Cover Crops for Food

Since moving to Georgia, we have made an effort to go north for a couple of weeks each summer. It helps us escape the heat and it allows us to see family during the nicest part of the year in New England. This means the garden struggles. Of course, it’s usually the end of July or early August that we head north so the garden is taking a break for the most part, but without someone here to keep the pigweed, lambs quarter and morning glory at bay, the weeds can take over in a matter of weeks. We learned this the hard-way last year. So this year as we prepared to go north, we decided to head to the local nursery and see what they had for cover crops.

Daikon radish
The last vestige of daikon radish in the garden as a cover crop.

We weren’t really sure what to get, so we went with the cheapest things the owner suggested – a pound of buckwheat seed and a pound of daikon radish seed. I knew buckwheat is good for honey and if we got ambitious we could grind the seeds for flour, so that sounded good. I also knew you could eat daikon radish, and they’re often used in Asian cuisine, but these were seeds out of a 55 gallon drum and I had no clue what variety of daikon they were (or if there even are different varieties of daikon radish.) With no inclination as to what I was doing, I walked around the perimeter of the garden, broadcast seeding the buckwheat on two sides and the daikon on the other two.

When we left, the weather was predictably dry, but we did have a few rain storms, and apparently it was enough for the cover crops to take root so that when we returned home, we had a weed free perimeter, some pretty white buckwheat flowers and some baby daikon growing in the back.

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Full grown and ready to use.

Of course, we tilled the buckwheat and daikon back into the ground when it came time to get our fall crops in, but partly out of laziness and also because I like to experiment, I left part of the back row as daikon, just to see what would happen. Well, they got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, to the point that they actually look like the long white radishes that you see when you purchase daikon from the store. This was awesome not only because the the chickens love the greens and it’s an excellent supplement for fresh forage now that winter is here.

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Yummy yummy kkakdugi!

But also because it’s the right kind of radish to make kkakdugi – radish kimchi!

Over-hiking the Adirondacks: Part I

Without a doubt, National and State Parks make up the biggest “common” area for tax payers to explore and make use of; it is also a prime example of the tragedy of the commons in today’s world. To be fair, many users of these common areas are respectful of nature and follow the leave-no-trace philosophy, but no matter how careful users are, a single track trail can quickly become a herd path of three or four people wide simply from increased foot traffic and weathering; and of course, once this happens, it can be very difficult to recover. This article from the NY Times blames the advent of social media and geo-tagging (specifically Instagram) as an issue as it alerts too many people to picturesque areas that were otherwise only described as gritty contour lines on a map, while some natural areas – like the Adirondacks of NY – are facing issues from floods of tourists thanks to their close proximity to major cities, and tourism campaigns from the State.

Lake George
Looking down onto Lake George.

The Adirondack Park is a 6.2 million acre park in Upstate New York, making it the largest of it’s kind in the United States – it’s most recent addition to the park was in 2012 when Gov. Cuomo purchased 65,000+ acres for nearly $50 million – with almost half being protected as “forever wild” in the New York State constitution. Cuomo highly praised his own actions and initiated a hefty tourism program intending to bring people from the nearby Montreal and New York City to spend their money in the many tiny Upstate towns that reside within the boundaries of the Park. And, predictably, tourism increased. In 2015, Cuomo’s office issued a report that claimed tourism in the Adirondack park area was $1.3 billion dollars and generated $162 million dollars in state and local taxes. That is a lot of tourism and it is changing the landscape of the Adirondacks. Weekends leave the roads clogged with cars as they search for parking spots at the tiny trail heads, with many often just parking on the shoulders of the road.

Schroon Lake
Looking out onto Schroon Lake with the High Peaks region of the ADKs in the background.

While the increased tourism is beneficial to local economies, it has been rather detrimental to the local environment. A number of the Adirondack mountains were burned in the 1800’s to allow the peaks to be surveyed, and those that weren’t scorched were often logged quite heavily. These area’s are growing back (some old growth can still be found in some remote areas), but the peaks have been slow to recover. While only a fraction of the High Peaks consist of alpine climate, the tops of these mountains are rocky, cold, and windy, making growth slow and precarious. Trails are marked on rocks with yellow blazes and stone cairns. Through the stubby spruce branches, the trails sit lower than the dirt as they have been eroded down to the mountain rock. With increased foot traffic, these trails have widened, allowing rainfall to concentrate into small streams and erode even more of the trail, continuing the widening effect. On the peaks that do maintain alpine climates, the small and delicate plants that took years to grown are trampled and killed in a season underfoot of clumsy hikers and wayward dogs. There is also a huge environmental impact that comes with the increase of cars and litter.

