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Saturday, September 01, 2018

It's Autumn season and I'm thinking about Spring

Saving Seeds. . .

The air has a nip in it, and some leaves are already turning that familiar hue. . .autumn is nearly upon us.  It's that time of year when I start thinking about spring. . .well, sort of.

Now is the time to save seeds for spring. I intentionally don't pick a few pods of my beans and peas so they dry on the plant, and then once they dry, I pick the pods and save the seeds for the following spring. I also harvest the seeds from my peppers, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes for the following spring.

Dried heirloom beans on the vine Harvesting the seeds Placing them in  package for next spring: "Littlefield special"

I mainly grow heirloom or heritage seeds. . .What's so special about them? Let me tell you.  But before I do, let's just clarify a few terms. Sometimes people get their botanical jargon regarding seeds, mixed up. So let me quickly explain:

Heirloom/ Heritage seeds: These are old strains of seeds, some dating back centuries, that have been passed down by a family or community. Let's take a cucumber for example: When you aquire heirloom cucumber seeds, you plant the seed, and the cucumbers that you harvest serve a dual purpose: 1) to eat and be nourished; and 2) save seeds for the following year. Basically, the saved seed, when planted the following year, grows true. Meaning, it grows the same variety as the parent plant. It continues to reproduce its own.

Hybrid:A hybrid seed is a result of cross-pollination. Again, let's take a cucumber as an example. A seed company might desire the taste of one strain and the early sprouting of another strain of cucumber, and thus, cross-pollinate them to receive the benefits of both. (Kind of like cross-breeding dogs) While the hybrid has obvious benefits, and is still natural, it's seed will not grow true. Meaning, it's seed will either exhibit characteristics of one of its parents, not produce any fruit, or may not grow at all. (I've tried!)

GMO (Genetically modified organisms): GMO is different than a hybrid plant--hybrid occurs in nature all the time. Genetically modifying a plant is infusing a synthetic gene in a seed so as to produce some kind of characteristic perceived as beneficial.  It might infuse a chemical-resistant gene in a seed so the crop can be sprayed with a herbicide or pesticide, and then the resulting plant becomes resistant to the chemical where it would have died otherwise. Or it can be infusing synthetic genes in a seed to increase shelf life, appearance, etc. My family doctor, after giving me a lecture about Vitamin C, told me about a GMO apple that has an infused fish gene in it so as to prolong shelf life and prevent browning. {Ever notice that apples you eat now don't get brown as quickly as the one's you had for lunch as a kid?} Now the reason she told me about that, is because those apples have 40% less Vitamin C than their natural counterparts. Crazy! I since then did some researach and found out that there's a lot of "fishy food" in the produce aisle (go ahead and do your research)! You see, GMO food is generally not modified for nutrition, its modified for utilitarian purposes.  When I eat my food, I want it nourish me in its natural God-given form. To say it simply, I want nourishing food. (Side note: You can understand, why I as a  Canadian, want my food in the supermarket to be labelled if it is GMO. It should be a basic right to know)

Heirloom cucumber on a vine Harvesting the seeds Saving seeds for next spring and drying on a plate: "Improved Long Green"

This is why I feel so privileged to participate in growing heirloom seeds and saving seeds. . .

1) Nourishment & Quality: When I'm saving seeds and growing them, I'm growing food for what it was intented--to nourish me wholly. For example, the beans that I grow are rich in magnesium, folate, iron, phosphorus, thiamin and iron. They're not genetically modified and altered for some utilitarian reason, no, they're potent with life-giving nutrition.

2) Rhythm of Life: I'm connected to history when I save seeds. Seed saving is something that my ancestors practiced. They brought seeds over when they emmigrated to Canada because of the inherent connection to life. There were no seed catalogues neatly tucked into their mailbox early February. No, they had to ensure they had saved seeds from the previous year, or they would perish. Seed saving is a practice that has nearly been lost, or perhaps better said, it's a intuition we have buried {no pun intended}.  This is skill or intuition that I want to nurture within my child as he grows. This is something I want him to know before he's 18. My desire is that when the autumn air arouses his senses, he's thinking about more than acquiring a pumpkin-spiced latte, he's thinking about participating in a rhythm of life. . .

3) It encourages localism: Local food is grown for full flavour, nutrient content, and preservation of heritage seeds--encouraging biodiversity. Whereas "travelled" food is grown based on its efficacy in production and growth, how well it travels, and its appearance when it hits the market. (You can see how the need for GMO becomes apparent here.) In fact, these utilitarian factors influence the choice of food available at a conventional supermarket negating the value and potency that real and historically-rich food offers. Conventional travelled food is pre-selected for consumers based on criterion devoid of factors that would naturally influence food selection. For example, a green pepper in the supermarket will be bred for its aesthetic qualities like colour, shine, and how well it travels--but not nourishment! These restrictive criterions discourage biodiversity. Small farms and gardens have the privilege of growing history-rich heritage seeds, sharing seeds, encouraging biodiversity, and employing sustainable practices that encourage beneficial insects, birds, and microorganisms.

