Cleveland County Conservation District
[email protected]

Helping People Reconnect To Our Environment


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!!!

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!!!!! 


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] 


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


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 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   

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.


Posted on April 19, 2013 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

 You know how I am always saying "It is all connected"?  I am talking about more than water to soil to air to life.  I am talking about you......yes, YOU.  I can see you there trying to hide behind your laptop eating from your secret stash of black market Twinkies.  Don't worry, I'm not going to "out" you in this post.  As a matter of fact, we will use code names, you can call me, Oh Great One and I will call you, Les Moore.

Here is the low down Les, humans were not created in a vacuum and although I have some relatives who would disagree, the world does not revolve around us.  And with the exception of a few Grizzly Adams types, most of us adhere to the idea that there is safety in numbers, therefore communites were born.  But, somewhere along the lines, we lost the ability to co-exist with our environment, we lost our sense of stewardship.

This is where you come in Les.  Did you realize that you play an important role in the stage production called, "EARTH".  That although you have minor role, (3rd guy from the left in the chorus) your individual actions DO make a difference to the outcome?  That if each of us, one by one, made one small change that it could eventually lead to a Community Impact instead of an individual one and we would end up singing a different tune? 

Now, I know what you are thinking, "But, Oh Great One if my selected change was to use a 110 gallon Rain Barrel System and I used 20% less municipal water, and all my neighbors did as well, then the City would reduce staff and that could eventually lead to a collapse of the World's economy, and entire nations would disappear into history".  Somehow, I don't see that happening and I think that you're fairly safe.  But your daily choices whether for the environmental good or bad, do have an impact. You could make yourself crazy trying to work it out, or, you could get two rain barrels with the hope that somewhere, someone is getting a job producing, shipping, converting, selling or setting up rain barrel systems due to the increase in demand.

Let me put it another way, if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  Does it really matter, because the forest felt the impact.  We are not the be all and end all to this planet, we have one small role that makes up the chorus and since we are responsible for the majority of environmental disharmony, we have to make some changes.  It doesn't matter if you decide to stop using plastic bags, green clean, practice water conservation, buy a bike, or all of the above, any or all of these will make a difference.

Will the Earth stop spinning on it's axis if you don't make any changes?  No, I don't believe so.  Besides, my daughter tells me that it's happened once already, the day I told her that she was no longer allowed to use the Dryer and she had to hang her laundry outside.  Her world collapsed but we survived, although it was touch and go for a while.  What do you have to lose by trying, because Les Moore you are the lesson for today....... Less is More!

-Chris Ward


Posted on April 5, 2013 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

  Do you ever wish that gardeners had a Bat Signal?  Something that could alert a farm superhero that you are in trouble?  Gardeners deserve a hero, a FarmMan or in my case The Farm Ma'am!  Someone to help us battle; Two Blight, Mr. Freeze, Killer Grasshoppers, DROUGHT and The Thrips.  But who do you turn to in the dark days of Gardening Season?  Then before despair could totally swamp me, I had a V8 moment, my BFF IS AN ORGANIC FARMER! Okay, it was more like my husband saying to me, "Chris stop being a drama queen and call Jen".  And being my BFF, she won't kill me for a 5:45 am call about my next post, she will totally understand the panic.

Although I consider myself to be a cute and somewhat savvy organic gardener, I too suffer from clueless garden issues. Jen is my hero, and a major source of information for keeping my backyard garden productive and environmentally friendly.  Most farming techniques can be adapted to a scaled down operation, like raised beds or a small plot, so I called Jen and asked her what advise she would pass on to a helpless backyard vegetable growing public.  I am pleased to announce that most of it I knew already and have implemented it into my garden and public speaking engagements, but it is worth mentioning again.....and again. 

Farms the size of Jen's do several things that are highly beneficial to your produce garden.  So, here is our advice from Farm Ma'am and her youthful sidekick, Chicky.  Use plasticulture, drip irrigation, no till practices, compost, mulch, mulch, mulch.  Using BPA free plastic sheeting gives Jen an impenetrable weed control and provides moisture retention for her vegetable rows.  She also tells me that drip irrigation is the only way to grow!  It is the only method to prevent evaporation loss, it saves her money and time, and puts the water exactly where she needs it.  She generates her own compost, so she knows exactly what is in it, and it takes the place of fertilizers and pesticides.  And, BTW adding compost year after year and planting directly into it is what no-till is all about, and a good mulch will save hundreds of gallons of water, not to mention choosing the right one so that it will rot and allow you to dump compost on top of it the following planting season.  But my favorite tip that she passed on to me?  "Never come straight from work and go into the Chicken Coop without changing your shoes, they will never be the same".  Amen, sister!

