Archive for the ‘bee keeping’ Category

I’ve never considered myself an environmentalist.  In fact, I’m more of a laissez-faire capitalist.  I may be wrong on this, but my understanding is that recycling doesn’t make much economic sense.  If it were economical, people would be doing it privately and getting rich off it.  So, I haven’t been one to separate out glass from cans from newspaper from the rest of the trash.  It just all goes into the dumpster.

I’ve also held the belief until recently that business corporations were inherently ethical and wanted what was best for their customers and for people in general.  Yes, they wanted to make a profit, but they were willing to do what was right even if it cost them financially.

Finally, I’ve believed that milk was milk, beef was beef, eggs were eggs and tomatoes were tomatoes no matter how they were produced.  It turns out this is not true.  A grass-fed cow will produce fundamentally different milk than a grain and soy-fed cow.  Pasteurization and homogenization further and unfavorably change the milk.  Pastured hens lay eggs far higher in omega-3 fatty acids than factory farmed hens.  A tomato produced in soil rich in organic matter, specifically humus, has a higher nutritional value than a tomato grown in depleted soil and artificial fertilizer.

Knowing this might not have had any effect on me before I had children.  But now I think a lot about what they are putting into their rapidly growing bodies.  I want them to be eating the very best there is.  I stopped buying milk from the store and signed up for a raw milk cow-share program.  Next month I will be switching to a cow-share program where the cows are grass-fed.  A vegetable garden seemed like too much work.  But we put one in this year because we knew that we could produce better quality vegetables than what was available at the store and now that matters.  I started keeping bees, so we could start eating our very own raw honey.  I’d like to keep laying hens, but that’s not allowed where we live.

I really enjoy keeping critters and having them work for me.  It started with me culturing the raw milk and using the whey to ferment all manner of grains and vegetables following recipes in Nourishing Traditions.  All these lacto-bacteria were working for me.  Then I moved up to honey bees.  I have a thriving hive that is now just beginning to produce honey that I will harvest.

A few days ago we acquired another critter:  red wiggler earthworms.  Their job:  kitchen waste recycling.  A few months ago my husband started another traditional composting system.  Well, we don’t generate enough kitchen waste to produce the kind of volume that will properly heat up and turn into humus.  A little at a time may work in some locales, but not in super dry Colorado.  At least we couldn’t get it to work.  It worked great as a housefly breeding ground, though, and I got so sick of the houseflies coming into our home in such large numbers.  I wanted to put a moratorium on composting.

That made Erik sad because to him it was a real tragedy to just throw away all that potential compost generated in the kitchen.  It’s hard enough to grow anything in this soil and it’s in such dire need of organic matter.  But I couldn’t live with the flies.

We’d both heard about worm composting before and so last week I did some Internet surfing and made a phone call to a local worm/compost dealer.  I also read Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, which tells you everything you need to know to get started.  I got the crash course on worm composting.  We visited the worm guy and bought an old styrofoam cooler filled with worms and compost.  Today I separated the compost from the worms and started them on some fresh bedding and food (kitchen waste), and now we have an honest to goodness indoor worm composting bin.

It turns out worms need an incredible amount of paper bedding to balance out the food scraps.  I found some newspaper and old non-glossy catalogs to tear up.  So the worms will also compost my paper waste, which is probably the largest volume of stuff I put in my garbage containers.  It’s better than I’d originally thought.  Not only are we recycling our food waste, but also our paper waste.

It’s really gratifying to contemplate living in a less wasteful manner.  As a society, we throw an incredible amount of stuff away.  It goes to the landfill and there are all kinds of issues with that.  With worm composting, I can turn all that waste into humus, something my garden (and entire backyard, for that matter) desperately needs.  I don’t need to throw away such a valuable resource anymore.  And house flies generally aren’t an issue with worm composting.

I don’t have any huge belief about keeping things out of landfills, although I do participate in programs that seek to do just that.  I participate in those programs not because I care about the environment but because those programs benefit me and my family.  Worm composting for me is about enriching my family’s food supply through enriching our soil.  There’s a direct benefit to me.  It’s nice to know it also benefits the environment in general.

So I’m still pretty much a capitalist.  I’m not about to turn into an environmentalist who’s worried sick over global warming.  Though I like the idea of global worming.  Still, I believe in responsible living and in taking care of the resources I have to the best of my ability.  I believe that this kind of stewardship doesn’t just benefit the earth in the long run.  It also benefits me and the people around me in the short term.  I can still do something I know is good for me and know it’s going to help others.  I think this is what trickle down economics is touted as doing, and I think would do if the people at the top were more enlightened on even what their own best interests truly were.  For those with a conscience I would think making a buck without hurting anyone, without wasting valuable resources and without polluting would be in their best interest.  If they put their minds to it, they could still make boatloads of such bucks.

Maybe CEOs and other corporate big wigs should all keep a worm bin in their office.  It could be inspirational to them.  It’s thinking outside the box, though not to worry, the worms will happily stay in the box as long as you feed them.


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