Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dealing with chipmunks and other issues

When it comes to high calorie gardening we often face issues.
Disease, insects, rodents, etc.

A typical example is below posted by a woman trying to grow potatoes.
“I would love to have success with potato planting! My husband and I have tried twice, and yet they all get dug up and stolen by chipmunks and the like. Any suggestions? We have tried container planting also, but those rodents are persistent.”

A key to high calorie gardening is to never put more calories into growing the crop than you get out of the crop. Another key is to grow what is easy to grow. So in the case of the chipmunks the answer seemed easy but was not.

There were many possible responses to this issue.

1.      Kill the chipmunks was a number of response. It was interesting that many Americans were ok with a cat killing chipmunks but were not ok with live trapping chipmunks. So this type of solutions involves legal issues as to killing chipmunks and social issues as to how acceptable is it to kill or remove chipmunks.
2.      Give up growing potatoes. However, there is only one constraint at this location to growing potatoes. It is very unusual to find a high calorie crop that does not have a single issue that can impact its growth. In this case it may be as simple as growing enough for the chipmunks and the people. Generally this type of problem is worse early in the growing season. The chipmunks can take all the seed potatoes. If one provided a alternative food, say whole corn for the chipmunks the impact on the potatoes may be less. Potatoes are planted in the early spring when other sources of food may still be scarce. It is not uncommon for rodents to survive in spring by eating root crops.

3.      She said that she tried growing potatoes in containers. I have had a similar problem with chipmunks. They got into the chicken grain and stored it in all my 55 gallon pots. I have spouted grain coming up in every single large pot I had. The first thing I did was to stop the chipmunk raids on the chicken feed. The second thing was to put chicken wire around my large growing containers. In the worst case one can put electric netting around their area. No chipmunk is going to take on electric netting.
4.      Finally the chipmunks are taking the potatoes to eat. Soaking the potatoes in water with ghost peppers would make a world of difference. Just use gloves and plant a ghost pepper with each potato. Chemical warfare against the chipmunks!

Now let us assume that one of the above methods actually works for the lady with the chipmunk problem. We than have to ask, is it worth the effort? A peanut is a great high calorie crop that I have not gotten to yet. My grandmother raised a peanut plant in Alaska. It was an amazing thing to do and it required a lot of effort and a special window box with a heater and grow light. In all, she got a handful of peanuts. So it can be done, but just because you can does not mean you should.

The point of high calorie gardening is to produce calories that can be consumed. It is assumed you have limited land, money, and labor. So the focus is on that which is easy to grow and trying to have no more than 20 percent of your calories in any one crop if possible. This is in case something happens to one crop the others will still carry the day. Just think of the Irish potato famine. If you have resources left over than you can think of other crops that you can grow. However, I would tend to devote my resources to foods that complement the high calorie crops such as herbs and spices. Carrots, celery, and onions complement many of the root crops.

So that is it for this posting please leave your comments.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Cassava or Yucca Root
There are 330 calories in 1 cup (7.3 oz) of Cassava (Yucca Root), raw
Cassava is Africa’s second most important food staple, after maize, in terms of calories consumed. Cassava is a major source of calories for roughly two out of every five Africans.

Yucca root, also sometimes spelled "yuca," is known by the names manioc and cassava. Native to South America, this starchy tuber is eaten throughout Latin America, South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. Used to make tapioca flour, yucca has a texture a little chewier than the potato and a milder taste. Rich in a range of nutrients, yucca can be used as a substitute in almost all of your favorite potato dishes.

Better known to Americans as tapioca, the pudding favorite is produced from the roots of this bush-like plant. But the crop can have deadly consequences. If prepared incorrectly, the cassava plant can produce cyanide, a deadly compound when consumed. A small number of people are also allergic to the plant — the American Cancer Society warns that those with a latex rubber allergy might be more susceptible and should consider opting for a different dessert.

Something to know is that all cassava produce toxic cyanide, but the two main edible varieties produce it in different amounts. "Sweet" cassava is the root most often sold for home cooking and has its cyanide concentrated near the surface. After peeling and normal cooking, it is safe to eat. "Bitter" cassava has cyanide throughout the root and can only be eaten after extensive grating, washing, and pressing to remove the harmful toxins. Bitter cassava is not typically sold for home use, especially here in the US, and is more commonly used to make tapioca and other cassava by-products.


How To Remove The Poison From Cassava Flour in English

harvesting cassava in rwanda: part 1

harvesting cassava in rwanda: processing (part 2)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution
Dutch team is pioneering development of crops fed by sea water

Edible canna lily - a.k.a. Arrowroot, Indian Shot

Edible canna lily

Canna lilies are an almost unknown edible, at least here in the US.
I do not have nutritional information on this plant, which is a surprise because much of the plant is edible. For high calorie gardening I am looking at the starch in the roots. You can eat the roots raw, or bake them like a potato. One can also shred or grind the roots and put in a bucket of water to remove the starch in them.
Since Cannas are a relative of bananas the leaves can be used to rap food for cooking just like a banana leaf. The flowers are also edible along with the unripen seedpods. Where I live in the Midwest I have to dig up the roots every fall and replant every spring. However, the roots are generally shallow so they are easy to dig up.
One thing to remember is that canna like wet soils. They will absorb pollutants/contaminants from wetlands. So always be careful about the runoff that feeds your edible canna. I have grown canna lily since the 1990’s and only discovered a few years ago that it was edible. I purchased some specimens that were grown for food in South America and they have done very well in the Midwest where I live. The only issue I have found is Japanese beetle. But Japanese beetle is also edible. I generally tend to collect them and feed them to the chickens if the turkeys do not get them first. So for a person making a survival garden they are an ideal crop. Most people do not know they are edible. They are easy to grow. They attract an insect that is edible in numbers that are easy to collect J

Achira - Canna edulis a.k.a. Arrowroot, Indian Shot

Can one have too much of a good thing?

Can one have too much of a good thing?

