Monday, January 31, 2011


well...i've got a dozen apple tree seedlings up and running....four of the batch of seeds i put in to germinate on the seventh of this month have come along far enough to find their way into pots ( i still haven't located any peat pots in the area and my mail order bulk shipment isn't here i used plastic i know...but these trees weren't going to wait alot longer...when it's time, it's time) so i spent a few minutes in the basement this evening and there they are...since the apples i'm eating for breakfast are rendering up so many seeds i feel obligated to try to use at least some of them...i have no idea what the success rate will be...the first two that i germinated from that mealy washington state apple did not survive more than a month...i've gone back over the research i did on raising apple trees from seeds and i don't think i did anything inapropriate, but that doesn't seem to have made a difference...we'll see if the more locally produced seeds have a better average...i have spots for half of this batch...if they all prosper i may have fruit trees to give away later this year...stay tuned

Friday, January 28, 2011


"the story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution bursting with questions. its earliest episode concerns how and when the first seed plant evolved rfom its fern-like ancestors, with other episodes about why seeds have dormancy and what mmakes them germinate; why some seeds are rich in oil and others in starch; why some seeds are big and others small; why some ar poisonous and some are palitable."
from " an orchard invisible: a natural history of seeds." by jonathan silvertown.p 4

"to see things in the seed, that is genius."

i am not completely sure what makes seeds germinate...what the exact mechanism is...moisture and dark seem to be key elements...warmth also seems to help some...but not others...nothing is universal i suppose...not many categorical absolutes to give reassurance...the eight apple tree seeds i put into damp paper towels on the last day of 2010 certainly weren't waiting around for things to warm up...twenty-eight days later and they're all out of the baggie and into some sort of pot( i don't seem to be able to find peat pots in the lawn and garden sections of any big box or home improvemnent store so i improvised with some plastic containers...time to go online to johnny's select seeds and order some in bulk i suppose)...i'll be starting tomatos soon...the rest of the seeds on campus and at home are going straight into the gorund...most before the last frost because they want a cycle of cold to stimualte germination...the gamagrass needed that and its what the teosinte is in for...the spinach and arugula too...not the cowpeas though...they like the soil to be warm before they will sprout....bulbs, seeds. spores, tubers, many strategies for plants to reproduce and spread much energy put into the next generation...dna is tenacious stuff.

it is still too cold and the ground too frozen to dig any tubers to fry...some adjustments will have to be made in my storage technology for the next fall's harvest...if i were relying on these for subsistence i'd be in pretty bad shape about's been two weeks since i retrieved any and that was a very marginal haul...i've been checking the ground underneath the mulch in the yard and it seems to be a bit more workable...but i am not convinced that it will be the answer to's worth looking into from an ease of execution standpoint, but i am researching root cellars just in case...i wonder if i would need a city permit to dig one? the idea of using the ground as storage is so appealing that i will have some difficulty in letting that go...refirigeration and consunerism have blinded us to the ingenuity of our ancestors...the idea of using my great-grandfather's technology to thumb my nose at the utility company and "free market' precepts is just about irresistable...sounds like a long term project to me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

new plantings

it's been a long day for a multitude of reasons, so pardon me if i am brief...some of the seeds from the bag of michigan apples have progressed to the point of planting ( three to be exact) more areapproaching that time...but not the end of the week i imagine...enough time to run to the garden store and invest in some more peat pots...i prepared a soil mixture using regular potting mix along with some of my home-made compost and some spahgmum moss to retain some moisture in the pots...i watered the mix down thoroughly and in went the seedlings, covering the nacent root up to the seedcoat and i put them under the grow light...the second of the original trees has me a bit worried about its continued doesn't show up well in th ephoto but the large leaves (leafs?) are beginning ot discolor around the edges much as the other one did before it keeled over...distressing, but as i think about it, one of the reasons plants produce so many seeds ( or bulbs or tubers...once again, odd how the ammount of sugars or starches we utilize a sfoods form any given plant depends on how it reproduces...tuberous perennial, lots of starch, rhyzocarpous perennial, nor so much...think jerusalem artichokes versus chinese yams) is because not all of them are going to make in numbers for a new generation...imagine if every acorn grew to an adult lumber if my original trees don't survive i have dozens of apple seeds, a box of baggies, many paper towels ( although i had to go to a janitorial supply store to find unbleached ones)water, and patience ( if i don't run the batteries down on other things) i will plant and try to nurtue until there are ( more) trees in the yard no matter how many apples i have to seems to be the way biology works...i will not panic...just regroup.

