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Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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my pumpkins this year seemed to be some hybrid too. The seeds were from an orange pumpkin with a good taste, but the fruits this year are green-and-orange striped and they taste somewhat bitter. That's a pity, because I never had such well-growing pumpkins before.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Three and a half weeks ago I planted a mixed species cover crop into this field. It is growing great! A new to me species showed up: Safflower.  I planted a bunch of species that I have been wanting to select for winter-hardiness. They seem like they are at the perfect age going into winter. If some of them survive, I'm intending to transplant them into a different field in the spring, so that I can grow a seed crop from them.

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Mixed Species cover crop.
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Closeup of mixed species cover crop.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I found a fat photo from about 20 years ago. Took one today for comparison. Ha!!! I like being fit and trim. Too bad I don't know how much I weighed back then. I've been saying that I lost 70 pounds, but it looks like a lot more than that!



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fat vs normal
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Winter arrived overnight. My garden is likely to be snow-covered until March.

The unheated greenhouse has kept some frost sensitive tomatoes alive for the past two months since our fall frosts started. I took the tomato photo in response to the recent thread about how much day-length plants require to grow, notice that these tomatoes are growing fine in spite of the short days.  I intend to conduct some experiments with that this winter. These tomatoes are part of my auto-hybridizing tomato project. Notice the huge flower petals...

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Winter has arrived.
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Greenhouse doing it's job of protecting tender plants from frost.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Posts: 2432
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Drying squash seeds.

The cover crop in my squash field is growing wonderfully.
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Drying Squash Seeds.
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Squash field with cover crop
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Cover Crop
 
Angelika Maier
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Didn't you want to write a book? What is that book (the one on landraces) doing?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Angelika Maier wrote:Didn't you want to write a book? What is that book (the one on landraces) doing?


I ended up writing a 16 page seed catalog, and half of it is devoted to landrace gardening. That kinda sucks though, because it's chronically in need of updating... I'll follow up this post with the part of the catalog that discusses "Landrace Gardening".

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Landrace Gardening

A Path Towards
Food Security
Through common sense and
Traditional Methods


Joseph Lofthouse, landrace seedsman
Paradise, Utah

Foreword

This guidebook owes its existence to the good people of the Homegrown Goodness Plant Breeding Forum. The forum members collaborated with me in refining years worth of posts, discussions, and plant breeding experiments into a single guide. I am grateful for and acknowledge the tremendous amount of community involvement, and the generous sharing of ideas and germplasm. Holly Dumont of Foothill Farm, Alan Bishop of Face Of The Earth Seed, Ken Ottinger of the Long Island Seed Project, and the Hoggy Seed Swap at Ella's Garden Cubit have been particularly prolific in supplying me with seeds. Susan from Idaho has shared a tremendous amount of locally adapted seed with me. Grammy's farm-stand has been a consistent source of genetically-diverse and locally-adapted winter squash. Carol Deppe's book, “Grow Your Own Vegetable Varieties” was very helpful to me. I am grateful to Mother Earth News for allowing me to refine my thinking by blogging about landrace gardening on their web site: http://www.motherearthnews.com/search.aspx?tags=+Lofthouse

It has been a thrilling journey for me: moving from a globalized corporate-based industrial farming model to a model premised on localized survival-of-the-fittest plant populations growing in a culture of individual responsibility and community collaboration.

The premise upon which this guide is based, is that the industrial model of growing food has separated us from traditional food production methods. The separation has been so thorough that the vast majority of home gardeners and small-scale market farmers are oblivious to the benefits that can accrue from disintermediation, and growing locally-adapted genetically-diverse crops.  This booklet endeavors to explain an alternate method of food production which is more in the line with the traditional farming practices that have been with us since time immemorial.

The message that I want to convey with this book is a message of hope: That seed saving and plant breeding is an activity that is easily within the grasp of the average gardener. We do not need to depend on highly mechanized mega-corporations in far away places and climates to produce average seeds for average gardens. We can grow excellent seeds customized to thrive in our own gardens, and in our own communities.

What is a Landrace?

