Joseph Lofthouse

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since Dec 16, 2014

Joseph Lofthouse grew up on the farm and in the community that was settled by his ggg-grandmother and her son. He still farms there. Growing conditions are high-altitude brilliantly-sunlit desert mountain valley in Northern Utah with irrigation, clayish-silty high-pH soil, super low humidity, short-season, and intense radiant cooling at night. Joseph learned traditional agricultural and seed saving techniques from his grandfather and father. Joseph is a sustenance market farmer and landrace seed-developer. He grows seed for about 95 species. Joseph is enamored with landrace growing and is working to convert every species that he grows into adaptivar landraces. He writes the Landrace Gardening Blog for Mother Earth News.
Farming Philosophy
Promiscuous Pollination and ongoing segregation are encouraged in all varieties. Joseph's style of landrace gardening can best be summed up as throwing a bunch of varieties into a field, allowing them to promiscuously cross pollinate, and then through a combination of survival-of-the-fittest and farmer-directed selection saving seeds year after year to arrive at a locally-adapted genetically-diverse population that thrives because it is closely tied to the land, the weather, the pests, the farmer's habits and tastes, and community desires.
Joseph lives under a vow of poverty and grows using subsistence level conditions without using cides or fertilizers. He prefers to select for genetics that can thrive under existing conditions. He figures that it is easier to change the genetics of a population of plants than it is to modify the soil, weather, bugs, etc. For example, because Joseph's weeding is marginal, plants have to germinate quickly, and burst out of the soil with robust growth in order to compete with the weeds.
Joseph is preserving the genes of thousands of varieties of plants, but does not keep individual varieties intact or pure. The stories don't matter to him. What matters is the web of ongoing life. For his purposes a squash is a squash is a squash. Plant purity doesn't exist in Joseph's world, other than in very broad ways like keeping hot peppers separate from sweet peppers. Some landraces might even contain multiple species!
Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Recent posts by Joseph Lofthouse

I have been feeling uneasy about the crazy winds mentioned in the title of this thread, and the ongoing comments about mitigating winds. When I closely examine photos of the trees in Ocean View, I don't see much evidence that wind is particularly troubling to them. They tend to be growing approximately vertical.  

A recent comment about "dry air" was particularly jarring to me... This is Hawaii that we are talking about, where it is humid to muggy more than 85% of the time... Seems to me, like the winds should be welcomed into the garden in celebration of the humidity and mugginess that they bring with them, not excluded by fears of drying stuff out. I have never built an air-well, they won't work here, but it seems like they would thrive on being exposed to wind.

Manually moving bedrock is back-breakingly slow work. A person might work all week, and only have moved enough rock set a kitchen chair into the pit. Moving bedrock with equipment isn't much quicker...

My experience is that it is the small things that are the most effective at terraforming:

Going out during a rainstorm, to watch where the water runs, and putting a pebble or twig into a rivulet to slow the flow a little bit...
Doing that during 1000 rainstorms could accomplish a tremendous amount of terraforming.  
Visiting on a foggy day to pay attention to which species of plants collect the most mist, and planting more of them.
Going out first thing in the morning to measure which rock configurations are collecting the most dew.

There have been a few posts in this thread by those who are living/working in Hawaii. They strike me as the most valuable: Local advice for local problems.

2 hours ago
Dan: Thanks for the stories. Perhaps it's time for me to get reacquainted with my .270 Winchester deer rifle. I can't remember firing it since I was a teenager. Perhaps it's awesome power has been embellished by my memory since that time. Uh... Maybe not so much. I've been looking up cartridge energies. A .303 British releases about 40% less energy than a .270 Winchester, which is the only deer rifle I have used. And, it only weighs 7.5 pounds, so it's easy as can be to carry. (Another 40% more kick than a 13 pound gun). These sorts of details have definitely colored my speculations in this thread.  
9 hours ago
I do not enjoy firing my deer hunting rifle. It is loud, it kicks like hell. I would consider it child abuse to allow a 6 year old to fire it. I probably wouldn't allow anyone under 100 pounds to fire it. Kids tend to achieve that weight around 12 to 14. My deer hunting rifle is specific for western hunting with wide open vistas and long shooting ranges. Some of the brush-type hunting rifles might be more suitable for smaller bodied shooters, but I really question whether there is enough body mass for a six year old to be able to safely fire a rifle that is powerful enough for deer hunting. Isn't .223 REM generally considered the least-powerful caliber suitable for deer hunting?

Edit to add: Hmm. Put the gun on a tripod, sandbag it well, and shoot a mostly tame deer from a blind? I'm fine with that. My family has never undertaken that kind of a hunt.
11 hours ago

There may also be political an economic forces at play... If a family is living on the edge economically, and a 6 year old can get a hunting tag. Then family survival might well depend on the six year old stepping up and doing the responsible thing of taking a deer.

11 hours ago
My intent is to keep high-powered guns away from 6 year olds. I believe that they don't have the motor skills, or self-awareness to be able to reliably follow gun safety rules, or to keep their mouth shut,  so as to not frighten off prey. I observe those skills begin to develop by about age 8. So after they have learned to not fidget/talk, then it might be appropriate for 8 year olds to accompany a hunt, but only with close supervision. In my own family, I'm not interested in allowing people under 12 to be hunting with high-powered weapons. Highly supervised target shooting. Fine. I might allow them a less supervised BB or pellet gun, accepting that the occasional flesh wound or broken window is part of learning responsibility.    
11 hours ago
One thing that I observe frequently on this site, is "armchair experts" trying to correct "the grunt in the field". While the grunt and his family have been feeding the community for millennia, the academics pause their ethereal discussions, to go have lunch in the university restaurant without ever actually realizing that their food comes from the Earth and that grunt was partially responsible, and that grunt might know a good bit more than the academics about growing food.

One time at farmer's market, a professor from the University said to me, "What, are your credentials to be a farmer?" I laughed out loud, spread my arms wide to encompass two tables full of fresh, healthy, better-than-organic, tasty vegetables, and replied, "My resume is spread out on the table in front of you."

I tend to simply avoid having discussions with academics, and proof seekers. I'll just post photos of a table full of vegetables, and let it bother them, that someone that is so wrong, can perpetually produce so much food, using such deprecated methods and germplasm.

The strategy that I have adopted at my farm is to plant crops in ways that minimize competition from weeds. Then I do the minimal amount of weeding necessary to harvest a crop. The weeds are providing biomass to the garden. They are feeding the insects, microbes, fungi, and larger animals. They are shading the soil, and minimizing the growth of other weeds. And they are free propagules that are highly locally-adapted. Many of my current weeds are edible, even highly palatable and nutritious. As a plant breeder, I claim that growing lots of weeds is a "feature" of my breeding programs, because I want to select for crops that thrive, in spite of competition from weeds.

Sure there are a few species of weeds that are banned from my farm: Burdock, because of the fierce burrs, and Goathead Puncture Vine, because I live habitually barefoot. Anything else is more or less allowed to grow to some degree or other.
12 hours ago

If a lot of Horsetail is growing in a garden, that would imply to me that the cultivation practices and the garden's propagules-bank favor Horsetail over other types of plants. Disrupt the Horsetail more, and grow more of other things, and the balance will shift to other species. (Which might be harder or easier to deal with than Horsetail.)
1 day ago
One design feature I forgot to mention is the insulated roof over the solarium, and the vertical windows. That made it so that almost no sunshine came into the solarium during the summer months, thus avoiding overheating.
1 day ago
Another year, another generation of sunflowers... They were tall enough for me, and made enough seeds.