Thursday, September 30, 2010

High density agriculture and Sustainable.

In the same vein of sustainable agriculture and beekeeping, aquaponics combines raising fish and hydroponics in what can be a organic closed system.   The elegance of the system is beautiful, being able to produce meat and using the byproduct to produce vegetables with hydroponics.

More info on wikipedia.

What is Aquaponics? from OrganicNation on Vimeo.

From my research the rule of thumb is that you get double the number of gallons in your fish tank as square feet of garden.  So a 300 gallon tank will get you 600 square feet of vegetable planting.  Doing this in a green house extends the season in more temperate climates.   Leafy green vegetables thrive but you can also do tomatoes cucumbers and any other plant that can handle the very wet hydroponic environment.


Looking to the collapse in real estate, vacant land abounds in many over built areas.  Urban farming using high yield high density food production like aquaponics could be put on just a few acres.   Urban farmers could grow herbs, greens and vegetables for local consumers and have a nice market for their fish too. 

India and a loss of pollinators for agriculture

The BBC recently published an article on the decline of pollenators in India.   This becomes very significant when there is over a billion people to feed and neighboring countries that may develop the same problems of lower crop yields. 

"Data shows that the yields of pollinator-independent crops have continued to increase," Dr Basu said. "On the other hand, pollinator-dependent crops have leveled off."
He explained that certain crops did not depend on insects for pollination, including cereals. Instead, the plants used other mechanism - such as relying on the wind to carry the pollen.
However, many vegetables - such as pumpkin, squash, cucumber and gherkin - were reliant on insects, such as bees.
He added that the fall in yield per hectare was against the backdrop of a greater area being turned over to crop production each year.
The exact cause for the decline of pollinators, especially bees, still remains a mystery
In an attempt to identify an underlying cause for the pollinator decline, the team is carrying out a series of field experiments, comparing conventional agriculture with "ecological farming".
Defined as "a farming system that aims to develop an integrated, humane, environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural production system", ecological farming is almost a hybrid of conventional and organic farming, looking to capitalize on returns from modern farming methods as well as drawing on natural ecological services, such as pollination.
Dr Basu said: "There is an obvious indication that within the ecological farming setting, there is pollinator abundance. This method typically provides the habitats for natural pollinators - this is the way forward."
He added that if the team's findings were extrapolated, this would offer a "clear indication" that India was facing a decline in natural pollinators, as ecological farming was only practiced on about 10-20% of the country's arable land.
Figures show that agriculture accounts for almost one-fifth of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP), compared with the global average of just 6%. The sector also provides livelihoods for more than half of India's 1.2 billion population.
 In a world of increasing population, and scarcer resources like oil and natural gas for fertilizers and transportation, agriculture needs to take the long term approach of more local production, sustainability and less dependence upon purely increasing crop yields to feed more mouths.  How stable and independent can a country be when it cannot fulfill one of the most basic needs of its people, food. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Candle making with Martha

I haven't played around making custom silicon molds myself but, silicon is the best way to go making beeswax candles.  Silicon molds release the candle easily and allow for it to set up evenly avoiding cracks and voids.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Beekeeping of Yesteryear

"Uncle" Dan Meyers, of Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, shown with his beehives fashioned from tree trunks.
A woman stands next to a bee hive (also known as bee gums) ca. 1900-1915. The photo's label reads "Bee gums! In the Carolina's. Photo by Margaret W. Morley." North Carolinians have been keeping bees since the 1600s, when settlers brought European honey bees with them. 

'Interested Spectators.'' Working among the bees, the older boy shows the effects of a beesting (beneath the eye) received while working among them a short time before.
Hiving Bees. Shaking (from branch on which they clustered) in front of hive which they are to occupy. Note the bees in the air as shown against his clothes and the hive.

Old bee yard.                                               

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Beehives from around the world

Sidr honey beehives.  This rare honey goes for $200 a Kg or about $100 a lb.
A London roof top, notice the camera to watch the bees.
Collecting heather honey.
Holland circa 1900.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


More decorated eggs in the pysanka tradition.  And some more historic background. :

Pysanka [Ukrainian Easter Eggs]
The art of decorating Easter eggs is one of the most interesting expressions of Ukrainian folk art. This tradition is very old and its beginnings developed in myth in which the egg was perceived as the source of life, the sun and the universe itself. Although similar myths are found in many cultures around the world, Ukrainians are one of the few peoples who strongly adhere to this ancient folklore associated with the egg.
Ukrainian Egg Painting
The Ukrainian tradition of egg decorating dates back thousands of years before Christ; when eggs were an integral part of the celebration of Spring. A variety of symbolic designs and colors were used on the eggs such as a horse (symbolic of strength) or birds (happiness) and geometric lines and circles (symbolic of eternity). With the advent of Christianity, new symbols and icons were added such as the fish.
In central and modern Ukraine, the predominant colors are red and black, whereas in the Carpathian mountains greens, orange, yellow and browns are traditionally used. White is also an important element in most traditional designs, but very difficult to preserve, and thus being lessed used. Dyes were obtained from natural sources: local plants and some inorganic substances. Nowadays, most artists use chemical dyes.
Beeswax is used to decorate the eggs and can be applied in a variety of ways. The traditional way and most skilled among egg-decorating artists is to actually "write" on the surface of the shell itself with melted beeswax using a traditional stylus tool called a "kystka" (or kistka) a kind of stylus pen, usually made of copper. Work begins by applying the pattern, working with the lightest color first (the areas designated to be white in the final design are covered in wax first). Then the egg is dipped into a dye ( then sealed with wax. The process continues until all the desired colors have been sealed and the final color applied.
The egg is then held to a candle flame and, as the wax melts, it is gently rubbed off with a soft cloth. Any residue of wax is carefully removed. Finally, the egg is sealed with several layers of varnish or cold glaze.
If kept at room temperature, away from dust and out of direct sunlight, pysanky will keep for years and years - and eventually harden. Alternatively, the eggs can be blown, strung with coloured ribbon or string, and hung as decorations.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ukrainian Eggs: Pysanka

Pysanka is an ancient Ukrainian art of decorating eggs.  It has been around for over 2000 years and uses wax and pigment to decorate eggs.  These ornate eggs make wonderful Christmas ornaments.