The median quality of life is perhaps best measured by the readily available access to the basic necessities of life. In its own way, it is a measure of success for the sociological development and a prime indicator of sociological sustainability. There are four keys to improve the median quality of life that are sadly lacking in modern society. These are viable education rather than merely teaching to the test, and including options for vocational and technical training for those people who are less capable of learning in a more scholastic environment; real-world, paying opportunities for those who have received an education; accomplishing this without the creation of a dependency class; and perhaps most important of all, the ability to provide all of this without overly burdening those who are already productive and contributing members within a society or community development.
Four new sweet basil varieties - resistant to downy mildew disease which destroys leaves and has been the bane of basil growers for a decade - are now being sold to home gardeners and commercial farmers across the United States thanks to years of painstaking breeding and selection at Rutgers University. Two of the four varieties also show high resistance to Fusarium wilt, another important soil-borne disease. The four new downy mildew resistant (DMR) sweet basils are Rutgers Devotion DMR, Rutgers Obsession DMR, Rutgers Passion DMR and Rutgers Thunderstruck DMR. These varieties of sweet basil – one of America’s most popular garden herbs and the most important annual culinary herb commercial crop – became available to commercial growers last spring and are now available to home gardeners.
Yesterday morning we were able to harvest our first beans from the IE site at Wellwood Park tennis courts. Our first pick of the season yielded about 60 mature Provider green beans and 1 Golden Rocky bean. We hope our Red Silk beans - which need 85 days to mature - will recover from all the rain, begin to flower and bear beautiful red beans! You can store unwashed fresh beans in a reusable container or plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper where they should keep for about seven days. Green beans can also retain valuable amounts of nutrients for 3-6 months after freezing, so if you choose the freezing option, rinse them in cool water, drain, cut to your desired size, then place them in freezer bags and storing them in your freezer.
Merchantville’s Green Team planted two wildflower gardens last October in the town's two "no mow" zones. These natural gardens and pollinator habitats are located on the lawns adjacent to the bike path trail along West Chestnut Avenue started sprouting lots of black-eyed susan this week and we can't wait to see what else will blossom this summer. These areas provide an excellent habitat for pollinators such as native bumble bees. These zones allow plants to flower which in turn provides a place for pollinators to stop and have a meal.
What can an Incredible Edible group do relating to the business plate? Just by growing food in public places, allowing people to see plants in the ground and harvesting the produce when it’s ready, you’re encouraging people to think about where their food comes from – and that isn’t a vacuum packed plastic tub from the supermarket. There are other things you can do so people think about where their food comes from when they decide what they’re next going to spend their well-earned money on. Our own Eclipse Brewing is a super example spinning the IE business plate.
Winter hit U.S. honeybees hard with the highest loss rate yet, an annual survey of beekeepers showed. The annual nationwide survey by the Bee Informed Partnership found 37.7% of honeybee colonies died this past winter, nearly 9 percentage points higher than the average winter loss. The survey of nearly 4,700 beekeepers managing more than 300,000 colonies goes back 13 years and is conducted by bee experts at the University of Maryland, Auburn University and several other colleges. Explore the colony loss map and other surveys in NJ.
Spend a week on the farm at Free Haven Farms learning about science. Nature will be our classroom to explore agriculture, ecosystems, food chains, soil chemistry, insects, and more. Open for youth ages 3-12. July 8 - 12; 9am-4pm. $150; $50 non-refundable deposit required upon registration. Balance is due upon arrival. Free Haven Farms is a hands-on operation that Cynthia and Micaiah Hall established three years ago in Lawnside. Dr. Cynthia Hall, who grew up in this cozy borough, is an Environmental Geochemist and Associate Professor at West Chester University. She received her BS in Chemistry from Howard University and Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from Georgia Tech. She and Micaiah are raising three children while using artisanal agriculture to make a living, share their considerable knowledge, and build community. Their motto is “sustainable and attainable,” says Micaiah, 42, a plumber by trade who hails from Connecticut and grew up working on a neighbor’s farm. He also worked for seven years at the Mill Creek Farm in West Philly. Read Kevin Riordan's story about them.
We had a double drop off of plastic bags this week, putting our current total to 152 pounds and the chance to win a FREE recycled park bench form TREX! Shout out to our #BinIt2WinIt hero, Terri James Porter, who collected the plastic bags in my absence. Don't forget, drop offs can be made at Blue Monkey Tavern, Ryan's Retail, and at the Merchantville Market Off Centre. We accept grocery bags, bubble wrap, case overwrap, clean ziploc/bread bags, newspaper sleeves, etc. are all accepted. Please combine your materials in a single larger bag and compact it as much as possible before tying it up. We're making great progress to our 500 lb. goal!
Here's a video update on how the three bean varieties and the pollinator garden along the Wellwood Park tennis courts are progressing after the first month. Several of the beans are just beginning to bloom with a sweet light purple flower - good news that those plants have fully matured and are ready to begin reproducing. The west side of our tennis planter area gets significantly more sun than the east - something to keep in mind next year - but, I expect those east side stragglers to catch up.
If you are lucky - like Merchantville - you have farmer's markets in your area. But that can get very expensive and take time - driving to the market, parking, then make your way through others trying to get their fresh produce in the few hours that the market is open. So what is the alternative? Growing your own food. It's possible on a small scale, regardless of time, space, money and knowledge. And, encouraging children to grow their own food is one of the best things parents can do. It teaches them responsibility for a living thing, that vegetables can taste good and that they can become more self sufficient and not reliant on big food companies. If you need help getting started message us at IE Merchantville!