Friday, September 30, 2011

september 30th

"the corn plant has an extensive root system that permits it to draw moisture and nutrients from a wide area. this is yet another factor in corn's high yield. the extensive root system demands relatively wide spacing between plants, which is why there are fewer plants per plot as compared with other cereals."
corn and capitalism by arturo warman p.17.

not with dense yellow number two arturo...the top photo is of some support roots on some field corn in the trusty field off county line road and those plants aren't more than a foot apart in that metropolis of corn...that's where pioneer ( in this field anyway...bayer, monsanto...lots of players in the industry...industrial food is profitable) comes into play...modifying the genetic make-up of the corn so it will tolerate being this close and petrochemicals to the rescue of humanity...for now anyway...the third photo is of some soybeans that are nearing harvest time...not quite done yet but soon...the fourth photo is of the dual monoculture ( everything about industrial agriculture is schizoid) of today's modern farm...feedstock for any number of processes...better living through chemistry...which is true i suppose...but if this field is natural in its use of chemical nutrients ( even if they are sprayed on instead of naturally occurring ) the genes in it aren't...domestication through artificial selection for plant traits is genetic engineering...humans have been at it for thousands of years...but those mutations weren't spliced in in a lab...they happened in a field plowed and fertilized by animals...and no-one owned a patent on them or told someone they couldn't save seed for next year...things have changed in ten millennia...the bottom photo is of the support roots on the northern tepehuan teosinte in my back yard...just for the sake of comparison and so i could take another photo of my plant.

september 30th appendix

went to campus today on a chilly windy fall day just to check on things...there's not much going on at the moment in terms of actual physical work...just keeping an eye on things...that will change soon...the second photo shows that the jerusalem artichokes are beginning to die back and will need to be removed in the next couple of weeks...but the third and fourth photos show the cowpeas are still flowering and producing pods ( i counted thirty in an informal census this morning)so while i will remove the above-ground plants the harvest is going to have to wait until the first killing frost since i want as many cowpea seeds as i can get to continue with the self-sustaining thesis of this project..i will be digging up the whole plot searching for tubers so it will just have to wait until the rest of the plants finish their can't wait too long though because the winter wheat has to go in and establish itself before dormancy...the timing could be a bit tricky if the frost holds off...i may have to bite the bullet and take out the cowpeas early...the top and bottom photos are the obligatory photos of northern tepehuan teosinte and all its ears.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ears II

the northern tepehuan teosinte in my back yard is in full bore seed production with a multiplicity of frost in the immediate forecast so i'm hoping these things can move along to fruition...a silly thing to be so geeked about perhaps...i am none the less...learning...go figure.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

slow food distortion?

"in recent decades the adjusted for inflation price of fresh produce has increased by 40 percent while the price of soda and processed food has decreased by as much as 30 percent..."
mark bittman

mark bittman has a longish op-ed piece in the n y times today in which he argues that it is actually cheaper to cook at home than eat at macdonalds...he discusses the fast food/ industrial connection...and he goes into the lack of ready access to supermarkets that exist in poorer neighborhoods...and he discusses the fact that cooking is work most people think they don't have time to do...he counters those arguments with recipes for home-cooked meals cheaper than feeding four people off the regular menu at a fast food outlet, the fact that studies show most people live within a twenty minute trip from a supermarket and have access to vehicles, and the health benefits of cooking at home...what he leaves out ( after contradicting himself on the price of fresh produce versus fast food)is the dollar menu and the fact that when people do shop at supermarkets they are mostly buying hyper processed foods anyway...the supermarket is a fast food outlet too except its tombstone pizzas and hot pockets washed down with mountain dew...i know...until a few years ago i was right there with everyone else ( no holier than thou here please...i am not perfect in my or ever...still eat a burger now and then...chips...some ice more soda though...that is done and over) read the ingredients on a frozen dinner sometime and tell me it's not industrial food...that is more pervasive than fast food...and it is relentlessly marketed to us mark you may be on the right track with the home cooked is healthy...but you missed the point that no-one cooks much any's not food, it's convenience.

