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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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Evaluating and storing corn seed.

Pictured above are from top to bottom: New blue clamp down barrels for long term, waterproof seed storage. Until we get a new root cellar/storm shelter built this fall/next spring two of these with large duplicate samples of our new varieties and some of the rarer Open Pollinated types will find their way into the ground for long term seed storage.

Second: drought stressed and low fertility stressed, but viable and incredibly diverse Astronomy Domine sweet corn

Third: Amanda Palmer (early variant) seed ears. Shelled these off for seed earlier today, got a huge blister on my thumb as a reward as well as about 20 lbs of seed. Two more later variant patches and a pure UK tuxpeno patch still are standing waiting to be evaluated for seed and harvested for turkey feed stored in the new corn crib.

Still wanting to trade corns, read posts below this one for the downlow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Searching for heirloom collards....

Collards are one of our favorite survival foods here on the farm. We tend to love brassica crops in general, but collards have a special place in our heart on those cold winter days when nothing else is growing. This year we are growing out a mass cross of many types of heirloom and F1 collards, however, much like jello, there is always room. That said I came accross this excellent ARS article about collecting Carolina heirloom/landrace collards:

Unfortunately those accessions don't yet seem to be available. Perhaps some of you out there have some other lesser known collard accession and we could facilitate a trade? E-mail:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Absinthe Melon: Crop Profile

Absinthe Melon: Crop Profile
Crop Type: Muskmelon
Breeder: Alan Bishop/Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Bishop’s Homegrown
Breeding Method: Mass Cross, Composite, Genepool, Landrace
- Produce a high yielding vine bearing melons of exceptionally high quality under adverse conditions
- 1-5 pound, single serving, highly netted
- Powdery Mildew and Cucumber Beetle tolerance
- Drought and Low Fertility Tolerance
- High sugar content

Parents: Green Machine, Green Nutmeg, Rocky Ford (Eden’s Gem), Jenny Lind, Various numbered lines from gene banks, occasional contributions from orange fleshed muskmelons, honeydews, and true Cantaloupes. Also: Long Island Seed Project contributions and PMR 51

F4 Generation.

Comments: I have introgresed many lines into this particular gene pool over the past four years, selecting on productivity and taste as well as tolerance to low water intake and powdery mildew as well as cucumber beetles. Yearly we grow out between 50-100 plants to select from and taste plays heavily into the selection criteria. Very diverse population generally ripens much earlier than orange fleshed varieties and with much lower inputs. Generally short vines, very rarely rambling in type.

An excellent blog.

Anyone who has spent some time on the blog or over at Homegrown Goodness knows about my reverence of Native American agriculture, particularly Southwestern agriculture. Recently I stumbled across an excellent blog that deals quite a lot with placing a timeframe on the earliest agricultural efforts at Chaco canyon and in some recent posts has addressed the turkey issue. If you have a chance, check out Gamblers House here:

Now Trading.....

1. Lb. of Amanda Palmer Corn
1. lb. of Astronomy Domine sweet corn
1. lb. of UK Tuxpeno corn

for any of the following:

1. lb. of floriani red flint
1. lb. of rhode island white cap flint
1. lb. painted mountain corn
1. lb. of bear island corn
1. lb of Roys Calais corn
or any quantity over one ounce (viable, at least 30 ear population selection) of any type or types of Waxy or Glutinous corn. Would also trade for flour corns with great lodging resistance, less tillering, and at least 6-7 feet tall and productive.


What was I doing on those 100 degree days?

Building a corn crib! Or, should I say, rebuilding one that Kims father (Dale Ratts) and I took apart and moved here. I honestly don't know what was more of a pain in the ass, taking it down which involved grinding all of the nuts off of the two main seams with a cutting wheel on a grinder (which proceeded to give me an sinus infection which put me down for a week in the spring) and driving it home on a trailer that was two sizes too small, or putting it back up, realizing how little leway there was for rebuilding it given it wasn't built quite straight in the first place and was bowed from being unlevel. It was one thing to get the walls up, quite another to make the roof work just right while also smoldering in the oven that is the walls of this behemouth on a one hundred degree plus couple of days! Either way, I have a corn crib, and if your going to be a corn breeder or a sustainable turkey farmer/breeder you have to have one! I should easily be able to accomidate 500 bushel here.

