Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Tree Drop Off

If you had a live Christmas tree this year, you need to know where to dispose of it, unless you have enough room for a nice brush pile on your own property.

The City of Wichita Falls Sanitation Department has opened locations at Lucy Park (at the back of the park near the river) and Kiwanis Park (next to the park maintenance building near the entrance to the park) for easy disposal of natural Christmas trees. The free drop-off areas are open twenty-four hours a day.

Only real trees that have been completely stripped of the tree stand, all decorations and lights will be accepted. No artificial trees will be accepted. The trees will be recycled as mulch and used around trees, shrubs and flower beds in each park. 

City residents can also use the Landfill or Transfer Station for FREE tree disposal anytime during normal operating hours. Residents are encouraged to take advantage of these disposal methods, as there is no curbside pickup of Christmas trees. Trees left out by the curb will not be picked up by sanitation crews. 

If you choose,  you may also drop off trees at the Inland Fisheries office at 409 Chester Avenue (off Old Jacksboro Hwy). Those trees are used to improve fish habitat at Lake Arrowhead State Park.

Water Continues to Be Lead Story in 2012

Texas Monthly had an article on their website about the continuing drought. We've had some rain lately and everything is green (or as green as it gets in this part of the world) but locally we are still a foot below our annual rainfall normal. In some places in Texas, it is worse than that. With the exception of the moronic statement leading the article about Perry's Presidential candidacy being an important Texas issue, the rest of the article sums up some of the impacts the drought is having on the state.

This points out the need to continue to conserve water. Plant drought resistant plants and water only when needed. For more water conservation tips, see the City of Wichita Falls website.

If you would like to learn more about the future climate in our area and the likelihood of continuing drought, make time to attend the League of Women Voters meeting on Wednesday, January 4, at Luby's cafeteria. Bryan Rupp, meteorologist, is the featured speaker, presenting "Future Climate of the Rolling Plains." The meeting begins at noon and is open to the public. Just go through the line for your meal and be seated by the noon start. The meeting ends at 1:00 PM.

Monday, December 26, 2011

First Day in the Parks

Whether you've been naughty or nice, we hope you'll join us Jan. 1 for 1st Day HikeTexas Parks and Wildlife Department is offering hikes at state parks.  Our own Lake Arrowhead State Park is offering two hikes one short and one of 5.5 miles starting at 2:30 pm.  Click on the link above and scroll down to Lake Arrowhead SP for information.  Always a good chance to see wildlife out at the park.  As you know our state parks are in desperate need of money and the best way to raise that money is to increase participation at the park.  It costs $3.00 to get into the park … a very small sum indeed.  Or buy an annual park pass for $70.00

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Outdoor Photography Contest

The Clay County Pioneer Sentinel is running an outdoor photography contest. I know many readers of this blog are darn good photographers, so enter! More information can be found here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Plea from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Well, folks, we all know that the Texas State legislature cut a lot of budgets this year in an unsuccessful attempt to balance the budget (although most of the hoopla out of the legislature made it sound like they balanced the budget--that was all smoke and mirrors.) One of the budgets cut tremendously was the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

State parks are in serious financial trouble. There are some in the state who would like nothing better than to sell off parkland to private persons and entities to raise money for state expenditures. Although the parks are public land held in trust for the public, the legislature doesn't consider them a priority. Therefore, private citizens must come to the rescue. Texas Parks and Wildlife has issued a plea to raise $4.6 million through public donations to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. I made a small donation today.

If you have the resources, please consider a contribution to this foundation or to your local Friends group.  Many parks have a 501(c)(3) Friends group to raise money for park improvements and to provide volunteer labor for projects the park doesn't have the manpower to do. Our local Lake Arrowhead State Park started a Friends group this past year. It is too new to be listed on the TPWD site yet, but should be soon as the Memorandum was recently signed. The group meets the first Thursday of each month at 7PM. If you don't have a lot of spare money, consider donating time.

Other ways to help are to visit the park and pay the entry fee ($3 per person at Lake Arrowhead) or purchase an annual park pass for admission to all of the state parks for a year.

Other organizations are getting involved to help increase attendance at the parks. For example, the Texas Ornithological Society is sponsoring a series of bird walks in state parks over the next several months to draw attention to the birdwatching opportunities and to bring in additional visitors.  I will be leading monthly bird walks at Lake Arrowhead State Park beginning in March. I'll post reminders in my sister blog, A Charm of Finches.

If we want parks to be here for future generations, we are going to have to make a personal commitment to do what we can to support the parks we have.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Electronics Recycling

Here's your chance. If you have used electronics items around, here is a chance to get rid of them.

All of the information is on the flyer, left.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest Bloggers Wanted

I would like to add guest bloggers. If you would like to share a product, service, or experience with other readers, please send your idea or blog entry to

This is an ad-free blog, so I don't make any money on it. Therefore, I am not in a position to pay for your posts. However, this is a good forum to share things you are doing to live more sustainably or to advertise your product or service to interested people.

I reserve the right to decide whether or not your post is appropriate and the time frame for posting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

America Recycles Day

November 15 is America Recycles Day. The day focuses on the recycling portion of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" trio.

Although few are happy with the state of recycling in Wichita Falls, you can recycle more than you think you can. Anything organic can go into your city composting bin if you don't compost yourself: cardboard, paper, magazines, newspapers, garbage, yard waste, etc. I put out our compost bin almost every week there is a pick up. I put out regular trash perhaps once a month.

Of course, we drop off glass behind United Market Street and take aluminum cans to a recycler for a little extra money.

However, preventing waste to start with is important. I do look for less packaging. I choose glass containers over plastic, since we don't have a good plastics recycling option in our community and plastics contain a lot of crap I just don't want to deal with. Consider cooking more from scratch--you would be amazed how much trash you will cut out and how much less salt, sugar and other chemicals (such as BPA) you'll put into your body. Change  your newspaper subscription to the e-edition. No more black fingers, and it saves a few dollars a month too.

You can repurpose your waste by trying to do something else with it before discarding. I am not very crafty this way, but my husband found some free plastic barrels that were someone else's trash and made me some compost bins and a rainwater harvesting system--things we wanted and for a lot less money. He also tears apart old/broken wooden items and creates new things such as planters, etc. from the pieces.

Post good items to Craig's list for giveaway or for a low price. Give things to Goodwill or the Salvation Army if they are in good shape instead of throwing them away. Shop for used items--I buy most of my books used and also pick up some nice clothes and household items from thrift stores and resale shops. Anything we can get one more use out of reduces the amount of things that end up in the landfill.

Take cloth bags to the store instead of having them drop it in a plastic bag. If you have plastic bags, reuse them at least once more. Ban plastic water bottles from your house if there isn't a health reason to avoid your tap or well water (and if you get your water from the City of Wichita Falls, there isn't one.)

Here are some additional resources for you to consider:
Recycling Glass and Paper in Wichita Falls


I know...for some of us, thinking can be dangerous. I am thinking about adding a Living Green in Wichita Falls page to Facebook. It might encourage more interaction and spread the word faster than this blog, although I plan to continue to do the blog. Some subjects are too long for Facebook. Anyway, let me know what you think. I want to decide before the end of the year--thinking of kicking it off on New Year, as people make their resolutions for 2012.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

First Fruits From the Garden

Although my husband got a bunch of radishes from our fall garden earlier, this year I tackled some of the things I thought would likely get bit by frost soon. We have been covering the garden the nights when frost has been predicted, but we'll get caught one of these days.

So today I put up basil, parsley and kale. I still have one basil plant in a pot in the house, but now I have some in the freezer too.

It feels good to have home grown food in the freezer. I know no one has sprayed anything on it I don't want in my body and since it went from garden to freezer in a matter of minutes, I am sure the plants are full of flavor and vitamins.

