Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sustainable Return - Newsletter 2010


Alliance for the Great Lakes

On behalf of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago, Sas Stark has maintained a volunteering position with the Alliance for the Great Lakes for the past two years.

Waterkeepers Alliance

We tried to volunteer for the Waterkeepers Alliance to find out they do not have a chapter here in Chicago...yet. When we consulted WA and explained our interest in having a Chicago chapter, they asked how many members belonged to my 501c3, and how many people would fit in my boat? We would love to help Waterkeepers Alliance but currently we only own a blow up canoe!


Roots for Christmas

We put trees under the AIR catagory, since they inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen.

For those that celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree and would like a "green" alternative follow this link to a living Christmas tree service called, Roots for Christmas. They will drop off a live tree to your home or business for the Christmas holidays. After the holidays have passed they will then pick it up and re-plant it in the Chicago area.


The Prairie Restoration Project

On April 11, 2010, six members of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago joined Stuart Goldman, a naturalist from the Cook County Forest Preserve, Laurel Ross, a botanist from the Field Museum, and John Diversey, a steward of prairie land on the farm of Angelic Organics (Rockford IL.), in a controlled "burn." Follow this link to read more or to sign up to volunter for the next burn!

The Magic Hedge Project

On November, 6 2010, eight members of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago joined Steward David Painter in planting 7,300 Marram Grass roots. To read more about the importance of the Magic Hedge follow this link.


Year of the Tiger - Save the Tiger

On February 20, 2010, the Tai Chi Center of Chicago celebrated the Year of the Tiger with a fundraiser called Year of the Tiger - Save the Tiger a collaboration between the school and Wildlife Conservation Society. The mission was to learn more about the magnificent Amur tiger, and to receive donated funds from anyone who loves and cares that he/she continues to have a place to live within its natural habitat. Nearly $1,500 was raised to help protect the Chinese Amure Tiger!


Elizabeth and I completed a busy year two of beekeeping, to help the honeybees survive Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a syndrome affecting bee populations worldwide since 2006. The USDA reported that American beekeepers lost another 33.8% of their honeybee population in the winter of 2009-10.

I had heard a beekeeper will kill up to 5 hives in the learning process. After I killed off two hives in year one, it was time to get some advice.

I took a 5-hour workshop in Crestone, Colorado with one of my heros, Corwin Bell, a "bee-whisperer", which included a road trip with my oldest daughter Emilie (who I thank for her willingness to spend 40 hours in the car with her mother!). Corwin taught beginning and intermediate techniques for listening to the bees and caring for the health of the hive naturally, without pesticides, the use of sugar or even smoke. He demonstrated how he tracks and catches swarms of bees. Corwin keeps his bees and naps on his hives in Eldorado Springs, a beautiful canyon just outside of Boulder. His hives have suffered no colony collapse disorder. He is the founder of beeguardian.org , a group committed to the survival of the honeybee. www.backyardhive.com is his internet site where he sells his beautiful, hand-crafted, topbar hive, which we use.

Next Elizabeth and I took a seminar attended by over 50 midwestern beekeepers with internationally-renowned beemaster Gunther Hauk, a man who has dedicated himself to the care of bees through his biodynamic bee sanctuary, Spiknard Farm, recently relocated to Floyd, Virginia, which also suffers no colony collapse. We hosted him for a weekend conference, during which time he viewed and diagnosed the hive, trees and garden at Grace Street.

We also had an afternoon consultation with Julio Tuma, master beekeeper at the Garfield Park Conservatory, Growing and Green Living and genius PHD biology student at University of Chicago. He uses both topbar and Langstroth hives at Garfield Park and teaches their beekeeping classes. I would highly recommend taking a class with Julio. His enthusiastic & visual explanation of the biology of bees is a great introduction for anyone curious about bees or beekeeping.

The bees are currently in hibernation in their topbar hive, within an open-ended wood structure (built around the hive to protect against the winter elements) at the Grace Street garden. This hive is named Hope, since we don't yet have faith, but we surely hope they will survive the winter.

P.S. I would like to thank Elizabeth, because late in season I suffered a bee sting gone wrong, and she graciously jumped in and became the full-time beekeeper for the remainder of the season. I will use the winter to consider my beekeeping future.

I am thankful for the downtime of hibernation!


Biodynamic Stir

We hosted a Biodynamic stir at the Grace Street garden on the 21st of November. The stir was led by Bob Bower and Ben Wilson. Bob is the farm manager for the community supported agriculture farm (CSA), Hawthorne Valley Farms, in Ghent, NY, and former field manager at Angelic Organics for 15 years. Ben is the Biodynamic preparation specialist at Angelic Organics. Angelic Organics is the largest CSA farm in the US, serving 1500 families in the Chicagoland area, and is featured in the film, "The Real Dirt on Farmer John".

Twenty people attended the outdoor event, where we first prepared and applied a Biodynamic poultice for the ailing 100 year-old horse chestnut tree, consisted of cow manure, ground bark from the tree itself and other herbal preparations. Once applied the snow and rain will slowly wash the thick mud-like remedy into the dirt surrounding the tree. The roots will then re-absorb it and draw it deep into the interior of the tree.

Next we "stirred" a Biodynamic preparation for the dirt, which meant the 20 attendees took turns seated over 5 gallon buckets of cold water, up to their elbows, stirring the addition of dry preparations into the water in a clock-wise and counter clock-wise fashion for 60 minutes. We then applied the preparation over the entire garden.

Finally we observed Ben as he "stirred" and applied a preparation toß the compost piles.

Biodynamic agriculture is a system of organic farming used to enhance soil quality. (Think alternative to commercial fertilizer). Typically used on farms in the US, we believe it can also be used on urban gardens of smaller scale.

Everyone took home a small amount of the Biodynamic preparations for their gardens.

Water Stirring

In response to the growing concern over the integrity of our urban drinking water, we are trying different processes to clear the water and "enliven" it. (Did you know that the city has no system for removing our ingested pharmaceuticals in our drinking water?) City waste water can be recycled and treated up to 20 times! For further reading, try The Big Necessity, by Rose George.

Elizabeth has researched the work of Viktor Schauberger, an Austrian forest warden, naturalist and Biomimicry experimentalist. Biomimcry examines the systems and processes in nature in order to solve human problems. He believed that water was healthiest when in constant flow or motion in rivers and streams in a rounded (not straight direction). He created a theory of "structured" water. (To read more on Viktor consider reading Hidden Nature, The Startling Insights of Viktor Schauberger by Alick Bartholomew.)

There are many systems for filtering water. Elizabeth and I both use a Multipure carbon filter. I have used a Britta carbon filter at work.

After filtering, we both have begun to "spin" our drinking water using a vortex system. One way is to use an electronic jug with a paddle that spins the water. Another is to use two glass egg-shaped vessels with a common neck that creates an hour glass shape when the vessels are connected. Spinning the vessels by hand in the clock-wise and counter clock-wise manner uses gravity to create the vortex, draining the water from the full egg, down into the empty egg.

Once the water is spun, it stays enlivened for up to 36 hours depending on the vessel in which it is stored.

I recently purchased a ceramic egg for storage, which is believed to keep the water cool and moving in a circular motion, used a far back as the Egyptians. Elizabeth is looking for research to determine if spun water tests prove the quality changes after the spinning. Meanwhile, many report the taste as rounder and softer.

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