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Joseph Lofthouse

garden master
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since Dec 16, 2014
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bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert

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

David Livingston wrote:I rather like your idea of communalism Joseph and would join such a group here if I could and do my best to encourage such activity where I live.

Around here, it's not about joining a group. It's about what mindset you bring to your interactions with others... For example, when I take vegetables to the farmer's market, am I making money? Or operating a food pantry? Or am I being fed by the food pantry? I often leave market with eggs, meat, cheese, bread, beverages, medicinals, and veggies that I didn't grow. I didn't buy them, or swap for them. They just show up, so I say thank you. Then gift them to others during market, or make stops on the way home to distribute them to those that need them more than I.

Sure at my market we have the Yankee businessman that counts every radish that he sells, but mostly we have a communitarian outlook towards life. In my valley, those two economic systems are peacefully co-existing.

2 hours ago

I'm looking forward to the reorganization of the current economic model. However it shakes out, I expect that my people will come up with something totally novel and different from other remnants of the usa. Hmm. Thinking more closely about it, about half of my local community have already adopted  alternate economic models: some flavor of voluntary communalism.

The primary economy is always Mother. Without our kin the soil, the plants, the animals, the sun, the wind, there is no other economy. So when we take care of the Earth, we are taking care of the only economy that we can't live without.
4 hours ago
To me, the concept of species is very muddled and mixed up. As a plant breeder, I am all the time making, or attempting to make inter-species crosses, and even entirely new species. I use all sorts of tricks to overcome hybridization barriers. As examples: Using artificial lighting to change what time of year a species flowers, so that it will be flowering at the same time as a different species. Cutting off the stigma that would normally reject pollen from a different species. Pollinating with mixed species pollen. Plain old making tens of thousands of crossing attempts to find the one in a thousand that works.

I love looking at the genetics, say of plants growing along the shore of a huge lake. Each plant can breed successfully with it's nearby kin, but by the time the species has spread to circumnavigate the lake, they may be incapable of reproducing with others of their same kind. So they are two separate species at that point, with lots of intermediates spread along the lake shore.

I would feel very comfortable calling Chihuahua and Great Dane separate species.

Here's an interesting article I found that discusses the genetics of social behavior in humans. I've noticed this sort of thing in breeds of dogs... Sure love the personality of a blue heeler for example, and every blue heeler has approximately the same personality. http://time.com/91081/what-science-says-about-race-and-genetics/ "The economic historian Gregory Clark has provided one by daring to look at a plausible yet unexamined possibility: that productivity increased because the nature of the people had changed." In other words, that their genetics changed which ushered in the industrial revolution.
16 hours ago

Todd Parr wrote:The template goes something like: There are rich people in the world.  They have more than they need.  There are poor people in the world.  They are hungry and cold.  Having more than you need when other people have less than they need is evil.  Therefore, rich people are evil.

We sure live in different worlds... In my culture, the story goes more like this: God smiles on holy people, and blesses them with riches. Therefore anyone that is poor is a sinner, but we can still provide food and warmth for sinners. In my culture, the rich voluntarily care for the poor. Heck, even the poor voluntarily care for each other, and for the rich that fall on hard times.

16 hours ago

Thanks John. It's nice to know that there are two red plant pigments out there, the anythocyanins, and the betalains. The betalains are found in cacti, carnations, amaranths, ice plants, beets, etc. To honor my commitment to eat lots of diverse foods, I intend to include more of the betalain producing caryophyllales in my diet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caryophyllales. I'm already growing red-root amaranth, beets, chard, orach, cactus, sorrel, and rhubarb. I grow spinach,  lambsquarters, and purslane too, but don't remember seeing red or yellow coloration in the leaves. A little bit in the stem sometimes. I've tried growing kinwa. It has colored leaves.  

I grew two seed crops of beets this summer. A patch of yellow beets, and a patch of red beets. The patches were separated by about 20 feet. The cross pollination rate between them was about 5% (as demonstrated by 5% red seedlings showing up in the yellow beet seed.) That is very consistent with what I see in other crops. The mathematics of pollination make it a highly localized phenomena, with an occasional rare pollination from further away. That rare event might make a difference to a seed company that is using the crop to grow "foundation seed" for the whole world. But it doesn't matter at all to me as a small scale farmer. I don't care if 5% of my yellow beets end up being red beets.

I think of drip irrigation as a fad that is highly dependent on petroleum. Seems like it's purpose is to trap gardeners into a constant cycle of buying consumables. My family is still using metal irrigation pipe that was purchased by my grandfather when I was a small child. The maintenance cycle on metal sprinkle irrigation systems is measured in decades, not in weeks or months. The brass spray nozzles on my irrigation pipe can easily spit out a grasshopper. Even small moss particles clog drip emitters.

Water doesn't wink out of existence when it is used. Anything that evaporates from my field settles as dew or rain in the nearby mountains, or further afield. I don't worry about "wasting" water, because it cannot be wasted, it can only be put back into the water cycle.

Drip tends to water a tiny pocket of soil. Thus minimizing the area that roots can expand into, thus limiting the amount of nutrients that plants can pull from the soil. It seems to me like I'd be turning my farm into something akin to a bunch of small pots, one under each emitter.

Watering my one acre field with drip would require about 3 miles of drip tape. I currently water it with 720 feet of aluminum sprinkler pipe, but I could get by with 240 feet if I wanted to move pipe during the week.

The initial cost of a metal sprinkler irrigation system might be about double that of a drip system, but the metal sprinkler system could still be in use by your grandchildren or great grandchildren, while a drip system will be cluttering a landfill starting as soon as the first growing season.
1 day ago

At my place, beets are not reliably winter hardy. So I dig them in the fall and store them till replanting in the spring. That lets me select for shape of the roots. And I can cut off a side of the beet for tasting.
That looks like a great pan to me...

If it were mine, I would sand it up. Put a light coating of the grapseed oil on it, and bake it in the oven at 350 F for an hour.

2 days ago

I would expect the older sewing machine to be well constructed and well worth saving. Often a good cleaning is all that is necessary to get them working properly again, and maybe replace a rotted belt. Oils can polymerize and collect dust so become sticky instead of lubricating.
2 days ago