Cleveland County Conservation District
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Helping People Reconnect To Our Environment

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Bring It On!

Posted on July 23, 2015 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Wow, has it been a busy summer so far! We have a lot of programs going on right now from our Beginning Farmer Workshop series we call, Fields Of Oklahoma Dreams (FOOD for short) to our Summer Scavenger Hunt for kids and kids at heart.  

This is a pic of our first Workshop for FOOD.  A panelist of speakers covering diverse operations in agriculture, from a Community Supported Agriculture farmer, to specialty crops grown in Hoop Houses for Farmer's Markets and restuarants.  As you can see it was a full house!  Since that workshop, we have also had workshops covering; Farm Business Plans, Conservation Plans, Soil Health, How to take a proper soil test, Composting and Cover Crops. Future FOOD workshops will cover; pollination, chickens, brush management, range management, hydroponic agriculture, Hoop Houses and so much more.  You can find more information under Education. 

Look what else we've been doing!  We've given away 5 barrels since the beginning of this year, and we have more ! Join us on facebook for your chance to enter to win a 55 gallon Drum!!!  www.facebook.com/cleveccd


Michele Stewart was excited to pick up the drum that she won! 


We have over 70 families participating in our Summer Scavenger Hunt! Each participant received a rain drop that they were encouraged to personalize and they registered their names.  Every Monday we send our raindrops on a Quest all over the county learning more about their environment!  We give away weekly prizes and have set up a Facebook group for them to share their adventures and pictures! This challenge was to make a musical instrument using only recycled materials. 


This summer we've also assisted through our cost share program to build 2 water wells and clear over 9 acres in Eastern Red Cedar.  

It's been really busy, but this fall is going to be even busier!  We have more FOOD workshops planned as well as some Green Acres Primary School of Urbanites Workshops, some Green Living Workshops, the 50 Gallon Challenge and an HOA program.  Keep supporting YOUR local Conservation Districts!!!!! 







FOOD Workshop #3

Posted on June 24, 2015 at 12:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Summer Scavenger Hunt

Posted on June 16, 2015 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Summer Scavenger Hunt

Posted on May 28, 2015 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Are you looking for something fun to do with the kids this summer......or are you just a big kid yourself?  We are going to have a FREE Summer Scavenger Hunt!  Our RainDrop, Splash Gordon has invited 200 of his friends to lead you on an adventure! Beginning June 1st - 4th you can come by our office, pick up an earth bag & rain drop.  You will also be asked to register your rain drop's name! Each member of your family can participate with their own rain drop and earth bag.  

Then every Monday we will post a clue on our website and Facebook page as to your destination, you will be asked to either gather something or take a Rain Drop Selfie with the item.   Some weeks we will have more than one destination, but we won't send you outside Cleveland County.  We will offer some weekly prizes for being the first to figure out and find the clue, or best posed selfie, maybe even best dressed rain drop.  At the end of the summer the first 3 people to complete the hunt will also receive some prizes and a certificate! If each member of your family participates and comes in together to turn in their evidence, each member will receive a small prize and one family prize. 

Here's some more fun stuff.  The District will set up a group page for participants.  You can share clues, pics, stories or just chat!  We encourage you to personalize your rain drop, paint a face, add hair, make it a hat....whatever! 

Now for the boring stuff.  The District is not responsible for accidents and you will be asked to sign a form, so PLEASE use caution when gathering your evidence.  This Hunt is open to anyone who wants to participate of any age. Weekly photo evidence or "rain drop selfies" can be logged in at our email address [email protected]  LET THE HUNT BEGIN! 

A FLOOD OF ATTENTION

Posted on May 11, 2015 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

 

These last 4 days have taught me a lesson......... water goes where water wants to go. And I guess it felt a need to be in my living room, dining room and kitchen. Oklahoma is definitely a feast or famine state.

 

But, if disasters can have silver linings, this one has to be that all this flood water will bring attention to our local City's storm drain systems and our State's Flood Control Structures by the citizens of Oklahoma and the tradional press. It's time a light was shined!  Can you image how much more devastating these past 4 days would have been without these structures in place and functioning the way they were designed to function?  And what about the days ahead, as these flood waters make their way to the Red River and more rain is in our forecast. 

 

The State of Oklahoma has 2,107 flood control structures that have to be maintained every year through the Conservation Districts.  Of those structures, 249 are considered High Risk using the current state damn safety criteria. Even worse, according to Trey Lam, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), 300 damns were deemed needed but were not constructed due to lack of funds. Last July the Federal Government gave OCC half the funds to repair 11 of those High Risk Structures with the understanding that the State of Oklahoma would contribute matching funds of $8.8 Million. This is before our Legislature right now and we are all waiting with bated breath for the outcome. If we can't come up with the matching funds, we could potentially have to return the Federal money. What can you do to help?