When it comes to compost the answer is yes. This is because compost can be a very good supplier of potassium. Many people growing organic use compost for soil structure, fertilizer, Soil Organic Matter, etc. 
“Soil Organic Matter (SOM) consists of plant and animal remains, in various stages of decomposition, root and microbial exudates, and humus. SOM improves a number of soil physical, chemical, and biological properties. However, the optimal range of SOM content for vegetable production or soil health varies across soil types. Generally, lower levels of SOM are sufficient, and practical to achieve, in coarse textured, sandy soils as compared to finer soils with more clay content. For example, 2.5% SOM in a loamy sand soil might be considered ideal while 2.5% could be considered marginal in a silt loam soil where 3 to 5% is more common”.

“With this information in hand we began looking closely at gardens and market gardens that had high levels of compost applied over several years. We consistently found the same pattern: very high potassium, generally high levels of phosphorous and extremely low levels of available calcium. We then asked these same gardeners how their garden was doing. The answers were telling: A lot of bug pressure – It used to be much better – Really poor tasting food – Very low brix levels.

This research lead International Ag Labs to promulgate two new quality indicators based off our soil tests: the calcium-potassium ratio and the calcium-phosphorous ratio. Both should be around 18:1. I have found that if the calcium to potassium ratio is narrow, say at 3:1 or less it is a sure indicator that the garden will not be producing high brix foods until the ratio is widened. Gardens with narrow ratios can still produce abundantly but the food will not be nutrient-dense and the flavor will leave a lot to be desired. “

Any time you get your nutrients out of balance you can find deficiency in key nutrients.

Excessive potassium levels will reduce boron availability, needed for nitrogen conversion and the transfer of starch from the leaves to the fruit.  When excessive enough, potassium - whether combined with sodium or not - can block manganese uptake, another key nutrient for vine strength, fruit set, and skin quality of the grapes.

Excessive phosphate levels in the soil can result in poor water utilization. Too much compost or manure, or even soft rock phosphate, or 11-52-0 (MAP) or 18-48-0 (DAP), or any phosphate source that will sufficiently build P levels in the soil can cause this to happen. Zinc is necessary for moisture absorption by the plant.  Excessive phosphate ties up zinc.

Too much nitrogen can cause a copper deficiency.  Though copper is only needed in "trace" amounts, along with potassium and manganese it helps to increase vine resilience and skin quality in wine grapes. 
High levels of nitrogen can also lead to a lot of green growth and not as much tuber growth.

If the compost has a proper Carbon:Nitrogen ratio of approx. 10-12:1, it does not tie up nutrients. High carbon composts always tie up nitrogen and sulfur, and sometimes other nutrients when worked in to the soil.

Building Soil Organic Matter Building Soil Organic Matter Building Soil Organic Matter with Organic Amendments with Organic Amendments

Application Rates and Techniques for Using Composted Materials in Florida DOT Projects

The True Cost of Compost: An Analysis of Bagged vs. Bulk Compost Prices

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Effects of Mycorrhizal Fungi Inoculum on Potato Yield

I found a study on

The Effects of Mycorrhizal Fungi Inoculum on Potato Yield

Even though the yield was slightly greater in the non-inoculated bed, the spuds were not choice in appearance. I will personally continue to work with mycorrhizal fungi plant inoculum in the future, focusing on its application in new beds and soils that may be nutrient poor.  I would caution the home gardener that if they are interested in pursuing this avenue of investigation, to purchase inoculum from a reputable source and do your homework first.  Scientific analysis has shown that many of the ‘over the counter’ products that claim to contain live mycelium, do not in fact live up to that promise.

I have seen the beneficial effects of Mycorrhizal Fingi on a number of root crops.
The the study above the yield was not greater but high calorie gardening is all about calories consumed. The treated spuds would have yielded less waste in processing for cooking.  

prairie turnip

Psoralea esculenta, prairie turnip is an herbaceous perennial plant native to prairies and dry woodlands of central North America.
0.4 ounces of prairie turnip or one bulb will have around twenty calories.

I am including this plant for several reasons.
First it is a perennial so like the Jerusalem Artichoke and the ground nut it can be stored in the ground.
Secondly, like the ground nut it is a member of the legume family and is a nitrogen fixer.
Thirdly, the plant is not tolerant of very high soil moisture. It likes a well-drained soil. They are good for dry conditions or well drained soils. You ground nut on the other hand likes high soil moisture. So you have both conditions covered.
Fourth, USDA hardiness zone : 4-8 so you can grow it in cold areas.
Finally, it was one of the most important will food plants of the native Americans living on the praires.

I have found one warning about this plant, warning: consuming the plant may trigger a photosentive reaction in some people, due to the presence of furanocoumarins. Furanocoumarins are the culprit behind the "grapefruit juice effect" that some prescriptions prohibit drinking grapefruit juice with that drug.

Prairie Turnip Psoralea esculenta - also known as the prairie wild turnip, Indian breadroot, and several other names. This is one of the ingredients used in our fry bread mix. The Prairie Turnip was probably the most important wild food gathered by Indians who lived on the prairies. In 1805 a Lewis and Clark expedition observed Plains Indians collecting, peeling, and frying prairie turnips. The Lakota women told their children, who helped gather wild foods, that prairie turnips point to each other. When the children noted which way the branches were pointing, they were sent in that direction to find the next plant. This saved the mothers from searching for plants, kept the children happily busy, and made a game of their work. Prairie turnips were so important, they influenced selection of hunting grounds. Women were the gatherers of prairie turnips and their work was considered of great importance to the tribe. IN 1804, LEWIS AND CLARK called it the "white apple" and their French boatmen called it pomme blanche. In 1837, while crossing the James River basin, Captain John Fremont refers to it as pommes des terres, or the ground apple. I learned it as Indian breadroot, but it's most commonly called prairie turnip. The Lakota call it timpsula.
Timpsula produces a spindle-shaped tuber about four inches below the ground. This tuber, although nutritionally similar to a potato, differs in taste and texture due to different types of sugars and starches. The white edible portion is exposed by removing a coarse brown husk. If the thin portion of the root is left attached, the tubers can be woven together into an arm-length bundle for easy drying and transport. When air dried, the tubers can be stored indefinitely.

Timpsula has been a source of food and commerce on the Great Plains for centuries. The tuber can be eaten raw, cut into chunks and boiled in stews, or ground into a fine flour. The flour can then be used to thicken soups, or made into a porridge flavored with wild berries. Mixed with berries, water and some tallow, the flour can be made into cakes, which when dried, make a durable and nutritious trail food.

