Joseph Lofthouse

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since Dec 16, 2014
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Joseph Lofthouse grew up on the farm and in the community that was settled by his ggg-grandmother and her son. He still farms there. Growing conditions are high-altitude brilliantly-sunlit desert mountain valley in Northern Utah with irrigation, clayish-silty high-pH soil, super low humidity, short-season, and intense radiant cooling at night. Joseph learned traditional agricultural and seed saving techniques from his grandfather and father. Joseph is a sustenance market farmer and landrace seed-developer. He grows seed for about 95 species. Joseph is enamored with landrace growing and is working to convert every species that he grows into adaptivar landraces. He writes the Landrace Gardening Blog for Mother Earth News.
Farming Philosophy
Promiscuous Pollination and ongoing segregation are encouraged in all varieties. Joseph's style of landrace gardening can best be summed up as throwing a bunch of varieties into a field, allowing them to promiscuously cross pollinate, and then through a combination of survival-of-the-fittest and farmer-directed selection saving seeds year after year to arrive at a locally-adapted genetically-diverse population that thrives because it is closely tied to the land, the weather, the pests, the farmer's habits and tastes, and community desires.
Joseph lives under a vow of poverty and grows using subsistence level conditions without using cides or fertilizers. He prefers to select for genetics that can thrive under existing conditions. He figures that it is easier to change the genetics of a population of plants than it is to modify the soil, weather, bugs, etc. For example, because Joseph's weeding is marginal, plants have to germinate quickly, and burst out of the soil with robust growth in order to compete with the weeds.
Joseph is preserving the genes of thousands of varieties of plants, but does not keep individual varieties intact or pure. The stories don't matter to him. What matters is the web of ongoing life. For his purposes a squash is a squash is a squash. Plant purity doesn't exist in Joseph's world, other than in very broad ways like keeping hot peppers separate from sweet peppers. Some landraces might even contain multiple species!
Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Recent posts by Joseph Lofthouse

Soil is just one part of a tomato's ecosystem: Other factors that affect growth include: elevation, humidity, rainfall, insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses, other microbes, farmer's habits, solar insolation, carbon-dioxide levels, other plants, mammals, birds, etc, etc, etc.
4 hours ago
This thread is for brainstorming the foraging badges for PEP.

In general, the foraging aspect contains fishing, hunting, wildcrafting, and maybe some guerilla gardening. I think that we want to set it up in a way that vegans can do it. So maybe it'll be one of those things where it says "pick two items from this list."

What are some things that we can include in these badges?

Keep in mind that the key is that the tasks need to be provable. So it's not "read a book about wild edibles." But it might be "harvest 5 pounds of morels and post pictures."

Here is an attempt for a framework for the sand badge.

fresh list …  harvest one
 - one pound (total) of
       o huckleberries
       o wild raspberries
       o salmonberries
       o serviceberries
       o wild blackberries (the tiny, trailing variety)
       o nettle
       o rose hips
       o cotoneaster
 - two pounds of
       o blackberries
       o chokecherries
       o Mulberries
       o Wild plums
 - (more)
 - (more)
 - (more)

dry list  …   harvest at least one pound fresh, dry and store one of the following
 - nettle
 - Wild raspberry leaves (might this be a better fit in “natural medicine”?)
 - Mullein leaf (definitely "natural medicine")
 - Mint
 - mushrooms
 - chicory root
 - sassafras root
 - feral grain
 - shelled nuts
 - other ecosystem appropriate wild edibles
 - (more)

tea list … make a cup of tea from one
 - dried nettle
 - fresh nettle
 - dried mullein leaf
 - dried wild raspberry leaf
 - sassafras root?
 - chaga
 - dried rose hips
 - other ecosystem appropriate plants or mushrooms
 - (more)

dish list ….   prepare a dish (soup, salad, entree, side, etc.) that uses at least a cup of:
 - dandelion
 - wild mushrooms (must be cooked)
 - nettles
 - miner's lettuce
 - lambs quarter
 - purslane
 - acorns (must be prepared properly)
 - burdock (must be cooked)
 - curly/yellow dock leaves (roots would be appropriate for natural medicine)
 - chicory leaves (roots listed separately?)
 - chickweed
 - wild sorrel
 - nopales
 - red-root amaranth
 - watercress
 - other wild species of greens, seeds, fruits, roots, or nuts
 - wild fish or game

big list  - complete 3
 - catch and prepare at least one pound of fish
       o four small fish or maybe one large fish
 - catch and prepare one wild rabbit/squirrel
 - 4 pounds of seed balls/bombs
       o at least an inch in diameter
       o can either be used immediately or quickly dried for storage (before the seeds germinate)
       o at least six different species in each ball/bomb
 - (more)
 - (more)
 - (more)
 - do 2 more items from the dry list (duplicates are okay)
 - do 4 more items from the dish list (duplicates are okay)
 - do 4 more items from the fresh list (duplicates are okay)

So "the big list" has the stuff about fish and meat and vegan alternatives.