 

Well, you can make sure that your grass clippings and leaf litter don't make it out into our streets to clog up our storm drains.  Then you could contact your State Representatives and encourage them to learn more about YOUR local Conservation Districts and Flood Control Structures!   Districts play a huge role, dare I say a starring role, in conservation and environmental issues facing the natural resources of our state.  We play such an important role, that a Bipartisan Concurrent Joint Resolution was signed on March 30th by the US House of Representatives and U. S Senate, recognizing the value of locally led conservation and Conservation District's efforts across our nation. 

Show some love for YOUR Conservation District, ask your Representatives to support our efforts as we continue to protect our natural resources and compost your leaves and grass.  These last 4 days have taught me a lot about flooding and it reminded me of something I heard once that I think applies here about Mother Nature.  "If Mother's not happy, ain't no one going to be happy".  Truer words have never been spoken.  

-Chris Ward

New Workshop Series!

Posted on April 3, 2015 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

We are pleased to announce that we will be kicking off a new workshop series called, Fields of Dreams on April 23rd at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman.  

This FREE series will help you develop your dream farm operation.  The next workshop in this series will address; loans, grants, business plans, location and licenses.  Some of our other future workshops will concern; Beekeeping, Soil Health, Composting, Marketing, Aquaponic Systems, Hoop Houses, No till, Goats, chickens and so much more!

If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected] 





Herb Appeal

Posted on April 1, 2015 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (1)



I recently had the opportunity to ride along with the District Conservationist for the Norman Field Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service,(NRCS).  It turns out we were visiting Betty Leggiero from Kudo's Medicinal Herb Farm.  I know Betty, she has attended several workshops that the District has conducted.  But, today we were visiting her to check out her brand spankin new Hoop House.

                                                                       

Betty had received Cost Share Funds through the NRCS to build the Hoop House and it was time for a spot check. Betty also received some Technical Assistance concerning Grassed Waterways and Diversions to handle soil erosion.  While they were busy discussing business, I took a walk around and what I saw impressed me! 



Betty has a green roof!  And rain barrels are everywhere! 



And she tells me that she couldn't have built her roof without the help of these guys.  OU Sustainability Department Students came in droves to work on this project.  They added Cottonseed Hulls, Vermiculite and Coconut hulls, then topped it with mulch.  The whole project took 3 hours. 




She uses solar! 



Then, there was the chickens and chickens coops, her composting, and the HERBS!  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed visiting Betty and brushing up against herbs.  She didn't even say anything when she caught me snipping a sprig of Rosemary to tuck into my pocket.  When was the last time that you were able to visit one of Cleveland County's local producers????  Well, you're in luck because Betty's Kudos Farms will be at Norman's Farmers Market beginning April 4th, go by and say HI! 







THE LONG HAUL

Posted on September 11, 2014 at 12:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I have often said that my mind works in mysterious ways, for instance last week I was stuck behind a trash truck and as the not so gentle smell drifted towards me I started to wonder, "How much food is in that truck?".

Now I know that other things can contribute to the smell, used diapers for instance, but it's mostly food. And from there my mind was off and running. I started to make up scenarios in my head about what happened to put the food in the trash; burnt meals, sell by date rejects, left overs, new recipes that went horribly wrong, or produce that was left to become someone's High School experiment.

Then my mind jumped to the cost of that wasted food. How many food dollars were in that truck, how much does it cost the city to clean the trucks, does the food lead to other issues at the landfills such as scavengers? Who pays to control them? What about the health of the workers? Is their health affected due to transporting all this rotting food?

I don't have the answers to any of these questions, so unfortunately they will have to remain a mystery. What I do know is none of that food heading to the landfill belongs to me, I compost! And because I compost, I have healthy soil, a clean trash can and happy worms. For me, composting is where it's at, and I'm in it for the Long Haul. My mind can rest a little easier because I also know that I'm not alone, more and more people are practicing composting at home, and that is a big load off my mind!

-Chris Ward

THE OLD BAIT & SWITCH

Posted on May 12, 2014 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

  Have you ever heard the old Chinese Proverb, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime" - Lao Tzu?  It's the kind of proverb that raises goosebumbs and gives us continual hope for mankind. But human nature being what it is the environment usually comes out with the fuzzy end of that lollipop.  Truthfully the proverb should say this, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll need to go to Wal-Mart". 

Cause realistically he's gonna want stuff, a rod, reel, waders, a cool hat, tackle box and accessories, cooler, nets, stink bait, and eventually a boat with sonar & radar, a trailer, new truck and a time share cabin near some pristine mountain stream. And who could call themselves a true fisherman without a bumper sticker that says, "Work is for people who don't know how to fish".  We can't seem to help ourselves, it's beyond our control.  It's the call of Retail, from an early age we have been convinced that every hobby, life experience or right of passage requires a ton of stuff.