There are still a lot of plants out there--we'll see how it goes.

Even if you don't have room for a big garden, consider growing some food in pots, mixed in your flower beds or even on your window sill.

Friday, November 11, 2011

E-reader or Books?

In August 2010 my husband got me an e-reader for my birthday. Before that I was opposed to an e-reader because I like the aesthetics of holding and smelling a book. But truth be known, I read a LOT of books and although the local library has a good selection of fiction, their non-fiction selections just don't match my interests. Consequently, I have well over 1000 books, which take up a lot of room in our house. This was what prompted my husband to buy an e-reader for me.

I have to admit, there is much I like about the e-reader, not the least of which is the ability to carry around a lot of books on a little tablet when I travel. Since the books also download to my laptop, I can access them there as well. E-books are not less expensive than books at the store. I thought they would be without the expense of  printing and shipping. I can get printed books more cheaply (except for the classics in the Google library and downloads from the local library.)

So my question was: environmentally, which is better? An e-reader or a printed book? Apparently, I am not the only person to wonder. I discovered an article on the Conservation Magazine website that looks at just this issue. Since I have nearly 200 books on my e-reader today, the pendulum has swung to the e-reader side of the environmental balance scale. However, don't look for me to give up my printed books any time soon.

Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Publishing is a small company that publishes the kinds of books the people who read this blog would be interested in. They have a lot of great titles on sale now, and they're running a special promotion now for 25% off their books--just in time for holiday shopping. I give a lot of books for Christmas, don't you? Why not save some money? Enter promotion code WE10 at checkout to receive the discount.

Next EcoFair Meeting

The next EcoFair committee meeting is Friday, December 2, noon, at River Bend Nature Center. Planning is behind for an April event, so the more people who are interested and can attend, the better.

Welcoming Reptiles and Amphibians to Your Yard

As mentioned many times, I am working on improving my yard as a wildlife habitat.  I came across some resources today you may enjoy. North Carolina recently published an 8-page booklet on encouraging Reptiles and Amphibians in your backyard habitat. There is also a nice 2-page document previously published. Although focused on North Carolina, where they get a lot more rain than we do, the hints are applicable everywhere.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adult Baby Food

Photo of crispy chicken strips by FotoosVanRobin, Netherlands/Wikimedia Commons

I came across this article, "Less Chewing Equals More Eating (And Other Food Industry Secrets)" shared on Facebook today and thought it appropriate to share on this forum.

One more reason to cook from scratch at home (I love to eat out, so it's not as if I am sinless, but I at least eat more sit-down food than fast food.) I especially like the comment in the article that processed food is "adult baby food." I have noticed (once it was pointed out to me in the article) that I do tend to chew less when eating out (especially at fast food places). I have also noticed (all on my own this time) that I tend to eat a lot more when I am eating at a restaurant than I do when I eat at home. My smaller portions at home are more satisfying, and my food goes further.

I will certainly never get to the point that I don't eat out at all (good news for the local restaurant industry), but this does argue again to eat less processed food. If you eat out a nice roast chicken is probably a better option than chicken strips--my taste buds tell me that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving Trees

Pine sapling photo courtesy of John Dalton, Wikimedia Commons

My daughter subscribes to Scholastic Parent & Child magazine. In the November 2011 issue, the Hands On column is about Giving Trees. It is a craft project for children to give trees as gifts. I think this is a great idea. Unfortunately, the article is not posted online. However, since it is mostly decorating a container and putting a small tree in it, I am sure people interested in the idea can improvise successfully.

An interesting reference of the column is the meaning of various trees. I don't know how valid this is or where the meanings came from, but I thought I would share. Not all of the plants listed are actually trees, but nothing says we have to be literal.

This could be a low-cost, meaningful gift for the holidays (yes, it's that time already!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friends of Lake Arrowhead Meeting

The next meeting of the Friends of Lake Arrowhead will be Thursday, November 3 at 7 PM at the Dining Hall at Lake Arrowhead State Park. There are lots of activities coming up, and you can make a difference.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Save the Date!

The next EcoFair will be Saturday, April 21, 2012 at River Bend. If you know people, businesses and other organizations with a sustainability focus, suggest they get involved by calling River Bend. I'll post the date and time of the next planning meeting when I hear.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Red River Sierra Club Meets Tuesday

As promised in the previous post, here is the location for the Red River Sierra Club group meeting Tuesday, October 11, 7:15 PM: the Thai Orchid. Any questions, email

Reports and Happenings

I'm catching up with some reports on events I posted earlier and also posting some reminders of upcoming events.

If you weren't at the Living Well With Less Water symposium on October 1, you  missed a great learning experience. It was a full day of interesting speakers and vendors. The central theme of the conference was that our local area is becoming hotter and drier. The amount of rainfall has been dropping and the temperature has been climbing for years. Our "normal" annual rainfall, currently at 28 inches will be more in the neighborhood of 22 inches by 2040 and the hot summer of this past year will be the norm. The severe drought we experienced this year is forecast to continue for at least one more year and perhaps longer.

Given that cheery news, it wasn't surprising that the remainder of the day was spent talking about landscaping in a way that will conserve our water resources. If the Master Gardeners host a similar program in the future, plan to attend. It would be tough to top this year's program though.

Smith's Gardentown will be hosting a short workshop on this issue as well on October 22 at 10 AM. You can RSVP here The seminar is free, but Smith's is asking for an RSVP to have adequate materials and seating.

Lake Arrowhead State Park (LASP) has a lot going on. John Ferguson, the "new" park superintendent (he's been there a couple of years now, but that's still relatively new) has been working hard to add programs and amenities to the park to increase visitation. The Friends of Lake Arrowhead was formed in this past year to help the park do things with a more limited state budget. If you want to keep up with the programs at the park, friend the Texas Parks and Wildlife Lake Arrowhead State Park page on Facebook (there is another Lake Arrowhead State Park page as well, but that one isn't current, so be sure to get the correct one.) The Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park also have a page. Although you don't have to be a member of the Friends group to like the page, it certainly would be nice if you would consider joining.

One of the projects under development is a large butterfly garden. The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist chapter maintains a small butterfly garden near the main gate in addition to the nature trail. The new butterfly garden will be a much larger project and developed over the next couple of years. I imagine both the Master Naturalist chapter and the Friends of Lake Arrowhead will be involved (there is a lot of overlap between the groups.)

A couple of upcoming events at LASP that should be of interest to readers of this blog include:

October 28: Bring the kids out for a Halloween program at the park, beginning at 6:30 PM. Children will be able to color and wear various animal masks and there will be an after dark listening for night sounds activity. The program is free, although attendees will need to pay the park admission (why not make a day of it?)

November 5, 9:00 AM - Noon: Mark Klym, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Wildlife Diversity Program, will conduct a free workshop on wildscaping. If you want the CD with resources, it will be available for purchase for $5. Again, entry to the park is required.

December 12 - 15: LASP will be holding a Waterfowl Hunting Education class and mentored hunt. The 3-hour class will be held on December 12 and 13 at 5 PM and the mentored hunt for Canada geese will be on December 14 and 15. The park will be closed to the general public during the hunt for safety reasons.

There is a Sierra Club meeting Tuesday evening at 7:15, but I still don't know where. As soon as I hear, I will post the meeting here.

Don't forget the EcoFair meeting Thursday, 5:30 PM at River Bend Nature Center. With the change to the Earth Day time frame, there is much to be done in very little time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Friends of LASP Meet Thursday

The Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park (LASP) meet Thursday evening, October 6 at 7 PM at the Dining Hall at LASP. If you are interested in events coming to the park and in helping to make the park even better, plan to attend.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Upcoming Meetings of Interest

Today I'll be spending the day at the Multi-Purpose Event Center at the Living Well with Less Water symposium. I'm looking forward to learning a lot and meeting people with similar interests.