Seeds can be obtained from prairie moon nursery.
This is a legume species (member of the pea family).  Most legumes harbor beneficial bacteria called rhizobia on their roots.  Prairie Moon provides genus-specific strains of this bacterium called inoculum for legume seed free of charge with the purchase of legume seed.

Ecological and vegetative indicators of tuber biomass in Pediomelum esculentun on the standing Rock Reservation

Saturday, October 25, 2014



There are 100 calories in one cup of parsnips.
Parsnips are interesting because some varieties can reseed themselves and in some cases they can become invasive and grow wild. Also Parsnips can overwinter in the ground. Where I live there are wild parsnips which are edible. In some areas of the United States they have groups who use tools designed to remove the parsnip root that clear them are of native habitat.

One should remember when working with parsnips that parsnips contain furocoumarins that can make the skin sensitive to light. So one should be careful working with the foliage and do not get the sap on your skin. I like to wear gloves when working with green parsnip foliage. I also like to harvest them after the tops have been killed by frost. I also leave some in the ground for spring eating. If you are going to harvest wild parsnips make sure you know the difference between parsnip, hogweed, hemlock, wild parsley, etc.

This shovel was specifically designed for use on the invasive Wild Parsnip

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ground Nuts (Apios Americana)

Ground Nuts (Apios Americana)

Here is a plant I am growing as part of my high calorie garden. Around 36% of the raw root is carbohydrates but the tubers also have roughly three times the protein of potatoes. From what I can determine they have the highest protein content of any root crop.
Groundnut tubers are a good source of carbohydrates and contain between 13 and 17 percent protein by dry weight, or about three times more than potatoes or any other widely used vegetable root (Yanovsky and Kingsbury 1938, Watt and Merrill 1963).

The tubers are highly palatable with culinary characteristics of a potato, although the flavor can be somewhat nuttier than a potato and the texture can be finer.[3] Studies in rats suggest that raw tubers should not be consumed because they contain protease inhibitors whereas cooking destroys the protease inhibitors rendering the tubers safe to eat.[4] Tubers contain roughly three times the protein content of a potato (16.5% by dry weight), and the amino acid balance is good with the exception of cysteine and methionine.[5] The fatty acid content of tubers is approximately 4.2% to 4.6% with linoleic fatty acids predominating.[6] Thirty-six percent of the fresh weight of a tuber is carbohydrate (primarily starch).[7] The tubers are also an excellent source of calcium and iron.[7] Calcium content is 10-fold greater than a potato and iron is 2-fold greater than a potato, although vitamin C was considerably less than a potato.[7] In addition, the tubers appear to have numerous health promoting factors. Hypertensive rats that were fed powdered tubers as 5% of their total diet experienced a 10% decrease in blood pressure and also a reduction in cholesterol and triglycerides.[8] It has been shown that the tubers contain genistein and other isoflavones that have various health benefits, including an anticarcinogenic function against colon, prostate, and breast cancer.[9][10]

While ground nut tubers are an amazing food, approximately 1% of the population can develop allergies to them. This allergy can hit the first time they eat the tubers or any time the sit down to a meal of them after that first time. There's no good way of telling in advance if a person might be allergic, but if someone has an extreme allergy to peanuts I would hesitate in giving them any part of the groundnut plant.

I have found some growing instructions at
I know they are grown in Northern Japan as a commercial crop but I have little information of their cultivation in Japan.

I have been growing mine in 55 gallon tubs because I want to collect all the roots. I have been growing then in tubs next to tubes of Jerusalem Artichokes for around two years. The vines have grown into the Jerusalem Artichokes but seem to cause little problem. This year I have enough to experiment with so I am planting one large groundnut root cluster with four Jerusalem artichoke tubers. I will see how they grow together.  I wish I had more to offer you on this plant but I am finding that there just is not a lot of information on the Internet about growing this plant. If my experiment works I hope to grow Jerusalem Artichokes and ground nuts together on a two year harvesting. Only issue I will have is grubs in fall. I will handle this with parasitic nematodes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Giant Ragweed harvest this October

A update on my Giant Ragweed.

With my foot in a cast I was still able to harvest half a bucket of seeds from a single patch of Giant Ragweed.
The powers above seemed to be against me. I broke my ankle so I had to wait till I was in a walking cast. Being in a cast I only got to harvest a fraction of what I wanted to harvest. Being in the cast I was limited in what I could harvest. I selected a small patch by my chicken pen. I had purchased a very short heavy duty sickle head on about a three foot handle. The first time I used it the handle split along the length. So out came the duck tape. A short time later off came the metal part. So out came the duck tape again. After a good coating of duck tape it stayed together. I would grab the Giant Ragweed stalk in my left and and cut is at the base with the sickle tool in my right. Than I would hobble over to a tarp I had layed out an place the stalk on the tarp and give it a few good hits with the back of the sickle bar. I could hear the seeds dropping. Once I had a load on the tarp I would drag the bunch to the chicken pen and put the stalks in the pen. The seeds that had fallen on the tarp I collected.

In this manner I managed a couple loads and got half a bucket full of seeds. The seeds that remained on the stalks along with any green leave or seed pods were eaten by the chickens. They cleaned up all that could be eaten in just a matter of a few days. I am now setting with a bucket of seeds that I will sort this winter looking for the biggest seeds. Next year I am likely to cut the Giant Ragweed as fodder for the chickens since it is high in protein and the birds love it.The seeds are high in fat and digestible protein so it would make good bird feed. The one thing I would do differently would be to plant the Giant Ragweed in rows so I can bend the stalks over the tarp as I cut them so I keep more seeds. It is interesting that the seeds were eaten by humans long ago. I have tried some myself since ragweed is not a problem for me. They taste something like raw sunflower seeds. It is likely I can run them through a oil press since they are so high in fats. I am surprised that they are not used by people who have a problem with ragweed pollen. Since 75% of people who have a problem with ragweed pollen have a problem with the leaves of the plant. Leaves and seeds in small doses would seem to offer a way to become less sensitive. One thing I noted was how many honey bees were collecting pollen form my Giant Ragweed. It may explain why the local honey helps with allergies if taken weekly all year long.

This spring I plant to use my new jab planter to put in a new patch of giant ragweed!

High Calorie Gardening requires learning by doing!

