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Category Archives: Animals

Pishogues; CROSS DRESSING + A WILD HARE

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Original article; http://farmette.ie/tag/pishogue/

Yes, you read that correctly. That is indeed the correct title of this blog post. Now, imagine my surprise to learn that our little parish has been historically known to have women morphing into hares by night and kids dressing up as their opposite sex counterparts on occasion.  Strange, but I must admit it made me feel a little more “at home”…I mean what’s more American than Playboy bunnies and cross dressing…very urban…very cosmopolitan, no?

On a closer examination, I learned that this countryside cross dressing/hare morphing was of a different ilk, which was initially disappointing, but became far more interesting as I listened to the cacophony of stories about “May Eve” and all of the beliefs attached to it. Pishoguery, coaxioriums, changelings, faeries and perhaps the most fabulous and sensational: real women who transform into hares and run around wildly about the land. {without a doubt, a talent I would most certainly love to have}

Now, we all know that Ireland has it’s fair share of lore and such, but I had no idea that many of these teachings still have a valid place in modern countryside society and that furthermore many traditions around those beliefs are still practiced in our tiny village. In fact, I was only just informed yesterday that our entire farm is sprinkled with holy water each year on “May Eve” to ward off Pishoguery and other spirits.

Allow me to explain. May Eve is the evening before May Day (April 30th) and on this evening it is said that a certain type of sorcery transpires in which female evil-doers called “pishogues” come round and do their best to make people’s lives miserable in one way or another.  The pishogues would do things such as lay eggs, bread, meats and other consumable items on another’s land and it is believed that by doing so it would somehow rob the riches from that farm and be transferred onto the pishogue’s estate. Now, let me be clear-these pishogues were real people; neighbours, churchgoers and everyone knew who they were. Real people who were known to be sort of possessed by the devil and forced into doing these dreadful acts.  This pishoguery basically put the fear of God in people and villagers began sprinkling holy water on their homes, livestock, farmyards, machinery….everything and anything to ward off this evil on May Eve. (I hate to say it, but it kinda sorta reminds me of what seemed to happen whenever the Avon lady would come calling in the neighborhood where I lived as a child.)

It doesn’t end with the Pishogues, May Eve offers still more unusual events and characters. There would be faeries flitting about who were known to capture the little boys from farms and change them into their own offspring, i.e. “changelings”. In order to prevent their children from being taken, families dressed up their boys as girls to fool the faeries. Apparently, girls were no good to them.  This meant that it wouldn’t be uncommon to see little boys dressed as girls walking about the village or going to church on the first of May; and nobody would give them a second look. Oh, how times have changed.…

Of course, no May Eve would be complete without a story involving the ubiquitous “love potion”.  Yes, coaxioriums were popular on this evening as well {LOVE the word coaxiorium-despite the fact that I can’t say it out loud}. Allegedly, if a woman made an advance on a man and was rejected she would slip him a potion and he’d come around. After this act, the people in the community would comment that she must have gave him the coaxiorium. Nowadays, it seems it’s the men who need their own secret little potion of one type or another…..

My absolute favourite is the whole business of women who had the power to turn into hares. They would morph into wild rabbit hares and go out during that day or evening and get into all kinds of mischief and then return home and have a cup of tea as if nothing had happened. Often times, a person would come across a lady’s dress and shoes lying near a hedge and they would take no notice, assuming that she had likely changed into a hare and was just out galavanting in the field.  Forgive me, but I would take great pleasure in that type of behaviour…imagine, if you will, gathering all of your best girlfriends, changing yourselves into hares and having a mad little tea party in the Irish countryside with all of the hedgehogs and red foxes.

So there you have it, May Eve, cross dressing and wild women hares in the country. While this all seems a bit Twilight Zone-y to me, many of these accounts have credible witnesses and are steeped in traditions that have stood the test of time. So now I know that in Kilcolman, we sprinkle our holy water to be safe and all I can say is:what’s good for the gander…

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Some interesting radio shows on science subjects.

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          Some interesting radio shows on science subjects.

 

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Click on:  I have a WHAT?

 

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How do you know you are dreaming.

An interesting discussion on the facts, act, benefit of cognitive-dreaming.

http://www.newstalk.ie/player/podcasts/Futureproof/Highlights_from_Futureproof_with_Jonathan_McCrea/56023/1/how_do_you_know_you_arent_dreaming/cp_2

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I have a what now?!

Show: Futureproof

In this week’s ‘I have a what now’ it’s the ‘Suprachiasmatic nucleus’ which controls circadin rhythms. In partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

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I have what? – coccyx – via the skull.
 
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Eco-Sustainability Snippets

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Eco-Sustainability Snippets.

Animal

Incredible video on how small changes in animal population change the very landscape; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q Food Waste http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/globalfoodsecurity/ ———————————–                                      ———————————-

Tackling food waste: The EU’s contribution to a global issue

POSTED BY  ⋅ FEBRUARY 7, 2014 ⋅ http://epthinktank.eu/2014/02/07/tackling-food-waste-the-eus-contribution-to-a-global-issue/
FILED UNDER  ,
Tackling food waste The EU's contribution to a global issue © Beaubelle / Fotolia In spite of the availability of food, there is still malnutrition in the world. Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production down to final consumers. In developed countries, a significant amount of food is wasted at the consumption stage, meaning that it is discarded even though still suitable for human consumption. In developing countries food is lost mostly at the farmer-producer end of the food supply chain; much less food is wasted at consumer level. Experts assert that the largest part of food waste in developed countries is produced by households and is linked mainly to urbanisation, changes in the composition of diets, and large-scale mass distribution. Overall, on a per-capita basis, much more food is wasted in the industrialised world than in developing countries. In the EU, food waste has been estimated at some 89 million tonnes, or 180 kg per capita per year. Food losses and waste have negative environmental and economic impacts and their existence raises questions for society. The EU is contributing to reducing food waste mainly through its commitment to halve the disposal of edible food in the EU by 2020. Various national initiatives also aim to attain this goal. The European Parliament has called for 2014 to be designated as ‘European year against food waste’. Click here for the whole briefing

