Thursday, June 30, 2011

No More Dean Foods, Land O' Lakes, or Horizon Products for Our House!

This is a brief overview of what's been going on with our food lately. I sure didn't know Land O' Lakes was involved this deeply. You can verify it all at the Organic Consumers Association website below:

Dean Foods, the largest dairy corporation in the U.S., owns Horizon, the leading organic milk brand, as well as White Wave Silk soy milk which switched from using organic soybeans to so-called "natural" soybeans.
Most of the new GMO alfalfa that will be grown in this country will be used to feed dairy cows producing milk for Dean Foods, who of course already force-feed their factory farm bovines on genetically engineered corn and soybeans.
Monsanto and Forage Genetics' alfalfa represents a major threat to the integrity of organic milk, as GMO alfalfa will inevitably contaminate organic alfalfa fields, but of course Dean Foods/Horizon/White Wave didn't try to stop GMO alfalfa. The same PR flak who lobbies for Dean Foods lobbies for Horizon!
And it gets worse. Dean Foods is the primary marketing agent for Land O' Lakes, a giant dairy, seed, and biotech company which owns Forage Genetics, the co-patent-holder, along with Monsanto, of GMO alfalfa!
Land O' Lakes, is the largest livestock feed seller in the U.S. With almost all soy and corn being GMO, and 98% of soy and 60% of corn being used as animal feed, that makes Land O' Lakes the biggest pusher of Monsanto's GMO crops. Land O' Lakes also sells Monsanto's GMO seeds and Roundup herbicide.
As a dairy processor, Land O' Lakes used to be a competitor of Dean Foods. They went from competitors to partners with a licensing agreement for Dean to process and distribute Land O' Lakes dairy products. Now Land O' Lakes is a Dean Foods brand, along with Horizon, Silk, and International Delight. Dean Foods might as well sell Monsanto-brand milk!
Organic Consumers Association is calling for a boycott of Dean Foods and all of its brands, including Horizon and Silk, to protest GMO alfalfa and all of the other crimes against human health, worker safety, animal rights and the environment caused by Dean's factory farmed dairies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Presto" Change'o...

The 8 1/2 pounds of green beans that I picked a couple days ago have been changed...

From this:

To this:

Eleven pressure canned quarts of delicious and healthy organically produced green beans.

Believe me, it took more than snapping my fingers to get this done! It took snapping the beans too!

Have a wonderful gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Our Harvest Monday for June 27th, 2011.

This week our garden is doing very well as far as harvests go. We picked blueberries, patio tomatoes, snap beans, banana peppers and giant marconi green peppers.

The total weight for blueberries picked this week is 0.27 pounds. That's not bad for four small bushes.

The total combined weight for all blueberries picked this year is 1 3/4 pounds. I'm accumulating them in the freezer until I have enough to make blueberry jam.

Our harvest of patio tomatoes was so big it almost broke the scale! Two tomatoes for a total of one ounce! Delicious nonetheless.

The big harvest for this week was the Fortex snap beans. We picked 8 1/2 pounds in one picking. Pressure canner, here we come!

We also got ten beautiful giant marconi green peppers that weighed 1 lb. 5 oz., and seventeen sweet banana peppers that weighed one pound even.

When you combine both types of those peppers with a red bell pepper and some vidalia onions... Mmmm boy! They should make that scent in an aerosol spray!

I'm saving the seeds from the peppers for my supply for next year. I have to clean and dry them so I can store them properly.

Our grapes are turning purple, so it won't be long and they'll be in the harvest talley.

That's it for this week's harvest.

Have a great gardening day!

Thanks for visiting, and feel free to share a comment with us.
Veggie PAK

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Garden Harvest for Monday June 20th, 2011.

We started out this week harvesting two pickings of Swiss chard for a total of 4 pounds.

I can't wait to make stuffed Swiss chard leaves.

We also were fortunate to have our sweet banana peppers sufficiently mature to harvest four peppers weighing a total of 3.25 ounces.

The blueberries are doing very well. In two days we picked a total of 6 1/2 ounces of fresh organic blueberries from four small bushes. Many times that amount are still on the bushes under the bird netting.

That concludes our harvest report for this week.

Happy gardening to all, and thanks for visiting!
Veggie PAK

Friday, June 10, 2011

Modified Intensive Gardening Combined With Succession Planting of Our Pole Beans.

