Monday, November 9, 2009

Computer troubles and the season is ending

Unfortunately I got myself a bad virus on my computer which is right now at my son's 'computer clinic'. I am so fortunate that my boy knows how to fix computers. So I will be on a blogging hiatus until I have it running again.

It is getting colder here in Oregon and it is rainy, wet and cloudy outside. My Tomatoes are still producing, in the plastic shelter even I have to pick them and finish ripening them in the house. Something ate all the tops of my carrots, but I think they'll survive and I am still picking some greens, Kale, Arugula, Tatsoi, Mustard . My Lettuce and Endive are growing and my Brassicas are doing better since the aphids left them. So maybe I will harvest some stuff this winter after all. I harvested some of my Celery, which looked like it grew good for the first time, but I am not sure if I waited to long before harvesting it, it was pithy inside and tasted bad. But my Celeriac, which I let seed out last year is making some nice roots. It will be a welcome substitute for Celery.
I definitely think I need more nutrients in my garden. Some things had been growing really slow in my garden this year. Now I have chickens I hope their manure will be adding some needed fertilizer to my garden.
Luckily there is always a new season, a new gardening year. 
You always get to try again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kitchen garden growings

My vegetable garden is still growing things for me.

I replanted some of the beds with some Winter Vegetables and hope the weather will be nice enough to me this winter to let me pick some food during the dark months of the year. Some weather prediction for this year say it could be a mild winter this year so maybe it all will work out.
This growing season has been somewhat a mixed bag of success in growing my food. Our summer has been a bit cool this year, especially at night, even tough we had a bit of up and downs in temperature. So everything what likes cool, did really well. But anything which needed some warm night times grew very slow and didn't produce as much.
Some vegetables grew in abundance, some I barely got even one meal out of them. Others grew nicely but took forever to ripen and then I had a huge snail problem this year. Aphids were sucking the life out of some plants, I had a infestation of Cabbage Worms, then Powdery Mildew came strong on this year. To top it off, the neighbors cat had been tearing my garden fabric to shreds, which I had been putting over my vegetables to keep the Aphids and Cabbage Worms off or I might had better luck with keeping these pests off my plants.

Some of you might not like my philosophy on out door cats, but I am a strong believer of keeping cats only indoors, I think communities should outlaw roaming cats and have cat restraint laws just like for dog owners.
I have lost many, many crops to cats scratching my seedlings out and I have spend a lot of money trying to keep them off my garden beds. They have destroyed my property, made some of my property practically unusable because of the stink they leave, and they have eaten my family of resident Song Sparrows, which I had in my garden for years until all were eaten by the cats. So, I am no friend of roaming cats. I just don't understand how cat owners can justify making their pet a problem of their neighbors or the wild life they kill.

I have been looking to find something I can easily put on the beds to keep the cats of my seedlings, something they won't shred, because it moves in the wind, which pretty much disqualifies the garden fleece blankets. I also didn't want to spend a fortune, believe me I have spend enough money already on my neighbors cats. So, I found these pop up nets at Gardener Supply Co, which do fit perfect on the 3'x3' garden beds. They also keep the Cabbage Butterflies off your plants.

The nets are supposed to fit over the 3x3 beds, but this would not work for me, because almost all my beds are 3'x6', instead I just sit them on top, I find they are much easier to remove to work the beds this way and so far I have had no cats scratching my new seedlings out and none got destroyed.
They weren't overly expensive, but I don't think I will buy them for each vegetable bed. I just have too many beds. I will just use them to mainly keep the cats out of freshly planted beds.

Last year season I had a terrible crop of Beans, I think I only managed to fill two 1-gallon freezer bags for the winter with them. This year the Beans just kept producing and producing, I filled my freezer with bag after bag. Beans were a big success this year. I usually plant only pole beans. Last year I started growing my beans on some Rose Arbor Trellises, which works pretty well, as long you don't over-plant them, which I did which resulted in a bit of difficult picking. Sometimes I get carried away and plant to much of one thing.

Somehow I had purchased some beans, I thought were Pole Beans but ended up being Bush Beans, I had planted them on one side of the arbor and so one side did not have beans climbing up.
The bean varieties I grew were 'Violetto' also known as 'Pea cock' which is a purple, flat podded bean and was very prolific. I also grew some green 'Emerite' and yellow 'Ramdor' Haricot verts Beans, those did not do as well toward the end of season, and then I had a variety from Italy called 'Stortino di Trento' which is a pretty looking beans. It is curved, green and streaked with purple, and it also makes a good soup bean, so after I had more then enough beans in my freezer I just let the rest turn into dry beans.

My Zucchinis, I planted 'Romanesco', 'Sarzano' and 'Caserta' only resulted in a few mediocre, itty-bitty fruits, they did not produce hardly anything. Not sure if it had to do with the weather, not enough bees, maybe not enough light or the ground they were in, but the cucumbers, some French pickle varieties (Fin De Meaux', De Borbonne', 'Parisian Pickling') and some Salad cucumbers ('Bush Champion', Marketmore 97', and a Italian variety called 'Tortarello Abruzzese') across from them did really well, last year I never had enough to make pickles, but this year I managed to make a few jars and my kids were eating cucumbers all summer.

Tomatoes, I grew this year following varieties: 'Thessaloniki' - red; 'Orange Strawberry';
'Striped German' - yellow/orange; 'Peron Sprayless' -red; 'Marmande' - red;
'Black Prince' - brown; 'Azoychka' - yellow; 'Principe Borghese' - red, drying; 'Debarao' - red/paste; 'Orange Banana' - paste;

This year even though the tomatos finally produced a lot of fruit, the fruit just would take forever to ripen. I ended up just taking the partly ripe fruit and let them finish inside the house. They only really started producing toward the middle of September, they are still full of fruit, mostly green. Then this week we had some real early freeze for this area, it went all the way down into the low twenties, very unusual. My husband fixed me quickly a greenhouse shelter out of PVC pipes which kept them warm enough at night and when I checked next day, they all seemed well and happy. It was nice and toasty inside the shelter. Maybe it even will help them ripen faster. Even with the slow ripening I managed to freeze some Tomato puree for the winter and hopefully I can get some more with help of the green house.