For those who were intending to go to the EcoFair planning meeting next Friday, the date has been changed. It will now be October 13, 5:30 PM at River Bend Nature Center. If you would like more information, contact River Bend at 940-767-0843.

The Red River Sierra Club will meet Tuesday, October 11 at 7:15 PM. The location hasn't yet been decided--I'll post here when I know where the meeting will be held. It is normally at a restaurant.

Rosecreek Farms in Sunset is holding a Fall Festival beginning at 3 PM on Saturday, October 15. During the festival, they will host a screening of "Fresh." You can find more information at their website. Some local Sierra Club members will probably attend. You can reach the local Sierra Club at

Hope to see some of you today at the water symposium!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Violating the Rules

Occasionally I ponder why many people don't have the same passion about the environment I do, and I have come up with 2 possible explanations:

- They are too disconnected from nature
- They don't understand the rules the environment operates under

I think the first is obvious. We don't see how small we are in the scheme of things because we have managed to create a barrier between ourselves and nature. With so many lights in the cities, you don't see any but the brightest stars. When you get out in the wide open spaces and look up, you can't  help but feel smaller--and I think it's a good think for people to feel less omnipotent.

We don't see the miracle that is life because we're disconnected from it. We've shut ourselves away from birth and death. We've lost contact with the interconnectedness of living things because we see ourselves as the only important life form on earth, and don't realize we depend upon the other life forms and chemical cycles to live. Bugs are to be killed; everything we invent is worth having; and "go forth and multiply" is a right of people and their pets--but not weeds or wildlife.

I love Walt Disney movies, but the fact is, these types of shows distort our view of nature. We think nature works like Bambi. Don't even believe it.

As a consequence of the disconnect between ourselves and nature, we have forgotten the rules the environment operates under.

- The Rule of the Commons. What is good for each individually is not necessarily good for the whole. for everyone to prosper, it may be necessary for the individual to submaximize his/her overall good. Garrett Hardin described the Tragedy of the Commons this way: a rational decision by a person that maximizes their short-term good leads to long term consequences disastrous for the person, others and the environment.
- The Rule of Unintended Consequences. We invent things or change things without understanding the consequences. For example, antibiotics are a good thing generally, but a consequence of overuse has been the development of super bugs--resistance to antibiotics of all types. DDT was heralded as a great invention and for the purpose it was invented, it was for a time. However, there were unforeseen consequences that led us to ban the use of this chemical in the US, although it is still used in other countries.
- The Rule of Environmental Economics. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Resources are finite--a choice to use that resource in one way has to be paid for, even if the payment is made later.
- The Rule of Nature. Nature wins. We think we have control over the environment--we don't. If we need a reminder, look at our drought situation, or the major floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc., that have been common occurrences in the recent past.

Somehow our disconnectedness with the environment has led us to believe (unconsciously perhaps) that the rules don't apply to us. Unfortunately, it may take some time before the consequences for our actions come due, but come due they will.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Compost Giveaway October 1

The next City Compost giveaway is scheduled for Saturday, October 1, 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM at the city landfill on Wiley Road. Take Seymour highway toward Seymour and turn onto 258 at the Kamay Y. Proceed west on 258 approximately 1 mile to Wiley Rd. Turn right. The entrance to the landfill is approximately 2 miles.

In order to receive the free compost, you have to participate in the city curbside recycling program (a misnomer in some respects, but that is what the city calls it.) Take a copy of your water bill showing the $3 recycling charge. You can receive one pickup load or one 4 x 8 trailer load. You must have a cover for the load.

It's too bad it is the same day as the Water Symposium; a lot of the same people who will be interested picking up compost will be at the Symposium--like me. But for those who can participate, this is a good deal and a suitable reward for participating in the composting program.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Successful Sikes Lake Cleanup

On Saturday September 10, the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists and Midwestern State University hosted a cleanup of Sikes Lake on the MSU campus.

The Master Naturalists have done an annual cleanup of the lake for several years. MSU provides a canopy, trash bags and hot dogs/drinks. The Master Naturalists provide the labor. We always have small groups of children from local schools help in the project. This year the turn out was overwhelming--200 community volunteers (mostly children and MSU students) turned out to help. This is significantly more than previous years. Lots of people combined with a low lake level due to the drought added up to a record amount of trash being collected. In less than 2 hours, the volunteers bagged 4000 pounds of trash.

Way to go!

The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists also conduct a cleanup of Plum Lake every quarter. The next cleanup will be on September 24, followed by a cleanup at Lake Arrowhead State Park.

The Red River Group of the Sierra Club decided last night to Adopt a Highway through the Texas Department of Transportation.

More group and more individual participation could make our community a nicer place to live. Could you help Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Events for Saturday, September 10

Saturday, September 10 is going to be a busy day. At 9:00 AM, volunteers will be conducting the annual Sikes Lake cleanup. This is an annual cooperative project between MSU and the Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. Volunteers are welcome to participate. Usually the cleanup is complete by noon. 
Also on Saturday is the Museum Stroll ' Roll. Several museums in Wichita Falls will be open free of charge and the city will provide free transportation by bus or trolley to many of them. There are several  displays of particular interest to readers of this blog which have been mentioned in previous posts. This would be a wonderful opportunity to check them out if  you haven't already (or to revisit if you have.)
Of course, River Bend Nature Center is a treat any time you get to go. They have added many exhibits this past year, so if you haven't been for a while, this would be a great weekend to stop in. The Museum of North Texas History continues A Walk on the Wild Side and the Kemp Center for the Arts is still showing the insect art of Laura Gillis.

Upcoming Program of Interest

Knowing the interests of many of the readers of this blog, I wanted to pass on information about an upcoming program at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art on Thursday, September 22, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM.

As part of the Speakers and Issues series, the museum will host Walt and Isabel Davis, "Exploring the Edges of Texas." There is no additional information on the museums website, but my understanding is the program will discuss details of an archeological site in east Texas, with natural history information. This program is approved for advanced training credit for the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists.

The program is free and open to the public.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Garden Taking Shape

I don't intend to do a lot with the garden this fall, although I am planting a little. Hubby unloaded 2 pick up loads of compost into my 8' x 20' space Saturday. I got to spread the compost about 3 - 4 inches deep.

Today I actually put in some plants and seeds--you can see there is still a lot of room. I put perennials (herbs mostly--apple mint, rosemary, lavendar) at the end near the trash bins and annuals at the opposite end. Then I put some rotted leaves down around the plants for mulch.

Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the plants are still looking pretty good tonight. They should have at least this week of 80-degree weather to get acclimated. I also planted some seeds (radishes, carrots, etc.) We'll see what comes up. It would be nice to get some rain.
Although not in this picture, I did also add some more butterfly and bird friendly plants to the area around my bird bath. It will probably be overplanted next year, but if so, I'll move some things around. I haven't prepared the other beds in the yard yet.

Hubby is starting a grape arbor in my potting area for shade and also a garden arbor at the entrance to that area. Yes, grapes for the arbor and probably coral honeysuckle (not the invasive Japanese honeysuckle) for the entryway. If I don't change my mind.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

It seems if we are truly intent on living a more sustainable lifestyle and reducing the negative impact of toxic chemicals in our lives, then having a garden makes sense.

In early spring, I didn't realize we would be moving so I planted a few tomatoes and peppers at our other house. However, we did have to move. I tried to transplant my plants from the old house to the new, but poor soil at the new location, drought and extremely hot weather spelled doom for those plants.

I've decided to plant a fall garden. I've been told by practically everyone that they do much better than the spring gardens in this climate. I have been getting itchy to get started, but am trying to keep myself under control until the 100-degree days stop, but I can still get the bed prepared.

