it seems to be a peculiar end to a peculiar season...it go an early start in march hen the perennials switched on with the warmth and then stopped in a much cooler april...all the grasses, annuals like northern tepehuan teosinte, the winter wheat, and the hopi blue maize, as well as the perennials zea diploperennis, intermediate wheat grass, and the eastern gamagrass did well ( the drought was offset by my heavy use of supplemental water ) as did the chinese yams...the plant/replant perennial tubers ( potatoes and jerusalem artichokes ) both had disappointing harvests however...even the watering didn't seem to offset the drought's impact...right now things are quiet...but...the wheat grass domesticates form kansas are acting differently in different locations only a few miles apart...there is snow lingering in my back yard and the plants there are headed for dormancy while the campus garden is snow free and the plants there are still obviously green ( as is the forage variety along the south end of the garden )...another dichotomy in an odd season and i wonder what the upshot will be...it is supposed to be getting cold here for the rest of the week but then thee is a warm up forecast...much like last winter which alternated between temperatures above and below freezing all season...drought continues to be an issue as precipitation is spotty so there's no real way to know what the coming season will hold
the cornfield along sterling creek road has the most suburban amenities of any field i've seen...new blacktop, concrete curbs, street lights...the whole development enchilada...it also seems to have a new real estate broker...seems cbre/bradley wasn't doing the job of turning it from cornfield to subdivision with sufficient alacrity...best of luck tot hem...i still found a lot of corn on cobs out there...mostly on the north side of the field, closer to the strip mall and the 24/7 traffic at the super walmart...have to think it will be the last side of the field to be gleaned...when the critters are hungry enough not to be frightened...if you look closely at the left of the photo ( top one ) of the hospital ( another amenity for a burgeoning population...build it and they will come...so will the profits, but that is a subject for a different blog ) you can just make out the edge of the sprawl...i wonder if there will be another crop on sterling creek in 2013.
another strip mall...another suburban agricultural field...this one is the winter wheat ( at first i wasn't sure if it was wheat or rye, but rye has narrower leaves )...and winter is trying to put in an appearance out there...some of the plants are covered but none seem to be hinting at dormancy...there is no warm-up in the five day forecast however and a couple of weeks of sub-freezing temperatures will do the trick...if we have another winter like last year though a couple of weeks of sub thirty-two degree weather is unlikely...a waiting game for sure...i'll be out to campus monday to check on the kansas wheat grass ( and my back yard too ) and i'll be keeping tabs on this field as well...curious to see what the season brings.
it's been cold here in hardiness zone six with the temperature hovering around freezing and snow all around the state except here which has had no real noticeable impact on the plants left up and running...the gamagrass still has traces of chlorophyll in the lower leaves and none of the wheat grass wants to turn in for the winter...lots of green out there still and this got me to wondering so i drove over to the one-time bean field that now has a cover crop of winter wheat in it to see if there was any sign of a slow-down there...nope...just like the winter wheat i grew last year this doesn't seem to be in any hurry to achieve a dormant state...green and growing to boot it will be sprouting seed heads in april if it isn't turned under before then to make way for some industrial crop ( depends, i suppose, on the price of hard red winter wheat come spring...always could put in some soybeans or alfalfa...but i digress )...so january will find me trapsing around someone's field ( no plants were harmed in the taking of these photos ) as well as visiting the garden to look for signs of dormancy...research never stops...neither does gardening .
i started around twenty more asparagus seeds some ten days ago...no word yet...but the four that are up seem to be thriving under the grow light ( and in what natural light they can find these days ) and a couple of them took upwards of three weeks to start...obviously not all the seeds i stared in the beginning germinated and i don't expect to go twenty for twenty this time but the seed from the pgp is just as obviously viable as it is slow...there will hopefully be enough plants to populate the iu northwest community garden rebecca has told me i can use by the time april rolls around...and hopefully a few months' head start under the grow light will give them an advantage in establishing themselves in the outdoors...the corn plant is still growing slowly ( as is the deformed bean ) which isn't surprising since it is not a cool weather crop and the weather in this house is decidedly cool..which suits the asparagus and that is the focus...more maize will be planted ion the sspring.
winter arrived officially at 5:12 am local time yesterday ( the mayan apocalypse did not ) and this morning feels like winter with temperatures in the low twenties and a dusting of snow on the ground...geese were all around the industrial field today and i startled ( or, perhaps, just invaded their turf ) a group as i walked out into the field...there is still quite a bit of corn out there but i am having to travel deeper into the field to find it...the snow isn't helping either...doubtlessly i miss some as i trudged around...i be keeping an eye on this until spring just to see how much, if any, is left lying about.
