Your Home’s Most Underused Resource – The Roof


Insects collecting nectar unintentionally tran...

Honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of pollination, making up 1/3 of the human diet.

Forget tearing up that beautiful front lawn you have so beautifully landscaped. The roof is the most overlooked and underutilized space in your home. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities and benefits to moving your sustainable ‘green thumb’ to the roof.

Bees On The Roof

When you think of bee keepers, you think of them on terra firma, right? Think again.

Once the colony is up and running, you don’t need to visit the hive(s) every day. Matter-of-fact, having your bees on the roof makes perfect sense. They’re out of the way and you won’t have to warn your guests every time they sit in your back yard.

Most of us seldom even consider the importance bees have in our ecosystem. But, consider that one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Not just the urban homesteader crowd is into keeping bees topside. Rooftop beehives are also a growing restaurant trend http://ow.ly/5oyM6.

Bees are also the ultimate locavores, as they look for food just within a three-mile radius. Try getting everything you eat from only 3 miles away.

Arvin Pierce places a brood of honeybees into one of the hives on the roof next to Maldaner's Restaurant in downtown Springfield.

The good news is that if you are gung-ho to get your rooftop producing sustainable, local honey, you’ll likely have no conflict with city hall. Unless of course they are prohibited in your municipality, which is unlikely. Ernie Slottag, spokesman for the City of Springfield, said he is not aware of any ordinance prohibiting beekeeping within city limits.

Roof Gardens

Roof gardens are being seen as the next frontier in the urban farming movement. And for good reason.

Many urbanites don’t have the space on their window sills or balconies for a descent garden. But, some are taking to their buildings’ roofs and making the most of the space with container gardening.

Rooftop gardener re-purposes old kiddie tubs for use as plant containers in Westerville, Ohio.

City rooftop gardens are also gaining momentum in the Big Apple. Gotham Greens in Brooklyn has just beg harvesting from the 15,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility that will grow over 100 tons of fresh, local produce per year. See video: CNN – A farm on every rooftop. Created in 2008 with a mission of providing New Yorkers with local, sustainable, premium quality produce year round, they sustainably grow everything from seed to harvest, in their hydroponic rooftop greenhouse.

Chicago City Hall Green Roof

Living Roofs
The term green roof refers to the concept of covering the majority of the roof’s surface with flora. A key benefit to this coverage is the dissipation of solar energy in the summer months. Living roofs can also be used to indicate roofs that use some form of “green” technology, such as a cool roof, a roof with solar thermal collectors or photovoltaic panels. The term eco-roofs, has been used to describe any of these systems.

Depending upon your needs, budget and space, the possibilities are endless. As with any roof system you plan to install, you’ll want to consult an engineer or builder about the load bearing capacity of your own roof before starting construction.

Up On High

The views from your roof are seldom enjoyed unless you’re a kid. Why not enjoy a sunset, sunrise or just look around your neighborhood from atop your humble abode? Creating a space where you can sit and enjoy your urban homesteading efforts can be very rewarding and expand the livable area of your home.

Having a safe way to get to and from your new rooftop chill space is a must. But with a little planning and some forethought, you could soon be drinking margaritas at sunset from your new perch.

Water Catchment

Water catchment systems direct rainwater falling on your roof to a storage system for use in landscaping or sometimes even a new potable water source. Believe it or not, the average person uses 18,000 gallons of water per year! The importance in offsetting this consumption will only grow in a world of scarce water supplies.

Home systems range in scope and cost, but a modest home system can run you $5,000 – $8,000 to install, with a capture capacity of up to 100,000 litres of water or more per year.

Think you’re selfishly stealing the water for your own uses?

Rainwater harvesting, as it is also called, is actually viewed by many, as a partial solution to the problems posed by water scarcity: droughts and desertification, erosion from runoff, over-reliance on depleted aquifers, and the costs of new irrigation, diversion, and water treatment facilities.

True, harvested rainwater in the U.S. is used mostly for irrigation. But, with water becoming a growing issue, there is a growing interest in using rainwater for drinking and other indoor uses. Over 50% of household water is used indoors; bringing rain indoors could save the expense and environmental costs of treating and transporting water.

Rooftop System Benefits
Increased thermal efficiency is one main benefit to rooftop systems. By covering your roof with greenery, your inside temperatures remain cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. You save money and energy in the process.

  • They cool and shade buildings, which reduces the ‘heat island‘ effect of a city.
  • Retains and utilizes rainwater, provides wildlife habitat, and enhances the roof membrane life.
  • Has an aesthetic appeal creating a private haven.
  • Removes heavy metals such as: cadmium, copper, and lead from runoff.
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Let It Bee: Raising Honey Bees for Fun and Profit


   Raising Honey Bees For Fun And Profit

Beekeeping can be a fun hobby or even a thriving small business for those with little or no knowledge of bees. The startup costs are low – the average hive is approximately $300 and you only need one to get started.

Once you have purchased a hive it can be kept in a remote corner of your back yard. Nowadays we commonly see suburban homes with a bee hives compared to just 10 years ago. Some like to have a consistent source of local honey for themselves and for trade. Others see a potential revenue stream that is local, sustainable and fun to do.

“Egyptians called honey a “gift from the gods”.

Your local Cooperative Extension office will tell you if the area you live has any beekeeping restrictions. You will also get contact numbers of your states beekeeping organization where you can register as a beekeeper.

