Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

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

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Hog Shed Update with pictures!

The first shed worked out so well we decided to convert our old hogshed (one which Kim's father gave me, well he gave me two sheds, which I tore apart and reused to make one good one and then attached the back structure/run with scrap lumber I scavenged) which we had used for chickens previously back into a hog shed with a pallet fence run.

For this little guy who is still looking for a mate.

Here is our newest addition, a bore potbelly, he is still relatively young but phenotypically screams to me that he is indeed what we are looking for.

Going back to the original shed, here is the gate, fastened in "poor man" style to the pallets beside it with shoe laces and braced with a cinder block.

Here is the finished enclosure and fence. As you can see, on one side of the enclosure we made a small pallet box with a gate to close them in at night until they get large enough to dissuade predation by coyotees, bobcats, and stray dogs.

The aforementioned boar who we got from a friend via a trade. Likely the most "backwoods" trade I ever made, a friend, (think Rob Zombie with glasses) pulled up in his late 60's pickup in cutoff jean shorts, no shirt and wearing sandals and promptly traded me the pig for a bottle of homemade elderberry wine (all of this just hours before attending a David Allen Coe concert). The pig is now affectionately known as "Winehead".
Fence from a different angle. The feed bags are there to cover gabs that the small pigs could (and did get out of).
The newest pallet/pig project. A pasture box made of pallets. The roof is made from an old corrugated plastic cigarette advertisment which would have ended up in the county landfill otherwise. The box set's atop a skid so it can be drug by hand, four wheeler, or tractor to the necessary field to allow the pigs to pasture, root, and fertilize for planting next season. We will be making one of these for all of the breeder pigs we decide to keep with the sheds serving for dry season (to dry to root effectively, nothing to forage for) and also for farrowing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The persuit of landrace genetics or the alchemical search for an Edenic garden.

Part of our butternut and acorn squash landrace.

Throuought the course of aghistory mankind has faced any number of famine and disease threats closely linked to the food supply and the sustainability thereof. Often I find myself attempting to explain my intentions when it comes to my plant and animal breeding work to customers or under informed friends and family and often it comes off as far too archaiac, analog, and abstract to give a very real or clear understanding of what I do, so here, and on our future .com I will attempt to explain things a bit more clearly.

I, by my nature, am not an overly scientific person; I don't keep good notes, I'm a terrible organizer, and I really only use my minds capacity to it's full potential when confronted with abstract concepts when it comes to putting pen to paper (being previously an improvisational musician likely has a lot to do with this. I'm sure being an only child also has had some effect). I tend to think of my farming/breeding phillosophy as being equally as spiritual as it is scientific. The norms to me do not apply and neither does the judgment of the world outside of myself. The following explanation is posted here to the blog as much for my own rememberence and understanding as it is for those who would read the words.

To understand what is meant when I apply the word "landrace" to a variety of seed one must first understand the traditional definition thereof:

Wikipedia reports the following: A landrace is a local variety of a domesticated animal or plant species which has developed largely by natural processes, by adaptation to the natural and cultural environment in which it lives. It differs from a formal breed which has been bred deliberately to conform to a particular standard type. Landraces are usually more genetically and physically diverse than formal breeds. Many formal breeds originated from landraces, and sometimes a particular type has both landrace and formal breed populations. Sometimes a formalised breed retains the "landrace" name, despite no longer being a true landrace.

While I agree with it mostly I find myself identifying a bit more with my friend Joseph Lofthouse and his definition: "Adaptavar" Landrace - An adaptivar landrace is a foodcrop lots of genetic diversity which tends to produce stable yields under marginal growing conditions. Landrace crops are adaptively selected for reliability in tough conditions. The arrival of new pests, new diseases, or changes in cultural practices or in the environment may harm some individuals in a landrace population, but with so much diversity many plants are likely to do well under the changing conditions.
In the case of mostly self-pollinating plants like peppers, tomatoes, beans, wheat, and peas a land-race may be thought of as many distinct varieties growing side by side.

In the case of out-crossing plants like cantaloupe, squash, or corn, a land-race can be thought of as an open pollinated population with tremendous genetic diversity. Most of the seeds in an out-crossing land-race end up being unique F1 hybrids.

For a few years I struggled to find a term which might in fact fit as a descriptor for the breeding work I was engaged in here on the farm, coining a few terms myself here on the blog, which I find available via google from time to time but Joseph got it a bit more right than others.

Amanda Palmer Corn in it's second year.

