Thursday, 30 June 2016

buying seeds for winter garden

We picked up a copy of the Saanich Fair booklet yesterday.  I thought it would be fun to enter a lot of things in the fair.  Not so much to win a prize (although it would be nice to break even) but with the idea of being community spirited by adding to the display.  I have some yarn ready to enter, but I thought it would be even more fun to include some squash.  I am very excited, after all, about my squash breeding project and how well it's doing already.  The problem is, there isn't a category for plant breeding.  Fair enough.  The squash categories are all well-established varieties and the closest I can get is cinderella type... which I might enter.

I want to get the word out.  More and more I feel that amateur plant breeding is an important step towards local food security.  Professional plant breeders have to meet market demands, which aren't necessarily the qualities that small producers desire.  Since we wouldn't have to ship our produce long distances and often harvest by hand, that leaves amateurs to focus on qualities like taste, thriving in local conditions, and most importantly, beauty.

Here I am, growing squash with zero and minimal irrigation (two different patches) on the dryest part of our farm, with nothing more than plant breeding and a bit of permaculture technique for soil retention, and I have gorgeous, successful, squash.  Why aren't there more gardeners pursuing projects like this?

Angel the goose died this afternoon.  From the symptoms (many of which I didn't describe here because they were sad) and on examining her after death, we feel that it was damage to the neck that killed her.

Angel really was my favourite lately as she's the only one that had any respect and sympathy for the chickens.  She would often sit with Henny Penny and the other 'wild ones' and raise the alarm if there was a sky monster.  The other geese are far more interested in geese things.

I read at a hatchery website a while back that domestic geese can live for 100 years and some have lived for 120 years.  It said that some geese can lay eggs until they are 80 years old - I can't imagine ovulating for 79 years.  That makes geese pretty darn amazing!

The owner of the dog got in touch and apologized.  I'm glad the dog was reunited with its owner as it is a lovely dog.

Afterwards, we did some running around.  One of the stops was to the local plant nursery in hopes that they would have the latest West Coast Seeds planting guide.  They did.  This year's winter gardening planting guide is much better than their previous ones.  It actually came out early enough in the year to be useful and has a much-improved chart.  Another bonus, is it includes some bits about cooking and using different varieties.

Oh look, and they also had some seeds.  I got some...

  • Tronchuda Kale Seeds (F1) - for my landrace kale project.  This is also a F1 variety which is really exciting for a plant breeder.  F1 means it's the first generation of a cross between two different varieties.  For seed savers, this means that the seeds from this hybrid variety won't grow true to type; however, for a plant breeder, it means someone has already done a bunch of work for us and we just have to save the seeds, and then select the traits we like best from the descendants.
  • Red Ball Brussels Sprouts (OP) - They have a red tint and I noticed that red tinted leaves often have a slightly bitter flavour and are less attractive to bugs.
  • 2 types of Komatsuna: Komatsuna (OP) and Red Komatsuna (F1)

At the nursery, I saw to my dismay that every single isle (even the outside ones I saw) had a chemical for sale.  Fertiliser, Mericle Grow, Pesticides, &c.  I felt confused.  Why would anyone choose to waste money on such things?  Sure they damage the soil or something, but that isn't really what confuses me about these garden chemicals.  What confuses me is that why anyone would feel the desire to toss away their money on them.  The sayings about an 'idiot tax' and a 'fool and his money', spring to mind.

It isn't until adulthood that I encountered this kind of product.  As a kid, I remember learning to grow food from my father.  He learned to grow food from his grandfather (my grandpa was away at war). My great grandfather was called Boy Sid, and he was the last of our line to farm before agriculture chemicals came along.  Much of what we do on the farm here comes from Boy Sid's wisdom.

By the time I was a child, my father was using some soil amendmentsc from the shop.  Composted manure and lime are the two I remember.  Things grew just fine.  Here, on this farm, we often leave at least some bugs on the plant so that it will attract bug-eating critters.  It's fun to watch the woodpeckers eat aphids off the plum leaves.  I never knew they did that, but all spring, it seemed to be their main diet.

Seeing so many chemicals in the store and knowing now how much harm they do, I felt overwhelmed by it.  Like it was a symbol of what is going wrong with humanity.  I don't feel like my actions are doing any good.  Should I simply be happy that people are trying to grow their own food?  I find all this very discouraging.

We also picked up some cucumber starts to fill an empty space in the greenhouse.

New chickens, 2 moths old, and their creap.  It's a special place with food and water that the young chickens can get in and out of, but the big chickens cannot.

Harvested some lettuce I found under a tomato plant.  I forgot they were there.  What a nice surprise.

Hornets nest!  So glad to see them back.  These little guys are fantastic, even if one did get angry at me for getting too close while taking the photo.

Geese are starting to moult today.

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