Share of global food loss and waste by commodity, 2009
Share of global food loss and waste, (100% = 1.5 quadrillion kcal)
Estimated total food waste in the EU, 2010 (kg per capita)

Environmental impact of food waste

  • Rising world food prices: causes and policy responses

 Water Issues;

Water-footprint calculator;

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Mineral

Energy production and distribution must be one of the least sustainable of all human activities. Even without any further discoveries of gas, oil, or coal we are committed to global temperature increase of more than 2oC (http://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-technical/sustainability-reporting/tech-tp-ca.pdf). Such a temperature increase will have potentially devastating impacts on agriculture, transport, health and political stability. The search for non-carbon based sources of energy would be the number one factor. Funky dashboard which shows the amount of electricity currently being generated in the UK, and whether it is being produced from coal, gas, nuclear or wind power; http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ ==================================================================== Political The Yasuni case in Ecuador was interesting in that Ecuador requested financial compensation to not drill for oil in the Yasuni Reserve which is designated as one of the most bio-diverse places. unfortunately the rest of the international community unfortunately did not deliver.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuni_National_Park http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2066313/is_this_the_end_of_yasuni_national_park.html We need to have a more cohesive global approach to sustainability and climate change and not just focus on our own doorstep.

DIY – Fly Trap

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Fly Trap – or feed the fish !
Description; Original article; http://chestofbooks.com/home-improvement/woodworking/Community-Shop-Projects/Fly-Trap.html

This section is from the book “Shop Projects Based On Community Problems“, by Myron G. Burton. Also available from Amazon: Shop Projects Based on Community Problems.

Fly Trap

Materials

Basswood (Chap. III., Par. 31).

8 pcs. 3/8″xl”xl2 1/2″ S 2 S Sides. 8 pcs. 3/8″xl”x 7 1/2″ S 2 S Cross pieces. 5 pcs. 1/2″x3/4″x9″ S 2 S Top pes.

8 pes. 1/4″x3/4″x9″ S 2 S Trim. 3 dozen 1″ brads.

3 dozen 1/2″ brads.

1 1/2 dozen 3/8″ corrugated nails.

1 yard 24″ screen wire.

9 dozen small tacks.

1 piece 5/32″ Bessemer rod 8″ long.

2 screw eyes No. 114.

1 pair 3/4″x3/4″ brass hinges. 1 small clasp.

Introductory Statement

Recent investigation has proven that the common housefly is a very dangerous enemy to human life. The fact that it spreads disease and is in every way undesirable is sufficient reason why everybody should be as careful as possible to prevent its increase. One of the most successful ways to wage war on flies is to screen our homes so as to shut them out, and then leave no uncovered garbage pails or any other feeding places for them.

In cities where everybody has been interested in disposing of flies the results have been very encouraging. School children have helped wonderfully by engaging in fly-catching contests.

You can do a great practical good for your own home and community by making this flytrap carefully and using it throughout the fly season.

References:

The House Fly as Disease Carrier, L. O. Howard. Published by F. A.

Stokes Pub. Co., New York. U. S. Bulletin No. 459, and U. S. Bulletin No. 679, House Flies. Insects and Disease, Doane. Henry Holt & Co. Our Household Insects, Butler. Longmans, Green Co. Household Insects and Methods of Control, Bulletin No. 3, Ithaca, N. Y. U. S. Bulletin No. 155, How Insects Affect Health. Fly Traps and Literature. International Harvester Co., Chicago. Winter War on Flies, Willard Price, Technical World, February, 1915. Our Insect Friends and Enemies, John Smith. J. B. Lippincott Pub. Co.

Fly Trap

Suggestions For Original Design

Glass Fruit Jar

WlTh Opening In LlD

Fly Trap Specifications

The Side Strips

You will probably have to rip your material from stock; select the best surface of your stock for a working face (Chapter II., Paragraph 2); plane one edge for a working edge (Chapter II., Paragraph 4). With the marking gauge, gauge the width of the strips on both surfaces of the stock (Chapter II., Paragraph 6). Rip just outside the line; plane to the gauge lines. Prepare all the side strips in like manner. Saw them the required length. Notice that on two sides of the fly trap, the side strips are narrower than on the other two sides. This is done so the four sides will be equal when assembled. Miter the lower end of each strip, as shown in the drawing.

The Side Cross Rails

Rip out and plane the side cross rails in the same manner in which you have made the side strips. Cut all these rails the required length, as shown in the drawing. They may be easily and accurately sawed in the square cut of a miter box.

Assembling The Body Of The Trap

Each side is merely a rectangular frame. Lay two side strips flat on your bench top with the two cross rails in such position as to form a frame; make the angles square and fasten with corrugated nails(Chapter II., Paragraph 23). Assemble all sides in like manner. Cut screen wire the proper size and cover the inside of each frame; fasten the screen wire in position with small tacks. Assemble the four frames box fashion; they should be joined with a plain butt joint (Chapter II., Paragraph 60) at each corner; fasten with brads (Chapter II., Paragraph 21).

The Lid

The lid is a square frame (with a cross bar in the middle for the handle) joined at the corners with plain butt joints (Chapter V., Paragraph 60), fastened with brads. Square the stock for the lid (Chapter II., Paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4); cut each piece the required dimensions; assemble as explained; cover with screen wire. Strips of wood 1/4″ thick are to be used as a trim on the lid, to cover the tacks and add to the appearance of the work; miter this trim at each corner (Chapter V., Paragraph 64); fasten it on with brads.

The Inside Wire Pyramid

In order to cut the screen wire for this piece you should make a pattern of paper; if you will draw fourtriangles (each of the size of one side, as shown in the drawing) adjoining each other, you will have a correct pattern. Allow about an inch to make the lap; bend into proper shape; with a piece of the wire weave the open corner securely together; place in position and fasten with tacks. These tacks may also be covered with a trim just as you did the lid.

