Preface-like paragraph: I have, over many years and with a lot of intention, slowly come to see the world around me as a sort of resource-scape, that is, as a world of potential resources. This can extend to people and ideas as well as physical objects and also phenomena of energy, like wind, or sun, or the action of an animal. Having made a pretty intense study of primitive technology as well as of other subsistence paradigms, I’ve been impressed deeply by the fact that different groups of people, given similar environments, or even the exact same environment, will do completely different things there and live very different lives. While we are guided by our environments, we are also very much guided by our cultural influences and what we know, or just as importantly what we think we know is and is not possible.
So? As a result of this perspective of resource consciousness, I tend to walk around constantly looking for unseen or undervalued potential that could be harnessed to make life better, more sustainable, or to make work more efficient and certainly a little just to keep myself entertained! While this view has resulted in way more ideas than I have energy to experiment with or turn into functional realities, having that view does serve me decently well sometimes. I’ve noticed in the garden that there are numerous resources that are underexploited and can be micromanaged into great usefulness. One of my main influences in this area is Farmers of Forty Centuries. It is a long, boring ass, pedantic book from the 40’s that is probably a good 100 pages longer than it needed to be (kind of like this post probably…yawn…). It is worth reading though for a few specific items of farming practice and, more importantly, the broader message of what can be done with resources that we might not even stop to think are useful in our modern society where views of work and resources are extremely skewed away from traditional ones. The picture painted by that book makes any western gardening I’ve ever seen seem sloppy and wasteful. We are spoiled, and that’s great in it’s way, but it blinds us to the potential around us when compared with the asian cultures in that book who really had to figure out how to make use of every resource in the most efficient way they could figure out in order to survive their high populations. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. I just wanted to drop those general ideas on you before I start this specific story, because it’s somewhat relevant.
This way to geekage —> There is a long path to get to the actual subject. But bear with me. The sights along the path set the context and this post isn’t actually just about one idea. There is an idea, but it could be summed up in a few paragraphs. But that idea evolved in a context which has specific real or perceived problems, and that context has other lessons and provides a framework for learning about the world we live in (or at least the one I live in!). And, there is more to glean than the end point idea, which after all is not an end point at all, but just part of a long evolution. It may be a good idea for me, while it may fail you utterly or be totally irrelevant to your life and work; but if we view it in a larger picture, we have more places to go from here and may find modifications, or other uses and ideas branching off of this one. So hang with me if you want to, or just go read the last couple of paragraphs. Continue reading
I’m going to tell you how to make delicious fermented green olives by the easiest curing method I know of. One of my many long term projects has been curing olives. I started because I love them and because they were too expensive for me to eat in the quantities I wanted to. I figured I could turn those olives growing all over California into something tasty. Some 20 plus years later, I have a pretty good grasp on the subject. I’m headed to an olive tasting event this weekend, the Olive Odyssey organized by olive curing champion Don Landis. I was going to print up recipe cards for sicilian style olives, but thought I’d just save paper and send people here instead. Besides, now people can bump into this awesome recipe on the web!
What’s so cool about this recipe? Lotsa stuff. It is perhaps the easiest curing recipe I know for olives. There is no maintenance to speak of. There is no leaching with lye, or water, nor anything else. You stick ‘em in a jar with brine, seal it up, leave it for months and open one when you are ready to eat them. And of course they taste hella good homeslice! Big fat juicy, lively, acidic, rich tasting olives… oh yeah.
The downside? You have to be patient! Wait, that’s good for you, so get over it! Oh, and I only know one olive common in California that is really good for this process. If you’re lucky enough to have access to this olive though, you’ve got a gold mine of potential hanging on those trees in the fall. Continue reading
If I was president, the essay assignment goes when you’re in grade school. I remember thinking “but I don’t want to be president!” But, if I was… I don’t think I’d promise a car in every garage, though I’d probably keep the chicken in every pot. When I moved here to Turkeysong, I had to decide what fruit varieties to grow. Inspired by friend and apple guru Freddy Menge, a scrappy young tree that was already here, was used as a framework to test out apple varieties. Before that it produced hard green apples. What started as an interest, grew into something like an obsession and the tree became more diverse every year starting with 25 or so varieties and ending now with about 140. My friend Spring dubbed it Frankentree because, at her house, that’s what they call anything cobbed together from odd parts. The name stuck. The term frankentree is also used for genetically modified tree varieties, but it has already taken off among apple collectors, so we’ll just have to see who wins. And maybe someone searching for info about GMO fruit will run across our frankentrees and be ignited into constructive action instead of plunged into despair at how the world can be dumb enough that we take the risk of genetically engineering an apple just so it won’t brown.
Frankentrees are awesome! They may take a little attention to maintain, but the advantages are many. There are so many trees out there that provide too much fruit of one variety in too brief a period for the people that use them. Other trees just produce fruit that no one likes. These trees, if they are healthy enough and the form is not too wacky, are very valuable as a base to work from. A reasonably well formed healthy tree can come to yield nourishment in abundance, interest, variety, valuable information, and even self confidence and self reliance, over a long season.
This isn’t going to be a how to article, it’s more to kick you in the butt and get you started thinking and experimenting this year article. If you have a tree, or access to a tree that is not very exciting in the fruit department, why not try grafting on something new? Well, I’ll tell you why you should graft on something new, or actually more like somethings. Continue reading
This is sort of a vegetable review area, as well as a repository of information that people who get seeds from me can access as needed. I will be editing it and adding pictures and varieties over time.
I give away a lot of seeds, and will be giving a whole lot away in the next couple of months at the Ukiah farmer’s market and the Boonville scion exchange. If you save seed, you’ll find that you almost always have way more than you can use. That’s awesome, because then you can give away seeds too. The more of us the save seeds in our communities, the less each of us has to spend time trying to save seeds of everything ourselves. Saving seed in a community can also lead to maintaining a larger genetic pool, because can we trade for seed of varieties that we already save at home just to get some new genes or traits in the mix. Also, I’m fairly convinced (intuitively more than anything else) that gifting is part of any sustainable economy. When I say economy, dollar signs probably start flashing in your head, but I mean economy more in the old school sense of the totality of activities, interactions and resources that make up a person or family’s living, and of course the overlap that has with other people and families in a broader community.
Below are all varieties that I grow personally here, and which have found a place in the the garden by way of various virtues. I’ve grown weary, and wary, of trialing large numbers of vegetables and now only do it one vegetable at a time, on the rare year that I do it at all. Mostly I find that it ends up being a waste of money and bed space. I think it’s very important to find good varieties and that a lot of folks should expend more effort on the pursuit, but is can get expensive and complicated. It’s easy to run up a good sized bill if I allow myself to be seduced by every seed catalogue and rosy description. That rose of a beet is rarely any better than Detroit Dark Red since it has already snuffed out a half dozen or more varieties before it. It is nice to have varieties that are consistent and reliable and then every once in a while I can seek to improve something I’m not happy with, or try a variety that a friend recommends. I’ve gone through a lot of trouble to find these guys and, while your mileage may vary, they are a good place to start if just starting out, or might be worth trying in a small plot against whatever it is that you normally grow. Let me know what has worked for you in the comments.
More about saving seeds and these super cool turkeysong original origami seed pockets soon!