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The Seed Series: 3 Steps to Start Your Plants Off Right

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

How you handle your seeds and your practices around seeding is your first chance to get your plants off to a good start and help them achieve their full potential. Ben and Penny Hewitt, authors of The Nourishing Homestead, have developed a three-step process which starts with inoculating the seeds, then sowing them in high quality potting soil, and finally using soil blocks instead of pots to start seedlings.

It may not be quite as easy as 1-2-3, but the increased vigor and yield the Hewitts have experienced with their crops using this system has made it worth the extra effort. Check out the following excerpt from The Nourishing Homestead for more details on how you can incorporate these three steps into your early spring planting routine.

And, for additional information on seeds, read the previous article in our “Seed Series”–an excerpt from Carol Deppe’s latest book, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening about creating your own seed bank. Up next, learn from award-winning author John Navazio about the right questions to ask when determining what crops will grow best on your land.

Related Articles:
Seed Saving Basics
Become a Plant Breeder 

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Seeding

Perhaps the best way to think of your seed and your practices around seeding and starting your plants is to draw the obvious analogy to human gestation. Starving your seeds of nutrients is no different from starving your unborn child of nutrients, and the results will be no better in the long haul. This is the first opportunity we have to minimize the stresses that negatively impact your crops’ potential.

Step 1: Inoculate

You may be familiar with inoculating legumes, which is the process of coating the seed with the bacteria that allow it to “fix” nitrogen in the soil. But it’s not merely legumes that benefit from inoculation. In fact, prior to sowing, we treat all of our seed with a high-quality inoculant (we get ours from the Nutrient Dense Supply Company, the same source for many of the trace minerals, inoculants, and enzymes we use).

Seed inoculant is cheap as all get-out: For a mere 13 bucks, you can purchase enough inoculant to treat 100 pounds of seed, and the process is ridiculously simple. Just mix a pinch of the powdered inoculant with the seed inside the seed packet. Doing so assists with germination, improves seed vigor, and breaks down nutrients so they are available to young roots. In other words, it’s a jump start on plant health.

Step 2: Sow Your Seeds into High-Quality, Inoculated, and Mineralized Potting Soil

Ideally, we’d be making our potting soil from scratch, but until we realize that goal, we purchase high-quality potting soil from the Vermont Compost Company. Their Fort Vee potting soil includes compost, sphagnum, rock phosphate, gypsum, protein meal, kelp, bone char, crushed granite, and vermiculite. We add more kelp, montmorillonite clay, humates, and alfalfa meal, which can generally be found at your local farm supply store. We also add two ingredients that will likely require a bit more diligent shopping: a biological inoculant (we use Biogenesis from NDSC) and an enzyme microbial stimulant (Pepzyme from NDSC).

The quantities of our additions are not an exact science. Roughly speaking, to a 60-quart bag of potting soil we add a quart each of the first five ingredients, a few grams of inoculant, and half a milliliter of Pepzyme mixed into the water we use to moisten the soil.

Step 3: Punt the Pots

One of the best investments we’ve made in the health and vitality of our seedlings, and therefore of the vegetables we ultimately grow and eat, is a soil blocker. This is a small mechanical contraption that compresses loose potting soil into tight seedling blocks that are then released into an open flat. They are available in numerous sizes; we use one that makes twenty 3⁄4-inch blocks for starting peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. Because we have limited space for our starts, the mini blocks make it possible to germinate lots of seedlings in a small space. The most vigorous seedlings are then transferred to a larger block shortly after germinating.

The size blocker we use most makes four 2-inch blocks. We own two of these blockers, one with a seed pin that makes seed-sized holes in the top of each block and one with a 3⁄4-inch cube pin that creates a hole in the top of the block that’s just the size of the mini blocks. Coincidence? I think not. The blocker with the seed pin is used for brassicas, lettuce, chard, celery, celeriac, onions (four seeds to a block), basil, parsley, and other herbs and flowers. We also use it for germinating squash, cucumbers, and melons. The 2-inch blocker with the cube pin is, of course, for anything that has been sown into mini blocks, as well as for larger seeds like corn or beans.

Lastly, we have a blocker that forms a single 4-inch block with a 2-inch square relief in the top to accept the 2-inch blocks. We use this for “potting on” (a term that means potting up in size) cukes, winter and summer squashes, peppers, and eggplant.

The two smaller sizes of soil blocks are quick to make after a little practice. It’s key to get the soil moisture just right; generally, we make it a bit wetter than for pots. Think spongy, not soggy; you should be able to squeeze a few drops out of a handful. The larger 4-inch blocks are more time consuming to make, simply because they tend to fall apart without a studious effort to really pack the soil into the form. For this reason, we are not above using large pots instead if time is short. We always use 6-inch pots for potting on tomatoes, because with the 4-inch blocks, it isn’t possible to set the original 2-inch block deeply enough in the soil to take advantage of all the little root hairs on the stem that will create a stronger root system if buried in the soil.