Jen is also a big fan of Non-GMO seeds and plants.  Believe me, this is a subject that you don't want to talk to her about at 5:45 in the morning, cause by the time she starts to wind down, my husband is making noises about lunch.  One last thing for the Urban Farmer, give your farm a name, it makes you all tingly inside.  I called mine, "Peaceful Bunny Farms", and I have dibs on that one.  The farming techniques that Jen and I mentioned above are not new, as a matter of fact, they have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another, and in my opinion that tells you something.  They are still around because they work.

If you have read any of my previous posts it's not hard to figure out why Jen and I are Best Friends.  We both believe that we might have been separated at birth and are actually the kidnapped children of Mr. Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo fame.  He was a farmer, an environmentalist and possibly the subject of a future post.  For all of you urban farmers who are lost wondering in the garden section of a local home improvement store and you don't have access to Jen's number, fear not....there is hope.  Find yourself a farm superhero and become their trusty ward (BFF), or....learn to make a beetle shaped shadow puppet using your fingers and a flashlight.  Barring that, you could just visit our website from time to time. Your choice.

-Chris Ward

*Forgive the 70's TV references, I am a fan.  Also, the picture above is Jen's Farm and this spring's plasticulture installation.



Posted on March 25, 2013 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

  Okay, it's not like I walk up to strange trees and feel an overwhelming urge to hug them......well, not often enough to be labeled the town's weird tree lady.

But, I do have a deep respect for trees.  It fills me with awe knowing that we have trees in our country that were already old when the Vikings landed on our shores.  These trees bared witness to the birth of a new republic; they lived in the time of Lincoln.  We have trees over 370 feet tall, which I imagine if you were to climb to the top, it must feel like touching the face of God.  

Trees have played an important role in my life long before I became an environmentalist.  I have great memories of the tire swing at my grandparents, long summer days of looking up into the canapy of that giant elm, it was a living kaleidoscope of light, color and movement.  I remember building the best fort in the world in a neighborhood tree, bach when boys were gross and weren't allowed in our Girls Only Club.  Then there was the large Sycamore that became the Starship Enterprise during recess at school, and my proudest moment, when I was selected to play the Captain for a day.  I remember gathering pecans at my uncle's place for pies and sand plums for my Grandma's jelly.  I stole  apples from a neighbor's yard, whose name I won't disclose because although he suspects it was me, he didn't have access to a DNA lab to prove it.  He still asks me about it, and he is still mad.  I received my first kiss under an old mimosa tree when I decided boys weren't as gross as I had previously thought.  My dad owned a Greenhouse in Norman that was named after the two giant Pin Oaks in the front.  It is now a Real Estate office, but I still mourn the loss of one of those oaks, it was an old friend who kept my secrets.

I still spend time with trees, they have become part of our family and we are busy building new memories.  There is something kind of spiritual about lying under a tree.  Watching the light come and go through the swaying limbs, hearing birds singing and listening to the wind as it grently rustles the leaves.  It is beauty in it's purest form.  Poetry in motion.  I am still young enough to enjoy the Mulberry tree swing with our Chloe and old enough to enjoy the nap that soon follows in the tent we hung in the same tree.  We will watch movies in our backyard this summer using the Crabapple tree and an old sheet.  My husband and I sometimes eat dinner under the chandelier that hangs from one of our Crape Myrtles. 

Trees bring so much to my life that I sometimes forget how important they are to us and our environment.  They breath, we breath.  They bloom, we eat. Their leaves keep the temperature in our cities down and help reduce sound.  Their roots keep our soils in place and aerated so ground water can find its way.  They play a major role in nature's water quality systems. Their very exsistance brings the birds and bugs that I need to pollinate my plants.  And you already know how much I love my compost, which wouldn't be the same without the leaves.

My love and admiration for trees knows no bounds, so is it any wonder that from time to time a spontaneous act of tree hugging occurs?  This week Oklahoma celebrates Arbor Week, in other words, this is the one week that it is socially acceptable with hugging a tree without too many odd glances.  You can observe Arbor Week by taking a hike, buying a tree, supporting a tree organization or volunteering your time to plant trees in public places.  Those are all great ways to show your support, but if you see a tree that reminds you of your childhood, go ahead and give it a squeeze.  You don't have to exchange contact information or make a committment of any kind. If anyone sees you, simply tell them that you are providing a community service in celebration of Arbor Week, making sure that all our trees feel loved, valued and needed.  Before you go out performing your tree supporting endeavors, let me leave you with this blessing, "May the Forest be with You" in all that you do this week.  Happy Arbor Week!!


WATER you waiting for?!?!

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

 Water takes up a large portion of my day, everyday.  I talk about it, I write about it, I use it and let's be honest, it's in my best interest because, I couldn't live without it.  Water is one of those everyday things that most people don't think about, after all, you turn on the tap and there it is, where's the problem?  But it's those everyday things, our basic needs that should grab and hold our attention long before it becomes a crisis.  Well......that train has left the station. Water is now everyone's corcern, and we need apply our focus, time and money to survive our current water crisis.

