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.

Search This Blog

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Organic Seeds in the Era of Transgenes

Came accross a fantastic site tonight with some wonderful audio including one by the name listed above and featuring none other than my friend Dr. Alan Kapuler as well as JJ Haapala, former Director of Research and Education for Oregon Tilth and former Project Administrator for the Farmer Cooperative Geneome Project.

If you want to understand the difficulties amateur plant breeders face in today's climate as well as the dillema between the "Green Revolution" mindset, PVP and breeders rights and the way agriculture has been taken over by big industry then this is for you. Luther Burbank is mentioned as well. Dig around the site, theres a lot more interesting and useful links to audio worth exploring, I just haven't made it that far yet.

A fantastic show.

I first heard five farms on NPR back when Kim tore her ACL, I hadn't looked for it on the web until tonight and I found it, I highly suggest listening to it if you have an interest farming or understanding the modern dillema many farms are facing now days.

Check it out:

A gmo chilie pepper for New Mexico?

Sometimes I just have moments where I hear something so asinine that my brain slides out of my ear, bounces around on the ground a bit and lets off a litt puff of smoke all before I realize what just happened.

This is one of those instances(from a link Bunkie left on
My local Co-op publishes a monthly news letter that is chock full of information on local food issues. Everything from information on state legislation to updates on the successes of local products.

This month, one of the more disturbing themes was about genetically engineered crops and the lawsuits brought against individual farmers by GE giant Monsanto.The most upsetting part of this article, however, was the disclosure that the NM state legislature has been funding the development of a genetically engineered chile since 2006. New Mexico is a huge chile producer (anyone who has seen Hatch green chile in their supermarket is buying from a town named Hatch in the southern part of the state – at least in theory), and apparently this research is being done on behalf on the NM Chile Association, web site here.
Why is unclear and merits more research.

The really upsetting part of this is noted in the Co-op newsletter, that being that chiles are used so extensively in the state of NM as both food and decor that the potential for contamination is mind blowing. Chile seeds everywhere on ristras and plates all over the state…

Of course, the NM GE chile no doubt does not contain the roundup readiness of Monsanto’s famous grains, and an argument could be made that the act of creating hybrids is crucial to the evolution of agriculture – domestication of wild wheat, etc. However it still makes me nervous, and rightfully so.

In either case, it has certainly inclined me to do more research on the topic. I dislike the idea of a group such as Native Seeds SEARCH going to all the trouble of saving heirloom and historical varieties of chile just to have the state of NM undermine their own agricultural heritage by actively funding a GE crop....

Now, why does that bother me? Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm, about 500-1,000 years of pueblean Native American selections of Chile peppers, that's why.

It's only a matter of time before these peppers oucross with the traditional varieties grown in New Mexico and the four corners area, the center of diversity for the pecular Chile type pepper. If nothing else it's a smack in the face to the Natives of this area and to the hard work of Native Seeds/SEARCH

Though I am stretched to the max on this farm already with preservation and breeding it looks like I will be adding some of Native Seeds great pepper diversity to the collection this year for safeguarding.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spring is just around the corner, have you got your seed yet?

Over the past couple of days I have been organizing the massive on farm seed collection. So many things and so little space to store them! I find it funny how a lot of times I'll be thinking; "Crap, I need to order this, this, this, and that." and then I'll start digging through the boxes and come accross everything I needed! Of course I get a lot of stuff in trades as well as a lot of stuff just sent to me with notes that say things like; "Thought these seeds might interest you!". They do, all of them, that's the problem, sometimes theres almost too much and I just have to make a decision about what I will grow and won't grow. When it comes to producing seed it has come down to three categories:
The best of the rarest of the rare, including local heirlooms
Original breeding material from friends
On farm original breeding material

And there are a couple of reasons to make such things a priority. One is because at the moment we are still primarally a Market Farm so we have to grow things which will sell, do well in our systems, and get the attention of customers.

The second, and possibly more important reason is.............over the next few years we are going to be shifting gears a little bit in an attempt to become primarilly a genepool resource to our bio-region and surrounding ones.

The first step in all of this is the announcement of a new, original, farmer owned seed company.

Take this as an unofficial announcement of my intentions, but not quite an official one.

However I will be applying for the permit in the coming days and if all goes well there will be a new seed company catered specifically to Adventerous Gardeners, Plant Breeders, and Homesteaders called:


I should mention here that we will deal in those "rarest of the rare, best of the best, farm-breeder" seeds in small quantities, including genepools and segregating hybrids.

We will also be growing some exclusive items specifially for our good friend Stewart at as well! Go ahead and check out his seed co. some good selections there from a great guy!

In the mean time, have you been over to Homegrown Goodness ( lately? Theres still some burgening seed trades going on there and if you don't have something why not arrange a trade with someone who does and save a few dollars.

And don't forget about Patricks blogger seed network at

Oh, and have I mentioned that Ken Ettlinger from LISEED ( got his new list up?

How about checking out Alan Kapuler and his daughter Dylana's Peace seeds(lings) (

I appologize for the lack of active links, but apparently blogger forgot to turn that option on today or something)

La Bonne Terre Soil Blocks and Mini-Greenhouses

Today I started some of the seed for the improved greenhouse. As mentioned in previous entries we are making the larger unheated greenhouse into a raised bed in order to get a jump on spring crops and to grow throughout the winter.

I should be planting the greenhouse come the end of Feb. We plan on having quite a garden in this small area including cabbage, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, snow peas, sugar peas, maybe some old French forcing melons and early season watermelons, lettuce and so on. Today we sowed seed into the La Bonne Terre soil blocks which have been previously mentioned here on the blog and I thought I'd share some pics. with you of said soil blocks as well as our "mini-greenhouse" systems. These mini-greenhouses are actually nothing more than dollar store storage translucent storage boxes, but they make a wonderful alternative to the costly and easily sun damaged flats and humidity domes, plus they stack!

Seed sown thus far include:
Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage (Thanks Hayne/CFF)
Yellow Cabbage Collards
Red Mustard (Thanks Ottowa Gardener)
Kale Mix (Thanks Lieven and Frank Moreton)

More to come, but I must invest in some more "mini-greenhouses"!

Monday, January 25, 2010


Is the french word for Guinea Hen. I got my "French Hybrid Guineas" that I mentioned in a previous post regarding a breeding experiment last week, along with 10 free roosters for warmth during shipping from Ideal hatchery last week. These little guys are tough and doing very well and their growth is absolutely astounding. The day I recieved them they could all make their way into the little feed trough I gave them, within two days however the little guineas were far to fat to make it inside the trough. Spring is near!

Still astounded by the treasure that has been gifted to me..

That I wrote of earlier tonight. The amazing gift of an amazing amount of diversity from Alan Kapuler in the cucurbrita family. There are some squash and some melons in there as well, lot's of great stuff, some older baker creek varieties, and some Peace Seeds ones. There is also a large collection of Curtis Showell varieties, something I am very excited to have. You see, a lot of people inspire me in the seed world, a few I've had the luxury of working with or sharing with or communicating with; Alan Kapuler, Tim Peters, Tom Wagner, Ken Ettlinger, Carl Barnes, and a few I have yet to communicate with like Carol Deppe, Munk Bergin, Frank Morton, and Ken Allen (many of whoom I will try to interview before the season get's going) and some I sadly will never have the chance to communicate with except through others experiences of them and the traces they left of themselves in these valuable seeds, Curtis Showell being one of them.

I thought I should take a moment to write a few things about him here, or more appropriately, let those who know him write some.

