World Citizens are Greening Our Cities

DairyCowsNZ.jpg

One of the disadvantages of living in New Zealand, I have decided, is that our abundance of space shields us from the environmental problems of large populations. Yet if we are to shield ourselves from the effects of global warming, we must take immediate steps towards a cleaner, chemical-reduced, sustainable lifestyle.

I often check out the websites Thrive.com and WakeUpWorld.com for the innovative news I hear about what others are already doing towards sustainable lifestyles. These are people who have a passion. But they also have something even rarer – they have chosen to step outside their comfort zones, act on their ideas and tell their story to the world – one ear at a time.

If you ever find yourself thinking: “I can’t do anything about global warming and the coming world calamities” then open up and watch/read the links I have added below.

Part 1

How 1 MILLION Pounds Of Organic Food Can Be Produced On 3 Acres

Part 2

How 1 MILLION Pounds Of Organic Food Can Be Produced On # Acres

To show you an example of what these urban dwelling eco-warriors are doing, I have embedded a video:

State of the Re:Union – A Food Revolution in Milwaukee

Here waste spaces are turned into green oases in the middle of a major city. The ideas are equally transferrable to your home town or your backyard shared with a neighbour.

Buying the Advertising Dream

The concept of individualism, that has dominated the last half of last century, and still does in the first decades of this century, works insidiously against the potential of what we can do together. By keeping us focused on doing things alone, advertising is able to drive wedges where they should never be. It’s the old message of ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ only the Jones family is struggling to afford things just as much as we are.

Each night we are fed ‘dissatisfaction’.

We learn we do NOT have:

  • A properly shaped body
  • The perfect face
  • The dream car(s), boats, holiday houses, camper vans
  • The correctly labelled clothes
  • The aesthetically decorated large houses
  • The right technological devices or appliances
  • The medications that will prolong our lives
  • The mind-blowing entertainment

The advertising promise, no matter how subtle, is to convince us we are failures for our LACK, and that by buying the advertised goods our lives will be WHOLE again. So we spend our money on trying to fill that deep well of LACK and get ourselves further into debt.

We Cannot Turn Back the Clock …

                         … but we can remember the best of the past

What is wrong with turning off the television (the pipe of propaganda) and:

  • Joining a group (or many groups) and sharing experiences
  • Committing ourselves to a cause
  • Inviting the neighbours to shared meals
  • Pledging the money we save by not buying the newest gadget to support other people in our community
  • Sharing our musical talents by singing or playing together
  • Giving our time and energy to support school education for our children

By joining forces with others we can make magical things happen. Imagine if you and a few mates could get together in your neighbourhood and buy a plastic recycling plant and produce fuel to share? You think it’s not possible? Then watch this video.

Plastic to Oil Fantastic Recycling Machine

This machine is so small it can be set up and operated in villages in Africa–so why not in so-called developed nations?

 

What holds us back?

Is it that we have helped to create, and demanded of our governments, so many rules we’ve ‘ruled’ ourselves into a state of atrophy?

Are we just plain scared of getting to know people in our community?

Regardless of how we got here, what the world needs now is innovators and those who are prepared to get onto the court to make a difference. In other words: World Citizens.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

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Low Impact Developments – Defining a Vision

Home buyers, and some real estate developers, are realising the impact of subdivisions on the environment and are looking at ways of minimising the environmental harm from building new. The movement to protect the environment (global and local) is also being led by enlightened local bodies which enact bylaws to meet Low Impact standards.

In Great Britain is this Stoneham Green affordable housing development near Southampton which, Green Building Press reports, is one of the UK’s first to achieve Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 because of its utilisation of Biomass digesters amongst other energy-saving techniques. The focus here is on energy conservation. Other developments stress different benefits of sustainability.

What makes a dwelling Low Impact?

Before we can establish laws for sustainable, low impact housing we really need to understand and define what we are talking about. ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Low Impact’ are such easy words to throw around, especially when they refer to houses or buildings, but it is vital that the same definitions are held in everyone’s head.

