In the Fall issue of the Heritage Farm Companion (Seed Saver’s Exchange member magazine), there was a transcription of Gary Paul Nabhan’s keynote at the annual SSE campout. I was touched by the end of his keynote when he invited members of the audience to renew their vows to the seed that they have been part of and that have been part of their lives.
I would like to renew these vows & invite you to do the same. Here are the vows that Gary Paul Nabhan led his audience members through:
I, Daniel Brisebois, a gardened, farmer, seed saver, and eater,
wish to renew our sacred vows
to take care, love and serve.
Through sickness and in health
in times of crisis and times of joy,
to sow the seeds of food justice,
to sow the seeds of food security,
to sow the seeds of food democracy,
to sow the seeds of true food sovereignty,
through our own actions and our own eating patterns
so that we may all eat what we have truly sown.
I reaffirm our covenant with this earth,
to humbly be just one more way that seeds themselves regenerate
into more seeds to nourish all of us.
Last summer I successfully grew true garlic seed. I was thrilled.
In the middle of the winter I followed Ted Jordan Meredith and Avram Drucker’s advice and soaked the garlic seeds in a 1% solution of household bleach. I then rinsed the seeds and placed them on moist paper towels in a ziplock bag in the fridge for 4 weeks.
Afterwards, I planted them in trays in our greenhouse amidst our vegetable seedlings and waited. And waited. And waited.
By mid-summer, none of the garlic seeds had germinated and the potting soil had begun to crust over. I tossed the trays with a deep sigh of disappointment.
Of course, I haven’t given up. Currently I am waiting on a couple dozen garlic scapes to to set seed in our kitchen. At present, they have swollen green ovaries. With a bit of luck, I might have more seed by the end of November!
Earlier this week, there was an exciting post on the Seed Savers Exchange True Garlic Seed forum thread. Dr. Ivan Buddenhagen, a UC Davis professor who has been working with garlic from true seed for 14 years, is currently offering bulbs of 10 varieties he has selected from seed producing garlic cultivars. He also has limited quantities of true seed for sale at $25 per 100 seeds. His website is http://ivansnewgarlics.com/Home.html.
We currently grow about 16000 garlic bulbs. Roughly 1/3 were initially started from bulbil on our farm. We propagate by bulbil in part to keep costs down but also to avoid importing disease from other farms when we buy in new garlic varieties.
Garlic bulbils are the small bulbs that develop in the garlic scape if you leave the scape on the plant. These are not seeds, they are genetically identical to the mother plant.
Let’s take a year by year look at one garlic variety that we bought in 2006 and have since bulked up to be one of our main cultivars using bulbils.
( You can also read about planting garlic bulbils in more detail in this GTS post.)
- Bought Siberian Marbled Purple Stripe garlic from another grower.
- October: Planted bulbs in trial garden to avoid introducing unknown disease into main crop.
- June: Left garlic scapes on plants
- Early August: Harvested bulbs then ate them. Kept scapes with bulbils.
- October: Planted bulbils.
- Early July: Harvested 16 garlic rounds. Garlic rounds are bulbs that only contain 1 round clove.
- October: Planted 16 garlic rounds.
- Mid July: Harvested 16 small bulbs with 2-4 cloves each.
- Most bulbs are 1.5″ to 1.75″ in diameter. The largest is 2″ wide.
- October: Plant all garlic cloves.
- Mid July: Harvested 47 bulbs with 3-5 cloves each.
- Most bulbs are 1.75″ to 2″ in diameter. The largest is 2.25″ wide.
- October: Planted all garlic cloves.
- Early August: Harvested 178 bulbs with 4-6 cloves each.
- Most bulbs are 2″ to 2.25″ in diameter. 1 bulb is 2.75″ wide.
- We ate/sold half the bulbs (the smallest bulbs) and kept the largest bulbs for seed.
- October: Planted garlic cloves from the largest bulbs.
- Early August: Harvested 520 bulbs.
- 3/4 of bulbs are from 2″ to 2.75″ in diameter. 39 bulbs are 2.75″ wide.
- We ate/sold half the bulbs (the smallest bulbs) and kept the largest bulbs for seed.
- Early August: Harvested about 1200 bulbs.
- Over 95% of the bulbs are from 2″ to 2.75″ in diameter. Many 2.75″ wide.
- We plan on keeping the largest bulbs for seed and planting about 2000 cloves in the fall.
I planted Siberian bulbils in 2007. It took 3 years (2010) to get a fair number of bulbs of moderate size. By year 4 (2011), we started selling bulbs. By year 5 (2012), we achieved bulb sizes comparable to our Rocambole and Porcelain garlic. And in year 6 (2013), this garlic is now one of our main varieties!
Growing garlic from bulbil let’s you bulk up your garlic stock and it also gives you some time to evaluate that garlic!
