relevant in the way that the education system is set up. In this system, the student loses moral power as they are never in the real thing. Instead, Dewey proposes methods that “appeal to the child’s active powers”  to “shift the centre of ethical gravity from an absorption which is selfish to a service which is social” (Dewey, pg. 26). In other words, having the child utilize these skills while in the process of learning to recognize them allows their minds to make a connection with the lessons and their social life. Education, or moral training, should be experiential in nature. There is no divorce between learning and doing.

Another main concept from Moral Principles in Education is that moral training should emphasize judgement over knowledge of information. For instance, Dewey takes the case study of history to show that we can either memorize the facts of what happened, or recognize patterns and view the past as a “projected future with some elements enlarged” (Dewey, pg. 37). Using these lessons to have students recognize social forces that still, and always have been, true and influential in day to day events allows them to apply the subject of history to their social, moral, lives. In mathematics students can learn to view numbers as a “means to accomplishing an end” (Dewey, pg. 45) of practical problems referenced for use in social, moral, life etc.

All in all, the idea of a moral training and education is something that Dewey claims, needs to be brought down from higher grounds into something feasible and practical. They are not a separate subject. From his own words, “we need to translate the moral into the conditions and forces of our community life, and into the impulses of habits of the individual” (Dewey, pg. 58). The education system is both a service and a business, but moral training can be taught across all subjects and areas of learning, by any educator, whether they be the paid school teacher or grandmother.

Access this book for free at this link.

Dewey, J. (1909). Moral Principles in Education. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pollinators of PA

Honeybees are super important for Pennsylvania’s agriculture and our food sources, but there are more pollinators than just the honeybee in Pennsylvania.

European honey bee

IMG_3925

The most important pollinator (for our modern agricultural system) is the European honey bee. These bees can be transported and have a broad diet, making them ideal for commercial pollinating. Colony Collapse Disorder has been spreading across North America and other parts of the world.

What are some of the native pollinators in Pennsylvania?

Monarch Butterfly

One of the most well known butterflies in the area is native and helps out in our gardens! The monarch is known for its orange and black pattern.

Mason Bee

Mason bees are smaller and black. They are important pollinators in orchards during the spring months. Nesting boxes can be a fun project for families and can be placed in gardens to attract bees and shelter them during the winter months.

Bumblebee

IMG_0971

Not everyone knows the difference between bees. The bumblebee is the fuzzy fellow that are often seen on garden flowers. These bees are the second most important pollinator after the honey bee. Their buzzing sound actually vibrates the pollen off their anthers (antennas) and pollinates different flowers that they visit. Bumble bees visit many crops that are not visited by honey bees such as blueberries, cane berries, orchard crops, and nightshades.

Mining bees

Mining bees get their name because they will mine for the habitat. Their nests are pencil thin and excavated into the ground. They are one of the first types of bees to emerge in the Spring months.

Sweat bees

2133030

These bees get a bad rep when they swarm around us during the hot summer months, but they are actually pollinators to crops like alfalfa, cane berries, and onion. They are often metallic blue and green, but can also be brown or black.

Leafcutter bee

Megachile_sp._(Leafcutter_bee)_(8176838130)

These bees are interesting because the carry pollen on their stomachs. They seldom sting as they are solitary bees and stinging is a defense mechanism to protect the colony. These bees live in tunnels under the ground, under stones, or other holes in the area. They get their name because the female leafcutter will cut circular leaf pieces to line her nest chambers to lay her eggs in comfort.

Swallowtail Butterfly

IMG_3276

The swallowtail butterfly comes around in May. They are a stunning yellow color, with black and some blue/orange near the bottom of their wings. They often lay their eggs in ash and chokecherry leaves.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Follow my other blog on… GRADUATE SCHOOL

IMG_4173.jpg

When I graduated college, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I just earned a degree in agricultural sciences from a well known land grant university and I still felt as lost as I did out of high school. Here were some of my ideas for what to do from here:

  1. Farm Apprenticeship
  2. Peace Corps
  3. AmeriCorps
  4. Professional camp counselor
  5. ..
  6. ..
  7. ..
  8. ..
  9. ..
  10. +a few more 0s …..Grad School??

