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Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

 
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We're finally supposed to get rain this weekend, Friday through Saturday, and hopefully enough to call this heinous drought officially over. The upside of the drought is that I haven't had to be in a hurry to collect seeds, since they weren't going to get rained on and rot, but the upcoming rain means my wheezing, covid-infected ass has to get out there and finally harvest everything. There were definitely some surprises, and shine disappointments, but all in all it was a reasonable harvest. Not as big as I would have liked for the kind of laissez-faire gardening in moving toward.

Mustard was probably the largest harvest of all, excepting maybe kale. Loved the heat and productivity of this variety, but it bolted soon after the production got going good. It was just too hot this year. I put more in for the fall/winter garden, and I'm hoping it does better with the cooler weather, though the leaves are kind of dainty compared to other brassicas, so I suspect it won't survive freezing weather. Gonna throw some of my saved seed into a batch for reseeding bare spots, since what I've got out there now is just what was leftover in my seed packet, and hasn't had a chance to acclimate to my growing conditions. There was also mustard seed in the bulk microgreens mix I got from my friend, and I'm not sure what variety that is, so maybe it'll prove more winter hardy than I expect this variety to be.

Harvested a good chunk of the lettuce seed. There were several plants that still needed some time to mature, so I left them be. This is one of the few things that actually needed time to dry down before it could be processed, so I shoved it all in a paper bag to do its thing.

Cilantro was another one that didn't do much before it just got too hot. I've got a bunch of it out in the fall/winter garden, but will be adding a bit more from my saved seed. Would have preferred to get more fresh cilantro, but at least it didn't struggle to produce a good seed crop.

I totally forgot that I planted spinach. I think I managed to harvest two leaves before it bolted. Was harvesting the cilantro seeds when I saw weird seed heads that looked vaguely like beets, but was sure that I hadn't planted beets there. And then it hit me: that was the spinach that I was sure had died long before it got a chance to produce seeds. I'm happy to be wrong. Hopefully my saved seed proves to be a bit more vigorous than the store bought stuff it descended from, but I suspect they're facing a bit of a genetic bottleneck, so hopefully I can add a few more varieties and get this on the way to being a proper landrace.

I've grown cherry belles in the past, but didn't manage to save any seeds from my last batch of radishes. This is what I was able to harvest from the French breakfast radishes that Jan sent me. This isn't the entire harvest, since the crazy things are still flowering and are full of green pods. I cut out everything that was already mature and ready to go, but this represents a fraction of the total harvest. Yet another crop where I need to start adding variety and get a landrace going. I do have rattail radishes in my fall/winter mix. Not a huge radish fan, but I enjoy them for snacking on just because they produce so quickly. Might try to add black and watermelon radishes to the mix in addition to dinner standard red radishes.

Russian hunger gap kale is one of the few things that I'm not trying to landrace. That's in part because I'm moving towards perennial kales, but also because this is such a phenomenal variety. Flavor is great, productivity is great (even without irrigation), and it flowers about a month later than other kales/brassicas, which means that not only can I harvest it for an extra month, but it also means there's less overlap in flowering time between this and my other brassicas, lessening the opportunities for weird crosses that aren't particularly great for anything. I'm less paranoid about weird brassica crosses now that I'm just throwing a bunch of seeds on the ground and letting survival of the fittest determine what grows. Certainly less stressful than trying to grow a row of cabbage and just hoping they end up being cabbages when it comes time to make sauerkraut.

