"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On Feeding Oneself...

I watched these videos linked from the Homestead Revival blog this morning and thought I would share them here as well. While I do not consider myself to be a hard core doomsdayer (well, maybe just a little:) I surely can see some dark clouds gathering on the horizon and found all of the information put forth by Marjory Wildcraft in this presentation on food storage, water supply, and gardening to be very thought provoking to say the least.

For more information on the subject of food preparedness, my friend Lynn has written numerous excellent posts on her blog about food storage of late that include many useful links.

"Let us be in a position so we are able to not only feed ourselves through home production and storage, but others as well" - Ezra Taft Benson, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Red Crapaudine Beet

Three of the most important things we look for in a vegetable are, adaptability to our climate, flavor, and how easily it can be stored or processed. It is always a pleasant surprise to find a new variety that meets all of these criterion. And so it is that after over four months in storage I can now say that, what was originally grown as a novelty, the Red Crapaudine beet we seeded in early 2010 does indeed seem to easily attain all of these standards.

This is a particularly old variety of beet, possibly one of the oldest beets in existence today...from what I've read, and has rather an unusual thick bark like skin, almost black, that will reportedly help it to over winter right in the garden, even in cooler climates. The Crapaudine also manages to stay under the soil rather than popping up like so many other cylindrical shaped beets tend to do. It will be interesting to put a few to the test this year and see whether or not they really can handle our winter conditions.

Crapaudine's have green foliage and a bright red interior with an earthy sweet essence that I really enjoy both raw and cooked...a very nice all around vegetable. As far as proportion goes they are similar in stature to a medium carrot and the ones we grew last year did vary quite a bit in size, definitely not the biggest beet in town. Because of their shape they would probably grow best in a loose friable soil or anywhere a carrot or parsnip thrives. We are looking forward to growing these old world beets for many more years to come.

So... Let's Eat Some Beets

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Best Laid Plans or Seven Birds and a Cat

The big difference between Mrs. H and I is that she's a "spur of the moment" kind of gal and I am a "let's take a year to think about it" type of guy. For example, a couple weeks ago she hollered at me from the other room -

"Guess what I found on Craigslist?"

"What?" I shouted back

"Chickens," she called out, walking into the kitchen. "Young ones too, and they're orangish colored."

"Orangish?" I inquired, rolling my eyes. "Hmm, I wonder what breed that could be?"

"It doesn't matter, there's no time because their FREE!" she exclaimed in a slightly elevated tone.

"Why are they free?" was my skeptical counter.

With a slight look of disgust, she replied "Who knows, but if I don't respond right this minute they will be GONE! FREE, did you hear me, they're FREEEEE!!"

And with a deep sigh, I conceded "Yes dear, if it makes you happy we can go look at them" and so she called the phone number, and so we went and looked, and thus it was that we eventually acquired a few new laying hens.

Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard one plans and schemes the Gods of Chaos will prevail. I had it all worked out in my structured little mind and once again she proceeded to challenge my boundaries. The plan was to pick and order new hens from the below listed birds that I had thoroughly researched and decided on. The 6-10 new additions, based on cold hardiness, egg laying abilities, size, temperament, and recommendations from other bloggers who raise chickens in colder climates were to be chosen, if available, out of the following breeds;
Buff Orpington
Plymouth Rock
Red Star
Rhode Island Reds
Russian Orloff

But no! The word "free" is like a drug to my wife and we have now been gifted with many new additions to our motley crew of laying hens. The newest hens supposedly range in age from 6 months to just over a year old and were offered on Craigslist because the owners could no longer care for them and were willing to part with the birds for free under the conditions that we provide a good home and not use their pets as stewing hens...only two of them were "orangish" colored and there were really 7 hens not 6 as the ad suggested.:) And so now we have;

Two small scrappy white Leghorns that I just adore. I would have never considered this breed but am so happy to have been talked into them as they are the neatest, busy, smartest little birds I ever did see. One of them even laid two eggs the day before yesterday...that was a surprise but apparently possible upon occasion.

A lone Red Star, such a sweet, friendly, very curious little bird, and quite smitten with our dog Rowdy whom she no doubt thinks is a rooster...he is a pretty cocky little fellow after all.

Two Buff Orpingtons, that, like the Red Star, were at least on my original list. They seem to be great birds and immediately honed in on the nest boxes and laid us a couple eggs.

And two more scraggly looking Rhode Island Reds that are as cockeyed crazy as my originals but should be a nice addition to our flock that now numbers 16.

That Mrs. H, she does like her deals and because of it we now have a larger flock that has meshed together without incident allowing us to avoid the challenge of raising baby chicks this spring. Luckily, the new gang of hens has been very submissive to our originals and no serious squabbling has taken place. The new birds are very happy as their old digs left much to be desired. The weather was nice enough the other day that they even ventured outside for a while, their first taste of freedom no doubt. Unfortunately, today's colder weather has somewhat tempered their enthusiasm for the great outdoors.

