Cleveland County Conservation District
[email protected]
405-364-7319


Helping People Reconnect To Our Environment

EcoLogue

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! 

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 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

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   

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

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

 

 

RANDOM ACTS OF TREEHUGGING

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!!

-Chris 

LET 'EM BEE

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

  Ahhh...pollen.  That powdery stuff that makes some of us miserable, but that we literally couldn't live without.  Every spring I share a divided mind about pollen, I love it, I hate it......I need it, I dread it.  Nature definitely loves a good oxymoron!  For instance, consider the low maintenance garden.  Ever seen one, ever worked one?  Exactly....but we garden because we love it, and we want to grow our own food for our families.  And some of us also enjoy the opportunity to post the pictures of our exceptionally large organic pumpkins on Facebook.  Then one day, you realize that you have lost some perspective when your FB album contains more pictures of your veggies than your kids.  You may not notice, but believe me, your children check.  But if you want Facebook worthy veggies, you need pollen and pollinators, and since I don't want to dwell on the evil side of pollen, (it will grab my attention soon enough), let's take a walk through the bright side.....the pollinators and in particular native bees.

I make a point to beefriend native bees.  There has been a lot of buzz lately and you may have wondered, "why should I care?".  Native bees are the match makers of the natural world.  To put it simply, bees introduce boy to girl, who promptly goes forth and becomes fruitful.  I love food and I assume that you do too, so whether you know it or not, you by association love bees.  Now that I have explained the true nature of the birds and bees, we have an important job to do.  Like Honey Bees, some Native Bees are suffering population decline through disease, loss of habitat and chemicals.  If you consider that bees work for you, don't we as employers owe them a safe and healthy working environment?

Here is how you can help.  Design a work space for them that will be the buzz of every hive in the world.  As every Queen Bee knows, if your workers are happy, porduction rates go up!  Put in a Pollinator's Playground using native plants, trees, shrubs and wildflowers.  Bee pesticide and herbicide free as much as possible, and if you can't avoid them for whatever reason, avoid applying them when bees are active, which is before dawn and just before sunset.  Provide nesting sites such as bare soil, dead trees, or drill holes into a stump or hang a bunch of hollow bamboo or elderberry sticks.  Put out a source of fresh water.  Bee proactive because here's the sting....if they decide to go on strike, most of our food will disappear along with them.

Pollen season is around the corner, it is beautiful, annoying, messy and necessary.  That's life, No I really mean it.....pollen is actual life.  So this season, take as deep a breath as you can wheeze, peer over the mountain of used tissues and with your blurry eyes, watch the bees doing their thing.  And if you can hear anything beyond the muffled sound of your own heartbeat, let their buzzing make you smile and fill you with gratitude because you don't have to pollinate every single one of those blossoms yourself.  Then do what I do, suck it up and go back to bed knowing that those bees got your back. 

-Chris Ward

THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

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

THE POPCORN DILEMMA

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (1)

 I recently underwent a crisis of eco-conscience.  Granted it only lasted about 30 seconds, but I truly suffered during the process.  Here was my dilemma, if I somehow personally profit from a green choice, and I a true Ecoist?  If I receive a reward for an environmentally friendly good deed do my motives become suspect and somehow turn the deed into one of self interest?  Does the self interest factor cancel out the green practice?  Conclusion.....NAH!

How can it count against me if my bank offers me the incentive of free fresh popcorn just because I came in instead of driving thru?  But, should I be worried about the state of my subconscience value system?  Well, not today, because I made the right choice for myself, I chose Door A. -  the greener option.  We all do things everyday that have a happy ending with a self reward.  Being energy efficient and paper free is beneficial to our planet, but it can also save us a lot of money and that is definitely in my best interest.  But, in order to be true to the environmental cause, should we return that money.....yeah, I'm not going to either!  