I think next year I just will try growing the tomatoes under a hoop house, and see how they do compared to outside. Our North West climate is not always easy on the heat loving plants.

I also grew some peppers, which I put underneath a small plastic hoop house and they seem to be doing well. Peppers are always hard to grow out here and they are always late. I have had not much luck with the square type bell peppers so last year I got myself some different kind of sweet pepper seeds, they are long and pointed and very tasty. They produced much better last year then any of the bells I grew before, so I think I will just be content with growing these in the future. They are still in the ripening process.
The varieties I grew were 'Marconi Op'- yellow and red variety; 'Cornaletto Corno Di Capri' -red, 'Romanian Rainbow' -from white to orange to red; 'San Salvatore Calabrese'- red;
'Red Lamuyo'; 'Red and yellow Bullshorn' and 'Giant Szegedi' - white to orange to red.

I even managed to coach a few Melons to ripen. I found these small type of melons at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company which said to have a shorter growing season. Melons are really difficult to grow in Western Oregon. I had to try one more time. I grew them under this special, green plastic mulch made for melons and I managed to get a few melons to ripen. They were small but tasty. I could have had more melons maybe, but the snails ate most of my small seedlings. Nevertheless I called it a success, so next year I will try again.
These were the varieties I grew: 'Collective Farm Woman'; 'Gaucho'; 'Minnesota Midget', 'Oka-bizard Island' and 'Prescott Fond Blanc'
Toward the end the Powdery Mildew got them and they weren't producing anymore.

Other success stories: Turnips grew well in Spring; for the first time I harvested some Celery, which never grew good for me; Peas did alright; Lettuce, grew for a long time this year, which tells you something about our weather; Swiss Chard never fails me; Garlic and Onions did okay, the Shallots did the best; Leeks are doing good; my salad greens grew well, Arugula always does good and I even managed to get some Radishes out of my garden, which have not been successful for me in Oregon so far. Russian Kale did really well in Spring.

Carrots in the beginning didn't sprout, then after I got them to sprout, the cats dug them up and I had to replant. Now they are growing happy under the covers. The same happened to my Fennel, which after a time you can't really replant, so I did not harvest any. I have had no success so far growing Cauliflower in Oregon, it just won't grow or it bolts, same with Broccoli Rabe. Broccoli I usually get only a little bit out of before it flowers. My cabbage got eaten by snails and then the cabbage worms and aphids got the rest.

For next growing season I need to amend my beds with better compost; I should try to fertilize more often, something I often neglect to do; I need to keep the warm season plants warmer and start them earlier in the house before transplanting. I also need to figure something out how to better cover the plants to protect them from pests, before the pests get to them, and something the cats cant get to. I think maybe my automatic drip system, even it works great with most plants, once they have sprouted, does not work as well with starting seeds and maybe that has been my problem with growing Radishes successfully the last few years. Then this year I had Radishes growing with a micro sprinkler and they grew much better.

Luckily there always will be another growing season, you always get to try again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saving Seeds of Peas

Peas because they are big seeds and are contained in a pod, so don't scatter are easy to collect. They also belong to the self pollinating group, so come usually true to seed. There is a slight possibility that insect activity could produce a bit of cross pollination, however regular peas should not cross with sugar peas and vice versa. It's been never a problem for me but to prevent any crossing you can keep different varieties five to ten feet apart. Or, if you don't have the space, you could just plant only one variety of each kind each year and still be able to keep your seeds going there pea seed are viable for 3 years, if kept at cool, dry conditions.

Pea vines can become a tangled mess, which can make identification of individual plants difficult. It helps to keep the single plant just a bit apart for easy identification, or better plant a few pea plants separate from the ones you plan on eating just for seed production. To get a pound of seeds it will take about 15 feet of peas planted in a row, planted at the proper spacing, or the equivalent of that planted in a shorter but wider area. Peas need zinc to form peas in the pods so if you see not many pea seeds forming you might have zinc deficiency which can be corrected with adding Zinc-Sulfate to your soil.

Before you can shell the seeds for keeping, they need to thoroughly dry in the pod. Take them out to early they will rot. To make sure they are all completely dry it's a good idea to dry the vines in a well-aired area for a week or more, making sure you don't pack them to tight together so they don't become damp and rot. Damp seeds won't have good growing qualities. After they are dry you can hand crack the pods or thresh the seeds.

Store in good sealed containers or bags in a cool, dry environment or you can store them in the freezer, which should make them stay viable for at least five years. Before you plant them, you need to take them out of the freezer to defrost and warm up.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Saving Seeds-The Easy Ones

To get seeds, the pollen has to be the correct kind, and it needs to get to the ovule at the right time of the plants vegetative growth to reproduce itself. Only the pollen of the related species will result in seeds. Seeds from a cabbage will not pollinate your tomato, since they are different species. Even within the same species, some plants won't get pollinated by their own pollen, even though they cross-pollinate easy within their plant family. Cabbage plants are a good example of this. To get good cabbage seeds, you need at least two of the same variety, better would be more, all flowering at the same time. But you need to keep them from being pollinated by another plant of the cabbage family, like Broccoli for example.

Some plants are easier to save seeds from then others. Some plants pollinate themselves, this means they accept their own pollen, from their own flowers either with or without insects.
This means for the gardener, you don't necessary need a whole bunch of the same plants to get viable seeds, although it's always better to save seeds from several plants of the same kind; this also means they cross pollinate rarely with each other and the seed will result in plants which look just like the parent plant because the inheritance is the same.
You do have to make sure, that you don't have a Hybrid plant, hybrids unfortunately will not result into a plant which looks like it's parent.

Plants which fall into this category of 'Self Pollinating' plants are:
Barely, Lima Beans, Snap Beans, Cow Peas, English Garden Peas, Endive, Lettuce, Corn Salad, Oats, Soy Beans, Tomatoes and Wheat.

Being self pollinating makes them the best choice for the 'Beginner Seed Saver'. These are the plants you should start with.