Friday, January 21, 2011


"...between about 9000 and 2000 b.p. populations throughout the world, already using very nearly the full range of available palatable foods, were forced to ajust to further increases in population by artificially increasing, not those resources they preferd to eat, but those which responded well to human attention and could be made to produce the greatest number of edible claories per unit of land."
from "The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture. by mark nathan cohen. p.15

"in aggregate we humans have shown no more restraint in contolling our numbers and appetites than bacteria on a perti dish of sugar or fruit flies on bananas in a flask or a deer population without predators."
from "Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture." by we jackson. p.247

william s. burroughs saw human behavior in terms of viruses...word virus was what he called his compulsion to in my past have led me to think of them in terms of me people seem hard-wired to procure and use ( or hoard) whatever it is that presses the "more!" button in their psychological or physiological make up...or both...mark cohen mnay be correct about the origins of expanding population in need of greater ammounts of food to sustain itself and a primal fear of starvation may have been driven to intervene in the lives of plants to quell that dread...when they began to see how much food they could produce the "more!" button got stuck in overdrive and the process of making a living by manipulating the lives of plants and the structure of the soil became a positive feedback loop...larger harvests=more people=more need pressed the "more!" button deeper and more land with fewer species ( those that produced the most) was brought into production and the philosophy of extraction gained creedance...humans ceased to be part of the natural world and instead became its "stewards"...coaxing cajoling, and bludgeoning it to meet our desire for "more!"...somewhere around two hundred and fifty years ago industrial manufacturing was born ( there were probably industries around as long as there have been humans, but it took machine tools to make the concept of extraction truly perilous) and the people with their hands on the control levers realized fairly early that they could artificially create a desire for "more!" with a combination of glitz and novelty...advertizing sent the "more!" button form overdrive to warp now we have fields of inedible crops that are feedstock for the packaged and processed foods we've been told we want and desire because they are an "improvement on nature"...along with legions of x-boxes, i-phones, computers, automobiles, air conditioners, televisions, microwaves, refirgerators, i-pods, digital camersa, dvr's,and play stations...all neatly packaged in dead, pulped trees and petrochemicals and with no end in sight...each one extracting its own share of resources and energy from the finite ammount the planet has to long can this go on?

it was about twelve degrees fahrenheit outside when i took the photos of the beds in the back yard...way too cold to dig i spent the day perusing a number of books and ruminating on the state of the human race...i am profoundly disenchanted with anyone who holds themselves in a role of political or economic leadrship but i am encouraged by the number of people who have ceased to take them at their word and are preparing to move in much different directions economically and in the nature of social structures...hopefully the weather will begin to co-operate over the course of the next month or so and i can get back to the practical matters involved in parts of pursuing a different path...the apple seeds are coming along and it looks like at least another half dozen trees will be ready for potting in the next few weeks...more on that in the monday update...i ordered heirloom tomato seeds form baker creek seeds today and will be going through the process of starting them and using the grow light for more than just trees...the next season of the garden is almost on us and work will begin in that direction very soon...if those proceses interest you stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

just taking a look

i was on campus this evening for a class and since i had some time beforehand i went by the garden...the temperatures have been alternating between points above and below freezing and i wanted to see if the landscaping staples i have used to hold the fabric down were being heaved up...things look fine...the technique worked out well last year and is doing so loose ends flapping or straw blowing around...the eastern gamagrass needed to be at least eigth inches tall to store enough carbohyrates for spring growth ( that's what the university of missouri extention tells me anyway) so though it looks pretty dead it should be fine for spring ( i certainly hope so...out of the thirty seeds i planted in the fall of 2009 only those three germinated...i am told [u of m again] that once started gamagrass is alot like jerusalem artichokes in its tenacity...starting is the difficult part...the rest is apparently natural)...winter wheat is poking up through the snow...we'll be using some bird tape in an an effort to keep the starlings off our grain...we'll see how that works out...things in the garden seem about right for the eighteenth of january...supposedly colder weather is on the way towards the weekend...if things stay halfway moderate until friday i may try to dig some tubers up and eat them...stay tuned.

Monday, January 17, 2011

movement in the orchard

there's something going on in the baggies...finally...the seeds in these two batches i'm trying to germinate came from a bag of apples from michigan...the two original ones were from a really mealy apple from washington state...some of the apples from michigan were mealy as well...and some were sort of crisp...i collected them from apples i ate for breakfast with sunflower seeds at work and i have no idea which were from mealy apples and which were form crisp...odds are they were mealy i recall the bag was not overly populated with anything resembling fresh fruit...anyway some are germinating...the top photo is a group of seeds that has been in a baggie since 31 december 2010 and the second is of a batch i put in on 7 january 2011...they are starting to grow and if things go well the remainig washington state apple tree will have some company under the grow light soon...the reamining tree has been in that peat pot for fifty-six days now and it seems hasn't grown bertically since the last update, but it now has eight leaves...the tree that keeled over shot up like kudzu so i am hoping this one's slower growth and increase in foliage indicate it is investing some energy in growing a good rootsystem that will support better vertical growth later...if experience can be relied on it will be a few weeks yet before the seeds will be ready to pot...more on this side project ( although trees are perennials and fall inside the parameters of the garden...might be a stretch...but it's my it stands this's my project choice...tangent or not) as it comes to light...peace out.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

