Sunday, September 29, 2013

2013 Mother Earth News Fair - Saturday Workshops

Saturday got off to a good start, with workshops on topics that I was very interested in attending. As mentioned before, however, there was really nothing I was interested in attending during one period, so I volunteered at the Earthineer booth during this time slot instead. I ended up skipping the last two workshops of the day as well, both of which were on the schedule more as filler than anything else.

Top Bar Hives: It's All About the Wax - Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honeybees

Andrea had taken this workshop in the past, and felt that it would be beneficial for me to also take it. I'm very glad that I did, as I found it to be the most informative of the workshops I attended this year.

After hearing the instructor's explanation, and being shown a sample, of the differences between wax made by bees in the wild and that made in 'traditional' foundation based hives, I'm sold on the idea of foundation-less beekeeping. We were already leaning towards top bar hives, but now I have no doubt that this is the best approach for us.

I was especially surprised to learn that in nature bees make different sized cells, for different gender of bees, and will adjust this based on the needs of the hive. In a hive that uses artificial foundation, however, the cells are forced to be the same size, which is clearly not natural. I was also very interested to learn that bees that are allowed to build out natural foundation are slightly smaller than those forced to use artificial foundation.

In addition to her own website and book, The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives, she also suggested sources by others, including Phil Chandler's website The Barefoot Beekeeper and Michael Bush's website and book, The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally. I find that I am more likely to trust someone who recommends works by others in addition to his/her own books and website.

I also learned, just prior to the fair, that the instructor is a member of Earthineer. I promptly looked her up and sent a friend request, since I enjoyed the workshop so much.

Foam- and Fossil Fuel-Free Building - Jacob Deva Racusin of New Frameworks Natural Building

I attended a workshop led by this presenter, and his partner Ace McArelton at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair. Because I enjoyed that one, I made it a point to attend this one to see what additional information I might gain.

As the name suggests, the primary focus of this workshop was on finding ways to minimize the use of foams when building, due to the environmental impacts of using them. The discussion of fossil fuels was limited to the fact that foam is petroleum based, so even though it's production isn't a direct cause for oil extraction, it is part of the overall process that we need to be reducing the demand for.

The presenter did indicate, however, that they do use foam in their designs in certain situations, such as when needing below grade insulation. He also talked about situations in which a limited budget can sometimes dictate the use of foams, due to their low (financial) cost.

Near the end of the workshop the presenter made a comment which really stood out to me. He pointed out that a home built to code minimum is the lowest quality home that can be legally built. Even though in some situations building code may be overkill, it was good to be reminded that building to code minimum results in a home that is no better than, or possibly inferior to, other homes being built in the area.

Forest Diagnosis - Dave Scamardella, consulting forester

This workshop was well attended, even though it was held outside, and it had started raining in the time leading up to the workshop beginning. Most of the chairs near the edge were wet, but I would guess that approximately 90% of the seats were full.

I attended a workshop led by this presenter at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair. He was clearly knowledgeable, so I thought it was worth attending another of his workshops. I was interested in this one specifically as it dealt with invasive species, and I hoped that, due to the venue, it would focus on chemical-free methods of dealing with them. Unfortunately, however, like other presentations I've seen on the topic, the focus was almost entirely on the use of chemical pesticides for removing invasive plants.

The rain picked up during the workshop, and by the mid-point I was getting wet from blowing rain, even though I was sitting near the center of the tent. By the time the workshop ended water was running throughout the tent. I lt the workshop a feefw minutes early, when the rain slacked down, but still became drenched during the walk to the exhibit hall, forcing me to go to the room and change close before continuing my day.

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