Tag Archives: nature

A Plant Mom’s Guide to Taking Care of Succulents

Owning succulents has seen a growth in popularity among young adults in the past few years. Not only are succulents fairly easy to take care of, but they are also an inexpensive way to liven up any space. It’s also been proven that owning succulents comes with many benefits, such as air purification, increased focus and improved quality of sleep, according to Cal Farms, a succulent shop and blog. 

“Succulent plants brighten up the mood because of the beauty brought about by their fresh earthy colors and striking shapes,” Cal Farms said.  “These certainly never fail to provide accents to the bland paint finish of any room, but there’s more to it than just being an aesthetic addition to any place.”
 

I currently own eight succulents and over the years I’ve figured out what works best for keeping them alive and healthy. Here are four dos and don’ts for taking care of succulents.  

Do: Use rain or distilled water to water your plants

The best type of water to use for succulents is rain or distilled water. This is because they’re free of any chemical treatments or added minerals that would be in tap water. I use distilled bottled water to water my succulents because it’s convenient. Since I use distilled water for my succulents, I make sure that the soil they’re planted in is fertilized. Distilled water lacks the natural minerals that would be in rainwater.

Don’t: Use tap water

Beware of tap water! I have lost a few succulents to tap water before I knew it was harmful for them. Tap water is treated with chemicals and minerals that makes it safe for human consumption, but this is not the case for succulents. Chlorine, fluoride, calcium and magnesium, are just some of the minerals that are found in tap water that can harm succulents. These chemicals and minerals can change the pH of the soil and damage the absorption capabilities of the plant’s roots. Repeated use of tap water on your succulents can lead to them being malnourished due to root damage. 

Do: Water your succulent’s soil

When watering your succulents, make sure to directly water the soil and avoid getting water on the plant. The roots are the only part of the plant that can absorb the water and so getting water on a succulent’s leaves is unnecessary and can actually be harmful.. If the water were to sit on a leaf for too long, it could cause the leaf to get soggy and rot.  

Don’t: Forget to rotate your plant!    

It’s important for succulents to get enough sunlight. I keep my succulents in my windowsill, so they can get direct sunlight every day. However, remembering to rotate your plants is equally as important. This prevents one side of your succulent from getting more sun than the other side. It also makes your plant grow straight. Not rotating your succulents will cause them to grow leaning toward the window or the direction they are getting the most sunlight.  

Do: Put your succulent in a pot with drainage  

Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash

It’s essential that your succulents are in a pot with drainage. This means that the pot has a hole at the bottom and is normally sitting on a dish or inside another pot to collect the excess water that drains from the hole. Succulents, unlike other plants, are made to go long periods without being watered. They store water they need in their stems and leaves. Once they are done absorbing water, the excess can drain from the pot. Without drainage, the soil will remain moist, and the succulent’s roots will rot.  

Don’t: Water your plants too often  

Succulents do NOT need to be watered daily. In fact, succulents can go weeks without being watered. This is what makes them so low-maintenance and convenient! I water my succulents every four to five weeks, but this can be different for every succulent. A good way to tell if it is time to water your plant, is if the soil is COMPLETELY dry.

Do: Remove dead leaves from your plant  

Once your succulent starts to grow, the older leaves at the bottom of the succulent tend to get dry and shrivel up. This is normal for succulents to do as they grow; they allow the upper, newest leaves to grow up and receive sunlight, and rid themselves of the lowest, older leaves that are not getting any sunlight. It’s okay to pull off dead succulent leaves if you gently pull on them and they come off with ease. Never tug on a leaf or try to pull it off when it’s not ready, as this can cause damage to the succulent. 

 Don’t: Forget to admire your plants!   

Photo by Morgan Severson

Life gets busy and it gets easy to overlook small moments that bring us joy. My favorite part about owning succulents is watching them grow. Every day my succulents are growing, reaching up and out towards the sun, changing colors, and most days I don’t even notice. But sometimes I look up, and I notice a new leaf or a longer stem and, in that moment, I feel pride. I feel proud of them for growing and proud of myself for taking care of them. Allow yourself to watch your plants and admire them for all their growth and beauty.  

