09 February 2009

What we grow, and a slight digression

Lisa L. asked if we could share what all we are growing in 2009. These are the food crops we are planting in the garden. We are also planting 1/2 acre of feed oats and 1/2 acre of feed wheat. I have listed an estimated yield as well, but these numbers are specific to the condition of our garden soil as well as our gardening zone (Zone 4b). Our best ground has only been worked and amended for two years, after being turned from tired pastures that had been cut for hay but not grazed or fertilized for at least 15 years. The grains are going into the pasture where we strip grazed our chickens, and turned and worked last summer.

Sorry I'm not yet web savvy enough to put this into a table using html, it was a lot more readable that way...

Vegetable: variety; Row ft or Sq ft; Expected Yield
Potato: Gold Rush (russet); 120'; 150 lb
Potato: Yukon Gold; 240'; 300 lb
Potato: Norland (red); 120'; 150 lb
Potato: Hermosa (early white); 120'; 150 lb
Potato: Purple; 120'; 150 lb
Beet: Lutz (winter keeper); 100'; 125-150 lb
Carrot: Scarlet Nantes; 200'; 350-400 lb
Parsnip: Andover; 100'; 100 lb
Turnip: Golden Ball; 100'; 125-150 lb
Garlic: Chesnook Red; 128'; 12 lb
Leek: Lancelot; 20'; 15 lb
Onion: Stutgarter; 350'; 200 lb
Broccoli: Early Italian; 45' (30 plants); 10 lb heads, 2 lbs sprouting seed
Brussels Sprouts: Jade; 12' (8 plants); 5 lb
Cabbage: Jersey Wakefield (summer); 12' (8 plants); 12 lb
Cabbage: Bartolo (storage) 36'' (24 plants); 75-100 lb
Cauliflower: Symphony; 12' (8 plants); 12 lb
Kale: Blue Curled Scotch (summer); 10'; fresh summer greens
Kale: Winterbor; 10'; fresh greens into December
Chard: Rainbow; 15'; fresh greens
Lettuce: Simpson & Optima; 20'; fresh greens
Mesculun: Mild Mix; 50'; fresh greens
Spinach: Bloomsdale; 30'; fresh greens
Cucumber: Garden Sweet; 6' (2 plants); 40 lb slicing
Cucumber: Pickles; 12' (4 plants); 80 lb pickling
Pumpkin: Naked Seeded; 48' (16 plants); 240 lb (5 lb Pumpkin seed)
Winter Squash: Sweet Kuri; 48' (16 plants); 200 lb
Zucchini: Black; 18' (6 plants); 60-120 lb
Ground Cherry: Aunt Molly's; 60' (20 plants); 80-100 lb (10-12 lb dried)
Tomatillo; 6' (2 plants); 20 lb
Tomato: Roma (canning); 30' (10 plants); 100 lb
Tomato: Cherry Fox; 12' (4 plants); 40 lb (5 lb dried)
Tomato: Latah (early slicing); 12' (4 plants); 40 lb
Tomato: Yellow Plumb; 6' (2 plants); 20 lb
Pepper: Long Red Cayenne; 24' (12 plants); 6-10 lb
Pepper: Carmen Sweet; 24' (12 plants); 6-10 lb
Green Beans: Provider; 360'; 150 lb
Pole Beans: Kentucky Wonder; 120'; 30 lb Green Beans, 10 lb Dry Beans
Baking Beans: Jacob's Cattle; 120'; 10 lb Dry Beans
Shelling Peas: Thomas Laxton; 200'; 40 lb Shelled Peas
Dry Peas: St. Hubert; 120'; 25 lb Dry Peas
Chickpeas: n/a; 600'; 60 lb
Lentils: Green; 600'; 60 lb
Grain and Seed Crops; Row ft or Sq ft; Expected Yield
Hard Red Spring Wheat: Hoffman; 1/8 acre or 5500 sq ft; 400 lb
Hulless Oats; 1/8 acre or 5500 sq ft; 250 lb
Spelt; 1500 sq ft; 75 lb
Hulless Barley; 1500 sq ft; 75-100 lb
Millet: Proso; 2400 sq ft; 60-75 lb
Quinoa; 1200 sq ft; 25-50 lb?
Amaranth: Golden; 1200 sq ft; 25-50 lb?
Popcorn: "Popcorn"; 120'; 12 lb popcorn kernels
Sunflower: Early Russian; 100'; 20 lb?
Poppy Seed: Mauve Flowering; 240'; 5-10 lb
Sugar Beet: "Sugar Beet"; 600'; 400-600 lb (200 lb syrup)
Mangle: Mammoth Long Red; 600'; 400-600 lb (fodder crop)
Herbs; Row ft
Anise 12' (seed)
Caraway 18' (seed)
Coriander 21' (seed)
Cumin 12' (seed)
Dill 15' (seed)
Fennel 12' (seed)
Alfalfa 30'
Basil 21'
Betony 10'
Catnip 10'
Chives 9'
Chicory: Coffee 30'
Comfrey 24'
Ephedra 4 potted plants
Lavender 5'
Lemon Balm 5'
Marjoram 18'
Mint 10'
Mullein 20'
Parsley 12'
Peppermint 5'
Oregano 10'
Rosemary 2 potted plants
Roseroot 2 potted plants
Sage 10'
Skullcap 20'
Stinging Nettle 10'
Thyme 10'
So you can see, this is a pretty basic garden as far as varieties or specialty crops, there aren't many thrills or novelties. Our priority is to grow a garden that nourishes us for a year. We place a priority on staple foods, storage crops and grains. At this point, we only put a minimum of effort into non-staple foods that require intensive methods in our climate, like peppers, or summer vegetables that can only be stored well by freezing such as broccoli and greens. It is a no-nonsense garden. I would love to have time for more flowers. We can really only eat out of the garden for 3 months at best, the other 9 months we must rely on the pantry. Our gardening season is too short for succession crops, except for lettuce and radish, so up in the north here, it is an intense growing season with one planting and one harvest. Any foods that require more than they give back are either cut altogether, or reduced to a manageable size.

