Episode 62 sees Jessica Green of the Jessica Green Show join the Liberty Hipipe for a discussion about how a snow storm turned onto prepping, and what she did to get started. We also talked about her current set up and lead into more homesteading ventures and future plans to become more self sufficient.
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Bentley Christie of Red Worm Composting joined the Liberty Hippie for today’s discussion about vermicomposting! In today’s episode, we discussed some of the basics of vermicomposting as well as some of the why’s. As it turns out, vermicomposting has huge benefits for plants and small container of worms can be kept in virtually any geographic location without much ado. We didn’t have time today to get into the entrepreneurial side of things, so stay tuned for a future episode with Bentley!
Last year, we planted some different sunflower varieties at the end of some of our garden rows and let them go to seed for various reasons. This spring the seeds that had dropped started to come up in our Alaska peas and other veggies.
Rather than pull them up, we decided to let them go. When fall rolls around and they die, we will chop them up and return them to the soil, but for now we’ll enjoy the beauty they offer and let our Potawatomi lima beans crawl up their massive stalks.
The sunflowers we planted last year were tall and short, yellow and burgundy, single-head and multi-headed, so far this year, they all seem to be quite tall – the tallest over ten feet – multi-headed, and yellow, though there is some maroonish burgundy showing through on some of the petals.
I assume they’ve all been hybridized and that’s what we are seeing. It will be curious to see how the genetics sort out in next years generation.
There are a number of reasons I decided to start this podcast, but one of the biggest contributing factors was Jason Carriers podcast. As he said at the end of the show, there is such an overlap of values between the homesteading community and the liberty minded community. Today’s interview with Jason was certainly an entertaining one. We talked about how he got from suburbia, to horse boarder, to homesteader with his finger in everything. Jason has planted a wide array of orchards, he gardens, he raises bees and chickens, and he recently constructed his own aquaponics system. I hope this interview with Jason can bring you some inspiration and encourage you to get out there and just get started.
After the interview, I take a look at Sal Kahn’s (not the actor), Kahn Academy, a free market solution to education and one that many homeschoolers and public school students use to supplement their education.
Some days in the spring, I find myself wanting the dead heat of a Georgian summer to
keep me locked up inside, not because I particularly enjoy having cause to take a shower after walking from the house to the car, or because I enjoy paying an obnoxiously higher electricity bill for powering the air conditioning units, but because there is a lull. During fall, we keep busy with the fall crops, give the lawn a final mow and try to enjoy the relatively cooler weather as we drift toward the winter solstice. Winter is a time for bucking firewood, amending the sleeping soil, digging holes for future fruit trees, and trying to harvest some venison before the whirlwind that is spring comes tornado-ing in.
Once spring arrives, there is no slowing down, and this spring has been exceptionally busy. In part because we keep expanding the garden and trying to get more crops in, in part because there are more mouths to feed and more obligatory places to be, but mostly because of the rain. Don’t get me wrong, the rain is usually a good thing in Middle-Georgia,but where as I typically have to mow the lawn once every three weeks, it’s been an every other week ordeal (if not more than that), weeding the garden has been virtually non-stop, and the damp weather has kept the beans from germinating as healthily as they should, leaving them susceptible to aphids and cutworms and other unsavory pests. But we have prevailed. The rain may not be over, but it is slowing and the temperatures are climbing into the mid-90s during the days and evening temperatures hovering right around 70; it seems as if summer is here and the lull is beginning.
When things start to slow down we have time to enjoy the sunrises bouncing off the clouds, waking up the bees, eliciting the edamame to show their dainty purple petals and enticing the big showy squash flowers to open for pollination. We have time to sit on the porch, lingering under the fans after dinner, watching the barn swallows swoop in and out of the corn patch as they catch the Lovebugs mating mid-flight. Summer brings the end of school and friends who can stay a little later.
Of course, just because there is a lull doesn’t mean all work cessates. There are still plenty of chores that need to be done outside in the heat. The lawn still needs the occasional mow, the crops harvested and the animals fed. You can do it in the cool of the morning, but it’s still 70 and muggy as anything you’ve ever experienced and as soon as the sun rises it’s width over the horizon, the temperature starts climbing. The trick is enjoying the time you have to appreciate it all.
Seeds, seeds, seeds! I love seeds; I think it has to do with all the possibilities that a tiny dot the size of a pin head can hold (think brassicaes: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.). Or maybe I love them for all of their different shapes and sizes – beans with their beautiful patterning and a cool, smooth skin. Even Cucurbitaceae – squash – with their bland, brown, traditional tear drop shape have their differences from variety to variety that are simply awe inspiring when carefully examined. There’s also some bit of a thrill that comes with saving your own seed from year to year: you get to know the plants, know the heritage of the seed, and it’s one more step to self-sufficiency. But before you can just go saving seeds for next year, there are some things to consider.
Often times when we look at a seed catalog, or seed envelope, we will notice some verbiage that may or may not make sense. Typically this verbiage pertains to the seed and the plant that will develop from it.