In fact, many of those are so easy to grow, if you don't want to bother with picking the seeds, you could just let them bolt to seed and if your climate allows, let them seed themselves. I have been doing this with my lettuce and corn salad for years, I find sometimes the seeds sprout easier this way, then if I seed them by hand. Over the years I introduced a new lettuce variety each year, I now easily get 10 different lettuce varieties, all seeded by themselves. I just dig up as many seedlings as I want and move them to the proper location. I also always have plenty seedlings to give away to my friends or neighbors. I still collect seeds of the plants anyway, to be able to start the lettuce in the off, hot season, when it won't start itself outside, but growing lettuce this way gives me a very early spring crop. The plants know when the weather is just right to sprout. It never failed for me.

When should the seeds get collected?

This all depends on which seed you want to collect. Some seeds, can be collected before they are completely mature and dry, get dried off the plant and they will grow fine this way. Other seeds won't sprout if you collect them immature.
Seeds of Lettuce, Spinach, Tomatoes, Snap Beans, Corn Salad and Radishes will grow alright, even if you collect them immature. Seeds of Peppers, Carrots, Celery, Peas don't germinate so well if you collect them before they are ripe.
That said, it still is always better to let the seeds ripen fully, you just get a better germination rate that way.

Since Lettuce is one of the easiest one to save seeds from I will share how to save it's seeds.

Save the seeds from the plant which bolts the slowest.
Leaf lettuce is supposed to be easier to save seeds from. Head lettuce, matures later then leaf lettuce and because some produce tight heads, sometimes you need to cross cut an inch or so into the top of the head, so the seed stalk can come out. I never had this problem yet, but most of my head lettuces make a more loose head.
Lettuce will get a tall stalk with lot's of little, daisy like flowers, similar to Dandelion, which lettuce is related to. The yellow flowers will turn into downy white seeds heads, just like Dandelion. They don't always turn all downy at the same time, so if you want the seeds in your bag instead them seeding themselves out, you have to frequently snip the downy seed heads off. Or you can put a paper-bag over the seed head, tie it below (so the seeds don't fall out) and then let them ripen into the bag. You also could just wait until most flowers turned into downy or are close to being downy, cut the whole stalk off and cure it in an airy place, either inside a paper bag or have a sheet underneath it. Keep in mind if it rains, the seeds can be knocked off the plants.
I usually just wait until most seeds are downy and then shake them off inside a paper bag.

Keep the seeds inside a well sealed container or bag. There lettuce sprouts better after a cold spell I keep mine in the freezer, this especially works better to grow lettuce in the summer months.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Benefits of Saving Seeds

Saving your own seeds has a lot of benefits.

If you save the seeds from the plants which did best in your micro climate of your vegetable garden, the ones which were most frost resistant, more drought tolerant, germinated the earliest, bolted late, eventually you end up with your own specific plant, one which is best suited to your gardens environment. Even selecting the seeds without these specific criteria, just simply saving the seeds from plants which seem to grow best in your garden will often condition the strain of the plant to the micro climate of the place it's planted regularly.

Another benefit is, that you can improve the vegetables quality. Just by selecting the seeds of the plants which taste best, yield the most, grow the fastest, give an early harvest, grow the biggest, had the best color, had the least disease problems, less pest problems, or any other quality you desire, if you save seeds from the best plants eventually, over a period of years, you get an improved strain with better qualities then the original seed.

Saving seeds also saves money. I admit, seeds are really not that expensive, but saving them, they cost nothing.

Plus you might eventually find a new strain of a vegetable growing in your garden, one which came about through a mutation or cross pollination, you now have a new vegetable strain, a Heirloom Vegetable and you only can keep it going by saving the seeds. You can't buy that one in any catalog, it only comes from your garden. There are many vegetables offered by seed companies which started out being a heirloom strain, that were developed by back yard gardeners and had been grown and saved for many years or even generations. Keeping these seeds going is a great gift to the future generations, a great gift to the world.

And last saving seeds is a sustainable task. Instead of relying on a seed company to keep your favorite seeds in stock, you are relying on yourself. You don't need to worry, a seed you really liked maybe won't be available next year in your favorite catalog. Your supply of your well chosen seeds, if correctly stored will feed you next year. Price, postage or fuel increases won't affect you.
Being self reliant also can give a satisfaction of knowing you can take care of yourself. Being able to provide for yourself, and maybe for your extended family, your friends and improving your own seeds is something to be proud of.
After all they are unique, they are your very own seeds, you can't get them anywhere else but from your garden.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Controlling Our Food

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seed Catalogs I like to support

In the world of buying seeds, if you don't want to support Monsanto-Seminis and you are interested in buying from companies which support unaltered, open pollinated and heirloom seeds. There are many alternatives to buy from.
I think there is definitely a new trend going for open pollinated, heirloom seeds. More and more people asking for non hybrid, non gen. altered seeds, seed catalogs are responding in adding more of these seeds to their offering and if you search for Heirloom Seeds on the internet, every year there are more new catalogs in that category.

The only way we can stop Monsanto in endangering our food supply is by buying consciously. Buy seeds from the companies which sign the 'Safe Seed Pledge', buy from companies which don't sell seeds owned by Monsanto, support the companies which try to preserve our food heritage. Buy Heirlooms, Open Pollinated Seeds. Don't buy products made with genetically altered plants. Read the fine print, read your labels when you shop, inform yourself where your food comes from.

We are not all powerless, those companies are only as strong as we let them.

So these companies supposedly are not selling Monsanto owned seeds and quite a few of them grow their own seeds.