The advantages of soil blockers are numerous. First, they eliminate the inevitable waste and expense of cracked and broken containers that must be discarded and replaced. Second, the blocks are cubic, rather than tapered, providing more room for root growth. Third, by eliminating the impenetrable walls of a plastic container, you eliminate one of the primary limiting factors to early plant growth and vitality.

To understand why this is true, remember that the growth you see above the soil surface is merely a reflection of the growth that is happening below the surface. In fact, root growth generally exceeds top growth, which means that a 4-inch seedling in a 4-inch pot is already experiencing diminished potential as its roots bump against the hard container surface. Think of a plant’s roots as its “feelers”; as soon as these feelers hit the container wall, they circle around, looking for more space, and in that circling back, a degree of vitality and development is lost. Before you’ve even put your starts in the ground, you’re losing vigor and yield.

In blocks, instead of the roots circling, they simply fill the block to the edges and wait. When transplanting, there is no root shock and seedlings are quickly established in their new environment. However, if the seedlings are not transplanted in a timely manner, they will eventually grow into neighboring blocks, which should be avoided.

Once the seeds have been inoculated as discussed, Penny then engages in a bit of seed discrimination, selecting the largest, plumpest seeds from each packet for planting. She also plants more seeds than necessary, so that she can discriminate once again when the seeds become seedlings by discarding the ones that lack the vigor of their companions. In the case of tomatoes and peppers, she’ll actually plant at least twice as many seeds as the actual number of seedlings she’s looking for, just so she can have the pick of the litter. If this seems wasteful, I assure you it is precisely the opposite, because by selecting for health and vitality, we end up with far greater yield for a given square footage of garden space.

Our earliest seedlings are started on shelves in front of a set of south-facing French doors. We have chosen to not rely on artificial lighting or heat for our starts, a habit established during the 15 years we were disconnected from the utility grid and simply didn’t have access to the necessary electricity. Now that we are grid-connected, we could rely on these technologies, but we still choose not to, because our cheap electricity inevitably costs someone, somewhere a great deal.

Once the weather warms up, we transfer our flats of seedlings to makeshift shelves on the enclosed porch that houses our summer kitchen. We installed translucent panels on the southern end of the porch expressly for this reason, and the seedlings thrive out there, as long as we bring them inside for the nights, until temperatures warm up. This daily shuffling of our seedlings—out to the porch in the mornings to catch the most light, in from the porch in the evenings to protect them from the cold—is unquestionably a hassle, necessitating reminder notes left in conspicuous places (BRING! SEEDLINGS! IN!). But like most hassles, it seems bigger than it actually is. As the season progresses, there are more and more flats to move, but with the boys’ help, it generally doesn’t take much longer than seven or eight minutes. Just about the time we’re getting sick of this little dance and the number of flats has increased to multiple dozens, it is suddenly warm enough to leave them out at night.

Seeds that need a lot of heat to germinate, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, are granted a coveted spot atop our coldbox, which resides near the wood cookstove. As soon as they germinate, they are potted on into the larger-sized soil blocks and placed in front of the French doors with their companions.

The next big stressor event for our seedlings is transplanting. We’ve already mitigated some transplant shock by seeding into soil blocks, rather than containers. We also refrain from starting our seeds too soon. This is not easy, because like most gardeners, by the time March rolls around, we’re chomping at the bit. But we have found that vigorous seedlings of the proper age do better than seedlings that were started too early and have grown beyond the capacity of their soil blocks to fully nurture them. Finally, all our seedlings are allowed a few days in their flats outside to “harden off” in preparation for transplanting. We then transplant on an overcast day or late in the day, to protect the young seedlings from the stress of direct sun.

Over the years, as we’ve learned to select for more vigorous seed and seedlings, we’ve also learned that we have to take this increased vigor into account and provide them with a little extra space to fully express themselves. Whereas we once planted our tomato plants 1 foot apart, we now allow them at least 2 feet, if not even more. This may sound counterintuitive; after all, if we’re planting fewer plants, won’t our yield be greatly reduced? But the reality is precisely the opposite. In fact, over the past few years, our tomato yield has increased dramatically, despite a 50 percent reduction in actual plants. The genetics are the same. The overall space devoted to their cultivation is the same. The only thing that’s different is that we’ve created an environment that allows our plants to come closer to achieving their full potential.

Hybrid Hazelnuts – A New Resilient Crop for a Changing Climate

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

In the face of global threats like climate instability, food insecurity, and water pollution, scientists are looking to how we use our agricultural land for solutions. One such group of scientist-farmers in Minnesota have collectively spent nearly three decades developing what could be the new ecological crop of the future: hybrid hazelnuts.

