I am writing this from within the COP26 Blue Zone, in the middle of a day full of meetings with Governments and partner organisations all interested in applying and scaling the ecovillage model in different ways. GEN is at COP26 to create visibility for the ecovillage approach to a sustainable present and future, to nurture …
I thought that you might be interested in the two photos that I attach and which were inspired by your 2015 article on Fruit walls.
Living outside Dunblane in central Scotland, I have long wanted to be able to grow fruits, such as grapes, figs and perhaps peaches, that would not normally be successful here so a lean-to greenhouse seemed the only solution. However, as I would be erecting the greenhouse in an open field the wall had constructed as well. Some years ago I visited the walled garden at Meggich Castle, some 50km north-east of here, and saw various old apple and especially pear trees growing in the much neglected walled garden there (I believe that they have started on a scheme to plant new fruit trees from the old stock). However, reproducing such a walled garden, about 100 m square with walls 5 m tall, was an impossible (and impossibly expensive) task, so I looked online and found your article.
I was much taken with the photo in the article of a serpentine wall in the Netherlands, and so decided to copy the idea, and you can see the result in my photos. The wall is 30 m in length and averages 3 m in height (it has to be stepped because of the slope in the field) and tapers from 40 cm thick at the base to 30 cm at the top. It is made from local stone, a form of red sandstone, some of which I lifted from the field when it was ploughed many years ago, and the rest from an old building in a nearby village. The building was a former smiddy (the Scots term; it is smithy in England) and you can see in the second photo two metal rings embedded in the stone of the nearest column which I believe would have been used to tie up horses when they were having new shoes fitted. I hasten to add that it was two local stonemasons that I employed for the construction, and not me!
I am now waiting for some paving slabs to be laid around the greenhouse and then I need to buy some trees. I already have five apple trees in my garden which usually do quite well though this year late frosts meant only the last two to come into blossom yielded any fruit; plums have not been successful and I have replaced them with pears. I hope that the new wall will provide enough shelter to grow quince and mulberry, amongst others.
I have recently come across others locally who have successfully grown grapes and one with a large conservatory with a vine on the south side and a peach on the north, both some 30 years old. This last I saw in the spring as part of the Scotland’s Gardens Scheme where people open up their gardens to the public, with the entrance fees going to charity. Usually they are just the gardens of the wealthy, but sometimes several residents of a village will all open their small gardens on the one day. https://scotlandsgardens.org/
It is surprising how many walled gardens remain in the UK; they were originally used to grow fruit and vegetables to feed the owners of large houses and their staff, but after the First World War, when staff shortages became common (many having been killed in the war), the gardens often fell into disrepair. However, over the past few years many are being restored and used as intended. This is no doubt helped by the gardening programs on UK TV, especially as some of the presenters have acquired walled gardens themselves from where they present their programs.
Once again, thank you for your article and indeed for your splendid website.
The post Global Shortage of Commercial Fertilizers Will Affect the Already Struggling Food Supply Chain appeared first on The Organic Prepper.
Here’s our off-line portal to the solar powered website at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Designed and built in collaboration with Marie Verdeil. We formed part of Arne Hendriks’ Hara Hachi Bu village, which celebrates the Japanese principle that enough is enough. “Eat until you are 80% full”.
The evidence clearly indicates that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction, but are there negative consequences?
Evidently, “the evidence clearly indicates that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction. Indeed, approximately 9% of those who experiment with marijuana will become addicted…The number goes up to about 1 in 6 among those who start using marijuana as teenagers and to 25 to 50% among those who smoke marijuana daily.”
By addiction, they’re talking about the colloquial definition of “an acquired, chronic, relapsing disorder that is characterized by a powerful motivation to continually engage in an activity despite persistent negative consequences.” You may want to stop, but when you try, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that make it hard to quit. I discuss marijuana addiction in my video Is Marijuana Addictive?.
This withdrawal syndrome, which affects around 50 percent of daily users, typically begins one to two days after stopping and peaks at two to six days. The “craving, sleep problems, nightmares, anger, irritability, dysphoria [unease] and nausea” go away after one or two weeks.
“Marijuana continues to have the reputation…as being benign, non-habit-forming, and incapable of inducing true addiction. For most users this may be so.” As you can see at 1:20 in my video, 9 percent of users become dependent, making cannabis less addictive than many other drugs, such as alcohol. It has only about half the dependence risk compared with heroin or cocaine and is less than a third as habit-forming as tobacco. But, 9 percent, “one in 11 users—1 in 6 for those starting in their early teens—is hardly an inconsequential percentage,” given that about 20 million Americans actively use marijuana.
However, not all varieties are equally addictive. High potency strains have been “associated with a greater severity of cannabis dependence,” but that’s the type people prefer.
This is not your grandmother’s grass. On the basis of 38,000 samples of marijuana confiscated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the potency has tripled in recent years, from 4 percent THC to around 12 percent, as you can see at 2:09 in my video. The THC in marijuana from Denver and California is now approximately 15 percent, and it pushes 20 percent in cannabis from Seattle. In fact, “the THC content of marijuana strains has increased by 15-fold since 1970s.” Today’s pot is like 15 joints all rolled up into one.
