Feb 2019 Newsletter


About Myself: I was reared by a tiny little woman with a huge sense of adventure.  Mom was a WWII Army nurse that got her pilot's license after the war was over and never turned her back on learning anything new.  She had a love of plants and rocks that I inherited, and I like to think that she is sitting beside me every time I propagate  another plant, harvest and scatter grass seeds, or turn over and pick up a new rock. I have been digging in the dirt all my life and I still get a big grin on my face when something I'm nurturing shows signs of new growth.

You may not know: I've been recycling since the early 70's--yes, because my mother jumped into the environmental movement with both feet when I was still living at home.  My son loves to tease me about my Hippie ways (including getting tear gassed during an anti-war demonstration in my college days), and I accept his teasing proudly.

FAV MN Activities: As a 2018 graduate of the HCMN training class (Go Foxes!!!), I enjoyed weeding the flower beds at the San Marcos Discovery Center and cleaning the tanks at the San Marcos Aquatic Center.  I spent my career years as a Professional Therapist and School Counselor and I dealt with highly emotionally charged issues on a regular basis.  I think the weeding and tank cleaning are wonderfully mindless activities that allow my brain to travel to any topic and dwell in solitude while tidying up where needed.  

I will have to admit, however, that working with Tom Jones on the newsletter article about flint has been the most FUN single activity I've done in a very long time. I had forgotten how I love rocks!!!  I mean...I look for them constantly and pick them up all the time, but these days it's more to clear a field or pathway.  Tom and I LOOKED for flint (It was easy; it was everywhere.).  We searched for a purpose and for several weeks I was reminded of my youth and of my Mom.

What Bird am I? Deciding which bird I most identify with is an interesting challenge.  We watch them from the porches.  We try to identify them by their songs.  I keep going back to my chickens, though, and how much pleasure I used to get from watching them.  I think I identify with them because they are industrious!  They are always searching for food, scratching here and there, turning over sticks and rocks, busy, busy, busy!  I had one jump up and try to snatch a piece of BBQ off my plate! --determined!  I admire those qualities in humans AND in chickens.  


About Myself:  I am a fifth generation Texan, who was born and raised in San Antonio. I ventured out to Sul Ross State University in Alpine for my undergraduate degree, and discovered I loved the outdoors and have avoided large cities ever since. I have been married to Fred for 32 years and we have one son, David, who is in Kansas City. While we did spend 8 years in South Dakota and 7 years in Oklahoma, we came back to Texas ASAP. We moved to our retirement home in Comal County in 2013, and I joined the MN Class of 2016 (Ravens) as a New Year’s resolution to learn how to best “zero-scape” around our home.

You May Not Know:  I am a LMSW – Licensed Master Social Worker - (retired), and worked in a variety of social work roles, including Adult Protective Services, school social work, teaching a college class, and Hospice/Home Health. 

FAV Master Naturalist Activity: Most of the time, it’s the most recent thing I did. While I have ventured into a number of volunteer opportunities, I continue to return to the Training Committee, this being my third year. It is my job to help feed the new class, but they actually nourish me with their enthusiasm and varied experiences.  This is also one of the best ways to get to know quite a few folks.

Bird I Most Identify With:  The roadrunner because they are tough ol’ birds. Nesting in cactus and eating rattlesnakes – not every bird can do that!

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Happy 20th Anniversary!

What?  Didn’t the Texas Master Naturalists celebrate their 20th Anniversary last year?  They did!  This year Hays County Master Naturalists will celebrate our 20th Anniversary.  That is correct, our chapter, one of the oldest in the state, has been in operation for 20 years!  Think about the impact that all of the Chapter members have had on our communities over that period of time.  It is truly amazing, through all of their volunteer efforts, whether through educating others on our natural systems or through the hard labor on many of our trail and park projects or through the other myriad volunteer projects.  We want to make this a year of celebration of all that we do.  If you are interested in helping (or leading) this effort, please let me know (pres@haysmn.org).

I am honored to serve as President of the Chapter this year alongside the rest of the extremely talented and knowledgeable members of the Board.  I want to thank them for all of their dedication and hard work for this organization.  However, it is each and every one of you that makes this organization so outstanding.  The wide range of knowledge, skills and interests everyone brings help make this such a unique organization.  The result is the tremendous blend of projects that we participate in and thus contribute to our communities.  There is truly something here for everyone.