Farming was my first option. Some time out in wide open fields felt like a great place to find myself. I spent hours on websites looking up farms that were searching for help in Pennsylvania.

Then I called my parents, who paid for my degree. They didn’t seem to find the same value in the farm experience as I did.  At this point, I didn’t care. I had convinced myself and all I wanted to do was spend some time in sunshine surrounded by tomatoes and cows. The search continued.

About a month later I got a call from my mom… “You aren’t going to like this phone call, but Dad has cancer.”

Earlier in the year one of my favorite professors mentioned the idea of graduate school to me after class. I had half heartedly filled out an application but stopped a quarter of the way through. My parents had heard about it and had been bringing it up the entire time I was searching for farm jobs on the internet. My obligations had changed now. I am an only child and, with its perks, also comes responsibilities and strong family ties. I couldn’t go far away from my Dad at this point in time. I wanted to be able to be close to home and have the weekends to visit if I needed. But most of all, I wanted to reduce my Dad’s stress.

If you have ever read anything about Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, you will understand my Dad’s personality type. Very work oriented, hard headed, stubborn, and stingy. You work through pain, heartache, bad days, and you don’t complain or cry about it. There is always something to be done and you do it right the first time. Seeing any emotion sneak out of my father (unless you are one of my white fluffy dogs) is like witnessing a shooting star on a foggy night. The thought of me going to live on some hippie run free-flowing organic farm is just about my dad’s biggest nightmare. Graduate school at his alma-matter that could lead me to better job positions with much more structure? A much more comforting thought.

It has been almost a year since my acceptance into the program. I have a pretty sweet deal, I am not going to lie. Not only do I have just about the coolest, most accomplished, down to earth, well-traveled advisor, I am also fully paid for by the university’s environmental center. I get paid for to go on trips to nature centers and am researching the benefits of spending an entire semester outdoors. Still, I have found myself loosing steam.

This is an awesome gig, but the main point is it is not what I wanted, it is what others wanted for me. Instead of listening to my gut, I followed the directions of the people around me. I debated quitting for a large part of this semester. The thought of writing a thesis to fit the absurd standards of a huge university, that maybe one soul other than my advisor may read, has the ability to drain all the energy out of me at once. Spending hours reading 60 page scholarly articles critiquing other articles and spending 3 hour classes critiquing them makes the whole world seem gloomy. Constantly feeling guilty for reading anything for just pure joy was something I hoped to rid of after my undergraduate years. Focusing all my energy on one specific topic when I see the world as so interconnected is even harder for me, especially when I have not yet gained the vocabulary to capture my ideas in words yet.

What I have come down to is this: although this isn’t what I originally wanted to do, it has so many blessings. They may be well disguised, but there is so much to learn here and so many opportunities have been presented to me just by showing up. I realize that I have amazing people and experts all around me, and tons of knowledge at my fingertips. I have survived a year, one more won’t kill me.

One thing that I love about blogging is sharing ideas and reaching other people. I don’t want to hoard all of the knowledge that I gain here to myself, but nobody wants to/has time to read jargon filled scholarly articles. I also realized through many conversations that I am not alone in my second thoughts and criticisms of graduate school. Creating a blog is my selfish strategy of keeping myself motivated and I hope that it also may reach some others out there that may be in my same shoes, or may be interested in the same topics I am studying. I am by no means the best writer, or an expert of anything really, and I’m just going to throw myself out there!

I will still keep up this blog for some non-grad school related posts, but I have a feeling the new one may have many similar topics given my interests and focus.

Here is the link:

https://masteringthemastersblog.wordpress.com

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PA Naturalist Gardening Buddies : The Eastern American Toad

Have a lot of insect problems in your garden? Perhaps you should dream for a resident Eastern American Toad.

eastern_american_toad_anaxyrus_americanus_americanus_-_london_ontario_01

Scientific Name: Anaxyrus americanus

Habitat: Eastern United States and Canada, adaptable to almost any condition: meadows, forests, agricultural lands, suburban yards, rocky hills, etc. Eggs and tadpoles require fresh water pools or ponds.

