Cleveland County Conservation District
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Helping People Reconnect To Our Environment

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THE YARD CONNECTION

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

LESSONS FROM THE FARM MA'AM

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.

    

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 

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   

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

AIM FOR THE MOON!

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

PEPE LE PEW IS A MYTH!

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (1)

I don't know how it happened.....but I blame my husband. I reviewed all my actions throughout my life and determined that I am blameless for this one. So, it had to be my husband. Cause somewhere along the line, we had inherited a homeless skunk. Our introduction came about during a trip to my garden shed. I thought he was a cat and tried to "shoo" him out. Needless to say, I didn't get the rake, as a matter of fact, I broke some land speed records removing myself from his personal space, and there might have been some girly screaming. I don't remember any screaming but my husband tells me with perfect recall that several high pitched Tarzan yells were released. He also likes to bring it up from time to time, so I blame my husband.

Let me tell you, this wasn't a cute and cuddly animal, I didn't detect any kind of french accent in the hissing, although he had the attitude. LOTS and lots of attitude. What was I going to do, who was I supposed to call? The pest control people just laughed and Animal Control only handles stray cats, dogs and the occasional loose Boa. The occasional loose WHAT!!! Do I have to worry about stray Boas in my garden now? Then the Animal Control Guy did it, he "ma'amed" me. "Ma'am, calls for snakes are rare, and we don't remove wild animals, give it some time, it will move on". Was the Animal Control Guy serious? I had finally found my French Connection in this situation, with his C'est La Vie attitude. This wasn't a c'est la vie situation, this was serious. And can I mention that rare only means it has happened more than once, and since when have Boas been considered domesticated or local? And what happens if the skunk has friends? Is my shed going to become some kind of rooming house for unruly skunks? This just can't continue, my shed was being held hostage.

Battle plans were drawn up and my family naturally sided with the skunk, then my husband reminded me that I designed the garden to be a habitat for local wildlife....he never learns! I was thinking birds, butterflies, bees, fish, domestic rabbits, countless bugs and the occasional squirrel, not skunks. My entire life became about that skunk. I thought about it, conspired against it and one day found myself worrying whether it was finding enough to eat back there. It was happening, my maternal instincts were kicking in, and then my kids named it Highway, (all black with a white stripe down the middle). The naming ceremony made it official, it had been adopted. I discovered the benefits of having a skunk about the place; the neighborhood cat bully stopped terrorizing my rabbits and fish, and then my neighbor's dog stopped barking every time I approached our mutual fence. The skunk became a part of my life and daily routine. Then one day he was simply gone. He had run away from home without leaving a note.

It's funny the things that happen in your life to drive home a Universal Truth. You hear stories about people building their homes in the canyons of California then complaining to authorities about wildfires and Mountain Lions that eat their mini frou frou poodles. I don't have anything against mini frou frou poodles; they have their place in the scheme of things, we all do. But why is it that we humans expect our environment to adapt to us instead of the other way around? Every other species on this planet adapts to its changing environment, even when we encroach on it. Case in point, the Mountain Lions who added mini frou frou poodles to their diet.

My housing addition was built in a huge open field and the skunks, rabbits and field mice were here first, they called Dibs. I don't really have the right to complain when our native wildlife comes to call. This is their planet too, and they have as much right to the place as we do.....Highway taught me that. Universal Truth Lesson number one, we can't rule Mother Nature, we try, but she usually wins in one way or another in the end. For me it was the loss of the use of my shed for a couple of months.

I decided to hang a sign on my shed door that will say, "Vacancy - All Species Welcome". We bought a house that was built in what was once an open field teeming with wildlife, so I can afford to be a little gracious when it comes to sharing the garden with them, because it has become part of their habitat now. I am a Southerner after all, and we are famous for our hospitality. But if a Boa ever visits my garden....that's it, all bets are off! He wins, it will become his garden unconditionally.

-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

THE GREAT PLASTIC EXPERIMENT

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (2)

  Sometimes I feel as if I am wearing a sign, "Plastic is Evil".  I was invited to a party this holiday season and from the moment I entered the room my hostess began to apologize for her choices.  She explained in great length and with widening arm motions why she purchased plastic stemware and disposable dishes.  As I listened, she got more and more defensive about it.  This wasn't a two way conversation as she did all the talking, and when she finished and her hands stopped flying around, I simply asked, "Do you mind if I use my own dishes"?  I carry them with me everywhere; I don't leave home without them, that is my choice.  This has happened to me many times in the past, someone explaining their choices to me, but this time it made me wonder, "Do I think that all plastic is evil"?  After some soul searching I determined that I don't, but I do believe that some of it is redundant and wasteful.

