Friday, January 27, 2012

Seed Time Part 3: Now what do we Order?--Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

Alright, now that I’ve rambled on about the specifics of choosing quality seed that is in line with our sustainable, organic ethos, we come to the task of actually choosing what seed we will offer to our participants. “What? I can’t just pick an open pollinated heirloom tomato seed and call it a day?” you say, unfortunately there are still other factors to take into account when choosing seed, luckily though, this part is a bit more fun. Over the past 3 weeks it seems that seeds are all I think about and all I talk about, Maggie has been diligently comparing seed catalogs to find the best prices and varieties, so as to compile a spreadsheet for our participants, while I have been contacting different companies in an effort to obtain seed donations. Admittedly I also end up spending a good amount of time looking at pictures and reading descriptions of the most interesting and strange vegetable varieties while compiling a mental list of all the different things I would plant in my ideal garden, and I have to say that my imaginary garden may not be the most practical, but it certainly would be fun.

Is This Seed a Practical Purchase?

So first on the checklist of course is price, and if you want to buy good quality seed you will probably have to be able to justify spending a little bit more money for the good of your garden. You also have to be willing to commit some time to comparing each variety that you want to order and their prices from several different companies because sometimes even the most expensive companies will surprise you and sell a certain variety at a much lower price than all the other companies. So if you put in the time now you will probably be happy later when you have a little bit of wiggle room in your budget.
            Next on the list is ease of growing, do you really want to spend lots of money on tomato seed that has to be started in a greenhouse then weeded and sprayed every day and can’t take temperatures over 65°? Probably not. For most gardeners it really doesn’t make sense to buy a variety of plant that will take extreme amounts of time and effort just to ensure it stays alive. Certain varieties have been tested and bred to do well in certain climates, depending on your region and where you plant your garden, you may need to look for plants that will be resistant to certain diseases, produce well despite drought/heavy rains, or be able to take long hot summers. Most seed catalogs will list these traits in their brief description of the plant, and it’s likely you all probably know of quiet a few varieties that are tried and true in your region for these exact reasons.
Djena Lee's Golden Girl
            Next on the list is familiarity. Because we are providing restricted options for our participants we want to make sure that we have a lot of varieties on the list that participants are familiar with and like to grow. Many people in our area like to grow the same variety of certain vegetables year after year simply because that’s what they know, it is a taste they prefer, and that is what they have found to work well in their personal gardens, and how can blame em’ if it’s not broken don’t fix it, right?
In the same vein of familiarity is tradition, what is a family garden without stories, memories, and traditions that accompany the garden and the food that it produces. Kentucky is ripe with old tales of planting, cooking, and living off the land, and many seed varieties fit right into these stories. For instance the Conover Family Butter Bean, sold by Bill Best, is described by its family history “this bean traces back to the Civil War when Conover was in New Orleans at the end of the war and gathered butterbean seeds in gardens as he walked back to Kentucky”.  Some of our participants will also request a certain seed because “that’s what my granddaddy grew”; they cherish the memories that growing these plants bring back and want to continue the family traditions for the next generation. Some of our young families are starting their own traditions through Grow Appalachia and love to learn from these traditions and stories from the more experienced gardeners and their choice of seed.
OrangeGlo Watermelon
            In my opinion one of the most important categories is taste! Just reading the seed catalog descriptions of fruits and vegetables makes me hungry.  For instance the OrangeGlo watermelon which is described as having “solid deep orange flesh that is very crisp, very sweet, and very flavorful”, or the Djena Lee’s Golden Girl with its “delicious flavor, and rich balance of sweetness and tanginess”.  Of course you have to put faith in the seed catalog description of taste, but hey they know a lot more of what their talkin about than I do! And the pictures of each variety can really be quite helpful as well; most people like to know what they are growing and what the vegetable is supposed to look like.  I must admit that I really fall victim to the beautiful pictures and tasty descriptions, I think I could read the catalogs like a novel, but then I really would end up with a ridiculous garden filled with all the things that no one else seems to like, beets, eggplant, spinach, brussels sprouts, yummm. Please keep reminding me that I do not have the space or time to grow every vegetable from a-z.
Bloody Butcher Corn
So how do you choose what seeds to order? Is it simply what will grow well, feed you well, and not be too much trouble? Is it what your family has always grown? Or like me do you get lost in dreams of planting every single vegetable you could ever imagine in addition to all those new varieties that sound so interesting. Wouldn’t dinner be so much more fun if we referred to our food by its exact name “Could you please pass the Mammoth Melting Sugar peas”, “why yes Kathleen, and could you hand me an ear of that Bloody Butcher corn” hmmm yes, my roommates may get a bit tired of me this summer.

