Saturday, January 28, 2012

another round of erosion

i have been out and about this saturday morning...after a trip to campus i wandered out to an office supply store for some printer ink. markers, post-it flags, and some pens and on the road home i stopped by the corn field out on county line road just to see if anything was up...with snow, thaw, rain, snow as the pattern the winter has established i thought there might be something...and there was...the second and smaller of the erosion gullies ( top photo ) i found has gotten a bit bigger and the one from last year ( bottom photo ) continues to cna see form all three photos that farmer brown has left the con stubble in the field after harvest which will help ( but, obviously from the photos, not stop ) the topsoil from running off with rain and snow can just see in the middle photo the unbroken snow on the soybean field which was harvested clean and has no stubble...that particular portion of the field however has a grass strip about six feet wide between it and the the drainage ditch at the edge of the road which is absent from the corn field and which is hold back any erosion form that particular portion of the field...whatever sort of precipitation falls for the duration of the winter i would expect both these gullies to enlarge...we'll see if i am correct in that supposition as the season wears on and i make field trips out there as time and weather premit.

winter comes...winter goes...

yesterday it was sunny and in the 40s...last night there was a dusting of snow...and this morning it's in the upper 20s ( 28 degrees according to npr at about nine when i was approaching campus )...the intermediate wheat grass ( middle photo ) is in no doubt about the season temperature non-withstanding and it is full blown dormancy...actually it has been since late november...the winter wheat is more cold hardy than the wheat grass but i am inclined to think that it should be dormant as well...certainly the winter wheat i grew last year was by this time...but it was under a pile of snow form mid december until late february or early march...both the wheat on campus ( top photo ) and the whaet in my back yard ( bottom ) are still la vibrant green when brown is the seasonal color...there is usually a ten percent die back of winter wheat due to cold which is more than made up for by the rhyzomatic spread of the wheat in the spring ( i planted less than 100 plants on campus last year and harvested 383 )but i am afraid that if there is a significant cold spell without an insulating snow cover the die back may make a spring crop a much reduced affair...peculiar weather this january...there is usually what is locally called ( and it may not be just local ) a january thaw, but mild januarys are another matter...a mild december had me thinking we might have a winter back-loaded with ice and i'm not's true that february isn't generally a less wintery month than january around here so the possibility of a true winter still exisits...but i'm beginning to have my doubts.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

winter in the backyard

winter has put in another appearance in my backyard...the perennial grasses are coated with snow and the raised bed of winter wheat finally has its insulation ( you can just see a few blades of wheat poking up through the snow ) notoriously inaccurate garden thermometer which was showing temperatures around sixty degrees recently is struggling to make it to twenty and the burlap wrapping on my apple trees has a couple of inches of snow on top...and yet i'm reading extended forecasts that call for temperatures above freezing in the coming week so the wheat isn't in the clear yet...for a crop that i planted in mid-october the wheat in the raise reached about ten inches in height...which means a well developed root system and, at least, a chance of a fair crop come june...goofy weather will also play fast and loose with my jerusalem artichoke storage experiment...i need temperatures below freezing for a while to obtain a realistic assessment of how well it does ( or, more likely, does not ) work...i have obtained my seeds for spring planting and i ordered a few more pounds of seed potatoes to plant a patch in my daughter's back yard ( they asked ) and i got an email from the usda potato introduction station in sturgeon by wisconsin saying seed clones from their fall harvest will be available ( for free )for spring planting so we will have an abundance of potatoes this coming year...diversity is good so a second strain won't hurt...lots of work going on in the asement and more to come outside in a few short weeks...ten weeks to planting teosinte and wild potatoes...and about thirteen to cutting, callousing, and planting red nordlands...sunflowers, scarlet runner beans, snow will be here soon...can't wait!

winter in the basement

it's winter but work on next season is already going on...the top photo is of a scarlet runner bean under the grow light in the basement...i'm growing them this coming spring...they're a cool weather crop that flowers and pods in the spring, lays low in the heat, and picks up production again in the autumn...i haven't grown them before so i germinated one so i'd have an idea of what they looked the two weeks or so since it sprouted i've had to transplant it to a larger pot because the roots were coming out the bottom of the peat pot it was in and it has grown to a bit over ten inches in height...robust viners, i may have to construct a basement trellis before i can put it outside in march...i have been trying to ascertain if they are self-pollinating or if this plant is doomed to not produce...the second photo is of a couple of new apple trees i've got going down there...mostly as a back up if my winterizing plan for the trees outside fails...if it does these trees are going to remain potted and protected until spring 2015 when i'll plant again...if my backyard trees come through ( which is plan a) then i will find homes for these next summer. the basement teosinte is none too happy and i am trying to research the plants seasonal cycle to see if there's a period of dormancy or if they are simply not going to make it through to spring and another season outdoors...i have more seeds from the usda but i'd really like to try to get these to go to seed...that may be impossible this far north...more as it comes up.

