Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Circle Trail Tour on Saturday

The Circle Trail tour is this Saturday, April 29 from 10 AM - 2 PM. I think it was the first weekend in May previously. I have manned the Lake Wichita stop the last two years, but will be teaching Saturday, so I cannot this year. I am giving the final exam, so if I am lucky, the class will zip through it, and I may have a chance to walk a part of the trail. But we'll see.

This is a great opportunity to get out at enjoy the 14 miles of continuous trail that is completed. You can start anywhere. Pick up a passport at any of the cheer stops and get it stamped at each of the stops for a chance at prizes. For more information check out the Circle Tour Facebook page. There is no charge for this event. Why not bring out the family and walk or bike the trail?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Earth Day 2017

The Earth from space. NASA photo.
I have been very lazy about writing in this blog, as you can tell by the date of the last post. I have been trying to keep up with the Facebook page--as a consequence, this blog as fallen to the wayside. Earth Day is a good time to get back in the saddle. There are plenty of things that need more room than a Facebook post, and there are plenty of people who are not on Facebook. So I am going to make an effort to be a little more regular about updating this. I will then post a link to the FB page for those who are members of that page.

I am old enough I can remember the first Earth Day in 1970. Since then, we have gradually lost interest and allowed Earth Day to pass by largely without notice. This year looks like it may resurge a little bit, at least in part because of the March for Science takes place the same day. That is no coincidence, as the issue that started the entire march is Climate Change. I haven't heard of a march in the Falls, but if I do, I will pass on the details.

There aren't a lot of activities surrounding Earth Day here in the Falls, which is unfortunate. As always, the city has more activities happening than any person could take advantage of, it's just most are not related to nature or the environment. With a little effort, we could have a great themed series of activities around Earth Day (in Penny's head--just say, "No!")

River Bend has some of their usual Saturday activities going on: Science Saturday and Nature Tots Story Time. The Wichita Falls Public Library has a plastic bottle crafts and upcycling programs happening. That appears to be pretty much it, unless there are things I haven't heard about. If you know of an event, email me at green.wichitafalls@gmail.com and I will try to get it here and on the FB page.

So, what to do? I am planning to have my own little Earth Day celebration. Birding in the morning. Gardening in the afternoon. The Audubon Society is asking people to plant a native plant to support the birds. I have quite a few in my yard now, but I will be stopping by Wichita Valley Nursery for another to add. I just have to decide what I want to plant. I also have the makings for an insect hotel standing by--if I don't get it done before, Earth Day would be a good time. It won't be as pretty as the ones you can find on Pinterest, but it will still be home for the bugs. If you want to see some of the photos I've collected on Pinterest, here's a link to by board. Feel free to browse.

How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Texas Master Naturalist Spring Training

Me and Laura doing a Mussel Watch for
the Rolling Plains Texas Master
I have been a certified Texas Master Naturalist for several years, and love every minute. It is great to spend time with a group of people just as geeky as I am.

The next Texas Master Naturalist spring training for our Rolling Plains chapter is coming up beginning March 8. The training takes place every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 7 - 9 PM and some Saturday field trips. I will be teaching the class on birds (March 17) and taking part in the March 19 field trip.

The basic course covers the gamut from fossils, to plants, all kinds of animals, and weather. There is something of interest for anyone fascinated with nature. The mission of Texas Master Naturalist is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers who provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.

The cost of the course is $100. It isn't necessary to get certified as a Master Naturalist in order to take the class, although we'd love to have you. Frequently, teachers take the class to broaden their own knowledge.

Want to know more? Robert Mauk at Inland Fisheries is one of the chapter advisors. Or feel free to talk to any of the Texas Master Naturalist members who will be manning the booth at the Home and Garden Show on February 27 and 28. You can also post to the open group Rolling Plains Chapter TMN Program on Facebook. You can also go their website for pictures from projects and newsletters.

Not in our area? There are several Texas Master Naturalist chapters throughout Texas. Look for one near you. Most of them have a spring training--some have a fall training as well.

Sign up soon. A minimum of 10 people are needed to offer the course. The course is limited to 20.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: The Bees in Your Backyard

I am behind on reading with the holidays, but I am finally getting around to looking at some new books sent to me by Princeton University Press.

I have reviewed several books about bees in the past year, so it might seem another one would be superfluous. Not so! For those interested in knowing what kinds of bees they have in their yards, this guide, The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America's Bees, by Joseph S. Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril, will help identify which of the common species of bees you see. There are 4,000 bee species in the US and Canada, but thanks to the key in the introduction, you'll at least be able to sort the bee to the appropriate family, and perhaps to the species.

The book has 900 full-color photos. The chapter on the natural history of bees is fascinating and for those of us who are trying to entice bees to our yards and gardens, there is a fair amount of information on plants and other actions you can take to provide appropriate habitat for your bees. Personally, I liked the little boxes of interesting information set off from the main text--a lot of interesting tidbits there.

This book was published December 16 and can be purchased from Princeton University Press for $29.95. I checked Amazon, and it is available there in both paperback and kindle versions for a few dollars less. Remember our local charities by purchasing through smile.amazon.com.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Living Green(er) in 2016

It's that time of year again. A new year is just around the corner. I have been thinking lately about my New Year's resolutions for 2016. Yes, I am one of those people who make New Year's resolutions, and generally, I tend to stick to them. Mostly because I frame them as goals, not aspirations.

Anyway, in thinking through 2015 and looking toward 2016, I decided that I needed to include one or two goals relating to living more sustainably. I have been doing that the last few years, so this is nothing new, but if I don't include it as one of my goals for the year, then I'll lose focus.