Everything can be traced back to water, from your food to your cell phone.  It all involves water.  Wars have been fought over it, people and governments go to court over it, neighbors have become enemies because of it, millions of dollars have been spent to pipe it to populated areas and some states claim ownership of all it, including the rain.  Water is life.  Water is now and has always been a Global concern.  Benjamin Franklin stated, "When the well's dry, we know the worth of water".  Well, we know it's worth now, the drought has removed all doubt about the continued abundance and availability of our drinking water.

But what can you do about our water crisis?  Plenty! Practice water awareness and conservation at home, at work, at school....basically everywhere. Talk about it to your children, your friends, become an advocate. One person can make a difference, it happens everyday, it is happening now.   I know that you have probably heard some of the ways that you can conserve water at home and in your garden like turning off the water while brushing your teeth and washing your hands, but have you considered taking it another step?  Could you use a shower bucket to collect the water in your shower while you are waiting for it to heat up?  Do you have to wash your clothes after every use?  Do you have and utilize rain barrels?  Have you checked for leaks, even in your toilet?  Have you installed low flow aerators on your indoor faucets?  Do you have a low flow shower head?  Could you compost instead of using your garbage disposal?  Could you replace your bermuda lawn or allow it to go dormant?  Could you install an irrigation system or use soaker hoses to water your lawn and garden instead of oscillating sprinklers? Would you consider waiting to buy new landscape plants especially annuals? Do you use mulch and compost for water retention? Have you considered closing your pool this year?  Do you take your prescription drugs to Take Back locations instead of placing them in either the trash or flushing them down the toilet?

One person can and does make a difference, but if each of us as individuals do our part to conserve our drinking water, we as a team can take on drought and thrive.  Is it too late to take action? Never!  But we need to start today.  On Friday, March 22, the District will hold it's annual 50 Gallon Challenge, where we encourage you to examine your municipal water use for one day. We ask that you try to restrict your usage to under 50 gallons of water, or at least as low as you can go.  You can find information about the challenge and a chart and journal for your use under our Events tab on this website.  If you are looking for more information about water conservation, the District in partnership with the CIty of Norman will hold a Water Wise Workshop on April 1st.  At 6:30 pm at the City Council Chambers on Grey, we will talk about the State of Lake Thunderbird and it's future, indoor water conservation tips, Grey Water, Rain Barrels, the new fertilizer ordinance, stormwater and water quality and drought tolerant planting.  At the end of each of these 15 presentations, we will have a panel available to answer your questions.  We encourage you to attend, it is open to the public and you don't need to be a resident of Norman to attend.  Water is our most precious resource and we have only a limited amount, so WATER you waiting for, an invitation?  Consider yourself invited to help us conserve our water, no RSVP is required.

-Chris Ward   


Posted on March 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (2)

I thought that it was time to take you on a tour of the Cleveland Co. Conservation District.  Well, not the entire county, just the website.  There are a few rules however; please don't touch anything, hold all question until the end, and please Don't Feed The Staff.  Don't worry, this is going to be painless and since I have yet to complete my course on "Technical Names for Things I Use Everyday" I will be using layman's terms throughout the tour.

First up is our EcoLogue Page.  You are currently on that page, and here you will find our weekly posts.  On the right, you will find the range of catergories for the posts and on the bottom the handy dandy toolbar du-hickey to share the posts with your friends.   Currently our EcoLogue Page is very popular in France, England, the Netherlands, and finally the US, and a World Wide Tour is being planned for 2014.

Moving on to our Bio Page.  If you click the Bio tab you will find the history of our District.  Each of our pages are very interactive so, If you hover over the Bio tab you will see a drop down menu that tells you about our Board of Directors and our location.   See how easy this is going to be?  You hover and our website immediately responds! Think of it as Instant Information Gratification, what we call IIG.  Please note, you will be using this hovering thing a lot on this tour.

Next up is our Calendar.  This is pretty self explanatory, but as any good tour guide would do, I am going to spend time explaining it to you anyway. The Calendar is set up to give you information about not only our events, but other Conservation Events in the area.   Click on the event you choose and you will be taken to a page with more information.  We live to provide you with an IIG rush.

Now let's visit the Education Tab.  By clicking this tab you will find;  projects, grants, contests, science clips and available trunks for check out.  Once again doing the hover thingy will bring up a pull down menu that lists seperate educational opportunities:  The Blue Thumb Program, Green Schools, The Environmental Education Planning Committee and our volunteer team The TerraSquad.  