The Handle

Bend the wire to form the handle; attach with two screw eyes. Fasten the lid in position with two small hinges and put on the fastening. Plane off uneven places if there are any. Stain some dark color (Chapter IV., Paragraph 54).

Optional and Home Projects Employing Similar Principles.

1. A very satisfactory and convenient fly trap may be made of any ordinary glass fruit jar, as shown in the Suggestions. The entire central portion of the lid is cut out. A slender cone is made of screen wire with a small opening at the point. This cone may be attached to the lid by having a number of small holes punched around the opening in the lid, through which a small wire can be so woven as to bind the cone securely. A thin piece of wood, with four tacks or small nails, so driven as to extend slightly above the surface, will make a satisfactory base. In a trap of this kind the flies may be easily killed by pouring in boiling water.

2. An all-metal fly trap can be made from the lid of an old paint bucket, a few scraps of heavy fence wire and a piece of screen wire. The screen wire is rolled into a cylinder just as large as the bucket lid, which is to form the top. The screen wire cylinder is woven to the rim of the lid through small holes, as indicated in the drawing. A hoop of fence wire of the same diameter as the lid is attached to the other end of the cylinder, to hold it in shape. The inside cone of screen wire is attached to a second hoop of the same size as the first. The cone is placed in position, and if properly made will fit so closely that it will not require fastening. Small pieces of wire may be attached to form legs about a half-inch long. A sheet of tin, or an old pie tin will answer for a base.

NEW NATURAL HISTORY SERIES ON RTE 1 AND CAPE CLEAR COURSES

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New Natural History series on RTE 1 and Cape Clear courses

Subtitle for your message

IWDG were once again delighted to be invited to contribute to a Crossing the Line natural history production and the “whale” show recorded off Dunmore East on Martin Colfer’s MV Rebecca C back in Jan 2012 will air on Sun 9th June on RTE Radio 1 at 7:00 pm.  A full schedule of this 10 part series is given below.  For those of you who have missed the first two shows, they are available at:

NATURE ON ONE

10 x 30min Natural History Radio Documentary Series

STARTS SUNDAY 5th MAY 2013 on Radio 1 at 7pm

Bringing the sounds of Ireland’s natural world to Radio 1 listeners

This ten-part radio documentary series sees Emmy award-winning wildlife cameraman and television presenter Colin Stafford Johnson turn his talents to radio. Colin travels across the country on the hunt for some of our most remarkable animals and wild places. Tune in and allow yourself to be transported to Skellig Michael, with its noisy storm petrels, manx shearwaters and puffins; or into the midst of a grey seal colony on the windswept Inishkea Islands; venture below ground and imagine yourself being surrounded by swarming bats; or experience the sounds recorded inside a starling roost under a Belfast bridge. Over the course of ten weeks, Colin will guide his audience on an intimate tour of Ireland’s natural world.

A Crossing the Line Production on behalf of RTÉ Radio One & BAI Sound & Vision

EPISODE 1 

A Night on the Skellig Rocks

In 600AD early Christian monks chose Skellig Michael, 11km off the Kerry coast, as a location for a monastery ‘on the edge of the known world’ which they believed would bring them closer to God. In this episode Colin Stafford Johnson spends a night on Skellig Michael, to record the wild sounds to be heard at this World Heritage Site – introducing the puffins, storm petrels and manx shearwaters who also choose to make their home on this rocky outcrop. In addition to meeting its wild inhabitants, Colin talks to OPW guides who spend the summer living on the island, and tourists who have made the day trip; as well as a local diver who describes the Skellig landscape below the surface.

EPISODE  2 

The Burren: a special place for bumblebees, plants and people

Colin Stafford Johnson visits Slieve Carron Nature Reserve in the Burren, Co. Clare. The Burren is unique and is known throughout the world for its vast limestone pavements, but far from being a barren landscape, as Dr Brendan Dunford explains, the Burren holds a diverse flora, a mix of Mediterranean and alpine plants found nowhere else in Ireland. It is also home to some of Ireland’s rarest bumblebees. When you hear Ecologist Dr Jane Stout’s take on bumblebees you will never see a passing bee the same way again, but as furry, endearing creatures!

Colin learns about the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme and meets local farmer Pat Nagle. We also meet 13-year-old Jack McGann, graduate of Ecobeo, a course for young people on the natural, cultural and archaeological heritage value of this landscape.

EPISODE 3

The Seal Colony of the Inishkeas

Colin Stafford Johnson joins grey seal expert Dr Oliver O’Cadhla on a visit to South Inishkea, off the Mullet Peninsula, home to one of Ireland’s largest grey seal breeding colonies. Having spent years researching the seals at this colony, Oliver is passionate about this place and these animals and explains their struggle to survive in this harsh environment. It’s mid-October and very cold. There are lots of pups on the beach, but they won’t all make it. The mothers are busy feeding their young, while the large dominant male seals protect their harem. On this remote wild island, we get a peek into the secret lives of the grey seals that are born there.

EPISODE 4 

Species in Danger

In this episode of ‘Nature on One’, Colin Stafford Johnson seeks out one of our most endangered species, the curlew. Searching across bog in Co. Mayo, Colin sets out to record the once familiar call of this iconic bird of Irish peatlands and Ireland’s largest wader. Anita Donaghy, from Birdwatch Ireland, explains why the curlew is in decline and their ‘Cry of the Curlew’ campaign. [see http://www.birdwatchireland.ie/Ourwork/CryoftheCurlewAppeal/tabid/1106/Default.aspx]

Colin also wants to find out how some of our smaller, lesser known species – our snails and slugs – are doing. With a third of Irish mollusc species facing extinction, Colin is delighted to hear some good news for one species in Co. Longford as he meets up with Evelyn Moorkens to investigate a recently discovered site for one of our most rare animals, Desmoulins Whorl Snail, Vertigo moulinsiana.

