“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Friday, June 20, 2014

An experiment in agriculture.



I have decided to plant some potatoes, corn and maybe some beans.  I find it difficult to believe that there is much magic involved in raising some vegetables.  If it's hard, then how are all the people around here able to raise these huge gardens like they do?

The rules of my experiment are:

  • I can only use seeds I have on hand, except I have to buy some potatoes to cut up.
  • No buying fertilizer or pesticides that wouldn't be available in a crunch.
  • If the chickens get in there and start eating the seeds, I'll have to put up a chicken wire fence and start over.
  • If the deer or hogs eat them, that doesn't count because that doesn't mean I couldn't have grown them otherwise.
  • I'll take pictures of the vegetables as they grow and post them. Of if they don't grow, I'll post those.

33 comments:

  1. I had a huge garden in the days before the internet gardening advice. I tilled the garden patch, marked the rows and planted seeds. Kept most of the weeds pulled. If plants started to get droopy, I watered them. That was it. No magic. Always had a good harvest. Except for green peas, and that was because my kids ate them raw from the garden before I could get enough to can. Good luck with your garden. I miss having one.

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    1. My wife is the garden person in our family. This is an issue I've been gaffing off for some years, and it's time to just try it and see what happens. I see huge gardens by the roads here all the time, with old men and old women out tending them. I should be able to do that. You can share mine with me, I'm going to take pictures and post them. I need to get up with Outback Tanya and get some pictures of her garden, in case I fall on my face I can post her pictures, claim they are mine, and declare success!
      >:-0

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  2. Whoo Hoo - you go, Harry!!

    Why not try growing some tomatoes instead of corn - corn is a pretty thirsty crop. And tomato seeds can be obtained from the tomatoes you've bought from the shop - just scoop some out, cover them with a bit of water and let them sit until the water gets a layer of mould on top. Then rinse them off, let them dry and shove in some potting soil. Then watch them grow :)

    Can't wait to see your progress :)

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    1. I thought you had to get tomato plants. I never heard of growing them from seeds. The bank in town gives away free tomato plants every fourth of July, as many as you want, in little plastic cups. They also have free hamburgers, cokes, and hot dogs. Plus country music.

      I just asked my wife if we could raise tomatoes from seeds. I told her you did it. She said we could try but she thinks we don't have the "green thumb." I think we will try it,on the side.

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    2. Harry - i grow all of my tomatoes from seeds....heirloom, organic and gmo-free. if you are interested, i know several different ways of making little mini-greenhouses and starting them on your windowsill.

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    3. I could try that Kymber, except I want to grow them in that glass room built onto the side of the house. Plenty of window space there.

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  3. Heh. If the pigs or deer get your crop that should count as it is a hazard in growing your own food same as running out of water. If you ask me Also beans should be part of the experiment as you are going for maximum calorie production and if you store rice and grow your own beans you have your perfect protein mixture.

    The hard part is going to be keeping the pests out and then figuring how much you need to plant to sustain yourself and others in food. That also means harvesting and storage is just as important as tilling the ground and pulling weeds otherwise you will not get an accurate assessment of how much your ground produces.

    I assure you growing your own food is a much more complicated and never ending process than you are giving it credit for. We are not talking about someone who throws out three tomato plants and a cucumber then says it's easy here.

    You could start off small though and just see if you can get a few plants through to harvest then start figuring out the other stuff later.

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    1. This time, I just want to grow some stuff to show I can. I don't mean to grow a lot to store. I am pretty sure I am going to have to put up chicken wire to keep the chickens out. They destroyed all my wife's beautiful flowers and shrubs.

      If the animals eat my plants, that doesn't mean the plants won't grow here, it just means I can't figure out how to get the animals off them. But ok, that's fair. If the animals eat the plants then I concede this was a failure. Stay at Home Daughter suggested an electric fence. That was my thought years ago too, but the bears just tear the thing down with one swipe of their paws. Hogs just go through it like a knife through butter. I guess chicken wire is my first plan. Then maybe barbed wire though I hate that stuff.

      I plan on doing this test. My wife likes the idea, she says she always wants a garden and I always say I will till one up then I don't. This is true, but I'm motivated this time.