Don’t users know this and titrate their dose accordingly, using less of the more potent pot? Yes, but they don’t compensate fully, so they end up getting higher doses, which is perhaps reflected in the increase in emergency room visits for marijuana intoxication in Colorado after legalization.
Parallels have been drawn with the tobacco industry intentionally boosting nicotine levels of their products to make them more addictive, but where that analogy breaks down is in the consequences of that addiction. As you can see at 3:03 in my video, tobacco kills 25 times more people worldwide every year than all illicit drugs combined, and alcohol kills about 10 times more. On its own, “cannabis contributes little to mortality,” so one has to consider the outcomes of substance dependence. Caffeine, for example, can be addictive, too, but if it gets you to drink more green tea, it’s a good thing. The consequences of consuming green tea leaves as opposed to marijuana leaves depends on the health consequences.
- About 9 percent of those who experiment with marijuana become addicted in the colloquial sense, and that number increases to approximately 25 to 50 percent among daily marijuana users.
- Withdrawal syndrome, which usually begins a day or two after stopping cannabis use and peaks at two to six days, affects about 50 percent of daily users. After one or two weeks, the cravings, sleep issues, anger, irritability, nausea, and other side effects may disappear.
- Cannabis is less addictive than many other drugs, including alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and tobacco, but approximately one in six who started using marijuana as teens become addicted.
- The more popular high-potency strains have been associated with a greater severity of cannabis dependence.
- Potency has tripled in recent years, and the THC content of some strains has increased 15-fold since the 1970s.
- Parallels have been drawn between the cannabis and tobacco industries intentionally boosting levels of THC and nicotine, respectively, to make them more addictive, but, whereas tobacco kills 25 times the number of people each year than all illicit drugs combined, “cannabis contributes little to mortality.”
Next in my series on cannabis is Does Marijuana Cause Health Problems?.
I’ve produced a whole treasure chest of videos on cannabis available on a DVD—Cannabis: What Does the Science Say.
Other videos on cannabis include:
- The Institute of Medicine Report on the Health Effects of Marijuana
- Researching the Health Effects of Marijuana
- Does Marijuana Cause Schizophrenia?
- The Institute of Medicine Report on the Health Effects of Marijuana
- The Effects of Marijuana on Fertility and Pregnancy
- The Effects of Marijuana on Car Accidents
- Pesticides in Marijuana
- Does Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer?
- Smoking Marijuana vs. Using a Cannabis Vaporizer
- Effects of Smoking Marijuana on the Lungs
- Effects of Marijuana on Weight Gain and Bone Density
- Marijuana Legalization and the Opioid Epidemic
- Does Marijuana Cause Permanent Brain Damage in Adults?
- Does Marijuana Cause Permanent Brain Damage in Teens?
- Does Marijuana Cause Strokes and Heart Attacks?
- Will Cannabis Turn into Big Tobacco?
- Cannabis for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Are Cannabis Edibles Safe?
- Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?
Speaking of parallels with the tobacco industry, check out:
- Animal Protein Compared to Cigarette Smoking
- American Medical Association Complicity with Big Tobacco
- Big Food Using the Tobacco Industry Playbook
- Collaboration with the New Vectors of Disease
- How Smoking in 1959 Is Like Eating in 2019
Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:
- 2019: Evidence-Based Weight Loss
- 2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers
- 2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet
- 2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food
- 2013: More Than an Apple a Day
- 2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death
My first impression of COP26 is that the energy here in Glasgow is very intense. I’ve bounced between feeling small and then, suddenly, very empowered, embracing my opportunities to be an individual who is part of the collective solution to the climate change emergency. My name is Irene, I’m now volunteering for GEN International’s Communications …
The post GEN at COP26: Collective solution to the climate change emergency appeared first on Global Ecovillage Network.
This Crock Pot Au Gratin Potatoes recipe is one of our most popular recipes around the holidays. Thinly sliced potatoes that are layered in a homemade cheese sauce and cooked …
The post Crock Pot Au Gratin Potatoes – A Classic Holiday Side Dish Recipe appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.
If you enjoy grilling outdoors, eggplant is a must in the homestead garden. Companion planting and a bit of effort will help ensure a bountiful harvest of succulent, sun-blessed orbs. During the height of the summer season, you will harvest several eggplants a week. Plant a few more, and they are a profitable cash crop to sell at the fresh market.What Is Companion Planting?
Numerous horticulture research studies support the age-old wisdom of companion planting. Companion planting is a gardening method of placing plants that support and encourage the growth and well-being of other plants, close to each other.
Companion planting brings diversity and harmony to the homestead garden. The intermingling of compatible plants presents a diverse array of benefits. Companion planting helps control weeds, attracts pollinators to the garden, offers shade and shelter, conserves soil moisture, and wards off harmful insect pests and disease.