Companies I have bought from before are marked by a '*'

Abundant Life Seeds *
Amishland Seeds
Baker Creek Seed Co. * this is right now one of my favorites, they got a great selection of Seeds from around the world
Berlin Seeds - no web site
Botanical Interests * luckily for me, I can get their seeds locally in a garden store
Bountiful Gardens
Diane's Flower Seeds
Fedco Seed Co. - phasing out seminis seeds. Fedco's catalog notes for every variety they sell a number code 1-5, which tells where that seed. came from 1=small independent farmer, 2=family-owned seed companies or co-operatives, 3=domestic & foreign corporations not part of a larger conglomerate, 4=multinationals not engaged in genetic engineering, to Fedco's knowledge, 5=multinationals engaged in genetic engineering.
Garden City Seeds
Heirloom Acres Seeds - rumored to have bad germination rate & bad customer service
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
Heirloom Seeds* nice variety, it took a bit longer this year to get my order, they said they were overrun with orders (a sign of the times?)
High Mowing Seeds
Horizon Herbs* I found 'Bärlauch' a German wild growing herb there, they built special meals around this herb in Germany when in season. It grows wild in Germany.
Kitchen Garden Seeds* I have been buying from them in years, before they were affiliated with Van Engelen, Inc., they have signed the 'Safe Seed Pledge' and have a interesting assortment of seeds
Lake Valley Seeds
Livingston Seeds
Local Harvest
Mountain Rose Herbs* I ordered a few times from them when I lived in North Carolina. They sometimes had mislabeled plants. Otherwise a nice selection of herbs
Organica Seed
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply* I have not ordered seeds from them, because many of those seeds I can get locally. But I have ordered garlic, organic fertilizer and other garden related things from them. They have a great selection for organic gardening
Pinetree - this one I have been trying to order online a few times, unsuccessfully. Due to Shopping cart problems. I emailed them at least twice, never heard back. They got a nice seed selection if you can get them
Renee's Garden* Renee always has some nice seeds. I used to buy from there before she sold her first Seed catalog business. I do miss the old Renee's catalog. More selection and not so much packaged deals, like 2 different beans in a pack.
Richters Herbs
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seed Saver's Exchange
Seeds of Change*another company I have bought from for a long time. They are owned now by M&M/Mars- this supposedly because one of the Seeds of Change founders is related person at the top from M&M/Mars, so when the seed company needed financial support they arranged the buy-out. Seed of Exchange say are in complete control of the company, the marketing and in choosing what seeds to sell.
Southern Exposure
Tiny Seeds
Tomato Fest - seed germination from this company is reputed to be poor
Underwood Garden Seeds
Uprising Seeds
Victory Seeds
Wildseed Farms
Wood Prairie Farm

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seed Savings Importance In Monsanto Times

When I started looking into it, which seed catalogs are selling seeds benefiting the Monsanto corporation, I was surprised how many of the companies I regarded highly and I often buy seeds from, because they do sell a lot of open pollinated and heirloom seeds, the kind of seeds I only use nowadays, how many sell Seminis seeds. They do not only solely Seminis seeds but it sure is very difficult to find out which ones are coming from Seminis. Some companies are not eagerly sharing which seeds are connected to Monsanto, a few are sharing this information. Some companies stopped carrying the controversial seeds and others are phasing them out.

The other surprise to me was, how more and more formerly independent seed catalogs are being owned by larger enterprises, being consolidated. I knew before I investigated that some catalogs I used to shop at had been bought up by another company but I had no idea how bad this is getting. This is a bad direction for the future of our seed supply. We do not want the control of our garden seeds in the hands of a few corporations.

To show you how hard it will be to stay away from Monsanto's owned seeds, look at the Seed companies which sell Monsanto owned Seminis seeds. Look also at the connections the seemingly independent small retailers have.

* Audubon Workshop... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Breck's Bulbs... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Burpee... merged with the Ball company in 1991, also bought up Heronswood Nursery
* Cook's Garden... I used to get seeds from there, but in the last years I wasn't as impressed with their selection. They were bought up by Burpee's.
* Earl May Seed
* Flower of the Month Club... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Gardens Alive... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* HPS ... Also owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Johnny's Seeds.... I used to buy a lot of veggies from there, since I only buy OP or Heirloom, and they don't have the variety I seek, I stopped buying from there. This is from their website: "Presently Johnny's carries about 40 Seminis varieties,which is about 4% of our vegetable varieties. Our intention is to continue replacing them." and "I don't see plant genetic resources being locked up by the conglomerates, because the germ plasm collections are public.
My main concern about Monsanto is the consolidation." This statement makes me wonder where they stand. They have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, but then what does that mean, if they are still supporting Seminis/Monsanto.
* Jungs.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Lindenberg Seeds
* McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers.... I have ordered bulbs from them before and even though they have a great selection it's always a hit or miss. sometimes things are mislabled, sometimes they don't grow, sometimes bulbs are mediocre in size other times large. I stopped buying from them. They are owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella.
* Mountain Valley Seed
* Nichol’s.... used to shop there, but in the last years the catalog had ever smaller offering so I stopped going there. They are local to us. Their customer service used to be better when the parents owned the place. On their website they say:'We are an original signer of the safe seed pledge and offer no genetically modified seed, plants, or products'
* Osborne
* Park Bulbs.... owned by Park Seed Company
* Park Seed.... owned by Park Seed Company
* Park's Countryside Garden.... owned by Park Seed Company
* R.H. Shumway.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Roots and Rhizomes.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Rupp
* Seeds for the World... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Seymour's Selected Seeds.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Snow
* Spring Hill Nurseries.... Owned by Scarlet Tanager, LLC
* Stokes
* Territorial Seed Co.... also locally, will give out list of their Seminis seeds if asked and say they are in the process to slowly replace Seminis seeds with new products.
* The Vermont Bean Seed Company.... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Tomato Growers Supply .... I have bought a lot of heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from them in the last few years.
* Totally Tomato .... bought from them before, nice selection of heirlooms, most I can get somewhere else. Owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Mountain Valley Seed
* Vermont Bean Seed Co. .... owned by J.W. Jung Seed Company's umbrella
* Wayside Gardens.... owned by Park Seed Company
* Willhite Seed Co.

There is the rumor going around on the internet that these companies are now owned by Monsanto but this is not true. Nevertheless buying Seminis Seeds, supports Monsanto.

And remember not all of the seeds these Companies sell are Seminis Seeds. Some of them are in the process of phasing their Seminis seeds out.