Pine Mountain Grow Appalachia will be hosting a Seed Swap Saturday March 24th 1-3 pm, bring seeds to share or trade, buy seed from expert collectors, or just come to learn and socialize!

Here is an interesting seed description of Candyroaster squash from Bill Best's website: “Many people growing up in the mountains of North Georgia and Western North Carolina never ate pumpkin pies. Their families grew pumpkin for jack-o-lanterns or for animal, feed, but they themselves ate Candyroasters. Candyroasters are an excellent winter squash most likely from the Cherokee Indians.”

Bill Best will be at the seed swap with some of his wonderful heirloom seeds!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Psyched About the Season

Here at Red Bird Mission we are psyched about gearing up for the upcoming growing season.

We are now putting together the berry order for all our participants and preparing for our first round of home visits. We are looking forward to getting these gardens prepared and helping the participants determine the garden size and layout that will best fit their needs for producing food for their own use as well as having some produce to sell out the Red Bird Farmer’s Market.
Along with Garden planning these first home visits will consist of; helping to clear garden areas, assist in the taking of soil samples, helping to plan proper crop rotation and making arrangements for the turning of the soil in their gardens. We will also be assisting them in preparing adequate plots for their incoming berry plants.

Nearly all of our participants have shown great interest in fruit berry production. The production of small fruits and berries provide a delicious, healthy alternative to the sugar filled snacks that are more abundant in these Appalachian communities. This will give participants a greater opportunity to improve the quality of their diets. These fruits are also a great asset at the Farmer’s Market being as they sell very well and will provide the community with a much needed healthy source of sweets.

Through partnership with the Clay County Extension office we will be helping interested families to obtain Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry and Raspberry plants. We also have some great educational publications on small fruit and berry production that will be available to our Grow Appalachia participants as well as all other members of our community.
Red Bird Mission/Grow Appalachia
             Field Worker,
Chad Brock

Friday, January 20, 2012

Seed Time Part 2: Traditional Growing vs. the Lure of Modern Science -- Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

So last week I provided information about open pollinated vs. hybrid seed and a little history of hybrid crops in the United States. This week I would like to delve into issues concerning GMO and heirloom seed. I’ll start with heirloom seeds because they are the less controversial of the two, although the definition of heirloom can be a bit of a touchy subject for some seed connoisseurs.

Heirloom: There is no exact definition for what constitutes an heirloom seed, but at least one thing that all growers seem to agree on is that all heirloom seeds are open-pollinated.  The following defining aspects of heirloom seeds are contested from one grower to the next but will give you a general idea of what makes a seed an heirloom variety.  If you find a seed that is marketed as heirloom it is probably a Non-hybrid variety introduced prior to 1940 (seeds must be at least 50 yrs old), that likely has a long history of being cultivated and saved within a family or group in a certain region. Heirloom seeds are beneficial because they are usually well adapted to their region, and are genetically distinct because they have evolved within their own ecological niche for many years and have not been modified or crossed with other varieties. Heirloom seeds can be bred for tolerance of insects, disease, and drought etc. However, once an heirloom variety disappears it is usually completely extinct.

