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Almanac Archive for March 18, 2013


Saturday April 20, 10:00 am

Join VCS for a great family event and annual tradition. This year we expect to clean over 20 of our beaches -- look for a complete list on our website soon!

If you would like to volunteer, please give us a call at the office (508-693-9588), or email.
After-Party Hosted by The Harbor View!

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Quote of the Week
"Probably no society has been so deeply alienated as ours from the community of nature, has viewed the natural world from a greater distance of mind, has lapsed to a murkier comprehension of its connections with the sustaining environment . . . Yet an affinity for other life may be as vital to us as water, food, and breath. . . But it seems nearly certain that throughout most of history, humans did love life"
--Anthropologist Richard Nelson, quoted in Stephen Kellert's Birthright

Conservation Calendar

Wednesdays, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Saturdays, 9:00 - 11:00 am, Vineyard Haven.
Free gently worn clothing at the Christ United Methodist Church (Stone Church). Re-use beats recycling any day. For more info, call 508-693-4424.

Farmers in Training

Fridays, 3:30 - 5:00 pm at the FARM Institute, Katama.

TFI's longest running program, FIT is a great way to end the week. Come learn and work with oxen-in-training Zeus and Apollo and lend a hand in afternoon farm chores, spring garden projects and other farm related fun. For ages 9 and up, $15/session. Call 508-627-7007 x103 or email to register.

Sassafras Winter/Spring Programs
Current offerings at Sassafras Earth Education in Aquinnah:

Nature's Nest
Fridays, 10:00 am to noon
Outdoor preschool for children up to six years old with parent

Squirrels and Coyotes
Saturdays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Weekend children's programs for ages 6 to 14

Outdoor Homeschool
Tuesdays, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Outdoor education for homeschooling kids, age K-8

For more information on these and other programs, including pricing and registration, see website or call 508 645-2008.
Help Our Ponds
50 Gallons at a Time

With Earth Day approaching, the Lagoon Pond Association is putting a final push on their rain barrel program. LPA has secured a special price of $75 for the "Ivy" rain barrel and arranged for a convenient pickup and demonstration session at SBS on Earth Day, April 20, from 10 - 2. For more information on the benefits of collecting rainwater, and details on ordering and pickup, see their new flyer.

In Season Recipe
St. Paddy's Reprise: Corned Beef Hash

For the day after St. Patrick’s, we bring you a handy leftover management plan. Rather than eating corned beef sandwiches for a week, why not do hash and eggs for dinner tonight? Stir a good bit of the leftover cabbage into the hash and you can even call it healthy, if you squint hard enough at it.

  • 2-3 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 cups finely chopped, cooked corned beef
  • 1 lb / 3 medium / 2-3 cups local potatoes
  • Chopped fresh parsley


  • Boil potatoes about 15 minutes or until they can be easily poked with a fork. Cut into ½ inch to 1 inch cubes.
  • Heat butter/oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and cook a few minutes, until translucent.
  • Mix in the chopped corned beef and potatoes. Spread out evenly over the pan. Increase the heat to high or medium high and press down on the mixture with a metal spatula.
  • Do not stir at first – let it brown. If you hear sizzling, this is good. Use a metal spatula to peek underneath and when nicely browned, use the spatula to flip whole sections over in the pan to brown the other side. Continue until everything is nicely browned, trying not to mash up the potatoes too much.
  • Top with lots of fresh ground black pepper and chopped parsley; or for a different interpretation, hot sauce and cilantro.
  • Salt to taste (remember the corned beef is salty) and serve with fried or poached eggs.
No leftover corned beef waiting in the fridge? The traditional St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage feast can be quite simple: Boil a fresh corned beef cut for 3 hours in enough water to cover. If you bought it at the store, it probably came with a seasoning packet – just add that to the boiling water. If you like it less salty, you can change out the water once or twice before adding in the seasonings for the final 3 hour boil. Then, boil up a head of cabbage in the spiced (and now beef-flavored) water; 15 minutes should do, unless it’s especially tough cabbage.
For a more modern, and arguably more visually appealing approach, try this recipe for baked corned beef and sautéed cabbage. (Recipes adapted from Elise Bauer at SimplyRecipes.com)
Monday, March 18, 2013

Local News

Kids and Crafts at West Chop

So many choices, where to begin . . . Axel Abrams of Chilmark surveys the collected treasures. (Photo by Signe Benjamin)

Sunday, March 10th VCS teamed up with Sense of Wonder Creations for a combination Winter Walk and Craft Day. Over 50 kids, and kids at heart, joined Sense of Wonder Director Pam Benjamin for a walk around the West Chop area while hunting for creative art supplies from nature. The beaches -- heavily eroded by recent storms -- also got spruced up a bit from the extra attention.

