4 Ways to Use Beautiful Bee Balm on the Homestead

When it comes to landscaping the farmstead or urban homestead, it’s nice to be able to include plants that are both beautiful and functional. Bee balm is a North American wildflower that easily fills both roles. With an unusual, eye-catching bloom that is loved by bees and butterflies, these showy flowers can come in either scarlet or lavender, but this plant provides more than just looks and wildlife habitat: It is also a versatile herb with many different uses for health and home.

Delayed Weeding Can Yield Garden Treasures

Selective weeding can result in finding delightfully surprising volunteers in your garden. I’m sure most of you have heard some version of the old adage, “A weed is simply any plant growing in an unwanted place.” When combined with “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” you can sometimes have eye-opening conversations (especially with neighbors).

A Year at Bees of the Woods Apiary: May

Jennifer Ford of Bees of the Woods Apiary shares what has been going on in the beeyard this month, including queen rearing and pollen production.

Home Radon Detection and Mitigation

Radon is colorless, odorless, and invisible but it can give you lung cancer. Learn to test for radon in your home and techniques to mitigate its impacts.

Sludge Train: Toxic Biosolids Permitted in Virginia

The burden of municipal and industrial waste disposal is transformed into a commercial enterprise, with the careless disregard for growing concerns over the risks it poses to the human and animal health and to the natural environment.

Choosing Your Honeybee Breed

Who knew there were different breeds of honeybees? Choosing the best breed for you depends on your goals as a beekeeper. This post covers a few of the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular breeds of honeybees.

All About ‘Bloody Butcher’ Corn, Part 1: Planting and Pest Control

We were looking for an organic product we could grow on the farm and provide food for chickens, goats and pigs. We wanted something that was heirloom and not hybrid so we could save our own seeds to plant and not have to buy seeds each year. We found just the product: ‘Bloody Butcher’ corn.

A Tree-Hugger Reflection on Sludge

Farmers opting for biosolids applications on their farmland believe that this is a safe and natural way to fertilize the soil. Oftentimes they see local anti-biosolids activists as the adversaries, not realizing that the truth is quite the opposite. There is a mounting body of scientific and medical evidence that the practice of biosolids land application is detrimental to human health and constitutes an environmental factor contributing to many chronic conditions. Farmers, their families and neighbors are often first to suffer the consequences.

Biosolids: More Harm than Good, Part 2

This is Part 2 of an interview with David Lewis, Ph.D. - formerly a senior-level research microbiologist at EPA-ORD. He currently serves as director of research for the Focus for Health Foundation.

Biosolids: More Harm than Good, Part 1

Dr. David Lewis, Ph.D., who was formerly a senior level research microbiologist at EPA-ORD, kindly agreed to an interview for the MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog addressing the issue of agricultural use of sewage and industrial sludge, aka – biosolids. He is one of the most prominent scientific voices in the growing opposition to biosolids land application. Dr. Lewis’ publications are frequently cited as an example of solid, unbiased scientific evidence of the danger posed by this practice.

The History of Sludge for Agricultural Application

Sewage sludge and industrial waste is applied to the farmland under the pretense of natural fertilizer. This dangerous practice introduces pathogens, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and thousands of other pollutants into the soil and groundwater. This is a brief review of a failed federal legislature that allowed it to happen.

Grow Up!: Vertical Gardening

Increase your garden’s productivity with growing vertically. Beans, peas, squash and cucumbers love vertical growth. Culinary herbs love the vertical pocket gardens.

Steps to Guard Against Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air is polluted by volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These gases are emitted into the air from products like pesticides, air fresheners, cleaning products, paint and paint remover, personal care products, appliances, furniture and building products, including carpet and pressed-wood floors, and more. Learn several steps to take to guard against indoor air pollution and how indoor air quality monitors can help.

How to Build a Mason Bee Hotel

With many pollinators at risk, or on the decline, it is important to protect them in any way that we can. Mason Bees are great pollinators and building them a home to live in is easy!

Plant Flowers to Attract Beneficial Pollinators

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.

What's in Our Water?

Your drinking water might not be as spring fresh as you'd like to think.

What Is All the Buzzzz?

Native bees are a necessary component of maintaining native habitats. Their role is increasingly important as honeybee populations struggle with Colony Collapse Disorder. Learn what you can do to support your local pollinators this spring.