Plastic is everywhere and some of it is a necessary and beneficial part of our lives.  Plastic helped to save my husband's life during his battle with Cancer.  My rain barrels are plastic, my worm bins are plastic, and my favorite sunglasses are plastic.  I started to think a lot about plastic.  I have tried to cut as much plastic out of my life as possible.  I buy things in glass containers; I don't buy disposable items when possible.  But how much plastic was still in my life? This led me to the Great Plastic Experiment.

For one day, I decided that I was going to see if I could avoid touching plastic.  The rules were simple, I couldn't ask anyone else to touch the plastic for me such as turning on the TV because I couldn't touch the remote, and the only thing I was going to allow myself to touch would be the toilet seat...that was a given.  I choose a Saturday because a work day would force me to use a keyboard.  The first thing that I noticed is when you are hyperaware of something you see it everywhere.  The day started off great!  I couldn't do the laundry because the knobs were plastic.  I was able to do some cleaning as I mix my own in glass containers, but the sprayers were plastic as well as the broom, dust pan and steam mop.  So far this isn't bad at all, no laundry, and not much cleaning.  So I settled in with a good book without a plastic dust jacket.  Everything was fine until the cravings started.  Have you ever noticed that if you have a day off you are happily content to stay at home, but if your car is in the shop you can't think of anything but the stuff that requires you to drive and you are stuck at home?  This was like that.  I wanted to watch a DVD and eat a sandwich, both were denied me.  Then I had an overwhelming urge to play spider solitaire on the laptop.  I think that I was experiencing plastic withdrawal, but I was determined.  I almost made it, but the stars aligned against me and the Plastic Gods conspired to trip me up.  I had gone through the entire day frustrated, but plastic touch free and triumphant, and that is when it happened.  I took my shower, climbed into my organic cotton jammies and reached for the light switch on the lamp....the light switch.  Busted!!!!

My Great Plastic Experiment Conclusion; Plastic IS everywhere and we can't avoid it.  Plastic isn't evil, it was designed to improve our lives and it has.  But, as with everything that involves humans, we have taken it to the extreme.  The convenience of plastic is just a little too tempting.  Just because the human mind can conceive an idea doesn't necessarily mean we should develop and use it, do we really need plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags?  I have nothing against plastic; we just need to be more responsible about how we use it in our lives, and when we do use it we absolutely should recycle it.  Plastic should never reach our landfills.  As for me, I am a little more aware of the plastic that surrounds me and I will continue to cut out what I can.  But, if I come to your home......chill.  Even if the Zombie Apocalypse causes me to forget my dishes that day, I would just take what I used home to recycle it if you don't.  I am responsible and judge my own actions, not yours.  To be honest, I just don't have the brain RAM to supply to the situation.  But if you are interested in learning how to cut down your plastic use, I am easy to find.  I'll be the one carrying the palm leaf plate with matching bamboo utensils.

-Chris Ward

MR. SNOW MISER IS AWOL

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

THE RE-GIFTING DEBATE

Posted on December 12, 2012 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)

How do you stand on regifting? When I have asked that question in the past, I didn't realize that there are two entrenched camps at war.  You either agree with the practice and then spend the next several hours informing me of the benefits, or you strongly disagree and will spend the rest of your life wondering about the manner in which I was raised.   There doesn't seem to be a grey area here, in my very informal poll which included my friends and several text messages, you are either for or against regifting, I couldn't find any undecided's, I have very decisive friends with big vocabularies at their command.

This is my position on the subject.  REGIFT!!  If my sister, whose biggest cooking accomplishment is making deviled eggs, were to receive a brand new shiny Kitchen Aide Mixer from a well intentioned husband with high hopes and she in turn gave it me for Christmas....well, where is the harm?  The mixer landed in the right hands, and the man deserves a cake from time to time. I have no complaints, my sister doesn't feel any guilt because she's not having to stare at the thing and feel inadequate and my brother in law is happy....didn't I mention the free cakes?  We have all received a gift that just wasn't meant to be in our lives, why not pass it on to someone who will love, enjoy and benefit from it instead of hiding it away or even worse having to dust around it.

My kids disagree with me on this particular subject.  My daughter reacted with horror when I posed the question of regifting.  I was informed that if I ever gave a gift that was given to me in her presence, she would die of embarrassment.  I know that's not true, if she can survive my full, loving support at her sporting events, she will survive this. I don't understand the problem.  For years our family has played Dirty Santa at my mom's house, you know the game where everyone brings a nice gift and you draw numbers. The first person chooses a wrapped gift and opens it; the second person can take the first gift or chose another unwrapped gift and so on.  The gift becomes yours if no one takes it or it has been stolen twice before you take it.  And every year there are back room exchanges going on after the game, it looks like the trading floor on Wall Street.   I hate to tell you this, but that is regifting in the extreme.  So from their point of view it's okay to steal a gift that someone has and wants, but not okay to quietly and tastefully pass on a gift?  I am going to ignore their opinions until they are in their 30's and know what they are talking about or until they agree with me.

