"coronado(1541) did not quite reach the upper missouri, his farthest north being the kansas river, or the big blue, where he found the quivira ...'in some villages there are as many as two hundred houses: they have corn and beans and melons...' "
"...they ( the mandans) first reached the missouri at the mouth of the white river and gradually ascended the missouri to the heart river, where they lived for a long time. here the mandans were joined by two siouan tribes, the hidatsas and the crows...according to their stories they learned all they knew of agriculture form the mandans...the hidatsas claim to have had no knowledge of corn until the first ate it from the trenchers of the mandans..."
from "corn among the indians of the upper missouri. george f. will & george e. hyde
so if i read this right the mandans migrated up the valley of the mmissouri river taking their agriculture with them in a demic diffusion of the culture which was then culturally diffused to the hidatsas and crows...i am assuming that the mandans were already growing maize when the reached the missouri, which will and hyde date to the mid seventeenth century, a bit over a hundred years after coronado found native peoples growing maize a bit to the south...a combination of diffusions that argue for a plurality of mechanisms in the diffusion of agriculture...it would help to explain the dominance of annual crops as staples ( for me anyway..which probably isn't saying much...but it's my blog )...the beginnings of agriculture is such a contentious business in the anthropological world...from where plants were domesticated to who did it, why, and what plants were the wild ancestors...and i suppose the debate is good, if not the acrimony...and i'm interetsed...mostly because i'd really like to know why anyone would willingly take on that much work ( he said as he spreads gardens all over the place...from the campus to back yards near you )..but the issue that concerns me is the more immediate one of the agricultural system we have today, its health concerns, and its utter reliance on petrochemicals...hinging something so vital on a non-renewable resource is lunacy to me ( so hence the organics and the "perennial" part of the project)...i'll admit upfront that any and everything i'm exploring here is completely derivative...but it still needs to be looked at and i can't help but think the mandans and their fellows could teach us something...
the photos have nothing to do with the text but i took them this morning when i went to campus to take the frost cloth off the teosinte ( no it didn't frost but i'll be damned if i'm going to take that chance when the forecast lows are in the thirties...not going to lose the improbable zea diploperennis because i was lazy)...the top one is how the garden looked a bit after seven this morning...lots of winter wheat going on which what the next two photos are of ( and i have to wonder why the backyard wheat hasn't developed any seed heads...it was planted at the same time in soil prepared with the same compost...weird)...the bird tape seems to be doing its job ( still no photos of our bird...she is slippery ) the fourth photo is of a doomed yam already in the shadow of a relentless jerusalem artichoke and the bottom photo is of the improbable teosinte and in it second season it still looks like maize...the family resemblance is plain to see...there's no maize on cmpus yet...or here for that matter...too cold and i am at a loss to know where i would put it in a garden already densely populated..still i want some comparative photos form another season so it will find a home somewhere.
just a quick trip around the property to have a look at some apple trees that are up and running ( and growing ) the top photo and the bottom two are of the trees i planted last summer...all three sprouted leaves last month during the insanely hot march we had and i have covered them with frost cloth ( the green stuff in the background of some of the outdoor photos ) on more than one april night...the second two are of the trees under the grow-light in the basement...they don't have frost worries but will suffer significant shock when they do make it into the great outdoors...resilient critters that they are they will be fine...there is good new growth in all five trees...the outdoor ones have already been heavily mulched with compost and i see that as a summer long trend...hill the potatoes...mulch the trees...they are years away from fruit bearing and there's no real telling what kind of apples they will produce ( odds are they will be spitters fit only for cider )...call it an experiment in genetics...perhaps there's a paper in there somewhere.
i discovered seed heads on the winter wheat at iu last week and, surprisingly enough, i found a few spare moments today so i went and put up some bird tape ( top photo ) to deter the starlings form feasting on my wheat...it worked well last year...there was also far less wheat there last year so we'll see...i did some selective watering while i was there and i ironically flushed a bird that was sheltering there out of my intermediate wheat grass...so...we'll see if the bird tape deters sheltering as well as feasting...or if it does either...i will try to get a photo of our denizen sometime soon...the secon two photos are of potato plants..the first one up is growing larger and one other has put out three seperate leaves which, i suppose, means three seperate stalks...curious about tuber production later this summer...the fourth photo is of a seed head which is what triggered this flurry of activity and the last phot0 is the "before"photo for the bird tape application...the kerusalem artichokes and chinese yams and asparagus are all fine...the next bit of construction will be the secon half of the trellis for the yam vines...they will have topped the first post soon...more stake pounding later this week.