Environmentally and health-conscious gardeners cultivate organically grown foods: eggplant is no exception. Wishing to avoid exposure to toxic herbicides and pesticides, they choose to practice gardening methods that rely on nature, common sense, and a vigilant attitude to manage their garden production. Companion planting is a key ingredient in an overall gardening modality that is good for people, pets, plants, and the planet.Best Companion Plants For Eggplant
For centuries, in many parts of the world, eggplant was grown strictly as an ornamental plant for its attractive foliage and eye-catching fruits. Within the flowerbeds, eggplant was paired with companion flowering plants.
Mexican marigold, nasturtium, snapdragons, and sunflowers repel aphids, white flies, flea beetles and ants. Nasturtium is also an excellent dense ground cover as well as a vining edible plant that ward off many types of crop-munching insects. Both the flowers and the leaves of nasturtiums are consumed in salads or used as an attractive plate garnish.Eggplants growing alongside a companion plant, tomatoes. Karen and Brad Emerson / Flickr (Creative Commons)
Legumes (peas and beans) enhance garden soil by converting nitrogen in the air, into nitrogen in the soil. Planting bush beans next to eggplants is also an effective method of keeping the Colorado potato beetle from decimating the garden crop. If you plant trellis growing peas or beans, be sure to plant them in a location where they will not shade eggplant: eggplant demands full sun for optimum growth, texture, and flavor.
Hot peppers are a good neighbor to eggplant and most other garden vegetables. Hot peppers emit a chemical from the plant roots that helps prevent Fusarium, root rot, and a wide range of other plant diseases.
Eggplant can be somewhat prone to insect attacks. Strongly scented herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, horehound, oregano, sage, basil, tarragon, and all varieties of mint help repel insect invaders repulsed by the pungent herbal scent emitted by the herbs. Thyme is especially effective against garden moths and aphids.
Savvy homesteaders plant herbs for medicinal and culinary use, to protect other plants, to attract pollinators, and to sell as a cash crop at their local farmer’s market.
Catnip is another plant that will keep flea beetles from infesting your garden. However, catnip negatively impacts he growth and development of peas and beans, so keep these two combative plants apart from each other.
Eggplant and spinach are good companions as the taller eggplant shades tender young spinach while spinach helps conserve moisture in the soil while suppressing weeds. Spinach is an attractive edible ground cover in any sunny location in the garden.
Potatoes, tomatoes, tomallitos, and chili peppers, like eggplant, are all members of the nightshade family. As a family, they are compatible and supportive companion plants to commingle with eggplant.About Eggplant
Native to China and India, eggplant (known as aubergine in the U.K. and Europe) is part of the nightshade plant family Solanum melongena. Cultivated today for its tasty edible fruit, eggplant is a nutrient-rich vegetable packed full of nutrition, fiber, and flavor. In South America, the shiny purple summer vegetable is known as brinjal. Fairly easy to grow, eggplant can be enjoyed raw, cooked, steamed, sautéed, grilled, and fried.
Cultivated in China since the 5th century B.C., eggplant was a food staple in Africa before the middle ages. While early varieties of eggplant were rather bitter, newly developed varieties are sweet and creamy, making them an excellent addition to the homestead garden.
Today, China, Japan, Turkey, Egypt, and Italy are the largest growers and consumers of eggplant. Eggplant is an esteemed component of the Mediterranean diet and is a favored ingredient in many culinary preparations in France, Italy, and Greece. Eggplant presents a pleasing, slightly bitter taste and a soft, sponge-like texture.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) is a close relative of potatoes, tomatoes, tomallitoes, goji berries, and peppers. For hundreds of years after eggplant’s introduction to Europe, the bitter nightshade plant was reserved as an attractive landscape decoration.
The fruit was considered poisonous and said to cause dementia and insanity. For centuries, tomatoes carried the same undeserved erroneous reputation as a poisonous plant.
Eggplant is available in a diverse array of cultivars including a wide range of hybrids. An edible ornamental plant, eggplant is typically a purplish-black in color and elongated or teardrop shaped.Tips For Growing Eggplant
Propagated from seed, eggplant does best when started from transplants. A cold-sensitive plant, eggplant should not be set out in the garden until the soil has warmed and all danger of frost is passed.
Similar to tomatoes, eggplants suffer injury at low temperatures and fails to flourish until soil temperatures warms. Before moving transplants outdoors, it is important that seedlings be hardened off by reducing temperature and water.
When planting eggplant, choose a sunny location with loamy, well-drained fertile soil. Eggplant isn’t too picky, and will manage to grow in most garden conditions as long as the days are warm with plenty of sunshine.Eggplant grows at Snug Harbor Heritage Farm on Staten Island. Kristine Paulus / Flickr (Creative Commons)
To prepare the soil for planting eggplant, work the soil well, removing rocks and roots. Eggplant is a heavy feeder. Before planting, integrate a generous amount or organic compost or well-aged herbivore manure (e.g. sheep, goat, horse, or cow) into the soil to add additional nitrogen and other vital nutrients.
Like other members of the nightshade family of plants, eggplant presents a sturdy vine with fruits hanging from it much like tomatoes. The eggplant reaches several feet in height at maturity. Plant seedlings approximately two feet apart in a row. Space rows three feet apart.
