A Thousand Gardens in Africa

Now that Spring is coming, and gardens are germinating in minds and sunny windowsills, I thought it would be an appropriate time to write this post. For some, A Thousand Gardens in Africa is a half a world away, for most it's on another continent, but if you listen to what the folks are saying, the words could be spoken by you,or any other gardener.

When I was Salone del Gusto Terra Madre 2012, the exhibit for A Thousand Gardens in Africa fascinated me, The program truly reflects Slow Food International's commitment to good, clean and fair food. There was music, dance, and gardens. A real sense of local community as you can see from the photos below.

The video above says more about this program than anything I could write. I've only seen an exhibit, and read the literature about it, but these folks in the video live it everyday.

I do want to highlight this;

The thousand gardens are concrete models of sustainable agriculture, sensitive to different contexts (environmental, socioeconomic and cultural) and easily replicable.

The project involves the creation of school, community and gardens.

A good garden guarantees fresh and genuine products, promotes local products , safeguards traditional recipes, produces quality food products.

A clean garden respects the environment, uses soil and water sustainably, protects biodiversity.

A fair garden is a community experience, bringing together different generations and social groups; promotes the knowledge and skills of farmers, improving their autonomy and self- esteem; and encourages food sovereignty, giving the community the possibility to choose what to grow and eat.

The link above is from the Terra Madre 2012 page. There is a comprehensive look on Slow Food International's A Thousand Gardens in Africa page. As you step out into your garden, and work the soil, think about A Thousand Gardens in Africa, and how connected we are despite distance, language and culture.

 

gardens A Thousand Gardens in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

gardens at Terra Madre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dancing at A Thousand Gardens Exhibot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens at Terra Madre

In Praise of a Purple Potato

photo, purple majestic potatoes In the last century, (about 12 years ago), Americans discovered there a color palette for potatoes instead of the standard swatch of white . There were always sweet potatoes around, but it took Yukon Golds with slightly yellow color and their buttery flavor, and to break through the American mindset that potatoes only came in white. In a country that perfected the dehydrated potato flake, I guess what else could be expected? Contrast that with Peru, where potatoes originated, potatoes come in a wide spectrum of colors. Check out this gallery from the International Potato Center.

With the interest in heirloom vegetables growing, the idea of potatoes being more than just white, is becoming more mainstream. There still is a lot of people who don't know about anything other than white potatoes.

In the late winter and early spring, the question I get  is "What are you growing this year?" This year, the response included Purple Majesty Potatoes. I got a a good number of responses that were a mix of confusion and intrigue, which is one of the reasons I do what I do. I love that response. It demonstrates an interest in learning about alternatives to what they know. Since people also know that I'm a storyteller, they know there will be a good story for them to listen and learn from.

When I first learned about the Peruvian Blue potatoes, I was surprised. I had only known the white potatoes of my youth. Russets from Maine, and baking potatoes from Idaho. Once the red skin potatoes were introduced into the mix, they became a staple growing up also. I have to admit, I don't find the red skins to be all that, and will choose Yukon Golds in the supermarket over them without hesitation.

Last year, I had my first experience digging potatoes. They were of course, the red skin kind. Within 20 minutes of digging them, they were roasting in my oven. I also had enough to make some fresh gnocchi. Light as a feather, and tasty as could be, it was at this point I knew potatoes would be in my next garden.  I was certain they wouldn't be white. I wanted the Peruvian blues, but as it worked out, I ended up with the Purple Majesty. I keep reading about how great the Majesty were for chips or fries. Except for some misdirected BBQ Rib flavored potato chips, there has never been a bag of chips I haven't liked.

The Purple Majesty potato is not for long term storage, and is considered a medium starchy potato. While chips and fries were the best I've ever had, shredding them and making has browns is the way to go with these. They bake well, and I've seen recipes that use them as mashed potatoes. I didn't try them as mashed because once I went hash browns, I never went back.

Growing potatoes in the ground is easy. They can grow in containers also. While I grew them in the ground, I am growing sweet potatoes in a container. I'll let you know that turns out.