i threw in some photos of jerusalem artichokes to point out that moving away from processed foods isn't of necessity cheaper...if you buy them fresh foods cost more...end of debate... if you grow them be prepared for a non-stop job of work, planning and is rewarding and satisfying to eat your own produce...and i'm willing to bet that most people who read this blog already know that

Saturday, September 24, 2011


the top and bottom photos are of Zea mays ears that i grew on campus this past summer ( and which tasted pretty good)and the middle three are of northern tepehuan teosinte ears that are growing on the plant in my backyard...the family resemblance grows stronger all the time...Zea diploprennis leaves...northern tepehuan ears ( i can feel the seeds developing inside the husks...i think we need about another month ) a bunch of cousins...genetically linked distinct individuals...i can see why beadle thought teosinte was the only ancestor...i just don't know if he was completely correct in that...whatever the case i have become hooked on the morphological connections between ancestors and was sort of accidental this will play a larger role in the next.

now it is autumn

i went out to campus early today because i was up anyway and here wasn't that much cooking at home...fall is in the air and you can see it reflected om the garden...the top and bottom photos are of aerial bulbs that the yams are producing...there don't seem to be nearly as many this year as last...but it was cool last spring and the yams came out of dormancy late and didn't really start to vine until june so it may be a lesser reproductive season this year...the cowpeas are producing pods in earnest ( and are still flowering ) they will continue to do so until the first killing frost...the other photo is a long shot of the can see the die-back in the jerusalem artichokes starting to take hold...i will cut them down soon but will not harvest until the cowpeas are done..then comes the big dig for the tubers and the chinese yams..then winter wheat sowing and mulching the yams and asparagus for winter...another month and a half of outdoor activity...then next season to will be spring soon enough.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

nearly autumn

i went out to the garden on campus after work just to have a look...thinking there wasn't much going least's getting on to fall and the jerusalem artichokes are setting tubers...but there won't be any news about those until next month..but the garden is never still and it showed me that again today...the top photo is of the asparagus plant on the southwest corner of the can see it's busy putting out another spear two-thirds of the way through september...that is the ninth spear from that root ( i swear i planted only one crown in there...i have photos...check out the "asparagus day" post) put out seven last must really like that corner...the next two photos are aerial bulbs the yam vines are producing...i remember the appearing earlier last year, but we had a much warmer spring in 2010 than in 2011...everything started i suppose it will be late in finishing as well...the fourth photo is of some cowpea pods that are maturing next month i should have enough seeds to plant another generation next year...the green manure project continues in what i hope will be a self-sustaining manner since i have thirty plants in my back yard as well...bottom photo is of the garden at about four-thirty this evening..the jerusalem artichokes are done flowering and are starting to die back...i will cut them down soon ( and bring them home to use as mulch ) but will wait to harvest until the cowpeas die back...then it's time to plant the winter wheat cover crop/nitrogen reservoir amd mulch the yams and asparagus...and the zea diploperennis too, although i am not sanguine about it survival...what did i say about nothing much going on?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

northern tepehuan teosinte

just a few photos i took of a mature northern tepehuan teosinte plant in my backyard on a rainy evening...those structures look like miniatures of the mazie ears i grew on campus this past season...i am really hoping that the seed formation beats the frost here...when i calculated this out in 2009 for kathy i had it pegged as a very close affair...if the first frost held off a few days past its average date we had a chance to see the cycle through...about a month left to go and there's no real telling what will happen...i have a bunch more seeds i bought form native seed search and i have more zea diploperennis seeds form the germplasm introduction station in ames there will be more teosinte next season...still that's no guarantee of a complete cycle if it fails this season...i'd much rather succeed now

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

odds and ends (mostly odds)

i ran across an artifact from the industrial side of fast food today stuffed in as ballast in a unit of cartons...tubes for a tartar sauce caulking gun apparatus to douse your mercury tainted fish fillet in corn based lubricant...neat...i can't wait to patronize the golden arches in my community...good to know they have the means to palliate our hunger and slake our thirst...all from the local cornfields ( maybe...nothing is more fungible than liberty link or round-up ready dense yellow number two).

my Solanum acaule seeds arrived from sturgeon bay wisconsin's usda potato introduction station...fifty tiny seeds for bitter tubers...but this is about morphology, not good eating...the red nordlands will have to accomplish that...a big bed of tubers on campus and at home next spring...can't wait.