Once established, eggplant is fairly drought tolerant, thriving in the heat of summer. However, for optimum production, flavor, and texture, provide the plants with a minimum of one inch of water per week. To do its best, eggplant requires six to eight weeks of nighttime temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.Eggplants Need Structural Support
As your plants mature, you will soon see why eggplant needs support. Eggplant can grow up to six feet tall. The ripe fruit is large and heavy.
Fruits vary in size, with larger varieties producing fruit that weighs up to a pound each. Without support, heavily laden plants bend and break. Keeping the fruit, especially elongated varieties, up off the ground helps prevent plant disease, defines fruit shape, and makes harvesting easier. Anticipate an abundant crop when choosing support (cages or trellis work well) or staking for your eggplants.Harvesting Eggplant
When selecting eggplants for harvest, fruits should be solid and heavy for their size. No matter the variety or if the mature fruit is white, purple or green, the skin should be smooth and shiny without evident bruising or decay.
To determine if the fruit is ready for harvest, gently press the fruit with the pad of your thumb. If the spot bounces back it is ready to pick. If the indentation remains, the fruit is not yet ripe. Eggplant tends to bruise easily. Handle gently when harvesting.Basil, flowers and eggplant harvested in the morning on May’s Flower’s in Sanger, California for the farmers market. Bob Nichols / USDA
Eggplant requires approximately 110 days to reach maturity. The crop is harvested across an extended period, until cold temperatures or the first frost inhibits growth.References
Watch Your Garden Grow – Eggplant, University of Illinois
Eggplant, Cornell University
Field Performance of Bt Eggplants (Solanum melongena L.) in the Philippines, US National Library of Medicine – National Institute of Health
Eggplant, University of Florida
I posted a few videos on chickens recently and discussed how nature LOVES to eat chicken and why free-ranging chickens does not work for us.
In response to one of them, commenter Florida Bullfrog wrote:
“No no no David. I’m going to issue you a challenge. I assert my chicken videos prove you wrong. If you’ve lost all or most of your chickens free ranging in a high predator environment, you’re raising defective chickens. There are plenty of predator resistant chicken breeds. Its just that the internet permi/homesteading culture is ignorant of them. You’re a victim of a limited knowledge base because many of the Youtube chicken people aren’t coming from a deep south, poor, backwoods culture that raised free range chickens for generations and lived off of them when it mattered. Don’t look to a hipster to teach you chickens. Look to some old man who comes from a backwoods farm. You already have this mentality with your gardening. Why not your livestock?”
Well now. When you get a comment like that, what are you supposed to do?
I took it as an interesting challenge, and asked him to share resources with me. He replied:
“If you want something to read, you’ll have to gleam snippets from old books that reference wild game chickens on southern farms, as I am not aware of any modern chicken books not related to cockfighting that reference the free range keeping of game or certain heritage breeds (as I said the knowledge is lost on the current generation of chicken celebrities). For example, the Florida author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings referenced her flock of wild Florida game chickens very briefly. She shot them for the table just as one might shoot a wild turkey, just as my grandmother hunted our wild game chickens around the farm to feed her family. I won’t post a link lest the link be flagged, but google Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ chickens and the reference will come up. What I know about how chickens were kept this way doesn’t come from anything I read, but from what I saw, having been raised by my grandparents and also being around others who all took for granted that it was normal to raise game chickens free range in the woods with no major human intervention. When I moved to my current woods farm in north Florida I knew I would need game chickens like I grew up with to survive here. It was only then that as I started looking for a flock that I realized the knowledge that bankavoid game chickens live feral on their own hasn’t translated to the current generation of chicken gurus. That, or there’s fear of the stigma associated with raising game breeds and cockfighting. It took me a year and a half of searching to find a flock that was mostly like what I grew up with. 100 years ago most rural Southern farms kept game chickens as their primary producing chickens. There is a free book on Google Books from the late 1800s that offers a history and care of the Old English gamefowl, the progenitor the American gamefowl, and throughout it takes for granted the ease by which they survive free range.”