Carrots were kind of a mess. I overwintered a bunch of carrots and beets that I wanted to save seeds from inside a self-watering planter I'd gotten from a friend when they moved to the opposite side of the state. My thinking was that the water reservoir would ensure that they survived long enough to produce seeds, but it ended up being their downfall. I just couldn't refill the reservoir fast enough, especially with the kind of heat we got this year, and they just kept dying back and resprouting until they finally ran out of energy and died for good. Luckily, I had about 12 feet of carrots that overwintered in the ground and I never got around to harvesting. They didn't get watered at all other than the rain they got over winter and early spring, and not all of them survived, but several managed to mature seeds in what they had in reserves. And they were actually really nice looking carrots (I had to pull them all up so I could confirm that they weren't Queen Anne's Lace, since another spot that I planted carrots in had been invaded by QAL.) Not as big of a harvest as I'd like for broadcasting seeds, considering how many are likely to not germinate at all, but not shabby for just surviving on their own. There's actually still one big that's cranking out flowers and wasn't ready to harvest yet, and a few that clearly died back in the heat and were working on resprouting, so I should still get some more seeds out of these guys. I had planned Danvers and St. Valery, but I planted them in separate blocks, so this is probably just St. Valery rather than a mix of the two, which is unfortunate. The carrots I planted this year haven't faired well with the drought, but to my surprise, many of them are still alive. They were mostly red core chantenay, but I think I still had some leftover Danvers/Valery that I mixed in. The tops are only about an inch high, but alive is alive. They should put on some size after the fall rains start in earnest, and they should make it through winter and produce seed, so I'll say least be able to say that they are in fact drought tolerant, even if they won't really produce anything during the drought. I would like to add a lot more varieties as I continue to develop a landrace, especially carrots in colors other than orange.

Cabbage is one of the few things where waiting so long to harvest my seeds ended up costing me, due in large part to how exposed there were to wind. The majority of the seeds had already dropped. Which means I'm going to end up with a ton of volunteer cabbages (which I may end up transplanting into the new garden area as they pop up. This is either one or two varieties. It's at least Aubervilliers, but might also contain a generic savoy. If not, I may have put the last of the savoy into my fall mix. Cabbage is yet another crop where I'd like to add in more variety, but perhaps not as eagerly as I want to add to the other crops.

Crapaudine beets are the other crop that I'd put in the self-watering planter to overwinter, but it seems they were a bit scrappier than the carrots. They, too, died back repeatedly in the heat, and I hadn't even checked on them until the other day because I just assumed they'd died without producing anything. Well, it looks like they refused to give up and managed to produce at least a few, hopefully viable seeds. Most of the "seeds" they produced were small, dark, light, and presumably not viable. Most of those blew off while I was winnowing. These are what remained. I'm currently doing a germination test to make sure there actually viable, but if they are, I'm eager to get some in the ground at they can overwinter and have a chance to cross with the variety I grew this year, whose name I don't recall (and which, like the carrots, have mostly died, but a few stragglers are hanging on as little 1 inch sprouts just waiting for the rain.) I liked the crapaudines well enough, other than that it took them forever to get any size on then and were a bit of a mess to clean up. Those are some old genetics, though, and I'm eager to see the results to crossing them with more modern varieties.

Turnips were a bit of a disappointment this year. Last year I saved a quart of seed, and this year I couldn't even fill a baby food jar (not that it's a huge deal, since I still have some leftover from last year, and there were turnips in the microgreen mix I added to the fall garden.) It was a weird year for turnips. I broadcasted them around my favas and got pretty abysmal germination, and most of the ones that germinated ended up bolting before they got to pencil thickness. None of them got huge, but I rogued out all but the few that managed to get up to a tolerable eating size. I ended up having quite a few volunteers show up, especially in my garlic bed where the mulch and fertility helped then to get pretty massive, but none of them succeeded in producing seeds. I went to check on the few I'd left in the ground to produce seed and discovered that at some point the heat got to be too much and they fried and turned to mush. Oh well. I still have lots of volunteers pooping up all over, and I put a bunch in my fall/winter mix. Hopefully a fall planting fairs a bit better. I only have purple top white globe (assuming that's what's also in the microgreen mix), and this is one of the things in hoping to add a bit of variety to.

My food harvest was pretty abysmal this year, but I'm feeling more optimistic after seeing how much seed I was able to collect. It's at least drought proof.  I have some other stuff that I picked earlier in the season and haven't had the time to thresh and winnow yet, and had a number of things that objectively didn't do well (I harvested less than a dozen popbeans from a 20ish foot row, and I think I got one soup pea out of a similarly sized row.) But I have enough to keep a garden going. I'm glad I held off on most of the summer crops, because at least this coming year I'll be in a position to irrigate them. I suspect I would have just lost everything if I'd tried to grow it this year.

My game plan this coming year is to grow stuff on a "terrace" that's above the chicken yard and wraps around the south side of the barn. These are the spots that have easy access to irrigation (plus, I want to add some small swales on the south side of the barn to act as pathways and maximize the amount of rain water I'm capturing, and maximizing the benefit of any irrigation I apply.) The goal is to get a good seed crop out of this area this coming season, and then I'll start broadcasting seeds in an unirrigated field in future seasons so that I can balance getting a crop with selecting for plants that can tolerate drought. Ideally, all of my seeds would come from the unirrigated field in future generations, and the small, irrigated section would serve as a safety net in the event that I lose everything else to drought.