EPISODE 5 

Rise of the Pine Marten

Historically widespread throughout the country, the pine marten suffered serious population decline due to habitat destruction, hunting for the fur trade; accidental poisoning and persecution by game-keepers so that, by the 1950s, it had become one of our rarest animals. But now the pine marten is on the rise once again and sightings are increasing across the midlands. Colin visits a small school in Co. Leitrim, in which a female pine marten chose to set up home and the pupils explain how they felt about this new addition to their school. Colin also explores the impact of this spread of the pine marten on other animals, meeting up with Emma Sheehy from NUI Galway in an Offaly woodland, where she is studying the interesting relationship between the pine marten, the red squirrel and the introduced grey squirrel.

EPISODE 6   Sunday 9th May, 7:00 pm

Whaling off Hook Head

Colin Stafford Johnson heads offshore with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, from Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, to try to find the second largest animal on earth, the fin whale. No less than 24 species of whales and dolphins have been recorded in Irish waters, ranging in size from the harbour porpoise to the blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived. Will they manage to track down what is known as the greyhound of whale species, the fin whale?

EPISODE 7 

The Secret Life of Irish Caves – from swarming bats to ancient bones

Late one Autumn night, Colin Stafford Johnson heads underground to explore what wildlife might be found in Irish caves. Colin meets bat specialist Conor Kelleher in Dunmore Cave, Co. Kilkenny, where they hope to witness the autumnal swarming of Natterer’s bats. This phenomenon of Autumnal swarming in caves was only discovered in Ireland last year, and it is still not known why the bats do it – using up valuable fat reserves just as their winter hibernation approaches.

In addition to this living wildlife spectacle, caves are also important repositories for our extinct fauna. To find out why this is and what has been found in Irish caves, Colin heads to the Natural History Museum to meet Nigel Monaghan, Curator, and to examine some of the ancient remains found in Irish caves.

EPISODE 8

The Wild Side of Belfast

We tend to think of wildlife as living in pristine countryside, in woodland, rivers and bogs, but this week Colin Stafford Johnson heads to the bustling city of Belfast to find out what wild stories it might have to offer. The River Lagan flows right through the centre of the city. Ronald Surgenor, is a Wier operative, Department of Culture, Arts, and Leisure, and RSPB volunteer, who knows the river intimately and Ronald kindly takes Colin out in his rib, to visit Albert Bridge, the site of an amazing wildlife display, a starling murmuration, and they venture right under the bridge for a close encounter with the birds as they roost for the night.

Colin also meets Lucille Coates and some children from ‘Watch this Space’, a Belfast City Council monthly nature club; as well as a team of volunteers who are hedgelaying, with the Laganscape Project, which works to manage Lagan Valley Park, with involvement from local communities, school groups, businesses and volunteers.

EPISODE 9       

Birdsong – why do birds sing and what does it mean to us humans?

Colin Stafford Johnson explores that wildlife sound we often take for granted – birdsong. At the Devil’s Glen in Co. Wicklow, he meets up with Animal Behaviour expert and Head of the Zoology Department in Trinity College Dublin, Dr Nicola Marples, to ask her why birds sing, and how they learn their tunes. Colin also travels west to meet with Gordon Darcy, Natural History author, artist and environmental educator, to discuss what birdsong might mean for human beings and how it may enrich our lives, whether or not we recognise it.

EPISODE 10 

‘An Amphibian Love Story’ – Singing frogs and Nattering Toads

How does one attract the opposite sex? It could be good looks, physical fitness, a nice home, or even how you smell! But what about how you sound? In some animals it’s all in the voice. Toads and frogs have developed impressive calls to attract a mate. In this episode, Colin Stafford Johnson looks at two of Ireland’s amphibians, the common frog and the Natterjack Toad, and sets out to record their unique calls. In February he explored a mass frog spawning site at Glendalough in Co. Wicklow with Rob Gandola, from the Irish Herpetological Society; and in April, Ferdia Marnell, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and local conservation ranger Pascal Dower visit a Natterjack Toad breeding pond at Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry.

IWDG Cape Clear Whale-Watching courses

There are still some places left on the 1st of our summer weekend whale-watching courses May 31- June 2nd on Cape Clear, Co. Cork. These courses are available for members at a discounted rate of €70.  Over the weekend participants will learn both practical field-skills during land and boat based watches, as well as attend a series of talks covering cetacean ecology/biology, species identification and whale watching.  Given reasonable weather conditions these weekends generally provide sightings of porpoises, common dolphins and minke whales and at this time of year, we can’t rule out basking sharks, although admitedly this has been a very poor year to date for this species, due to the lower than normal water temperatures.

Enquiries to email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie or Ph. 353 (0)86 3850568

Whale Watch Ireland 2013, Sunday 18th August 2013, 2:00-5:00 pm

We are once again delighted to announce that Inis, Cologne www.perfume.ie are providing funding support for All-Ireland whale watch day on Sunday 18th August. As always this event requires watch leaders willing to lead and promote your local watch.  If you have land- based whale watching experience, are good with crowds and have some energy and time to spare, we’d appreciate your contacting us, so we can start to compile a list of sites that we can cover on this event, which is one of the largest events on the Irish wildlife calender.  Please contact event organiser on email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie or Ph. 086-3850568

In the Garden

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Composting.

All About Composting

Compost is a rich and crumbly blend of partially decomposed organic material that does wonderful things for your garden.

Building and maintaining a compost pile is the surest, easiest way to become a better gardener. Not only will you be producing the best possible food for your garden, but by watching leaves, eggshells, orange rinds, and grass clippings become transformed into rich compost filled with earthworms and other soil creatures, you’ll be learning what healthy soil is all about.

Compost improves soil structure. Most gardeners don’t start with great soil. Whether yours is hard and compacted, sandy, stony, heavy, or wet, adding compost will improve its texture, water-holding capacity, and fertility. Your soil will gradually become fluffy and brown—the ideal home for healthy plants.

