Thursday, December 9, 2010

2011 Open Source Vegetable Genetics

It's time to plan our plantings for next year and we're looking at alot of unique and exciting vegetable and grain genetics for the next year. We've grown a good bit of corn seed on farm: 'Bloody Butcher' and 'Reid's Yellow Dent',  lots of Lettuce: the Austrian speckled heirloom 'Forellenschluss' and the baby leaved 'Buttercrunch'. Then there's an array of special potatoes from Tom Wagoner's potato sampler.  I've also saved a bunch of 'Emkwana' Squash from my Old Salem grow-out of the rare Menonomie Indian Pepo, a gallon milk jug full of a really diverse 'Whipporwill' Cowpeas, and a good bit of 'White Bermuda' Sweet Potato seed stock.

In addition to that we're getting a share of seeds from the FACE OF THE EARTH seed csa.  Based in Indiana, FACE OF THE EARTH has been breeding diversity into alot of new landrace varieties.  This experimental csa provides seed to a network of folks around the world breeding bioregional (and farm!) adapted food plants.

What's a Landrace?  I'm glad you asked...

A Landrace is a population of plants highly variable in appearance.  Like what would have been common before the industrialization of our seed sources.  Each landrace has a core, although variable, identifiable morphology and holds a certain genetic integrity.  It's sort of like the flip side of the coin of pure bred gene lines.  By selectively choosing which plants flower together we can create a diverse genepool where we see a higher density of statistical games being played at the genetic level than in inbred open pollinated lines or their hybrid offspring.

Just check out some of the diverse offerings from the FACE OF THE EARTH 2011 Seed Bazaar to get your taste buds anticipatin':

Dry Farm Acorn Squash landrace

here's what Alan at Bishop's Homegrown says about them:
"a mix of acorn varieties from our own collection as well as that of Long Island seed grown on the absolutely worst piece of soil on the farm over the past couple of years. Hard and heavy read clay is the norm here. This year we didn’t even add compost, instead we allowed the squash to show us what they had and forwent any irrigation as well, and the best of the best survived and produced a bumper crop of acorn squash from small to large in size in a diversity of color. From there we have chosen seed from the best looking, best tasting, and best storing of the survivors. "

and then there's:

Amanda Palmer Landrace corn

We hope to use this corn to develop a good feed for our poultry:

We might even work to establish a intentionally feral population of cherry tomatoes

30 total!: 
A Millet Mix
El Diablo Tobbacco Grex
Amanda Palmer Landrace
Waxy Corn
Saucer Full Of Secrets Sunflowers
Inanna Spring Wheat (mixture of varieties rescued from Iraq post invasion)
Blackberries (mixture of seed from 10 distinct thornless cultivars, lots of room to create a new thorn less blackberry including genes from runnering or dewberry type blackberries)
UK Tuxpeno Corn
Curcurbita Maxima Grex
Dry Farm Acorn Squash Landrace
Gold Standard Summer Squash
High Voltage Hot Pepper Landrace
Easter Everywhere Bell Pepper Mix
Astronomy Domine Sweet Corn
Red Watermelon
Absinthe Green Fleshed Muskmelon Mix
Electric Head Lettuce
Olde 101 Red Tomato
Roller Coaster Cherry Tom 
Absinthe Tomato
Mer De Noms Tomato
Phoenix Pink Tomato
OSU Blue Tom
Between the Sun and Moon Watermelon Mass Cross
Dionysus Melon Grex
Edamame Grex
6 Turnip Root Grex
Summer Radish Grex
Hip-Gnosis Long White Slicing Cucumber
Green Gumbo Okra Mix

We'll also be looking towards these sources as we build our resilient farm library of bio-ecology:

A Cold Night for Chickens

A lot of people comment on chickens, calling them dinosaurs or reptilian or what have you. Although I myself have seen the similarity, there's nothing like a winter chill to remind you why chickens survived the ice ages and velociraptors did not. These birds are cold hardy! We've had whole week full of nights in the teens with waterers turning to ice and cars that won't start, but the chickens continue to run around, lay eggs, and chit-chat with nothing but their feathers on! Meanwhile, I'm in my January clothes wondering what happened to mild NC winters.

Mornings with chickens are a little easier now -- our layer flock is finally ONE as we have introduced our original mini-flock of golden comets with our younger heritage and americauna rangers. This is especially good for winter time as it fills the coop up all the way at night and makes our feeding and watering duties centralized.

Our oldest round of broilers are also now living la vida al aire libre (bad transliteration) cooping in the greenhouse with an outdoor run. And today our flock of young white rock cockerels will move into a mobile coop with insulation, greenhouse film, and a low-tunnel design.

Pics to come!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Food Safety Rant: The Senate Bill Passeth

I can't remember a time in my life when a Senate bill has caused such a stir with such a broad spectrum of people. The critical arguments and scathing documentaries about food systems in this country have taken hold of the mass mind, I think. People are wary. Distrust of government is high. Everybody's getting frisked. The tendency is: look to how hard they're gonna screw us now. As always, Big Ag is lurking in the halls of legislation.

For many of us, small farmers or otherwise, the ramifications of the bill are obscured by the process in which it is written and passed and diminished in meaning through the very words themselves, which, being neither plain nor explicit tell in no way what needs to be done to produce and provide safe food to everyone in this country. (The sentence above is tame and legible contrasted with what passes for legal language in our society today.) What will actually happen if and when this bill is executed? What will it actually say? What other laws will be hitched to its star? And how will these laws effect the life and way of agriculture in this country?

I have no idea.

Watching and reading as this legal process unfolds, I'm more curious to know why we even have this government at all. It's shocking how very little progress is made in Washington to address the broad and disturbing issues facing our country's economies and agro-ecosystems. (Not to mention health care, education, peace and security.) It seems impossible to think that the very legal machine which paved the way for this obviously demented military-industrial-food-energy-resource-outsource-corporation complex can do anything at all to limit, prevent, or heal the damage it has done and will continue to do to our soils, our health, our culture, und so weiter.

At what point do we, as the beyond organic local sustainable resilient inter-dependent creative collaborative peace culture, detach ourselves from the trainwreck and outline realistic plans to self-organize around modes of production, consumption, and recycling that align with our values?

Factory Farms

Found this really amazing interactive map of factory farms in the US from a Civil Eats post:;location:NC;year:2007

you can zoom in on NC and specific counties and see what's going on where.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pfafftown Hellhounds

We had a pretty tragic experience on the farm the night before Halloween when some beast tore into one of our mobile broiler coops and snuffed a couple dozen of what were going to be our Christmas broilers. Speculations flew as to the nature of the culprit or culprits. Last night I came home, and there was a canine of some sort sniffing around. It made a terrible noise, I screamed like a little girl and it ran off across the street into a neighboring field. It looked like some kind of doberman squatweiler -- black as night and evil. Obviously, a hellhound.