Oh, and my good wife found this half starved cat in our barn this winter too...it is sitting on my lap begging for attention as I try to type this...Ay yi yi. Meet Nikita Katerina (right), master of her domain and proprietor of the chair pictured below. She was spayed yesterday so everyone is being extra nice to her, even Spooky, our grumpy old orangish colored cat.:)

It's kind of a strange system that Mrs. H has put in place here, and one that always leaves me scratching my head wondering what the heck I just got myself into...and I wouldn't change a thing.:) As they say "Compromise, if not the spice of life, is its solidity. It is what makes nations great and marriages happy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Seed Saving Schedule 2011 - 2014

This is our seed saving schedule for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. I am posting it here as a reference for myself and am not sure that it will really be relevant to anyone else's seed saving endeavours but it does give an idea of what the core crops we grow in our garden are. While we will be growing many more plants than are listed here, the plants shown below, with the exception of those with ? marks, are the ones we consider to be most important to us and have already had good success growing and saving seed from in previous years. I am going to try to put this on a more easily understandable spreadsheet when time permits and will add the PDF link to this post at that time.

All of the plants with question marks are ones that I am still contemplating saving seed off of for various reasons. For example, basil is an intricate member of our garden but I rarely have any luck getting them to set viable seed in our short season...but will continue to try as basil seed is very expensive. Perhaps by starting them earlier and growing in pots that can be moved into the greenhouse in the fall I will have more success. We will continue to save many other seeds not on this list, but only as time and the need to do so permits.

Alliums - (annually)
Yellow of Parma
Stuttgarter - 2012?

Allium divisions and seed - (annually)
Egyptian Walking Onion
Red of Florence Bunching Onion

Amaranth - (2 year rotation)
Hopi Red Dye - 2012

Beans - (annually)
Kentucky Wonder
Painted Lady Runner
Scarlet Emperor Runner

Beets/Chard - (3 year rotation)
Chard, mixed - 2011
Cylindrical - 2011
Crapaudine (red) - 2011
Detroit Dark Red - 2012
Mammoth Red Mangle - 2013
Yellow Eckendorf - 2013?

Broccoli - (3 year rotation)
Note - save seed late in season to avoid crossing with kale
De Ciccio - 2011
Purple Peacock Broccoli - 2012
Umpqua Broccoli - 2013

Cabbage -
Melissa ?
Red Acre?

Carrots - (3 year rotation)
Imperator - 2011
Chantenay - 2012
Danver Half Long - 2013

Celery - (2 year rotation)
Red Giant - 2011
Ventura - 2012

Chicory - (3-4 year rotation)
Italian Dandelion - 2011
Red Belgian Endive - 2012
Green Belgian Endive - 2013
Batavian Endive - 2014?
Escarole - 2014

Corn - (2-3 year rotation)
Painted Mountain - 2011
Blue Jade - 2012

Cucumbers - (2 year rotation)
Boothby's Blond -2011
National Pickling - 2011?
Homemade Pickles - 2012?
White Stallion - 2012

Eggplant - (annually)
Long Purple
Apple green?

Herbs/Flowers - (1-3 year rotation)
Epizote - 2011
Spilanthes - 2011
Nasturtium - 2011
Calendula - 2011
Cilantro - 2011
Dill - 2011
Basil - 2011?
Red/Green Shiso - 2011?

Herb Seed and Root Divisions/Propagation (Annually or as needed)
Various thyme
Various oregano
Various Sage
Lemon Balm

Husk Fruit - (annually)
Ground Cherry
Green Tomatillos
Purple Tomatillos

Kale - (4 year rotation)
Note -save early to avoid crossing with broccoli
Beady's Camden - 2011
Dwarf Vates Blue Curled - 2012
White Russian - 2012
Red Russian - 2013
Lacinato Rainbow - 2013?
Dinosaur - 2014

Kohlrabi ? (see how 2010 seed performs)

Lettuce - (2 year rotation)
Arugula - 2011
Golden Purslane - 2011
Boc Choy - 2011
Black Seeded Simpson - 2011
Bloomingsdale Spinach - 2011
Red Mustard - 2011
Oakleaf - 2011
Mache - 2011
(Dave's) Speckled Trout - 2011?
Winter Density Romaine - 2011
Red Romaine - 2012
Winter Density Mix - 2012
Cress - 2012
Salad Burnett - 2012
Chervil - 2012
Mike's Red Lettuce - 2012
French Sorrel - 2013 (every 3rd year)

Parsley - (2 year rotation)
Curled - 2011
Hamburg - 2012?

Parsnip - (annually)
Hollow Crown
Harris Model

Peas - (annually)
Blue Podded

Peppers - (2 year rotation)
Purple Beauty - 2011
Red/Orange Banana - 2011
Jalapeno - 2011
Yellow/Red Cayenne - 2011
Mini Red Bell - 2012
King of the north Bell?
Sweet Italian?

Salsify/Scorzonera - (2 year rotation)

Squash/Zucchini - (3-4 year rotation)
Sugar Pie Pumpkin (pepo) - 2011
Black Zucchini (pepo) - 2011
(TC) Sweat Meat (maxima) - 2011?
Hubbard - (maxima) - 2012
Papya Pear (pepo) - 2012
Gold Nugget - (maxima) - 2013
Spaghetti (pepo) - 2013

Tomatoes - (annually as needed)
Note - keep cross pollination rate of about 1-4% in mind.

Tubers - (annually)
Garlic Mix

Turnip - (2-3 year rotation)
Purple Top - 2011

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