Expecting the Unexpected

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The other night my husband was complaining about all the work needed around the house and garden right now.

I started to agree with him as I prepared a salad. Then I stopped and looked around the room with its intact walls, floor, windows, and ceilings. The image of mangled wood and tossed roofs and cars in Moore, Oklahoma, flashed through my head.

“We have no reason to complain about the work needed here,” I said. “We still have a house to clean and paint. Our garden is intact, weeds and all.”

The tornado that hit the community of Moore this past week flattened walls, roofs, and windows, but it did not flatten the intangible and collective backbone of the people living through a nightmare of debris. Twenty-four people lost their lives when the tornado hit, and I pray for their families.

When I look at the images, I wonder how anyone at all survived.

We are in a time of climate change. Climate isn’t the weather report on temperatures, winds, or storms. Climate is the long-term study of weather events. Climate change deals with more than temperatures rising, although that is a major contributing factor to some of the changes we’re seeing. Climate change also means that the weather will be more intense and the storms more frequent. Seasonal dates are being challenged each year. There’s an old saying that is appropriate for what we’re witnessing: The only constant is change.

The fact that only twenty-four folks perished in the tornado in Moore shows that we are more prepared than ever and that the spirit of rising above adversity in Oklahoma right now, is a superb example of the flexibility that will be required of all of us in the coming years.

I was going to put in an excerpt from my new book and then add a plug. But as I write this post, I don’t want to do anything but bow my head in prayer for those who perished and those who remain to clean up the mess on the ground. God speed, Moore, OK.

DSC00790

From Seed to Table

cover - lst draftBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

From Seed to Table  – A Personal Guide to Growing, Harvesting, Cooking, and Preserving Food is now available on Kindle through Amazon. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll do a hard copy of the book – I use lots of photos with the information. Here’s an excerpt on preparing the soil.

Soil Preparation

We don’t test our soil. Robert knows instinctively what the dirt needs when he begins working in the garden, and it’s a function of the moisture in the ground. When the soil dries out, it’s time to start working the beds for the plants ready to go into the garden. He starts planting from mid-March most years.

We’ve been gardening in the same spot for four seasons, so the soil is well conditioned. Robert might not use the rotor tiller this year. It’s not good to break up the soil too much, so now that the soil is in good condition, he hopes he can use a shovel and pickaxe to turn over and break up the soil.

Before he turns the soil, he’ll use a well-rounded organic fertilizer mix of nitrogen, potassium (also known as potash), and phosphorus. It’s important to amend the soil with these organics because it’s essential to the growth of plants and is usually not in sufficient quantities in most soils. As he’s making the beds, he sprinkles the organic fertilizers, dolomitic limestone, green sand, and pulverized phosphate rock. The mix of these organic and inorganic additions forms a dusty layer on top of the bed. He blends it all in with a pick approximately eight inches deep.

Usually every other year, he applies mushroom manure and sand. He gauges this application by how “friable” the soil is. He can tell it’s friable and ready for the root growth of plants, if he clumps it in his palm and the soil falls apart. That means the soil is loose enough without applying the manure or sand. Also, be careful about putting the mushroom manure on seedlings such as peas. Our peas didn’t grow through this top dressing so well last year, and Robert believes manure may not have composted enough, so it burned the seedlings. If the manure is worked into the soil deep enough, this would not have been a problem.

Note: Our peas are healthy and happy this year. It seems they grow a few inches each time I go out to watch their progress up the chicken wire.

peas and spinach 2013

peas and spinach 2013

New Release – From Seed to Table

From Seed to Table is my new eBook on gardening, harvesting, preserving, and eating food from the garden. Along with giving advice on gardening, it’s also full of recipes for fresh vegetables. Please stop by Amazon and take a look: http://www.amazon.com/From-Seed-Table-Harvesting-ebook/dp/B00CW1TLFK.

cover - lst draft

Celebrate Endangered Species Day

Endangered Species - Key deer

Endangered Species – Key deer

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Endangered Species Day is May 17. Forty years ago, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) became reality. Ever since, state and federal wildlife agencies have worked together to ensure no wildlife ever goes extinct. But there’s more to the ESA than most people know.