A landrace is a crop with considerable genetic diversity, which allows it to produce stable yields under ever changing growing conditions. Landrace crops are adaptively selected by survival-of-the-fittest and farmer preference for reliability in tough conditions. The arrival of new pests, new diseases, or changes in cultural practices or in the environment may harm some individuals in a landrace population, but with so much diversity many plants are likely to do well under the changing conditions. Landrace crops are frequently grown without costly inputs such as herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. For small-scale growers, these savings can more than compensate for the lower gross yields that are sometimes attributed to landrace varieties. For gardens with extreme growing conditions, landrace crops may be the only varieties that will produce a harvest.

Johno of the Homegrown Goodness Plant Breeding Forum wrote:
"Landrace: A variety or collection of interbreeding varieties that were developed in a specific location with selection based more or less on survival of the fittest for that location."


History & Politics

For 10,000 years agriculture thrived by growing locally-adapted genetically-diverse seeds. About 60 years ago large corporations started breeding crops so that huge harvests of identically sized and colored produce could be mechanically harvested on the same day. They did this primarily through inbreeding and application of chemicals: discarding most of a species diversity, and then spraying the heck out of it with pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and ripening agents to compensate for the problems caused by the intense inbreeding and shipping needs. It is rare for a home gardener to be able to stick to the strict spray schedules required to get the best yield out of highly inbred crops. I believe that small market farmers, organic growers, and individual gardeners are generally better off growing variable sized produce that ripens over a few weeks or months, and that doesn't require perfect weeding and carefully timed applications of fertilizers and pesticides.

Genetically-diverse crops are less susceptible to complete crop failure due to pests,  disease, or weather. Highly inbred or cloned crops contributed to several crop failures including: The European potato pestilence of 1845-1857, the southern corn rust in Africa in the 1950s, the American corn blight of 1970, and more recently the GMO corn failure in South Africa in 2009.  Genetically diverse crops are less susceptible to these sorts of failures. On my farm, for example, I grow about 5000 genetically unique types of sweet corn. A mega-farm might only grow 1 to 3 genotypes.

As oil and the agrochemicals derived from it become more expensive and less readily available or if there is a meltdown of the financial system I expect landrace farming to become the norm.

Euphytica 104: 127–139, 1998. © 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. Landraces: A review of definitions and classifications A.C. Zeven wrote:"Yield stability of landraces under traditional low input agricultural systems is due to the fact that whatever the varying biotic and abiotic stress for each plant one or more genotypes within the landrace population will yield satisfactorily. Landraces were and still are grown by farmers, market and private gardeners all over the world for this reason."


Continuous Improvement

The greatest benefit that I have noticed on my farm from growing landraces and saving my own seed is that my crops thrive. When I buy a variety from Oregon, or Iowa, or a mega seed company I never know how it will do in my garden: seeds with different genetics can even carry the same label. But if I plant three or four varieties, allow them to promiscuously cross pollinate,  save and replant the seeds from the individual plants that grow best for me, I end up after a year or three with plants that do really well, and that are reliable year after year. I specifically mention Oregon because much of the organic vegetable seed sold to home gardeners in the usa is grown in Oregon, with it's damp, overcast weather. When my neighbors plant that seed in their gardens it burns up because it has not been adapted to our super aridity and brilliant sunlit days.

Seed companies test their seeds for average conditions in average gardens. I believe that means that their seeds may not do as well as seeds that are specifically tailored for specific conditions in specific gardens. I believe that if we want the best cultivars for our own gardens, we ought to be growing genetically diverse crops, and saving the seeds from them in our own gardens and communities. My farm has extreme growing conditions due to the high altitude and short season. It is at the ecological limits of many varieties. I could not reliably grow cantaloupe until I started saving my own seeds.

Better Tasting Food

By saving my own seeds year after year based on what tastes best to me, I have developed strains of vegetables that are immensely pleasing to my taste buds. When I import industrialized varieties from far away I am horrified at how bad they taste to me and wonder how people can tolerate such bland tasting food.