I am paid to be an Ecoist, it is my job and I am good at it because I care about the environment, but does the fact that I popcorn profit take away from the results?  Why should ulterior motives matter if you took the right turn and didn't get lost?  I am not going to stop carpooling to meetings just because I enjoyed the ride.  I am not going to feel guilty because one of the main reasons I bring my own bags is because they won't tear when the baggers overestimate my upper body strength.  I am not going to stop worm composting just because it results in the best garden in a five state area and allows me bragging rights.  I am not going to stop bringing my lunch to work with me just because it saves me money and because I enjoy my own cooking. Why should I?  For me it is all about the green choices that I make and not why I make them.  I can live with me ulterior motives, as a matter of fact, I rarely notice them most of the time.

You have to be amazed that I went through all of that in 30 seconds, but it appears that I have a short eco-conscience attention span.  I do the things that I do because they make me feel good, and if by doing good the Universe provides me with fresh popcorn, why agonize over it?  I'm not keeping score, nor do I weigh my motives against the end results.  But if I were to keep score...... I have to tell you, I think that because they allow me to put that popcorn into my bag, I should be receiving double bonus eco points!

-Chris Ward 

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND

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

WARNING: THIS POST DOES CONTAIN NUTS

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (1)

When I left my parents house seeking my own identity, fame and fortune, I took with me the list of cleaning supplies my mother used in our house.  These were the products that I grew up with, each had a specific job and I believed, as my mother did, that your house wasn't clean unless you could smell pine and bleach.  I was in for a shock the first time I went to the grocery store clutching my list; my cleaning supplies took half my budget!  But they were a necessity and it continued like that until I had my second child.  My son had very sensitive skin and my first old friend to bite the dust was my Gain laundry detergent.  When I came out of my mourning period which amounted to a moment of silence, I took a deep breath and began the search for a greener and may I say cleaner laundry soap.

The more research I conducted, the more it became clear to me that I needed to make my own cleaning supplies.  I was in Nirvana, this stuff was so easy and cheap to make, but I had some rewiring to do first.  Turns out suds don't equal clean.  What!?!  I need bubbles...how do I know that the soap is doing it's job unless I have bubbles, everybody has bubbles.  I had already gone through the painful process of deciding to break up with Gain, what more could the universe ask of me... come on!  Every site told me that soap bubbles usually indicate Sodium Laureth Sulfates (SLS) and it is harmful to the environment, commercial companies add it to give you bubbles.  It's like the cherry on top of the Sundae, you don't need it, you probably don't eat it, but boy do you notice if it's not there and the Sundae just looks naked.  So I was left with a Gain-less life and a naked Sundae, yeah.  But things got better, the first recipe that I tried for laundry powder worked great!  But, as I became more and more concerned about the environment, I discovered that the soap bar that I was grating to make it contained petroleum products, and the search began again.  I am not going to tell you about all the chemicals found in some commercial products, you have heard it all before, but for my family, I wanted to be chemical free.  I found Soap Nuts.

Soap Nuts are the berry form the Soapberry or Sapindus Tree, and they produce a natural surfactant saponin that makes them a powerful tool in your quest for a green clean house.  I will admit that I spen 15 minutes stuck on a mental loop contemplating the irony of calling something a nut that was in fact a berry, but I eventually found the exit.  If these nuts worked as advertised, I had found my answer.  A nut that would clean my clothes and could then be composted....no waste, no additional packaging; I felt dizzy, but ordered some immediately.

I fell in love with Soap Nuts and imagined starting a fan club that would go international bringing me the fame and fortune that has so far eluded me, but I had laundry to do back in the real world and that dream was forwarded to my environmental bucket list.   The company that I use sends me a little cotton bag with each order and you place 4-5 nuts in the bag, if you wash in cold, you need to place the bag into a cup of hot water to soften them up.  Then, place the cup of hot water, and the bag containing the nuts in the wash.  You can reuse them until they turn a grayish color, and then compost them.  My Soap Nut evolution continued as I learned how to make liquid soap from them, and there was no stopping me when I learned you could freeze the liquid for future use.  I started to use the soap to make shampoo, in the dishwasher and as an all purpose cleaner.