From Seeds Of Change we have this tribute:

A Tribute a Guardian of Garden Diversity, Curtis Showell is a tall, lanky farmer who lives on his family's land in Bishopville, Maryland; born in Virginia, he has lived in this area for nearly forty years. The land he works has been worked by several generations of his ancestors. "I got three bloodlines. On my dad's side of the family, I come from the Wooster Indians. On my mom's side, well, she is basically the same tribe Pocahontas was." (The third line is African-American.) With a wide interest in all of the cucurbits (except cucumbers), Curtis has amassed a world-class collection of seeds; it is a collection orchestrated by a self-taught genius. As a child, Curtis was taken with the growing of food. The family garden has always been a source of pride.

I started out when I was a kid. I was about eight years old. A seed catalog came to our house, and we ordered seeds for the family garden. The next year when the catalog came I noticed that some of my favorite varieties had disappeared out of the catalog. There wasn't a thing wrong with them. A lot of them were superior to these today. They had better flavor and their keeping quality was good. With some of the new stuff, the keeping quality is not that good and the taste is overrated. So I started collecting-no one else in the family, just me. I guess it was my instinct; after I had seen the disappearance of seeds, I said I had better hold on to this here and stop wasting it. I have been collecting and growing ever since. I think they should be preserved for the next generation." The list Curtis maintains is overwhelming: over a thousand varieties of squash and pretty close to a thousand varieties of melons. He uses the best criteria that any grower can when choosing which seed to collect and grow: taste. "I test them by eating what I grow and letting other people sample them too, to see if they agree with what I say. Of course, I have to pretty near shoo them away when the crops start to come in," Curtis says with a chuckle. In an age of ever-growing complexity, we are lucky to know gardeners like Curtis Showell. (Shown here, Seeds of Change Malali Watermelon seeds.)

And this is the text that Kapuler sent me today in a beautiful postcard of his own painting entitled "penny Lane":


Feels like sending you ancient history-
The great seed genius Curtis Showell- I look at this photo above my desk as this is written.

and from an e-mail

every time i handle Curtis' seeds, i hear his voice talking to me.


one more:

During the many years we knew one another and talked about curcurbits into the night, Curtis would send me seeds. In the seed room there are seeds of perhaps a couple hundred watermelon, hundreds of Cucurbitas distributed in 4 species and some undetermined number of melons and cucumbers. He was a great man, a great seed collector, an at home, unknown plant genius. I miss him everyday and when in the seed room sorting curcurbitaceae he follows me around whispering about the different cultivars, telling me things I never knew.

Between the friendship and love that guys like Alan, Tim, and Ken have shared with me and the amazing diversity they have bestowed upon me, I feel very blessed in this world, to have the opporotunity to work with the seeds which make up our past and determine our future as a species and as a civilization on this planet, seeds which have graced the hands of these "seed genious" types and many before them are now in my safguarding to be placed in the hands of the many to come after me.

Here I must send out my love and prayers to Val. Mcmurray, I hope you heal soon my friend and don't forget we all love you, I will be in contact with you in the near future, get well soon! :)

A new local CSA opporotunity!

Bishop’s Homegrown Farm Stand Credit Program!
A new local/regional CSA program alternative. Providing more convenience and better value to our community.

Bishop’s Homegrown is a small “Eco-Logical” and self sustainable farm in the town of Pekin Indiana. We are family owned and a fourth generation farm focused on providing quality produce from yesteryear as well as the new food and flower crops of the future to our valued friends and community members. We use the strictest possible organic guidelines for on farm food production and make no exceptions. We feel that it is of utmost importance that locavores, members of the slow food movement, and community members, know who and from where their food comes from and how it is grown. We produce 90% of our own seed crops as well as 100% of our own organic fertilizer and we never ever opt for chemical options to control pests or disease issues on farm, feeling that growing food “eco-logically” is the only alternative to our failing food system in the United States. We have searched the world over to bring you the most unique, exciting, and rare food crops from diverse cultures the world over with an emphasis on nutrition and taste! Our doors are always open to our community and customers who we encourage to visit the farm in order to see and know where and how their food was grown. Food security begins when a relationship is formed between the community and its farmers, this essential connection is what allowed civilization to flourish 10,000 years ago. This year we would like to introduce you to our newest program which we feel you will find immense value in!

The Farm Stand Credit Program:
The concept of Community Supported Agriculture (AKA. CSA) is generally defined as a mutually beneficial arrangement between a farmer and his customer wherein the customer agrees to share in the risks and rewards of local farming for the benefit of their food production and the farmers well being. The CSA consumers become by proxy shareholders in the farm and it’s well being by paying an upfront “membership“ due which covers the production of food in a “share“ system. Generally a traditional CSA allows for the consumer to pay for up front costs of the farmers start up cost with the farmer reciprocating by preparing a pre-determined amount of produce every week through the growing season which the shareholders pick up once a week. The farmer generally picks the produce that the customer will receive.

This year Bishop’s Homegrown is looking to create a viable alternative to the traditional CSA program by creating a farm stand coupon program which will allow customers to still share in helping us get our business going during the part of the season in which seed and implements and other essentials are being purchased while also making the relationship more convenient for the farmer and the shareholders.

In this arrangement, instead of the farmer putting together a box of produce weekly he has selected for you you will instead receive “credit” from our farm which will allow you to visit our farm stand or farm where you can make your selection of produce that we have available including also a selection of seedlings, nursery stock, seeds, compost, poultry and other items from our farm. This gives you the opportunity to decide what you want instead of us deciding what you want. Every $100 you invest will also get you a 10% discount which means that you will actually get 10% more produce for your food dollars.

Our produce will be available to you via the Washington County Indiana farmers market held at the fairgrounds in Salem Indiana on Saturday Mornings from 8 AM to 12 PM. Occasionally we also will be available at the Wednesday market operating during the same hours. Credit is also redeemable at our roadside stand in the town of Peking or on farm. It is important to note that we don’t usually deal in custom ordered bulk produce on a normal basis (i.e., a bushel beans, or a bushel of corn) but that when these items are available at market, as they often are, your credit can be used to purchase them as well.


How much does it cost?

The investment levels start at 50.00. An investment at the 100 dollar or above level will earn you a 10% discount which means that an investment at the $100 level only costs you $90! That’s right; $100 dollars of credit only costs $90! That’s essentially the same as getting $10 of produce free just for paying ahead of time! Your credit is good for two years which means that whatever isn’t spent this season can be carried over to next season!
The maximum investment is $500.

Here is the layout:
$50 credit for $50
$100 credit for $90
$200 credit for $180
$300 credit for $270
$400 credit for $360
$500 credit for $450

How will we keep track of your credit?

Good old fashioned pen and pencil, anytime you make a purchase we will deduct that price from our ledger. You will receive a receipt after each transaction so you too can keep track of the amount of produce purchased.

What if I make it to market late and you are out of what I want?
Unfortunately this may happen from time to time which is why we are keeping the investment level low to start with. Sometimes we just flat out run out of an item due to popularity. The best bet is to show up to market early, the best of the best goes quickly! There are occasions when we may not be able to make it to market from time to time due to emergencies or just the need to take a break here and there but we will inform you a few days ahead of time via e-mail (unless it’s a last minute emergency) that we will not be at market in the coming week.

What can I purchase with Bishop’s homegrown credit? Does this offer only include produce?

No, any item we bring to market is eligible for purchase via this credit, including seeds, plants, seedlings, poultry (chicks), occasionally rabbits, compost, fishing worms, handcrafts or any other product we have at market or our farm stand. We also occasionally have winter produce available and this Thanksgiving and Christmas we will for the first time be offering butchered heritage turkeys.
When is payment due and how do I pay, when does credit take effect?

Payment is due by the end of March in order that we know what we have in the bank and can plan accordingly. Payment can be made by check, money order, or well concealed cash. Credit takes effect the first Saturday of May, in conjunction with the opening of the farmers market.

Make checks or money orders payable to:
Alan Bishop

And send to:
Alan Bishop
5604 S. State Rd. 60
Pekin IN 47165

Also include a note with your full name, address, e-mail address, phone number and a list of people who you will allow to purchase items with your credit if you need to send someone to the farm stand in your place!

