Archive | May, 2014

June / July 2014 Issue

June / July 2014 Issue

It’s Summer Time in Denton!

- Visit the Lewisville Lake Environmental Area to see how pollinators work their magic

- Explore another iconic building in Denton:  Courthouse-on-the-Square

- Enjoy the festivities in Denton and surrounding areas for the Fourth of July

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Preserving Pollinators

Preserving Pollinators

by Faith Fielder, Texas Master Naturalist

One of my favorite memories of elementary school involves watching a caterpillar form a chrysalis and develop into a monarch butterfly in our second-grade classroom. We had to walk carefully across the floor to avoid a vibration that might break the fragile stem where the light green, iridescent chrysalis was attached to the stem of the milkweed plant on which the caterpillar had been feeding.

When the butterfly emerged, it seemed miraculous. Watching it spread its wings and make ready for its migratory flight was the beginning of the next stage in a cycle involving several generations of monarchs, beginning in Mexico, crossing Texas and moving northward in the spring, and returning in the fall to winter in Mexico. The migration involves millions of butterflies, and benefits not only the survival of a beautiful species, but the production and growth of plants for human survival, as well.

Because monarchs are a pollinator (insects and animals that spread pollen from plant to plant), they are a vital link in the process in which edible plants reproduce and develop. Estimates as high as 90% of flowering plants and one-third of human food crops rely on pollination by creatures that, in the process of their daily lives, spread the genetic material that is required for development of the next generation. In our region of Texas, cucumbers, figs, blackberries, and blueberries benefit most from the activities of native bee populations, for example.

At this time, however, the path for the monarch caterpillar may not be as easy as it was fifty years ago. Ongoing drought in the Southwest and other regions of the U.S., as well as loss of habitat areas, have resulted in a serious decline in numbers of monarchs and other pollinating species. Add an unusually cold winter, as well as a lack of milkweed, the primary food source for monarchs, and the picture for North and Central Texas looks unusually bleak.

One of the ways to support monarchs, however, is through furnishing a promising habitat by cultivating the milkweed plant. In fact, the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, is edible for humans, and may be cooked and prepared in several different ways.

Butterfly trackers have proposed planting milkweed along the interstates, to provide a migratory feeding habitat from Mexico to Canada for monarchs. Spring and fall are the seasons when monarchs pass directly through this area. Right here in Denton County, an attempt to provide this habitat has been made through a yearlong project called the Pollinator Pocket Prairie at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Area (LLELA).

LLELA covers 2000 acres for wildlife conservation and protected biodiversity. It’s a haven for the natural habitats of mammals such as bobcat, river otter, deer, and mink, along with wild turkey, painted bunting, and dozens of waterfowl species. LLELA is dotted with sloughs, wetlands, creeks, and dry channels, the landscape features originally wrought by the Elm Fork and its tributaries during flood events. These remain filled by rainwater, where one may find many ducks, turtles, wading birds, and other waterfowl. Established in the 1990s, it’s comprised of a consortium of UNT, Texas A&M, the City of Lewisville and Lewisville ISD.
The Pollinator Pocket Prairie is a 1000-square-foot area planted in native plant species, including host and nectar plants that attract pollinators, from bees to butterflies, and even some common fly species. Beetles and birds also spread pollen, and all these creatures cooperate in the pollination that is necessary for crops to flourish for human consumption.

The purpose of garden is to provide an example of plants that can be included in home and civic gardens to provide resilience in the face of drought and extreme temperature, based on survival over thousands of seasons of growth. Members of the Elm Fork Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists selected pollinator-attracting plants, in collaboration with the Denton County Master Gardeners, LLELA staff, the Native Plant Society of Texas, UNT and community volunteers. June 16th-22nd this year is National Pollinator Week, an excellent opportunity to see this process in action.

For more information, please check the sources txmn.org/elmfork, LLELA.org, and pollinator.org.

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Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins

and New Treatment Options

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are often thought of as large, raised, swollen blood vessels that twist and turn and the smaller spider veins.  But venous insufficiency encompasses more than just the veins we can see.  Often the problem starts just below the surface and can cause true medical problems.  It is a progressive disorder that can include leg pain, swelling, cramps, and restless leg symptoms in the early stages.   Later stages include redness or “infection” of the leg, brown discoloration, and wounds or ulcers that do not heal or heal slowly.

Spider veins are smaller, red, purple, and blue vessels that also twist and turn. Spider veins are easily visible through the skin as well. They are also most often seen on the legs and face.

You have three kinds of veins in your legs; the superficial veins, which lie closest to your skin, the deep veins, which lie in groups of muscles and perforating veins, which connect the superficial veins to the deep veins. The deep veins lead to the vena cava, your body’s largest vein, which runs directly to your heart. Varicose veins occur in the superficial veins in your legs.