Here is one of Florida Bullfrog’s intriguing videos:
He emailed me a lot more information as well:“I’ll provide links below to what reading materials I know of that reference the free-range self-sustainability of game chickens. Specifically, these are going to deal with bankivoid gamefowl. The bankivoid gamefowl are those gamefowl breeds that look similar to red jungle fowl and are closely related to such (named after the red junglefowl subspecies from Java called gallus gallus bankiva). The second group of gamefowl that exist, the oriental gamefowl, aren’t very relevant to this discussion (but know that many of your broiler birds are hybrids with recent oriental gamefowl bred in for muscle and size). It’s not that the oriental gamefowl can’t free range well, but they’re more rare in the U.S. and are more specialized than the bankivoid gamefowl. There’s not a lot out there book wise because 1) in the deep south free ranging gamefowl for sustenance was the purview of poor backwoods people, not the kind of people who were writing books about how they raised chickens, 2) the raising of gamefowl is tied in with cockfighting, so what material that is out there is often really about cockfighting and carries the stigmas that go along with it, and 3) it was such common knowledge that gamefowl took care of themselves in free range settings that I don’t think it was ever foreseen 100 years later that people would question it. Cockfighting was legal in much of the US well into the mid-1900s and gamefowl were so common through that time that I think people took for granted that gamefowl would always be common and known. Gamefowl ceased being a staple of Deep South farms about the time cockfighting started dying out. That coincides with the overall end of sustenance farming in the SE. Extreme Free-Range Chicken Resources
Florida Bullfrog continues with more resources on extreme free-ranging:Here’s what I got off the top of my head: The Old English Game Fowl: Its History, Description, Management, Breeding, and Feeding 1) The Old English Game Fowl: Its History, Description, Management, Breeding, and Feeding (1891). The Old English gamefowl is the archatype bankivoid gamefowl. Our American gamefowl is basically the same bird with some additional genetics added. Of interest is a brief chapter that discusses their free-range prowess and ability to basically take care of themselves against predators and with minimal feed. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Old_English_Game_Fowl_Its_History_De/POVaAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=google+books+old+english+gamefowl&pg=PA9&printsec=frontcover Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek Cookery 2) Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek Cookery (1942). This link has an excerpt from Rawlings’ cookbook that talks about her wild game chickens that she hunted with a gun for table fare. My grandmother hunted our family game chickens in the same manner: https://gherkinstomatoes.com/2011/11/28/24676/ Other Feral Chicken Links 3) Various links about the Fitzgerald Georgia Junglefowl hybrids, Ybor chickens, Key West chickens, and the wild chickens of Hawaii. All of these birds are red jungle fowl/gamefowl hybrids (with varying degrees of common modern breeds thrown in). Some of these groups are more wild and self-sustaining than others, but even the tamest ones would show how good of a survivor a bankavoid type chicken can live in a farmyard with more care than these feral birds receive. Concerning the Hawaii chickens, I’ve heard it said they survive there due to lack of predators. That is false. Hawaii has no native predators. But Hawaii is full of introduced predators, some of them like mongoose are way better chicken predators than what most people have living around them on the mainland: https://www.ornithologistsblog.com/single-post/chicken-run-red-junglefowl-in-fitzgerald-ga https://www.wlrn.org/2017-08-11/florida-chickens-are-subjects-of-evolutionary-biology-research https://www.abcactionnews.com/lifestyle/taste-and-see/wild-chickens-have-flocked-around-ybor-city-for-100-years https://modernfarmer.com/2015/04/the-mystery-of-kauais-thousands-of-feral-chickens/ *again remember that claims that the birds in Hawaii have no predators are incorrect. There are not mongoose on Kauai but there are mongoose on other islands and the chickens are actually found throughout the island chain including where mongoose are common. Just a few links. There’s a lot of info out there about those four sets of feral populations. And there are actually feral gamefowl populations all over Florida that aren’t documented. I am aware of a population of feral chickens on the east side of Lake City that have been there for decades per my local sources. I plan on checking them out soon. What I’m asserting isn’t just theory. My family lived this with their chickens throughout the last century. My grandmother who raised me would slip around the woods of the family farm back in the 1950s-1960s when she was raising her children and hunt the family wild game chickens with a .22. She’d kill about 30 a month and use them to feed the family. She never put a dent in the population. They lived like wild turkeys. The brood cocks set up territories around natural water sources and kept large harems of hens. The brood cocks didn’t cross into rival territories. The broodcocks were left alone by the family. It was their hens that were hunted for food. Although the hens hid their nests, there were so many of the wild games running around that it was easy to find enough eggs to meet all of the family’s needs. The chickens received no care from my family. When I was a child I was given a flock of my own that I raised. I didn’t know they were special. I took for granted all game chickens were of the same breed and that it was a simple fact that game chickens took care of themselves. I didn’t figure out that this method of raising game chickens had been lost to history until about 4 years ago when I tried to find a flock to establish on my farm in north Florida. It took me a year and a half to find a flock of the kind that was like what I grew up with, except that my current flock is smaller bodied than the those I had growing up. I’m not saying that raising game chickens semi-feral is the system everyone needs to use. This is for the person who has good habitat for game chickens to forage in and who doesn’t make enough produce in the garden to sustain cooped birds without store-bought feed. I fall into this category. Your milage may vary, where you seem to be able to make enough greenery to feed your coop chickens at will. Also be aware that I plan my garden around my chickens, as they are constantly picking at what they like. I focus on growing a few crops they don’t bother much. My point is that its not correct that chickens can’t free range in high predator environments without sustaining catastrophic losses. They can and its a time-proven method. It requires the right kind of chicken. Think of game chickens as the Seminole Pumpkin and Everglades tomatoes of chickens. Tough as nails birds that survive and thrive when the normal birds don’t. Not necessary in all situations but when the chips are down, it will be the game chickens that are alive after the feed store run dry, not the factory production layers. Or think of them as the chicken version of wild/feral hogs. Just as domestic hogs have within them the ability to go wild and transform into the classic wild razorback after living a couple of generations in the wild, so it is with the game chickens which are genetically close to the wild junglefowl all chickens come from. Something else I’d recommend looking into, if you aren’t familiar with it already, is the general principle that most livestock in Florida was free ranged through the early 1900s. Many landraces of Florida livestock existed through that time that were originally animals the Spanish brought which adapted to Florida. The chickens in question were likely red junglefowl the Spanish traded for in Southeast Asia crossed with the bankivoid Spanish gamefowl (a bird like the Old English gamefowl but smaller). There were also Florida strains of woods cow, horse, sheep, and of course the wild hog we know today. All animals that came to Florida in a domesticated state but then adapted to Florida woods life and became either totally wild or at the least self-sustaining. No, you can’t free range cattle around your neighborhood in Alabama. I am merely suggesting that animal genetics should be thought of just as you know plants to be, highly moldable and adaptable. I saw your goat video and although I agree with your friend that goats are probably a better choice for you given the habitat you currently have, also know that there are small breeds of cows that can be sustained with only basic grasses and weeds (like the mini-zebu). You could probably establish a Bahia pasture even in your poor soil then move in a versatile, small, grazing cow like a couple of mini-zebus. All depends on how far you want to get into animals. There’s so many different varieties of domestic animals available to us now from all over the world that you can find something that fits what you have just as you’ve done with plants. After receiving all this good information from Florida Bullfrog, I asked him for his number and gave him a call. We talked for a while and I realized he has some serious research into the idea of extreme free-ranging chickens and raising them with almost zero infrastructure. I asked him if he would consider writing a book on the topic, and he has agreed to do so. This information must get out!