Friday, January 6, 2012


peculiar weather, no? the top and bottom photos are of the winter wheat in the bed in my back is still growing and has exceeded eight inches in the tradition of random firefox uploads to blogger, the third photo is of a clump of winter wheat on campus that i took on november fourth...the second photo is of the same clump that i took on campus this morning...the wheat hasn't gained much in height but is has tillered considerably in the last couple of can actually see dormancy creeping in around the base of the wheat, but it isn't hibernating yet...neither, for that matter, is the grass on is green and photosynthesizing away...fifty degrees on january sixth aint natural...there are doubtlessly folks out there who fervently hope we get away without a winter this year...and i have seen some mild winters here in the last decade ( although not the past few years ) hasn't even gotten cold enough for me to test out my fabric lined cache pit for jerusalem artichokes yet...nature has me in some suspense over what will happen next...and what sort of impact it will have on the spring season...last year was a cold spring and everything but the elephant garlic was alte in coming out of dormancy...something out of the ordinary, like an april snow could be a problem for planting things like red nordlands.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

back to the plants

the odd weather is playing fast and lose with my winter wheat and i really don't know where it will all end up...good, i hope, but my experience is a bit limited and all that i have read still insists on the need for snow form december to march to insulate the plants form the real extended sub-freezing weather either...peculiar climate these days...natural or anthropogenic...i suppose that all i can do is wait...there's movement in the basement though...i have never grown scarlet runner beans before so i decided to germinate some just so i would know what they looked like when they came up...odd critters...a north american native and grown form heirloom seeds...perhaps not in its original native range, but on the home continent...close enough for my standards ( bear cultural and demic diffusion in mind)...the indoor teosinte is holding its own...the aphid infestation is down to a few individuals sprayed on a daily basis...obviously eggs have been laid in the soil...i heaped the pots with mushroom mulch to provide some needed nutrients as the winter progresses and the addition of the second gro light seems to be working well...there is new growth ( though not much in the way of new tillers ) on both plants so after several months in the artificial environment of the basement i am guardedly hopeful ( as opposed to optimistic which would be a complete denial of life's realities ) that they will see spring and eventually go to apple trees did well this past season and they are securely mulched for winter...but, realist that i am, i am hedging my bets by growing a few more just in case i have blundered completely...if the backyard trio come through to spring hale and ready to produce another season's growth i will find homes for the newbies...perhaps as a companion to the tree i planted in my daughter's back yard last summer...everybody likes some company...more stuff as it comes up.

Monday, January 2, 2012

peanut butter and bread

"the price of bread did not vary; its weight did. roughly speaking, variable weight was the general rule throughout the western world. the average weight of bread sold in the bakers' shops in saint mark's square or on the rialto in venice varied in an inverse ratio to the price of grain...regulations published in cracow in 1561, 1589, and 1592 indicate the same practices; unvarying prices and variable weights."
"the structures of everyday life: civilization and capitalism 15th-18th century. volume 1" fernand braudel. p139

i know this has nothing to do with gardening and i was unsure which blog to post this in...but it is food related...and it is related to an industrial food system that is capitalist at heart and has to turn a profit to keep shareholders happy, even in difficult times...since this project is meant to stand in contrast to industrial food i thought, in the end, that it was germane to the underlying philosophy so i put it here ( and i am much less likely to go off on a terminal rant in this blog )...these three brands of peanut butter sell at the local supermarket for prices that can be covered by 10 ( wow..there is no "cent" sign on this keyboard..are cents obsolete?) cents...pretty standard pricing industry-wise but the jars are significantly different...the fisher's jar has a reasonably flat bottom...the skippy and planter's jars have a "punt" in the bottom...a concave structure that adds strength to champagne bottles but serves to lessen the amount of peanut butter in the jars...the skippy and planter's jars have 16.3 ounces, the fisher's 18 ounces...the fisher's jar is also a quarter inch bigger in, like the fourteenth and fifteenth century european bread makers, peanut butter producers ( and, i'll wager other food producers ) are varying the quantity of goods provided, not the price...a long tradition of sleight of hand...i am curious to know what fifteenth century bakers did to make their loaves appear larger than they were...or was that more an issue of government fiat than marketing manipulations?