Those dedicated folks who tend to our endangered and threatened species also want to put themselves out of a job. As important as tending to those already in trouble is the effort to keep common species just that. Common species need to remain common.

wood stork

wood stork

I’m proud of the time I spent in the communications sector of Florida’s wildlife agency. I worked on projects involving endangered, threatened, and common species. I wrote news releases when Florida declared the bald eagle was no longer an endangered species. I helped develop public relations materials for the sea turtle, manatee, and panther. I walked around neighborhoods talking with residents on how to keep coyotes out of their yard. I did the fun stuff, but my colleagues – the biologists – did the heavy lifting.

manatee

manatee

One of my favorites was Elsa Haubold, Ph.D. She headed up the revision of Florida’s Endangered Species Plan. I had the pleasure of serving in her group as the communications person. Elsa and Nick Wiley, executive director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wrote an article for The Wildlife Professional in the Spring 2013 issue. The article “State Perspectives on the ESA – A Journey of Conflict and Cooperation” provides a framework for the challenges to make sure wildlife remains in the wild.

So happy Endangered Species Day. I’ll end today with a photo of one of my favorite wildlife species – the sea turtle. The hatchling below is a loggerhead, which is a threatened species. What’s your favorite wildlife?

seaturtle7

Garden Plans and Soil Prep

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

S2T-6

Most folks are planning and readying the soil for planting. We’ve had things in the ground here in southwestern Pennsylvania for several weeks now. But last night, a frost was predicted so we covered some of the plants. They’re predicting the same for tonight so the sheets will remain in place.

I’m busy readying From Seed to Table for publication. Here’s an excerpt:

Garden Planning

Two words define our garden planning: We don’t. Our garden plans us. It’s not necessarily a haphazard affair, but it isn’t something we draw out on paper before the spring gardening season begins. Robert goes to the garden and begins preparing the soil wherever it seems most likely to put plants. He changes the location for some plants every year. For instance, tomatoes and most plants do better if they aren’t grown in the same dirt every year. It’s late winter as I write this section of the book. He’s placed clear plastic over one raised bed before the rain makes it too wet to work. He plants the first of the onions in this area as soon as the soil is dry enough and the freezes stop. His chosen spot for onions this year is the spot where peppers grew last year. The peppers didn’t produce much during 2012, so here’s hoping the peppers benefit from the change in location. The onions grew in abundance in 2012, and as of April 2013, we’re still eating the onions stored in the basement. I’m hoping the change in location will yield the same results for onions this year.

If you’re a planner and plotter, then the books with a chapter on garden planning will benefit you.

Soil Preparation

We don’t test our soil. Robert knows instinctively what the dirt needs when he begins working in the garden, and it’s a function of the moisture in the ground. When the soil dries out, it’s time to start working the beds for the plants ready to go into the garden. He starts planting from mid-March on in most years.???????????????????????????????

We’ve been gardening in the same spot for four seasons, so the soil is well conditioned. Robert might not use the rotor tiller this year. It’s not good to break up the soil too much, so now that the soil is in good condition, he hopes he can use a shovel and pickaxe to turn over and break up the soil. Before he turns the soil, he’ll use a well-rounded organic fertilizer mix of nitrogen, potassium (also known as potash), and phosphorus. It’s important to amend the soil with these organics because it’s essential to the growth of plants and is usually not in sufficient quantities in most soils. As he’s making the beds, he sprinkles the organic fertilizers, dolomitic limestone, green sand, and pulverized phosphate rock. The mix of these organic and inorganic additions forms a dusty layer on top of the bed. He blends it all in with a pick approximately eight inches deep.