Monday, September 12, 2011

many crazy grasses

i love a random upload, don't you?

the top photo is of some japanese bristle grass i yanked out of a bed in the back yard as i was taking photos of the zea diploperennis (second photo) because the usda sent me fifty more seeds (photo three) so i can grow some more next season ( the whole wild potato Solamun acaule project is still in limbo...aphis says i will get the seeds, but i have had no word on progress in a week)...they are subtropical perennials that i assume will only grow as die-back annuals this far north ( which won't stop me from mulching the heck out of the beds and hoping to see green next spring) so more seeds leaves me a happier man than i was...the bottom photo is of the bristle grass root system and the real reason for this i was heading towards the compost heap i took a look at it and saw the support roots it had these aren't limited to the zea family...a morphological characteristic of any number of grass species...i obviously need to look around more.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

a touch more morphology

i was on campus this morning just to check things has intruded and i haven't been able to manufacture the time for a visit since thursday...everything's fine...the cowpeas are producing pods and the jerusalem artichokes are quietly setting tubers...harvest will be the next phase of this season...then the cover crop program and preparation for winter..i took some photos and just wanted to poat a couple...the top photo is of the wall of corn on the north side of the road by the trusty field off county line road, and the second is of a stand of zea diploperennis teosinte on campus...just a comparison of ancestor and descendant...more family resemblance.

Friday, September 9, 2011

pulses and yams

things are starting to wind down on the season...the top photo is of a cowpea flower bud that i took yesterday and which will probably open today...the second photo is of a cowpea pod that has formed form one of the flowers that i photographed earlier this there will be another generation of seeds produced in the garden to create next season's green manure...that is the sort of cycle i am interested in perpetuating and a subtext to the garden's exploration of annual versus perennial staple foods...the third photo is of the yam vines starting to die back along the trellis...i retrieved a handful of aerial bulbs from that vine but this is nothing like the hundreds of bulbs these same plants produced last year...i noticed that at the nodes along the vines where bulbs formed last year, this year new vines sprouted...the plants produced far more leaves this year than last and i can only think the root system has will have to wait for harvest for that story to be told...but i am concerned about how deep the yams will be...they were approximately eighteen inches down last year, but i am told they can be as much as three feet deep...a harvest that would require a large hole in a small can see in the bottom photo that the jerusalem artichoke blooms are diminishing...i dead-headed the spent bloom this year and so the plants produced more flowers...i am curious to see what harvest i get from the same number of plants that i had last year...the leaves on the plants are beginning to die back from the bottom up and it will soon be tome to take down the stalks...harvest will wait until mid-october as is till have work to do on the storage project in my back yard...hoping to simplify the frozen ground issue...hoping not to be a public failure...but that is how we learn...i have threshed and winnowed all the winter wheat...i am prepared for the cover crop/nitrogen reservoir phase over the winter...i am still if only i can untangle the bureaucratic mess around the wild potato seeds i will be ready to move forward on another morphology project ( the seed potatoes are already bought and paid for...the campus garden will see spuds again next spring )...always something to do.

Monday, September 5, 2011

river of industrial corn

i was feeling a bit restive...edgy just hanging around the house by i took off down county line road to go to the park and have a stroll by deep river just to get some sort of perspective on the day...after a couple of miles on the trails i left and stopped by the corn field just to see how things are going with the industrial monoculture...i lucked into a field of soybeans butted right up to the cornfield so i could photograph both feedstock populations at once (top two photos)...the national corn growers maintains that despite the cool, wet weather in the spring this will be a good harvest year and form the looks of things they are correct...lots of hot pockets and soda out there just over the county line...the bottom photo is of the wall of dense yellow number two lining the road opposite the tandem field...tombstone pizza anyone? ( if the corn isn't in the cheese it will be in the sausage...or sausage substitute ) the third photo is from my stroll by the river...lots of trees in the water today and the one standing up looks like it's due to go any time...nature...nothing lives forever...the fourth photo is of a quiet stretch between the trees...if i'd had a canoe i wouldn't be writing this...but i can't help but wonder what the nitrate level in that murky water is.