I've been thinking a lot about how I need to adjust my design to accommodate the fact that I'm all by myself. That's the major issue. I designed this beast with the expectation that I'd have help, but between the pandemic and the fact that most people are more excited about the idea of helping than actually breaking a sweat, that help didn't, and likely never will, come. I need to redesign things with the understanding that I will likely always be on my own, as far as putting in the work goes, and so I need to create a sane amount of work for one person. I've been putting tons of energy into getting tons of stuff planted, but then I haven't had the energy to actually keep it alive. And if it managed to survive by since stroke of luck, I'm so worn down at that point that actually harvesting and cooking things frequently requires more energy from me than I have to give. This approach, where I just scatter seeds and let them sort themselves out, will eliminate the bulk of the work I've been doing the last couple of seasons to no avail. That will allow me to focus on more infrastructural things, like sorting out water harvesting, getting terraces properly started, putting living fences where they make sense, creating beaver habitat at the creek (neighbors keep killing them and it's destroying our waterways, so I'd say least like to encourage them to build dams on our stretch of the creek) as well as foraging and finally getting perennials in the ground in a serious way. Stressing over food has been counterproductive. Yes, living in beans and rice has sucked, and I've definitely had periods of pretty dramatic nutrient deficiency, but serious food production isn't going to happen on this property until I fix the infrastructural things that are getting in my way. If they means irrigating a small patch and letting it otherwise fend for itself so I can focus on other things, I think that's for the best. It's not only thing to improve yields over what I've been trying to do the past two seasons, but it's going to be a lot less stressful in the process. If only I could have predicted how little I was going to get for my effort, and predict all the ways the landowner was going to fuck me out of getting organic matter onto the property, I would have just figured out a way to do it like this in the first place. But hindsight is always 20/20.
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Mustard harvest
Mustard harvest
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Processed mustard seeds
Processed mustard seeds
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Lettuce drying out
Lettuce drying out
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Cilantro
Cilantro
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Processed cilantro seeds
Processed cilantro seeds
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Spinach seeds
Spinach seeds
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French breakfast radish
French breakfast radish
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French breakfast processed
French breakfast processed
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Russian hunger gap processed
Russian hunger gap processed
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Carrot seeds
Carrot seeds
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Carrot seeds processed
Carrot seeds processed
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Cabbage seeds
Cabbage seeds
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Crapaudine beets
Crapaudine beets
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Crapaudine beets processed
Crapaudine beets processed
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Turnip seeds
Turnip seeds
 
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You might want to keep some parsley around as a back up root crop. It's definitely drought tolerant! It's the only thing that survives summer in my worst hugel bed (full of hydrophobic material, with lots of voids in between logs). There's parsley that's bred specifically for big roots, but even regular parlsey roots are big enough it doesn't feel like a complete waste of time. I find the roots kinds bland when cooked, delicious raw.  

At the last place I lived, I had a dedicated parsley bed. I planted two years in a row and then just left it alone to reseed itself. Planting two consecutive years ensured I always had some going to seed and some in its first year. Went well for the five years I was there. I eat a lot more parsley than your average human. I suppose the same thing could be done with carrots, if you could be sure of the quality of seed they were producing. Apparently there's the male sterility problem with carrots.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Jan White wrote:You might want to keep some parsley around as a back up root crop. It's definitely drought tolerant! It's the only thing that survives summer in my worst hugel bed (full of hydrophobic material, with lots of voids in between logs). There's parsley that's bred specifically for big roots, but even regular parlsey roots are big enough it doesn't feel like a complete waste of time. I find the roots kinds bland when cooked, delicious raw.  

At the last place I lived, I had a dedicated parsley bed. I planted two years in a row and then just left it alone to reseed itself. Planting two consecutive years ensured I always had some going to seed and some in its first year. Went well for the five years I was there. I eat a lot more parsley than your average human. I suppose the same thing could be done with carrots, if you could be sure of the quality of seed they were producing. Apparently there's the male sterility problem with carrots.



