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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

River Bend Reuse Sale

Here's a chance to support River Bend Nature Center, clean out stuff you no longer need/want and pick up items you can use for cheap.
Take your unwanted items to River Bend the week of April 2 - 8 and then shop on April 9. River Bend doesn't have room to store donations, so please don't take them early.
Let's support River Bend in this event.

Interested in Water Resources?

If you are, you should consider attending the Texas Clean Rivers Program Red River Basin Advisory Committee meeting. The meeting is open to the public. Details:

March 29, 2011, 9:30 AM
Red River Authority of Texas
3000 Hammon Rd
Wichita Falls, TX


Welcome and Introduction

Nutrient Criteria Standard Development

Presentation of the Draft 2011 Basin Highlights Report for the Canadian and Red River Basins

Review and Discussion of Current Monitoring Activities and Recommendationsfor Fiscal Year 2012

An Overview of Water Quality Projeccts in the Rolling and High Plains

Design for an Investigation of Concentrations of Pharmceutical and Personal Care Products in the Trinity River, Dallas, TX

Invasive Species Management and Control in Texas

General Comments and Discussion

The Red River Authority will provide lunch, but you need to RSVP to Stacey Gree at the RRA by March 24. You can reach her at 940-723-2236 or

I plan to attend and would like to see other interested citizens there. Let me know if you're planning to attend and we can meet up. Just email

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Food and Agriculture

A new report from the UN highlights some of the problems with sustainable agriculture, recommending an agroecology focus.

Although the focus of the report is international and from a human rights perspective, there is much food for thought for policy makers, food producers and consumers. The report identifies three objectives:
  • Adequate supply of food
  • Increase income of small farmers
  • Must not compromise the ability to meet future needs (i.e., be sustainable)

It is a fascinating report for those interested in the subject.

100% Plant-based Plastic Bottle

By now, all of you who read this blog know my war against plastic bottles. Well, PepsiCo has apparently broken the code on how to make plastic bottles entirely from plant waste. Although this is still a disposal problem in Wichita Falls, it is a step forward in reducing our use of fossil fuels. The bottles aren't available yet--the company will be conducting a test next year and if successful, will convert all of its bottled drinks to this new bottle.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Beautiful Morning at Lake Arrowhead State Park

Saturday was gorgeous at Lake Arrowhead State Park. The Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park and the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists sponsored a cleanup of the park. Many members of both groups as well as some other volunteers gathered at the dining hall (near the fishing piers) to pick up trash bags, gloves and grabbers and gather trash.

The park was very busy, with spring break in full swing. Every campsite was full, the boat ramp parking full with trucks and trailers, the fishing piers packed, and many of the picnic pavilions in use. It was good to see so many people out.

The lake level is low, since we haven't had rain in a long time. Between the low water level and the burn the park conducted in January, most of the paper trash was gone, but the cans and bottles were easy to spot. We were able to pick up several bags of trash in a short time and then enjoyed hot dogs on the patio.

I took some picutres, but have managed to misplace my hook up to download them into my computer, so later for those.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interesting Sales Video

This video is targeted to companies selling green products using the internet. I thought it interesting even if you are a consumer. Basically, how men and women differ in their approach to making purchasing decisions on the internet.

Another Solar Screen Vendor

Back in August I posted about the excellent results some of the people I know have had reducing their energy consumption with solar screens installed by Builders Wholesale.

I was contacted by another company this weekend which installs solar screens. I don't know the people who own this company nor at this point have I talked to any customers, but I am glad to know there are more companies offering products and services to help our community be more sustainable. The company is Texoma Sunscreens; Keith and Jennifer McDaniels are ready to answer your questions or to provide a free estimate.

If you come across other companies in Wichita Falls that offer products or services that would interest people in the community who are trying to live more sustainably, please send the information to me at I would love to pass on the information.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lake Arrowhead State Park Cleanup March 19

The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists and the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park are sponsoring a park cleanup on Saturday, March 19, beginning at 9:00 AM.

Interested individuals and groups are welcome to volunteer. For more information, contact Terry McKee at

Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful Hosting Strategy Session. Recruitment Drive

The nonprofit Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful (KWFB) is looking for new members and ideas to keep Wichita Falls clean and green. Interested people and groups are invited to attend a reception at River Bend Nature Center at 5:00 PM tonight, March 8.

KWDB is looking for energetic people who want to live in a community free of litter, beautification project planning, recycling and green effort education and brining people and groups together with the goal of beautifying streets, neighborhoods, parks and businesses in Wichita Falls.