Less Stress

By growing my own landrace seeds I eliminate all sorts of stresses. I don't have to worry about paying for seeds. I don't have to keep pedigrees. I don't have to make labels. I don't have to keep seeds pure or isolated. I can save seeds from hybrids. I don't get out of kilter when the seed catalog drops my favorite variety. I don't have to worry about inbreeding depression, because I can add new genetics whenever I want. I don't have to worry about whether or not I will get a harvest.

Modern inbred varieties rely on poisons for crop protection. Landraces provide crop security via genetic variability.

Alan Bishop -- Homegrown Goodness wrote:"In essence, my landraces are a type of 'crop insurance' by maintaining diversity I maintain my ability, even in the worst years to produce a crop for home or market use with out relying on the government and their regulations or on a insurance corporation to cover my ass."


Open Pollinated or Heirloom vs Landrace

Seeds are sometimes described as being 'heirloom' or 'open pollinated'. These varieties can be highly inbred, often having originated from a single seed, and coming to us via 60 years of inbreeding.  In the seed industry, the term 'open pollinated' has come to mean that every trick known to man has been applied to a variety to insure that no cross-pollination has taken place: The exact opposite of it's plain-English common-sense meaning. Heirloom and open pollinated varieties may also be somewhat genetically diverse, but they are seldom as diverse as a landrace. I describe my landraces as promiscuously pollinated, to call attention to the fact that the genetics are being creolized. What that means in practice, is that many of the plants in my landraces are naturally occurring hybrids, and thus exhibit the vigor typical of hybrids.

AdaptiveSeeds.com 2012 seed catalog. wrote:"A landrace is a variety that has been purposely maintained as a diverse gene pool to help it be more adaptive to harsh conditions."
 

Creating a Landrace

The method most commonly used is to plant approximately equal amounts of seed from several different sources and varieties. My fellow plant breeders and I recommend using primarily heirlooms, and open pollinated varieties. Some hybrids are acceptable. It is common to plant together the seeds from 5-50 varieties to make the original mass cross. The seeds produced by this mass cross are a new proto-landrace. With the first harvest of seed, and in the following years the landrace is tailored to each garden and to each region by adaptive survival-of-the-fittest and farmer-directed selection. Landraces that have been selected to thrive in my arid very sunny high-altitude garden grow much better for me than typical off-the-shelf seeds that were produced in humid semi-overcast regions.

When creating a landrace we include seeds that are available from individuals via the free market (blogs, online auction sites, open-source seed breeding projects, local gardeners, seed swaps). Seeds grown by our neighbors and our local farmer's market are included because they are already at least a year ahead in adapting to our local conditions. Due to cytoplasmic male sterility we recommend that hybrids not be used in the creation of landraces for the following crops: carrots, cabbage, broccoli, onions, beets, potatoes. The following species are generally considered safe even if hybridized: spinach, cantaloupe, squash, tomato, beans, peas. We recommend that landrace crops be screened routinely to eliminate male sterility. (I chop out any plant that doesn't have anthers.)

Landrace crops may also be developed gradually. For example by saving the seeds from whatever you happen to be growing this year, planting the collected seeds, and also planting a new variety in the next row over. Then if the new variety grows well saving the seed from that and adding it to your population.

Importing a Landrace

One of the simplest ways to start a new landrace, is to import an existing landrace into your garden. Because of the wide genetic diversity that exists in the typical landrace, it's very possible that some family or other will do well in the new location.

Maintaining An Adaptive Landrace

I consider it my duty as a farmer to maintain healthy and thriving adaptive populations for the crops that are most desired by the people that I feed. My protocol for doing so is:

  • Add small amounts of new genetics to the genepool from time to time
  • Include a small amount of 2 and 3 year old seed in each year's planting
  • Grow a sufficiently large population to maintain genetic diversity
  • Be liberal during selection: for example by saving fruits of different sizes, shapes, colors, textures, flavors, and maturity dates
  • Swap seeds with the neighbors to enhance local adaptability


  • Wild Garden Seed Catalog, 2009 wrote:"Without synthetic inputs, the true strengths or frailties of a cultivar become clear."