I do have a small patch of parsley going. It hasn't done much, but it has indeed survived the drought. I seeded out a bunch more for the fall garden and have some reserved for spring planting. Should have it going pretty well after that. Haven't tried any of the roots yet, but I did know that there were varieties bred specifically for the roots. I imagine the stuff I've got growing right now has pretty abysmal roots, given that I've only been able to sneak an occasional nibble of greens from my entire patch. Perhaps I'll get to sample some from the fall garden.

I always find that a percentage of my carrots always germinate the year after they were planted, so it almost wants to do that all on its own. My understanding is the cytoplasmic male sterility isn't particularly common outside of hybrid seed, since that's how they keep plants from self-pollinating, and it doesn't seem particularly hard to rogue out if flower structure is carefully observed (though, maybe with my eyesight. 🤣) Plus, in Joseph's book, he says it isn't actually that big of a deal. He removes CMS on principle, but there's always going to be pollen from somewhere, even if a particular carrot doesn't produce any. Honestly, I think my bigger challenge is in keeping the QAL from degrading my carrots, but even that I'm not super worried about.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Here's this seasons saved seed so far (minus peas, which went into the freezer to kill off the weevils, and the lettuce which is still drying.)

Also found this great piece on transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in plants, which means that a plant's offspring will inherently be better equipped to handle the stressors that its parents faced. Really emphasizes how important it is to produce/save seeds every year, especially in an increasingly hostile climate. Probably also behooves us to plant seeds from several generations each year, in case a particular stressor skips a year.

Also found out that the book that Joseph references in his book, Return to Resistance, is available as a free PDF and is free to distribute. I've attached it below. I've been slowly making my way through it and it's interesting to see the science and history underpinning Joseph's breeding work. It's a bit dense at times, but if you're reading this, it's probably up your alley.

Found a great lecture from John Kempf that had some interesting tidbits that I haven't heard elsewhere. Most interesting of all is that GM crops oxidize the soil because they associate with a different set of microbes than non-GM crops. Legumes, oats, buckwheat, and a few other crops are known to reduce oxidation. And also, surprisingly, (non-GM) corn is like the third highest producer of soil organic matter, assuming it had the necessary micronutrients to carry out photosynthesis efficiently. At lower photosynthetic efficiency, the bulk of the carbohydrates that the corn produces goes into developing seed and above ground biomass, but as you get to 60% efficiency and above, but only is the plant producing more carbohydrates, but it switches to putting half of what it produces into the ground in roughly equal proportions of root biomass and root exudates. Also loved his discussion of facultative anaerobes, which reaffirmed my suspicion that people's obsession with aerated compost and compost tea was disproportionate to its usefulness. After listening to his talk, I've become more convinced that growing a jumbled up mess is the right direction to move in. It means there are always some plants in the mix that are reducing oxidation, and there's always a mix of root exudates feeding different combinations of microbes, which can then digest and make a full complement of minerals bioavailable. That, of course, wasn't his conclusion. But he's working with commercial growers, so what I'm doing isn't necessarily practical at scale. Interesting to listen to if you're the type to do podcasts and things as you work.

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Filename: Return-to-Resistance.pdf
File size: 2 megabytes
 
Mathew Trotter
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And here are some pics of the progress in the garden. Still some yellowing on some stuff, but I'm absolutely blown away by how fast a random plant here or there is growing. Like that daikon, planted the same time as everything else, but absolutely massive by comparison. Still some yellowing on some things, but for the most part it's just the cotyledons and the fresh growth is greening up. We'll see how things progress as I continue to develop this space.

My next big project for this space is to mark out paths so that everything is double reach and I can concentrate seeds where I'm not going to be walking. I'll mark out the walkways with sticks and prioritize harvesting anything that's growing in the paths first, and then start chopping and dropping weeds and branches on the walkways, possibly filling it in with a good layer of wood chips.
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Jan White
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Mathew Trotter wrote:. My understanding is the cytoplasmic male sterility isn't particularly common outside of hybrid seed,



Ahh! Good to know. I'd read about it in passing a number of times, so thought it was a bigger problem. Never looked into it much since I can't grow carrots anyway 🙄

I have thought I should try to get some established to overwinter. I have a really hard time getting parsley going at first, but once it goes to seed it pops up on its own everywhere. I was hoping carrots would do the same and I could get some success that way. Not a project for this year, though.

