Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beware: Bees Never Forget a Face

by David DeFranza

In 2005, Adrian Dyer trained bees to associate sugary rewards with pictures of human faces. The results seemed to indicate that bees could actually identify a human face. New research, however, indicates that the situation is more complex—and more fascinating—than this early study suggested.

Martin Giurfa from the Université de Toulouse, France, was drawn to the 2005 study because he believed that, while the bees were able to recognize a face, they were not interpreting it as such. Giurfa explains:

"Because the insects were rewarded with a drop of sugar when they chose human photographs, what they really saw were strange flowers. The important question was what strategy do they use to discriminate between faces"... read more story at

"Joy is the feeling of grinning inside." - Dr. Melba Colgrove

Friday, January 29, 2010

Holland Marsh the Goldmine of Ontario Agriculture

New Research on Value of Holland Marsh to Ontario - "Holland Marsh the Goldmine of Ontario Agriculture"

Local Growers, Foundation celebrates Greenbelt Turning Five

NEWMARKET, Ontario, January 28, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the Holland Marsh Growers Association today are coming together to celebrate the Greenbelt's approaching Fifth Anniversary with a new report detailing the economic value of the Marsh to the province's economy.

"This paper is the first of its kind, and it tells an impressive story. This tiny piece of land contributes as much as $169 million to the provincial economy per year," said Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Foundation. "But that's not all we're celebrating tonight on the Marsh. We're celebrating their tenacity, their ingenuity and their drive to make the most of the market opportunity that comes from a deepening desire to eat locally."

The report prepared for the Foundation by Planscape Inc. and Regional Analytics, details the variety of crops grown in the Marsh, ranging from carrots, celery and onions to Asian vegetables. Vegetable production in the Marsh accounts for as much as 14% of the total annual vegetable production in Ontario. Net farm revenue for Marsh growers is 2.8 times higher than the provincial average.

"We're proud of our place in the Greenbelt and our status as Ontario's salad bowl," said Alex Makarenko the Chair of the Holland Marsh Growers Association. "The support we have received from the Foundation has helped us tell Ontario about the success and the potential of the Marsh and to serve as a model for agriculture throughout the Greenbelt and across the province."

The celebration, billed as the "Holland Marsh Hoe Down" takes place tonight at Waterstone Estates, 17900 Dufferin Street in Markham. It features local food, drink and entertainment, including square dancing.

The report is entitled "Holland Marsh: An Agricultural Impact Study" and its primary author is agricultural researcher Margaret Walton.

The full paper can be found here

Scientists Grow Cheap Biodegradable Solar Using Tobacco

by Jerry James Stone, San Francisco, CA

Researchers at UC Berkeley have hacked tobacco plants to grow synthetic photovoltaic cells which can then be extracted and sprayed onto any substrate to create solar cells.

How? The scientists tweaked a few genes within the tobacco mosaic virus to build tiny structures called chromophores. Once the plant is sprayed with the virus, the new chromophores will group into tightly coiled formations. Chromophores are structures that turn light into high powered electrons.

Each formation is hundreds of nanometers long and about three nanometers away from its neighbor. That spacing is very important. Just one atom closer would impede any electrical current. Harvesting the electrons would be nearly impossible.

"Over billions of years, evolution has established exactly the right distances between chromophore to allow them to collect and use light from the sun with unparalleled efficiency," said Matt Francis. "We are trying to mimic these finely tuned systems using the tobacco mosaic virus."... read the full story at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tomato Growing Basics

By: Gardener, Contributor

Always remember that tomatoes are a subtropical plant, although careful breeding has produced some varieties that tolerate shorter days and cooler temperatures. Early tomatoes need everything you can do to keep them warm: row-cover tunnels, black or red plastic mulch, and/or Wall-o'-Water enclosures. The seeds like warm soil, too.

There are two types of tomato: determinate, and indeterminate. Determinate plants will grow to a certain height (usually two or three feet), and stop; they produce almost all their fruit at once. Indeterminate types grow very tall, often as high as six or eight feet, and sometimes more if they have support; they produce fruit constantly through the season. At any one time, indeterminates will have fruit at all stages of development and ripeness.

Tomatoes like rich soil and will grow happily in straight undiluted compost. Go easy with the manure, though, because too much nitrogen (from manure) will get you huge plants and very few tomatoes. Always mix a cup or more of bonemeal into the planting hole, because tomatoes need calcium and that's the organic way to give it to them. A foliar spray (wetting the leaves) of fish-seaweed fertilizer solution gives transplants a welcome more at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Agriculture Minister Brings Renewed Hope for Ontario's Beef Sector

GUELPH, Ontario, January 19, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - On behalf of Ontario beef producers, the Board of Directors of the Ontario Cattlemen's Association (OCA) would like to extend a warm welcome to The Honourable Carol Mitchell, as she joins Cabinet with her portfolio as Ontario's new Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The announcement was made yesterday at the Ontario Legislature, by Premier McGuinty.