The previous owners of this house had an 8 x 20 ft plot laid out. We were told they used it, but after looking at the soil, I can't see how they managed to harvest much.

I had my husband add an additional 4 inches of board to the sides of the beds. I think raised beds have the best likelihood of survival. I am planning to dump in several inches of compost and at least 2 inches of mulch.

I'll keep you updated on my progress and success (or lack of it, as the case may be.) Do you plant a garden?

What Are You Eating?

I found this video on Facebook/Youtube and thought I would share.

If you think you're eating "just food" when you buy produce, think again.,

Early Registration Extended for Water Symposium

Peg Marquardt of the Master Gardeners told me the $40 registration would be extended to 6 September due to the Labor Day weekend, but don't delay. This should be a great day of interesting workshops for those interested in making our water resources go farther in gardening and landscaping. After this summer, we all should be wanting to know more about that.

You can get a registration form from the County AgriLife Office or email me at and I will be glad to send one to you by email.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Water Symposium Registration Deadline Approaching

The Master Gardener North Texas Water Symposium will be October 1. For those wanting to sign up for the least cost ($40), September 1 is the deadline. You'll still be able to register up until September 16, but it will cost you more ($55.) Lunch is included in the registration cost.

With the horrific drought we are having this year, any information we can get to conserve water in our gardening and landscaping will be worthwhile. There will be 7 hours of information--Master Gardeners can count 5 toward their training requirements; the conference has been approved for 3 hours of advanced training for Master Naturalists.

If you need a conference brochure or to register, you can contact the County extension office or you can email me at and I will be happy to forward the information to you.

The conference is also looking for sponsors. If you are interested in sponsoring, contact Peg Marquardt at

I hope to see all of you at this important event.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zero Waste Kitchen

I do try to keep the amount of trash leaving our house to a minimum and what does leave, I try to be sure it recycled or composted. I read an article today, "How to Create a Zero Waste Kitchen," in Natural Home & Garden. Of course, the article never achieves zero waste, either, but the point is to reduce our impact. How many of these things do you do? Is there another idea you could incorporate into your lifestyle?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Art at the Kemp

I try to walk through the art exhibits at the Kemp periodically. Currently, they have some artwork by fellow Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalist, Laura Gillis. Laura went through our inaugural class several years ago and has gone on some breeding bird surveys and mussel watches with me over the years.

Laura sculpts metal. She had some art work on display at Earth Day at River Bend and now has several insect pieces at the Kemp. For photos of some of her work, check out a recent Times Record News article.

Laura recycles junk found along the road or given to her by others into artwork. These particular pieces celebrate some of the underappreciated members of the animal kingdom. Check it out--it's close and it's free.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reminder: A Walk on the Wild Side Opens Friday

The sneak preview for the Museum of North Texas History exhibit, A Walk on the Wild Side, is Friday night. The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday. On Saturday there will be a lot of "extras" with vendors and food. Some members of the Texas Master Naturalists will be helping interpret the exhibits for visitors. Admission is free, although donations are welcome. The museum is open 10 - 4.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Edible Wild Plants

When I was a young 'un, I remember Euell Gibbons, who was widely considered a whack job by most. However, I also remember a lot of my relatives hunting and gathering wild mushrooms and plants to supplement the all-too-meager food budget. So it's not like no one ate wild plants. They did. They just seemed to think that harvesting wild foods was done because you were poor, not because you wanted to do it. To me, it seemed a psychological barrier to acceptance, not because they didn't accept wild plants as nutritious and tasty. No one wanted to admit eating wild plants because no one wanted to admit they couldn't afford to buy food.

My friend, Paul Dowlearn of Wichita Valley Nursery, gave me a book to read: Edible Wild Plants, by John Kallas, PhD. This is intended to be one of a series of books on edible wild plants. Lots of great pictures. Detailed information on who to recognize, harvest and prepare about a dozen wild plants (this book focused on greens.) Lots of recipes. One I found fascinating was making meringue from mallow seeds or mallowmallows.

Anyway, certainly worth a look. With the price of produce, harvesting free produce could help the wallet and the diet--where known, Dr. Kallas gave nutritional information for these plants. Many kicked (metaphorical) butt over the nutritional powerhouses of spinach and broccoli.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wild Bird Rescue Garage Sale

Wild Bird Rescue will be holding a garage sale fundraiser, Saturday, September 12 at the National Association of Letter Carriers building at 5310 Southwest Parkway (next to Wichita Valley Nursery.) This is a fundraiser for the organization. Already this year, the organization has taken in over 900 wild birds--the heat and drought have not been kind to our area's wildlife.

If you have items to sell (no clothing please), please price them before dropping them off. For information on days/times to drop off donations, call Wild Bird Rescue at 940-691-0828.

The sale will be from 8 AM - 2 PM on the 12th. In addition to the sale, there will be live music and food. Please donate your unwanted items and come out on the 12th to find low cost items you need. Help yourself and Wild Bird Rescue.

If you cannot attend the event, the organization is in need of cash donations to purchase needed food and supplies. You can mail donations to 4611 Lake Shore Dr, Wichita Falls, TX 76310 or donate at the website.

Dog Days of Summer Concert

The Dog Days of Summer Concert to benefit the Wichita County Humane Society will be held at the Women's Forum, 2120 Speedway, 7 PM, Tuesday, August 9. The concert features Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin. Individual tickets are $20.

For more information, follow the link above for the Humane Society--the flyer is posted on their home page.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park Meeting

The Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park meet Thursday evening at 7PM at the Dining Hall at Lake Arrowhead State Park.

Sad Day

Yesterday, Mark Howell, Inland Fisheries Supervisor for Texas Parks and Wildlife passed away from complications from surgery. Mark was the advisor for the local Texas Master Naturalist chapter--I have worked with him for several years. Mark was a very nice person and devoted to his wife and two boys, who I know are devastated. I have had several people ask already, so here is the information on the funeral. Funeral services are Thursday, 11:00 AM at Floral Heights United Methodist. Visitation is Wednesday evening from 5 - 8 PM at Hampton Vaughn Funeral Home.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Living and Learning

Massasuga rattlesnake photo courtesy of TimVickers, Wikimedia Commons.

There is always something to learn about the environment and our place in it.

There was a full house at Laurie Hall's presentation on snakes last evening at Lake Arrowhead State Park (LASP). It was an interesting program with lots of beautiful photos she and some friends have taken of snakes that live in our area. The massasuago rattlesnake (left) was one of the snakes she talked about in her program.

The next program at LASP is on zebra mussels. It is focused on boaters to help stop the spread of the invasive zebra mussel in Texas. If you're a boater or just someone who is interested in learning more, be sure to attend the educational session on August 6, 9:00 AM at LASP Dining Hall.

Zebra mussel photo courtesty of US Geological Survey.

Also, the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists will award 3 hours of advanced training credit for the Water Symposium on October 1. The Master Gardeners will get 5 hours credit.

I haven't heard any thing about adult education programs at River Bend lately--I'll pass on the information as I get it.

Don't forget the opening of A Walk on the Wild Side at the Museum of North Texas History on August 13. In addition to the exhibit there will be a lot of other vendors and displays at the grand opening. The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists will be helping out.

The details on all of these programs are in previous posts.

Friday, July 22, 2011

More Complete Information on the North Texas Water Symposium

Fred Hall sent me the agenda/registration for the North Texas Water Symposium so I wanted to share it with all of you.

Texoma Living Well With Less Water 2011
October 1
8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Registration $40 by September 1
Registration $55 between September 2 -16
No registration after September 16


Bryan Rupp, meteorologist: Weather Outlook Now and in the Future
Scott Calhoun, author of gardening books, Strategies for Water-saving Gardens
Michael Parkey, landscape architect, Drought Tolerant Native Plants for North Texas
Kevin Gustavson, OCC/WQ, Water Conservation with Xeriscapes and Rain Gardens
Dotty Woodson, Tarrant County Extension Agent, Irrigation Efficiency

I think we all recognize the importance of conserving water in our gardens and landscapes--this should be an interesting workshop.

