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Yesterday, I cleaned and winnowed seeds: Beans, corn, and sunflower. Next step is to cycle them through the freezer to kill insects. Germination testing after that.

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Buckets of corn, beans, and sunflowers.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Because it snowed overnight. I figured that today is a great day to sort beans. Winnowing doesn't remove all of the dirt clods or broken seeds.

I do what I call "normalization" on the seeds that I'm saving for replanting next year, by saving equal numbers of every type that I can identify, and saving any seeds that are unusual or new. I do this, to try to identify new hybrids, and to keep a few types of beans from predominating. If I were growing this seed only for myself, to feed my community, I would plant bulk seed, and a few varieties would come to dominate the population (the pintos, and the little pink bean). But because this is what I'm selling as seed-stock, I want to hold onto as much diversity as possible, to increase the odds that whomever plants it, wherever they are, that some type or other might thrive for them.
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Cleaning bean seeds to remove rocks and broken seeds, and saving sorted types to plant next year.
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Normalized: Up to 20 seeds of each obvious type, or everything I found of that type if less than 20.
 
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Joseph, this is pretty amazing. What is so fascinating is that there were probably 10 people in every county that knew how to do this 150 years ago and you are now having to show us the process, we have outsourced way too much of this. I really congratulate you for reviving this art in public. I feel really dumb reading these threads, not because it is crazy hard, but because I haven't really put the effort in to learn what is truly a foundational human skill at this point in my life.

But I'm starting! Thank you for that!
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I took a few of the sunroots and made kraut-chi from them. Posted it for sale on our local social media. Utah recently passed a food freedom law, so it's legal for me to sell homemade food now.



I've always thought unique pickles/kraut would solve several 'problems:' for instance as one drives along the coast of California, fields and fields of Brussel sprouts.  But I'm not looking at the sprouts, I'm looking at the majority of the plant which is leaves and stalks.  And I'm betting they would make delicious kraut and crisp pickled items respectively.  

I'll bet there is so much that is unsaleable that if pickled would fetch a pretty penny in fancy restaurants.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I do what I call "normalization" on the seeds that I'm saving for replanting next year, by saving equal numbers of every type that I can identify, and saving any seeds that are unusual or new.


I was wondering how you would be able to do that much outbreeding without them all looking exactly the same due to only dominant traits coming through.

Dandelions are probably the most individual wild plants I ever come across, and they still look more or less the same.

Maybe "normalization" should not mean to make things different since the dictionary definition of "normalize" is exactly the opposite: "To make normal, especially to cause to conform to a standard or norm." Maybe "balancing out?"

I suppose that selecting for traits that affect growing habits would be done by mother nature, and you would not need this method for that type of trait. What do you do for flavor? Do all your plants just taste the same within that variety?

I suppose those pink beans that keep coming up are good examples of dominant bean traits. What are some important dominant traits for melons?
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Here are the same plums, shown 4 weeks ago in this thread.



Those are stunning plums, they look delicious.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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In most cases, I don't know which traits are dominant, and which are recessive. I just know which traits I want to keep around.

I use "normalization" in the statistical sense. Sorting the beans to get them all back to the same starting scale: 20 seeds from each variety. That's my way of keeping some of each type in the population, and of identifying new hybrids. I also plant bulk beans, intending them primarily for feeding my community. In that population, the plants that produce the most (harvested) beans end up dominating. "Balancing" the population would be another great word, that might appeal more to non-statisticians.

In my garden, common vulgaris beans are primarily inbreeding, with only like 1 in 200 crossing. Other  gardens might have up to 5% crossing. So with beans it's really easy to maintain recessive traits over the long term. Black seems to be the most common dominant trait in bean seed coat color. Over the years I have done a lot of selection against black beans.

While my beans cross at a very low rate, I sort them by hand, to try to identify hybrids. Any suspected hybrids that I find go into the stash to be planted next year. Then the hybridized-genetics are reorganizing themselves for 5 to 7 generations, so lots of new varieties can show up. Once a recessive trait shows up, and I select for it, then it's 99.5% likely to remain in the population each year after that.