Compost provides a balanced source of plant nutrients. Even if you are lucky enough to have great soil, you can’t expect that soil to remain rich and productive without replenishing the nutrients that are consumed each growing season. No commercial fertilizer, even one that is totally organic, provides the full spectrum of nutrients that you get with compost. The nutrients are available gradually, as your plants need them, over a period of months or years. The microorganisms in the compost will also help your plants absorb nutrients from fertilizers more efficiently.

Compost stimulates beneficial organisms. Compost is teeming with all kinds of microorganisms and soil fauna that help convert soil nutrients into a form that can be readily absorbed by your plants. The microorganisms, enzymes, vitamins and natural antibiotics that are present in compost actually help prevent many soil pathogens from harming your plants. Earthworms, millipedes, and other macro-organisms tunnel through your soil, opening up passageways for air and water to reach your plants’ roots.

Compost is garden insurance. Even very experienced gardeners often have soil that is less than perfect. Adding compost moderates pH and fertility problems, so you can concentrate on the pleasures of gardening, not the science of your soil’s chemical composition. Unlike organic or inorganic fertilizers, which need to be applied at the right time and in the right amount, compost can be applied at any time and in any amount. You can’t really over-apply it. Plants use exactly what they need, when they need it.

Can a gardener ever have enough compost? It’s doubtful. Compost is the perfect thing to spread around when you are creating a new garden, seeding a new lawn area, or planting a new tree. Compost can be sprinkled around plants during the growing season or used as a mulch in your perennial gardens. You can add compost to your flower boxes and deck planters. You can also use it to enrich the potting soil for your indoor plants.

How Compost Happens

Organic matter is transformed into compost through the work of microorganisms, soil fauna, enzymes and fungi. When making compost, your job is to provide the best possible environment for these beneficial organisms to do their work. If you do so, the decomposition process works very rapidly—sometimes in as little as two weeks. If you don’t provide the optimum environment, decomposition will still happen, but it may take from several months to several years. The trick to making an abundance of compost in a short time is to balance the following four things:

Carbon. Carbon-rich materials are the energy food for microorganisms. You can identify high-carbon plant materials because they are dry, tough, or fibrous, and tan or brown in color. Examples are dry leaves, straw, rotted hay, sawdust, shredded paper, and cornstalks.

Nitrogen. High-nitrogen materials provide the protein-rich components that microorganisms require to grow and multiply. Freshly pulled weeds, fresh grass clippings, over-ripe fruits and vegetables, kitchen scraps and other moist green matter are the sorts of nitrogen-rich materials you’ll probably have on hand. Other high-protein organic matter includes kelp meal, seaweed, manure and animal by-products like blood or bone meal.

Water. Moisture is very important for the composting process. But too much moisture will drown the microorganisms, and too little will dehydrate them. A general rule of thumb is to keep the material in your compost pile as moist as a well-wrung sponge. If you need to add water (unchlorinated is best), insert your garden hose into the middle of the pile in several places, or sprinkle the pile with water next time you turn it. Using an enclosed container or covering your pile with a tarp will make it easier to maintain the right moisture level.

Oxygen. To do their work most efficiently, microorganisms require a lot of oxygen. When your pile is first assembled, there will probably be plenty of air between the layers of materials. But as the microorganisms begin to work, they will start consuming oxygen. Unless you turn or in some way aerate your compost pile, they will run out of oxygen and become sluggish.

Do I Need a Recipe?

Sample Compost Recipes

Recipe 1

  • 1 part fresh grass clippings
  • 1 part dry leaves
  • 1 part good garden soil

Spread the ingredients in 3-inch-deep layers to a height of 3 to 4 feet.

Recipe 2

  • 2 parts fresh grass clippings
  • 2 parts straw or spoiled hay
  • 1 part good garden soil

Spread ingredients in 4-inch layers, adding water if needed.

Recipe 3

  • 2 parts dry leaves
  • 1 part fresh grass clippings
  • 1 part food scraps

Spread ingredients in 4-inch layers, adding water if needed.

Microorganisms and other soil fauna work most efficiently when the ratio of carbon-rich to nitrogen-rich materials in your compost pile is approximately 25:1 (brown to green) but most people find three parts brown and one part green works quite well. In practical terms, if you want to have an active compost pile, you should include lots of high-carbon “brown” materials (such as straw, wood chips, or dry leaves) and a lesser amount of high-nitrogen “green” materials (such as grass clippings, freshly pulled weeds, or kitchen scraps).

If you have an excess of carbon-rich materials and not enough nitrogen-rich materials, your pile may take years to decompose (there is not enough protein for those microbes!). If your pile has too much nitrogen and not enough carbon, your pile will also decompose very slowly (not enough for the microbes to eat!), and it will probably be soggy and smelly along the way.

But don’t worry about determining the exact carbon content of a material or achieving a precise 25:1 ratio. Composting doesn’t need to be a competitive, goal-oriented task. All organic matter breaks down eventually, no matter what you do. If you simply use about 3 times as much “brown” materials as “green” materials, you’ll be off to a great start. Take a look at the sample recipes and check the chart of common compost materials. With experience, you’ll get a sense for what works best.

Compost Gets Hot

Common Compost Ingredients

Brown

High-carbon materials

  • corncobs and stalks
  • paper
  • pine needles
  • sawdust or wood shavings
  • straw
  • vegetable stalks
  • dry leaves

Green

High-nitrogen materials

  • coffee grounds
  • eggshells
  • fruit wastes
  • grass clippings
  • feathers or hair
  • fresh leaves
  • seaweed
  • kitchen scraps
  • fresh weeds
  • rotted manure
  • alfalfa meal

Ingredients to Spice Up Your Compost Pile

The following materials can be sprinkled onto your compost pile as you build each layer. They will add important nutrients and will help speed up the composting process:

  • Super Hot Compost Starter, applied at the rate on the package.
  • Garden soil or finished compost (high in microorganisms), 1/2 shovelful on each layer
  • Bone meal, blood meal, or alfalfa meal (high in nitrogen), 1/2 shovelful on each layer
  • Fish waste or manure (high in nitrogen), a shovelful on each layer
  • Wood stove or fireplace ashes (high in potash and carbon), a shovelful on each layer
  • Crushed rock dust (rich in minerals/feeds microbes), a shovelful on each layer

Heat is a by-product of intense microbial activity. It indicates that the microorganisms are munching on organic matter and converting it into finished compost. The temperature of your compost pile does not in itself affect the speed or efficiency of the decomposition process. But temperature does determine what types of microbes are active.