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    2. Growing it is a damned good start. I wouldn't say it's rocket science but I do contend it is more work than most people think and takes more skill than just putting a seed in the ground and pulling weeds. I go through and keep a running total of what my bean plants produce so I know within a few plants how many I would need to plant per person to produce a years worth of beans. The same numbers would be useful for all the plant types. It's like reloading :)

      I don't know what to say about the Bear and deer thing. I get rabbits bad but they seem to stop eating my garden once the wild stuff gets going enough to make it more appealing to them. Since I am in the middle of big fields of beans and corn the critters have plenty of other things to fill em up before they ever get to my garden usually.

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    3. Harry - i HAVE to agree with PP on all of his opinions and advice - and you know how much i hate to do so - bahahahah! but he is right. you don't just dump seeds in the ground, weed them and have a perfect garden. and my advice is to use chicken wire around and ON TOP of the bed/garden. look at a few of my last posts and you will see that jam has built boxes around the beds, all covered in chicken wire including the tops. the tops come off easily for regular weeding. we also use a lot of mulch to help prevent weeding.

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  4. My wife has grander plans than I did. I told her this was just a test, but she wants a real garden. I have always escaped this in the past by promising to go rent a roto tiller and till up some of the meadow, then welshing on the deal.

    She wants some raised beds because our land is so steep. She wants a chicken wire fence around them, secured by rebar. She wants tomatoes and other stuff I did not intend to plant. But I guess if I want her to help me I can accommodate a few things. We can get all the free tomato plants we want at the bank on the fourth of July. Dani mentioned growing tomatoes from seeds. I think I will try that in pots, in the glass room that used to be for plants but is now another tool shed.

    Maybe the dogs will keep the bear, deer and hogs off. I have much bigger and more aggressive dogs now than I did the last time I tried to garden. If the dogs let me know that something is out there, I'll go out and throw smoke bombs, the stink will run whatever it is off.

    I can buy huge sacks of beans for next to nothing at the depot. Busting butt raising my own seems unnecessary, but I can see how if things went sour for a long time it might become necessary. Beans keep a long time though.

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    1. LOL Harry ask her if she is going to want to move to a retirement community after she puts in all these raised beds and such :)

      You're right you cannot beat the price of beans. They are even with inflated prices today...cheap. But will they be cheap and plentiful when things go bad? This is part of growing your own food I found. Right now Beans aren't worth it but if there was no infrastructure and I had to depend on only my own energy input beans are the absolute best bang for your buck calorie to calorie to grow. They require a lot of work to harvest but not nearly as much overall as other plants AND they require the least amount of storage equipment. I let mine dry in the pod then harvest them into five gallon buckets and then remove them from the dried pods during the Winter when I got nothing better to do anyway.

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    2. hi Harry - i'm back and agreeing with PP again - jeesh! beans are really cheap and easy to store and they will last for years if stored properly. and once you grow your own beans, and harvest the way PP does - i do the same - you always want to keep a certain amount set aside for planting the following year, etc., etc. jam and i have been saving seeds from our own harvests for years - including peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas and everything else that we grow including herbs. basically, if you learn to properly save and store seeds - you only need to buy them once!

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    3. Beans are a big favorite here with people who have gardens. I know this because almost every garden has those little tripods of wood dowels with vines growing up them. Gardens here tend to be big, people use tractors to plow them up. But I have never seen anyone who wasn't gray headed working in these gardens. Maybe middle aged people don't have the time because they have to work a job.

      Miriam and I saw beans from an Egyptian tomb in a museum in Italy. The sign said they were still viable to plant but I believe this was not true because surely after two thousand years they'd be dried out and dead. I know they last a long time. I have vast quantities of beans stored, because you can buy huge croaker sacks of them for three bucks, then I put them in a pail, flush out the oxygen with nitrogen, and seal it.

      The big problem is figuring out how long you might have to take care of yourself, and miscalculating. Then you run out of food and have to be able to grow it yourself. Nobody I know has ever solved this other than being able to grow food now, which eliminates the problem.

      You're both right in your philosophy on this issue. For me, it's a question of spending the energy. I only have so much, and every year I have less. Maintenance here takes a lot of it, but I guess I will have to include some gardening on a small scale.