Philip Rutter, along with his colleagues Susan Wiegrefe and Brandon Rutter-Daywater at Badgersett Research Farm, designed the hybrid hazelnut to address a host of problems with conventional modern agriculture. Their new book, Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts, list the many benefits of this promising crop, which are:

  • Once established hazelnuts require no plowing or even cultivation.
  • The extensive, permanent root systems mean dramatically improved infiltration rates that prevent water from running off of fields.
  • No soil is lost to wind or rain; in fact, this perennial crop builds soil.
  • Economically speaking, hazelnuts have a large, existing, and unsatisfied world market, not to mention the additional applications outside of the food industry including fuel and timber.
  • In a nutshell (pun intended), this crop helps regenerate the earth, at the same time reaping profits for the farmer.

Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts provides readers with a wealth of information from the history of hazelnuts and the genetics involved in creating a hybrid swarm to instructions on harvesting, processing, marketing, and more. Booklist calls this guide “a godsend for agricultural entrepreneurs and farmers desperate for newer, financially lucrative crops to replace those that have been, or may soon be, compromised by climate change.”

Progressive farmer and activist Joel Salatin certainly agrees and is ready to plant his own rows of hybrid hazelnuts. He writes,

Anyone ready to innovate outside the box will be blown away by the vision and practical insights demonstrated in Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts. The eclectic blend of science and practical how-to information packed into this fascinating, readable book is enough to inspire a whole new generation of farmers. Turning soybean fields into hazelnut plantations is truly a vision for the stout-hearted pioneer futuristic farmer. Sign me up.

Check out the following excerpt from chapter one of Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts for more information about hazels, their origins and what makes them a good starting point for developing a new staple crop.

Excerpt: Chapter 1 – Hazels, Hybrid Hazels, and Neohybrid Hazels

The Seed Series: A DIY Seed Bank

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

A do-it-yourself seed bank is simply your own frozen stash of seeds set aside for long-term storage. In the following excerpt from The Tao of Vegetable Gardening, author and plant breeder Carol Deppe discusses the do’s and don’ts of saving your own seeds. Deppe believes the best seed banks are located in your own home or neighborhood and contain vigorous, regionally adapted varieties of the crops you already know how to grow and use.

To purchase open-pollinated, non GMO seeds directly from Carol’s seed bank, Fertile Valley Seeds, download this order form.

Up next in our Seed Series, Ben Hewitt explains how soil health can greatly contribute to the vitality of your seedlings.

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The Do-It-Yourself Seed Bank

Seeds tucked away in a vault in Svalbard, Norway, are fine as far as they go. But in hard times this is unlikely to be very far from Svalbard, Norway. Even in the best of times you, an individual gardener or farmer, won’t be able to get any seeds out of the Svalbard seed bank. Only institutions that have deposited seed can get seed out, and then only the seed that they deposited in the first place.

A generic can of “survival” seeds is also not likely to be very useful. Such cans are full of varieties that are not optimal for your region, nor best for your purposes. Nor is the can likely to include more than trivial amounts of the big-seeded staple crop varieties such as corn, legumes, and squash, the very crops that would be most important in the event of any major disaster.

The best seed bank is the one that is full of vigorous, regionally adapted varieties of exactly the crops you care about the most, your very favorite varieties, those that do best for you, that you already know how to grow and use. It contains serious amounts of seeds of these crops, enough to plant a normal-sized crop of each of them for three years or more, not just a tiny sample of seed that has to be increased for several years before there is enough to be useful. And the best seed bank is in your own home or neighborhood.

Every gardener should have her own seed bank. Even if you aren’t a seed saver, you should have your own seed bank. Even if you never experience any disaster beyond the ups and downs of ordinary living, it’s useful to have your own seed bank.

Reasons to Start Your Own Seed Bank

First, if you buy seed, you can buy in bigger amounts and pay just a fraction of what you pay when you buy a little packet every year. You simply dry the bought seed for long-term storage, divide it up into one-year-sized packets, and put it into your freezer.

Second, there are years when we can be too poor or too busy to buy seed. With my own stash of seed, I buy seed when I can afford the money and time and dip into my stash when I can’t. Some years I buy a lot of seed. Some years I buy none, but still plant everything I want. The personal seed bank gives me greater flexibility and resilience in good times as well as bad.

Third, many varieties these days are produced by only one grower in the country or world, even if sold by many retail seed companies. So you can find your favorite variety suddenly stamped with CROP FAILURE in every seed catalog one year. When that happens it’s very nice to have your own stash of the variety.

Finally, the commercial seed trade regularly loses varieties. And the fact that a variety is widespread and very popular is no guarantee. Of my five favorite squash varieties from the 1980s the commercial trade has lost all of them. Often many seed companies continue selling the crossed-up trash under the traditional name. The more reputable seed companies drop the variety when it is no longer what it is supposed to be. The result is that you can buy varieties sold under the classic name long after the real variety that name represents no longer exists anywhere. All that has actually been preserved is the name.

