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Archive for the ‘Heritage Harvest Festival’ Category

Seed Swap table at the VA Biological Farming Conference.

Seed Swap table at VA Biological Farming Conference.

The terms Seedy Saturday and Seedy Sunday were not in my vocabulary until I was doing research for Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People. Seedy Saturday usually referred to an event in Canada and Seedy Sunday usually referred to an event in the United Kingdom, but not always. Seedy Saturdays, Sundays, or any day actually, are events that celebrate seeds. Seed sharing occurs there through vendors selling their seeds or individuals offering them for trade or give-away. You might also find presentations about seeds and gardening from people in the know, and maybe food for sale and music to enjoy.

The first Seedy Saturday occurred in Canada in 1990. It was a day of speakers and vendors. Sharon Rempel came up with the idea and was helped by her friends Roy Forster, Cathrine Gabriel, and Dan Jason. The goal of that day was to get the heritage varieties of seeds grown by home gardeners trialed and evaluated regionally, and a core collection of regionally adapted vegetables, fruits, and grains conserved and exchanged annually. Agronomists from the University of British Columbia were among those at the event. Seeds of Diversity Canada maintains a list of current seed sharing events here. You can find information about such events in the UK at www.seedysunday.org.

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Guidelines for how many seeds to take.

With additional events scheduled besides seed sharing, Seedy Saturdays and Seedy Sundays in Canada and the UK are more than just seed swaps. It is likely that you may find very small seed companies there, as well as large well-known ones. Each seed event is operated a little differently. What I am most familiar with are seed swaps that are part of a larger event where seeds are not the main topic. I have participated in seed swaps when I have attended the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, the Virginia Biological Farming Conference, and the Mother Earth News Fairs around the country. These swaps are sponsored by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE). At the Mother Earth News Fairs, additional sponsors may be High Mowing Seeds, Organic Seed Alliance, and Seed Savers Exchange. A table is set up, covered with a nice cloth, and seeds and supplies are set out. It begins with seeds that SESE has to share, but is open to seeds anyone else wants to offer for free. Conference and Fair goers can help themselves, within limits, of course, without contributing seeds of their own. There is a list of guidelines to help you decide how many to take. Here in the U.S. the last Saturday in January is designated as National Seed Swap Day. You can find a list of seed swaps around the country here. If your seed swap is not on the list, consider having it added so others in your area can find you.

Seeds are foremost in the minds of gardeners in January. The seed catalogs have been arriving for weeks and you have begun to make up your list of things you want to order. However, you need to know what you already have before you order more seeds, or acquire them in a seed swap, so take an inventory. In my book Grow a Sustainable Diet there is a link to worksheets, one of them for a seed inventory. That form is also on the companion CD that comes with my Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan DVD. I designed it with columns for information I like to refer to, but actually, you can make an inventory by writing down on notebook paper what seeds you have on hand and how much of each variety. I did it that way for many years.

Joseph Lofthouse sharing his seeds at Seed School.

Joseph Lofthouse sharing his seeds at Seed School.

When you inventory your seeds you may find that you have too much of something or that you have seeds for things you will never get around to planting. If you have some of these extra seeds, check their germination rate, particularly if they are a few years old. If they are still viable, you have something to share and you could pass them on to someone else at a seed swap. Here in the U.S. we have opportunities to share seeds all year long through seed libraries, without waiting to attend a seed swap. Seed swaps, by the way, don’t have to be once a year events. They can be scheduled as often as you can find people who are interested in coming.

Whether you are planning on participating in a seed swap or a seed library, you will find great information to help with those activities in my upcoming book Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People.  If there are no seed swaps or seed libraries in your neighborhood, consider starting one. You could get together with friends to share seeds and grow your event from there. The more we share our seeds with others, the more we are ensuring that they will stay a part of our community food systems. Like love, the more you give it away, the more it comes back to you.Homeplace Earth

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home-hhf-2013There are two exciting events coming up in September that I want to tell you about. I’ll be at both of them as a speaker and in the Homeplace Earth booth. The 7th annual Heritage Harvest Festival will be held at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia on September 6 and 7, 2013. The Mother Earth News Fair will be at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania September 20-22.

The Heritage Harvest Festival is hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in partnership with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. On Friday September 6 all the activities take place at the LEED-certified Visitors Center. On Saturday September 7 the action is at the Visitors Center and up on the mountain on the grounds surrounding Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. Jefferson was a champion for small farmers and for innovative ways. What an appropriate place for such a celebration!

At the Heritage Harvest Festival you will have an opportunity to learn about many things, listen to some great music, and mingle with like-minded folks. There will be workshops and presentations on growing food, fermentation, seed saving, homestead animals, and other topics of interest for people seeking a more sustainable lifestyle.  Some of the authors who will be speaking include Pam Dawling, Patricia Foreman, Ira Wallace, Harvey Ussery, and Barbara Pleasant. The title of my presentation both days is Grow a Sustainable Diet. There is a seed swap that you can participate in even if you don’t bring seeds to swap. One of the varieties of cowpeas that I grow originally came from there one year. There will be booths from vendors and organizations. Look for the Homeplace Earth booth in the large Master Gardeners tent.