Photo by Morgan Severson

P.S. One of my succulents has two little baby succulents growing at the bottom of it. I think they are so cute so… I thought I’d share! <3  

Featured image by Alyssa Lindblom

8 Nature Documentaries on Netflix to Cure your Wanderlust

If there has been anything good to come out of this pandemic, it would be the newfound appreciation for our outdoor spaces. 

As many of us sit trapped within our concrete jungles, wellness and the determination to reconnect ourselves with nature have been at the forefront of our minds. Although we may still be slaves to Zoom, Netflix’s menagerie of nature documentaries have given BBC Earth a run for their money with their jaw dropping cinematography and majestic scoring. Here are just a few of my top picks:

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

One man, one octopus and a friendship that may or may not border on romance has brought this cinematic masterpiece to our screens. My Octopus Teacher took 10 years to film and unlike other nature documentaries equipped with an entire film crew, this documentary was primarily filmed by one man who just decided to free dive in the icy ocean waters off the South African coast every morning for a decade. The filmmaker, Craig Foster, formed an unlikely friendship with an octopus during his dives in the dense and turbulent kelp forest near his Cape Town home. The documentary not only reveals astonishing discoveries of octopus intelligence, but takes an incredibly intimate and introspective look into what it means to be human. This film will probably make you cry, you have been warned. 

“Night on Earth” (2020)

New technology has allowed this film crew to capture animals quite literally in a new light. “Night on Earth” features breathtaking cinematography courtesy of moonlight cameras to film animals at night and reveals new discoveries of their nighttime behavior. 

 BONUS: Night on Earth: Shot in the Dark

Image courtesy of Netflix’s Night on Earth

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “A documentary ABOUT a documentary? You’ve gone too far.” Fair point, but just hear me out. The work that went into filming “Night on Earth” will blow your mind and leave you with a newfound respect for what nature doc crews do. The camera crew had to travel to the most remote parts of the world, persevere in the most extreme climates and get bitten. That’s right, I said bitten. Bitten by a pack of urban monkeys in Thailand, swarms of mosquitoes in a dense jungle and fanged vampire bats. This film took a lot of creative problem solving and required the crew to shoot in 30 different countries.

Dancing With The Birds (2019)

Those TikTok dances you’ve been practicing in your bedroom have got nothing on these birds. Accompanied by some groovy tunes and rather risqué narration, these colorful birds shimmy, sing and even pole dance to win the eye of a female. The documentary follows the stories of affectionately named male birds in their attempts to, as the narrator puts it, charm a female onto their poles. We see birds intricately building towers, choreographing group dances, dilating their pupils at alarming speeds and creepily enough, mimicking the sounds of human children’s voices in their elaborate courting rituals.

“It may be a cliche, but size matters to female bowerbirds.”

– Stephen Fry, Narrator of “Dancing With The Birds”

“Our Planet” (2019)

Narrated by the nature documentary icon himself, Sir David Attenborough, “Our Planet” is a six episode series covering ecosystems ranging from arctic tundras to the deep oceans. The series boasts breathtaking cinematography of landscapes and animals, but is primarily centered around how human activity is damaging these ecosystems. One particularly horrific scene of walruses plummeting to their deaths while fighting for space almost broke the internet. It is a prime example of the devastating impacts of global warming.

BONUS: Our Planet: Behind the Scenes

This behind-the-scenes film reads a little like a twisted reality TV show at times – you’ve got videographers trapped inside a cold, tiny hut for six days at a time to film Siberian tigers, lights failing during a nighttime shark feeding frenzy with the diver right in the center of the action and then crew mates struggling to fit their gear into a tiny hydroplane. It’s nonstop action. “Our Planet” took four years to film in over 60 countries, with over 6,600 drone flights and 400,000 hours of trap camera footage for the crew to scour through. 