There are primarily three types of microbes that work to digest the materials in a compost pile. They each work best in a particular temperature range:

The psychrophiles work in cool temperatures—even as low as 28 degrees F. As they begin to digest some of the carbon-rich materials, they give off heat, which causes the temperature in the pile to rise. When the pile warms to 60 to 70 degrees F, mesophilic bacteria take over. They are responsible for the majority of the decomposition work. If the mesophiles have enough carbon, nitrogen, air, and water, they work so hard that they raise the temperature in the pile to about 100 degrees F. At this point, thermophilic bacteria kick in. It is these bacteria that can raise the temperature high enough to sterilize the compost and kill disease-causing organisms and weed seeds. Three to five days of 155 degrees F. is enough for the thermophiles to do their best work.

Getting your compost pile “hot” (140 to 160 degrees F.) is not critical, but it does mean that your compost will be finished and usable within a month or so. These high temperatures also kill most weed seeds, as well as harmful pathogens that can cause disease problems. Most people don’t bother charting the temperature curve in their compost pile. They just try to get a good ratio of carbon to nitrogen, keep the pile moist and well aerated, and wait until everything looks pretty well broken down.

Commercial activators can help raise the temperature in your compost pile by providing a concentrated dose of microorganisms and protein. Other effective activators that can help to get your pile cooking include humus-rich soil, rotted manure, finished compost, dried blood, and alfalfa meal.

To Turn or Not to Turn

Unless speed is a priority, frequent turning is not necessary. Many people never turn their compost piles. The purpose of turning is to increase oxygen flow for the microorganisms, and to blend undecomposed materials into the center of the pile. If you are managing a hot pile, you’ll probably want to turn your compost every 3 to 5 days, or when the interior temperature dips below about 110 degrees F. Monitor the temperature with a compost thermometer; use garden shovel, fork or a compost aerator to help turn the pile.

After turning, the pile should heat up again, as long as there is still undecomposed material to be broken down. When the temperature stays pretty constant no matter how much you turn the pile, your compost is probably ready. Though turning can speed the composting process, it also releases heat into the air, so you should turn your pile less frequently in cold weather.

There are several ways to help keep your pile well-aerated, without the hassle of turning:

  • Build your pile on a raised wood platform or on a pile of branches.
  • Make sure there are air vents in the sides of your compost bin.
  • Put one or two perforated 4″ plastic pipes in the center of your pile.

Worm Composting

Employing worms to make compost is called vermiculture. Manure worms, red worms, and branding worms (the small ones usually sold by commercial breeders) are dynamos when it comes to decomposing organic matter—especially kitchen scraps. The problem is that these worms cannot tolerate high temperatures. Add a handful of them to an active compost pile and they’ll be dead in an hour. Field worms and night crawlers (common garden worms with one big band) are killed at even lower temperatures.

To maintain a separate worm bin for composting food scraps, you need a watertight container that can be kept somewhere that the temperature will remain between 50 and 80 degrees F. all year-round. Ready-made worm bins are available, but you can also make your own. Red worms are available by mail.

Types of Composters

Plastic Stationary Bins. These bins are for continuous rather than batch composting. Most units feature air vents along the sides and are made from recycled plastics, such as our Pyramid Composter. Look for a lid that fits securely, and doors to access finished compost. Size should be approximately 3 feet square.

Tumbling or Rotating Bins. These composters, such as our Dual-Batch Compost Tumbler, are for making batches of compost all at one time. You accumulate organic materials until you have enough to fill the bin, then load it up and rotate it every day or two. If materials are shredded before going into the bin, and you have plenty of nitrogen, you can have finished compost in five weeks or less.

Wire Bin. Use an 11-foot length of 2-inch x 4-inch x 36-inch welded, medium-gauge fence wire from your local hardware or building supply store. Tie the ends together to form your hoop. A bin this size holds just over one cubic yard of material. Snow fencing can be used in a similar fashion. Another option is our 3-Bin Wire Composter, which holds 48 cubic feet.
Trash Can Bin. To convert a plastic trash can into a composter, cut off the bottom with a saw. Drill about 24 quarter-inch holes in the sides of the can for good aeration. Bury the bottom of the can from several inches to a foot or more below the soil surface and press the loosened soil around the sides to secure it. Partially burying the composter will make it easier for microorganisms to enter the pile.
Block or Brick or Stone Bin. Lay the blocks, with or without mortar, leaving spaces between each block to permit aeration. Form three sides of a 3-to 4-foot square, roughly 3 to 4 feet high.
Wood Pallet Bin. Discarded wooden pallets from factories or stores can be stood upright to form a bin. Attach the corners with rope, wire, or chain. A fourth pallet can be used as a floor to increase air flow. A used carpet or tarp can be placed over the top of the pile to reduce moisture loss or keep out rain or snow.
Two- or Three-Bay Wood Bin. Having several bins allows you to use one section for storing materials, one for active composting, and one for curing or storing finished compost. Each bin should be approximately 3 x 3 x 3 feet. Be sure to allow air spaces between the sidewall slats, and make the front walls removable (lift out slats) for easy access. Lift-up lids are nice.

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12 EASY Steps to Building a Bathtub Worm Farm! From fellow WordPress-er; http://permaverde.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/composting-with-worms/ Posted by PermaVerde in Permaculture 16th Sept 2011

With a little bit of added effort you can turn your daily food scraps into nutrients for your garden. One great way to do this is by composting with worms, also known as vermi-composting. Most people assume worms are dirty and smell gross, which is far from the truth. Maintaining a healthy worm bin is not challenging, does not smell bad, and will not invite large bugs such as cockroaches.

