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.