On a sustainable footprint scale, to digress a bit, we are beginning to question where human settlements should be centered. Living an agrarian and domestic life above Zone 4 is not only hard, it is an inefficient use of resources. It takes more land, more fuel, and more grain to live here. Domesticated grazing animals are only on pasture for 5 months of the year, so it takes twice the pasture to grow enough grass to store through the winter. We need a larger garden, and more compost to grow the same domestic garden vegetables. We also burn more firewood to keep warm through the winters. This is the very edge, the furthest extreme of being able to live a settled life off of the land. These zones have traditionally been used as nomadic grazing and hunting grounds, and are still used primarily as a source of resources, either lumber, minerals or water.

Living on the edge of a temperate climate, we know how vulnerable we are to climate extremes on our own home-front. If Canada were not a nation with the resources to import food and maintain social assistance programs, as well as implementing research and technologies that will mitigate or manage disasters, it would be experiencing local famines and out-migrations of people already, due to the extent of grain crop failures in the Prairies in the last 5 years in particular. Nations without the same resources can do nothing for their people but plead for help from the UN, and the wealthy nations of the world. It is long past time that we have a global strategy to face the coming storm.

Climate change is beginning to reshape our planet and human civilizations, and the first climate refugees are evacuating the most fragile island ecosystems. Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and the Caribbean islands have been putting their cases before the UN, as they are flooded out and washed over by 1,000 year storms. What is it to be a natural citizen of a nation that has been made uninhabitable by climate change? These islands are the canary in the coal mine, and our planet will continue to be reshaped by devastating climate swings. When national borders become front-lines in a climate war, it will be too late to prevent the famines and genocides to follow.

The temperate zones, both north and south are, and hopefully will continue to be, the most stable regions on this planet. The polar and equatorial regions are our best planetary carbon sinks, and these zones will likely experience the largest extremes.

We do not believe the theories that over-population is the main cause of pollution and famines. It is the wanton and wasteful use of resources that has created dead zones, deforestation and the climate refugees to come. In a temperate zone, a comfortable life can be sustained on just a few acres per person. So with these things in mind, we keep a critical eye on our own use of resources. At this point, living on a no-impact, zero-emission scale, is not enough. Climate famines are not inevitable, if we reach down deep, forsake our wanton abuse of planetary resources, and even forsake our national boundaries to allow the free movement of peoples onto arable land, we could pull through. And prevent what could be the greatest human genocide.
One of our neighboring clearcuts we are surrounded by at least 200 acres of clearcut on all sides, leaving no habitation or wind break, and devastating the forest ecology. There are no tree planting programs locally either.
Ten acres of cabbage on a local farm that were plowed under, we suspect because it cost more to harvest than he would get for the crop. Perhaps 200 tonnes of food, not to mention the heavy usage of fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides and diesel for the tractor, wasted.