In out-crossing crops like corn, it is easy to select for recessive traits, by selecting against dominant traits in every generation. It's much harder to select for dominant traits, cause recessive traits can be masked and then show up many generations later.

Many of the hybrids that I have worked with were between pole beans and bush beans. I aim for my population to be bush beans only. So I do a tremendous amount of culling for growth habit.

I have not been selecting beans for flavor. How do I cook a pot of beans, when an individual plant might only produce 20 seeds? I suppose that I could grow and harvest by type, and get enough to cook a pot of beans.

For me, the most important traits in melons are quick vigorous growth and early flowering. That is due to the short-growing season. A corollary is that smaller fruits tend to mature weeks earlier than larger fruits, so it's to my benefit to select for smaller fruits.

 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I have not been selecting beans for flavor. How do I cook a pot of beans, when an individual plant might only produce 20 seeds? I suppose that I could grow and harvest by type, and get enough to cook a pot of beans.


I was thinking maybe you used a divided pot, but it looks like the ones online only come in two or sometimes three divisions. Maybe you could just stick some open canning jars into a big pot and make a few miniature double-boiled pots of beans at once. The part I'm wondering about is how you would keep track of seeds from individual plants.

There's also the fact that breeding for flavor could be a lot of trouble and might not be worth it.

I see bees tearing little holes in legume flowers near the back often. They won't bother making a new hole if one's already there. They like some species more than others.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Owen: Thanks. I could certainly cook 2-3 beans in test tubes, and cook a lot of test tubes at once.  I'm currently harvesting 1 to 3 plants at a time. It would be easy enough to harvest one plant at a time. That's starting to get into hard science. I'm doing plant breeding these days as a artist. I guess it's a good thing that I haven't found a bad tasting bean in the bulk mixes. Otherwise I would have to do that work to find and eliminate it. I want to cook a batch of tepary beans this winter, to check to see if there are any "hard" seeds, which don't absorb water during cooking. If there are, I may want to eliminate them before planting (by soaking overnight). When I was growing green bean seed, I did taste testing of every plant. That was easy, just rip up any plant that tasted bitter, or had fibrous pods.

My strategy with squash is to cook each squash, and if it tastes great, then bulk the seed with all the other great tasting squash. A single squash fruit might give a few hundred seeds, much more than a bean plant. I'll often cook 15 squash per day when I'm tasting squash for seed saving.
 
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Don't let me get in the way of your fun.
 
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I have been trying every variety of winter squash at the grocery store and so far have discovered I DON"T LIKE acorn, butternut, carnival, turks turban, or hubbard but I LOVE Buttercup! I really liked the first one I ate and saved all the seed. Then I got another one and it was even better so I save it's seed separately. I haven't seen any other different kinds of squash at the store tho and this year there weren't even any different kinds of pumpkins, just standard orange or white jack o'lantern types.

I know you like Buttercup best also but I was wondering if you have a runner up that isn't like the others I listed? all of the above were terribly bland and some just tasted nasty to me.
 
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Mary Hysong wrote:I know you like Buttercup best also but I was wondering if you have a runner up that isn't like the others I listed? all of the above were terribly bland and some just tasted nasty to me.



Grocery store squash seem so bland to me, that I guess they have been specifically selected for blandness. And I have tasted grocery store squash which were bitter. (I used to buy them as a source of genetic variability, but these days flavor is more important.)

I don't like any of the pepo species as winter squash: Acorn, Delicata, Carnival, Festival, marrow, spaghetti, jack-o-lantern.

I don't care for store bought butternuts. They have been super bland. I like my own variety which I have been selecting for taste for many generations now. I haven't really found that flavor in the grocery store. I think that selecting for fruits with oranger/darker skin might help, instead of pale-ish/white-ish skin.

The maxima species has squash that are bland/watery (banana, big max, red kuri which is often marketed as Hubbard but bears little resemblance flavor wise). Buttercup are my favorite, so I have been selecting all of my maxima strains for similar flavor (which resembles the traditional 40 pound Hubbard flavor). Sweet meat and Kabochas might resemble the buttercup flavor. Some of the decorative pumpkins that weigh about 15 pounds and have pink (sometime warty) skin might taste good. Cinderella didn't please me. They seem to have been selected for skin color and not taste.