Usually every other year, he applies mushroom manure and sand. He gauges this application by how “friable” the soil is. He can tell it’s friable and ready for the root growth of plants, if he clumps it in his palm and the soil falls apart. That means the soil is loose enough without applying the manure or sand. Also, be careful about putting the mushroom manure on seedlings such as peas. Our peas didn’t grow through this top dressing so well last year, and Robert believes it may not have been composted enough, so it burned the seedlings. If the manure is worked into the soil deep enough, this would not have been a problem.

peas reach for the sky

peas reach for the sky

A Review of an Environmental Novel

VaporTrailsBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

The subject of Vapor Trails by R.P. Siegel and Roger Saillant intrigued me from the start. I’ve been looking for other contemporary fiction novels with environmental themes, so when this one came across my twitter feed, I immediately researched it and then bought a copy. I wasn’t disappointed with the read, although there is no middle ground with this book, which might have drawn in a wider audience. The book preaches to the choir rather than pulling converts to the green movement.

Vapor Trails enters into the bowels of corporate greed to the highest level of power. And power or energy at any cost to the environment and its people, is the heart of this story. The story is told from the viewpoint of three main characters: a corporate stooge, an environmentalist attempting to work within the corporate system, and a free spirit who rides his bike 2,500 miles just to attend a sustainability conference in New Orleans. Through the eyes of these three, the reader receives an education on oil and its damaging effects.

An unnamed hurricane in New Orleans causes water to surge and break through the levee system. This storm brings the odd trio of characters together when they are stranded at the sustainability conference. The storm is used to bring the key players together, but it isn’t used in any useful way to make a comment about man’s folly with playing with nature. Also, it left me slightly annoyed that the three characters don’t have to put up with the unpleasantness of the aftermath because helicopters and corporate jets zoomed down to rescue them out of the hellhole of southern Louisiana.

Mason Burnside, the corporate stooge, brought a lethal oil disaster to the rain forest in Ecuador though his cold-hearted decisions encouraged by his CEO at Splendid Oil. Ellen Greenbaum is an idealistic college grads ready to make a difference by working for the evil behemoth Splendid Oil in their sustainability department. Jacob Walker yearns to make the world a better place. Add together a man missing in Indonesia, and the novel has intrigue and mystery enough to hold the reader captivated.

Through the conversations, much information is imparted on the state of energy companies, the environment, and the impact on human lives.

While the novel can come across as pedantic and biased toward the green side, the ideas presented are considerably well-researched.

It is Mason who changes the most, as the other main characters remain static. Mason goes from stooge to hero through a series of life-changing events. Perhaps if the other two characters, who experienced the same events, had also undergone some type of transformation, the novel would be a more even representation of real life.

“. . . his arrogance finally caught up with him when he thought he could control nature,” says one of the characters near the end of the novel, and that is the crux of the whole novel making it an epic undertaking by the authors.

I highly recommend the book. If you’re on the fence about how you feel on this topic, this book will give you a good background for one side of the argument. For those folks who turn red at the mention of green, this book will do nothing but turn them further away.

I applaud the authors for a well-written and well-researched book on the treachery of pushing through projects in unsafe and deadly ways. I just wish they’d left a little room for the shades of gray in this discussion.

Quinoa Discovery

Quinoa Tabbouleh Recipe

Photo by Randy Mayor

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Once again my daughter took my hand and lead me to greener pastures. This time the pasture contained quinoa (keen-wa), and it was a beauteous discovery. Now I see and hear about quinoa frequently or at least I’m conscious of what it is.

Quinoa is not a substitute for rice; I’ve found it be the other way around. It’s actually a seed although most folks describe it as a whole grain. It’s more “whole” than the other foods in that category such as rice, barley, and millet. Quinoa provides all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a whole protein. As a result, it provides the highest protein content of all whole grains.

