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.

Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I: Aug. 8-9

Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I: Aug. 8-9

Have you been daydreaming about having your very own tiny home, but aren't sure where to start? Learn all about materials, construction, different alt-energy systems and much more at Better Farm's Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I during two days, Aug. 8 and 9.

Read More

All-Ages Paper Bag Notebook Workshop with Alyssa Curley This Saturday!

Instructor Alyssa Curley of AlternARTive will kick off this year's Better Festival at 12 p.m. this Saturday, June 20, with an all-ages workshop (5+) that will walk students through the creation of a notebook made entirely out of paper products.

Participants may bring any special paper they may have to make the project more personal. The workshop is held at Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood. To pre-register, email info@betterarts.org.

 12 p.m. Free. All Ages (5+). Hosted by betterArts. For more information about the ensuing festival, click here. Better Farm is located at 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood.

Comment

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.

Introductory Piano Camp for Kids Slated Aug. 18-22

Image from Watertown Piano Lessons.

betterArts has scheduled an introductory piano camp for beginners Aug. 18-22 at Better Farm.

"Blast Off With Piano" is held for 45 minutes Monday through Friday at the Better Farm campus with instructor Jason Comet of Watertown Piano Lessons. Students will learn fundamentals of rhythm reading and keyboard geography, and how to play with others through board games, ensemble piano playing, and other age-appropriate activities. 
Children will be divided into three age groups:
  • Ages 5-6 from 10-11 a.m.
  • Ages 7-8 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Ages 9-10 from 12-1 p.m. 
There is a six-student maximum for each age group. On Saturday, Aug. 23, students are invited to perform at 12 p.m. to kick off the annual Summer Fest, an annual music festival held at Better Farm. 

Students do not need a keyboard instrument at home to practice on. The camp studio is equipped with enough keyboards for in-class use. 

Cost: $70, pre-register by at info@betterarts.org. To see our full calendar of events and workshops, visit www.betterfarm.org/upcoming-events.
Comment

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.

Mark those Calendars!

Vintage calendar image from Life Hacker.
Now that Spring's in full swing, the calendar is filling up fast. Here's a rundown of all the 'better' stuff we've got going on. Check back regularly on our website for new additions being added; and follow the blog to get more information on specific events and how you can get involved.

Visit our full calendar at www.betterfarm.org/upcoming-events.
 

APRIL
10  Kids on the Move!—Hosted by Fort Drum's Relocation Readiness program, this free workshop at Fort Drum will acquaint newcomers to the area with recreational and educational programming for children. Better Farm and betterArts will be at this event to discuss upcoming workshops and events with parents.

20  Spring Brunch—Enjoy a farm-fresh brunch at Better Farm featuring ingredients grown on-site and other locally sourced items. All you can eat! Suggested donation of $10. Starts at 11 a.m. RSVP to info@betterfarm.org.

22  Jounce at Brooklyn Bowl—New York City-based band Jounce will perform an Earth Day concert April 22 at Brooklyn Bowl in New York City that will feature a seed exchange to benefit Better Farm. Attendees will have the opportunity to bring along or purchase organic seeds at the venue to be donated to Better Farm for use in our Sustainability Education Program and community outreach initiatives, including the Redwood Community Greenhouse. Click here for additional information.

MAY
1 CSA Starts!—Click here to sign up!

L.I.F.E. (Life is fun everyday!)—Better Farm will be a presenter at the upcoming L.I.F.E. event held from 1:30-3:05 p.m. at H.T. Wiley Intermediate School in Watertown, N.Y. This is a day that all students are exposed to various professions, skills and talents in Watertown and surrounding areas. The purpose of the event is to encourage student’s interest and creativeness in areas that they may not have been exposed to before.

10  Mustard Seed Earth Day Event—Enjoy the Mustard Seed Natural Market's Annual Earth Day Event from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in Watertown for free samples, giveaways, treats, gifts, arts 'n' crafts, and green-living demonstrations. Better Farm and betterArts will be at this event to share information about upcoming programming, do arts 'n' crafts with children, and provide educational information to the public about sustainability.