Bee Keeping Basics

Choosing the location for your hive is an important step. This may be on your property in a unused portion of your garden or with a local farmer or land owner. Note: Always ask permission before setting up your bee hive. See Your Home’s Most Underused Resource – The Roof.

Once you have selected a site for your beehive you will need to go about acquiring the equipment needed to successfully maintain a beehive. Some of the equipment you will need can be purchased used on EBay. If you are unable to find the equipment you need on EBay there are several on-line sites where you can purchase equipment. If you need further assistance finding and purchasing a beehive and other beekeeping equipment call your local Cooperative Extension office or the Federation of American Beekeepers.

Before acquiring bees for your hive it’s important to make sure about your protection – this means you have to purchase beekeepers gear.

Bee Keeping Gear

So once your bee hive is already in place and you are confident that everything is in working order it’s time to order your honey bees. An established Apiary is one of the places to order honey bees. Your order should be placed in winter, the average beekeeper orders their bees in January and February. March and April is the usual time of shipment Most Apiary’s ship their bees through the U.S. postal service. Once the bees have arrived you will be called by your carrier and ask that you pick up the bees. Many mail carriers are not comfortable driving all over the county with a car full of young angry bees in their car and most bees are healthier if they don’t have to spend several hours in a hot car.

When you pick up your bees they should have been packaged in a special carrying case that is designed just for bees. This package will be a wooden framed “house” that has a screen covering the outside. This packaging allows air to circulate to the traveling bees and keeps handlers, such as post office employees, from getting stung.

When you get your bees, you’ll probably find a few dead bees laying in the bottom of the package. This is a normal part of shipping and is no reason for concern.

You will notice that one bee in the container has been separated from the rest of the hive. This is your queen bee. The rest of the bees in the container will make up the rest of your bee hives hierarchy. Some apiaries ship the queen with a couple of nurse bees. The top of the queen’s container will be covered with piece of sugar candy.

You should also see a container that is filled with a sugar solution. The bees feed on the sugar solution while they are traveling. You should then offer your bees a drink. You do this by taking a spray bottle and covering the container with a very fine misting of water.

Honey is a food source for bees where they store the excess in anticipation of days when outside food sources are scarce. This excess honey can be collected by the beekeeper for personal or business use.

Keep in mind that when outside nectar sources are scarce, bees will require more honey to survive, limiting the amount beekeepers are able to harvest. If beekeepers are interested in collecting consistently bigger quantities of honey they will need to do one of two things. Either increase the size of and number of colonies or provide a bee food supplement during seasonal changes or difficult periods in the local climate or ecology.

Liquid and Comb Honey

There are two types of honey that for-profit beekeepers can sell; liquid honey and comb honey.

The liquid form is extracted from the hive by utilizing a centrifuge with little physical effort. Selling pieces of the comb is also a profitable means of earning income from beekeeping. Many individuals prefer this kind of honey’s natural flavor in spite of its less convenient form.

Honey comes in a variety of colors and flavors. The flavor of honey is significantly influenced by the nectar bees collect. Other factors such as the soil composition, varieties of floral plans, and the general weather conditions in your geographical region will all influence the flavor of the honey produced by the hive.

The color of the honey is also affected by the plants honey bees obtain nectar from. For instance, alfalfa nectar produces honey ranging from clear to white, while honey resulting from the bee’s harvesting nectar from buckwheat tends to be significantly darker. Honey can be found in clear, white, gold, brown, red and even greenish hues. The quality of the honey combs constructed by bees can also affect both the color and flavor of the honey.

If you would like to distinguish your honey, you can influence the flavor, color and sugar content by planting specific varieties of flowers and plants nearby. To see a complete list of various honey types, go to www.honeyo.com/.

If beekeepers are processing and packaging honey for profit, it is important to research, learn and follow all state and federal regulations associated with food. Beekeeping for profit is a business like any other and local governmental guidelines can vary so you will need to do your homework and ensure that you are meeting all of the appropriate general business and food specific laws and regulations.

Beekeeping is an activity that anyone can undertake as it requires minimal land. Men, women, elderly and youth can participate!

Benefits to Bee Keeping

  • It takes minimal time and effort in a season, therefore allowing for normal work-a-day activities to carry on. It has relatively low technology requirements!
  • It is a low investment activity which requires only bee hives, bee suits and a few simple tools. Beekeeping basics are easy to master!
  • Bees pollinate the indigenous flora, adding value to wild harvested fruits, nuts and economic trees and plants as well as 1/3rd to any food production through targeted pollination!
  • Beekeeping projects can be linked with many other production projects to bolster participant numbers and income generation!
  • Beekeeping provides employment and self-esteem, there is opportunity for quick return on investment, and minimal land requirements!
  • Honey is a valuable non-wood forest product thus contributing to the preservation of forests around the world!
  • Honey is a commodity that can be traded internationally as well as locally or regionally without special consideration as to storage or loss!
  • Honey is a high value product with a stable and lucrative supply versus demand economy. Honey is very portable as well!
  • Honey and its by-products have many healthy benefits for the consumer and are lucrative trade commodities in value addition form!
  • Most honeybee products can be consumed as food, dietary supplements or used as medicine. And bee products have a long shelf life and are a valuable food source!


See this short video on the Principals of Beekeeping : Beekeeping Equipment to get started today.

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