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Anita’s Blog – Goals are Gold

Great Kiskadee with insect. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

This week’s title is more than just a catchy bit of alliteration.

Goals was the theme of a recent retreat held virtually for our chapter leaders, new officers, and committee chairs and members. South Texas Border Chapter Texas Master Naturalist President Donna Otto challenged us to put our thoughts and ideas about our various chapter responsibilities into goals.

That’s not exactly an easy task, but I liked the structure, so I decided to define some personal goals about ideas I have for around my yard this year, but first, I had to wrap my mind around the concept. Here are some of my ideas about goals:

Goals are not new year resolutions. Resolutions are ethereal because they’re generally things we really don’t want to do, like change our behavior, get rid of a negative habit, add something to our life because we think it’s the right thing to do or mediated reality is pushing us to do something or think a certain way.

Goals, on the other hand, are things we really want to do, and we perceive them as attainable because, through knowledge, we are given how-to ideas. In this day and age, knowledge comes to us easily via online trainings, lectures, partner organization presentations and workshops.

Goals can arise from something we discover because we’ve just learned about it and its triggered us to have an interest – an interest we didn’t know we had. Again, this is attained through continued learning – a commodity readily available to us as Texas Master Naturalists. Although we’re required to have eight hours of advanced training annually in order to recertify, most of us go way beyond that each year because there is so much information offered to us via like-minded organizations.

Recently, chapter members were notified of online advanced training opportunities offered by the Native Plant Society of Texas, where a Houston area chapter and Hill Country chapter offer monthly meetings and presentations online. The NPSOT encourages anyone to attend their online opportunities because their goal is to teach Texans about native plants. As long as a presentation applies to master naturalist ideology and is not elsewhere geographic-specific, these sessions count toward advanced training for chapter members.

Taking NPSOT’s Texas native plant teachings a big step further is Doug Tallamy, Ph.D., an author and professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware who presented a program this week. One of his goals is teaching the entire nation about the importance of native plants. His philosophy incorporates a modicum of nonnative plants in the mix – with a convincing argument.

I wrote about his philosophy, ideas and practices after the 2020 Texas Master Naturalist conference that was offered via virtual attendance for the first time (due to the first year of the pandemic) where, because of technology, many renowned, out-of-state speakers were added to the list of presentations. That blog post is here:

Briefly, here is how Dr. Tallamy got more birds onto his acreage: Increased native plant species which increased the number of species of caterpillars which increased the number of species of birds. Along the way, here’s what also happened: There was an increase of more species of butterflies, moths, other insects and wildlife – VOILA! The glory of this outcome is that acreage isn’t necessary, it can be done with a four square-foot area of land – sliced out of a grass lawn even.

Common Buckeye Butterfly caterpillar on a host plant, native Snapdragon Vine. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

A Tiger Moth caterpillar on native Turk's Cap. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

So, when I say my goal is to get more species of butterflies this year, these virtual programs were helpful: Dr. Tallamy’s lecture; a recent NPSOT presentation about bugs by Wizzie Brown, an entomologist and Extension Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; and other native plant programs. Here are some of the steps:

· Plant (more) native plants, mostly

· Plant for a succession of nectar-producing (flowering) plants throughout each season

· Plant single species in clumps

· Plant a variety of colors, shapes and heights

· Plant butterfly and moth host plants

· Tuck a bit of debris (decaying logs, twig bundles, leaves) here and there in the landscape

· Provide water

Silvered Prominent Moth caterpillars on native Balloon Vine. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

One of the things I do throughout the year, as mentioned in the January 1, “Mild Weather Tease,” blog post, is pot up stray or volunteer native plants I find growing where they’re in danger of being whacked by the mower. I mentioned I either relocate the plants in my yard or give them to friends or chapter members for native plant or pollinator projects. Here’s another reason to pot up volunteer native plants right now – before the next cold spell:

Pot up volunteer plants for the up-coming McAllen Rio Grande Valley Home & Garden Show 2022 that will take place Friday, April 8 through Sunday, April 10. Keep these dates also for volunteer opportunities to work at the chapter booth, where we’ll promote our organization and offer native plants for sale. Advanced Training presentations are scheduled during show days, too.

Past President Robert Hernandez is our chapter contact for the event. He’ll be sending out more specific information soon. If you’d like to be on this committee, or have questions, please contact him at

New Class Members – a special welcome and invitation: Booth work is fun; it’s a great opportunity where you can quickly learn how to promote the master naturalist program by listening to how other members interact with the public. You’ll meet other chapter members and earn volunteer time, too. At the April event, you’ll also learn a little about some of our native plants as your co-workers talk about them to those stopping by the chapter booth.

As opportunities arise, here’s a goal for all of us this year: Do more Booth Work!



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