One reason often given for saving our own seed is to be able to prevent the loss of varieties we care about. Where the seed isn’t available otherwise, we have to do our own seed saving, of course. But when the seed is widely available we just need to stash some away so that, if it is lost, we have good seed we can use to start our own seed saving after it becomes necessary. I really wish I had just dried and frozen a little of every variety I liked thirty years ago. If I had, I would still have real ‘Sugar Pie’ pumpkins and real ‘Guatemala Blue Banana’ winter squash. (What is being sold by these names today bears little resemblance to and has little of the distinctive flavors they had thirty years ago.) And I would not have had to do all that work to breed the ‘Sweet Meat— Oregon Homestead’ line of winter squash after the commercial trade lost ‘Sweet Meat’.

Types of Seed Varieties to Save and Avoid

Even if you purchase most or all of your seed, only varieties that can be saved belong in your seed bank. The seed bank needs to feature open-pollinated varieties. If you cache hybrid seed you have only the seed you have stored and are at a dead end when it is used up. Whether your seed bank starts with saved or purchased seeds, its usefulness depends on your being able to save seed and perpetuate the variety after taking it out of the bank. So the seed in the seed bank needs to be of open-pollinated, not hybrid varieties. Hybrid varieties don’t breed true. Some hybrids don’t produce seed at all. Others do, but the seed produces plants with variable characteristics that reflect segregation for all the genes and traits that were different in the two parent varieties that went into the hybrid. Some hybrids can be dehybridized into uniform, open-pollinated, true-breeding varieties that resemble the original hybrid, but this is a breeding project that usually takes a number of years. And not all hybrids can be dehybridized. The more your gardening uses open-pollinated rather than hybrid varieties, the more complete your seed bank can be, and the more seed-supply resilience you have.

If you regularly use some hybrid varieties, search for equally good open-pollinated varieties you can switch to. Most hybrids in most crops are not superior to the best equivalent open-pollinated varieties. They are simply marketed more intensely by the company that produces them than are varieties for which no one has a monopoly. Furthermore, with open-pollinated varieties, the fact that gardeners and farmers can save their own seed puts a limit on what can be charged for it. Hybrid seed makes a captive market of anyone who becomes dependent on it. We gardeners have no reason to encourage and promote monopolies in our seed supply. So we need to do our homework and trial more varieties than just the heavily touted ones. We need to actively search for and replace the hybrid varieties in our gardens with varieties that are open-pollinated.

Beware AAS varieties. This acronym stands for “All American Selections.” It could more accurately be said to stand for “All Agribusiness Selections.” The rules of the contest require winners to pay a certain percentage of all worldwide seed crop sales for a number of years to the AAS organization. You can do this only if you totally control the seed, which you can do only with hybrid, patented, or PVP (plant variety protected) seed. So AAS is an award for the best new proprietary varieties, that is, the best new hybrid, PVP, or patented varieties only, not the best new varieties. Nor are these best new proprietary varieties better than preexisting public domain varieties. Nor are the “new” characteristics for which they are touted necessarily new. Sometimes they have been around in public domain varieties for years or decades. When you see the words AAS Winner be aware that the variety is proprietary, and that you cannot grow it without giving up your traditional ability or right to save your own seeds and some of your seed-supply resilience.

PVP varieties are open-pollinated varieties and breed true to type. However, they have legal restrictions that forbid you from selling, swapping, or even giving away seed. You are, though, allowed to produce seed for your own use or sell a vegetable crop grown from such seed. It is also legal to use PVP varieties to do crosses to develop new varieties of your own. (It isn’t legal to derive a new variety simply by selection from a PVP, or to use a PVP to make a hybrid whose seed you sell.) So it is workable, though not ideal, to include PVP varieties in your seed bank. In a mega-disaster there probably wouldn’t be anyone around to enforce the PVP rules. But most uses of seed bank seed will be in situations short of mega-disaster. And for seed-savvy gardeners and farmers, selling or distributing seed is an important option. I suggest avoiding all PVP varieties in your garden and seed bank unless the variety is genuinely superior to all other equivalents.

A third category to avoid putting into our seed banks is varieties that are sold only with seed treatments (fungicides). The seed treatments involve dangerous chemicals that are not practical to apply on the home scale. The varieties are not resistant to common diseases that are found in most gardens, so cannot grow without the treatments. The combination of a variety not resistant enough to ordinary diseases to grow without seed treatments and the seed treatments themselves makes for varieties for which you cannot save seed. Avoid buying treated seed. Avoid varieties that are sold only as treated seed.

Of course, we don’t want GMO varieties in our seed bank. Even if we didn’t mind the genetic modifications, GMO varieties usually have utility patents that are maximally restrictive. You are forbidden from saving seed even for your own use or for using the variety in breeding of any kind. You basically don’t own the seed when you buy it. You are just leasing the use of that amount of seed for one year.