White Vinegar as a Weed Inhibitor

In my FB newsfeed recently, an item appeared about white vinegar being a weed killer. Intrigued by this, I looked further into it across the internets. There I found  a number of blog posts about how this works. So, here's another one.

Always on outlook for simple, sustainable and effective ways to work in the garden, and to live my life with the smallest foot print I can, I gave white vinegar a try.

It's NOT a weed killer, rather it's a detriment to the growth of the weed above ground, or any plant that the vinegar lands on. It's not selective, and some plants seem more effected by it than others.

I took some photos to share, but I can't find them. I've been using it for the past 3 weeks in my garden, so the initial impact of how effective it works is no longer evident. I'm impressed. I have 3 sides to my community garden plot that are not being used. The weeds are over grown, it impacts my plot. The vinegar works great ant inhibiting new growth along my fence. It's buying me time to get to these areas with paper and mulch as long term solution.

It does not kill the plant, but it singes the the foliage, and stops the plant from advancing in size. The plant will spend it's energy recovering and regrowing the existing foliage instead of advancing the growth further.

Adding some dish soap is more effective than not, and I found that Proxi brand dish soap works significantly better than Dawn. I had both in my house, so I tried both. The dish soap makes the vinegar sticky, and when spayed on the plant, it  stays on the foliage longer than just running off.

Get a spray bottle, and my ratio was 2 tbls. of soap to the 32 ounces in the spray bottle I use. That's it.

The ph in the vinegar has minimal impact on the soil, and in my opinion, in the home garden,or around the house, there is no need to use anything other than the standard 5% acid vinegar sold in supermarkets. I've seen people suggest using pickling vinegar, which has 9% acid, but unless you have it readily available, there is no need to go out of your way to acquire it.

There is a product called horticultural vinegar, and that has 25% acid. That will burn your skin, and it's not necessary for home gardening use in my opinion. Why risk injury to yourself when you don't have to?

Also, it's almost 10 times the price per gallon as the standard, 5% acid vinegar you buy in the supermarket. Keeping the Economy chapter from Walden by Thoreau in mind, the supermarket version is practical and effective.

This post gives you more detailed information about the research going on about vinegar as an organic herbicide. Just think, that hassle of the weeds growing between the cracks of the sidewalk can be taken care of with this simple, sustainable and effective solution.

 

Awe Inspiring, First Thoughts about the Forum

It's been a couple days since I returned from the Growing The Applachian Food Economy forum, and it's going to take me a while to process all the great information. I was in awe of what going on in Asheville, and the energy, passion and commitment to innovation I saw the event.. First thing, Asheville, North Carolina is a great place. They have been working on the local food economy for 20 years, and they should serve as a model for the rest of the country. It's not a perfect system, and they will be the first to acknolodwde that. They know their challenges, and they embrace them. They are constantly looking for innovation and collaboration. Mistakes and failures are looked at a lessons to share so they are not repeated. At the funder's panel luncheon, collaboration was noted as a key element in consideration for grants. The focus is on developing the community as whole, while encouraging entrenuers to start their businesses.

They have a Buy Local program that demonstrates the community's commitment to success. It's everywhere, and most noticible in the restaurants. The local farms are listed, and people know the local farms and the farmers, local breweries are noted, all 12 of them, and so are local bakeries. The downtown area has an independent art supply store, an independent hard craft supply store, a spice store, a chocolate store, a fresh potato chip store, numerous coffee houses and tea houses, Not to mention art galleries, and hand crafted artisan products such as a custom belt and sandal shop. And, a general store that's been around since to 1880s.

The demonstrated success of the 12 breweries is bringing a Sierra Nevada brewery to the area.

As I noted, this local food economy has been 20 years in the making. The forum was sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commision.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government. Established by an act of Congress in 1965, ARC is composed of the governors of the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chair, who is appointed by the president. Local participation is provided through multi-county local development districts.

What was very impressive to me was the infastructure and cooperation that's in place to support the local food economy. The North Carolina state goverment is also very proactive in supporting their farmers. Yes, there were complaints about burdensome goverment regulations at all levels, but from what I saw, there were advocates who worked the complaints as means to an end. That being a succesful outcome for the community.

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, ASAP, is another example of  the support to the local farmer and community.