An important point of High Calorie Gardening is you can only learn if you are activity gardening. Yes you can read, watch videos, etc. but to really understand you have to get your hands dirty. Let me give you an example based on my week. 

I had grown Jerusalem Artichokes for a number of years with no problems. This year my plants were badly neglected due to illness in the family. So I went to harvest my 55 tubs of chokes and I found about a dozen white grubs in each tub of chokes. Now this was minor damage to my plants but it is likely the stressed plants became attractive to the insects that hatched the grubs. I will now spend some time trying to get the grubs identified. So far it looks like it will be one of several moths that eat sunflowers. Jerusalem Artichokes are part of the sunflower family. If I had not been growing these I would not have learned about this problem. Now I have an opportunity to learn how to live with this problem.

On another note I have tried growing potatoes that I could winter over outside. Well about three years ago I thought all my outdoor potatoes I was testing died. Well this winter was hard and my thyme died. I did not have time to deal with the tub that had thyme so it just sort of sat for the summer. So I was cleaning it out and what did I find, potatoes I had planted years ago. They had been growing with the thyme for several years and wintering in the pot with them. I collected all the potatoes I could find and will be babying these to plant next spring so I can increase their numbers for another test. I may have found my overwintering potato!

In another area I finally tried my new jab planter. I like it a lot but I wanted to use it in wet clay soil. The problem is the plate the protects the seed drop fills with clay. So I am ordering a replacement spade part for it that is a few inches longer. Once I get the part lined up correctly for my soil it will allow me to plant when soil is too wet to work. All I have to do is tarp the ground to kill the weeds and jab the seeds into the ground. I will be using it as is this weekend to get some field peas in the ground where the chickens are. They may eat them all but they are being planted as fodder for the birds anyways. Once I get the jab planter working right I can just keep replanting different fodder crops. I will likely also be setting up a bucket fodder system to give the chickens greens in the winter.

I could go on but you get the point. There is so much I am constantly learning by actually doing. It is ok to start small but start you must if you really want to learn.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Do you only have to grow heirloom seeds?

Do you only have to grow heirloom seeds?

I have gotten into a debate with the seed bank and seed vault people again. This time it is over the need to only grow heirloom seeds. The thinking is that you only want to save seeds that are pure and will reproduce the same crop year after year. This sounds good in theory and I myself use mostly heirloom plants and seeds. However, there are some cases where I do not. For example, I have some potato and sweet potato that are hybrids. In fact many of my tubers are hybrids, which is ok because I plant tubers to produce more tubers of the same genetic stock. Other people have done a lot of work so I can enjoy these great hybrids in my high calorie garden.

Another area where I look at hybrids is disease and insect resistance. Let’s look at an item that is in almost every seed vault or seed bank. That item is the tomato. Now one tomato will yield a lot of seeds. So with both tomatoes and peppers I tend to bag my flowers and hand pollenate. I collect the pollen I want on a Q-tip and let it dry. I will then apply this pollen to other flowers. Both the pollen donator and receiver had been bagged with a thin layer of insect cloth. So I can grow hybrids and heirlooms side by side with no problem. Now the other fact that should be factored in is how long the seed is viable. If I have good tomato seed stored at the right moisture content and humidity it can last ten years or more. So I do not purchase hybrid seed every year. Many times I can purchase a popular hybrid tomato in bulk and divide the seeds for future years. Think of it as my own little seed vault or seed bank.

So I hope I have made you think about hybrid seeds as a viable option in a high calorie garden. If SHTF you would likely want to save your first crops of hybrid plants for seeds in your first year. So you would likely not get as high a yield from your heirlooms since they would have matured fully to produce maximum seed yield. In some cases with your biannual plants you will not be able to eat them because they seed in their second year.  Saving seeds is something I will talk about in the future.

The modern American garden has its roots in the Victory Garden of WWII

Much of Americans and British gardening today has its roots in the victory gardens of WWII.
In America the goal of the Victory Garden was to supply fresh fruits and vegetables.

The PDF “Grow your own Victory Garden” has suggestions based on historical records for creating your own victory garden.

Spring garden suggested crops

Carrot - Amarillo, St. Valery
Lettuce - Bronze Arrow, Forellenschuluss, Black-Seeded Simpson, Tennis Ball
Kale - Red Russian, Early Curled Siberian Kale
Onion - Red Wethersfield, Siskiyou Sweet
Peas - alderman Tall Telephone, Corne De belier, Green Arrow
Radish - Red Meat, White Icicle

Summer garden suggested crops

Basil - Lettuce Leaf, Mrs. Burns Lemon
Beans, Bush - Black Pencil Podded
Beans, Pole - Kentucky Wonder, Dow Purple Podded, Good Mother Stallard
Beans, Lima - Red Calico
Corn, Popcorn - Strawberry
Corn, Sweet - Stowell's Evergreen, Golden Bantam, Texas Honey June
Cucumber - Lemon, Early Russian, Suyo Long
Eggplant - Black Beauty, Rosa Bianca
Muskmelon - Hale's Best, Pike
Okra - Clemson Spineless
Pepper - California Wonder, Marconi, Black Czech
Pumpkin - Rouge Vif D'etampes
Squash, Summer - Yellow Crookneck, Cocozelle Bush
Squash, Winter - Blue Hubbard
Tomato - Yellow pear, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple
Watermelon - Moon and Stars, White Wonder

Fall-Winter garden suggested crops

Beets - Detroit Dark Red, Bull's Blood, Chioggia
Broccoli - Calabrese
Cabbage - Early Jersey Wakefield
Carrot - Amarillo, St. Valery
Cauliflower - (All-Year-Round)
Lettuce - Bronze Arrow, Forellenschuluss, Black-Seeded Simpson, Tennis Ball
Kohirabi - Purple Vienna
Parsley - Extra Curled Dwarf
Parsnip - Sugar Hollow Crown
Radish - Red Meat, White Icicle
Spinach - Viroflay, Bloomsdale Long Standing
Swiss Chard - Ruby
Turnip - (Purple-Top White Globe)