A Small Amount of Space is All You Need

In most cases your seed bank will start as a small box in a freezer. It may grow to a whole freezer of its own if you get ambitious and figure on storing enough seed for years, or for your entire neighborhood as insurance against a serious disaster. Properly dried for long-term storage and put into a freezer, the seed will keep virtually indefinitely as long as the power lasts, and for several years beyond should the power stop. During that several years beyond, you would save and replace the seed as you used it.

If at some point you want to expand your do-it-yourself seed bank to a whole freezer, consider getting a used chest freezer. These are often available free because people get rid of them to convert to more convenient upright freezers. Chest freezers are fine for seed, as you don’t need frequent or convenient access. Most used chest freezers change hands via freebie ads placed by those wanting to get rid of or acquire one.

A seed bank can be designed around the needs of ordinary gardening or it can be oriented toward getting your family or neighborhood through serious hard times or even mega-disasters. I think the best do-it-yourself seed bank does at least some of both.

Related Articles:
Seed Saving Basics
Become a Plant Breeder
Choosing the Right Seed Crop

 

Hot off the Presses: New Books!

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Tired of winter yet? Dreaming of spring? Our new crop of books have arrived to give you something to read until the thaw — all on sale for 25% off!

Make sure to look at our three most recent releases:

  • The Nourishing Homestead offers practical ways to grow nutrient-dense food on a small plot of land. It is sure to inspire a new generation of homesteaders, or anyone seeking a simpler way of life and a deeper connection to the world.
  • In The Tao of Vegetable Gardening Carol Deppe focuses on some of the most popular home garden vegetables, illustrating what gardeners need to know to successfully plant and grow just about any food crop.
  • Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts is the first comprehensive guide for farmers interested in how to get started growing hybrid hazelnuts. They are, without a doubt, the ecological crop of the future.

Let our new releases inspire you in your backyard and community!

Happy reading from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

P.S. Need a recommendation? We’re here to help. Email us at [email protected].


Sale runs until February 23, 2015. Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). International orders can be placed by phone (802-295-6300) or email.


The Nourishing Homestead
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
The Tao of Vegetable Gardening
Retail: 24.95
Sale: $18.71
Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96

 

The New Farmers' Almanac 2015
Retail: $20.00
Sale: $15.00
Around the World in 80 Plants
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
The Vegan Book of Permaculture
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
Coming Soon: Pre-order for 25% Off
The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm
The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook
What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming
Slow Wine 2015
The Seed Garden
The Social Profit Handbook
Discovering The Truffle
We Don't Quit

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Kvass: A Nourishing, Fermented Beverage

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Looking to add another recipe to your fermenting repertoire? Try your hand at kvass. This nourishing beverage calls for just a few simple ingredients and only takes a couple of days to ferment. Use beets or get creative with various fruit combinations like Blueberry Lemon Mint or Ginger Apple Lime.

According to Sally Fallon Morell, co-founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions, beet kvass is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, cleanses the liver, and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.

Below are recipes for both beet and fruit kvass from The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett.

Related Links:
Be Good to Your Gut: Nourishing Food for Better Health
Make Your Own Bone Broth
Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait: Four Simple Steps to Making Sauerkraut
Starting and Maintaining Sourdough

BEET KVASS
Makes 1 quart

3 medium or 2 large organic beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
1⁄4 cup whey or fermented pickle juice
2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced (optional)
Filtered water

Place the beets in a clean 2-quart widemouthed glass mason jar; add the salt, whey, and garlic, and fill to the shoulder with filtered water. Cap and leave on the counter for 2 days. Once you have drunk almost the entire first batch, you can add more filtered water, cap, and leave on the counter for an additional 2 days. After this you must throw out the beets and start fresh. Save 1⁄4 cup liquid from your previous batch to use as an inoculant instead of the whey. The easiest way I find is to pour what you wish to drink, replace it with filtered water, and return the jar to the fridge. Do this each time you drink some kvass. When the beets are “spent,” throw them out and start a new batch.

FRUIT KVASS
Makes 1 quart

1 cup organic fruit (fresh or frozen)
1-­inch fresh ginger, peeled (optional, but I usually add to my ferments as it is so good for digestion)
Filtered water
Pinch of sea salt
1⁄2 cup whey

Place the fruit and ginger in a quart-sized mason jar, filling it about a quarter of the way up. Add filtered water up to the jar’s shoulder, along with a pinch of sea salt and whey. Cap the jar tightly and leave it on the counter, at room temperature, for 2 to 3 days or until the lid is taut. Turn it upside down a few times a day. This is an anaerobic process, so be sure to keep the lid closed.

Depending on the temperature, your kvass may take a bit longer to ferment. You will see little bubbles starting to form; that means it’s fermenting and the pressure is building in your jar. Be sure to check the lid to see if you can press it down or not. If you can’t, that usually means the kvass is fermented and ready to drink.