Of course,  it is now February and you know what that means for our chapter – time for the new class to begin.  Please join me in welcoming our new class members, whether at chapter meetings, on a project or just out on a trail somewhere.  It is always great to see the new members join us.  In addition, I would like to recognize our Past President, Anne Child, for her generous donation to fund the scholarships for the class this year.

As a reminder, board meetings are open to anyone that would like to attend.  They are on the second Thursday of the month at the AgriLife Office in Wimberley.  I hope to see you there sometime.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact any board member, email addresses can be found on our website, haysmn.org.

I look forward to working will all of you throughout the coming year.


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“I will not live long enough to fully appreciate what is on my property”
- Patty Duhon -

My husband and I moved to San Marcos 10 years ago and purchased property in the hills west of town. I started exploring our property and immediately noticed the rocks that littered the ground.  There was such variety of shapes, colors and forms. 

Growing up in Orange, Texas I was a rock enthusiast but did’t make many discoveries. I still have a couple of rocks from the fourth grade. I painted them with clear fingernail polish to bring out the vivid colors. I got my love of rocks from my Mom. On every trip, she collected a rock and would write the location and date found on the back. When she died, there was a BIG conversation about who would inherit her rocks. ; )

I am outside often working the garden and doing chores.  While walking, my head is down scanning the ground for anything that catches my eye.  After a heavy rain is always a good time to take a walk and hope to find something special. My efforts are often rewarded.  I collect many beautiful pieces of flint and other mineral specimens, moving them to a pile, rock wall or adding to a landscaping project.  Over the years, the many rocks I collected resulted in displays throughout the yard and filled many bins with my favorite collections.   

My early goal with the rock landscaping displays was to have something in the yard to share with my grandkids when they visit.  I wanted them to join me on a walk looking for flint.  I was a little saddened but not surprised when they were not interested.  My favorite flint color is black with a white limestone coating the outside.  Another favorite is blue with specks of white over the surface.  These are hard to find, and it is always a treat to locate one.

Recently my husband and I started clearing a cedar grove which exposed a new area that had not been searched previously.  There was so much beautiful flint, with several pieces showing signs of being shaped into tools.  I sent a photo to Tom and invited him to come to San Marcos to walk the property with me and hopefully explain how these deposits were formed.

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Tom Jones

I first met Patty in September 2018 as I was preparing to lead a geology walk on her property for a training class site visit.  She showed me her extensive rock collection and asked me about how they were made and what created the unusual shapes. Patty and I share a love of rocks. In December, she invited me to explore an area that was just exposed after clearing the cedar trees.  After I accepted, Patty agreed to collaborate on an article for the newsletter.  I could help her understand the formation of flint, its importance in San Marcos and also share this information with the Chapter.

Flint, a variety of chert, is a sedimentary rock that can be found in many areas of Hays County.  It is a hard and durable mineral formed from the silica (quartz) rich skeletal remains of marine organisms.  Flint refers to the type of chert deposited in limestone.  It is formed into nodules or in layers, which are referred to as ledge flint.  It is common to see a thin layer of limestone covering the outside of the nodules, typically white and rough in texture.  Flint varies greatly in color from white to black, but most often manifests as shades of gray, brown, grayish brown, light green and blue.

About 100 million years ago, large populations of very small organisms such a diatoms and radiolarians lived in the shallow sea creating tiny structures made of biogenic glass or silica. Their silica remains accumulated in thick deposits on the sea floor, forming siliceous oozes.  This process is relatively rare and only makes up about 15% of the sea floor.  Both the limestone and flint were formed concurrently.  That is why flint is found embedded in a limestone matrix. The floor of the shallow sea had marine worm holes and other burrows, creating narrow tubes and cavities in the sediment.  The silica rich ooze filled these openings and hardened into the flint nodules we see today. 

The abundant natural resources in eastern Hays County sustained populations for thousands of years at what is now known as Spring Lake. A key resource was flint.  Flint was used to fabricate a wide variety of stone projectiles, points, scrapers, knives and other tools.  It is not known if the flint on Patty’s property was quarried by these indigenous peoples. I think it is likely because its location is only a short hike from the springs.  Another notable location is the famous Georgetown flint in Williamson County. Georgetown flint is the name given to an unusually good chert variety that occurs along the eastern fringe of the Edwards Plateau.  Numerous artifacts include large and especially thin bifaces which were made from this material. It is noted that flint deposits in Hays County are regarded as a ‘close cousin’ to Georgetown flint. Information on Georgetown flint was extracted from an interesting article at this LINK.

