Tennesseetransitions


Weather weirdness

I’ve been pretty busy with spring chores lately: building raised beds for our community garden plot…

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cutting grass and making hot compost with the clippings, playing music, hosting company, working out and watching it rain a lot. But it’s mid-May folks, and I’m still making soups! I normally don’t make soups in warm weather, I like to reserve it for those cool days of fall and winter but last Thursday I had a guest for lunch and even though we were able to enjoy eating out on the patio for the first time this season, and it was sunny enough to cook it in my solar cooker…

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the fact remains, I was making soup on May 2nd! Then, last weekend we had a house full of company from Nashville, so we decided to go to Asheville for the day. It was so windy and cool there that folks had coats and hats on all day.  ‘course, we had fun in spite of the wind…

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By the time the company left on Sunday, it was so cool and rainy I decided to make soup again, which we enjoyed again on Monday-May 6th and I gave the last bowl to my brother on May 7th, another cool day. It has gradually warmed this week, and I’ve been busy weeding and planting, but lo and behold, Sunday and Monday night low’s are forecast to be in the 30’s!!! If that ain’t soup weather I don’t know what is! My fall-planted pansies are still blooming their hearts out, and the lettuce hasn’t gone to seed yet. So I keep cutting it, thinking that any day I’ll see it elongate and begin going to seed, but so far, it’s holding well. And because it was a fall planted variety, it’s especially well suited for cool weather. Last year, I harvested a huge batch of honey in May, which was the earliest my bees had ever filled their supers, and that was simply because spring had arrived so early in 2012. This year, there’s not much honey flow at all because it’s been so wet and rainy. This week saw a RECORD BREAKING heat in Michael’s hometown in California, with 18″ of snow last week in Minnesota. “Record ‘latest ice out dates’ have been and will be set this year for many Minnesota lakes; a problem for some anglers this weekend as they gear up for the Minnesota fishing opener. Some may actually take their ice augers with them across the far north rather than lugging the boat along“.  My friend from Oregon writes that her normally rainy, rainy season that used to last through May and often June too, has been replaced this year with weeks and weeks and weeks of dryness. You know, Portland, that rainy place.

This weather weirdness has made gardening difficult for me. I still haven’t planted my tomatoes or peppers, and just this week finally planted summer and winter squash, green beans, edamame and limas. Last year I picked my first beans in early June! If all this rain keeps up, I’m afraid my potatoes will rot before they produce, and the seeds I planted will be washed away. The good thing about raised beds in wet weather is that they drain faster. Conversely, the bad thing about raised beds in dry weather is that they drain faster.

So, why am I rehashing the spring weather? I just want folks to recognize and accept the fact that climate change is real, it’s happening and our weather is  going to become even more unstable because unfortunately, we’ve reached the tipping point and the planet simply can’t ‘normalize’ anymore. We can’t change the weather, that’s a fact. All we can do now is to take steps to become more resilient. In order to  survive and thrive in turbulent times we need to organize ourselves at the grassroots level to carry out a series of transitions-not only in terms of food and farming, but also in transportation, housing, health and education. From the state-wide climate action meeting I attended this week, to realtors touting a home’s walkability score as a selling point, we’ve started that transition. Just this week, Sebastopol,CA became the second town in that state to mandate that solar panels be installed on every new home built. The economic law of supply and demand ensures that the new mandates will begin to bring the price of the roof top electricity makers down to an affordable level for many more of us eventually. Community supported agriculture, community gardens and farmer’s markets continue to grow each year while 54 public schools are being closed in Chicago next year because of their being underutilized. Tennessee Transitions tries to explore some of the ways that we can gracefully make our own transitions to a rapidly changing climate and economy. After all, it’s not just the weather that’s weird.

keep calm

 

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“Life Skill”: How Sweet It Is!
April 3, 2012, 10:33 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I went into my bee hives again this afternoon, right there between working in the garden and the big storm. There was no wind or rain and they were so docile I was able to handle them with just a little smoke and no gloves! It looks like they’ve come through the winter just fine, and there’s still some honey left, but this is also the time that many hives starve to death because there’s simply not enough nectar for them to make more. The warm weather is spurring the queens to lay, which means lots of little mouths to feed. About 60,000 little mouths in a strong hive actually. So, I’ve been feeding them a sugar syrup that they are taking by the gallon, with a homemade concoction of essential oils added to it to boost their health at this particularly fragile time of the year.

Beekeeping is a bit of a seasonal hobby, but because I procrastinated all winter in getting my equipment ready, the work has suddenly become very pressing. We caught our first swarm last year during the first week of April, and I kept hoping we’d get so lucky again this year, but I couldn’t put off any longer the things I needed to do to get them ready for a full season of pollinating our crops and making honey for them and me. I had tried splitting a strong hive 3 weeks ago, but the newbees (get it?) never produced a queen, so I had to buy one and install her in her new home today. Along with making needed repairs on the wooden ware, wiring new sheets of foundation into the frames, removing propolis (or bee glue as it’s called) that the bees use to caulk up every available open space, reversing hive bodies to allow more laying room for the old queens, and adding supers (the wooden box where the new honey is stored), it was quite a busy day in the bee yard! When I finished I was hot and tired and cranky and swore I was getting out of this beekeeping business altogether. But, my bee mentor was giving a presentation tonight at the monthly bee club meeting, and I’d promised her I’d come to support her efforts. Damn if I didn’t get sucked right back in to the fascination and challenge of being a better beekeeper!

Things are sure different since I joined the local beekeeper’s club in 2004. Back then, each monthly meeting was a litany of the medications we beekeepers were supposed to apply to our bees that month in order to ‘keep them healthy’. It was definitely a ‘good ole’ boys club’, with only a very few women attending the meetings, with secretary being the only elected position held by a woman. We’d be lucky to have 20 folks show up at each meeting. Now women are visible and vocal and holding responsible positions in the club. The message is no longer ‘medicate’, but instead, ‘wait and see’. As a matter of fact, the speaker at the upcoming June meeting is coming from South Carolina and will be giving a talk on ‘Natural Beekeeping’! We’ve come a long way baby and I’m happy to be a part of such a caring and dedicated group, bent on helping this little creature we all depend on. The numbers are now over  100 at each meeting, and women make up about 40% of the membership, with couples and even families coming to learn about the bees!

It is said that every third bite of food we Americans eat is the direct result of the pollination done by a  honeybee. They are an extremely important and vital part of our food system- the whole web of life in fact. If you garden or have fruit trees, if you enjoy a variety of foods in your diet, if you love that  golden honey in your tea, if you suffer from allergies, or if you simply want to live a more sustainable life that’s a bit more in tune with nature and the changing seasons, you just might consider becoming a beekeeper too. I like to tell my grandkids how important it is to learn ‘life skills’: riding a bike, managing their money, and making good cornbread for example. I’ve added beekeeping to that list.




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