Let There Be (Solar) Light

Better Farm hosted its first-ever solar workshop on Sunday, covering the basics of how solar energy works, introducing basic hardware for setting up your own solar kit (including information on inverters, wires, panels, and more), hands-on experience actually installing a kit on Better Farm's Tiny Home, and take-home packets so students could have reference for DIY'ing their own solar setup on any small cabin, shed, work room, studio, apartment or barn.

The workshop was taught by Allen Briggs, who has lived off-grid for years and has extensive experience wiring and installing solar and other off-grid systems.

Short History Of Solar Cell And Direct-Current Systems

The first commercial use and development of a solar panel was by Bell Telephone in 1954. However, DC systems have been used since the mid-1920s in rural areas of the US. Most were powered by wind generators.

How Does A Solar Panel Work?

In short, a solar panel is a silicon and wire lattice encased in glass that allows photons from the sun to react with electrons in the silicon. Silicon is made up of positive and negative electrons that move freely throughout the migration hole the wire lattice provides. When the photons react with the silicon, the electrons become excited and start moving repeatedly in the panel. At the same time, the positive and negative repel away from each other. This process creates electricity, which is funneled out through wires at the bottom of the solar panel and lead to a storage battery.

A Basic Solar System

First, we start with the solar panel, the wires from the panel connected to a charge controller. From there, we connect to the battery. Wires also branch off from teh battery and connect to an inverter and system monitor.

Setting Up The Solar Array

Solar panels should be set up facing south, so the panels get sun the whole day. Most solar panels are angled from 32 to 52 degrees in order to collect the maximum amount of sunlight.

For full instructions, click here.

Spotlight On: Better Festival Featured Artist The Suitcase Junket

One-man band The Suitcase Junket will be a featured artist at this year's Better Festival Saturday, June 18, at Better Farm in Redwood.

The Suitcase Junket is Matt Lorenz, a Vermont-born musician, visual artist, and tinkerer. His artistic vision is one of salvaged and repurposed objects, throat-singing, and original music.

"I'm interested in the hidden voices that reside within things: the songs stuck inside instruments, the story behind the object, the mysterious weight of a word, the harmonic sequence that's in every note waiting to be broken as light through a prism."

Lorenz tours The Suitcase Junket nationally playing on festival stages and city street corners, in concert halls and dive bars, in living rooms and listening rooms. The sound isn't easy to pin into a genre, but The Suitcase Junket is often likened to Tom Waits, The Black Keys and Andrew Bird.

His instruments include a resurrected dumpster-diamond guitar, an old oversized suitcase, a hi-hat, a gas-can baby-shoe foot-drum, a cookpot-soupcan-tambourine foot-drum, a circular-saw-blade bell and a box of bones and silverware that operate much like a hi-hat. He pounds out rhythms with his feet and his twang-and-buzz guitar growls through a couple of old tube amps. On top of all this is the ethereal edge of his overtone throat-singing.

In support of Lorenz's unusual instrumentation, betterArts will host a free workshop during the afternoon of Better Festival helping people of all ages upcycle everyday objects to make instruments.

The Suitcase Junket will perform at Better Festival from 4:30-6 p.m. The band's latest album, Dying Star, was released in March and is available here. Also be sure to check out The Suitcase Junket On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @suitcasejunket.

For more information about Better Festival and to Order tickets, click here.

Tree-Planting This Saturday, May 7

On May 7, children and adults are invited to join us on our mission to plant 100 trees on the Better Farm property in 2016.

Each year since 2010, Better Farm has committed to planting at least 100 trees on the property. Varietals include fruit trees to evergreens, oaks, maples, and much more.

On Saturday, we'll be planting 50 white spruces throughout the Better Farm property. We will have some shovels here, but you are encouraged to bring your own -- along with sensible shoes or hiking boots. Refreshments will be served!

Following the tree-planting, a group of us will be heading over to Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay for their annual Garden Day celebration, featuring free seeds, gardening magazines, refreshments, a beekeeping demo and much more. All are welcome!

11 a.m.-1 p.m. Cost: FREE. Please pre-register by emailing: info@betterfarm.org

betterArts Presents 'Vino & Van Gogh' Adult Painting Class April 14

betterArts presents the next installment in its adult paint 'n' sip series, "Vino & Van Gogh", from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at Better Farm.

This class will feature a Vincent Van Gogh theme playing on an image of a tree with swirls, texture and movement. Instructor Maria VanPelt (LaFargeville Central School) will guide students from start to completion using acrylics on canvas.

As always, all materials will be provided and students will be able to enjoy bottomless wine and finger foods.

Cost for this class is $30. To sign up, CLICK HERE.

This class will be held in the betterArts Art Barn at Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood, NY, 13679. For further information, email info@betterarts.org or call (315) 482-2536.

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Equine Updates!

Equine Updates!

It's been a little more than two months since we adopted Riddler and Storm, two beautiful, senior male horses who were starved for a little TLC. Severely underweight and lacking the attention they deserved, the Arabian and Tennessee Walking Horse were welcomed to the Better Farm family and subsequently spoiled absolutely rotten.

Here's the update.

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betterArts Partners With Macsherry Library For Annual 'Heart Of Winter' Event

betterArts will run a crafts table at Macsherry Library's annual Heart of Winter Art Show & Chocolate Reception from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay. 

People of all ages are invited to create valentines, cards, notes and art for loved ones. In the gallery, art and written works will be on display. Chocolate desserts will also be offered, a special Valentine's Day treat donated by the library's board members and staff, local restaurants, and Friends of the Library. 

To enter your art into the show this year, click here.

Macsherry Library is located at 112 Walton St. in Alexandria Bay. Click here for more information.

betterArts Presents: Vino and Van Gogh

betterArts Presents: Vino and Van Gogh

betterArts presents an art and wine event at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, at Better Farm in Redwood.

Attendees 21 and older will receive guided instruction to create a painting from start to finish while enjoying bottomless glasses of wine. Easels, paints, brushes, canvases, finger foods and wine will be provided by betterArts. Students are also welcome to bring any of their own art supplies.

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Two-Part NCPR Series Features Better Farm

Two-Part NCPR Series Features Better Farm

Dec 09, 2015 — Nicole Caldwell is co-founder of Better Farm, a 60-acre sustainability farm and artists’ colony in Redwood, near the Thousand Islands. Caldwell inherited the farm from her uncle, who organized a commune on the property back in the 1970’s. Left paralyzed after a car accident, Caldwell’s uncle, Steve, moved to the North Country where, with the help of friends and family, he ran a farm, enjoyed the outdoors and taught others about sustainable living. Today, there’s a new generation of residents from around the world.

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Better Farm Partners with Local Businesses for Children's 'Explorers Passport' Program

A new program put on by local businesses offers Explorers Passports to children living in and visiting the Thousand Islands Region of New York State.

In the Explorers Passport, children have the opportunity to answer trivia questions, have their "passports" stamped by various local businesses in and around Alexandria Bay, and create their own keepsakes to bring home.

Participating businesses throughout the town of Alexandria (including Redwood!) designate themselves with "Explorers Passport Participating Partner" signs on front entranceways. Passports are available at these stops along the trail.

Those visiting Better Farm are invited to visit our farm stand, take a tour of the grounds, hang out with the chickens, and even do some arts 'n' crafts in our studios.

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.