“Alien Worlds” (2020)

If life developed on discovered exoplanets…what would it look like? If Neil deGrasse Tyson and David Attenborough got together to make a docuseries, this would be it. “Alien Worlds” is not exactly a nature documentary, but it took incredible imagination and technical work to animate these fantastical alien dreamscapes. This documentary is a must-watch for sci-fi and nature documentary lovers alike.

Ghost of the Mountains (2017)

This international crew of filmmakers was the first to ever capture a snow leopard family on camera in the wild. The crew had to brave altitude sickness, freezing cold temperatures and live in a crowded shack with no electricity or running water for months on end. To get to their final destination in the remote wilderness of the Tibetan mountains, they had to drive for an entire week to an elevation of over 16,000 feet above sea level. With every 1,600 feet gained in altitude, the crew had to stop and rest for 24 hours to avoid altitude sickness. Before they could even think of filming, they first needed to track down a snow leopard family in the mountains, which is no easy task, but it was all worth it in the end. This Disneynature documentary is now an important part of history.

Featured Image designed by Kara Fields

10 Things to do in new mexico

Okay, so maybe every state’s nickname is a little biased, but New Mexico dubbing itself the “Land of Enchantment” happens to be extremely fitting. Between the diverse landscape, great food, rich history, and stunning sunsets, it is hard not to fall in love with our neighboring state. The state line is just over 6.5 hours away and two major cities, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, are both within a 12 hour drive. If you have room in the budget to fly it’ll definitely cut down travel time, but no matter what your mode of transportation is there is plenty to do once you get there. Here are my top 10 picks for things to do in New Mexico.

Take a Ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway

Photo by Courtney Smith

Located in Albuquerque, the Sandia Peak Tramway is the longest tramway in the Americas and offers amazing views. A round-trip ticket costs $25 for adults, but there is also a student ticket option for $20 for those aged 13-20. The tram runs every 15-30 minutes but once you’re at the top you can spend as much time as you’d like taking in the view, dining, or hiking on one of the many trails. Plus it’s cooler at the top of the mountain which is a bonus when trying to beat the heat. This was probably my favorite thing I did in Albuquerque and I can’t recommend it enough. More information and tickets at https://sandiapeak.com/.

Take the Train to Santa Fe

Photo courtesy of Rio Metro

The Rail Runner Express is another way to take in some of the scenery New Mexico has to offer. A day pass from Albuquerque to Santa Fe costs only $9 and this online schedule easily gives you departure times and information. Taking the train is a good alternative to driving or using a rideshare because it’s cheaper and allows you to see more of the state. While you’re there, check out The Shed for delicious New Mexican food! 

Visit White Sands National Park

Photo by Courtney Smith

Anyone who has been on Pinterest has likely seen photos of this exquisite landscape. The white gypsum sand dunes seem never ending and offer a great backdrop for photos, sledding (yeah, sledding!), and hiking. Although White Sands is about 10 hours from Austin, it is a quicker day trip from destinations in New Mexico such as Ruidoso, Albuquerque, or Carlsbad. If you’re traveling solo the admission is $15 but loading up your car with family or friends will cost only $25. 

Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Photo by Courtney Smith

For the adrenaline junkies out there, going up in a hot air balloon will get your heart pumping while allowing you to take part in a true New Mexican experience. This was at the top of my list the first time I went to New Mexico and I was blown away by the experience! Most balloon experiences happen really early in the morning or at sunset, so either way you’re guaranteed a gorgeous view of the sunrise/sunset. If you’re really into hot air balloons or prefer to see them from the ground, check out the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! It is an annual event that takes place in October and allows guests to witness hundreds of balloons taking flight. Tickets to attend are also easy on the wallet, where a flight itself will usually set you back around $250-300. 

Meow Wolf

Photo by Courtney Smith

Meow Wolf is another Instagram popular spot in New Mexico. Located in Santa Fe, this unique and interactive art experience is wildly fantastical – and even that is an understatement. The easiest way to describe it is the mixture of a fun house, art exhibit and LSD experience. Student tickets cost $25. More information can be found here.