But what if we're wrong?  What if all fishing requires is a rod, reel, some worms and a desire to eat? What if living environmentally friendly worked like that as well?  What if all you needed was an awareness of conservation?  What if it wasn't the right recycling bin or rain barrel, what if its more about what you don't do instead of what you have?  Being environmentally friendly isn't complicated, but we humans are contrary over achieving creatures.  

I'm an professional student of human nature.  I watch my neighbors every spring haul out; lawn mowers, fertilizer spreaders, weed eaters, trimmers, edgers, leaf blowers and sprinklers.  I have lunch with a friend who hunts, he tells me about his deer stand and how proud he is of the watering/feeding station he ordered from the internet and set up under his tree. He tells me about his night vision goggles with zoom, the new camouflage vest with 20 pockets and how long it takes to set up his motion sensors.

I'm not above the laws of Human Nature either.  Several years ago, I took a cake decorating class with my sister and like every other student, I got sucked into buying every item known to man to decorate a cake.  If the Cake Boss ever collapses with a sugar coma, he can rest easy knowing that I've got his back.  

But when it comes to being environmentally friendly, less is more. Less packaging, less water, less electricity, less travel, less stress and less stuff to keep up with.  There's nothing fishy about being green, its all about less and nothing more.

-Chris Ward

Happy EARTH Day!!

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

 Today is Earth Day, and being an everyday environmentalist it makes my Top Ten Favorite Holiday list.  Granted, it doesn't have a cool spokesman like Santa, Cupid or the Easter Bunny, but nonetheless, we got game!

Since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, we've come a long way.  During speaking engagements, I no longer see blank stares pointed in my direction when I use words like; conservation, composting or reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.  If I ask how many people in the room; practice water conservation, worm composting or energy efficiency, have a rain barrel, use organic methods, or grow their own I see at least 3-4 hands shoot up and wave with pride.

Green practices if you want to call them that, no longer belong to the outer fringes.  It's not a fad; these practices have developed into society norms.  They have become a part of our daily lives.  Large corporations research and develop new packaging and products that are gentler on our environment.  Take Back & Recycling Programs are in stores, large chains sell "green" lines.  Farmers Markets and grocery stores that support local produce are popping up everywhere.  Cities around the country and the world are paying attention to water conservation and have recycling programs.

Do I think that our environmental problems have been solved? No, we have a long hard road ahead of us.  But for today, our 44th Earth Day, let's take a moment to appreciate how far we have traveled down that road already and celebrate our successes.  Go hug a newly planted tree, recycle something or start a compost system.  Then, throw a trash free, paper free, locally sourced picnic in Earth Day's honor.  Take the day to celebrate because tomorrow it's back to work and we have a lot left to do.

Now that I think about it, we have a pretty cool spokesman for our Earth Day holiday, its right beneath your feet, above your head and wrapped all around you.  And as soon as we can figure out how to significantly scale down its size, Earth will be coming to a mall near you so your kids can sit in its lap for those holiday photo opps that are so important to grandmas everywhere.

Happy EARTH Day!

-Chris Ward

WAR OF THE HOSES

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

And so it begins.  Spring is coming and with it, boundary lines are drawn, troops are assembled and weapons are chosen.  As the days warm up and the sun appears more and more often, Lawn Soldiers paint their faces with sunscreen, put on the official uniform of Spring (favorite faded T-shirt, Panama shorts and Flip Flops) and leave the safety of base camp to fire the first shots of water for the season.

Hoses are dragged out of hiding and prominently displayed as a sign that war is on the horizon.  The sovereignty of each home gathers together to discuss battle plans and the best methods of maintaining the envied green lawn for each Castle in the neighborhood.  Fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, sprinklers, and hoses are all discussed, debated and chosen.   And in the midst of this fight against nature to keep bermuda green, my little acreage declares its neutrality by attaching my drip and soaker hoses to rain barrels.....and they don't lead to the lawn.

I am not anti-lawn.  I am however, anti-using our drinking water sources to keep a bermuda lawn green in a state that has temperatures an oven would envy. I am against  fighting the natural defenses a lawn uses to stay alive during drought.  I'm okay with not watering my lawn. I'm okay with replacing it with beds of drought tolerant pIants when I can. I'm okay with letting it go dormant in the summer, and it turns out that the City of Moore is okay with it too, as I found out when a neighbor complained last summer.

The Battle of the Hoses will rage on for another year. But I do see signs of hope, because last year 3 more lawns in my neighbor went a beautiful shade of brown, every year more and more people call the District asking about Rain Barrels. The Cities of Oklahoma City, Moore and Norman have a permanent mandatory odd/even rationing of our water. I see more drip lines being installed and people are talking about water conservation. It is very encouraging, and someday soon, someone will drive past my house and envy my tan lawn.  I believe it because I have faith that society will recognize that in some instances brown is the best way to stay green.

