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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10/24/2013

In his excellent book Blessed Unrest noted author and entrepreneur Paul Hawken describes the millions of groups worldwide—ranging from neighborhood organizations to well-funded international organizations—working to protect the environment and fighting for social justice and human rights.

Hawken writes that this massive social movement acts as the immune system of the planet. In the same way the body’s immune system fights off viruses, these groups fight threats to the planet’s climate, air, soil and water resources, seeds and food, and people, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

I thought of this when writing an article about the GMO-free groups that have emerged across the United States. I spoke with ordinary Americans who became activated to fight threats to human health and the environment posed by genetically modified organisms. People such as Pamm Larry of Chico, Calif., Zofia Hausman of Philadelphia,  Tara Cook-Littman of Fairfield, Conn., Ed Stockman of Plainfield, Mass., and IrisWhalen of Ocean Springs, Miss.. A common response from them was: “I was an unlikely candidate to get involved in something like this.” But they felt the need to do something because of their concerns over GMOs. So they launched groups—such as LabelGMOs.org, GMO-Free Connecticut and GMO-Free Mississippi, and No GMO 4 Michigan—to demand the right to know whether foods contain GMOs.

Their “immune response” is responsible for getting 26 states to introduce bills to label GM foods.

They face huge challenges: powerful multinational food and biotechnology companies that will spend millions of dollars in misinformation campaigns and threaten lawsuits against state governments to deny labeling, along with a federal government that allows biotechnology companies to claim that their GM seeds are unique and patented while declaring GM food the same as normal food.

Despite the challenges, momentum for GMO labeling is growing. Natural food retailers are either committing to labeling GMOs in their stores or removing them from shelves. National labeling legislation has been introduced. Even big food companies recognize the growing demand for labeling.

 


When labeling happens it will be because We the People demanded it. Isn’t that the way America should work?

Ken Roseboro is editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Reportwww.Non-GMOReport.com.



10/17/2013

Every time I leave the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR I come home with a bag full of stuff that I have accumulated along the way. My youngest son typically tears into the bag, once exclaiming that my return from the FAIR is always “like Christmas.”

As a gardener he gets excited about a new packet of seeds. As a keeper of chickens he is delighted to have some “chicken treats.” As a maker of soil he gets jazzed about a packet of mineral additives or a bag of alpaca poop.

My other children are less enthusiastic about my return. Some of them are skeptical of the FAIR in general. The fact that Ed Begley Jr. is a regular attendee makes them think that the FAIR might be a worthwhile endeavor.

For some strange reason, not all of my children think like me.

Coming home from the fair in Lawrence, Kan., I stopped in Chicago to watch my daughter Jessalyn run in the Chicago Marathon. That night in the hotel room I handed her my MOTHER EARTH NEWS bag and explained how it is pretty much like cracking open a Christmas stocking.

She works in advertising in New York City. No garden. No chickens. No compost. But she ripped into the bag with a cautious optimism.

She was not enthusiastic about the grated beet and horseradish concoction I had purchased, so she set that aside. Not everyone loves beets.

She evaluated the stickers about stopping genetic engineering and the promotion of honeybees with the eye of a designer and writer. As someone who takes the train each day, she has no need for bumper stickers.

But there was a fridge magnet that caught her eye. And she set a scented candle aside to go home with her. She was curious about the jar of “honey and hops” spread, and delighted by the granola bar from Iowa.

It’s funny. Albert Bates and Bryan Welch and I have been holding public discussions about societal change and activism at the past few fairs. Something that always comes up in the conversation is the demographic of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader—and how the magazine appeals to all sides of the political spectrum.

We spend a lot of time with the audience discussing how to effectively reach people of opposite persuasions with our varying points of view.

And while I might do that in real life, I don’t really practice it with my children. I am required to run our family as a dictatorship, because I don’t dare take a chance on democracy with this crowd. And to my continued astonishment there are varying points of view even in my own family.

Fortunately the “stuff” from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR appears to cut across my family’s lines. Now that Jess has had her “Christmas” from the bag, I’ll toss it over to my youngest so that the items Jess left.

 

Lyle Estill’s latest book is an anthology written by 14 different sustainability pioneers—including Albert Bates and Bryan Welch. Their “Small Stories” discussions with fairgoers have become an interesting addition to the FAIR.