ASAP's Vison

Our vision is of strong farms, thriving local food economies, and healthy communities where farming is valued as central to our heritage and our future.

ASAP's Mission 

Our mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food.

This is a beloved organization. And, from talking to people, rightfully so.

Than there's Mountain Biz Works. They offer lending services, consulting services and training services.

A common theme that I heard through out the forum was that for too many years resources were extracted from Appalachia and that was it. Because of that, now there is deep commitment to use the assets that exist there in Asheville, and Appalachia. Their assets are the land and the people. They recognize that working the land, and caring for it, sustains the economy, and the people who rely on it. The know it builds a strong community, and allows a local-based economy to be realistic.

It starts with a commitment, and being open to new ideas. That's one of many points that I took away from this forum. The commitment started 20 years ago in Asheville, and an infrastructure is in place to support the innovation and vision they have to succed and sustain.

Next up, I'll highlight a business incubator and common use kitchen in the Asheville area, and a community kitchen in West Virginia supported by a family of Farms.

Thoreau as Model for a Heirloom Gardening Movement

Ghandi. Martin Luther King, Jr. Anti-war protesters from the 1970s. Three significant agents of social change. They credit Thoreau as an inspiration for their action. So why not use Thoreau as a model for a social change against GMOs, and the Industrial Food Complex? If you read Walden, Thoreau lays out an example of being self-sustaining, and the value of economy. The chapter of Economy in Walden, to me references what we call our carbon footprint today. If blogging been around in his time, Thoreau would've been a great blogger.

Thoreau's writing about phenology is cited frequently.

Phenology

is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate.

Nature's influence on Thoreau's journal writings, his beliefs, and philosophy was immense. I would love to read what he would write about GMOs, factory farming, and especially climate change.  When you consider the painstaking detail of his phenology work, and how climate change can make it all obsolete, his point of view of where we are at today, and the lack of government action on climate change, would be an important critique. All though with the state of society today, he would have to do it a reality TV format that our culture embraces so dearly to have an impact.

Can you see Bravo or TLC doing Civil Disobedience, where Thoreau lays out his argument for taking a moral stand against the government? Neither can I.

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau's wrote about how an personal act of conscious is larger than any civil law. Thoreau's objection was to slavery and the  Mexcian-American War, both embraced by the American government at the time. He wrote about this after spending a night in jail after withholding his poll tax while at Walden. He was released after someone paid his tax debt for him.

Mention civil disobedience in conversation, and it send shudders down the spines of a lot of people. It's not for everyone, and long term, it's not sustainable, like a an organic, heirloom garden. That may seem like a huge leap, but it's really not. Both are actions that can be used to take a conscious stand against actions that our government or corporations are taking that have negative impacts on society and nature.

Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) uses genetic engenering to modify an organism to achieve a certain end than nature intended. There is no value to nature, or to human beings added by this process. It's about profit and control by the corporation modifying the organism.

While governments outside the USA are taking steps to ban these organisms, we have a government that appoints Michael Taylor,a former lawyer for Monsanto, the company that is leading the charge for GMOs, as the Deputy Commissioner for Foods at The Food and Drug Administration. The American government is also siding with the Industrial Food Complex by allowing GMOs into processed foods, and not enforcing these foods be labeled so the consumer knows what they are eating.

It's not slavery, which was Thoreau's objection, but with the government allowing the use of GMOs while not enforcing the labeling of foods that contain GMOs, this action removes the freedom of choice and trust that is part of the social fabric in a free and just society. While there is no law forcing the American public to eat GMOs, allowing the use of them while not enforcing the labeling of foods that contain them, in my opinion, is  tacit concent.

tacit consent - (law) tacit approval of someone's wrongdoing

It puts more value on the profit of the Industrial Food Complex than on the health and well being of our planet, our democracy and our society.

When you have a society that embraces Snooki, Kim Kardashian and Real Housewives, asking them to take action that would qualify as civil disobedience would fall on deaf and dumb ears, like their reality TV Goddesses.

Positioning an organic heirloom garden as means of action against the tacit consent of the American government on GMOs is more accessible to a wider range of people than an act of civil disobedience.