MENFairLogoThis is the fourth year for the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania. In 2013 Mother Earth News has also held a fair in Puyallup, Washington in June and will hold one in Lawrence, Kansas in October. You will find workshops and presentations on animal husbandry, green building, modern homesteading, natural health, nature and community, organic gardening, real food, and renewable energy. My presentations will be on Grow a Sustainable Diet and Solar Food Drying. Some of the presenters are authors of books from New Society Publishers, Storey Publishing, Timber Press, and Chelsea Green. There are many more presenters who, although not authors, have interesting ideas to share. You will find vendors here, of course, giving you an opportunity to see products you may only have read about and to talk with people who know about them. The Homeplace Earth booth is #2209. When I’m not speaking, that’s where I’ll be.

There will be thousands of people at both of these events. If you are planning to attend either one, and need lodging, it would be wise to make your reservations now. It is exciting for people like me, who are presenting, to meet so many people eager to hear what we have to say. Likewise, it is exciting for the people who attend to have the opportunity to meet so many people all in one place who they may have only read about. Yes, you can read the books and blogs and watch YouTube videos for hours, but actually seeing someone in person talking about what they do is inspiring. You can really connect with their passion when you attend their presentation or talk with them in their booth.

Most people I know are watching their pocketbook and trying not to spend more money than they have to these days, and there is a cost to these events. Considering how much you could learn in a weekend, however, these events are a bargain. If you feel the need to economize, pack a lunch. Check out the schedules ahead and plan your time carefully. You can pre-order tickets to the Mother Earth News Fair to save a few dollars.

Over the years I have learned so much from others by reading their books and magazine articles. I have valued the opportunities to meet them in person and hear them speak, adding another dimension to my learning. The diversity of ideas and people floating around at these events are something you don’t want to miss. See you there!Homeplace Earth

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dried food in jars-2012-BLOGThis is my third summer using solar food dryers and they have become a firm part of my food preservation plan. Of course, the biggest aspect of my plan is to need as little preservation as possible. So, we eat as much as we are able to out of the garden all year. Next is to grow crops that pretty much store themselves. That would be things like onions, garlic, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, hazelnuts, and peanuts. Some things are fermented, particularly cucumbers and cabbage. I’ve had a huge jar of dill pickles on my kitchen counter for most of the summer, sort of like what you might see in a deli. We take pickles out whenever we want. Some of the snap beans get salted in a crock. The rest of the snap beans and extra tomatoes are canned. 

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Principe Borghese tomatoes

The crop that I dry the most is tomatoes. There are varieties that are better suited for this and I’ve been growing some. Principe Borghese (preen-see-pee bore-gay-zee) has been the most prolific so far. I had a harvest of about 75 pounds from the plants that grew along a 16’ livestock panel. Principe Borghese is a determinate variety, pumping out the whole harvest in 5-6 weeks. The seed catalog says the days to maturity for this variety is 78 days, however, I’ve found my harvest begins at about 60 days from transplanting and I had my first tomatoes before July 4th this year, without even trying.  These tomatoes look like large cherry tomatoes. Sometimes I cut them in half to dry and sometimes I cut them in quarters. 

I also grew Hungarian Paste tomatoes, another determinate variety. I began harvesting these about 18 days later than Principe Borghese and picked for only 4 weeks. That was too short of a harvest window for me, but the blister beetles had moved in on the plants. This variety is similar to Roma and Amish Paste. I had some trouble with blossom end rot on the first flush this year, which might have been caused by weird weather; however, blossom end rot has been a problem with this type of paste tomato on the first flush in my garden in other years.  I’ve had my soil tested and calcium deficiency is not the problem.

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Long Tom tomatoes

A new variety, for me at least, is Long Tom, an indeterminate. I only have a few plants and they were put in late, but I’m really impressed with the tomatoes I’m getting. It could be due to the bed they are in, but these meaty tomatoes have been weighing 4 ounces each! If you don’t like seeds in your dried tomatoes, this is the variety to grow. I’ll pay more attention to Long Toms next year. All these varieties and more are available through the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog.

The list of things I’ve dried in my solar dryers is: apples, cabbage, celery, collards, grapes, kale, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsley, peaches, peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. I’ve dried snap beans, but I found we just don’t eat them. They are good, however, reconstituted in chicken broth. One of the good things about drying is that you don’t need to have the quantity that you need when you are canning. You can put small amounts of this and that in the dryers. I’ve found that I can salt the snap beans in a crock and add to it over the next couple weeks as the harvest comes in, otherwise if I had a small amount, they’d go in the dryer.

SW trays open-BLOGASU dryer inside-BLOGI have two dryers and each have special features. One, the SunWorks model, exposes the food to the sun. Historically, that’s how things were dried, lying out in the sun. The larger model, based on plans developed by Appalachian State University (ASU), does not expose the food to the sun. If I’m drying mushrooms, I put them in the SunWorks dryer since mushrooms really develop a lot of vitamin D when exposed to the sun. If I’m drying collards or kale, I put them in the ASU dryer. The greens dry quickly in either one, but they stay greener out of the sun. I built the SunWorks dryer with an electric backup option. I played with that a little that first year, but haven’t plugged it in since. If the weather takes a turn and it rains, I just leave the food in until the sun comes back out and it dries. When drying is complete, I put the food in glass canning jars and store them on shelves in my pantry. Of course, if the weather promises to be rainy and damp for days, which is the pattern we seem to be in at the moment, I resort to canning.

You can find more information about my solar dryers at my blog posts Solar Food Dryers and Solar Food Dryers-Update. The Solar Food Dryer, a book by Eben Fodor, was my guide in making the SunWorks dryer. A good book to refer to in handling the food is Making & Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson. I’ll have both books for sale at my booth at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello on September 15 and at the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania on September 21-23. I’ll also be speaking on Solar Food Drying at both events.  See you there!

 

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