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    4. jackie clay over at backwoods home magazine ate from the ansazi beans stores. still perfectly good.
      only God knows how old they were.
      egyptian tomb seeds have been sprouted and the plants raised with no problems.

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    5. Well, I guess the museum was right. I would have thought they would have dried out. Hard to believe that something could remain viable over so many years but it seems it's true. That's good though, for the long term storage food I keep.

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  5. Hey Harry,


    (captaincrunch)


    Surfing is a lot easier than gardening and the women are much easier on the eye than a pile of manure and multch.

    For the Bear's and other "forest thieves" set up trip wires hooked to those wooden things that have a loaded spring that fires off a 12 gauge round filled with birdshot. The report, I think would scare the hell out of the bears (and you too) but I think it would really work.

    Another idea is get a 12 pack of Shiner Bach Beer (from Texas of course) drink a mess of beers and walk around your property and er' Mark your Territory. Show 'em who's boss and let them (the bears, hogs and two legged neighbors) know your on top of the food chain.

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    1. CC, as always your unique perspective on life provides some potential solutions I had not previously considered. I actually have some of those devices you are talking about, but mine are metal and they fire a black powder charge with no projectiles. The problem with them is that though the little shells are waxed, the humidity here renders them inert in a short time. I haven't been able to buy anymore of the charges in years though. There was a law suit calling them "set guns" which they aren't, and I suspect that has to do with it.

      Farley Mowat, a Canadian nature writer, tried the territory marking with wolves in the Canadian wilderness. I think it worked to a limited extent.

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    2. Harry - jam, even in the winter, does a majority of his "peeing" at different spots all around what we call our yard. he also does a lot of peeing at the top of our road the river. we think it works because we haven't seen a bobcat, a bear or a coyote since being here, whereas others in our area see them regularly! so it's either him peeing or it's the cats - whatever works right? bahahhahaha! i love mowat btw!

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    3. Well, maybe it works. I'm afraid if I went out to the treeline to "mark" my territory some denizen of the forest would snatch me up and make off with me. Or worse, what if a rattlesnake bit me when I was "vulnerable."

      I read a lot of Mowatt's books, and enjoyed the one about his time in the service, and the one about wolves, the most. For some reason, the U.S. government put him on a list of undesirables and wouldn't let him in the country a few years ago. Who knows? Nothing they do has to have a reason.

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    4. Harry - please do not put your "vulnerabilities" in a vulnerable situation - bahahahahah! honestly, i can't say for sure if it is working, but i can't say for sure that it isn't working so he pees outside all of the time! have you read mowatt's "owls in the family"? it's a great book and one of jam's faves!

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    5. I think the only two of his books I read were the one about being a soldier , and the one about wolves. I have't seen much of his work for sale down here. I'll see if Owls in the Family is available on Kindle.

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  6. Try growing corn, bean and squash (or pumpkins). It's an old Indian technique. The beans provide nitrogen, the corn supports the beans. The squash produces heavy low leaf cover that suppresses weed and reduce moisture loss. I recall these three are called "the three sisters."

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    1. I know you can make pumpkin soup, though I've never had any. Do you get enough food value out of pumpkins for it to be worth it? Squash I can figure out better, since I like squash cakes, fried squash, and boiled squash. Corn and beans are big crops up here. Squash I see to a lesser extent in road side gardens.

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    2. Harry - anonymous above is dead correct - the 3-sisters method was used by many native bands all over north america. and the reason why is because it works! pumpkins, squash and beans are some of the easiest things to store for the winter, along with potatoes. you just grow as many pumpkins as you need, keep them in a cool dry place like a root cellar and then you can eat them all winter long. same with squash, beans and potatoes. pumpkin or squash soup is so full and hearty and full of nutrients it will put hair on your chest - bahahahah! and winter is a good time to eat lots of healthy soup! you can roast pumpkin and squash in the oven, as well, and they are both delicious roasted with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper. there are 2 main types of suashes - summer squash which is actually zucchini and does not keep well - so you eat it as you harvest it and that is why you succession plant it. but winter squash is what you plant in the 3-sisters set-up. winter squash like anonymous says above are pumpkins or butternut squashes. hope this helps a little. i find that for jam and i - 8 pumpkins and 8 squash feed us very well through the winter.