How can I learn more about Bishop’s Homegrown and follow the on farm developments?

We invite you to come and take a tour of our small farm at any time you would like to learn more about us or at any point during the growing season, before, after, or even if you don’t join the credit opportunity. We also maintain a blog at where we often write research articles, report about our plant breeding and poultry breeding projects, explain our on farm techniques and more. As well we run a small message board for experimental gardeners and plant breeders located at as well as our local harvest site located at

We should also point out that farm tours are available to those interested at any time in the growing season…
Please feel free to pass this around to others who might be interested in joining this unique opportunity.
Feel free to contact us at:
Alan Bishop

Thanks to Curtis Showell via Dr. Alan Kapuler

Today I recieved a wonderful package in the mail from my good friend Dr. Alan Kapuler. Of the many varied topics that Dr. Kapuler and I have spoken of in recent months Curtis Sylvester Showell and his terrific friendship with Dr. Kapuler and his fantastic collection of Cucurbits, many of which are had to find and missing from the listings in both the ARS GRIN as well as Seed Savers Exchange. Alan Kapuler had mentioned something recently about sending me some of the selections from Curti's seed collections, but I was little prepared for the amzing box of devotion and love and diversity he was about to send me.

Within the box there were probably close to 100 accessions of rare watermelon seed including many of the packages that Curtis had sent Alan Kapuler during the 80's and 90's as well as Peace Seeds envelopes packaged in the 90's, some older Baker Creek varieties, and even some of the watermelon seed Alan had mentioned to me that Curtis had sent him in the used cellophane from ciggarette packages as well as a hand addressed envelope to Peace seeds from Curtis stamped by the Bishopville MD post office! This is as reall as treasure will ever get!

I have spent the last couple of hours identifying the rarest of rare, 15 or 20 varieties which I will attempt to germinate (some of this seed is 20 years old) and isolate this season and offer through the soon to be announced seed company. These will pair well with the selection of rare squash I recieved from Gatersleben originally from Curtis Showells Collection.

Heres some pics of the collection:

Some pictures from around the farm, thanks to Kim!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"La Bonne Terre" part 2!

Ok, so there are a few concepts here I wanted to expand upon. I will add some photos of my soil block set up as well as seedlings started in them in the coming days.

I was working yesterday and today with some soil of a slightly heavier type clay then what I have used in the past and I should point out that the ratio of sifted compost/worm castings and sand to soil along with lime will very depending on the type of soil you will be using as your base, so everyone will be a bit different.

For example, the soil I sterilized on Friday and used yesterday and today was quite heavy, a lot of organic matter, but quite a bit of clay base as well, in that case I used about 3:1 ration of castings to soil and quite a bit more sand as well, the sand is probably not necesary in the blocks but I use it basically as a way to amend the soil in the fields and loosen it some which it could certainly use.

I also failed to mention that when it is available I also make use of activated charcoal (bio-char/terra pretta concept) in the potting/blocking mix. I charge it using urine and break it into nearly dust sized particles and use it as about 3-5% of the base. As you all well know from my past research into terra pretta and your subsequent research this could most certainly have a great effect on the growth of the plant and longevity of the base NPK levels of the blocks which don't tend to need further fertilization until planting out (at which time I water seedlings in with worm casting tea)

Another concept I wanted to bring tot he forefront is the La Bonne Terre corn and high nitrogen crops fertilizer that I make use of.

I have access to literally a few hundred lbs of cofee grounds sans filters every year and thus it makes a great nitrogen base for corn and other high nitrogen crops. The concept is the same as before mostly, the cofee grounds become the base to which is added worm castings, lime, sand (for bulking and ease of spread) and sifted thermophilic poultry compost and wood ash for P. I should point out that for those with access to cofee grounds that used cofee grounds are almost always the exact same Nitrogen as composted chicken litter at 2.9-3.5 or so, if you keep them moist and don't let them dry down (1.5-2.0 for dry matter) they will actually be higher nitrogen than composted poultry litter and are usually free to the clever taker eager enough to aske a cofee house proprieter if they can have them! Of course to this I also add diatomacious earth. All of these fertilizers are either placed in the bottom of the planting hole for seedlings or seeds and covered with a quarter to half inch of soil (promoting root growth) or in the case of corn they are layed in the trench at a depth of 1-2 inches thick and covered with a quarter to half inch of soil and the seed is layed down on top of this and then covered. This keeps the tender seedlings from being burned by nitrogen in the high nitrogen version but also precludes insects from being attracted to rich organic layers atop the soil in spring to lay seed eating larvee. Oh, I should mention, sometimes I add bat guano too! I guess it's all about the baseline information and this info will give you an idea of where to go! Always soil test first, this will give you the baseline to make an informed decision in regards to your options. I will say, the more nitrogen you use, the more chance you are going to need woodash and calcium carbonate (lime).

Stay tuned, lots to come in the next few weeks, rabbit hutches, hatching turkeys, raising guinea keets, planting the raised bed greenhouse and so much more!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

La Bonne Terre

This past week I have been busy harvesting worm castings for this springs crop of soil amendments, soil blocks, and potting soil mixes. It's a painfully slow process, but so worth the work and to boot, even on cold days when the temps are in the teens it's at least fifty five in the wormhouse (so long as the sun is out). On days like today where the outside temp is in the fourties, it just darn near feels like late spring in the wormhouse with temperatures approaching 80 degrees.

I have been vermicomposting for about four years now, trying new means and methods here and there as I go, having started out on the small scale with a couple of totes bought from the dollar store, moving up to 20 of those in what is now the primary turkey shed, and now with 13 4 x 4 x 4 wooden bins located in a 20 x 36 greenhouse called appropriately "The Wyrm".

Vermicomposting is a form of cold composting, a form of composting inherently better for plant fertility since you are not loosing valuable micro-biological life to extreme heat or loosing nutrients as readily via off gassing. There is a trade off in that you can if not carefully choose to feed diseased plants into the bins and the diseases then get passed into the plants that you fertilize with worm castings, however a few things in a worm bin are working on our side other than just the worms. The micro-biological rich humus organisms do a lot to fight off disease, both plant based as well as diseases which can occur in nature and infect humans, couple the work of these microbes with the action of black soldier fly larvae and sow bugs which are capable of digesting and destroying heavy metal particles and disease particles and your good to go!

As you can see above, the Homegrown Worm Harvester talked about on the blog here many times is still being put to good use. Currently I am in the process of harvesting 3 bins of material with a further two ready to go. The material in the bins is close to 95% finished castings, the only issue is that much of this material is still wet which means that once it is run through the harvester it has a tendency to "stick" together in moist balls. There is a solution, but it is, as said above, painfully slow. The first step in harvesting a bin is to create a refuge for the active worms to escape into which can be moved into a new bin, this started on December 1'st 2009. We use bread racks from a convenience store and place new organic material on it moistened down to attract the worm heard into the new material, after a month many of the worms have moved into this material which you can then pick up and move into a new bin. Afterwords I remove the top inch of material into a new bin as well just to pick up some of the worms that were a bit slower than the others, since most of the composting worms work within a couple inces of the top of the compost this method works pretty good, but you will never "rescue" all of them and you'll be surprised at the numbers left in the remaining finished compost.

Since I have not yet found a cheap and convenient continuous flow system the castings on the bottom do have a tendency to get waterlogged so the first thing we have to realize is that there is going to be a "drying time" for the castings. We let them set without water for the entire month of December while the worms are moving into their new bedding, once the worms are moved we begin the harvest. On the first pass through the harvester you only get about 8% of the bulk of the material as harvest able due to the moisture, we usually run one wheelbarrow worth through the harvester three times, pulling off about 15% of the bulk. At this point the other material, which is completely finished but wet, is bulked into empty worm bins where it will set for 1 to 2 weeks while we allow the worms to break it up again without the aid of any water wherein it will be harvested again with a gain from the bulk of 80% pure castings, the remaining material then goes into a new worm bin.