Meanwhile, I am still raising meat and egg chickens the hard way:Free-Range Chickens in Alabama Story #1: Greg’s Fighting Chickens
That said, I have a couple of interesting stories of free-range or even feral populations of birds here in Lower Alabama. My friend Greg has a small flock of chickens that he started from a feral population nearby. He told me they were “fighting chickens,” and that there was a man raising cocks for cockfighting who got in trouble and his wife let all his birds go. Now they wander the woods and take care of themselves. When Greg decided to put a little flock of birds in his backyard, his brother helped him by capturing some of these fighting chickens, both hens and a rooster. Once they laid enough eggs in his backyard pen, Greg incubated a bunch of the eggs and hatched out a mess of them. He says they lay “two eggs a day,” and aren’t mean.Free-Range Chickens in Alabama Story #2:
On Halloween a man and his wife with a couple of young children came trick-or-treating at my front door. Since we are quite rural and didn’t get any visitors last Halloween, we were unprepared for trick-or-treaters.
“I don’t have any candy,” I said, “but I do have a mulberry tree I can give you.”
With that, I sent my daughter out back to get a mulberry. The children seemed a bit confused about it, but the parents just laughed and said they’d be happy to grow a mulberry. I asked if they wanted some farm eggs, too.
I knew I was running a risk here, since I (a), did not give these poor people any candy, and (b), was now offering to give them ammo.
The dad said, “Aww no, we got plenty of farm eggs.”
“What birds are you raising?” I asked.
“My dad has a mixed flock.”
“Do you keep them in a barn?” I asked.
“Naw, they just wander,” he said.
Having just been talking with Florida Bullfrog, I was now intrigued. We’ve lost LOTS of chickens to predators over the years, yet here was a guy with chickens that were living in the wild and apparently producing eggs as well.
“Can I come see them?” I asked, sharing further that I’d been in a conversation with a man who was talking about JUST what his dad was doing.
“Sure,” he said, and gave me his number.
This Saturday, I had some time, so I called him, then headed our to see the chickens. They lived maybe 15 minutes away from us at the end of a rural road. A red dirt driveway rolled up beside a country house with fences and outbuildings and little children playing. A fence beside the driveway held back an assortment of mixed beef cattle who were grazing contentedly on thick green pasture.
I was waved down by the man I’d met on Halloween. He stood with two other men in front of an open garage. All three had cans of beer in their hands.
“Park anywhere,” he said, so I did, pulling up onto the grass. I was met by a pit bull puppy and a grizzled bulldog along with a baby girl with golden curls. The man I’d met on Halloween shook my hand and introduced me to his dad…
…and I’ll share the rest of the story tomorrow, along with photos!
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I have been waiting for this day all fall. Specifically, I’ve been counting down the days until November 1.
You see, now that the money-grabbing fall holiday has passed, the money-grabbing winter holiday is steamrolling its plastic, glittery way into place. There’s no room for the two to share. Thus, anything fall-themed absolutely needs to be ousted from the big box stores and grocery stores ASAP.
And that, dear Reader, is my time to quietly harvest something precious: food for the winter.
All those huge, “decorative” pumpkins that were selling for $8 or more are suddenly worthless!
Well, to the stores, maybe, but not to me.Pumpkins // Wren Everett
You see, once upon a time, these weird, warty, heavy-skinned pumpkins were far, far more than porch eye-candy. They were nutritious heirloom varieties of squash specifically developed by patient gardeners for centuries. But rather than being valued for mere aesthetics, they were developed with outstanding flavor, giant size, and long-storing qualities. Among the hundreds of varieties of heirloom squash, you’ll find lumpy, bumpy, green Hubbards, graceful-necked Cushaws, dusky-brown Musquee de Provence, retro-blue Jarrahdale, or multicolored Turk’s Turban. All of them are full of fascinating histories and good eating. They may be labeled “clearance bulk pumpkin at $1 each.” But they are still food, just as they always have been.