it just gets weirder and weirder and once again i have no real frame of reference for what's going on...not that it's completely unnatural or unprecedented...just not something i can relate to previous experience...the top photo is of a volunteer potato ( doubtlessly a red nordland...all that i planted last year ) coming up in one of the beds out in the back yard...it's come a long a ways without me noticing it tucked away out there so we'll see what comes of it...no movement in the ones i planed last weekend and with it cooling off like it has they will be taking their time...fine...i have all season...i found yams in the jerusalem artichoke earlier this week..and the second photo is of yams in the wheat...these don't look like plants up from bulbs for their first year...these are vines as big as some from the two three year old plants out there which tells me that some outlaying tubers developed and are working on a second season...startling what can get past em in a hundred and sixty square feet...speaking of wheat ( and the main point of this screed ) i found at least six plant out on campus that are developing seed heads...they didn't start that behavior until late may last year...so we're running a month ahead doubtlessly due to the extraordinarily warm march we had...so it's time to deploy some festive looking bird tape to keep the starlings off my wheat...none of the crop in the back yard...which was planted at the same time as the campus crop...is exhibiting any signs of seed heads...curious...what's the environmental variable?...the bottom photo is of a couple ( out of thirty or so ) hale and hearty jerusalem artichoke plants that are on their way to overshadowing the rest of the garden...more as it comes up.
the pgp's season is coming along just fine...the top photo is of some robustly vined chinese yams...both the plants entering their third season have multiple vines out and there are a few plants form errant bulbs here and there which may or may not thrive...the improbable teosinte continues to do well and looks to have good growth...it is far ahead of where it was last year...but it was only up from seed then and it was a very coll spring last year...probably not a fair comparison...but the teosinte form seed that's up is and it is about a month ahead of last year's sprouts...the biggest news today is that one of the red nordlands i planted eleven days ago is up...nine more to go and once one is up the others usually crop up in short order...hopefully a couple of weeks will see the government potatoes up and running as well...the bottom photo is of what promises to be a formidable stand of jerusalem artichokes...i have culled a few rouges this season but nothing like last year...i grew fewer plants last season and seem to have done a more thorough job o harvesting...nothing much turning up in unacceptable areas except one stubborn one in the teosinte bed...so far i'm pleases...geeked even...it will be more fun once the semester is over.
i stopped by campus after work to drop a couple of things off and to plant the other half of my government potatoes...when i got to looking around the garden i noticed a yam plant had sprung up among the jerusalem artichokes ( second photo ) which are doing well with a bit of rain ad a warm day yesterday ( third photo )...both plants are pretty hardy critters ( the vines form the yam tubers i left in the ground are between twelve and twenty-four inches long now...they are dark and unfortunately blend into the background..the photos i took don't do them justice so i will leave that for a hopefully better shot later )...but the yam in the photo with the sunchokes is one that has grown form an aerial bulb that obviously got by e last autumn...i believe i will leave it be but i'm not sanguine about its chances...it won't have the root system or energy to vine they way the established plants will and the jerusalem artichokes, once they get going, will produce so much shade underneath themselves that they are pretty much self mulching...no weed, or possibly even an aggressive chinese yam, stands much of a chance of establishing itself there...more on this as it goes along...the bottom photo is of zea diploperennis...tell me teosinte doesn't look like maize and i won't believe you...absolutely has to be an ancestor ( or at least one of them depending on who you believe in the corn wars...and no, i am not inviting a debate...no iltus/eubanks comments, please...i will delete them )...so far so good...looking for potatoes soon.