One of the big advantages of the initial harvest is that air is allowed to work it's way into the material that was located in the bottom of the bin and is the most moist. This turns portions of the bin that were a bit anaerobic to material in an aerobic state facilitating the breakdown of the majority of the material that was left undigested as well as accommodating a quicker dry down of the finished material.

Five years ago Kim and I decided no chemical would touch our soil again, creating thermophilic compost on farm and a worm farm went a long way, but there was never enough of this material to take care of all of the crops, for the first year in those five years we will not have to supplement our compost harvest with any bought manures or organic amendments with the exception of course of lime. We currently also have 5 4 x 4 x 4 containers in thermophilic mode of chicken/turkey/ and guinea material as well.

We will use these castings for just about every purpose here on the farm, fertilizer, potting soil, and soil blocking recipes, as follows are the methods we use to produce Bishop's Homegrown "La Bonne Terre" (the good earth) in it's many variations.

La Bonne Terre Soil Blocking Receipt:
We have struggled in searching out a way to create potting and soil blocking mixes completely self sustainably from material here on the farm. It wasn't easy, but we have found something that works well for us.

We use 2 parts worm castings (1 part is roughly four gallons by volume)
2 parts garden loam - Heavily amended clay based soil
1/4 part sand
1/4 cup bat guano
1 cup of lime
1 cup diatomacious Earth

Mixed together well and moistened this holds together as well if not better than any store bought mix or "homemade" mix with blood meal and imported coco-coir (food miles self sustainable guys?) or the non renewable sphagnum. We feel this also makes our plants far more adapted to their future planting than any other method we have ever used, and trust me, I've used all of it. To sterilize the garden loam and prevent fungal disease, weed seeds, and insect damage to plants or seed we use an old wash tub filled with garden soil to which we add 2 five gallon buckets of water and place above a fire on our outside wood pit. We heat it to 160-170 degrees for sterilization purposes. Works wonders and costs nearly nothing minus the lime. This is the same mix we use for potting soil with the exception of adding leaf mold and Forrest dander for water retention as well as gravel at the bottom of the pots for drainage.

La Bonne Terre Soil Amendment/Fertilizer
This is our main fertilizer at this point. In previous years we have added composts directly to the soil along with unprocessed animal manures which have led to many seed and plant pests as well as weed issues. Until this year we have never had enough of any self produced material to create this mix on a large enough scale to feed all the crops including the new orchard crops and raised bed greenhouse crops.

It works like this:
one part castings, 1/8 part bat guano, a cup of lime per five gallons, 1/8 part screened high nitrogen compost (poultry litter), mixed with one cup diatomacious earth per five gallons. The diatomacious earth eliminates seed and root destroying pests. We have found this mix to be perfect for every crop that we grow, some have thought it might be two high or two low nitrogen for some things but we have found the ratios to be about ideal for an already decently balanced soil. We should point out that our soils have been heavily amended over a five year period with probably close to 40 tons of organic matter added if not more, to the entire area of cultivated land. It should also be pointed out that the worm herd gets fed a very diverse diet, mostly composed of high nutrient feed stocks as opposed to bulking material like sawdust and cellulose as is fed to most commercial worm heards, this gives us access to most of the micro nutrients that are missing from most commercial casting mixes as well as access to higher NPK numbers than commercial castings. The last test that was done ran 3-3-3. We also have to realize this isn't a nutrient shot like commercial fertilizers, the nutrients are slow release but they are active and more available to plants than in almost any other type of fertilizer. About a month after planting everything will get side dressed with another dose of La Bonne Terre and occasionally we make a tea to feed to certain plants. I should also point out that last year we placed several bat houses around the farm from which we ethically harvest bat guano for on farm use. This material as well as the castings contain Chitin's, the broken down proteins of the exo skeleton of insects, known to be an insect repellent.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Alan Bishop - Agricutural Explorer-interview by Ottowa Gardener

Here is a copy and paste of the interview that I was pleased to give to my friend Otowa Gardener, I included her introduction and I just want to thank my friend for interviewing me!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Alan Bishop - Agricutural Explorer
The Interview
I am starting a new section on this blog of interviews with gardeners, growers and local seed suppliers. To start it off, here is a most excellent interview with Alan Bishop, the man who started the Homegrown Goodness. In my opinion, it is by far the best gardening forum on the internet. If your thing is edible gardening, homesteading or plant breeding, hop on over to join the fun.

In the meantime, why not read a little (okay a lot) about the man who started it all.


Alan, the man himself.

How did you first get interested in growing your own food?

I grew up on a tobacco farm. It is the farm on which I now live and has been in the family since my great Uncle Coydell Bishop.

Coydell experimented with many things including growing tomatoes and peppers for the local cannery that once existed in Pekin, Indiana. He, along with my grandparents, went so far as to purchase and perfect an unlabelled pink tomato that is now known as Bishop’s Big Pink. My grandparents, Doris and Alfred Bishop went on to purchase the farm where they raised chickens, corn, and White Burly Tobacco which at the time was a booming industry.

My parents, and later myself, helped my grandparents tend to the tobacco. I had a very close relationship with my grandparents and they taught me a lot of intuitive things that I use now on the farm. I also inherited my first tractor, a Ford Jubilee, from my grandfather. A favourite pastime and love of my grandparents was gardening. They always had a garden of a half acre or larger that I helped plant and tend. The garden usually contained corn, summer squash, winter squash (normally Hubbard explaining my love of Hubbard squash), tomatoes (Bishop’s Pink, Rutgers, Jubilee, all of which we still grow today) and more. My grandmother saved and replanted, occasionally even traded, much of her seed.

My favorite “growing” memories with my grandparents were my grandfather planting sugar baby watermelons at the end of the tobacco rows for consumption during cutting season as well as occasionally planting cantaloupes. Nothing was better on a hot day carrying tobacco sticks down long rows as a child than fresh melon. Of course my grandfather also taught me about the value of Ginseng and cultivating wild edibles, two skills which I am currently still using on the farm. The depression and war, and my grandparents’ experiences growing up in the hills of Greensburg Kentucky, were deeply ingrained in me. To this day, I remember their stories about their childhood as though they are my own memories. Kim (my fiancĂ©e) and I have often remarked that should the opportunity be provided then Greensburg would be the location of our own homestead.


On my mother’s side, there were also many gardeners. I have fond memories of visiting family in Clay County Kentucky as well as Washington County, Indiana and their vast gardens. I remember my Grandfather Wilson’s stories about raising Pencil Cob corn on the Red Bird River and Shepard’s Branch near Oneida, Kentucky using a double bottom plow pulled by mules. I remember my mother’s parents having a hedge of gooseberries planted outside their back door and eating and eating those beautiful little berries until I got sick. Hoskins-Barger Yellow/Pink was a family gene pool tomato that I received from my mother’s Aunt. The tomato originally arrived here from Oneida, Kentucky.

In high school, I took several Ag related classes taught by former students of Purdue University, both animal and plant related classes. I had the advantage of attending a school complete with a greenhouse as well as advanced college credit classes. While many students were abusing the system and using Ag classes as an easy grade, I was immersing myself in it and learning as much as I could about agriculture, even if the consensus in those classes meant that industrial agriculture is all that was discussed and endorsed. I learned many propagation methods there as well as learning about many systems of irrigation and harvest. I steered clear of things like FFA (future farmers of America) mostly because I didn’t fit into the category of people interested in those types of programs (the farmers son, 500 acres, chicken houses and a combine) and needless to say people such as them and myself didn’t necessarily see eye to eye. According to my parents, I was a bit of a wild child. It was around this time that we stopped raising tobacco but it was also at this time that I began my first breeding project called Robert Johnson White Burley Tobacco, as a fun experiment and as a tribute to my grandparents (this is why the cross was made between varieties originally grown here on the farm). At one point, I entertained the possibility of attending Purdue University but in hindsight I am glad I choose not to. I prefer to have an open mind and university methods do not encourage that.