Come tonight to River Bend or contact Rachel Brown, President of KWFB, at or or 940-733-5819.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winged Migration Program Tonight

"Winged Migration: Mysteries of Bird Migration" is tonight at River Bend Nature Center, 7 - 9 PM. If you've wondered how and why birds migrate, come tonight.

Members get in free; non-members pay $3 for admission.

The program will qualify for advanced training for Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review: Attracting Native Pollinators

On January 17, I announced a presale on Attracting Native Pollinators from the Xerces Society. I ordered a copy and received it a little over a week ago. I finally took some time to take a good look at it and all I can say is, "You gotta get a copy!"

The first thing that catches your attention is the pretty pictures. I'm perfectly capable of reading a non-illustrated book, but hey, I am not above becoming absorbed in beautiful pictures of flowers, butterflies, and bees. After all, it works for Birds and Blooms, doesn't it?

The book discusses why pollinators are important and why they're struggling. Then the authors' provide strategies for helping preserve and improve habitat from urban landscapes to parks and farms/ranches. The book also describes how to make a number of low cost pollinator shelters and suggests appropriate plants for your garden. If you don't feel ready to make the leap to design your own garden, they have plans for several layouts with regional lists of appropriate plants (to include ours.)

You can't go wrong with this book. For everyone trying to make our community a more liveable and sustainable place for both people and other living things, I highly recommend getting and using a copy. I bought mine from the Xerces Society since I am a member and support the organization, but I found the book on for cheaper, so feel free to go that route--just get one. Remember, if you purchase from Amazon consider accessing through Wild Bird Rescue's website, and they will receive a portion of the proceeds. I know that and seem to rarely remember.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

OK, so I was not on the ball enough to get the word out early in the week on this, but at least I got to it before the week was over. One can expect only so much. This is National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

I admit I haven't been doing my share on documenting invasive plant species for Texas Invasives this past year, but I have gotten rid of many invasive plants in my yard, so I am not a complete loss.

The bottom line here: species that we import frequently are harmful to our native plants and animals and decrease biodiversity. More insects, butterflies and other important species live on native plants than on invasives.

We can each help by learning which species are invasive, planting native species in our yards and eradicating invasives whenever we can.

New Organization Born

Those that are regular readers of this blog know that a Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park group has been trying to get up and running the last few months. I am pleased to announce that the group passed the bylaws this evening and several other administrative and financial hurdles have been passed, so tonight the group was born. At the beginning of the meeting, 21 people had paid dues and more joined this evening.

The Friends of Lake Arrowhead have several projects upcoming, some in conjunction with the Rolling Plains chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. Some upcoming events:

  • 19 March: Lake cleanup, 9:00 AM - Noon. You can participate whether or not you are a member of the organization. Both the Friends of LASP and the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists will have information about their organizations there for those who may be interested.
  • 13, 14 May: Buffalo Soldiers event. Although not sponored by the Friends of LASP, the park staff could use a few extra hands for the event.
  • 4 June: Kids Fishing Day. Although the Texas Master Naturalists usually have several volunteers out that day, more are always welcome to help the kids enjoy the fishing experience--for several, it may be their first exposure to the sport.

Several more activities will be coming up. Watch for announcements.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Indoor Compost?

I saw this post on Facebook from The Herb Companion, and I had to share. The article, "Easy Indoor Compost" sounds interesting.

I like to grow fresh herbs and I like to compost (although I am not practicing that right now) but this looks interesting, and I think I will give it a try when I can find the appropriate bucket. So the idea of being able to make small amounts of compost in the house sounds like a great idea.

I'll let you know--or if you have tried it, let me know.

Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park Meeting

The next meeting of the Friends of Lake Arrowhead State Park is Thursday, March 3, 7:00 PM at the Education Building (better known as the Dining Hall.)

A number of items will be discussed, but the primary item of business is the review and hopefully adoption of the organization's bylaws. Members may also pay their dues ($10 individual/$15 family/$5 students.) We will also be discussing upcoming events.

If you are interested in improving our local state park, please come.

Texas Master Naturalist Spring Training Registration Deadline Fast Approaching

If you're interested in the Texas Master Naturalist program, the Rolling Plains chapter Spring training is coming soon. Classes begin on March 22, but the registation deadline is March 14 so the curriculum can be ordered to be here the first night.

We often have people take the class just to learn more about our area's natural history, even though they do not plan to become a certified Texas Master Naturalists. This is especially true for teachers.

The course includes 4 field trips and 14 class sessions. The instructors are primarily MSU professors although some classes are taught by members of the local Texas Master Naturalists or professionals in a given field of expertise.

Registration is $80 ($70 for full-time college students.) The complete schedule and registration information is available from Mark Howell at Inland Fisheries. His phone number is 940-766-2383.