This brand new Ste-Anne garlic fest movie will make you jump in your vehicle on Saturday, August 24 from 9 am to 2 pm and get to the Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue farmers market for the 7th annual garlic fest!
You can find out more on the English garlic fest website or the French festival de l’ail website. If you’re facbook-inclined, don’t forget to like the facebook page.
See you there!
The last stretch of our June 2012 road trip took Emily and I through Maine. We planned on arriving in Maine just in time to catch the Restoring Heritage Wheat Seminar in Unity Maine. As it turned out, I thought the event was on a Saturday when it was actually on a Friday. This got us to Maine one day late.
With an unplanned free day. We decided to go on a pilgrimage to Harborside, Maine to see Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Farm and The Good Life Center.
You may have noticed that it’s taken just about a year to get this post up. As such, I’ve gone for more pictures and fewer words today. This is also the first time I use slide shows in a blog post!
Four Seasons Farm
Eliot Coleman grows about $150K of veggies on 1.5 acres and has written a number of books including the New Organic Grower and the Winter Harvest Manual. When I first started farming a number of farmers swore by Eliot Coleman’s books. It took me a couple of years before I did read his works, but when I did I could see what folks like in this approach.
The Good Life Center
Emily introduced me to Helen and Scott Nearing’s book Living the Good Life when we first met. Helen & Scott were proponents of living a simple yet good life. They homesteaded in Vermont and then Maine from the 1930s until their deaths in the 1980s. They built their own home by hand out of stone. They ate a mostly vegan diet. They also practiced four season gardening in their greenhouse.
The Nearing homestead is still maintained by volunteers as the Good Life Center.
From here, we visited a couple more farmers in Maine before heading home. I’m going to try to wrap up these road trip posts shortly!
We are currently in the midst of one of the coldest and wettest springs in my 14 years of farming. As such we have been behind on a number of field tasks.
Here are some of the strategies that I’ve found helpful:
ENSURE ADEQUATE SOIL PREPARATION
Some ground preparation is better than none. Minor problems can always be smoothed over later.
MINIMIZE FIELD WORK WHEN GROUND IS WET
A boot sinking 4″ into the soil is borderline dry for this year.
AVOID PLANTING INTO WEEDY AREAS
Under wet conditions, you should properly identify weed pressure. Under current conditions, the following is not considered weed pressure:
In fact, can you identify what is crop and what is not?
In such situations, some form of intervention may be warranted.
That’s right, it was a tiny tomatillo plant!
USE APPROPRIATE TOOLS
BE SATISFIED WITH A JOB WELL DONE
And with that, the last of our seed tomatoes and tomatillos are planted. Only a few more peppers to go!
I hope you too have found ways to cope with your spring calamities.
This is a book review I wrote for Canadian Organic Growers new website for their magazine (http://magazine.cog.ca) and to help promote translate Le Jardinier-Maraîcher.
Last fall, Jean-Martin Fortier published Le Jardinier-Maraîcher (French for The Market Gardener) about growing organic vegetable profitably on a small acreage.
This is a thorough farming manual that lays out a human-scale farming system centered on good growing practices and appropriate technology. It is based on Jean-Martin and his wife Maude-Hélène’s farm experience at Les Jardins de La Grelinette. Le Jardinier-Maraîcher presents a similar growing philosophy to The New Organic Grower – Elliot Coleman’s seminal work that fueled a new generation of small vegetable farms (including Jean-Martin and Maude-Hélène). But Jean-Martin goes further. Le Jardinier-Maraîcher provides much more detailed information on crop yields, harvest periods, and pricing approaches. It brings more practical perspectives on a number of topics including crop rotation. This is a complete modern small-scale farming handbook.
For years, Jean-Martin had been telling me about this book he was writing to inspire and teach new farmers. I thought it was a fantastic ambition but for the longest time I doubted this book would see fruition. After all, though la Grelinette is a small farm in size, Jean-Martin and Maude-Helène do feed 140 families through their CSA, run two market stands, and supply their signature mesclun salad mix to a number of restaurants and stores; in addition to raising two kids and a dairy goat. Yeah, I didn’t think this book would be published. Yet, here it is.
That Jean-Martin wrote and published this book is a testament to the power of les Jardins de la Grelinette’s farming approach. Jean-Martin dedicated both a number of winters to this writing project and the large part of two growing seasons while Maude-Hélène managed the farm and maintained the same scale of operations. Not every farm can relieve half of its management force and thrive as effectively. But the farming system Jean-Martin and Maude-Hélène built has been able to provide both a profitable livelihood and a great quality of life.
Had I read this book when I was a starting farmer, I would now be farming with a BCS walking tractor on an acre and hailing Jean-Martin as my market gardening guru! This book is going to inspire new farmers to stay small and farm profitably. I encourage you all to go out and learn French to read this book, or you can go and support FarmStart’s campaign to get this book translated into English!