In a previous post I explained how I was planting my pole bean seeds this year in a different manner than usual for our garden. Rather than plant a single row of seed, on April 30th  I planted a double row with about a six inch space between rows. That was the modified intensive gardening approach. Theoretically, I should at least double the amount of my harvest from last year.

The weeds got a big jump on me this year between the bean rows, but I took care of them in the last couple of days. Thankfully they are a type of weed with big leaves and spindly stalks, so I was able to dispose of them by weeding three rows each day for two days.

I was unable to perform the second planting until June 9th. I planted the second batch of bean seeds in that six inch space between the first double row planting. When they germinate I am anticipating that they will readily follow the outer sets of vines and go right to the fence fabric and begin their climb. As of this writing, I have 1,440 Fortex green bean seeds in some state of growth in our garden, with additional seed to go in when the time is right. I actually calculate the number of beans needed per row, count them out in a small bowl, then put each row's allotment into an individual zip lock bag.  When I'm hand sowing, I use up each bag for each row, thereby ensuring adequate spacing of the seeds. It might seem tedious, but it sure takes the guesswork out of it.

I've included some pics to show the condition and density of the bean vines. They look very healthy.

These are my six 20 foot rows of Fortex pole beans. They are 40 days old and growing very vigorously. I water them almost every day since there are so many of them. Our high temperature here yesterday was 102 degrees, so the soil was very dry on top. That temperature was confirmed on three different thermometers in three locations. We already had another day where the temperature hit 101 degrees and it's only early June. I hope that's not an indication of what summer will be like.

Notice the density of the vines thanks to the double row planting.

Last year, I planted four single rows of seed and let them run their cycle, and when they were through producing, I planted more beans. The trouble with doing it that way is that my harvest totals had to endure going through the phases of a dwindling production period, then the germination period and  then waiting for plant maturity. The end result for the year was simply two total harvests from four 20 foot long rows of pole beans.

This year I added two more rows of beans. I began with the double row planting and then 40 days later planted a second crop that will be germinating and maturing while the first crop is producing green beans. That equates to overall production from three rows of pole beans. When the second planting is approaching maturity (in approximately 40 days on July 20th) I'll plant additional seeds for the third planting. Since we began with a double row, the July 20th planting would be the equivalent of the fourth planting of rows of pole beans. There will be plenty of time for still another planting on September 1st, which should be ready to begin harvesting on November 1st, as it is usually still warm at that time. That would be the fifth planting of rows of pole beans for the year. Overall, doing it this way has the potential of harvesting two and a half times as much in the same area as last year, not including the two additional rows of this year. This is possible since the "wait time" for germination between crops is eliminated and three additional crops are planted as compared to previous years. Historical data from my spreadsheets show the following harvests of Fortex green beans:

2009 spring crop - 58 pounds
2009 summer crop - 32 pounds
2009 fall crop - 22.25 pounds
2009 Total Fortex Green Bean Crop - 112.25 pounds

2010 spring crop - 21.5 pounds
2010 summer crop - 38 pounds
2010 fall crop - None. I was away from home and didn't get the third crop planted.
2010 Total Fortex Green Bean Crop - 59.5 pounds

During this entire time I will be adding cured compost to the rows as it becomes ready. This whole thing is like a long experiment. We'll see what the results are later in the year.

Now for a few more bean pics...

Notice how even when the vines get to the top of the fence material they keep reaching upwards.

It always surprises me when the vines go up so far looking for something to grab on to. They really want to stretch out there! If I don't take each one and braid it into the fence fabric it will cross over to the next row. It's a wonder that they don't break in the wind.

The tops of these vines are reaching towards the east. Could it be possible that they are stretching toward the morning sun?

The blossoms are getting ready to open up. The vines are covered with them, so I hope I'll be getting a good crop.

Notice all the vines reaching up past the top of the fence fabric. Even though the planting is dense, all the vines appear to be very healthy. They must really like the composted soil.

That concludes my post on the modified intensive gardening and succession planting of our pole beans. I hope you found it interesting and informative. It will be interesting to see what the results are in my end of the year Harvest Report.

I extend a sincere "Thank You" to each person reading this and hope that it will inspire someone to try new methods for growing vegetables for your family food supply. Think about it. Maybe that someone is you!

