Mother Earth News Fair

Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.

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8/26/2015

Caption: Spring blooming Scabiosa will attract bees from the get go of the season. Scabiosa Blue Cockade.

I didn't set out to fill my farm with pollinators and other beneficial insects. You might say it has been a side effect of all-natural cut-flower farming. As simple as it sounds, it's true. Just plant flowers. Don't use pesticides — organic or otherwise. Soon a wave of these guys will overrun your garden.

As my awareness of beneficial insects has grown, I find that it is getting easier to farm. It has become my second nature to consider and provide a place for them to live, eat, and raise a family year round. This practice is not only the right thing to do for the future of all, but it totally impacts my business bottom line for the good.

Caption: We have pollinators following our harvest trailer around the farm! Harvest buckets of zinnias with a swallowtail butterfly left and a hummingbird moth on right.

This little-known community of good bugs is as diverse a mix as the population of NYC. And don’t underestimate their entertainment value, either. A fairly common comment directed at me on our farm: "Are we harvesting flowers today or are we taking photos of bugs?" There is a reason they make movies about bugs — they are fascinating!

How to attract them? Provide flowers from the first crack of spring and throughout the season until frost. It's those early spring blooms that really kick start our insect population. Bachelor buttons and calendula are two of the heavy hitters in our gardens. They bloom in spring when the nights are still chilly but the days are warm. Their foliage secretes nectar even before the flowers bloom, making them a great favorite of hungry bugs.

Caption: Fall blooming flowers will keep the garden full of pollinators until winter arrives. Left: Salvia Leucanth. Right: Salvia Mexicana.

Pleasing the pollinators requires providing a continuous supply of flowers throughout the growing season. This fits perfectly with my flower farming because my customers want the same thing! Monthly succession planting fits the bill for us.

To reap the benefit of these guys as pollinators and pest control, you must resist the urge to treat a possible problem that may pop up in your garden. Be patient and do not be afraid of some pest damage. To keep your community of good guys home and fed, they have to have some bad bugs to eat, right? Give them time to do their job.

It is my opinion that if you have a 10-row vegetable garden, you should also have 2 rows of flowers to support them. I won't get on my wagon here about the vegetable gardens I visit. There are some that don't have a flower in sight, while the gardener complains of a lack of bees for pollinating. It couldn’t be simpler: Plant flowers and they will come.

To learn how to supply your garden with a vast population of pollinators and other beneficial insects, attend my Seven Springs, Penn., MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR workshop, Restoring Pollinators; Grow Organic Flowers. I will share how to grow flowers from the first crack of spring up until frost. Perhaps the most challenging blooming times are spring and fall — both can be full of abundance growing hardy annuals as featured in my books Cool Flowers and The Easy Cut-Flower Garden (available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store).

Lisa Mason Ziegler is a commercial cut-flower farmer in Newport News, Virginia; she lectures and writes about organic and sustainable gardening. You can email Lisa, call her at 757-877-7159 or visit her website, The Gardener's Workshop.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



8/7/2015

Green smoothies or green drinks are a wonderful way to get your kids or other finicky family members to down their daily greens with joy! “Yeah right,” I hear you say. “Nobody in my family will ever drink anything that’s green other than green beer on St. Patrick’s Day or an artificially dyed, mint ice cream shake from the local Dairy Freeze.”

I understand your sentiment, indeed I do. Over the years, I’ve had my share of vile-tasting, raw, cabbage-like kale smoothies and vowed I’d never have another. That was before I learned how to camouflage the green flavor with other ingredients that are sweet and creamy or tart and tangy. 

In addition to the plethora of restorative, revitalizing, immune-boosting, and energizing nutrients contained within green superfoods, such as kale, spinach, arugula, spirulina, chlorella, lettuce, parsley and alfalfa grass, consuming greens in your smoothie is a great way to prevent blood-sugar swings and keep things in balance. (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

Greens add more fiber to the blend than results by simply using whole fruit as the star player, and furthermore, the moderate protein content of greens helps slow carbohydrate digestion, resulting in a steadier, more stable blood-sugar level. As a bonus, this effect makes you feel fuller longer – more satisfied and less likely to snack between meals or overeat at mealtime.