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    3. You'll have to send me the recipe for the pumpkin. I don't like pumpkin pie, and I don't really like pumpkin bread. I've never had any pumpkin soup, though I saw some on an Australian blog that looked pretty savory. I like things that are spicy, though.

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  7. Eager to see how this goes for you. There is definitely some skill/ knowledge needed and the time to get it is when you are not depending on the food to eat.

    I'm doing a bit of this myself though I got a late start. Next year my goal is to sprout storage type seeds, grow crops then harvest seeds for the following year.

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    1. You are more ambitious than I am. I just want to prove I can grow some vegetables and be sure I have everything I need to do it. My wife is big into gardening as a recreation. She's happy we are finally going to do a garden.

      I know if I get those heirloom plants I can use the seeds from them from year to year if I save them.

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  8. We grow our potatoes in a tower layered with potatoes, dirt and straw so they grow vertically. When the vines start to appear in the dirt, add another layer of potatoes and then add dirt and straw. Then when the vines start to die back we dig down and get only what we need. We leave a few small ones in there and they start to grow the next season.

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    1. I am planning on planting mine in a mound of mulch soil , so the basic idea seems similar. They sell bags of seed potatoes at the feed store here, so I will get a bag of those. I can keep them cool and dry in the lower level store room, which is climate controlled. I plan to keep them in those plastic boxes from Walmart, in saw dust.

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  9. Corn isn't always the best crop, you don't get much of it and the animals ravage it. We have good luck with Botanical Interests seeds and Baker's Creek. Also Victory Seed. They are good for years. Almost every seed I planted of the Botanical Interests squash seeds grew. All of them! Beans are a good choice, not necessarily green beans but ones you can dry and store. I think Mother Earth News has a list of vegetable varieties that are short season and require little water. Lots of herbs don't need full sun, you can plant those around to be pretty if nothing else and then you also have your seasonings.

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    1. I grew a bunch of indian corn here when we first moved to the mountains, so I know the soil is ok for that . There are masses of corn grown in the area, although it's for animal feed. Since we started talking about this on line I have been looking at other peoples gardens to see how they do it. They probably think I am checking out their gardens to rip them off. God help me, I may have to look at the Mother Earth News web page and see what I can find. I am still used to thinking of that as a "how to live in a yurt and grow pot" magazine but I know it's very different than it was in the seventies.

      Thanks for the recommendations on brands. I have a lot of seeds I bought at the farmers depot that were touted as long term storage seeds, but I don't know anything more about them than that. I'll see what I can dig up on Baker's Creek and Botanical Interests seeds.

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  10. Hey Harry, I expect you to wear sandals and put flowers in your hair! lol

    Now this is very interesting to me. also before I forget I am loving the picture of the ferret at the top in the flying helmet

    now back to the veggies. there is a TV chef man guy what ever you want to call him over here called Hugh Fernley whittingstall. Dude is weird looking like a hobbit but I love his programmes. I/we got back into growing things after watching his programmes. I think he is on you tube. over here people refer to him as HFW.

    anyways in my garden we grow the things that cost the most and the things that you cant buy easily in this country. things that grow pretty much on their own. we both work full time and really don't want to be spending all of our spare time gardening. I enjoy it but I love that it saves me money more than anything else. we don't grow, onions, potatoes (this will change soon as 2.5 kg of what is called White Potatoes no named variety is now over £2.50 and in some places is touching £3. This is unacceptable to my house keeping budget), we also don't grow carrots other than chantenay, as we eat those whole and they don't take up a lot of room.

    I grow huge amounts of lettuce all year and when everything is in arrested development in the garden or it is frozen solid, I sprout beans and seeds.

    I always have too many courgettes and cucumbers. I brought heirloom seeds in Greece and they grow like the clappers (the cucumbers have barbs on the skin). we have corn in this year. a first for us. the deer have eaten the tops out (they also strip the small apple trees of their bark! sods they are).

    We grow French dwarf beans as they don't seem to need as much water and also something we call runner beans, both we eat as pods not the bean inside.

    anything we get out of the garden helps our pocket.

    they are building houses on such small plots over here now that people cant grow any food. that is sad

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