"there is mounting evidence that these [perennial] systems can produce certain ecological services more efficiently and effectively than agroecosystems based on annual crops. examples include (i) soil and nitrogen loss rates from perennial crops are less than 5% of those of annual crops; (ii) perennial cropping systems have greater capacity to sequester greenhouse gasses than annual systems; (iii)in certain scenarios, some perennial crops appear more resilient to climate change than annuals, e.g., increases of 3 to 8 degrees centigrade are predicted to increase north american yields of the perennial crop switchgrass..." n.g.jordan. n, boody,w. broussard, et al, "sustainable development of the agricultural bioeconomy." science 316(2007):1570-1571._______________________________________
all ecosystems are a mix of annuals and perennials and so is the garden...with the brussels sprouts just about out of time ( i think...haven't taken them out yet ) the garden's population is returning to perennials...they have been the focus of the project since the beginning and will be even more so next season ( although there will be maize and [hopefully] annual teosinte ) with the wheat grass from kansas taking center stage...that particular grass is at the heart of a dormancy conflict that is raging out there...the zea diploperennis has been long dormant as well as the chinese yams...the eastern gamagrass is still holding out today with chlorophyll discernible in quite a few leaves and the wheat grass from kansas and the forage variety i planted a couple of seasons ago are both still up and running...winter has finally arrived...but it arrived in a strange form last year as well and my winter wheat ( admittedly an annual ) never did go dormant...which may explain why i was finding seed heads in april last year, about a month ahead of schedule...so i have to wonder if the wheat grass from the land institute will follow the same pattern and grow all winter ( the wheat grass in my back yard is till running as well )...all we can do is watch...certainly the early march warmth, coupled with a cool off and the subsequent drought, confused the perennials...especially the jerusalem artichokes which delivered a disappointing harvest compared to previous years...that will become a large part of the focus of my backyard...i have peopled it with as many native perennial species as i could lay my hands on for the space i have to monitor how they react to next season's weather...if the climate is changing ( and we are now a part of hardiness zone six instead of five ) then what better way to monitor its impact than by observing native species' reactions to it? well...there may be better ways but this is the best my limited brain can come up with and it gets me out into the fresh air most days...if the perennials can help ameliorate the impact of greenhouse gasses by sequestering more carbon in their roots as well as provide some subsistence then it's worth the effort.
"the western diet is systematically and deliberately undermining traditional food cultures everywhere..." michael pollan "in defense of food"____________________________________________________
"the global commodification of agriculture has its counterpart in the destruction of peasant and small-scale agriculture throughout the world." fred magdoff, john bellamy foster, frederick h. buttel, "hungry for profit" the agribusiness threat to farmers, food, and the environment."______________________________________________
"...they carefully selected their seed to insure purity of type. in no case did a single family plant more than two or thee varieties..." george f. will & george e. hyde. "corn among the indians of the upper missouri."______________________________
the harvest estimates are in from the usda and the amounts have been impacted by the summer's drought ( incidentally, the newly released palmer drought indices for november 2012 have lake county indiana still in throes of a "severe" drought...the precipitation of the last few days may go some way in changing december's index but it remains a dry year overall ) but the totals are impressive both for their size and their uniformity...10,799,000,000 bushels of dense yellow number two corn and 2,970,000,000 bushels of industrial soybeans will be reaped by year's end ...more hot pockets and mountain dew to flood the world with so the rest of the world's dwindling farmers can grow winter tomatoes and strawberries for the western market...who needs crop diversity when you can have specialty foods in the supermarket? hyde and will list one hundred and four varieties of maize that the missouri valley indians grew in their fields...each with a cultural significance unmatched by the "western" diet's attempt to turn food into a fungible commodity..stephen brush has done similar work with the huge number of andean potato varieties and their cultural meaning as well as their adaptation to their environment...who, i wonder, would do that for industrial corn...it would be a short paper...limited to the slender differences between the engineered seed of monsanto, bayer, and pioneer...i'm off to campus directly to check up on the wheat grass and gamagrass...and to inspect the mulching...it's an organic plot populated with mostly perennials ( i am trying to work as much as possible with native perennials...but that end of the project is more centered in my backyard than on campus...more room and more control...the perennials on campus are mostly immigrants ) and scattered with heirloom annuals when they are in season...a very small scale stand against industrial agriculture...the hopi blue hanging in my living room is going to become more plants next may.