Our greatest human potential is our ability to adapt to a perceived danger. We would still be animals if all we could do was react to changes. Perhaps what makes us human is our ability to foresee. And because we can foresee these famines, it is our greatest human degradation to ignore them, and carry on. So as much as the so-called developed nations are suffering economically, we are largely insulated from the greater emergency. And it is my hope, that difficult times remind us to open our arms even wider to those who suffer more, and that times of strife inspire us to make room, where otherwise we would be tempted to exclude.


Mr. H said...

Wow - what an impressive list. I love my ground cherries and never thought about drying them but will definitely be giving that a try this year. We, too, grow sugar beets and I will be doing some research on how to make syrup - that sounds most intriguing.

I didn't see flax seed on your list. Have you tried growing that before? We grew a small patch last summer and were pleasantly surprised how well it did and how much we liked it. We plan to grow more this year for both ourselves and our chickens. Here's a great link to an older book by Gene Logsdon about raising grains.


Mrs. H.

Anonymous said...

Thats an impressive list! How many people do you feed?

Chiot's Run said...

That's quite a list. I wish I had room to grow more than I do, but alas I work with what I have.

Very interesting read, thanks. Gets me to thinking. Even in a zone 5b it's difficult. Wheat doesn't grow well, oats do. Perhaps a shift in eating that is more locally centered will also help. When you read about what the Eskimos eat, their diet is much different than our own because of the climate they live in.

Food for thought - thanks.

ChristyACB said...

Great post. I have been thinking more about this lately and did a post on what is sustainable to me and the logical outcomes of the two extreme approaches myself. I do hear you and applaud your efforts.

I also agree that Zone 4 is really pushing it in the way that you said. Going by the # persons required to do the work vs # persons supported balance theory, it is hedging on the very inefficient side.

And as to population numbers, I do agree also to a point. It is population density by area that matters. Big parts of the continent of Africa are way overpopulated based on the numbers that land can support, while big parts of the USA would be seriously underpopulated based on the same. Saying it is population is just too simplistic, isn't it?

Your grow list is very impressive! Your blog is pretty fantastic. Keep up the good work.

Chicago Mike said...

Great post.

I SOOOO admire what you are doing.

I do have to disagree on a key point though. This planet is really only able to support 1 to 1.5 billion people. Population is the problem. Humans are "stealing" sunshine from the past (fossil fuels) which support agriculture and society on a massive scale. When the fossil fuels run low (obviously a lot of differences on the estimate), the agriculture and technology which support our current and growing population will fail, and Humanity will be making a huge adjustment. Mainly, shedding about 80% of its population. These events will not happen overnight in some cataclysm, but will occur over decades. All large cities will become unsupportable and the world will have some heavy times ahead. This is a long way off, but it is almost inevitable. Nuclear power plants, windmills, and solar cells do not make fertilizer. Lets just hope that we don't irrevocably damage the planet in the readjustment.

Check out The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler.

Also, all you have to do is wait and Zone 4 will be Zone 5 or 6 before you know it! (grim smile).

farm mom said...

I find more and more angry retoric and "close the doors and arm yourself to the teeth" posts going on right now among those of us with a bit more survival skills. I have to admit I find that combative mentality just as scary as the economic times we find ourselves in. Wonderful, thought provoking post, as always my friend.

Chicago Mike said...

Thats a good point farm mom.

There is a lot of "end of days" and TEOTWAWKI stuff going on. It seems very excessive. Unfortunately this is what happens every time there is a serious downward economic trend. Look at tent revivals and the mystics and "signs" movements during the Great Depression. The world can adjust a lot, and we can be part of that in a positive way. Thats my goal.

FRED said...

Wonderfull blog!
Interesting list:)
I wonder what is the definition of zone 4, 5, etc (I understood it's climatic zones)
I'm curious because over here we have as little sun as you in winter (8h), but the gardening season is longer (>6months)
Probably because we have very few snow and ice days in winter(maybe 2 weeks spread over 3 winter months).

Cornelia said...

What an inspiration you are! Thank you for growing the change that we all want to see. Please stop by and visit HOMEGROWN.org some time, we are folks of different levels of food sovereignty - some 100% Homegrown homesteaders, some dirt-under-my-fingernails city slickers. We would love to hear from you.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Thank you all for your comments. I have limited time today to respond, got to get back to feed the kids. But I will respond to each of you when we are back next week.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Mrs. H, ground cherries are the only annual fruit I know of, and they are delicious dried, beats raisins anytime. The beet syrup seems to be a simple process, I figured I would keep a pot going on the wood stove through the fall and winter, until all the beets were processed. No we have not tried flax seed, but I had not thought of feeding it to the chickens. Great winter feed, high protein and oil to keep winter egg production up. Looks like you have a great library at home.