10 Macsherry Library Garden Day—At Garden Day in Alexandria Bay from 12:30-4 p.m., the Macsherry Library gathers master gardeners from the North Country together for seed exchanges, informational booths, networking, and a plant sale. Better Farm will be in attendance with a booth to inform the public about upcoming events and with great gardening information.

17, 18  Better Farm Volunteer Days—Help the cast and crew at Better Farm ready the gardens, make chicken coop repairs, shovel mulch, build some bee houses, repair and construct rainwater catchment bins, and learn a thing or two about permaculture and organic gardening. Lunch and refreshments will be served! RSVP to info@betterfarm.org.

31 Dragonfly Festival—The Redwood Neighborhood Association, in collaboration with the Indian River Lakes Conservancy, betterArts, and Better Farm, presents the First Annual Dragonfly Festival. Held at the public pavilion in the center of Redwood, this event will feature live music, a cook-out, arts 'n' crafts, a costume contest and parade, homemade wine tastings, and much much more.

JUNE
21  Better Festival—Our annual festival features live performances by local and regional bands, a gallery showcasing artwork by painters, sculptors, photographers, and more, booths featuring art and handmade items for sale, tours of the Better Farm campus, information about Better Farm and betterArts 2014 programming, arts and crafts for kids (and adults!), freshly prepared and locally sourced food, a refreshments tent, games, bouncy castle, and more! Click here for all the information.

JULY
12  Better Mud Run—We're bringing a "better" mud relay course to Redwood, N.Y., in our first annual Better Mudder event at high noon Saturday, July 12, 2014. Hosted by Better Farm and featuring more than 20 obstacles, the Better Mud Run invites the fiercest  athletes and thrill-seekers to the Better Farm campus for agility obstacles, wall-climbs, scaling mountains, and—of course—getting really, really muddy. Click here for more information.

AUGUST
2 Upcycling Workshop—This all-ages workshop with Stephanie DeJoseph invited students to bring an old item for reviving and turning into something new. Furniture, clothing, fabric scraps, magazine clippings, or anything else you find is welcome! Crafts supplies like glue, needle and thread, embroidery floss, and others will be available. There is a suggested $5 donation for this course. Email info@betterarts.org for more information or to pre-register.

TBD Summerfest!—

16 Redwood Field Days Parade—

23 Children's Weaving— Children from second through fourth grade are invited to this two-hour class to learn two types of weaving. Students will acquire basic weaving knowledge, gain hands-on experience, and discuss basic weaving vocabulary. Students may additionally bring old clothes, fabric, or yarn for their projects if they like. Cost for class: $5. Email info@betterarts.org for more information or to pre-register.

23 Summerfest!

SEPTEMBER
TBD Farm-to-Table Event

Summer Workshops with Better Farm and betterArts

Construction of a basic rainwater catchment system at Better Farm.
Instructor Paul Jennings walks folks through a second fermentation of blueberry wine.
Our summer workshop schedule is taking shape! Whether you're interested in sustainability, building, gardening, art, music, or all of the above, we've got you covered. Here's a list of offerings from betterArts and Better Farm. Be sure to check back at www.betterfarm.org/upcoming-workshops for updates and a completed schedule!

There is a suggested $10 donation for scheduled workshops to cover costs of basic materials, ingredients, and any associated instructor fees. Unless otherwise noted, we will provide all necessary materials at the workshop. Pre-registration is required! Please contact us at info@betterfarm.org with any questions, to pre-register, or to inquire about teaching for us. 

JUNE
Sauna Construction Instructor: Bob Laisdell
Creative Upcycling and the Art of Transforming Junk Each student will bring an old, tired furniture or clothing piece to transform into something else that is functional. From sketches to the final product, instructor Stephanie DeJoseph of La Mia Designs will help students visualize, create, transform, and finalize an upcycled piece. Encouraged materials (anyone without the following is not excluded from attending): one piece to upcycle, sewing machine, fabric scraps, old clothing, small furniture pieces. Ages 15 and up
Drumming Circle
Drum-making
Beneficial Bugs and Insect Hotels Tidy gardens, chemically fertilized lawns, and a lack of dead wood in suburban/urban areas mean less and less habitat for wild bees, spiders, and ladybugs. You can combat this issue by creating an "insect hotel" to attract beneficial insects (read: pollinators and pest controllers) to your yard and garden. Learn how construct an insect hotel utilizing items you can find around your house and in your yard. Students will learn all of the above, and then try their hands at actual construction of an insect hotel. Instructor: Nicole Caldwell
Brewing Beer Instructor: Paul Jennings
 

