Bug Appétit!

Did you know that insects form part of the traditional diet of an estimated 2 billion people on the planet? And that even those of us who actively avoid all contact with bugs can’t avoid ingesting a pound or two of flies, maggots, and other bugs without knowing it every year? Insects aren’t the future of food–they’re very much part of our present reality!

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…Back to the Bees

Last week we rebroadcast an interview from two springs ago with Rich Wieske of Green Toe Gardens in Detroit, and Mike Bianco, who is one of the founding members of the buzzing UMBeeIMG_0398s Group .  Mike is now pursuing his apicultural activism in a PhD program in Australia. The UMBees group is still active on our campus and its botanical gardens and farm.

Not up to date on the perils of “big pollen” for our bee population? Not sure why bee colonies aren’t actually hierarchies that follow a “queen” but actually bend to the will of their workers, which is what makes them sucessful? Wondering why Michigan is a key site for keeping northern bee populations strong enough to resist extreme weather eventsl? Listen and learn…

Those who heard this interview the first time around will be glad to know that the honeybees we called the  “Detroit Girls” who Rich brought out to Grass LaIMG_0391ke Michigan to live on Joe Trumpey’s Sandy Acres Farm overwintered again, for the third year in a row! Photos are from last spring’s inspection of the colonies by Rebecca, Joe and Rich, who came out to the country to select a frame of brood. He was happy to take young from these strong girls back to the city colonies who were rearing queens, so as to promote whatever genetic traits are making these girls so good at getting through the winters.  Sure, this  year was less tricky thaIMG_0032n the last few severe winters, but it is still a triumph when colony loss rates are so high all around us.   These days the Detroit Girls are out working hard  with the early spring nectar flow, making Grass Lake’s farms more productive. IMG_0015

Rebecca hopes to head over to France this summer for another field visit with her friends Philippe Huau and Jean Francois Mallein, pictured above, founders of the outrageously productive Ruchers de Cocagne in the countryside around Toulouse, France. Their queens are stemming the tide of colony loss across Europe, while their large scale, scientifically oriented operation develops in partnership with local farmers, but also amidst debates about the limits of manipulation of bees in the face of colony collapse disorder and other challenges.  Stay tuned for a video glimpse of how hot it is out there in the beeyards of southern France, coming up soon.

Motown, a Food Farm?

This week we turned our gaze to Detroit with the help of guest-hosts Jack Hyland, a U of M a student of art and design, and Shan Sutherland, a Masters of Architecture student at the Taubman College of Architecture and Planning.  Shan has worked on a number of architecture projects in Hamtramck and Detroit and we kicked off the show by grilling him about Power House Productions, an organization that has built a number of community installations by cannibalizing materials from abandon structures; including Squash house, a “sculptural sports arena and greenhouse.” Shan also told us about Afterhouse, a “semi subterranean passive geothermal greenhouse,” built on the foundation of an abandoned house.

Shan then moved from the hot seat to the host seat with the arrival of Jeff Pituch, a member of the board for the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI), which focuses on sustainable agriculture in Detroit’s North End.

We were interested to hear from Jeff how MUFI is able to operate as a 100% volunteer organization with no large-scale funding.  It turns out that small targeted grants and a knack for winning Facebook liking competitions (their Facebook group has more likes than ours), make up the majority of their funding.  We discussed the challenges and opportunities that arise when operating entirely with volunteers.  We also discussed their challenges remaining in place in an area undergoing “redevelopment.”

This week we listened to some great Detroit music, including The Dramatics, whose message “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” describes IHIH perfectly (as long as change the word see to hear)…

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris: Feelings that Connect Us All

Remember that edgy “out there” episode of Its Hot in Here where talented artists sang live tunes from the Tony Award winning musical Urinetown, while talented scientists talked to us about  research  on “peecycling” (or the recovery on nutrients from urine for use in agricultural fertilization?)  Along the way we considered infrastructure (including urinals!) in our greenways and parks, and how more art and science can be showcased in our public spaces.

Well,  they’re back. For the dead of winter spring break in our studios we welcomed the talent behind the  Penny Seats Theatre Company’s recent cabaret style show  Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  Fresh from their sold out, critically acclaimed performances at the downtown pub Connor O Neill’s, we head from guests including cast members Lauren London and Roy Sexton, show director Laura Sagolla, and musical director Richard Alder.

Jacques Brel is a famous Belgian singer-songwriter who wrote his songs in French during the 1960s. Through his art he became extremely well-known in France, to the degree that the French recognize Brel the way Americans know Bob Dylan or JoniJacques_Brel_Is_Alive_Cast_Recording Mitchell. The show, originally produced in 1968 off broadway, is a revue of Jacques Brel’s music and explores the universal emotions of love, loss, fear, obsession, and hope. Brel’s work is laden with pathos, yet also lighthearted. Continue reading Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris: Feelings that Connect Us All