If you look at the top rated products at Burpee’s seeds you will see they line up well with the victory garden above.
Top Rated Products at Burpee’s
Tomato Big Beef Hybrid
Sweet Pepper The Godfather Hybrid
Corn Maple Sugar Sweet Hybrid
Sweet Pepper Gypsy Hybrid
Tomato Sugar Snack Hybrid (Cherry)
Cantaloupe Sweet'n Early Hybrid
Cucumber Sweeter Yet Hybrid
Corn Silver Queen Hybrid
Summer Squash Sweet Gourmet Hybrid

If you look at the “Vegetable Carbohydrate Chart” showing low carb and high carb vegetables you will find 13 low carb items listed and only five high carb items listed.
For high carb they only list Onions, Parsnips, Green Peas, Acorn Squash, Lima Beans

It is America’s legacy of WWII that has left us today with a focus on the lower calorie items for much of our gardens in America. Staples such as dent corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc. are cheap and easy to obtain. So most people do not bother growing these crops, which is sad because some varieties offer a lot culinary wise. Much of what we grow today would fit well into the victory garden of the early 1940’s. If you go areas of the world where subsistence farming is still practiced you will see a focus on high calorie crops. Each of these cultures will have one or more high calorie crops that their society depends on to meet a large portion of their daily calorie needs. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Starting a garden from scratch!

Starting a garden from scratch!

I received some negative email about my comments on seed banks and seed vaults. So I am taking some time to talk about starting a garden for those who bought or are thinking of buying a seed bank or seed vault.
This will be a high level overview that I happen to use.

The grand plan, know what your objective is before you start.

There is an old saying that “if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there”. It never pays to react out of panic or fear. You need to figure out why you want a garden. For this posting I will assume “I want to produce calories to supplement stored food”. So fist a few questions.
How much time can you devote to your garden?
Time matters because some plant require a lot of time planting, growing, and harvesting. I have seen many gardens fail during the heat of summer because people just did not have the time to take care of them. If time is a factor than you will have to plan within your time limit and to look for ways to reduce time you have to spend like using mulch to reduce weeding and automatic watering.

What plants can grow in you location?
My grandmother grew a peanut plant in Alaska and a friend at work is growing a pineapple plant in the office. But just because you can does not mean you should. Assuming we are high calorie gardening we want more calories out than the calories we have to put in. If possible we want to focus on plants that are easy to grow. So it is important to focus on plants that can grow in your area. Now you can extend your plant by starting indoors and transplanting. That is why I included a posting on manual transplanting tools. You can also use green houses, cold frames, and low tunnels to extend the growing season. Again the key is to not expend a lot of energy to start early or extend the growing season.

Of the plants that can grow, what plants do you want to grow?
This is important because if you want to grow X, Y , Z do you need to buy a group of seeds that only have ten percent of what you really want? I have found that it is best to buy exactly what you want to grow.

What diseases are common for the plants you wish to grow? How can I deal with those diseases? Should I consider only disease resistant plants?
Where I live we have blights that impact tomatoes and potatoes. So I have to factor this into my calculations when planning on growing these crops. It also means that varieties subject to blight may not be a smart idea to grow in my area.

What insects are problems for the plants you wish to grow? How can I deal with those insects? Should I consider only insect resistant plants?
I love squash and so do a number of insects in my area. So I have to cover, or trap crop, or grow varieties that are resistant to these insects.

Know your soil.

Soil is the key to healthy plants. Good soil is teaming with life. Much of industrial farming is about growing plants on life support. Without the herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, etc. you just will not get a crop. High Calorie Gardening is an organic approach that depending on a living soil that can support crops. So can you answer the following?
What are the soil conditions required for the plants I wish to grow?
How do I provide the ideal growing conditions for the plants I wish to grow?
What changes to I need to map my soil? This starts with a soil test.
What are my alternatives for amending my soil?
Where can I obtain the amendments I will need?

Now you can bank soil. This can be done with mulching areas the will be used for future gardens. One can put in cover crops to build soil structure and organic content. You do not have to actively grow crops to build soil. You can focus in building structure and life living in the soil.

Know your sunlight and shade levels.

Commonly a successful garden will need a minimum 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight.
What are the lighting requirements of the plants I wish to grow?
You can find the angle of the sun at different latitudes on the internet. You can use this to determine the angle of the sun during the growing season. This will let you know how many hours of direct light you will receive in the area you are planning your graden.

Know your water sources.

What are the watering requirements of the plants I wish to grow?
How will I water my garden?
If you are depending on rain fall with no backup than you need to know your average rainfall during each month of the growing season. If you get to much you may have to create hills or raised beds. If you get too little you may have to create a secondary water supply so you can irrigate.

Mark it out and map it out.

All plants will take up space. You should have an idea at this point on what area you will put your garden. It may be advisable to use some software to map out the garden. In a prior post I showed you how I can take seeds per 100 foot row and go to expected yield in pound per 100 foot row and then go from pounds to calories per pounds to get total calories per 100 foot row or X amount of seeds. There are garden planners available that can help you plant our your growing area. One tip is to create some 100 foot rows of plant you want to grow so you can than adjust your growing space and compare to the 100 foot row. This will allow you to compute the calories you would get as a percentage of the 100 foot row.

Gardener’s supply pre-planned gardens

Think about how you will harvest and store what you produce.

Calories do not count until they are consumed. So are you going to can, dry, freeze, root cellar, etc.
Each method will require different skill and likely different equipment. So do some homework and identify and learn how to harvest and store your food.

Well this has been at a high level.
In future postings I will revisit these items. It should give the people who are planning to buy seed banks and seed vaults an idea of how I approach growing plants for food. Please comment with your ideas and suggestions.

Monday, October 6, 2014

I shall try to grow rice in 2015

This will be a posting where I am seeking information as much as providing it. You see I am planning on growing a test plot of rice in 2015. Now I know what you are thinking, rice is grown in Louisiana and California, not Ohio. Well they are now growing rice in Vermont
I have been really impressed by the work done in the Northeast.
Rice Farming in Vermont

Farm and Homestead Resiliency Principles in Practice - Finger Lakes
Small scale rice grower in Vermont.

