Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Written and Researched by: Alan Reed Bishop of Hip-Gnosis Seed Development and Bishop's Homegrown
I know a lot of folks are big into keeping most of their winter squashes separate. While I do maintain a great portion of my very rare squash in their originally intended state (and always will as long as they remain rare), the past two years I have been planting mass plantings of various types of winter squashes like Moshata's, Mixta's, Maxima's, and Agrospermia types (no Pepo types, I already have two categories of those grown separately, an acorn/mini pumpkin type which shows great diversity and my separated by variety summer squashes). I'm basically interested in seeing what happens in the coming years with the crossing of these various types in my fields and with picking out and maintaining the ones I find most tasteful as well as beautiful and practical (storage ability, processing). When I find something I like out of the mix then the work begins on "selfing" or "self pollinating" that particular type until I can find a selection similar to what I first took note of and then I'll grow it out for several years until I find the open pollinated equivalent. The other seed from squash that still resembles the original parents or doesn't represent something I am particularly keen on just goes back into the pot for planting the next season (as long as is stores and tastes well), along with newly grown out seed stocks of types that weren't previously in the mix and the whole experiment goes on next year. This also works out well at the farmers market and here on the farm as there is always plenty of winter squash for roadside and farm stand sales in colors, shapes and sizes that are both common and those which no one have ever seen before, this definitely leads to a little bit of monetary gain for the fall as winter squash for Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations have replaced the once ever-popular Jack O' lantern in recent years here in Southern Indiana.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I really enjoy "playing" with the genetics of different plants and attempting my own breeding projects. I've got so many things on my mentally imagined "docket" that I would like to attempt to cross or breed, mostly looking for taste, tolerance to environmental or insect pressures, nutrition, and novelty, that sometimes I'm not sure I could get them all done in a lifetime. A lot of open pollinated seed enthusiast would probably frown upon my ideas and implementation of breeding different heirlooms and Open Pollinated cultivars into new hybrids in mass crosses but I figure as long as the cultivars are being grown out by a good number of individuals and are still available to the gardening public and I keep a small sample pure for future use, well then, why not shake and bake and see what happens.
The Astronomy Domine sweet corn breeding project is on of those such mass crosses. You see, I had about 20 different open pollinated sweet corns in my collection, some where pretty rare and a few were very precious local and regional family heirlooms (I do still keep pure strains of those) and some were more commonly available results of the hard work of seed savers and independent plant breeders the world over. A good percentage of these cultivars were beautiful rainbow type colors such as Rainbow Inca, Triple play, Black Mexican, Festival mix, Double Red, Millersburg red, Hopi Pink sweet, Painted Hills and so forth and I was becoming more and more interested in the work of brave plant breeders like Alan Kapuler and Ken Ettlinger, so I decided that it was time for me to make a donation to the public domain sweet corn breeding sector.
What I decided to go after was the most genetically diverse sweet corn ever bred which would have good cool soil germination, drought tolerance and ear cover (to prevent insect damage) while at the same time providing added nutrition in the form of anti-oxidants like Anthocyanin. So drawing upon the work of Dave Christensen and his Painted Mountain Indian corn which he has crossed numerous times (I believe I read 50 plus somewhere) I set out to do that last year, taking some small samples of multiplied seeds of 20 plus different cultivars as well as Burpee's recent introduction Ruby Queen sweet corn and planted a small plot to do some mass crossing, of course I planted way to early and germination wasn't the best, but that actually turned out in my favor since I was planting at different times and some of these corns had drastically different maturity dates, this also gave me a bit of an automatic head start on selecting for cool soil emergence. When it came harvest time (the shucks had turned brown and started to dry) I was astonished at the beauty of some of the ears of this corn, not only did I end up with colors and shades I expected, but I also got a ton of stuff that I didn't expect. We ended up with solid colors, faded colors, pastel colors, near transparent kernels, striped patterns, some polka dotting and some cobs just had a terrific mixture of everything you could ever imagine.
I saved about 5 or 6 lbs of seed from about 200 cobs and mixed it up well and offered it up for free or for trade as breeding material over at http://alanbishop.proboards60.com/ hoping some others would be interested in getting in on some first generation breeding experiments so we could diversify the original stock into multiple lines adapted to different areas around the country (and now indeed the world) and do some comparing and contrasting back and forth over the next few years. I also made it known that folks should feel free to alter this by adding in new cultivars and seed stocks as they so choose and people have really been receptive to it.