Size: 2-3.5 inches in length

Status: Very common and abundant!

Physical Characteristics:

  • Brownish-gray skin that could even range to dark-red or dark-green
  • White or yellow belly
  • Warty
  • Black spots on back that differ from other toads
  • Broad head with squat and stout body
  • Males have dark brown to black throat, females have lighter throat coloration

When can I see these?

Eastern American Toads have an almost telephone like ring to their chirp. Inactive in hot, dry temperatures, you are most likely to see an one of these fellows in your backyard after a rain during between the months of April and November. They are most active at night when they emerge to feed on insects. During the winter months, they burrow deep into the soil for hibernation. Dig carefully in the spring! As a younger child, my neighborhood friends and I used to uncover these friends hiding in the basement window crevices and in moist soil after rain. They are diurnal and are active during the night and day.

Breeding Season

The first time I actually identified the Eastern American Toad was in a shallow lake during their breeding season, which only lasts a few days in the spring! The female and male pair sit pretty motionless in the shallow waters, male on top of the female. Their lack of movement sometimes makes them harder to spot, but that is on purpose! Other jealous non-paired males may try to disrupt their intimacy. No too macho here, although males need some size to ward off other potential dads from latching on to their mom, Eastern American Toads must be small enough to ensure that their sperm is effectively released to fertilize the female’s eggs. The female will release their eggs in a string, which is then fertilized by the sperm that is then woven into the substrate of the pond.

These eggs will quickly become cute little tadpoles! Depending on the temperature of the water, the eggs will hatch in 3 to 12 days. Just like fish, these tadpoles will form schools also known as aggregations. The yummy algae in many backyard ponds make the tadpole’s belly happy. 12 to 20 days after hatching, these babies grow their back legs. 2 weeks later their front legs emerge! Their front legs also come with their right of passage to land, and the closing of the gills. 35 to 70 days later, the tadpoles abandon their water nurseries and become terrestrial toadlets. All of these days are relative, as the wide time range of individual growth allows form avoidance of mass extinction through predation and rejuvenation of pool resources.

frog-egg-mass

Egg mass

american_toad_tad

Tadpole with hind legs (12-20 days after hatch)

american_toad_metamorph

Tadpole with front legs (around 2 weeks after front legs emerge)

Good for my garden you say?

Beetles, caterpillars, slugs, and snails are a few common headaches in the garden. They are also a few of the Eastern American Toad’s favorite meals! It is estimated that 88% of their prey are invertebrates classified as agricultural pests, say what! Just one toad can consume just under 10,000 insects during their active season. Sounds like you should be installing a shallow pond for our friends right next to your tomatoes.

Eastern American Toads near human habitation and agricultural fields eat cucumber beetles, potato beetles, and other butterflies and caterpillars that prey on crops.

Other favorite foods include flies, crickets, locusts, bees, earthworms, spiders, and wasps. The first thing you might associate with the toad, its long sticky tongue, is rapidly extendable and is used as the utensil for gathering its food. Quite fascinating to watch, the toad will sit motionless and wait until the prey is 2 inches away before its tongue shoots out and captures the poor buggy. The toad will approach its prey slowly with a “leap-sit-leap-sit” pattern as to not scare them away. Think of the toads as always wearing a pair of 3D glasses, as their binocular visual fields and motion detection account for their efficiency in eating.

Chameleon cousin?

Few predators actually eat the Eastern American Toad, thanks to its highly sophisticated adaptions. Thought chameleons were the only animals that changed color? The toad can also alter coloration to match its substrate! They too share a trait with the opossum, playing dead in the presence of a potential predator. Their most advanced defense mechanism is the poisonous secretions they produce in two glands located on their heads. It is interesting that toads raised in captivity do not always produce these toxins. Some predators that still take a stab at the toad are garter snakes, hognose snakes, hawks, herons and raccoons. Babies need to be a little more careful, as fish may also like eggs for breakfast.

The real non-breathing predator

Despite all of their crazy defense mechanisms, an aquatic fungal pathogen is a possible threat to the abundant Eastern American Toad population, and other native amphibians of the area. Chytridiomycosis is an infections disease caused by this fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Bd infects the keratin-containing layers of the skin. You can tell a tadpole has been affected by Bd when there is depigmentation around their mouthparts, the only area of the body with keratinized skin. As they grow older, the infection can spread over the rest of their body. Skin will become thicker and will eventually cast off. Actual death from Bd occurs because the loss of skin compromises osmotic regulation of the blood, leading to cardiac arrest.

Protect our friends from heart attacks

Bd has been found on all continents that are homes to amphibians. Nearly all of the United States has been tested positive for Bd. Humans are the biggest culprit for Bd spread! Through the international amphibian trade, we have carried the disease all over the world. It is also hypothesized to be occurring through bait trade. Additionally, climate change and warming temperatures can indirectly affect the spread of Bd as many amphibian species are expanding their elevation range.

  • NEVER purchase frogs as pets, they are happier in the outdoors.
  • NEVER release frogs or tadpoles into a location other than where they came from (this also includes taking an Eastern American Toad from one pond in PA to another).
  • NEVER dump tank water from amphibian enclosures into bodies of water.
  • AVOID contact with amphibians without proper sanitation (hand sanitizer does not count, and may actually be harmful). Their permeable skin is quick to absorb  bad things  off of you!
  • WASH your boots after hiking or traveling, this is a common way to spread invasive pathogens of all sorts!

Resources:

http://www.psu.edu/dept/nkbiology/naturetrail/speciespages/americantoad.htm

http://www.lpzoo.org/animal/american-toad

http://amphibiaweb.org/chytrid/chytridiomycosis.html#spreading

Posted in ecology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Upbringing of a Nature Child

0515141652

I don’t remember the first time I fell in love with nature because I have always seen myself as part of it. I grew up in a family where everything was outside, whether that was family gatherings, work, or play. Nature has been the thing that has kept me stable my whole life even through times of turmoil. I grew up as a Girl Scout and went to camp every summer. My second grade talent show act was teaching the rest of my school about the bugs in their backyards. As a kid I told my mom I wanted to be a professional camp counselor when I grew up. In short, the outdoors has always been my passion.
I owe a lot of this love to my parents who are also both very connected to the natural world. My dad comes from a long line of famers. Our family farm was a place that I spent every weekend growing up. I would help out with fieldwork and play in the woods edging the property. My mom’s side of the family is from the mountains of North Carolina and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Holidays were always spent exploring these natural wonders. My mother is a professor of environmental science and biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley. I have a deep emotional connection to the environment.
To contrast this, my father has worked for Monsanto for the past thirty years and did his PhD dissertation working with the first strain of Round-Up Ready Corn. Interestingly enough he was the first person to ever spray Round-Up on a field trial. Monsanto and environmental stewardship are not typically topics that are tied together. I spent the summer after college graduation working on a research farm testing unregulated pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides. With my family’s background I have seen how difficult it is to stay on your feet in a career reliant on natural resources. I believe that having this perspective is something that sets me apart from a lot of other people perusing a career in environmental studies.
When I began college I naturally ended up in the College of Agriculture and began exploring the major of Community, Environment, and Development. I took classes based on land management, community development, and natural resource economics. I decided I wanted more of an applied field and switched to Agricultural Science with a specialization in Horticulture. Throughout my undergraduate career I worked at the greenhouses on campus and volunteered at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. I spent my summers working on various farms. I participated in multiple short-term study abroad trips with an environmental focus.
In the College of Agriculture and in the media I began to notice the extreme polarity in opinions surrounding agriculture, natural resources, and the environment. It bothered me how separated the subjects had become as I knew they were so interconnected. My junior year I enrolled in a study abroad experience in the Native American reservations of Minnesota. I noticed in their culture how these things could be viewed together in a holistic manner. I began to develop a strong interest in place-based knowledge. After returning back to Penn State for my senior year I found out about an immersive experience offered at Shaver’s Creek and spent my entire last semester taking classes at the center. This further developed my interest in place based knowledge and experiential education.
By enrolling in Penn State’s M.S. program in Agriculture and Extension Education I hope to further explore these interests and research an area that could help me to start building a bridge across the gap of knowledge surrounding the environment and how humans utilize it. My short-term career goals include working with Shaver’s Creek to evaluate some of their current programs to help provide feedback on areas they could improve. On a personal level my short-term career goals include enhancing my knowledge base surrounding the understanding of how humans interact with the environment and where local and indigenous knowledge fit into this. I am also becoming increasingly curious about the role that culture plays into the spectrum of this field. I would like to increase my knowledge on program development, experiential education, and evaluation in the process.
My long-term career goals are a little fuzzier as I have many broad interests and an open mind as to what comes after graduate school. I have been a student my whole life and am really looking forward to some on the ground field experience after my I earn my masters degree. On the same note some of my biggest role models, including my own mother, have been professors and work in academia. I could see myself being a professor and leading immersive classes based on experiential education and human interaction with the environment for college aged students.
Alongside of my master’s classes I am in training to become a yoga instructor and hope that this is something I can incorporate into my life along side my career. My even longer-term dream is to grow the majority of my food before the time that I die and start some side-business or work on my family farm. Overall, I just hope to connect people with the world around them and with each other. I know that it is not possible for us to move forth as a population in a world facing complex issues such as climate change without environmentalists, farmers, scientists, teachers, and average citizens working together and drawing from their own special perspectives and knowledge.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Book Review: Break Through – The Death of Environmentalism and the Politics of Possibility