For the homestead or home looking to put away food for the winter, you have a huge opportunity, right now, to rescue these useful and undervalued squashes before they end up in a dumpster. I brought home more than 150 pounds of long-storing food for $24. Where else can you find food at that price nowadays?
So, have I piqued your interest? Read on to learn how to participate in your own great pumpkin rescue!Are Those Pumpkins Edible?
Yes. Every pumpkin or squash was bred and developed to be food. If you’re unsure about that fact, bear with me for a few botanical paragraphs so I can explain why you can trust it.
I’ll start by asking you to please use discretion when you read about “pumpkin edibility” online. Most blogger-folks are not farmers or gardeners and don’t really know what they’re talking about. My first three hits on multiple search engines for “are decorative pumpkins edible?” all turned out to be factually incorrect in some way (mostly about mixing up gourds and squash, which I’ll explain below). I’m not trying to sound like a know-it-all. After all, I’m just another of many voices online, but I hope that I can give you the knowledge to understand, and therefore, mentally turn these squashes back into food rather than holiday decor items.
Online and in stores, the terms squash, pumpkin, and gourd are used recklessly and interchangeably, leading to confusion.Squash
Squash is a big term that covers many species in the Cucurbita genus. This includes the four main squash families that are used for food in the United States: C. angyrosperma (sometimes called C. mixta), C. pepo, C. moschata, and C. maxima. All of your summer and winter squashes are found in those families. The bulk pumpkins being sold right now are all technically winter squashes.Pumpkins
Pumpkin is a nonspecific term that describes hundreds of varieties of squash from C. pepo, C. moschata, and C. maxima. There is no pumpkin species, so the term is used however people want to use it.
Related Post: Growing PumpkinsGourds
“What about gourds?”, well, they’re complicated. The baggies of tiny, decorative gourds in stores now are either tiny squash from the C. pepo species that’s potentially edible, or a true gourd (which is decidedly not). Hard-skinned gourds are a separate genus (Lagenararia specifically). Though a few varieties of true gourds are edible when young, they were traditionally developed for use as vessels, not food. Those being sold for table decorations are all mature, so any gourds in the mix are beyond edibility.
Decorative gourds from a farmers market may be larger than the ones at the big box supermarkets, so try to find out what they are before assuming they’re squash and blindly making a soup. If they are thin-fleshed and bitter, they’re gourds, and not edible.
So, I hope that explanation clears things up. In this article, I’ll use the terms squash and pumpkin interchangeably.Storing and Using Your Rescued Pumpkins
First, it starts with finding unwanted squash at a grocery store. Usually, after October 31, they’re in a big bin near the front door or outside. If you get to harvest from a clearance bin, try to be discerning with which squash you select for storage. Any with their stems broken will deteriorate more quickly than their stem-intact counterparts. This isn’t to say they’re useless, however. Just plan on using any dented or stemless squashes first.This was the first one to the cutting board
Now, rescuing that heaping batch of pumpkins only matters if you use them, of course. And part of that is storing them properly so they can last you the whole winter. Folks might mistakenly believe that pumpkins rot quickly — but that’s because their main experience is probably with carved pumpkins that are left on cold, wet autumn porches. There could be no worse storage situation.
Winter squash are, in truth, amazingly long keepers if given the proper environment. And thankfully, it’s easy to find. The ideal storage location for squash of any size is your kitchen (no root cellar needed). Warm, dry locations like that give squashes the best chance for long-term survival (until you eat them, that is).
I store my squash all over my kitchen and living room. They line the floor of the bookshelves, get tucked under benches and tables, and make impromptu “sculptures” around my kitchen island. It may seem like there’s less floor space, but it’s a small price to pay for having a huge supply of stable, winter food.This Bruised spot was no big deal to cut out, but that’s because I caught it plenty early
As you slowly eat them through the fall and winter, be sure to give your rescued pumpkins a weekly once-over. Though you may now value them as your food, they’ve been through a lot before they got to your kitchen. Earlier rough handling may have bruised them, and bruised areas start to rot if undetected. If you find any areas that look a bit darker than their surroundings, have wrinkles, squish a bit under pressure, or (worst of all) are leaking liquid, get that squash to the cutting board, pronto. Even if a bit has gone bad, you may be able to salvage the bulk of it.
If the bruised rot is isolated to a small area and hasn’t gotten to the seed-filled core, cut it out, throw it to your chickens, and enjoy the unblemished portions. But if the bruise has rendered the greater part of the pumpkin soft, slimy, smelly, moldy, or otherwise unappetizing, it’s a goner. Just be aware that if you compost it whole, you may end up with 300 pumpkin plants in your compost pile next spring.This big pumpkin has been out for two days (and three meals and a pie) and no worse for the wear on my counter.
