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Chelsea Green - Page 4 of 404 - The Politics and Practice of Sustainable Living. : Chelsea Green

The Seed Series: Become A Plant Breeder

February 26th, 2014 by admin

The following is an excerpt from Carol Deppe’s book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, and provides an introduction for gardeners interested in learning how to breed their own plants and save seeds. Deppe also sells her own seeds, which you can buy direct from her at www.caroldeppe.com.

For more information on seed saving, check out the previous article in our “Seed Series”–an excerpt from Janisse Ray’s book, The Seed Underground about the basics of seed saving and why it’s an important skill to preserve. 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. 

* * * * *

AN INTRODUCTION TO SEED SAVING
by Carol Deppe

Every gardener should be a plant breeder. Developing new vegetables doesn’t require a specialized education, a lot of land, or even a lot of time. It can be done on any scale. It’s enjoyable. It’s deeply rewarding. You can get useful new varieties much faster than you might suppose. And you can eat your mistakes.

Gardeners buy only small amounts of seed compared to commercial growers, so seed of varieties that are best suited for gardeners is sold in only small amounts. Large seed companies often can’t afford to carry it. No one can make a profit developing it. So no one is. If we gardeners want good new garden varieties, we’ll have to breed them ourselves. But this is as it should be. Gardeners have been developing their own varieties for centuries. Besides, why should we let the professionals have all the fun?

Why Save Seeds?

Saving seeds is fun. Cleaning the seed, holding the clean seed in your hands, is magical. Gaze at the seed, run your fingers through it, play with it, and you can feel the connections. You’re like a child with a gallon bucket of marbles, or a squirrel sitting on a hollow log full of acorns. Unquenchable joy arises. It is so intense it puzzles you initially. Then you recognize it. It is the joy that comes from being who you are supposed to be and doing what you are meant to do.

Seed saving is practical. If you know how to save your own seeds you can grow rare varieties. Many of the most spectacularly flavorful, unique varieties are not readily available commercially, either as fruits or seed. One of my favorite winter squash is ‘Blue Banana’, for example. This squash has a flavor that is superb, intense, and so different from all other squash that it is like an entirely different vegetable. But the seed is not available commercially. To grow rare varieties, you often have to get the seed when and where it is available, then maintain the variety yourself.

Some varieties are not available because they have peculiarities with respect to production of the seed itself. If a watermelon produces few seeds, for example, it will not usually be offered commercially. It’s simply too expensive to produce the seed. A home gardener, though, might be happy to save such seed. And a market garden might be able to easily produce the handful of seeds needed for a single field’s planting.

Being dependent upon seed companies for your seed means being dependent upon random fads in foods as well as other people’s choices and preferences. Saving your own seed means independence. It lets you make your own choices and have your own preferences. When you save your own seed, the seed is always “available.” It is common these days for all the seed of even very popular varieties to be produced by just a single grower. If that grower experiences a crop failure, the seed isn’t available anywhere.

Sometimes, even if the seed is “available,” you can’t necessarily find it. There can be a poor correlation between variety names and the material you actually receive. Seed companies often change lines or suppliers, so that what they are selling one year and the next may be different strains, even though they are called the same thing.

I like to produce my own seed even of varieties that are readily available commercially. My own seed is usually bigger, fatter, and more vigorous. I can plant it earlier than commercial seed. I also have much more of it, so I don’t have to skimp. I can sow generously and then thin, instead of sowing thinly, then having gaps that have to be replanted later and less optimally. And with my own seed, the price is right.

Become a Plant Breeder

When you save seed, you become a plant breeder. You are choosing which germplasm to perpetuate. This means that you are both deliberately as well as automatically selecting for characteristics that are important to you, for plants that are fine-tuned to your needs and growing conditions and region.

After you have saved seed of a variety for a few years, you have your own line of the variety that is slightly different from anyone else’s, and it is usually better adapted to your needs.

Knowing how to save your own seed also means that you can take advantage of genetic accidents, ideas, and dreams. Last year, for example, I noticed one squash plant in perhaps a hundred that was resistant to powdery mildew. I saved the seed from it. Perhaps I can use it to develop new powdery-mildew-resistant varieties. Powdery mildew after the first fall rains is what ends the squash growing season in my region. Resistant varieties could be very useful. Many new varieties got their start when some gardener or farmer simply noticed something that was different and special-and saved the seeds.

We gardeners and farmers care about our direct relationship with soil, plants, and food. To grow plants from seed bought from others is one level of relationship. To grow plants from our own seed, to save seeds from our own plants, goes to a deeper level. It is fulfillment and continuity-plants and people maintaining each other, nurturing each other, evolving together. It completes the circle.

Saving Seed from Hybrids
Hybrids don’t breed true to type from seed. Some hybrids are even sterile, though most will produce seed. This seed can be used to derive a pure-breeding variety by the methods described in chapters 9 and 10. Such a variety derived from a hybrid is a new variety and should be given a new name. It is not the same as the hybrid from which it was derived. In other words, you can save seed from hybrids as the first step in creating a new open-pollinated variety, but you cannot reproduce a hybrid by saving its seed.