I really enjoy following what you're up to, and the progress you've made is impressive, no matter how it seems to you. Normally, once the snow's off the ground here, I've got my head down, ploughing through one job after another, falling steadily farther behind, but not thinking about it. Because I can empathize so strongly with a lot of what you're dealing with, it made me stop and think about what I'm doing a little more. I'm kinda thinking I won't do much of a garden next year, now. Too many years of too many failures and I'm getting burnt out.

I think I'll plant winter grain in all the beds and focus on getting some basic infrastructure in place next year instead. We might get frost tonight, so I've been picking squash and running into the same problem I do every year. Where the hell am I going to keep all these? There's also the problem of storing all the potatoes I want to grow and the fact that I need a solar dehydrator so I can actually store and make use of all the wild fruit I have access to. Stuff like that. I might even finally get around to building an outhouse around my toilet bucket 😂

Reading your posts always makes me so grateful I'm not relying on my garden for survival. The first couple years on our property were really tight and I'm so glad we didn't plan on counting on food from the land. It's something I could totally see myself doing, and we would have been fucked.

Hope you feel better soon.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Jan White wrote:
I have thought I should try to get some established to overwinter. I have a really hard time getting parsley going at first, but once it goes to seed it pops up on its own everywhere. I was hoping carrots would do the same and I could get some success that way. Not a project for this year, though.



Yeah. I'm hoping my carrots will kind of naturalize like the QAL has. I guess if I'm just tossing seeds on the ground and letting whatever survives survive, then I'll end up selecting for carrots that can self seed reliably. That'll be good. I kinda want to move in that direction with tomatoes too, starting with direct sowing under milk jugs this coming year and concluding with letting a certain amount of fruit drop and see what if anything volunteers the following season. I got some of Joseph's panamorous tomatoes, so they'll be able to outcross and combine their genetics so that I can hopefully push them to adapt to a more hands-off gardening style. We'll see. 🤞

I really enjoy following what you're up to, and the progress you've made is impressive, no matter how it seems to you. Normally, once the snow's off the ground here, I've got my head down, ploughing through one job after another, falling steadily farther behind, but not thinking about it. Because I can empathize so strongly with a lot of what you're dealing with, it made me stop and think about what I'm doing a little more. I'm kinda thinking I won't do much of a garden next year, now. Too many years of too many failures and I'm getting burnt out.



Do what I'm doing. Throw seed on the ground, save seed from whatever survives the neglect. That's basically what I did this year, just less intentionally.

I've been doing a lot of things differently the last couple seasons, in part because of the lack of resources, but also because of the stress of feeding myself. Luckily I've had people to bail me out when things got really bad, but I had no reason to expect that. I suspect if I'd not caved to stress and just done things the way I usually do, things would have been much better. At any rate, this fall garden is looking to be the best food production I've had so far, and it's going to feel good to have good food in my belly after all the struggle.

I've always preferred a more wild garden, and the excessive tidiness I've attempted to maintain the past couple of seasons for the sake of stretching limited water and keeping track of how much I was growing just ended up driving me insane. It wasn't without it's reasons, but I didn't end up any more sure of what I was going to be harvesting as I am by just throwing seeds on the ground. And just throwing seeds on the ground is a lot less stressful than watching planting dates come and go while I struggle to keep up.

Plus, I'm a forager at heart. It's way more fulfilling to go out and be surprised by what new things have germinated where, and to see such wildly different growth rates from one spot in the garden to another.

I think I'll plant winter grain in all the beds and focus on getting some basic infrastructure in place next year instead. We might get frost tonight, so I've been picking squash and running into the same problem I do every year. Where the hell am I going to keep all these? There's also the problem of storing all the potatoes I want to grow and the fact that I need a solar dehydrator so I can actually store and make use of all the wild fruit I have access to. Stuff like that. I might even finally get around to building an outhouse around my toilet bucket 😂



We're supposed to get down into the 40s and even into the 30s in some areas. Not quite freezing yet. I should theoretically have a couple more months assuming it doesn't come early this year.

At least I have plenty of storage space. Just nothing to put in it. 🤣 The winter squash I bailed on this year is getting bumped to next year, and that was like 214ish seeds? I pray that most of them die, otherwise I'll be swimming in literal tons of squash. I at least won't go hungry. Thinking I might also mix up all of my potato seeds and just direct sow it and see what happens. That's only like... 4,000 seeds. Probably better to do half in case direct sowing ends up being a bust.

