Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hip-Gnosis: Edenic "Food Forrest" breeding project

Alongside the orchard which I am planning and planting at the moment I am also working on a veritable "Food Forrest" made up of mostly ungrafted fruiting trees, vines, and shrubs.

The back fence and subsequent dirt road of our woodlot here on the farm was filled with many old and decaying trees, young trees which were not of good quality, and a ton of wild black raspberry and multi-flora rose until the recent weeks.

Throughout the months of September/October while my colleagues Michael Lachaume and Tom Wagner (of Tater-Mater seed)over at Homegrown Goodness were in Europe (I was supposed to go, but personal responsibility got in the way) I took the time to clear this land which had once, not long ago even, been an open and fertile field. Only today was the project finished.

I recently moved one of the wood burning stoves from one of the greenhouses into a new small outbuilding behind the house and set it up to heat our house this winter in a bid to save on rising electric bills, as such the wood was needed and the free space this wood cutting provided was much appreciated for a new project.

Amongst the many things I am planning in this food Forrest are persimmon trees (I have collected seed from the very best of the local American varieties available to me including one outstanding variety with fruit nearly 3 inches across!) peaches, apples, crab apples, wild Kazakhstan apples, pears, plums, Asian plums, date plums, blueberries, orange/red/black/pink/purple blackberries, alpine strawberries and a ton of Tim Peters amazing perennial grain varieties including individual breeding plots.

This will be my veritable "Garden of Eden" so to speak. Here I will work for years and years and years keeping everything well organized and selecting for new fruiting varieties, work which sorely is needed in the world of agriculture. Many of the trees will produce nothing of value and will at some point become a point for grafting good cultivars onto or will become firewood, but some will produce quite good fruit and a very few may produce something excellent. All apples and pears can be used for cider and I very well know what to expect from persimmon seeds and berry plants started from cuttings and seeds. If no other purpose this will be prime hunting grounds for supplementing my income and diet in the future.

The Orchard will be close to 4 acres when all of the brush is burned off and will be made up of 6 rows of trees, two "groves" of plums and "persimmons" planted on the wet marginal land, a future pond for fish and irrigation of the farm purposes and the periphery of the project will be marked by brambles. On one side, the east, will be placed the many different cultivars of raspberries and blueberries I have collected. On the west side will be located "Iceberg" and "Snowbank" white blackberries as well as the infamous Lawton. These will be kept in check and kept from spreading by way of the bush hog. The understory of this food forest will be made up of breeding pools of non shattering and shattering perennial wheat, rye, and sorghum which I am working with courtesy of Tim Peters, many selection will be made here of these very important and impressive grains, some of which will in time be introduced to the farming and gardening public. I made it very clear to Tim that he can consider this farm a repository for all of his important work and is welcome to visit any time he wants.

The ground cover in this Edenic wonderland will be made up of various cultivars and hybrids of strawberries, most notably white and yellow alpines.

It's a big project and chances are I'll never see a dollar from it, but the peace of mind that I will have from this area will be worth more than any real "job" could ever pay me.

Back to the blog!

OK, cold weather has arrived and presumably at some point I'll be here on a regular basis!

I've been working hard the past two months to bring all of my projects together and start a few new ones.

Amongst the many projects that have kept me busy, the orchard(s) by far have been the most time consuming. I have been working hard to track down a number of cultivars of various varieties including the two very hard to find Burbank white blackberries, of which I have obtained "Iceberg" the first of the two, and am waiting to hear back from a new friend I made in California by the name of Bob Hornback who has located for me and is sending to me "Snowbank", or improved iceberg. These will be heavily propagated here on our little far, available as nursery stock, fruit, seeds, and available for sale and trade in coming years.

I have also been working on obtaining breeding material for perennial fruiting vines and trees and starting those, most of which require some degree of winter stratification. Of the many things I have been able to obtain I must think everyone who has helped me, sometimes tracking down this material is harder than it would seem, but via friends, expeditions into the local country side, and a few commercial sources I have located tons of persimmons, nuts, raspberries of all colors, blackberries, boysenberries, dew berries, apples, pears (including recessive red/purple fleshed material), peaches, apricots, plums, grapes and so many other things. Many of these will be placed in the "food Forrest" orchard I am working on at the moment, but some will be reserved for grafting projects as well.

I have also managed to locate via ARS GRIN a cache of seed of Kazakhstan wild apples and some scion wood from my friend Phillip Forsline at the New York, Geneva ARS. The scion wood is from that of elite varieties, those already tested for disease resistance/tolerance and for production and taste. The seed is a mixed genetic lot from those planted on Geneva's trial grounds several years back. I am so very excited to get to work with this very rare material from the motherland of the apple! Lot's of discovery to document I am sure.

