Breaking Urban Ground

is thrilled to announce our first issue of

Breaking Urban Ground magazine.

It is currently available on iPads everywhere in the Newsstand app. We have interviews from Paul Gautschi on his amazing Back to Eden garden. Larry Hall talks to us about the Rain Gutter Automatic Watering System he created. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds comes to you via the voice of Jere Gettle. A personality local to me, Gretchen Anderson answers some of our questions about starting backyard chickens. If chickens are not for you maybe our discussion with Vice President of Mann Lake Ltd may interest you. Jack Thomas gives us great advice on the topic of becoming a bee keeper. If you want to know anything about real world emergency preparedness then you will want to catch Steven Harris‘ interview. He tells us what every home can do to take a first (and easy) step toward counting on yourself in a power outage or if you lose a regular water supply. We even have a special article contributed to us from Pepper Miller. Her 3 part blog article “The Chicken Plan” is an example for you to see how one person put her wish to keep chickens into practice.

We are thrilled about the launch of the magazine but we are always looking forward to new issues. We are building June’s magazine right now and would love your participation. It can be as simple as a picture. You can send us pictures of your Breaking Urban Ground Projects. They can fall into these major categories.


Show us your chickens, bees, rabbits, worms(worm compost projects) goats and others.

Alternate power:

Battery storage, home wind generator, solar projects, rain storage. Any utility you provide for yourself.

Food Production:

Canning successes, canning failures, dehydrated foods, cheese making, syrup, yogurt. What food did you make?


Your urban garden, community gardens you participate in, Veggies you grew or are growing, unusual crops, your first plant. If it is growing for food we want to see pictures.

Household Stuff:

Planter projects, a trellis you made, detergent, candles, beeswax lip balm, a bat house. This is the “construction zone”.


This is more of an action than a “thing” so let’s see first aid kits, group pictures of your CPR certification class, your 72 hour kit. Send photos related to “being” ready for lives turbulent situations.


How do you maximize your space. Lets see creative ways to manage what you have. Shelves you built, basement root cellars, serious spice cabinets.

Don’t forget to tell us about the picture. A picture of canned carrots is nice but information on who made them and a little background is better.

With all of this be sure to include the kids. Breaking Urban Ground includes all people learning to provide for themselves as they have interest. The entire family can be included. My kids don’t like gardening but love to make cheese. If your kids like doing something send pictures of their projects too.

We are all about learning. Learning includes mess-ups and failures. Send pictures of these and some info on what you learned from the experience and what you will do differently next time.

Sending your photos to constitutes permission to use or not use the photos in future issue and articles and on the Breaking Urban Ground website and social media affiliations. Don’t send us pictures if they are not your own or you do not have authorization to distribute them.

Our first issue was so much fun to make. Lets make the next one better.

Joe Gore


The Dandelion. If you hate them, maybe you misunderstand them.

WOOOHOOO! The Dandelion is here!!!!

We just came home from the store and I have 4 beautiful yellow flowers in my yard. Now many who read this might think I am out of my ever lovin’ mind. And 4 years ago I would have agreed with you.

They are a tenacious weed (term used loosely) that exist almost universally across the United States in the city and in the country and many other places around the world. In fact the name Dandelion comes from the  French “Dent de Lion” meaning teeth of the lion. If you view the edge of the flower petals very closely they resemble a row of teeth with canines and incisors.

Teeth of the lion.

Teeth of the lion.

I’m guessing that if you dislike Dandelions you don’t raise bees, you don’t have a garden, you don’t eat (or know how to eat) them or you are not fondly familiar with Dandelion wine.

This little plant is usually the first naturally occurring ground flower of spring and therefore is a very important source of nectar and pollen for our hungry bees coming out of the hives after consuming honey all winter. The food the Dandelions supply the bees is very important. We do have blossoming trees at this time but in areas with few flowering trees the Dandelion makes its annual appearance to save the season.

A happy bee feasting and gathering pollen.

A happy bee feasting and gathering pollen.

There are many culinary opportunities to consume the plant as well. Almost everyone has heard that Dandelion leaves are good in salad but very few people have tried it before forming an opinion on whether they like it or not. I found a rather extensive list of recipes that include Dandelion. I encourage you to peruse the list and pick one to try. See what you think about this free crop.

dandelion fritters pancakes

A word of caution: Roadside Dandelions are filthy from dirt and car exhaust and other debris. Dandelions in parks, schools and many privately owned areas get sprayed with herbicide. If you don’t know if they are clean and safe


I have never made or even tried Dandelion Wine or Dandelion Mead (honey wine) but it is something I am going to try if I can find a place or two to harvest a few pounds of Dandelion flowers in a one or two-day period. I am a big fan of homemade pear mead and I’m hoping to make a gallon of Dandelion mead to compare it with. I’m thinking for my first batch I am going to try a subtle flavor. If It proves tasty I will go for a stronger flavor next year.


I’m hoping a few of you reading this will find a place in your heart for the durable little flower. We have come to dislike it by default because it wrecks our lawn. But really, when viewed objectively, it does way more than we give it credit for and it never asks for help. If by some chance you hate gardening but are reading this gardening blog, learn to use Dandelions and you will never have to plant, water, hoe, weed, cultivate, rake or shovel and you will always have a free springtime crop.