This section on seed-saving practice, then, refers to pure-breeding, not hybrid, varieties.

Seed-Saving Overview

Saving seed is easy. Plants want to make seed. They cooperate fully. To save seed, all you have to do is let the plants produce seed, then grab it quick before the birds or squirrels or bugs, and before it gets rained on and molds or sprouts in the pod. Saving seed of pure varieties is another thing entirely. Plants don’t care at all about pure varieties.

The outbreeders would all rather cross with that strange inedible ornamental variety down the street in the yard of your neighbor. Even the inbreeders outcross far more often than they are “supposed to”, especially under organic growing conditions. To save seed of pure varieties, we need to know something about the outcrossing tendencies of the crop so that we can isolate it sufficiently from other varieties or wild plants of the species that it could cross with.

Finally, every variety contains genetic variability. Some of this is desirable and even essential to the vigor and adaptability of the variety. Some of it, though, is undesirable. So, we need to grow an appropriate number of plants in order to maintain the amount of genetic variability that we want. At the same time, we must select and rogue to eliminate the genes associated with specific kinds of variability that we don’t want. Given the genetic heterogeneity in most varieties and the greater vigor of the more wild-type forms, the natural tendency of most varieties is to deteriorate quickly to something that is far less useful to its human associates. To maintain a variety we must actively breed in order to counter this tendency.

There is actually no such thing as “saving” a pure variety. There is only further breeding, either deliberate or accidental. We either select in order to hold the variety in its current form and to eliminate undesirable types, or we select in order to change the variety in some preferred direction. Both processes involve exactly the same principles.

Roles and Purposes
“What’s my role with respect to this variety?” That’s the first thing I ask myself about every seed-saving project. Am I the sole savior or creator of the variety, the one person without whom it would be lost forever? Or is my line better than everyone else’s, and especially worthy of preserving and distributing?

Am I planning on building up the precious stock, then giving or selling it to seed companies or others? Will I be distributing it through the Seed Savers Exchange? Will many or even all future plantings of this variety all over the country be descendants of these seeds I hold in my hands today? If so, I will want to be pretty careful and rigorous. I will use serious numbers of plants, and serious isolation distances.

Often, however, I’m saving seed just for myself, and I know others have the variety as well. In that case, I can be quite casual about most nearly everything. Numbers of plants? I grow what I need for the table, and use special tricks (see Chapter 19) to deal with maintaining heterogeneity.

Isolation? It’s often minimal. I usually plant so as to be able to recognize hybrids, which is much easier than avoiding them (see Chapter 18). If I can recognize hybrids I can eliminate them or not as I choose in future generations. Who knows? The hybrid might be more interesting than the original material. And if the seed is just for my own use, what’s an outcross or two among friends?

The Seed Series: Seed Saving Basics

February 24th, 2014 by admin

The following is an excerpt from Janisse Ray’s award-winning book about seeds and seed saving, The Seed Underground.

If you’ve ever thought saving your own seeds was too much to tackle, let Janisse provide some encouragement and inspiration.

For more information on seed saving, check out the next two articles in our “Seed Series.” Up next, Carol Deppe discusses how seed savers should think of themselves as plant breeders, and in our third article, award-winning author John Navazio discusses the right questions to ask when determining what crops will grow best on your land.

 

 

BASIC SEED SAVING
by Janisse Ray

To save your own seeds and get plants that are photocopies of the parents, you must grow open-pollinated seeds.

If you believe in moon magic, plant between either the last quarter and the new moon in the signs of Gemini for multiplication; or in the earthy signs of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces—believed to be the most productive constellations for aboveground crops. In many cultures, seed harvested at full moon is thought to have the best germinating power.

Selecting Plants

Select plants in your garden that have done well and have adapted to your temperament, soil, climate, and desires. If you want early melons, select seed from the earliest. If you want tolerance to cold, pick the plant that lives through the coldest night. You may be interested in disease resistance, late maturation, drought tolerance, or productivity. Keep notes if necessary. Mark your plants with tie-on markers (pieces of torn cotton cloth). Then choose from them the fruit whose characteristics most appeal to you.

Gathering seeds at the right time is important. For fleshy fruits, the seed is ready when the fruit is completely ripe. Flowering heads are tricky in that you must get the seed after maturity but before wind and animals scatter them.

My best advice

If you want to elevate your seed-saving interest to a passion or a scholarship and do it correctly, is to get Suzanne Ashworth’s incredible book Seed to Seed, about which I once overheard someone say, “It seems so little to have all the answers.” Ashworth knows (almost) everything there is to know about seed saving (and I added the almost only in case some small tidbit of information has not yet been discovered). The Seed Savers Exchange also periodically prints a seed-saving guide, which is an invaluable resource. I have the one that appeared in the Seed Savers Summer Edition 1988, a Seed Savers Exchange publication that served as their journal.