One event that has me really looking at this area a little more is the recent decision by Progressive Waste to stop single stream recycling in Wichita Falls. This means there really isn't a good place to recycle plastics. I have heard Wal-Mart will take most plastics. I am going to check that out and if so, that will be a help. However, wouldn't it be better to reduce at the front side? So my focus for 2016 is going to be to reduce trash. We do reasonably well at this already. We were putting out 1 curbside trash bin a month because we could put most of our waste either in our own compost bins, the city's organics recycling and the single stream recycling. The amount of waste we are putting out has jumped dramatically--mostly in plastics, although there are some metal food cans. I can see that if I don't take control, the amount of trash we put out will double. That's not acceptable. That means I need to look for non-plastic packaging options and ferret out recycling options. I am going to try to can more--I can now, but not enough to make a big dent in the metal cans going in the trash. I can reuse my canning jars.

So that is focus #1.

The next item is this blog. I post fairly regularly to the Facebook page, but have been woefully lazy about this blog. However, many people who have access to this blog do not have Facebook accounts. I can always share the link from the blog to Facebook, but it would be difficult for blog readers to check Facebook posts. I plan to still do a lot of sharing of interesting articles to the Facebook page, but will do a better job of having some more detailed information about topics of interest here.

Lastly, I plan to do more gardening. This is another carryover from previous years. I have a good-sized garden for a residential lot and I have been gradually introducing permaculture. I haven't been very disciplined about it though. So I am going to finish my permaculture course on line and raise a higher percentage of my own food this year. Good exercise, better tasting food and at the same time, removing more of the environmental toxins from our family.

So those are my 3 sustainability goals for 2016. What are yours?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Product Review: J. R. Liggett's Shampoo

I have been a little dissatisfied with shampoos and conditioners lately. Not only do most shampoos and conditioners have chemicals in them I would prefer not to have on my body or in my water supply, neither have I felt ready to tackle the "no poo" approach. My understanding is that it takes some weeks before that works, and I don't think I could arrange more than a few no-customer days in a row. Shampoos and conditioners also generate a lot of plastic waste I could do without.

So I was in Natural Grocers looking over some of the shampoo and conditioner options, trying to convince myself to cough up the additional money and trying to decide among an array of options. But there, tucked inconspicuously at the end of a high row, there was a little bar of shampoo. It looked like a small bar of soap. It was only $3.68, so I thought, "What the heck? I'll give it a try."

At my husband's request, I have long hair that is also abused with color every 2 weeks (yes, I know that hair color is NOT green--we all do some things to please our spouse). That's what happens when your hair is pretty much white. It doesn't take long for the roots to be very noticeable. I also have oily hair and wash it almost every day. So I use a lot of shampoo and conditioner and my hair takes a lot of abuse.

When I read the ingredients on the back of the soap (see photo to the right), it appeared there was nothing there to be concerned with. 

The fragrance is nice. I am not a fan of overpowering rose scent, but the scent was light. The shampoo makes a nice lather. Although the label says "most" people need no conditioner, that is probably the one thing I am still not sure I like. I have used the shampoo twice now. I don't know that I need conditioner, but some sort of detangler would be nice. Long hair is a pain when combing it out afterward and without conditioner, it was more of a chore. My hair also took a lot longer to air dry and seems heavier. Although after shampooing, my hair felt harsh, when it was dry, it felt soft, enough, but still not as smooth and soft as it does after a good conditioner.

Overall, the shampoo appears to work well, although the jury is still out on whether it will be a good option after several shampoos. I am going to keep using it for a while and see what happens. In the meantime, I need some ideas for chemical-free detangler. If I can whip that, I will probably be a fan.  I found some recipes on the web and will have to try them out.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sustainability in Action

Today I had the opportunity to see an innovative company putting sustainable practices to work in their business. Clayton Lane, James Lane Air Conditioning and Plumbing, invited me to see their rainwater harvesting and solar systems.  I hope their practices catch on with other businesses.

3000 gal storage tank
Currently, they have a 3000 gallon water tank, although they have plans to install additional tanks. Just 1/4 inch of rain will fill this tank. This tank provides water to all of their toilets and urinals and also provides water to clean parts and to fill mobile water tanks which are taken to work sites for hydraulic excavation and other applications. If they had 25 or fewer employees, they could purify the water on site for drinking. 

Control area with pump, filter and meter
Wash area with potable and non-potable water hoses
Leo Lane, Vice President,  likes the convenience of being able to fill their mobile tanks on site instead of having to drive elsewhere to fill their tanks with non-potable water. The construction industry cannot use potable water for construction, so must haul water. He feels that for them, the savings in labor costs from having his employees drive to purchase non-potable water more than pays for the system. Leo Lane holds the certification now required to install such systems. He feels other business may also benefit from the convenience of having a rainwater harvesting system. In addition, homeowners who do not have access to city water or other reliable water supply could benefit. This system might also be useful for pool owners.

Only non-potable water is used in toilets and urinals
Next, Clayton showed me their solar power system. James Lane has 4000 sq ft of solar panels installed on their roof. In March, they had a credit on their electric bill. They still pay a distribution charge, but they are actually sending electricity back into the power grid. They also did an upgrade to more efficient lighting. They purchase power at 7.2 cents and sell it at 7.5 cents. If they were producing more electricity in March than they used, it will be interesting to see what happens in August.

Converters for solar power
When their system was installed, they iued a company from the DFW area. However, Clayton reported that local company Davis Electric is now able to do solar installations. 

4000 sq feet of solar panels supply energy
Clayton said that their installation of solar and rainwater systems is about making the company more resilient. In cases of power outages or other natural disasters, they have to remain in operation to get homeowners and businesses back in operation. People need heat, water and air conditioning. Therefore, their business has to remain in operation. These systems are one more way to ensure they can be there when needed.

I would love to hear about what other companies are doing to be more sustainable.