Imagine going to a fair where all of your major life topics are represented! The Green Party, women’s issues, solar and wind power, electric cars, low impact forestry, gardening, timber framing, farmers markets and food vendors selling organic, fresh and local, and more. Much, much more. And with lectures going on every hour making it hard to decide which ones to go to.
This year we picked four lectures to attend. The first was about using leaves to provide a resource of nutrients for the garden, followed by one on harvesting edible wild mushrooms, then an intro to beekeeping, and finally how to choose a fleece.
The first of these was both interesting and baffling. The lecturer had experimented with using leaves that he collects in large quantity, runs through a chipper and then piles in a covered bin to use as a garden fertilizer. He had also tried using them for nutrients in a pasture. He placed small piles of leaves throughout the pasture and found that this tended to boost the growth of surrounding plants, altho the leaves mulched out plants underneath. He is not using his pasture except to collect cut grass out of it to make vegan compost. Marsha kept wondering whether it would be easier to put a grass eating animal on the pasture to keep the grass trimmed and then use the manure for fertilizer.
The mushroom speaker talked about several edible mushrooms commonly found in Maine and showed examples. Now we have a better idea of what to look for in our woods where we see a great many types. He stressed the importance of taking a knowledgeable person along or to use a good reference book.
The beekeeper gave us a good overview of raising bees, as much info as could be covered in an hour. Theres more to learn! We were interested in his take on beehive collapse disorder. He attributes this to monoculture, with the explanation that bees require enzymes from a number of plants, and gathering nectar from only one plant provides incomplete nutrition for them. It was an excellent talk and he will be a valuable resource when we are ready to set up a hive.
Marsha was very interested in learning about some of the common Maine sheep breeds. This included sticking our hands into bags of luxurious fibers, and comparing them for cleanliness, openness, the knitting value of sunburnt tips, excess lanolin, staple length, dual fibers, and what might be a good price. Marsha could not get out of there without two bags of Romney fleece in tow. While Marsha was exploring fleece, Gil dropped in on a lecture given by the Maine Farmland Trust about protecting farmland through easements. This is a topic that we have been researching. He also stopped into the Social & Political Action tent to visit the Green Party table and sign a petition for a cause we support.
Between lectures we caught part of a Border Collie demo in which the collies herded sheep, goats, and ducks. The dogs were very impressive. Went through some crafts booths, wandered amongst apple trees full of apples, studied how well some living fences were growing, sampled Maine cheeses, looked at a rock garden full of dye plants and some other experimental gardens, lunched on organic lamb sausage with salsa topping, yum. It was a wonderful time and we’re already looking forward to next year’s fair. -jmm and G.H.