4. It's the path of simplicity. It is simple. Not covenient.  In my journey I am discovering that a great deal of true joy is rooted in simplicity.

Heirloom Tomatoes on the Extracting the seeds Drying the seeds. Once dry I place in my labelled envelope: "San Marzano"

Do I save save seeds from all my plants?

No, I'm a semi-novice. I save seeds that are visibly apparent and require little skill, e.g. cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, squash, cilantro, etc.  I don't save seeds of radishes, lettuce, carrots, etc where the seeds are more delicate. I'm sure I could learn, but I'm content with my current rhythm of simplicity--it suits me in my busy stage of life.  I purchase the more delicate seeds from companies that have sustainable gardening practices.

How do I harvest/save the seeds?

Believe it or not, I've never researched this. I just follow my intuition on this.

  • I simply extract the seed from the matured (make sure it is really ripened) pod or fruit.
  • I let the seeds fully dry on a plate or paper bag (depending on the size of the seed) in a dark cupboard. I've also heard some say that tomato seeds need to be fermented. So do your research on tomato seeds. I've been able to grow tomotoes without the fermentation process.
  • Finally, I place the dried seeds in a labelled envelope for the following spring--storing them in a cool dry place.
  • Not sure if that's correct, but it works for me!

A Few Other Notes:

  • Tomotoes are a great plant from which to save seeds as they self-pollinating, meaning they don't cross pollinate with other tomatoes.
  • If you grow cross-pollinating heirloom plants, make sure to grow them apart from each other, so you keep your heirloom strain pure.

Where did I aquire my heritage heirloom seeds?

So glad you asked. . .

I've been patronizing Heritage Harvest Seeds (located in Carmen, MB) for the past number of years. They have some of the best selections of heirloom seeds in North America. I enjoy browsing their online catalogue and reading the history behind the seeds. Seeds really tell an amazing story! When I read about them, I always want to be part of the story. . .

I also patronize Sage Garden Greenhouse (located in Winnipeg, MB).  My spring cannot officially begin until I breathe in the scent of all their herbs. . .it's intoxicating. I love that place!  Sage Garden Greenhouse is the only Winnipeg garden centre that uses 100% natural fertilizers and 100% non-toxic pest management on all the plants they grow.  They sell seeds, herbs, vegetable plants, wild & native flowers, and much more.

Heirloom Spaghetti Squash Extracting Seeds for next year Drying seeds in a paper bag. Once dry, I store in my small envelope: "Spaghetti Squash"

Will you be saving any seeds this fall? If so, what kind? Tell us your story. . .

Posted by Wholly Canadian at 12:00 AM 2 Comments

Friday, August 29, 2014

Front Porch Song: Feed the Birds

My front window has a story . .. Come on and grab a chair, neighbour, and listen in!

A few months ago my Aunt Sara (whom I was named after in my middle name), and former school teacher, encouraged me to set up some bird feeders for my baby to watch. I loved the idea. . .and the challenge. My mind immediately began spinning. . .how can I make this project full of shalom? I knew this would be a worthy project, because it is year-round and not just a summer venture.

Remember Wholly Canadian’s shopping paradigm of goodwill? Well, I incorporated it, and excited to share how. . .

Buying Local - Canadian:

I was so pleased to find many of the items on my wish-list made in Canada. And immensely enjoyed the journey of locating them.

  • Braecrest Design birdhouse. . . I got a Braecrest birdfeeder to match my house’s green shingles.
    • These artisans, from Winnipeg, came to deliver it to me personally at no extra charge. What incredible, friendly service. And they have no idea I am blogging about them. I love that. . .when people deliver good service without knowledge that they will receive public praise.

  • Three-arm garden hanger--sold by Lee Valley Tools
    • Made in Canada, I like that this hanger has multiple hook options. Also, very elegant.
    • I have to say I have simply enjoyed the customer service at Lee Valley Tools. Such friendly people with all kinds of tidbits to share.  It actually feels like a neighbourhood. The one man I met (who wasn’t helping me directly) just started chatting, telling me about this pony of his in the Maritimes, that escaped his pen, and ate from his bird feeder. He looked like “Heidi’s” grandpa with his long grey beard. I found out that he's into wood crafting.  {It made me smile} Another woman told me about her challenge with squirrels, and soon there were a few employees all gathered giving me tips. (I had not idea at the time what a challenge squirrels would be--but more on that later). It was like a conversation over coffee.
  • Victorian Scroll Wall Bracket--to hang my hummingbird feeder

    • I purchased this at Lee Valley Tools. I appreciate their emphasis on retailing so many made-in-Canada products.This bracket is made of strong cast aluminum--tough but still light.  And I love its traditional flair.