If you are interested, you can contact the county extension office or a member of the local Texas Master Gardeners for a registration form or you can email me at I hope there is a large turnout for this event.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

North Texas Water Symposium

A symposium on water conservation strategies for agriculture and home gardeners will be held on October 1 at MPEC. I am hoping to get the agenda and registration information today and will pass it on when received. This is an important topic; I hope a lot of people show up.

Watering Trees in a Drought

We are definitely in a severe drought. Although everyone should be cutting back on using water, the trees (even native ones) are under severe stress. You can see the evidence all over town; many trees are dying. Austin Parks and Recreation has put out a nice handout on how to water your trees to help them survive without overuse of water. I thought it would be useful to readers.

If you do lose trees this year, consider replacing with drought resistant varieties this fall.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Local Business of Interest

Wendi often comments on blog posts, so regular readers have at least seen the name of Restless Prairie Farms--there is also a link to their blog on our blogroll (right). I hope you have been keeping up with the happenings at Restless Prairie Farms and plan to check out the store opening in August.

There was a great write up in the Times Record News on Sunday. If you missed it, here is the link.

Wendi is also a contact for the grass fed beef coop, Holy Cow Beef. You can contact her at for information and an order form.

Congratulations to Wendi and her family and best wishes for success in their business.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Save the Date! A Walk on the Wild Side

A new exhibit, A Walk on the Wild Side, will open to the public at the Museum of North Texas History, 720 Indiana, on August 13, 10 AM - 4 PM.

It will feature the wildlife of our area and emphasize how people who have lived here interacted with and depended upon these animals. During the grand opening on the 13th, also present will be people with jobs that focus on the outdoors, a number of special activities for the family, and vendors of food and hunting/fishing equipment.

The museum is open free to the public, although donations are welcomed and encouraged. Come on out!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Some Programs of Interest

A couple of upcoming programs at Lake Arrowhead State Park that may be of some interest to readers. These programs are sponsored by the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park and the Rolling Plains Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists. These programs are free, but admission to the park is required ($3 per person.)

Saturday, July 23, 6:00 PM, Education Bldg: local Texas Master Naturalist Laurie Hall will be giving a program on snakes.

Saturday, August 6. 9:00 AM, Education Bldg: Assistant Fisheries Biologist Robert Mauk will be doing a program on the invasive zebra mussel.

A Clever Idea

I came across this Bee-a-Thon to promote awareness of the plight of bees and other pollinators. Sounds like fun. I don't have 12 hours to sit online to learn more about bees, but I will probably check in, and I may decide to conduct a count. I think this is a clever idea to get people talking about an important topic.

If you check out the website, you'll find lots of resources and interesting information about bees and pollinators.

A reminder that there are lots of resources as well at the Xerces Society website (that reminds me, I need to get my membership renewal done.)

Will We Never Learn?

Will we never learn? I came across this article today about a herbicide that infects the lawn to the extent that the grass clippings cannot be used to make compost. Is that insane or what? What a stupid idea.

The only good thing I read in the article was that Imprelis apparently not sold "down south" because we don't have the right kind of grass. One good thing about enduring this awful heat I suppose.

Join Me Thursday Night

Last week I was elected by default (i.e., no one else wanted to do it) to appear on Paul Dowlearn's Gardenline program to talk about the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park Thursday evening. If you would like to know more about the organization, please watch, Thursday, July 14, 7 PM on cable channel 15.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Red River Sierra Group Meeting

For Sierra Club members and others interested in environmental topics, the local Red River Sierra Club group will meet Tuesday, July 12, 7:30 PM at Atlanta Bread on the corner of Maplewood Avenue and Midwestern Parkway.

Article on "Ecosystem Gardening"

This is really a follow on to my post a few days ago about working to make our new yard more wildlife-friendly. If homeowners can do it, why not businesses, cemeteries, schools and churches?

I came across a website I think will be of interest to readers. Why not talk to your employer, pastor, etc. about making the empty lawns around most public buildings more ecofriendly? After the intial planting, I'm willing to bet that for most organizations, the maintenance costs would be less than the regular mowing, trimming, watering and fertilizing of the typical lawn, and would have the added benefit of attracting wildlife.

Note the 5 pillars:

  • Sustainable gardening

  • Soil health

  • Water conservation

  • Remove invasive plants

  • Plant native plants

Friday, July 8, 2011

Great Idea!

I found a story on a great grocery idea out of Austin. I hope they are successful! Regardless, show grocery stores that less waste in packaging is important to you by considering the amount of packaging in your shopping decisions--and let them know.

It's a Start

When we moved into our new house, I was a little bummed because the yard just wasn't the best for birds and butterflies. So, one of the first things my husband did for me was to set out the bird bath. With water and a feeder, the birds have been coming to the yard--white winged doves, mostly, but also house finches, blue jays, robins, western kingbirds, cardinals, Inca doves (once) and red-bellied woodpeckers. So not a huge variety, but it's a start.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband dug up the area for me to put flowers around the birdbath. I am trying to stick with natives that are drought/heat tolerant and preferably plants that attract birds and butterflies. My hummingbird feeder has seen no hummers--there just aren't enough flowering plants around to bring them into the neighborhood. Anyway, I planted some lantana, blue mist flower, turks cap, pigeonberry, and red ruellia. Some are perennials; others annuals that will self-seed.

So we begin. It will be a multi-year project to make the yard as pretty and as wildlife friendly as I would like, but you have to start somewhere.

What are you doing to improve the habitat in your yard?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Downer and An Upper

I was looking to experiment a little in the kitchen while my husband is gone and went to Sunshine Natural Foods to look around. I haven't been there in a while and boy what a change! The store is now half the size and very little of it is food. I was very disappointed. What they do have is replicated by United Supermarkets, which is probably why they downsized--it is hard to compete with United since it went into the organic lines. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to try to carry a lot of specialty things that United doesn't sell.

However, I was looking for some tahini to make hummus and ended up at the International Market in the little strip mall on Southwest Parkway and Fairway (Caesar's Pizza is probably the best known of the stores there.) I have been meaning to stop in and finally had a reason. I found my tahini, but also found a lot of spices and other items used in Middle Eastern, Indian and Oriental cooking. It isn't a big store, but check it out. The store doesn't open until 11:00 AM, so plan accordingly. A lot of interesting items and some fresh produce--not a lot, but some. First place I have seen mung beans for a long time.

I used to sprout mung beans, although I prefer alfalfa sprouts. There would be something that would be wonderful for Sunshine to carry--alfalfa seeds for sprouting. Have you seen the price of alfalfa sprouts in the store? They are great on sandwiches and salad. Never made your own sprouts? It's easy. I found a good YouTube video that shows the process. Give it a try!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wanna Know Why We're Fat?

I'm passing on this link to the Civil Eats blog on the change in American diets between 1970 and today. Civil Eats is one of my favorite blogs; I have a link to it on the blogroll. To play with the chart, move your cursor across the bottom of the chart from left to right and watch what happens to total calories and the circles as you progress.

Bug Fest Coming to River Bend

Bug Fest, one of the favorite annual events at River Bend will be the 25th. I am including the flyer, right, for more information.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interesting Article On the Cost of Going Green

Someone sent me an article on "10 Reasons "Going Green" Can Cost You More Green."

I think most of us who try to do the right thing for our families and our planet realize that in the current marketplace, our green choices can indeed cost us more than the usual products and services and are willing to pay the price.