Open Pollinated: A plant that is open pollinated means that when a female flower is pollinated by the male flower of the same variety, the seed produced thereafter will resemble the parent plant. When the pollination occurs between male and female parts of the same plant or even the same flower (tomatoes, beans), this is called self-fertilization. Plants that have individual flowers that are self-fertilizing are inherently open pollinated. Some varieties of plants will produce flowers that are specifically male or female. If you notice a squash vine, the first flowers to come out are typically male and later on down the vine, the female flowers start to come out. These are still considered to be open pollinated.
Heirloom: Seeds of an heirloom variety are also inherently open pollinated. The term heirloom simply implies that the seed-line has been kept true for a number of years. Heirloom varieties tend to be less friendly to the commercial market, but can come in many different color, size, taste, and other variations. (Essentially, heirloom is a subset within open pollinated.)
Hybrids: A hybrid is a seed that comes from two different varieties of parents: it has been cross-pollinated. Often times hybrids are produced to create faster growing plants, larger yields, or to create a plant that is less susceptible to certain diseases. A hybrid is the first generation of a new lineage and is considered “F1” in nomenclature and all plants in the F1 generation will look and produce the same. However, if you save seeds from a hybridization – accidentally or on purpose – the following generation (F2) will have a large number of physical differences if the seed from the F1 is even viable.
Saving seeds helps us save money, and it gives us further insight into our individual plants. In a sense, by selecting plants that are growing well in our gardens, we’re doing our own genetic modification by selecting plants that are amiable to our soil, temperature, water and light conditions. The problem with saving seed is that it needs to be precise. The easiest way to be precise is only grow one variety of each type of vegetable. There are many books out there that deal with seed saving methods (my favorite is Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed), and can give you statistics on cross-pollination. For example, corn pollen is very light and can travel by wind up to two miles! It is also important to save seed from a number of different plants as inbreeding depression – a lack of genetic diversity – can occur. Some plants are more susceptible to this than others.
In short, if you want to save seed, get a good book, stick with one variety of each species, and go for the open-pollinated varieties. If you don’t care about saving seeds, plant whatever.
There is something oddly soothing about seeds. You’ll know the feeling if you’ve ever dug your hands into a garbage can size box of loose seeds at the local nursery or if you’ve managed to be able to keep and harvest your own seeds. (If you’ve never been able to do so, I suggest going to the bulk section of the grocery store and shoving your hands in the unpopped popcorn bin. Just don’t let anyone see you…). I can’t place if it’s the actual texture and feel of hundreds of cool seeds gently caressing your skin, or if it’s the growth and food potential packed into all those seeds, but something about hundreds of tiny seeds is just awe inspiring.
And beans are further spectacular for all their intricate patterns and designs. I can’t be sure, but I’m willing to bet that like a snowflake, no two non-single color beans are patterned the exact same way. They may have a general pattern, but when you actually study each beans seed coat, the differences are amazing.
The main staple bean we have chosen to grow is a Potawatomi Lima bean. It’s of the pole variety, easily climbing an eight foot pole, while continuing to look for somewhere higher to grow. Originally, the Potawatomi Limas came from the Potawatomi Indians in Southern Michigan. Our choosing the Potawatomi Lima wasn’t random but a calculated choice with multiple factors:
Their location of origin was key. While we are in Georgia now, we were living in Vermont when we purchased these seeds. If you’re familiar with Vermont, you’ll know that the summer is fleeting and the weather is cool and damp. Without a greenhouse, there are some definite constraints when it comes time for growing. So a Lima – which otherwise has a very hard time growing in New England – needed to be cold weather friendly, and it seemed like Southern Michigan was a good bet.
Pole variety! We really wanted a pole bean as it would get off the ground and clear some space up for other crops – like potatoes. We were on 1/5th of an acre at the time.
These limas provide two types of food. The beans could be eaten green as shelled beans or dried and used as a dry bean.
It’s a lima bean! By growing a lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), it meant that we could grow a common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) for green beans, and we wouldn’t have to worry about cross pollination.
In Vermont these beans worked out great. We didn’t have huge pulls of beans, but we had plenty to keep us happy and they made a great supplement to our CSA. It was also evident that while they don’t like the cold, they weren’t’ as fragile as some other beans I’ve grown when it came to cold nights.
The Potawatomi Limas have done just as well, if not better, in Georgia. We’re able to get them in the ground early and we end up having two crops of dried beans. (We only save seed from the first crop.) We are also able to get a good number of green beans for shelling. And of course, because of the dry lima pods ability to pop open and shoot seeds everywhere, we always find random volunteers germinating some place we didn’t plant them. More often than not we let them grow, but even when we have to kill them, they make an excellent cover crop/green fertilizer.
Overall, we are very impressed with this variety. Over the last ten years, we’ve been saving seeds from pods with four beans. In the beginning, we had mostly two and three beans per pod with the occasional four-bean-pod. We still don’t have a plant with only four-bean-pods (that won’t be for another 20 years down the road, maybe…), but their prevalence is much higher and the number of two-bean-pods is significantly lower. We’ve tried a variety of beans in the garden, and while I never thought I’d fall in love with a lima bean, so it has become. Do you have a favorite vegetable variety you go back to every year?