My definition of Adaptavar Landrace: A selection process whereby genetic chaos is controlled marginally by the hands of men attempting to wrangle in the genetic diversity of genepool processes in a way which is intelligent enough to adapt a seed population or animal group to your particular region, micro-climate, and cultural conditions while providing an abundant and reliable harvest with an eye to cullinary or medicinal (sometimes aesthetic) qualities which will still prove profitable. To foster the development of plant/animal varieties in a population which can provide all of these things in self sustainable systems which might include disadvantageous conditions for individual cultivars or breeds including pests and disese as well as parasites, low fertility, or in the case of animals a lack of abundant and cheaply aquired grains (selection for pasture and forage ability) or an ability to evade predators via coloration and or evasion skills. All of this paired with crops and varieties being diverse enough to face the challenges of changing paradigms, both natural and manmade while understanding that the evolutionary chain of events requires a goodly amount of variables which one may not even understand until they see the need for them. In essence, my landraces are a type of "crop insurance" by maintaining diversity I maintain my ability, even in the worst years to produce a crop for home or market use with out relying on the government and their regulations or on a insurance corporation to cover my ass.

Confused yet? I thought perhaps.

In the last 100 years we have progressed more technologically than we did in the previous 10,000 years due in part to both transportation and the green revolution. A paradigm shift was caused with the rise of industrial agriculture and the control of resources such as petrol based fuels and fertilizers into the hands of a small few with access to mass advertizing. In one foul swoop a concentration of power (by big corporations) had changed basic survival needs (food and medicine) and methods of trade and barter with heavily regulated and government subsidized commerce and poisons. The seed trade was turned into a wholesale business by the advent of F1 hybrids designed not for adaptation by bio-region but by perfomance based on averages paired with chemical treatments (created and marketed by the seed compaines and necessary only to the survival of week genetics) to do "average" everywhere as long as you bought the necessary suppliments (cutting out completely the cycle of self reliance on farm waste products and food to animal to manure to food production). To put it simply growing ones own food and medicine the truly "traditional" way became......revolutionary......particularly if you weren't growing it using the new industrial methods and using the new hybrid seeds that Extension agents were reccomending. For a deeper understanding of this "new world" one must also understand the federal reserve, the breakup of the american family, and any other number of divide and conquer, slave/master relationship paradigms.

This concentration of power and marketing has led to any number of health issues and food scares and a great deal of erosion of biological resources. Big corporations do not favor bio-diversity as it does not make for easy, quick, efficient, and bottom line oriented processing in their favor.......and since they pay the bills of the industrialized farm owners and even market gardeners the responce was to settle on the easily sold in bulk, highly inbred, and totally inefficient varieties that the seed companies marketed. Many examples of crop failures exist as examples of how this lack of bio-diversity have already effected our lives (Perhaps you remember the corn blight) or have seen the cascade of crop failures in 2011 alone (inflating even more the price of basic staples on top of the inflation caused by the totally engineered global economic downturn). This all without mentioning the constant money flow out of the farmers pocket and into the seed companies hands annually in exchange for genetics which once existed in a grow it and save it yourself system. The current system works not only against the best interest of the farmer and the consumer but also against the common sense with which the agricultural world once exhibited by completing the cycles of food and seed production on a yearly basis, once again isolating us as a race from what is our basic instinct and cultural heritage in favor of a manipulated power/greed driven slave/master relationship.

The goal is not to reinvent the wheel, but simply to improve it (if improvement is needed. I don't advocate unnecessary work when a simple existing variety fits the niche for example). Prior to the green revolution of now 60 plus years ago we had a number of advantageous locally adapted varieties and landraces which have in the meantime been lost due to aging gardeners and farmers or the downfall of local, bioregionally based seed companies. The heirloom seed movement (as well as the heritage animal movement) has done much to preserve a portion of this bio-diversity much more has been lost than has been saved in certain regions (The Ohio Valley in particular) so we must attempt to locate and integrate necessary bio-diversity on our farms.

What we ultimately are looking for is what we feel works best within our cultural practices and what will provide a hedge against our bets in the worst years of farming and could still be grown practically if resources such as fuel and other commodities were no longer available. These populations are often built out of either local or regional heirlooms, other landrace varieties aquired from breeders, old open pollinated commercial varieties, and the occassional introgression of genetics from exotic locations (particularly if we are looking for short season crops or drought tolerant crops). We tend to try to access our genetics from other small farmers ( as well as local farmers and farm markets) via trade and barter where possible and from commercial sources as little as possible as we are also attempting to expand a network of trade between like minded individuals which fosters good will and cooperation. Ocassionally we lean heavily on wild relatives (particularly this was the case when breeding our previously mentioned "Kiva" turkey variety). Sometimes the genetics are particularly diverse as is the case in Amanda Palmer and Astronomy Domine corn and other times we are simply trying to add an infusion of genetics while selecting for a narrower pallet of particular traits (an example of this is a population of watermelons we are persuing based around the positive traits of Charleston Gray with the additon of yellow and orange fleshed genes and disease tolerance).

This allows us to grow out a vast array of genetics in the first generation while making both controlled and unexpected crosses and to eliminate any unwanted genetics from the future breeding pool. As the years cycle through we see the rise of new genotypes and phenotypes and make informed selections about which of those performs best under our conditions. This provides us with both farm adapted seed and the opporotunity to help foster the development of an entirely new population of plants from which we deprive or means of health, wealth, and livelyhood which saves us money on seeds and guarantees a harvest even in years when crops of the same species might have failed in the region over, something that is not provided by inbred lines, hybrids, or even most open pollinated selections.