However, in a couple of cases, the argument may not hold true entirely. For example: yes, if you purchase the cloth bags, you wll indeed pay more than you would using the plastic bags the store would give you for free. I have found that I have received so many cloth bags as freebies at conferences and seminars, I haven't bought bags in a long time and have plenty. Stores should consider charging customers for using their plastic bags to encourage more shoppers to go green.

Paying to have items recycled is also crazy. Currently, city residents who use the organics recycling bins pay $3/month extra for the privilege of the extra pick up. Since you can divert 60% or more of your household waste into the organics recycling, I personally think the city should charge those who do not use the recycling bin extra for putting more waste into the landfill. However, since those who pay the $3 monthly can get three pick up loads of compost a year, then it is very close to a wash. I paid $30 a pickup load of bulk compost last year. I could get $90 of compost because I recycle, greatly reducing the cost of doing the right thing.

Considering cleaning supplies. There is no doubt that purchasing Seventh Generation or Meyer's products is more expensive than the usual cleaning supplies with ammonia and chlorine in them, but truthfully, most of us could clean almost everything fine with vinegar and baking soda.

So I get the point of the article, but sometimes doing the right thing just has to be done. And is some cases we can do the right thing and still save money.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Great Backyard Campout

Each year the National Wildlife Federation sponsors the Great Backyard Campout. For the past three years, the Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists has sponsored a Great Backyard Campout event at Lake Arrowhead State Park. They will be doing this again on Friday, June 24 at Lake Arrowhead State Park. The event begins at 7 PM and lasts until 9:30 PM

There will be music at 7 PM provided by Ron Calloway, who is part of the band, Prairie Moon. The music will be followed by a nature scavenger hunt, s'more making and owl calling at dark. Families are welcome to come out for just the special event or to camp overnight. You can reserve your own camping space if you would like to stay.

There is no charge to participate in the Great Backyard Campout, although you will need to pay the admission to the park. Call Lake Arrowhead State Park for more information at (940) 528-2211.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Were all familiar with the phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The emphasis has been on recycling. Certainly recycling is an important program and all of us should participate to the maximum extent possible. However, we don't put enough emphasis on reducing the waste we generate and reusing products before they are put into the trash.

Jim Miller of the Rolling Plains Journal blog posted a link on Facebook to showing a video of plastics recycling. The video shows why this is an area where we need to improve. Recycling plastic is indeed important, but just look when you're watching the video notice just how much water people and energy goes into recycling those plastic bottles.

I used to take the plastic bottles that I did have and refill them with tap water so I would not have to throw them away. However, I was told that carcinogens leach out of the bottles when they are reused and sure enough that is the case so you can't reuse any plastic containers that were used for food unless they are specifically identified for that purpose.

If that is the case, our best option for eliminating plastics from the landfill is not to recycle plastic but to reduce to the extent possible the amount of plastic that we use. There are many products in the grocery store that used to come in glass containers that are now only available in plastic because of the weight. However, when we have choices, we should try to choose products that use the least amount of plastic possible. Our purchases are very important in determining what products are made available.

So focus on reducing your waste stream and when you can safely do so, reuse items before they are trashed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Webinar on How to Create Wildlife-Friendly Backyard

Interested in improving the habitat in your backyard (or on your business property) for wildlife? The National Wildlife Federation is hosting a webinar Thursday night to help you do just that. An RSVP is required, so register. There is no charge for this webinar.

First EcoFair Organizational Meeting

I previously posted that the EcoFair would be moving forward with some changes. The first meeting of those interested in participating in this effort has been set.

Those interested in helping to plan the 2012 EcoFair should come to Chili's at 7:15 PM on Wednesday, May 25.

If you would like more information or if you would like to be involved, but cannot make this meeting, you can contact River Bend at 940-767-0843 or email Joanna of the Sierra Club at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Farmers' Market to Open

The downtown Farmers' Market at 8th and Ohio reopens Tuesday, May 17 at 7:00 AM. Hours will be 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Tuesday - Saturday.

Buying local produce means your food is fresher and picked at the peak of ripeness. Local produce also travels much less between farm and table, reducing carbon emissions.

I know where I will be heading many mornings after my early morning walk with my friend, Sara! I hope to see many of you there.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

River Bend Summer Camps

Looking for fun and educational outdoor activities for the kids this summer? River Bend Nature Center is offering their popular summer camp programs again in June.

Sign up now--the spots go fast!

Nature at Noon, Lake Arrowhead

The Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist is planning a Nature at Noon event on the nature trail at Lake Arrowhead State Park on May 21 from noon - 2:00 PM. Come on out to Lake Arrowhead and learn more about our environment. Members of the chapter will be at the various stations on the trail to provide more information about the various stations along the trail.

Red River Sierra Club to Meet Tuesday

The Red River Sierra Club will meet at Tuesday, May 10, 7:15 PM at the Thai Orchid, 1912 Elmwood Avenue. If you're a member of the Sierra Club or are interested in finding out more, please come.

Email for more information.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

EcoFair Moving Forward

I was glad to learn tonight that River Bend Nature Center is not giving up on the EcoFair, but is likely to move the event to the spring, close to Earth Day.

At the meeting tonight, we discussed developing a committee with River Bend to include interested people in the community. Look for an announcement about an organizational meeting in May. I'll post here when I am notified.

If you're interested in encouraging such an event in Wichita Falls, I hope you'll volunteer to be part of the planning committee.

Reminder: EcoFair Meeting Tonight

Those interested in learning more about the EcoFair and discussing the future of this event are invited to a meeting at Schlotsky's in Century Plaza at 7:15 PM tonight. If you cannot come, but want to receive updates and get involved, contact Joanna at

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Earth Day Events

The Sierra Club walk on Friday evening got rained out--a severe thunderstorm with hail and lightening forced those that showed to cancel. Safety first. It was very hard to be upset when we need the rain so badly.

Photo left: Terry McKee, Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists president explains how long various types of trash can persist in the environment.

Today the Texas Master Naturalists worked with a group of kids from the Boys and Girls Club Torch Club (a leadership organization) to pick up litter at Plum Lake. It was great to see young people getting involved in making their community better.

Photo left: Kids cool down with some cold water after dropping off their trash. Several more bags were collected after this photo was taken.

After the Plum Lake cleanup, I headed out to River Bend Nature Center for their Earth Day celebration. There were plenty of children's activities and the $3 entry included entrance into the conservatory and to the trail.

Earth Day participants help Extension Agent Fred Hall mix compost.

The landscaping at River Bend is always a treat.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries biologist Mark Howell talks about our local fish with the public.

Left: The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists explained the rainwater harvesting system they installed at River Bend.

Left: Tad Gose, Lake Arrowhead State Park, shows many specimens and helps visitors learn more about the area wildlife.

Left: Rehabilitator Lila Arnold with Wild Bird Rescue shows a small visitor an eastern screech owl.

I had some budding ornithologists walk the trail at River Bend. We had some decent luck, with house sparrow, house finch, cardinal, common grackle, Carolina chickadee, red-bellied woodpecker, great crested flycatcher, tufted titmouse, blue jay and cedar waxwing were seen during our mid afternoon walk. We saw/heard a few other birds but were unable to make a positive ID.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yes, It's Earth Day

The Earth as seen from Apollo 17. By NASA.

I can remember the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. There was lots of energy and high hopes. I am not sure Earth Day has lived up to its potential, and it seems to have become another ho-hum recognition day, but at least once a year there is SOME focus on the earth and the environment.

This year Earth Day got lost in the shuffle of Easter as well as the usual life and work. However, there are some events happening--I've posted about them before. I hope you'll get out and enjoy nature (come walk with the Sierra Club, if nothing else) and reflect on how your individual choices impact the earth and rededicate yourself to make a difference.