1771095

The doom and gloom of present day environmentalists has created a culture of fear and anxiety not conducive to progress on issues as large and complex as global warming. Environmental policy experts Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger contest this status quo with the concept of the “politics of possibility”. Break Through: From the Depth of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility is an expansion of their 2004 article “ The Death of Environmentalism” where the concept was first introduced. In the book they argue that the current strategies of the environmental movement are based off of restraint and sacrifice when instead a more prosperous life needs to be the center of new policy. Their book focuses on highlighting these flaws and outlining ways to create effective environmental policy that takes into account the evolving world.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger bring up three basic distinctions that need to be made by the environmental movement: creation vs. preservation, material vs. post-material survival, and outer vs. inner-directed needs for purpose. They make these distinctions by showcasing case studies such as the destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, the misunderstood environmental justice movement within the United States, and the social structure of the rising evangelical church.
Material and post-material needs are the basis off of which the authors launch their philosophy. Poverty, the authors explain, looks a lot different in the current age of the United States and the rest of the western world than it did back in the era of the Great Depression and material scarcity. The essential material needs of food, shelter, and safety, have already been met due to our progress and evolution as a human society. Now, more complex post-materialist needs such as fulfillment and belonging are at the forefront. Caring for the environment satisfies these needs by allowing people to feel they are working towards something greater than themselves, but as environmentalists push the idea of limitation and land preservation, they are blocking creative thought and innovation and that got the western world to the place in society it is today. Basically this line of thinking is counterintuitive.
Nordhaus and Shellenberger use their first half of the book to go further in depth about the history of environmentalism and its miscalculations in the new century. By separating economics and the environment, towns from forests, and humans from nature they are bringing us further away from cohesive solutions. Skewed poll statistics and hyper-focused legislation on the generalized problem of pollution and carbon caps will not work in a time when American’s have other issues at the top of their agendas. Crude visuals and imagery of destroyed natural systems do not motivate, but actually associate stress and doom with the idea of environmentalism and result in avoidance of the issues.