A survey of definitions throws up a range of yardsticks used to measure Low Impact Dwellings, both in how they physically affect their surroundings to how they affect the people who live in them,

Simon Fairlie definition

Low impact dwellings (LID), in the UK sense of the term, was described by Simon Fairlie, a former editor of The Ecologist magazine (*1), in 1996 as: “development that through its low impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality.” (*2)

For Simon Fairlie: living the good life gave him a clearer perspective of what is meant by ‘Low Impact Development (LID)

Fairlie later went on to study the ‘green’ assumptions of diet when he wrote a book ‘Meat: a Benign Extravagance’, in which he challenges conventional thinking about the sustainability of the vegan and vegetarian diets. He claims we ignore the high impact on resources necessary (and travel distances required) to gather vegan/vegetarian food and that feeding animals on waste food production could have less impact on the environment.

During his time with The Ecologist, Fairlie wrote: “Neither the term (Low Impact Dwelling) nor the concept was new. People have been living low impact lifestyles in low impact buildings for centuries; indeed until very recently the majority of people in the world lived that way.” (*3 ) In 2009 Fairlie revised his definition of a LID as: “development which, by virtue of its low or benign environmental impact, may be allowed in locations where conventional development is not permitted.” (*4)

Does low impact require fewer restrictions?

He explained: “I prefer this revised definition because wrapped up in it is the main argument; that low impact buildings need not be bound by the restrictions necessary to protect the countryside from ‘conventional’ high impact development ­ a.k.a. suburban sprawl. There are two other principle arguments in favour of LID:

  • (i) that some form of exception policy is necessary because conventional housing in a countryside protected from sprawl becomes too expensive for the people who work there; and
  • (ii) soon we will all have to live more sustainable low impact lifestyles, so pioneers should be encouraged.” (*5)

The LID connection with land

Others have expanded on the definition. A study by the University of West England (*6) acknowledged that: “LID is usually integrally connected with land management and as much as describing physical development, LID also describes a form of livelihood.” (*7) However, it also states that as LID is a “multi featured and intrinsically integrated form of development,” a simple definition cannot capture the meaning of LID and goes on to develop “a detailed themed definition with detailed criteria.”

No simple definition of Low Impact

In 2013, Dr Larch Maxey (*8) held the main features of LID to be:

  • locally adapted, diverse and unique
  • based on renewable resources
  • of an appropriate scale
  • visually unobtrusive
  • enhances biodiversity
  • increases public access to open space
  • generates little traffic
  • linked to sustainable livelihoods
  • co-ordinated by a management plan

Government commitment to Low Impact Dwellings

Already European countries, perhaps faced more obviously by the results of decades of disregard for the environment, are looking at options for low impact development. For example: all new homes in the UK are to be carbon-neutral by 2016

Low Impact must reach beyond buildings

In New Zealand, Claire Mortimer, Landcare Research November 12, 2010, posed the question: “Can we design cities to cleanse urban waterways and increase NZ’s biodiversity? Low Impact Urban Design and Development (LIUDD) is an approach which works with nature, using design features such as rain gardens and green roofs to reduce pollutants entering urban streams and harbours, while creating green spaces for NZ plants and animals to live in and green spaces for people to enjoy.”

This concept acknowledges the role many plants play in neutralising or filtering excess pollutants from waste water. While green roofs are catching on in other parts of the world (e.g. France where laws insist new houses must have either solar or rooftop gardens), in areas where water is captured for household use in holding tanks a green roof is not practical. We also have to decide if the green roof is sustainable – will people maintain the roof garden without coercion?

Sustainable water systems

With environmental warming extreme weather patterns are hitting every country. Even in our area in Golden Bay we experienced such an event. Water is very powerful and can cause unimaginable damage – and this is an area where roof water is captured in household tanks.

Rain runoff must be part of the consideration for low impact development

Can you imagine how much worse the damage would have been without tanks to reduce the runoff?