We are going to lump the next two pages together.  The How To Tutorials are posts that instruct you to: build a worm bin, stop junk mail, be energy efficient and build a rain barrel.  The Manuals page contains......our manuals.  I told you this would be easy. You can find manuals for Butterfly & Bird Gardening, How to Build an Outdoor Classroom, the ReGREENerate Your LIfe,  How to Conduct a Home Energy Audit, How to Conduct a Home Water Audit, A Garden Journal and a brochure concerning lawn fertilizer use.  These are all PDF format and ready for download.  

Our Agriculture Page is all about AG!  From Hoop Houses to plasticulture this page is for our local producers and lists some of the conservation practices that we can help them implement.  If you hover over the AG Page you will see our Cost Share Program.  By clicking on that tab you will be taken to a page that explains the program and allows you download the application form.

Rounding off the Main Menu Bar, you will find Members, Forums, Links, Pics and Videos,  These pages are all about you! Okay, mostly about us, but you are mentioned..briefly.  You don't have to be a member of our website to visit, download or leave a comment, but you do have to register if you want to ask a question or leave a comment on the Forum Page.  On these pages you will find great Links for other sites, Pics we have taken or that you sent to us and some of our favorite Videos.

I would like to complete our tour by pointing out some of our favorite highlights.  The Sidebar is located on the right hand and it contains links to our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest Pages.  It also contains our Upcoming Events and the Recycling Directory.   You can contact us by using the conveniently named green, "Contact Us" button.  This button is a bit of a stalker as it follows you no matter what page you visit.  Think of it as a big slobbering puppy who just wants your attention, so throw it a bone now and then by sending us an email.

That's it, and I hope that you enjoyed your tour.   Please return your eyelids to their upright position, cause I'm finished.  We are sorry to see you go, but we hope you will visit often and send your friends.  We would love to see more local visits to our site, otherwise, I am going to have to learn to speak French.

-Chris Ward


Posted on February 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

  Where do you find inspiration?  What inspires you to take a stand, to make a change or to take another look?  I have found inspiration in many things; sunsets, random conversations, listening to my thoughts and in this instance, a song and a memory.  Earlier this week I took a trip to Lake Thunderbird, which is the primary source of drinking water for our community, and since we are currently suffering from a sever drought and water crisis not seen since the 30's, I wanted to tour the lake and take a look for myself.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing, where was all the water?  As we continued around the lake, we encountered less and less water and more closure signs.   I was thinking that this feeling of shock and hopelessness must have been what my grandparents felt during the Dust Bowl and drought some 80 years ago.  But then something kind of wonderful happened, a memory of my Grandma.   I could see her clear as day, in her kitchen kneading bread when a song came over the radio, Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land".  It was her favorite song and she always sang along with Woody.   So, there I was, standing on the Alameda bridge looking over the north side searching for water, and I can hear my Grandma sing her favorite song.  Then another memory popped in, my Grandpa holding my hand and walking across a field on our way to check his livestock, and as we walked I asked him if he owned all this land.  "No", he said. "My name is on the paper, but the land owns me, it's my responsibility, it's yours too and don't you forget it".   

I had found my inspiration when I didn't even know I was looking for it.  I am a conservationist, but this drought had drained me as well.  I was coming to believe that nothing was going to change, and that there was nothing more that I could do.  I didn't know it, but I was giving up.  Now some of you might believe that it was my subconscious, but I like to think that it was my grandparents giving me a boot up the backside.  This land IS your land and it is my land, it is the promise and the responsibility that was given to us.  This land provides for us without asking anything more than that we are good stewards.  It asks that we step up and take responsibility and every now and then it reminds us of who is really in control.  This drought is devastating and there is nothing that we can do to fight it, but there is plenty we can do to survive it, and some good can happen as well.  Because if everything has a silver lining, then all the water conservation and water quality discussions happening right now on a global scale, is our silver lining.  Now is the time to talk about it, to be proactive instead of reactive.  We can learn more about water conservation and what we can do and then do it.  We can find our voices and tell everyone that we know how to conserve & protect our water and our land and in doing so we are fulfilling our responsibility, our promise if you will when we decided to take over.

We are all stewards and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that, through the lean times and through the times of plenty, that is what my Grandpa was trying to tell me. The land owns us, from the Redwood forests to the Gulf Stream Waters, this land was made for you and me.  Thanks, Grandpa, I won't forget again it, I won't get discouraged and I won't stop saying it.  You can tell Grandma she can stop singing now.

-Chris Ward


Posted on February 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

  This past Saturday, I attended the Growing In Tough Times Conference held in OKC.  I went to find out what more the District can do to help our local farmers reconnect with you, our local consumers, and I came away with a ton of new ideas and something else too.  I was amazed, in awe of and inspired by these people who want nothing more than to grow healthy food for our tables.

They each share the same passion, and an overwhelming attitude of gratefulness and optimism.  What a learning experience it was for me.  You can't help but to get caught up in their enthusiasum and the feeling of being connected to something magical.....Faith.