Now where I live corn and soybeans are king. You see some winter wheat but for the most part it is monocrop corn and soybean. Both qualify as high calorie gardening crops. Unfortunately, this also makes land that can grow corn and soybean expensive farm land. Some of the cheaper land also happens to be land with poor drainage. This is why I have been looking into rice.
I obtained the following seeds and they are in the freezer now. I only have a couple of ounces of each, just enough to make a small test plot.
·        Zhe 733 - very early maturing, high yield, excellent disease resistance, short plant height, from China
·        Hsinchu 54 - early maturing, good yield, moderate disease resistance, medium plant height, from Taiwan
·        Rondo - late maturing, would not likely produce seed, but produces a lot of leaves if you are looking for feeding dabbling ducks
I am also looking to obtain some  Duborskian Rice OG Oryza sativa (115 days from transplant) This rice has been grown in Maine. Roberta Bailey acquired this short-grain hardy Russian variety from Seed Savers Exchange member Anpetu Oihankesni of Colorado.

Now I know nothing of rice growing. All I have is my experience gardening & farming and the advice others who are actually growing rice are kindly providing me. However, I have almost two decades of experience raising poultry including waterfowl. I also have some experience raising fish. So I am hoping I can get rice to grow and then add the ducks and fish as I design some real rice paddies in 2016 or 2017.
Rice Duck Farming

Use of local ducklings to control insect pests and weeds in the growing rice field

Duck Rice Farming in Japan

China: Growing rice, raising fish for food and livelihood security

Introduction to fish culture in rice paddies

Integrated rice and fish culture

High calorie gardening is about maximizing calories produced while minimizing calories used to produce those crops. Also I try to find effective ways to reduce required equipment that has to be purchased and maintained. So I am looking at the “Seedling throwing method of rice stand establishment”. Now this first year I will likely be growing rice in large containers. After all I am just trying to see if I can get it to grow in my area. But I will grow the seedlings in trays just as I would with the seedling throwing method. Then I will drop them into the prepared containers. If I was not using this method I would be looking at using a manual rice seedling planting machine.
manual rice transplanter

A Demonstration of Small-Scale Rice Processing Equipment

·        20 days old seedlings of short duration rice varieties
·        Requirement of seedlings will be approximately 20% more than the line planting or equal to random planting.
·        The seedlings are thrown into the puddled leveled field by labor without using force.
·        Suitable for all seasons except heavy rain season.
·        50% labor shaving as compared to line planting and 35% to random planting.
·        Up to 7-10 days of seedling throwing care should be taken to maintain thin film of water
(similar to wet seeded rice).
·        Other cultural operations are same as in transplanted rice
·        Grain yield will be equal to line planted crop and 10-12% higher than random planted crop.

Now one snag I have hit is that I only have 3 acres of land and it is flat.
[There are very few sustainable and regenerative farming methods in known recorded history that can be modeled after for long term food and water abundance. Thailand has been known to bear highly productive rice fields that have existed for over 5000 years. At first glance of the abundance it is easy to think “why don’t we just build rice fields everywhere and have an abundant sustainable farming practice”? This thinking without proper planning can lead to dried up fields and starvation such as cases in Hawaii where massive blocks of crops have been lost and people suffer from bad planning and poor decision making.
In order for a rice field to remain sustainable, an area of equal to or more than (preferably up to 8 times more) above the rice field must remain intact as natural forest. When water that is used from uphill streams and rivers is used to flood the rice fields – it is the forest leaf litter, organic material, and the microbiology that comes with it that sustains the rice fields. If we clear the forest above the rice fields - about 3 years of production is left on those fields before they no longer produce sustainably and organically. Chemical fertilizers then have to be brought in which end up salting those fields and the subsequent fields and soils downstream]

So what I really should have is 8 acres of food forest above per one acre of rice paddy below. The nutrients from the food forest would be trapped in Rice paddies instead of just running downhill.
Such a system of forest above with water running through it can last hundreds of years. However, labor is directly related to the construction of the retaining walls and drainage in the rice paddies. For all practical purposes it is only the upper few feet of the terrace that actually holds water. The area below uses large rocks to increasingly smaller rocks until the clay layer is applied. So it is the layers of rock that make or break the retaining wall of the terrace. If water can drain than it is less likely to wash out a terrace. If the area under the terrace gets soupy the terrace can washout.

So that is all I have learned at this time about growing rice.
My very small rice plot will start in 2015

Below is some more information you may find useful.

Family Model Small Rice Huller Machine | Rice Mill | Rice Sheller
$330.00 per unit and $293.43 shipping to USA.

New England Rock Picking
This is how they clear the rocks out of their fields so they can actually grow something.

How We Grow Crawfish in rice fields

Crayfish Aquaculture Demonstration on Minnesota Rice Paddies

Benefits from leveling rice fields

System of Rice Intensification (SRI): Growing more with less

Terraced rice paddies, masterpieces of ancient engineering, have existed in China, the Philippines, and elsewhere for as long as two millennia. The building of these stepped paddies—done without the aid of machinery—is no minor undertaking. How, then, do farmers construct them? Here, follow the evolution of a new paddy.


Friday, October 3, 2014

who or what will harvest your crops?

Who will harvest your crops?
When it comes to high calorie gardening someone or something has to harvest your crops!
What do I mean by this? I have poultry which I allow to forage. During the summer they eat insects, greens, etc. This is calories I did not have to harvest. The poultry harvest this which supplements what I feed them.
Last year I planted two crops of cow peas. One I was able to harvest. The other the poultry ate. 
This year I have Jerusalem Artichokes. The poultry have eaten all the leaves they can reach. Now the turkeys are digging up the roots and eating them. We have all heard stores of cows in the corn field and chickens in the garden. Below are some ways of doing such in a constructive manner. After all high calorie gardening is not only about calories for humans to consume.

Hog grazing

In the old days of the Midwest hog would have their ears notched a turned loose in the woods. They would forage on the plants and local wildlife. In the fall pigs would be rounded up and harvested.
In Texas you are seeing something like this play out with Feral Hogs. Every year many feral hogs are hunted in Texas because of the damage they do harvesting farm crops.
Forages for Swine have been planted for pasture swine. In the right area with the right plants it can reduce the amount of feed required to raise swine.

Classical grazing

There are many opportunities for using animals to harvest. The classic is simply having grazing animals that can be turned loose to graze in fenced in areas. I would put cattle, goats, sheep, and geese in this group. Grazing land may not seem high calorie but when it is converted to meat and fat it qualifies.
Research and Experience Translated Into Grazing Practices You Can Use NOW!
Sheep 201 a beginner's guide to raising sheep

Trap crop grazing.