For a list of which seeds varieties, which are now owned by Monsanto see here

Friday, August 14, 2009

Importance Of Seed Saving To Preserve Our Food Supply

Seed Saving is so important in these times we are living now.

I just watched the documentary 'The Future Of Foods' which is about Genetic Engineered Crops and how the Bio Tech Industry is starting to use unsavory tactics to take control of the seed industry.

It is scary where the bio-tech industry and food politics are leading us to.

I have been worried about genetically engineered foods getting into the food supply for a while, especially since the US Government does not mandate declaration of genetically altered ingredients in the food we are eating. The film was an eye opener how far the industry has already gone. The truth is, with some crops, there is no way knowing if it is in our foods or not. The contamination of fields from genetic engineered crops is widespread. And once a farmers field is contaminated with these genetically altered crops, his whole field can become contaminated through pollination. So it is anybodies guess how much of the genetically altered foods are already in our grocery aisles.

Because companies like Monsanto, which has been the most aggressive company in this new global food fight, have patented not just their engineered seeds, but have also patented components of the engineered plants. They now are able to sue these farmers for stealing their genetics, because their crop has now Monsanto's patented genetics and prevent them from saving their own seeds. Something those farmers and their ancestors probably have done for many generations. Farmers have been selectively saving their seeds to preserve the best adapted seed for their growing environment. It takes decades of hard work to get there and now Monsanto practically can own a farmers livelihood, because now the farmer either has to buy the seeds from these companies or has to start all over with selective seed saving. Which might not even be possible, if Monsanto & Co. bought up the former seed company and now let the open pollinated seeds disappear. Open pollinated seeds don't fit it the profit equation of these Bio Tech companies.

Think about this for a moment. Monsanto contaminates the farmers field, but the farmer gets sued and loses the court case. Where is the justice?

Did you know that 98% of all seeds are now controlled by just a few companies, some of them being Monsanto, DuPont, Mitsui, Aventis, Dow Chemical and Syngent. These companies in the last few years have gobbled up many smaller seed operations, then they got rid of all the open pollinated varieties of those seed companies, because these are not profitable enough for them. Thousands of food varieties have been lost because of this. Then they genetically modified many seeds and got them patented worldwide, so they now control these seeds all over the world. They control the production of these seeds and thus the availability of these seeds. Which also means they control the market and food supply. Scary isn't it?

The original Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970, protected varieties from others’ use for 17 years, but with the exception that farmers were allowed to save seed, replant it, and even sell it to neighbors. Breeders were allowed to use it for research purposes.

But Court decisions in 1980, 1985 and 2001, in favor of Monsanto, brought all products of plant breeding under the standard utility patent. Unlike the Plant Variety Protection Act, utility patents don't protect just finished varieties, they also protect individual components of those varieties and the processes used to create those varieties. No exemptions for farmers to save seed and none for research and breeding have been given.

With these court decisions companies are now allowed to patent DNA sequences, individual mutations, genes, cells, proteins, single nucleotide polymorphisms, tissue cultures and specific plant parts. It used to be that Life forms could not be patented, now they can be.

Plants, which are living forms, which can reproduce themselves through their seeds. The patenting of “intellectual property” to protect a manufacturing product does not really translate well into the improvement of life forms. Improving life forms has typically been the work of farmers, by observing mutations, then selecting seeds or animals for the desired traits. Farmers then were sharing and exchanging seeds to build upon one another’s efforts. Nobody really can own a mutation which occurs freely in nature. Biological heritage used to be held in common. This proprietary model the industry is trying to impose on a product given to us by nature goes against all agricultural traditions.

What happens if animals get contaminated with patented genes? People? Are we on the way to be owned by Corporations?

Monsanto bought out one of the largest Seed companies 'Seminis' in 2005. This gave Monsanto control of more than 30 percent of the North American vegetable seed market, more than 20 percent of the world’s tomato seed market and more than 30 percent of the world hot pepper seed market. Not sure if this has gone through yet, but they either bought or will be buying Netherland's 'De Ruiter Seeds' company with crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers and rootstock for the greenhouse market.

But these are not the only seed companies they bought up, many smaller companies were swallowed in the process of controlling the seed supply.

In 2007 Monsanto formed the International Seed Group Inc (ISG) as a holding company for the company’s growing investments in regional vegetable and fruit seed businesses.

So their seed busines now includes DeRuiter a “protected-culture” vegetable seed market; Seminis, the open-field vegetable seed market; and the International Seed Group, which serves the regional seed businesses.

Monsanto claims their genetically engineered seeds are needed to increase world food production and feed the hungry of this world. But a recent study, which was carried out over three years at the University of Kansas is undermining these repeated claims of the Bio-Tech industry. This study shows that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting their claims. Genetic modification cuts the productivity of crops.
One thing it does, it increases productivity of Monsanto, because not only do they get to sell all the seeds to the farmers but it increases the productivity of Monsanto's chemical divisions. These crops are engineered to be immune to the toxicity of Roundup. Farmers now can spray their fields with Roundup without harming their crops. This naturally translates to more sales of Roundup. And to more toxins sprayed into the environment.

"Bingo"! Isn't that interesting how that works?

So it who does it really benefit? Human kind? Or Monsanto?

But don't despair, these companies only can do what they are doing if we let them. We are not completely powerless.

More on this and what one can do to save our food supply in my next post.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Invasive Plants I Wished Didn't Come With My Garden

Most Gardeners in America don't start a garden from scratch, aside they build their own house or buy a house where nobody gardened before, you get a house with an garden which already is very much established or might not be to your liking.
Luckily Gardens are changeable, sometimes it's an easy job. Tear out some plants here and there, move things around, add some more. If the previous caretakers of this garden did a great job, then it's possible to work with what they have left behind. It's another story if the previous gardeners had no clue what they were doing, or were the lazy type of gardeners, who planted easy things, things which you plant once and soon they cover half your yard, or they could have left you a yard so tacky you barely can stand sitting in it.
After all isn't Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

So most true gardeners want to make the garden they get their own.