10/15/2013

Mammoth Donkey

I had a wedding to attend in Nebraska on the 12th, so I missed the first day, that’s how life is. I would've skipped any appointment to support my aunt on her day, but that also meant forgoing presentations that I really wanted to attend. Being one that labors toward the goal of subsistence homesteading, I should prioritize the talks on functional skills, but also being a dreamer, I gravitate toward lectures with profound titles such as “Agents of Change,” “Guerrilla Gardening,” and “Nothing Is Impossible.” Of course, I’m responding to provocative language; at the grass-roots level “Beekeeping Basics” might actually be the most radical workshop to attend.

But I missed all that. We rose at oh-dark-thirty on Sunday and cruised down I-29, turned west for the last leg, getting to Lawrence after noon. Watson Park was a beautiful space for the event; a rolling lawn dotted with stately oaks and maples, and a few magnificent old bald cypresses. There was plenty of room for my boys to stretch their legs without bumping into anyone. I heard there were some complaints about the topography and obstructing trees; I guess we should expect our Mother Earth to be flat and clear-cut?

With very limited time, I ran a lap to scope out the exhibitors; from horseradish to honeybees, seeds to solar, I wanted to hear the spiel from each one. With just an afternoon, I bet I talked to less than one percent; this event should be a week long! I’m going to have to use the vendor directory in the program guide as a springboard for further research. I stopped for my longest pause at the Wood-Mizer manual sawmill demonstration. It got me thinking about that barn project, a new shed, shudders, siding, a hay loft; all the things I could source without leaving my own property.

Trying to accommodate two very young men who had spent the morning in the car, I was unable to sit still for some of the Sunday presentations I wanted to hear, specifically those by Darrell Frey, Cheryl Long, and Kelley Kindscher.  But the boys had wound down enough by 4 p.m. that I was able to get a seat for Kale Roberts’ “Conduct a Home Energy Audit and Basic Energy-Efficient Retrofits.” Kale talked about easy and effective ways to cut energy costs, and at the end I found myself embroiled in a conversation with another listener about radiant heat and non-linear volumetric calculations, which brings me to a major highlight of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR: the attendees. There must be few events so accessible where one is surrounded by such progressive, impassioned individuals. It’s a breath of fresh air, at once motivational and educational, to share and learn with this community of dreamers and doers, the folks effecting change from the bottom-up.

Thanks to you all, speakers, visitors, and volunteers, who make the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR what it is. The world is watching us, so keep up the good work. I hope to see you next time.


Photo By J. Kongs


Thaddeus Christian is an editor with MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. Right at the moment he is up to his knees in chickens, babies, and news articles. Find him on .



9/12/2013

Welcome to the new Earthineer!

I've been, at turns, excited, anxious and relieved ... but mainly, I've just felt like this:

Jubilant might be an apt description.

I think you'll agree – the new Earthineer just provides a more enjoyable experience.

What you see is the culmination of many months’ worth of work. It's Earthineer reorganized, restructured and reimagined.

 

From the outset, Earthineer was built to support and promote sustainability and homesteading as a lifestyle choice.

Every feature we have planned has that goal in mind. What we have now is the foundation that we'll build off of.

We'll keep updating the http://www.earthineer.com/roadmap, and you can expect something new every couple of weeks ... but let's cover some of the big features that you can expect in the next few months:

More "Group" Features

This was our first release to include "groups." Groups can be public or private (private groups don't show up in searches), and other members can search for groups by topic ("beekeeping," for example), and even find groups within a radius of their zip code. 

In the near term, we'll be adding in more ways to discover groups.

Eventually, we'll also be able to give you recommendations based on your interests and location.

Pinning

If you're familiar with Pinterest, we'll do the same – only we'll be creating pin boards and sharing content on earthineer-related topics. These could be articles from MOTHER EARTHNEWSor Backwoods Home or they could be blogs from other site. You'll also be able to pin (and share) conversations on public groups. If there is a conversation going on about how to deal with barber pole worms, you can share it so that others can benefit from the discussion.

 

It's all about discovering content you'd be interested in – no matter where it is.

Trading

As homesteaders we barter. We trade with our neighbors for goods that we need. What we want to do is broaden that network to facilitate food swaps, seed swaps, plant swaps, and services with a larger base.

We'll have more on all of this soon, and we'll share some of the early versions as we finish them.