I've also been spending a lot of time hand harvesting the Tuxpeno/Southern Dent component of the new Amanda Palmer synthetic/composite/landrace corn(s). Last Friday I hand harvested close to an acre of this valuable new genepoos which will undoubtably give rise to several new, interesting, and useful lines, both for human and animal consumption. The tuxpeno components matured and dried down the quickest of all with lots and lots of genetic diversity including tuxpeno, semi-dent, semi-flint, dent, and flint variations and lots of colors.

Harvesting and shucking by hand as I walk down the rows is quite an experience, the knowledge gained cannot be underestimated even given the heat and humidity. Doing this work by hand puts me back in touch with the earth and gives me a whole new respect for the entity that is corn and the uniqe symbosis that exists between corn and humans and the role that corn and other grains have played in our 10,000 years of agricultural civilization. This also gives me an opporotunity to test every plant in the plot for agronomic traits I might miss by using a corn picker or having my crop combined. I litterally touched and tested and observed every plant in the field and every kernal on the cobs, looking for those traits which would lend it most easily to self sustainable organic agriculture; drought tolerance, standability, production, and more. The seed was planted exceptionally early this year on April 5'th in cold and wet conditions, the stands were full giving me access to a plethora of traits for cool/wet soil germination and tolerance, it also survived at least two frosts early in the season. This also gives the opporotunity to eliminate any molds or fungus from the corn crib prior to it's introduction to that important cache of feed and seed. It would be my guess that the value of the gnosis (knowledge) gained in this intensive environment would have to be equal to 10 years of harvesting and open pollinated corn by way of a picker (and making mass selection from a corn crib) or a lifetime of growing F1 hybrids or gmo's and harvesting via combine. Did I mention we also hand planted it and hand side dressed it with turkey compost which we hand turned on the farm? It doesn't get any more intensive or sustainable than that! The seed that doesn't make the cut now becomes animal feed and the cobs become bedding for the turkey coops. There are still two acres of corn left to harvest. Those ears in the floor of the corn crib are secondary yellow ears of Astronomy Domine as I have not yet got a picture up of the first haul of "feed" corn that is currently drying in the crib, those hung on the wall are "Amanda Palmer" seed donors which meet my expectations, mind you, only from one of the three interbreeding plots.

Next year we will persue both seed to row breeding plots and further mass selection, some of the flint derrivitives will be frozen for future research into sustainable flint lines.

I personally feel that the genetics preserved in these stocks are more than adequate to develop germplasm adaptable to global warming (whether man made or natural) or global cooling. As well we will be making selection based on taste in polenta, grits, flour, parching and more but the ultimate use of this corn as an adaptavar feed for our turkeys.

This particular genepool is made up of a number of corn parents, mostly southern dents and northeastern flints but also a very valuable day length neutral lowlan tuxpeno variety. Bloody Butcher, Reids Yellow Dent, Lancaster Surecrop, Cherokee White Eagle, Daemon Morgans Butcher, Boone County White, Johnson County White, Hickory King Yellow, and UK Tuxpeno make up the majority of the pollen contributions.

Seed will be available this fall via the Face Of The Earth Seed CSA and we will update photos and info as we continue to harvest into the fall.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Astronomy Domine" Year 5 variations.

Here you can see some particularly interesting new variation in the Astronomy Domine landrace as it enters it's fifth year. As time allows I will compile a new pedigree for this composite as it has grown substantially since I last published one, we are now up amongst 170 varieties and counting with some new germplasm added this past season including old OP varieties from Native Seeds/SEARCH, Gatersleben, Dan and Val Mcmurray, ARS GRIN, and some modern SE and SE+ varieties.

