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Here comes Spring: Get Your Garden Started!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Spring has sprung! Okay, not quite yet but we’ve come a long way from winter wind chills. We’re itching to grab some pruners and get outdoors. We bet you are too!

Whether you are planting or planning your garden, homestead or backyard paradise we’re here to help you get an early start with our gardening and homesteading books.

30% Off ALL Farm & Garden Books until March 31st

Learn tried and true techniques from our expert authors so you can reap a plentiful harvest. Don’t miss some tips and projects below; from bombproof sheet mulching, to starting your own seed bank, how to use lambsquarter, beekeeping for beginners, and more!

Happy gardening from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

P.S. Keep checking our website for the month of March with more posts as part of our “Garden Series” for planting tips and tricks for the coming gardening season.


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)


 

~ ~ All Farm & Garden Books: 30% Off  ~ ~

 

Gaia's Garden
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $20.97
The Nourishing Homestead
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $20.97
The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $28.00
Community Scale Permaculture Farm
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $28.00
The Tao of Vegetable Gardening
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $17.47
Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $27.97
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $27.97
Natural Beekeeping
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $24.47
Edible Forest Gardens Set
Retail: $150.00
Sale: $105.00
Grass, Soil, Hope
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $13.97
The Organic Grain Grower
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $31.50
Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $27.97


Sheet Mulching
Turn Barren Soil into Black Gold: 9 Simple Steps to Sheet Mulching
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Comfrey, the Miracle Plant
Comfrey, The Miracle Plant
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Permaculture Q&A: Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling
Permaculture Q&A: Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling
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How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed
How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed
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The Seed Series: A DIY Seed Bank
The Seed Series: A DIY Seed Bank
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Indoor Oyster Mushrooms: Big Yield, Small Spaces
Indoor Oyster Mushrooms: Big Yield, Small Spaces
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Un-Coop your Poop: Everything you Need to Know about Chicken Tractors
Un-Coop your Poop: Everything you Need to Know about Chicken Tractors
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The Buzz: Beekeeping for Beginners
The Buzz: Beekeeping for Beginners
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~ ~ Coming Soon! Available for Pre-Order  ~ ~

The Seed Garden

The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer Trees for Gardens, Orchards, and Peramculture Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening

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)

Get More from Your Mission: The Social Profit Handbook

Monday, March 16th, 2015

For-profit institutions measure their success primarily by monetary gains. But nonprofit institutions are different; they aim for social profit, or improving the well-being of people, place, and planet.

The Social Profit Handbook draws from author David Grant’s decades of leadership in the education, foundation, and nonprofit worlds, and provides  leaders of social profit institutions with the tools they need to measure their success in entirely new ways, help clarify their visions, and better achieve their goals. Grant explains how organizations can reclaim impact assessment, making it an exercise for improving future work rather than merely judging past performance.

Written for those who lead, govern, and support mission-driven organizations—including for-profit, socially responsible businesses—The Social Profit Handbook tackles fundamental challenges facing these important change-makers.

“I think we are all aware of a big problem—a world awash in financial profit, or at least the pursuit of it, when what it needs is social profit,” writes Grant in the book’s introduction.”Yet my approach to the problem involves a relatively small change in the way staffs and boards of social sector organizations—and the new breed of socially conscious businesses—define and assess their successes in creating social profit.”

With fewer people believing that government — state, federal, or even local — can be trusted to solve problems, that trust is being placed in the cash-strapped “third sector” or “civic sector.”

“The sector is fragmented and cash-strapped, but collectively it can have enormous influence on the other sectors not only through its good work but also through its influence on voters and consumers. In short, I believe that social sector organizations can elevate the concept of social profit through the ways they define, pursue, and achieve the social benefits implicit in their missions. ”

You can read Grant’s complete introduction (including his elevator pitch speech to a prospective reader), along with Susan Kenny Stevens’ Foreword here.

Grant offers concrete strategies for achieving what matters most in the social sector: more benefits to society and stronger, more unified, more effective organizations prepared to make the world a better place. He does this by helping organizations implement “backwards planning” or starting from where you see your actions taking you, and working backward to determine the steps along the way that will help make that happen, and how to assess your progress along the way.

As you can see in this video clip below, Grant notes that most of us use this backwards planning technique on a regular basis. How? When we go on vacation. We don’t just pack our bags, show up at the airport and ask if there’s a plane leaving soon. We make a plan, an itinerary that we follow up to, and during, the vacation. Likewise, organizations need to set their sights into the future, and then define how best to reach those goals and achieve true, lasting, social benefits for society.

Buy your copy of The Social Profit Handbook today, get planning, and change the future.

New Audiobook—Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

If you’ve ever yearned to slow down, let life’s winds wobble you, and devote yourself to the act of anticipation rather than immediacy, then learn to ride a unicycle. Or, you could follow the thoughtful and guiding principles of  author, homesteader, and unicyclist Mark Schimmoeller in his latest book Slowspoke.

Now available as an audiobook, listen along as the author reads from this inspiring, and engrossing, tale that blends cross-country unicyclying, finding one’s true love, and learning how to fight for what is truly important in your life, and that of your family.

Even for those of us who have never experienced the peculiar pleasure of seeing the world from atop a unicycle, Schimmoeller’s book and the life lessons it contains are relatable no matter how many wheels get you from place to place. His memoir is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness.

See what we mean by listening to the following sample of the audiobook that is now available at Audible. Narrated by Schimmoeller himself, he describes setting off on his journey and what he packed—books, food, and money for along the way. Enjoy the ride, the slow, slow ride.

Peppered throughout the book are what Schimmoeller considers his “guiding principles”—moments of often humorous, pithy advice on how unicycling is inherently connected with the nature of slowness and the art of getting there, no matter where “there” exists. Fifteen of these principles from Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America are listed below.

In Schimmoeller’s characteristically unassuming way, these best practices appear to be for fellow unicyclists, but truthfully he is reminding us that it isn’t the means of transportation that matters. These ruminations on the importance of mindfulness end up speaking to each of us, if not as literal unicyclists, then as travelers traversing often rocky terrain without stopping to enjoy the view.

15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

(adapted from Slowspoke: A Unicyclists Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller)

  1. Relax the emphasis on arrival.
  2. In squandering time you demonstrate its availability.
  3. Unicyclists must become devotees of anticipation.
  4. If you find yourself looking up at the sky instead of at the terrain in front of your wheel, it’s likely you have fallen.
  5. Don’t go on a straight road unless you can curb your desire to get someplace.
  6. Adventure begins only from a feeling of security.
  7. Motion without consideration of beginnings and endings can shelter a unicyclist from time and speed and progress.
  8. The art of unicycling is knowing, in part, when to give in to desire.
  9. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other if a unicyclist takes a break.
  10. The act of falling partway plus corrections equals movement.
  11. The simple act of reducing your velocity…could eliminate a significant number of sharp turns in the world.
  12. It’s conceivable that someone could study wobbliness long enough to discover a corollary of strength.
  13. When it comes to attracting the opposite sex, don’t compete with bicyclists.
  14. There are limits, too, to slowness on a unicycle…The pace should inch just ahead of sorrow.
  15. A unicycle is who you are. For whatever reason, you are not any other form of transportation. You are a unicycle. Please love yourself.

Get Garden Reading! 30% Off Gardening Books

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Want a great garden? It all starts with a good plan. You’ll find growing is easier than you ever imagined.

30% Off Gardening Books
Until March 31st

To help jump-start your garden planning we’ve included some tips and inspiration from our expert authors; from planning the best garden, to starting your seedlings right and how to pick the best crop for your garden.

Keep an eye out for the month of March and more of our “Garden Series” with planting tips and tricks for the coming gardening season.

Happy gardening from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

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


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)

How to Plan the Best Garden Ever
How to Plan the Best Garden Ever
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Garden Planning: 48 of the most Promising Veggies
Garden Planning: 48 of the Most Promising Veggies
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Build an Herb Spiral: The Ultimate Raised Bed
Build an Herb Spiral: The Ultimate Raised Bed
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3 Steps to Start Your Plants off Right
3 Steps to Start Your Plants off Right
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Fertile Soil for an Abundant Garden
Fertile Soil for an Abundant Garden
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The Eat-All Greens Garden
The Eat-All Greens Garden
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What is a Plant Guild
Permaculture 101: What is a Plant Guild
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Choosing the Right Seed Crop
Choosing the Right Seed Crop
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~ ~ Garden Books: 30% Off  ~ ~
The Tao of Vegetable Gardening
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $17.47
Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $31.50
The Organic Seed Grower
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $34.97
The Four-Season Harvest
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $17.47
Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $17.47
The New Organic Grower
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $17.47
The Resilient Gardener
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $20.97
Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $27.97
Gaia's Garden
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $20.97
Farming the Woods
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $27.97
The Organic Grain Grower
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $31.50
Paradise Lot
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $13.97

~ ~ Need More? Don’t Miss our New Releases   ~ ~

The Nourishing Homestead

The Nourishing Homestead The Social Profit Handbook A Man Apart

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)

Book Exposes Scientific Fraud, Collusion on GMOs

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth is an important book that is long overdue in the United States, and Chelsea Green Publishing is proud to distribute this book to consumers who need to read the whole story behind how government officials and chemical companies have colluded to mislead the public about GM crops and foods.

With a foreword by Dr. Jane Goodall, this book is being praised by scientists for finally lifting the veil and exposing the collusion that has gone on behind the scenes between politicians, regulators, select scientists, and global seed manufacturers. Together they have joined forces to promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while ignoring the negative effects GMOs are having on our public food supply, health, and in the process has subverted scientific protocols.

The book was announced this week at a press conference in London, featuring Goodall.

“Without doubt, one of the most important books of the last 50 years,” writes Goodall in her Foreword. “It will go a long way toward dispelling the confusion and delusion that has been created regarding the genetic engineering process and the foods it produces. Steven Druker is a hero. He deserves at least a Nobel Prize.”

Frederick Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and an expert on sustainable agriculture had this to say of the book: “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth is a remarkable work that may well change the public conversation on one of the most important issues of our day. If the numerous revelations it contains become widely known, the arguments being used to defend genetically engineered foods will be untenable.”

This book uncovers the biggest scientific fraud of our age. It tells the fascinating and frequently astounding story of how the massive enterprise to restructure the genetic core of the world’s food supply came into being, how it advanced by consistently violating the protocols of science, and how for more than three decades, hundreds of eminent biologists and esteemed institutions have systematically contorted the truth in order to conceal the unique risks of its products—and get them onto our dinner plates.

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth
gives a graphic account of how this elaborate fraud was crafted and how it not only deceived the general public, but Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Barack Obama and a host of other astute and influential individuals as well. The book also exposes how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was induced to become a key accomplice—and how it has broken the law and repeatedly lied in order to usher genetically engineered foods onto the market without the safety testing that’s required by federal statute. As a result, for fifteen years America’s families have been regularly ingesting a group of novel products that the FDA’s own scientific staff had previously determined to be unduly hazardous to human health.

By the time this gripping story comes to a close, it will be clear that the degradation of science it documents has not only been unsavory but unprecedented—and that in no other instance have so many scientists so seriously subverted the standards they were trained to uphold, misled so many people, and imposed such magnitude of risk on both human health and the health of the environment.

“If you have even the remotest interest in this topic, I would strongly encourage you to get a copy of this book,” urges Dr. Joseph Mercola in an interview with Druker. ” It is, without a doubt, the best book on the topic and provides a treasure trove of facts that will help you decimate anyone who believes that GMOs are safe.

“For close to 20 years, the American public has been exposed to these largely experimental, untested foods, which its own scientists said entail unique risks and could not be presumed safe,” adds Mercola. “The FDA claimed GMO’s could be presumed safe, and that there was an overwhelming scientific consensus backing up their decision, yet the evidence shows that is a bold-faced lie.”

Watch the full interview with Dr. Mercola and Druker:

 

Ducks Vs. Chickens

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Thinking about adding a laying flock to your backyard, but having trouble deciding between ducks and chickens? Agonize no more. Carol Deppe (The Tao of Vegetable Gardening, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties) has the lowdown on which type of poultry might be right for you.

Deppe is a duck-lover at heart. In the following excerpt from The Resilient Gardener, she explains that ducks are easy to herd, have routine egg laying hours, and are superior to chickens in terms of pest control. However, she concedes that chickens are more readily available, usually cheaper to purchase, and are a better confinement animal, which is an important factor if space is an issue.

We’ll be sharing additional content about our feathered friends in the coming weeks, including how ducks and chickens fit into a farm ecosystem, how to make your own chicken feeder and waterer, and much more.

For now, check out Deppe’s analysis below and decide for yourself if you’re on Team Duck or Team Chicken.

*****

Ducks versus Chickens 

By Carol Deppe

The most ecologically well-adapted livestock for the maritime Northwest is the duck. The best-laying duck breeds lay better than the best-laying chicken breeds. Ducks can free-range year-round in our region. Ducks forage much more of their diets than chickens and eat a larger variety of natural foods common here. Ducks eat snails and slugs, and are better for yard and garden pest control. Ducks love our weather. (I should perhaps mention my biases. I’ve kept five breeds of chickens, two breeds of geese, and seven breeds of ducks. The ducks are my favorites, especially Ancona ducks, and at this point, I keep only a flock of thirty-two Ancona ducks. But I like chickens too.)

Eggs

Many people who are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs. A few people are allergic to both. I have also run into occasional people who claim to have problems eating duck eggs who can eat chicken eggs, though this pattern seems to be rare. Ducks from the better-laying breeds and strains can lay well enough to earn their keep for years. Laying chickens are usually not producing economically beyond the second year.

Ducks are much easier to control than chickens. Ducks of laying breeds can be easily confined with a fence only 2 feet high (as long as they have food and water and their buddies with them). Most of the egg breeds of chickens can fly well enough to get over any fencing. Keeping them out of the garden or the eaves of the porch often requires wing-clipping every bird.

Ducks tend to lay eggs that are bigger than chicken eggs from a breed of equivalent size. Some dual-purpose duck breeds (such as Anconas) lay eggs that are very big for the size of the bird.

Ducks normally lay their eggs between 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. daily. This means they lay their eggs in the nests in their night pens instead of hiding a nest in the yard. You can pick up the duck eggs just once per day, at the same time that you let the ducks out to forage. Chickens have a twenty-six-hour laying cycle, meaning each hen lays a little later each day. So a flock of chickens is laying at all times of the day and night. When allowed to free-range, they sometimes come back to lay in their nests and sometimes don’t. So recovering all the eggs can be problematic.

Pest Control

Chickens can help with pest control in yards, gardens, and pastures under certain circumstances. But chickens don’t eat big slugs or snails, two of the most important garden pests in the Northwest. (Some chickens may eat small slugs or snails.) And the scratching of chickens tears up plantings and scatters manure and dirt over the rest. Ducks are considered the premier critter for pest control. All the laying breeds of ducks are big enough to eat even 8-inch banana slugs, and do so with enthusiasm, swallowing them the way a sword swallower does a sword.

Moving Your Ducks and Chickens Around

Ducks are easy to herd. You can use one or two herding staffs, or you can just walk behind the ducks with your hands extended sideways, making scooping motions in the direction you want the ducks to go and saying, “Let’s go, ducks.”

In Asia, the free-range egg industry is based upon ducks that are kept in secure permanent quarters at night and herded to various separate foraging areas during the day. Since chickens can’t be herded, the night pen or house usually needs to be in or adjacent to the foraging area. To rotate chicken forage, you move their house, which must be portable. To rotate duck forage, you just herd the ducks to a different spot during the day, leaving their permanent pen in its permanent spot.

The crowing of roosters is much louder than any noise ducks make. Neighbors are less likely to hear or object to the sounds of ducks.

Climate Considerations

In many areas free-range chicken eggs are only seasonal, but free-range duck eggs are year-round. Here in the maritime Northwest, the free-range duck is happy foraging outdoors the entire year, and ducks of appropriate breeds are good winter layers. Ducks delight in cold rain. Chickens are so miserable in cold rain and use so much energy keeping warm that they either don’t lay or their egg production isn’t economical. The duck is the only way to get economical, year-round, free-range egg production in the maritime Northwest and other areas with cold, wet winters. (In areas where the ground is frozen much of the winter, there is no way to get winter free-range egg production from any poultry.)

Diet

Ducks can forage a larger part of their diet than chickens. Chickens eat mostly grain and animal life, with greenery as a salad. Ducks eat grain and animal life but also considerably more greenery than chickens, including grass, as long as it is succulent and growing.

In addition, ducks can make excellent use of wetlands, waterways, lakes, and ponds.

Ducks are more resistant to disease than chickens. Ducklings are hardier than chicks. Ducklings are more heavily feathered and have a layer of subcutaneous fat. They are designed for cold, wet weather. Ducklings can be outdoors earlier in spring than chicks. If allowed to waterproof themselves properly, ducklings can be out foraging in their third week. Chicks are normally kept indoors the first six to eight weeks.

Ducks, however, are much more vulnerable to four-footed predators than chickens, especially chickens with intact wings. Some people with marginal fencing or night housing can keep chickens but not ducks.

Chickens are much more readily available and usually cheaper. Day-old chicks of many breeds are often sold sexed, so you can get exactly as many of each sex as you want. Most laying breeds of ducks are much less available and are usually sold as straight-run only, meaning you don’t know how many of what sex you’re getting.

Water

Ducks need bathing water. Chickens maintain their skin and feather condition via dust bathing. Some people find it much easier to provide a dry dust bath than a bathing pool. Books sometimes say ducks can be raised without bathing water. Although this is technically true, raising ducks that way isn’t kind. Ducks keep their skin and feathers in condition by bathing in water and preening and coating their feathers with wax. All you need for a handful of ducks is a kiddy pool of water changed a couple of times a week. My ducks have a small pond I made by propping up a piece of pond liner on the hillside so I can open one side and drain it and hose it down easily. If you are unwilling to provide bathing water for ducks, I suggest you get chickens.

Chickens are a much better confinement animal than ducks. Ducks drink far more water, have a much looser, more liquidy poop, and need more space when confined than chickens. Some people need to confine their poultry and bring the garden produce and food to the birds. Chickens are usually the better choice for that situation.

In areas where winter is harsh and the ground is frozen or covered with snow for months, any poultry has to be confined. This fact can translate into chickens being the most workable option. If I lived in Minnesota or Wisconsin, or upstate New York, I think I would keep chickens instead of ducks.

Don’t Put Ducks in a “Chicken Tractor”

The “chicken tractor” is a small portable house with no floor that is moved around to fresh ground every day or so. There are many books and articles about this style of poultry keeping. It is actually a confinement situation in which the birds get a little greenery but not actually very much animal material. It works best for commercial broiler chickens, which don’t forage very actively or move far from the feeders anyway. Laying hens in chicken tractors produce eggs that are more a commercial-diet-based egg than a free-range one. However, chicken tractors are the only option many people have for their laying flock, and the chicken tractor, managed optimally, produces eggs that are better tasting, probably more nutritious, and certainly more ethical than those from commercial caged layers.

Chicken tractors work best with chickens. You can’t just substitute ducks. Laying chickens roost on raised perches at night and will use nests stacked in a bank against the wall. So the chickens use three dimensions of the space in a small movable house. The “chicken tractor” usually has one wall of nests that can be accessed from the side without entering the pen and a built-in roost on one side or end. A chicken tractor for ducks is problematic. Ducks use only floor space, and so need much more floor space than chickens, even before taking into account that their manure is much wetter. They need extra floor space for nests and resting. They need much more water and bigger water containers and bathing water. By the time you have given the ducks a big enough pen to be comfortable for them, it won’t be able to hold many birds in it, and it will not be very portable.

In America and Europe, chicken eggs are the standard. Most people don’t know how to cook duck eggs. During the last two decades, I’ve developed cooking methods and recipes for an American style of duck egg cookery. If you sell duck eggs, you will need to do some customer education on how they should be cooked.

Many people will enjoy trying both chickens and ducks. Generally, the two species should not be brooded together or housed in the same night quarters (unless they’re in separate pens). They have different requirements. However, chickens and ducks can usually share their daytime foraging area.

February Round Up: News, Views & Stuff You Can Use

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Dig in to the latest news and opinions from Chelsea Green and our authors, as well as tips and techniques about how you can bring our books to life in your kitchen, backyard, or community, plus special offers and new releases!

 

Survive the Winter Blues: Read, Eat and Plan
Survive the Winter Blues: Read, Eat and Plan
There is no denying it: the days are shorter and unless you planned for season extension your garden is all about the root vegetables.
But don’t let winter get you down. We’ve prepared the perfect cabin fever remedy with our winter reading list. Throw another log on the fire, grab a blanket, and tuck in with these new and classic favorites. Read it »»

Hybrid Hazelnuts – A New Resilient Crop for a Changing Climate
Hybrid Hazelnuts – A New Resilient Crop for a Changing Climate
Hybrid hazelnuts are designed to address a host of problems with conventional modern agriculture. They are, without a doubt, the ecological crop of the future!  
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. Learn more »»

A Man Apart: Remembering Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Life
A Man Apart: Remembering Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Life
A Man Apart is the story—part family memoir and part biography—of Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow’s longtime friendship with Bill Coperthwaite, 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. Read it »»

Drill, Plug, Wax, Wait: Four Easy Steps to Growing Mushrooms Outdoors
Drill, Plug, Wax, Wait: Four Easy Steps to Growing Mushrooms Outdoors
Grow your own mushrooms outdoors with this simple four step tutorial. All you need is a log, some mushroom starter, and a couple basic tools and you are on your way to producing gourmet mushrooms for years to come. Make it »»

Kvass: A Nourishing, Fermented Beverage
Kvass: A Nourishing, Fermented Beverage
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. Make it »»

Get Ready for Maple Sugaring Season
Get Ready for Maple Sugaring Season
Everything is better with maple syrup. At least that’s what you’ll hear when you ask Vermonters. So what better way to solidify your love for all things maple than to learn how to make it yourself?
If you only have a couple of trees nearby — say in your backyard — follow some simple advice for you to get started tapping a few trees and collecting the sap by bucket. Get Ready »»

Roadkill 101: An Insider’s Guide to ‘Asphalt Hunting’
Roadkill 101: An Insider’s Guide to ‘Asphalt Hunting’
We’ve all come across one while driving — a doe, a deer, a female deer — dead on the side of the highway. Admit it, carnivores and omnivores alike, you’ve often thought to yourself, “I wonder how long it’s been there … and … boy, am I hungry!”
After checking the rearview a couple times and being thwarted by oncoming headlights, you probably speed off with the smells of an imaginary venison stew giving your stomach pangs. Eat it »»

The Seed Series: 3 Steps to Start Your Plants Off Right
The Seed Series: 3 Steps to Start Your Plants Off Right
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.
Follow these three-steps to help your seedlings achieve their full potential! Grow it »»

The Seed Series: A DIY Seed Bank
The Seed Series: A DIY Seed Bank
A do-it-yourself seed bank is simply your own stash of seeds set aside for long-term storage.
Learn from groundbreaking garden writer, Carol Deppe, on how to start your own seed bank. Plant it »»

The Seed Series: Choosing the Right Seed Crop
The Seed Series: Choosing the Right Seed Crop
Ever wonder what crops will grow best on your land? Well, learn from award-winning author John Navazio about the right questions to ask.
He guides you through the characteristics of the most cultivated crops so you will get a better feel for which crops are best suited for you, especially when growing them from seed. Learn it »»

~ ~ Need More? Don’t miss our New Releases  ~ ~

The Tao of Vegetable Gardening

The Nourishing Homestead Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts A Man Apart

Around the World in 80 Plants


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)
 

Roadkill 101: An Insider’s Guide to ‘Asphalt Hunting’

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

We’ve all come across one while driving — a doe, a deer, a female deer — dead on the side of the highway. Admit it, carnivores and omnivores alike, you’ve often thought to yourself, “I wonder how long it’s been there … and … boy, am I hungry!”

After checking the rearview a couple times and being thwarted by oncoming headlights, you probably speed off with the smells of an imaginary venison stew giving your stomach pangs. Your trunk? Also empty.

Face it, lean times financially mean many of us seek inexpensive, yet still wholesome, ways to feed our families.  Author and homesteader Ben Hewitt asks us to consider roadkill as an option of putting meat on the table. Yes, honestly and truly – roadkill. And, why not? In many instances, the animal has been freshly killed, and if it’s a sizable deer (or even moose), that’s a lot of meat that can be stored away into the freezer for another day.

In his new book, The Nourishing Homestead, Hewitt offers some basic tips on the etiquette and edibility of “asphalt hunting.” One thing is to be sure, there is an upside to the deep freeze of a winter that many of us are experiencing.

Read on, and start searching the side roads for your next meal.

*****

Determining the Edibility of Roadkill

This excerpt is adapted from Ben Hewitt’s The Nourishing Homestead (March 2015).

Folks who hear of our fondness for “asphalt hunting,” which has netted us three deer over the past four years, frequently ask how we determine whether or not a piece of roadkill is prime for the stew pot. Like so many aspects of food production and processing, such a determination depends on a number of factors.

First and foremost, what time of year is it? While we have harvested roadkill during the warm months, doing so requires much more luck (to have come across the kill shortly after it met its fate) and a bit more discernment (to know what safely constitutes “shortly after”). For that reason, I can only recommend harvesting in winter, with the exception being if you are unfortunate enough to be the one who hit the animal or if you actually witness its demise.

When we come upon roadkill, the first thing we do is to assess the level of bodily damage. This is not always obvious, because severe internal injuries are not generally visible, although they also don’t preclude harvest, as there’s still likely to be a fair bit of edible meat. Generally speaking, if we find a deer that’s really torn up, with a fair amount of visible blood, we leave it. Shattered and twisted legs look dramatic but are actually a sign that the animal took the hit down low, rather than directly to the body, where the majority of the meat is contained.

Regarding freshness, the colder it is, the less you need be concerned. That said, anything that’s frozen stiff suggests to me that (1) it’s been there awhile and (2) it’s going to be a real hassle to transport and dress. The ideal situation is exactly like the one I came across last October, when I rounded a corner on a rural road to find an SUV pulled to the side of the road and a fellow in designer jeans hauling a dead doe into the ditch. I hit the brakes and hopped out of the car. “Are you planning to do anything with that,” I asked. It was a rhetorical question, because I could see that his plans for the deer ended the moment he reached the bottom of the ditch. He looked at me quizzically: “No, why? You want it?” He sounded skeptical, but was kind enough to help me load the animal into the back of our Subaru. Ninety seconds later, I was on my way home with a freezer full of fresh venison. I doubt more than 10 minutes passed between impact and loading the deer into our car.

That doesn’t happen too often, so you should be prepared to make a judgment call. In general, what I like to see in cold weather is a body that’s still limber and maybe even a little warm. That’s a sure sign it was a recent hit. Of course, if there’s snow on the road, you can usually tell whether any spilled blood is fresh and bright red or congealed and duller in color. I suppose it goes without saying, but when it doubt, leave it for the birds. Which brings me to another simple rule: If birds or animals have been feeding from your quarry, it’s been there too long. Or too long for my taste buds, anyway.

Do expect some internal damage. A burst stomach is not uncommon, and while its contents can appear to have spoiled a lot of meat, it’s actually pretty easy to clean up the resultant mess, via either a vigorous scrubbing or a careful cutting away of affected areas. Fortunately, there’s not much meat directly around the stomach cavity, so contamination of prime cuts is unlikely.

Finally, you might want to check state wildlife laws before gleaning any roadkill. Here in Vermont, it’s actually illegal to glean roadkill without notifying a game warden; the deer herd belongs to the state, a fine example of how the common wealth of the land has been commoditized. The truth is, most wardens are happy to see the meat go to good use. The other truth is, damned if I’m going to let a perfectly edible animal rot in a ditch while I try to track down a warden for permission.

Get Ready for Maple Sugaring Season

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Everything is better with maple syrup. At least that’s what you’ll hear when you ask Vermonters. So what better way to solidify your love for all things maple than to learn how to make it yourself?

If you only have a couple of trees nearby — say in your backyard — author Michael Farrell (The Sugarmaker’s Companion) has some simple advice for you to get started tapping a few trees and collecting the sap by bucket. The following excerpt is adapted and condensed from Chapter 5 of his book.

If you have access to a larger grove of trees you might also want to read these additional excerpts from The Sugarmaker’s Companion on producing value-added products from your collected tree sap.

*****

Maple Syrup 101
by Michael Farrell

Backyard Sap CollectionWhen to Tap

One of the most difficult decisions you have to make from year to year in your sugaring operation is deciding when to tap. I always recommend tapping just a few trees in January and February to determine what is going on with sap flow conditions. In relatively cold areas, even when the temperatures get above freezing in January and February, the amount of sap flow can be negligible. The trees are basically frozen, and it takes an extended period of warm temperatures to induce substantial sap flow. In warmer regions where the winter isn’t as severe, optimum temperature fluctuations usually happen all winter and the trees may be producing a decent amount of sap in January and February. If you see this happening in your test trees, you’ll want to tap the rest of your sugarbush to catch the early sap runs.

How to Tap

Finding the Right Spot

The first step in tapping is to find a good spot to drill the hole. It doesn’t matter how nice a hole you drill, what type of spout you use, or what level of vacuum you are pulling if you have drilled into a bad section of the tree. To get a decent amount of high-quality sap, you need to drill into clear, white sapwood. It is important to avoid previous tapholes and the associated stain columns as well as other defects and rotten areas on the trunk. Large seams and wounds are easy to identify and avoid, but it takes a trained eye to locate old tapholes.

Drilling the Hole

Sugaring Tap

Some people advocate drilling the hole directly into the tree whereas others recommend drilling at a slight upward angle. I usually try to achieve a perfectly straight hole but always err on the side of making it at a slight upward angle whenever necessary. No matter how you drill the hole, be sure to use a relatively new, clean, sharp drill bit that is intended for drilling into maple trees.

When you are pulling the drill out of the tree, always examine the shavings to make sure that they are pure white. If you get brown or dark-colored shavings, you have drilled into a bad part of the tree. Your sap yield will be negligible, and any sap that does flow may have a yellow tinge to it and impart off-flavors to your syrup.

Setting the Spout

The final step is placing the spout in the tree. It takes some practice to figure out how hard to tap on the spout to get it nice and snug without overdoing things. Not tapping in hard enough can cause the spout to be too loose, creating a vacuum leak. On the other hand, tapping too hard can potentially cause the wood to split, which in turn leads to vacuum leaks, lost sap, and increased wounding at the taphole. Most sugarmakers use regular hammers to set the spouts, but you don’t necessarily hammer the spouts in. Just a few gentle taps will usually do the trick until you hear a thumping sound. As soon as you can hear the difference, stop tapping on the spout.

Row of Sugaring buckets

The Seed Series: Choosing the Right Seed Crop

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

The vast majority of seed-propagated vegetables most used worldwide fall into nine plant families. Understanding the characteristics of these particular families will give you a better idea of which crops are best suited for your climate.

In the following excerpt from the award-winning book The Organic Seed Grower, author John Navazio provides some key questions you should be asking to determine if a crop will grow where you live.

For more seed-related content, check out all our excerpts from “The Seed Series:”
Seed Saving Basics by Janisse Ray
Become a Plant Breeder by Carol Deppe
Three Steps to Start Your Plants Off Right by Ben Hewitt
A DIY Seed Bank by Carol Deppe

* * * * *

SEED CROP CLIMATES
By John Navazio

While there are several dozen plant families that contain species of crop plants that are commonly used by different agricultural societies around the world, there are only nine families that house the great majority of seed-propagated vegetables that are the most important across most cultures worldwide. Through learning a bit about the characteristics of these nine families of the most cultivated vegetable crops, it is possible to get a better feel for which crops are best suited to a particular climate, especially when growing them as a seed crop.

SEED PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

There are a number of prominent characteristics of cultivated plants that are quite similar within the nine plant families in which most of our vegetable crops are found. One of the first things someone researching our cultivated crop plants finds is that closely related crops within a particular family usually share a number of prominent features. We know that different crops within the same family often share certain phenotypic traits, such as structural or reproductive characteristics.

Flower structure has long been a principal way of categorizing plants into families. The type and structure of the fruit, which is indeed a fertilized ovary of the flower, has also classically been used to assign different plants of the angiosperms (the true flowering plants) to various species and genera. As to structural features, we all know that crop species in the same family usually share a common leaf type, arrangement of their leaves on the main stem, type of stem, and so forth.

Plant structure can also be a reflection of the function of a particular part of the plant. Certainly as you get to know the different crop members of a plant family you may begin to see more of the commonalities among these species. This way of viewing crops can prove quite useful when you consider growing unfamiliar seed crops for the first time and realize that it is possible to culturally handle them in a similar fashion to a seed crop with which you have experience.

Here are a few categories in which crops within a particular family share traits that will help you decide whether the crop is suited to your environment:

1. Evolutionary past

  • Center of origin. Is your climate similar to that of its evolutionary past?
  • Climate. Is your climate similar to the climate where it’s currently grown?
  • Structure and flower parts of the family definitely relate to shared ancestry.

2. Environment. Characterize the climate that the crop thrives in.

  • Cool-season crops need cool weather to mature high-germination seed.
  • Intermediate crops will grow in cool or warm climes and mature seed in warm conditions.
  • Heat lovers need heat to thrive and produce high-germ seed.

3. Life cycle. While some patterns exist across families, there are clearly families that contain annual/biennial/perennial species.

  • Annuals complete their entire life cycle in one season.
  • Winter annuals are planted for fall growth and flowering early in the next growing season.
  • Biennials need most of two seasons to complete their life cycle, with vernalization between the first season of vegetative growth and the second season of reproductive growth.
  • Perennials. This includes very few seed-propagated vegetable crops.

4. Daylength sensitivity. Is the crop sensitive to daylength?

  • Daylength-sensitive crops only flower at certain daylengths.
  • Daylength-neutral crops flower at various daylengths.

5. Reproductive biology. Self-pollinated species versus cross-pollinated species.

  • Cross-pollinated species. Is on-farm isolation possible?
    • Wind-pollinated. Pollen travels far and doesn’t require insects.
    • Insect-pollinated. Are pollinating insects present?
  • Self-pollinated species. How many on-farm isolations are possible?
    • Faithful selfers are highly self-pollinated; several crops are possible.
    • Promiscuous selfers—how many isolations are possible?

6. Presence of disease. Is disease a limiting factor in your environment?

  • Diseases of the vegetative stage—is it a limiting factor?
  • Seedborne diseases—are they endemic and economically limiting?

7. Presence of insect pests. Are insects a limiting factor in your environment?

  • Insects of the vegetative stage—are these a limiting factor?
  • Insects of the seed—are they endemic and economically limiting?

CLIMATIC ZONES

Here is a reference list of the four major climatic types in which vegetable seed crops are grown. The important climatic considerations that determine each zone’s suitability are given, followed by the crops that are most well adapted to that particular zone. Note that some crops are suited to more than one climate and therefore have a wider adaptation to environmental conditions for producing high quality.

Cool-Season Dry-Seeded Crops

All dry-seeded crops are formed in dry pods or in clusters along the stem of the plant and are essentially harvested like grains. They produce the best quality seed when they mature and are harvested in seasonally dry, low-humidity regions; the so-called Mediterranean climate. These cool-season, dry-seeded crops are best grown in the cooler reaches of the Mediterranean climate, where cool, often wet weather predominates during prolonged springs, and summers are mild and dry with little or no rainfall through harvest. Cool-season crops do not handle hot weather, especially through the earliest stages of their reproductive cycle. These crops form the highest quality seed when temperatures are generally somewhere between 60 and 75°F (16 to 24°C) during pollination, fertilization, and the earliest stages of embryo and endosperm development in late spring and early summer. After this initial formation and development of the seed they are able to tolerate average summer daytime high temperatures between 75 and 85°F (24 to 29°C) but thrive in relatively cool summers, especially where daytime high temperatures rarely exceed 80°F (27°C) to produce the highest-quality seed.

Seed crops that excel under these conditions: Spinach, beet, cilantro, Asian greens, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, parsnip, mustards, Swiss chard

Warm-Season Dry-Seeded Crops

This climate is similar to the Cool-Season Dry-Seeded parameters above but with temperatures that are consistently warmer throughout all the months of the growing season. Warmer spring temperatures result in more rapid early growth and development for these crops over the cool-season dry-seeded crops. Daytime high temperatures during flowering and seed setting should generally not exceed 78 to 85°F (26 to 29°C). But after this initial formation and development of the seed these crops are able to routinely tolerate summer daytime average high temperatures between 85 and 92°F (29 to 33°C) when producing high-quality seed.

Seed crops that excel under these conditions: Broccoli, kale, collards, celery, radish, turnip, lettuce, Swiss chard, favas, peas, runner beans, parsley, endive, escarole, and chicories.

 

Hot-Season Dry-Seeded Crops

All dry-seeded crops do best when there is little or no rainfall during seed maturation and harvest. This lessens the incidence of diseases of all kinds, especially seedborne diseases, and it lowers the threat of excessive rainfall shattering the seedheads that form with all dry-seeded crops. While summer highs do regularly exceed 92°F (33°C), a number of these crops must complete their early reproductive stages of pollination and anthesis to mature a high-germinating, high-quality seed crop, while early season daytime temperatures are between 80 and 92°F (27 and 33°C).

Crops that excel under these conditions: Garden beans, lima beans, edamame, carrot, onion, and sweet corn.

Hot-Season Wet-Seeded Crops

The wet-seeded moniker refers both to the fact that most of the fruit of these crops is wet but also to the method used to extract the fruit, which is extracted through a wet fermentation or a series of water rinses (see Seed Harvest for each individual crop). These crops are all heat lovers from the moment they are planted. They depend on warm spring temperatures that average above 65°F (18°C), to establish good early growth and need warm nighttime temperatures to realize a decent yield and mature a high-germinating, high-quality seed crop. Temperatures may routinely exceed 90°F (32°C) during flowering and early fruit and seed set,* and unlike the dry-seeded crops, some humidity is tolerated; in fact, the presence of humidity often is responsible for holding the heat into the evening and nighttime hours.

Crops that excel under these conditions: Cucumbers, melons, watermelons, summer squash, winter squash, bitter melon, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. (*The exception for this group is cucumber, which does prefer slightly cooler temperatures.)


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