It's also a good first step to disconnect from the Industrial Food Complex. Social change takes a long time. Especially, when it's against large corporate interests, and their influence on government policy. An organic heirloom garden is nature driven, sustainable and authentic. Positioning it as an action for social change against government and corporate interests that puts the health of nature and society at risk, such as what's going on with GMOs right now, is one that I think would have Thoreau's approval.

 

 

Fashioning an Heirloom Gardening Lifestyle – An Introduction

photo gardens No doubt about it, heirloom gardening is a hot trend. Take for example the class I’m about to teach. The class is a new offering at a local enrichment program, and I have thirteen people signed up for it. A WOW next to the last email in my inbox next to my  enrollment number tells me this is a good for a new class. This bodes well for everyone involved. The role of the enrichment program is fulfilled by offering information sought by those in the community. The participants will learn about the opportunities presented by heirloom gardening, knowledge about heirlooms and organic gardening will be shared, and most important, nature will be benefit by people learning to care for it in a natural way.

Nature has provided all we need to sustain ourselves. It serves as an example that we can learn from. Along the way societies have made choices, some good, some bad about how to sustain this example. After WWII there was a big shift in society, I wrote about a brief timeline about this change here. Woman were entering the workforce, the suburbs offered a reflection of a new prosperity, commuting and driving to regional shopping malls were eating into available time, television was a new medium that brought visual advertising into the living room, and industrial processed food was sold as a convenient product to fit this social change. One significant area that marketing could target this product was the fact more woman were working outside of the house. Their traditional role was changing, less time was left for cooking meals. Industrial food filled a gap by positioning it as new and convenient reflection of the new, modern and society.

However, the industrial food complex was very quiet about how their processing removed nutrients and replaced it with fillers and chemical preservatives. Never mind that people were canning their own food for ages without anything but what nature offered, the industrial food complex changed what they felt they needed for mass consumption and profit.

It also changed a lot of our choices about food.

Embracing this processed food was one of many choices that society made, and by doing so, ignored the lessons from nature that sustained societies for thousands of years.

Hindsight is 20/20. We’re at a critical point now with GMOs, and reliance on food that is low on natural ingredients and nutrients and high in chemicals. Biofuels have put a strain on food supplies. Factor in natural disasters thanks to climate change, and we are faced with challenges to sustain ourselves. The USDA just released a new hardiness gardening zone map that reflects a warmer USA.

With the rise in popularity of heirlooms, the opportunity is presented to transition this increased awareness into a lifestyle change that is more sustainable.

I wrote about Thoreau and Emerson here, and how their philosophy would be a big influence on what I aim to accomplish with Vanishing Feast, An Heirloom Solution. Since I wrote that post, I found an interesting parallel. In astrology Neptune has moved into Pisces, which in astrology is significant. Neptune is considered an outer planet. The outer plants move slow, and because of this their influence is a slow. This gradual change is what influences society since social change is slow, and what influences people in deep change to their being.

As a storyteller who studied the fine arts, symbolism is a paramount to being creative. An interesting fact I found out about Neptune moving into Pisces is the last time this happened Thoreau wrote Walden. Self-reliance and nature is a lot of what Walden is about. So in economy. What Thoreau did was write about how he lived and demonstrated the economy and practical nature of nature. He also studied nature and all the interactions that occur and has been refereed to the father of American Phenology. (The link will take you to the citation in a Google Books pdf.) That’s disputed, however it’s his observations that have attracted the most attention.

Phenology is a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (as bird migration or plant flowering)

Today a lot of the current research and writing about phenology is the effect climate change is having on it. A new phenology is coming into being. I will say the new hardiness zone map reflects this.

Symbols in a story are opportunities. They creative the narrative. Living life as a story, as I encourage here, it’s looking for these symbols and opportunities to drive my narrative, which is to keep heirloom plants from vanishing. When you work with this technique, trusting your intuition is something that needs to be nurtured, like a garden. To Thoreau and Emerson, intuition was an integral part of their philosophy. It is to mine also.