NPT Sign
Signage on the Northville-Placid Trail.

This overuse issue is one that has been steadily ramping up over the past few years, forcing the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to take notice and put together some focus groups to help prevent future damage and control tourism. Much of what they have come up with, is more infrastructure: more kiosks with information about nearby underused trails, more signage directing travelers to the new kiosks, more electronic variable signs on the interstate connecting NYC to the High Peaks region, more public roadside restrooms, more parking spots, and better painted parking spots. They have even designed an “environmentally sustainable trail” to be cut-in in the hopes that it will redirect some hikers. (This, after Cuomo disregarded federal road sign regulations and put up 540 tourism signs through out New York at a cost of $8.1 million, only to be told to take them down or lose $14 million of Federal Highway Assistance funds.)

Just NPT
Hiking through Priests Vlei on the Northville-Placid Trail.

Of course, building new signs and suggesting that people find different “underused” trails may help to disperse some of the foot traffic, but it does not tackle the issue of overuse and many in the DEC and Adirondack Park recognize this. Not to mention all the signage and buildings will take a nice sized bite out of the taxes tourism has created, but it is also likely, many of the small towns and counties will end up footing the bill, while the state reallocates those tourism taxes to projects in the City.

There have been a few suggestions made that would cut back on traffic altogether, but as can be imagined, they are often met with a fair bit of resistance. The first idea centers around permits and is essentially two fold: permit fees will create revenue that could then be used to maintain high use trails while also acting as a deterrent for some luke-warm users. The second idea also focuses on reducing foot traffic by closing particular trails throughout the season, forcing hikers to go elsewhere. While both of these ideas have merit, they both have problems as well. Closing certain trails will reduce foot traffic, but it will also push that foot traffic elsewhere; it is just moving the problem from one location to another. And, of course, there is the likelihood that when the trail is reopened, the foot traffic is more intense as people look to get out on the trail while it is open. But then we get to the idea of permit fees.

Personally, I have no problem with permit fees to use certain areas of wilderness. It will probably keep some hikers that are just out for a glorious Instagram shot from ascending the peaks, and it will generate a revenue stream for maintaining the lands and trails. The issue with all this, is that these are not private lands, they are state lands, and every New Yorker and tax paying citizen across the country has had money taken from them to be used for maintenance of the Adirondack Park. Now the people that want to use the park will be paying for it twice.

NPT Stream

In Part II, I will examine where the newly acquired land came from and how it was being used prior to coming under NYS ownership, and perhaps a solution to the problems besieging the Adirondack Park.

Sow seeds of liberty so we can all reap sheaves of freedom together.

 

Reduce CO2 Emissions: Resign as World Police

Let’s talk CO2 for a minute. For the most part, the rhetoric surrounding climate change seems to focus on you and me, the little guys. We’re encouraged to use less energy, to buy electric or hybrid cars, and some states go so far as to mandate the use of solar panels in new homes (California).

Why don’t we focus on another group, maybe, say, the jet setters that travel the world in their private jets speaking out about climate change and carbon emissions. Why don’t we focus on US foreign interventionist policies?

In 2014, the DoD said they emitted 70 million tonnes of CO2 per year, but this doesn’t include military bases overseas, vehicles, or weapons. It also doesn’t include national security interests: LEO emergency response, tactical fleets, or intelligence work.

In the first four years of the Iraq war alone, we put 141 million tonnes of carbon into the air in the first four years. That’s the same as putting another 25 million cars on the road for a year.

And those are all things either oversees, or fighting “crime.” Just imagine all the resources that get burned up by the NSA and Homeland Security just by spying on their own people!

Why don’t the climate change folks talk about bringing our troops home and resigning as World Police as a massive way to reduce CO2 emissions? Why don’t they look at our government as part of the problem, not the solution?