While in high school, I became very interested in music and by the end of high school I had played in a number of local bands and recorded a number of songs. I had big dreams and wanted to escape my little town, those turned out to be pipe dreams. Later, I played with a relatively well known band for a while, but for my own health, spiritual and mental, I needed to make a change. Too many of the people around me were exhibiting behavior that was becoming irreprehensible to my personal values and I had become something that I didn’t feel was a true representation of what I could. Something called me home, back to the soil. During this time, my grandmother and I were very close. My grandfather having died in ‘93, she often expressed her disappointment in our non use of the farm (after ‘98 we stopped raising tobacco). She encouraged me to take up the reigns and do something here full time in the way that her and my grandfather had wanted to do but couldn’t (though they farmed my grandfather had worked a full time job previous to retiring). My grandmother’s death in ‘04 was the catalyst for returning to the farm.

I remember one moment in particular, on the morning of 9/11, when I had an awakening so to speak. Many people did, but mine was a little different. My generation had been so desensitized to such events that most didn’t really react; after all, we had been exposed to Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine and so forth. I remember thinking that in my lifetime there would be major changes and that all wasn’t as it appeared and that eventually I should “get prepared.”

I thought about that after I came back to the farm.

During my time as a musician, I worked in landscaping and landscape design and between the money I saved from both careers, as well as from my mother and father’s loving support, I purchased two greenhouses. My money was gone but I was into what I was doing in a way that is unexplainable.Often times when I look into something that interests me, it goes beyond ordinary interest, becoming a bit of an obsession. I have to learn all I can. I have to become what I study, and as such I immerse myself.In 2005, I found myself immersed. I began growing out many varieties of tomatoes and peppers and making crosses as well as selling at the local farmer’s market. All of my life, local and homegrown food had just been something that was always available to me. I hadn’t yet made the connection between actually growing it, selecting it, adapting it, and being connected to your food in the way that I am now. That didn’t happen until I had been separated from this farm for a few years as a musician. It was then, after my awakening, that I realized what I was missing, that I loved what I no longer had.

One of his greenhouses.

If you were to give me a tour of your farm, where would we start and what would I see?

That’s a really excellent question and the truth is it would probably change daily, at least seasonally. I’ve always got some big new idea or project I’m working on, whether it is a new piece of infrastructure or a garden layout. There’s always something. It never really feels complete here on the farm, and that’s one reason I love what I do. I am committed to it so completely.

Lately though I’ve been working on my veritable garden of Eden. It’s an overextension of my current orchard project. This past fall, I cleared about 1.5-2 acres of scrub forest on the back side of the farm, in an area that was once open field that my grandparents used for growing corn to feed their chickens. In this area, I am planting engrafted seedling trees of many fruit varieties in the name of diversity, curiosity, and selection and improvement along with Luther Burbank’s white blackberries, wild yellow and purple raspberries, and a ground cover of alpine strawberries. This area will also be a repository for Tim Peters’ many, varied perennial grains. I have also dug a small pond there. Right now there isn’t much to see there but in a few years, it will be beautiful.

My favorite place to be on the farm in the winter time is probably around the two turkey/guinea coops. I’m really proud of my birds. They have so much personality and they are so much fun to watch. In the early spring, the greenhouse makes for an excellent showing. While the grass outside is still brown, the warmth and the green coloration of the young plants in the greenhouse are quite inviting and striking in contrast.

If it were late summer/early fall, we would head out to the Astronomy Domine sweet corn patch to select seed and look at the beautiful husked ears of every hue of sweet corn seed you can imagine.

Astonromy Domine Sweet Corn

There is this little quarter acre area next to the house that I have trellised with cedar posts cut from our woodlot this season that are being used to grow many berry varieties. I have an obsession with using as many of the natural and sustainable resources around the farm as I can in my projects. They don’t always look aesthetically pleasing until they are grown over but it is good hard work and rewarding. I also have this thing about using/re-using all the junk laying around the farm. Four generations of one family on the same farm piling stuff into one old tobacco barn means there are many resources and lots of junk to utilize. It’s been part of my compulsion to alleviate this eyesore (it’s the only place that is actually cluttered on the farm) and many times I find useful materials for projects here. My rabbit hutches were almost all built out of scrap lumber, metal, and nails from the barn. Just yesterday I used a bunch of old guttering from my grandmother’s house. It had been lying next to the barn for several years now, and I got to thinking about how it would fit perfectly across the top of the cedar trellis systems and would be the perfect depth for growing alpine strawberries in the summer, not to mention that they would be in easy reaching distance for picking. I tacked up about 150 foot of the guttering system which will provide a lot of room for the diminutive alpine strawberry plants. They will freeze in the winter, but given their self seeding abilities, and my obsession with saving a few ounces of seed off of them every season, this will be fine. Besides they grow quickly and are easy to replace and I’m always making new crosses with them, attempting to select for larger size and develop them and their superior flavor into an alternative market crop.

Cedar post trellis system with gutters for alpine strawberries

What is your current areas of interest right now?

So many of the things I am into are influenced by the world around me, particularly music, which still inspires me to do new things. This is why so many of my breeding lines are named after songs, albums, or musicians. I’m also highly influenced by history, various human cultures and so forth. I’m always reading, particularly about agriculture. I’ll learn something new that I didn’t know before and it just clicks like “I have to try that.” Terra Preta was like that. Alpine Strawberries were influenced by Jefferson having grown them. Trees from seed, though genetically unstable, resonated with me via Jonathan “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman, plus there’s that whole primordial “this is how agriculture probably started experience.” I always imagine that agriculture developed from cultures noticing that seeds were growing and thriving in midden heaps. That is the essence of humanity: Innovation.

At the moment, I’m really into turkeys. Plants will always be my first love but animals, particularly poultry and now rabbits, are a close second. I love turkeys, their personalities, colors, and most of all the striking poses they take as well as their meat qualities. Heritage turkeys, not the monstrosities they grow in overcrowded houses.

The Anasazi realized the value in these birds and to this day they are credited with initial domestication; I like that. There is something special about the way that they saw them as a sacred animal.

I’m very interested in breeding new color combinations, but mostly in improving feed to weight ratios and fixing size types.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about Beltsville Small White Turkeys and Midget White Turkeys, both were novel ideals which came a bit too late, coinciding with the rise in popularity by producers of broad breasted monstrosities. Both were almost lost completely. I have obtained new stock of both breeds, due to arrive this spring and already have the Royal Palms that were involved in the breeding of the Midget Whites. I converted my original Rion Hobby Greenhouse into a secondary turkey coop for my small type birds. My hope is to improve the breast meat of these birds and breed midgets in less predator prone colors than white. We have a bad problem with hawks here and so white, small type birds are sitting ducks (so to speak). I think that a Bronze, Black, Bourbon, or Blue midget with a wide breast would be of importance to a lot of producers.

Ideally, I want to have two flocks with one made up of large sized birds to act as a gene pool just like in most of my breeding projects. Then I want a second flock, another gene pool, but restricted to smaller sized birds. Not all families, particularly small ones, will want to eat a standard bronze sized turkey, some want a smaller bird.

Some sassy looking turkeys

I’m also working with standard and French Guineas. French Guineas look just like pearls, but they get huge - 7 lbs. With a bit of light, they will lay year round like chickens. The issue is they don’t breed naturally, but by using a standard guinea cock bred to a French hen over a few generations, I can select for a naturally breeding, year round laying, French type guinea.Rabbits are new to me and I’m not sure where I’m going with them. It was the history of rabbits and French settlers in this area that got me interested. I’m growing for meat; in time I imagine I’ll breed some of my own unique stock.

Regarding plants, 2010 will see the stabilization of many lines of ongoing breeding progeny. Of particular importance to me is the release of my tomatoes - Absinthe and Jack White, Pac Man, The Pink Floyd and some others - to a seed company. I would also like to get the Astronomy Gene pool out there via a seed company. There are some squash vine borer and powdery mildew tolerant Hubbard squash lines, both large and small, (to go with your turkey?) in the pipeline, along with a very cool, nearly stable, Hip-Gnosis green fleshed cantaloupe, two lines of genetically diverse white fleshed watermelons and the dent corn; both gene pool OP types and nearly fixed varieties.

I’m always obsessed with seed varieties, scouring catalogues even long after I’m out of room to grow any more. I do a lot of gene pools in a search for diversity. In coming years, as mentioned above, I’ll be doing the uber important work of selecting fruit varieties from seed. We need new and better adapted fruit varieties, but we have been so discouraged by the “know it all” professionals from growing from seed. It’s no wonder we are loosing diversity.I like to read about and experiment with soil fertility. I’ve been raising red worms for several years now, but this year it’s bigger than ever. I have 12 full 4 x 4 x 4 wooden bins that have been fed variable feed stocks. Everything really, including meat, leaves, rabbit manure, chicken manure, goat manure, cow manure, horse manure, table scraps, leftover wine squeezing and yeast cakes, coffee, coffee beans, bakery leftovers, egg cartons (cellulose). Many of them have been fortified with Bat Guano and lime. Worms are a world all their own and so is soil fertility. I love talking about it. I enjoy the idea of building a soil, of building humus. We figured out that in the past 5 years, we have amended 5-6 acres of land with close to 40 tons of material. That’s a lot. My grandparents used a lot of organic matter but also used commercial fertilizers. When we started farming again after the 8 year lull, there were few worms. Now they are everywhere. There are so many, in fact, that unless the ground is frozen, the turkeys hardly ever eat any grain. I count that as a blessing, both in not having to feed them and in that a large earthworm population is a sign of fertility and that at every second of the day they are working my soil, fortifying it.

I like concepts. Words really. Sustainability, humus, naturally breeding, gene pool. Lot’s of them.

What do you see as the most important trend in edible gardening right now?

When I first started the message board and got into Open Pollinated/Heirloom seeds, a lot of people frowned upon what I was saying about making gene pools, about breeding new varieties with a wide genetic base. I tried to explain it to people then but they didn’t get it.

The concept to me was always a two edged sword. On one hand, you had the idea of genetic purity in seed strains, which on the face of it, strikes me as like Le Petit eugenics, but in some instances it is a good thing. The instances within which it is a good thing are those instances when one is growing a variety adapted specifically to their bio-region, climate, or more specifically their own garden.

The problem arises when we take a look at how few actually “regional” seed companies we have. Before the so called Green Revolution, we relied on these regional seed companies that sold seed adapted specifically to our environment - seed that we could count on. The heirloom movement came along and gave us tons and tons of diversity, which is a good thing, but with it came marketing seeds adapted to the Pacific North West or the South Western states to people on the east coast or in Canada or in the deep south where they will not grow properly without a struggle. You also have what we have come to call “seed snobs”, those obsessed with saving every variety of everything and keeping it completely “pure.” These people didn’t get me at all. I was being inspired by guys like Ken Ettlinger and Alan Kapuler; bio-diversity was the key to me, so I made a place for folks like me in my forum.

Cover of Deep Diversity Catalogue

So my thing was to find seeds adapted to your environment, preferably regional varieties that historically correspond to your area, where you are missing something in your seed list and where there exists no new variety then to breed a variety, particularly using gene pools and horizontal resistance selection. Here we get maximum diversity, and while it is not always a crop harvestable all at once, a trait useful mostly only to industrial agriculture anyhow, it works. You can select for a set of traits and create something stable and “pure” that has never existed before, or you can select for an open pollinating gene pool or grex of varieties. This is how we ended up with most of our heirloom diversity to begin with. Looking at the Native American varieties, we can see this kind of diversity in many of their crops such as squash that grow fruit of four or five types from one seed variety, a single watermelon type which makes red, yellow, and orange fleshed melons of all sizes or “Indian corn” as it is so called for all its various colors. At one time this was a gene pool.

The other thing is that many of our crops, our treasured heirlooms, particularly corns, are highly inbred to the extent that if we don’t do something we are going to loose them. I always say that sometimes the genes are more important than the varieties. So many gene banks and seed companies are dealing with inbred lines that we are going to loose all of those important genes if we don’t start gene pooling them and increasing their diversity and limiting in a major way their diversity.

So really, I think the most important trend in agriculture is this move towards the acceptance of amateur plant breeding. It’s only through this area of research in conjunction with organic methods that we will ever be able to develop useful alternatives to industrial agriculture for our communities.

Another thing I have noticed, more of in the past year, is the trend to move away from tomatoes as the uber important crop of interest. So many people are concerned with growing and maintaining tomato lines, understandable as it’s a popular and well loved crop that doesn’t take much room too grown, but we already have about 10,000 well known tomatoes, of which some many are probably very similar. A lot of people are interested in breeding tomatoes. I’ve moved away from it. It’s nice to see people getting into other crops, maintaining them as well as breeding new ones. It gives me hope, and I hope that in time we will see half as many new other vegetables being bred, maintained and released by individuals every season as we do tomatoes. Maybe I am biased when it comes to tomatoes though, I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I don’t eat them, and wouldn’t if I was paid! Is it strange for a Hoosier to not like the taste of tomatoes?

I think a lot of this change has come due to all the uncertainties in our world, both economic and political. I think it’s good that people are looking at regionalism and sustainability. It is probably time that we get ready for the worst, even if the worst never comes. The only way we will ever be able to continue to thrive as humanity is via experimental and sustainable agriculture.

The thing that gives me the most hope and the most inspiration are the numerous friends I have made in the world of agriculture, in person and via the internet. So many great friends have shared not just their diversity and knowledge with me, but their love and their friendship, and that is the greatest gift of all. One day, I dream of meeting them all in person, of sharing with them our hopes and dreams in person. It is because these people have put their belief and friendship into my work that I do what I do. This is the only place I have ever felt accepted in the world of agriculture. Even 10,000 years after we stopped stumbling around the wild simply hunting and gathering, we are all still a tribe. Part of me, the part that motivates me, is my love for almost all things and all people.

Alan Reed Bishop


Thank you Alan!

Hear more on his blog Bishop's Homegrown Goodness
Posted by Ottawa Gardener at 12:47 AM 1 comments

Is it freaking spring yet? The countdown has begun.

Every year, about October 31'st or so, I start asking Kim; "Is it spring yet", I think I even wrote an article on here and for the Lost River Market and Deli called that last year. Well, I'd like to report, since implementing animal agriculture and working on the orchard (including cutting out the back lane and cutting 8 billion cedar posts) I am happy to admit, that until today, I was clean and sober from the "spring delusion".

Unfortunately it wasn't meant to last and here I am, approaching the middle of January and finally feeling that insatiable urge to make an excuse, any excuse to play in the dirt. But something I have also noticed about this "spring disease" is that not only is there a countdown in days but also in terms of what must be done/purchased and how long I have to do such a thing or purchase an item I need, couple that with being slightly obsessive compulsive and you have the makings of a 500 item long "stuff I need/stuff to do" list, which is actually all good because it will keep my mind off of the cold weather, plus I'll be doing some wine making and rabbit hunting over the next few weeks.