apple tree update

the lone remaining apple tree seems to be doing is growing at a much slowe rate than its now departed sibling ( the seeds came from the same apple....what could they be but siblings?) ha sproduced six leafs ( leaves?) amd has topped one inch in height...a quarter inch in two there is growth since i removed the grass from the tree's domain ( it was barnyardgrass if i haven't said so...noxious is no more...human intervention in the lives of plants...what domestication...and agriculture, for that all about)...i have been collecting seeds as i eat apples ( along with sunflower seeds for breakfast most days) and i have twenty-five of them in damp paper towels in baggies awaiting some sort of movememnt towards germination ( none yet) so i am still working on the nacent orchard as a project for the off season in the gardens...the campus garden will be growing annual root crops this next season to comapre with the productivity of the perennials from last season ( still struggling with the rationale behind the annualization of staple crops...accepted wisdom seems to be that annuals channel more energy into reproduction and so produce more food [ since, if you think about it, the reproductive systems are what gets eaten] the jerusalem artichokes put paid to that idea for me....there has to be a reason out there...what is it?) anyway, the home garden will be a riot of potatoes, jerusalem artichokes ( they will be in the campus garden not? so will chinese yams) chinese yams , asparagus (also on campus), tomatoes, peppers, elephant garlic, beets, turnips, rutabegas, winter and spring wheat ( those are going on campus as well) and some apple trees if all goes will be a busy year, but that's fine...we all need something to distract us from our issues and problems...i've found something non-chemical that provides a steady buzz to drown out the existential hum...all that miserable background noise that life throws up...i am fine, thanks for asking, how are you? hope your buzz does the trick.

Friday, January 7, 2011

sunchoke chips? jerusalem fries?

not the sink full of tubers i am used to ...but we've covered the reasons why...once again jerusalem artickoes show that they can do most anything potatoes can do...they fried up very nicely...browned and crisp outside and tender inside (... and in no longer than it takes to fry potatoes either)...a little garlic salt is all they needed for me...they are a bit sweet...but that just provided a counterpoint to the garlic salt...this, i believe, has been my favorite preperation of them so far...simple and a pretty uncluttered cheese or sausage masking it...and cooking does bring out the sweetness...raw they do not taste the same...more as it turns up. and merry christmas to all the orthodox believers.

more jerusalem artichoke storage

the recent thaw and subsequent cold weather made harvesting tubers somewhat difficult today....the ground was frozen to almost a foot deep and since i didn't bury the tubers any deeper than that they were encased in frozen i had to dig down to loose soil and then dig back to create a hollow under the frozen ground and bludgeon it until it collapsed freeing the tubers...a time consuming can see in the second photo a tuber stuck in the ground that i had uncovered and was about to liberate...for over an hours worth of work it was not an impressive haul of sunchokes...todays adventure confirmed what we already knew...dig when the weather is with you...i managed to retrieve some and cook them ( i will publish some photos of that in a soon as i get them uploaded) but it isn't something i would want to do every day unless hunger was the motivation...i used steel implements to achieve what i did...i imagine anyone from a pre-industrial culture could deveolp technology for winter recovery ( perhaps a fire over the storage pit? or a mulch to make the soil a bit more tractable...which, if i had been thinking, wouldn't have been a bad idea for my trenches...a bit late now, but i still have a bunch of jerusalem artichokes planted on campus and here at home so there will be time to hone my storage skills) but only if it were a staple part of their diet...i may try again in a few weeks depending on what the weather does...or i may wait until the next thaw to try another recepie.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

cover crops

the recent thaw uncovered my sample field off county line road so i went out to take some photos on new year's can see it's pretty exposed and will continue to be so off and on until a crop is planted sometime in mid-spring (and then herbicides will keep a good portion of the field free of growth and exposed anyway)...i can't complain too much...i'm not doing that stellar a job of protecting against erosion on campus or at home either as the photos i need to think about a winter cover crop that will absorb the nitrogen left in the ground at the end of the season and will release it in the spring when it is turned under as well as develop roots systems that will hold the soil together...winter rye is one candidiate...but it decomposes slowly and needs to be turned under early or the spring planting won't feel the benefit (thanks 10cc)...winter wheat is another winter cover crop that can be turned under or left to grow until its harvest in june ( it's in the half barrel in the bottom photo and you can just catch on the top of the photo of the garden on campus) might make a good cover for a bed intended for late planting potatoes...harvest one crop and plant idea i am planning on working with at home if not at iun...i have winter wheat growing at home and on campus as well...just not enough to act as a cover...and it wouldn't be a total cover anyway since i would have to leave the beds for the perennials ( chinese yams and jerusalem artichokes) uncovered since i wouldn't want to disturb them by turning a cover crop under and i don't want to provide them with competition ( although the yam roots are so deep i doubt winter wheat would deny them what they need...the jerusalem artichokes? well...nothing seems to inhibit them)...but it would be a step in the right direction...what i am aiming at eventually is a sort of permaculture ( that's what the perennial part is about) that will require a minimum of soil disturbance...mostly to harvest tubers...i am waiting for the land institute to make seeds for perennial strains of cereal grains commercially available so i can work them into the mix...until then i will start working with cover crops and continue to intercrop with "green manures" like cowpeas...i am learning as i go and may get to be more efficient at both gardening and thinking yet.

since the demise of one of my apple trees i have put more seeds in damp paper towels and baggies in an effort to germante more trees...nature is prolific because not everythint that starts survives...i'll use that idea in an effort to start an orchard in my yard.