The household water tank is a relatively cheap way of reducing immediate run-off in extreme weather events. However, systems for later disposal of used (grey) water are not so cheap, especially if the water is intended only for watering a vegetable garden. Roof captured water has fallen out of favour, in that we have come to believe it is full of impurities that must be removed. Just how much of that belief is related to location and how much to superstition is unclear. The Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand focus only on public supply and so strive for optimum absence of any level of pollutants.

So what are the differences in impact (health, environment and cost) between a water system that reduces or eliminates storm water run-off through tanks and water treatment on site, and one that simply removes the runoff from the house site and at the same time delivers treated water via another public pipeline?

And this is where we come up against the differences in definition – in Canada and the US the definition used to describe low-impact development is based in a planning and engineering design approach to managing storm water runoff, while in Britain the definition is used for developments which provide little or no environmental impact, such as the housing estate pictured above.

According to the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities blog: “The fundamental principle of low-impact development is that it’s better – both for people’s pocketbooks and for streams – to prevent storm runoff than it is to treat it (the water). That means building green roofs and rain gardens, installing rain barrels and cisterns, and using porous concrete and pavers.”

To balance a healthy water supply with sustainability is a challenge. Mains supply requires regular maintenance and repair of many kilometres of pipes from a treatment source. Using individual collection puts the onus of treating and maintenance on that individual. An interesting table (though totally without data) is published on the Government Health Education website. The message seems to be for a sustainable individual water supply all you need is household bleach regularly administered.

New versus old

While our focus is on changing bylaws to allow new low impact sustainable developments, we cannot turn our back on helping owners of low value housing stock to lower their environmental impact. For many, the cost required to upgrade is beyond them for the very reason that they live in low value housing.

We cannot advocate for new development as a panacea for fixing the problems of sustainability. As a Landcare Research initiative discovered, “Retrofitting an existing old building is always a challenge. We worked with the family … to build their awareness and ability to manage the ongoing operational decisions involved with balancing energy and water cost savings with comfort and health improvements.” Nor can we ensure that new low impact designs will always house people who understand their responsibility in the process.

Affordability

New Zealand construction and housing companies are catching on to the idea of ‘sustainability’, but it is hard to marry that with the cost of such a home.

Here are some New Zealand examples:

  • Ekohome offers a range of affordable eco houses that have been specifically designed “to be flexible, sustainable and within the price reach of ordinary New Zealanders at just 5%-10% above the cost of a standard NZ home”;
  • ebode “provides architecturally designed passive solar homes for New Zealanders”;
  • The Zero Energy House company incorporates passive and solar energy, rain water collection and grey water disposal systems to reach its claim to zero energy.

However, if you look at their house designs, extravagance of space is an obvious issue. When these low impact houses must compete for buyers with extravagant house plans, as seen in some recent developments around Christchurch, genuine low impact houses such a Little Greenie will wilt in comparison. We have been sold the House Beautiful concept for too long. We actually need to question why we need so much space to live in – ourselves included!

Issues to be addressed

Any move toward sustainable housing development has to address:

  • Education – landlords, renters, owners, local government and even MPs to make them aware of the economic and social benefits of low impact development
  • Affordable access – are new low impact homes only for the middle-class?
  • Building materials – why are the costs so high in New Zealand and should we import cheaper housing materials despite the social implications?
  • Economic system – will the economic system of loans coming only from Banks at relatively high interest continue to put low impact development out of the reach of most New Zealanders?
  • Maori (first people’s) values – has low impact development been ‘captured’ by European values / are Maori values being overlooked?

These questions are not posed for YES/NO answers; they are asked to generate discussion and to trigger some innovative thinking.

Further Learning

PDF academic research document on Providing Incentives for Low-Impact Development

Booklet on Low Impact Development from British perspective

References:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ecologist

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-5

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-Pic kerill-6

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-Pic kerill-6

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-Pic kerill-6

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_West_England

7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-West_England-7

8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-8

By Heather Sylvawood

Cool fun in the solar system

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Go searching around the internet and you discover all these amazing people sharing equally amazing information.