There is a great deal of information on raising animals for grazing so you can likely find all the information you would require.
Next would be growing crops for animals to eat. I just received my SARE field notes. It has an interesting article about using chicken tractors with trap crops. In this experiment Blue Hubbard squash which squash bug love was grown as a trap crop to attract squash bugs away from other plants. A chicken tractor was used to confine chickens with the Blue Hubbard squash. The goal was for the chickens to eat the squash bugs attracted to the Blue Hubbard squash.

Attracting Protein sources.

In some cases it is not so much harvesting as attracting animals such as deer to forested areas. Again the deer do the harvesting and you harvest the deer.
Conservation Of Quail By Planting Food Plots

Time to thing of gas storage in those small engines

One reason I tend to favor hand tools is I know they will start. In Ohio you can sometime get some bad gas. This is made even worse if you put it in a engine that you seldom use. So I thought I would post the data I collected for myself about my options in Cincinnati Ohio. I have found preventative treatment is much cheaper than rebuilding carburetors. I am posting this because I posted about cover crops and included by first reference to a tool that uses a gas engine.

How to find ethanol-free fuel for your lawn gear
Consumer Reports News: July 10, 2012 03:38 PM

Stihl's Motomix Premixed Fuel

TRUSOUTH Trufuel 50:1 Pre Mixed Fuel (6-Pack) sold at homedepot and lowes

Craftsman High Performance Pure 4-Cycle Fuel

Why is VP Small Engine Fuel the Perfect Fuel?

Powermaster Ho Sef 94 Fuel 4-cycle Quart

VP small engine fuels 4-cycle
CINCINNATI, OH 45247-5160
Phone: 513-385-4397
Fax: 513-385-4304

Schulhoff Tool Rental
2709 Woodburn Ave, Cincinnati, OH; 513-961-1122; ethanol-free UNBRANDED 91
$4.96 a gallon

Wardway Fuels
4555 Bridgetown Rd, Cincinnati, OH; 513-574-0061; ethanol-free UNBRANDED 91
$5.25 a gallon

marathon turbo blue racing gasoline

Lebanon Marathon
Cincinnati Street
Lebanon  Ohio  45036
United States
they carry 110 octane turbo blue racing gasoline

Skyview Market
Hamilton Cleves Road
Hamilton  Ohio  45013
United States
they carry 110 octane turbo blue racing gasoline

E-10 fuel treatments tested by BoatingLAB

Super Fuel Booster
10 ounces/$29.95
Treats 400 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 5 Months

Ethanol Treatment Marine Formula
8 ounces/$9.77
Treats 80 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 2 years

12 ounces/$13.99
Treats 60 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 1 Year

West Marine
EZ-Store EZ-Start
32 ounces/$13.88
Treats 160 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 1 year

Star Tron
Enzyme Fuel Treatment
8 ounces/$8.96
Treats 128 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 2 years

Fuel Stabilizer and Conditioner Plus
12 ounces/$5.99
Treats 36 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 1 year

Ethanol Buster
16 ounces/$21.99
Treats 240 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 2 years

Ethanol Gasoline Treatment
8 ounces/$10.99
Treats 60 gallons
Stabilization Effective Life: 1 year

Cover crops should play an important role in high calorie gardening

I tend to thing organic when I defined high calorie gardening. So cover crops play an important role in this concept. It is also an area not very well understood by many people thinking about growing their own food but with little experience. So here is some information to get you stated. So be sure to check out the roller/crimper at the end of this blog. Earth tools is the only one I know of who is making a garden sized unit. This goes very well with the jab planters and manual transplanters I blogged about before. I still have to work out collecting cover crop seeds. I am working on that and hope to address it in another blog. So far it looks like the largest seed crop you may be growing if you are not growing grains is your cover crop seeds.

Enter the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory's Cover Crop Chart.  This publication replaces depth with breadth, presenting the highlights of 46 cover crop species both pictorially and in the form of a bulleted list.

Cover Crop Species and Descriptions

Cover Crop (340) in Organic Systems March 2014 National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)
California Implementation Guide

No-till Roller/Crimper Plans
One of the key elements of our organic no-till research is a front-mounted cover-crop roller that knocks down a weed-suppressing mat that can be planted through all in one quick pass.


Introduction to cover crop rolling and the VAUSDA crimper roller demonstration project
Manual Crimper-Roller

“Crimp-Rolling a cover crop does NOT work for all types of vegetable crops to be planted into (for example, Lettuces, Greens, Carrots, Radishes, etc. cannot deal with the coarse “mulch” residue, and need a “cleaner” seedbed...such as you would get by flail-mowing the cover crop and working it into the soil), but for crops that it will work with, this tool offers an extremely simple and totally reliable design, and the crimp-rolled method offers the least possible soil disturbance (and therefore most intact soil structure).

The Rodale Institute has been experimenting with designs for transplanters (for vegetable starts) and seed drills to plant through the cover crop mulch/residue.  As far as we can determine, these tools may be cost-effective for the scale of agriculture done with full-size tractors (large acreage fields), but they are NOT cost- or time-effective for the scale of agriculture performed by walk-behind equipment.  Therefore, planting through the residue is best done manually.  The weed suppression and moisture retention the mulch provides (not to mention the addition of organic matter to the soil as it decomposes) more than offset the labor of planting through the residue.”

However, I have already posted two blogs one on Jab planters that should work and another on manual transplanters that should work just fine with this system. With the exception of carrots which I will later blog about because of their storage ability, most high calorie crops can grow in crimped cover crops.

Some unusual plants for use as a cover crop

Burdock is a biannual plant meaning it will only seed in the second year. It produces a deep taproot that can bring up nutrients from deep down. This large taproot is needed so burdock can over winter. Late emerging seedlings will not grow large enough to produce the root reserves necessary for overwintering.
To kill second year burdock simply mow it down after flower stalk forms or harvest the flower stalks for eating.

Giant ragweed for high calorie gardening.

Giant ragweed for high calorie gardening.

