THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Aug01

Essex Bees (Part 3)

In part 3 of our interview with Richard of Essex Bees, he offers us reasons for growing your own food. You can check out part 2 ‘downshifting’, while the section of interview about bees and how he started as a beekeeper can be read here in part 1. Definitely worth your full attention!

Why grow your own food?

Next time you sit down to a meal, look at the packaging to see where everything came from – it will improve your knowledge of world geography! Eating seasonally and with locally produced, non-processed produce is arguably better for you and also supports local businesses.

It also builds in ‘resilience’ to the local community, you’re not dependent on a farmer in Kenya growing you beans when you can either grow them yourself or find someone in this town, county or country who does.

Also, eating strawberries in the winter isn’t really necessary, unless you’ve made them into jams or Rumtopf yourself.

I appreciate not everyone has access to a garden, local food can be slightly more expensive and people don’t have time. However if you downshift you do have time, you can find somewhere to grow stuff (like allotments or Landshare) and you can learn new skills. You’ll also understand that it’s difficult to grow strawberries in winter.

Dan and I originally rented a field to start our first apiary for the bees. We also kept some rare breed pigs, chickens, ducks and turkeys on the field and, when the time was right, killed and prepared them for eating – either on-site or via an abattoir. We like veggie food but we also like meat.

Unfortunately this field was targeted by thieves and people with air guns so we eventually called it quits. Next year however we are starting with poultry again on a small field loaned to us by one of our bee supporters.

If you can grow it yourself and eat a seasonal dish then you’ll appreciate how much effort is required in putting it on the plate and also how much better a mixed bowl of lettuce tastes in the summer, picked from the garden, than that poured out of a plastic bag in January.

How can we build more resilience into our lives?

I’m a keen supporter and promoter of the Transition movement, originally put forward by Rob Hopkins. Some of the words I use like ‘resilience’ stem from there. It’s the opposite of taking a doomsday approach to peak oil and climate change.

Rather than bunker down, the idea is that you act in a positive manner and try and build local resilience into food systems, energy networks, transport…

Any help you would like for Essex Bees?

Essex Bees is interested in any individual or group who want to help or learn more about bees.

Apart from physically putting hives on the ground we also do talks to schools and social groups to widen our message.

Some of the people who host our hives also help to carry out some of the checks and feeding tasks required throughout the year, this saves us time and costs and also gives those interested ‘hands-on’ experience.

Businesses get involved, normally as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programme, as part of a local community project or because the owner likes bees.

Council departments also sometimes get in touch to seek advice or to confirm certain aspects of their plans with regards pollination and pollinators.

Donations never hurt…

Our website, which we’re hoping to revamp over the winter, gives full details of everything we do – including a fairly regularly updated blog. It also has all of our contact details.

Our Facebook page is more up to the minute with more regular updates.

The website is Essex Bees… have a look, get in touch, we don’t sting!

For books about bees, visit Amazon Books About Bees

Jun10

Brought By Bike – Topiary Making

Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …

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May10

Transforming Topiary

topiary transforming

Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.

Apr28

Phillyrea From 1682

Worlidge Phillyrea

Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a  reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …

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