Today, investigating solar energy I came across this website and Blog: https://www.mysolarquotes.co.nz/blog/. I recommend you take a read if you are remotely interested in installing solar on your roof top. The founder, Kristy Hoare, has an Honours degree in Marketing and has worked in the solar power industry for over five years. The service offered by the website is finding you the best quotes for installation in your area.

Kirsty also gathers together news, views and experiments in solar energy use such as these: Cool sun glasses that also keep you in touch with your friends by re-charging your cell phone.

>>>

Stay charged on holiday

Another trend I have been watching for is a New Zealand company in Christchurch which has developed an easily transportable solar battery pack. The company says the flexible panel can charge anything up to a laptop or tablet – simply place the panel on a sunny surface and have the device in a cooler, shady spot, link them through the extension socket and away you go – perfect for summer camping or a break on your tramping holiday.

Transportable, light-weight and energy efficient solar panel

At under $500 (inc GST) this product is a gift – unfortunately currently out of stock. I’ve been waiting for the price to come down so that I could justify the purchase and keep my writing going over our summer camping weeks. Now I’ll have to keep checking back to when they have them in stock again.

However, another option I could use is their Power Bank 60 Battery Pack that has a high power USB port to power all your smart phones, laptops and tablets. The great thing is that you can use one of their range of single solar panels to charge the battery pack. How neat is that?

by Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Rubbish can be a positive thing

Disposing of waste is a personal political act, not a task that we should hand over to others to process.

When we live, as most of the West does, in a highly developed social system where waste is removed from our door and we never have to consider it again (unless the garbage collectors go on strike), then we develop this notion that waste is someone else’s responsibility.

ITALY-RUBBISH/

Rubbish protest in Naples, June 2011 

We applaud local body organisations that find ways of recycling or minimising waste. We like that fact that local playgrounds are made surface-safe by chopped up old tyres; we like to hear that plastics are rendered into pellets for use in new products; we like to hear that glass is ground down and reused as weed suppressants in wineries.

It makes us feel good to live in a country that has that kind of commitment to waste reduction. The good guys simply take it away.

We’ve stopped viewing rubbish personally

What we forget is that our environmental choices right at the beginning created that waste. Yes – we’re the ones who made it. When councils or local bodies deal with our rubbish we stop feeling any responsibility for it. Yet there are many ways we could individually reduce what goes out to the gate on rubbish day and live a more sustainable lifestyle. It simply needs some creative thinking.

Buying in bulk and using our own re-usable containers, is one option towards a sustainable lifestyle. Buying foods in their near to raw state is another. Why have we become so fixated on consumer products that we think taking a one-use amount of coffee (in a plastic packet), placing it in a coffee maker and chucking out the dregs with the packaging, is cool? Okay, George Clooney makes compelling adverts, but what’s wrong with grinding beans?

Kids often lead the way in environmental recycling

School children in New Zealand are often challenged to create something useful out of waste materials, and some of them come up with innovative re-uses for what others would chuck away. Few adults, however, take their ideas seriously, or see them as the start of a sustainable lifestyle. It’s just too much hard work to think of creative ways to recycle.

I’m no saint in this either. I watch the one-serve cat food tins opened morning and night for our VERY fussy cat and wonder how to recycle them. The nearest I came was to make some spluttering Christmas candles filling them with recycled wax and essential oils. Not one of my successes!

One rubbish recycling  success

When we were still using milk from plastic containers, I dramatically reduced the number of bottles going out into the waste one Spring. In fact, I ended up raiding neighbours’ recycling bins for the raw material … . I thought I would share the process with you today.

Mini green houses for growing seedlings–and they reduce waste, too.

Love to hear how others have recycled in a way that others (including ME) could take up.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Who’s in charge of the US?

by Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Russia is not flavour of the month, if we’re to believe all we hear about its involvement in the Ukraine. In one area of life, however, this country is taking a lead.