I haven't even mentioned all the environmental benefits of regfting.  I know or at least I hope that the gifts I receive especially at Christmas are chosen with love and well thought out consideration.  I will keep the love, the gift however....?  Look at this way, maybe it is the gift's Karma to move on and enrich the life of someone more deserving of that Rudolph sweater with the attached glowing nose.  And if you are very good and eat your fresh locally sourced greens, maybe it won't find its way back to you.  How do you stand on the subject of regifting, have you done it yourself?  Would you be upset if you found out someone had regifted your gift or gave you a gift that they  previously received themselves?  Share your opinion, I can take it.

-Chris Ward

HE KNOWS IF YOU'VE BEEN BAD OR GOOD

Posted on December 10, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

 The following post has been previously posted in our 2012 Holiday Newsletter.

Would you be surprised if I told you that Santa Claus was an everyday environmentalist?  Don't believe me?  He is and I can prove it! 

First, let's examine the man himself, he grows a beard so that he doesn't have to buy shaving accessories and he wears glasses instead of disposable contacts.  Also, have you noticed that he wears the same outfit year after year, I mean come on, you have to admire a man that can pull off such a loud suit, look good doing it, all the while starting a fashion trend that never gets old.  Even Armani has a version of the Santa Suit.

If you examine his home environment and company policies, you will see that he is definitely a practicing conservationist. He has lived in the same house/shop for hundreds of years; he employs local Elves while maintaining Fair Trade practices.  They make all the toys using hand tools, and I can't image that there are any preservatives in his candy canes.   He has a website that allows you to email your Christmas Wish List.  Since they are located in the North Pole at an undisclosed location, I'm thinking he has to be running off grid.  And then there is his dedication to petroleum free travel.  He uses a sleigh with reindeer and the closet he gets to a GPS system is a star chart.

When he visits you house, he carries his gifts in an old magical bag that he has had forever.  You get all this sustainability for a price of a cookie, so don't you think that the man deserves some organic milk from a local producer to wash it all down?  Kris Kringle is my idol, he is what I strive to be.  So, you better watch out, because yes Virginia, Santa Claus is an everyday environmentalist and he knows if you've been bad or good.

-Chris Ward 

IT CAME WITHOUT RIBBON

Posted on December 3, 2012 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

I could tell you that the greenest option for giving Christmas presents is to not buy anything at all....but where is the challenge in that? I have often stared in wonder at the people in my life who buy tons of gifts for their children each year, and then watch as the kids lose interest in the gift long before they have paid off their credit cards. One of my favorite Christmas memories is the year that I saved up to buy my daughter a play kitchen, she was seven years old and loved playing house. Christmas morning came and I was right....she was so excited and couldn't wait to play. She and my son spend the next several days playing in the gigantic box the thing came in. Lesson learned.

We have tried to make Christmas a holiday about family and love and not about the pursuit of an avalanche of gifts. Every year at Thanksgiving, we draw names and buy or make one gift for the person whose name we drew. We often talk about changing it to homemade gifts only, but if you had seen the Hula Girl Lamp my son spent an entire weekend trying to construct, you would understand why we allow purchased gifts.

But how do you keep your gift giving greener and at the same time more personal? I have a wonderful, awful idea......get creative. If you are like me, your time is at a premium, so a homemade gift announces to the receiver that they are both loved and appreciated. Here are some of my favorites; cookies, candy, bath spa products like facial scrubs and fizzy bombs, memberships in organizations like the Nature Conservancy or an ECOpass. Beautiful house plants (air quality), homemade cleaning products, homemade vanilla or spice mixes. Personal gift certificates redeemable when needed are always a hit. Give a coupon for; child care, cooking, lawn services, 3 months of free eggs (if you have your own chickens) or small household chores. Do you have a talent that you can share; samples of your home canned food, refinish a piece of furniture, a blanket you have knitted, jewelry, scented soaps, stained glass ornaments, a CD of you or your child playing an instrument. Or just share your time by organizing a Christmas Cookie exchange or a Re-gifting Party. And for your own little Cindy Lu Who...... get them a big Recycled cardboard box and consider it a job well done!

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is one of my favorite books and contains words of wisdom from the greenest guy I know, "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes and bags. And he puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before, What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

Merry Christmas!

-Chris Ward

 

Do They Still Make Wooden Christmas Trees?

