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Quote of the Week
"About half of the nation's waters surveyed by states do not adequately
support aquatic life because of excess nutrients... Nutrients have also
been associated with both the large hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico
... and the Pfisteria-induced fish kills and human health problems in
the coastal waters of several East Coast and Gulf states."
— EPA Draft Report on the Environment (2003)
Nursery School Naturalists: Horseshoe Crabs
Thursday, May 24, 10:00 to 11:00 am, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
Join Cristina Pereira for this series introducing young children and
their parents to the delights of nature at a hands-on level in an
unhurried atmosphere. Each session includes an introduction indoors,
story, craft, and a hike, stopping to discover nature's treasures along
For children ages 3-5 with a parent/friend. Younger siblings in
strollers/backpacks welcome. Cost is per child - $6 members, $9
non-members - no cost for accompanying adults. Drop-ins welcome,
pre-registration preferred. Call 508-627-4850 for more information.
Spring Into Summer at Polly Hill
Saturday May 26, 10:00 am, at the Polly Hill Arboretum
Celebrate the opening of the Visitor Center for the season with Polly
Hill's annual Memorial Day plant sale. There will be garden talks,
special tours, family nature walks, seed planting for kids, a tree
raffle, book sale, and more. As always Arboretum staff will be on hand
to answer questions and offer advice on your plant selections. For the
full schedule see the event poster
Other Polly Hill events
Gardening with a Purpose
Saturday, May 26, 3:00 pm
Following the Spring Into Summer festivities, join Cape & Islands garden expert and author, C.L. Fornari
to explore different ways to think about garden design, good plants,
and what we gain in addition to a lovely landscape. $10/$5 for PHA
Volunteer Information Session
Thursday, May 24, 10:00 am to noon.
People, Plants & Opportunities: Hear about opportunities with Nancy
Weaver, Tim Boland, other Arboretum staff. Tour collections. Free.
Oak Bluffs Open Market
Sunday, May 27, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Enjoy Sunday in the park by the sea. The Open Market offers an
ever-changing variety of locally grown produce, specialty foods,
flowers, indie designers, artisans and vintage dealers. Music from 12 -
2. For directions, see website.
CSA Shares Still Available
Order Yours HERE
Before It's Too Late!
In Season Recipe
The secret is out! Always in demand (and frequently available, at least
for a few minutes), at VCS events are the snickerdoodle cookies made by
board member Dave Nash. Are they still as good when you're not getting
in out of the cold after one of our Winter Walks? Or when you're not
exhausted after the Earth Day Beach Clean-up? Make them yourself, and
see! (Or, if they still don't seem right, it could just be Dave's
Mix until fluffy:
1 cup butter
1 ½ c. granulated sugar
Add 2 eggs and continue beating.
Separately, mix the following:
2 ¾ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt.
Combine wet and dry ingredients, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Combine 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in a large bowl. Scoop cookie
dough in 1 tsp. clumps then roll into a ball and drop into cinnamon
sugar mixture to coat.
Bake at 400 degree on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes (chewy vs. crisp). Remove from sheet and cool on a rack.
* (Sorry, no photo -- they don't hold still long enough)
|Monday, May 14, 2012
Help Dukes County Plan its Conservation Efforts
(Contributed by William Wilcox and Kristen Fauteux)
The Dukes Conservation District needs your help. As the local agency
responsible for overseeing the activities of the USDA Natural Resource
Conservation Service in our County, we want to be sure the available
resources of that agency are directed toward the priority natural
resource issues as identified by the residents of the County.
We have prepared an online survey that we believe will provide the
basis for revising or refocusing the work program to better apply the
NRCS resources to those issues that County residents believe need
attention. The survey only requires 10 to 15 minutes of your time.
At this time, the District wants to re-examine the past focus of our
program from one that is appropriate at the national level to one that
addresses the most critical natural resource issues in our County. The
District needs your input to identify local-level, natural resource
priorities. Given the limits of NRCS funds and personnel, where do you
want us to focus our efforts?
The main topic areas that cover our resources are what you might expect:
Fishing and shellfishing
Preparation for climate change
Water resource quality
But within each of these there are numerous important issues that we
want you to prioritize as the most important priorities for our focus.
If you have 10 to 15 minutes to spare, please help us by taking the
survey linked above.
For more information on the District, please go to the County website at www.dukescounty.org. At the website scroll down to Regional Organizations and click on Dukes Conservation District.