In the meantime, enjoy the new site, and join in the conversation.

 

Earthineer will be joining us at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Sept. 20-22 and in Lawrence, Oct. 12-13. 

Please join their DIY Solar Panel workshop in Seven Springs on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 2:30 - 3:30 on the Renewable Energy stage!  They will also be giving in booth demonstrations at booths 1705 & 1707.  Be sure to stop by!

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRS: September 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa. and October 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan.  Tickets on sale now.

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

 

 

 

 

 



8/30/2013

 

 

Protecting against fires has long been important to code officials, builders and homeowners alike. None of us want to see our homes go up in flames or experience the loss and grief associated with fire. Building codes exist to protect homeowners from fires, both minor and catastrophic. Even with those codes in place, we have seen that a well-built house can burn to the ground in a matter of minutes. To me, the reason for this is obvious. A conventional stick-framed home is nothing more than a series of chimneys behind a thin layer of fire protection. What many homeowners don’t know is that the majority of the fire protection required by code in a conventional home is in the form of drywall. That’s it! 1/2″ of gypsum board is all that is required to protect you from fire. Once that drywall barrier has been compromised, there is nothing to stop the fire from attacking the structural wood and/or steel framing in your home.

Straw bale homes are different. Straw bale houses are known for their fire resistance and have been independently tested showing that they resist fire by up to three times that of conventional homes. Three times the protection may be the difference between a total loss and a house that can be saved. In a straw bale house, the first line of defense is the application of 1 1/4" of plaster. The plaster provides far superior resistance to flame than most sidings.

The second, and often most surprising element of straw bales that increases the fire resistance is the bales themselves. When most people think about straw and how it performs in fire, they think about barn fires, spontaneous combustion, and other fire stories. The fact of the matter is that barn fires are caused by hay that was baled too early and thus has high levels of moisture still in the crop. The fires start when that moisture creates heat by decomposing the hay. The hay then flares from the heat of the decomposition process inside the bale.

Straw is baled when the crop is dead and dry, usually around 8% moisture content by volume, so no interior decomposition occurs. Moreover, the bales are so tight that there just isn't a lot of space for oxygen to easily move through. Fire cannot exist without oxygen, so once again the bales have created a form of protection against flame spread. Consider that a bale is like a phone book. If you rip out the pages one by one and light them on fire, they will burn: so will loose straw (although not very well, due to the high silica content). If you hold a lighter under the entire phone book, however, you will likely run out of fuel in the lighter before the book catches fire because there is no oxygen in between the pages to support the flame. The same is true for the baled straw.

Put the two systems together: thick plaster on both sides of the wall and dense, oxygen-deprived bales inside and you get a combination that makes for a very fire-resistant wall. Protecting your home from fire in other ways is still important. Be sure to clear brush from around your house, clean out your gutters and under your decks, and so on. There are several sites that offer guidance on how to protect yourself from wildfires, and I strongly recommend you visit them.

My wish is for people who live in fire-prone areas to start getting serious about protecting themselves from fire. Tens of thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed in the last several years. Most of the people who lost their homes will rebuild. I[ah2]  invite them to build with bales instead of building another conventional home. The benefits go beyond fire protection and reach into the world of green construction and healthy homes.




8/26/2013

As an organic farmer at Camas Swale Farm, and as a Product Review Coordinator at the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), spring is a thrilling time of year for me. In the office we are flooded with applications from fertilizer, pest control and other agricultural input manufacturers who wish to have their product reviewed and verified to organic standards, in time for the growing season. On my farm we do our seeding, care for young chicks, and we are in awe and gratitude of the warm and dry season we had this year.

On our farm we tilled a month earlier than last year. This being done, we had energy left to cultivate a new area of the pasture to expand our crop rotation space. We disc a portion of pasture (formerly mowed by sheep) and apply rock dust to the soil to raise the pH. Then we sow a summer cover crop of buckwheat and oats. 

Finding a rock dust that is compliant with organic standards can be difficult, because minor ingredients are not always listed on the product labels. Learning how to read between the lines of ingredient lists and nutrient claims, and learning which organic standards apply to input materials, can assist you in ensuring your garden or farm are truly organic. Knowing where to go to find brand name products that are compliant with organics can also be challenging. I appreciate working with OMRI and being a part of the solution as we help farmers answer these questions and find what they need quickly and efficiently.