The Story of Seed, Part 1: An Introduction to Seed Saving

The first of 12 posts, seed saving begins with an introduction to the stories behind seeds and why they are so important. From preserving our shared botanical heritage to protecting a diverse and decentralized food supply, the story of seed is as varied as the people who plant them.

Pollen and Honeybees

Bees do not live on honey alone. Pollen provides honeybees with necessary protein.

A Pollen Explosion

A cold winter and late-season snow in some parts of the U.S. could mean a rough spring allergy season.

Remembering the First Earth Day

United Nations Climate Week invokes memories of first Earth Day and how far we have yet to go to clean up our environment.

Add Roses to Your Edible Landscape

Roses are easy to grow successfully if you follow a few guidelines: provide good air circulation around the canes and keep the plants clean and not too damp. Roses come in many forms, including bush or shrub, climbing, and miniature.

Chicago Hardy Figs and Attracting Native Pollinators

Using oil seed radishes to add organic matter to the ground and attracting native pollinators with a nest site. Harvesting sweet potato seeds if we're lucky and admiring the parasitic wasp's ability to lay white egg sacs into the body of a horn worm

Birdbaths Are Good for the Garden

A birdbath in the garden does much more than a birdfeeder. Attract birds to the garden with water, and they will help with pest control, soil aeration, and much more as they get the water they need for drinking and grooming. Wasps love a drink too.

Heirloom Seed Collections

The Living Seed Company is working to preserve genetic diversity in our food chain, through the distribution and growing of open pollinated seeds and preserving the ancient art of seed saving.

Feel-Good Friday: That's Not Honey, Honey

In more shocking news about the honey on U.S. store shelves, a Food Safety News study analyzes more than 60 jars of honey and finds that nearly all of them have been ultra-filtered to disguise their potentially tainted and toxic origins.

4th of July Message to Top Bar Beekeepers...

By the 4th of July, there's a palpable shift in the feel of the beekeeping season. New beekeepers wish for more guidance, and may even be wondering why they started this project! Here's a little reassurance that you are not alone in your endeavor.

The Comfort of “Why”

It helps us feel better to know "why" things happen, but we don't always get to know that answer...

Shifting the Paradigm Toward More Natural Beekeeping

This blog post started life as an article in The Natural Farmer,published by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). It could be said to herald the birth of that entity we have come to call The Cynical Optimist.

Good Reasons to Garden

While there are plenty of great reasons to grow a food garden, we recently polled readers to find out their primary motivation for gardening. Read their interesting results, plus tell us more about your gardening philosophy.

US Households Grow Home Food Gardens

A recent poll asked you what percentage of people living in the U.S. you would guess grow food gardens. Most respondents underestimated the actual numbers of households with home gardens, a growing trend.

Energy Hogs

I am especially concerned with the electricity hogs that keep us burning coal.

Celebrate Alternative Transportation on World Car Free Day

World Car Free Day is an annual international event to raise awareness about alternative transportation. Every Sept. 22, cities and towns around the globe recognize the negative impacts of car pollution and encourage walking or biking as ways to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Face Health Risks

Hundreds of Gulf Coast oil spill workers have fallen ill with flu-like symptoms related to oil exposure. News reports claim that BP is not allowing workers to wear respirators, despite the potential long-term respiratory and neurological consequences workers could face.

Gulf Oil Spill Update

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been in the news constantly for the past two months, and all the new developments can be a bit overwhelming. Here's a comprehensive update to help you keep everything straight.

Self-Pollinating Apple Trees: An Easy Way to Grow Apples!

Self-pollinating apple trees allow homeowners with little space to reap the benefits of this fresh, nutritious fruit. While typical apple breeds require planting at least two trees in the same space so they can pollinate each other, self-fertile trees can produce fruit without another tree around.

The State of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

An explosion at a British Petroleum oil rig has caused a massive and growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico just off the Lousiana coast. Here is an account of where the spill stands at the moment.

Zero-VOC Me

Environmental journalist Simran Sethi goes through the process of rejuvenating her hardwood floors, and describes how to avoid harmful ingredients in cleaning products, such as volatile organic compounds, in the process.

Fish Gasp for Air

This summer, the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone is estimated to be the largest yet since records began back in 1985.

Paint the Town Green

This Friday, Beijing will show off its green improvements when the Olympics begin.