When I first started using it as an accompaniment to rice, I used a boxed recipe with spices already added. It’s rather expensive in the regular grocery stores. I went to Whole Foods and found it in bulk in white, black, red, or mixed. I decided to buy the mixed variety because the black, in particular, still has the hull on the seed and removes slightly crunchy after cooking. It gives the quinoa a nice flavor.

Quinoa was the staple food of people in the Andes region of South America for thousands of years – perhaps because it’s quite simple to make and nearly impossible to ruin. Here’s the basic recipe I follow: bring two cups of water with salt to a boil; add one cup of quinoa and boil gently for fifteen minutes. Let rest before using for best results. Once made, you can spice it up, use cold in a salad, or use in a recipe as I did the other night when I made quinoa burgers.

Quinoa Burger

2 cups of cooked quinoa (recipe above makes 2 cups)

¾ cup of your favorite cheese (I used goat cheese, but you could cheddar or Swiss)

½ cup low-fat cottage cheese

1 cup shredded and squeezed dry zucchini (or 1 carrot, finely grated)

3 eggs

3 TBLS flour

1 onion, chopped

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp garlic powder

olive oil for cooking

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, except for olive oil. Heat pan or griddle. Take ¼ rounded cup of mixture and plop on the heated pan. Let it cook on one side for a few minutes. Flip burgers and smash them flat with spatula. Fry until golden on each side. Makes 9-10 burgers. Burgers freeze very nicely.

What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa?

Who’s Accountable for the Environment #grnrev

DSC02403By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Macondo well

spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico

I celebrated Earth Day this year by promoting y my environmentally themed book, Trails in the Sand, and guest posting on other blogs essays about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Some reviewers thanked me for reminding them about the oil spill, but one reviewer wrote that she lived through it and didn’t need to read about it.

I lived through it, too, but I’m of the opinion, we do need to remember, and we do need to hold responsible the parties who break the rules to gain more profit. In Trails, I wrote about two major disasters from April 2010 – the oil spill that killed nine men and did untold damage to wildlife and the habitat and the mine explosion in West Virginia that killed twenty-nine men. In both cases, the companies were found to be negligent for causing the death of the men and harming the environment.

And so it was with a sense of nightmarish déjà vu that I read an article in my local paper, The Beaver County Times this past weekend.

“What Lies Beneath – Officials Worry Company in Ohio Buried Drill Waste,” made me mad and then rather frightened me to realize that we might not have protection from irresponsible companies despite each state having an environmental department and having the national Department of Environmental Protection. I’m beginning to believe the moniker is a misnomer because there are far too many cases where no protection for the environment exists. And far too many of those cases are far too close to my home.

Soil Remediation, Inc., owned by David Gennaro, has been on the radar of Ohio’s DEP for years. Yet that hasn’t fazed the company as they allegedly collected and disposed petroleum-contaminated waste on its property close to the Mahoning River, a waterway that flows into the Beaver River which flows into the Ohio River in southwestern Pennsylvania. A few weeks ago, I wrote about another company in eastern Ohio that had been dumping toxic waste into the same Mahoning River.

Beaver River

Beaver River

Not only is Soil Remediation disposing of the waste illegally according to the article, but it’s also been collecting those waste products without a permit. Several Pennsylvania-based companies have been shipping their waste over to Ohio where Soil Remediation has taken the products illegally. This isn’t the first instance of this company’s flagrant disregard of environmental regulations. Records show they’ve been charged with violating many other regulations over the years. Why is this company still operating?

I’m not in favor of shutting down companies in our country. However, as much as we want to keep those companies open, it’s not in our best interest to allow them to disregard the regulations that are already in place. Those regulations exist for a reason, and that’s to protect our environment from harm. A company that can’t follow safety regulations needs to be shut down until they comply.

We don’t need to lose anymore hardworking men and women just because companies want to show a profit. Their money won’t amount to much of anything if our rivers, lakes, groundwater, and aquifers are destroyed.

The sedge has withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.

John Keats (La Belle Dame Sans Merci, 1819)cropped-dsc00860.jpg