JULY
Poetry for Children Instructors: The Line Assembly Poetry Group Dates: July 1, 2
Poetry & Open Mic (Adult class) Instructors: The Line Assembly Poetry Group Dates: July 1, 2
Intro to Video Editing Learn the basics of video editing. Those without video cameras may use their iPhones! Instructor: Holly Boname
Winemaking
Learn the art of making your own wine. Instructor: Paul Jennings
Yoga for Kids
Intro to Violin
The Art of Boiling Water Learn simple, delicious, and organic recipes anyone can make! Instructor: Nicole Caldwell

AUGUST
Edible Wild Plants Take a nature hike on Better Farm's property and learn about all the edible, wild plants perfect for making salads, teas, and more.
Intro to Canning
Aquaponics for the Home Learn how to turn any home fishtank into an aquaponics design that can provide your whole family with salad greens, herbs, or even tomatoes and peppers year-round. Instructor: Nicole Caldwell
Winemaking Instructor: Paul Jennings
The Ins and Outs of Rainwater Catchment
 
Comment

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.

Poetry Troupe Partners with BetterArts

Line Assembly Poetry Group's tour schedule thus far.
Line Assembly Poetry Group is partnering with betterArts this summer to bring poetry workshops and performance to the Thousand Islands Region July 1 and 2.

Line Assembly is a collective of six emerging poets—Adam Atkinson, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Zach Harris, Ben Pelhan, Anne Marie Rooney, and S.E. Smith—embarking on an ambitious, unique tour of readings and workshops in summer 2013. The entire tour will be filmed for an upcoming documentary about the group. The poets share an indebtedness to community experiences with poetry in their early childhoods and adolescence—most notably in branch libraries, writing groups, and independent bookstores that hosted readings and fostered grassroots literary activity. These places and programs are close to Line Assembly's hearts—and betterArts will be working with local libraries and other venues to host the group during their visit.
Noel Tague, betterArts' director of outreach and fundraising, worked with members of Line Assembly to create a partnership between arts organizations. BetterArts will sponsor the poetry group's stay at Better Farm, and will coordinate with local libraries, Better Farm, and media outlets to get the word out for the upcoming workshops.

Here's the schedule:

6-8 p.m. Monday, July 1: All-Ages Open Mic at the Lyric Coffee House and Bistro, Clayton. Bring your poems to share!

10 a.m.-12 p.m. Tuesday, July 2: Word Play (A Poetry Workshop for Kids) at Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay.

7-9 p.m. Tuesday, July 2: All-Ages Open Mic at Better Farm in Redwood.

In addition to these events, Line Assembly will be participating in impromptu flash-poetry sessions on the streets of Alexandria Bay. Those guerilla performances have been coined "People Against Poetry", an interactive performance pioneered by Adam Atkinson and S.E. Smith in which (unsuspecting) participants often find themselves advocating passionately for the importance of keeping poetry and literary arts programs in public schools. This entire adventure will be documented on camera by Ben Pelhan (an experienced filmmaker in addition to being a poet) along with secondary camera operator, and will be produced as a documentary capturing the ways and places in which poetry is very much alive in these United States.
Comment

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.

Rotary Sponsors Free Workshops for Kids



Watertown Evening Rotary will sponsor two upcoming arts classes for children as part of a free summer workshop series put on by betterArts, Inc., in Redwood.

The two free workshops, “Mosaic Using Recycled Material” and “Belly Dance and Hip-Hop”, will be taught Saturday, Aug. 4.

Mosaic Using Recycled Material is for ages 5 and up. Held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., students will learn the craft of Mosaic; the art form of creating image by collage and assemblage of unique and recycled bits and pieces. Students will learn basic skills and technique, gluing and grouting, and finishing a small mosaic piece on a wooden base utilizing recycled materials including stones, ceramics, shells, art glass, broken tile, mirrors, and beads. Materials will be provided, but students are welcome to bring any thing from home they would like to incorporate.

