Monthly Archives: October 2019

Firmly on the side of planet earth 🌎

It will be no surprise to our Ulula friends that Ulula is firmly on the side of planet Earth!

For us, our planet is our most precious resource, and to be looked after well our soil needs to be nurtured not poisoned with chemicals – and we have been lucky enough as a family to have always understood this.

We farm biodynamically on Rush Farm where Ulula is based, and we choose brands like Holle and MOGLi because of their enduring commitment to the environment. In recently published trial results, fewer harmful greenhouse gas emmissions were discovered from biodynamic agriculture – 44% compared to 100% with the conventional system!

While it may be true to say that by our very existence we humans are hurting nature and the Earth, we can tread softly, and even where our ‘bit to help’ seems only a little bit, it is still important to strive – and to feel that in our striving we are not alone.

The third ‘State of Nature’ report, released today, is extremely upsetting reading – for us all – both adults and children.

One of the concepts mentioned is called ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ – i.e. each generation accepts the situation in which they live as normal. Once a field has been built on, we forget how it used to look as a field rather than houses. We’ve forgotten or not experienced how our countryside ‘should’ be & tend to think that what we have now is ‘normal’.

Is it time to ask ourselves as adults how our memories of the countryside differ to those of our experiences now? Where is the bird song when we walk through the park? Do you remember when journeys in the car used to be accompanied by the thuds of insects crashing into the windscreen? The age old joke always told – ”what’s the last thing that goes through a bug’s mind when it hits the windscreen?”…. Bad jokes aside, there are far fewer bugs to hit our windscreens nowadays, and as so eloquently put on the Channel4 News last night – “If you pour poison onto the land for 70 years, you’re going to kill everything!”

Our children are aware, children across the world are becoming more aware – they want to make positive changes, and we adults have to be able to hear them and help them to act not just think – by changing our views and the ways we live in our precious world.

Greta Thunberg is an inspiration to our children, and to us as grown-ups too. We used to talk about these issues between ourselves, very rarely finding others who would want to talk on these subjects with us, but thanks to Greta’s courage in the face of her very real fears, this is now an open conversation between family, friends and strangers too.

On the 20th September 2019 there was a Global Climate Strike. Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement coalesced on this day to lead a climate crisis protest. Millions of people marched for urgent action on climate breakdown. There have been many marches before and since – the “Fridays for Future” movement continues to ensure that there is a place and a time for children to take a stand, to not be immobilised by their fears for the future, but to collect their courage and act.

On the 20th, our children’s school agreed to go out on the march together – not just the older students who have used the “Fridays for Future” strikes to demonstrate their positions. This time all students and all teachers took direct action about something that has meaning to them – and discovered through the day a shared intent to do something.

Ulula is a family shop, run by a family, for families. But, as so often in life, we talk from the perspective of the adult, and we talk to other adults. Of course, we ‘should’ because we are adults, and as parents we make the decisions of what to buy and where from. But… maybe it is time to hear from the children:

Our School’s Global Warming Strike

© Theo Parsons

On 20th September 2019, our school got together to hold a global warming strike in the nearby Mary Stephen’s Park. Other protests also happened on the global warming day. In the afternoon the whole school got together to march down clutching a placard each. When we arrived we sang to Mary Stephen’s Park. Several watchers-by filmed us! After that we scanned the area for litter. Bin bags were filled, and the park got cleaner! We approached the grounds intending to save the planet. Remember, one bottle top could take a turtle’s or any other animal’s life! Once we had spread out across the park, collecting plastic sweet wrappers, yoghurt pots, bottle lids and many other planet ruining items, we returned to the bandstand where we marched round it shouting

‘what do we want?’

‘save our planet!’

‘when do we want it?’

‘NOW!’

We chanted this back to the school hoping the whole town would hear us. My friends are also very passionate to pick up litter and help where we live make a change. Although some people may think we are only kids and won’t make a difference, I saw people videoing us. Just think, that video could get shown to a friend and then more friends. It also might make it onto facebook where lots of people would see it and also make a change.

It felt good to finally get out there and make a dent!

Theo Parsons, Aged 12

; ; ; ; ;

Bees make more than honey; what we can do to protect bees & other pollinators…

biodynamic-bees

Bees make more than honey – they are key to food production because they pollinate crops. Honeybees, bumblebees, wild bees and insects like butterflies, wasps, and hoverflies are responsible for pollinating at least 35% of the crops we eat, including our favourite fruit and vegetables like apples, pears, onions and carrots, as well as enabling up to 90% of wild plants to thrive. 80% of European wildflowers require insect pollination. Many of them such as foxglove, clovers and vetches rely on bees.

