Archive for April, 2014

GrowSustDiet~Cat100%25I will be at the the Ashland Farmers Market on Saturday, May 3, from 9am-noon with my books and DVDs. I was one of the founding farmers of the market in 1999 and it has been nice to see how much the market has grown over the years. It will be exciting to be back on opening day 15 years later. After growing food to sell locally for 10 years, I left the markets after the 2001 season to focus on teaching and on exploring sustainable food production from the garden all the way to the table. In the years since, my students have been customers, vendors, and market managers at the Ashland Market and at many more markets around the state.

When I was selling at the Ashland Market, and even before that, people would often approach me with questions about organic growing. I began to teach out of self-defense. I was instrumental in developing the Sustainable Agriculture program at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Goochland and taught there from 1999-2010. My daughter, Betsy Trice, teaches those courses now.

garden plan dvd coverhomeplaceearth imageI developed the DVDs about garden planning and cover crops from what I was teaching. They are part of the curriculum at the college and are great for people to use as teaching tools for themselves or with groups. My book Grow a Sustainable Diet is also a teaching tool. When you read it I hope you feel like I was right there with you. Just as if you were in my class, there are worksheets to use and references to point you to more information on many topics.

The Ashland Farmers Market is in Ashland, Virginia at 121 Thompson St, behind the Town Hall. See you there on Saturday!

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zero waste recycle containersToday is Earth Day, so zero waste events are a good thing to talk about. Imagine having an event with a large number of people and having no waste! That is my idea of something called a zero waste event. Others may have alternate ideas, such as sorting out the recyclables and compostables before taking the rest to the landfill, but that’s a start. When I taught at the community college one of the projects I had my students do was to write a paper on the composting topic of their choice from my list of six. The topics were (1) institutional food wastes, (2) animal carcass composting, (3) manure management, (4) bioremediation, (5) construction and demolition debris, and (6) zero waste events. At the time I chose those topics there was little information on many of them and I gave them articles from BioCycle magazine to get them started.

I was reminded of that when I attended the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC recently. Always looking out for the environment, Mother Earth News is careful when it comes to putting on their Fairs. Instead of single trash barrels, there were three containers in each spot. As you can see in the photo, each had a sign identifying what to put where. There was a place to deposit things destined for recycling, composting, or the landfill. The signs, lid tops, and plastic bag liners were color coded to further keep things straight. landfill sign-zero waste events  The signs indicated this was managed by Danny’s Dumpster. I didn’t find Danny, but when I spotted one of his employees I stopped him to ask some questions. Danny’s Dumpster works with businesses and events on a regular basis. They even have their own composting facility and sell compost. Their website says that Danny’s Dumpster specializes in waste reduction while striving to make environmentally responsible decisions both affordable and convenient. Affordable and convenient are what everyone has been waiting for. Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t want to go out of their way or spend extra money to recycle. It will be nice to see this become the way of all trash haulers.

compost sign--zero waste eventsThis business is beginning to work with schools to take their cafeteria waste. In the mid-1990’s I volunteered with the garden program at my children’s elementary school and pioneered composting the cafeteria waste right at the school. The students put their food waste and paper napkins into the recycle bins and two students were assigned to empty the bins into the compost piles each day, along with leaves for the needed carbon. It worked great, but not too many adults really understood the importance of what we were doing, or the necessity. That system operated for the four years I was a volunteer, but didn’t continue more than about a year after that. My experience at the school made me realize that I needed to devote my time to teaching adults so that more of them would understand, putting more people out there to teach the children and others. Those elementary school students are adults now. They know this can work because they were doing it way back when. Maybe they’ll be the ones to make a difference in their communities.

recycle sign-zero waste eventsWhat are you throwing away? Each household should sort its own waste and try to have less (or none). A compost pile can take care of the food scraps, but there are lots of other waste items to contend with. When food goes from the garden to the table, there are no containers to dispose of. Furthermore, when it is preserved at home, the containers that are required can be used over and over. I still use canning jars I bought 40 years ago. Packaging is a big waste. Bringing less stuff home of any kind will reduce the packaging you have to throw away. In your household can you have a zero waste event and really make it zero waste? We worked with that goal in mind when our daughter got married in 2010. We came close with less than a full bag of trash for the landfill. You can read what we did at https://homeplaceearth.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/homegrown-wedding/.