North Georgia Candy Roaster Seeds

North Georgia Candy Roaster were originally grown by the native Cherokee tribes residing in present day North Carolina, eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia, and were an important food source to these tribes, making them an excellent variety for the deep south.

halvedThey are heavy squash with a weight range of 10-250 pounds (according to Slow Foods USA) though most fruit from the vines we grew ranged between 8-15 pounds. A pale orange color with greenish blue tips and some green striations and patches, they come in both tear drop and banana shapes. We found that most of the squash produced later in the season tended to be more banana shaped, and have more green coloration than fruit produced earlier in the season.

These store well and taste excellent cooked in any manner imaginable. They also make a great substitute for pumpkin pie around the holidays.

Ideal for three sisters planting, their large leaves help keep moisture in the ground and the weeds at bay, these massive vines can reach lengths of at least 25 feet. (There’s no telling how long they could get if you coax them along.) Twelve plants produced well over 200 pounds of squash throughout the summer with minimal watering once vines were established.

seedsExcellent cooked in a variety of ways, these squash store well in a cool dark room, and make a wonderful substitute for pumpkin in pies during the holiday season.

North Georgia Candy Roaster is of some concern as it is an open pollinated plant with separate male and female flowers that require a third party for pollination. Because of this necessity, it is important to make sure there are no other Cucubrita maxima varieties within a mile, or hand pollination must be performed to ensure seed purity.

North Georgia Candy Roaster
Cucurbita maxima
Long sprawling vines, with numerous 10-15 pound fruits.
20 seeds, $3.00 plus shipping and handling.
Email us to purchase some.

You can read more about how we came to pick this variety, or watch as I use the North Georgia Candy Roaster as a subject demonstrating hand pollination of the Cucurbitacae family.

A Winter Squash for the South

To purchase North Georgia Candy Roaster seeds from us, use this page.

Growing up in New England, winter squash were a staple in the garden – they were sweet by nature, but the cold falls brought the sugars out to perfection; their thick rind allowed them to sit in the root cellar all winter waiting to be used, sweetening as the days passed; their flowers are showy and easy to hand pollinate, and there is an endless variety to choose from ranging in flavor, shape, color, texture, size and plant habitat. I would often find myself perusing farmers’ markets looking for odd shaped and unique varieties to save seed from in the hope that something might come back true to form the following years.

When we moved to Georgia, the farmers’ markets were all but devoid of winter squash. The local nurseries could not suggest any specific varieties that would weather the heat, the squash borers, and, in the end, produce something remotely palatable. Initially, I went with a couple of my favorites: Delicata and Sweet Dumpling. Unfortunately, they did not work so well. By the time the weather started to cool, the fruit had been harvested and the vines long dead. Squash vine borers feasted, and the little squash we actually harvested was anything but sweet.

Not willing to miss out on one of my favorite garden delicacies, I went to the internet to search for some answers. I always learned that squash was a staple of Native Americans, and the Cherokee inhabited this land until they were driven to Oklahoma, so I started there and somehow ended up at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in search of something called the North Georgia Candy Roaster.

halvedUnlike my favorites – which are all varieties of Cucubrita pepo – the Candy Roaster is a Cucubrita maxima, which means it’s big: the vines are big, the leaves are big, and the squash is big, but it’s over sized leaves, lengthy vines, and ability to root at will from nodes along the vine make it an ideal candidate for three sisters planting, keeping weeds down and moisture in, a plus when it comes to gardening in the deep south. According to Slow Foods USA, the Candy Roaster was cultivated among the Cherokee tribes in what is today western North Carolina, north Georgia, and east Tennessee. We are in Middle Georgia, so our winters are incredibly mild, and our summers are hot, but based on the plants historical habitat, we had to give it a shot, and by mid-summer, we were not disappointed.

These squash did excellent in the garden, almost too well. By summer’s end we were inundated with squash. Throughout the summer we continually moved vines to grow back into the corn, but eventually just began trimming the ends of the vines that became too long and unruly. By the end of summer we had a couple of wheel barrows full of the orange squash either tear drop or banana shaped, all with a green tip and some with greenish blue striations. They were a marvel to look at, they tasted just as good, and to top if off, they produced all summer, though the second crop was much skinnier and smaller, they were just as tasty.

many pyramidThis squash was certainly a winner and one we will continue to plant for seasons to come. SlowFoodsUSA lists seed availability as concern, but fortunately, we have some seeds of this variety available. You can find these seeds here.