Over the years, I have learned many lessons that I want to share with you about Soap Nuts.  To make the liquid, boil 4 cups of distilled water, remove from heat, add 7 nuts to the water, replace the lid and allow to steep overnight.  In the morning, remove the nuts and squeeze all the goodness out of them and toss them into the compost.  I usually double or triple my recipe in order to freeze some in ice cube trays or in recycled 4 oz glass jars.  Soap Nuts are a natural product and the liquid will spoil quickly outside of refrigeration.  If you do keep it in the fridge, label it because it can resemble apple juice and you don't want to hear that story.  Soap nuts can be found locally now at some of our Natural Food Stores.

To make an all purpose cleaner add: 2 c. distilled water, 1 T. vinegar, 1 T. of the liquid soap.  As an option, you can add an essential oil such as lemon, tea tree or lavender as an additional disinfectant.

I love my Soap Nuts, but I still get nostalgic about Gain.  I have been known to sit closer than accepted in polite society when I smell it on someone's clothes.  And I would never camp outside of a store on Thanksgiving for Black Friday sales or wait in line for 24 hours to buy tickets to anything, but....it they ever produce an essential oil blend that resembles the scent of original Gain, I would body check a senior citizen to get to it.  

-Chris Ward  

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ELEMENTAL

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

WHEN FRUGALITY MEETS GREENOLOGY

Posted on January 7, 2013 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Do you consider yourself to be frugal?  I like to think of myself as having a frugal soul, but being frugal was never my focus, I concentrated on the practice of Greenology, my made up word for a greener lifestyle.  Like many of you, this year is going to be a financial challenge for me and I decided that I had to become more frugal.  During my search on the internet for frugal ideas, I found hundreds of websites and blogs, thousands of tips and I discovered some good news and some bad news about my decision to tighten my financial belt. 

The good news is, I am a Frugal Diva!  One day into my new lifestyle and I am royalty...... a Nifty Thrifty Super Star. Turns out that many of the things that I do already in order to be earth friendly are frugal necessities as well.  I practice energy efficiency and water conservation.  I cook at home and pack my lunch.  I don't buy prepackaged meals, sides, sauces, mixes or spice blends.  I make my own breads, pastas, vinegars and flavored oils.  I drive my vehicle as little as possible, I map my routes and combine errands. I use very few disposable items.  I shop at Goodwill, Salvation Army and thrift stores. I make my own shampoos, deodorant and toothpaste.  I use the Library for the latest books and videos.  I grow some of my veggies from seed and freeze them; I am also learning how to can.  I compost, therefore I produce my own fertilizer, soil amendment and mulch.  I have 6 rain barrels that I use for various things outside my garden.  I make my own green cleaning supplies and laundry soap and I dry line my clothes.  I use a shower bucket for goodness sake.  I cancelled my subscriptions to cable, Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens years ago, isn't that sacrifice enough?  I did all these things in order to live a more earth friendly lifestyle; I was practicing the art of Greenology.

Then the bad news struck me, what more can I do to save money and stay true to my green side?  Turns out plenty, there are many more ways to save money, many holes in my budget that I can plug, but since this isnt a blog about being frugal, I won't discuss those here.  During all my research, I was just impressed with how many of the things that I do to be green were also on websites dedicated to frugality.  It's a great marriage with a common thread holding them together....reduction.   Reduce your water intake; reduce your bill, same goes for energy use.  Reduce your purchases; reduce the strain on your pocketbook, and on and on.

If you are facing a hard financial year this year, consider looking toward greenology.  It will be one of the most frugal actions you can take.  What do you do at home or in your office to stay frugally green, tell us on our forum page. I hope that you have a happy, healthy, greener 2013!

-Chris Ward