the radishes i planted are up ( top photo ) and so are the turnips ( bottom photo )...that's good news...still waiting on snow peas and scarlet runner beans...i spent part of this afternoon preparing a bed for my red nordland potatoes which i cut yesterday and which i will plant tomorrow...while i was at it i prepared the last open half-barrel on the south side if the house by pulling all the weeds out of it and mixing in a healthy dose of composted manure so i could plant half my allotment of government potatots...the first potato photos is of a primitive cultivar called negra ojosa...that tuber's shape is what they call compressed in the potato trade...in ethnobotany too...the middle photo is of (surprise!) a nordland potato which is ovate shaoed and the fourth photo is a tuber called isla caucahua tha looks a bit more like a russet than the other two which are obviously reds...it too is ovate shaped...what other characteristics they develop remains to be seen...i planted them sperately form the seed potatoes i bought from oregon because the potato introduction station said they could not guarantee them disese free and the suggested that they be isolated from any crop...i have potatoes in the ground on campus but i wanted to plant the second sample of each of these there as well...i will have to give it some thought since the potatoes on campus are intercropped with the wheat and it will be difficult to find a place to isolate these there..i have forty-two pieces of tuber to plant tomorrow and i saved the coach a potato that should be good for at least six...add in the ten on campus and the thirty-three in my daughter and son-in-law's back yard and the four pounds did yeoman's duty...now all i need is for the wild potato seeds to gerninate.
this evening holds some promise as my second batch of seed potatoes form oregomn were on the front porch when i came home and the mailbox contained a small but mighty package from the potato introduction station on sturgeon bay wisconsin that has germplasm for isla caucacha and nordland potatoes as wellas the primitive cultivar negra ojosa...i've already planted wild potato seeds on campus and if those turn out well we will have a small representation of potato morphology...nothing approaching the huge variety of potatoes...but a decent morphological representation...there's a freeze warning in effect again tonight so i went out to campus to cover the teosinte again ( and stop off to see the coaach )...it's return was improbable and i want to get it through another full season...if the roots develop well enough perhaps, with luck, i can coax more seasons out of them...a forlorn hope prehaps but this season is a bonus so why not hope for more? the bottom two photos show that the chinese yams have found the uprights for the trellis...nearly as ferocious as the jerusalem artichokes, it will be interesting to see how they develop...the season is rolling along...lots to see...lots to do.
the campus is a quiet place at six thirty on a saturday morning...just some robins, a few folks form the neighborhood out for a morning stroll, and me...i cut the two pounds of organic seed potatoes i had received last week on this past thursday and they are ready to plant...so i took ten pieces ( the rest are earmarked for my daughter's back yard and the next two pounds go in my yard ) and a packet of the wild potato seeds i just received from peru via the usda and went planting...i dug out spaces in between the wheat ( so i will be growing and harvesting it all this year to perpetuate the "green manure" system of organic matter replacement ) and tossd in a handful or two of compost, put in the chunk of potato ( eye side up ) covered them and marked the spot with a plant label until they come up...i also planted a row of wild potato seeds alongside the zea diploperennis ( which has tolerated the cold pretty well ) and gave them all a thorough watering...i also put in the first upright for the trellis for the yams as they will be climbing soon...it's been a busy weekend so far and it isn't over yet...my daughter's back yard is next and my supplier tells me my seed potaoes are on the way from oregon...no rest for the wicked...doubly so for a wicked gardener...there is movement in the garden as shown by the portrait in the top photo...the pgp as it looked a bit after seven this morning.
went back to campus this morning to uncover the teosinte and drop some stuff off at the archives...the yams are really up and running ( top and bottom photos ) each have three vines going...it will be time to re-establish the trellis soon...perhaps tomorrow when i go back to plant potatoes...the teosinte weather the night fine and in that bed of dark, fresh compost the ground will warm well in the sunshine...they should be fine...even the ones up from seed are okay...the winter wheat on campus and here in my back yard is thriving...filling in rhyzomatically...i'm afraid some of the campus stand will have to go when the potatoes go in...there will be wild potatoes planted tomorrow as well...here at home i cleared out some ornamental grasses, spaded up the ground, turned in two hundred pounds of compost and planted scarlet runner beans,sunflowers, turnips, radishes, beets, and snow peas...the fearless jerusalem artichokes have made an appearance in my yard to compliment the hoard on ccampus and soon as my other order of seed potatoes shows up they will be going in too...things won't slow down until novemebr.
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.