What causes Varicose Veins and Venous Insufficiency?

A number of factors predispose a person to varicose veins and spider veins. These include:
•    Heredity
•    Occupations that involve a lot of standing, such as
nurses, hair stylists, teachers, and factory workers
•    Obesity
•    Hormonal influences during pregnancy, puberty,
and menopause
•    The use of birth control pills
•    Postmenopausal hormonal replacement
• A history of blood clots
• Conditions that cause increased pressure in the abdomen
including tumors, constipation, and externally worn
garments like girdles

Other reported causes include trauma or injury to the skin, previous vein surgery, and exposure to ultraviolet rays.

Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues. Veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart, so the blood can be recirculated. To return blood to your heart, the veins in your legs must work against gravity. Muscle contractions in your lower legs act as pumps, and elastic vein walls help blood return to your heart. Tiny valves in your veins open as blood flows toward your heart then close to stop blood from flowing backward.

When you walk and your leg muscles squeeze, the venous pump works well. But when you sit or stand, especially for a long time, the blood in your leg veins can pool and the pressure in your veins can increase. Deep veins and perforating veins are usually able to withstand short periods of increased pressures. However, if you are a susceptible individual, your veins can stretch if you repeatedly sit or stand for a long time. This stretching can sometimes weaken the walls of your veins and damage your vein valves. Varicose veins may result. Spider veins are mild varicose veins. They look like a nest of red or blue lines just under your skin. Spider veins are not a serious medical problem, but they can be a cosmetic concern to some people, and they can cause symptoms of aching pain and itching in others.

What can be done?

Many new treatments are available for varicose veins.  These new therapies are able to be done in the office with minimal downtime. No longer is “vein stripping” needed, and the results and recovery are much improved.

The Venefit™ procedure uses radiofrequency energy to precisely and effectively treat patients suffering from Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI). With less pain and bruising than alternative treatments, physicians can feel confident that a better patient experience is part of every Venefit procedure.

Will insurance pay for the treatments?

Yes!  For most cases that are symptomatic, major insurances and Medicare will all pay for the treatments.

How do I know?

The first step is to see a varicose vein specialist and have an ultrasound performed.  This is a painless study that evaluates the vein functions and identifies any problems.  After this, an individualized treatment plan will be discussed.

Other measures that can help are wearing compression stockings.  The best ones are fitted and have at least 20-30 mmHg of compression.  Walking and swimming are great exercises for vein health.  There are no medicines that will make the veins work again, but over the counter pain meds and some herbal creams may help the symptoms.

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From the Spice Rack

From the Spice Rack

by Kathe Kitchens, Bestemor Herb Farm

Lemon Balm

Luscious, lovely lemon balm is one of our very favorite herbs in the summer!
Its delightful lemony scent and flavor grace our table in a variety of foods and beverages.  We established a bigger patch this year to accommodate the many customers who bought all we could produce last year and make sure to have enough for our own use.  An easy to grow herb, lemon balm is a great beginner’s plant.  It can become invasive if conditions are right, so give it space to roam if you decide to add it to your garden.  Lemon balm spreads by seed and by growing roots off runners, so controlling these two things will keep it in check.  In Texas, it will freeze to the ground in winter but come back in spring.  Like most strongly scented herbs, it has few pest problems but suffers if overwatered or fertilized.

Bees love this herb, and bee keepers should give it room to feed their bees and give them forage to produce honey.  According to the Herb Society of America guide, the plant contains several chemical compounds found in the worker honeybee’s Nasonov gland, which helps bees communicate about food sources and hive location, and are similar to those found in bee pheromones.

Chemical compounds identified in lemon balm include antioxidant flavonoids, and phytochemical terpenes, geraniol, rosmarinic and caffeic acids. Antiviral tannins and antispasmodic eugenol acetate are also found, as well as citral, citronellal, rose-scented geraniol and lavender-scented linalool. Research on lemon balm evidences benefit for Alzheimer’s, colic, sleep disorders, anxiety, herpes simplex virus, and stress.  Pregnant and nursing women should not use lemon balm as it is an emmenogogue and can interfere with milk production.  On the flip side, it can ease the discomfort of PMS and calm frayed nerves brought on by menses and menopause.

References in herbal guides go back over millennia, referring to this herb as “cure-all” among other names, and prescribing it for maladies ranging from insomnia to toothache and scorpion stings.  We find it helpful in soothing heat stress and promoting calm and restful sleep.  Lunchtime for our grandkids in summer includes an herbal water including lemon balm, which tends to make nap time easier for everyone!  Blended with pineapple sage and mint leaves with agave nectar, it is a healthful, tasty substitute for lemonade and helps to cool the body in summer heat by encouraging gentle perspiration.  Since sleep issues plague our family, we have learned to put this herb to good use and find it a valuable ally in that ongoing battle. It is an ingredient in Carmelite water, developed by nuns in the 14th century to promote longevity and still sold today.  European colonists brought it to America, and it appears in recipes from old Williamsburg and was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.  The leaves can be harvested and chopped to include in fish and poultry dishes, soups, fruit salads, green salads, smoothies and as a delicious cold or hot tea.

