Some mixed news to report on our bees. It has been a while since we last posted and a lot has happened. This Fall we suffered a dearth of nectar in our region and the bees were not able to build up much honey reserves. Even early in the Fall the hives were both suffering. The hive that was growing the most during the Summer months and having the most problems with crooked comb was also doing the worst of the two hives. They seemed to have spent too much time building comb and not enough time gathering nectar and building up their honey reserves. Subsequently their population must have grown too large and they ran out of all their honey before it even got really cold around here. Continue reading
Category Archives: Garden
I’ve spent some time absorbing all of the information in The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it by John Seymour.
This book is an amazing resource that covers so many aspects of homesteading! Since the book covers a wide range of topics, it doesn’t go into too much depth on any one. I could say it’s pretty comprehensive on gardening, but light on issues of raising and butchering meat. This book is a great overall resource, and should be supplemented with more in-depth books regarding specific areas of interest.
Yesterday I read the book Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power by Mark Schapiro.
This book was clearly written with a liberal bias. The author praises the European way of addressing the chemicals present in everyday products, and is very anti-Bush administration. I could be okay with that if the author did a respectable job of telling both sides of the story, but he did not. Schapiro would completely explain the EU methodology, and provide a limited response from the American viewpoint. He did not explain the rationale for the US system of dealing with chemicals in products, except to allege that the US policy is dictated by the companies making the products.
To summarize the book, I would start by saying that the EU now represents a larger population than the government of the United States. When it issues directives limiting what can be sold in the EU, corporations must take note as there is a large consumer base in the EU. The EU has adopted a philosophy predicated on the precautionary principle; if a chemical is known to be harmful at any dosage, the EU works to limit people’s exposure to it. The EU will ban it in products, etc. The US, on the other hand, will ask at what dosage the chemical is harmful, and see if the chemical is present at that dosage during normal use of everyday products before considering any regulatory action.
Another difference noted between the EU system and the US system is that in the EU individual citizens do not have nearly as much legal right to sue over injury from a product. The US, on the other hand, has an active tort system. This allows anyone to sue for wrongdoing by a company that made harmful product. Therefore the US does not require the government to ban products in order for there to be an incentive for companies to make sure their products are not harmful.
The book does not fully address the dilemma that it doesn’t matter what regulations are in place if the regulations aren’t followed. The book barely notes that so many products are made in China, and that in China it is not uncommon for corners to be cut and for products to be made with illegal components. Schapiro makes note of a few shipments confiscated by the EU because they tested positive for banned chemicals. This challenge is not completely investigated by Schapiro.
As much as I disagree with the politics of this book, I do agree that it is important to look at the chemicals in everyday products and investigate the effect of those chemicals. I believe in the power of the consumer, and believe that is the consumer’s job to be educated, consume products that he or she wants to, and the market will adapt to meet that demand.
What You Can Do If You Want to Limit Your Exposure to Chemicals
With just a bit of research I found a variety of resources that people can use to limit their exposure to chemicals if they so desire. Since a lot of chemicals are found in plastics, there’s this book Plastic-Free by Beth Terry which gives advice on how to limit plastic consumption:
There’s also this book by Deanna Duke. Duke details her efforts to limit chemical exposure in her home after her family experiences health problems. I haven’t read this book, but I have read Duke’s blog, and I like the way she writes. I would note that again there is a very liberal bias.
There are also a variety of websites that enable people to look up chemicals in products. HealthyChild.org offers pocket guides, articles, and other helpful resources to be a smart consumer. SkinDeep offers a database search of over 75,000 products that lets you know what’s in each product and gives it a safety rating. I looked up one of the makeup products I use, and found out it’s not that bad!
Here‘s a New York Times article on the issue of chemicals with babies and young children that is a good read on the issue. This article is a quick summary of some of the most debated chemicals in children’s toys.
This article from Mothering.com details how to avoid toxins in packaging for food. This article from WebMDdetails how people are being exposed to BPA through its presence on paper, though notes that experts say exposure is at tolerable levels. The issue would become how much BPA are people being exposed to overall when the exposure from paper is combined with other exposure.
Our homesteading work has also allowed us to limit our exposure to chemicals in products. Look forward to a future post on this!
