Tag: Landrace

Happenings Around the Homestead

Whew! What a week this has been! There isn’t much happening around the homestead, as we received a whopper of a snow this past week, which was followed by another snow, extreme cold temperatures, and then on Friday night into Saturday we had sleet, freezing rain, and rain. As I write this on Saturday morning, I suspect it is a terrible mess outside. There have been reports of folks roofs leaking, flooding due to drains on roads being clogged with snow and ice, and roads that are in treacherous shape. It doesn’t seem like it will get much better today, as I am expecting the temperature to hover right above freezing all day. By the time this post goes live, this will all be old news though, and we will be talking about the blustery cold temperatures Monday will bring us again. I am so ready for spring. ūüėÄ

I am sure many of you looked at the pictures I took, mostly of birds, last week.  I also took a few around the house of some monster icicles:

Monster Icicles #1

Monster Icicles #1

Monster Icicles #2

Monster Icicles #2

Monster Icicles #3

Monster Icicles #3

I just went out to check on the chickens, and wow it is messy.  The rain is melting some of the snow, and water is pooling everywhere.  It remains to be seen how this will be at the end of the day.

Oh!  I took a few pictures of my winter sowing project!

Winter Sowing - Peeking Through

Winter Sowing – Peeking Through

Winter Sowing Holes

Winter Sowing Holes

Even with a slow week around here, it wasn’t without some homesteading excitement though. I received a packet of seeds from Slovenia! These are minerature blue popcorn kernels (seeds). ¬†Check out the seeds and the envelope:

Minerature Blue Popcorn Kernels from Slovenia

Minerature Blue Popcorn Kernels from Slovenia

I know, I know. ¬†I am a bit weird to get so excited over popcorn kernels, but I am excited to incorporate this into my popcorn landrace. ¬†Aren’t those stamps cool too‚ÄĹ


Cherokee Gourdseed Corn

If you know me, it doesn’t surprise you that I tried a new, unusual crop this past year: Cherokee Gourdseed Corn.

Cherokee Gourdseed Corn

Cherokee Gourdseed Corn

This is a traditional southern corn, as it is a longer season corn.  In other words, I am not sure the summer would be long enough to grow this very much further north than we are.  The books say about 125 days to maturity, and I believe it.  It took longer to mature than any corn I grew this year by a considerable amount.

It was a pleasant corn to look at though Рthe cobbs were nice and fat on the stalks, and they seemed quite hearty.  The stalks were stout, with no danger of blowing over.

The kernels are amazing though. ¬†As you can see in the picture above, they don’t look crowded on the cobb, but that is because they are so thin and long. ¬†They are often said to remind people of old man teeth or horse teeth. ¬†Did I just say that old man teeth and horse teeth look similar‚ÄĹ ¬†ūüėÄ ¬†No insult meant to all the old men reading this. ¬†I didn’t really think of the kernels looking like teeth when I was shelling the cobbs, but now that I look at the picture, they are very similar in features to teeth, aren’t they?

The most interesting thing about this corn was not the kernels though, in my opinion.  Instead, it was the ease of shelling.  It was almost as simple as placing two hands on the cobb and twisting.  In fact, I wish I had videod to show, as it was so amazing.

There aren’t very many gourdseed corns out there: only three or four. ¬†This is the Cherokee Gourdseed, and there is a Texas Gourdseed, a Carolina Gourdseed, and I have found some references to a Virginia Gourdseed. ¬†I have my seed stock from this Cherokee Gourdseed that I plan on landracing with at least the Texas Gourdseed, of which I also have some seed. ¬†I will probably hand pollinate some of each as well to keep the pure strains alive.

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been another slow week around the homestead, though we did receive two more loads of woodchips for the big garden project this year.  Now that I type that, I am not sure I have mentioned it on here before.  It is a unique way of gardening that people have been made aware of through a film titled Back to Eden.  Basically, the premise of it all is that you provide a ground covering, preferably wood chips.  The wood chips keep the ground moist and fertile.  While that is the elevator pitch about Back to Eden gardening, it is well worth watching the film, which is well put together and held my interest, which says a lot.

Regarding that, I am still trying to find good, composted manure to put as a base layer for the garden. The problem is threefold: finding it, getting it here, and having enough.  That reminds me, I need to call a friend this week, as he may have a source for horse manure, though I am not sure how composted it might be.

The garlic I planted a few weeks ago is starting to sprout, though it is tiny still.  The chickens are my big challenge though, as they seem to think it looks like fun to pull on those green garlic leaves.  Hopefully they will get tired of it before long, or at least long enough for them to get rooted well.