New Study Seeks to Help Lagoon Pond Help Itself
Large birds such as this Canada goose contribute a relatively small
amount to nutrient loading, but sometimes find themselves as scapegoats,
perhaps because the larger causes are harder to fix. It would help
their case, though, if they didn't look so smugly comfortable in an
Last December’s final report from the Mass Estuaries Project indicated that Lagoon Pond is in dire straits,
suffering from excess nitrogen loading. Much of the excessive nitrogen
is coming from septic systems, which clean and disinfect our wastewater
before returning it to the groundwater, but do not remove nitrogen
(which is, after all, one of the most common elements on Earth,
essential to all life, and harmful only in excess). The ultimate
response will most likely require widespread sewering, assuming
development continues in the pond’s watershed, which encompasses much of
Oak Bluffs and Tisbury.
However, while it may be the only permanent solution to the problem,
creation of a new sewer system sufficient in scale to address the
problem would be an enormous – and expensive – infrastructure project
for which there is currently little enthusiasm. However, there are many
inexpensive, or even money-saving, approaches that when pursued together
can go a long way to improving water quality in our coastal ponds
(including the Lagoon), all while forestalling the need for sewerage.
VCS’s Vineyard Lawns
campaign seeks to educate businesses and individuals about more
environmentally-friendly methods of lawn care and landscaping, and to
persuade folks toward the “native is beautiful" perspective. Also, expanding aquaculture efforts
is an ecologically sound and economically productive method of
improving water quality by using the natural abilities of bivalves to
filter nutrients from the water.
Another piece of the puzzle is represented by a new “attenuation” study
just approved by the Town of Oak Bluffs. Even accounting for known human
inputs, more nitrogen is reaching the Lagoon than should be. Simply
put, the freshwater Upper Lagoon Pond is not “working” as it should be.
Most freshwater ponds on Cape Cod reduce – or attenuate – the nitrogen
content of runoff by at least 50% before passing the water along. For
unknown reasons, Upper Lagoon Pond is only attenuating 18% of the
nitrogen before the water moves on to the Lagoon. This study seeks to
find out why, and what can be done to improve the situation.
Even in the absence of human impacts, coastal waters are naturally high
in nutrients. Inputs coming from richer terrestrial soils, both as
groundwater and rainwater runoff, move quickly through freshwater
systems but collect in sheltered estuaries before being diluted by the
vast open ocean. For the same reasons, though, human additions to the
runoff, such as septic waste, fertilizers, and livestock manure have
very large effects on coastal waters. (It is considerably harder to
overnutrify the ocean, though the great dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico
demonstrates the devastation that occurs when we manage this terrible
As is typically the case in brackish (and marine) systems, nitrogen is
the limiting nutrient in the Lagoon. What this means is that the
ecological identity of the place is largely defined by the amount of
nitrogen present. When we radically change the amount of a limiting
nutrient we change the rules of the game, and often the winners and
losers of ecological competition. Species that would otherwise dominate
in a higher-nitrogen environment are normally held in check, allowing
the characteristic organisms of the salt marsh to thrive. But today we
see the impacts of changing nutrient availability everywhere, from the
replacement of cordgrass (Spartina spp.) by the invasive reed Phragmites australis,
to algae that blooms explosively while awash in abundant nitrogen,
blocking light from reaching the eelgrass on the pond bottom, and then,
following their binge, depletes oxygen from the water as they decompose,
harming animal life as well.
Massachusetts Works to Keep Commercial Food Waste out of Landfills
Food waste and yard
trimmings together account for a quarter of all municipal trash sent to
landfills (from EPA, U.S. Waste Characterization, 2007)
In Massachusetts, many large institutions, including universities and
hospitals, are already composting their organic waste (e.g. food scraps
and spoilage, lawn and garden clippings, etc.), an effort that helps
divert a huge amount of material from the general waste stream, saving
both space in our landfills and their own trash collection expenses, and
sometimes even reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (Decomposing organic
waste produces methane, a potent GHG, which can be more efficiently
captured in modern compost digesters than in landfills.) However, new
environmental rules slated to take effect in 2014 would represent quite a
bold move in addressing the absurd waste of energy and materials
involved in throwing huge amounts of food into landfills: large
institutions, including larger restaurants and businesses, would be required
to separate out their food waste. All commercial food waste would be
diverted to “composting sites and a new generation of specially designed
plants that convert waste into energy, heat, and fertilizer.” Read the
rest of this potentially very important story at the Boston Globe.