Total Bee Loss In My Hive

I went to check my beehive two days ago since the weather was nice and the temp was over 50 degrees. I brought 2 gallons of 1:1 sugar water to feed them to help them fuel up for spring while waiting for the dandelions and trees to flower. We had had a very cold winter with about 45 consecutive days below freezing but I was hopeful. I had observed a little feces on the front of the hive at the top entrance which I hoped was a sign that when things got warm enough a few bees were able to part from the cluster and take a potty break. When we opened the hive we were hoping to see a ball of bees still keeping warm as they slowly traveled through the hive consuming what honey they had put up for the winter.

That was not what I found.

Instead I saw no live bees, a lot of capped honey and a feeder that was still half full from last year. It looks as though they did not starve but rather froze. Bees seem to know how much food they have and how many bees get to stay in the hive for the winter to keep the Queen warm based on available food and other things bees need. It seems that maybe the bee cluster was too small and they could not generate enough heat to keep alive so as some bees died the cluster got smaller and harder still to keep warm. It is possible that since they did not have enough honey in the top section of the hive that they had to choose between staying lower where the honey was and rising up where it was probably warmer or easier to keep warm. Total bummer for me. Total bummer for the bees.

Dead Bee

So moving forward we gave the hive a good cleaning and removed a bunch of propolis and burr comb . I will resupply the hive with at least 2 swarms this spring and this should help them build more comb and honey for next winter. This is a learning experience and had it been a milder winter I would probably be learning more about spring feeding and how to clean a hive with 8,000 residents to be courteous with. It is easier to clean the hive at this time of the year because at the end of the year there can easily be 60,000 bees to work with and every one of them wishing you would leave their honey and pollen stores alone.

Either way I look at it the bees brought benefit with their presence in our garden. Their pollinating services, I’m sure, made a large contribution to my garden and the unknown numbers of gardens in the area. I believe they reduced the number of other flying stinging insects in the immediate area. They were a reason to meet and learn about bees from a number of very nice, experienced beekeepers (perhaps I should have asked more questions) and they were the source of educational entertainment for my whole family and every person that came to visit the garden where they are kept.

Bees 1

But such is the way of nature. Each new season brings it’s issues and it’s lessons and it’s opportunities to move forward. And move forward we will with new bees and a new found skill. Bee hunting.

Bee swarm1

Getting ready for bees.

I want to discuss the warmer  weather and the emergence of honey bee swarms. Swarms are actually a good thing. They usually meant that a happy and healthy colony of bees has outgrown it’s domicile and about half of them are looking for a new home. They all get fattened up on whatever honey they can consume and almost simultaneously head out in search of a new home. They often land quite close to the original hive and send out scouts to look for a suitable residence.

Bees swarm bicycle

It is during this time that people see bees in a yard or on a structure and call for help. They call the police, pest control companies, brave neighbors. Often the police refer the caller to pest control companies. Pest control companies hopefully redirect the caller to a local bee keeping club resource. There are about 3500 regional bee keeping clubs and organizations across the United States. Those resources can put the concerned caller in touch with a person that will collect the swarm with as little disruption of the landscape as possible. Sometimes a branch or a small limb must be cut to carry the swarm, en masse, to a box or bucket or other suitable container.


These bees are often incorporated into that persons owned colonies. It is important to note here that the bees are full for the trip and have no brood (unhatched young) to protect and the queen is nestled safely in the center of the swarm. They have almost no reason to be defensive and, contrary to common misconception, are quite happy, calm and tolerant of others at this time.

Holding Bee Swarm


In case you have mistakenly identified a swarm of any other flying insect it is best to keep your distance but panic and fear are not necessary. This is where we mention calling a brave neighbor. Brave neighbors showing up with thoughts of spraying, burning, smoking, drowning bees are misguided, uninformed and a one person recipe for disaster. If they kill the bees they have wasted a natural resource that has a tremendous benefit to that local community. If they manage to annoy the otherwise happy bugs, they are running the risk of getting stung hundreds of times or risking the surrounding neighbors safety as well.

Once the bee keeper has arrived they often discuss the plan for removal with all concerned parties. They may invite others to even don protective clothing and assist with the handling of the bees. The removal is often done into a box or bucket by shaking or giving a quick motion to cause the bees to drop. It can be done with a specialized vacuum. It can also be done by shaking the majority of the bees directly into a bee hive and then allowing the bees in the hive to signal the remaining bees to join them by standing all around the entrance and fanning a pheromone into the air with their wings. When they do this the bees outside the hive begin landing and marching into the hive in continuous procession. This is an amazing display of chemical communication.


Once the bees are collected the bee keeper will transport them to their apiary (bee yard) and give them a hive of their own or incorporate them into another colony over the next few days.

So remember, if you see what you think is a swarm of bees DON’T PANIC.  Don’t approach them. Try to contact a bee keepers resource and have these amazing, pollinating, honey making insects brought safely (for everyone) to a new home.