IMG_2252.jpg

An example of a factsheet I was handed from an environmental activist group on campus. This plays to Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s point on fear-based scare tactics popular in today’s environmental movement.

Looking at the example of Brazil and environmentalists attempts to end deforestation gives a better understanding of the authors’ stance. Brazilians in the cities like Rio de Janerio are starving, without shelter, and live in violence. They seek economic growth to get out of this situation and are only more stifled by the idea that they should not be able to utilize their natural resources to meet their material needs. By separating humans from nature and seeking perfect harmony within the natural world that is doubted to have ever existed, current environmentalists are not selling their point. Without finding a way for Brazilians to meet their material needs, the environmental movement to stop the destruction of the Amazon will never prevail.
In the second half of the book Nordhause and Shellenberger flesh out a plan that involves more progressive ideas that will result in more effective policy change. Environmentalists must expand their worldview and take a good hard look at other issues that are standing in the way of reaching their goals. The authors’ plan for the Apollo project for clean energy calls for high investment in clean energy, adding jobs to the global economy, promoting innovation and creative thought, and raising private capital. Environmentalists need to work together with the groups they typically consider their enemies, get rid of their utopian view of a pristine nature separate from humans, and start celebrating the present time in history for human’s progress and recognize what has gotten society here today. The project calls for market based solutions that work with the economy to meet material and post-material needs in a globalized market.
This book is an excellent resource for academic courses and should be a required reading of anyone going into the field of environmental policy, investment, and environmental studies. The extensive bibliography provides reference to experts in sociology, economics, history, and science. In contrast to popular environmental books such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s Break Through gleams with hope. It provides a broad overview of the progression of environmentalist thought up to this point in history and gives direction on where to go in the future. Through politics of possibility, progress on climate change can be made that celebrates human kinds victories and leads to a more fulfilled life for all beings on Earth that does not discriminate by place or kind.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We are ALL good people

“We have bigger problems to deal with here… How can you be so selfish and only work for the privledged people… Where is your connection to place… How are you so close-minded… This is bad, this is good”. Correction IT’S ALL GOOD!

WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE! Any work done with a good heart is good work. Whether you are a Peace Corps volunteer, a singer, a cashier at McDonald’s who takes the intiative to smile at everyone every day, you are doing something that matters. No heart-felt work is better than other heart-felt work. There are a lot of problems in this world and we all need to connect with our own talents and gifts to work together and solve them. Let them take you where they take you.

14054899_884813881650588_7063300682699548608_n.jpg

My cicada friend from Costa Rica.

Posted in Positive Thinking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lichen real life?

I have kept a journal my entire life. It was never something I wrote in every day, just when I felt like it. A journal is typically something I have thought of as personal. I never wrote in my journal thinking that someone else would read what I was writing. I always kind of thought about giving my journal to my future kids one day, but that is about it. I started this blog a couple years ago on a whim. I had no real intention when I logged onto wordpress for the first time, other than to just try it out. My first post was about disconnecting with technology to connect with the real world. I was having a crisis where I believed I was spending too much time with technology and not enough time connecting with the real world. Ironically, I was using technology to connect and share this exact message. What makes it even worse is that I never got rid of my smartphone.

One nice thing about paper journals is that nothing in them NEEDS to be solidified. When you share what you write to others around you, you run the risk of looking like a fraud. My blog makes me look like a vegan hipster who frolics around in the woods every day. In reality, I just spent the last half hour scrolling through instagram on my phone, had chicken for dinner, and sat inside instead of on my back porch on this mild summer night. Does this discredit me? Probably. Sharing your writing with others also comes along with the responsibility of practicing what you preach. You never know who will find your posts and bank off of what you are saying.

There are many nights where I feel like writing, and then get stuck contemplating on if I should write about it on here or in my journal. Most of the time I end up in my journal. Maybe I will start writing on here more, maybe not, who knows. Whatever happens I think honesty is something that is really missing on social networks. The internet makes it easy to put up an ideal facade where you can look like you are leading the perfect life, but that is bullshit. Here is a picture of lichens just because I feel like it. I tried to change the title of this post to a pun after I put in the picture. Let me know if it works or not. Peace.