Below is one of my favorite summertime tart and tangy, refreshing green drinks. It fills me up, cools me down, is relatively low in calories, tastes fabulous, and packs a powerful punch of dynamic nutrition and fiber in every sip. It’s quick to make and clean-up is a snap! Give it a try, won’t you? I’m sure you and your family members will love it. Enjoy!

Sour Apple-Grape Crush Smoothie Recipe

Recommended Kitchen Equipment: You will need a high-speed, powerful blender such as a NutriBullet, Nutri Ninja, Blendtec, Vitamix, or KitchenAid in order to make this recipe and ensure that the finished drink is ultra-smooth and silky.

You may find this combo of sweet and sour fruits to be one of the best green drinks ever — I certainly do — plus you’ll never know there’s any spinach in it at all. The tanginess brings to mind the sour apple flavor of the Jolly Rancher brand of hard candies, but it’s immensely better for you.

This pale green, frothy, energetically cooling, ultra-filling beverage delivers a dynamic blend of nutrients that will supercharge and strengthen your body, fend off illness, promote regularity, and beautify from within. Yields 2 generous servings

Ingredients

• 1 cup purified water
• 2 cups baby spinach, packed
• 2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored, cut into small chunks
• 2 cups green grapes, with or without seeds
• 1 tbsp flaxseed oil, unfiltered preferred
• Pinch of sea salt

Directions

1. Put the water, spinach, apples, grapes, flaxseed oil, and salt in a blender and blend on high until the fruits and spinach are pureed and smooth, but still a hint on the fibrous side, about 30 seconds. Expect tiny specks of green apple skins in the finished drink.

2. Serve immediately and feel incredibly energized. This blend has a moderate amount of sugar, but a lot of fiber, so sip slowly — no gulping. Please “chew” each sip, mixing well with your saliva so that it digests with ease.

A good source of: blood-building iron and chlorophyll, potent antioxidants, vitamins B, C, E, and K, boron, silicon, other trace minerals, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, natural sugars, and fiber.

 

Find this and more recipes for smoothies, green drinks, frappes, shakes, nut milks, and other luscious, health-boosting, raw food beverages in my latest book, Raw Energy In A Glass: 126 Nutrition-Packed Smoothies, Green Drinks, and Other Satisfying Raw Beverages to Boost Your Well-Being (Storey Publishing, c2014). I’ve also written many other books, including my best-selling, Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, c2007), Hands-On Healing Remedies (Storey Publishing, c2012), and Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body (Storey Publishing, c2009). Please visit my website to learn more about me and what I’m up to these days.

Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic aesthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She is the author of ten books — which are available at MOTHER EARTH NEWS Shopping — including Raw Energy in a Glass, Hands-On Healing Remedies, Organic Body Care Recipes, Raw Energy, Naturally Healthy Skin, 365 Ways to Energize Mind, Body & Soul, and Natural Foot Care. She lives in Orland, Maine.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



6/2/2015

DIY NATURAL BUILDING 

 

Ever thought about designing and building a space for your worker-owned business, intentional community, local co-op market, or any other cooperative organization?

Curious about the intersection between green and natural building, between DIY and professionalism, or between commercial and residential construction and design?

When heirloom seed business Southern Exposure Seed Exchange decided they couldn't wait any longer for a seed office, there was an opportunity for in house worker owners to make this happen. With essentially no experience, a design team of highly idealistic building novices formed with the challenge of designing the most efficient, functional, sustainable, and beautiful building, for both small commercial and residential functions.

To give a little taste of what we learned during the building process, here are some metrics that we adapted and expanded upon to help us make decisions:

Quality

Embodied energy

Longevity

Beauty

Performance

Energy efficiency

Multi-functionality

Accessibility for diverse populations

Speed

Ease of Construction

Skill level required

Cost

Up front

Over time


These metrics can apply to any building and homesteading projects you embark on, but I must forewarn you: They might lead you to quandaries, such as whether or not super-insulated and sealed buildings are worth the upfront material investment or the equipment typically associated with it (which use energy ongoing), or whether an earthen floor or straw bales are appropriate for high-traffic spaces. Or whether these natural building materials work well for commercial applications or for applications where inhabitants of the space are already stretched thin and have a high turnover rate.