Having the opportunity to visit Patty and explore her property was an incredible experience. Next time you are walking on your property after a good rain, keep your head down and you may be surprised at what you find.

Patty’s Addendum: Recently, my six year-old grandson spent time with me walking around the cleared areas over the holidays and got excited about finding and picking up pieces of flint!  He even selected some “favorites” that he took home with him to Dallas. My Colorado grandson will be here in March. I’m hoping the weather allows us to go exploring for artifacts. I’m looking forward to spending time with like-minded grandchildren!

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President – Susan Neill
Vice President - Yolanda Reyes
Secretary - Tracy Mock
Treasurer - Larry Calvert
Past President - Beth Ramey
State Representative and Volunteer Service Projects Director - Dixie Camp
TPWD Advisor - Gordon Linam
New Class Director – Mark Wojcik
Advanced Training - Beverly Gordon
Calendar - Beverly Gordon
Historian – Dana Martensen
Webmaster and Membership Director - Jane Dunham
Communications Director - Art Arizpe
Outreach Events - Paula Glover 
Host Committee - Mary Dow Ross, Roxana Donegan
Newsletter– Tom Jones, Betsy Cross
AgriLife Sponsor- Jason Mangold


When: Thursday, February 14 6:30 pm
Where: AgriLife Extension office
Agri-Life 200 Stillwater Drive Wimberley, TX 78676


When: Thursday February 28, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Where: TBD

Starts at 6:30 with light dinner, speaker starts at 7 pm.

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Austin has more than 26,000 acres of land in the Barton Springs Recharge Zone.  Much of this land was over-grazed ranchland with poor vegetation and thus reduced aquifer recharge.  Over the past 20 years this land has been and is being restored to its former native plant state.  Restoration involves a combination of burning, replanting and invasive plant removal.  Volunteers do not participate in burning but are very important to seed collection, seeding and invasive removal.  

Participating in seed collection and reseeding is a great way to learn grasses and forbs.  The Water Quality properties are lovely places to visit and work in.  They also offer a number of other activities such as leading hikes and bird monitoring. There are a number of properties spread from west of Kyle to west of Austin. The way to join is to visit Austin Water’s website and click on the Water Quality Protection Lands and then Activity Calendar on the next page.  You will need to register; once done, log in and visit the calendar which lists the coming month’s activities.  There usually are a number of different activities listed so you will need to search the list.  You can then sign up---you will receive a confirmation in your email.

Water Quality Lands link: https://www.austintexas.gov/department/wildland-conservation-division/
For more information contact Dick McBride, docdik@mygrande.net and 512-618-8669

The Discovery Center (DC) offers a great opportunity for earning your Master Naturalist volunteer hours.  The majority of the work is in maintaining the gardens, and that is a never-ending job; one can easily get 3-4 hours on each visit there.  The DC’s primary goal is to demonstrate native plants but there is a smattering of non-natives, too.  The DC is a great place to learn about forbs, shrubs and trees.  San Marcos’ Arborist is headquartered there and happy to help you learn more about trees.  The Discovery Center was formerly called the Nature Center. The name change was initiated when The Edwards Aquifer Authority’s Habitat Conservation Plan was relocated there.   There is a lot going on at the DC and you can also participate in tree planting, mulching, and invasive plant removal as well.

You can volunteer any weekday, but we do have weekly Tuesday morning work sessions.   For more information contact Dick McBride; docdik@mygrande.net and 512-618-8669. 

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I spent the last 15 years of my career collecting water quality samples for the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality in the 22 county area of Northeast Texas. The two biggest water quality issues in that part of the State were bacteria and low dissolved oxygen (DO). In contrast, we hardly ever have low DO in the Hill Country because we have flowing streams compared to sluggish bayous.