Eva, this garden feeds two adults for a year. Kind of looks like a lot, but when I god down to calculating how much food we eat, it comes up to about 1500 lbs to feed an active adult for a year, based on the kind of diet we eat. It's about 4 lbs a day of grains, veg, meat, eggs and dairy. It is an interesting observation to do this for yourself.

Chiot's, eating locally is important, but so is growing appropriate crops. Many varieties of wheat will grow very well up to zone 4b, but perhaps not the highest yielding varieties. So it may not be as profitable, but it will feed people. The Inuit did used to move south in the summer, but as times have changed, they are now starting to build community greenhouses to feed themselves all year round in the far North. But the Inuit have been testifying to the changing climate in the UN and other places, it is getting very difficult for them to continue living up there, and in the last year, food and diesel shipments have been delayed due to weather, leaving their store shelves empty of milk and bread for weeks and rationing power usage.

Christy, well said. The leading edge of sustainable land use, and even city planning, is taking these kinds of issues into consideration. Unfortunately, some of the most fertile lands have been built over, and marginal lands are being heavily farmed. Not smart. Generally speaking, the only reason that high densities of population are on marginal land is because they have been pushed there, either by war or economic reasons. It is especially true for the Republic of Congo, which is a resource abundant nation, and would easily be able to support it's population, and more. So when we see reports about the desertification of areas due to the over harvesting of wood for cooking fires, you are right, it is too simplistic to say that it is a matter of too many people there, or even the wrong kind of technology, we have to ask why these people are living in an area that will not support them. Which means looking into our own backyards as well.

ChicagoMike, my response to your comment outgrew this comment box, so I have put it up as a blog. Thank you for egaging in this discussion, it is a vital issue.

And no, nuclear power plants, windmills and solar cells do not make fertilizer, but I do, and so do you. :)

On another note, it would be a smooth ride if Zone 4 were to seamlessly blend into Zones 5-6, but this will not be the case, there will be wild fluctuations and we could expect anything between Zones 3-8, in one season, that's what worries us.

Farmmom, I couldn't agree more, we find the armed defense approach to be scary and counter-productive. We've got to be smarter and more resourceful, as a community, however that is defined, in times like these. If I'm going to die in the coming storm, it's not going to be defending a sack of potatoes.

Hello FRED, bienvenue. The zones refer to plant hardiness, so mostly it is a matter of frost dates and length of winter. The zones will also tell you which perennial plants will survive the winters in an area. But you are right, no matter how much the zones change, the length of daylight will not change. We are not really sure how the length of light and the changing Zones will interact with climate change. Mostly it is the speed of the changes, and the extreme swings that will affect both of us, on either side of the Atlantic.

Cornelia, thank you for the kind invitation. Looks like a great site, and a great community of do-ers and thinkers, I am looking forward to exploring it more.

We are no climate experts, we try to be well informed, but are sometimes subjective in our views. So thank you all for engaging in this discussion, we find it really stimulating, each one of these comments could spark off another blog.

Marissa in Southern Alberta said...

Hi there,
I have been lurking your blog for the last couple of days, and I must say I've learned quite a bit. However, I just had to comment on some things that you mentioned in this post.

Firstly, I live in Alberta Canada, in zone 3a, and we get a ton of crazy weather. As of now, I live in a townhouse, but have been praying and hoping for a farm nearby, and have been doing quite a bit of research into forest farming, permaculture, etc. I think that although living agrarian and domestic lives in our zones is indeed harder than it would be in warmer areas, it is only an inefficient use of resources if the resources aren't efficient. I know that there are plenty of hardy perennial edibles that grow in less than perfect climates, such as comfrey, nettle, garlic, chives, egyptian onions, lovage, jerusalem artichokes, and others, as well as tree crops like Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana), Honey Locust, Fruit and Nut trees, etc. One doesn't necessarily need to rely heavily on less hardy and permanent annuals such as grains.

As well, there is an article over at Backwoods Home Magazine that talks about using dried animal manure as fuel for the woodstove and spreading the ashes as fertilizer. (Article can be found here - http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/hooker87.html)

I am certainly not pointing fingers, mind you, for you seem to be doing a wonderful job on your farm...You have taught me so much!

Thank you,