No to GMO

Russia has made a stand against the importation of GMO food and seed. Even though the country admits genetically modified seed has already entered the country, the government has passed a ban on any further imports of GM products.

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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

It has been widely reported that the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, Russia will not import GMO products, adding that the nation has enough space and resources to produce organic food.

Monsanto weighs in against organic farmers

In the US, however, farmers who might want to produce pure organic food cannot guarantee their right to do so. According to a Reuters report by Darren Hauck:

“The US Supreme Court upheld biotech giant Monsanto’s claims on genetically-engineered seed patents and the company’s ability to sue farmers whose fields are inadvertently contaminated with Monsanto materials.

“The high court left intact Monday a federal appeals court decision that threw out a 2011 lawsuit from the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and over 80 other plaintiffs against Monsanto that sought to challenge the agrochemical company’s aggressive claims on patents of genetically-modified seeds. The suit also aimed to curb Monsanto from suing anyone whose field is contaminated by such seeds. “

BeeCUp

The innocent bee could carry GE pollen
that contaminates an organic crop

Yes, you read that correctly: Independent farmers whose crops might be contaminated by GM pollen could be sued by Monsanto.

Why was this sanctioned by the US Federal Court?

Because Monsanto wants to protect its rights to any of the GMO seeds it produces, totally.

Americans have in the past championed commercial rights vigorously. If a company has patented a process, people infringing that process should be punished, the public reasoned. But hang on: if the organic farmers have their crops contaminated, won’t that totally compromise their right to be recognised as organic producers? It certainly will. Yet the Courts have sided with the giant corporation.

GrainHarvesting2

Mass production opened up an opportunity for GMO

Monsanto claims on its website that: “Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company. We deliver agricultural products that support farmers all around the world.

“We are focused on empowering farmers—large and small—to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world’s natural resources such as water and energy. We do this with our leading seed brands in crops like corn, cotton, oilseeds and fruits and vegetables.”

What they don’t tell you is that the seed they sell poor farmers cannot be grown and saved for next season’s crops. Consequently costs for farmers, who must buy new seed (from Monsanto) each year, start to skyrocket.

Could the US say NO to Monsanto and GMO?

Could the Senate take on Monsanto and stop the madness? Hardly likely. The company has just convinced the US Court to make a landmark decision that allows the business giant able to sue an individual who inadvertently has his/her crops contaminated by GMO pollen. That hardly seems logical or fair.

The US Government wouldn’t stand a chance.

Protests are growing

May 24th has been declared a protest day against what Monsanto is doing. The protests re world-wide. In New Zealand the following Marches have been organised:

March Against Monsanto Wellington; 12 PM to 3 PM. https://www.facebook.com/events/307340069417568/?ref=br_rs

March Against Monsanto Tauranga; 12 PM to 3 PM. https://www.facebook.com/events/1483944655165464/?ref=br_rs

March Against Monsanto Hamilton; 12 PM to 3 PM. https://www.facebook.com/events/227112040815983/?source=1

If you live elsewhere either create your own March for the 24th, Or find the nearest one on this page.

http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/p/blog-page_5.html

Once on the page click to view map view and find your nearest march.

by Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Fixing the damage done by our consumerism

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Palm Oil

Why has palm oil become the big bogey of western products?

Well it’s not because we’re harmed by it; it’s because in order to satiate the huge demand for this product vast tracts of native forests are being felled in equatorial countries which many of the great apes call home.

OrangatanBabies

The masks are worn to protect these babies from human disease

Source Wikipedia: “Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its lower cost. … “

Why do manufacturers use palm oil?

In search of profits, companies producing a range of consumer products base their ingredients on the lowest possible cost. Palm oil has been shown to be a very useful product because it remains close to a solid at room temperature. This property makes it useful as a means of holding other ingredients together, and for ease of packaging.