I have also been posting on Facebook about my need for small jars.  This is for an ongoing popcorn experiment.  I am growing landrace popcorn.  As part of this ongoing experiment, I need to save the best seeds from year to year, which means I have to test pop all the popcorn.  The seeds that are saved are those which are the best popping corn, though I strongly take the ease of shucking and the appearance into consideration.  The reason I need the jars is to ensure the water content of all the popcorn remains the same.  Yes, it sure is a lot of work, but it keeps my interest.  Regarding the jars, I am making progress.  I have already received a small number of babyfood jars, and my mom had some other small jars she gave.  I then had a friend let me know she is saving her jars for me, so it looks like I am on my way to having enough jars.  Thanks to everyone for the jars!

I think that is all for the week.  It will likely be slow for a few weeks until I start spreading the woodchips, then it will pick up again for a short stint before the winter slows things down until March or so.


Happenings Around the Homestead

It is Sunday morning as I write this, and there is the most terrific claps of thunder going on outside.  Though I enjoy being able to go walk in the garden as soon as the sun is up, a great thunderstorm is very high on my list.  Oh, I just checked, the rain is falling hard now too Рwonderful!  My garden will so appreciate it!

Speaking of the garden, I decided to harvest as much of my popcorn and flour corn as I could yesterday. ¬†I don’t have very large patches of each, so I need to do what I can to prevent spoilage, and though neither was totally ready to be picked, I was afraid this rain might cause some mold or mildew issues. ¬†Here is the harvest so far:

Corn Harvest

First Corn Harvest of 2014

I was not surprised, but yet a little disappointed to see the cross-pollination in the Cherokee White Flour Corn. ¬†Some of the kernels are purple and yellow, which is no doubt from my popcorn. ¬†I was frustrated to find them both maturing at the same time, which happened to be at a point I was unable to bag them to prevent the cross over. ¬†With the Cherokee White Flour Corn, this is almost irrelevant. ¬†I can easily see what is crossed, and I will eliminate that from my seed stock — wait, that is not true. ¬†I will save some of the purple kernels for a special project next year — to see if I can get a purple flour corn, but that will be very carefully monitored.

The challenge I have is the popcorn though.  With it being much shorter than the Cherokee White Flour Corn, I am confident there is much cross pollination there, which may mean I lose most of my popcorn for seed from this year.  That sure is frustrating, but I will chalk it up to learning.

I did harvest one ear of Cherokee Gourdseed Corn as well, but it was definitely not ready. ¬†The ear had evidently been hit by something and was broken off though, so I felt it was better to go ahead and harvest it. ¬†It’s now drying with the rest of them.

Regarding the¬†Gourdseed Corn – these are the oddest cobs and kernels! ¬†The husks are so tightly wrapped on the cobs that it is a real chore to pull them off, though I suspect that will change some with time. ¬†The kernels look like old man teeth though! ¬†Even so, it is supposed to be a great flour corn as well. ¬†I don’t have a good picture of one yet, but I will be sure to share one later.

I harvested the largest crop of the year of tomatoes yesterday, which happened to be about half a bushel. ¬†Most all of them were Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes, which have become one of my favorite for taste — right up there with Cherokee Purple Tomatoes. ¬†They also make a beautiful tomato juice. ¬†Look at this beautiful basketful!

Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes

Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes

One other interesting tomato I have this year is from seeds saved from a tomato purchased at Whole Foods.  The tomato was advertised as a Cocoa Tomato, a variety I cannot find anywhere, so I presume it is a marketing name only.  Anyhow, it was a great tasting tomato with great color.  Those I am growing are very similar in size and color, but they are much less juicy than the one I purchased, which suits me fine.  These tomatoes will make excellent tomato sauce tomatoes or drying tomatoes, which is a nice addition to the garden.

Speaking of all this seed, I am an avid collecter of seeds with history.  Even though I landrace some vegetables, I also do what I can to preserve heritage crops too, and I would really appreciate leads to any rare or known Native American plant seeds, especially those with ties to the Chickasaw or Choctaw Indian tribes.  Most lists, such as this list of Seed Varieties for Native American Gardens have limited selection, though I know that is due to limited information.

I so enjoy the fall weather, but as the days start to shorten, a part of me gets a little sad knowing the gardening for the year is slowing down.  There is still plenty of time left, but in another two months it will be time for the ground to rest for a while and for me to start planning for next year.

Landrace Gardening

I have long had an interest in gardening, which has only grown more intense as I age.  I can recall early on only being interested in growing the biggest, tallest, most productive plants possible.  That meant excessive fertilization.  I then slightly altered that with black-plastic gardening.  Finally, I became interested in organic gardening.  About that time I began to have a real interest in heirloom vegetables and trying to keep these historic strains alive and well.  However, changes are underway in my gardening maturity, my way of thinking, one of which is landrace gardening.

