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Mark Reed

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since Mar 19, 2020
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SE Indiana
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Recent posts by Mark Reed

Eric Hanson wrote:Hello,
1). Fast growing (for obvious reasons)
2). Have great heating value
3). Useful as lumber
4). Rot resistant
5). Copice easily (or pollard easily)
6). Disease resistant, grows on most any soil
7). Anything else?

I'm lucky that I didn't have to start from scratch, my land came that way. The ones you mentioned, Black Locust and Osage Orange being primarily useful for nearly all things on your list. Osage Orange however has not grown back fast enough to be really useful for firewood on a rotational basis. Although it doesn't take a big Osage branch to make pretty good fire wood. I Reckon if a feller had one of those fancy rocket mass heaters a few twigs of Osage would be all he needed.

Got to be careful burning Osage, it gets really really hot, really really fast. It can make a cast iron stove glow in the dark. When I burn it I put a single chunk on top of a fire that had burned down to just coals and without any other pieces with it. It goes ahead and burns a lot like coal. I have a stock of Osage that was cut twenty years ago and stored most of the time, not even covered, it is as solid as it ever was, I only burn it when it is really cold and I'm short on other wood. Most of my Osage was not and is not straight enough for posts, at least not the ones small enough for me to cut. I know when I'm beat and when it comes to a two foot thick Osage Orange tree it's before I even start.  Plus I think they are beautiful trees and wanted to leave some of the really big ones around the edges of what became the yard.

I love Easter Red Cedar and use it for wind breaks, beauty, wild life habitat and the like but find it doesn't really hold up long term for posts and isn't much good for firewood. It will burn of course but really fast and gucks up a chimney pretty quick. Again it might be great for a RMH, assuming they really do completely burn the gasses.

Black Locust is by far the winner on the fire wood, fence posts, building posts, grows back fast, bean poles and other categories. Probably the most useful and used tree on my place. I don't mind the thorns too much but do recommend gloves when working with it.

I have no experience in growing trees for lumber. Seems to me about any that might be good for that take way too long to get big enough for it. Unless maybe you planted them for you grand kids to harvest. At my place Oak and Pecan grow the fastest, I have lots of both, some are 20 plus years old and quite nice young shade trees but I guess need another 75 or so years to be lumber of any quality. Some Oak that I rescued from the weeds, honeysuckle and wild grape back then are considerably bigger but anyone who eyeballs them with a chain saw in hand will be shot on sight. All of my Pecan trees were planted by seed and a few are just now  starting to make a few pecans, not even big enough for fire wood really and I'd have to be pretty damn cold to even consider it. Walnut and Hickory both grow slower but I have Walnut, planted at the same time of some of my Pecan that have producing nuts for several years where the Pecan and just recently started, nothing so far from the Hickory.
2 weeks ago
This is maybe somewhat off topic but I'm reminded of a experience I had. I really don't like it when I buy something and it wears out before I think I got my monies worth form it.

I had a pair of hiking boots, actually I still have them, nailed to a gate post and currently inhabited by some wren birds. After wearing them for a while the sole of one came loose from the boot and they were ruined.

When that happened I wrote to the company, including attached photos of the boots. I explained that I had only had the boots for approximately 40 years. I doubt that I had walked much over a thousand miles in them. I had crossed  probably not more that 50 rivers and creeks and waded, in the edges of only two great lakes. I had never subjected them to rough terrain unless of course you count the Grand Teton and various other small hills from Colorado to Georgia, and I swear, only one active volcano.

I complained that after such light usage the boots were falling apart, to just ignore the chain saw gouge in the one that is still good because that was my own fault  and no, I don't have the receipt.

I forgot about till a couple weeks later when an email came that said only, "what size?" I answered that email and the next day a Fed X man brought me some new boots.

2 weeks ago
I don't put much stock in most of what I've read about native American or even colonial origin of particular cultivars of things. Most of it just seems overly romanticized and lacking in any real provable confirmation.

That said, here in Southern Indiana the only named potatoes I remember as a kid from 60 years ago are Kennebec and Pontiac. They were my mother's favorites and I know that my grandfather grew them, probably going back 100 years. That's a far cry from Indian and settler times.

As far as sweet potatoes, most any will grow here but I don't remember them at all as a kid. I think they are traditionally more a southern crop. I don't know if native Americans of this region grew them much at all, I would be interested in any documentation or stories that they did. They are such an easy and productive crop it seems to me that if they were grown much by the natives that they would be part of their generally accepted agricultural history along with beans, corn and squash. Sweet potatoes most often don't even make actual seeds, many don't even bloom. Propagation is done by saving roots to make slips the next year but they are very intolerant to cold. Back then it would have been very difficult to keep roots alive over winter.

That's not a problem for us though cause we keep our houses above freezing all winter.  Unless the historical aspect is of interest and importance, I would just get a few kinds and then keep propagating the ones I liked best.  There is one called Georgia Jet and another called Nancy Hall and some from New Jersey whose names I've forgotten. They have been around a long time but no where near back to settler or native times, I don't think. I suspect that back then they were only grown in areas that didn't freeze in the winter, they are perennial in those places.

Actually I breed sweet potatoes and have done a LOT of research on them but it was mostly focused on how to get them to make seeds, I just glossed over anything else. I'm making a mental note to dig all that out this winter and go through it to see if there are hints of when they came to be cultivated and if there are any named varieties still around that date back that far.

3 weeks ago
To me, when it comes to growing food, these general lists of the "best" for are generally worthless. Of course nutrition and calories are important but what over rides that is, what can CAN I grow?

Potatoes for example are worthless to me. Sure, I still grow a few every year but they won't grow here like they used to, it generally just gets too hot and dry too fast for potatoes anymore. Sweet potatoes on the other hand thrive for me and produce an abundance of easily stored food. I can also grow them as house plants for some fresh greens in the winter. I can also grow sweet potatoes from seeds, eliminating the necessity of keeping clones alive during the off season.

I love carrots and can plant them in late summer, leaving them in the ground to harvest when ever the ground isn't frozen.

I grow a LOT of common beans, Lima beans and cowpeas. Not all that difficult to harvest 50 pounds of dry beans from a small garden.

I don't grow cabbage or brussels sprouts or any of those but I do grow a landrace mix of that species. Planted in fall it begins producing an abundant harvest of delicious flower stalks and leaves in very early spring, this harvest continues for several weeks and is untouched by the worms that plague these plants if grown in warmer weather.

I don't know that I can ever produce a significant amount of corn in my small space but still, I am working on a landrace for use as animal food and eventually for cornbread, hominy and other things. Sweet corn is a treat for sure but I don't consider it food, certainly not a survival food.

Squash is another worthless crop for me, in the same category as potatoes. I used to grow lots of it but changing weather and insect conditions have made it way too iffy to depend on for actual food production.  I love my melons but again they are summer time treats, not survival food.

Herbs and the like are great, they add variety of flavors, but food? Not really.

Turnips, radishes, lettuce, onion, garlic and many other things always find a spot in my gardens. What I consider survival foods are those things that either produce an abundance of easily storable food or that can be harvested fresh from the ground all all or most of the  year.

I'm rethinking a little about how I categorized sweet corn and melons as treats instead of food. If they feed me a few days during the summer season they certainly are food and I reckon help provide the calories I need  keep working in the garden.

I guess my point is just that my garden has become much more productive since I started disregarding the lists of "best" the recommendations of "how" and all the other stuff that gets published. Instead I started observing the plants and focusing on what actually likes growing in my garden. Those that aren't happy in my garden, I part company with. I'm not gonna mess with pampering something that obviously doesn't like it here.

I've never done an analysis, I don't know the total amount of calories I produce and store, nor the nutritional content. I do know however that it is pretty much the maximum that I can do, so it will have to do.

Back to my question, what can I grow? What ever it is it might be completely different from what you can grow. Everybody just has to figure it out for themselves.

3 weeks ago
Cool that your relocated your spiders!

As far as rag weed or any other weed I don't worry too much about any of them. I have, or had a nice patch of what I call horse weeds but a friend of mine says is giant rag weed. It's an annual and by overharvesting before it went to seed I killed it out.

I used it as well as burdock, thistles, Johnson grass and about anything else that easily makes lots of biomass as mulch. Generally I've always been careful to harvest it just before it has viable seeds.

In the years since I switched exclusively to no-till I'm finding that weeds of any kind are often more an ally than foe. Even nasty grasses and the like that spread by rhizomes not only succumb fairly quickly to being buried in mulch but that when they do resurface their durable rhizomes become their Achilles heal.  They can't hold on to the looser organic rich soil and easily rip out in their entirety.

Any way that's my experience. The more you mulch and build your no-till bed the easier it gets. All weeds, if they do show up just pluck out easily and get dropped on top. I often even let them grow so their dead bodies have more mass to add to the top around my vegetables.

It sounds like a lot of hard work to maintain no-till beds by hand but it's not. I just came in from cleaning a blackberry bed. It is three feet wide and about fifty feet long and has been neglected all season. It was filled with knee high grasses of various types  as well as other weeds. It took me approximately 20 minutes while listening to the birds to completely pull all those weeds by hand and pile them around the berry canes. I likely won't do any more in that bed until about this time next year, well other than pick blackberries.

sam mintgreen wrote:
After having read so many conflicting opinions on a search for Phaseolus cross pollination distance, I'm quite glad to find this Lofthouse opinion. Hoping to grow a landrace and at least one heirloom variety of dry bean, if not multiple and maintain the heirloom(s), in land I may have an opportunity to begin stewarding/market gardening in. I am in a very humid region that will likely have LOTS of bees, so a good distance will be made between any cultivars I want to keep isolated. I am curious if large numbers of other flowers between the plants would reduce the distance needed or not? (lets say a good number of coriander and dill flowers for example? or even other genus of legume in between.)

