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Mary Nally

Nowadays, the politics of seeds mostly has to do with GMO and patented varieties. But the modern pendulum swing is just the latest in a long line of American haggling over propagules, as Mary Nally explained in the Community Food Initiative's Seed to Sustainability Workshop this past weekend.

U.S. patent office free seeds

In fact, in the mid 1800s, the US Patent Office devoted 30% of their budget to giving away free seeds. Over a million packets were distributed to American gardeners before the nation's budding seed companies stepped in.

"How are we supposed to make a buck if the government is undercutting us at every turn?" seed companies complained. By the end of the century, free seeds were (mostly) a thing of the past.

Seed companies pie chart

Fast forward ahead to the early twenty-first century, when three companies controlled 72% of world seed sales. Various types of patents now prevent you from selling patented varieties or (in the case of utility patents based on patented DNA) even saving seeds for your own use. In fact, the Community Food Initiatives staff were surprised to learn that seed swapping --- that staple of backyard gardeners in which no money changes hands --- is technically against Ohio law in many instances.

So what's a gardener to do? Mary Nally's advice is to work on changing that law. The Recomended Uniform State Seed Law (RUSSL for short) is a third-party ethical model that allows seed swaps, seed libraries, and seed banks while still protecting the economic system that makes the production of new varieties viable. Several states have already replaced outdated legislation with RUSSL-based standards. Perhaps Ohio will be next?

Posted Tue Jan 23 07:00:12 2018 Tags:
Diesel fuel supplement.

Once we got the frozen Kubota X900 warmed up and started I added a diesel fuel supplement product to help prevent another fuel line freeze up.

It got below freezing for a couple nights but still started without using a hair dryer to thaw the fuel line.

Posted Mon Jan 22 07:00:08 2018 Tags:
Snow shadows

Layer upon layer of snow fell last week, then we dipped into another deep freeze. Rather than turn our fingers to icicles, Mark and I spent most of the week inside, him unpacking and me catching up on items that had been hanging around at the bottom of my to-do list for many, many moons.

After I hit my usual word counts, I decided to try out the new technology that makes it easy to sell ebooks directly through our website rather than letting Amazon take their cut. Want to be a guinea pig to see whether the system is streamlined enough for prime time? You can save a buck on Homegrown Humus during the testing period using the button below:

Homegrown Humus
Ebook (epub and mobi)
103 pages
$2.49
(Check your email after buying for a Bookfunnel link)


Homegrown Humus is one of my favorite ebooks, full of tips on growing soil fertility for the price of a handful of seeds. You can read the reviews on Amazon...or just give it a try using the buttom above.

Don't dilly dally, though. I plan to raise the price at the end of the week. Enjoy!

Posted Sun Jan 21 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Kubota UTV RTV Vehicle Identification Number VIN.

One step in selling the Kubota X900 was matching up the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to the number on the certificate of ownership.

Put the dump bed in dump position and the sticker is just above the battery compartment.

Posted Sat Jan 20 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Food for thought series

One of the best things about living so close to a university is the free events we can access by simply feeding a parking meter. Professor Theresa Moran expanded our horizons with the movie Bugs --- all about edible insects --- last fall. And she started 2018 off with a bang by bringing in a duo of Ecuadorian researchers to regale us with information about seed-saving in the equatorial mountains.

Ecuadorian crops

Rommel Montúfar and Michael Ayala created a vivid image of small to mid-sized mountain communities in which conventional crops are pushing many traditional varieties out. Farmers (most of whom were in their sixties, subsisted primarily on farming, and tended 2.5 acres of ground or less) reported that their grandparents grew, on average, 83 types of crops in their gardens. The current generation, in contrast, grows about seven.

Why the change in focus? Farmers reported that locally saved seeds produced plants that were tastier, hardier...but less pretty, less productive, and less easy to sell to a national or international market. It's hard to stick to the old ways when new ways bring in immediate cash.

Types of Ecuadorian crops

Which isn't to say the outlook was all doom and gloom. There is still a strong culture of seed saving and sharing in Ecuador, the latter of which includes both swapping and simply giving seeds away. For example, an Ecuadorian farmer never goes to visit a neighbor empty-handed. Instead, she brings a basket full of the very best she has (often including seeds)...then is sent home with that same basket full of the very best her neighbors have to offer.

(I'm not using the term "she" to be politically correct here. About 60% of the farmers involved the duo's study were women.)

Traditional crop resurgence

There are also a few traditional crops that are gaining national and international importance, thus giving farmers a reason to plant them on a larger scale. You've most likely heard of quinoa (even though this seed was nearly unknown outside its traditional stronghold a few decades ago), blue agave is gaining wide appeal when fermented into tequila, and rocoto peppers are apparently the hot (pun intended) new pepper of choice.

My favorite part of the talk, though, was none of this. Instead, I feasted my eyes on images of fruits and vegetables I've never seen before. What a treat to enjoy an Ecuadorian breeze on a frigid Ohio day!

Posted Fri Jan 19 07:00:08 2018 Tags:
Cutting foam with a pocket knife.

After some trial and error we discovered the best way to trim the excess foam away on our trailer skirting project was a simple serrated pocket knife.

Dealing with the small foam crumbs is a problem when trying to clean up.

Posted Thu Jan 18 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Snow day sun

When it looks like this after lunch, we sometimes decide one hour out in the cold is enough. 

If you're similarly inclined and need some winter fluff to fill your snow days, perhaps you'd enjoy snagging my novel Verdant Magic while it's on sale? This is my most homesteader-friendly work of fiction --- there are witches and dragon shifters, but also gardens and goats. Enjoy!

Posted Wed Jan 17 07:00:14 2018 Tags:
Malco metal cutting shears.

We used the Malco Heavy Duty Turboshear to cut our metal to size.

It uses the power of any drill to cut up to 18 gauge galvanized steel.

I figured out the hard way that it does not cut when it's upside down.

Posted Tue Jan 16 07:00:14 2018 Tags:
Snow drift

Here's a puzzle for you --- if a snow drift builds up on the south side of the trailer when only the south and west sides are enclosed with skirting, what's the prevailing wind direction? (Guess now --- the answer is in the next paragraph!)

Snow drift dynamicsAccording to the University of Wyoming, the trailer is acting like a windbreak, allowing snow to build up on the downwind side of the barrier. So, during this storm at least, the winds came from the north. (Drat! We chose the wrong half of the trailer to enclose during our warm spell before the next storm hit.)

Is that the prevailing wind direction? I guess I'll have to pay attention to more snow drifts this winter and find out!

Posted Mon Jan 15 07:00:16 2018 Tags:
Sweeping snow


We left our snow shovel in Virginia, so Anna tackled our Level 3 Snow Emergency with a broom.
Posted Sun Jan 14 07:00:16 2018 Tags:

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