Bees: The real 5 star chefs

Bee collecting pollen

What do Bees do? Well they give us honey don’t they. There is nothing like honey straight from a been hive and untainted by modern food giants. Real honey also has proven medicinal effects so not only does it taste great, but its also good for us. Bees are awesome are they not?

Yes Bees are awesome.. but they they are actually more awesome than you think. Bees are a very important aspect of our food production cycle. They may even be considered a keystone species, a species so important that without it systems would collapse, and in this case the food systems.

So how can something so small play such an important role in our existence and the existence of so much of our natural food?
As Bees search for nectar the transfer pollen from on plant to another, fertilising the plant and allow for reproduction.Bees pollinate and fertilise many of our favourite fruits and vegetables. Without bees we wouldn’t have watermelon, coconut, strawberries, figs, kiwi fruits, celery, broccoli, onions, cashews, rock melon (cantaloupe), lemon, limes, lychee ( a world without Lychee martinis is not even worth thinking about), apples, mangoes, passionfruit, avocado, tomato….. the list goes on and on. Honestly all my favourite foods are in some way here because of bees in some form or another. Bees also play an integral part to native flora that are integral to local ecosystems. Bees are the superstars of the natural world.

Whats happening to our bees?

Bees are suffering a bit of a crisis at the moment. The numbers are decreasing which is placing the our food productions systems on edge. Bees are dying off for many reasons.
Colony Collapse disorder, where whole colonies of bees are dying is the major concern, and have been attributed to:
The use of pesticides in crops. Pesticides are in effect poison chemicals sprayed on our crops to deter natural insects from eating them. There are not only contaminating our food, but are killing bees.
Climate change. Climate change is leading to many plants to bloom earlier or later than usual, which essentially messes with the bees system and denies them of the nectar and food they require in order to survive
Habitat loss. Monoculture and removal of native flora can also lead to a lack of food diversity for the bees which reduces their immune system functioning.
Parasites. The Verroa mite has played havoc with Bee colonies killing off bees and infecting the bee populations of whole countries.

Although the problems impacting the bees may not be attributed solely to one of the above, all of these combined are landing unstoppable combinations placing the bees existence at risk.

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What can we do?

Buy organic produce. The more we support organic produce the better the lives or bees will be.
Don’t use insecticides in our garden. Use natural methods of deterring pests.
Plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different stages throughout the year to provide food for the bees
Plant wildflowers in your garden
Dont disturb bee hives!!

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Peace and happy Bee protecting.

Benefits of worm farming & Building your own recycled worm farm.

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In the UK 7 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year. This contributes to land fill and and the production of methane gases which contributes significantly to greenhouse gases. Landfills produce a toxic liquid, called leachate. Leachate is a mixture of organic acids, battery acids, dissolved chemicals and rainwater. It can contaminate surrounding land and waterways which can be reduced if we recycle our food waste. United Nations environmental programme estimates on a world wide scale we waste 1.6 billion tonnes of food, and that if we composted our home waste, we could potentially divert up to 150kg of waste from land fill per household. Considering that owning a worm farm or compost is so easy and easily maintained, its a wonder most households do not already have one.

What I’m going to look at in this blog is worm farms. I love worm farms- i don’t know what it is about them but I’ve had several store bought worm farms in the past whilst living in Melbourne, and enjoyed establishing and growing the farm and producing castings (worm poo) for my garden. It was also a great way of reducing my organic waste in a purely natural and environmentally friendly way. Its a great system…. you give them your old food and they give you castings, and best of all it doesn’t require a whole lot of ongoing maintenance once established.

Ive decided that the likely hood of me moving again in London is high and i don’t want to spend the money or the energy input into buying another worm farm, therefore what i have decided to do is to build a recycled worm farm. I managed to find many different models online using both styrofoam boxes or plastic buckets. I opted for the styrofoam boxes as it was the first material i was able to track down, and to be honest i didn’t have to go very far as i found what i needed within my local area.

For the materials of the box I’m using recycled styrofoam- its important that you used recycled styrofoam, as this material is not great for the environment and it doesn’t break down, requires high amounts of energy and creates greenhouse gases for production as well as ending up in the oceans putting our wildlife at risk- so use what is there, do not contribute to the production of more. I got my styrofoam boxes from the local deli/fresh food shop. I just went in and asked if they had any styrofoam boxes available and although slight apprehensive, they found some and gave them to me. They advised that they generally crush their boxes and throw them away, so its good that these boxes will be getting a second life. The boxes that you will get may be all different shapes and sizes, and it will depend on how big your space is as to how big you may want your worm farm. In my case the size of my worm farm is determined by the size of the boxes that they had available. The best way to start is to get three boxes of the same size if possible. In my case i managed to get two the same and the third one slight larger, although not ideal aesthetically, it will still work fine. The reason we want the boxes the same size is that you want the boxes to create a seal when placed on top of each other. Regarding the worms- you can buy these form your local hardware store, or alternatively you can buy them online. I recently purchased mine from a site called worms direct and they were a mix of tiger worms and Dendrobaena. The worms were delivered the next day and cost 11 pounds for 250 grams (which incidentally was the total cost of this project).

You will need to decide which box out of the three you will use for the bottom level of the farm- this box will be used to collect the worm juice. This box will always remain the worm juice collector and will not require and modification. The other two boxes will require holes put in the bottom- you want the holes to be plentiful and spread evenly out, however you do not want them to big as too prevent the castings coming through, but big enough to allow the worms to travel through.

Place some bedding (straw, soil wet newspaper) in one of the boxes with the holes in the bottom and on that place your worms. Cover with some soaked newspaper. Slowly add the food scraps and as your box fills with castings you will place the empty box on top and and start filling it with food scraps. This will bring the worms from the full box up into the top box. When you feel the box in the middle is full and the worms have composted everything, move that box and empty the castings. This box will now be used when the other box fills up. Always keep a lid on the box with the worms to prevent exposure to the weather (worms do not like sunlight or cold temperatures), while also prevent other animals to eat the worms or the food scraps.

Watch my video (first attempt- be kind) which shows me building my worm farm.

Its easy to make and a great way to reduce your wast impact on the environment, whilst also creating rich castings that your garden or vege patch will love.

cleanup.org suggests uses for your worm castings which include:

Mixing it with potting soil and used for houseplants and patio containers.
• Used as mulch (spread in a layer on top of the soil) for potted plants.
• Finely sprinkled on lawns as a conditioner.
• Used directly in the garden around existing plants or dug into the soil.
• Made into liquid fertiliser by being mixed with water until it is the colour of weak tea.
Moisture drained from the worm farm’s bottom crate is also a good liquid fertiliser, once diluted.
Voila..here you have it, a simple worm farm!

Note: Do not put meat or dairy products into the worm farm. They will eat most organic waste including vegetables, fruits, tea bags, newspapers (soak them first) and garden clippings. lawn clippings. However the do not like fruits that are acidic (citrus fruits) and anything from the onion family.

Peace and happy worm farming!