They have faith.  Faith that their crops will come in, faith that they will get enough water, faith that their products will sell, and that it will all turn out alright in the end.  They find the faith to do it all again the next year.  That's a lot of faith. They might bemoan the conditions, that's human nature, but they get together and share those problems and work toward a solution.   It was positive reinforcement in overdrive.  The weather is against them, so they seek ways to grow their crops in extreme heat, and then expressed gratitude that it wasn't worse.   Drought is against them, so they seek ways to bring their produce to market using less water, and are grateful that they had what they need.  They can't compete with larger venues, so they ban together and form Farmers Markets and Coops, and they are grateful that people are taking notice. 

They believe in their food and their chosen path, or did that path choose them?  I kept thinking about all the things that I could accomplish in my own life and here at the District with that much passion and optimism, enthusiasm and faith.  So, strap on your seats belts, I am aiming for the moon, and I'm taking you with me, cause even if we miss, we might hit some stars!

-Chris Ward


Posted on January 16, 2013 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

  When did our lives stop being simple and become a series of complicated conveniences?  What moment in history can we point to as the evolution of the Human Race into laziness?  We are currently living in what I call, "The Self Delusional Age", our descendants will study this period of time as our self destructive period.  Some day in the future, a bright young Sociology professor will stand before a lecture hall filled with eager students and discuss our current way of life.  What will he say?

Will he tell them that we spent 25% of our lives in our cars?  Will he discuss our need to continue to develop and purchase products that would improve our lives by saving us precious time: can he explain a leaf blower?  Will he mention the huge toll on our environment that we allowed because we had to have the latest cell phone that allocate never having face to face contact again?  Would they understand why we lived in one of the largest agricultural states and still ate foreign imported tomatoes?  Would it take an entire day to discuss our need to buy bottled water instead of using that money to improve and protect our local drinking water?  Could they comprehend our continued indifference to the production of plastic bags just for our convenience or not providing our own?  What would they think about disposable wipes that hang next to the toilet paper?  And what would be our response to their bewilderment?

If one of us was asked to be a guest speaker, what would we say?  Would we say that drive thru's, paper towels, a separate cleaning product for every job in our home and Styrofoam saved us time, money and personal energy. Would we further explain that it didn't matter what happened to those products once we finished with them, because out of sight is out of mind?  Would we try to convince how important is was to have a green lawn even if we were suffering the worst drought in 70 years?  Would you say that our motto was, "what we didn't know, didn't hurt us", when we did know.....and it did hurt us?  Would you tell them that it didn't matter what each individual did because we had enormous natural resources to draw from, even though we were aware that we were either polluting or draining those resources?  Would you look them in the eye and say that we didn't encourage or support alternative energy research or programs because it would have cost us more money, and those problems belonged to the generation that followed?  Would you say that we didn't hold corporations responsible for their practices because we needed more and more stuff in our lives in order to be productive citizens?  What would we say, and could we say it without flinching.  

I was told once that the definition of insanity was doing the same things over and over again but expecting a different outcome each time.  What outcome can we expect on our current path of self delusion?  Abraham Lincoln is a personal hero of mine and during a speech he made at the Wisconsin State Fair on September 30, 1859 he stated, "No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of it's numbers".  He was speaking about agriculture and labor, but don't those words ring true for the environment as well?  If we continue on our current course, our resources will no longer sustain our population.  Isn't it time we stand up and take responsibility for our actions, don't we teach our children to do the same?  How can we expect them to do what we are not willing to do ourselves?  What will we tell our children, those students of the future?  The time for idleness has passed.  In that same speech on that beautiful fall day, President Lincoln told the following story as well, "It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever viewed, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations.  They presented him the words; "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses!  How chastening in the hour of pride! - how consoling in the depths of affliction! And this, too, shall pass away."  In this, our age of Self Delusion, isn't it time to allow our ambivalence to simply pass away.

-Chris Ward


Posted on December 17, 2012 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

When I was growing up, Mr. Snow Miser was my favorite holiday character.  You can keep your elves, Frostys, Rudolphs and Grinches, for me it was Mr. Snow Miser.  But just recently, Snowy has let me down.  He is a no-show this winter.  Is he on holiday somewhere in the Poconos sipping fruity drinks with little umbrellas served in them?  Is he seeing another state?  Where are my cooler temperatures, my chance to wear what my daughter calls, my unfortunate fashion sense in sweaters?  Where is my SNOW!!!

We have suffered drought in Oklahoma for several years now and it is not over yet.  Winter drought and unseasonably high temps make it that much worse.  I have roses blooming.....ROSES!  And for me this means that I have to continue to water my garden.  Not as often as in the summer, but I am still watering plants that should be dormant by now and until this weekend my rain barrels were dry.