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

  Have you ever had a Charlie Brown Christmas?  You know that year you waited too long to get your tree and your choices were the 12 foot spruce that wouldn't fit under your bay window and the 6 foot Douglas Fir that was already died and dropping needles everywhere?   I am standing there staring at it wondering whether I could hot glue some of those needles back onto the tree.  Turns out six white feather boas from a Halloween costume that year can cover a lot of sins, (don't ask).  Luckily for us nobody in our family suffers from allergies that prevent us from having a real tree as I consider it to be the most eco-friendly choice for me.

Artificial trees have come a long way, Santa Baby!  You can find trees that are made with recycled content, pre-lit, already decorated and on a turntable.  However the majority of them are still made from PVC Plastic, and although they can last for mega years, what do you do with it when it is no longer wanted?  The answer to that question and the question of where do I buy an artificial tree is the same....Goodwill or Salvation Army.  For families that suffers severe allergies, an artificial tree is the only way to go unless you go tree free this year, for the rest of us, consider a real tree.

Let's talk about the best way to be environmentally friendly while having a freshly cut tree.  First, buy from a local producer.  Did you know that there are several Christmas Tree Farms in Cleveland County?  You can find them at www.okchristmastrees.com .  These farms not only provide you with a real tree that you can choose yourself, those trees are working for you while they are growing....it's called, air quality control.  Conifers and Pine trees are some of the best carbon monoxide busters around not to mention all that oxygen.  The trees are replanted every year, so you are supporting tree planting, a local business and providing your children with an experience that they will remember and hopefully pass on to their children.  Another great thing about having a cut tree is the City of Norman will pick up your tree and mulch it, the ultimate in recycling and reusing.  

Or, consider buying a live tree, that has been balled and bur lapped for replanting after Christmas.  It is a living reminder of Christmas' past.  If you don't have the room to plant the tree after the holiday, you can always donate the tree to a local school, church or park.  Look at it this way, you are supporting your community, encouraging environmental practices all while receiving a tax receipt, cool, huh!  For the Scrooges among us, you have just written off your Christmas Tree!

I hope some of these ideas will help you with your tree twinges, but I will bet that I have left you with a burning question, "What does Chris do"?  Well, I'll tell ya.  I will buy a live tree when I can afford to do so, and cut trees between those times.  When we have a cut tree, I lop off the branches after the holidays, compost them, my son carves the year into the trunk and it becomes the post of a new bird feeder in the garden.   I like to think I'm spreading Christmas cheer to our feathered friends.  Whether you celebrate this year with a live, cut or artificial tree, please remember that although size and substance are important, nothing compares to that moment when your loved ones surround the tree and you realize..... how truly grateful you are that you had 6 white feather boas!

-Chris Ward

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD....AND FAMILY

Posted on November 19, 2012 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Usually during the week of Thanksgiving, I am in achievement overdrive.  I check out cookbooks from the library and scour the internet for the perfect pie recipe or a totally off the chain stuffing.  For me, it was all about the food....okay, it was a little bit about  beating my sisters in the original best dish category.  Turns out there are certain recipes you just don't mess with, I barely survived the family riot of 2008 when I served a stuffing that was not our granny's recipe.   

But in the last couple of years it truly developed into a focus on the food.  I wanted to serve dishes made from fresh locally sourced food that reflected the season.  While I was looking into this, I found out that in a weird twist of coincidences most of the side dishes that we served traditionally in our family were seasonal, including the turkey.  My eco ego puffed up with pride, until my mother reminded me that my great grandparents all grew their own food and those dishes were created because those were the veggies available to them at that time of the year.  Who knew that they were ahead of the game?  For me, it's harder, I don't grow as much, I don't have the room and Farmers Markets in my area close at the end of October.  In order to provide fresh ingredients for our family feast I discovered happily that we have several local sources for organic in-season produce, so I am back in the saddle, puffed pride and all.    

The possibilities are endless; butternut squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, celery, beets, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, spinach, onions, mushrooms, pumpkins, pecans and apples.  We have to have a holiday feast to enjoy this bounty of delicious food.  If you take a look at your traditional Thanksgiving menu, I'll bet you will find several of these veggies being used at your house too.

On Thursday, 16 people will descend on my house, each family bringing their assigned dishes; broccoli rice casserole, green bean casserole, candied yams, granny's stuffing, gravy, pecan pies, pumpkin pies and TWO organic Turkeys.  I cook the: cranberry sauce, yeast rolls, cream cheese & chive mashed potatoes and green beans.  This year, I will make an Apple Cranberry Pie, (sorry girls, but you are going down!). After lunch the domino tournament melee will begin, after all it's about family too.  Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.


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