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Almanac Archive 9/12/2011

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Living Local
Harvest Festival

Saturday, Oct 1 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury
Join your friends and the MV community to celebrate and learn about local food production, protection of marine life, renewable energy, resource conservation, island development and growth and the wealth of local knowledge. Rain date is Oct 2. On Friday Sept 30, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, there will be a special storytelling event with Island Elders at the Grange Hall.

Quote of the Week
"Water is the driver of Nature."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Conservation Calendar

Land Conservation and Estate Planning Panel
Tuesday, Sept 13, 7:00 to 8:30 pm, West Tisbury.
The Conservation Partnership of Martha's Vineyard is hosting a panel discussion tomorrow evening at the Ag Hall on Panhandle Rd., WT. Please RSVP to info@sheriffsmeadow.org or (508) 693-5207.

Vounteers Needed for Gleaning

Tuesdays at 9:30 am, Morning Glory Farm, Edgartown.
The Island Grown Initiative gleaning program harvests produce from local farms that would otherwise go unused and distributes it to our school cafeterias, low income islanders, elders, and community members in need. Volunteers are needed to help harvest for an hour or two, and to drive around and drop the produce off afterward. If you can help, please meet at Morning Glory outside their farm stand at 9:30. For more info, please see the IGI website.

Friday Night Fires
Fridays, 7:00 to 9:00 pm, weather permitting, at Native Earth Teaching Farm, Chilmark.

Activities may included storytelling, marshmallow roasting, and exploring the farm at night: watch barn owls, find the North Star, or take a listening and smelling tour of the barnyard. Suggested donation is $5 per person, $10 per family. Native Earth is located on North Rd., down-island from Tea Lane.

Guided Kayak Tour

Saturday, Sept 17 (and the 24th), 9:30 to 11:30 am, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.
Travel by Sarson's Island and watch American oystercatchers, cormorants, and shorebirds feed and frolic. Explore the salt marsh and search for great blue herons and egrets. For ages 11 and up, $40 ($30 for members). Registration is required, call (508) 627-4850, or see web (mail-in).

Mushroom Walk

Saturday, Sept 24, 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Polly Hill Arboretum.

Join naturalist Marlene Snecinski, aka Mushroom Marlene, for a fall walk, foraging for wild mushrooms and other fall botanicals. $36/$30 for PHA and Slow Food Members. For details, call 508-693-9426.

Photo Scavenger Hunt
Now until Oct 12!

The M.V. Land Bank Commission is sponsoring a photography scavenger hunt. Grab a friend, digital camera, and Land Bank map, and see if you can complete the quest by Oct. 12. The list of "items" and further instructions can be found here.

In Season Recipe


There are never too many eggplants!

Caponata is a very flexible dish, both in the serving and the making. It can be made up to 2 days ahead, and served warm, room temperature, or cold. This recipe should get you started, but some additions can make it even more interesting: Caponata is often sweetened some, either with a tablespoon of sugar or (better yet) ¼ cup raisins. Olives are also fairly common– you can add anywhere from ¼ cup to a half a pound while it simmers.

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 - 2 pounds eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cubed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp red wine (or balsamic) vinegar
  • 2 tbsp drained capers
  • 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Toasted pine nuts
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves. sauté until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, then red wine vinegar, capers, thyme, and oregano. Cover and simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh basil. Transfer caponata to serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. (Cover and chill if not using immediately.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Local News

Greenlands: Pollution Threatens a Community Water Resource

(Click to enlarge)

Contributed by William Waterway Marks, award-winning poet and environmental book author. William was Chair of the Greenlands Committee from its inception, and responsible for authoring the Open Space Plan and water research that qualified the Greenlands purchase for state grant money.

The Greenlands, an under-appreciated and lesser known conservation success, is presently threatened by illegal motorcycle and recreational vehicle usage. A concerted effort by the West Tisbury Police Department and Conservation Commission, along with the Mass Department of Environmental Police, is now underway. Since enforcement of these laws will deprive some folks of a popular location to ride their dirt bikes, it’s important to explain the history and necessity of protecting this unique property and shared water resource from motor vehicle pollution.
The Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands is a 380-acre West Tisbury parcel that was saved from development in the early 1980s. This parcel’s name is in fond memory of Peg Littlefield, who was chair of the West Tisbury Conservation Commission during the Greenlands effort. Peg was renowned as a strong advocate for protecting our island’s freshwater sources.

Greenlands is located over the crown of our island’s sole-source aquifer where the lens is close to the surface. Due to the permeable sand/gravel composition of the surface soils at this location, any source of pollution places the integrity of our island’s drinking water at risk. Greenlands is unique because it is the only parcel of island land set aside in perpetuity as a public water supply source for all six island towns. Because of this fact – all of our island towns have a vested interest in Greenlands.

