Saturday, December 1, 2012

Green Building in the Gunnison Valley

Progress on the build as of November 28th.

Where the build was at when I started the internship.
My name is Seth Bott and this semester I started an internship with Sleightholm Workshop a construction company in the Gunnison valley owned by Matt Sleightholm.  Some of the things they focus on in their builds is making sure the homes are energy efficient and that they produce as little waste as possible in the build process. I started working with them around the beginning of the job and now have see the framing and roofing process in building a home.  Up to this point I have been cutting wood to fit between the framed walls so that when a concrete floor is poured in the future it will not fill in the framed walls.  Recently I started air sealing some cracks in the framing to create a tighter building envelope and to help reduce the need for as much heating in turn saving energy and money. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Zero Waste with ORE

Working for Sodexo earns you a lot of  "Oh, god the Keating Beating", enough that I've considered earning a quarter for each habitual grumble I get from students. You're probably wondering "What does this have to do with Environmental Studies?"

Sodexo is committed to sustainability and the efforts of Western State College. Rare Air actively composts, uses recyclable materials, and properly disposes of recyclable goods (tin, plastics 1 & 2, cardboard, etc.). But the food industry produces a lot of waste that must be understood. It is unavoidable, the FDA and USDA mandate it to preserve public health and protect your well-being.

As an Environmental Studies major, something about Sodexo's recycling operations piqued my interest, and I looked into volunteer work.

I found exactly what I needed with the Office for Resource Efficiency (ORE); assisting with the recycling and zero-waste initiatives of the organization at Alpenglow and the Farmers Market. It turned out to be more than a garbage-picking job, and it is still evolving as the summer progresses.

Armed with gloves, bins, and a trash-picker, I will be at the Farmers Market in Crested Butte and Gunnison, and the Alpenglow events throughout the summer. Come out to see all that the Gunnison Valley has to offer!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

From Dirt Comes Gold

And here is the ultimate point of practice at the Texas Worm Ranch: we're creating great organic soils so that we are able to grow healthy produce to feed everyone with! Our goal is to ween soils off of chemical fertilizers and to use organic products that are beneficial to the plants and their roots.

Here is a picture of the garlic that is budding so early this year! (Look how plump and healthy she is...)

Here are pictures of some butterflies resting on leek buds. They love these plants, and we love their presence because they attract so many beneficial bugs around to help keep the not as beneficial bugs elsewhere...
How fun and green and active my time here at the garden has been! Here are some pictures of our plots at the Lake Highlands Community Garden, where so much of our produce is grown and so many friendly bugs find a home. What an organic experience and education this has been! Thanks Texas Worm Ranch!


Has anyone ever heard of a black soldier fly larvae? Well, I never had before I came to the Worm Ranch, but that was part of my homework the first night there- to learn about the BSFL.

Here is a picture of one black soldier fly, post larvae state. They have been flying amuck around the Worm Ranch spot, but are really of no nuisance, mostly because the larvae are such incredible assisters for decomposing organic matter in the compost bins. They are really like worms on steroids as far as breaking down organic matter. Though, their digestive tracts are not as good at breaking down matter and feeding it back to the bins like worm casting are. The BSFL are great for decomposing material, but the worms and their digestion are more important for healthy soil maintenance.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dirty Worms:

Here is an insiders look at our compost bins at the eco-op...
....with a few of the nutrient-rearing red wigglers on display inside their compost bins! It can be a pretty dirty job at times, but that is part of what makes it so rewarding! As more people understand the importance of nutrient-rich, organic soils, the worms are working their way into the homes of complete civilians via vermi-compost-awareness. Its fun to take action in
these sustainable and completely necessary practices. I feel like the human should've long understood our dependence on such under rated species by now, though we'll wiggle our way to better practice!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fertilizing Worms

Today was spent mostly in the garden after we bottled some of the worm wine to feed to the garden beds. “Worm wine” is what we call our compost tea, which we brew at the Worm Ranch directly from the worm castings. What happens is that after we harvest castings from the vermicompost bins, some of the lesser-dense castings are set aside to be brewed in large tubs. Much of my time has been spent rinsing and labeling used milk jugs that we bottle the wine in, which is less fun than playing with worm poop, but is surely worth the experience of helping out at the Worm Ranch. The worm wine is another commodity sold from our booths at the farmers markets so that people may go home and inoculate their soils with beneficial bacteria to promote plant growth.

