I’m not very good at it, but I try to avoid ecological tomfoolery. I like the environment. I like fresh air. I love the planet. In my bones, I’m a conservationist. I’d love a “John Muir is my homeboy” sticker on my (imaginary) Tesla.

I do have to admit, however, that my younger brother and I might have contributed to the planetary water crisis. Back in the early 80s, we didn’t have a pool—not even a Slip ‘N Slide. We were people of little means, but immense creativity. So, like a lot of kids, we had a water hose and a blank canvas of creativity. Seems like our canvas always got the Jackson Pollock treatment—mud pies layered onto every freestanding object and sprayed off with propulsive water canons, aimed with punitive accuracy.

As a kid, our yard was a wonderland of exploration and fun. Not for a moment back then could I have imagined the type of adventure that would be waiting in our yards 25 years later!

We might as well have been doing cave drawings, back then. Times have changed. Tech has moved outside. And, guess what? It’s so cool!

So, you’ve got your home filled to the brim with tech zestiness, but the great outdoors is calling your name. Nice. Boot up and strap in, because we’re about to blow your mind (remember, I had no Slip ‘N Slide…I basically lived in medieval times…this stuff is cool to me…and I hope to you).

First up. A weather station in your pocket. Yep! I feel a bit like Ron Popiel, but for the low, low price of about $150 (insert 3 easy payments joke here) you can have your own PWS (personal weather station). That’s right: you weather geeks will love this. And, “introverts unite, separately, in your own homes,” because what’s even cooler is that you can go to sites like Weather Underground and share your weather data with the planet from your couch! How spicy is that! Think about it—a weather station at your house and on your phone! Just one problem: any rain-soaked, verbal assaults hurled at the weatherperson might make your co-workers a bit worried for your mental health.

Okay, next. And, this might be the coolest thing ever…or a sign that the human race is truly inviting the apocalypse of first-world laziness; I’m not sure. Suppose your flowers are thirsty and your PWS app is glitchy. You’ve been thinking the rain is coming, but really, it’s just another day in the Texas Sahara. Never fear. Your precious plants will be living in an oasis of plenty because you have a solar-powered wi-fi garden sensor in your flowerbeds. From detecting the moisture level in the ground to unleashing the H2O nectar of that good old-fashioned water hose, there’s a sensor for it all. Google that stuff! I mean, really? Yep, we’ve arrived at the future, and your plants have just as much wi-fi angst as your 15-year-old Snapchatter!

All this Captain Kirk stuff got you wanting to use the transporter to beam down to the real world and put your feet on terra firma? Okay, how about this: someone has to take one for the team when the bees and spiders attack…or do they? Hmmm. High-tech and low-tech collide, and it’s ahh-mazing. First, you’ll need your My Critter Catcher to safely remove the creepy crawlies, and then you’ll need your Infragram from Public Lab. You guessed it. This DIY project that you and your kiddos can do together allows you to build your very own infrared camera to analyze your garden. What!?! And, it’s super cheap.

There’s so much more, but my injudicious use of coffee and my inveterate geekological cheering have chewed up all my space. So do this: fire up your computer. Grab your own cup of Google-inspiring goodness, and go check out all the cool outdoor gadgetry that you can find.

One last word of semi-hypocritical advice. Make sure that no matter how much cool tech gets crammed into your yard, that you don’t forget the one most important  thing that should be front and center: you. Truly take time to get outside this summer, to stop and smell the proverbial roses. But please do be careful; it is Texas after all, and as far as I know, we don’t have any wi-fi rattlesnake detectors on the market…yet!


Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.

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