    Examples

    I planted around 100 different varieties of cantaloupe over a four year period. They came from my farm, the surrounding farms, and the Internet. I planted the first packet of seed, and then the next packet, etc without keeping track of which varieties went where until many rows were planted. Some varieties were entirely destroyed by soil microorganisms before they germinated. Some varieties were completely eaten by bugs before they were an inch tall. Some varieties grew slowly and didn't produce a fruit in my garden. Many varieties grew passably and produced fruit by the time the plants were killed by frost. A few individual plants grew vigorously, and produced lots of fruit, and some fruit ripened weeks before first frost. I collect seed from the most productive, the best tasting, and the earliest cantaloupes. I call it "Lofthouse Landrace Muskmelon". The taste, aroma, and texture are immensely pleasing to my primate tastebuds.

    I do something similar with tomatoes... The first of season fruits are saved as "Joseph's Earliest Landrace Tomatoes" pretty much regardless of how they taste or what they look like. Then I save a group that are canning/slicing tomatoes that produce abundantly during my main harvest season. I plant maybe 10 to 100 new varieties per year... If any of them produce as good or better than my current landrace then they are added to one of my gene-pools. It is possible that some varieties could end up in several gene pools. For example an early tomato might still be producing heavily when I collect the "Main Season" seed.

    Plant Purity and Isolation Distances

    When I talk to people about saving seeds, they are often full of fear. What if they don't get isolation distances right? What if the variety gets polluted? How about inbreeding depression? What if their seed is a hybrid or gets crossed?  My response is invariably the same: None of those things matter. The only knowledge that is necessary regarding seed saving is that plants produce seeds, and those seeds can be harvested and replanted. The vegetable species that we are currently eating were created for us by illiterate farmers who's only understanding of genetics was that children tend to resemble their parents and grandparents.

    One of the joys of growing landrace populations is that it greatly simplifies seed saving due to reducing or eliminating worry about plant purity and isolation distances. It seems to me that worrying about purity is one of the biggest impediments to seed saving by small-scale gardeners and farmers.  If I am focused on keeping varieties pure, then I am preventing them from rearranging their genetics. If they can't rearrange their genetics, then they can't adapt to my garden. So I don’t worry much about isolation distances or keeping cultivars pure, because I think my plants are stronger when cultivars cross pollinate each other.  If a Hubbard squash and a banana squash get cross pollinated, all of the offspring are still squash. They grow like squash, they look like squash, they eat like squash. I keep hot peppers separate from sweet peppers, and sweet corn separate from popcorn, but I really don't care what a sweet pepper looks like as long as it is a sweet pepper.
    Likewise, inbreeding depression is only a problem if I am growing a cultivar in strict isolation. If I am constantly adding new genes to a population, then it doesn't much matter how many plants I save seeds from.

    Collaboration

    I welcome collaboration with other growers: Let's swap seeds with each other. One of the strengths of growing landrace plants, is that landraces are all about location, location, location. The plants that we adapt to growing in Cache Valley become ever more acclimated to the valley, and thrive better with each passing decade.

    Landrace Agriculture as an Expression of Pluralistic Values, Jake Wartell wrote:... "farmers who want to honor their plurality of values, minimize risk, and maximally fulfill their needs will plant a diversity of landrace populations that are internally diverse."
     
    Maureen Atsali
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    I'm kinda new here... so this was probably covered in some other thread... but curiosity gets the best of me... how did you lose the weight?  Looking great, by the way.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Maureen Atsali wrote:I'm kinda new here... so this was probably covered in some other thread... but curiosity gets the best of me... how did you lose the weight?  Looking great, by the way.


    Thanks. I lost the weight through a series of successive approximations. First, I stopped eating sugar about 20 years ago, and left the woman that was feeding so much of it to me, and causing so much stress. Then about 8 years ago, I took up farming, so I started getting more exercise. About 6 years ago, I more or less stopped eating wheat, and adopted a sorta paleo-type diet. Two years ago, I started commuting to the farm on bicycle. That's a 14 mile round trip. This summer, I started using a calorie and labor counter. It showed me that my occasional cheating with wheat was very detrimental to me. (Seems like I'm allergic to wheat.) It showed me that I was eating way too many carbohydrates in general.  So I stopped eating any grains, and gave up potatoes -- one of my favorite foods. This morning, I'm at the lowest weight that I have been in decades. My blood pressure is down from around 140/100 to 115/65.  I feel great.

    Then there are lifestyle things that I adopted along the way. Things like: intermittent fasting including twice a year fasts for a week. Getting my body used to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. Foraging in the garden. Eating only between Noon and dark. Not eating just before bed. Drinking plenty of water so that I'm not eating because I'm dehydrated. Eating for nutrition, and not just for the sake of eating. Yoga. Visiting friends. Not eating soybean or canola oil. (And thus no processed foods that are filled with those oils.)  Using coconut or olive oils instead. Eating more flax, chia, and fish. Eating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric. Getting plenty of winter sunshine over as much of my body as possible. Only eating things that I can determine what species they are. (No mystery pastes, sauces, or glops.) What I eat has to look and taste like it came from the natural world, and not from a chemical factory.

    My future intent regarding my diet is to eat more (cooked) greens. This fall, I put a lot of effort into identifying greens that work for me and my farm.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I shelled flour corn today. Here are photos of my setup.

    The first photo shows an overview: The sheller and the winnower. There is a fan sitting just to the left of the photo. The second photo shows a closeup of the sheller.

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    Corn processing equipment.
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    Corn sheller from the 1880s. Still working.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I cleaned corn seed today by winnowing.

    The first photo is of the winnower in operation. There is a box fan operating on high to the left of the photo. The inclined ramp shoots the seed into the wind with a lot of velocity. I really like using a ramp, because it seems to offer a better separation than pouring between buckets. The ramp has a gate, to allow the seed to be fed at a consistent rate. That also seems to help with separatoin. The second photo is of the corn after one pass through the winnower. The third photo is of chaff and broken seeds that were blown away from the seed. For seed or food for humans, I typically run the seed through the winnower about 3 times. This batch is food for animals, so a single pass was sufficient.
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    Cleaning corn seed by winnowing.
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    Corn seed cleaned by winnowing.
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    Chaff and broken corn seeds separated from good seeds.
     
    Tracy Wandling
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    Thanks for showing your set-up, Joseph. There are so many little things like that which can make work easier and faster, and it's great to see how others are getting the job done. I am working on plans for making harvesting and processing faster and easier for myself, and seeing your set-up has given me more good ideas. Thanks for sharing your smart-cookie ideas so freely!

    I'll be keeping my eyes open for an old corn sheller in my travels!

    Cheers
    Tracy
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    The corn sheller came to me rusty, rusty rusty. I took it apart, rubbed flax-seed oil on it, and then baked it in the oven. The beautiful patina which was created has lasted for years. It is cast iron after all.

    It uses a standard sized handle, but came without one. So I carved a handle out of wood. If I were closer to a thrift store, I would watch for a handle.

     
    Tracy Wandling
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    Brilliant. I love finding treasures. I'm always looking for cool things for the ol' homestead. I'm especially on the lookout for older hand-operated gadgets, but haven't come across any yet. I find lots of interesting and useful things at our free store, but so far everyone seems to be keeping their treasures for themselves!

    Thanks for sharing your creations!
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I built a germination testing and seed starting chamber a few weeks ago. I'm running germination tests to make sure that the seeds that I'm sharing are of high quality. It has a thermostat that controls a 200 watt heater. It has a timer that turns on fluorescent lights (for 12 hours per day). When I use it for starting seeds for planting, I'll put the heating circuit on the timer as well, so the seeds will get a daily warm/cool cycle as well as the light/dark cycle.

    I don't know why I even try to grow pea seed. The weevil damage this year is tremendous. That germination test failed dramatically!!!

    While I'm doing testing, I'm testing seed from many years ago, just to get an idea how well it stores. As an example, muskmelon seed that was grown in 2012 germinated at 97%.



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    First pots into germination chamber.
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    Germination Testing after the first day
     
    André Troylilas
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    Way cool Joseph!
    I have miserably failed at starting 'Norli' and 'Zuccola' green peas this year in the greenhouse (7% germination rate, but some other peas like 'Express Généreux' are almost at 100%).
    So... I just started to use a heating mat on top of an insulation, and am still waiting for the lamps to come to build some kind of seed starting chamber for the most difficult seeds.
    Not the same goals as yours, but kind of similar needs.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    We have had a bit of snow. Five more weeks till I start planting the cold-weather crops into the greenhouse.

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    Snow
     
    Maureen Atsali
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    I was at the agro-vet yesterday picking up a salt-lick for Miss Moo, and low and behold, I saw a brand new cast iron maize sheller, just like the one in your photo.  Had you not shared your photo, I probably would not have known what I was looking at.  Obviously it must work well, or you wouldn't be using it.  Does it break a lot of kernals?  I was afraid to ask the price, because I'm broke and its not on "the list"... but I keep thinking about it.  I only grow maize for fresh-eating and seed saving at this point, but my MIL has 4+ acres of maize which we currently shell entirely by hand.  Oh, my aching thumbs.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I've torn the skin off my thumbs before while shelling corn by hand!

    The corn sheller breaks kernels. The amount of breakage depends on the characteristics of the corn. Popcorn has hard kernels. It's rare to break a popcorn kernel. Flour corn has huge soft kernels. It's more common to break flour kernels. Additionally, some cobs hold very tightly onto their kernels, while other cobs shed kernels readily. More kernels are damaged from cobs with tightly held kernels.  If the cobs are not fully dry, kernels are damaged more readily. Overall, in the worst case, I see up to about 5% breakage.

    It's common for me to toss a cob into the chicken-food bin if it holds onto it's kernels tightly. I want to select for easier shelling.  As far as timing goes, it takes about 2 seconds to shell a cob. And the kernels go one direction, and the spent cob goes another.

     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Ooops. The greenhouse handled 3 feet of snow just fine. It didn't handle the rainstorm on top of the snow. My bad. I should have brushed the snow off before it rained.

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    Snow damaged greenhouse
     
    Tracy Wandling
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    Well, that's a bummer. 
     
    Maureen Atsali
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    Well crap - sorry about the snow/rain damage.  I grew up in Vermont, and I do NOT miss the snow.

    I went back yesterday to look closer at that maize sheller.  The cost is KSH 3500, that's roughly $35 USD depending on the exchange rate.  Its not exactly the same design as yours, this one appears to be a little more simple... and maybe not as strong.  Everything here breaks so easy, I can't imagine it lasting for the next 100 years like yours!  I was really tempted to buy it, but my husband vetoed that idea, as we have a billion projects underway that all need money.  Maybe later...
     
    Casie Becker
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    If that's the one I think it is, I think replacements pieces for the damaged sections are available. I hope you were able to rescue any plants growing in the meantime.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    The greenhouse roof bent back into shape pretty well. I added some reinforcement to it. I want to modify the glazing so that it overhangs the gutter. The gutter seems like a design flaw to me. Without the gutter, snow would just slide off the roof.

    We've had a bit more snow. I try to keep the mailbox accessible to the mailman...  The bike is for scale...



     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Sometimes, all it takes to open a squash, is the right tools.
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    Cutting squash with machette and hammer.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    By this afternoon the snow had partially  melted off of my main field.  I took a tour and a photo.

    The winter peas that I have been working on for 8 growing seasons survived in style! My task this year is to select for early fruiting. With the snow melted for less than a day, the foliage of many species was squashed flat, but still very  green. Another week or three should give me a better idea of what survived. The winter hardy kale project was very successful. Lots of plants survived. Thousands went into winter so odds were very favorable for some of them to do well.


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    Snow almost melted
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I cooked a squash today, and Eureka!!! The traits of the squash are not at all what I was expecting. It was harvested as a maxima buttercup. But closer examination leads me to believe that it is an inter-species hybrid between my buttercup squash, and a moschata squash. That's just the kind of rare occurrence that I love as a plant breeder. This is the second time in 8 growing seasons that I have identified a possible cross between these two species. Last time the seeds didn't germinate. This time, there are more seeds, and I intend to treat them more carefully. Fingers crossed for something great. I'm daydreaming about buttercup flavor in a necked squash, and moschata resistance to vine borers in a hubbard.