How to interpret results

Escherichia coli is found in the digestive system of all warm blooded animals. (It is not found in your urinary tract. If it is there, you are in trouble.) E.coli is used as an indicator organism in water quality sampling. There are only a few strains that are pathogenic. (Think of the recent romaine lettuce recalls because of E.coli 0157:H7.) The vast majority of strains are helpful, even necessary for digestion. So why test for it? It turns out that E.coli is a good indicator of the presence of many other pathogenic bacteria. When E.coli concentrations are high, the incidence of stomach related illness goes up in swimmers, but most likely because of pathogens other than E.coli. Water Quality Standards are compared to individual samples as well as for long-term averages. A single sample should not exceed 394 colonies/100 milliliters. But the more important regulatory sample result is the geometric mean (different from a simple average) of at least 10 samples collected over a relatively long period of time, at least one year.

When samples should be collected

It becomes very important when to collect samples for this geometric mean. It is very easy to bias the results. A random sample design is needed. If you target samples to one or two days after a rain, you will get more exceedances than if you were to randomly select the sample days. Everywhere in the state, bacteria concentrations spike after any rainfall event that causes runoff. Bacteria attach themselves to sediment particles. As long as the sediment is suspended in the water column, they are subject to being ingested by an individual. With time, these sediment particles settle and are no longer a concern. There is a group of individuals that collect bacteria samples in Wimberley on the first Monday after Market Days. This is random sample design and that is good.

Limitations of source tracking

Source tracking has its limits. It is expensive, and it is only as good as the regional “library” of data with which to compare. It can only tell you presence or absence, not relative importance. To my way of thinking, livestock and wild animal sources should be expected after a rainfall in just about every rural waterbody in Texas. Not so with human sources. They do not belong in the creek anytime. Properly run septic systems as well as city owned sewer systems should not contribute to the bacterial waste load of any waterbody.

Some common sense suggestions

Numerical standards are OK, but they give you yesterday’s data. The water you are swimming in today is miles downstream by the time the samples are read the next day. So it’s an educated guess as to the real water quality today. Young children are more likely to accidently ingest water while out on the river than are adults and therefore are at greater risk than adults. There are no guarantees in life, but keep the kids out of the river for 48-72 hours after a significant rainfall event and you should be good.

HCMN Rainfall project #803 has been updated to utilize the CoCoRaHS system. CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. CoCoRaHS is a non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). CoCoRaHS provides scientists with additional precipitation data from many sources/locations.  The public can view the historical data in CoCoRaHS from their website if you know the name of a site (TX-152-HYS is John Kluth’s).   CoCoRaHS started in 1998, and has representation in all 50 states, Canada, and the Bahamas.  View the CoCoRaHS website.    

The requirement for becoming a CoCoRaHS volunteer, and thus being a part of Project 803, is a 4-inch diameter Rain Gauge. You may purchase one from a link found on the CoCoRaHS website. It has a capacity to measure up to eleven (11) inches of rainfall. You will also need to apply/register yourself as a volunteer, which is done from the CoCoRaHS website.

Once you have registered, you will be assigned an ID and a password to login to their system.    You may log your observations on their website or download their app to your smartphone.  This is a fast and easy way to enter your data.  Follow the instructions and recommendations on where to locate the gauge to increase measurement accuracy.

We will be making a large order for the new training class, which will be available to trainees or for anyone that wishes to purchase one of these gauges.  As we prepare for the order, watch your emails to find out when and who to contact to be included in that order.  By being a part of a large order, you save on the shipping costs. You will need to be willing to attend a Chapter or Training meeting to be able to pick up the rain gauge.

Please note that the HCMN Board recently decided that the maximum amount of volunteer time (VT) you may log per month for this project is 2.5 hours.  This is based on observing and logging data daily, with the estimate that it takes about 5 minutes each day to do so.  Please only log the actual amount of time you spend, capped at 2.5 hours, for each month of your observations. Thus if you miss some days of logging (due to being out of town), and then enter a Multi-Day Report, you would therefore be logging multiple days of data, but only spending 5 minutes of time to do so.   

Below are some screen shots from the CoCoRaHS phone app.  Note this is from John Kluth’s CoCoRaHS login.  He resides full-time in Northwest Harris County, part-time in far North Hays County.   He has both of his properties registered with CoCoRaHS, and observes and records rainfall from both sites.  He only logs into VMS the time each month that he empties his gauge in Hays County, thus much less that 2.5 hours per month for him.

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