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Church Camp

The Ultimate Experience

by Shaina Owens, High School Student

Located somewhere in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by towering oak trees, relaxing rivers, open pastures and rolling hills is one of my favorite spots to visit…CHURCH CAMP. I look forward to it every year. Why? Because it’s a place I can go to and just be me. There’s no pressures to conform, no judgmental eyes to criticize, no favoritism, no gossip, and no worries. It’s a little slice of heaven right here on earth.

Camp offers so much for teens and kids of all ages. The one I attend is chockfull with adventure. Everything from rock climbing, water slides, swimming, and hiking to sports, games, team challenges and zip lining. Which, by the way, happens to be one of the biggest, longest and most thrilling zip lines in the State of Texas. I rode it and it was amazing (). For those who’ve never been to camp, I strongly encourage you to go. If cost is an issue, many churches offer payment plans, fundraisers and scholarships.

Like most church camps, the technology is left at home. No cell phones, no iPods, iPads, two-way radios or any other electronic gadget. Counselors consider them to be distractions and unnecessary. The whole point of camp is to get away from the rat race and enjoy nature while you grow in your faith. Believe me, you won’t have time to play games or text on your iPhone. From the minute you get up in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night, your schedule is packed with plenty to do.

A typical day looks something like this: breakfast with your buddies, morning bible study, outside activities, lunch, more activities, group time, free time, dinner, community praise and worship and evening fellowship. I have to say the praise and worship is out of this world and the evening community fellowship will leave you hungry for more. And speaking of hungry, the food is great. You can expect to find some common favorites like pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti, a salad bar, fresh fruit, sub sandwiches, grilled chicken, tasty deserts, pancakes, eggs, toast, biscuits, sausage, bacon, waffles, and cereal. For those with a more strict diet, special attention and menus are offered. Some camps, like the camp I go to, has a country store that offers flavored coffees, smoothies, ice cream and other yummy snacks. Souvenirs, shirts, jackets, and outdoor gear is also available for purchase. So bring extra cash.

Church camp has been one of my happiest memories. It changed my perspective on how I look at life and how I treat people. We’re all connected in some form or fashion and camp helps bring us together in friendship, acceptance and love. And besides, it’s fun, awesome and the ultimate experience.

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Carpet Talk

Carpet Talk

by Darlene Rogers, co-owner, Smitty’s  Floor Covering

Good maintenance can dramatically extend the life of your carpet, however, every carpet that sees regular use will need to be replaced sooner or later. Some of the signs can be very obvious, but there are others that may be more subtle.

To determine when you should replace your carpet, consider the following top six signs that reveal irreversible wear and tear:

1. Damage and stains remain after a carpet cleaning

A professional carpet cleaning performed by an experienced technician should always leave your carpet looking and smelling brand-new. If you have your carpet professionally cleaned regularly, but odors and wear are still present in the carpet after each cleaning, it can be a strong indicator that your carpet has reached the end of its useful life. It is recommended to have your carpet professionally cleaned every 18 months. Be sure to vacuum twice a week in the medium to high traffic areas and the entire house at least once a week.

2. Rips and tears in the carpet

Rips and tears are a more obvious sign of carpet damage that may warrant replacement. Although small rips can potentially be repaired with the help of a professional, larger tears often require complete replacement of the carpet to prevent further tears and even trip hazards.

3. Permanent presence of odors

If you own a pet or haven’t cleaned in a while, you may notice a lingering smell on your carpet, but the odor should be gone or noticeably diminished after a proper cleaning. If it doesn’t, this means that the odor has penetrated deep into the carpet fibers, the carpet pad or the subfloor, and it may even indicate mold and mildew growth.

In cases like these, it’s often more cost effective to replace the entire carpet completely in order to fully eliminate the odor or odors.

4. The carpeting is worn bare

When your carpet no long has that soft feeling that bounces back right after a professional cleaning, it indicates that the carpet has been worn bare. Although this problem isn’t necessarily dangerous to your health, it can reduce the comfort in your home.

5. Your allergies begin acting up

Often, older carpets catch and retain more allergens and particulate matter, which may cause your allergies to act up. If you notice an increase in allergies, once source may be your older carpet.

6. It’s been more than 20 years

Experts recommend that you replace your carpet after use for a maximum of 20 years. Although your carpet may be in a low-traffic area, it is still a good rule of thumb to maintain good indoor air quality and your carpet in high-quality condition by having it replaced.

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