Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Trivial Tuesday

It is snowing or trying to here so I thought I would do a post for fun.
I am finalizing two calendar gifts and some of the fun facts and trivia are ...well fun and trivial. So here goes:

Alektrophobia- fear of chickens.

One in every 4 Americans has appeared on television!

Thomas Edison, light bulb inventor, was afraid of the dark!

A cows normal body temperature is 101.5°F.

Cows are pregnant for 9 months just like people.

A mole can dig a tunnel 300 feet long in just one night!

John Quincy Adams Regularly Skinny-Dipped In The Potomac

A Holstein’s spots are like a fingerprint. No two cows have exactly the same pattern of black and white spots. They are all different.

A group of geese on the ground is a gaggle, a group of geese in the air is a skein!

Sharks kill fewer than 10 people per year. Humans kill about 100 million Sharks per year.

Clinophobia is the fear of beds!

A dairy cow can produce 125 lbs. of saliva a day.

You speak about 4,800 words a day.

Andrew Jackson Taught His Parrot To Curse...The parrot had to be removed from President Jackson's funeral because it wouldn't stop swearing.

In the Middle Ages, chicken soup was believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Every day 20 banks are robbed. The average take is $2,500!

Tablecloths were originally meant to be served as towels with which dinner guests could wipe their hands and faces after eating!

There are 18 different animal shapes in the Animal Crackers cookie zoo!

As a freshman in high school, Dwight Eisenhower injured his knee, and the wound caused an infection that doctors feared could kill him. They recommend the leg be amputated, but Eisenhower loved playing sports so much that he refused the operation, and he somehow made a miraculous recovery.

Jupiter’s giant red spot is like a tornado and it is 3 times bigger than the earth.

McDonald’s in India does not serve beef—only chicken, mutton and fish.

The average cow drinks 30 to 50 gallons of water each day.

The first animal sent up to outer space was a dog.

In the 1940's Gerald Ford did a bit of modeling and even posed on the cover of "Cosmopolitan". His wife Betty was also a dancer and fashion model, who signed with the John Robert Powers modeling firm to finance her dance education.

Chickens were domesticated about 8000 years ago.

On a clear night, the human eye can see between 2,000 and 3,000 stars in the sky.

One car out of every 230 made was stolen last year!

Tourists visiting Iceland should know that tipping at a restaurant is considered an insult!

Forest fires move faster uphill than downhill!

President Thomas Jefferson founded the university in 1819 on land that once belonged to eventual President James Monroe. Jefferson is the only president to have ever founded an institution of higher learning.
A 'jiffy' is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second!
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were close friends and correspondents — but they also had a bit of a rivalry. Adams' dying words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives," unaware that he had died hours earlier. In another shocker, both died on July 4, 1826.

The average life span of a major league baseball is 5-7 pitches!

The electric chair was invented by a dentist!

Ulysses S. Grant smoked a ton of cigars — at least 20 a day. After a great military victory at the Battle of Shiloh, citizens sent him more than 10,000 boxes of cigars as gratitude. He died of throat cancer in 1885.

A single 30-meter-tall mature tree can absorb as much as 22.7 kilograms (50 pounds) of carbon dioxide in a year.

No tree dies of old age. They are generally killed by insects, disease or by people. California Bristlecone Pines and Giant Sequoias are regarded as the oldest trees and have been known to live 4,000 to 5,000 years.
Have a marvelous day and I hope the trivia made you smile a time or two or even learn something!