Consequently manufacturers of the following products may use it in:

Dairy Products:
  • Most Butters and Margarines so check labels before purchasing
Candy and Snacks:
  • Rolo’s by Hershey
  • Skittles
  • Nestle Chocolate products
  • Mars Chocolate products
  • Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
Personal Care Items:

Keep in mind that many companies have Palm free versions (according to labels) so check labels thoroughly!

  • Some organic ‘natural soaps’
  • Dove lotions and soaps
  • Aveeno Daily Moisturizers
  • Nivea Original
  • Oil of Olay
  • Vaseline
  • Pearl Probiotics
Food Items:
  • Skippy peanut butter
  • Many Granola Bars (check the ingredients)
  • Chocolate Chip Granola Bar
  • Cluster Crunch Cereal
  • Thin Crust Pizza (check the ingredients)
  • Flatbread Pizza
  • Chocolaty Nougat Bar with Peanuts and Caramel
  • Honey Mustard Pretzel Sticks
  • Milk Chocolaty Delight Bar
  • NutriCrunch Chocolates

Hidden sources of Palm Oil

Palm oil is called many things other than Palm Oil: Unmask Palm Oil is the Australasian campaign for mandatory palm oil labelling on all products. Currently palm oil can be labelled as any one of 200 different scientific names making it impossible for consumers to not buy palm oil.

See more at: Unmask Palm Oil

In New Zealand where Unmask Palm Oil is based, the current Government refuses to consider changing its policy to expand the ingredients list where another product of combined ingredients includes palm oil products. However, the campaign has enlisted the support of opposition parties such as the Greens, New Zealand First and the Maori Party. …Unmask Palm Oil recently presented a petition of 7,500 signatures to the New Zealand parliament.

Plight of the Orangutan

Source Wikipedia: “The use of palm oil in food products has attracted the concern of environmental activist groups; the high oil yield of the trees, attractive to profit-driven investors, has led to the clearing of forests in parts of Indonesia in order to make space for oil-palm monoculture. This has resulted in significant acreage losses of the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which both species are endangered; one species in particular, the Sumatran orangutan, has been listed as “critically endangered.”

For an overview of what one Orangutan rescue mission is up to, take a look at this video:

What can you do to help?

Check the ingredients on the products you use regularly and change brands to one with out Palm Oil. When consumers (that’s us) stop buying products, manufacturers stop making them.

Write or email your politicians and put the case for reduced or eliminated use of pal oil on a large scale. If enough people express their views on any subject, politicians become uncomfortable and start listening.

Donate to a charity supporting conservation of the remaining populations of orangutans and other apes, such as The Orangutan Project.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Bee-Safe Garden Practices

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

In my last post I wrote about the findings of scientists in identifying the world-wide crisis in bee farming and their investigations into why up to 80% of beehives are dying each year.

black-eyed-susans1-400x265  lavender-rows

In this blog I want to share what I have found out about good practices in your garden for maintaining healthy bees that help you produce a bountiful crop. At the end I introduce some flowering plants that will have the bees flocking … er … buzzing!

Natural sprays

Tomato Leaf Spray (from About.com)

Tomato plants, as members of the nightshade family, contain toxic compounds called alkaloids in their leaves. When the leaves of tomato plants are chopped, they release their alkaloids. When the alkaloids are suspended and diluted with water, they make an easy to use spray that is toxic to aphids, but still safe around plants and humans.

Ingredients
  • One to two cups of tomato leaves
  • Two cups of water
  • A strainer or cheesecloth
  • Spray bottle

To make tomato leaf spray, simply soak one to two cups of chopped tomato leaves in two cups of water. Let it steep overnight. To make the spray, strain the leaves out of the liquid using cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Add another one to two cups of water to the liquid and add it to a spray bottle.

To use the tomato leaf spray in your battle against aphids, spray the stems and foliage of the infested plant with the spray, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves, since that is where aphids most commonly congregate. The tomato leaf recipe, above, won’t harm beneficial bugs like ladybirds.