Maintaining seed purity is a science. You need to know how many of each variety to plant, how far varieties should be planted from each other, whether a variety is an annual or a biennial, how long the seeds are viable, and many more facts. You won’t get many of those details from me here.

My goal is simply to plant a seed. In you.

Annuals

Self-Pollinators
Some vegetables produce seed in one season and by reason of their botanical structure generally do not cross with others of their kind. This reproduction, called self-pollination, is easiest for the seed saver, since the seeds remain reasonably pure genetically without added protection from bagging or separating plants a great distance. Lettuce, tomatoes, peas, beans, and eggplant contain both male and female parts on the same flower (called a perfect flower). Their ovules are fertilized by their own pollen.

Peas and Beans
In peas and beans, fertilization occurs before the flower opens. The anthers are snug against the stigma, ensuring pollination when the anthers release. These vegetables may be planted freely in the garden, although hard-core purists recommend separating beans by 150 feet or by another crop that will be flowering at the same time.
To Harvest Seeds: Let bean or pea pods dry on the plant until brown, then pick and shell. If cold weather looms, you can pull the entire plant and hang it upside down in a dry shelter. Label and store.

Lettuce
Lettuce flowers occur like fireworks, in a bunch of little sprays which open over three to four weeks. Each tiny flower generates one lettuce seed. In regards to purity, to not tempt fate you should separate varieties of lettuces that will flower at the same time by 20 feet.
To Harvest Seeds: Seed heads will ripen in stages parallel to the timeline of the flowers, the first about eleven to thirteen days after the first bloom. The rule of thumb with lettuces is to harvest when about half the flowers on each plant have gone to seed. Cut the stalks of the flowers and make a bouquet, which you cram head- first in a paper bag and hang upside down until it is fully dry. Then the seed can be shaken or rubbed from the chaff. Label and store.

[Note: In her book, Janisse also discusses saving tomato and eggplant seeds at length.]

Cross-Pollinators

Peppers and Okra
Although they have perfect flowers, these beauties are easily cross-pollinated by insects and should be kept 500 feet away from other varieties (a mile for okra) or, optionally, beneath screened cages—one variety to a cage. Okra flowers may easily be bagged.
To Harvest Seeds: Peppers turn red when they’re ripe. Scrape the seed from the pepper core and dry out of the sun. The seeds are dry when a folded seed breaks in your fingers. For okra, pick fully mature pods and let them dry until they split open like a banana peel. Knock out the seeds. Label and store.

[Note: In her book, Janisse also provides some detailed descriptions on seed saving with more difficult annuals, such as Squash, Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Cantaloupe,
and Watermelons
. For these, it’s important to learn how to hand-pollinate.]

Biennials

These plants, which produce seeds in the second year of growth, include carrots, turnips, beets, kale, onions, parsnips, and salsify. The first year they produce a crop, which must be ignored (read: not eaten) and the plant must be maintained for a second year of growth. In northern climates biennials are dug up, overwintered in root cellars, and replanted the following spring. Firm types, like kohlrabi, are the easiest to overwinter; leafy types like collards tend to rot. If winters are mild, as ours are here in the subtropics of southern Georgia, biennials usually survive in the garden. For seed savers, most of these crops are self-sterile, require insects to pollinate, and cross-pollinate easily. All members of the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) cross with each other. If you’re devoted to saving their seed, and I hope you are, you have to choose one cultivar from the entire family or isolate them by distance or screens.
To Harvest Seeds: Heading flowers are trickier to gather in that you must get the seed after maturity but before wind and animals scatter them.

Drying and Storing

Seeds must be thoroughly dry before storing. They should break, not bend. Life is triggered by moisture, and any droplet of water left in the seeds shortens their life span by keeping subtle life forces ticking away. A good rule is when you think seeds are dry, leave them another day. Temperatures over 110°F will damage seeds, so in hot climates they cannot be dried in direct sunlight. In humid conditions, subject them to a gentle heat—such as that from a solar dehydrator, a lightbulb, or a pilot light—kept around 90 degrees. Seeds that are prone to attack by weevils and other insect infestations also must be frozen in order to kill the eggs that have already been laid in the seeds. Store seeds under cool, dry conditions, since heat and humidity trigger germination and are enemies of viability. In general, seeds should be stored in airtight containers, such as envelopes in coffee cans with lids taped airtight. Silica gel packets are often used for moisture control. Seeds last longest in the freezer if they are completely dry. If not the freezer, keep them in the refrigerator, if possible.

I have mentioned only a small percentage of the vast kinds of edible botanicals in the world that we will want to keep growing, for the sake of survival and diversity and pleasure, when the biotechs fail or when civil society gets strong enough to crush the multinationals—whichever comes first. For other crops, I suggest again that you get the Ashworth book or check online.

Are you confused enough already? Don’t be. Seed saving is not hard. All you need is love.

 

 

Photo 1:  Fotolia / Charles Taylor
Photo 2: Courtesy of NoCo Hemp Expo

 

 

Living the Simple Life: William Coperthwaite

February 20th, 2014 by admin

Late last year architect, maker, visionary, homesteader, and Chelsea Green author William Coperthwaite died in a car accident just miles from his Machiasport home in Maine.