You can strain out the fruit, if you wish, or enjoy it in your drink. This is a great way for our daughter to get a bit more fruit into her diet—following the fermentation process, the fruit’s sugar content is largely or completely gone. The kvass will last in the fridge for about 1 week.

You can also use the same process as the beet kvass, above. Simply replace the amount of kvass you drink with water, every time, until the fruit becomes colorless and flavorless.

Pickle People Descend on London Cake Shop

Friday, January 30th, 2015

After reading Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation, Terry Glover, manager of the London Review Cake Shop, found herself swept up in a microbial mania for pickling and brewing. To express her enthusiasm for all things fermented and to try and unearth London’s unique pickling culture, she decided to host a pickling competition. Here’s how the event unfolded in her own words.

On a rainy night in November, we invited Londoners to bring their pickles, brews and ferments to the Cake Shop for what was to be our first Annual Pickle Competition. We assembled a panel of judges, and a selection of prizes: rosettes, copies of our treasured Sandor Ellix Katz books (contributed by Chelsea Green Publishing), and wooden spoons. And we waited to see if anyone would turn up.

Turn up they did: amateurs and purists; city workers and squatters; health-nuts and members of the Women’s Institute. Despite the contestants’ considerably different backgrounds, the evening had the cosy community atmosphere of a village fete (though it was admittedly somewhat boozier than your average church hall). Our winners are representative of the diversity of entrants: first prize was awarded to a selection of vegetable pickles featuring two types of kimchi, delicate pickled mulberry leaf and Vietnamese kale; a home-brewed IPA took second prize; and third prize went to a truly remarkable chutney, made annually from a family recipe.

We love seeing folks like Terry embrace the art of pickling and create an opportunity for people to come together and share their knowledge. Here’s a video from the London Review Cake Shop pickle competition. We hope it inspires you to host a community fermentation event of your own.

A Man Apart: Remembering Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Life

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

A Man Apart is the story—part family memoir and part biography—of Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow’s longtime friendship with Bill Coperthwaite (A Handmade Life), whose unusual, and even radical, life and fierce ideals helped them examine and understand their own.

Framed by Coperthwaite’s sudden death and brought alive through the month-long adventure of building with him what would turn out to be his last yurt, Forbes and Whybrow deftly explore the timeless lessons of Coperthwaite’s experiment in intentional living and self-reliance. They also reveal an important story about the power and complexities of mentorship: the opening of one’s life to someone else to learn together, and carrying on in that person’s physical absence.

A review in Booklist puts it best: “In this loving tribute to Coperthwaite, Forbes and Whybrow have crafted an inspiring biography … Interweaving anecdotes of their own interactions with Coperthwaite, including the construction of a final, sunlight-filled yurt, the authors capture the full spectrum of this sometimes curmudgeonly man’s gregariousness, resourcefulness, and optimism. Although Coperthwaite’s dreams of worldwide cooperative and sustainable communities have not yet been realized, this reverent memoir will help keep his environmental ideals alive.”

We asked the authors about Coperthwaite’s life and his influence upon them and others. Here’s what they had to say.

Both of you had similar, but different experiences, as mentees of Bill Coperthwaite. How did they differ for you, how did they overlap, and how did you incorporate those different lessons into your own shared experience as a family?

Peter: Bill gave us both a powerful example of how to live a life: the role of work and how to protect what is most meaningful. Our decision to turn to farming and a life led closer to the land was given great encouragement by our relationship to Bill. I had little skill working with my hands before meeting Bill and he opened that entire world up to me. It’s very true that the experience of learning how to carve a spoon became the encouragement to do a great many other bigger things with my life that relied not just on my mead but on his head and my hands working together. That’s been enormously influential and satisfying in my life.

Finally, Bill’s model for how he lived on the land in deep relationship to place and nature changed how I thought about conservation and the role of people and community in land conservation. Directly because of Bill, people and their relationship to nature and to one another became a part of what conservation was meant to protect.

Helen: I think the fact that we knew Bill somewhat differently, and yet shared the understanding that he was central to our life together, makes our story richer and more layered. In some ways Peter’s relationship with Bill was more intimate, and yet as with all intimacy, that also made it more difficult. Bill and Peter did very important work together over the years with land conversation and creating community and it was not without its tensions. I was on the sidelines of that work, and yet Peter and I would have long conversations about it. My relationship with Bill had its own dimensions and really deepened as he aged and our children grew up.

What are some of his lasting lessons in your lives, and what do you think he’s left you to keep figuring out?

Peter: How to live the life you really want as opposed to the life society wants you to lead or the life your parents and family want you to lead. How do you stick with what is truly most important to you. Experience of life is far, far more important than possessions. How do you stay on the edge of experience as opposed to sinking into the comfort of possessions?

Helen: I think what I ponder most since his death is how we learn through life. He showed me that you never have to stop learning or being curious or even traveling in search of new experiences. He went to China when he was 83! He made me think a great deal about how we teach our young, how we treat our old, how the way we approach education is often against the grain of how we naturally learn best. He opened my eyes to how education should be rooted in multi-generational community life, and its goal should be to create empowered, self-aware citizens who want to come up with empathic and just solutions to the world’s problems, not just able to compete financially in a global marketplace and achieve individual status. We started home schooling our youngest daughter after Bill died, and almost every single day I want to talk to him about teaching. I’m left figuring out the How.

Bill Coperthwaite is often compared to Helen and Scott Nearing, and even described as a “modern-day” Henry David Thoreau. Is that accurate? Was he something else entirely?

Peter: Bill considered himself to be a public intellectual and social critic like Thoreau and Nearing, which is why those labels have stuck on Bill. But Bill’s life hasn’t yet achieved that same status because, in my view, he was actually more true to the dogma and less good of a writer than either Nearing or Thoreau. Bill’s experiment in living was more rigorous and true to his values and lasted longer than Thoreau or Nearing, but he didn’t have as effective ways to talk about it. Bill never got a phone and never went on the lecture circuit like Nearing regularly did. Bill remained in true opposition to society: from it but not of it. In this true sense, he lived the better example but it was a much harder example for people to find.

Helen: Like many things, it is and it isn’t accurate. When someone lives a life that is so unusual there are few examples to go by, and few comparisons to make that someone would understand. Bill was strongly influenced by Helen and Scott Nearing. He shared many of their values of how to live, how to be in service, and in particular he and Scott believed passionately in trying to live a life that was not part of a system of exploiting others. With Thoreau he shared an ardent pacifism, and a reverence for nature. He went well beyond Thoreau in his committed experiment in simple living. I think Bill shared an impish sense of humor that comes out in Thoreau’s writing at times. Scott Nearing, on the other hand, Bill thought to be “terribly dour.”

Homemade Bone Broth – A Healthy Diet Staple

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Have you had your steaming hot bowl of bone broth today? If not, you might want to consider integrating this nutrient rich, immune system boosting elixir into your daily diet. With recent articles about the benefits of bone broth in The New York Times and Epicurious calling it “the new coffee,” it’s clear broth is taking off as a food trend in 2015.

Learn how to make your own chicken, beef, and fish bone broths using the following instructions from The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett. As the foundation of both the GAPS and Paleo diets, bone broths are used in the early stages to starve pathogenic bacteria in your digestive system and heal your gut. Sealing a leaky gut can help treat disorders ranging from allergies and asthma to autism, ADD, depression, and more. However, as a healthy source of calcium, potassium, and protein, anyone looking to improve their digestive health can reap the nutritional benefits of bone broth.

This easy to digest, nourishing broth is made from bones with a small amount of meat on them that you cook on low heat for anywhere from 4-72 hours depending on the type of bones being used and when you think it tastes good. According to Boynton and Brackett, some of the most nutrient-dense animal parts include those you may normally throw away. It might take some getting used to, but once you start adding those chicken feet or fish heads into the pot, your nourished gut will thank you.

For more recipes from books that focus on restorative diets and traditional foods, check out this simple, 4-step method of fermenting vegetables from The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz and a recipe for succotash from Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice—a cookbook featuring foods that follow the ancient rhythms of the season.

Now, get ready to make bone both a new staple in your diet.

Homemade Bone Broth – The Heal Your Gut Cookbook

We’re Hiring! Social Media and Marketing Associate

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Chelsea Green Publishing is hiring an experienced, book-loving, sustainability-minded Social Media and Marketing Associate to join our growing publicity team in the company’s Burlington, VT office.

Job details:

The Social Media & Marketing Associate is responsible for managing Chelsea Green Publishing’s social media and web content strategy, campaigns, as well as helping with author and book publicity, and relevant company marketing and communication strategies.  This is a full-time, salaried, exempt position that reports to the Communications Director. The position is based out of Chelsea Green’s Burlington, VT office, but one day per week will be spent in the White River Junction, VT office.

Core responsibilities and duties:

Manage Chelsea Green’s social media campaigns across a variety of interactive platforms. Those tasks include:

  • Tracking and responding to social media statistics to ensure high quality, and high levels of interaction on all platforms. Provide regular reports to key staff and managers.
  • Research and draft content topics posted to the company’s blog, social media, and multimedia channels for maximum SEO, reach, branding, and effectiveness.
  • Upload Chelsea Green-related video content to our websites (ecommerce and publicity sites), as well as other platforms as needed, such as Vimeo and YouTube, and others as they develop.

Manage marketing website for marketing and sales staff. Tasks include:

  • Ensure book, author, and media coverage is kept current for each new book, post excerpts to the website and Scribd, as well as other third party sites as needed.
  • Help conduct research on new authors to provide publicity background information on our media site, as well as the social media profile of each author.
  • Help to develop special promotional campaigns – in conjunction with the sales and marketing team – for individual books and authors, as necessary. This can include direct-to-consumer, as well as academic, specialty markets, libraries, bookstores, and more.
  • Work with authors to coach and coordinate their social media and marketing efforts.

Assist in the regular updating of our company and consumer website (ChelseaGreen.com) as needed. Tasks include:

  • Plan and compose postings for ChelseaGreen.com blog and the front page of our media site.
  • Upload and highlight interviews, featured books, and other key promotional material such as excerpts.
  • Work with the Online Marketing Manager on website promotion as part of our social media and direct marketing outreach to consumers.

Other key tasks include:

  • Monitor emerging, and existing, trends, applications, and best practices in SEO, social media and other online marketing strategies.
  • Complete simple graphic design in support of social media marketing and publicity efforts.
  • Take the lead on developing video and visual strategies to promote authors, books, and Chelsea Green.
  • Providing ongoing reports to Chelsea Green staff and authors about our social media marketing.
  • Occasional travel for consumer events and trade conferences.

Requirements:

  • College degree.
  • Commitment to the Chelsea Green mission.
  • Three to five years of social media marketing and website management experience.
  • Strong writing and communication skills, copywriting experience a plus.
  • Familiar in using basic HTML to design web pages.
  • Familiarity with Google Analytics, and other online tracking software.
  • Familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Acrobat).
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Office and computer skills required.
  • Basic video editing skills.

About Chelsea Green: For  more than 30 years, Chelsea Green has been a leading publisher of books on the politics and practice of sustainable living, including organic gardening and agriculture, renewable energy, green building, eco-cuisine, and ethical business. We are a mission-driven, socially responsible company offering competitive salary and benefits. In 2012, we became employee-owned. We are a founding member of the Green Press Initiative and have been printing books on recycled paper since 1985, when our first list of books went on sale. Our Burlington, VT-based marketing and publicity office is a fast-paced, but supportive, working environment and Chelsea Green offers a competitive salary and benefits package.

To apply: Please send a resumé and cover letter by March 13th, to Communications Director, Shay Totten at [email protected] No phone calls, please.

A Taoist Approach to Gardening

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Groundbreaking garden writer Carol Deppe (The Resilient GardenerBreed Your Own Vegetable Varieties) has done it again with her latest book, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening. Called a “vegetable gardener’s treasury” by Booklist, this new guide focuses on some of the most popular home garden vegetables—tomatoes, green beans, peas, and leafy greens—and through them illustrates the key principles and practices that beginner and experienced gardeners alike need to know to successfully plant and grow just about any food crop.

In addition to practical advice on topics like how to deal with late blight and establishing your own DIY seed bank, Deppe explores the deeper essence of gardening both in terms of nature and ourselves. Her work has long been inspired and informed by the philosophy and wisdom of Tao Te Ching, the 2,500-­year-­old work attributed to Chinese sage Lao Tzu. She has organized her book into chapters that echo fundamental Taoist concepts: Balance, Flexibility, Honoring the Essential Nature (your own and that of your plants), Effortless Effort, Non-Doing, and even Non-­Knowing.

The “Non-Doing” concept may be hard for some to comprehend. Isn’t gardening supposed to be hard work? Deppe explains how easy it is to fall into a pattern of unnecessary efforts.

“There are three reasons to do something: It is the right thing to do, it is the right time to do it, and you are the right person to do it. Usually, it isn’t, it isn’t, or you aren’t. Gardening books and magazines usually focus on doing. They report the positive—things that worked at least once for someone somewhere on the planet. That is only part of the story. We gardeners are an inventive lot. We are capable of thinking of lots of other things to try that we have never seen anybody do or write about. Many of these other things have undoubtedly been tried repeatedly by gardeners in many times and places, and have failed to work for every single person who tried them. For everything that at least sometimes works, there are many-fold other things that never work. I have discovered quite a lot of these.”

In the spirit of doing less, Deppe provides helpful lists like twenty-four good places not to plant a tree and thirty-seven good reasons for not planting various vegetables. She also introduces her innovative “Eat-All Greens Garden” which could be the easiest, most space-saving, and labor-efficient way of growing greens. With this method, a family can raise all their summer greens as well as freeze and dry enough for the winter months with even a tiny garden—a perfect approach for small-scale and urban gardeners. The trick is to use plant varieties that grow fast. “The fast growth is necessary in order to produce plants that have succulent stems and all prime leaves even when large,” writes Deppe.

To get started on your own simple sow and harvest style garden and for delicious ways to prepare your bounty of greens, check out the following “Eat-All-Greens” excerpt from The Tao of Vegetable Gardening. And, for more gardening wisdom from Carol Deppe, here’s an interview she did on growing food in uncertain times – How to Grow and Store the 5 Crops You Need to Survive.

The Tao of Vegetable Gardening: The Eat-All Greens Garden


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