Monday, December 29, 2014

Garden Plans and Explanations - Part 2

I mentioned we were working on seed orders. That is hard to do when you don't know where you will be living, what zone you will be living in, how the land lays, what kind of soil will you have, and a thousand other variables. What we did was to get a two year subscription to the Garden Planner from Mother Earth News last year. This is a cloud program. You don't have the program, you just access it online. No internet, no access. With this program, you can draw out your garden plot and populate it with your vegetables and fruits (yes, it has fruit and nut trees), It has a listing across the top of most vegetables and fruit and nut trees. You select what you want and place it where you want it in your garden. You don't place words on your garden. You place a drawing of the plant onto your garden. It looks somewhat like what you will be planting and is of a size of what your mature plant will be. You can draw out the planting to form a row. And you can draw down to have multiple rows – like a wide bed. Or draw that plant into a new row to form multiple stand alone rows. So, you can have wide beds or multiple rows – your choice. You have to decide what you want planted where. You can have your rows perpendicular to each other or at angles to each other or parallel to each other. And, you determine your row spacing. A row could have 5 tomato plants or, in the same amount of space, 700 radishes. The drawings are sized according to the plants real size. As you add plants to your garden, it will place the name of the plants onto the drawing of that plant. This way, you don't have to guess at the name of the plant. It does not deal with varieties of a plant, only the family name. It only gives you “tomato”, not “Better Boy” or “Orange Oxheart”. And it generates a plant list. This tells you how many of what you have. It doesn't tell you that your 700 radishes are in a single row 250 feet long or in a wide bed 30 feet long. Your drawing on the garden plot does that.

Stock Photo of Easter Egg radishes

I don't know where we will be living. So, I chose a location in central Kentucky and looked up its zip code. I entered this zip code into the program for our location. If and when we do sell and move, I will go into the program and change the location to our real location. The purpose of this location thing is so they can send you a “newsletter” designed for you and your location. About every two weeks, I received an email telling me what seeds to start indoors, what seeds to direct seed outdoors, what plants to transplant out to the garden, etc. Hence, the need for your zip code. This gave them your frost dates, etc. (I forgot – The program has herbs and some flowers, also.) Also, the email is tailored to what you told them you are planting. If you only have tomatoes and radishes in your garden, that is all your email will mention. You will receive nothing about beans or corn or squash or... Therefore, put into your “garden” everything you intend to plant. Otherwise, it won't be mentioned in the emails. The program is somewhat general in nature, it doesn't cover everything. So it has general categories. Like flowers. It has four “flowers” listings. That is all. Just “flowers”. But, they are different colors. There was “large fruit trees” and “small fruit trees” along with “Chinese chestnut”, “pecan”, “walnut”, about five apples (like cordon, espalier, dwarf, etc.), cherries, figs, pears, oranges, limes, etc. It is a “general use” program, but it still does a pretty good job. It will provide us the general information to get started in a new location. We will tailor the information to our specific needs. The emails will be printed out by us for future reference. We will be able to make notes and changes to suit us. It is a starting point of reference material.

 There are LOTS of good gardening books out there.

Now to the embarrassing admissions and revelations. They have just under 200 plants and categories listed. I know. I selected almost everyone of them. Including oranges, limes, and cranberries! We will not be planting all of them, but I will be getting the info for future reference. Some of them, I had no idea what it was – like phacella or phacelia (I'm not sure of which spelling). Or calendula. I am hoping to have a large email with all of these listed. We'll see. Also, where the plants are listed across the top, there is a small “i”, for info, listed on each plant. This gives soil, moisture, sunlight, etc. requirements for that plant. A simple, quick reference. Just not too detailed or in depth.


I didn't know what I would need or want, so I went to the extreme. I put my garden size at 1000 feet by 1000 feet. I started at the top left corner and put two 30 foot rows across the top. I then dropped down and did two more rows. So I had sixty feet across. I ended up down at almost 900 feet. The 940 feet to the right was never used. The 100 plus feet at the bottom was never used. I found out two Chinese chestnuts will not fit together in 60 feet of space. Their limbs are overlapping. Like I said, the drawings are proportional to mature size. Pomegranates aren't as big as I had expected. What I am trying to get across is the fact that this exercise was to get information. It didn't really have anything to do with reality. This plot is not intended for us to use, just to get them to send the planting information for where we intend to live. I believe it is five gardens that you can have per subscription. I have four real life gardens left to do. For the real world where we will be living.