i went by the house to check on things and the kansas wheat grass in my back yard hasn't gone dormant yet either...there's snow in the forecast ( if the whole mayan end of the world thing doesn't interfere ) and they may be on the way soon...unless of course we have a repeat snow/melt in two days winter...the four asparagus seedlings have recorded good growth in the last six days...the two older ones are beginning to "fern" noticeably and the two smaller ones are doing fine as well...encouraged by this i soaked and started seeds in eight more pots on sunday and will be watching for sprouts over the next few weeks...if all goes well there will be ample seedlings well enough along to transplant into the iuncg as soon as the weather breaks ( eighty degrees in march or will it wait until april? )...for all its seeming reluctance and yellow over-watered look, which i am inclined to believe is more from its dislike of the cool fiftyish temperatures we're keeping in the house than any sort of over-watering, the zea mays is exhibiting new growth too...not as extravagant as the asparagus, but there is a third leaf emerging to keep the photosynthesis going...so bits and pieces of the outdoor season are still up and running and the indoor season is proving successful so far ( the industrial soy bean is still going as well...just no room in this post for a photo...the new leaves are developing very slowly...also in response to the temperatures i'm thinking )with some luck and a bit of work they should meet in the spring...more as it comes up.
neither the wheat grass from kansas or the forage wheat grass i planted two years ago have found their way to dormancy...the land institute grass continues to grow actually and the line of grass just east of the asparagus is still bright green...add to this the fact that i am still weeding out competing plants from the square meter allocated to each the wheat grass domesticates and i am inclined to believe that another episodic winter is here...it did snow quite a bit last year but it always seemed to melt within a week...that went on until winter abruptly ended with eighty degree days in march and a completely confusing season for the perennials...the gamagrass continues to withdraw the last of the chlorophyll from its leaves as it decided that the time for dormancy has arrived...it is still there but the amount of green in the plants is lessening week to week...only to return as the plant "greens up" in march...i am curious to see how the plants behave over the next few months and equally curious about how the new batch of jerusalem artichokes i ordered and planted will fare compared to the fourth generation plants i intend to grow from last season's harvest...weather variations have always impacted plants wild or domesticates and there have always been good and bad seasons...a climate shift is something different from a seasonal anomaly and may have a deeper impact on perennials that have evolved to local conditions...i keep searching for native plants to grow with an eye to behavioral changes...i've added ramps and ginseng for the coming season and i am still scouting usda resources to find more...there's still a plant morphology/folk taxonomy going on so there will be more teosinte/maize going on and i think i have found a source for wild potato germplasm so there will be "wild and weedy" ancestors in the potato patch as well...the planning season is underway because the planting season begins in about four months...more as it comes up.
running saturday morning errands took me past the cornfield so i stopped by to see if the local critter population had been gleaning what the combine missed...there's still quite a bit of corn out there both loose and on cobs...it's difficult to quantify what was there in the first place 9 i wasn't in the mood to count cobs and individual kernels ) but i have noticed that the left over corn on the periphery of the field is diminished while the interior still has a ( for me ) surprising amount of grain laying about...the harvest has highlighted the suburban location of the field...with a walmart, sears hardware, and a lowes on the north, condos on the east side, and "improved" roads all around its days as a farm field are probably numbered...we'll see in may.
"the united states paves over roughly 170,000 hectares ( 420,078.5 acres ) of cropland per year" [gardener 1996]
an industrial worker and university student (everyone needs a hobby...my hobbies have evolved and, to keep things straight, i have left my formal student career behind for reasons that are too detailed to delve into here...continuing to be a student of life however and not adverse to learning...stasis is death ) sliding down the back side of middle age...a social loner with collectivist leanings...explain that.