A couple weeks back I planted some seeds in pots. Well, then these ruffians
knocked over the pot with the sage seeds! It’s actually the rightmost pot in front of Molly in the picture, not knocked over yet. When the pot was knocked over, the dirt and seeds spilled all over, and sage seeds are little black things, so it was impossible to see where in the dirt the seeds were. So I just scooped up everything, and plopped it back in the pot. I hoped that the seeds might still sprout.
I was rewarded for my hopefulness as some of the sage seedlings sprouted! You can see the little green sprouts in the pot.
I look forward to the sage’s continued growth, hopefully without any more dogs causing trouble.
Our first pepper is growing! I can’t wait to eat it. We have many other pepper plants, but they haven’t grown fruit yet. So right now this one is getting lots of attention and love.
Since it’s summertime, I’m off! It’s a great part of being a teacher. I enjoy doing some morning chores around the homestead a few days a week.
I usually begin with filling a bucket from the rainbarrel, and using that water to water the plants around the yard. I will also take a bucket of water up to the deck and use it to water the plants there.
If the washing machine is empty, then I fill 5 gallon buckets with water from the rain barrel, and pour them into the washing machine. I only fill the buckets with about 4-4.5 gallons of water so that the buckets don’t splash when I carry them inside. I usually make about 5 trips with the buckets. I’m saving water and working my muscles at the same time, so it’s a win-win.
I’ll weed around the yard, or plant if needed. Today the pole beans that I planted last week needed trellises. So I put the ones in pots by the deck supports so they could grow up those.
The others are planted by the fence, but they weren’t quite close enough to start growing up it yet. I had some spare wood from breaking down an old trellis, so I put some of those wood pieces next to the plants and leaned the wood against the fence, that way the plants will grow up onto the fence.
Today I also worked on our raised beds, which I wrote about here.
Spending the morning in the garden is such a luxury! I’m thankful we have a nice yard to be in, and that I’m physically capable of doing the work.
One of the things that George and I love about the homestead is all the wildlife! We chose the homestead because it is adjacent to a wooded park. We like being as close to nature as we can get, and this park gives us a lot of critters to enjoy! This year we haven’t used any chemicals in our garden, and we love that we’re not poisoning some of our local visitors, such as this turtle:
We saw him a few times a couple months back. He was around enough that we even gave him a name: Yertle.
We also have quite a few toads living in our yard, like this guy:
Last night George found a groundhog in the yard:
Today Noah was barking out the window, and I figured that is was just another squirrel. I walked over to calm him down, only to see that he’s barking at a deer!
We live in a suburban area, but in our region there are a lot of parks and green space. We love that wild animals are able to still call this region home, too.
George and I want to grow more goodness in our garden! We discussed how to do this, and decided on creating some raised beds. The first will go right where this row of dead bushes is.
We transplanted the bushes from a friend’s yard. We hoped they would screen the beehives a bit and protect that area from the rest of the yard. Well, the bushes did not survive the transplant. I have since ripped them out, and now we have a rectangle of dirt where they were. It’s the perfect place for our first raised bed!
Since we knew this project would take a lot of wood, we decided to make it out of pallets. This would be cheaper, and environmentally friendly since we were reusing. I will note that it was a pain to take apart the pallets. This project was a bit more manual labor than many of our projects.
Since our bees made some crooked comb, we had cut off that crooked comb, harvested what honey we could from it, and we still had a lot of comb left over.
We needed to melt down the beeswax in the comb so that we could use the wax for candles and other potential crafts. George did some research, and found that it was common to use solar ovens to do this. We had been wanting a solar oven for other reasons so it was a good opportunity to go ahead and build a solar oven!
Once the solar oven was built, we setup the wax purification system. According to George’s research, the way to get the beeswax from the comb and leave behind any impurities was to put the comb on top of a paper towel, which was held over a bowl half filled with water.
As I embark on a candle making adventure, I picked up Candle Making in a Weekend by Sue Spear to pickup some pointers.
This book was a good overview of candlemaking. It had instructions for a wide range of projects. The instructions were simple and easy to understand, plus there were helpful pictures. I feel that if I wanted to make very intricate candles, I would be able to with this book’s instructions.