Now, to step back toward the real world, I opened up a spreadsheet in LibreOffice Calc. (This is a free program for Linux systems.) (Also, this is being written in LibreOffice Writer, another free Linux program in the LibreOffice Suite.) I listed the plants down the left side of the spreadsheet. I broke it out into vegetables, fruit and nut trees, flowers, and herbs. My spreadsheet is 227 rows running across. Then I went to a printout I had from Granny Miller that lists how much of what to grow for a family of four and other info. I am also using other sources. For my columns across the top, I have: Number of row feet for us to plant in 2015, Row feet needed for a family of 4, Approximate vegetable yield for a 100' row, Total amount of seed or number of plants needed, Total price of each crop, Approximate seeds or plants per 100' row, Pounds to raise for a family of 4, Quarts/pints to preserve for a family of 4, Foot row per person for fresh seasonal consumption, Companies and varieties and order number to order, and cultivation techniques and notes.

With this, we can look at the new property and determine how much land we need for crop land – not including crops for the animals or space for the animals. This chart is working off of a family of 4. There are only two of us. The first two or three years, we want to double or triple crop what we need in order to do extra canning to get an excess built up in storage. Then we can drop back to just replacement canning. This tells us how many row feet we will need and how much seed or how many plants we will need and where they will come from. The rest of the spreadsheet tells us how much we need to plant in order to can so much and to have fresh eating. I can go on across the spreadsheet adding what ever info I want, like gardening tips or reminders. Whatever the mind can conceive of can go into it. Over time, we will learn what we like to eat more of or less of, and we will change the garden accordingly. And the canning.

I have to finish flushing out the spreadsheet with how much of what we want to grow. Some items, we will try a few feet of to see how it tastes, how well it will grow, and decide if it is something to consider for the future. We DO like to experiment and try new things. And that phacella thing is still there. We may just have to try it and find out what the heck that thing is. I still have to finish the spreadsheet. (Fiona tries to keep me on the straight and narrow with a “We don't need to grow that much of that, we can't use that much!” and then my very frustrating to her “But if we don't like it or there is too much, we can always feed it to the chickens and hogs” - I do like to live dangerously, it seems.) Once we finish the spreadsheet, we will have a total feet needed, amount of seed needed and the sources of those seeds, number of plants needed, and the total price to pay. Building a greenhouse may create a problem for starting our own plants. There just may not be time. Maybe a sunroom would work!!! Uh-oh! I think I just cross her line in the sand. The smarter me should go find a place to hide.

The seed catalogs have been coming in. With the spreadsheet, I can go down the list and look at the catalogs to determine what we get from whom. And then we will have to pay for all those new seeds. But we can't place the orders until we have the land and adjust the lists for the land. And then we are back to waiting. And then waiting for the seeds to arrive! Oh! And we HAVE to let all the seed companies have our new address so we get all those new wish books, I mean catalogs.

Is it too early to say “Happy Gardening” to everyone?

Ralph and Fiona

Friday, December 26, 2014

Garden Plans and Explantions: Part 1

Well, it's that time! A time of great frustration and anxiety. A time of great expectation and great dreams. A time of a tenacity for short tempers and, yet, daydreaming. We are (hopefully) between land sales. Our land out West is under contract, but hasn't sold yet. We are looking at new properties, but haven't bought yet. Our buyer wanted to close in 2014, but couldn't get the lawyer work done. He said Dec. 22, then we had to change it to Jan. 8. Now, it is Jan. 28. Holiday conflicts. Vacation problems. Etc. If the lawyers can complete everything early, then the plan is to move the date up.

We have made 3 trips this fall to Kentucky looking at properties. We had a good number of properties to look at. One place Fiona wanted to “just look at the house, it looks so nice”. It is a Bedford Stone house [Indiana Limestone]. 

It had not been  a serious contender, the land looked too steep, she just wanted to sight see. To see what the house really looked like and then move on. This house has two identical kitchens. One is over the other. Each is complete. One is upstairs on the main floor, the other is in the basement. The one upstairs has windows over the sink. The one downstairs, has no windows. When they remodeled, they just moved everything downstairs. The one in the basement was still in great shape, just a little dated. They use it as a canning kitchen. And, moving on, I believe it used to be an attached two car carport. They enclosed it and and made a wonderful sunroom out of it. It is two car carport wide and goes from the front to the back of the house. It entails the entire end of the house. Needless to say, the house IS nice. But, there is no bottom land.