I also had the strange luck of stumbling into the "pink lady" or "cripps pink" apple seeds germinating inside the apple experiment which I have read so much about in recent we speak there are probably 100 seedlings in a south west facing window of the house.....many of these I will graft on to but some will be added to the "Food Forrest" for selection purposes.

My time has also been occupied filling seed orders and more well organizing my seed collection. The coming years will see the introduction and further stabilization of many Hip-Gnosis breeding projects and the balance of my seed production will be in selecting from the best of the rarest of those other varieties available to me. Regarding annual crops my work in coming years will focus mostly on field corns and their improvement, but there are a number of other very interesting projects at the forefront and close to release as well, from time to time these will be introduced as new Hip-Gnosis Seed Development varieties and offered here and at Homegrown Goodness.

I also lucked out late in the season and was able to locate five 7 week old Royal Palm turkeys to add to my breeding flock. Good healthy turkeys at that which have taken away to free ranging and are thriving in their new home. It was particularly important for me to find these lovely smaller turkeys for their genetics and my shortage of hens. At the moment they are too young to sex, but I am presuming that at least 2-3 of them will be tom turkeys with any luck! With these and the remainder of my flock I will now have access to all the genetic combinations available in color and size to an aspiring poultry breeder (minus midget white, which the genetics probably contributed to the diminutive Royal Palm anyhow). From here I can begin my breeding experiments next year with some amount of predilection when it comes to isolating pairs and making crosses. Narragansett, Royal Palm, Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, Bronze, Slate Blue, Norfolk Black are all amongst my flock now.

In the bit of spare time I have had I have taken up the hobby of squirrel and rabbit hunting to both supplement my diet (that's as free range and "organic" as it gets!) and to cut down on the pest problems here on the farm. I am constantly fighting a loosing battle with these pests when it comes to seedling trees, nut caches for trees, and growing sweet corn.....the freezer is quickly filling!

I have also taken it upon myself to set up and design a more appropriate and long term Bishop's Homegrown and Hip-Gnosis Seed Development web-site. Hopefully by December or January it will be finished and online, but we shall see!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Michael Pollan possibly a hypocrite?

Although I am excited about the Botany of Desire documentary (mostly due to the subject of Khazakistan wild apples as well as the section on Marijuana, as well as an appearance by Phillip Forsline of ARS GRIN Geneva) I have always questioned Michael ...Pollan, and now more than ever, I'm thinking he is just another tool. Now he suddenly supports "open source" genetic engineering...absolutely not....playing god/artifically manipulating DNA is not our place.

The Botany Of Desire documentary trailer:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kazakhstan Wild Apples

After posting my "happy birthday johnny Appleseed" article here and over at the Homegrown Goodness forum our good friend Jason Carty and some other fine folks were kind enough to pass some information onto me regarding some apple diversity having come from Kazakhstan which is the motherland of our apples.

Apparently Michael Pollan (spelling?) had written about this diversity in his book "The Botany of Desire" which I have not yet had an opportunity to purchase or read.

Anyhow, given the morsels of information left on my blog regarding disease resistance and wide genetic diversity of the "apple Forrest's" apparently dotting the land in Kazakhstan I immediately started googling for images and information and found lots of information, one thing in particular that I found was a source for seed and scion wood via a friend of ours at USDA ARS GRIN Geneva New York.

Phillip Forsline who was kind enough to share many budwood apple cuttings with me this season was kind enough to also speak with me on the phone regarding this diversity and I was able to place a request and will subsequently obtain some seed from the Kazakhstan stock planted a Geneva, now these will obviously all be crosses between the Kazakhstan apples that Geneva has grown from seed as the actual seed from Kazakhstan which was collected there is being held for Universities and Professional breeders which I find respectable for sure. Anyhow, I'll be receiving this seed in November and some Scion wood of some "elite" varieties come next spring. Some of these apple varieties will be pretty useless taste wise no doubt and given the plantings proximity to Malus Domestica at Geneva I expect some crosses will not contain pure Kazakhstan wild apple genes, but that just makes the shuffling of the deck all that much more fun!

Anyhow, the exciting news in all of this is that some of these apples are proven winners with supermarket qualities already expressing themselves in the wild apple forests of their homeland. Many have interesting disease resistance which is lacking in much of our domestic apple diversity (not really very diverse at all if you look into the history of the apple). And many also contain interesting protein compounds leading to the development of interesting flesh colors.

Pretty cool If I do say so myself!

If you get a chance this week do some google searching and read a bit about these wild apples and this diversity that needs to be saved!