-Chris Ward

PRISON GREENS

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

 Have you ever felt like a prisoner in your own home?  Hiding your vehicle in your garage, afraid to turn on lights or pass by windows, even going so far as to reposition the TV so the glow or sound can't be detected? No matter how cautious you are they will always wait you out, and it's the little things that gets you in the end.  For me it was the mail.  It was stacking up and I was cracking up.  I dreamt about the mail, I worried about it and finally I couldn't take it anymore. I took every precaution, I waited for the cover of darkness, I wore dark clothes, I checked for movement in the street and left the house by the side garage door hugging the wall, dashing behind shrubs until finally......I ran smack into him at the end of my driveway. How was I to know that he had assessed the situation and had determined that staking out my mailbox was his best bet for victory?  I was caught.

It wasn't always like this, we moved into this neighborhood with a dream of building a garden.  We didn't know that our personal snake would appear under the disguise of a CPA wearing golf shorts. It started off small, borrowing a rake, a shovel or shears, but over the years the demands got bigger; plant starts, seeds, even the free services of me or my son.  It was endless, I had a springtime "Borrow-it-all" stalker and he had stealthily tracked me down.

I have finely honed Oklahoma values; friendliness, compassion and the will to help my neighbors and strangers alike and I was ashamed that I had resorted to hiding from this one.  I took a deep breath and waited to find out which of my tools I would lose for the season, but this time.....this time he went to far!  He wanted my compost!!!  My compost!  My pile of rotted veggie matter and poo that my worms have turned into piles of gold.  He tried appealing to my ego, "you have the best garden in the neighborhood, blah, blah, blah", "I want to grow my own veggies too, blah, blah, blah", "I want to grow up to be the amazing green goddess and example for the entire world to follow that you are".  Ok, that last bit I made up, but he did add a couple of pounds to my obese garden vanity, and truthfully I did enjoy this portion of our conversation. But....MY COMPOST!  I was tired of always getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop every time he came to visit and my famous creative oratory skills came to my rescue as I said, "not gonna happen"! 

I explained that I would be happy to teach him how to compost, I would gladly give him some worms, I would even take the time to show him how to mix his compost to come up with the perfect recipe of needed additives for his soil, but I would not under any circumstances SHARE my compost. And just in case he was feeling feisty, I reminded him about my attack bunnies in the backyard. I need my compost, I grow my early season greens straight into my compost.  I never have enough compost.

I said no, and he was okay with that, he asked to borrow my lawn mower instead and we both walked away from the encounter happy.  It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe he pulled a fast one.  Could it be that a Golf Shorts wearing CPA outmaneuvered me by using playground tactics? NAH! Besides, what does it matter, I have my compost, I'm free to leave my house again and I have a brand new understanding of my granddaughter Chloe's confusion about the benefits of sharing.  Why can't life be as simple as it was when you were 4 years old and everything made sense until adults tried to explain the finer points of cohabitation in a civil society?  So, I'm following Choe's example, I am not going to share my compost, it's mine and I'm keeping it, I can live with my selfishness, but to be fair....I will let him watch me use it later this spring. 

-Chris Ward

WORLDWIDE COMMUNE

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

 Just recently someone left the comment, "Hippie" under a post about Earth Day I had shared on our Facebook page. It made me laugh.  Although I believe that the gentleman was trying to express his disdain concerning Earth Day, he missed his mark with me.  I was actually kinda flattered.

I was born in the late 60's to a set of wide eyed parents who didn't understand why getting back to basics required a movement.  They were born and raised in a community that grew their own food, canned it, made a lot of their own clothes, practiced water conservation, conserved energy and spent a great deal of time outside.  All of the sudden their lifestyle was Hip and they found themselves "with it", it was a bit of shock for two young adults from Stuart, Oklahoma.  I like to think of them as the Eco branch of the Hippie Culture without some of the other less attractive aspects of that lifestyle.

If you take a look back to the era of the mid 60's through to the 70's there is a lot to admire.  Young people stood up and openly discussed environmental issues, they demanded change and they got it; The Clean Air Act 1970, National Environmental Policy Act 1970, Marine Mammal Protection Act 1972, Endangered Species Act 1972, Coastal Zone Management Act 1972, Clean Water Act 1972, Safe Drinking Water Act 1974 and the Toxic Substances Act 1976.  They were able to bring environmental issues onto the national stage and create real change, and they did it all while wearing bell bottom jeans and platform shoes...you have to admire that!

If you take the definition of a Hippie Commune as, "People living together while sharing common interests and resources" then can't you say that we live in a Worldwide Commune?  Our resources are finite and it's in our best interest to protect them, to stand up together as one booming voice. 