This is a hillside property. I can use it for garden spots. I can make it work without too much trouble. But, it will be more work. Workable, but more work. For the animals, they won't care. It would be great for them. Nice grass. The land is hillside, but not overly steep. We are hoping to have three gardens: a spring, a summer, and a fall/winter garden. And each garden in large enough proportions for at least a three or four year crop rotation. I can still do this on the hillside, but the garden spots are smaller and spread across the hillside. Instead of three locations, we may have seven or eight locations. And each would have to be fenced, in addition to the perimeter and cross fencing for the animals. More expenses.

To maintain some semblance of sanity, we are working on seed and plant orders for the new and unknown property. It IS that time of the year! It is hard to plan for something you don't have any knowledge of. So, we are doing a general, “what if” plan. We will have to finalize the orders once we get a new place, if everything does go through. We are hoping to be able to do a spring garden. If everything is completed too late, we will have to start with a summer garden.

Example Garden Plan

I guess I should explain a little what I am referring to. A “spring “ garden is a garden planted EARLY in the spring with frost tolerant crops like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, lettuce, beets, radishes, spinach, and... You get the idea. You plant these while there is still a danger of frost. Usually, they will not survive the summers heat. Then, we would till everything under and cover crop the entire patch. Later in the summer, this could be cut for hay or livestock could be turned in to fertilize the garden spot. Next year, you would just move over to the next rested spot, till it up and plant it.

A summer garden is planted with crops that can not stand up to a frost. This would be tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, eggplant, peppers, melons, sweet potatoes, okra, and … Again, you get the idea. These are all planted after all danger of frost is past. Most will grow and produce until the fall frosts kill them. Some people refer to them as the main season crops. To us, they are just variations on a theme, another part of the garden. When Jack Frost is near, it is time to strip the garden and put in a cover crop for the winter protection.

A fall garden is just a spring garden planted for fall/winter harvest. You plant it at various times in the middle to later summer, depending on the days required for maturity. The idea is to have that particular crop mature just before or after the beginning of frost. These are going to have varying degrees of frost/freeze tolerance. Kale and collards are much better tasting after a couple of good frosts. Carrots left in the ground and covered with a good layer of straw, can be harvested all winter long. Each is worked out according to its ability to withstand frost and freezing. They are season extenders to us. They enable us to eat fresh way into the winter.

Another Example of Garden Plans

Why do we want three different garden plots? Economy of motion. Everything in the same area. Not having to plant here, there, and yonder. Not having to harvest here, there, and yonder. We have had too many problems with trying to till and harvest in adjacent strips of the garden. Plow/till the whole plot at one time. Plant. Weed. Harvest. Everything is simpler. It is easier to get a good cover crop on the garden. You can turn the animals onto the plot to clean it and fertilize it. Everything just seems to flow so much smoother. I'm lazy and this just works so much better.
A Herb Garden Plan adaptable to a slope.

And the three or four year rotation is to rest the land. To cut back on pest and disease carryover from one year to the next. By turning chickens and hogs onto the garden plot, you get rid of a lot of grubs and bugs. This means less problems next year. They will eat a lot of the plants and debris. They fertilize the garden plot. Turn it all under and plant a cover crop. This will help enrich the soil and reduce erosion. It is a win – win. The animals are happy and we are happier and the garden is happy.

Thats enough for now, we have a long haul ahead of us yet. I will continue this train of thought in my next post.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Tidings to All

Have a Blessed and fulfilling Christmas and our best wishes to you all.

Fiona and Ralph

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Tale Of Two Seeds....An article reprint

We subscribe to a very good e-newsletter from Steven at Terroir Seeds. Ralph and I both really enjoyed the following article and felt it should be shared. We contacted Terroir for permission to reprint it in its whole form. Then we were very pleased when he had taken time to look at our blog and then gave us permission to use the Article so here it is and we hope you enjoy it.

The Tale of Two Seeds- Heirloom vs Hybrid Seed Production

Monday, December 22, 2014

Seed Resource links to start the new year.

