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Posts Tagged ‘seeds’

HOMEGROWN Life: On Being Prepared

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011






I spent Thanksgiving this past year with my Mormon side of the family and it got me to thinking. They are all set to weather some food system collapse might happen in the near future.
Kind of.
They have buckets of freeze dried food and grains in their basement. They have the Survival Seed Bank buried in their backyard. They think they are all set. But they aren’t. Those things just give the illusion of being prepared.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all about being prepared for a disaster. I live in earthquake country after all. But freeze dried food and seeds buried in your backyard just isn’t enough.

On being prepared
Everything has a shelf life. Freeze dried food can last 20 years max. Then what do you do with it? As it ages it loses it’s nutritional value. At 20 years there’s virtually no nutrition in it. And who wants to live on freeze dried food? Not only that, but it requires water to prepare it, precious water that you would need for drinking.
Seeds, even when buried in the ground will only be viable for 5 years maximum depending on the type. Corn, spinach, and onions are only viable for one year if they are stored correctly. So you put all this faith that if there is a disaster you can plant these seeds only to find out that they won’t germinate. Then you’re stuck. Not only that, but you’ll still have to wait at least 3 months before your first harvest.
And what if there is a major disaster and you have to start growing your own food? If you don’t have access to food you probably don’t have access to gardening equipment and soil amendments. If you live in a difficult growing area do you know how to maximize your harvests? I live in California – a prime place to grow food – and yet I failed miserably my first couple of years because I was still learning. Even now I’m still learning and it’s been over 5 years of constant food production.
So I guess my point is that stockpiling what you think you’ll need in a disaster is not disaster preparedness. Truly being prepared is being able to hit the ground running because you already know what you’re doing.

Rachel’s blog is


Rachel Dog Island Farm

My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

Why We Farm: Farming for Identity

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Neysa working 2

A year and a half ago, my husband Travis and I decided we wanted to be organic farmers. Neither of us had a background in agriculture. In fact, I was probably about as disconnected from physical labor as you can get — I was pursuing my PhD. This weekly series will take you through Travis’ and my journey to own and operate our own organic farm. From a farm internship in a tiny New York town, to management positions at the largest CSA farm in the southern United States, and now our current project of running a one-acre farm in Austin, Texas, our experience has been filled with wild successes, sharp disappointments, and self-discovery. I hope our story can provide others with ideas and resources for their own farming projects–urban or rural, big or small, hobby or professional. I also hope it can shine some light on the new organic movement surging in urban spaces and among America’s young people. To me, our collective attempt to reconnect with food is a testament to the ability of youth to create, even in difficult times.

“Everyone put six rows of seeds onto your soil flats!”

Betsey was having a seeding session with us apprentices in her hoop house. We were lined up at a long table, flats of soil and packages of seeds stacked in front of us. I emptied a package of acorn squash into my hand and carefully spaced out my rows. To one side of me was Travis. To the other, the red-haired girl from Travis’ and my first day. She had been gone for the last few weeks visiting family. In her absence, the other apprentices had regaled me with stories about her that were less than encouraging.

“Oh, you haven’t really met Evelyn yet. She’s … difficult,” they would say and snicker knowingly. I didn’t think much of it.  In academia, I had met my fair share of difficult personalities. I could handle it. Besides, I was determined to make this summer farm excursion a relaxing respite from the hard times Travis and I left in Boston.  My first opportunity to make good on that goal came that day in Betsey’s hoop house, seeding winter squash.

“So this is your first time on a farm?” Evelyn asked me as I poked my seeds into the soil.

“Yes, it is” I said.

“What did you do before you came here?” she asked.

“I was in a PhD program.”

“What did you study?”

“Human rights,” I said with an intonation that expected a positive response. The ‘oh that’s interesting’ or ‘wow what kind?’ that I had gotten so many times in the past.

“Oh, how useless!” Evelyn laughed.

My mind stopped to process for a minute. That’s a first, I thought. I finished seeding a flat and grabbed another one. I opened a new packet of seeds.

“Did you get your PhD?” she continued.


“That’s terrible. It would have been really great to get your PhD.”

I shook my head. “Well, not for me.”

“You dropped out? You must be in a lot of debt, then!”

Alarms in my head began screaming “AWKWARD SOCIAL SITUATION!”  The other apprentices weren’t kidding; who says that to someone they’ve just met?  I said carefully, “Actually, I had a scholarship.”

“Well, that’s really too bad you left school.”

“Okay then,” I said.  I looked up and saw Travis staring at me in horror. I remained collected, though a nerve had been struck. I was still coping with leaving school myself.

Suddenly Betsey’s voice broke the tension. “Okay everyone, now we’re going to pot up. Everyone take a flat of sprouts. What you’re looking for when you transplant is contact with the soil, but not compaction. That’s con-tact, not com-pact!”

As Travis and I walked back to our guesthouse that afternoon, I turned to him and said, “We need to leave this place. How is that girl a real person?” Travis, good-natured as always, laughed it off, and pretty soon I was laughing, too. But that evening, I had to go for a walk to clear my head. Dubious social skills or not, Evelyn invoking my rejected academic life had stirred something up in me.

What would it take for me to become a farmer? Not simply to farm, but to actually self-identify with farming?  Ever since I won a class writing contest in first grade, I felt my career and my sense of identity fuse together: I was a scholar. I was going to be in academia. Through my youth and into adulthood, I was trained to be cerebral. When I graduated from college, the idea of not going to graduate school never entered my mind. Though I may have been myopic, my motive was sincere: I genuinely valued education, and my entire being was tied to intangible knowledge and abstract ideas.  I worried, with its emphasis on physicality, were any of my skills transferrable to farming? Or had all my work for the last 20 years become irrelevant?

I was in the back woods of Betsey’s 165 acres now, and it was starting to get dark. I turned around and walked back toward the farm, hoping I didn’t run into any ambitious spider’s web.  As I ducked under a low-hanging tree branch, I reminded myself of the reasons I was here.  For all my love of knowledge, it was the knowledge systems I had built that had betrayed me in the end.  The unshakeable faith I once had in institutions, in consumer capitalism, in urbanity, in the American narrative, had collapsed, and I was left agnostically (and now, literally) wandering through the woods.

Could farming provide a space and a foundation to rebuild?  One thing was clear, if it was going to have the chance, I was going to have to be open to new ideas, new skills, and new yardsticks for assigning value to the world.  Doing was going to have to become as important to me as knowing.  That wasn’t something I was used to, but thinking of what I left behind, I took comfort in that.

I walked back into the guesthouse, where Travis was sitting on the bed, reading.  There was no telling if farming was going to speak to me in the way academia had for so long, or if I even wanted it to.  One thing was certain, though–I couldn’t force it.  It would take time to get used to a new set of values–even to discover what they were.  All I needed to do was be present.  In Betsey’s words, “Contact.  Not compact.”

Neysa is currently farming an acre of organic vegetables in Austin, Texas. For updates on her farm, visit or follow her on twitter @farmerneysa. View last week’s post.

HOMEGROWN How-to Cards: How To Save Tomato Seeds

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Continued from yesterday’s post introducing our How-to Cards series: How To Save Tomato Seeds.

Promote biodiversity and heirloom breeds by saving and sharing seeds! Steal these cards. Download them. Print them. Send them. Share them. Click each image to get to the download page.

Also linked on the card is this super awesome seed packet template:

Again, we’re so in love with these designs and want everyone to make these cards their own. Enjoy! More tomorrow.

Other How-to cards:

Kale Pesto Recipe
HG card - SIP front How To Make A Self-watering Planter

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