It is always a good idea to at least wait a season after moving in to watch what will pop up in the yard. There could be some pleasant surprised in the new yard, plant treasures and wouldn't it be a shame to accidentally killing some plants you would have enjoyed because you didn't wait before digging in.

Sometimes plants come with a new yard, you wished you would not have waited. All of a sudden they start popping up all over the garden, or start spreading in a tick mass covering everything up what gets in their way. You see these plants and wonder, "Why do I see these plants all of a sudden pop up all over the yard? Where did they come from? I didn't see them when we first got the house."
The reason they are all over your yard now, are: the previous owner planted some plants, they must have known about it's invasive potential, so they cut off the seed heads just in time and they never put any of these plants into the compost pile, they knew what would happen if they didn't keep them out of there.
You, unfortunately waited a year to not accidentally kill something you might enjoy, you just sat back and watched the garden grow and bloom and seed out. You also, as the winter approached, cut some plants back, uncovered some poor plants from this ever spreading ground cover and tried to compost it, now every little sprig of this plant survived the compost pile and after spreading your compost around your garden you spread the little, harmless looking plant all over the yard.
After you realize what has happened you think to yourself "I should have identified this plant and read up on it" but it is too late now. It is everywhere and no matter how hard and often you weed, it is uncontrollable. It has become the bane of your garden.

Has that happened to you? I bet you also had some not to nice thoughts about your previous garden care takers.

So I like to share some of the plants I wished I would not have in my garden. Plants which came with my garden and I probably spread accidentally or are just so invasive that I will never get rid of them. Believe me, I tried, I am at my 7th year in this garden. I am ready to give up on them. These plants keep me so busy that they keep me from doing the garden work I enjoy so much. Who wants to weed all the time, especially knowing you will never be able to control them.

Beware of these Plants:

Sagina subulata
Picture can be found here

very often sold as 'Scotch Moss' although it really is the 'Irish Moss'
Scotch Moss's botanical name is: 'Arenaria verna' it looks almost the same then Irish Moss, it has the same tiny flowers but it has a yellow tinge to the foliage, while the Irish Moss is darker green. Neither are really a 'Moss' but are used to give a moss like structure to the garden, they also grow where you wouldn't or couldn't grow real Moss.
In some areas gardeners have a hard time keeping it going but if you give it just the right climate and growing areas it just will go berserk.
Unfortunately Western Oregon just has the perfect climate for it. It should not be sold to unsuspecting gardeners or at least have a warning label of this kind : 'Plant this ground cover on your property with caution, since it is very invasive. It can regrow even from the smallest bit of green, worse if can and will reseed itself.'
It does not have a deep root system but I found the root system is like a dense mat, so even it pulls out easily you never get it all. Also you constantly pull up the top layer of your dirt. There goes all your good garden soil into the yard waste bin. Because you never want to put it into the compost pile. It will not be killed. In fact I put all the pulled up plants, dirt and all into a thick, dark plastic garbage bag and left it in a sunny spot for a year, thinking it will all be killed. When I opened it, it actually still had some living plants in there.
I even found this plant growing along streets in town, between cracks in the paving, in the forests and wild areas around town, the seeds and probably also pieces of the plant stick to your shoes and get spread around.

Soleirolia soleirolii
see picture here:

also called 'Mind your own Business', 'Mother of Thousands', Baby Tears (what fitting names) and others it likes to grow in any moist soil in sun or partial shade. It's highly invasive and difficult to eradicate. Even the roots are very invasive, the tiniest sections of stem will re-root where it is happy. Every piece of plant has the potential of making more plants. Plant pieces brake off easy, so it's a piece of cake to spread it by carrying pieces around on your shoes or clothing. As I hear it is not finicky about the soil, it likes them all as long it has moisture. About moisture, even if you let it all dry outs and it looks dead (you think, finally it's dead) wish again, as soon the rain starts it comes alive again. The roots keep it alive for just long enough. Same with winter, it dies back just to come back in Spring, leaping a few more yards.
Mine grows all over the Rock-walls in my garden. The previous owners must have liked the way it spills over the rocks. This means, because there is no way I can dig all the roots out between the Rock-walls, aside of disassemble the walls. I read the only way to get rid off it is to strip off the infested beds, removing all roots and stems and do not dare compost it.
Selective weedkillers won't work either, you have to dig all the plants up you want to keep, making sure no piece of Baby Tears is left on your plants, then kill whatever is left in that area and replant. There is no way I can get rid of it, at this point all I can do is trying to keep it in check every year I see it in new spots.
As I read on the internet this plant is on the invasive plant list in many countries. It should be outlawed to be sold to unsuspecting customers.

Glechoma hederacea also called creeping Charlie, ground ivy, gill-on-the-ground, creeping Jenny
see picture here:
its part of the Mint family and everyone who knows Mint, knows how fast it can spread. This plant spreads just like Mint by seeds, rhizomes and creeping stems that root at the leaf nodes.
It was originally introduced for a shade ground cover. It likes moist, shady spots such as under trees and shrubs. It's been said if you can take away it's favorite growing conditions you can discourage it from growing there. I am not so sure that works well, I have this weed growing in the driest spot under some house eves, where not much will grow, the ground is rock hard there and this creeping Charlie still manages to grow there, I keep digging it out, just to see it pop up again. You can try to hand-pull but aside you get every little piece of leaf or stem it just will grow back from the pieces left behind. If it gets into your lawn, it will completely take it over until no grass grows where it grows. I believe birds must spread the seeds also, then I start finding it in areas it did not grow before. This also is growing in parts of my rock-walls, which makes it impossible to control

Hyacinthoides hispanica also called Spanish Blue Bell

These flowers are widely grown around here and I see them sold in nurseries. I have to say they are pretty and are slightly fragrant. The original flower color of the species is blue but mostly you find a Hybrid plant in gardens which can be blue, lilac, pink or white. The species grows naturally in the Iberian countries and North Africa.
They are on the highly invasive plant list for the UK and many other European countries and also crossbreed with native related Plants there.
But they are not only invasive in the UK. I see them in many wild places around here. This plant sets a lot of seeds and they all germinate. The only way to control them is to cut of the seed heads before they drop. This wouldn't be so bad if you only had a corner of them. I on the other hand have them everywhere. My front rock-wall used to be covered in them, it was a sea of blue in Spring. One year I sat in my front rock-wall and dug out as many as I could. It made a dent in them but as they drop a lot of seeds between the rocks and boulders I don't think I'll ever get rid of them. I also have them in many places in the back, sometimes they just pop up somewhere. I now cut as many of the seed heads off as I can unfortunately there are always some I don't notice in the bushes. I also cut off many of them before they grow to big, thinking that like in Tulips they need the flowering cycle to feed the bulb. Maybe in 10 years I have starved them all. I have heard, if you grow them in a dry woodland area, they are not supposed to spread as much. I rather not have them, there are many plants which will be just as pretty and will be better behaved.