Healthy and happy worms eat at least half of their body weight every single day. That means if you are farming two pounds of worms, they can easily consume one pound of dinner scraps a day! After just 3-4 months you will have a whole container full of vermiculite (worm manure) and your worm population will double. Vermi-composting is really simple and everyone can do it; even if you live on the 7th floor without a balcony.

Preparation: 24 hours for sealants to dry properly
Building: 2 hours
Cost: $44.99
Skill Level: Moderately Easy

Tools you will need:

Hammer

Saw

I am a hand tool sort of guy. There is nothing like putting your own energy into any job that you need to get done. If you would prefer to use a skill saw, go right ahead!

PVC Cable Saw

The cable saw uses friction to cut through the the PVC like butter. I prefer the cable saw, but you can use the PVC pipe cutter instead.

Flat bar (optional)

A flat bar can make the job really easy when trying to remove nails from salvaged wood.

Materials you will need:

Salvaged Bath Tub $25.00 USD

I called a couple bath companies and found a “bath tub skirt” (a mold to go over an old bath tub) that a customer decided they didn’t want after it was custom made for their particular tub. Instead of this bath tub being thrown out, I was able to utilize it for a cozy worm home.

Recycled 2×4’s for building frame FREE: Legs Four 32″ Length: Two 64in Width Two-33in.Cross Bars: 2- 33in.

While I was driving I found these on the side of the road waiting to be picked up by county municipalities. Instead of allowing a great resource go to the dump and spending money I decided (after a little nail removal with a flat bar) these would work perfect. NOTE: These measurements were for my bath tub, make sure to measure to fit your bath tub.

2in shower drain $2.00 USD.

A shower drain is only needed if your bath tub doesn’t already have a shower drain installed. Since I used a bath tub skirt I had to drill a 2inch hole into the bath tub in order to fit this drain.

Underwater sealant $8.63 USD

Used for sealing the shower drain to the bath tub. Allow 24 hours for a proper seal.

Note: This exact product may not be necessary. This sealant is used specifically for sealing anything that will stay underwater, which my shower drain will be since i am using a valve. This product is not made up of friendly ingredients and can only be used up to 48 hours after you open it. I would recommend doing some research to find a better, less toxic, sealant. I had my worms before my bin was built, so I  had to settle for what ever my local store had.

Drain pipe materials $5.63 USD : 1in. Ball valve $5.15USD, 2in. to 1in. pvc reducer $.48 USD, 1in pvc pipe FREE

These drain pipe materials will help you to collect the leachate (great plant food that is rich in microorganisms, and can be added to enhance a compost tea) and to make sure your worms do not drown inside the bin.

PVC primer and cement.

In order to connect the drain pipe materials together, you need to create a weld by simply applying the PVC primer and cement.  I am not including the $8.00 USD cost because these were left over from a different job. Make sure to allow 2 hours for a properly sealed weld.

Moist Cardboard

The worms will need a nice place to rest and lay their eggs. Moist corrugated cardboard works perfect for this, as they love wiggling their way through the “veins” of the cardboard.

Peat moss

Worms love peat moss, which is why I used this old bag of peat moss and added compost for my worm’s bedding material. You can also use cut wheatgrass trays as that is mostly made up of peat moss.

Compost

The compost was mixed with peat moss for a high nutritious worm bedding.

Drainage rock

The drainage rock will allow an even drain throughout the worm bin. I was able to gather some rocks from an old drain field that is not in use anymore. You could use planks of wood (see suggestion below) if you don’t have access to the drain rocks.

3inch Nails $3.25

I recommend to use 3inch nails if you choose to not use any wood smaller than a 2×4. (ie: If you are using 1×4′s, 1×6′s or any other 1 “by”  you are going to want to use a 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 inch nail)

Tarp for a cover

A tarp can work well protecting worms from the sunlight and heavy rains storms.

Construction

Shower drain installed in bath tub

1.Installing the shower drain:

  •  Clean all the surfaces that the sealant will be applied to as instructed by the product. (I disregarded it and just used water. Oops! ;) )
  • Apply the sealant as recommended.
  • Insert shower drain into bath tub hole.
  • Clean up excess sealant.
  • Allow to dry/cure according to product directions. (My underwater sealant took 24 hours to cure)

Priming and gluing drain materials

Step 2: Connect drain parts together

  • Cut your PVC pipe into one 6inch and one 3inch piece.
  • Prime all ends that you are connecting with the PVC primer.
  • Glue  your 6inch PVC pipe to the pipe reducer (if you needed to use a reducer).
  • Glue the other end of your 6inch PVC pipe into the ball valve.
  • Glue the 3inch piece into the other end of the  ball valve.
  • Make sure to wait two hours for a proper weld before applying liquid.

Drain materials installed to bath tub.

Drain materials installed on bath tub

Step 3: Connect drain materials to bath tub

  • You will connect your drain materials to the shower drain that is already connected to your bath tub.
  • Prime the shower drain and the other end of the reducer (if reducer is not used, prime the 6inch pipe).
  • Glue shower drain to the reducer (if reducer not used; glue shower drain to the 6inch pipe).
  • Do not apply running water for two hours.

Building the frame

Step 4: Build the frame

  • Measure the bathtub’s long and short sections (my long section was 64inch and short section was 33 inch).
  • Cut four 2×4′s the same size as the short section (two for the short section, two for cross bars).
  • Subtract 3 inches from the long section, and cut two 2×4′s the new size. (61 inches for me. Once we nail the short section onto the long section, the length will be the original size. A 2×4′s actual size is 1.5″ x 3.5″).
  • Cut four legs to 32 inches.
  • Nail or screw the short section and long section together.
  • Nail or screw the legs to the inside of the frame. Make sure to nail or screw legs to the short section and long section for proper strength.
  • Nail or screw the cross bars for support 10 inches from the bottom of the legs.

