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Food Security & Insecurity in the US Posted on 23 Aug 13:44 , 0 comments

This article is in response to a recent article I shared about Crops rotting in the field because farmers lacked the labor force to complete their harvest.  There are many reasons for the lack of labor force but we'll stick to the FOOD issues for now.
What would happen if there were no more fancy colored lettuce in plastic bags and boxes on store shelves?  What would you do if they were there but you could no longer afford them?
 
According to the USDA, food insecurity decline in 2015 by 1.3% from 2014.  That sounds great but when you look at the staggering about of people around you that struggle every day to feed themselves and their family it isn't very comforting.
 
Reasons for Food Insecurities include
Job Loss
Sickness
Rising food costs
Crop failure due to Weather or Water Shortage
Farm labor shortage
Interruptions in transportation of food
Civil unrest
 
To keep it simple, this article refers to 2 types of food security.  The first is the supply chain of food and the second is consumer access based on affordability.
 
As a homesteader, we grow quite a bit of our own food but we understand that not everyone shares our passion for self-sufficiency.  Even though we grow, there are still plenty of food items that are sourced locally or thru grocery stores.  Those items don't just magically appear in the store.  Someone has to grow them, care for them, harvest them and then transport.  One "blip" in the supply chain can be devastating.
From a single seed we grew this 16+ pound Hubbard Blue Squash
Food Shortages
We've seen the evidence of food shortages in recent years.  Venezuela is an example.  Some argue the food is there but the government has control.  Some argue that the food is there but it's too expensive and others that there is a true food shortage.  Whichever theory you choose to follow, the fact is that the people of Venezuela are in trouble.
 
Food Waste
In some instances, it's not the lack of food that can be the issue but rather wasting food.  Every day perfectly good produces is thrown out because it isn't "pretty" enough to sell.
 

Corporate takeover of Seed supplies
From our article Protecting Seed Diversity
"Today, three corporations control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market.
Read that sentence again and let that sink in...3 corporations OWN over half of the global commercial seed market!"
Those statistics are WORSE now with the mergers of Syngenta & ChemChina as well as Bayer and Monsanto
Plant Heirloom Seeds to fight corporate greed!

In 2006, USDA introduced new language to describe ranges of severity of food insecurity.  Let's start with the clear definitions from the USDA
Food Security
High food security (old label=Food security): no reported indications of food-access problems or limitations.
Marginal food security (old label=Food security): one or two reported indications—typically of anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food in the house. Little or no indication of changes in diets or food intake.
Food Insecurity
Low food security (old label=Food insecurity without hunger): reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.
Very low food security (old label=Food insecurity with hunger): Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
 
Why do we need these definitions?  Well, to better understand their statistics!
Statistics show
Food secure—These households had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
87.3 percent (109.3 million) of U.S. households were food secure throughout 2015.
An increase from 86.0 percent in 2014.
Food insecure—At times during the year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security.
12.7 percent (15.8 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2015.
Down from 14.0 percent in 2014.
Very low food security—In these food-insecure households, normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. 
5.0 percent (6.3 million) of U.S. households had very low food security at some time during 2015.
Down from 5.6 percent in 2014.
 
Over the past two decades, food prices have risen 2.6 percent a year on average. But recent factors have slowed food price inflation. The change is only temporary, though. Once those downward pressures abate, food prices will resume their normal upward trend.

Let's do the math. In the last 20 years, food prices have increased by 52%
 
Food Shortages from the Farm
June 2017
"UK summer fruit and salad growers are having difficulty recruiting pickers, with more than half saying they don't know if they will have enough migrant workers to harvest their crops." source 
 
August 2017
"Volatile prices can be blamed on a dismal California harvest, which started in February."
"She said trees were stressed after five years of drought. Extreme heat in July 2016 also hurt this year’s crop.  Global supplies also are down." source

April 2017
"Lettuce Shortage sends prices soaring" source

April 2011
"Eggplant shortage disrupts supplies to local eateries, groceries" source


MOST of your store-bought food is Imported!
"It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate." source
"Today, the typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States." source


We are fortunate in the US to have access to grocery stores and sophisticated transportation methods.  I've given you a good idea with the sources above of the different forms of food insecurities we face.  I've also shown that even with our current technology and infrastructure, food insecurities do exist.