Sooner or later, Mr. Snow Miser will show up and he may or may not bring moisture with him.  Winter is not all about energy efficiency, although that is very important, it's about water conservation as well, because drought is a serious business for everyone even during Snowy's reign.  Have you disconnected your water outdoor hoses from the faucets?  Have you wrapped your hot water pipes, or the pipes leading to faucets that run along outside walls?  Have you been told to run a pencil lead thin stream of water when the overnight temps go below 0 degrees?  If so, do you place a bucket in the sink to catch that water and reuse it?  You can reuse that water to water houseplants, help fill the washer or flush the toilet.  While temps remain mild, have you checked for leaks?  Every drop counts and needs to be accounted for, so continue your water conservation practices.  Turn off the water when cleaning your hands or teeth, use a shower bucket, wash only full loads of laundry and dishes, etc.

Christmas just doesn't feel the same when you are shopping for a Christmas tree wearing capris, flip flops and an organic T-shirt that promotes our 50 gallon challenge, but I soldier on.  I will persevere even though I have had to skip a day of baking Christmas Cookies in order to weed my beds.  And even though I only remember three Christmas' that it snowed, I am an eternal optimist.  We really need the moisture, and I am holding out for a white Christmas.  Until the precipitation meets our needs, our current weather pattern has been great for my electric and gas bills, but I am still careful about my water use because water is precious.

Drought means sacrifice, and if Snowy can't be bothered to show up soon, that's it, we're through.  I will take his picture off my computer desktop and replace it with The Winter Warlock's picture.  He is after all the poster boy for change.  Water conservation is like The Winter Warlock, you'll never get where you're going if you don't put one foot in front of the other.  Drought affects everyone, so in other words.......start water conservation today.

-Chris Ward


Posted on July 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (1)

  Water, water everywhere, but not where you need it.  This is the little ditty that runs through my head when I see an oscillating sprinkler.  Lawn Sprinklers are a pet peeve of mine.  My neighbor uses an oscillating sprinkler to water their lawn, it also rinses off my vehicle, waters my driveway, knocks the dust off my garage door and provides a nice little bird bath in the street as it slowly meanders to the storm drain.  She is a mult-tasker, taking care of all those chores with just one sprinkler.  Amazing organizational skills!  However......

Water conservation is becoming more and more important, expecially during our drought, and sprinklers that shoot water up into the air are HUGE water hogs.  Did you know that 30% of the water released by thoses sprinklers will evaporate before it even hits the ground?  And what about those winds that come sweeping off our plains?  Well, when that happens that water sometimes gets misdirected away from your lawns entirely.  Consider using another method like drip irrigation, or if you cannot afford to irrigate with drip lines and nozzles, weave several soaker hoses across your yard, or get a sprinkler that keeps the water closer to the ground.  If you do have an irrigation system, make sure that it is on a timer with a sensor so that it doesn't turn on when it rains.  Another way to make every drop count is to avoid watering in Oklahoma after 8 am and before 9 pm to control major evaporation loss.  If the city you live in has declared water rationing, this is usually part of that directive anyway.  Besides, if you are watering between those times - a word of advice, damp plants like humans, scorch in the sun!

Most people have bermuda lawns which need up to an inch weekly during the growing season.  If you want to be water conscious, you can test your sprinkler system to see how much water it delivers so you don't over water unnecessarily.  Take several clean used tuna cans, or any flat sided containers, and place them in a straight line where they will catch water from your sprinkler.  Turn your sprinkler off after 30 minutes and using a ruler, measure how much was captured.  Multiply that number by 2 and you know how much water your sprinkler delivers in an hour.  Calculate how long your sprinkler has to run to give your lawn the amount of weekly water it requires, then figure out how long your sprinkler will need to run if you divide that by as many days as you want to water.  For instance, if it takes 2 hours to get an inch of water, then water twice weekly for an hour or four times weekly for 30 minutes.  Lawns, including bermuda require a lot less water when dormant, so adjust your watering schedule beginning in the fall.

For me this is where the numbers become scary.  To provide your lawn with an inch of water, it takes approximately 1/2 gallon of water per square foot.  Multiply that by your lawn size and that is how many gallons of water a week that you use to water grass........GRASS!  But, if you use an oscillating sprinkler or any sprinkler type that throws water up into the air first, you actually use more than that.  Let's say you have a 10'x10' bermuda lawn, you should use around 62 gallons of water a week, but since you lose 30% through evaporation before it even hits the ground, you will actually have to use around 80 gallons to give your yard what it needs.  So today's mathematical lesson is, "Give your yard an inch and it will take 80 gallons".  There is a great website that will help you to determine how much water to give your type lawn every week.  It gives you the temp, wind speed and direction, rainfall and humidity data.  It also has some great tips and is easy to use and understand.  Visit; every week to get it right. 