If you want to learn more about what systems, materials, and designs we came up with for the Seed Office project, how it’s working out for us thus far, and the lessons we learned along the way, come to my presentation, “Green and Natural Building: A DIY Case Study” at the Albany, Ore., MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR on Saturday, June 6, 2015.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


4/23/2015

Ford Test Drive Booth 

One of the first things I do at any MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR is locate the Ford test drive booth and decide which green vehicle I’m going to take out for a spin.

It didn’t take me long to find the Ford display at the 2015 Asheville, N.C., FAIR, where Ford Motor Co. was a title sponsor. Ford’s electric-blue tent drew many visitors with the promise of a chance at winning prizes, including a vehicle of their choice. But, to my way of thinking, the opportunity to test-drive a Ford hybrid car was prize enough.

Among the Ford vehicles available for test-drives at Asheville were the C-MAX hybrid, the Fusion hybrid, and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. I chose the plug-in hybrid and sank into the driver’s seat while Tiffany, the Ford representative, settled in on the passenger’s side. We rolled out of a side gate on the fairgrounds and began a quiet tour of the Asheville terrain as Tiffany pointed out the Ford plug-in hybrid’s features. Each time I braked, the Energi’s dashboard display screen showed the value of the car’s regenerative braking, as the lithium-ion battery pack captured and stored kinetic energy to boost the overall gas mileage.

According to Tiffany, Asheville FAIR visitors understand that gas prices are going to go up again, and they want to be prepared for that eventuality. The energy savings represented by the Ford hybrid cars at the FAIR attracted many people. Tiffany also encountered some owners of non-Ford hybrids who, she said, sought vehicles with better battery reliability and a higher comfort level.

In an exceptionally flat landscape such as Tiffany's native Arizona, or in my native Kansas, hybrids can get great mileage. Tiffany described a friend living in Arizona who averages more than 560 miles per tank with his Ford hybrid.

As we drove back onto the fairgrounds at the end of our Ford test-drive, I sensed that Tiffany was a bit distracted. We said our goodbyes and, before we parted, Tiffany pulled out her phone to glance at the clock. She exclaimed, “Oh good, just in time to see a chicken get processed!” and rushed off to join hundreds of fairgoers watch Joel Salatin and David Schafer’s live poultry demonstration on the main stage.

Such is a MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR: the juxtaposition of a Ford hybrid’s comfort and homesteading’s gritty reality. Both are practical and informative experiences that we’re happy to bring to fairgoers.

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 6-7 in Albany, Ore.; Aug. 8-9 in West Bend, Wis.; Sept. 18-20 in Seven Springs, Pa.; and Oct. 24-25 in Topeka, Kan. Tickets are on sale now.

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like.



10/9/2014

While Ford staffers busily gave test drives nearby, an eager crowd gathered under the Renewable Energy tent at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR last Sept. 13 to learn about the latest electric vehicle (EV) technology. For nearly an hour, Stephanie Janczak of Ford Motor Company answered audience questions on the workshop’s broad topic: “Everything You Want to Know About Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.” The large crowd at Seven Springs, Pa., eagerly tapped into Janczak’s extensive knowledge — she is Ford’s Manager of Global EVSE Technology and Deployment for Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters.

Many audience members already owned electric vehicles and wanted to know more about recent technological advancements. Among the questions Janczak answered were the following:

  • Is the auto industry developing any electric utility vehicles? Janczak says the industry as a whole is working on hybrid pickup trucks and SUVs, and that engineers are trying to balance the cost of utility vehicles with their usability.
  • What are the latest improvements to EV drivetrains and motors? Improvements are always being made by the industry, Janczak reports, with the goal being to make EVs more efficient. EV batteries, in particular, are the focus of much attention because batteries need to be smaller, more energy-dense and lower in cost.
  • How can an EV driver prolong battery life? Exposure to extreme heat and cold will stress an EV battery. Janczak says plugging in your vehicle will help mitigate the effects of extreme temperatures. Also, she recommends the My Ford Mobile app to help lengthen the life of your car’s battery by learning better EV driving habits. Ford also is working on battery reuse — an old battery that no longer effectively powers an EV may still be used as a home energy resource.
  • Does solar charging of batteries show promise? Solar is a great renewable energy source that the auto industry is exploring. (MOTHER EARTH NEWS Publisher Bryan Welch drives an electric car powered by photovoltaic panels.) Ford currently is involved in a demo project to cover the roof of its C-MAX with solar cells; the problem, Janczak says, is overcoming cloudy days. Ford has also been partnering with Georgia Tech on ways of concentrating the sun’s rays to effectively power EVs. Ford and DTE Energy recently announced that they’ll be working together to build Michigan’s largest solar array carport, providing 30 charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn.