But currently, more and more bees are dying.  There is a 2% decline in insects every year. A world without pollinators would be devastating for food production. Why is this decline happening and how can we help bees and other pollinators to recover?

The trigger for the decline in bees is man

Loss of habitat, urbanisation, intensification of agriculture, insecticides and herbicides, monocultures, parasites, pathogens and climate change all play a part in declining bee and insect pollinator numbers.

Urbanisation means fewer green spaces with bee-friendly plants, which when combined with the intensification of agriculture has led to a loss and fragmentation of valuable habitats for pollinators, such as grasslands, old fields, shrublands, forests, and hedgerows. This is thought to be the major cause of decline in wild pollinator numbers.

Since the 1940’s industrial monocultures have replaced polycultures full of biodiversity. Monoculture farming means that only single varieties of plants are cultivated over large areas, which then all bloom at the same time. This is great for the bees during those flowering times, but during the other months of the year they can struggle to find food.

wild-beeNot all bees are the same. There are over 20,000 known species of bee globally. Around 270 species of bee have been recorded in the UK. Only 1 of these is the famous Honeybee. Wild bees, in contrast to the honeybee and the bumblebee which live in social colonies, are loners and build their nests in tree trunks, snail shells, crevices and holes in the ground. They undertake all work from nest building to brood care themselves. About 30% of the wild bee species find their food only on certain plant species and are in symbiosis with them. This means that plants and wild bees benefit from each other. If these plants are no longer sufficiently available because other plants are more profitable, the bees are unable to feed on their ideal food source and if they then die the plant cannot survive either. As a result, not only the bee dies, but also the plant biodiversity decreases.  Therefore, it is very important that we protect the diversity of plants and thus also the wild bees.

Biodynamic farming uses open-pollinated seed.  This is seed that is renewable, it can be saved by farmers and growers for the next year and used to naturally breed new varieties which helps to ensure diversity

Pesticides are harming bees and other insects, after all that is what they’re designed to do. There has been a rise in pesticide use over recent times, with farming becoming heavily dependent on pesticides. The average field is treated with pesticides 17.4 times a year in the UK.

In Biodynamic agriculture soil preparations containing oak bark are applied to the soil. The tannins contained in it help to repel insects

Parasites like the Varroa mite have been identified as a major cause of bee colony loss. Agro-chemical companies claim that industrial chemical pesticides, including neonicotinoids, play an almost negligible role in bee death. However, studies show that pesticides undermine the immune system of insects, making them more susceptible to disease, parasites and pathogens which in turn significantly weakened honeybees, causing high mortality and high levels of stress. In addition, the use of pesticides contaminates the soil.

In order to fight the mite, only organic acids are used in biodynamic beekeeping

What we can do to protect bees & other pollinators

Bees are a fantastic symbol of nature. That they are in trouble is a sign that our natural environment is not in the good shape it should be. Whilst over 60% of crops such as wheat, millet, rice, potatoes and bananas are wind pollinated or self pollinated, a world without vegetables and fruit would result in diets that would be dull, poorer and less nutritious. Ecological, organic and demeter farming offers a solution for the global pollinators and agriculture crisis. Ecological farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow by protecting soil, water and climate and by promoting biodiversity. It does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs like synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilisers nor genetically engineered organisms. Ecological farming is feasible and already practiced on a large geographic scale within Europe.

MOGLi and Holle advocate organic and organic-plus demeter farming, helping to ensure healthy habitats and food for bees and pollinators, and healthy food for babies, children and adults too.

What we can do as gardeners to help bees

There are things that we can do at home to make our gardens as bee-friendly as possible:

  1. Put away harmful chemical insecticides.
  2. Leave a small area of your garden to go wild or undisturbed in the summer months, so bumblebees can create their nests and other insects are given shelter.
  3. Provide habitat such as a small wood pile in a corner where bugs can nest and feed. Build (or buy) a simple home for solitary bees.
  4. Grow a wide range of plants that flower throughout the year to ensure there are no hunger-gaps. Ivy flowers during the autumn months, a crucial time for bees as they build up their stores for the winter. Spring bulbs will provide an early source of food as will hazel and pussy or goat willow.
  5. Choose bee-friendly plants. Honeybees prefer open, daisy-like flowers such as cosmos, sunflowers and michaelmas daisies, asters etc. Verbena bonariensis is also a favourite. Bees also love herbs such as marjoram, mint, chives, fennel, lavender and thyme and will help pollinate your veg and fruit.

 

mogli.de/ursachen-fuer-das-bienensterben/

sos-bees.org/

friendsoftheearth.uk/bees/why-do-we-need-bees

www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2018/november/bee-declines-is-banning-pesticides-the-solution.html

www.biodynamic.org.uk/sustainability-corner-bee-positive/