Let’s step back a bit and talk about heirlooms. ¬†My interest in heirlooms wasn’t just about preserving the historic strains, but it was also about avoiding genetically modified crops, or GMOs. ¬†Both of those things are still important to me. ¬†However, I have begun to realize that I was confusing myself. ¬†I thought heirloom vegetables were the only right way and that all hybrids were bad. ¬†In other words, I was equating hybrids to GMOs.

I heard all the hype about hybrids: that saved seeds do not produce true to their parent, the plant is modified in some fashion by humans, and that these are somehow created plants. ¬†The truth is, I¬†believed the hype, but I didn’t use my head. ¬†If I may be candid, however, I still avoid store-bought hybrids, but hybrids themselves are not bad.

I don’t want to spend this post getting into the topic of GMOs except to say there is a difference. ¬†GMOs are plants that have been modified genetically in some fashion that could likely never occur in nature. ¬†That, my friends, is something I have no interest in.

A few years ago while perusing gardening sites, I ran across a gentleman named Joseph Lofthouse at a site called¬†Homegrown Goodness. ¬†I don’t remember what my initial thoughts were, but it there must have been things he said that I liked, and it wasn’t long until I began to really appreciate the projects he was working on. ¬†You see, Joseph gardens in a unique climate that cannot handle many plants grown in other places, but due to his selective seed saving and landrace gardening, Joseph has produced landrace vegetables that grow well in his climate. ¬†His story of growing open-pollinated cantalope is amazing, even though it is just one of his success stories. ¬†In short, Joseph’s plants are in a battle of the¬†Survival of the Fittest. ¬†The seeds of the winners each year go on to live another year.

Since learning about Joseph and his gardening ideas, I have implemented this in my garden gradually. ¬†For example, I am now in my second season of growing Joseph’s Popcorn, from which I am saving the best seed each year. ¬†I am also in my second year of landracing okra. ¬†Other plants that are on my list are watermelon and Joseph’s cantaloupe.

Despite the changes in my attitude toward hybrids in a landrace project, I still have an appreciation for heirloom plants and the history some of them have. ¬†For example, I am growing two ancient corns this year that are both used for flour. ¬†I intend on continuing to save pure seeds from each of these plants using a similar “survival of the fittest” technique, even though they will remain true to their strain. ¬†Another plant I want to follow this same protocol on is Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, which happen to be my favorite tomatoes. ¬†There are some winter squash I want to also save seeds from using this protocol; however, due to the ease at which they can be controlled, I will landrace some winter squash while I am at it.

My goals have adapted over the years, but I am really liking where this is going: organic gardening using “survival of the fittest” selective seed saving from open-pollinated plants which may include heirlooms or landrace varieties.¬†Will that goal adapt more over time? ¬†I am sure it will, but the thing that won’t change is my desire to grow tasty, healthy food that is far better than what can be bought in a store.

How to Waste Your Time Planting Corn

I have always had a fascination with gardening, but it wasn’t until the last ten years or so that I really got into it. ¬†Even so, I am reminded how little I know year after year.

Last year I got the idea that I wanted to plant Landrace Popcorn. ¬†I’ll probably tell more about that sometime in the future, but in essence it is open-pollinated popcorn from which seed is selectively saved year after year. ¬†That is definitely an oversimplification, but it is enough for now. ¬†Last year I also planted Glass Gem Popcorn, which is absolutely beautiful, but almost worthless as a popping corn. ¬†Here, check this corn out!

Glass Gem Popcorn

Unfortunately, I didn’t time these crops very well and they cross pollinated, affecting the quality of my popping corn.

This year I tried again, but low and behold, my interests in other things were sparked again, and while I didn’t grow Glass Gem Corn, I did grow two ancient corns that are flour corns. ¬†I meticulously planned the dates each would mature, and I was sure I would avoid cross pollination this year. ¬†Wouldn’t you know it, one of the ancient corns matured at exactly the same time as the Landrace Popcorn. ¬†GRRRRR!

In an effort to stem the damage, I have been attempting to hand pollinate the corns, though I found out last night that I am not really doing this the right way, so there is no telling what I will get.  My guess is the seeds from this corn will probably be useless next year, but I suppose I can consider myself fortunate because I learned something from it.  While the wind was low this morning I walked through the garden attempting to hand pollinate better and I shook the stalks, hoping to spread the pollen on the corn while it was less likely to cross with the other.  Only time will tell if I was successful.