These are probably the worst plants I ever had in my yard in all my gardening years. They don't just keep me to busy weeding all the time they ravage the natural environment in many places. I still can't believe with the knowledge we have today about the invasiveness of some plants that they are still being sold in many places. I make it a point whenever I come across some invasive plants in Nurseries I let the people working there know what they are selling there.

So please do not plant these plants!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Where the Heck am I? Will you be my neighbor?

It has been a bit to hot for me in the last week to work much in the garden. The only times I went out in the yard last week, I was picking Raspberries or Vegetables for Dinner or I just went around looking which areas need some attention. I know, once this heat wave (which luckily never lasts too long in Western Oregon) ends I will have some work to do out there. At least I got most of the weeding somewhat in control, but there will be many Perennials which need some cutting back.
I found, having the chickens, which love to eat the weeds I pick, makes me and my husband more eagerly weeding before the weeds seed out. Before we had the chickens, we weeded to get rid of the weeds, now the weeds are welcome fodder for our flock of chickens. It somehow gives weeding a better purpose "feeding healthy 'Greens' to our chickens" and the chickens for that will give me healthy Omega rich eggs and fertilizer for my garden.
So not spending time in the garden I had time to read a lot of my piled up Newspaper. I am somewhat a Newspaper-News junkie. I religiously read the local paper everyday from front to back, no matter if the article interests me or not. I also get the larger Portland paper 'The Oregonian' in the mail, since they stopped distributing them locally. Sometimes they come in late, sometimes 3 at once, so now I often don't get to them as fast as I want. Nevertheless I pile them up and read them in order. The Oregonian often covers stories our small local paper won't cover. My husband teases me about my Newspaper reading habit.
In Germany most people read the paper religiously, even many older children and teens. We like to be informed and see it as our duty as citizens to get informed what is going on in the world around us. I don't know why that is, it is just the way we grew up. Maybe it has to do with our dark history of the Nazi era. You have to watch the people in power carefully and an independent press will tell you what you need to know. But what good is an independent press if nobody reads it?
So I just read this article about Quality of Childcare in the US.
Where I come from 'Germany' Childcare is a right, just like Education is a right and Health Care is a right. It is subsidized by the government from taxes. So the childcare situation in the US always dumbfounds me. I can not understand the philosophy of not supporting parents, so they can go to work, supporting their families, their country without having to worry who will watch over their children while they plow away. In my opinion offering childcare subsidies are a win-win situation for the government. Yes, it costs money, but what you get in return are productive citizens which can support their government with taxes, you get an educated, well adjusted future citizen, who later will be able to support their country by working.

I have to admit, 'Affordable Childcare' and 'Quality Childcare' are dear to my heart as a German educated Childcare teacher and working as a former 'Au-pair girl' and 'Nanny' when I first came to the US.
So I may be a bit biased in this Childcare thing. But something truly needs to change.
The Childcare costs are unsustainable for most parents, that means the costs for Quality Childcare. Yes, one still can find somewhat affordable childcare, but most of those are nothing more then 'parking places' for children then places which will educate your child. The end-effect is, people who have the money, will get childcare where the child will be nurtured, instead the one where the child gets parked and being stifled in it's development.
The facts are children who attend high quality programs are doing better in school, need less special ed, are more likely to be literate, more likely to graduate from High School and more likely to become productive workers.The early years in a child's life are so important for the brain development so they can succeed later in life.

To me its a no Brainer.

As I kept reading this article I came across this paragraph comparing the US to the rest of the World in policies affecting children and families. I always get a chuckle out of these US/World comparisons, because the neighborhood the USA (the most industrialized nation on this earth) shares with. Which most the times comes out to be not with the other industrialized nations but with some of the most poor, third world or backward nations or even dictatorship countries.
So I like to share with you, that the good old USA, which has no mandatory paid maternity leave in comparison with 173 countries, where 168 of these countries guarantee paid maternity leave, shares the neighborhood of 5 countries which fail to do so, which are Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Liberia, and Swaziland. Is this the countries we want to be compared to?
Can't we do better?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Berry Season-Raspberry Galette recipe

It is definitely Berry Season. I have been picking lot's of Strawberries, baking lot of Strawberry cakes. Then as soon the Strawberries started slowing down-which will be only temporary then I have mostly Everbearing Strawberries which right now just have a rest period- I had to pick my Red Currants. This year I did not get as many Currants because I had a bad infestation with Currant Fruit Fly, which also resulted in a lot of work having to pick through the berries. In the end it was all worth it, because I made a wonderful cake with them. Because the Currants are so small it takes a long time to remove them from the stems, so I usually make this cake only once a year.
Now the Currants are done I am getting a flood of Raspberries which I need to use quickly because they have a small shelf life and spoil quickly. Also my freezer broke so I can't freeze any right now until my new Freezer arrives, which should be next week.

So I made a quick Raspberry Galette which is a Free Form Fruit tart.