I see the rise of interest in heirlooms as an opportunity. I see the move of Neptune into Pieces as a symbol. I see the threat to the environment from GMOs, chemicals and climate change as facts. It’s with Vanishing Feast, An Heirloom Solution that I’m using storytelling to fashion an heirloom gardening lifestyle as a response to it all. I encourage you to join me. Nature will reward you if you do.

If you don't garden, I will write about other ways to support a heirloom gardening lifestyle. For now, check out localharvest.org for a lot of good information and links about how to support this lifestyle without a garden.

 

Heirloom Information, Companion Planting

photo of borage Along with heirloom seeds, the knowledge about how to grow them has been passed down from generation to generation also. Organic gardening is what I do, and it's what I encourage you to do also. Take a cue from nature, nature is organic.

When you create an garden, you're creating an environment for life of more than plants. You're creating a source of life for various creatures that exist in nature too. This is good. It's what you want to do. It's healthy and sustainable. Achieving the right balance is a challenge, but it's possible with some planning based in solid information.

While there are some creatures that will be drawn to your garden that you don't want, rabbits, deer and woodchucks for example, the fact that they are drawn to something you create to sustain their life tells you that your doing something right.

You do want to attract beneficial, whether they are pollinators, birds, or frogs, companion planting is one way to achieve this. Your garden is a abundant source of life concentrated in small area. That's why companion planting is important.

Here are a few examples of  why you should companion plant.

  • The legendary Native American Three Sisters, consists of corn, vining beans and squash. The corn provides a pole for the vining beans to grow up, so no poles are needs. The squash with it's broad leaves provide shade to soil which helps retain moisture and discourages weeds, and the prickly nature of squash plants deters some pests. Additionally the nutrients from these plants compliment each other. When cooked together, they form a perfect protein.
  • By planting different varieties of plants together you lessen the risk of an infestation of predator bugs. If you have a concentration of one variety of vegetable in a small area, you're offering up a all you can eat buffet for some bugs. If you scatter plants around, it's more of a scarp here and there instead. Companion plant some marigolds with the scattered planting, which  have a scent that repels some pests, you have a scrap that smell rotten.With this type of companion planting you are creating a sustainable environment for vegetable plants and marigolds which attracts and sustains beneficial pollinators, and reducing the need for toxic chemical insecticides.
  • Companion plants can serve as traps crops also. If you know have a common pest in the area where you garden that your crops attract, you can plant a companion plants as trap for the pests. Plant a concentrated area of the companion plant as a trap for the pest. Given the choice between an concentrated area of food, and a scattered area mention above, bugs will likely choose the concentrated area. Once they are concentrated, the pests are easier to pick off because they are in a concentrated area.

There are many other benefits to companion planting, and I've added a Companion Planting page that has three links to more information, including a pdf that you can download excerpted from Companion Planting, a book from Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening series.

Just as some plants do well planted together, some plants don't. You can go here for a good chart of what not to plant together. There are more benefits than there are drawbacks so most of the information out there reflect that.

The bottom line is nature knows best, and think about any walk in a meadow, or woods that you have taken. That's the best example of the power and benefit of companion planting. Created by nature to sustain itself, over generations of time. Learning from that is the best source of heirloom information.

Gardens 2012, Yes Plural

photo of gardens One would think a single garden would be enough, but this one, me, doesn't think when opportunity is presented. Turning the think off is a moral to my story. So, as this story offers itself to someone who is paying attention to the what ifs, I'll leave the thinking to the what ifs since it's the what ifs that drive any story. I'll just create it. It's less pressure that way. <GRIN>

As it would be one day, I was cleaning out my garden plot when a couple came by. We started talking. Turns out they were from another community garden, and invited me to check their garden out. Well I did, and that's the reason for the plural, gardens, in the title. I now have a plot there too. It will be an interesting contrast since their community garden is completely different set up than my current one. A Tale of Two Gardens if you will.

So that means more seeds, or at least it did to me. More land to play with, different sites, different energy, a really great challenge. And, it provides so much opportunity for content. Life's a story unfolding everyday and looking at your life that way is a major theme that pushes me and Vanishing Feast into a great learning expereince that I can share with everyone. Telling a story with a garden, or as it will be this year, gardens, is awe inspiring. I'm very fortunate.