The smaller squat ears are from an experimental plot planted sans any type of fertilizer on the worst piece of ground on the farm, nearly all heavy red clay, with no irrigation (the Cheese Pumpkin and Seminole X Cheese crosses were planted here and in the same way as well). The seed was planed April 1'st and survived flooding, frost, cold and wet soil, dry soil and several days of extrodinarily high temperatures for our region. The plants were stunted and all were less that 5 feet tall with many topping out at around three feet! Despite these obsitcles we were able to get many plants to produce one and sometimes two smallish ears which give us access to a suite of diverse genes which we feel will strengthen the overall genepool of the end product with some astounding tolerances.

Oh yeah, notice those green kernels? :) Getting there! Make no mistake about the diversity of those small ears though, I guarantee you there is more diversity here in this picture alone than in all of the holdings of sweet corn attributable to Seed Savers Exchange. Survival food at it's best.

The large yellow ears are from another low fertility plot and were contirbuted by the cross of Astronomy Domine to Incredible, NK199, Bodacious, and a couple of other modern yellow sweet types. The one cylandrical "perfect" ear will become a breeding plot of it's own next season, others will be bulked with seed from the previous two seasons, contributors sending seed back and the fresh harvest from the many other plots this season. Seed will be available through the Face Of The Earth Seed CSA.

Breeding for bio-regions and fighting multi-nationals!

I've been doing a bit of research as of late on many old corn lines and newly developed ones, of course along the way I might finds something incredibly awesome about squash, tomatoes, turnips, watermelons, strawberries, fruit trees, or any number of other things which might derail my chosen subject of "obsession" at the moment. Either way, it's all about how deep down the rabbit hole you choose to go and while scrounging through a particularly fruitful shelf within that rabbit hole I came accross an amazing web-site dealing with the Oscar H. Will seed company. I have discused this company in the past on the blog, particularly their connection to the Native Americans and the varieties of seed which were given to Oscar Will by the natives of North Dakota, but I knew very little of both the man and his son (the future heri to the company) and their personal struggles.

This article gave me some insight:

It's nice to know that there were other kindred souls out there struggling not just with producing seed and breeding seed but also with the "human condition" in general, it gave me hope and inspiration for which I have put to good use with my work.

It's really amazing to me to think that Oscar H. Will, James J.H. Gregory and Luther Burbank all three walked this earth and worked specifically within their diverse bio-regions at the same time. Wow, is such geneious to be found now, I know it is, just got to motivate some of these guys to get their stuff out there in the open a little more "efficiently".

Anyhow, as with many plant breeders, it is obvious that I have borrowed many of the genetics in my "Astronomy Domine" line directly from Oscar H. Will (via the Mandan Indians) by way of Nuetta and Sunshine sweet corns, and probably others. As we speak I am looking for a definitive list of varieties which were introduced via his famous seed house.

I really enjoyed reading most of all about his descriptions of varieties as well as his overal description of the work presented in his catalog. The use of "key words" like hardiness, cold tolerance, resistance, almost metaphorical in their meaning in certain ways speaks to me and my work using metaphorical alchemy to describe what I wish to do.

People often ask us, Kim and Myself, why we have such and impetetus on breeding, I have addressed this many times in my writing and have written many unique articles about the why's and hows, but people don't always seem to "get it". They don't understand why we go through the trials and tribulations involved when they have come to the understanding that "so many good varieties already exist", and they are right, there are many amazing heirloom and OP varieties, but what they don't realize is that none of these varieties is "static". Evolution never stops, every time you save seed you are making a selection, even if only subconciously, but more importantly you are adapting that variety to your location.

The real reasons why we persue plant breeding have a lot to do with room for improvement, there are amazing old varieties out there, many tailored to our particular bio-region here in the mid-west/Ohio Valley region but often times they are under productive or fall to the various weather related diseases, sometimes they are incredibly bottlenecked via genetics (IE. Inbred) and most of all they may not fit my tastes, nor the tastes of my customers. Of course we are also dealing with a dynamic and changing environment (wether natural or manmade; global warming or cooling) and of course the conspiracy theorist in me is always preparing for things to get FUBAR, as we all should be. Most of all I love exploring, I love adapting things, being creative, selecting for unique adaptations.