IMG_2008

Here is a picture of some lichens I found hiking back in December. Every single lichen is composed of at least two different types of microorganisms (algea AND fungus). They aren’t separate or together necessarily, they combine and work together form a dual organism, the lichen. How freakin’ cool is that. Let’s work together like the algae and fungus of lichens to form beautiful things.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cheap and Easy Vegan Fall Pumpkin Soup

Last night I attended a showing of an extremely touching documentary called A Place at the Table that highlighted hunger and poverty in America. The film focused a lot of attention on children and how the innutritious meals available in food desserts affected not only their stomach growls, but also their development, performance in school, and mood. How are you supposed to pay attention through an entire day of lessons after skipping breakfast and having Cup of Noodles for both lunch and dinner?

Many of the people highlighted in the film relied on food stamps and food pantries to obtain the food the fed to their families. Little corner groceries may have fruits and vegetables, but they are often old and unappetizing.

I wanted to try and make a recipe that could be constructed with food that could most likely be found in these areas that is also relatively cheap, and most important nutritional. So I just threw some stuff together and here is what I came out with.

IMG_1861

IMG_1863IMG_1860

Cheap and Easy Fall Pumpkin Soup

Makes around 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 can succotash
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • 2 white potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cans of water
  • sprinkle of ginger
  • sprinkle of parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 stalks of kale
  • around 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Directions

  1. Skin and dice 2 medium sized white potatoes (any kind would work)
  2. Boil potatoes in water until soft
  3. Cut off stems and add in the 2 stalks of kale to the boiling water to soften (optional)
  4. Dice one onion and 2 gloves of garlic
  5. Pour a few drops of olive oil in a frying pan and sauté onions and garlic until browned
  6. Drain potatoes
  7. Empty can of pumpkin puree into large sauce pan
  8. Fill up the empty can of pumpkin puree with water and pour in with the pumpkin 1 and a half times (1 1/2 cans full) and stir
  9. Put cooked potatoes into the pumpkin and water mix
  10. Open can of succotash, drain, and add to the mixture
  11. Sprinkle in ginger, parsley, and salt to taste
  12. Add around a half a tablespoon of olive oil
  13. Place two bay leaves on top and let simmer

In total this recipe will make around 2,032 grams of soup.  I used CRON-O-meter, an online tool to find the nutritional value of food, to figure out the micros and macros of the recipe. If you were to split the soup into 4 servings of around 508 grams, the nutritional content would be as follows.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.09.31 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.10.01 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.10.30 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.10.52 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.11.16 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.11.37 PM

Here is a more simplified nutritional label also from CRON-O-meter

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.12.20 PM

I went to Weis’s website and shopped for the ingredients. They would cost around $17.26 in total. Note that the more expensive foods such as olive oil and spices would only have to be purchased once. They could also me emitted or substituted for a cheaper counterpart.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 2.52.35 PM

Evaluating this recipe has made me even more aware of the problem food insecurity is. Although the ingredients in the soup are quite filling, and you could very well up the serving size or have it with a few pieces of toast, $17.26 is still a pretty high grocery bill for someone relying on food stamps or a low wage to feed an entire family.

Onions, garlic, and potatoes are generally cheap vegetables that have a long shelf life. These would have a higher chance of appearing on the shelf in a food dessert and are affordable and nutritious.

The kale that I used was grown in my garden. If we became really proactive, gardening classes and community gardens could show those living with hunger how to easily and cheaply grow food to help sustain themselves.

I was being optimistic in thinking that food pantries would have many of the items on the ingredients list. I also tried to use items that could be easily substituted. For example, succotash could be replaced with virtually any canned or frozen vegetable. Olive oil could be emitted or substituted for butter, margarine, or vegetable oil. All of spices are just for taste and could be taken out sacrificing some flavor.