GMO: A genetically modified organism is an organism with genetic characteristics that have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using techniques of genetic engineering (think lab coats, microscopes, eye droppers, and really complicated computer programs). Genetic modification is carried out for the purpose of improving an organism or correcting a defect in the organism.  In the case of seeds, certain genes that will supposedly make growing easier and crop yield higher are inserted into the seed’s DNA. All GM crops available on the international market today have been designed using one of three basic traits: resistance to insect damage; resistance to viral infections; and tolerance towards certain herbicides. So, there are potential benefits to the production and use of GM seed but there is also a great cost that comes with the use of this seed, and once again taking into account that we are a bit biased about the seed we choose, it is a cost that we feel outweighs the benefits.

The introduction of GM seeds to farming and food production is a relatively recent event in the history of the U.S. It was only in 1987 that the first field tests of genetically engineered crops (tobacco and tomato) were conducted in the United States. In 1992 Calgene’s Favr Tomato, engineered to remain firm for a longer period of time, was the first crop approved for commercial production by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was also in 1992 that the FDA declared genetically engineered food as “not inherently dangerous” and not requiring special regulation. Statistics now show that 88% of corn in the United States is planted with GM seed and upwards of 80% of processed food sold in the United States contains GM ingredients.
So what’s wrong with using GM seed for food crops if the benefits in yield and product consistency are so great? The greatest downfall of GM seed is that it allows the entire process of farming to be consolidated into the hands of large corporations and seed companies such as Monsanto, a Fortune 500 Company that has 404 facilities in 66 countries. All GM seed is patented by the companies that have developed it, so even if the crops produce viable seed, it is illegal for farmers to save seed at all, much less plant next year’s crops with it. What’s even more alarming is the fact that through distribution of seed and pollen by birds and wind, GM seed crops can cross pollinate non GM crops that are located nearby. Seed Company researchers are then covertly testing the crops of many farmers for presence of GM genes. If the crops being tested were planted from non-patented seed or are being used to save seed, any trace of the GM gene that is found will make the farmer liable to a lawsuit for patent infringement. This means that farmers who never planted GM seed crops can suffer legal ramifications for saving seed from crops that they own the full rights to.
To illustrate the power that large seed companies have here are a couple facts about Monsanto and it’s tactics as a large agricultural company. Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. According to the Public Patent Foundation, Monsanto has one of the most aggressive patent assertion agendas in history. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. But I digress, back to GM seed and its possible ill effects. In addition to political and economic factors GM seed can also affect the health of animals, humans, and the environment. Because GM seed is still a relatively new product, there are no long term studies of the ways in which introducing these new varieties into the environment affects the ecosystem. We also aren’t privy to information about the ill effects of GM seed because the large companies that own seed patents have restricted independent research concerning the possible consequences of tampering with the natural makeup of seeds. Despite this lack of publicly available research there have been several small scale studies which have slipped through the cracks to report that certain species of insects are being killed by the toxins used in GM corn and other animals that come in contact with the crops are suffering ill effects such as infertility and digestive problems. So we can only wonder, if animals who come in contact with GM crops suffer ill health effects, what will the health of humans who consume a diet consisting of high amounts of processed foods, which contain GM ingredients, look like in the next several decades?

As far as the qualifications that we feel the seed we order should meet, the last one is that the seed must be untreated. Maggie wrote about treated seed in a previous blog post so I will refer you there for further information:

Here are a couple movies that investigate the history and current use of GM crops and how they affect large scale farms, small private farms, seed companies, and the American Consumer:
King corn
Food, Inc.
Harvest of Fear

Here is an interesting article about Monsanto, its history and questionable ethics:

And lastly an article about seed quality and the way a seed company evaluates their product before selling it:

Next week: the least mind boggling and last of the Seed Time series: What other factors help us decide which seed to order; tradition, taste, ease of growing, the pretty picture in the seed catalog?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

JB and the Atlantic Giant-The Sequel by Sr. KC at St. Vincent Mission

Back in November I told you about JB and his Atlantic Giant pumpkin venture. Because he had read the seed catalogs, he knew the value in the seeds he had saved and so he decided to sell them. When I saw him over Christmas break, I told him I was interested in purchasing some from him.
Well last week I got my seeds. JB’s mom Crystal, who works with us at the Mission, came in with twelve seeds complete with planting instructions in a zip lock bag. JB had told his mom that he wasn’t sure if I knew how to plant the pumpkin seeds so he’d better give me instructions. They went like this:
“Make a large raised hill, flatten top, water, poke 4 holes and put 1 seed per hole. Cover lightly & tap down.”
I am very excited about growing my giant pumpkins but I am even more excited about knowing “just turned seven yrs old” JB and his mom. They are what the Grow Appalachia program is all about. Not only growing your own food and maybe even earning some money on the side but also one generation passing on to the next the heritage that is Appalachian. My only concern…JB only sold his seeds for $1. The seed catalog wanted $4.95.
Sr. Kathy Curtis
St. Vincent Mission, David, KY

Friday, January 13, 2012

Seed Time, A Series: Part 1: What is a Hybrid and why should I care? Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

     As we enter the New Year, the time for preparing our Grow Appalachia seed order has come. While compiling our order we have tried to provide varieties based on ease of growing, disease resistance, and popularity with our past Grow Appalachia participants. We are also trying to buy seed that aligns with our ideals of growing healthy and organic food that is locally produced and supported. This means trying to ensure that the majority of the seed which we order is open-pollinated (non-hybrid), organic, heirloom, untreated, and non-GMO. I know that is a somewhat long list, and to many people all those requirements are completely futile unless you know what they mean and why they are important. So, being a new gardener myself, I thought I would share a little bit of what I am learning about choosing the best seed possible and the reasons why. However because I seem to be extremely long-winded this will be a three part blog series about seed  as I attempt to educate myself as much as possible!

     First, an explanation of hybrid vs. open pollinated seed:

Hybrid: hybrids result from the deliberate crossing of two distinct parent varieties from the same species. Plant breeders began producing hybrids as a way of combining the best traits of separate varieties into one. Hybrids are valued for their better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, disease resistance, etc. However because hybrids are a controlled combination of two different varieties you can’t save the seed from a hybrid crop. For a simplified example, you would take a blue corn variety and pollinate it with a red corn variety to obtain a purple corn variety. The purple corn variety is then your first generation hybrid (usually denoted F1). If you save seed from this purple corn and plant it you may not get the same purple corn variety because that saved seed had genes from both the blue and red parent varieties. This means you could end up with red corn, blue corn, purple corn, or corn that completely fails to produce. So in order to produce new seed from hybrid seed the parent plants must be deliberately crossed each time, meaning that farmers become reliant on seed companies because they need to buy new seed every season. Hybrid seed is produced to increase commercial profit, it is bred to look good (bright, large, and uniform in shape), and to store and ship well. However hybrid seeds usually result in produce that has a decreased nutritional value and less distinct flavor than that produced from open pollinated seed. While we are biased against planting hybrid seeds, please do not think of them as unnatural, lab rat type seeds. Hybridization has been going on since the 1860s (Gregor Mendell’s pea experiments; high school biology anyone?). Hybridization depends on human management of pollination, but is not akin to GMOs (which will be discussed later).

Open Pollinated: This refers to seeds that will reproduce true to type. If you keep different varieties separate from each other (don’t plant two different kinds of corn in the same patch or near one another) they will pollinate within their own variety and will result in a plant like the parent. Continuing with the blue and red corn example; if you plant all blue corn in one patch and keep your red corn patch at a good distance then the blue corn will pollinate within the blue corn patch and you will be able to save seed that will reliably produce more blue corn. When saving seed, growers will choose the best ears of corn to save seed from and in that way can produce varieties that are the most disease resistant and regionally adapted. Using open pollinated seed allows growers to save seed (and in turn save money), conserve genetic diversity, and grow seeds that will be successful in their unique environmental conditions. This conservation of genetic diversity and regional adaptations is very important in protecting our seed (and food!) supply from being wiped out during major disease outbreaks.

Interesting tid bits…. And why I am continuing with the corn example
  • The United States is the largest producer of corn in the world
  • In 2010 the United States produced 12.1 billion bushels of corn, 39% of the world’s total corn production
  • Corn is grown on over 400,000 farms in the U.S.

Corn damaged by the Southern Corn Leaf Blight
So how does corn play a role in the development of hybrid seeds? Well at least as far back as the early 20th century corn has been the dominant field crop in U.S. agriculture. In those days farmers saved seed from the largest ears of corn with the best physical appearance to plant their crop for the next season. Around 1910 several scientists came up with the hybrid production of corn and began conducting studies to test the yield of these hybrid crops. By the late 1920’s hybrid crops were showing consistently higher and more reliable yield than open pollinated crops. Hybrid corn seed offered great benefits to farmers and to the seed companies and when it became commercially available it was quickly adopted as the standard crop for many American farmers who were frustrated by the stagnant yield of open pollinated crops during that time. By the 1960s almost all open pollinated crops had been replaced by hybrid crops, which accounted for 95% of the corn acreage grown in the United States. However one of the dangers of such large scale acceptance of hybrid seed was discovered in the early 1970s, when Southern Corn Leaf Blight dealt a devastating blow to corn crops throughout the United States.  The Southern Corn Leaf Blight began effecting farms as early as the summer of 1968, but not until two years later when it began to spread rapidly throughout the southern states and parts of the Corn Belt, was it considered a real danger. The blight was able to spread rapidly to many crops because 80% of corn crops at that time were planted with hybrid corn that contained T-cytoplasm. T-Cytoplasm was a man-made change to corn that allowed farmers to grow corn with sterile pollen (allowing farmers to better control pollination to produce hybrid seed); effectively skipping the time consuming work of detasseling corn plants. Unfortunately this T-cytoplasm carried a gene that was susceptible to the Southern Corn Blight fungus. Since the majority of corn plants were so genetically similar (containing T-cytoplasm) the fungus was able to spread quickly from one crop to the next. The Southern Corn Blight Epidemic eventually destroyed 15% of the country’s corn crop.

So the basic take away from this history Genetic uniformity = Extreme vulnerability

More detailed information on the 70’s corn blight:

For a good explanation of hybrid vs. open pollinated seed:

Thanks for sticking with me through a long blog post, I hope some of you out there find it helpful,
Next week: GMOs, untreated vs. treated seed, and heirloom varieties!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Improvements at the LCAAHC

Thanks to a generous donor, Mary Ann Samples, who donated plants, trees, mulch and a bench, we now have a beautifully landscaped exterior at the Laurel County African American Heritage Center.  Wayne Riley, along with a few others worked for weeks on the area surrounding the LCAAHC to create a beautiful sitting area.

In addition to the sitting area, we have installed two raised beds next to the center.  These will be used to grow vegetables this coming growing season.

Our center is growing and we are proud of her growth.   
Thanks Wayne Riley for all the hard work you put into it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A New Season

A New Hire

The New Year brings the opportunity for renewed hope, great expectations, and the chance for a fresh start to apply lessons learned and improve our outcomes in this New Year.  To help many individuals and families reach these personal goals, Red Bird Mission is pleased to announce that Karen Dial has accepted the position of Family Ministries Coordinator. In this position, she will coordinate programs aimed at improving the health and welfare of at-risk, rural families striving to reach self-sufficiency goals.  To best accomplish this, Karen will manage both agricultural projects: Grow Appalachia and Red Bird Farmer’s Project, as well as offer individuals growth though furthered education, benefit attainment, and support services.   
Karen is a Christ-centered person dedicated to serving God and the people of the Red Bird Mission area in many capacities.  Previous to joining the Community Outreach Staff, Karen has served Red Bird Mission as the Craft Program Manager, the donor Development Associate and a pastor in the Red Bird Missionary Conference for the last eleven years. She has experience in business management, organization building, and working one-on-one with individuals to enhance their natural talents and learn to market their goods.  She has experience in fund-raising, building databases and spreadsheets as well as leadership skills.  She enjoys working with people and strives to help them achieve their God-given potential in the goals that they set for themselves. 
Karen has agriculture experience in growing and maintaining a family garden, canning, and preserving.  She also has experience in egg production as she worked on her Uncle’s chicken farm.  Karen is also familiar with both agricultural projects she will be managing as she spent the last year volunteering for Community Outreach assisting coordinators and the Grow Appalachia Field Worker with client contacts, and organizational and clerical issues.  She is eager to serve the members of both Grow Appalachia and the Red Bird Farmers Project.  To gear up for this year, Karen is attending the 2012 Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show to ensure that she will provide the most up-to-date farming methods and she will work closely with our local farmers to aide them in sharing their experiences and resources with one another to facilitate community capacity building.
Karen is married and has two married children, one works at Memorial Hospital and the other serves in the US Navy.   She enjoys two beautiful grandchildren who live close and two who live out of the area.  She loves the outdoors, working in a garden, camping, hiking, riding with hubby on the motorcycle, traveling and reading.  Please contact Karen at  to welcome her and share your agriculture experience and knowledge to help make this the best year yet!