Using the North Georgia Candy Roaster as a subject, I made a how-to video demonstrating hand pollination of the Cucurbitacae family. You can watch it here.

Hand Pollination is a Must for Pure Seed

When it comes to saving seed for for future plantings, it is of the utmost importance that you avoid cross-pollination. We can accomplish this by bagging or caging individual flowers and plants, or we can hand pollinate flowers. One of the easiest garden vegetables to hand pollinate are squash and other Cucubritacae: squash, melons, cucumbers, calabash, and luffa. In this video I walk through the process of differentiating male and female flowers, and eventual hand pollination using Cucubrita maxima v candy roaster: North Georgia Candy Roaster.

We also have some seed of this rare squash available, just ask!

Those Slimy ‘Shrooms: Hygrophorus flavodiscus

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When I first started learning about mushrooms, I found myself under the tutelage of an amazing mushroomer and teacher; ripe in his years, he had spent many seasons in the fields and forests, walking along roadsides, kicking over ‘shrooms as a hobby. After retirement, he had gone on to volunteer for the state poison control department offering help in cases of mushroom poisoning. He was also an excellent artist. He has, of course, since passed, but he did not go without leaving me with a wealth of information.

These Yellow-centered waxy caps, Hygrophorus flavodiscus, were some of the first really distinct mushrooms I found in mass quantity that I was quite confident of in my identification. Of course, before I cooked them all up for dinner, I wanted to verify with the master. I emailed him pictures of the ‘shrooms, the spore print, and detailed my identification, then said something to the effect of, “I can’t wait to cook them up!” His response was typical: “Well done on the ID, but why would you eat that?”

H. flavodiscus is covered in slime. That shiny coating in the photograph is not dew, rain, or melted frost; it is slime reminiscent of a wet slug, and as they like to grow under hemlock trees, they are often coated in shed needles and other detritus, but this did not stop me. I spent hours that night, scraping the slime off with a paring knife and foolishly rinsing them under the faucet. When I had finally cleaned my bounty, I cooked them up and had a heaping mess of something edible, but certainly not worthy of the preparation time. I emailed my teacher back, confirming that, in fact, there is no reason to eat them.

Later that fall, when I was out ‘shrooming, I went back to where I found them the first time, and could not help but pick more. (It is a compulsion.) I had learned a bit about cooking mushrooms since I first found them, and I had also dabbled in raising slugs as food. Slugs, like snails, are edible and when cooked thoroughly, are quite safe to eat, but they have that same slimy coating as these waxy caps. You can remove the slimy coating from a slug by dropping them in vinegar, or you can use the slimy coating as something of an egg bath before rolling them in bread crumbs and frying them up; H. flavodiscus would prove to be no different. Rather than spend hours cleaning and preparing the ‘shrooms, this time I picked the debris off, rolled them in bread crumbs and fried them up. They were delicious and still remain one of my favorite foraged fare.

USDA Funded Prisons = Rural Development?

It is no secret that the United States of America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In fact, if we treat individual states as countries and compare them to the rest of the world, the top thirty spots would be held by individual states, even the lowest ranked state ends up 58th in the world, and the other eight countries in that list are not exactly countries that have shining human rights reputations: El Salvador, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Thailand, Rawanda, Russia, Panama, Coast Rica, and Brazil. This is a rather authoritarian group of countries that experience high levels of violent crime. In fact, El Salvador, Russia, Panama, and Brazil all have murder rates that are double that of the United States, and yet the US incarcerates more people.

According to the Bureau of Prison (BOP) statistics, the 46.1% of individuals incarcerated by the state are charged with “drug offenses,” followed distantly by “weapons, explosives and arson” at 17.9%, and in third place making up 9% of the incarcerated population are “sex offenses.” What is curious about this list is that each one of these categories undoubtedly holds a percentage of non-violent criminals: individuals using drugs, someone with an “illegal” gun, or those engaging in prostitution or otherwise consensual sex. In fact, the first category of crimes the BOP lists that consists solely of crimes with an apparent victim is “extortion, fraud, and bribery” with 6.4% of the population.