Garlic Oil Spray

Organic gardeners have long relied on garlic as part of their pest-fighting arsenal. Garlic contains sulphur, which, besides being toxic to pests, is also an antibacterial and antifungal agent. The dish soap in this mixture also breaks down the bodies of soft-bodied pests, such as aphids.

Ingredients
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Mineral oil
  • Strainer or cheesecloth
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Water
  • Spray bottle

Mince or chop 3-4 cloves of garlic finely, and add them to 2tsp of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic pieces, and add the remaining liquid to one pint (600mls) of water. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture can be stored and diluted as needed. When you need to spray, use two tablespoons of the mixture added to one pint of water in a spray bottle.

To use your garlic oil spray, first test by spraying an inconspicuous part of the plant to see if your mixture harms it at all. If there are no signs of yellowing or other leaf damage after a day or two, it is safe to use. If there is leaf damage, dilute the mixture with more water and try the test again. Once you have determined that it won’t harm your plant, spray the entire plant, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves.

Warning: Garlic oil is a non-selective insecticide, which means that it will kill beneficial insects (such as lady bugs, who are natural predators of aphids) just as easily as it kills the bad guys. It’s best to keep as many beneficials around as possible. This spray should only be used if you haven’t seen any beneficial bugs in your garden.

Rhubarb insecticide Spray

Rhubarb garden spray is an effective spray for controlling aphids and other sucking insects, as it suffocates them. It is excellent for plants such as roses, which tend to suffer from aphid problems.

Ingredients
  • 1kg / 2.2lbs rhubarb leaves (not stems – use the stems for cooking rhubarb for dessert)
  • 2 litres / 67 fl.oz water
  1. Place the rhubarb leaves into a large pot
  2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes to half an hour
  3. Strain off the leaves
  4. Dilute. The solution should be diluted 1 part solution and 9 parts water; in other words, add 9 litres / 2.3 gallons water to create the spray.

Note: This spray should not be stored but should be used within 24 hours to achieve the best effectiveness.

Feed the bees

Here are some flowers you can plant in your garden to ensure bees have plenty to eat, while you attract them in as pollinators. Try to plant a range that flower at different times of the season from Spring through to Autumn.

bergamot-bee-balm-400x300  black-eyed-susans1-400x265

Bergamot/Bee balm (left) and Black-eyed Susan blooms (right) attract bees

Bee Balm

Bright flowers and a minty fragrance make bergamot (Monarda) plants ideal for perennial borders. Bergamot is known by several other names, including bee balm, monarda and Oswego tea.

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia

Black eyed Susan plants are drought resistant, self-seeding and grow in a variety of soils. Growing black eyed Susans prefer a neutral soil pH and a full sun to light shade location. They can be propagated from seed heads. Blooms late spring through summer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA           lupin-flower-foliage

The flowering currant (left) and Lupin are two old-fashioned bee attracting blooms

Flowering currant

Flowering currant or Currant Ribes (above) is a breath of heaven as Spring warms up. the scent spreads and is a signal to honey bees that nectar is around.

Lupins

Lupins are later bloomers, but can be planted in autumn for winter soil conditioning. Keep a plant or two to flower on over the season and then collect the flower seeds for another blooming.

Penstemon  PurpleConeFlower

Penstemon (above) blooms in Spring and Purple Coneflower later in the season

Penstemon

Penstemon is in the foxglove family and blooms in spring. It grows from 2-5 ft.  and is a robust perennial topped with stalks of clusters of white, tubular, unevenly-lobbed flowers. Inside the flowers are purple lines especially to attract bees.

Purple coneflower Echinacea

A perennial plant with purple petals around a domed spiny centre.  A highly attractive nectar source frequently visited by butterflies and bees.  A good choice for mid-season blooms.

