Thursday, March 09, 2006

Snow, News, Politics, and Saving Seed

Dear Readers,

It is snowing in Hoopa! My artichokes, greens, parsnips, etc., are definitely getting a dusting. However the snow has been sticking pretty steadily for at least an hour, so it may get worse than a dusting. We shall see how everything does. If I was more able bodied I would protect a few things. As it is, I just brought in one big old succulent and one large spider plant. I also moved some things that are potted up - closer to the house and out of the snow. Now I have the heating pad on the back of my chair as I write to you. Out the office window I can watch the falling snow against a backdrop of blooming Prunus nigra. It is glorious. I don’t actually care if I get any plums this year or not. My only regret will be if I am not able to send seed to a few folks that I have promised it to.

This morning, as many mornings, I was listening to the news on the local tribal radio station. We get great news here. First was AIROS (American Indian Radio On Satellite) with a program on global warming. Next was Democracy Now. The plight of our planet is really quite intense. For me it just emphasizes the need for home gardening, small farms, and seed saving. With the coming weather changes, and the constant political changes we can’t really know what to expect. In war torn countries the infrastructure is often so damaged that folks can’t get their mail or other deliveries. But the survivors and the warriors still need to eat. If they don’t have their own saved seed it can contribute to the myriad problems of survival.

Now I certainly don’t hope for war in our territory. Certainly not. But there is no guarantee that we will be free of this kind of strife. The balance of power in the world is shifting. Things are also shifting here in the United States. The outsourcing of jobs, international ownership of US property and infrastructure, the importing of foreign workers trained in technology and other skills - is changing the face of the US. Changing it in ways that we never imagined. However, we are no longer considered the brightest and the best. In fact our record of torture and imprisonment, of political, monetary, and violent interference in other countries has severely affected the US’s reputation in the world. Of course you don’t need me to tell you any of this. Current polls now indicate that over 50% of us are in favor of impeaching our president. Most of us are well aware.

All this leads me back to the garden. Saved seed is a small insurance policy. The more of us with saved seed, the more food secure we all are. With the possibilities of floods and fires ever more real, with political and violent upheaval the norm rather then the exception – saving more seed than one needs is ideal. You can always use your extras to replenish stock for those who have taken a loss. Decentralizing seed banks is another small insurance. I donate to two seed banks. One north of me – in Canada in fact. And one in Southern CA. I also have made quite a few trades, given away seeds from bumper crops and made donation to a community garden in Rosebud which is quite a long distance east of my present location. It is unlikely that all these places will simultaneously loose their seed banks. But the more seed banks we have, both large and small, the more resilient we will be, come what may.

It is not just the politics that worries me. In fact the weather changes are truly problematic. The small farmer and home gardener is much more likely to be able to adapt to weather changes than is the agri-business. We don’t need to start huge numbers of seedlings of the same crop all at one time. It is easier for us to stagger, or successively sow a number of varieties, making us less vulnerable to weather changes. We can access the weather now and decide to start more cool season crops, and in a few weeks, if the weather warms up we can also start some warm season crops. Depending on the weather one or the other may fail, but we will have something. Agri-business depends on planting vast plots all at the same time in one crop. If that crop fails, the folks who depend on it may suffer. From the farmer, his employees, all the middle men, right through to the consumer.

Grow your own food to whatever extent you can, and if you can’t support your local small organic farmer. Try to be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you. If the early crops fail, be prepared with a middle and late season crop. Grow a diversity of crops that are adaptable to a wide range of weather extremes and consider it an investment in the future. And don’t forget to save your seed. It only takes about three generations of seed selection to begin the process of adapting certain strains to specific regions. It stands to reason that the process of selecting to adapt to weather changes will take about three seasons also.

While we may not really know what sort of pattern our weather will settle into, we do each have available a wide range of cultivars, heirlooms, and selections to start with. A search on the Internet for cold hardy, heat, or drought tolerant, mild summer, cool night or what have you and a slash with the name of your desired produce will locate possibilities and sources. IE: Cool night / watermelon, short season / cantaloupe.

Be creative, resourceful, and embrace diversity. The more diverse our gardens and farms become, the more resilient they will be. Diversity helps resist the build up of disease and pests in our food plants, and it will provide the genetic diversity necessary for us to survive the weather changes that the corporations and the capitalists are forcing upon us.

Bless the snow, Nature is doing the best she can,

Wishing us all Peace,


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