I maintain a number of "heirloom" varieties of beans as well a a number of different landrace collections in my gardens, it is not difficult to do with just a little attention to isolation.

In "Seed to Seed" by Suzan Ashworth she describes bean flowers as being closed and generally self pollinated before the flower even opens. However bees, especially larger bumblebees are able to open the flowers and spread pollen. I am lucky to have a nice assortment of such bees and work with them to cross or not cross my beans as desired. If for example in my KY Wonder beans that we use for green beans and the woman here insists are not mixed up I just plant them by themselves separated a little  from other beans.

I have watched the bees and they are very methodical in their foraging, going from one flower to the next closest one. Even a short distance between varieties and or other flowering plants between will reduce chances of cross pollination to near zero. In the case of beans grown for eating green even if a cross did occur it is most likely I will never know it. If the even lower chance that a crossed seed from the green bean patch is accidentally saved and planted the next year it is not a serious issue as far as contaminating the overall seed stock of that variety.

I grow mostly pole beans and generally select my seed from individual pods instead of mixing up the whole patch. That is as the pods start drying I watch and collect the best pods one at a time. Say the variety I'm preserving has long flat pods, I just make sure any other pod type that might be in that patch isn't saved with that varieties' seed. Sam if the seeds are a different color or shape. Instead those seed, assumed to be a cross, are added to one of the landrace collections.

Over in the landrace plantings where I want to encourage maxim crossing I just plant different seeds immediately adjacent to one another. If two different pole bean plants are sharing the same string in the trellis the flowers can be so intermingled and close to together that the bees can easily do a back and forth this one to that one thing just in their normal, closest to closest routine. Crossing has become very common in my dry bean landraces.

Why do I have more than one dry bean landrace? I'm working to create a landrace of "semi" vining beans. That is that they do climb but only to 6 feet or so instead of the giant vines of my old collection. My new semi vining type isn't diverse or productive enough yet to replace the old giant vine collection so for now I have both. I also grow bush beans in association with both pole types and include or cull appropriately any new ones that show up.

In last few years I have been selecting for early maturity of dry beans. Beans that are actually at dry down stage in less than 100 days. This year that day passed on August 14 and I have about 3 pounds of seeds that dried by that time. I also have at least 5 new beans in that group.

4 weeks ago
That is a very pretty ear of corn but if you are trying it for fresh sweet corn it looks well past the stage for that. For fresh eating, even if you are growing pure sweet varieties by the time the shucks start to dry it's past it's prime.

Lots of non-sweet, flour and flint corns are pretty good eaten fresh but it has to be caught at that perfect time when the kernels are big enough to matter but still very immature. I think it's generally called milk stage, when the kernels are pump but soft. If you squish one sweet white juice pops out. This good eating stage last longer with actual sweet corns especially the se varieties and the even newer super sweets  or what ever they call them.

You just have to experiment, practice and observe to learn how to judge exactly when to pick corn for fresh eating. I've screwed up and wasted a crop by picking too soon or too late plenty of times

1 month ago
Are you talking about Phaseolus polystachios, sometimes called thicket bean? If so it is still relatively wide spread in my area. There is a patch not far from my house that runs a 1/2 mile or more on both sides of a road. I also know of a least two other patches.

I have a small patch established by my garden gate that has been here five years or so but I have not tried eating the beans.
1 month ago
We had a big grey striped tom cat named Jeremiah when I was a kid. He was one mean assed cat, only my sister and myself could touch him without losing some blood and even us, only if he was in the mood. He had a way of letting you know.

He disappeared for days, weeks, even months at a time.  Came home one time minus an ear and with his tail all bent. When we moved briefly to town my dad put him in a box in the trunk of the car. When released he ran across the street and up the wall of a house to the eve, jumped off and disappeared for six months. Must have gone home, figured out we weren't there and came back.

Did I mention he was a mean assed cat? Really an understatement, he was evil. He feinted fear of the neighbors dog, just to lure it in and then one day instead of running he attacked.  Was quite sight, that poor dog running home squealing and trying to sling Jeremiah off his head. The dog belonged to the preacher across the street. He came over, mutilated dog in arm and told my dad he had to pay the vet bill. My dad got a big laugh out of that.

Any way, tom cats do tom cat stuff. Wouldn't be surprised if your cats come home pretty soon, you know, just to rest up till next time.
1 month ago
To clarify, this offer is only for folks that can travel to Montana and attend events and the like? I could make lots of videos of my own techniques in gardening, plant breeding, growing tress from seeds and the like, I've been doing it for fifty years but I haven't been west of the Mississippi river in thirty years and likely won't be again.
1 month ago