Rosemary flavored Raspberry Galette

Recipe By : Isabell Norman
Serving Size : 10 Preparation Time: 0:35

For Pâte Brisée
300 g Flour/Mehl
75 g Sugar/Zucker
120 g Butter
2 Egg/Ei
2 Tblsp/EL Ice-Water/Eis-Wasser

For Filling:
300 g Raspberries/frische Himbeeren-fresh or more if you
3 Tbs Sugar/Zucker
2 Tbs Rosemary, chopped/Rosmarin, gehackt
2 tsp lemon peel, freshly grated/Zitronenschale, gerieben
1/2 tsp cardamom, ground/Kardamom, gemahlen

1. Put Flour, Sugar, and Butter-cut up in very small pieces, in mixer bowl,
process until the Butter resembles pea sized crumbles, now add the Eggs and
Ice-Water and mix until the dough just starts sticking together.

2. Mix das Mehl, Zucker und Butter, die in sehr kleine Stücke geschnitten
ist in einem Stand Mixer bis die Butter wie Erbsen grosse Krümmel aussieht.
Nun die Eier und Eis-Wasser zugeben und alles schnell zu einem Mürbteig

3. Remove the dough and knead it quickly into a ball. You don't want to over
mix it, because then instead of becoming crusty and flaky it will become

4. Den Teig der Schüssel entnehmen und schnell zu einem Ball zusammenkneten.
Den Teig nicht zu viel kneten weil er dann statt krustig und krisp eher
ledrig wird.

5. Wrap in plastic or put in bowl with lid and let rest for 30 minutes in
the refrigerator.

6. Den Teig in Plastik einwickeln oder in eine Schüssel mit Deckel tun und
im Kühlschrank für 30 minuten sitzen lassen.

For the filling:

8. In the meantime pick through your Raspberries, it is best to not wash
them and mix all the ingredients for the filling. Set aside.

9. In der Zwischenzeit die Himbeeren verlesen. Es ist besser die Himbeeren
nicht zu waschen. Alle Zutaten für die Fülle mischen. Beiseite stellen

10. To finish, cut the dough into 8 to 10 same sized pieces and roll out
each piece into a round. The round does not have to be perfect because these
are Free form tarts. Add a nice amount of filling in the middle of the
rolled out dough, leaving about 1-1/2" to 2' space to the edge. Fold the
edges toward the middle, over the mix making sure the folds stick together.

11. Zum fertigstellen, den Teil in 8-10 gleichgrosse Stücke teilen und jedes
Teil in einen runden Boden ausrollen. Sie müssen nicht perfekt rund sein
weil diese Freie Form Tarten sind. Tue einen gute Menge Fülle in die Mitte
des ausgerollten Teiges dabei etwa 4-5 cm an der äusseren Seite
freilassen. Die Seiten zur Mitte, über die Fülle hinfalten, dabei sicher gehn
dass die Falten zusammenhalten.

12. Bake in Oven at 350 ° F for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are lightly

13. Im Oven bei 180 ° C für 15 bis 20 minuten backen oder bis die Tarts
leicht braun sind.

Nutrition (calculated from recipe ingredients)
Calories: 270
Calories From Fat: 99
Total Fat: 11.2g
Cholesterol: 68.1mg
Sodium: 16.4mg
Potassium: 98mg
Carbohydrates: 38g
Fiber: 2.9g
Sugar: 12.8g
Protein: 4.9g

Cooking Tip: You can brush the Galette before baking with some eggyolk mixed
with a tablespoon milk or water and sprinkle with brown sugar crystals

Man kann die Galette vor dem Backen mit Eigelb aufgerührt mit
einem Esslöffel Milch oder Wasser bestreichen und mit Braunen Zucker
Kristallen bestreuen

You could also top it with some Sliced almonds

Kann ebenso mit gehobelten Mandeln bestreut werden

Or before Serving, powder with Powdered Sugar

Oder vor Servieren mit Puderzucker pudern.

Comments: Made with Isabell's less Butter Pâte
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
This recipe is my own recipe and is there fore copyrighted. You are free to use it for your personal use but to use in any publication of any form you need to get permission from the original Owner of this recipe.
disclaimer: Not to be shared with the Dervaes Family of Path to Freedom Website. Thank You 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It's Strawberry Season-Quick Strawberry Tart

The Strawberries are coming in faster then I can eat them. So I decided today, instead spending my morning in the back yard, I will bake my quick, Low-fat Strawberry Tart and share the recipe.

This is a very typical bottom for Fruit tarts in Germany. It is very easy to make, it is fast, low- fat and you can use it with almost any uncooked or canned fruit. It is best when you put the fruit on it short time before serving, because it is a spongy cake letting the fruit sit on it to long will result in the sponge being all wet from the fruit juices.

I like to spread some melted chocolate on the cake before I put in the strawberries or if I don't have enough time a chocolate spread like Nutella will do.
Or if I have more time I make a simple cream filling similar to Bavarian Creme.
This not only tastes good, but it keeps the fruit from soaking into the cake.

This is one of my kids favorite summer cake so I thought you might like it too.

So here is the recipe which I exported from my cookbook program

Fast Biscuit

Serving Size : 12 (German servings are smaller then in the US)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 Eggs ( whole eggs)
1 Tblsp Water
75 g Sugar
2 Tblsp Vanilla sugar
100 g unbleached flour
1 TL Baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease Fruit tart baking form with Butter and
dust with Flour or bread crumbs.

2. Beat the whole Eggs, Water, Sugar and Vanilla sugar in
bowl until foamy. Should look like a thick creme.

3. Mix Flour and Baking powder, sieve onto the
Egg mass and fold under carefully

4. Bake on middle rack in Oven for 20-30 minutes,
until the cake is golden brown or
a testing pick comes out clean.
Don't open the oven door in the first 15 minutes,
because the dough will not rise properly then.

Nutrition (calculated from recipe ingredients)
Calories: 246
Calories From Fat: 9
Total Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 39.5mg
Sodium: 13.6mg
Potassium: 64.6mg
Carbohydrates: 58.7g
Fiber: <1g

disclaimer: Not to be shared with the Dervaes Family of Path to Freedom Website. Thank You

Monday, June 8, 2009

What is blooming in my garden in May

Even I have been a bit too busy working in my garden to post to my blog at least I took some time taking pictures of what is blooming in my garden. I will add the names of the plants later.
Enjoy my flowers

This was blooming in my garden in early May

Blooms in Mid May

Blooms in Late May