To celebrate my 30th birthday, my sweet husband took us all to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA on the 24th - 25th. It was a 3 1/2 hour drive (5 if you count a nursing stop and a crazy amount of traffic on the PA Pike) and as you can see from the picture above, it was beautiful! The trees were just starting to turn. The fair was packed. Every class I went to was standing room only. And don't even ask me about lunch time. Insane. But it was a lot of fun with my family and I learned a lot from the 3 workshops I was able to attend. (We only went on Saturday.) Not to mention I bought a few books, a Mother Earth News t-shirt, a beautiful wood honey spoon and wooden toaster tongs. Cool! Happy birthday to me! Yay!
I wanted to share a little of what I learned, so here it is in a nutshell:
Promoting Heirloom Apples and Heritage Animal Breeds
- It's important to share the story of a particular heirloom apple or seeds or animal breeds to get people excited about it. Like "I got these seeds from Ol' Betsy down the road who's been growing this tomato for 50 years."
- There are thousands (about 14,000?) varieties of apples; we only see a dozen or so varieties in the stores. The heirloom strains will disappear if we don't advocate them, share them, and grow them.
- Grow the apples that have been in your area for a long while. These have acclimated to the climate and will survive the best.
- There are hundreds of abandoned orchards with unidentified apple trees. If you have one near you, find out what kind they are. It could be a long-lost heirloom apple!
Growing and Preserving Heirloom Tomatoes
- get your seeds from seed savers exchanges
- when saving seeds, give the heirloom plants some distance so they don't cross breed and isolate the flower with a fabric bag that will grow the tomato you want to save the seeds from
- to save the seeds, scoop out the pulp and seeds from the tomatoes and put them in a container with some water and let it sit or "ferment" for 48 hours. This dissolves the slimy sac around the seeds. Also, the good seeds will sink to the bottom and the bad seeds will stay floating in the ferment soup. Pour out the "soup" until the seeds are left. Dry on a screen with plenty of air circulation. When you're sure they're dry, label and store in a glass jar. (This is so the little moisture in the actual seed won't evaporate.)
- The golden rule of beekeeping: Let nature take its course. If the bees don't put it in the hive, you don't put it in the hive.
- Bees have been around thousands and thousands of years and have survived without us. They know what they're doing.
- When starting new bees, it's best to do it in the spring to give them a chance to build up their winter stores. Don't harvest your honey until the next spring, so that you're sure they've got enough food through the winter.
- Don't give them sugar water when starting out, give them honey! (See the first tip.)
- Top bar hives are pretty cool. It allows the bees to build natural-sized honey comb instead of providing them a comb and dictating to them what size to build.
- If bees want to swarm, let them (it's perfectly natural). Just make a new home available for them.
- Let bees naturally reselect their queen when the old one is slowing down instead of you replacing the queen every year.
- You will get stung. (Yikes!)
This fair was loads of fun (even if it was insanely packed), and I will be posting book reviews soon of the books that I bought! Yay!