Up to 70% of the typical household water usage in the summer is used to keep your landscaping and in particular your lawn green.  This might be one of those instances where our society benefits more if we all were a little less green.  Consider watering your lawn less, allow it to go dormant, replace it with something other than grass like a vegetable garden, or put in Xeriscaping.  This is a method of landscaping that uses drought tolerant native plants.  Anything that you can do to conserve water this summer will benefit us all. 

Water is important, so maybe it's time to let that green thumb turn blue!

-Chris Ward 



Posted on June 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It's a beautiful day here in Oklahoma, the perfect day to run the Water Waste Stakes.  The faucets are all lined up at the gate and ready to begin.  In stall #1 you have Slow Drip, she is a little young but knows how to make a splash!  In stall #2 in her first race of the day is Broken Nozzle.  She performs best on green courses, but has been known to veer off course to harder surfaces. In stall #3 you have Half Load, she has won many of her races in the past. In stall #4 is today's favorite, Bathing Beauty. This faucet has girth and speed. And, in stall #5 is Running Water, a slow starter but in the Water Waste Stakes, she is definitely a contender and should be watched.

This past Saturday, the District sponsored a 50 gallon challenge and although we don't have the results to share with you yet, I did want to discuss water conservation.  I took the challenge and found out where the majority of my municipal water was being used.  It wasn't what I thought I would find. Turns out the winner of my Water Waste Stakes was Shower Girl.  I took the bucket test on Friday Evening, I placed a bucket in my shower and timed how long it took to reach one gallon, then used the water to water my houseplants.  So, on Saturday, I timed my regular shower, and I am pleased to announce that I hold the best time in our house.  It still amounted to the highest amount of municipal water I used that day.  Lesson learned, I am shopping for a new showerhead. If you took the 50 gallon challenge, what faucet won the Water Waste Stakes for you? Whichever faucet it is, is there anything that you can change to make it less of a contender?  Could you even put it out to pasture?

Maybe, you could change races mid-flow.  If water conservation was the Triple Crown, then you must win these races to obtain the championship.  First race is the Acquire Stakes.  Learn everything you can about water conservation, gather tips, audit your home.  The second race is arguably the most important, the Action Stakes.  Here you apply your new knowledge, fix leaks, install low flow and monitor your use.  The final race is the crowning glory, the Advocate Stakes.  Pass on what you have learned, teach your children the importance of water conservation, take your habits everywhere you go, be an example.  Then you change your faucet's name to Green Gal, Water Baby or H2Off.  The race is on, so pick your race carefully because with only 1% of the earth's water accessible to over 1 billion of us, you have to back the right faucet, 10-1 odds can be too high a bet to lose. 


Posted on May 21, 2012 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 I am obsessed with Rain Barrels.  I have a 60 gallon and four 55 gallon rain barrels at home.  This equals 280 gallons of free water when they are full. I use the water in my garden, to do laundry and on occasion, wash my vehicle.  For me, this all began several years ago when I met Amanda and Bob Nairn.  They had applied for and received a grant from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to purchase the supplies needed to build rain barrels for Jefferson Elementary in Norman.  As part of the project they held a workshop on how to build them and gave several barrels and their parts away to attendees. I was the grateful recipient of one of those barrels.

It took an hour to build that first rain barrel, 30 minutes longer than it should have because, as my son explained, I lack something called Power Tool Coordination.  IT has something to do with continuously tripping on the electric cord while the drill is running, losing the key thingy a couple of times and getting the paddle bit stuck in the workbench.  That was the point when my husband came into the garage to lend me moral support and unsolicited advice.  By the time I was finished converting the barrel into a rain barrel, half of the men from our neighborhood were in my garage staring in awe and admiring my workshop skills.  Although I didn't appreciate the side bets being taken concerning which point of the process emergency services would have to be called, I did make $10 by suffering no personal injury.  As I pointed out very loudly, innocent bystanders were not mentioned during the placement of the bets therefore the money was mine to keep.  While still flushed with the triumph of construction and my new found windfall in my pocket, I placed the barrel under a valley on my back porch and waited for it to rain.  Of course, it didn't rain for over 2 months, but it didn't matter I had mastered water catchment.

I have learned many painful lessons about being a rain barrel owner.  For instance, turn off the tap after you have emptied the barrel so when it rains again, water doesn't pour out of the spout, (personal experience safety tip: if you do forget, don't go outside to turn it off during a hail storm).  Put mosquito dunks in your barrels or be prepared for an invasion rivaling any biblical plague.  Attach quick connects to your spigots, if you have ever had to sit on a cold concrete porch for 15 minutes trying to screw the hose onto your spigot, you will greatly appreciate the simple click, unclick of the quick connect.  Use soaker hoses to best utilize your rain barrel, and finally don't ever try to retrieve a watering can from the bottom of a full rain barrel, (second personal experience safety tip: don't try using a wire hanger to retrieve the can, it takes a good couple of weeks for that black eye to heal).