Go Shopping

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Shopping in any new place is a great way to see more of the culture and trends in the area. New Mexico is no different! Old Town in Albuquerque is a cute area to bop around in if you’re looking for souvenirs and in Santa Fe all you have to do is head to the plaza to find gift shops and Native American goods for sale. No matter where you are in the state there are fun curio shops and local stores that are easy ways to knock out souvenir shopping while beating the heat.

Tour the Historic Churches of Santa Fe 

Photo by Courtney Smith

Downtown Santa Fe is full of churches that are not only architecturally stunning, but also affordable to see. The San Miguel Chapel calls itself the “Oldest Church in the United States,” with origins reportedly dating back to 1610. Another chapel, the Loretto Chapel, features a famous spiral staircase that has mysterious history due to its perfect smooth design. There are a plethora of other churches to visit as well and most still hold services for those who are interested. 

Get Far Out in Roswell

Photo by Courtney Smith

Whether you’re a believer or not, visiting the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell is a must do while in New Mexico. The museum has an admission fee of $5 and for that price you have the opportunity to take pictures with alien sculptures, look over historical documents, and check out the gift shop. The museum itself is pretty small so while it is an entertaining stop, I recommend visiting as a stop in your trip to another destination. 

Explore Carlsbad Caverns

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you don’t know the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite now- you will once you visit the caverns. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is the home of over 100 caves and on your way into the park you’ll be greeted by the natural beauty and diversity of the desert. These caverns are absolutely huge and, because of this, cave enthusiasts will likely be able to spend an entire day here. Ranger guided tours are offered but must be reserved in advance and most of them are an additional fee on top of the $15 entrance fee. With the entrance fee alone you can go on a self guided tour of the Big Room. An elevator will take you directly from the ticket counter to this portion of the caverns but you can also opt into taking the Natural Entrance Trail for an added workout. I explored Carlsbad Caverns while road tripping back to Texas so for time’s sake I only explored the Big Room, but I feel like that is plenty if you’re wanting to experience Carlsbad without too long of a time commitment. More information can be found by clicking here.

Eat at El Pinto 

Photo by Courtney Smith

Established in 1962, El Pinto is both an Albuquerque must and a New Mexico favorite. It is the largest New Mexican food restaurant in the state and seats over 1,200 guests in one of their nine different dining areas. On a good weather day, enjoying El Pinto salsa on one of the patios is a must! Their menu is expansive and features everything from margaritas to stuffed sopapillas. If you look carefully on the walls you’ll see El Pinto is a popular spot for celebrities who are visiting the area, too. This family owned spot is a must if you’re looking for tasty local cuisine and a good atmosphere. 

For these 10 things to do and more, New Mexico should definitely be on your travel bucket list. Amazing food, beautiful sunsets, and fun activities for art enthusiasts and outdoor lovers alike make this a great and (fairly) close travel destination for Texans. Let us know if you try anything on our list or what your favorite things to do in New Mexico are in the comments below. 

Border Wall vs. Nature

The Trump Administration has waived 28 environmental laws to facilitate the construction of 33 miles of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas (RGV). This new wall will be surrounded by a 150-foot enforcement zone with patrol roads and security lights. Not only will citizens be forced to forfeit their private land to make way for the wall, but several natural and historical landmarks will be compromised. A wall designed to inhibit humans from crossing would also inhibit a lot of wildlife from doing the same, permanently changing the ecosystem.

According to the National Butterfly Center’s website, construction of a border wall could:

1.   Destroy native habitat for endangered species and limit the area where animals can forage and find prey. Additionally, animals north of wall would no longer have access to the river.

2.   Trap wildlife in the flood zone during storms – a wall would prevent them from crossing the levee to reach dry ground.

3.   Separate animals from their gene pools, obstructing breeding patterns and abetting the extinction of endangered species.

Not only would a wall prevent mammals from crossing, but it would also prevent birds like the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – which can only fly 6 feet high – from getting over. The Center for Biological Diversity found that 90 species throughout the Southwestern border could be threatened by the wall. In the RGV, these include 17 species, such as the spotted ocelot – of which only 50 remain in the wild in Texas.