And outhouse would be good. Not gonna lie, the toilet situation here is pretty luxurious, and I'm not even sorry about it. Landowner invested in a bidet with the toilet paper shortage. It has a heated seat. It's less impressive when you consider that I still don't have heat or any way to take a hot bath, and so that toilet seat is the only source of heat I get one a cold winters day. It almost makes up for the rest of the shittiness. Almost.

Reading your posts always makes me so grateful I'm not relying on my garden for survival. The first couple years on our property were really tight and I'm so glad we didn't plan on counting on food from the land. It's something I could totally see myself doing, and we would have been fucked.



Yeah, this definitely isn't how I planned to do it. I'm kind of glad? I was working like 60+ hours a week and still barely getting by and never had the time and energy to get any real work in out here. At least now I'm completely shut out of the rat race whether or not I'd still like the sense of security it can provide at times. I don't have any excuses to not get things done out here. Just still figuring out what's practical with the limited resources I've got.

But for real, in the absence of knowing that people would end up helping me out, the pressure of growing all of my food was a stressor that hurt me than it helped. It certainly kept me motivated until I crashed, but it did nothing for long term viability. Figuring out how much I can actually, physically get done in a given day was an important part of the equation. And where I'm not willing to sacrifice, I've gotta get creative to make things work.

Honestly, I'm kind of thankful that it's been such a struggle. I had a very different gardening philosophy 2 years ago. I was very concerned with finding the singular variety of this or that vegetable that would perform best in my growing conditions, but the past two seasons has brought me around to Joseph's way of thinking. A highly inbred heirloom variety just doesn't have the genetics to respond to a changing climate. And to see some of the traits Joseph has been able to tease out makes it feel like magic (but I also discovered evolutionary rescue the other day, and holy shit, that stuff gets insane... some populations of elephants have evolved to be tuskless in response to poaching, salmon have gotten 25% smaller in response to fishing regulations, swallows have evolved shorter wings in response to cars, etc.) I just need to surrender to the magic, so to speak, and learn to find joy in the garden again. If it's just going to be a job, then it's not a very good paying one.

Hope you feel better soon.



Thanks! After a couple days of rounding up seeds, I'd probably say I'm at like 80-85% and improving some each day. Still feeling a bit weak and get winded pretty easily, but I'm at least getting out and getting a little bit done.

Best of luck with your infrastructure projects. There will definitely be plenty of those in my future.
 
Mathew Trotter
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It was weigh-in day for the chickens. Not a lot to note. The ones I'd previously marked as culls are still my intended culls. My intention was to cull them at the end of the month, but since I'm culling the smallest birds, I'm not sure that they're actually going to be a worthwhile size to harvest at the end of the month. I may harvest the largest of them as I get a hankering for chicken and leave the rest to put on weight until I'm ready to harvest another.

One of the Black Australorps has been well ahead of all the others in terms of size every step of the way. He's about a full pound larger than the other birds. It's kind of disappointing that he's good enough to keep, since he's one of the few that's closing in on a good eating size. Which is kind of the problem across the board. The ones worth eating are worth keeping. 🤣

Of course, size isn't the only thing I'm selecting for, even though it's the primary thing in looking at at this stage in the game. Temperament is also important, but luckily the largest birds also had the best temperaments, so I didn't have to make any tough calls between large birds with shitty temperaments and small birds with good temperaments. I suspect, in this case, that temperament has less to do with genetics and more to do with where the smaller cockerels rank in the pecking order. The smaller birds take more shit and are thus more agitated. That's my suspicion, anyway. At any rate, it doesn't matter. If they have a shitty attitude because of their relatively small size, then I don't want them reproducing and creating more small birds with shitty attitudes.

I almost culled one of the Black Australorps today. He was screaming, and flailing, and clawing at me the entire time I was trying to do the weigh-in. The only reason he got to live is because I want to fatten him up more. He's definitely gonna be a roasted bird in the next month. I have one rule, and it's exceedingly simple: don't be an asshole if you taste delicious.