Since that first workshop, Amanada Nairn and I have conducted several Rain Barrel Workshops for the City of Norman and we have branched out to the City of Moore and other destinations.  We have given away hundreds of barrels and inch by inch, we have helped spread the word about water conservation.  I like knowing that I am giving other people that same sense of accomplishment and power that I felt building and using my rain barrels.  I like to think about all that free water that is being captured and utilized so that our pull on municipal water is reduced.  My rain barrels and I are a team, we work hard for water conservation and you can too.  Get a rain barrel, but let me warn you, like potato chips, you can never have just one!

*picture: Rain Barrels are decorated by local schools and are sold at the Spring Obsession held in Munn Park, Florida each year.


Posted on April 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

  Conservation Districts across the country celebrate Soil & Water Stewardship Week from April 29th - May 6th. This year our theme is "Soil to Spoon".  If you think about it, everything kind of hangs on the health of our natural resources; food, drinking water, industry and even the economy.  So, to celebrate this year's theme for Soil and Water Stewardship Week, I challenge you to play, "Four Degrees to Soil" at home with your family.  The directions are simple, take your favorite food or any meal you can think of and trace it back to the soil, (if you can't trace your food back to the soil in four short steps or less, you may want to review your food choices). For example, without revealing to you my super secret recipe for meatloaf, we will trace a basic recipe. Keep in mind that I grow some of my own vegetables and herbs and I purchase free range meats.

  1. Beef - Cows-grass-soil
  2. Bell Peppers - peppers-soil
  3. Onions - onions-soil
  4. Tomato Sauce - tomatoes - soil
  5. Eggs - Chickens - bugs - plants - soil
  6. Rolled Oats - oats-soil
  7. Herbs & Spices - herbs & spices - soil
  8. Chopped Garlic - garlic-soil

When you look at your food like that, healthy soils become very important to everyone.  Other ways you can celebrate the week; start a vegetable garden and use organic growing methods, support local producers and farmer's markets, compost or worm compost, have a soil test prior to applying fertilizer or recycle and utilize Hazardous Waste Drop Off Events.

Clean water is also important, having access to clean water makes for healthy food.  Some things you can do at home other than those mentioned above to keep our water clean include; implementing water conservation and being aware of your personal water use, using rain barrels and taking your old medications to a drop off points instead of flushing them down the toilet.  

Take a good look at the food on your spoon and think about where it came from and the soils that enabled you to eat your favorite cereal.  Think about all the attention and hard work it takes to keep our soils healthy, and then go find a farmer, give him/her a great big hug and wish them a Happy Soil & Water Stewardship Week.  They deserve it, after all they feed the world, and they more than anyone practice soil stewardship every day.   


Posted on April 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22nd and there are several events taking place in Cleveland County.  Moore Earth's Day Spectacular is Saturday, April 21st at the East parking lot of Fairmoore Park located on Telephone Rd.  Amanda Nairn and I will be conducting a Rain Barrel Demonstration at 2, 2:30 and 3 pm.  They are also hosting a recycling drive which includes; E-Waste, Glass and Tire Recycling.  The Town of Slaughterville is also hosting a recycling event on Saturday from 9 am until 2pm at the Town Hall. They accept; Oil, Antifreeze, aluminum, car batteries, scrap metal, appliciances, tires and E-Waste.  The City of Norman is hosting its Annual Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 22nd from Noon until 5 pm at Reaves Park located at 2501 Jenkins Ave.  The Festival has over 50 booths with environmental activities for children as well as information for adults.  There will be a 5K run, a Wheel Fun area, live music, free tree give away and mascots including Thunder's Rumble the Bison.  It's going to be a busy weekend. 

I am glad to see so many events honoring Earth Day. However, Earth Day for me is a state of mind that needs to be observed everyday!  There are several things that you can do at home that helps our environment.  So I have made the following list, that I like to call the "10 Things You Can Do To Save the World";

  • Stop accepting shopping bags, bring your own! 
  • Make or purchase Green Cleaning Products.
  • Research and Implement ways to be more Energy Efficient.
  • Practice Water Conservation.
  • Recycle everything possible.
  • Reduce your intake, for instance stop buying bottled water.
  • Maintain your vehicle so that it functions at peak performance.
  • Support local businesses and local producers.
  • Take advantage of Hazardous Waste Events for substances that should NOT be taken to the dump.
  • Practice Organic Gardening Methods including getting a soil test for find out if you even need fertilizer and how much.

All of these things are easy to do and will save you money.  Every habit you change does make a difference.  Every time you turn off a light in an unused room or throw something into a recycle bin instead of trash benefits our environment. Give those Ecoist muscles a workout!  Get out and enjoy Earth Day, then just keep going.  Let's all make an Earth Day Resolution to change at least one habit and make our Earth a better place.