Michael Frimpter, Chief of the Massachusetts Water Resources Division, wrote in a 1982 letter to the Division of Conservation Services:
          “I would like to point out that this area [Greenlands], where the water table is near the highest point in the aquifer, is a most sensitive area with respect to water quality. Waste disposal in this area may pollute a larger amount of ground water than waste disposal in most other locations around the island. Polluted water entering the aquifer at this location would have one of the longest travel paths through the aquifer before eventual discharge to the sea. Since travel times are expected to be on the order of one foot per day, contaminants entering the ground here might persist in the aquifer for many scores of years. Also, it is highly probable that some groundwater from this area flows to and helps sustain the Lagoon Pond Spring, a 1.5 million gallon per day water supply in Oak Bluffs.”

Finally, the Greenlands aquifer may be of increasingly immediate importance, as the towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury are evaluating the possible future abandonment of some of their existing wells due to contamination from landfills and saltwater intrusion from our eroding shoreline.  

Other News

Job Creation: Another Reason to Support Local Agriculture?

The Federal Farm Bill will be voted on again next year. Historically, the vast majority of subsidies in the bill support industrial production of commodity crops that go almost entirely to animal feed and highly processed foods (for example, the ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup, and the various soy products seeking to usurp King Corn’s crown). There is no question that re-directing some of these subsidies to support the production of fruits and vegetables that people actually eat in their original form (or using techniques from a cookbook rather than an organic chemistry lab manual) would be good on balance for our environment, nutrition, and local economy. These arguments have been pushed for years, though, with very modest success: the most recent (2008) Farm Bill does contain some support for research into making fruit and vegetable farmers more competitive, but the vast majority of funding still subsidizes industrial commodities.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is pushing a different (and politically trendy) angle now in their recent report Market Forces: Creating Jobs Through Public Investment in Local and Regional Food Systems. As the title suggests, they make a good case that federal support of local agriculture is a net creator of jobs. But I began to wonder if many of their suggested job sources are relevant to our island: For example, do our Farmers’ Markets need managers or other staff? Are most of our small farms so restricted in future land acquisition that they have relatively little ability to expand staff and production? I am very interested in our readers’ opinions (especially those of our farmers) on this question. . . . Is job creation a strong enough point in favor of supporting local agriculture to add it to the tried and (literally) true ones? Please post thoughts to our facebook page, or if you don’t have an account, send them to almanac@vineyardconservation.org.

In a Hurricane, Keep to the High Ground

Environmental activist and author Bill McKibben’s position is clear from the first line of his article on Hurricane Irene:

       “Irene’s got a middle name, and it’s Global Warming.”
This has been met with substantial pushback from those who would prefer less of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to tackling the realities of climate change. This spring, the Almanac featured a piece echoing the scientific community’s efforts to draw the distinction between climate and weather, and hesitancy to link any specific weather event to climate change. This latter point may be softening. While science doesn’t lend itself to certainty, some climatologists (e.g. see Heidi Cullen's new book) are increasingly likely to answer the media’s favorite climate change question, “Was this storm caused by global warming?” with a “maybe” or “probably” instead of “you can never really know.” Further, scientists in the U. S. and Britain have recently formed a coalition named ACE (Attribution of Climate-related Events) to create a data-driven and odds-based approach to answering the question.   
Regarding the scientific merit of McKibben’s claim, possibly the closest thing to a consensus is that globally, the total number and intensity of hurricanes will likely increase with rising sea surface temperatures. However, where the storms hit, or even if they make landfall at all, is less clear. Rising ocean temperature is already occurring, and certain to continue for the next century, but changes in currents and wind patterns are much more complicated. One scenario even suggests we could see fewer hurricanes make landfall due to increased wind shear.
Thus, the hasty conviction of climate change as the perpetrator of Irene is more likely to harm than help the cause of greenhouse gas reduction, and more broadly, the public’s respect for science. Admittedly, that’s not a scientific argument (McKibben could turn out to be right on the science, after all), but rather a well-considered guess about human psychology and politics. If we must use coastal storm damage to illustrate the significance of climate change, let’s focus on the known threats, which are more than sufficient to justify strong action to reduce carbon emissions. The hurricanes of today and the recent past, if repeated exactly, would do much more damage in the coming decades due to sea level rise, coastal erosion, the loss of wetlands, and increased development.

Submit your conservation news to: almanac@vineyardconservation.org

Copyright (C) *2011* *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.

Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.