If you can find squash with Japanese type names that might help: Kabocha, Tetsukabuto, Black Futzu... They have tended to select for small size and amazing flavor.
 
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Thanks Joseph. I will check the other grocery store in town, different chain might have different offerings and will look for the Japanese ones in the seed catalogs.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I am running germination tests on seeds. Large seeded things I sprout in a jar. Soak seeds overnight, and then rinse them 2X per day until they are sprouted enough to count. Smaller seeds are counted out and germinated in potting soil. Dust like seeds are sprinkled on soil, and if a lot germinate, then that's good enough.

And hard apple cider eases the drudgery of 5 months of snowcovered fields.



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Corn germinated at 95%
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Germination testig in potting mix
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Hard cider, and old fruit wine
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I started more germination testing this morning. Adding things to seed catalog as they pass quality control. Too bad about the flax seed, which is full of bindweed seed. I'll have to manually sort them. Ugh! So they will be the last thing added to the catalog, if at all.

Then I had fun playing with images. Here's an image for your sharing pleasure!
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The path to victory is not quarrelling with evil... It is saving what we love!
 
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Will you be offering any Cucurbita moschata seeds?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Will you be offering any Cucurbita moschata seeds?



Yes. I haven't started germination testing on the moschata squash seeds yet, I expect to in the next few days. And some seeds are still in the squash. If it germinates at 75% or better, I will sell it, otherwise I will gift it. Either way, there will be plenty of seed available.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ugh! I wasn't planning on butchering a chicken today... The smallest of the batch of chicks that hatched on August 15th. Descended from a small Bantam Silkie. Came of age today. (Perhaps triggered by the lengthening day?) Started crowing. Tore the face off a larger gentle submissive rooster, and was well on it's way to putting him into an early grave when we intervened. Did first-aid on the larger bird, then dispatched the smaller one. Later, I felt bad that in the heat of the moment, that I didn't properly thank him for nurturing me and my loved ones.

The skin and meat were dark. I bet it will taste fabulous. Dinner at 6:30.

The bird has been flighty, and has 5 toes on each foot, so destined to be culled anyway. Normal is 4 toes. He was slow to develop rooster plumage, otherwise I might have eaten him already. I don't want fighting cocks in my flock. Establishing a pecking order is fine... Anyone that goes further than that, will be culled.



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Bantum rooster, and the rooster that got it's face shredded.
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Bleeding out
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Dark skin and meat
 
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Hi,

why are five toes a reason to cull for you? don t you like the five toed breeds, or do you want to keep it simple?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Hans:

He was from one of the 5 toed breeds. That trait seems like a genetic abnormality to me, so I didn't want to mix it into my flock.

Note to self: Don't let a broody hen sit on eggs from breeds that have traits that I don't want in my flock.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm doing a little happy dance right now... I just received my 1000th permies apple. Thank you to those of you that value my work enough to give an apple or a thumbs up from time to time. I know intellectually, that they're just as silly as the gold stars I earned in kindergarten, but emotionally I still feel a sense of contentment, and accomplishment. Thanks!

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Gala apples
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I am teaching at two seed conferences this winter, in New York in January, and in Santa Fe in February.

I'd love to meet some of you if you can attend the conferences, or meet up for sodas while I'm there. I'm tentatively planning on driving to Santa Fe, so there might be an opportunity to meet up on the road.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Climate of Change 2019 Winter Conference, Saratoga Springs, New York, January 18-20, 2019.
https://www.nofany.org/events-news/events/item/161-2018-winter-conference

Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, Mountain West Seed Summit, Reunion of the Radicles, Santa Fe, New Mexico, February 22-23, 2019.
https://www.rockymountainseeds.org/attend/mountain-west-seed-summit


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NOFA-NY Winter conference 2019
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RMSA Mountain West Seed Summit
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm attending a seed swap in Saratoga Springs, New York on January 19th. I'd love to meet some of you there.

SEED SWAP NOFA-NY & Northeast Seed Alliance
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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It can be a good thing to face your demons, or to take a peek into your skeleton closet, because dragons have gold.
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Dragons have gold
 
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