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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

The sooner the better....

Find out where they are.
Brush them into a box.
Put the box in your apiary.

11 hours ago

Tatiana Trunilina wrote:If I plant any lush greenery, every critter in the neighborhood will zero in on our lot and not let the cover crops do their job. 

Perhaps it would help to redefine the role of a cover crop... If you are attracting "every critter in the neighborhood", they will be dropping manure all over your place. That sounds super-wonderful to me: Free manure imported from the whole neighborhood!!! What's not to like about that?

As an example: When I pruned trees at my place as part of wildfire-proofing, I removed limbs from the lower 6 feet of the trees. Then the free-range cattle started flocking in for miles around to use them for shade during the summer. So I ended up collecting tremendous amounts of manure under the pruned trees. The manure just mummifies, because it is the desert after all, but the mummies are sitting around waiting to be activated by a rainy season one of these decades.

11 hours ago

Around here, we have a rather standard meal that we prepare for such occasions.

Funeral potatoes: potatoes in a cheese sauce and baked. Served hot.

DIY Sandwiches: bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, or other sandwich veggies and an assortment of sauces.

Salad: Only mixed vegetables. Things like dressing, cheese, crotons may be added separately by the guest.

Having a do-it yourself sandwich and salad allows people of any dietary type to choose which ingredients to include or exclude from their plate.
11 hours ago

I grow a genetically diverse selection of runner beans. One year I dug the plants in the fall, and sent those with large rhizomes to a friend in a warmer climate. Only some of the plants had roots that looked like they might be perennial: 3 plants out of 100. So I'm speculating that some varieties might be more perennial than others. Also, based on my results, some varieties are likely to store much more energy in the roots, and thus may be able to get themselves started much more robustly in the spring. And it seems like perennial-ness would be an easy trait to select for if starting with a genetically diverse population.

My collaborators and I have written more about this at: http://alanbishop.proboards.com/thread/8919/over-winter-runner-bean-roots
12 hours ago

Ed Bradley wrote:So if you are selling something you made or a perform a service - investigate what other are charging and only make what you can profit from.
Try working the formula starting with the average market price is and work backwards.

I did that sort of math one year for the vegetables I grow. Kept track of labor per row per species, and amount harvested, and came up with a number which was something like $/hour for each crop. It made it easy to see which crops gave the highest return on investment. What I value has shifted since then. It was valuable information at the time.
4 days ago
Ben: Wonderful job growing a crop of grain!!!

I typically harvest and thresh on the same day. My strategy is to harvest about the time that the heads start to shatter, or before heavy rains are expected. I irrigate standing grains by sprinkle irrigation, so I may also choose to harvest just before irrigating. The time between when the grain is dry in the field, and I harvest it, may be as long as 3 to 4 weeks. Some collaborators report problems with predation by birds, but I don't have that issue in my fields.

I don't stook grains, so I can't offer advice. Sometimes, if a grain is not quite dry before I harvest, I may harvest it, and lay it on tarps for several days to finish drying.

I like to grow grains that are waist high at maturity. It makes harvesting easy. I sweep my hand through the patch, gathering about 20 heads. Cut them off with secateurs, and throw them on a threshing tarp. I leave the straw standing in the field. Of course I do this while daydreaming about scythes.
I know lots of successful farmer's that are growing on land that they don't own, and using the pre-existing infrastructure. I think of myself as a "vacant lot farmer". It's been ten years now, and I don't see any reason why I would want to own land.

The thing about plants and animals, is that they are self-reproducing. So you buy a packet of seeds for $2, and it contains enough seed to grow that species for a lifetime, and pass it on to your grandchildren.
4 days ago
The farmer's market I attend is located in a University town. Go Aggies!!! One day a lady came to market, and she says to me, "What? -- are your credentials? -- to be a farmer?" I laughed in joy, spread my arms wide to encompass two tables full of beautiful, better than organic vegetables, and I replied, "My resume is displayed on the table in front of you." LOL! That pretty much made my year as a farmer.

I highly discourage anyone from going into debt to "get an education". In my estimation, it's not smart to graduate from university with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. I think that the smartest people are those that go directly into the workforce, or that attend a trade school.

I would recommend a trade that might be useful in a homesteading community... Farming, animal husbandry, welding, irrigation, etc.

There is always a tension between earning money off-farm, and settling into homesteading habits that minimize the need to earn money. I see a lot of people trying to do what I think of as half-homesteading. They want to hold onto the new car, and a house payment. Then they need a job to pay for them. Then they don't have the time to do homesteading properly, and they have to pay for things that a homesteader would be creating on-farm. If/when I ever do homesteading, I expect to ditch the car, the house, and the farmer's market. If people want to buy vegetable from me as a homesteader, they can come visit.

4 days ago
Hose fittings are also available in stainless steel, which aught to be resistant to corrosion, and very strong.
4 days ago

Natasha Flue wrote:The hardest thing for me to remember is that I can breed for negative traits, even by accident.

I do a lot of inadvertent plant breeding: Selecting for traits that I didn't know I was selecting for... Things like earliness are obvious. Other traits are not so simple to observe. For example, one year, I trialed a whole bunch of new tomato varieties. They sucked, cause the fruits would lay on the ground and rot... (I don't trellis tomatoes). That caused me to really observe my tomatoes to see what was going on... I had inadvertently been selecting for tomatoes that stood more upright, and kept the fruits off the ground. If they don't touch the ground, then they don't experience ground-rot.

One year I introduced the "exploding fruits" trait into my watermelons. Ooops. While it's a fun trait, and I'm glad that it played in my garden, I didn't feel inclined to keep it in the population.