I though I would do something simple today and share our favorite seed sources.

In no particular order:

Seed Savers Exchange
We have had wonderful results with seeds from this place. Good germination and fast service. Then wonderful plants as an end result.

 Dave's Garden
We use a lot of the guides from this site. There is solid useful information on all things gardening here.

Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center
Bean heaven and tomato heaven too. It gives us wonderful varieties and history as well.

Sand Hills Preservation Center
A true resource for everything homestead. Rare and unusual varieties of a wide selection of plants and poultry. No glossy catalog but lots of information and articles on plants and gardening.

Baker Creek Seeds
A trip through a fantasy land of rare and beautiful vegetables. They are super wonderful to deal with and we have had very good results with their seed. Tasty results too!

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
I am snacking on peanuts that we grew from seed purchased from Southern Exposure. Several varieties of tomatoes have come from them as well.

Wood Prairie Farm
We get our seed potatoes from them and look forward to planting them in a real garden on our new place....we have had good results with our potato pails though so their seed does well regardless.

Terroir Seeds
This place has a wonderful news letter we receive and it has recipes and the like for the vegetables you grow. Solid service and good seed as well.

Annie's Heirloom Seeds
We got our herb seed from Annie's this year and it was super good seed, top germination ad wonderful herbs. The Thyme is still doing well!

Bountiful Gardens
We did not order from them this past year but have an order ready for the new farm. The have an outstanding collection of cover crops, grains and animal fodder. We purchased tomato seed from them before that did quite well.

Pine Tree Seeds
Pine tree is a good place to shop if you want to try new varieties but do not want huge seed packets. We get some of their small packets to sample varieties.

There are always new places sprouting up so to speak and we are always snoopy as to new vareties and the excitment of new things to try.

I hope this helps a bit and give you some Ohhhh Ahhhhh moments looking at veggie pictures!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Beans Beans the magical fruit...the more you eat....

Well I am sure all of you remember that little rhyme.
Here is Ralph's latest and its about beans!

Men are whimps. Fiona wanted me to do this thing on the beans we grew last summer, so here I am. I am still on this Bill Best and Sustainable Mountain kick. I just like the idea of using things that just work and Sustainable is in this category. Mr. Best has a “Medley” pack. His packs of seeds are small and “expensive” - $6.00. They are to get you started so you can save your own seeds. Anyway, the Medley is for those who are decision challenged. It is a collection of “leftovers”? I'm not sure how or what gets into it. It seems they are filling an order here and there and beans are left over. The left overs go into a jar or bowl. At the end of the day, the jar is shaken or tumbled or the bowl is stirred or something, and the result is bagged as medley packs. However they do it, when you buy a Medley Pack, you get a collection of different varieties of beans.

 The Medley Pack

There is no guarantee of what will be in the pack. It will just be a variety of beans. And they don't tell you what is in the pack. It is your guess. And that is all you can do, just guess. The point is: Don't eat all of the beans off of a vine. If you eat it and it is really good, save some of the beans for next years seed. You might not know its name, but you will know that it is good and you want to eat more of them. It is up to you to save the seed. Or, next year you can buy one pack of every bean he offers. That way, you can learn its name. We had several Medley Packs and enjoyed them. We got one Medley Pack free with every six packs of seeds we ordered. We mixed the different beans together and ate them that way. They were really good that way. We weren't worried about the names. (I had ordered one of everything (almost) and wasn't worried about saving the seeds.) Well, that is a little bit of a fib. I didn't order one of everything, but I did order about fifty different varieties – one little pack of each. Most of them, I didn't have room for and we hope to try them this coming summer. We should have beans galore! The extra seeds are sorted and in the freezer awaiting planting. But, of the fifty plus varieties we ordered, we did plant several to just get a feeling of what we had awaiting us.

  The above photo is from Mr. Best's website. I believe his bean towers are 15 foot tall. Pole beans will climb for the stars, but do just fine on a trellis or teepee. I ran a trellis on 10 foot t-posts. In no time they were over the top and then just dropped back down to the wire and the other plants and went horizontal.