So in no particular order this is what I'm growing;

Romanesco Broccoli - It's renaissance, baroque and modern art in perfect fractal geometry. And, it has a nutty flavor. Love the sense of humor of all that. The last laugh is this, it's a finicky and difficult plant to get heads to set.

Another mystery tomato - If you recall last year I had the phantom seeds that I'm growing side by side with the Bisagnano #2. This year I found some old seeds I saved and forgot about. The first heirloom tomato plant I bought was an Orange Oxheart, that same year I grew my first Cherokee Purple. Now I know tomatoes don't cross pollinate but this tomato grew on the Cherokee Purple very late in the season that had the shape characteristics of both tomatoes in equal parts. One's an oxheart, one's a beefsteak. They are quite different shapes. The tomato never got fully ripe, but I did save the seeds. I thought one day I should try growing these. This year I will. I expect they will sprout and they will be Cherokee Purples. We'll see, the ol' to be continued...

Purple Majesty Potatoes - Potatoes do very well at one of the garden plots, and last year, thanks to a neighbor, I got to dig and cook some fresh potatoes. I never had better potatoes. So why not gow my own, and purple ones at that. The color in a heirloom vegetable is exaquiste. I expect to be stunned seeing purple this heirloom produces underground.

Silver Edge Squash - A Native American heirloom which are grown for their large seeds which have a silver edge. I love freshly roasted squash seeds and pumpkin seeds, so I'm psyched. The Native Americans honor Mother Nature, and their varities demonstrate that.

Crapaudine - It could be the oldest beet in existence. A description from 1885, written in the French book, The Vegetable Garden, stated it was one of the oldest varities at that time. It's estimated that this beet has been grown for 1000 years. The shape is more carrot than beet, and has a very dark color. I honored for this to be the first ever beet I'll grow.

Morado Purple Corn - A rare and old variety of corn from Peru. More pruple. I never grew corn either. I have this and a Chocolate Brown Popcorn. One for each plot.

That's it for now. More to come about at least one mellon and one pumpkin. Another vegetable variety grown for more than 400 years, and of course tomatoes.

 

Happy New Year! A New and Exciting Chapter

Photo of silver edge squash seed Happy New Year! How do you like the new look? I took the blog off the blog server and put under the domain name on a web server. The theme or layout I chose is one that adapts to devices such as tablets and phones. Lots of potential here, and this blogging software is new to me so there will be a few hiccups along the way, which if you experience any on your end, please let me know.

Also, there are buttons on the sidebar or at the bottom of the page depending on the device you are using to use Twitter or Facebook. If you're on Twitter please follow me at @vanishingfeast. The RSS feed will be set up shortly.

As you know, I write this blog from the perspective of a life lived as an unfolding story. So with out further ado, let's catch up.

The banner I would love to wax poetically about how I created that art on my own. How it was a true labor of love. That however would be such a tall tale that even at 6'4" I couldn't pull it off. I doubt Paul Bunyon would be able to either.

The banner is an old label type of artwork from a tomato packing house that no longer exists here in southern NJ. The art work is in the public domain, and the town where this packing house was located is 11 miles from my house. Considering that the tomato is the state vegetable here in NJ, I know of only one tomato packing house left here. They do produce a couple of tasty brands of tomatoes, Scalfini, and Don Pepino, which is pizza sauce.

Hmmm, it looks like they have been taken over by B&G foods. I haven't been to their site in a few years. The last time I was able to contact the plant directly. The tomatoes though haven't changed. I bought them recently.

I felt that it was appropriate to use this artwork for Vanishing Feast, and to create the brand image with it. The history and character that is inherent to this artwork represents Vanishing Feast - An Heirloom Solution better than anything I could create on my own.

I've been carrying those labels around for 14 years, and I have no idea how long they were in my parent's attic. Now, the banner will live on in honor of a what once was, and hopefully provide inspiration for preservation and or resurrection of what it was once.

The Silver Edge Squash Seed They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining. Whoever they are, they say a lot of things that sometimes doesn't make sense. In time though, if you stop, breathe and listen, sense presents itself in a form that you never expect. The end of 0f 2011 was awful in a lot of ways for me. It's working itself out, and there is a silver lining.

