Spring Beekeeping Workshop

Spring Beekeeping Workshop
Demonstration Hive

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kent Energy Summit

On February 26, 2011, the Kent Energy Task Force will be holding its annual energy summit. This event is not just about energy but covers a wide range of "green" topics and sustainable living ideas.

Here is a link to the website for more information http://www.kentedrive.org/ESummit.html.

I will be on a panel in the afternoon with Landscape Architect, Jane Didona, Garden Photographer, Writer and Educator, Karen Bussolini, and Sean Hayden, a fellow soil scientist from the Northwest Conservation District. We will be discussing ways to improve your home landscape to be more environmentally friendly and the need to protect and improve our soil with home scale techniques such as composting.

Hope to see you there. If you come, please come up and introduce yourself to me after the panel discussion!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Today I met Karin at a business networking breakfast at an upscale local hotel. Because everyone had to introduce themselves, she learned what I do for a living - working with the environment and land management, and working for secure local communities through Permaculture and Transition.

In talking later she asked an interesting question. She and her friends, being so appalled at the way things are going in the world - climate change, food security, Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds - those are a few of the worries. She told me how her friends feel possibly the only way to survive it all is to go off to a remote rural place and homestead. She asked me what I thought about that.

What I think about that is - it is most definitely not the answer for most people!

If you already have the skills to raise and preserve all your own food, build an eco-friendly house, provide all of your own fuel for heat and energy to run your electric equipment, make your own clothes, home school your children, and all the other necessities, while earning some cash as well so that you can buy insurance, pay taxes and buy things you cannot make, then by all means, "go back to the land".

Most people in these times do not know how to do even the most basic of life-support tasks and the idea of suddenly doing it all would be out of the question. Most back-to-the-landers of previous times, say the 1960's, failed and returned to cities after grueling experiments in self-sufficiency.

Rather than following that path, there is a better way for those not-yet schooled in these rural skills. Living in sub-urban or urban centers provide a great deal of opportunity for those wishing to live more sustainably in resilient communities, leaving a small carbon footprint and eating mostly organic food.

Permaculture principles are being applied to city neighborhoods. People are forming well-organized groups to transition to resilient communities. In fact, transition has become international through the Transition Town Movement. This movement began in the UK, founded by Rob Hopkins,using the principles of Permaculture applied beyond the homestead, and has spread throughout the world. TT is now a recognized system for groups of people to address their own needs while waiting for their governments to finally acknowledge the severity of the problems the world is facing. But there is no time to wait so we are taking matters into our own hands.

All over, people are clamoring to learn how to become self-sufficient - if not completely independent on their own, then together with their neighbors. After all, as my Permaculture teacher, Andrew Faust, said, there is no point being self-sufficient if all around you people are struggling to survive. (I am paraphrasing). People are starting to struggle and will struggle more as time passes because of economics and the environment.

This is an opportunity for us all to learn how to rebuild our own local economies, food production systems and other systems we need to get back to healthy, meaningful lives.

To find out more about the Transition Town Movement, go on line to their website and navigate through to find the wonderful 45 minute long movie which will inspire you to start small in your own communities, with your neighbors, and build the lives we all crave so much.

In Connecticut, a Transition Town training will be held at the end of March in New Haven. This training will help learn the proven methods of community organizing the TT way and how to start and develop a movement in your own community. Trainings are being scheduled all over the country as well.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Uncharted Territory: An Expansive Approach to Environmental Landscape Design

I was fortunate to attend a symposium at Connecticut College on January 20 and 21, 2011. In it's 22nd year, "Uncharted Territory" is a wonderful opportunity to hear top speakers and learn cutting edge approaches to land restoration and ecological landscape design. This program is co-sponsored by Connecticut College Arboretum and New Directions in the American Landscape, a non-profit educational organization founded by Larry Weaner, landscape designer.

The first speaker, Dr. Tom Webb, Professor Emeritus at Brown University, spoke about the Hypsithermal Interval, a climatic period which occurred eight thousand years ago and was characterized by increasing temperatures and decreased rainfall, and other climatic changes over the last 21,000 years. His presentation showed how the climatic changes affected the distribution of plant species in North America. Using fossil evidence and pollen analysis, scientists are understanding these changes in ways that have opportunities for those of us trying to understand the changes we are facing in this era of warming climate. Dr. Webb showed us how to access information on line which will help us in plant selection in our current warming trend.

Climate change will not be uniform around the world but certain trends are predictable. For instance, rising sea levels. During the last, ice age, for example, seawater levels dropped 120 meters. That water was locked into ice sheets and is now being released back into the sea.

Warmer winters accompanied by drier summers (longer droughts) will lead to changes in streamflow. Water experts in the US are seriously worried about water levels in streams and rivers of all sizes. Increased winter precipitation cannot completely compensate for the expected longer summer drought periods.

Also, warmer winters will affect plant growth and flowering times. Apples do best with forty days below 45 degrees F. In areas of moderate winters, even a small change in length of winter, may affect agricultural crops. Warmer temperatures will benefit invasive species such as Kudzu vine which is gobbling up land areas in the SE USA and making its way north with the warming trend.

Additionally, flowering time of plants is critical to the survival of animal species which depend on plants for their life cycles. Many insects have evolved to synchronize their egg hatching with flowering of specific plant species.

For those of us involved in ecological landscape design or food production, we need resources to help us choose plant species that will be tolerant of the climatic changes we are undergoing.

Here are some useful websites to explore for weather and climate data and climate impact information: (provided by Dr. Thompson Webb III, Brown University)

1.NASA GISS site for Global Maps and Graphs

2. NASA Earth Observatory
(site with up-to-date and archived photos for global changes)

3. Daily Weather with Climate Information

4. Climate At a Glance, NOAA: (click on Cities Link)
can see maps and graphs of recent to long-term changes in temperature and precipitation

5. Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University

Websites Showing Climate Impacts for Plants
Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment

6. http://www.northeastclimateimpacts.org/

7. Climate Change Atlas of the US Forest Service

8. Maps of Changes in Distribution of Plant Taxa since the Last Glacial Maximum 21,000 years ago: in Google, type NOAA Pollen Viewer or go to

These websites are fascinating and a little scary too. We need this information, however, to plan for what is coming - no, what is already here.