    The large white seeds are what seeds of the mother of the cross look like.




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    Possible Maxima/Moschata interspecies hybrid squash
     
    Tracy Wandling
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    Well, THAT is exciting! Can't wait to see what they turn out like. The pest resistance is a very exciting aspect of plant breeding to me. Imagine if we could breed resistant varieties and share them with all of our gardening friends. What a wonderful world it would be!
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    I had a beautiful time threshing the rice at the Mountain West Seed Summit last weekend. Might as well dance on the grains, and enjoy them fully.

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    Dancing On The Rice.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    The winter snowcover was mostly melted off of one of my fields today. So I went for a walk in the mud to see what survived.

    Last fall, I sent hundreds of fava beans into winter as either older plants, or as young seedlings. Preliminary results are looking like the older plants died, but about 10% of the young seedlings survived. Woo Hoo!!! I am well on my way to be able to select for winter-hardy fava beans! The coldest temperature last winter was around -20 F for about 2 days. That's 30 F colder than is generally considered safe for fava beans. There were plenty of days near 0 F.

    Spinach sailed through winter. I hope to get it into the ground earlier next fall.

    First flowers of spring, and it was warm enough for bees to be flying.

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    Winter hardy (and not) fava beans.
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    Overwintered spinach
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    First flowers of spring
     
    Tracy Wandling
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    Yahoo! That's very cool, Joseph.
     
    John Weiland
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    Wow, beautiful photo, Joseph.  We were below zero F this morning so still some ways to go.  On a more positive note, some turnip and beet roots that I planted about 2 weeks ago inside are yielding some nice turnip and beet green foliage in a south facing window.  Signs of something green are always encouraging.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    The first signs of spring seem like the sweetest signs. Yesterday I ate turnip roots that survived the winter where they grew last fall. No mulch, just snowcover. Also ate some spinach greens, just to say that I could. I suppose that I aughta eat some dandelion. It's only going to get more and more bitter the longer I wait. .



     
    Maureen Atsali
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    Yay for spring!  I do miss the changing seasons (winter? Not so much.). What is the first project you will tackle this spring?
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Maureen Atsali wrote: What is the first project you will tackle this spring?


    The first outside project that I typically undertake is to plant the fava beans. I have already prepared the soil, so I expect to plant them within a day or two. While I'm at it, I'll plant garbanzos, lentils, and shelling peas. I suppose that I'll plant some wildflowers and medicinal herbs.

    Then pruning the grape vines, and chopping them into cuttings to try to root them.

    I'm planting something in the greenhouse every day. Today, I'm planting the earliest tomatoes that I expect to have ready in one gallon pots for the opening day of farmer's market. I have already planted cacti, succulents, onions, favas, flowering bulbs, garlic, sage, thyme, and tomatoes. 

    I sent a tremendous number of young kale plants into winter as part of my "Winter-hardy Kale" project. The vast majority of them died, but because of the huge numbers of plants, many survived. This is the second generation of kale that survived the winter in my garden. I am hyped! I could start eating kale today, a couple days after the snowcover melted. It will be a very long time before the spring planted kale is ready to eat.
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    Already growing some things in the greenhouse.
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    Second generation of kale to survive the winter.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Seed Broadcast interviewed me at the Mountain West Seed Summit. Here's a link to the podcast: Seed Broadcast: Joseph Lofthouse shares a story about Land Race farming from seed to food

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    Photo Courtesy of Seed Broadcast. Creative Commons.
     
    Maureen Atsali
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    Wow! I am in awe of your productivity!  Do you work alone, or you have people to help you?

    Great picture, but my phone wouldn't play the podcast.  Bummer. 
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Maureen: I mostly labor alone in my fields. My work is only possible though because of the huge community of collaborators that surrounds me. People that share equipment, seeds, vision, encouragement, food, transportation, land, etc... My work depends on a functional community-wide irrigation system which I do not maintain.

     
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