Enter the Silver Edge Squash seed. Now as any storyteller worth their words will tell you, symbolism and content happen if you let it. I found this seed, was intrigued by the silver edge, and ordered it. It wasn't until I started writing this section today that I realized the connection to the silver lining that has emerged in my life during the past moth or so.

The squash is a Native American variety that is grown for its seed only. The flesh is unpalatable from the descriptions. The seeds however are made into pepitas. I love freshly roasted pumpkin and squash seed, which is a good source of nutrition, so this was a natural fit for me to order. Look for a post about this variety in the late season of this year.

The book It will be soon, another month or so. The transition to this nimble and current format was necessary for the long term. With that comes the learning curve of new software, and setting up a online store. I have a list of plugins for this software to look at, as well as a storefront set up with a revenue collection service that's not PayPal.

If you were reading this blog last year, hopefully, you'll recall the adventures of the Mark Twain tomatoes. If not  here is an bit from a post;

Mark Twain tomatoes- Never heard of them until I started seeking out rare tomato seeds for Vanishing Feast. I discovered them in the fedcoseed.com catalogue. When I went to order the seeds, they were out. I was faced with a choice, a classic example in building a narrative in a story. Do I just say "oh well I'll order earlier next year" or do I demonstrate my commitment to this project, and start a journey to find these seeds or plants. I chose to find seeds, plants or both. A little alchemy later for making the right choice, I found plants that will be available in northern Tennessee at Shy Valley Plant Farm. Living in southern New Jersey I can make this trip, document it as part of this story, and taste these rare tomatoes, that evidently bruise easily but taste really good. Perhaps the Mark Twain will become a rally point in this story.

and here is a continuation of this adventure from last year. As it turns out, Fedco Seeds, doesn't have any seeds this year. Fedco is the seed company that I originally found about theses tomatoes. Last year they claimed they were the only commercial source for these seeds, and that there were only two seed savers they knew of that were saving these seeds. It remains to be seen why they don't have seeds this year. Perhaps the seed savers are rotating their varieties. The story continues for another year.

I'm glad I went to TN and got some plants, and despite the nasty hail storm that destroyed my garden last year, I have still have seeds.

So what does this have to do with the book? The cover photo is the Mark Twain tomato plant, and the Mark Twain tomato plant introduces the reader to the the stories and photos of the tomato buds featured in the book. Another really cool plot twist.

Posting schedule A new post will be up every Saturday. In order to build an audience, I think a regular schedule of posts are in order. As I transition into doing this full time I hope that I will be able to post more often. And add video also.

Project 366K Ok, so what the heck is this? To be honest, I'm not really sure but here's the concept. If 1 picture is worth 1,000 words, and 366 days are in 2012, 1 photo a day would equal 366k words if posted consecutively.  So, that's what I'm doing. Since I'm a skilled photographer with various subject matter, I'm experimenting with tumblr.com. From what I can tell it's a hybrid of Twitter and blogs.

As I explore this ever changing landscaoe of new media, I figure this would be a good experiment. I have lots of photos to work with and will have many more in 2012. Why not see what kind of exposure I can get for my work? The theme I chose for my tumblr is designed to adapt to devices like tablets and phones, so it is current with the changing nature of how people retrieve the information they seek.

There will be captions and photo credits. The words will be tags and the thoughts that the viewer experiences. No description, just the image.

The Silver Edge Squash seed was the first photo published. The symbolism there was the planting of a new idea. Here is a link. If you have a tumblr, please follow me there.

So that's it for now. See you on Saturday.

Big Boxing the Seed Collector, A Slight Timeline

Another plot twist, another piece of magic. I had a hunch to look up the word heirloom. I'm kind of a geek about words. I have the same dictionary on my shelf that I've had my whole life. I don't remember my life without it. It was published in 1965 when I was 5 years old. I've read through most of this dictionary in the course of our life together. It has served me well, and will continue to do so. So I went to my old friend and found that there were only two meanings given for the word heirloom, neither of which included plants. I went online where I found the current definition that does includes plants. I set off to find out when the meaning was changed to include plants, at least in the Merriam Webster's dictionaries.