Have a great gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, June 6, 2011

Our Garden Harvest for June 6th, 2011.

Our harvest for this week included the seed saving results for Waltham 29 broccoli and  also the chives in addition to our vegetables.

It took much longer than I thought it would to dry out those broccoli seed pods you see in the two containers below.

I brought the containers inside at night, and took them back out into the sunshine in the morning for about ten days straight, turning the contents several times each day. Finally it was time to remove the seeds from those pods.

Most of the materials I have read about extracting the seed from the pods recommended that you take a mallet of some sort and crush the pods. Even if the mallet was hard rubber, you still run a high risk of damaging a lot of the seeds depending upon the surface you were crushing them against. I found such a procedure to be unnecessary. I simply took a handful of seed pods at a time and thoroughly crushed them in my hands while holding them over a large tub to catch the debris. This wasn't the tedious part though.

Separating the seed from the chaff was a difficult task. As with the Brussels sprouts seeds, I first used a 1/4 inch mesh screen and then I used a finer mesh screen. After that wasn't very successful, I used a metal kitchen colander since the holes were smaller than those a plastic one has. I did that 7 or 8 times, and while it helped remove some, it left a lot of chaff still in with the seeds.

The last method I used was to take a long stainless steel steam line tray and tilt it on the length at about a 30 degree angle in front of a fan. All the seeds and chaff were in the tray at the low end. I took small handfuls of it and held it up at the low end of the tray about 4 or 5 inches high, or whatever worked best for the air movement. I gradually released a little at a time at that height and the fan caused the air to catch the chaff and blow it up and over the end of the tray onto the shop floor. While the air caught the material and blew a lot of the chaff away, the incline of the tray allowed the heavier seeds to drop onto the high end of the tray and slide back to the bottom so they weren't lost. I did this many times, judging the need by the amount of chaff left in with the seeds after each time. I know we all want good seeds, and I noticed that along with the chaff, some tiny seeds were also being blown out. The way I see it, they were immature seeds that wouldn't have produced good plants, so their removal wasn't a loss.

I ended up with 6 3/4 ounces of organic Waltham 29 broccoli seeds that can be stored for 5 years. I plan to divide them up and store them in small mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to extend their shelf life even further.

My chives bloomed recently. I noticed that the flower heads were now looking dull so I decided to see if I could capture some of the seeds from them and it worked. Now I'll have plenty for next year.

We picked 1.75 pounds of Ruby Red Swiss chard that grew from the seed my grandaughter Celie planted in the container in our kitchen on December 30th, 2010. There were 156 transplants and this harvest represents only a very small number of them. The video of her planting the seed is provided below so folks won't have to go look for it if they want to see it.

Celie is a sweetie!

After they germinated, I transplanted those seedlings to the garden and they did very well.

This is the first harvest from the first seeds that Celie planted in her little two year old beautiful life.

The Giant Marconi peppers weighed 1.63 pounds. There are several buds and flowers on all of the plants and I didn't want to inhibit their growth so I picked these Sunday.

That's all for this week's harvest info. I hope everyone is enjoying beautiful gardening weather!

Thanks for visiting.
Veggie PAK

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Reliance Grape Problems on June 5th, 2011.

Last year, my Reliance grapes had the most vine growth out of the three types of grapes that I have. The other two types are Himrod and Glenora. All are seedless varieties. The other two types are doing excellent, each having dozens of clusters of grapes. This year, the vine that was the very best last year didn't even show signs of growth other than two small leaves at ground level. They have since withered away. The other Reliance vine came back and has many clusters of grapes on it. However, I think it is dieing. Take a look at this video of the vines and see what you think. This is a big impact on the gardening morale since I have been nurturing these vines for three years. Now in the fourth year when they are supposed to really produce, they get this. But, no one ever said growing things was easy. (Other than the directions on seed packets.)

I've contacted the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office (which, thankfully, is only two blocks over from our house) and I was asked to bring them a sample on Monday morning and they're going to send it right to their lab on the Virginia Eastern Shore to see if they can determine what the problem is.

All my vegetables and fruits are organic. I don't want to spray or treat them with anything that is not organic, since my grandchildren actively help me in the garden.

If anyone has any thoughts or experiences with this problem that you would like to share, I welcome your comments.

Thanks, and happy gardening!
Veggie PAK