I have in just 6 seasons created lines adapted to incredibly low fertility, high and low PH, cool soil germination, powdery mildew tolerance, drought, flood conditions and more, and all of it relied on both the old OP varieties and modern hybrids as sources of germplasm. Grex/Mix/Landrace/Genepool, they all mean the same thing, but what they ultimately give us is an amazing amount of diversity and an assurance of abundance in the hardes of times, in the worst of conditions, an extended cropping system, advanced disease and environmental tolerances, an assurance that we can, when we need to be, be self sufficient farmers, stewards of seed, earth, and human life. With these seeds we also make a powerful statement to the powers that be in this world, to the Monsantos, the Syngentas, to the elements of government and beyond that seek to control us and domesticate us like "Chattel". We will not ever "Die Born".

We recently made the move to dedicate our lives and our business; Bishop's Homegrown: Face Of The Earth Seed soley to the breeding and introduction of incredibly diverse and yet completely reliable landraces of vegetables, fruits, nursery stock, chickens, guineas, turkeys, and more. A decision I won't regret, if only for the fact that I have come to realize that devoting my life soley to selling produce (which I will continue on a smaller scale, focusing on a CSA and taking extras to market) will not accomplish what we seek in this world in the way of forging connections to the earth and to The Real by way of our varieties and Gnosis with other people. No, I think a traveling seedsman is a fine thing to be, a traveling sustainable extension office is even better, it also at least makes us a moving target for the powers that be. Ultimately we would love to inspire others in other bio-regions to become interested in becoming plant breeders and then seedsman and teachers. To some extent that is a success, some thanks to our doing and some thanks to their own god given instincts. Joseph Lofthouse is one of those fellows, John Grahm another. There are lots of them, if you want to become one I suggest checking out where you can find tons of information and like minds.

One thing I would like to say to the myriad of trust fund, do it yourself type hippies currently trying to enter the world of self sustainability, even if you don't breed, save your seeds. If you aren't saving seeds you are part of the problem, not part of the solution, as you ignorance of the stewardship of life is overlooking the very most important part of the equation. I get tired of having that conversation with certain people all the time, just remember for all of your anti-Monsanto rage, you keep buying seeds and they will become more interested in them and they will "own" them if only to control you and your "exploits". Your not part of the club, but your so close, make the leap.

I was also doing some research in regards to modern field corn breeding. No, not Mosterous breeding like that done by Monsanto and the He Who Walks Behind The Rows Monsanto blog, but true, time tested, safe, traditional plant breeding, both for animal feed as well as for human consumption and came accross an interesting article about a breeder I hadn't heard of before, possibly because his main aim is geared towards farming, but all of us should be breeders. You can find the article here:

It's always awesome to see someone bettering their vison of the world through truly self sustainable farming.

"We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of the dreams!"

"All I need is a tall ship and a star to sail her by!"

This year we made an amazing grex/mix/genepool of some terrific OP corns with a UK Tuxpeno base. Tuxpeno gives us the dent/flint characteristics we are looking for while also allowing us the diversity and compatibility to intergress characteristics from the older southern dents. We have also learned that our Turkey flock prefers Tuxpeno over traditional southern dents and the rate of gain is greatly increased. Come fall when we release the "Grand Bazzar" you will find five new "composite/synthetic" corn varieties of amazing diversity, including one which contains genes from Kculi (maize morado). This past weekend we made inroads into the amish communities via these very seed sources with orders for "plot bags" of seed in the pipeline as the Amish too are trying to escape the tenticles of "bio-tech".

In coming years (now that we have increased initial seed stock) we will allow room for expeimentation in crosses between some of the more "elite" lines of parch, flour, and mostly waxy endosperm corns.

Finally, tying all this together I came accross a terrifying Monanto video via God Like Productions, I don't have a link for an inbed so I am simply copying and pasting the link to the actual forum thread with imbedded video. I warn you, some of the posts on the thread and at god like productions in general are "out there", some are BS, some are people making jokes, some are actually informative if you know where to look.

I will live to see the day that bio-tech fails, probably the same day the people wake up to the manipulation of our everyday world by the powers that be.