Thanks to the all who came out to make this a great event. If you missed it, make sure to check out the slideshow at the VCS site.

VCS and M.V. Film Society Host Biophilia Expert Stephen Kellert

Professor Stephen Kellert, speaking at the M.V. Film Center (Photo by Brendan O'Neill)

How can humankind manage to balance our needs for basic shelter and the experience of living in a natural, biotic world? Can it even be done in an urban area with high population density, or in a rapidly developing rural area such as our island? This March, VCS in collaboration with the M.V. Film Society presented the new film Biophilic Design, which seeks to answer these questions and more.

We were joined at the screening by Executive Producer Stephen Kellert, who is the co-originator (along with E.O. Wilson) and a primary developer of the Biophilia Hypothesis, a broader theory describing the interactions between humans and nature that draws on biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, and other disciplines. The concepts of biophilia form the underpinnings of Professor Kellert's study of architecture and design presented in the film.

In an effort to dig a little deeper into the world of biophilia, VCS staffer Jeremy Houser recently conducted an interview with Dr. Kellert. Check out the interview to learn more about biophilia in general, Dr. Kellert's efforts to develop a code of ethics drawing on biophilic theory, and even why we are afraid (perhaps unreasonably) of spiders.

Vineyard Deer: You Can Run, But Not Hide from Researcher's Aerial Infrared Observation

There is no question that our island is home to a huge deer population; the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife estimate the Vineyard and Nantucket herds at 45 to 55 deer per sq. mile, the highest density in the state. As part of a project to study Lyme disease and the deer ticks that carry it, geography professor Thomas Millette from Mt. Holyoke College has been working to refine this estimate through direct observation (originally reported this winter in the Gazette). While flying over the Vineyard (and Nantucket), Dr. Millette surveyed the islands’ deer populations by collecting infrared photography to be later analyzed in the lab. Preliminary results are promising: the technique has been effective, and for better or worse, the early analysis basically corroborates the state estimate. Dr. Millette’s preliminary results give a wide range for the Vineyard (40.6 to 60 deer per sq. mile) due to suboptimal survey conditions, but a much more precise answer for Nantucket (51 to 54). More details will be available in his upcoming final report on the project.

Other News

RoboBees Take Flight

Actual size, not actual cost.

As described in a recent issue of Scientific American (subscription req’d), researchers from Harvard and Northeastern University have taken a unique sort of inspiration in the mysterious threat of Colony Collapse Disorder. In pursuit of determining whether machines could ever do the job of honeybees in commercial agriculture, they have unveiled the first RoboBees, tiny (bee-sized) aerial robots. But ultimately the more ambitious goal of the project is in coordinating their behavior: to most efficiently solve larger scale problems – from pollinating crop fields to search and rescue, exploration of hazardous environments, and other goals ­– the bees will need to learn to work as a real colony would. From the excerpt:
Like real bees, RoboBees will work best when employed as swarms of thousands of individuals, coordinating their actions without relying on a single leader. The hive must be resilient enough so that the group can complete its objectives even if many bees fail.

Powerful Storms and Sea Level Rise Put Strain on Coastal Adaptation

In a reality of rising seas, seawalls have a hard time keeping up. Squibnocket, following Superstorm Sandy (Photo by Sara Hoffmann)

A clear and compelling explanation of the perils lurking behind our instinctive response to sea level rise – seawalls, jetties, and generally concrete everywhere – can be found in a recent issue of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters. The author makes the case instead for the importance of living coastlines and, going even further, acknowledges the need for a significant amount of managed retreat. Artfully dodging the big picture questions of climate change and the cause of sea level rise, the article points out that more frequent floods and storms are a fact of life on the coast today, and that one way or another, everyone will be affected by efforts to adapt.
This effort to keep the adaptation discussion inclusive seems wise, if difficult. There is no logical reason why, for example, climate change deniers should always favor seawall construction over wetland preservation. Even managed retreat, the most “extreme” position in coastal adaptation, should find some support among that portion of folks who think the seas are in fact rising, but that humans have little to nothing to do with it. Truly, there should be common ground to find among all parties who would rather not spend public dollars rebuilding the same coastal infrastructure again and again.
(Thanks to Dave Nash for reeling in this article)

Submit your conservation news to: almanac@vineyardconservation.org

Copyright (C) *2013* *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.

Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.