Ontario's agri-food sector is vital to the province, and beef production is one of the largest sectors. Having served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister Mitchell is very well known to OCA and very familiar with the agriculture sector.

Gord Hardy, OCA President, is pleased with the Premier's selection. "Right now, agriculture is a challenging portfolio," he says. "We need programs and regulations that work for us if we are to continue to be a sustainable and profitable industry. Fortunately, Minister Mitchell represents a riding that is known for being one of the top beef-producing ridings in the province and we appreciate that the Minister is already well-versed in our issues as she takes on her new responsibilities."

Hardy also wishes the outgoing Agriculture Minister the best in her new portfolio as Minster of Education. "As well, OCA wishes Minister Dombrowsky the best of success in her new position as Minister of Education. On behalf of Ontario beef producers we would like to thank her for her work in the agriculture portfolio."

In conclusion, OCA believes that Minister Mitchell will be a great champion for agriculture in Ontario. Beef producers in the riding of Huron-Bruce have always enjoyed her attention in listening and responding to their issues.

"We anticipate that with her new role, our relationship with Minister Mitchell will only become stronger," concludes Hardy.

The Ontario Cattlemen's Association is a grassroots organization, formed in 1963, that represents the interests of Ontario's 19,000 cattle producers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Trees Ontario puts out call to landowners to learn how to plant trees

Local planting partners hosting free tree planting workshop

TORONTO, January 14, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Trees Ontario, along with its partners, the Ontario Forestry Association (OFA) and local planting agencies will host seven free workshops to educate local area landowners on the resources and incentives available to plant trees on their properties.

Everyone can take part in supporting tree planting in Ontario. The workshops give landowners the opportunity to learn about tree planting techniques, financial incentives like those in the Ontario Government's 50 Million Tree Program and the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP) that can reduce property taxes by up to 75 per cent, and ways to reduce their environmental footprint.

The workshop locations are:

Brockville Workshop - Wednesday, February 10th, 2010, 7:00-9:00 p.m. The Brockville Rowing Club

Dalkeith Workshop - Thursday, February 11th, 2010, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Saint-Paul Hall

Casselman Workshop - Tuesday, February 16th, 2010, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Casselview Golf & Country Club

Ilderton Workshop - Wednesday, February 17th, 2010, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Ilderton Community Centre

Goodwood Workshop - Wednesday, February 17th, 2010, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Goodwood Community Centre

Caledon Workshop - Thursday, February 18th, 2010, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Caledon Village Library

Port Hope Workshop - Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Millennium Building

Space is limited and pre-registration is appreciated.

Trees Ontario, working with its partners, is the largest, not-for-profit tree planting partnership in North America. It is committed to the re-greening of Ontario through a range of tree planting activities.

The goal of Trees Ontario is to restore the province's tree planting capacity, especially throughout southern Ontario on private lands, by providing funding and planning support for its tree planting partners. These include local Conservation Authorities, Ontario Stewardship Councils, municipal governments and community volunteer groups.

As a charitable organization, Trees Ontario relies on the financial support of individuals, organizations, foundation grants and government to support its tree planting programs and initiatives.

Last year, with its partners, Trees Ontario planted close to 3 million trees. Its goal is to support the planting of 10 million trees per year by 2015. To participate, donate and to learn more visit the Trees Ontario website at

The Ontario Forestry Association (OFA) is a non-profit, registered charity. It is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of all aspects of Ontario's forests, and to develop commitment to stewardship of forest ecosystems. The OFA has been involved in public education around forestry and environmental issues since the 1940s. Over the years they have been involved in major initiatives involving restoration, commemoration and the management of our forests and natural environment. To this day, they continue to increase public education and knowledge of forestry and environmental issues. Visit the OFA website at

50 Million Tree Program

In August 2007, the Ontario government introduced a program to fund the planting of 50 million trees across the province by 2020, as part of its commitment to help fight climate change and green the province.

The 50 Million Tree Program is Ontario's commitment to the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign. The program is also the most ambitious program of its kind in North America and the largest goal of any jurisdiction, anywhere.

The 50 Million Tree Program can significantly cut landowners' costs of large-scale tree planting and boost the number of trees planted.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What Kind of Chickens Lay Brown Eggs?

By: Gene Rodriguez, III, Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered what kind of chickens lay brown eggs?

Although white and brown eggs are available at your grocery store, you’ll pay more for the brown kind. Although you may think that organic chickens produce brown eggs, the truth may surprise you.