Now, some of these heirloom pumpkins are big. Like, 15 pounds or bigger! Those are my favorite. I understand if the thought of figuring out how to cook all 15 pounds of squash in one meal is an overwhelming prospect, and storing that big hunk-a-pumpkin in the refrigerator is an annoying space-waster. Thankfully, you don’t have to do either. Pumpkins and squashes can happily sit on a counter for a few days while you hack off useful chunks. Granted, you’ll have to find a way to integrate pumpkin into your dishes while you have it sitting there, but as long as you use an opened pumpkin within a week of cracking it, you’ll likely not have to deal with a squash going bad.
On “opening” pumpkins by the way, you should know that some of these squash varieties are tough. Like, tougher-than-your-knives, tough. Hubbard squashes, for example, were once used as foodstuff on sailing ships since they were thick-skinned enough to put up with rough voyages without going bad. Ma Ingalls had to take a hatchet to her Hubbards to get at their sweet, orange flesh. And I can personally vouch, she knew what she was doing. If a squash is too difficult to cut with a knife — and many of them are — you’ll need to bring out your inner pioneer and take a hatchet to them, or drop them onto a hard, clean surface. Though it sounds and looks brutal, it’s actually a lot safer than trying to force a kitchen knife into an unyielding squash on the countertop. Give your neighbors a friendly wave after you’re done, and hope they won’t spread too much gossip about your driveway cucurbit carnage.Some chickens enjoy their squash // wren Everett
Finally, if you do get a little pumpkined-out midwinter, remember that pumpkins are fantastic livestock food. Chickens and goats will happily help themselves to whatever extra squash you share with them. They’re full of vitamins that winter rations often lack, and the seeds are a good support in keeping them worm-free. In fact, you might plan on extending your winter feed by keeping a boatload of squash on the side, just for them.How to Cook Rescued Pumpkinsrescued pumpkins // wren everett
When I rescued part of this year’s collection of pumpkins, I watched as the woman in line behind me curiously inspected my heaping cart. I anticipated her “What in the world are you doing with all those?” almost as the words were coming from her mouth. I get this question every year.
When I explained they were going into my winter larder, she shrugged. “So, you make a lot of pies or something? That’s … a lot of pies.”
I understand where this woman is coming from, but I’m not planning a pie fest (though some of these heirloom squashes do make positively decadent pies). The truth is, squash is such an amazingly versatile ingredient that constraining it to pies is missing its true potential. These various squashes all have their own unique flavors and textures. Some are stringy, some are custard-like, some taste very mild, and others have an amazingly sweet taste. You’re playing squash roulette with flavor. So, if you go out to save pumpkins from a dumpster fate, I recommend you get as diverse a collection as you can to give yourself the best chance at a broad palette of squash flavors.
On our homestead, we feast on rescued pumpkins all winter. Here’s a short list of our favorite ways to work these into nearly every meal.Pumpkin Puree Drink
Sliced, skinned, and roasted at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until nicely caramelized and fork-tender. Though the ubiquitous cinnamon-clove-nutmeg spice combination pairs nicely with many pumpkins, try using curry powder, garam masala, ras al hanout, sage, Chinese Five-Spice, or smoked paprika for a different flavor experiment.
Slice, skin, cube, and simmer pumpkin until soft. Separate pumpkin cubes from water, then blitz in a blender until smooth. You now have an easy-to-use pumpkin puree that is far fresher and tastier than the tinny-tasting canned stuff. I use tons of this puree to make pies, pumpkin breakfast bread, and pumpkin muffins.Chinese Five-Spice is a fantastic option for any squash
Mix 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree with a cup of whole milk and ground spices of your choosing (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom are always a win). Warm and sweeten, and thin with water (if wanted), and you have a really nice drink to sip by the woodstove.Pumpkin Soup
Make a wonderful pumpkin soup. Simmer pumpkin cubes with onion and garlic. We spice ours with ginger, garlic, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon, and then blend it smooth. Add optional cream, and top with sourdough croutons from yesterday’s bread baking, and you’ve got a filling, homemade meal.pumpkin soup // wren everett
Think of pumpkin as a vegetable. You can cube or slice it, and add it to curries and stir-fries as well. Serve with a side of rice, and you’ll wish you’d rescued every forlorn pumpkin at the store.Pumpkin Seeds
The seeds are edible too! Depending on the variety, however, some may be too tough to chew. Once you’ve opened a big pumpkin, toast a sample batch of its seeds to see if you like them.pumpkin seeds // wren everett
If the squash you’re using did require a hatchet, it’s likely you won’t be able to cut it into nice-looking chunks. That’s all right. Simply hack it into manageable slices or hunks, drizzle them with oil and salt, and roast them in the shell. Grunt like a cave dweller if it makes you feel better. The skin will become a handy little serving tool, and the flesh usually cooks down to a creamy texture that is delightful when topped with butter and scooped out, a spoonful at a time.Enjoy Your Rescued Pumpkins
So get out there and join me in the great pumpkin rescue! There are literal tons of food in clearance bins, just waiting for someone to see their delicious worth. Give them a better use than merely rotting at the base of your front steps. Let them shine in the kitchen instead.
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