Now we just need to fill out the lists.
2 days ago
The specific species of plants on this list may not be species that are available in many areas. For example, around here, wild berries are more likely to be: rose hips, cotoneaster, chokecherry.
Greens that would be more appropriate in my ecosystem are: red-root amaranth, mallow, nopales, chickweed, watercress.
In other words, I'd prefer to make the lists illustrative instead of prescriptive. I have no intention of ever cooking and eating dandelion. In my opinion, she is definitely not an edible species!!!

I'd add drink from a natural water source to the list... Bwah ha ha!

In my ecosystem, there are a lot of domestic tree species that are growing totally feral in the badlands.

2 days ago

Pearl Sutton wrote:will I get what looks like a separate plant every foot or so where the leaves are? I am visualizing them looking like a sea serpent when planted.

As would I. A new shoot emerging at each exposed leaf node.
2 days ago

Natasha Flue wrote:I've already got a bunch of seed from various things that I need to trade/give away/get rid of so I'm in a similar situation, plus three years of beans from four different varieties, so things are adding up very quickly!

I tend to munge my varieties together into a single species group. Therefore, seeds lose their names and stories as soon as they get to my garden. They get to grow and earn a place in my garden in each generation, rather than relying on names/stories that were told long ago in far away places.

Sure, I keep different kinds of corn, based on usage, such as sweetcorn or popcorn, but to me, sweet corn is sweet corn. I invited many hundreds of varieties of sweet corn into my garden, but I only maintain a few varieties of sweetcorn seed.

Liv Smith wrote:How many jars of dry beans do you keep? And what categories do you have for them?

For most of the bean species that I grow, I only keep one jar: Limas, favas, cowpeas, teparies, runners, all end up in a single jar per species. With these, I tend to plant all of the incoming seed, since they seem to be specialty crops and I don't receive a lot of seeds, and I have one field that I devote mostly to beans, so there is plenty of space.

With common beans, I have a number of breeding projects going on, so I keep multiple jars:

Incoming beans.
Frost tolerant beans.
Dry bush beans.
Dry pole beans.

With the bush beans, I keep a jar of bulk seed which I plant for eating, and a jar of sorted seeds which I plant for production of seed-for-planting.

If I find seeds that I suspect might be naturally occurring hybrids, or that seem intriguing to me, I'll put them into a plastic bag which goes into the jar of bulk seed. Then I can plant them separately.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have all kinds of seeds laying around from before I adopted this strategy. They do not bring me joy. Therefore, as I sort through them, I am feeding them to the chickens, or tossing them into the wildlands so that they can attempt to grow.

I am moving more and more towards a system where I only keep one jar of seed for each variety/species (at least on varieties that maintain their viability for years). So for example with dry bush beans, I'll decide how much bean seed I want to save for planting, and for an archive, and for sharing, and I'll save that much seed. With beans, it might be a two quart jar. Then each year, after harvest, I'll dump out all but 1/3 of the seed in the jar, and refill with fresh seed. So that keeps seed around from previous years, but I don't have to keep track of it separately. Then I eat the excess seed, or feed it to animals, or donate it, or whatever. I'm cautious to do germination testing before adding seed willy-nilly to the common seed lot.  

When I receive new seeds, I open the packets, and dump the seeds into the jar that is set aside for that species. For example, my jar of "incoming" tomato seeds might have several hundred varieties in it. Then when I feel like trialing non-locally-adapted tomatoes, I'll take a pinch of seed out of the jar and plant it. I don't much care if they life or die. Anything that survives, and that I enjoy,  can go the next year into the jar labeled, "short-season tomatoes". That jar is maintained in the same way. Jumbled up varieties of things that have grown well in my garden in some previous year. No names. No stories. Just genetics that have done well in spite of my habits.

An additional method that we have been using in recent years, is making interspecies hybrids between domesticated species and wild species. Then re-selecting for domestic-type traits such as hull-less, larger seeds or fruits, lack of germination inhibitors, etc...

Grow reports that I get from that area, are that barley thrives.

Anne Miller wrote:I don't know what was in our seed mixes or what is in my neighbors' mixes.  I picked up some corn looking plants in our driveway but thought they were millet.  

In the usa, the corn looking plants that often grow from birdseed mixes is typically milo/sorghum. It looks a lot like corn, except that the seeds are carried high on the top of the plant (where a corn tassel would be).

Teosinte is so wild, that it's not suitable for growing as a grain