Anyhow, high on the agenda is finishing up putting a raised bed into the larger of the two greenhouses as I have detailed here. Luckily this season I don't have to buy much of any seed, at this point it's a waiting on other people to send their trades or for the seeds I did order to arrive game.......then I can stare at the pile of seed and dream, be obsessive compulsive, and start thinking, "where the hell will I have room for that." I do love it!

This year we ditched our old seed starting flats and humidity domes, after four years in the greenhouse they were shot, we started looking around for alternatives and found a really good, cheap, easy to store, and long lasting alternative. Translucent plastic storage boxes from the dollar store. They are about 6 inches deep and a couple feet long, soil blocks fit perfectly right on top of the lid and then the box clicks down and locks in place on the lid locking in heat and humidity and locking out seed eating rodents.

This week I'll be harvesting all kinds of worm castings, farm more than I have ever had access to in previous years, this is something I am very thankful for, the investment in time and space and money for the expanded worm heard in "The Wyrm" was well worth it! I'll be putting up a blog post detailing this process later this week.

We also added a lighting timer to the turkey/guinea coop this past week, in order to trick the turkeys into thinking that spring had arrived since game birds are highly photo sincitive, in the past four days we have seen 3 hens lay, with one laying on a daily basis, and the Toms now breeding the hens quite regularly. Exciting times. Even the guineas are getting "busy". I should have enough turkey eggs in a week or two to fill up the Hovabator and get an early hatch, which would be nice since then I could spare culling the two small toms for Easter celebrations.

Saturday I recieved in the mail the scion wood for the Khazakistani wild apple accessions I requested from the USDA ARS GRIN GENEVA station via Phillip Forsline. I believe there are 6 or 7 accessions of four or five pieces each of scion wood, more than enough to replace the bud grafts that I made last year which didn't take and likely far more valuable in the long run.

On the 20'th of this month I should be recieving the Jumbo Guinea stock from Ideal Poultry along with the 7,000000000000 rooster chicks they will place in the box for warmth which I didn't really want, but you know what? I ain't picky and I'll feed them up on cheap cracked corn and have a freezer full of meat in a few months, and let me tell you from experience, that chicken you buy at the store, it isn't chicken compared to homegrown chicken, I don't even think it's real meat!

I've also got 20 turkeys coming in March, including the amazing little Midget White turkeys I've been so excited to obtain. Seriously considering putting in a $40.00 order for a dozen eggs to for some Beltsville small white turkeys.

Still got to build another large rabbit hutch for the new rabbit stock we picked up this year. Not enough time or money, and yet by spring I'll have forgotten about this whole "is it spring yet" dillema and see only the sun shining and green plants growing and know that it is and will always be worthwhile!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Snow Day and Selecting Corn Seed For Free Amino Acid Content

Well, it most certainly snowed today, which equals one thing and one thing only for me: Boredom.

So aside from taking a few pictues I decided to organize the seed collection into something that resembles order, particularly getting the varieties and genepools I grow yearly put into one convinent location and getting those in need of seed increase where they can easily be found. Sounds easier than it actually was, sometimes I forget just how much seed I have on hand and of how many varieties at any given point in time.

I also made some visual selections of corn kernels from The Astronomy Domine Genepool. I'm interested in growing out some individual color lines now that all the genes have had a chance to recombine. Most of the purple seed is the result of incorporating Alan Kapulers various Double red and Martian Purple lines into Astronomy Domine, however, those genes have now been shuffled along with the genes from the other 150 plus varieties that make up the genetic background of Astronomy Domine, I have interest in developing another new purple pigmented line (noticed abundant life is carrying another new Munk bergin purple line too that I'm gonna have to add to this material). As you can see from the pic below I was also working on developing a couple more color pools. Particularly red, which is mostly the result of Millersburg Red, Red Evergreen, and the F1 Ruby Queen material, but also an Orange line. Should prove to be fun and helpful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Veggie Garden Re-Imagined Interview.

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ottowa Gardener, a dear friend of mine who runs The Veggie Garden Re-Imagined blog and who is also a member of our Homegrown Goodness forum. I really enjoyed the opporotunity to express some ideas in this format and introduce myself to my audience a bit differently than I do on the blog. Check it out here:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sending out all of my prayers and love to my friends!

Recently we were informed via Dan Mcmurray at Homegrown Goodness that his beautiful wife Val. has become very ill. Many of you will know Dan and Val via their wonderful Blog as well as by their screen names Grunt and Grungy at various garden forums around the net. They do some really amazing seed banking work and always are very willing to share their seeds, knowledge, and most importantly their love with everyone they come across.

Although I have never had the opportunity to meet them face to face I consider them deeply a part of my family and I love them just as I would any of my close relatives, I want to take a moment to ask all of you to please keep them in your thoughts or your prayers (regardless of your spiritual belief system) and wish and pray with all your heart for Val's quick recovery. We love you Dan and Val and we stand beside you in your time of turmoil my friends.

Keeping Better Notes and Documents

I made myself a promise last season that I would start keeping much more efficient notes and particularly pedigrees in the coming years as well as document all of my work where and when possible, mostly for my own use, but also for any interested in the vagaries of daily life and record keeping on a small sustainable farm. Kim passed onto me a cell phone (without service, I don't keep a cell phone active for various reasons) complete with a word pad option and from there I kept a few notes beginning in September of '09. Here they are, mostly for my own reference, but some may find some things of interest. If nothing else it is interesting to compare these notes and the ideas that I present in some of them to how those ideas changed in the weeks afterword as evidenced by my posts here on the blog and at Homegrown Goodness. ( spelling as appears via that tiny damn keyboard )

Sept 5 2009:: Why use a sterile and "soiless" seed starting and potting medium purchased with funds that are not available when resources such as worm castings, bat guano, creek sand, Forrest dander, and leaf mold are abundant. Spent the day gathering material for "living Soil." Dampening of and fungal infections lead to advanced insights into survival of the fittest and allow only the strongest stock to remain for future selection. The small 8 x 8 Rion greenhouse and humanure house has been prepared as a potting shed and the stratification site for the nursery stock seed in need of such treatment. Earlier seeded blueberry plants have been transplanted to four inch pots and find themselves in the southh-easter facing kitchen windows along with the seeds of date plums, asian persimmons, jujubees, wolberry seed and wolfberry cuttings.

September 6-20 2009: Have started and collected seed of persimmon, pawpaw, blueberry, blackberry, yellow, purple, and red raspberry, gooseberry, white, red, and pink currants, black walnut, pinion nuts, zuni peaches 12 types of sweet and sourr cherries. Researched Luther Burbanks books and Johnny Appleseed. Determined to work with genetically unstable apple pips in field and timber clearings to develop new varieties and also sell as cider apple stock in nursery. Cut 150 cedar posts and build trellis and arbour systems. Started many plum varieties and planted "blue River Peaches. Also cut out lane along back fence for firewood and plan to plant high value orchard/timber in it's place including hickory, persimmon, black cherry, black walnut and possibly apples. Gathered apple pippins from cider press at "Old Settlers Days" in Salem Indiana and seperated seed from pulp with the help of the worm casting harvester. Cleaned out the goat pen and fed bedding and old compost to the worm heard and cleaned out the chicken coop which filled two four by four by four compost boxes. Resultant compost will be used as soil amendment in 2010 as well as for "living soil" for nursery. High nitro chicken manure for corn in 20010 and for the nursery as well.

Sept 19 2009:

Purchased and ungrafted purple plum tree and planted in block five of west facing hill in orchard. Four distinct yearling rose of sharons planted in front of west facing porch as future nursery stock.

September 22 2009: Today saw the planting of the apple seeds obtained via the local apple press. I planted a myriad of them and have yet a couple ounces left to go. First new "living soil" mix must be created. Also planted sweet pecan nuts and chestnuts in nursery.

Oct 3 2009: Last of the genetics for the orchard still rolling in. Plums from New Miexico in "living soil" four inch pots and chessnuts in ground next to strawberry nursery. Playing with grocery store fruit genetics such as black asian plums, asian pears and apples. Those fruits from the Southern Hemisphere are already well stratified with apples sometimes having sprouted inside mother fruit. Particularly is the cas of Pink Lady. Also recieved josta cutting from Lieven David that is already rooting. Pinion nuts from Silver seeds have already germinated and apparently stratification is not needed. Fruit seed from crocery not yet stratified will now be seedied into "living soil" contained in egg cartons and stacked ins spare refrigerator for winter stratification. Should be convinient. Also prepping greenhouse for winter and bringing fall crops to table. Have been clearing back wooded lane for fire wood and site of future orchard of ungrafted trees. Will also include alpine strawberries and white blackberries as well as Tim Peters perrinial grain varieties. My good friend Jason Carty alerted me to Khazakistan wild apple seed sources via ARS GRIN GENEVA/Phillip Forsline. Seed coming in November with scion wood of elite lines coming in spring of next year via lines already tested for disease resistance and cullinary qualities. "elite germplasm". So far have cleared nearly an acre of land in the project. Poulty breeding program comin along well with two turkeys of standard bronze type reaching maturity and mating way ahead of season. Currently treating bronze hen for a case of bumblefoot.

Oct-Nov 2009:

Finished cutting orchard space from woods and dug 10 foot by 10 foot by 6 foot deep irrigation pond for watering the seedlings in this new ungrafted orchard. Ordered and am currently stratifying quince, French Walnut, Heartnut, Filbert, Apricot, Hickory and pear seed which was obtained from ARS GRIN USDA. Recieved a number of plum, apricot, apple, pear, pecan, walnut and other seed via trade. Also recieved the Snowbank white blackberry via Bob Hornback. Total cost with shipping and inspection is sixty dollars but very well worth it. Lost my Naragansette turkey to a predator but was quickly replaced with five Royal Palm Turkey poults and two broad brested bronze hens. Also obtained some Harlequin meat rabbits from May Finn Farm and donated some Hip-Gnosis foundational seed stock to the Long Island Seed Project.


Learned to slaughter chickens and turkeys. Culled a Bourban Red Hen and a Standard Bronze for Thanksgiving. Easier than I thought. Expanding in 2010.

As you can see, at some point I stoped taking notes so vigorously, it takes a lot of time and from now on I'll just be recorded the relevant and important things as opposed to vagaries. Anyhow, just wanted to have this on record somewhere. The 2010 notes will be posted in 2011 as part of the finished five year Grimoure.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Keep an eye out for a new interview!

Recently I completed a very good, though long and rambling on my behalf, interview tih Ottowa gardener where I shared much of my history about my farm and my methods, it should be posted to The Veggie Patch Re-imagined in the near future as well as at the Homegrown Goodness message board.

I just wanted to remind everyone not to forget about our good friend Trudi over at Wintersown. Every year for the past three years I have donated seeds to her wonderful educational program and if you have some you can spare I highly suggest sharing with Trudi who is a wonderful person and who has done much to liberate little known varieties from the USDA seed bank and to share those varieties with others, her seeds have traveled the world and I can't say enough good things about her program. Also, don't be afraid to request seeds from Trudi, she is very generous and loves to send out seeds to folks willing to experiment with the concept of winter sowing. I look forward to years of releasing seed of new varieties via Trudi!

Implimenting more animal agriculture!

As those of you who follow the blog and the Homegrown Goodness Message Board know I have taken a keen interest in adding farm animals to my farm for production as well as breeding work. Particularly my interest is in guineas, turkeys, and now rabbits. I've become very interested in meat production both for my family as well as to provide this valuable, locally produced commodity to my business customers. Of course having access to their manure is almost as valuable to myself as the meat itself is.

But what would my animal husbandry skills be without some amount of breeding just as I have done to improve upon and further adapt my plant varieties.

A couple of experiments in particular have piqued my interest.

A lot of modern families don't want/need a large sized standard bronze turkey but are more akin to eating a smaller type turkey, the Belstville small white turkeys and midget white turkeys fit this bill to a t and as such I have added them to the stock list for this spring and built a second coop to keep two separate flocks of birds, a large sized standard and a small sized standard. My large turkeys of course I am selecting for feed to weight gain ratio as well as new color combinations and stronger constitutions, the small birds will be a bit more interesting.

The problem with the small midget type turkeys is the color, white is a very predator prone color, particularly in an open field, in Pekin Indiana where we have a huge population of red tailed hawks waiting to Carry them off, it seems to me that selecting for and actively breeding for a dark colored midget turkey would be not just of value to myself but to many others along with breast fleshing properties. Alas I will build another genepool.....more to come.

Next up are guineas. Recently I became aware of French Guineas which look and behave just like pearl guineas but reach a much larger, meat friendly size and which also lay eggs year round with a little bit of light (I got rid of my chicken laying flock to buy these birds and have space for them without worrying about so many turkey and chicken cross disease issues). The problem is the French guineas are akin to broad breasted turkeys in that they don't breed naturally, however after a bit of research I have learned that using a standard guinea cock mated to a French guinea hen it is possible to select for the large size, the year round egg laying ability, and natural breeding tendencies.

I am still learning a bit about the rabbits, but have added a lot to my stock having recently purchased some young California crosses, New Zealand, Pure Californians, and New Zealand crosses to go with my English Lop and Harlequin stock. In time I imagine that I will genepool these traits and study them while selecting for the fasted meat gain properties available to me.

Re-using on farm Junk/New Turkey Coop

I have a compulsion about cleaning up junk brought to the farm by other family members. Junk annoys me, anything laying around without a use really annoys me. I had been staring at the guttering laying next to the barn for the past few years trying to find a use for it. Some of it was used on some buildings to make some water catchment systems, but there was still a lot left. Then it hit me; "Those would be perfect for growing alpine strawberries in!"

As you might remember from reading the blog, this past year I cut a number of cedar posts to make some trellis systems, it just so happens those gutters fit perfectly at the top of those trellis's. Yeah, I know, the strawberries will freeze out in the winter time and will have to be watered in the summer, no big deal. Since alpines self sow readily and since I do a lot of alpine breeding I've always got enough seed to replant in these new troughs. Junk problem solved!

Also, since I'm expanding on my poultry, particularly my turkey flock, I have been in bad need of a secondary coop but I was a bit short on money to build one, alas, I found my solution.

My first greenhouse was a Rion 8 x 8, I always suggest to people buying a greenhouse for the first time not to waste their money on these overly expensive and cheaply produced houses but to instead buy a cold frame. The problem with these hobby kits is that no matter how well you put them together eventually the panels are going to be blown out by the wind and the plastic is going to crack in places. I have used mine for many different projects since buying it, it has been a greenhouse, a seed drying facility, a potting shed, a humanure hut, and now a turkey coop.

I framed out the sides with some rough cut lumber (like I used in building the huge meat rabbit grow out hutch), attached some chicken wire across the bottom for ventilation and knocked out the side panels. I took some old tobacco sticks and screwed them to the front and back and then used the tarp off of the old chicken coop to cover the top and block the sun out. For roosts on the inside I screwed some metal 2 x 4 pieces in place (these were dropped off here 3 years ago by one of my dad's friends for no good reason, I'm glad to find a use for them) and thus a Rion greenhouse was turned into a homegrown turkey coop! Speaking of using junk, in front of the new coop you'll notice some old ammo boxes, wherein there are seed for five types of raspberries, a blackberry type, and two gooseberry types stratifying, more junk with a good use!

For some reason blogger isn't allowing me to upload photos so I'll try an embed from my picassa account.

Bishop's Homegrown 2010