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Quote of the Week
"The cost of dealing with this excess nitrogen to clean up our coastal
ponds - as will likely be required to comply with the federal Clean
Water Act - will be staggering, likely in the hundreds of millions of
-- The MV Commission's Island Plan
(Note this refers to nitrogen pollution resulting from not only fertilizers, but also wastewater, an even larger problem.)
Fall Migration Bird Walk
Tuesday, Oct. 22, 10:00 to 11:00 am, Edgartown
Come watch the migrating birds at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. $5, or free for Mass Audubon members.
Tour the October Night Sky
Thursday, Oct. 24, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Polly Hill Arboretum.
Join Polly Hill volunteer and amateur astronomer Barbara Caseau to learn
how to identify the planets and constellations visible in the fall sky.
Barbara will share some celestial lore, focusing on Venus, which is
quite visible this time of year. Bring your own binoculars or telescopes
if you have them; a flashlight is also suggested. Free, "cloud date” is
Friday, Oct. 25. For more info call (508) 693-9426.
Farm Programs for Little Ones
Learn about farm animals, food and farming at these two great educational resources.
Wednesdays, 10:00 am to noon: Farm visits at Native Earth Teaching Farm.
For toddlers with an adult, call (508) 645-3304 for more info or to
arrange to come by at a different time. North Road, Chilmark.
Saturdays, 9:30 - 11:00 am: Wee Farmers at the FARM Institute.
For ages 2 - 4 with an adult, $15/session. Call (508) 627-7007 ext. 104 to regi
ster. Katama Farm, Edgartown.
In Season Recipe
Autumn Olive Jam
It's that time of year again: our most abundant local wild forage
material, and also one of the most ubiquitous invasive species, Autumn Olive
is yet again showcasing its colorful, tart fruit alongside trails, fence lines, roadsides, and any other marginal habitat.
If you decide to partake of this local resource of dubious origin, just
take care not to spread the seeds. Pick enough for a full batch of jam
and dispose of the seeds safely and you'll have contributed to the
control of this invader: Good work!
8 cups (a half gallon) berries
Approx. 4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Remove leaves and stems from the berries and rinse.
Place the berries
in a large pot and just cover with water. Simmer for half an hour or
until they are soft and the pit can easily be removed.
Mash the berries through a sieve or strainer, using a wooden spoon or spatula.
Measure the juice
and then put it, along with an equal volume of sugar (for example, 4
cups of each), into a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the lemon juice.
Simmer on low heat until the mixture thickens, at least an hour. Skim off any foam as it is cooking.
When at the desired consistency, pour into sterilized jars and let cool. Seal the jars and store in cool spot.
|Monday, October 21, 2013
Statewide Fertilizer Regulations On the Way: Local Limits to Follow?
Decomposing algae following a bloom in Lagoon Pond. (Photo by Vasha Brunelle)
Through our Vineyard Lawns program and general advocacy, VCS has long been working
to spread the word about nitrogen pollution in our ponds. Nitrogen is a
perfectly natural, essential element of life (it is 75% of the mass of
the atmosphere, after all) that can nevertheless be quite harmful in
excess. It is typically the limiting nutrient for algal growth in
coastal marine ecosystems, meaning that pond algae generally have more
than enough of the other resources they need to thrive (sunlight and
other nutrients such as phosphorus), but are held in check by a relative
lack of nitrogen. But in recent years, runoff from lawn fertilizers and
groundwater flows from septic systems have fixed this “problem,”
allowing algal growth to explode, degrading water quality for everything
else in the estuaries.
While we will continue to focus on education and advocacy regarding
water quality, VCS believes the time has come to consider active
regulation of fertilizer use. As described in this week’s MV Times,
it appears this may finally be coming to pass. Last year, statewide
fertilizer regulations were passed by the legislature, but the new law
also stripped away the ability of localities to craft their own
regulations. However, the Cape and Islands were exempted, presumably in
recognition of the unique challenges of coastal ecosystems; for example,
our primary concern is nitrogen rather than phosphorous, the more
common problem in terrestrial systems.
This is an important opportunity to create strong and smart regulations
that will effectively limit the nutrient inputs to our precious coastal
waters, but the moment is truly fleeting: new regulations must be
endorsed by the MV Commission and adopted by local boards of health by
year’s end. Stay tuned!
Curb Your Cats and Help Protect Wildlife
You're not helping!
A bit of follow-up is in order regarding a feature in the last edition of the Almanac. In commenting on a story from Audubon Magazine
that reported on the toxic effects of a new class of rodent poisons, it
was suggested (somewhat whimsically) that alternatives to these
“weapons of mass destruction” included – in addition to traps and the
older, less toxic poisons – cats.
As outdoor housecats are serious threats to wildlife everywhere (and
especially so here, given our populations of rare shorebirds), we want
to echo and emphasize Audubon’s exhortation
to keep cats inside (or in outdoor kitty condos). When confined to the
home, a good mouser could help with an indoor rodent problem; outside,
with all the options for food on the table, a cat is very likely to do
more ecological harm than good. For those trying to control mice and
rats outdoors, there really is no substitute for removing the food
source that is attracting them. No amount of cats, or for that matter
poisons, shotguns, or trained falcons (you get the idea) is going to
control an outdoor rodent population drawn to an open compost pile or unsecured trash barrel.
* * * * *
Finally, some thoughts and a personal note: From the perspective of a
(lapsed, admittedly) community ecologist, it always seemed to me that
outdoor cats occupied a sort of generalist predator/scavenger role in a
complex web of competition and predation. That made perfectly good sense
. . . until I thought about it. In truth, our lovable feline friends,
miniaturized wild animals that they once were, are not today a welcome
member of any natural ecosystem on Earth.
The trouble is that outdoor housecats are better thought of as something
akin to an invasive species. That’s not quite the correct term*, but to
the animals that they prey on and compete with they might as well be.
That’s particularly true for many of their prey, such as birds, that
have no specific adaptations to defend against an entirely new threat
(as measured in evolutionary time).
* So, what then is the name for a widespread,
successful species with no native range anywhere on Earth? The terms
Introduced, Exotic, and Invasive, while conveying slightly different
concepts, all contain a common aspect of humans moving a species across
space, from its native range to a new location, far beyond its normal
ability to disperse itself. On one level, Felis catus does that
every time it leaves the human home and ‘introduces’ itself into the
wild. But that’s not quite right, because there’s also an element of
moving across time involved in the creation of an entirely new species
through millennia of co-evolution with humans. (As with the domestic dog
– but even more so – it appears they had a hand in their own creation.) So, I'm stumped. If you've got a suggested term for this category of animal, please send it along to the Almanac address.
Hunter Safety and Tick-Borne Disease
The MV Board of Health has created a new educational video
looking at tick-borne diseases on Island. Deer hunters are the primary
intended audience, but there's interesting information there for anyone
who spends time outdoors. Thanks to Dan Martino from MV Productions for