Am I a Hippie?  I don't know if that generation would think so, but I like to think of myself as an active member of the Eco Branch.  Growing my own organic veggies, practicing water and energy conservation involving myself in environmental issues, letting my vote speak for me all while wearing boot cut jeans.  And to the gentleman that thought by calling us "Hippies" he would adequately express his scorn, I just want to say...Thank You.  It is a compliment that I will share with my friends, it is a label that I will wear with honor, it is an acknowledgement that my environmental conscience is alive a well.

-Chris Ward   

TRASH TALKING TO MYSELF

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I have a lot of conversations with myself, and I am quite often impressed with my opinions on certain subjects, but sometimes I disagree and the trash talk begins.

I didn't hear much from myself when I decided to stop using trash liners; I had nothing to say when I decided to stop using the dryer and to adjust my digital thermostat to to 66 in the winter. nor did I speak up when I decided to use water in the rain barrels to do my laundry. But when I decided to remove the trash can in my kitchen.....I didn't even know that I knew that kind of language!

I didn't understand the animosity, I mean I compost, I choose my purchases to reduce packaging, I recycle.  What was the problem?  Turns out I had a lot to say on the subject, beginning with the overly mature response, "That's just stupid".  How can you engage in an intelligent debate with such a stance?

We started by discussing my reasoning.  I don't use the kitchen trash can that much, it's an eye sore and it takes up much need floor space, oh and all the eco reasons I mentioned above. But my response never really moved above, "that's just stupid".  Whatever, I'm doing it anyway.

My superior intelligence won the battle again, besides, I used the old tried and true standard of, "Because I said so!".  And as any child of Mother born knows, that's the ballgame.

We are currently on Day 14 of Operation Trash Can Free in the Kitchen, and all is well.  It's been a learning experience for me about habits.  And it turns out I have had to be slightly creative on occasion, but that's another post.  I have grown used to the new regime and have little to say about it these days. I threw myself kicking and screaming into accepting the idea, but eventually I grew to love it.  Although, I did have to ground myself for a few days, because some of the words I used in rebuttal should never be spoken outside of an OU vs Texas game.  Really!

-Chris Ward

IN A CHRISTMAS PICKLE!

Posted on December 10, 2013 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I should have learned by now that God has perfect comic timing with an enormous sense of humor and style. Not two hours after I made an official and very public pledge on Facebook that we as a family had decided not to purchase anything this Christmas season, I broke The Christmas Pickle. Chaos and anarchy soon followed, but let me start at the beginning.

We are one of the few families that I know of that observes The Christmas Pickle or TCP tradition. A pickle ornament is hidden somewhere on your Christmas tree and the first person to find the pickle receives good luck in the following year. It's one of those cutesy family traditions that don't really have a lot of meaning unless of course you break the stupid pickle.

I wanted this Christmas to be wonderful, magical, spiritual and stress free. I wanted to celebrate Christmas in a commercial free environment, take it back to basics and wallow in the true meaning. For me this had a wonderful side benefit of avoiding; lines, parking lots, UPS drivers, Black Friday and the waves of "good cheer" emanating from the masses of shoppers that can be found at any store searching for the perfect gift. We decided to make this season of giving exactly that...giving of ourselves. Giving our love, talents and or time to the people and causes that matter the most to us. Then I made the mistake of crowing about it on Facebook in a totally humble but possibly slightly pretentious way. I think that is what caught God's attention in the first place and He conceived then implemented a lesson that would send shockwaves throughout my family.

The endless tubs of Christmas decorations came out of the attic and wrapped in the knowledge that I was both environmentally and spiritually practicing Christmas, I began going through them one by one. There is a reason why arrogance is subtitled under Pride as one of the Seven Deadly Sins and it is often sent back to bite you in the butt! Immediately after the shock of shattering TCP, I ran through then discarded several plans of damage control, but none of them including duct tape were going to work. I had to Man up and tell the family that I broke TCP and remind them of our newly minted vow.

My first indication that this wasn't going to fly was my son's reaction. No argument on my part would sway him away from the statement that I had ruined Christmas....forever! My daughter was convinced that we as a family were going to suffer seven years of bad luck because she's sure that she read it on some reliable website. My granddaughter cried....big heaping pools of tears. No one actually used the words, "Grinch, Scrooge or Burgermeister", but I got the point. I immediately started making phone calls and searched the internet for a replacement when it hit me. I had fallen back into the trap. Could Christmas only be Christmas if I have a glass pickle ornament hanging in our tree? Can the spirit of Christmas be deflated by a broken ornament? It was time to call a family meeting.

I am happy to announce that after some discussion and a well organized debate that we as a family faced the destruction of TCP with some nudged grace. We had faced our first hurdle and once again pledged to celebrate Christmas with love, laughter, fellowship, respect and a light footprint.