Finished frame

Step 5: Flip frame over and bring it to its final resting ground.
Fully constructed and ready to be filled.
Step 6: Insert bath tub into frame.

2 inch layer of drain rocks placed in the bottom of the bath tub

Step 7: Add a 2 inch layer of drain rocks to the bottom of your bath tub. (You can also choose to use multiple planks of wood that run the width/short section)

Cardboard bedding layer

Step 8: Rip up moist cardboard and use as the bottom bedding layer where the worms will sleep and lay their eggs.

Peat moss and compost bedding

Step 9: Bedding
  • Make a mixture of peat moss and compost approximately 6-8inches deep. (You can use soil from wheat grass trays too).
  • Water down this mixture so that it is like a moist cake. Too much water and the worms will not have enough oxygen and too little water the worms will dry up.

Red wigglers

Step 10: Welcome the worms into their new home.

  • A good housing ratio is: per 1lb of pure worms, you should have 1ft squared of space.
  • Worms will double every three to four months, so make sure to plan for this. Some ideas are to set up another bin, add them to your garden, give them away or sell them to friends, neighbors, and clients!

Worm Food

Step 11: Feed your worms!

  • Worms love horse manure, fruits, and vegetables. You can also feed them dinner scraps such as pastas, cooked roots, or breads. Make sure you do not use animal products as they will rot and attack predators.
  • Do not feed your worms hot peppers, onions, oranges, meats. One rule of thumb is if it can hurt your eyes, then it can definitely hurt the worms.
  • Important tip: Keep the food only in the center of the bed and leave the sides food free. Worms are really sensitive to heat, if your worm food starts composting and heating up to high temperatures the worms could be killed. By leaving an area empty of food, such as the sides, the worms can escape and they will be happy and safe.
  • Cover the food with burlap sacks, newspaper, or even cardboard so there aren’t a ton of flies and other insects being attracted to it.

Finished worm farm! (with a temporary cover)

Step 12: Goodnight worms!
  • Worms do not like light, so make sure you provide a cover for them so they can safely come up to the surface.
  • Adding a pitch to the cover will promote air flow and water runoff during a rain storm so the worms will not end up drowning.

News from the animal world.

Posted on

There is a lot of discussion about wind-mills and their perceived threat to birds – and of great concern – bats.

Here are a few discussion papers one might like to peruse.

http://www.alternativeenergyprimer.com/Do-Wind-Turbines-Kill-Birds.html

Do Wind Turbines Kill Birds?

Every time the subject of wind farms comes up, so does the question “Do wind turbines kill birds?”

Even though wind turbines provide clean energy, some environmentalists object to them on the claim that they kill an extreme number of birds, especially raptors. It’s been a real hot button issue in some areas. The situation isn’t helped any by the fact that some not-in-my-backyard folks use a concern for birds to justify their objection to wind farms.

So the question is: do wind turbines kill birds? If so, how serious a problem is it?

I hope to describe the situation and put it into some perspective on this page.

The History of Wind Farms and Bird Kill – the Altmont Pass Problem.

——————————————————————————

Bats – considering bats in Ireland eat approx 3,500 insects per evening we can scarse do without them.

http://www.fort.usgs.gov/batswindmills/

Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences

Directly from FORT Science Centre  FORT Science Home
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Wind energy facility in Colorado. Photo: Paul Cryan/USGSIn the push to develop new forms of sustainable energy, the wind power industry is at the forefront. Turbines that harness the power of wind already serve as effective power sources across the globe, and this proven effectiveness has led to vast increases in the number of turbines currently under construction. The general impact of wind turbines on the environment is likely far less than that of conventional power sources. However, recent evidence shows that certain species of bats are particularly susceptible to mortality from wind turbines. Bats are beneficial consumers of harmful insect pests, and migratory species of bats cross international and interstate boundaries.

Dead bats are turning up beneath wind turbines all over the world. Bat fatalities have now been documented at nearly every wind facility in North America where adequate surveys for bats have been conducted, and several of these sites are estimated to cause the deaths of thousands of bats per year. This unanticipated and unprecedented problem for bats has moved to the forefront of conservation and management efforts directed toward this poorly understood group of mammals. The mystery of why bats die at turbine sites remains unsolved. Is it a simple case of flying in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are bats attracted to the spinning turbine blades? Why are so many bats colliding with turbines compared to their infrequent crashes with other tall, human-made structures?

One research tool that is particularly well-suited to studying the origins of bats killed at wind turbines is stable isotope analysis. USGS scientists recently pioneered the application of stable hydrogen isotope analysis to the study of migration in terrestrial mammals and proved the efficacy of the technique for studying the continental movements of bats. Coincidentally, this groundbreaking research focused on the very same species of bat (the hoary bat, Lasiurus cinereus) that is killed most frequently at wind turbine sites across North America. Efforts are now underway at USGS to expand the existing framework of stable isotope data on migratory tree bats and apply this technique toward uncovering some of the mystery surrounding bat fatalities at wind turbines.

Continuing on this prior trajectory, USGS scientists at the Fort Collins Science Center developed an active research program to investigate the causes and consequences of bat fatalities at wind turbines. Our specific focus is on (1) determining the geographic origins of killed bats and (2) assessing the potential roles of mating and feeding behaviors in the susceptibility of tree bats to deadly encounters with wind turbines. With expertise and experience studying bat migration and behavior, combined with an existing infrastructure that promotes collaboration between disciplines, the USGS is well-equipped to effectively address the problem of bat mortality at wind power facilities. Only through further research will we make progress toward minimizing the impact of this new form of sustainable energy on our Nation’s wildlife.

To learn more about this work or opportunities to collaborate, contact

Paul Cryan
USGS Fort Collins Science Center
2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. C
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118
Tel. 970.226.9389
Fax 970.226.9230
Email cryanp@usgs.gov

This is a very short cut from a longer paper follow link above to read more and find more links .

U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/batswindmills/Default.asp
Page Contact Information: AskFORT@usgs.gov