It is encouraging to see how much the subjects I assigned are in the news in the years since I first gave my students that project. Animal carcass composting was thought to be quite an unusual subject at the time and much of the available information was about poultry farms composting, rather than incinerating, dead chickens, although composting roadkill was the subject of a BioCycle article. Virginia now has a composting program primarily for deer killed on I-81 in the western part of the state. The resulting finished compost will be used in landscape maintenance. Demolition debris is being separated and recycled. Brown fields are being cleaned up with bioremediation. As a society we are beginning to take more of a holistic approach to what we do, taking into account the complete cycle of our resources and our actions. There just might be hope for the world after all. Homeplace Earth

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beeyard 2014 -BLOGI didn’t have honeybees in 2013 because they had died out over the winter. Many beekeepers in my bee club—the Ashland Virginia Beekeepers Association— suffered losses then. I had three hives in 2012, but going into the winter I knew one was weak and I would probably lose it. I was so busy working on Grow a Sustainable Diet, I decided not to look for replacements last spring. Working on Seed Libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people is keeping me busy this year—deadline is July 1—but I didn’t want to go another year without bees. Since I knew ahead of time that I would need bees, I ordered them in December. A friend in the Ashland Beekeepers picks them up each year in Georgia. I would have liked to have gotten local bees, but this was easier than searching them out.

The beeyard sat empty of bees all last year and the wax moths moved in, doing damage to the wax in the frames. Recently on a warm Saturday I took everything apart and put the best back together in two hives to get ready for the newcomers. I prepared one deep box for each package of bees. The first photo shows those hives with the bees safely inside. Soon it will be time to add another deep super to those hives and after that I will need to put a honey super on. Instead of putting everything away in the shed, I cleaned things up and prepared what looks like another hive right in the beeyard. That tall stack has the deep boxes I will need and a honey super for each hive. Not only did I not have to put them in the shed now, I won’t have to drag those boxes out there when I need them.

Knowing what it is like when I move boxes around, I thought I’d put an old metal wagon in the beeyard. The tires are beginning to rot and it is best left in one place, making a perfect bench for setting boxes on. I placed a deep hive body on the wagon with a piece of plywood on top. Now when I am working with the hives, I have a place to set any frames that I take out. The piece of plywood keeps the weather off the box. When I am working with the frames, I’ll put the plywood under the box. If the queen is on the frame I put in there, there will be no worries that she would drop off the frame undetected with the plywood on the bottom. The box is brown because it was painted that color when I received it from a friend.

beeyard equipment storage

beeyard equipment storage

The extra honey supers on the stack currently have no frames in them. I thought that would be a great place to put things I need, such as my hive tool, bee brush, and Boardman feeders. I put a queen excluder under the honey supers to keep things from falling into the hive bodies.

medium frame that the bees have made into a deep

medium frame that the bees have made into a deep

I prefer to use deep boxes for the bees and shallow boxes for the honey supers. It takes three medium boxes to house a cluster and only two deep boxes. Although the deep boxes are heavier, I like working with them, rather than handling more mediums. One year I received a nuc that had medium frames. When I transferred the frames to my deep boxes, the bees added comb to fill them out. You can see one of those frames in the photo. It goes to show you that the bees know what they are doing and will make comb without foundation, which is what they do in a top bar hive. Building a top bar hive is definitely on my to-do list. Unfortunately, we didn’t get one made this year in time for the new bees. It would be different learning to handle the comb from a top bar without the benefit of the wood frames, but seeing how substantial the comb is that the bees filled out, I look forward to it.

I don’t know why I never thought to make these changes in the beeyard before. The extra boxes and the wagon will make my life easier this summer. Having the extra Boardman feeders already came in handy. I usually put one jar of sugar water in a feeder on the front of each hive, which I did when the bees were installed on March 27. I didn’t have to hunt for the extra feeders when I took off the entrance reducers and added another jar to each hive. There is also a feeder inside each hive that is the size of a frame. We will be traveling this week and I want to fill up all the feeders before we leave so no one will have to tend to the bees while we’re gone. There will be other things our son will be tending to, but not the bees.

The Mother Earth News Fair near Asheville, NC is coming up this weekend. I’ll be there the whole time and will be speaking on Sunday, April 12 at 1pm. If you are looking for me other times, you might find me at the New Society Publishers booth or out and about the Fair. On the way there I’ll be visiting two libraries to give a presentation. I’ll be speaking at the Summers County Public Library in Hinton, WV on Wednesday, April 9 at 3pm and at the Washington County Public Library in Abingdon, VA on April 10 at 6pm. Each library is home to a seed library. Hope to see some of you at these events!Homeplace Earth

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