    Last week Karen Dial and I attended the 2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show in Lexington Ky. The conference was attended by many commercial farmers as well as some small private farmers.  This gave us an opportunity to hear the issues farmers faced in 2011 and what corrective action they planned to make in 2012.
    We touched based with two of our local Cooperative extension office agents, Jeff Casada  (Clay County) and Stacy White (Bell County) as well as speaking with David Cooke, Director of the Berea College Appalachia Fund and Louie Rivers,Jr. ( Small Farmer Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Program ) SFOTTAP Director from Kentucky State University.
  There were several concurrent sessions at the conference allowing us to split up and take in a lot of very beneficial information to bring back and share with our Grow Appalachia participants. There were sessions on Farmers Markets, vegetable Production, Agritourism and social media, Organic Farming and gardening, Small fruit production, Tree Fruit production and a few Grape and Wine short courses. There were also many exhibits set up for the Trade Show Offering suppliers for nearly anything farm related. This allowed us a chance to collect information on resources available to our program and our participants such as organic supplies, local seed distributors and contacts specializing in Agricultural technical assistance.

Karen Dial / RedBird Mission Grow Appalachia Coordinator 2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

 Left: Amanda Sears /Madison county ANR Agent ,
Center: Jeff Casada Clay County ANR Agent
Right: Karen Dial, Redbird Mission Agricultural 

Chad Brock/ Red Bird Mission Grow Appalachia field worker

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show 

Chad Brock: Grow Appalachia Field Worker

Pea Planting Time by Sr. KC of St. Vincent Mission

I am an info junkie and I especially love trivia stuff. This morning we were discussing when to plant peas. In our Extension Office book there is a Kentucky planting times chart that says plant peas in March. The Farmer’s Almanac says March 11th to 26th. And Crystal says, Valentine’s Day. Well I’m no dummy. I’m listening to Crystal.
Actually, it isn’t only Crystal who says that the peas have to go in on Valentine’s Day. I have heard that one since coming to eastern Kentucky. The first time I heard it was from a friend of mine who was going to be in Frankfort on Valentine’s Day and he was going to be late putting in his peas. “You’re kidding me, right?” was my comment as we drove the Mountain Parkway heading to the Capital. There was snow on the ground and the high for the day was 23 degrees. He proceeded to tell me all about planting by the moon and the parts of the body. I was skeptical but then I saw his garden and became a believer.
Gardening has an amazing compilation of folk lore attached to it. I found these on the National Parks Service website,, about planting vegetables in the Great Smoky Mountains
Planting Lore
• Plant turnips on Ascension Day for abundant foliage and large turnips.
• Plant corn when the sign is in the head, so there will be more ears.
• Red-headed persons have the best luck with peppers.        
• If cucumbers are planted on Saturday, they will be bitter.
• If you laugh while planting corn, the grains will fall apart on the cob.
• Tomatoes should be planted in Gemini or the scales
• If you plant cucumbers in the full moon, they will all run to vines, and will not bear.

