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Archive for July, 2013

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Milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly.

Author Robert Brault writes, “Why try to explain miracles to your kids, when you can just have them plant a garden?” Young children have an innate curiosity and are masters at observation. Encouraged at an early age, they can carry these observation skills throughout their school years and beyond. Attitudes about the environment are formed early, so we should create spaces right outside their doorstep where children can learn to appreciate the wonders found in nature.

Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, struck a chord that still reverberates, making us realize that our future environmental stewards spend too much time in front of video screens during their formative years. This is the time when making connections with nature can ignite a passion that lasts a lifetime. Opening the door to nature can be as easy as walking across the threshold, whether to a large backyard, a small corner of the front yard, or even a balcony. (more…)

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Last month I shared about the connection between septic systems and degraded water quality.  I wanted to follow up with some simple this you should and should not do to keep your septic system in good working order.

Roll

Do!

  • Have your septic tank pumped every 3-5 years
  • Keep a map of where you septic system is located
  • Divert roof drains and surface runoff away from your septic system, excess water can overwhelm your system and cause backups into your home
  •  Use your garbage disposal sparingly, excess solids sit in your tank an increase the frequency of pumping

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My colleagues at work know that I love to eat oysters. I enjoy them raw, but fried or grilled oysters are tasty too. A light soup made with leeks, cream, stock, and shucked oysters is an all-time favorite and proves the point that simple is often better. But the simplest preparation is oysters on the half-shell, which is perhaps the best way to appreciate how local conditions shape these bivalves. And when I take my seat at the oyster bar, I’m thinking specifically of oyster flavor and texture.

Oysters thrive where fresh and salt water mix, conditions that make Galveston Bay suitable for numerous oyster reefs. The Bay’s shape and in-flowing rivers means that salinity, temperature, depth, and currents change from point to point. These highly localized conditions within the Bay can produce two seemingly different oysters harvested only miles apart. A Pepper Grove Reef oyster from East Bay may taste bright and salty, while the Lone Oak oyster from nearby Trinity bay can have a creamy texture and a briny sweetness. These local conditions also shape the shell’s surface (smooth or ribbed) and the color and tenderness of the plump morsel inside. What this all means is that Galveston Bay produces as many oyster varieties as it has reefs. For foodies and oyster lovers, this is something to celebrate.

Oyster Reef Appellations

Oyster Reef Appellations

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to work in partnership with the Galveston Bay Foundation and Tommy’s Oyster Bar to draft a map illustrating the location of reefs in the Galveston Bay. 
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Immeasurable. Priceless. Both are words worthy of the volunteers who comprise the Wetland Restoration Team, and until recently, with the need to put a REAL number to their time, I would have preferred to leave them respectfully in that realm of the invaluable and intangible.
I was charged with the task of determining the hourly rate (value) of a volunteer’s effort for a proposal reviewed by a federal agency. The request required specific current documentation to support the final documented amount. In the pursuit of that value, I came to the conclusion that you can only guess and find values to imperfectly measure a volunteer’s “dollar value”.
For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics establishes a standard value for an educator (National Compensation Survey). But what if a volunteer is teaching biology and chemistry and physics to a student with varying degrees of botany and taxonomy, and touches on the ecology of the plant community. How does that advance and varied educational experience get captured in a dollar amount?
Likewise, the Bureau standarizes the market value for labor in the Natural Resources/Conservation field. But could that value accurately encompass the 10 years of experience working with students doing restoration and the 40 years of prior experience as a science teacher? Could it capture the years of experience with safety protocol in the work force that is then applied to working as a volunteer in inclement field conditions?
In the end, the value-determining exercise made me further appreciate the uncaptured value of the volunteers who comprise the Wetland Restoration Team. Their effort and experiences are essential to the whole restoration process, as it is through their hands and sweat equity that the wetlands are planted. There is no pricetag on their willingness to restore wetlands on days when the weather and the work is LESS than desirable. The Team volunteers could choose other places to support or other projects, but they consistently return to the wetlands. A truly priceless gift.

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Drummond Phlox

Reflecting on America’s beginnings as a nation is always timely. Thoughts of rebellious colonists standing united against an increasingly tyrannical British rule would hardly seem to relate to time spent in a garden. Yet, it was through a connection to the land and a common passion for gardens, that our nation began its journey toward self-reliance and independence.

As an avid gardener and history buff, it was will great relish that I immersed myself in a book by Andrea Wulf, “Founding Gardeners” (1). Here we learn how closely our founding fathers remained connected to nature, to the land, and to their gardens—with gardening metaphors paralleling political ones.  (more…)

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