There is a Lazy Housewife Bean. Will for me, there is the Lazy Picker Beans. I love Dade, Rose, and Goose Beans from Sustainable. Not only were they great eating, but they were a pickers dream. For all three varieties, the beans were fat and long and plentiful. I tied a five gallon bucket around my waist with an old belt for hands free operation. I hardly had to move. Pick, pick, pick and go to the house! Job done!!! I like my beans with beans in them, not just pods. And these were tender and had the beans in them. And most of the beans were at least 10 to 12 inches long.

An example of the Dade Beans.

They are definitely on the list for another run. Big, plentiful, and great tasting. Just my kind of bean. Fiona says they retain their taste well from the freezer. About the best she has ever had. They also canned well. No disappointments. And, she says, they were a joy to prepare for freezing or canning because they were so big. Just a few and the jar was full. Because of their size, they were easy to see on the trellis and they were easy to pick without tearing the vines up.
Fiona has a friend in Kentucky. Her maiden name is Saylor. One of the beans we grew was “Saylor”. Thankfully, the Saylors were a wonderful bean and Fiona was able to tell her friend that “of course they were good, they were a Saylor”. Her friend was quite pleased. They were a regular bean with less of a bean in them and regular size. They had the tenderness and flavor that we look for in a bean. They are definitely on our grow list. We like stringless, but are not hung up on that if it has superior flavor. We will do trade offs. Neither of us remember if Saylor was stringless or not. It is on our list for flavor. If we have to string it, so be it.

The Saylor Bean seed, behind Ralph's hand you can see some of the bean seed packets.

In house hunting, we tell people the house is important. But, if the land doesn't meet our needs, it doesn't matter if it has the Biltmore Mansion on it, we're not interested. The land is the most important for us. We can live with less of a house. Our garden is the same way. We are not adverse to growing fifty varieties of beans or a hundred varieties of tomatoes in order to find the five or six that we consider the best for our tastes and needs. We do require open-pollinated varieties, no hybrids or GMO's need apply. We will try new varieties each year to go up against our tried and trues. Who knows, we may find a lost treasure out there somewhere.

Have a good day and count your blessings. And remember, you wouldn't have those blessings without God.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Landrace article – from the plant side [A Ralph Post]

This is a short follow up to Fiona's Landrace article – from the plant side. Bill Best from Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea, KY has traveled the Southern Appalachians looking for family heirlooms. He has an impressive collection for sale on http://www.heirlooms.org/- . The thing that caught my attention right away was the names of the beans and tomatoes. There is: Betsy Burner Bean, Bill Stumbo Half-Runner, Georgia Half-Runner, Josephine Jackson Half-Runner, Larry Phillips Half-Runner, Barnes Mountain, Breathitt Produce Market Bean, Grandma Barnett Bean. A lot of his varieties are named after the person, family, location, or whatever that the seed came from. Not all of them were named this way, but a lot were. Some of the varieties have been grown by a family or in a community for a hundred to a hundred fifty years. The family would save seed this year to grow next year. They would always save their best fruits for next years seed. In this way, a variety would become “localized”. The seed would become “tolerant” over years to a locations heat, soils, moistures, cultivation habits, and everything within its environment. It would become a Landrace variety. This is how a Landrace variety is created.

I hope Mr. Best doesn't mind my plagiarizing his writing, but this illustrates how a Landrace can be formed:

Vinson Watts Tomato

Offered for the first time in 2006, this tomato has proven to be quite popular with many people in many places.  Prior to his death in March, 2008, Vinson Watts had improved his namesake tomato for 52 summers.  The original seed was from Lee County, Virginia and was given to him by his work supervisor at Berea College, Wilson Evans.  Those interested in the story of this tomato can look it up on the internet since several articles in newspapers and magazines have been written about Watts and his tomato.  The tomato is a large pink tomato flavored with an excellent balance of sugars and acids.  It is also the most disease resistant tomato I have grown, the result of all those summers of selection for flavor, texture, and disease resistance.