Belly Dance and Hip-Hop for Kids is for all ages and will be held from 2-5 p.m. on the same day. Kids will get a fun, healthy workout with two forms of dance they are sure to enjoy! Children can have fun learning basic belly-dancing moves while developing core strength and learning about American Tribal Belly dancing. In the hip-hop unit, students will learn the latest and greatest moves. This course is for all skill levels, and will include a thorough warm-up, proper stretching, and individual attention.

Pre-registration is required. Call (315) 482-2536 or e-mail info@betterarts.org to sign up.

BetterArts is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the arts throughout Redwood, N.Y. and surrounding areas through the provision of free and low-cost workshops, residencies, private instruction, studio and gallery space, performances, and events. All workshops are held at betterArts' location on Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood. Click here for more information.

Free Photography Workshop Set July 12

A free photography workshop, "The Art of Portrait Photography", is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at Better Farm in Redwood, N.Y.

Sponsored by area non-profit betterArts, the course will explore different facets of portrait photography, including lighting, posing, and manual camera settings. Those attending mus have their own cameras with manual settings. The instructor for this course is Erin Fulton, a professional photographer working out of Redwood. Pre-registration is required—interested parties may RSVP to info@betterarts.org or (315) 482-2536. Better Farm is located at 31060 Cottage Hill Road in Redwood.

betterArts is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the arts throughout Redwood, N.Y. and surrounding areas through the provision of free and low-cost workshops, residencies, private instruction, studio and gallery space, performances, and events. Learn more at www.betterarts.org.
Comment

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.

From Wild to Wine



In spite of the 90+ temperatures this afternoon, more than 20 people came out to participate in Better Farm's blueberry wine workshop.

Here's the article from MyABC50.com (photos from the workshop are below!):


By Holly Boname

A group of North Country residents have learned what it takes make a batch of homemade blueberry wine.

The free workshop, put on by Better Farm located in Redwood, demonstrated how to collect wild blueberries and through the process of fermentation, turn the natural fruits into a homemade wine.
Instructor Paul Jennings says that many different fruits and vegetables can be turned into wine, and that the blueberries found locally in Northern New York lend well to a good blend of wine.

The students first learned about the basic principles of equipment sterilization, fermentation, and production. Students crushed the blueberries into a workable mixture, added the correct sugars and ingredients and tomorrow will finish the process with the addition of yeast.

Executive director of Better Farm, Nicole Caldwell, says that the workshops are designed and created to increase community involvement, fun and education.

“We have been designing an entire series of workshops for the summer, all agriculturally related,” said Caldwell. “We are trying to connect the idea of healthy local food with something recreational like wines. So we thought with all of our workshops, if we can tie something local into it, whether that is people learning how to do rainwater catchments and then being able to apply it at home, or picking blueberries from Plessis and then making your own wine to share with your family and friends, to just bring it all home and try to get people involved with what’s going on around here.”

Many workshops are held throughout the summer at Better Farm. For a listing of workshops, visit www.betterfarm.org/upcoming-workshops.














Comment

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.

Beer Brewing Workshop This Friday!

Graphic from Karl Strauss.
A beer brewing workshop is slated from 1-3 p.m. this Friday, June 29, at Better Farm in Redwood.

Those attending will learn the process of home beer brewing, from hops to fermentation. The group will start a 5-gallon batch of plain, light malt extract brew (all participants will be notified when the beer's ready!). The instructor for this course is Paul Hayes, an experienced home brewer with more than 200 micro craft brews under his belt.

There is a suggested $10 donation for any workshops scheduled at Better Farm to cover costs of basic materials, ingredients, and any associated instructor fees. Unless otherwise noted, we will provide all necessary materials at the workshop.

Pre-registration is required! Please sign up by contacting us at info@betterfarm.org or (315) 482-2536. Overnight accommodations are available for out-of-town guests (click here for more information). For a listing of arts-related events and workshops, click here.
Comment

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.