Stepping into this fold is not neccesarily as easy as one might presume, but by no means is it difficult, it simply takes some understanding of how basic biology in plants and animals works as well as persistence and determination. The obvious starting point is identifying the need for a new and unique variety and understanding the challenges of producing a crop in your bio-region by incorporating the knowledge you have gathered about pests, disease, site fertility, and weather and then applying those criteria to your selection process regarding foundation genetics (stock you will use to develop a population) as well as selections from those populations in the succeding generations. This is essentially the same sort of method that would give rise to a single Open Pollinated line but we desire to go beyond that and incorporate a diversity of phenotypic and genomic traits (both for utility and for beauty) in creating a landrace. While it is fun to persue genetics from far off exotic places your best bet is to start with varieties already well adapted to your region or adapted to regions similar to yours by ammasing open pollinated lines, other landrace strains, and even.....gasp F1 hybrids which match your wants and needs. (though in some crops cytoplasmic male sterility may be an issue as a new paper written by Joseph Lofthouse explains)

A few other things one may want to take into consideration when creating a landrace:

-Take advantage where possible to allow natural pollinators into your crops to ensure cross polination. Where there is no reason to persue the hard work of hand pollinations and controlled crosses one would be wise to allow nature to take it's course

-Always hold back some samples of seed of the past two or three years to mix back into your stock for the sake of maintaining diversity if you end up skewing your project away from it's intended destination

-Share your seed with other locals and encourage them to make their own selections, working in cooperation to develop new varieties.

The end game and desired solution is the creation of a vast stock of bio-regionally genetically diverse crop seeds. If your at all involved in agriculture you have seed the profusion of local gardeners and farmers, many organic based, speaking to the need for local "food sheds" but oft overlooking the need for a solid foundation for this food shed.......seeds. To be sustainable you have to have seed and if you aren't saving those seeds your not sustainable and you have missed the point entirely.

Kiva Turkey Landrace Poults.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Super Congress

U.S. July 4 1776 - August 2 2011

Definition: Six bloods and Six Crips arguing over how to finish destroying the neighborhood while being led by a corporate Marionette.

"Forgive them father, they know not what they do."

A more optimistic man might still believe this, me, I don't. I know that because I'm a self sustainable farmer that makes me an enemy of the state and I know that the goons involved in enforcing unconstitutional laws and doctrines are just as bad as the assholes who put them up to it. There is no acceptable level of "I'm just doing my job" when it comes down to law enforcement agencies enforcing a strong arm agenda from a transnational corporation or unconstitutional alphabet agency on a small business or farm. The S.S. were simply performing their jobs, it was still murder.

If your reading this thinking to yourself; "What the hell has happened to set him off" I'll simply refer you to a few links:

1. Industrial Turkey Recall due to Salmonella

"The illnesses date back to March, and the CDC said Monday that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 showed salmonella contamination. The agency said preliminary information showed that three of the samples have been linked to the same production establishment but did not name the retailers or the manufacturer."

To boot they didn't release the names of the offenders until today and what are they gonna get, a slap on the hand? How about a big government subsidy to help them tidy up the place..........might as well given what else happened today.

Meanwhile "back at the ranch" as they say.....

2. Rawesome Foods gets raided by government goons carrying live weapons for selling products containing raw milk which never made anyone sick in the first place! To boot, the owner is being held on $123,000 dollar bail!

Seems all of our liberty hating, slave mongering, regulatory enforcing, bullshit, useless, tax eating, cock sucking alphabet agencies were invovled too. Hmmm, perhaps they haven't checked their budget (along with their constitution) but where do they get their money for carying out such operations when we are fucking broke as a country?

Theres a word for these behaviors; RAPE. Plain and simple. It's time to start standing up and getting the word out that consumers will not be told what can and cannot be put in their body and that the days of open doors between agriculture and industrial transnationals and alphabet agencies are coming to an end and that the police in particular have a constitutional duty and obligation not to carry out illegal orders!

I also happened across this particularly disturbing bit of news I'd missed in the spring.

And for what? What fucking law and under what authority? Maybe if you ignorant punks would spend some time doing your actual job and focusing on the over processed, over anti-bacterialized, dyed red to look good in the case, sprayed with chemicals to preserve it over a period of months, agri-businesss bullshit that is marketed daily to the American public we would truly have far fewer deaths due to food related illness. Instead, you would rather put truly small (don't give me any shit Perdue and Tyson producers, though they have you tied up where they want you you signed up for it) farmers out of business. And why? Because it doesn't behoove them for self suficency to thrive, for you to know how to grow your own food or how to make money not working for a nameless, faceless, death loving, corprate scum fuck corporations or at the very least understand how all of this is spiralling out into an endless shithole third world country type of situation.

We all know how all of this is going to end. One look at the geo-political situation coupled with the economy and over burdensom government and it isn't hard to suss out.