To educate yourself more on the affects of food insecurity in America, watch the documentary A Place at the Table:

http://www.magpictures.com/aplaceatthetable/

Posted in Nutrition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pretty Pests of PA: Attractive Invasives

On one of my many summer runs I came across a patch of these wonderful purple flowers. The only time I ever allow myself to stop during runs is when I see a pretty flower that I want a picture of.

Dame’s Rocket, Hesperis matronalis

0516141457c

Dame’s Rocket

After going home and trying to look up pictures of what I thought it was, a phlox, I noticed that it was a four petaled flower instead of five. I then realized that this pretty little flower actually was not as great as I thought it was. This purple flower that is common on Pennsylvania hillsides is the Hesperis matronalis, or the Dame’s Rocket. Introduced as a garden flower in the colonial period, Dame’s Rocket is commonly found in the wildflower seed mixes found in home and garden stores. The flower disperses its seeds which it produces between May and July and takes over the habitat of native wildflowers and plants on roadsides and woodland edges competing for water, light, and nutrients.

This made me think of what other attractive plants in my area had a dark side. Here are some common beauties that may be causing more harm than good:

Orange Daylily, Hemerocallis fulva 

0701141648

Orange Daylily

This little guy I actually found was purposely planted in my front lawn. Much like with many other invasive plants, the orange daylily was introduced as an ornamental and is extremely popular in American landscapes. They are a bulbous perennial with long grass-like leaves. They expand through their tuberous roots and can form a dense cluster very quickly. They are especially problematic in sensitive habitats that would normally have high diversity such as in river floodplains. Often times when gardeners discard of a whole plant they will unknowingly be spreading the flower to these areas recking havoc on the local ecosystem. Pretty yes, but look into some other less harmful look-a-likes instead such as the yellow lily or wood lily!

Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife

Purple loosestrife is so destructive that it has actually been banned in most states throughout the U.S. Again, this plant was introduced as an ornamental in the early 1800s and has since spread throughout most of the country. This purple flowered plant has a woody like stem and can grow pretty tall- getting up to 4 to 10 feet! Its flower spikes are in bloom through the entire summer. And because of its plentiful flowers, it also has plentiful seeds which it is happy to spread around. You will see these guys in wet areas as it prefers wetlands, marshes, river, and stream banks. They compete highly with wetland organisms and are even putting some native orchids in danger. They form a large and dense cluster that have the capability of displacing an entire wetland! Not so pretty anymore.

Wild Chervil, Anthriscus sylvestris L. Hoffmann

Wild Chervil

Wild Chervil

Here is another one that I mistook as a common native, Queen Anne’s Lace. Boy was I wrong, Wild Chervil is not only highly invasive, it is also a host to yellow fleck disease which attacks some of our favorite vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and celery. This plant has fern-like leaves and can grow pretty tall with a general average of 4 feet but the ability to get to 6. Its flowers have five petals and grow in an umbrella form. They are in bloom from May through early July. You can see these guys on roadsides, woodlands, and in open pastures and fields. It’s deep tuberous tap root makes it extremely hard to pull out and allows it to spread rapidly. Wild Chervil’s seeds can be transported by birds, mammals, and humans. The introduction of this plant is said to be from wildflower seed packets distributed in the early 1900s. You really need to be careful with those things.

Yellow Flag Iris, Iris pseudacorus L.

Yellow Flag Iris

Yellow Flag Iris

Many iris plants are native, but not this little yellow guy. Originating from Europe, the Yellow Flag Iris was imported to the United States as an ornamental wetland plant and was actually thought to do some good by preventing erosion and removing metals from sewage plants. Although it does have some good traits, this iris also can form dense colonies in wetlands displacing native species and altering the habitat. It is also poisonous if you were ever thinking about tasting it and have a thing for flowers. It has now been spotted all the way from California to the East Coast, only leaving some states in the midwest to spare (and Hawaii/Alaska). This plant is a herbaceous perennial that can grow from 3 to 4 feet high. Although the flowers are usually yellow, they can also appear as a cream color.

Posted in ecology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment