Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween at the arboretum

The rain is keeping us out of the garden, but I'd like to tell you about this upcoming event for Saturday, October 31 at the arboretum.

Tuscaloosa's own "Ultra-Runner", Nick Sella, will run 50 miles to support the wonderful UA Arboretum.

Come and join the festivities - FUN for EVERYONE!!!
-Children's Activities from 4 - 6 pm
-Trick or Treat!
-Children's Costume Contest @ 5 pm
-Adult's Activities from 6 - 10 pm
- Costume Contest @ 7 pm

Costume Contest Categories:
1. Best Botanical (without using Kudzu!)
2. Best costume using white toilet paper
3. Best Costume using recycled materials

Admission: $10/person*, Children under 12 get in FREE.
*Free to members of the Friends of the Arboretum, you can sign up for membership at the event!
-Recieve a T-Shirt with a $50 Donation to the UA Arboretum
-Make a Pledge for every mile that Nick runs! All Funds Raised go directly to the Arboretum! (no amount is too big or too small)

Please check it out! Hopefully, the rain will stay away. Don't forget your costume!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Alabama DIRT camp ~ Summer 09

Hola, friends! This past summer Stephen Spikes, Hunter Rayfield and I put together a week-long camp (with the help of Mary Jo and Kristina Hopkins-Jones) for girls aged 12-15. This was part of the summer compost project that Stephen and Hunter primarily worked on, while I focused on developing the community outreach portion.
If you haven't heard about the compost project at the Arboretum, then let me tell you about it. Bama Dining has worked incredibly hard at becoming a "greener" establishment; with the help of Ms. Hopkins-Jones, Bama Dining began donating their pre-consumer food waste & coffee grounds to the Arboretum for composting. In addition to leaf litter and constant upkeep, the result is several tons of beautiful compost out on the old golf course parking lot. The project has been an incredible success and hopefully will be permanently ongoing!
If I ever figure out how to post photos on this blog, I will post (unfortunately very old) pictures from the camp and describe what we did each day. It was an exceedingly rewarding experience for all parties involved, and in my case, I reconsidered the type of impact I wish to make in the world. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Week of Rain

Once again, we had a long week of rain that kept students from their daily garden visits. Fortunately, I managed to take a solo trip out to the arboretum at 8 am on Thursday, an hour before Tuscaloosans found themsevles donning their rain gear for the fourth time that week.
The results: Most of what we planted is growing, and there doesn't appear to be any signs of disease or fungus on anything. The fire ants looks like they have taken a toll, which is something to be pleased with despite the dismal weather. And, as to be expected, weeds are springing up everywhere.

Students for Sustainability continues to be active even though students can't be out in the garden as much as they would like. Instead, the student group is meeting every other Wednesday at 8 pm (the next will be the 28th) to discuss plans for expansion, what to do for the garden now, and recruitment. We are currently focusing on the ant problem, and though we used organic mint spray last year, we will try cornmeal this year since we can obtain it quicker and it's cheaper. I'll make sure to write later about how effective the cornmeal is. The student group also continues to go out to the garden every Sunday at 1 pm, when weather allows. Weeding and making sure that nothing has gone awry are our top goals when we visit the garden. If you don't know anything about gardening, please don't be afraid to come! Each Sunday we talk to students about gardening basics so they can listen, learn, and apply the knowledge immediately. We usually go out for lunch afterwards, too, which is always a nice way to really meet everyone.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bees, Bees, BEES!!

Yesterday (October 1), Students for Sustainability took a field trip out to Bill Hewett's bee keeping farm. Bill has approximately 75 hives and makes pure honey...yum! Bill was generous enough to not only let students see his hang-out, but taught them the in's and out's of bee keeping and even let them sample some! Needless to say, most left with at least a jar of his pure honey in hand. Below are pictures of Bill and students.

Meet Bill Hewett, Beekeeping expert.

Bill stands amongst the bees, pointing at them as they work away. Students meet the honey-producers face to face. I was too scared to get close.

Inside his honey extracting factory, students look at honeycomb remains as Bill explains the process.

Did I mention that he had delicious treats for us?

Above, Bill has has some honeycomb for us to try. Chelsea Smith, Students for Sustainability V.P. , enjoys a piece along with the rest of the group. I quickly realized after trying some that you're supposed to suck the honey out of the comb, not eat the entire thing.

Now, students hear a summary of how honey is extracted from wooden frames that are in the beehives.

Bees store their honey in these frames
. Beekeepers then take these frames out of the hive
to extract the honey.

This is an uncapping knife. It slices off the cappings from the honeycomb.

Next, Bill takes the sheets and puts them in the honey extractor

And now, we have pure honey!

Bill explains the difference between raw
and pure honey as students watch honey slowly
pour out from the extractor. Pure honey
is put through a filter so that honeycomb
chunks and whatever else the bees put in the wooden frames is left out of the final product.

To the left, Nicole Ortega, Students for Sustainability President, pours warm honey from the extractor into a jar to take home. Most students purchased some honey.

Students thanked Bill for letting them check out his place. If you missed this trip, don't worry. I'm sure we'll visit again in the spring. Keep checking the facebook group and watching for messages about other fun field trips!