What I thought was one lesson, turned out to be another, then another. Was I busted for my self-pride, or was I being gently reminded that I still didn't get it? Christmas isn't contained within a glass pickle, nor can it be ruined or saved by surrounding ourselves with the traditional sounds, smells and sights of the season. It is within each of us and can be as easily shared with a smile and a kind word or deed as with a carefully chosen gift. Don't get me wrong, I love decorating for the holiday and will continue to do so, but I know that it is only stage dressing for the true meaning of Christmas.

But I also like covering all my bases and on the off chance that my daughter's dire prediction has even a smidgeon of truth, we're not taking any chances! You don't mess with Mother Nature or bad luck rituals, and I believe that I mentioned God's sense of humor, so you will find a compostable gherkin stringed up and hanging somewhere on our tree!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Chris Ward

Over the Long Haul

Posted on October 31, 2013 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I have often said that my mind works in mysterious ways, for instance last week I was stuck behind a trash truck and as the not so gentle smell drifted towards me, I started to wonder, "How much food is in that truck?".

Now I know that other things can contribute to the smell, used diapers for instance, but it's mostly food. And from there my mind was off and running. I started to make up scenarios in my head about what happened to put the food in the trash, burnt meals, sell by date rejects, left overs, new recipes that went horribly wrong, or produce that was left to become a High School Science experiment.

Then my mind jumped to the cost of that wasted food. How many food dollars were in that truck, how much does it cost the city to clean out those trucks because of the food, does the food lead to other issues at the landfills like scavengers? How much does it cost to control them? What about the health of the workers? Is it affected due to transporting rotting food?

I don't have the answer to any of these questions, so unfortunately they will have to remain a mystery. What I do know is none of that food heading to the landfill belongs to me, I compost! And because I compost, I have healthy soil, a clean trash can and happy worms. For me, composting is where it's at, and I'm in it for the Long Haul. My mind can rest a little easy, because I know I'm not alone, more and more people are practicing composting at home and that's a big load off my mind.

-Chris Ward

The Quiet Garden

Posted on July 9, 2013 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (1)

  I am a big fan of finding some peace and quiet, that is one of the reasons why I love my garden.  I go into the garden to calm my nerves, relieve my stress, find some inner peace and focus my energy.  WHAT?  Ok, gardening could give me all those things, but so far they have never happened at the same time, but it gives fruit, so I'm happy.  Plus, I have had several epiphanies while holding a hand rake, funny how all my moments of budding genius involve garden tools.

Several weeks ago, I was enjoying a fantasy of being the next Joel Salatin when something struck me as odd; it was quiet.....too quiet, spooky quiet.  The kind of quiet that freaked me out as a young mother with a two year hell bent on destruction, more mine than hers as it turned out.  Anyway, for me quiet isn't about total silence or lack of movement.  It is the sound that a gentle breeze makes moving through my willow tree, the muffled tinkle of wind chimes, the gurgle of my stream, birds chirping and bees buzzing.....AND that was it!!  I hadn't heard or seen any bees.

Isn't it strange how you never notice the, "behind the scene" things?  You don't think about them, they're just there.  They exist and function without your interference or attention, things like; water pressure, electricity, postal service, the internet and our pollinators.  If any of the other systems were to break down, I would like to think that I would notice immediately, but the bees took a while longer.  My first clue....?  I didn't have any tomatoes develop on the best looking plants I have ever grown.  My second clue should have been the obvious absence of my daughter's annual performance of her version of Swan Lake while simultaneously screeching out a German Opera every time a bee flew anywhere near her.  I didn't notice because I was enjoying the peace and quiet. 

What happened?  I know that I have been discussing the bee problem here and on our Facebook page, but those were occurrences in other states happening to other people.  What could have happened recently that would affect the bee population here?  I live in the middle of Suburban Nirvana; quiet streets filled with lovely law abiding citizens, a beautiful neighborhood surrounded by the damage path of the most destructive tornado in our state's history.  Could it be?  Could the tornado and subsequent storms have caused a bee decline?  Was it our wet spring and late freezes?  Did someone spray the open field behind my house?  I didn't know the answers; I just knew that my backyard could be compared to a Las Vegas for bees, the cool Vegas of Elvis and Rat Pack days, not today's Amusement Park Vegas.  I have multiple bee friendly native perennials, shrubs and trees.  I have water, sand and enough housing to accommodate the largest bee convention.  It's a 24-hour buffet out there for goodness sake!  But my Bee Vegas resembles Norman during the OU/Texas weekend.......deserted.