In the Plan B documentary I posted yesterday, Lester Brown poo-poo'd the idea of individual changes--he said it's too late for that. But small individual changes do make a difference and more importantly, these reflect a will to take on the bigger challenges required to change the future. If I am not willing to use more energy-efficient light bulbs, to drive less or to eat less meat, how likely is it I am going to pressure my elected officials to fund public transportation or to regulate genetically modified foods? None.

Most people are not "born again" with a sudden insight into a new way of life. So we start where we are and move people as they are ready--and hope we can do that quickly enough.

I hope some of you can make the Earth Day celebration at River Bend tomorrow from 12 - 3. I'll be leading bird walks and would love the chance to meet you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Join the Sierra Club on Earth Day

The Red River Group of the Sierra Club will be celebrating Earth Day with a walk Friday evening. The group will be taking a walk on the city trail system from the Lake Wichita spillway, through Lake Wichita Park to Wild Bird Rescue. The group will be gathering trash as they walk.

The walk begins at 6:30 PM. Although not required, the group is asking for an RSVP, just so they know to look for you. You can RSVP to

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

PBS is streaming Journey to Planet Earth, Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization this month on their website.

I read the book by Lester Brown some time back and it is worth a read. This program will be available through April.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Earth Day Celebration at River Bend

Just a reminder that River Bend Nature Center will be holding an Earth Day event on Saturday, April 23, from noon to 3:00 PM.

$3 will get you in to the event, as well as access to the trails and the conservatory. Lots of fun, educational activities. I will be leading bird walks along the trails at the worst possible time of the day for actually seeing birds, but we'll hopefully still see something interesting.

Hope to see you there!

EcoFair Meeting Set

If you are interested in learning more about EcoFair and to discuss options, plan to attend an informal meeting at 7:15 PM, Wednesday, April 27, at Schlotsky's in Plaza Parkway off Maplewood.

For more information, contact Joanna at

Friday, April 15, 2011

EcoFair Endangered

Right: Flyer from the 2008 EcoFair A few years ago (2007 I believe) I got involved in a new Red River Sierra Club project to hold a sustainable living festival in Wichita Falls. We held the first EcoFair at Berends Landing. We had a good event the first year, with plenty of opportunity for growth. We moved the event to River Bend the second year and had some problems with the all-volunteer committee concept. After the rocky road the second year, the volunteer committee reached an agreement to turn the event over to River Bend. The thinking was the EcoFair fit the River Bend mission and was an event that could/should provide the opportunity to raise significant money to support that organization. In addition, a permanent year around staff could provide continuity which would enable better event planning, which would facilitate growth. Relying strictly on an ad hoc committee of community volunteers was just not sustainable. Since that time, the EcoFair has not fulfilled its promise. There have been relatively few businesses in the area to participate as vendors, although there are getting to be more all the time. In addition, there has been a lot of turnover and uncertainty at River Bend. Fortunately, the new Executive Director seems to be getting things under control at River Bend and several good things have been happening. Unfortunately, River Bend has apparently decided to deep six the EcoFair. I am not privy to the reasons for this--the organization may have perfectly good reasons for doing so. However, this is a loss to the community. The local Sierra Group is looking at once again taking over the EcoFair. It is unfortunate that this will once again require starting with no budget as we did the first year. When the club gave River Bend the EcoFair, it also passed on the money earned in the first two years. It wasn't a huge amount, but it was enough to allow more flexibility. I hate to see Wichita Falls lose this event. At the same time, I don't know that I have the energy and drive to take a leadership role in trying to salvage the event in 2011. If you want to take part in a discussion on this, contact the Red River Sierra Group at The organization is trying to put together a meeting next week.

Vernon Film Series

Vernon College occasioinally offers a documentary film open to the public. They have had a few of interest to the green community in Wichita Falls. On Monday, April 18, Vernon will be screening "Waiting for Superman," a highly acclaimed documentary on the state of public education in the U.S. The film will be shown 6:30 - 8:30 PM at the Wichita Falls Century City campus on Maplewood in room 201. Admission is free; however, donations are requested for refreshments. If you're interested in public education, this is a film to see.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Interested in Native Plants?

The Rolling Plains Native Plant Society is planning a field trip to LBJ Grasslands near Decatur this Sunday, April 17. If you are interested in carpooling or following the caravan, meet at Wichita Valley Nursery on Southwest Parkway at noon. You may also choose to meet the group at the park HQ at 2:00 PM. Although there have been drought conditions this year, the group should be able to see some good wildflowers and other native grasses and plants in the company of people who know their plants.

Impact of Environmental Chemicals in Reproduction

A group I am in was touring a local business recently when we came across some items stored in a box with the notation "pthalate free." We all wondered why that was important, and I did a little research for the group. It turns out phtalates are suspected of affecting the endocrine system in people, with a variety of possible impacts, especially among children. Here's a link to a story by CBS News on this chemical. I came across another article that should inspire people to make some effort to reduce their exposure to environmental pollutants. In a recent article by USA Today, environmental chemicals are cited as one of the possible reasons for early onset puberty in girls. Can you imagine going through puberty as early as 7? It was bad enough at 12/13, which was when I started that transformation (my daughter was 9 and I sure wasn't ready then either!) Guess this is one way to approach population control.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reminder: Sierra Club Meeting Tuesday Night

Just another reminder that the Red River Sierra Club Group meets Tuesday, April 12, 7:15 PM at Chili's, on Call Field Rd. The group has established an email address: so feel free to email for more information.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Volunteer Index

I noticed Texas Parks and Wildlife posted a link to their Volunteer Index. It explains the many opportunities to volunteer for various projects to support Texas Parks and Wildlife in their mission. It's unfortunate that there are never enough funds to do everything that needs to be done, but that is the way it is. In our area we have the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists and the newly formed Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park. Certainly with the budget picture shaping up in Texas will mean even less money for needed projects. That means if we want to have state parks with good amenities for the public, to know more about our state's environment and to monitor our resources, the extra effort is going to have to come from us. Get acquainted with these groups and others that are so important and think about volunteering. None of us can do everything, but we can all do something that will have a positive impact on our community and our environment.

City Cleanup Saturday

I can tell in moving around the city that we didn't have the huge turnout for the community cleanup we needed, but some areas look a lot better than they did before. When I was on my way to Scotland Park to register our group, I passed a group of about 50 men who were cleaning up the horrible mess under the overhead at the Kell intersection. If there was an area that needed to be cleaned up, that was it. A big thank you to whatever group tackled that area. The Texas Master Naturalists had Lucy Park. The city had already done a very good job of cleaning up the main area of the park due to a community activity that afternoon, so our group concentrated on the rear, wooded area of the park. We spent nearly 3 hours and hauled out a lot of trash and some aluminum cans for recycling. We didn't get it as neat as we would have liked, but other projects had us leaving shortly after noon, so we had to stop. Many thanks to the Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful organization for sponsoring this event and to the many volunteers that came out that day.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Joke's on Me

Well, the joke is on me this morning. I was talking to Jim Miller of the Rolling Plains Journal this morning at a Chamber of Commerce and Industry event and he asked me about Restless Prairie Farms. I told him that I noticed the name on the followers list for this blog, but I didn't know the person. He was telling me about all of the great things she was doing, and I decided I had to meet her. So when I got home, I shot off a "we need to get acquainted" email, and then start googling. Surprise! I know the author of the Restless Prairie Farm blog. Once I found it and started looking through old posts, I found a picture of one of the trainees in our current Texas Master Naturalists spring training class. We have talked some--not a lot, as there isn't a lot of spare time in the classes. I just never put the two together. Those living in Wichita Falls wanting to know more about sustainable living need to check out her blog, so I am adding a link on the blog roll. Sign up! I also found another local blog on baking I thought was interesting and added it to the blog roll as well. We are slowing building a community. Hurray! Spread the word and let other like-minded folks know about some of these interesting blogs and people.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Red River Sierra Group Meeting