Image by Gerrit Vyn – Macaulay Library

This stretch of the border wall would cut off 70% of the National Butterfly Center. The Center sued the federal government over the matter, seeking a restraining order; they lost. Then, this February, language was added to an existing Congressional Appropriations Bill that exempted five natural and historic landmarks, including the Center, from the construction zone. But the Center’s reprieve was short-lived.

When President Trump declared a national emergency, he sought to open up $6.625 billion dollars of funding that could be used without restrictions. Once again, the fate of sites like the National Butterfly Center, Bentsen National Park, La Lomita Chapel, and the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is jeopardized. In fact, brush clearing has already begun in some places.

Not only would the Butterfly Center’s existence be jeopardized, the 766-acre Bentsen State Park could close if the border wall is built through it.

According to Texas Monthly, an access gate would likely be built to allow entry to park visitors. However, it would be closed at night, and camping and nocturnal wildlife viewing would be cancelled. With a wall cutting through it, the park could see a drop in paying visitors and close altogether.

With the raging debate over the cost and humanitarian issues surrounding the wall, the environmental impact – which would be significant – is not a core element of public discussion. But it should be.

Top 6 Things to Bring on a Hiking Trip

This summer I went on a weeklong hiking excursion in Yosemite National Park. Its breathtaking views are something I will never forget and it was such a fun adventure.

I really believe being prepared for the trip was a key part of why I enjoyed myself so much despite having to hike mountains everyday. Here are the 7 things that I would recommend bringing to Yosemite National Park to make your trip more fun:

GAIA GPS

When you’re deep in the valley or on a forest trail, chances are you don’t have cellular connection or WiFi. I relied on GAIA GPS all the time to know where I was on trails. This app is free to download and shows all national park trails.

LifeStraw Water bottle

Yosemite park rangers recommend that every hiker carry at least 2 liters of water with them when they embark on a trail. The heat of summer and the high altitudes will make any athlete thirstier and more fatigued, so it’s important to stay hydrated. However, packs filled with heavy water bottles make hiking much less enjoyable and can put strain on your body. So, how do we stay hydrated while keeping a lighter backpack?

Through my experience, I found that Yosemite during the summer has naturally occurring water everywhere. Using my LifeStraw water bottle I can drink filtered, refreshing ice-cold water from natural springs, waterfalls, and rivers along the Yosemite trails. This water bottle reduced the amount of water I had to carry up mountains while giving me the opportunity to stay hydrated.

Photo by Kara Fields

Download a Playlist

As you drive into Yosemite Valley, you’ll hear your car radio go snap, crackle, and pop as you lose connection because of the mountains. Welcome to the wilderness. If you want to chill out and listen to music on your hike, don’t depend on cellular connection. I would recommend downloading a playlist onto your phone before embarking on your nature adventure. Don’t know what to play? Check out Burnt X’s Nature Trails Playlist on Spotify:

Hiking Shoes

If you’re going on a long hike, it’s important that you wear comfy, closed toed shoes that will give you good traction so you don’t slip off the edge of a cliff. Hiking shoes are excellent and can be bought second hand at places like REI for a more affordable price. Athletic shoes may also work, but make sure that they’re comfortable and will dry off quickly if they get wet.

Photo by Kara Fields

Go Pro Camera

Photo by Kara Fields

Now, you don’t need to bring this, but you can capture some incredible images and videos on this camera. This product has a stabilizer, time lapse modes, and is water resistant, making it the perfect adventure camera.

Snacks!

Photo from Unsplash

Bring lots and lots of snacks! You’ll be surprised by how much your body craves food during these long inclines and steep switchbacks. Make sure to also bring a Ziplock bag to keep wrappers or any food ruminants in to avoid being sniffed out by a bear.

First-Aid Kit

Photo from Unsplash

Now I honestly didn’t think we would need a first aid kit for these trails, but after my brother’s leg got sliced open by running into a sharp tree branch, it was a relief that we had Band-Aids and Neosporin on hand.