The only tough call I had to make was with the Bielefelders. I ordered males only because they're relatively new and expensive compared to the other breeds, and so I have two clans that I'm breeding to Bielefelders to maximize their genetics in my flock. One of the birds was a sure thing, since he had a quarter to half a pound on the other two birds. But the remaining two birds are practically the same weight (there was a 3 or 4 gram difference, which is within the margin of error for my scale.) They both have the exceptionally calm temperament of a Bielefelders, so that didn't help me narrow it down. One has a bit brighter coloration to his feathers which I found appealing, but which makes me suspect that some other breed with unknown qualities may have gotten mixed in at some point, not that that's necessarily a problem given my landracing goals. One had a shorter, more rounded beak and the other had a longer, straighter beak, though I can't imagine that one is significantly more advantageous than the other. The last thing I looked at were the overall dimensions of the birds. They were fairly similar, though one did seem to taper marginally towards the back end, a trait that could indicate reduced egg production in his daughters. Ultimately, that made him the cull. But, he won't actually be slaughtered. Because they were neck and neck in every other regard, and because of their relative rarity and the cost of replacing them, I'm going to hang onto him just in case I lose the other one, but I have no intention of breeding him unless that happens.

I'm not keeping extras of the other breeds. If like to just in case I lose one, but it's just more mouths than I can justify feeding. The Columbian Wyandottes would likely also be difficult to replace, though not nearly as difficult as the Bielefelders. If my Australorp and Orpington roosters don't survive long enough to breed, it shouldn't be exceptionally difficult to find someone who's trying to get rid of a rooster. That's actually how I got my current Orpington rooster, a replacement after my dog killed the last one (didn't eat it, just killed it, so I'm guessing the rooster started shit he couldn't finish.)

I'm actually feeling a bit anxious about the breeding in general. I haven't heard anything from my friend about getting the IBCs, and that's pretty integral to my plans for feeding the chickens. I'm expecting the IBCs to produce upwards of 80% of the feed for them, and if that doesn't happen, that drastically changes things. Theoretically I can sell enough eggs and birds to cover feed costs, but that's assuming there's a market for them. That's a little too theoretical for my comfort. As long as I can keep them out of the garden area they could theoretically have the rest of the property to free range, and that'd be some pretty hard selection pressure for birds that can forage for their feed. Obviously they'll get surplus from the garden as well. And my friend is still committed to buying enough feed to cover the existing flock in exchange for eggs. But it'd be a whole lot more solid with those IBCs.

I am also feeling a lot more confident about the fall/winter garden producing a surplus. I'm hoping I can snag a few empty banana boxes from one of the grocery stores each week, fill them with my surplus produce, and sell them outside my friend's apartment building when I visit each week, plus maybe a few here and there to people who are willing to make the trip out to the property. If the surplus is great enough, that could cover costs.

Alternatively, I may have to postpone the breeding another year and just hope everyone survives. That means forgoing chicken as a protein source in favor of rabbits and eggs... and probably learning to stomach balut, which is basically just chicken without the hassle. Other than the fact that I was going to cull roosters as I bred them, and don't really want to keep that many mature roosters around eating feed and producing nothing, it's not the end of the world. As long as my new plan for the garden proves fruitful, I should end up with a surplus of corn, amaranth, sorghum, vegetables, etc. to feed them on come late summer and fall. But if I actually manage to produce a surplus next season, the meat also won't be as necessary. 🤷🏻‍♂️

I'll just play it by ear. I might hatch the first round and see how that shakes out before I commit to the rest. If I can reduce the current flock's feed consumption with stuff coming out of the fall/winter garden, I'll feel more confident about that. And if I have to wait, I have to wait. At this point, I'm pretty confident about feeding the rabbits entirely without commercial feed, so I may even be able to sell bunnies to cover the chicken feed. I won't really have more solid answers until I actually have something to sell and see if anyone's buying.