There are a lot of things to know about growing your own food. Soil and seed quality, irrigation techniques and weed and pest control to name a few. And while books, internet, and the UK Extension Office are all great resources, there is nothing like the wisdom and experience of friends, family and neighbors. So when it is time to plant, I am listening to Crystal and the rest of my neighbors here in the mountains that have been using the sun, moon and zodiac to plant by for generations.
Did you know you should never do anything in the garden when the sign is the bowels unless you want to kill it? I wonder if that would work with my autumn olives?

Sr. Kathy Curtis

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Giving in to the New Year's Resolution Tradition ~Maggie Ashmore, Pine Mountain

I’ve never really been one to make New Year Resolutions for a couple of reasons. One, when I tried to create New Year’s resolutions for myself I never made it past February with the new routine I created; read my bible every day, go for a run every day, only eat one piece of chocolate per day, etc. Second, I always feel skeptical about how sincere New Year’s Resolutions are. I searched for a little information about these commitments online, and came across a study that found that 78% of people who set these resolutions fail. Another site had an article with the headline “Still Looking for a New Year’s Resolution?” as if it was something a person had to do, and had to think of and commit to right away. But I think I am being a little cynical about this practice. Reflecting about the past year, my relationships, my mental and physical health, and my learning experiences is a wonderful, wholesome, fulfilling practice. It’s a practice that I try to repeat throughout the year.

A mentor of mine once suggested that I keep a list of everything that makes me happy so that when I come to a fork in my life path I will have practice thinking about what experiences make me happy and fulfilled and which do not. Shortly after this suggestion, a friend of mine gave me small notebook with the words “Makes Me Happy” on the cover. I’ve continued to write in this notebook for the past few years, and it amazes me how much it has helped me. Once I start thinking of things I like I cannot stop, and when I am feeling down I get out the book and remember the things I love.

So, I bet you are wondering why I am blabbering on about this on the Grow Appalachia blog. I decided to make some New Year’s resolutions for 2012. Or rather, a list of things I want to learn and experiences I want to have over the next year. Once I started the list I realized that almost half of the items on the list pertained to food and gardening, and I thought “why not make a entire list of garden resolutions?”

So, here are some of my gardening/food resolutions for 2012:
  •  Completely read my copy of the classic organic text: How to Grow Vegetables & Fruits by the Organic Method by J.I. Rodale (I have an old version-the updated book is entitled Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
  • Read the stack of back issues of ACRES magazine that my family passed along to me 
  • Take better care of my composting worms (make sure I feed them once a week!)
  • Grow storage onions from seed
  • Bake homemade bread once a week
  • Learn to cook meat. I eat very little meat (only getting some occasionally from my parents’ farm or a farmer I know, so my meat cooking skills are sorely lacking).
  • Extend my fall gardening season. I still have lettuce and kale from my fall 2011 garden (my lettuce survived the low of 9˚ the other night under a row cover!), but I want to work on planning my fall garden better this year.  
  • Learn more about soil nutrients and how to properly use compost, cover crops, etc. to improve soil health
  •  Save more seeds. This year I saved seed from basil, cosmos flowers, beans, squash, and tomatoes. We will see if they come up next spring! I want to learn how to save more seeds properly, and actually make myself do it. 
  • Drink more tea. During summer 2011 I grew an “herbal tea garden” and dehydrated many of these herbs. I made iced tea during the summer with these herbs, but I now I need to drink them as hot tea. It has to be good for me.
  • Learn to make cheese. At least ricotta. (Kathleen Powers makes this great ricotta recipe).   
  •  Remember to put on an apron when I cook. It is just more fun and keeps me from wiping my hands on my clothes…
  • Find someone with a cow that I can get raw milk from. I grew up drinking raw milk and am a staunch believer in its health (and taste) benefits. Kentucky currently has no legislation concerning herd shares as a way to legally “sell” raw milk. However, the KY state legislature brought forth a bill in December that would allow “permitted producers” to sell raw milk. We are still waiting to see what will happen with this issue in the future. Visit Community Farm Alliance to learn more

  • Learn how to speak as an advocate for local/homegrown produce and healthy cooking habits in a way that speaks to the minds and stomachs of my community 

What are your gardening and food resolutions for 2012? Please share if you feel like it. You might inspire me to add some others to my list!