The Red River Sierra Group meets the second Tuesday of each month. It does change locations, which can make it tricky to keep up. However, the group will meet this coming Tuesday, April 12 at Chili's at 7:15 PM. They chose Chili's this month because of the PETS Pantry fundraiser taking place at the restaurant that night. The Sierra group is relatively small, although there are many Sierra Club members in the area. The group will be talking about several upcoming activities so plan to attend. For more information, contact Joanna Bonnheim, the group chair, at

River Bend Lecture Series

The next presentation in River Bend Nature Center's Lecture Series will be Monday, April 11 at 7:00 PM. Daniel Nix, Utilities Operations Manager in Wichita Falls, will be talking about water conservation. This is an important topic, so I hope many of you can come out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heirloom Tomatoes Have Arrived

You'll recall a few days ago I posted a link to a Craig's List ad for heirloom tomatoes. My heirloom tomatoes arrived Saturday, and I am looking forward to getting them into the ground. After a high of 98 yesterday and an expected low in the 30's tonight, I am probably going to move my plants to the covered back porch and cover them tonight and then plant them later in the week. Jim Miller wrote a neat blog post about his tomatoes and the lady who sells them. Check it out--just goes to show most people have a story. In the meantime, I will probably either have to transplant all of my veggies into pots or try to transplant them later as our landlady has decided to sell our house, so the ones I have out will not be able to finish here. Anyway, we're looking for a place in Wichita Falls, to if you know of anything, email We have pets.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Earth Day Celebration at River Bend

River Bend Nature Center will celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 23, from noon - 3. The schedule is still being developed, but I will be there leading bird walks along the trail.

I'll post more information as it becomes available.

Don't forget to take your garage sale items to River Bend this week. The resale event is April 9.

Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful Needs Your Help

All of us prefer to live in a good looking city. The nonprofit, Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful (KWFB), would like to do a lot more to make our city more liveable, but in order to do so, they need help. This is a small group, and they desperately need energetic Board members and other members who want to get involved in activities to make the community a more beautiful place to live and work. If you are interested in learning more, contact Rachel at

Spring Cleaning in Wichita Falls

Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful is sponsoring a community cleanup on April 9. Interested individuals and groups should meet at Scotland Park at 9:00 AM to pick up bags and to be assigned a location. If you've looked around while driving in Wichita Falls, you know a thorough clean up is overdue. We didn't have a big turn out last year, so help spread the word and recruit some workers. I have taken part in many clean ups and it is amazing how much trash you can pick up in just a couple of hours.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


One way we can all live more sustainably is to grow some of our own food. I added a few vegetable plants in the flower beds where we removed some invasives this past year. Today Jim Miller pointed me to an ad selling some heirloom tomato plants on Craig's list. Heirloom plants are open pollinated and grown in an earlier era. They come in many varieties not commonly seen now. Take a look at some of the varieties shown in the referenced ad, for example. They provide the opportunity to maintain some of the genetic diversity in our food crops, and give us the chance to experiment with more colors, flavors and textures than we can easily find in our stores. It's also a stick in the eye to Monsanto, which I am all for. I contacted Sherry and she is delivering some plants to me in Wichita Falls on Friday. You may be able to get your order in for this week. If not, she'll be back in town next Friday. Along with the tomatoes I already put it, I'll probably have more tomatoes than I know what to do with this year, but we'll see. The heat hasn't arrived yet. Now for some herbs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Three Water Topics

First, I went to the Red River Authority Clean Rivers Program meeting today and heard some interesting speakers and had a nice lunch (thanks, RRA!) Although all of the presentations were of interest to me, I was looking forward to three presentations in particular--I wasn't disappointed. An opportunity to get involved in the Region B water planning process is coming up on May 18 at 10:00 AM. The Region B Water Planning Group will be holding an public meeting to get input on the scope of planning activities for the next round of water planning. There was also an interesting article on coming water shortages on the Nature Conservancy blog today. Although international in focus, the US has not and will not escape having to deal with issues of water quality and quantity.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wichita Falls Compost Giveaway April 2

Instead of typing all of the details here, I am giving you the link to the 30-second YouTube video with all of the details. Be sure to take your water bill and something to cover your load.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Looks Like a Drought

We have not had any rain this year. If it wasn't for the two winter storm events in February, I don't believe we have had any precipitation this year. According to a post I saw on Facebook from a local TV station, so far this year we have the worst drought in 44 years. Although I am hoping the weather breaks and we get some of this moisture that has been teasing us for weeks, right now it's just plain dry and dusty, which doesn't bode well for plants or animals.

I was at Wichita Valley Nursery yesterday and saw some olla pots with information on using them as drip irrigation. Olla pots are unglazed terra cotta pots that are buried in the garden and filled with water. The water slowly seeps out of the pot into the surrounding soil, keeping it moist near the roots of the plants. We certainly qualify as arid right now. I didn't ask Paul how much he was selling his pots for, but online they are pretty pricey. If anyone has local sources and prices, please post a comment.

If you happen to be artsy/craftsy (I'm definitely not), then I found a video on making your own olla pots on YouTube. Ignore what seems to be narration that you can barely hear at the beginning--it is a radio in the background. The person doesn't talk at all in the video.

Since we will almost certainly be on watering restrictions soon if we don't get some significant rain soon, now is a good time to look at alternatives for low water use in your yard and garden.

Easy Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Today's post is a guest blog by Krista Petersen. Krista is an aspiring writer and recent graduate from the University of Central Florida. As a Health and Safety Advocate, she shares a strong passion for the wellness of others in her community and for the environment. Krista uses her writings to spread awareness of such issues to help encourage others to live the healthiest and most eco-friendly lifestyle possible.

With an increased movement for sustainability and going green in Wichita Falls, there are always some new ways to go about helping the environment. One way to make some great sustainable steps is to help cut out toxins in the home, by finding suitable alternatives to some products, thus improving indoor air quality. By finding some of these alternatives, we can cut down the risk of health problems like asthma, nausea, mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer.

Cleaners and pesticides can be major sources of toxins in the home reducing air quality. Pesticides can be used a ton both inside and outside the house, yet they can be pretty dangerous. A couple ways to go about cutting down on toxins from pesticides is to use them only on the outside of the house, along with that plan, you can start removing your shoes before coming in from outside to prevent from tracking more of these chemicals in. Many of today's common house cleaning supplies, from types of window cleaners to different floor solutions can be loaded with toxins like triclosan and formaldehyde. Thankfully, there are a number of organic options in most stores these days, as well as the option to make your own cleaners as well.

Paint is another common product that can often be high in toxins, thus not good for indoor air quality. When using paint for decorating or maybe even with a project around the house, exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) are a possibility. Most paints are very high in VOC's; luckily there are usually great alternatives available. Most popular hardware stores carry low-VOC paints that are safer and will cut down on the risk of asthma and respiratory problems that can be brought on by repeated exposure to VOC's.

Another way to cut down on a risk of toxins is to have older homes checked for asbestos insulation. Asbestos was a commonly used fiber throughout the 1900's in all sorts of buildings and homes. Workers in many factories with asbestos began to develop mesothelioma, as health officials began to take notice. With mesothelioma life expectancy being particularly low, asbestos was soon blacklisted and removed from many structures. Although not used today, the possibility of asbestos in older buildings and houses around Wichita Falls is a possibility. Using some green insulation alternatives such as cotton fiber or foam spray can also be an efficient, cost effective substitution.

As seen, there are some easy steps that can be taken to improve indoor air quality all around Wichita Falls and everywhere else. By taking some of these steps we can not only improve indoor air quality, but also cut down on potential health risks from toxins around the house.