Sage1  pineappleSage

Sages like Variegated Sage (left) and Pineapple Sage have enticing trumpet-like flowers

Here are some other examples of bee-loved garden flowers
  • Basil Ocimum
  • Cotoneaster Cotoneaster
  • English lavender Lavandula
  • Giant hyssop Agastache
  • Globe thistle Echinops
  • Hyssop Hyssopus
  • Marjoram Origanum
  • Rosemary Rosmarinus
  • Wallflower Erysimum
  • Zinnia Zinnia

Visit the the website below for a list of plants to grow in New Zealand for bee fodder.

National Bee Keepers Association

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Follow Michelle Obama’s lead in saving honey bees

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

She might be tainted by her connection to a leadership that has not met our hopes, but Michelle Obama is taking a lead in the White House protecting bees.

She has planted a garden with bee fodder. We could do well to follow her example and show our support by signing this rather positive petition.

Sign the Petition Here

If you visit the petition page you’ll also read some of the facts about the appalling decline in bee numbers.

Other ways to inform yourself

HoneyBeesHive

1. View the trailer for:

      More Than Honey – Official Trailer

Then see the film – and take action

2. Watch the documentaries:

BBC Horizon What’s Killing Our Bees A Horizon Special BBC Full Documentary 2013 Full Movie

BBC Documentary Who Killed The Honey Bee

The possible villain?

Contact versus systemic pesticides

Contact pesticides are usually applied to crops after they’ve developed their fruit/leaf growth. These pesticides kill chewing insects. Because they are applied after flowering, bees are less susceptible to them.

Systemic pesticides are applied to the seed. As the plant grows all parts of the plant are affected. When they produce their flowers bees feed as normal. The fear is that the bees are affected by the tainted pollen and nectar.

Scientists are now investigating if low levels of systemic pesticide that a bee might ingest from these pesticides are affecting the bees’ navigation systems so that they cannot find the way home to the hive.

So what else can you do personally?

Stop using pesticides across your garden. Use only natural sprays that discourage non-beneficial insects chewing on your produce after it has developed.  Organic Spraying Oil; Caterpillar control. Here are some ideas on organic, non-harmful products used in the US

  1. Grow on your vegetables until they seed naturally, then gather and use the untreated seed
  2. Join a seed bank or buy seed from reputable organic sources
  3. Ask your neighbours to join you in banning non-organic sprays from their gardens
  4. Grow supplementary food plants for bees, choosing plants that flower at different times of the spring to autumn season
  5. Have a diversity of plants flowering all season. Have several plant species flowering at once planted in clumps.
  6. Plant where bees will visit. Bees visit sunny spots more often.

In my next blog I will bring you some Bee-Safe Garden Practices

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

The onus of proof on fracking and earthquakes

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

I have just read this article posted online on 11th April, 2014:

Ohio Earthquakes Linked To Fracking, A First For Region

Here in New Zealand there is growing concern that fracking could be triggering earthquakes around our coastline. New Zealand lies along the Pacific Rim, and is only an island state as the result of upward pressure of the two plates. Earthquakes, and some very severe ones like the recent Christchurch quake 2011, are a regular fact of life.

Most of the time we don’t feel them and only know they’ve happened when they’re reported in the media or on the websites we check out from time to time. The science of measuring, predicting and identifying the cause of earthquakes is in its infancy, and until more data is available it’s shaky ground to say fracking causes earthquakes. The few related incidents don’t give enough scientific proof that the practice is dangerous for our earth.

Consider these requirements for checking out the validity of research:

Spotting-Bad-Science-v2

Just like the earth was believed to be flat until the Portugese explorer,Ferdinand Megellan, organised the expedition that resulted in the first circumnavigation of the Earth in the 1500s, fracking is at the moment considered a safe and efficient way of discovering deposits of natural gas or oil.  That’s the ‘flat earth’ view.

How long must we wait to find out if there is a ‘provable’ link between the two before we say enough is enough? The many waged war against the hunting of whales; a few lonely voices were raised in defence of bees against the relentless onslaught of pesticides. How close do we have to go in causing earthquakes before we accept the evidence of proof and say instead we won’t do this?

Sometimes waiting too long is tantamount to condoning bad practices.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author