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This is the Year to Save Seed! Here’s How

This is the Year to Save Seed! Here’s How

If ever there was a year to learn to save seed, I think this is it. So many people planted coronavirus gardens this spring that many seed sources ran out. Some seed-selling establishments considered seed “nonessential,” and restricted sales even when there was ample stock, simply to discourage people from unnecessary shopping.

In my book, seed is one of the most essential supplies. Saving them is just part of my ordinary round of gardening tasks, and doesn’t need to be intimidating. Of course there are some I don’t save yet, such as carrots. And there are some I can’t, such as new varieties I’m planning to try in the never-ending quest for a paste tomato that doesn’t get blossom end rot. But many of the beautiful things I grow in my garden are grown from seed I saved.

Field pea pods and seed on the left, asparagus (or yardlong) beans and pods on the right, and cantaloupe, watermelon and tomato in the middle.

If this is your first garden ever, pick something easy to save and give it a go! If you usually save a few varieties, I challenge you to save something new this year. And if you’re a semi-experienced seed saver like me, I suggest you save a larger quantity than usual. I’m planning on giving lots away come spring, whatever the state of the world. Even if seed is plentiful, free seed makes gardening cheaper and more accessible for my friends and neighbors.

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Ten Ways I Use My Solar Oven

Ten Ways I Use My Solar Oven

Several years ago when I moved into my little house heated only by a wood stove, I knew I needed a summer baking option, pronto. Enter the All-American Sun Oven.

solar oven
solar oven

Beets and onions in my All-American Sun Oven

Even if you don’t have a wood stove, summer cooking in sweltering North Carolina really heats up the house, and then it takes extra energy to cool it back off to a tolerable temperature. That’s energy I neither want to fork over money for, nor want to pay the ecological consequences of using. When we built the house, we planned from the beginning to move cooking outside for the hot months (April-October). This is an historical adaptation. Many houses in the South had outside summer kitchens before the advent of air conditioning.

Also, we felt the resilience factor of heating and cooking with home-grown wood was important. But the budget was too tight to make the house big enough to accommodate both a wood cook stove and a regular stove/oven, and we couldn’t really afford duplicate appliances anyway. So we have no regular electric or gas stove.

For summer stir fries and breakfast eggs, I currently cook on the patio on a dual-fuel Coleman that has been with me since I lived in my truck, long before I was married and saddled with these beautiful kids. It burns about 5 gallons of gasoline per year. I have my eyes on some very compelling rocket stove options to utilize small-diameter wood (which our land produces in near infinite quantity), but I haven’t yet done extensive testing.

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Cheap, Simple DIY Water Catchment and Irrigation

Cheap, Simple DIY Water Catchment and Irrigation

Last year in foothills North Carolina, we had a hundred-year flood in June. Then we went three months without any rain at all. Some things produced well in spite of drought, but tomatoes really suffered and I hardly got any pumpkins. I was not able to keep things adequately watered by hand even before my catchment tank ran dry.

I know that the carbon footprint of tap water is pretty small compared to, say, tropical vacations. But I still have a philosophical problem with paying to have water cleaned so thoroughly that it’s drinkable, and then pumped for miles and miles, only to pour it on the ground. I like the idea of living within the rain budget of my area, which isn’t too hard because we usually get too much. I like the idea of having irrigation water even if I lost access to my local water utility for some reason (power outage, income outage, anything).

Most of all, I like the idea of my garden looking all big and lush like my mom’s. She waters constantly.

So, this spring I added a second catchment tank to our little house, and one to the new pole barn up by the orchard. Big irrigation tanks cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, but I can get a used IBC tank for about $45. I’ve now set up five of these tanks, and I feel it’s a relatively easy and cost-effective option for small-scale irrigation.

This is my Dad’s very nice setup, which I helped him install as a fun Mother’s Day project. Don’t worry, this photo was taken before completion, and the final installation does not include painter’s tape.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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