My current seed stock that will go into the ground in spring '08 has already had a number of new cultivars (well, new to me) added into the initial stock already and I am now close to having 30 different cultivars of sweet corn going into next years second mass cross, I really don't know what to expect out of all of it, and at some point I would like to stop crossing it and try to get a nice open pollinated version that would serve a triple purpose in the future, that of a sweet corn in milk stage and a flour and decorative corn when dry (or worm food in my case). I am planning on having multiple plots laid out for this particular experiment, one that will be nothing but seed/breeding stock and home use and another 2 where I will cross it to a large eared, sugar enhanced and detassled White Variety to take to market and offer to the CSA, I will probably save seed of both lines and then make a decision later of which to keep and which to shelf (if I shelf either of them).
I would ultimately like to get this project up to about fifty different diverse sweet corns bred into it and I am always on the lookout for colourful sweet types to add into the mix, so if you know of any let me know. I plan on joining the Seed Savers Exchange next year and I am sure I will find and order all kinds of goodies to add in before planting season starts, so the number of cultivars involved in the crop might even jump up to 40 before planting starts!
As are all of my breeding projects, this too is a public domain project of my Hip-Gnosis seed development project, and once developed I hope to offer it to a wide number of gardeners throughout the world without ever seeing the letters PVP (plant variety protected) next to it or a big seed company hyping it as the next big thing. This corn is just as much yours as it is mine. I didn't create anything, all I did is use what I have and let those things cross through the course of nature and natural selection, the only thing that is different in this corn and it's parents are in it's segregation of genes and re-combination there-in. Sort of like if I wrote a song, I didn't really do anything other than put a puzzle together, all the pieces already existed, I'm just the first one to put them together in that order.
I will keep you updated on this project probably quite often throughout the '08 growing season and I hope one day all of you have the chance to grow this particular corn (named after a Pink Floyd song) in your home gardens or receive it in your CSA boxes or at market.
My cousin Jeff (far right) has been in from Houston Texas the past couple of weeks giving me a hand here at the farm when he has a free day here and there. We always make it a point to try to incorporate Jeff's half brother and my cousin Montana (middle) into things that we do when we have a chance. As long as Montana doesn't have to get dirty and it doesn't involve snakes all is well. Montana has a slight learning disability but he is one of the best guys you could ever know and always good for a laugh, just don't mention snakes, or anything about them, or turtles, frogs, lizards, anything reptilian or amphibian and all is good!
Jeff really does a lot to help me, my family and the business out when he is in town and I am really appreciative of it and that Montana now has a true brother to hang out with and look up to. For reasons I won't list here (other than to say family differences) Montana and I never met Jeff until back in 2006. Montana and Jeff's father, my uncle, passed away in an unfortunate Motorcycle crash when we were both four, Jeff is about 7 years our senior and by the time we were born he was no longer around our area and we unfortunately weren't allowed contact with him by his mother...ever (even though his father also had custody of him). Needless to say, imagine our excitement when one day the phone rings and a long lost cousin is on the other end!
It only makes things that much better that Jeff and I share similar interests in agriculture since he is a landscaper and permaculturist, even on slow days here on the farm we can find something to talk about or do and spend some time with Montana. This pic was important for me to get up on the blog because we need to get a lot more pictures taken to make up for all of those missed in the past, this was also taken on my mothers birthday on the 13'Th of December and having Jeff and Montana around to celebrate with her, my Dad, and Kim really made her day, which in turn made mine.
I guess this is just a tribute of sorts to two of the best guys and two of the best friends I've ever known. Three Imaginary Boys of sorts.....(obscure The Cure reference)
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I have a bit of a "tic" or "quirk" if you will. If you didn't know what I did for a living you might find me a bit strange, maybe a little off. You see I have a bit of an obsession, put me in a room with someone who has livestock and you can guarantee that at some point in time the words "What do you do with your manure?" will flow from my lips. It's not that I have an intense desire to play with "poo" if you will, it's more a matter of sustaining my business naturally and feeding my plants the way nature intended. To say the least, I spend quite a bit of time digging around in my neighbors cow barns and then helping ferry it around the farm with the aid of their manure spreader, not to mention that this black gold only costs me a bit of back labor (better than the $300-400 a ton P. N. P. and lime stuff and is safer for the environment and consumer). But sometimes that's just not enough, so we supplement some things with well composted, high nitrogen Chicken Manure which is great for leafy crops like lettuce, cabbage, greens, and ex specially corn. But sometime about a year ago, I thought, "It's time to produce my own high quality farm poo" and thus my journey began.