The only other thing of note to day is that I'm mixing up some of Steve Solomon's Complete Organic Fertilizer to top dress the garden. I'm finally starting to run out of ingredients, though. I'm hoping the little extra fertility helps accelerate the growth and evens out the yellowing I've been seeing. I need another bag of seed meal that I can't afford, so I may just have to go without. I'd harvest the nitrogen I need from the deep litter system, but it's pretty thin right now on account of expanding the chicken run. And urine and nettle tea alone haven't been cutting it, though I've certainly been seeing some improvement. Landowner owes me and money for work I've done around the place. Was hoping to use it to stock up on some staples I'm getting low on, but I also need to start looking at getting all incubator on top of fertilizer ingredients, so I'm going to have to make a call on what to prioritize. Realistically, I have enough food to get me through without buying anything, I just might but be eating anything other than beans, and I don't like the idea of what that's going to do nutritionally. But hopefully I'll start getting some kind of harvest out if the garden sooner rather than later. 🤷🏻‍♂️
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Giraffe chicken
Giraffe chicken
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Saved by their near identical qualities
Saved by their near identical qualities
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Mixing up as much fertilizer as I can
Mixing up as much fertilizer as I can
 
Mathew Trotter
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Getting our first measurable rain in 179 days. At least, that's the official number. Phew.

Added some of my freshly saved seeds to my reserved seed balls and sprinkled them around the spots that are still looking a bit bare, along with most of the fertilizer I mixed up (still have a little left to spread when I get the chance, just still takes a lot of of me to haul that kind of weight around.) Hopefully with the 3 days of rain we're expecting, that'll get everything going nicely.

I couldn't remember exactly how long the broody hen had been sitting on eggs, but didn't want them to get overdeveloped, so I pulled one to try. This one was definitely underdeveloped. The chick hadn't really started forming yet but the yolk had expanded and become super creamy. As I expected from previous experience, the flavor was fine... it tastes like chicken and eggs. It's the knowing what I'm eating and the texture that gets to me. Without the bones being developed there was no crunch like there is with properly developed eggs, but there's something about the creaminess that's just off. Honestly, it's about the texture of a deviled egg, and as long as you convince yourself that's what you're eating, it's fine. It's just the remembering that it's not a deviled egg that gets you. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but at this stage I'd really love to be eating insects instead. At least insects are pleasantly crunchy.

Snakes have been enjoying the lush vegetation that the irrigation has brought on. Keep almost stepping on these little guys when I go out to do work. Good to know that least control has already moved in well ahead of my plants being properly established.

I've been watching this black nightshade that appeared as a chance weed. Haven't tried the fruit before, but I just noticed the first one starting to ripen up, so we'll see how that tastes.

If you're curious how the black soldier fly larvae are coming along, here's a video. They gotta be nearly harvesting size. I had to move them into a larger bin yesterday because I literally couldn't fit enough food in my trial bin to keep them fed any longer. I was hoping to use one of the IBCs, but still no word on those.
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Reserved seed balls plus fresh seeds
Reserved seed balls plus fresh seeds
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The first, underdeveloped balut
The first, underdeveloped balut
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Baby snek
Baby snek
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Bleach nightshade
Bleach nightshade
 
Mathew Trotter
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Should continue to rain most of today, but I took an opportunity to get out and check in things while there was a bit of a break.

I'm starting to see lots of carrots popping up, so that makes me happy. I think I see my first cilantro as well. That's in addition to the turnips and daikons, which have already been going crazy.

There's more stuff that I haven't been able to identify. Possibly lettuces and things, but I won't know until I see true leaves.

One of the things that I haven't been able to identify and just looked like "a really beefy carrot" I think I finally identified as the edible chrysanthemum that I got from a friend. That's going to be the problem with just throwing seeds on the ground for things I've never grown before. 🤣
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Carrots starting to happen
Carrots starting to happen
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I don't know what all if this is
I don't know what all if this is
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Edible chrysanthemum?
Edible chrysanthemum?
 
Mathew Trotter
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I'm toying with the idea of a "seed CSA". Like a traditional CSA, but instead of getting fresh produce every week, you instead get a box of landraces/grexes for your own garden. It would be limited to folks in Oregon for the time being. And I've counted 50-60+ different annual species that I'm growing (not counting wild stuff) that could potentially be included. Selling shares at the beginning of the season would allow me to add extra genetics for the things where I only have like 1-3 varieties. I'm thinking about $50 for 50+ landraces would be a good deal, and friends that I floated the idea by seem excited about it. If you're in Oregon and would be interested in buying a share, send me a PM and I'll start hammering out the details.
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Mathew Trotter
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Holy shit! My first earthworm! Irrigating, dropping weeds, and just getting anything to grow is finally paying off.
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[Thumbnail for IMG_20210920_103649_597.jpg]
 
money grubbing section goes here:
177 hours of video: the Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/hours-video-Permaculture-Design-Technology
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