In recent weeks, I have witnessed the return of some of the bees, not as many as in the past, but it's a start although I still don't have any tomatoes. My perspective had been changed for me, I had to pull back the curtain and expose the Wizard.  He isn't the magical being I expected and OZ is just a town like any other.  Tomatoes don't just appear out of thin air, the water pressure fairy that sprinkles happy dust over my faucets doesn't exist, and it turns out that mail service can be interrupted.  Those behind the scene things usually have the biggest impact on our lives when they are not working, because that is when we notice them.  This time we have had an advanced warning, we can't leave it for someone else to deal with for us.  The usual outcome of situations where each person assumes someone else it taking the responsibility, commonly results in the electricity being shut off because no one paid the bill!  We are in this together, the bees won't wait forever for us to decide to take action and paying the bill is going to take more than individual action.  We need to do something soon, because a garden without bees is not peaceful, but it is all too quiet!  And the peace and quiet thing.....?  I'm over it already....Let's make some noise!!

-Chris Ward

Red, White, Blue and GREEN!

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

  Americans love a party, and what better reason to celebrate than our nation's independence!  The 4th of July is a favorite holiday in our house, America celebrates our official birthday, and we get a day of free shots at my husband!  No, not due to his BBQ skills, although those too have been a source of some great one-liners. My husband Mark is English, so you can imagine the grief that gets laid at his door every year from every breathing member of my family.  Some people celebrate the 4th with sparklers, hot dogs and parades, we spend the day slamming my husband's heritage.  Don't get me wrong, we can party with the best of them; food, games and enjoying the City of Moore's Fireworks from my backyard, but we have the added benefit of gloating......a lot of gloating! 

If you are hosting a Fab 4th Party this year, I have a few suggestions to help you make your Red, White and Blue a little bit greener.

  • Keep it Local! - Buy your food, beer, wine from local Farmers Markets or business who cater using local food producers.
  • Learn to Love Mason Jars! - Mason jars are a wonderful thing, and not just for canning.  Serve your drinks in these little beauties.  They are also perfect for buffet spread as they serve a multi purpose.  Put the silverware and a cloth napkin in each jar so that your guests can pick up their drinking glass and utensils all in one! Mason jars can hold; candles, candy, flowers, ice cream, whatever!
  • Dump the Disposables! - Use your own dishes for your party, get red, white and blue handkerchiefs to use as napkins.  If you don't have enough tableware, use bamboo dishes.
  • Propane isn't totally Evil! - Propane has half the emission than charcoal.  If you prefer charcoal, find a greener choice, they are lots out there!
  • Offer your guests a recycling bin!
  • Let the Games Begin! - Make some yard games using recycled materials.  Yard Bowling using 1 liter bottles and a ball.  Yard Scrabble using rocks or orange juice lids with letters painted on them.  You can also use this to make a Tic Tac Toe Board.  Play Yahtzee with dice made from scrap lumber.  Have a potato sack race with burlap bags that can be reused.  Pull the large bulk size cans out of recycling as  containers for a bean bag toss.  Remove the bottom of those large cans and you have the perfect stencil for making a Twister board on your grass, anyway....you get the idea!
  • Fireworks are not entirely eco-friendly.  They contain heavy metals, sulfur/coal compounds and noxious chemicals, besides that, they are very dangerous to handle, and dare I mention the word FIRE.  The greener option is to enjoy a fireworks display hosted by your local city!

Have a Fabulous 4th of July!  If you happen to run across any English people, give them a hug, they're having a hard day, my husband in particular because his birthday is also this week. So on a personal note, I want to say, "Happy Birthday, Honey".  I'm sorry that you can't find any descent tea and biscuits in this Country, but that would be because, WE WON AND YOU LOST.  May I suggest that you learn to love iced tea?  Love You!

-Chris Ward

picture is from www.detroitmommies.com

The Fine Art of Recycling Reclamation

Posted on June 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

  What inspires me to roll out of bed at 6 am on a Saturday morning?  My family, my garden and first pick at the Recycling Center.  And I'm not the only one doing it, that's why I have to roll out so early!

Now you have to be asking yourself, what could I possibly want at the Recycling Center enough that I would expose my dignity and ample backside to ridicule and scorn?  Answer....Plenty!

Paper - I will pull out magazines and books whenever I find them, some I will keep, the others I donate to libraries, hospitals, nursing homes and cancer centers.  I will also share a little secret with you.  Although several of my relatives who worship Ms. Manners, the Etiquette Queen, would be horrified to learn this....but I will pull out gift bags and reuse them.

Newspaper - What can I say.....I have animals. I shred it for my worm bins and as bedding for my rabbits, I also use it to line my bird cage.  I use it as a weed barrier and for composting. I have also been known to use it as wrapping paper, (that one has the approval of Ms. Manners, the Etiquette Queen as it is considered quite chic right now).

Cardboard -  Come on!  It's boxes....enough said.

