Saving Seeds

Artículo en español: http://bit.ly/1P0o550 DSC_0108

We save our heirloom seeds; mostly as a step towards self-sustainability--reducing our reliance on outside imports is a huge goal.  It’s why we make our own compost, why we ferment our own fish extract, and why we got into growing our own food in the first place!  We currently save our heirloom eggplant, pepper, and tomato seeds.  

There are many more reasons to save seeds; during the 1900's there was a startling drop in the number of heirloom varieties due to lack of gardeners saving and trading their own seeds. When farmers rely on commercial seed companies, any seeds that sell slowly simply get dropped from production and disappear. Saving seeds is important for preserving genetic diversity.

This loss of varieties translates into lower genetic variability in our food plants. Lower variability means lower adaptability to stresses such as disease or climate change. Each time a seed variety is lost, we lose another chance to feed ourselves in a world of changing climate and shrinking resources. Saving seeds also helps retain plants´ pest resistance.

Every year we select plants that grow the happiest on our farm.  Over time, we’ll eventually create our own strains of heirlooms that are acclimatized to our specific, local conditions at Rancho Buen Dia.

Each plant has a different was of harvesting its seeds; we harvest the tomatoes and peppers when they’re ripe, which means the seed is already mature.  Saving pepper seeds is simply a matter of grabbing a ripe fruit, picking out the seeds, and letting them dry out before packing them into an envelope.

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Tomatoes are only slightly more involved.  Their seeds come encased in gel to help them pass through the digestive system of animals unharmed.  To save them, we first have to mash the fruit in a bowl of water, let them ferment for a day or two, then drain the water, rinse the skin and tomato bits off, and dry them out.

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When eggplants are ripe for eating, their seeds are still a little immature.  So to save their seeds, we have to let the fruit ripen fully on the vine.  Our heirloom Rosa Biancas are easy to spot when they are ripe: they turn from white with lavender stripes to yellow.  Then, we cut them open and pick out the seeds, let them dry, and pack them away for planting time.

For a great article on the historical practice of seed-saving and breeding, we enjoyed this article from the New Yorker.

Lately on the farm / Estos días en la huerta...

Lately on the farm, we've been getting the water ready to irrigate at the farm.  We've installed a pump to take water from the canal to the field, rolled out drip tape, and begun planting.  We've been so anxious to get planting, and it feels great to get it started! Estos días en la huerta, hemos estado preparando el agua para regar.  Instalamos una bomba que lleva el agua desde el canal hasta el campo desenrollado la cinta de goteo y comenzando a plantar.  Es un momento que ya esperábamos con ansias, ¡Y se siente increíble iniciar!

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While Carlos takes care of the field work, I make sure the greenhouse sowing gets done.  Here, I've filled the seeding tray with peat moss, and I'm dimpling the surface, creating a little pocket for the seed to go into.  All those years of piano lessons are paying off!  (Thanks, Mom!)

Mientras que Carlos cuida el campo, yo me encargo de la siembra en el invernadero.  Aquí, he llenado la charola con musgo de turba, y estoy haciendo un pequeño agujero en cada cuadro para la semilla.  ¡Me están sirviendo todos los años de clases de piano que tomé de niña! (Gracias, Mamá!)

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Now it's ready for one onion seed in each hole. Ya está listo para insertar una semilla en cada cuadro:

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Next, we'll move out the rest of our greenhouse seedlings (beets, swiss chard, cabbages, broccolis, cauliflowers) and start planting other things directly (beans, squash, and carrots). Yummm!

Enseguida, transplantaremos el resto de las plantas del invernadero al campo  (betebel, acelgas, repollo, brocoli, coliflor) y vamos a empezar a sembrar directamente en la tierra los ejotes, calabacitas, y zanahorias! ¡Qué ricas!

We´re so excited to finally get plants in the ground! I´ll take lots of photos to share the growth and changes!

Estamos muy emocionados por fin estar plantando en la tierra. ¡Tomaré muchas fotos para compartir el crecimiento de las plantas y los cambios en la huerta! 

Roadrunner vs. snake

Carlos told me this story about roadrunners: When a roadrunner comes across a sleeping snake, it begins to collect thorns from a particular cactus. These thorns actually have poison in them and little hooks making them terribly painful to pull out. {Leon stepped on three with one foot the other day. Horrible! That's what inspired this memory}.

Now, the roadrunner will begin to assemble the thorns, quietly and carefully, in a circle around the sleeping serpent. It places one, then darts away to grab another, and places it, and darts, and on and on, until the vibora is completely surrounded.

Then the correcamino creeps up, and BAM pecks the snake on the head and sprints away to wait.

The snake, having been sound asleep, shoots up and looks around for his attacker, which causes him to hit the thorns. This pain only creates further confusion, and he continues to thrash about, getting more and more thorns.

This is exactly what the roadrunner wants, who is waiting, safely out of sight, for the poisonous thorns to finish the job. Eventually the snake exhausts himself and the roadrunner emerges from hiding to enjoy his carefully prepared feast.

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What struck me about this story was the time it must have taken to have seen this all play out. I can just see young Carlos, hiding behind some desert shrub, watching all of this happen. How much more exciting than reading this in a book. He has total ownership of this piece of information about animal behavior--rather than taking the word of some guy in a nature documentary. This is a fact that he knows because he saw it himself.