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Push the bees where they want to go

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Push the bees where they want to go

Push the bees where they want to go
A stinging insect that evolved 35 million years ago collects nectar from plants. It converts this into honey and stores it so that it can survive the winter as a social unit. To protect this store of honey, each worker bee is armed with a sting which is capable of producing severe irritation, and, at worse death.

There is no substance in nature (unprocessed) that is sweeter than honey. In a world without sugar, bees’ nests were prized discoveries and great efforts were made to steal the honey. Some of the earliest cave paintings show men with ropes and ladders, and flaming brands, climbing up to bees’ nests to hack off some of the comb to get at what must have seemed like an impossibly sweet substance.

Now it all seems so much more civilised; bees are kept in wooden beehives, managed by beekeepers who have an intimate knowledge how the social organisation of the hive works, and are able to manipulate them to their own advantage, to produce colossal crops of honey and also to provide much needed pollination to the huge acreages of crops like almonds, oranges, apples, courgettes, tomatoes, etc.But in fact it only seems that way. Anyone who works with bees knows that you are really only a bystander. Bees still do what they want and their behaviour is ultimately determined by the weather.

If you keep bees at the bottom of your garden, you are sharing your garden with a wild animal, which, like most wild animals, lives a precarious life at the margin of survival. It will swarm if it wants to and go to live elsewhere, and will only produce a honey surplus over and above its daily needs if the sun shines. And this is actually the point. Keeping bees gets you honey, but is also gets you a way into the way nature works. By understanding the way bees respond to all the different aspects of the natural world, the beekeeper is able to recover his own relationship to the natural world through bees.

Beekeepers are much more sensitive to things like the weather because they understand the importance of sunshine to the bees’ ability to gather nectar. You soon come to realise that you can only get what nature gives you.

Facts:
Around 15% of our diet consists of crops which are pollinated by bees.
The honey bee will visit up to 500 flowers in any one day to collect nectar.

Find Nowhere

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

Life is complicated. Sport is simple

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Life is complicated. Sport is simple

Aberteifi & Fish

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Aberteifi & Fish

Aberteifi & Fish
The river Teifi is 75.8 miles long and is one of the largest rivers in Wales. It is also one of the most pristine and least modified river catchments in lowland Britain.

Cardigan (Aberteifi in Welsh) used to be a thriving port for trading as well as ship building. But the development and activity of the slate quarry caused a build up of waste material in the river, making the river shallower in places, which in turn prevented access by larger boats. This was seen to be the cause of the end of the sea trading port.

The Teifi is renowned as one of the best rivers in Wales for salmon fishing. However, fish stocks have been under steady threat since the 1960s. This was due to the use of drift nets by Irish Sea trawlers. In 2006 drift nets were banned and since then salmon numbers in the Teifi have been on the rise.

Mostly sewin, salmon, brown trout and bass are found in the Teifi. A reasonable year’s run will contain around 20,000 fish. The average Teifi salmon weighs around 9lb, but they have been recorded up to as big as 30lb.

The Teifi is famous for its rich history of coracle net fishing. This used to be the only real source of income for many of the town’s folk. Now in Cardigan there is only one fishmonger and one lobster/crab seller.

Fishmongers have closed and been replaced by large supermarket chains. One man and his boat are fighting back, his name is Len, and you’ll see him come rain or shine out on the bay catching lobsters and crabs (and sometimes a cold). When he has something to sell you will see a sign outside his door (but only when he has caught something).

Bring Back The Hippies

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Bring Back The Hippies

Bring Back The Hippies
True organic farming requires learning and acquiring a deep and long-term understanding of a farm’s ecology and its crops. It is about a subtle management of the environment to grow our crops with the minimum interference and disturbance.

Spraying a field with a nerve poison to control aphids and thereby killing all other insects by accident is as violent and ignorant as a Nazi book burning; planting phasealia to attract adult hover flies and lacewings whose larvae will eat the aphids is a peaceful and truly knowing one. Annihilating all soil life with the fumigant mythyl bromide to kill a few weed seeds and pathogens when 99.99% of the soil’s population is beneficial is as dumb and intellectually lazy as expecting carpet-bombing Vietnam to lead to peace and freedom. Using the last of our fossil fuels to make nitrogen fertilizer which clover could provide for free and without contributing to global warming is the mark of a blinkered economic system incapable of seeing beyond a self-destructive worship of the free market and greed.

How could we be so dumb? Organic farming is smarter in so many ways; it is more than just not using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; it is about our relationship with the planet we live on, including the seven billion people we share it with. At its best it is about humility, understanding and learning from nature rather than arrogance, domination and destruction. It is about peace and respect rather than violence.

I know this is wild stuff and I sound like a hippy but I don’t care. My early years as an organic grower taught me that if you go to war with nature without the back-up of an arsenal of fossil fuel based agro-chemicals you will loose. That made me angry initially but with loosing comes humility, re-evaluation, introspection and fundamental learning. Looking back over my early years as a grower it is hard to believe how personally I took it when things went wrong. It was all about ego and my fields were my empire. Perhaps the self-centered arrogance would have subsided with age anyway but I am convinced the vulnerability inherent in organic farming helped.



For most converting farmers there comes an epiphany when they realise they have got the relationship wrong; that organic farming is not about substituting ammonium nitrate with chicken shit, pyrethrum with soft soap or herbicides with flame throwers, that the conflict is unnecessary and ultimately self-defeating and that the key to organic farming is observation, empathy, humility and understanding rather than power.

Nature can provide what academics would call the “elegant” solutions that include balance and the subtle relationships between organisms that make chemical farming’s clumsy, energy consuming, often thoughtless abuses seem grotesque by comparison; it has so much to teach those who are receptive and organic farmers normally become more receptive than most. If Bush and Blair had spent their bonding time on an organic allotment with their hands in the soil rather than driving a golf cart around in bomber jackets they would have realised that they were not omnipotent and their countries might not be fighting their unwinnable wars.

Guy Watson founder of the Riverford Organic Veg Box Scheme and co-author of the Riverford Farm Cook Book. www.riverford.co.uk

Bread Facts

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Bread Facts

Bread Facts
Bread has been a staple food for humans since 7000BC. The workers who built the Egyptian pyramids were paid in bread.

Wheat production is estimated at 350 million tonnes annually.

12 million loaves of bread are made every single day. We consume only 8 million of these, the rest goes to waste.

The average UK household buys around 86 loaves per year.

70% of the bread we eat is white.

The UK bakery market is worth almost £3 billion. However, of all bakeries, less than 5% of them are real craft bakers.

Bread tastes really nice when toasted with jam on top.

An Ode To The Potato

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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An Ode To The Potato

An Ode To The Potato
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Might be a bit tricky
Seeing as you’re a potato
But I still like you
In fact, it’s more than that
You’re special
And you grew strong
Even though I neglected you
Not on purpose
I was just doing other things
(mowing the lawn, restraining the slugs)
But you were there, just growing
No fuss
Just growing
And when I came back to you
On that warm August day
Fork in hand
And lifted you from the earth
I gazed upon you lovingly
Fresh and perfectly formed
Nature’s knobbly bounty
Then I took you inside
And mashed you right up
With some butter
Sorry about that bit
Hope it didn’t hurt
But if it’s any consolation
You tasted real good

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