When we see that we are locking up a disproportionate amount of victimless drug crimes, as well as, other potentially non-violent crimes and that our incarceration rate outpaces the rest of the world (including all sorts of third world “shit holes”), we have to wonder, just what is going on. There is any number of reasons out there as to why we have such a high incarceration rate with some folks blaming it on a lack of present day education, and others seeing it as a throwback to our Puritan roots.

But when it is all distilled down, we see that our penal system is not one of correction, but one of corporatism and monopolistic force, backed up by the long arm of the law, not just by creating a War on Drugs and implementing draconian sentences, but also incentivizing incarceration by awarding contracts and providing funds to build new and bigger prisons.

In 1972, under President Nixon, the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (Con Act) was passed as a sort of safety net for areas dependent on agriculture, timber, mining, and other rural economies that were starting to lag. Since 1996, starting under President Bill Clinton, the Con Act has lended over $360 million to build prisons in rural areas, as they consider the construction of a prison as “rural development.” On the surface, this may seem well intended: we will always have prisoners, prisoners don’t stop during recessions, a prison can create numerous jobs - especially considering second tier businesses needed to support the demands of prison workers, but of course, this is only surface level. Many prison towns that have received federal money to build prisons have dealt with negative ramifications, some have actually lost money, and once a town becomes a prison town, it is near impossible to go back; there is no upgrading from a prison town to a web development town, or a tourist town. It seems that no matter what side of the prison system an entity gets involved with, there is no complete breaking free.

While many of these prisons are touted as being “private prisons,” the fact remains that the money to build the prisons is provided by the federal government and leaves little room for negotiation when it comes to policies that might actually help these prison-towns prosper. A prison is typically built with the idea that it will provide x-number of jobs, but once construction has been finished residents quickly realize that a good proportion of those jobs will be going to individuals already working for the prison firm and often go to non-residents, and even in those jobs that are actually created, there is a high level of turnover, and with the massive loan that the town and state needs to pay back, there is little recourse.

Unfortunately, even in areas where prisons do create economic development, many problems still arise, both political and moral. While it may be changing, when the census is taken, the prison population is included, creating a skewed view of the voting population (as prisoners do not vote) when it comes time to redraw districts and award electoral votes, especially considering that many of these prisoners do not come from the rural towns they are serving time in, or sometimes, even the same state. This creates political incentive for governors and congressmen to advocate for these federally funded prisons and keep beds filled, especially in areas that typically vote one way or the other. There has been some effort to change this, but it seems to be a slow going process.
Really, though, the biggest problem with our current model is the moral dilemma it places on areas that have become home to federally funded, corporatist prisons: empty beds do not pay. Many times, in fact, states will be on a contract that regulates prison occupancy, so now these rural communities that took federal loans through the Con Act are not only responsible for paying them back, but they are also responsible for keeping incarceration high. This incentivizes incarceration rates for all involved in the prison system, from police officers to prosecutors to probation boards. Unfortunately, this is not all conjecture as we have seen it happen with judges being indicted for racketeering.

And yet, despite having the highest incarceration rate in the world, despite having contracts with the State that regulate occupancy, despite a fading war on marijuana, despite the country being hopelessly in debt, despite politicians’ inability to pass a budget, the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act continues to dole out funds from the USDA budget to governors and towns advocating for bigger prisons. This is not rural development. These are not private prisons. They are prisons funded and regulated and incentivized by the Federal Government.

Forced Sharing is Socialist Indoctrination

No matter where on the political spectrum you fall, it is fairly well accepted that the public education system leans to the left; some simply accept this, others get angry, and still some enroll their children in private schools or even try their hand at homeschooling. Many of the latter accuse the schools of indoctrinating children into Statism or even Socialism. And while this may have some truth to it, there are some things parents do without recognizing that they are, in fact, indoctrinating their children into socialism right from their own home.

Most everyone has heard the little catch phrase before: “sharing is caring,” and while to some degree, it is, sharing can actually be rather sinister. The problem with sharing, is that it can diminish the importance of private property, individual ownership, and voluntary interactions.