So what is OMRI? OMRI was formed by organic certifiers back in 1997 to focus exclusively on the products and materials used by farmers. Certifiers look at farming practices and the whole production system during the certification process, while OMRI carefully analyzes input products used to produce food (including each ingredient and manufacturing process) to determine whether they meet the standards for organic use.

At the Mother Earth News Fair, I always enjoy speaking with fellow farmers and gardeners about inputs, organic standards and sound practices in the field. At the OMRI booth, we always provide free OMRI Products Lists of approved input materials, to help you find the right fertilizer or livestock feed additive and keep your farm or garden truly organic. 

 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRS: September 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa. and October 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan.  Tickets on sale now.

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



8/22/2013

MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine comes to life in the recently released Wiser Living Video Series. Volume One of the Series features some of our most popular workshops from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS taught by members of the editorial team and expert community. Become more self-reliant in and around your home by tackling 19 projects ranging from keeping backyard chickens to making tinctures.

You’re invited into the kitchen to learn the basics of baking no-knead bread with Karen K. Will, editor of Heirloom Gardener magazine. If you have a cast-iron pot or Dutch oven, you can bake artisan-style bread at home, free of preservatives and additives. Once you’ve mastered no-knead bread, Karen will walk you through the steps to bake a light wheat sandwich bread — nutrient-packed, prepared without fuss and ready for the fillers of your choice.

How does a BLT sound? Forget overly fatty, antibiotic-laden store-bought bacon. MOTHER EARTH NEWS Senior Associate Editor Robin Mather will show you how easy it is to cure your own bacon at home. Working with a raw pork belly, Robin demonstrates slicing techniques, how to use curing salts and ways to incorporate the less-than-choice trimmings in soups and stews so that nothing goes to waste. Think you’re a bacon-making whiz? Try out Robin’s method for rendering lard. As a second helping, Robin will teach you to make homemade chicken stock from about six pounds of chicken parts and vegetables. Learn tricks to achieve the aromatic flavor and rich dark color you thought only professionals could master.

Step into the world of fermented foods with Managing Editor Jennifer Kongs. Food preservation is a breeze with Jennifer in the kitchen, and she’ll get you started by pickling beets and fermenting homemade sauerkraut — whether you have a traditional ceramic crock or prefer smaller batches in canning jars on your kitchen countertop.

Then, step out the kitchen door into the garden for a lesson from Editor-in-Chief Cheryl Long about how to use chickens in the garden. Chickens keep ticks and other pests at bay, add fertility to your garden and can even help you till garden beds. Cheryl’s Welsummers, Buff Orpingtons and Cochins produce eggs when they aren’t providing garden benefits. Viewing the hens in action is entertaining as well as instructive. Keep your garden going well into winter with Cheryl’s season-extension methods that utilize cold frames, hoop houses and cloches. You’ll be amazed by the number of cold-hardy crops growing in Cheryl’s November garden. (Sneak peak: View the “Season Extension” video here.)

The editors of Mother Earth Living have got you covered crafting the healing remedies and natural household cleaners that will keep your family safe and healthy. Editor-in-Chief Jessica Kellner is an expert in nontoxic homemade cleaning products. Common cleaners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to respiratory problems. Cut out VOCs and other dangerous chemicals by making your own all-purpose, glass cleaners and heavy-duty scrubbing cleaners using simple ingredients you may already have at home, such as vinegar, baking soda and essential oils.

Safe cleaners go a long way for ensuring personal health, but everyone’s immune system can benefit from a boost, and the Wiser Living Video Series will help you to keep your herbal apothecary well-stocked. Kellner offers her favorite herbal remedies for balancing hormones, promoting mental health, preventing memory loss associated with aging, and more. Her segment about herbs for general wellness offers sound, science-based advice that anyone can benefit from. Mother Earth Living Assistant Editor Gina DeBacker will teach you how to make medicinal salves and infused oils for cuts, scrapes, and other topical purposes, while Managing Editor Allison Martin’s step-by-step tutorial for making tinctures brings folk wisdom for treating ailments to the modern age. Your first aid kit will never be the same.

And there is so much more! Make your self-reliance and homestead dreams a reality with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Wiser Living Video Series, Volume One. Don’t miss our sneak peek video, featuring how to apply season-extension techniques in your garden.









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