One of our Vinson Watts

For 52 summers, he selected the best for flavor, texture, and disease resistance. That is why we grow our own food. That is why we select the best to regrow next year. We grow for us! In our area of the world! Mr. Watts did this for 52 summers. This is why a family grows a variety for a hundred years. Their seed is adapted to their location. And the family hasn't been able to find anything better than what they have been growing for a hundred years.
We have numerous beans and tomatoes from Sustainable Mountain that we grew last year. We intend to grow more of them this coming summer. We have no choice. Fiona made a tomato sauce that is THE best I have ever had anywhere. It is strong and tangy and very tasty, very tomatoey. The problem is: She doesn't know how she made it! She called it “Everyone into the Pool”. We have to experiment to see if we can duplicate last years success. She called it that because she had a bunch of different tomatoes left over and she just threw them all in together. Hence: “Everyone into the Pool”. She put in Sutton's White, Grant County Pink, Orange Oxheart, Basin Mountain Tommy Toe, Black Pear, Yellow German Dunham Variant, Jerusalem, Vinson Watts, and we don't know what all else. She included the peels and seeds (no straining) because we wanted all the nutrients. They didn't hurt the end product. They were hardly noticeable. We think an immersion blender next year may help with consistency. We are for always experimenting. And learning.

Until the next time, may God bless you more than He has us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Developing your Own Landrace Livestock

This post was inspired by Frank and Ferns post of December 15th, 2014

What is a landrace?

A landrace is a local variety of a domesticated plant or animal species which has developed  adaptation to the natural and cultural environment in which it lives.  Landrace populations are often variable in appearance, but they can be identified by their appearance and have a certain genetic similarity.

I have heard the term landrace used in both gardening and livestock. It is something we overlook as we raise our own animals and  plants. I felt it is something we should look into as we all plan for the future.

When I raised purebred Shorthorn cattle I originally had to buy my breeding stock. I made selections on the type of cattle that would work on my farm with its harsh winters and dry summers. I wanted easy keeping cattle that needed a lower amount of pasture and winter feed to get by. They had to have good feet and the cows had to have small tidy udders with good teat placement. They had to be fertile and breed  and settle in calf quickly as I had a 60 day calving season that worked for our commercial cattle. It was a learning experience. I had a lot of animals that fit the conformation criteria and looked great when  got them but then failed at either my fertility requirement or my feed conversion requirement.

I selected and continued my pursuit of top animals and I also culled hard, I found much harder than a lot of purebred breeders. It seemed that because Registered stock costs more there is a tendency to give them more chances to produce or perform than ordinary commercial crossbred cattle.  If a commercial cow does not produce a calf, milk well and wean a well grown calf, is shy breeding or has bad feet she is culled. I saw breeders pay a lot of money for top  stock and then when they didn't milk well or had bad feet they were given more chances, or had their feet trimmed...always some excuse.

I retained my commercial attitude, these cattle had to work for me under my management and range conditions. I kept heifer calves from the best of my selected purebreds only if they were working out under our commercial management. The school of hard knocks you might say.

When I started selling my  best purebreds I was pleased with the peoples reaction to having them. They all said they were really easy keeping and never needed their feet trimmed. They milked well even though their udders looked small and they were quiet and gentle. These were all things my purebreds had been selected for, I had developed my own strain of landrace cattle. They worked and had been developed for a specific area of the country under hard selection criteria. It had taken almost 10 years to reach this level.

Now what has this got to do with your homestead and preparedness plans you ask?  Well look at your management system, do you have lots of pasture and forage, can you raise your own grain, do you have a long winter to feed animals through? Do you have barns or are the animals gong to be outside for the most part. All these things add up to your animal husbandry climate...your region that your animals have to work in.

Evaluate what your animals will have to do to get by and then start selecting the best ones. Ones that perform for you. The animals that come off pasture thin, cull, keep the fattest ones who have done well on limited inputs. Cull for disposition, if an animal is aggressive or nervous cull it. Quiet animals not only are easier to handle but convert feed better.