So today we poured the wine on many of the plants growing, especially the eggplants and peppers who seem pretty stubbornly dormant so far, but time will tell. There are many tomato plants that we’ve been selling at markets, but today we planted quite a few in our own garden beds. Some tomato plants have been sprouting green fruits, though I believe they just need a little longer to become ripe and red. We also planted some basil in the gardens, which has been very popular at the markets, and I can still smell the refreshing scent linger on. We filled the beds with composted soil before planting and topped the fresh plants with alp alpha and Texas sand one in the soil. (This is another natural fertilizing step!) Last week, even, it was thought that some plants were done sprouting for the season, but we spread more composted soil and leaves as mulch around the plants, and yet again they are growing and sprouting!

To speak of good natural fertilizers, much of the time spent at the Worm Ranch has been full of worm poop! Okay, these worm castings are fun to joke about, but they are also such necessary ingredients to fertilize the gardens! I’ve spent much time over the weeks harvesting and bagging castings for people to purchase at markets and spread throughout their soils. It is good to have between 25% and 50% worm castings in the gardening soil to make it rich enough for good plant growth. This is what makes vermicomposting so nutritious for soil- the worms eat the food ‘wastes,’ love their appetizing atmosphere, and simple biology will allow them to discard their own wastes, which is like gold for the soil and hence the plants! All the active microbes in the castings allow for so much microbiology that I hardly understand to take place. I think its amazing that I’ve grown up in a culture that doesn’t understand and practice this on a larger scale, but here’s where goals are made. Tata for now…

Friday, April 6, 2012

market harvest:)

It’s Friday, and I’m in love with the nice weather that has been bought our way lately! I joined the crew this morning for some harvesting action at the Lake Highlands Community Gardens, where the Worm Ranch cohorts have active garden beds. There was such a lack of winter this year, and such an influx of warmer weather patterns, that normal seasons of produce harvest have been slightly kiltered.  In fact, quite a few of our produce in particular have sprung an early leap to keep up with the heated waves. Potatoes are already springing, when they usually take at least another month or so, and the garlic is so plump and juicy that any Italian chefs nearby better hurry and take their pick! Today I harvested some kale, chard, scallions, dill and sage for the market and the smell is heavenly. Cilantro hasn’t been a huge seller lately (which is crazy), plus there wasn’t too much to harvest, so it was left in the garden because it is good at attracting parasitic wasps and hornets to the area. These winged creatures are apparently ravenous munchers of pesky insects that bother the plants, so we invite them and others like lady bugs to not only detract some unfriendly visitors, but to make the gardens as diverse and immune as possible.  The gardeners have a big compost and leaf pile near the beds, so today I shoveled some decomposing leaves into some of the garden beds as mulch. Apparently this serves as great nutrients for the soil biology, as well as protects the beds from too much heat or evaporation to occur. Whew, there is so much to learn about good organic produce growth!

We harvest our produce from the garden (and from the boss’s home) to prepare for the Farmer’s Markets, which are usually taking place each Saturday. I work at the market in Lake Highlands next to a gas station called the Green Spot. Never seen one of these places before- look like they belong in Austin, but its actually a rather eco-friendly gas station that serves biodiesel fuel. They also sell kombucha inside, along with some fair trade products and awesome organic, homemade burritos! The market has some great vendors, like a local olive oil producer, a lovely soap maker, some yogurt and coffee manufacturers, other produce sellers, and a bit more. Quite a sight to behold. Be back with some more wormy adventures soon!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wormy Texan!

Good day to all in the world of sustainable harvesting! while spending time with family in the huge city of Dallas, I was amazed to find my little Gunnison nitch! The Texas Worm Ranch is where credit is due, as this small company is providing a plethora of sustainable practices to gardeners and organic eaters in the area and beyond. I was so attracted to the Worm Ranch because they are the ultimate vermicomposters, and I've had much to learn about the art and science of composting!

At the Worm Ranch we use red wiggler worms and I spend much of my time digging through the compost heaps for the worm poop, or castings. (Really fun! and more information on this later..) Though the ultimate point of this business is to help others create rich, fertile, organic soils to grow produce and harvest healthy, sustainable livelihoods! Here is their website to find some of their activity:

Looking forward to sharing and showing more of this endeavor, @

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

local food!

Explore the challenges of growing food in a difficult climate.  Follow Brian Goldstein and Ian Oster on Growing in Gunnison.