In a classroom, most of the toys used are bought by the school or the teacher, they do not belong to the children and it is up to the administrators to make the rules surrounding how toys are shared. However, in the home, toys are usually purchased by an individual for a specific individual. At my house we have a few of those toys meant for large group play, specifically, a rickety jungle gym with a little climbing wall, a slide and two swings; we also have four children. This creates problems. We often resolve these problems by introducing a new object, or suggesting they take turns, but we do not actually force our children to get off a swing and give it to a sibling. Usually the suggestion to share is enough to persuade our children to behave differently, and if it’s not, we might lean a little harder with shoe-on-the-other-foot examples, but we never force a child off the swing.

We need to teach our children the voluntary actions of charity, not State sanctioned theft.
And then we also have those individual toys: the Batman action figure Grandma sent down, or the iPod Santa left behind. Too often, parents allow a child-owner of a toy to use the object, but when a sibling or friend wants to use it, the child-owner is forced into sharing. If you do not share, there are consequences that may involve time out, or shuttering of the toy, of course this is after the child that made the request to share has been given the object of their desire against the will of the owner. It may not seem like a big deal, after all, I am the parent and children should learn to listen to authority figures, right? But consider the message and the moral you are sharing: “It is okay for an authority figure to force someone to give up their private property to someone else who wants that property.” This is simply unacceptable. There is no need for this framework to ever be established, especially in the mind of a child. On top of this, it not only tells a child it is okay for an authoritarian force more powerful than you to take your property, it also tells a child it is fully acceptable to appeal to authority to use force on others so the appealer’s desires are met. It instills entitlement, which only furthers the acceptance of forced sharing.

Now, I am not suggesting voluntary sharing is a bad thing, or that we should not encourage children to share, but it should be on their terms. There is great importance in teaching children the value of charity, and the benefits of taking care of others when you can, but these are things that cannot be forced, and it must be understood that these things have limits. We need to teach children that being mindful of others has a place, but it is at their choosing. At the same time, we need to teach our children that sometimes, we will never be able to use a friend’s toy, nor may we ever be able to purchase the toy on our own and that is simply the way of life. We need to teach our children the voluntary actions of charity, not State sanctioned theft.

Continue reading “Forced Sharing is Socialist Indoctrination”

The Libertarian Case for Kavanaugh?

The left have cast him as an enemy of women’s rights, suggesting that his appointment to SCOTUS would lead to the end of Roe V. Wade, that he would “create laws” that put women’s reproductive organs in the hands of stodgy old white men. But what the left, nor the right tell us is that Brett Kavanaugh is no friend of liberty. He is a proponent of the State, of mass surveillance, and data collection. We should be less afraid of the end of Roe V. Wade and more hesitant over the final erosion of the Fourth Amendment under the guise of legislation meant to stop “terrorism” or “sex trafficking.”

Bill-of-Rights 

So what, then, is the Libertarian case for Kavanaugh? Simply put, he seems fairly decent on the rest of the Constitution, and by fairly decent, I mean not as bad as the rest of the manure heap. When it comes to Kavanaugh, we know what we are getting; we know the Acts he has had a hand in drafting up; we know which presidents have kept him close; we know what to be worried about. We also know he will stand up for Second Amendment, and most of the rest of the Bill of Rights.

And if we are honest, the Fourth Amendment no longer really matters in the sense that the Federal Government will continue to spy on it’s people and collect data regardless of any Amendment to the constitution. They have been ignoring it long before the Patriot Act, and they will continue to ignore it unabated; does it matter if it’s out in the open?

Should the left prevail in stalling his confirmation, or having his nomination pulled altogether, it is more than likely the next candidate will not be appointed until after the mid-term elections, and if this supposed blue wave pulls through and the democrats take the senate, we will see a SCOTUS nomination that will be much more progressive and as a whole, less concerned about the Federal Government recognizing the boundaries laid out by the Constitution.

Is Kavanaugh a good pick, no, but then, no one that will be put forward will really be a “good” pick. It simply comes down to the fact that every appointment to SCOTUS will be a turd sandwich, and at this point, I’ll take a turd sandwich that will at least try to remind the State of some of the People’s personal liberties.