If your raising rabbits, select the ones that do the best with fewer pellets and purchased grain inputs, keep records of a does babies and how they feed out on grass, if a doe kindles a set of kits that does well on grass then she is the one to keep daughters from. The good thing about this approach is you can eat the failures. It is not a loss of food and you gain in having small or large stock that fits your farm, region and management.

With goats select the does that produce the most milk on the least grain. The ones that are in the best flesh from the pasture they are on. Cull the ones that are thinner and seem to need more care. Pay attention to parasite infestations, some animals have a more natural resistance to worms and the like. Paying attention to your animals is good for them and you, developing individuals that work well in your situation will pay off in spades as time goes on.

When selecting breeding males watch the management of the breeder you are getting them from. If they use a lot of high power commercially prepared feeds the stud stock may have difficulty adjusting to your regimen of less is more. Often the bigger  prime stud stock require higher levels of grain and nutrition than smaller animals.

When selecting the breeds of animals you want look into the history of the breed. The old breeds that have fallen out of favor with modern industrial agriculture have much to offer modern homesteaders and people who want to be prepared. It will take time but with perseverance and determination and a good eye for detail you can breed and develop your own landrace animals that will work for you!

Ralph and I look forward to selecting good animals to begin with and only time will tell how 'our' landrace critters will look. It is a challenge we look forward to...now go out there and get planning!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Good things we saw...

Here are some of the good things we saw on our land trip....we are now busy making the budget and it is heavy going. I have never bought new furniture...I either inherited it or found good used things. Wow is it ever expensive...so while we are getting a headache from that here are some more photos from our trip.

I just wanted to stay here

 Great use of attic space.

Level fields

A very nice creek...with no flood danger!

A serious farm dog

A grand old church

Room for Ralph's Family

And my very favorite which was nothing to do with the land search and everything to do with why I miss having our own home is these two....

Well I had better get back to work. We have to budget and plan for things like the furniture, kitchen appliances, the addition of farm tools, equipment and of course repairs and modifications to the farm. There is no sense in buying the perfect farm and then not being able to work it or live in it. We have to be careful and make sure we can do the things we need to to grow our own food and live the life we want and hope to.

We have done a lot  of pre planning but each pre plan has to be modified to each property. It is interesting that even furniture costs vary a great deal according to the individual property.  Now I am breaking out the calculator, I am sure it will be smoking soon, Good Bye for now and God Bless all of you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Things to Look for.

I thought I would post some of the photos of our trip just to give you and idea what we saw... both good and bad.

This is a photo at the largest property, it has superior hayfields and a very nice mix of wooded acres. The new shop building is on the left and you can see the house and yard buildings in the distance. The problem here was the big tobacco barn....

The roof is starting to tear off from wind and of course that leads to a plethora of other problems.

Now can we balance the barn repairs with all the things we could do with these incredible fields, both gardening raising small livestock, planting an orchard and perhaps blueberries and the like?
As to security this place was wonderful. It is at the end of a very obscure road and is surrounded by good sized farms.


Another property that has merit has this very good barn. The roof is intact and in good condition. It is roomy and has good space for both hay storage and livestock.

Of course this is balanced by a highway through the yard.....sigh! In the following photo you can see the newly repaved highway, it has no center line and is considered a secondary road. There was little traffic as we looked at the land but what did come through traveled fast! This is most definitely a security and safety issue!

This farm had not been grazed this past summer and the pastures were grown up but they had good potential. This is a smaller property but the land is almost all useful.

I can see a marvelous garden here, can you? Sometimes it is a bit difficult to see past wet cold weather and weed growth but this tilth turned under would add a great deal of good to the soil and as it is the land is resting!

Then we look at that paved road again....this is looking across it to the house and the garden area they are currently using. Ralph is way over there looking at that side of the road.

These are just a few of the things we saw and looked at...it was a very worthwhile trip but as you can see we need to be careful as to the cost of repair and return and of course the safety of our future.

Now we are working at cost evaluation so we can get a better handle on how much we can safely spend on the land so that when we have it we are not cash strapped and have room to repair and take care of our new home.

The work of getting the best property really has started and it is going to be a wonderful challenge!