Plastic - I have scored big in this area.  10 gallon tubs converted into worm bins or used for storage, 5 gallon Ozarka bottles as mini rain barrels for raised beds.  5 gallon kitty litter buckets with the lids still attached........GOLD!  I have found; buckets, small pots for seedlings and spray bottles for my own homemade cleaning supplies.

Tin Cans - I paint them to hold utensils or flowers for parties.  I have used the bulk size ones as planters for geraniums that I hung on the garden wall.  I have made rain chains, wind chimes and orange juice lids make great mini chalkboard magnets for your fridge as well as herb markers.

Glass - My personal favorite.  I have a "thing" about glass, I love it.  I use gallon wine jugs to serve punch or lemonade. I use them to contain my homemade soaps, I take colored bottles for bottle trees.  I have found cut glass vases and wonderful storage containers.

The Recycling Center is a shopper's paradise for me, but you could do some of your shopping in your own recycling container at home.  Check out what's in there and take out what could be reused, donated (books and magazines) or repurposed before you recycle.

If you are going to chance being seen removing things from the center's dumpsters, I want to leave you with some safety tips and final thoughts. First, don't try to retrieve anything while the trucks are there to pick up the recycling!  Don't EVER climb into the containers and NEVER send your children in your place.  I'm sure that you would consider these to be "common sense tips", but unfortunately I have seen it too many times not to mention it.

And a final warning...if you are waist deep in the glass container trying to pull out a beautiful blue bottle that is just out of your reach and you feel a tapping on your lower back, don't panic.  It's not the police or even Ms. Manners, the Etiquette Queen, it's probably a sponsor for the local chapter of Alcoholic Anonymous.  I'm still not sure that she believed me when I told her I wasn't looking for liquor but a bottle for a bottle tree.  But, now that she's heard it from me, she might believe you, or you might end up with her card, a disbelieving look and a sympathetic hug.  All in all, I think I handled the situation really well, right up until she walked off with my hard won bottle!  You win some and you loose some to other pickers!

-Chris Ward

 

 

A Love Letter to Our Great State

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

  Oklahomans don't understand the meaning of small talk, I have had some of my most informative conversations with total strangers while waiting around somewhere.  Being held hostage in a waiting room with 5-6 other people, you find that within 5 minutes of saying, "How bout them Sooners", that you are amongst other college football experts engaging in a debate that would rival anything seen on ESPN.  Saying, "Wow, its been a great year for tomatoes", while in the check-out line will soon have you looking at garden pictures on smart phones and exchanging Facebook links.  And, the weather is NEVER to be confused with a safe opening line, we take it very seriously here.  Every 5 year old native Okie is raised to read radar, know the precautions to take in 110 degree heat, and understands that their own town can suffer both floods and drought in the same year.  Saying something about the weather to an Oklahoman will never be a short conversation, especially now.

On May 20th, the most destructive tornado in our history struck Moore.  And although I live in Moore my family and home survived, but I can't say that I was not affected.  My city was crippled and 24 of my fellow residents lost their lives.  We were not alone; Shawnee, Newcastle, LIttle Axe, Carney and Dale were also struck during those two days last week.  Being a 4th generation Oklahoman I know that natural disasters and challenges are a way of life here; however I can't imagine ever leaving Oklahoma for two simple reasons. This is home, and Okies have an inherent talent for ignoring the path of least resistance. 

We belong to this land, we would never give it up without a fight, nor could we allow so many of our neighbors to carry this burden alone, it is the Oklahoma Spirit.  Within 10 minutes of the tornado leaving Moore, people who had lost everything themselves were helping their neighbors dig out from under the rubble.  Within an hour, the first of the responders were on site; firefighters, police, medical personnel and those equipped to look for survivors.  Within 24 hours, donations of food, water, shelter, clothing, and money were flooding into the area.  Businesses, churches, state and federal agencies as well as individuals by the thousands donated everything that they could.  Fellow Okies gave their blood, sweat and shared their tears.

Within 48 hours, water and electric services were restored to most of the areas of Moore outside the damage path.  A week has passed now and all but two major streets are open again and clean-up has begun.  The sheer volume of the destruction is mind boggling, it is estimated in Moore alone that over 13,000 homes were destroyed.  We lost 4 schools, numerous businesses, our hospital and post office.  We were driven to our knees, but we took that opportunity to ask God for the strength to do what must be done now.  Then with the compassionate outreaching hand of our Fellow Oklahomans, we got back up and took the first steps on the long hard road to recovery.

We will rebuild, no one doubts it.  Oklahomans have  patience, passion and perseverance, it's in our nature.  You can see it whether we are talking about football or facing adversity.  We are a state of diverse individuals that stand together during times of crisis because together we are strong.  Together we are Oklahoma, and we are going to be ok.

-Chris Ward

Picture is from New York AP.


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