Ford Community Green Grant ProgramFollowing the question-and-answer session, Janczak presented a $2,000 check to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture as part of Ford’s Community Green Grant program (pictured at right).

Seven Springs FAIR visitors could test-drive any or all of three electric technologies offered by Ford through its Power of Choice initiative. Ford currently has five EVs on the market, including the C-MAX Energi, the Fusion Energi, and the Fusion Hybrid. Ford Motor Company was a title sponsor of the 2014 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs.

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs, including Oct. 25-26, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. Tickets are on sale now.

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.



Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+.


9/18/2014

Mother Earth News Fair
1. Plan on attending for more than one day. There is simply too much to see and learn about. If you only go for one day, you’ll always be wondering about what you might have missed.

2. Read the program. Each morning, take the fair program out and circle the workshops that you are interested in attending. Also, check out the map to find out where those workshops will be located. Good preparation can increase your chances of getting a seat.

3. Bring a water bottle. You’ll be thirsty and although there are boxes to place garbage that can be recycled, be proactive (and environmentally savvy) by bringing your own water bottle that you can refill.

4. Bring a tote bag or backpack. If you have your own bag, you don’t need to take one from each vendor.

5. Bring money. It will only be the very strongest who won’t come home with soaps, fermented foods, and wooden spoons. You certainly don’t have to spend money but this is one place where your money is well spent.

6. The FAIR will be indoors as well as outdoors, bring sunglasses. If you burn, also consider a hat and some sunscreen.

7. Wear comfortable shoes. I wore a fit bit on Saturday and logged over 14K steps (a very good day is when I hit 10K) wear good sturdy shoes with socks, your feet will thank you at the end of the day.

8. Ask questions. You’ll get answers about everything, but you won’t if you don’t ask, so go ahead, people want to tell you about what they have.

9. Give things a try. Go ahead and try the brown soap in the rest rooms, the whiskey hickory syrup, the fermented food. Here is your chance to try things out and discover new products, take advantage of it.

10. Pace yourself. It’s going to be a long weekend, pace yourself to make sure you get to see it all. There’s nothing wrong with sitting down for a break to have some food or a cup of coffee, it will all still be there after you’ve gotten a break.

11. If you buy something big like a broom or shovel, ask the vendor to hold it for you until you are ready to leave. No need to carry anything bulky or awkward, vendors will be glad to set aside your purchase.

12. Say “hi” to the person next to you. This is your tribe, everyone belongs.

13. Take photos. Do you want to look something up before you buy it? Take a photo so you’ll remember the details. Also take plenty of photos to share with your friends when you get home, they’ll want to know what all the fuss was about.

14. Consider staying in the hotel associated with the FAIR. Sure it might be more expensive than the one located 20 minutes away, but sometimes, convenience can be priceless.

15. Consider packing a bottle of wine to enjoy in the hotel at night. 'Nuff said about that one.

16. Breathe. There’s something about being around like-minded people that makes you feel like you’re at home. Relax, you’ve got a few days here where others won’t think you’re strange for composting with worms.


Get the details about all of our upcoming MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS and make a plan to attend one next year!



7/22/2014

We had a great time seeing the beautiful heritage livestock breeds that came to our MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS. From gentle llamas and stubborn pack goats to regal roosters and braying mules, we've had the chance to see (and pet, and play with) them all. With help from our friends at The Livestock Conservancy, we've combined some of our favorite pictures and video clips of heritage livestock breeds in this video slideshow.

 We'd like to give a special thanks to Jeannette Beranger from The Livestock Conservancy for her help compiling many of these photos.










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