Saturday, November 27, 2010


I am re-watching the documentary, A World Withough People. Although I seriously doubt billions of people will just disappear overnight, it is interesting to see what would likely happen if they did. It is far more likely people will reach some sort of tipping point and there could well be a population crash of some sort, but who really knows? Perhaps we will just get smart and change our lifestyles.

But anyway, I find it vastly reassuring and comforting to realize that as dominant a species as we are currently, nature could quickly reclaim what we have subjugated for so long. There are a number of questions not answered, but I supposed the makers of the film did have to pick and choose the things to address to fit into a 2-hour time slot. The documentary focuses on infrastrucure issues. Certainly infrastructure is the most obvious sign of humans, but there are some significant impacts we've had on the environment that are not readily apparent. I would have liked to hear something about the persistence of the many poisons we pump into the environment. But I would guess in the end, most of that would also be gone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baking Bread

One of my favorite things to do is make fresh bread. The smell (and taste) are glorious. I don't do it often enough.

For me, bread making is about more than wonderful smells and great taste. There is something peaceful about kneading bread dough. It is a great way to take out frustrations. My husband once told me he was thinking of getting me a bread machine for a Christmas present. His motive was primarily the floury mess I make on the kitchen counters when I knead the bread. I told him it would not be a good idea as I would then need something else to punch to take out frustrations. I guess he believed me as that gift has never shown up for Christmas, birthday or anniversary.

Yesterday, November 17, was Homemade Bread Day. I was traveling out of town and just didn't get to posting, but thought I would post one of my favorite bread recipes in a belated celebration of the day. "More-With-Less Cookbook" is still one of my favorite cookbooks. The book I bought was published in 1976, and I still use some of the recipes often. There is a newer edition available on Amazon and a look at the index confirms they still have this recipe. Anyway, in honor of the day, here is the recipe--I hope you'll consider getting the book. There are some other excellent bread recipes in the book. My dog-eared copy is looking pretty rough--one of these days I may need to replace it.

Combine in a bowl:
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. salt
(note: personally, I use a little less sugar and a little less salt)

Stir in 2 c. boiling water.

Add 1/4 c. oil
Cool to lukewarm.

2 pkg dry yeast in 1/2 c. warm water

Add yeast to cornmeal mixture.

Beat in:
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. rye flour

By hand stir in 4 1/4 - 4 /1/2 c. unbleached white flour.

Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and knead each portion a second time for 3 minutes. Shape dough into 2 loaves and place in greased pans. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes (or until the loaf sounds hollow when you strike it with a wooden spoon.)

You can vary the texture and flavor of the bread by changing the proportion of the various flours.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Event Saturday

Busy weekend coming up.

Smith's Gardentown is hosting a free organic gardening seminar Saturday, November 13, 10:00 AM. Makers of Nature's Guide products will be on hand to answer questions.

PETS Food Pantry Event Saturday

Saturday, November 13, PETS will be holding a community pet food drive to help people who have pets and due to unforeseen circumstances need help feeding them.

The event will be held from 10 AM - 2 PM at Berend's Landing, 500 Wichita St. There is no admission fee--just bring donations of dog and cat food. There will be several organizations with booths at the event, to include Wild Bird Rescue, which will have Missi, their avian mascot there until she gets tired of the attention. They will also have small gift items for sale so you can get a start on your Christmas shopping. There will be other pet-related groups there as well.

Stop by, donate food and learn more about helping our community pets.

Earth 2100 at Vernon College Monday

Vernon College has been hosting a film series on various issues this year. The last documentary in this series, Earth 2100, will be shown Monday, November 15 at 6:30 in Rm 201 at the Vernon Campus on Maplewood Dr, in Wichita Falls.

This should be a good program, so come on out. There is no charge for admission, although they do have popcorn and soft drinks available for donations to raise money by the Student Forum.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park

Some weeks ago a few people met to begin talking about forming a Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park 501(c)(3). A second meeting will be held this Saturday, November 6, 10:00 AM at Lake Arrowhead in the Dining Hall building at the fishing pier.

I was at the first meeting, but will have to miss this one due to a scheduled class Saturday (only a few more weeks and no more Saturday classes for a while--yippee!!)

Please attend if you are interested so we can get this much needed program off the ground. Now, if we could just do something similar for the parks in Wichita Falls! But one thing at a time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Standing Room Only for E.O. Wilson Tonight

I'm glad I arrived early for E.O Wilson at Midwestern State University tonight as it was standing room only. Of course, many students were there because it was a class assignment, but there were a lot of students and members of the public there. The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists turned out in force.

Dr. Wilson spoke as part of the Midwestern State University Speakers & Issues Series.

I am posting just a hodge podge of what I thought were interesting bits throughout the 1.5 hour presentation.

Wilson's Law: If we save the living environment, we will automatically save the physical environment. But if we only save the physical environment, we will ultimately lose them both.

Dr. Wilson encouraged biology students to enter fields studying organisms that we know little about but that have a huge impact upon the environment: fungi and nematodes, for example. He referred to these organisms as "little creatures that run the engine of the world." Nematodes for example, constitute 4 of 5 animals on the earth.

1 gram of soil contains 1 billion bacteria (approximately 5000 - 6000 species.)

A human mouth contains 150 species of bacteria which act to hold pathogens at bay.

If 1 cell of the human body (of the trillion cells of the body) was the size of Wichita Falls, a bacterium would be the size of a football field and a virus the size of a football.

The DNA from a single cell if laid out flat would be 1 meter in length. However, if we increased the size of the DNA strand to the thickness of string, the length would be 1820 miles.

If you decrease the size of an island (referring to habitat) to 10% of the original mass, the number of species will decrease by 50%.

Primary causes of loss of species:
- Habitat reduction
- Invasive species
- Pollution
- Population
- Overharvesting

Dr. Wilson also mentioned two major biodiversity projects underway. The Encyclopedia of Life is intended to be an open source on every species known to man. Also of future use to researchers in biodiversity is a digital library of all writings on biodiversity is the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I hadn't heard but the UN designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. Why haven't I heard about that? Not surprisingly, the US has not signed the International Biodiversity Agreement that was negotiated this year.

Dr. Wilson showed the dramatic decrease in tropical rainforests throughout the world, which are the locations of the highest biodiversity. He also showed critical areas for conservation. He estimated that an investment of $50B worldwide could save 50% of species if it is properly applied. Really, in the scheme of things, this is not a lot of money for the world economy.

Dr. Wilson gave us a lot of food for thought. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Many thanks to MSU, the Speakers and Issues Committee and their donors for bringing such a wonderful speaker to our community.

Don't Forget EO Wilson Tonight at Akin Auditorium

I mentioned this in an earlier post but probably should have posted a reminder before today. E.O. Wilson will be at Akin Auditorium at MSU at 7PM tonight, talking about biodiversity.

My BS degree is in Biology and I have been reading EO Wilson for some time. I have 4 of his books on my shelves now. There was a good article in the Times Record News yesterday about him and his presentation. I will let everyone know about the presentation later in the week.

I hope there is a good turnout, but I also want to sit. Last year I was worried that the Dr. Leakey presentation would be standing room only and there were plenty of seats. We'll see tonight.

The presentation counts as advanced training for those in the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists.