Sticky Thoughts

I love honey, not everybody does I know, but for me, the darker the better. And heather honey. Oh yum.

But I eat less honey now than I ever did before I became interested in bees. Initially beekeeping appealed to me as a form of ‘re-skilling’, learning how to become a little more self-sustainable and grounding myself in the processes involved with meeting our everyday needs. I learnt beekeeping alongside bread making, knitting, vegetable growing and basic sewing. Needless to say some of these ventures have been more successful than others. But I digress.

Honey.

It is a miraculous substance, formed from nectar collected by honeybees and transformed into a stickiness that can be stored for a very long time and is not only delicious but can be good for us as well. But, what it’s really, really good for is honey bees. And therein lies my problem. I don’t wish to take what the bees need. However, many colonies make an excess of honey and I’m happy to take that. The difficulty lies in judging the amounts. But time and experience will eventually tell.

There is also something great about buying honey from someone who’s life will be turned around by it. Bees for Development is a fabulous organisation teaching sustainable beekeeping techniques, appropriate for the local environment, while supporting those with no previous income to generate one.

My most recent jar of honey isn’t local (‘our’ bees are fairly newly established and haven’t made enough to take any for the last couple of years, although this year is looking more hopeful). My current jar of honey was bought and started a year ago and comes out when a treat is needed or a throat needs soothing. It comes direct from the beekeepers in the mountains of Corfu and I walked among the abundance of pesticide free wildflowers the nectar came from. I will never have a jar of honey like this again.

Corfu honey

 

 

 

 

Mountains Corfu

 

But then, each jar is pretty special. Here are some amazing Honey facts:

  • Cave paintings in Spain depict the gathering of honey, 15,000 years ago.
  • Honey is a hebrew word meaning enchant
  • Honey is an excellent preservative and was used in embalming
  • Edible honey was found in an Egyptian tomb
  • Romans paid their taxes in honey
  • Honey is anti-bacterial, hydroscopic (water absorbing) and recuperative in terms of energy
  • It’s  a great source of energy, brilliant on ulcers and skin lesions and as an immune system boost
  • Sugar isn’t as sweet as honey
  • Nectar is mostly water, honey has less than 19% water. This occurs by a repeated process of honey consumption and regurgitation which allows water to evaporate
  • It would take 1,100 bees to make 1kg of honey and they would have to visit 4 million flowers
  • One bee will only make 1/12 of a teaspoon on honey in its entire life. So it’s precious stuff! Scrape that plate clean 🙂

 

Spanish cave painting (copy)

 Woman gathering honey, watercolor copy by F. Benitez Mellado of aMesolithic (c. 10,000/8000–c. 3000 bce) painting in the Cueva de la Arana, near Bicorp, Spain; in the Museum of Prehistory, Valencia, Spain.

Most of our Bungay Community Bees honey is crushed and strained, as is much of it from small-scale honey producers. This allows the inclusion of local pollen – amongst other bits and pieces. Pollen is high in vitamin C and if local enough can assist with acclimating the body for those with hayfever. In contrast, major brand honey is often superheated and ultra-filtered, which removes those benefits.

image

Bungay Community Bees honey 2011 (and yes, it was delicious)

So, my personal stance is to consume moderate amounts of honey, from as sustainable a source as possible. If I buy honey I would rather buy from a local beekeeper or a source with humanitarian benefit, not a multi-national brand name.

Meanwhile I shall keep my fingers crossed for the bees in our hives to make loads more honey than they need, while continuing to plant my garden with lovely nectar rich flowers and letting the clover rampage for a bit.

There are various sources of information for the above, but I have directly used Bees4Kids.org.uk and ‘Honey: natures golden healer’ by Gloria Havenhand. There are lots of therapeutic uses in her book – and she only uses surplus honey 🙂

by Elinor McDowall (member of Bungay Community Bees) 

 

 

 

Swarm!

On this lovely April day bees have been on the move.  Swarming is how honey bees increase their numbers. When the colony is in tip-top condition, with a hive full of bees, brood and stores and a new queen developing, the old queen is sent out with some of the older bees to move to a new home. This process is kick-started when forage bees are turned away from the hive and their offerings of nectar refused. Somehow this stimulates a behaviour change and they become scout bees, looking for a suitable new home.  It is common for them to gather around the old queen (slimmed down to allow her to fly) on a nearby object before finally moving on. Today we had a swarm from one of our Warre (stacked top bar) hives in Alburgh. Thankfully they were right next to the hives on a small cherry tree. We gently scooped them into a small (nuc) box with top bars in situ and will let them get settled before transferring into a larger hive.

 

Alburgh swarm from Warre

 

Alburgh swarm from Warre 2

Scooping beesMore scooping beesWaiting for stragglers to enter the boxJust a few left...

THE DYE GARDEN True Blue – a talk about the culture and craft of woad with Mary Sprake – Sunday 20th April, 11am

385px-38_Isatis_tinctoria_LOur first talk in the Dye Garden season will be about the ancient dye plant woad, once the principle source of blue in Europe, before indigo arrived from the East, and artificial dyes were discovered in the 19th century.

On 20th April Mary Sprake of Black Dog Arts will talk about this useful and unusual member of the brassica family and show how the blue dye can be extracted from its leaves and used to dye yarn and cloth. Woad was cultivated extensively in East Anglia (the famous ‘Lavenham blew’ from the medieval wool centre at Lavenham was made from these plants), and woad is still being grown commercially in Norfolk.

Many artists, textile designers and crafts people use woad, as it creates extraordinary hues of blue, as well as being entirely natural and sustainable.

db_2d-scan05_71What is The Dye Garden?

The Dye Garden is part of the permaculture-inspired Library Community Garden, created by Sustainable Bungay in 2009. The showcase central bed changes each year and during the growing year the Garden hosts plant and produce exchanges, events and workshops around its chosen theme. This year we are growing dye and textile plants, and there are already several in situ – including of course a woad plant now getting ready to flower!

Our 2014 programme will be looking at several key plants from different angles: from the perspective of artists, makers, curators and growers. Each event will provide a practical and imaginative insight into our relationships with fabrics and colour through time.

During the growing year of 2014, we’ll be journeying into the myths and culture behind certain plants: visiting the flax and hemp fields of the Waveney Valley; the silk weavers and madder sellers of Norwich; discovering archaic woad, African indigo and how to make paints from local wild flora.

Arts, culture and wellbeing

1a-woadspoolThe Dye Garden is being curated by Sustainable Bungay’s Arts, Culture and Wellbeing group. The project aims to celebrate the  beauty of ordinary things and our place within the fabric of life, within a frame of ecological and social change.

Plants can act as a wonderful bridge between people, a springboard to our imaginations, and open a door to other places and times, knowledge and wonder. So as well as a skill and knowledge-share about plants and textiles, the garden and its events are also an exploration of creativity and wellbeing within the community.

Everyone is invited!

True Blue – a talk about the culture and craft of woad will take place at Bungay Community Library on 20th April at 11am. Free entry (donations welcome).

Images: botanical drawing of woad plant; woad balls being stacked in Norfolk; woad-dyed wool (from www.woad.org.uk/)

Spring Tonic Wellbeing Walk – Saturday 5th April, 11am

Image3313Are you in need of a spring tonic? Why not come on our first wellbeing walk of the year on Saturday 5th April. We’ll be meeting up in Bungay community library garden at 11am, where Mark Watson will introduce the theme of spring tonic plants with an energising potful of tea. Then we’ll map out a route and set off to discover some of those very plants in the pot, and more. You’ll never look at nettles, dandelions and cleavers in the same way again!

Sustainable Bungay’s wellbeing walks started last April and soon became very popular. Every month from spring to autumn, a group of us would set out to walk the many different streets, paths and green places of Bungay, taking notice of everything we found on our way and swapping our own stories and knowledge of the area with each other.

As with all our meetings and events, anyone and everyone is welcome to join the walks. Hope to see you there.

Wellbeing Walks banner 1

Spring Tonic Wellbeing Walk, Saturday 5th April, meet 11am in Bungay Community Library Garden. For more info call Mark on 01502 722419

Calling All Bungay Community Bee members for 2014!

Bungay Community Bees is 5 years old!

 

With the advent of Spring we are getting ready for the beekeeping year ahead. Now is the perfect time to join, for this year in celebration of our fifth anniversary there is no membership fee. But we are still looking for members to join our BCB community.

We have had some changes to our ‘core’ group recently which means we are looking for people to take on some of the more active roles. There are several ways in which BCB can take the project strands (Plants for Bees, Education and Outreach, Beekeeping, Hive Building) forwards, it just needs a little enthusiasm and time from the community. So please don’t be shy!

The group has changed somewhat over the years. From the Community Supported Agriculture model we began with we have developed a more educational bent. This has occurred partly in response to our own growing awareness of the wider issues impacting upon bee survival and partly due to forging links with others and the opportunities that have since arisen.

We do have several colonies of bees this spring as they all survived the winter, and hope to collect some honey in a couple of months.

Our major project of 2013 was the educational school visits in association with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and Featherdown Farms. These visits will begin again in a few weeks. There is a blog on the SB website outlining what we did along with some pictures and a number to contact for bookings, including for this year.

The other major project we would like to run this year is Bungay Beehive Day. After an initial brainstorming session we have come up with some great ideas, but need some bodies to take on some of the organising. We can make it as comprehensive as volunteers allow.

So, if you would like to get involved in any of the following ways please get in touch:

* Become a member for the year (no fee this year!), the membership form is on the BCB page of the website. Please email bees@sustainablebungay.com with any queries or contact me on 07791 495 012

* Get involved with Bungay Beehive Day 2014 (5th anniversary!), i.e. helping with stalls, speakers, plants, publicity

*Assisting with school visits at College Farm (Thursday mornings beginning late May, expenses paid)

* Workshops with schools, possibly to create some large artworks to display at Beehive Day

* Become secretary for BCB, arranging meetings and co-ordinating the group socially

* Train to become a BCB beekeeper, either with Waveney Valley Beekeepers (conventional hives, lots of bee experience and support; mostly evenings) or with the Natural Beekeeping Trust (top bar hives with minimal intervention; 2 days Sussex). This will be funded by BCB on the understanding you subsequently keep bees for the group. First come, first booked basis.

* Take any of the project strands forwards

* Share your fabulous ideas!

 

Finally, we now have a facebook page, search for bungaycommunitybees and ‘like’ us to see photo’s and get notifications of blog posts and events.

I also have a personal twitter account @ElinorBees, which is bee oriented, as is Mike Southerns @JoinerBee, he is one of our beekeepers and our hive designer.

All the best

Elinor McDowall

Dye Garden Opening – Saturday 22nd March, 10am

7dfc654090e92e065b330ee51ff66b6dThere will be an informal opening and introduction to The Dye Garden on Saturday 22nd March, at 10am, just before Sustainable Bungay’s annual Give and Take Day. This will mark the beginning of the Library Community Garden season of events, which will include workshops and talks about the dye and fabric plants that are being showcased this year in the central bed, as well as our regular seed, plants and produce swaps in May and October.

Some of the plants are already making their appearance, so if you would like to have a look round and hear about this year’s new project do swing by the Garden tomorrow. All welcome! Charlotte Du Cann

Image: plant material and the colours they yield for Dine (Navajo) fabrics in  South West USA

 

College Farm Education Apiary

Our big project last year was the initiation of educational visits for schools in conjunction with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and Featherdown Farms. A purpose built apiary was created at College Farm, Aldeby, a fantastic spot leading down to the broads. It’s primarily aimed at local schools but can be used for other groups as well. To date we have hosted 7 primary schools, the Anglia Regional Co-operative store managers and members of Sustainable Bungay, who cycled out on car free day.

The apiary itself consists of an observation shed overlooking several different types of hives and, at it’s heart, a hand-crafted glass hive actually sited within the shed. Because it’s indoors the children can see the bees up close and personal in any weather. One of their favourites seems to be the glass tubes connecting the body of the hive to the entrance. It’s really easy to see the bees carrying in pollen and even fighting wasps off.

Bees in entrance tube

 

Observation hive nearly ready for bees

 

20131017_124026

 

Desperately hoping our lovingly crafted glass observation hive would work well with bees living in it we started a colony off in there only to have it collapse. We tried again with a new queen and all seemed well until we realised she also wasn’t laying. So then I put a frame of eggs in and they picked up a little, so Mike put another frame in and they picked up some more. Unfortunately the colony didn’t really thrive until after the school visits had finished, however, it didn’t appear to diminish the children’s enjoyment.

We even had a Tree Bumblebee colony to show them. These are a recent migrant from Europe and really pretty. It was great to demonstrate the differences between honey bee combs and papery bumblebee nests amongst the soil.

Our aim is to inspire the children, to engender a sense of wonder and importance of the world about them. It’s important for us to place the honey-bee in an ecological context for them, so the other half of the visit which is a nature spotters ramble fits in beautifully. Before we unveil the bees themselves we talk about pollinators and why pollination is important for us. Then we challenge the children to guess which foods are mostly reliant on bee pollination.

How well would you do?

Here are a few to try, most (but not all) are bee dependent: lemon, kiwi, rice, apples, pears, strawberries, walnuts, rapeseed oil, cucumber, oats, chocolate, coffee…

I was really pleased with how much the children already knew about honeybees, it made it so much more fun to spot workers versus drones, honey cells versus brood cells and even the queen!

IMG_1725

 

IMG_1708

 

IMG_1714

 

IMG_1745

As a group we tend towards a more apicentric or bee-centred way of keeping bees, with minimal intervention and we explore the reasons why with the children. Thinking about how important hive scent and warmth is for their well-being, how they communicate via scent, touch and vibration and how disruptive to the colony frequent opening is. We certainly don’t advocate ‘leave alone’ beekeeping, but there are ways to monitor bee health without opening the hive every week. Admittedly, it helps having glass panels on most of the hives…

Although we address current threats to bees with the children we also want them to go away with a positive message regarding easy ways to be bee-friendly. After all, a little less weeding is as easy as planting some herbs, or leaving clover patches in the lawn or piles of sticks (habitat piles) under the hedge.

Each child and school leaves with some bee-friendly seeds provided by Anglia Regional Co-operative society.

If you are interested in bringing a school to visit please contact Jill Basson of Anglia Regional Co-operative Society on 01733 225552.

Our journey to achieve all this in 2013:

February 2013 saw us marking out the spot we wanted for the shed in the cold, cold, cold weather. We chose a spot with easy access, not far from the broad and sheltered yet with sun to warm them up in the morning.

Paving and shed in place

 

With hTBH and National outside

During March 2013 we were waiting, fingers crossed, hoping our nucleus of bees would be ready in time for the first school visits at College Farm. They were, but only just. The cold beginning to 2013 followed by wet and windy weather meant the bees were late in getting started. More disastrously it appears several virgin queens weren’t able to successfully complete mating flights, including ours.

Going into the 2014 season we have three different types of hives (with bees) as well as the observation colony, a plan to plant bee-friendly (mostly cottage garden) flowers and various ideas on how to supplement the learning experience for the children. I’m looking forward to seeing the newly built hide / butterfly shed in action as well.

Building out onto comb board

 

And finally: some pictures of the Anglia Regional Co-operative Store Managers enjoying the same tour…

IMG_3078

 

IMG_3069

 

IMG_3081

 

IMG_3087

 

 

Green Drinks – Give and Take Fashion – Tuesday 4th March

knitting 2The fashion and fabrics business is one of the largest and most polluting industries  on the planet.  How can we have a more sustainable relationship with the people and plants who make our clothes and other materials?

At this month’s Green Drinks, ex-fashion editor and curator of this year’s Dye Garden Project, Charlotte Du Cann, will be looking at ways we can individually  and collectively ‘downshift the wardrobe’, including running sewing circles, clothes swaps and Give and Take Days. Do come along and join in the conversation.

Meanwhile here is a great article on textiles  published in our winter issue of Transition Free Press.

Textiles in Transition

by William Lana

Textiles is a truly global industry. In many ways it was the starting point of the industrialisation of the world, kicked off in the 18th and 19th centuries by Britain’s cotton industry and trade. Labour-intensive garment production was one of the earliest to adopt the ‘logic’ of globalisation and in the last 50 years has been moving from the high-wage countries to lower and lower wage countries in a so-called race to the bottom…

The globalisation of the textile industry has meant that companies have shifted focus away from production and instead ‘bigged-up’ brand and marketing.  Production is merely supply a management issue. This has led to a systemic exploitation of workers, including excessive hours, lack of job security, poverty wages, ill-health and denial of trade union rights.

To a transitioner this feels very unsatisfactory. We want to know where the raw materials have been grown, raised or made. We want to know what the energy input has been, how far the garment has come, and what toxic outputs have been created through its production. Who has made it and under what conditions?  Quite apart from the concern that our bum doesn’t look big in it.

When we opened our Greenfibres shop in the mid 1990’s I remember some people walking by, saying “Organic textiles?! You don’t eat your socks!”. Apart from being incorrect (60% of the cotton harvest is cotton seed used for animal feed and vegetable oil) it made me realise just how disconnected we are from our textiles. They are all around us (literally), internationally employ over 26 million people (not including over 100 million farmers who grow cotton and other materials), and yet we have a very distant relationship to them.

sewing-sessiontara-et-alasdairHow far have we come in 20 years?  Hmmm…. not terribly.  I’m heartened to see the real growth of the make and mend movement, that £13 million worth of organic textiles were sold in the UK in 2012 and that documentaries about the industry (such as Dirty White Gold investigating the high suicide rate of Indian cotton farmers). But it still feels like early days. Who’s asking questions about energy use?  (one t-shirt requires approx. 1.7 kg of fossil fuel and generates approx. 4 kg of CO2). Can we even return to a less energy intensive textile industry? Who remembers how to ret or scutch flax?  Where are the businesses who know how to process these fibres?  Why is 95% of the cotton grown in the US from GM seed?

So what if we wanted to start bringing fibres and fabrics back home, what might that look like?  Well, for starters …

  • we’d get busy planting some hemp (and make it easier to get a licence – mine took 18 months)
  • we’d re-introduce basic sewing into the primary school curriculum
  • we’d pass legislation requiring historical information to be included on the barcode of garments, e.g. where the raw materials came from, and where the garment was made (a pair of Lee jeans can travel 40,000 miles from field to shelf).

Meanwhile what can the average transitioner do to side-step fast fashion?  We can swap clothes with friends, purchase outerwear from charity shops, and if we do buy new items (for example underwear) consider an ethical supplier. If you buy textiles that you love and respect, you’re much less likely to add them to the 3 million ton annual pile which ends up in our bins.  In a nutshell, we should be buying fewer textiles, of better quality, which can be mended.  Now back to my tasty organic cotton socks.

William Lana co-founded the organic textile company Greenfibres in 1996 and is a trustee of Transition Network. He was Chair of the Soil Association’s Organic Textile Standards Committee from 2001-2012 and helped found the Organic Trade Board in 2008.

For further reading: John Thackera on Routledge’s upcoming Handbook on Fashion and Sustainability http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-01-07/a-whole-new-cloth-politics-and-the-fashion-system

Charlotte Du Cann will be introducing The Dye Garden on Saturday 22nd March, 10am at the Bungay Community Library (before Sustainable Bungay’s Eighth Give and Take Day)

Images: girl at knitting workshop at Transition Kensal to Kilburn Reskilling Day by Jonathan Goldberg : Transition reskilling.

Spring Clean! – Give and Take Day – Saturday 22nd March

Give and Take 2Our eighth Give and Take Day (22nd March) is happening just after spring equinox, perfect timing for a good spring clean! So why not bring along your unwanted items of clothing, furniture, garden and household equipment, books, CDs and DVDs to the Community Centre and pick up something you might need. Just make sure that anything you bring is in decent, usable (or at least reparable) condition. This can even include electrical goods as our qualified PAT tester will be there.

And remember, no money exchanges hands – it’s Give, it’s Take, and everything is free (although we do welcome donations towards room hire costs).

Give and Take Days have become an integral part of the ‘remit’ of Sustainable Bungay since we began holding them once or twice a year in March 2009. When the group first formed after the Climate Change conference in Emmanuel Church in 2007, we wanted to know how we could engage locally in response to changing climate conditions. What could we do here?

Since joining the Transition network in 2008, the group’s activities are now also informed by factors such as the decreasing availability of cheap fossil fuel energy and widespread economic downturn.

Profligate waste is one of the biggest problems in our present throwaway culture, whether it’s food, clothing or technology. Fossil fuels are embedded in the production of almost everything in our lives, and carbon emissions from waste exert a significant impact on the climate.

So Give and Take Days are not just about getting rid of stuff and picking up more stuff. They also aim to bring attention to our use of resources and make sure less of that stuff ends up in landfill sites, where it will sit for a very long time, emitting! These modest events have so far meant that about 35 tonnes of potential landfill has found a new home.

This time there will be an upcycling table in connection with the 2014 Dye Garden at Bungay Library, and we’ll be joined again by Emmaus from Ditchingham. Give and Take Days are also a great opportunity to meet up with friends and neighbours – and to enjoy refreshments prepared by the Happy Monday Community Kitchen crew. Everyone welcome. Hope to see you there! Mark Watson

Give and Take Day: Saturday 22nd March at the Community Centre, Upper Olland Street, 11am-2pm. For large pickups please contact Eloise: eloisewilkinson@gmail.com or call 07842 897172

Where the wild things are in Bungay

longtailedtit babiesBillwebcropAs the season turns and everythings starts growing and singing and coming out of hibernation (including ourselves!) two great nature projects are springing into action. Rose Titchiner describes Wild about Bungay , the Community Wildlife Project and Blog now in its second year and the new Bungay Wildlife Monitor group

Wild about Bungay

 

The seeds for the Wild About Bungay community wildlife project came from Jasmine Lingwood and has since been carried forward and evolved by Jasmine’s brothers, Chris and Terry Reeve and members of the project.

The Wild About Bungay project, encourages everyone to celebrate and record the flora and fauna that we see and find all around us in Bungay and in the gardens, meadows, commons, verges, paths and waterways around the town – nothing is too commonplace or mundane to share and celebrate!  Anyone can contribute. Email us your sightings and photos and well will upload them onto Bungay’s

very own community wildlife blog for all to see and enjoy throughout the year.

The project is expanding this year, to encourage Bungay schools to contribute their wildlife sightings to the blog. A Bungay wildlife photographic exhibition will be held at the Fisher Theatre in October 2014 and a book celebrating Bungay wildlife is planned for Autumn 2015. The project is also keen to assist with the long-term, in-depth habitat survey work of the newly formed Bungay WildWatch group.

Check out the Wild About Bungay community wildlife blog for more information on sending in your sightings and photos or becoming involved in the project:  www.wildaboutbungay.com 

common newt Ian A Kirk

Bungay Wildlife Monitor group

 

Bungay Wildlife Watch Group has been formed as an umbrella group for all those who are interested in, care about or are responsible for wildlife and wildlife habitats in and around Bungay.

Over the next two years the group is planning to conduct in-depth, year round biological surveys of the wildlife habitats and waterways around Bungay. We would also like to keep a record of the current and potential future management plans of wildlife areas around the town.

The group is in the process of setting up a website and online biological recording system to log records for our own data as well as to feed records into the county biological recording systems of Suffolk and Norfolk.

As well as landowners and organisations involved in environmental or habitat management around Bungay, we’re keen to hear from people with a particular interest in local flora and fauna. We’re also considering running courses and workshops to help deepen our knowledge of the extraordinary wildlife and ecology of this area.

We hope to have a public meeting mid-March to early April. Until then we are discussing ideas and would welcome any suggestions, experience or help. We’ll be arranging a Dyke Dipping Day in late April or early May -to learn more about Bungay’s reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.  with John Baker  County Recorder for Reptiles and Amphibians in Suffolk. If you are interested please email Rose Titchiner on: siriusowl@gmail.com

Images: common smooth newt by Ian A. Kirk; longtailed tits at Castle Mills by Bill Davis

1 2 3 4 5 32