I started an etymology search, and found that in 1949 heirloom plant came into lexicon of America. The hunch morphed into intrigue, and curiosity took over. I googled Levittown, and found this, from the Levittown Historical Society:

Then, in 1949, Levitt and Sons discontinued building rental houses and turned their attention to building larger, more modern houses, which they called "ranches" and which they would offer for sale at $7,990.  All a prospective buyer needed was a $90 deposit and payments of $58 per month.  The Levitt ranch measured 32' by 25' and came in five different models, differing only by exterior color, roof line, and the placement of windows.  Like previous Levitt homes, the ranch was built on a concrete slab with radiant heating coils.  It had no garage, and came with an expandable attic.  The kitchen was outfitted with a General Electric stove and refrigerator, stainless steel sink and cabinets, the latest Bendix washer, and a York oil burner.  Immediately, the demand for the new Levitt ranches was so overwhelming that even the procedure for purchasing them had to be modified to incorporate "assembly line" methods.  Once these techniques were put into action, a buyer could choose a house and sign a contract for  it within three minutes.

Two seemingly random events in the same year and I knew a good story was unfolding in front me. As I have written before, when you frame you life in the context of the stories you loved as a child, you can see how narrative develops. And this project demonstrates that.

Enter the next hunch, shopping malls. The first commerical shopping mall was opened in 1950:

On April 21, 1950, the Northgate Shopping Mall opens at NE Northgate Way at 5th Avenue NE in Seattle. Planned by developers Rex Allison and Ben B. Ehrlichman (1895-1971) and designed by John Graham Jr. (1908-1991), it is the country's first regional shopping center to be defined as a "mall" (although there were at least three predecessor shopping centers). The stores face "a wide shopping walkway, probably to be known as the Mall or Plaza, in which no vehicles will be permitted" (The Seattle Times). The parking lot is quickly found to be insufficient for the number of shoppers attracted by the Bon Marché and 17 other specialty stores.

Continuing on this fork in the road, remember I started out to find when the meaning of the word heirloom changed to include plants in Merriam Webster's dictionaries, I next went to processed foods. Processed foods have been around for a very long time, and I focused on commerically processed foods. I found that the first TV Dinner was developed in 1953. Next, I had to see when the first coast-to coast-televsion broadcast.  That was 1951.

In four years time, the phrase heirloom plant started to be used in America. The suburban planned development was being launched, regional shopping malls were coming into vogue, televesion became a coast-to-coast delivery vehicle for information, and complete, frozen meals were now commerically avilable from commerical food proccesing comapnies.

The suburban, big-box retail business model was being seeded by the direction of society. Meanwhile, the traditon and lifestyle of the seed collector as source of sustaining the food supply was being marginalized. Society was moving away from the local, and into regional, and national mindsets. The dymanics of food was changing with the growth of commerically processed foods. Televison allowed visual advertisment of perfection and conveince in way that never could be with print and radio spots.

Society changed, and the value of a diverse seed collection seems to have gotten lost in the process. Things are changing though:

Sales shot up 100 percent in 2008 at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a Missouri-based garden company that stocks 1,200 vegetable varieties, and the last two years have brought 20 percent annual growth, said the company’s owner, Jere Gettle.

And that's a good thing. Now that the current defintion of heirloom includes a third meaning relating to plants:

Definition of HEIRLOOM 1: a piece of property that descends to the heir as an inseparable part of an inheritance of real property

2: something of special value handed on from one generation to another

3: a horticultural variety that has survived for several generations usually due to the efforts of private individuals

I hope with this project to connect people with the value of seeds and plants. They represent the people who collect them, and plant them, as much as any other piece of property.

Words have meanings for a reason. As society changes, so does it language. It's interesting to see how far ahead of the curve the language was in 1949 when heirloom plant came into being. We can see now the massive shift that happened in society. And with that shift, the definition of heirloom now includes plants. This was not the case in 1965 as my faithful friend, my dictionary,  can attest to. The value in the third meaning of the word heirloom, which is a bout plants, needs to be elevated in society. It's that concept that I hope to accomplish.