Now you must think I am crazy, growing giant ragweed. Well not all the calories in high calorie gardening are to be consumed by humans. I have chickens that love to eat the seeds.
The seeds of giant ragweed are 47% crude protein and 38% crude fat.
Quail or pheasants, in a good stand of giant ragweed will double and triple in population!
A good stand of giant ragweed will drop seed over the fall and early winter months feeding poultry that are foraging. Seed pods are not hard to harvest by hand since seeds grow in clusters next to the main stem.
Humans have raise giant ragweed in the distance past in North America as a food crop.
It seems to have been abandoned hundreds of years ago in favor of corn.
Now giant ragweed gives allergy suffers a very hard time for a few weeks in late summer. Fortunately, I am not allergic to it. I harvesting this year has been delayed due to a broken ankle. I broke in right after testing a new tool to harvest giant rag weed. I stepped into of mole hole walking into the house L But I was able to perfect my harvest. I just grab the stalk in my left hand and hack it with the sickle stick in my right hand. I can then strip the seed pods and toss the stem into a pile for use as sheet mulch.
Now sheet mulching is another area where giant ragweed really stands out. It is an annual plant if you cut it just before it produces pollen you can get a ton of mulch. I lay coffee bags down and add some chicken manure. Then I just start lying down a solid mulch of giant ragweed stalks. By spring the bags and giant ragweed will be broken down.
Get Rid of Ragweed and Grow Your Garden!

Another use I have for giant ragweed is to shade my plants. I was hybridizing hosta and shading is a real problem. What I found is that giant rag weed can grow well with hosta. The giant ragweed does not really get it height till the heat of summer. This is the time when hosta need shading. So I have allowed giant rag weed to shade my hosta plots for over a decade. I tried it with potatoes this year and had good result by using a percentage of giant rag weed for shading the potatoes from the heat of summer.
Finally, it appears that sheep and goat love to eat young giant rag weed. 

“In nutrient-poor soils, the roots of pasture plants, such as grasses and weeds, have some ability to selectively absorb and concentrate essential minerals. One interesting example from crop science is ragweed, which can have Zn concentrations seven times greater than those of corn leaves at tassel! In other words, as most gardeners know, weeds can rob soils of nutrients. Goats are great ‘weedeaters’, so why not use organized plots of certain pasture weeds to supplement minerals in their diet? The trick is to find the right weeds. You want the nutritive value but you don’t want to propagate a host of noxious weeds that will upset your neighbors and the local extension agent!”

The Nutritive Value of Common Pasture Weeds and Their Relation to Livestock Nutrient Requirements

So give some thought to giant rage weed. If nothing else think about using it in an area where nothing else will grow. However, do remember that this is an aggressive plant so be careful to keep it out of your established garden areas. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Some call it sushi, some call it bait, I call it plant food.

There are many plants in a high calorie garden that can be heavy feeders. Corn is one example. With organic gardening a lot of mulch, compost, manure, etc. is used. But in many places in the world fish played an important role in growing crops. In the Midwest there are actually a lot of places to catch fish the two problems are contamination of the waters fish live in and size of fish. In most states consumption advisories will be issued for what is safe to eat, in what quantities, and how often it can be consumed. However, many times fish that is safe to eat can be found in farm ponds or small streams that feed river systems. The fish most likely to be found are what most people call bait fish. This bait fish can be used to make a very good fish fertilizer. So I am thinking small when it comes to fish.

Recipes for Fish Fertilizer

Homemade Fish Fertilizer
Making Your Own Fish Emulsion

Contaminants in fish

Much of the toxins in fish seem to accumulate in the fats. It has been suggested the boiling or cooking may be one way to remove fat that may contain harmful toxins. However, if the fish is not safe to eat it is not really safe to use to make Fish Emulsion. Stores that sell live or whole fish may be a source for guts, bones, and heads that can also be fermented to create fish emulsion and fertilizer. Also think crayfish and other crustaceans for fermenting. Safer fish to eat and use in fertilizer are crappie, yellow perch, blue gill, sun fish, green, longear, redear.
Trimming and Cooking Fish to reduce contaminates. The key is getting the fat out.

Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory

Links about Ohio sports fishing rules.


Forage fish and minnows may be taken with cast nets. It is unlawful to use a cast net with a square mesh less than ¼ inch or larger than 1 inch on a side, or with a diameter greater than 10 feet. It is illegal to use a cast net within a distance of 1,000 feet downstream from any dam posted with Division of Wildlife signs indicating cast net use is prohibited.
Using a casting net for shad
CASTNET BASICS HOW TO Choose a Cast Net for Live Bait
How To Catch More Shad (And Stay Safe): 8 Cast Net Tips

Minnow or Bait Fish Traps

It is illegal for anglers to possess or use a minnow or bait fish trap larger than 24 inches in length and 12 inches in width. Additionally, possessing or using a minnow or bait fish trap with an opening larger than 1 inch is illegal. A tag must be attached to the trap with the owners name and address, or the customer identification number.
Minnow Trapping Sucker, Shad, Shiners, Dace Fathead Minnows Part 1
Minnow Trapping, Suckers, Shad, Dace, Chubs, Fatheads Part 2
Catch of the day: Baitfish, eating minnows



Trotlines must be marked with the name and address or customer identification number of the user. Trotlines must be anchored. Wire or cable may not be used. Not more than three trotlines are permitted in any one body of water in the Inland Fishing Distric. Not more than 50 hooks per trotline are permitted in any tributary of Lake Erie. Trotlines may not be used within 1,000 feet down stream of any dam. All trotlines must be checked once every 24 hour.
Trotline in the ohio river

Forage Fish

Forage fish means freshwater drum (sheepshead), common carp, grass carp (in water NOT stocked b the Division of Wildlife for vegetation control as indicated by signs), bighead carp, silver carp, black carp, quillback, suckers, bowfin, gar, buffalo, gizzard shad, and goldfish. These species may be taken by any method except by means of explosives, poisions, firearms, electricity, chemicals, nets, seines, traps, or by snagging within 1,000 feet downstream of a dam. Gizzard shad and rainbow smelt may be taken with a minnow seine, minnow dip net, or hand landing net.
How to Catch the BEST BIG Musky & Flathead Live Bait with Creek Seine

Making a Crayfish trap

How to Build a Crayfish Trap for Under $5
Part 3 - Finishing
Part 4 - Building a Bait Box