Buying used/ upcycling:

  • Vintage Canning Jar Feeder:
    • This upcycled bird feeder I found on Etsy. It’s main component is a canning jar. It amused me, because I am known for all my vintage canning jars. It's a great example of re-purposing.
    • This one happens to be the most popular feeder at this time. . .


Buying Fair-Trade:

  • Coconut bird feeder:
    • I bought this tear drop bird-feeder from Ten Thousand Villages. Crafted from a coconut shell--it not only is upcycled but pays fair wages to the artisan--love this double whammy of goodwill!

Curiosity and goodwill go hand-in-hand. People always say, everything is made in _____. Here's just one project that paints a different picture. 

Get curious--get curious about the journey behind your projects. Quick purchases are inherently connected with consumerism. And consumerism is about "me" not about "we." Give a fair trade to those around you--whether local or international. Get curious! Delight in purchases of goodwill!

Also check out Ten Thousand Village's plant & garden tools. We love our terracotta plant watering sticks.


Now about the squirrels (as promised). . .we live in a nutty neighbourhood with many of these squirrelly critters, due to the old oak trees that surround us.   First I thought, being new to bird feeding, surely they won’t crawl up this tiny pole. . .yup, they did. And managed to clear the entire buffet. They tipped over every bird feeder except the squirrel-proof coconut feeder.  My baby was supposed to learn about birds, not squirrels! But that’s not all, they left a huge mess on the ground by tipping the feeders. . .and then the seeds started sprouting in my flowerbed, and making tons of work! For a day or two, we watched their antics, and I tried to make this educational. We are currently reading about Peter Rabbit and his friends, and so I pointed out “Squirrel Nutkin” and taught my baby the sign for squirrel. But these antics only amuse to a certain point, and then, you’re fed up (no pun intended).

So, I went back to Lee Valley and bought the squirrel baffle (made in the USA).  The squirrels were baffled--temporarily. They had a new scheme. They climbed up the post of our front porch and made a giant leap above the baffle, grabbing any feeder they could.  What a mess! The seeds flew--and the plants grew. (I was more shocked than amused at this point)

So, after several days of watching this new escapade, we moved the hanger further away from the porch. I didn’t want it too far so it was out of sight, and didn’t want it too near the neighbouring tree as another means to the feeder, and of course not near the porch post. It was a delicate balance.

It worked. And now I was highly amused. The squirrels stood on my front porch post and tried to psych themselves up. . .they would twitch their tails, do a little dance, do the hokey pokey and turn themselves around, all the while imagining the delicacies awaiting them. . .But they couldn’t bring themselves to jump!  Have you ever been in that same position? “Any moment now, any moment now, I will jump . . .” You tell yourself to move, and nothing happens! Ah yes, did I already say, I was amused?  I had outsmarted them--and it felt good. Temporarily.

Then one morning I saw a squirrel (I have no idea if this is the same squirrel. . .I’m no expert on identifying squirrels), on one of my feeders--making a huge mess. I charged out yelling--and this squirrel leaped for his life. I was in disbelief.  I watched out my window to see how this occurred. How had they out-squirreled me again? What I observed, minutes later, did amuse me. Their tenacity and agility is second to none. I saw a squirrel gather speed, run straight under the baffle (I thought he --or was it a she--would get a concussion), and then at the last second reach out one of his arms around the baffle (a really, really long reach), and with just a single claw, extend his arm far enough around to hang on the weave of my coconut bird feeder by what appeared to be a mere thread. And then in a second he was next to his favourite feeder--the wooden house--tipping it upside down.  I was in disbelief--baffled actually. The squirrel baffle was baffling me.  This trick was no accident--it was mindful intentionality exemplified.

But I was not done. I would not to be outsmarted. I had come too far. It was time for me to be intentional. My baby was going to watch birds! I moved the bird feeders around, so that the squirrels could not latch on to the weave of the coconut feeder.I put the coconut feeder on the highest hook. And it has worked--so far.  But I’m sure they’re devising a new scheme. But in the meantime, my baby and I are watching birds. I often face his highchair towards the window so he can watch . . . and then I sign bird for him, and a feeling of deep contentment washes over me. The joy of this project has been hard-earned. . .so much that I can nearly break into song: “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. . .” (Mary Poppins)

The view from inside. . .

But this mama thinks this view is so much better!

Do you feed the birds?

Do you a have story?  A song?

How have you incorporated any of Wholly Canadian’s paradigm of goodwill into a project? Leave a comment and share!

Posted by Wholly Canadian at 4:53 AM 1 Comments