The entire Chelsea Green family was saddened by his death, and perhaps none moreso than Peter Forbes who had been inspired by Coperthwaite’s work and contributed the foreword and photographs to Coperthwaite’s award-winning book A Handmade Life.

Friends have set up a remembrance page honoring Coperthwaite’s life and inspiring work, which includes this moving passage from Forbes after he and his wife Helen Whybrow returned from burying Coperthwaite.

“My wife, Helen, and I got back from Dickinson’s Reach late last night after a very powerful and important three days. On Saturday, a group of us dug a six-foot-deep grave at the spot where Bill wanted to be buried. Another group made his casket and yet another group planned how to get his body from the mortuary back to his home. Bill wanted his body left however he died, untouched by doctors or undertakers. On Saturday morning, which was cold and stormy, six of us paddled out in two of Bill’s canoes across Little Kennebec Bay to Duck Cove where we were met by a hearse. We took his body out of the black plastic bag, wrapped him in his favorite blanket, and placed him gently into his pine box. We lashed the canoes together with four posts and tied the casket to the posts creating a catamaran to bring him home. The return was calm except for when we made the turn into his bay when a great wind picked up and blew us all the way into Mill Pond. We were met there by about 30 others who carried Bill in silence up from the beach past each one of his yurts. We paused at the most recent one as this was the place where Bill expected to die. We then brought him to his grave site, had an hour of reminiscences, and then buried him. And now we’re home trying to figure out what life means.”

Coperthwaite

Coperthwaite “embodied a philosophy that he called ‘democratic living’ which was about enabling every human being to have agency and control over their lives in order to create together a better community,” noted Forbes after Coperthwaite’s death. “The central question of Mr. Coperthwaite’s life and experiment has been ‘How can I live according to what I believe?’”

Over the years, thousands of people made the 1.5 mile walk to see his homestead, to be inspired and to learn from his approach to simple living by working alongside him [See the project below, "How to Make Your Own Democratic Chair"]. Intentionally avoiding electricity from the grid, plumbing and motors, he showed that it was possible to live a simple life that is good for themselves and the planet.

Born in Aroostook County Maine, Coperthwaite received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College and after graduation he turned down another scholarship to Annapolis Naval Academy to claim conscientious objector status in the Korean War. Bill did alternative service with the American Friend Service Committee where he connected with the teachings of American pacifism. Bill would become close friends with Richard Gregg, a central figure in that movement. Though they had 50 years difference in age, Coperthwaite and Gregg found a strong bond and Gregg introduced Coperthwaite to the work of Mahatma Gandhi and to Helen and Scott Nearing, legendary social radicals who had pioneered their own experiment in self-reliant living in Vermont and later in Maine. The influence of pacifism, nonviolence and simple living would lead Coperthwaite far out in to the world to learn from other ways of living, particularly handcraft traditions.

As Forbes noted, “Bill will be remembered by his friends for his commitment to his principles, his deep love of life and people, and his great intellect, humility and humor. Our nation has lost one of the links in the chain of great people working quietly with all their unique powers to foster a better world.”

Peace.


 

Project: Make Your Own Democratic Chair

The following project is from A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity by Wm. S. Coperthwaite.

Is there such a thing as democratic furniture? If so, what would a democratic chair look like?

Most of the fine chairs we see today, if handmade, take nearly as much skill as boat building and, if made with power tools, require much investment in equipment and acquiring the skills needed. I would like to see what those who are reading this might come up with for ideas for a handmade chair that is light, comfortable, strong, beautiful, simple to make from easily found materials. (All we seek is perfection.)

Utopian? Or impossible, to create an egalitarian chair? Not at all. As a society we have simply not yet focused on this problem. When we do, there will be some elegant chairs as a result (or boats . . . or houses . . . or wheelbarrows . . . (not necessarily in combination—although, come to think of it, there have been some very comfortable wheelbarrows, some very fine houseboats, and several wheelbarrow boats. . . .)

My suggestion for the most democratic chair follows. This is not provided to represent an ideal but in hopes of stimulating even better designs from you, the readers.

To Make the Democratic Chair:

    1. Saw and whittle out the four pieces shown in diagram, using white pine 7/8-inch thick.


(Click for larger version.)

  1. Bevel the front edges of the two base pieces to meet at the angle shown, then nail together.
  2. Fit seat in place, and screw to the base with four screws.
  3. Place the back piece in the notches in the base, and screw to the base and the seat.

Slow Democracy: Online Book Club

February 18th, 2014 by admin

Join co-author Susan Clark for a free online book club!

Ask her your questions, and discover ways to improve the decision-making initiatives in your own community.

Wednesday, March 5th, 2pm (EST)
It’s free and open to all!
RSVP here » »

To purchase your own copy of Slow Democracy, get 35% off using the discount code READCG.

What is slow democracy?

Just as slow food encourages chefs and eaters to become more intimately involved with the production of local food, and slow money helps us become more engaged with our local economy, slow democracy encourages us to govern ourselves locally with processes that are inclusive, deliberative, and citizen powered.

This event is presented in partnership with the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, Joan Blades’ Living Room Conversations, and Transition U.S.

Hope to see you there!


Susan ClarkSusan Clark is a writer and facilitator focusing on community sustainability and citizen participation. She is an award-winning radio commentator and former talk show co-host. Her democratic activism has earned her broad recognition, including the 2010 Vermont Secretary of State’s Enduring Democracy Award. Clark is the coauthor of All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community (RavenMark, 2005).

Her work strengthening communities has included directing a community activists’ network and facilitating town visioning forums. She served as communication and education director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Coordinator of the University of Vermont’s Environmental Programs In Communities (EPIC) project. Clark lives in Middlesex, Vermont, where she chairs a committee that encourages citizen involvement, and serves as town-meeting moderator.

Thank you to our co-sponsors!
NCDD Transition U.S. Living Room Conversations

Does it Pay to Keep a Cow?

February 13th, 2014 by admin

Originally published as The Cow Economy in the 1970s, Keeping a Family Cow is the revised and updated Chelsea Green edition of Joann Grohman’s classic homesteader guide to owning a family cow.

In this adapted article below, Grohman – who, at 85, still milks her cow daily – walks newcomers through the economics, and the emotions, of owning a family cow, or two. So, if you’re ruminating this winter about getting a cow this year – read on. Or, start your daydreaming.

* * * * *

Your Cow Economy

Does it pay to keep a cow? For the last fifteen thousand years and more the answer was too obvious to bother asking. Cattle, more than anything else, were synonymous with wealth. Is the world so different now? We certainly do our cost accounting differently today. Once you have your own cow you will modify the following numbers to fit your circumstances.

The chart here can help you get started. In the following example I am assuming 165 days of grazing and 200 days of hay feeding.

Keeping Family Cow Chart

Additional costs for trucking, fencing, housing, veterinary expenses, pitchforks, and so on are important to keep track of, but you will get a clearer sense of your cow economy if you log them separately.

If the cow is on a no-grain regimen you can deduct the cost of the grain, but you will then need to deduct 20 percent of the milk production.

If the cow freshens at five gallons a day, you dry her off after 290 days, at which point she was giving two gallons a day, that’s an average of about 3.5 gallons per day or 1,015 gallons per year. Cows in commercial herds do a lot better than this and yours may too. But at $4 a gallon that’s $4,060 worth of milk. Deducting the costs of the cow and her feed, you are, in theory, $1,035 ahead. In the second year, when the cow is already paid for, your costs are only $2,025. If you have a $600 heifer calf to sell, you may consider yourself $2,635 ahead.

If you are raising a steer you won’t want to butcher before eighteen months. Both butchering costs and what he may bring at auction vary greatly, but you ought to be able to count on 450 pounds of meat if you choose to butcher.

If a family of four uses a gallon of milk a day, there is an average of two and a half gallons a day to sell, make into value-added products, or feed to other livestock. At this point, if you consider value-added products, the cost accounting can get quite interesting.

If raw milk sales are legal in your area, the two and a half gallons can be sold at the farm gate for at least $6 a gallon. Or you can skim the cream and sell it either as cream or as butter, making from $10 to $20. You can make cheese from either skim or whole milk. Skim milk or excess whole milk can be used as a significant part of the diet of chickens, pigs, or calves, or as fertilizer. Clearly butter is what you do with cream that doesn’t sell. But I would never sell much butter. It is too valuable in the family diet. I like to know what my dairy products are worth, but I keep a cow so that we can have all the high-quality dairy products we want.

Don’t forget that the cow’s manure is also valuable, either as fertilizer on your fields or to sell. Where I live, dried cow manure sells for $7 for a twenty-five-pound bag. But as with butter, I consider the manure to be too valuable to sell.

Ruminants make milk and meat on a diet of plant products. On a similar diet, other animals only fatten and make poor growth; they need a true protein source such as milk before they can build muscle and reproduce. The cow is thus an engine capable of driving the entire nutritional economy of a household. She is the ultimate sustainable-energy vehicle.

The cow does not just provide protein for the other critters on the place. The effect of cow manure on the garden is magical. I go to very little trouble with composting, just starting a new pile occasionally and using up the old one. My garden soil is dark and friable and grows strong, healthy plants with a minimum of effort.

Can you put a price on all this?

Maybe. I often read articles, books, and newsletters with suggestions on how to spend less on “lifestyle” so couples can get along on one income. Would home production of virtually all of your food make this possible for you? It will certainly keep you all radiantly healthy.

Feeding CowAnd another thing. Thrift is my middle name, but those suggestions for feeding the family on day-old bread and making bulk purchases of dry cereal I find depressing. Keeping a cow is more satisfying. One popular writer encourages frugality so that there can be savings in readiness for the children’s orthodontia. I do not find this to be an incentive. If your children are young when you get a cow and they grow up with fresh milk, their teeth will be straight, just as all teeth were meant to be. How much we personally have saved on dental or medical bills would be difficult to state because health insurance costs vary. My emphasis has always been on prevention, not cure. Consequently cure has seldom come into it, but when it does it has a better chance in an already strong constitution built on real food.

I cannot discuss the cost and work of keeping a cow without also considering the true long-term investment in the health and appearance of my family. The cost of my labor cannot be counted in this domestic economy. Nothing else I might have done with my time could have matched the rewards I see.

Cows and grass are recession-proof and inflation-proof. In difficult times, the family with a cow is not poor.

Gene Logsdon: Farmer, Philosopher, Curmudgeon

February 12th, 2014 by admin

Unlike most octogenarians, author Gene Logsdon is picking up steam as he rolls into his ninth decade. He has developed a prolific body of work as a writer, novelist, and journalist on topics ranging from a philosophical look at woodlands (A Sanctuary of Trees) to the higher calling of manure (Holy Shit). Who else could accomplish such a task, but the beloved Gene Logsdon.

In his latest book, Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmer’s Thoughts on Living Forever, we find Logsdon at the top of his game as he reflects on nature, death, and eternity, always with an eye toward the lessons that farming taught him about life and its mysteries—including those of parsnips. Yes, parsnips. In Gene Everlasting, Gene has an imaginary interview with a parsnip and seeks its advice on everlasting life. “Mr. Parsnip” responds:

Develop a distinctive personality like we parsnips do, with a taste only appreciated by the few rather than by the many. You want to appeal to the discerning minority, not the herd-like majority, which is always susceptible to the moneychangers. If you are too desirable as a plant, the gene manipulators will bioengineer you into oblivion. 

Publishers Weekly calls Gene Everlasting, “Great bedtime reading, these succinct, thought-provoking, life-affirming essays are a perfect gift for your favorite gardener, nature lover, philosopher, or curmudgeon.”

Gene Everlasting is praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “perceptive and understatedly well-written meditation.” Booklist adds, “While his legion of fans may pale at the thought that Logsdon has just written his swan song, his recent remission from cancer offers hope that his writing days are far from over.”

As any regular reader of his blog can attest, Gene is hardly letting cancer slow him down as a writer. “I think cancer drove me to write more rather than less for the same reason that a fruit tree will increase output if its bark is lacerated with cuts and slashes,” writes Logsdon in Gene Everlasting. “Threatened with danger, the writer as well as the apple tree is frightened into greater production.”

Here’s to a healthy future, Gene. We look forward to more musings and contrarian output. In the meantime, take advantage of this opportunity to download a FREE CHAPTER and read an excerpt from Gene Everlasting. We dare you not to be touched by this author’s humor, insight, and endearing, curmudgeonly spirit. 

Sign up here and we’ll email Chapter 7: Georgie the Cat right to your inbox along with a special 35% discount code good towards any book. But hurry – this offer only lasts until 03/05!

Updated: Our limited time, free download has ended. But don’t forget when you sign up for our enewsletter you get 25% off your next purchase in our online bookstore.

Author Honored for Social and Food Justice

February 5th, 2014 by admin

Longtime sustainable agtivist and Chelsea Green author Elizabeth Henderson was honored at the 2014 EcoFarm conference in California, receiving the organization’s annual “Justie” award.

Henderson, author, along with Robyn Van En, of Sharing the Harvest, the book that helped inspire and inform the CSA movement, was honored for “advocating for social justice as a critical aspect of sustainable agriculture and food systems.” That work is currently ongoing through The Agricultural Justice Project (Elizabeth is pictured below (r) with AJC director Leah Cohen (l).

Congratulations, Elizabeth! It was an award immediately recognized and cheered by her peers — such as the folks over at Greenhorns — who understand this is a well-deserved honor for someone who has been an inspiration to many in the sustainable ag movement.

Below is Elizabeth’s speech to the attendees at the awards ceremony, and she has given us permission to share it with you. Enjoy and get inspired!


Thank you.  This is a great honor. Not just for me, but for the Agricultural Justice Project team – working together since 1999 to give new energy to fairness in organic and sustainable agriculture. Leah Cohen, our director, and Michael Sligh of RAFI are here with me this evening, Marty Mesh of FOG and Nelson Carrasquillo of CATA, the other founding parents, are busy elsewhere.

While some people come to a commitment to social justice through some crisis or transformative experience, I drank social justice with my mother’s milk.  My parents, Laura and Sydney Berliner, had a life-long commitment to peace and justice – and they were already the second generation in our family – my mother’s uncles fought for freedom from oppression in the Revolution of 1905 in Poland, then fled to the US to avoid conscription into the tsarist army, and spent their lives as union activists.  It gives me great satisfaction that the 4th generation carries on this work – my son Andy Henderson devotes his talents and energies to teaching youngsters here in CA in a double-emersion Spanish-English program, helping children grow up to be literate active citizens.

Sharing the HarvestThe meaning of food justice is complex.  The most widespread understanding is access to healthy food for low paid or unemployed people, and I have made a tiny contribution in this area working with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) to provide subsidies to CSA shares in the inner cities of Rochester and Buffalo, New York.  But there are two other equally important aspects of food justice. There is the struggle for living wage, fairly remunerated work for everyone who labors in the food system. CSAs like mine (Peacework Organic CSA) can play a role.  The direct relationship with our members gives us the opportunity to negotiate with them for better prices and to ask them to share with us the risks of growing their food. And this is where AJP comes in – our standards require that buyers pay farmers prices that cover the full costs of production and that all food system employers pay living wages, guarantee safe working conditions and recognize the right of working people to freedom of association.  And finally, for food justice to become a long-lasting reality,  there must be local, community control.

If we hope to build a movement that will have the strength to replace the industrial food system, we farmers need to work as allies with all the other food workers from seed to table.  Despite owning significant amounts of land and equipment, the earnings of farmers like me and many of you are more like those of industrial workers than captains of industry. The profits in the food system go to the other sectors – “… the agricultural family unit is only a subcontractor caught in the vise between upstream agroindustry… and finance… and downstream … the traders, processors and commercial supermarkets.” (p. xii, Food Movements Unite!) Family scale “sustainable” farmers will only break this vise by taking our place alongside other working people in the food system in solidarity with their struggles which are really our struggles as well.

ecofarm14 037Since I was a child, these words of Eugene v. Debs have had a special resonance for me.  When he was sentenced on November 18, 1918, to ten years in prison, he said: “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

If we at least begin demanding that farmers, farm workers and all food workers make living wages with full benefits, (health care, compensation for injuries and unemployment, and retirement) from a 40 hour week, we may start moving towards an agriculture that will sustain us into a future worth living. And that is what the Agricultural Justice Project is all about – a set of tools to help build value chains, changing relationships to bring alive the Principle of Fairness that is basic to organic agriculture all over the world.

Survive the Winter Blues: Save 25 – 60% Off

January 30th, 2014 by admin

There is no denying it: the days are shorter and unless you planned for a winter garden, fresh vegetables from your backyard have long passed.

But don’t let the winter get you down. There are plenty of recipes to last you through the cold season and into the ‘hungry gap’.

Winter Sale: 25 – 60% Off Selected Titles
Until February 15th

We’ve shared a few easy, DIY recipes: from growing your own sprouts, a new take on flank steak, fermenting, baking, and of course day dreaming (and planning) for spring.

For next year, don’t limit your harvest to summer months. Dive into Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook so you can grow cold-hardy winter crops through the most biting cold.

Happy reading (and eating) from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

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). 


Sprouts: Breath Life back into Winter

Is your root cellar down to potatoes and onions? Fear not – growing sprouts is one of the simplest things you can do to breathe life into the deprivations of winter. Grow it »»
 


The Gourmet Butcher’s Pig in a Flanket

 

Looking for a new take on the flank steak? Let master butcher Cole Ward guide you with this easy and tasty recipe. Make it »»

 


Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait: Four Simple Steps to Making the Best Sauerkraut on Earth

Four easy steps are all you need to turn veggies into a long-lasting, tangy condiment perfect to serve alongside sausage or eggs.

So go ahead, make friends with the microbes in your life. Make it »»

 


Sweet Desserts: Cinnamon Spiral

Warm up your kitchen this winter with this sweet temptation. This isn’t just any bread – the crumb is firm and reminiscent of pound cake, while the crust is soft.

Cinnamon Spiral is comfort food with style.  Bake it »»

 


Start Seedlings in a Cold Frame

Are you ready to get a start on the gardening season? With a cold frame you can jump in now.

Farmer Eliot Coleman is the master of growing vegetables year-round, and he has some simple guidelines for using cold frames to start seedlings right. Build it »»


~ ~ Winter Savings: 25% Off  ~ ~
Gourmet Butcher's Guide (Coming in Jan)Retail $49.95
Sale: $37.46
The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail $40.00
Sale: $30.00
From the Wood-Fired Oven
Retail $44.95
Sale: $33.71
The Sugarmaker's Companion
Retail $39.95
Sale $29.96
The New Cider Maker's HandbookRetail $44.95
Sale $33.71

~ ~ Winter Deeper Savings: 40% Off ~ ~

The Winter Harvest Handbook
Retail $29.95
Sale: $17.97

Wild Fermentation
Retail $25.00
Sale: $15.00
Wild Flavors Cover
Retail $24.95
Sale: $14.97
The Grafter's Handbook
Retail $40.00
Sale: $24.00

Four-Season Harvest
Retail $24.95
Sale: $14.97

Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
Retail $29.95
Sale: $17.97
The Resilient Gardener Cover
Retail $29.95
Sale: $17.97
Slow Gardening
Retail $29.95
Sale: $17.97
~ ~ Need More? Clearance Selection: 60% Off  ~ ~
Chasing Chiles
Retail $17.95
Sale: $7.18
Home Baked
Retail $39.95
Sale: $15.98
Growing Healthy Vagetable Crops
Retail $12.95
Sale: $5.18
Sharing the Harvest
Retail $35.00
Sale: $14.00
Full Moon Feast
Retail $25.00
Sale: $10.00

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)
 
per inceptos himenaeos.

Reclaiming the Lost Culinary Art of Butchery

January 27th, 2014 by admin

Do you know a butcher? Chances are, the answer is “no.”

True butchery has become a lost art, and many people have no idea how an animal gets from the pasture to their plate.

In The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat, master butcher Cole Ward aims to revive this traditional culinary art that is an often overlooked, but vitally important, aspect of the farm-to-table movement.

“A good butcher is an ethical professional who knows the provenance of his or her meats,” Ward writes in the book’s introduction. “I want to give everyone an understanding and appreciation of my craft and its culinary artists, and I want to celebrate and support our struggling small farmers and quality-meat producers. So my mission is nothing less than to bring back culinary butchery—a craft that we must never lose.”

Throughout the book, Ward debunks ten common myths about meat:

  1. All butchers and meat-cutters are the same.
  2. Eating meat has nothing to do with being human.
  3. The more you pay for a cut of meat, the better it will be.
  4. Farmers are not very sophisticated (they live in the country, after all).
  5. Meat just happens.
  6. If it’s in your supermarket, you can trust it.
  7. Cattle can’t digest grain.
  8. Pigs are dirty.
  9. Sheep are stupid.
  10. Chickens are dumb.

More importantly than busting these common myths, Ward teaches readers how they can butcher an entire animal—a skill that has been lost on many homesteaders and culinary enthusiasts. His book includes an 800-slide CD that provides step-by-step images illustrating how to cut up a side of beef or pork, and a whole lamb or chicken.

The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat slideshow by Chelsea Green Publishing

Written with Ward’s trademark humor and insight, The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat is the ultimate guide to traditional butchery. It includes recipes, a detailed glossary, and information on:

• The real definition, work, and role of a culinary butcher;
• The roots of butchery from prehistory to modern times;
• What goes on behind the scenes at meat markets large and small;
• The truth behind meat-marketing claims of “organic,” “natural,” “free-range,” “grass-fed,” and “pasture-raised”; and,
• Processing your own meat, including what you’ll need in terms of tools, safety training, and preparation.

After reading Ward’s book you’ll not only be able to ask your local butcher key questions to determine the provenance of what’s going on your plate, but what to look for in a cut of meat, and tips on how to start cutting up meat at home for your family.

So, get those knives sharpened up – and get cutting.

The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat (with CD): How to Source it Ethically, Cut it Professionally, and Prepare it Properly is available now and on sale for 25% off until Feb. 15. Read an excerpt below.

 

Chapter One: What is a Butcher? by Chelsea Green Publishing

President Obama on Marijuana: Yes, We Cannabis?

January 27th, 2014 by admin

It’s been a remarkable week for supporters of marijuana legalization. Topping the list of reasons is Pres. Barack Obama’s statement in The New Yorker that he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

No fooling. As in marijuana is safer than alcohol.

I think we’ve heard that phrase somewhere … hmm … where could it be? Oh right! In 2008, Chelsea Green published the book Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink? The core message of the book helped win the public relations battle against prohibitionists, particularly in Colorado.

Last fall, we released a revised and expanded edition of the book to take stock of the victories in Colorado and Washington state, and to demonstrate to other states considering legalization efforts that it can be done.

Obama on Marijuana

Here’s a portion of what Pres. Obama told David Remnick of The New Yorker about marijuana legalization:

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Is it less dangerous? I asked.

(…)

Less dangerous, he said, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.” What clearly does trouble him is the radically disproportionate arrests and incarcerations for marijuana among minorities. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.” But, he said, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.” Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

We’ll let Jon Walker detail the importance of Obama’s comments, as noted on his blog Just Say Now:

This shift in opinion is a huge victory for organizations like Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) founded by Mason Tvert back in 2005 and the resulting book Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? In retrospect it maybe the most important book for helping to spread support for legalization at the beginning of the 21st century.

Instead of focusing primarily on the economic benefits of legalization or the libertarian case for personal autonomy SAFER promoted the science proving marijuana is simply much less dangerous than alcohol. Once people realize marijuana is safer it logically leads to the question: why is marijuana the one that is illegal?

Hear, hear!

Let’s hope the president and his administration follow through at the federal level to decriminalize pot possession (as well allowing folks to grow industrial hemp, but that’s another story).

Congrats to Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert, the authors of Marijuana is Safer, as well as the countless volunteers and activists out there working to decriminalize marijuana. This is no small feat, however, when you still have “Reefer Madness” devotees like Nancy Grace out there. Tvert held is own recently as Grace doubled-down on some rather outdated and overzealous misinformation about people who smoke marijuana.

Here’s the original interview as posted and analyzed by our friends at Raw Story.

And, in case you missed it, here’s a parody of that Nancy Grace interview from the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live.

 

Original Photo by AFP/Getty Images

 


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