On The Farm

White and brown eggs—they sit on the shelf next to each other in the grocery store, as different as night and day. Or are they? Here’s the straight story on why chicken eggs are different colors and who’s responsible for those brown eggs in your grocer’s cooler:.. read more at

"To be born on a farm is the greatest good that can befall a human being. To live on a farm and enjoy all that it has to offer is the greatest good that can be attained by a poet or philosopher." - Peter McArthur

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Greyhound Canada Announces Select Route Closures in Ontario

TORONTO, January 8, 2009 /Canada NewsWire/ - Greyhound Canada today served notice to the Ontario Highway Transport Board of its intention to end service of its inter-city passenger bus operations on a select number of routes across Ontario as of April 11, 2010.

"The average number of passengers per trip on those routes targeted for closure is less than seven," said Senior Vice President Stuart Kendrick. "Greyhound Canada takes this decision with great reluctance but with such low ridership, the financial case for maintaining service simply does not exist."

The route closures will affect service in Eastern, Central and Southwestern Ontario. Notwithstanding the closures, in most cases, access to Greyhound Canada's passenger bus service will remain within a 40 kilometer radius and often less.

To view a table detailing the specific routes and communities affected, please go to

Greyhound Canada emphasized these changes will merely allow the company to break even on its Ontario operations based on current estimates.

"The long-term future of Greyhound Canada's cross-country operations including Ontario will rely upon the outcome of the federal-provincial-territorial Working Group that is due to recommend regulatory and policy changes in September 2010," concluded Kendrick.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Outhouses, Backhouses and Privies

Growing up on a farm in the 1960's was still an outhouse experience.

The simple privy, now resigned to cottage country, was an essential part of growing up in a rural environment and there were many Halloween pranks played at the expense of this facility.

Our outhouse at home was attached to the attached garage (read storage area)with access from the summer kitchen. One fall my dad and I got the brilliant notion that if we cut a door through the back wall of the garage (there was space in the outhouse for this manouver), we would have rainy day and wintertime access to the facility without venturing outdoors. It worked and and for years saved cistern and well water in the indoor bathroom.

I guess that the demise of the common outhouse was the precursor of the demise of the Eaton's catalogue...'nuff said.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Urban Shepherds Help Save the Fields

by Bonnie Alter, London

When Brighton council advertised for volunteer shepherds they never imagined that they would get hundreds of applicants. It's not the greatest job description: no pay, lots of walking on quite steep, uneven slopes, duty in all kinds of weather including the winter and checking fences. But the idea struck a chord and now the first of the group of 80 trained urban shepherds is out on the downs (fields of grasslands) checking the sheep to make sure they are healthy and not... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Thunderstorms: The Dark and Stormy Drama Between Heaven and Earth

by David DeFranza

In ancient Rome, it was believed that thunderstorms were caused by the god Jupiter, who created lightening by hurling great bolts forged by Vulcan. The Norse believed that Thor's crashing hammer created sparks that rained upon the earth as lightening. Some Native Americans believed that thunderstorms were caused by the coming of powerful birds, servants of the Great Spirit. Though we have different ideas about the formation and behavior of storms today, we are no less captivated by their drama. Indeed, scientists and amateur photo... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Monday, January 4, 2010

Types of Radiant Heat

By: Gene Rodriguez, III, Staff Writer

There are many types of radiant heat that provide an efficient alternative to traditional forms of home heat. Radiant heat is similar to the type of heat you feel when you point your face toward the sun.

What Types Of Radiant Heat Are Available?

Radiant heat has a number of advantages over baseboard or forced air heating. Radiant systems are generally more efficient than traditional alternatives. Radiant systems also don’t rely on moving air, making them perfect for allergy sufferers. Some types of radiant heat systems use very little electricity or use electricity only during off-peak hours. Here are the major types of radiant heat systems:... read more at

Friday, January 1, 2010

Outrun Global Warming By Moving 5 Miles North in the 2010s

By Tim Barribeau

It turns out you can outrun global warming - if you move your ecosystem about a half-mile closer to one of the poles every year. A new study suggests you scoot your farm slightly north or south next spring.

The overall trend of global warming is pushing climate bands gradually further away from the equator, and ecosystems are struggling to keep up with their moving favored temperatures. The research team - involving scientists from Carnegie Institution, Stanford University, the California Academy of Sciences, and the University of California, Berkeley - combined data on the current climate and temperature gradients globally with predictions for the next century, in order to map the "temperature velocity" of the planet. This velocity is a measure of how far and how fast temperature zones are moving across the planet, and how quickly plants and animals will have to move to stay with them... read more