What can we do?
As a homesteader, I can tell you what we are doing.  Plant a garden and GROW.  Every season we expand our gardens to be able to produce more fruits, veggies and herbs.  What we do not eat, we preserve for future use or share our abundance.
Garden goodies I dropped of for my Mom

We barter fresh produce with one neighbor in exchange for her horse poop.  We use the aged horse poop in the garden to produce healthy, abundant crops.

Backyard chickens are a newer adventure for us and so far we're thrilled.  It took 5 months growing these tiny chicks into hens but they are now rewarding us with eggs every day.
Organic eggs from our Hens

Stock your pantry.  For items that you are unable to grow, but in bulk and store for later.  We do this as well and it has saved quite a bit of money in the process.  Just be sure to rotate your "back-ups."


I hope you have enjoyed another educational article.  if you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to mary@marysheirloomseeds.com

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Using Coffee Grounds in the Garden Posted on 23 Feb 17:59 , 3 comments

We've discussed recycling and composting in the garden a few times.  There are many benefits of composting not just for the garden but also for our planet!

Before we get started with coffee grounds,
I need to mention that we just offered a 99 CENT SEED SALE
at Mary's Heirloom Seeds thru March 1st.  CLICK HERE for details.

 

If you drink coffee, you NEED to read this!  Hey, even if you don't drink coffee, you probably know someone who does and would be willing to share their coffee grounds


Composting coffee grounds is easy!  Just throw them into your compost pile or bin.  Used coffee filters can be composted as well, preferably unbleached.  If you add coffee grounds, this is considered "green material" so you'll need to balance with "brown material."

Coffee Grounds can be used as a fertilizer as it adds organic material to the soil.  This can improve drainage and water retention.  Bonus, spent coffee grounds attract earthworms!


There are many uses for Coffee Grounds in the garden.

Many gardeners like to use used coffee grounds as a mulch for their plants. Other used for coffee grounds include using it to keep slugs and snails away from plants. The theory is that the caffeine in the coffee grounds negatively affects these pests and so they avoid soil where the coffee grounds are found. Some people also claim that coffee grounds on the soil is a cat repellent and will keep cats from using your flower and veggie beds as a litter box. You can also use coffee grounds as worm food if you do vermicomposting with a worm bin. Worms are very fond of coffee grounds. 


Decomposing coffee grounds have their own fungal and mold colonies and those fungal colonies tend to fight off other fungal colonies. If this seems weird, just remember that the antibiotic penicillin was developed from a mold. The world of teeny, tiny things is fighting for space and resources just as fiercely as the world of big, visible things, and you can use that to your advantage.


Disease suppression

As they decompose, coffee grounds appear to suppress some common fungal rots and wilts, including Fusarium, Pythium, and Sclerotinia species. In these studies, coffee grounds were part of a compost mix, in one case comprising as little as 0.5 percent of the material. Researchers suggest that the bacterial and fungal species normally found on decomposing coffee grounds, such as non-pathogenic Pseudomonas,Fusarium,  andTrichodermaspp. and pin molds (Mucorales), prevent pathogenic fungi from establishing. A similar biocontrol effect was noted on bacterial pathogens including E. coliand Staphylococcusspp., which were reduced on ripening cheeses covered with coffee grounds.


Effects on plant growth

Given their antimicrobial activity, it’s not surprising that attempts to cultivate mushrooms in coffee grounds have been variable and species-specific. Likewise, their effects on plant growth are unpredictable.  Coffee ground composts and mulches have enhanced sugar beet seed germination and improved growth and yield of cabbage and soybeans. It’s been an effective replacement for peat moss in producing anthuriums. Increases in soil nitrogen as well as general mulching benefits, such as moderating soil temperature and increasing soil water, are proposed mechanisms for these increases.


Using Coffee Grounds in the Garden

-Toss them in the compost

-Add them to your vermicompost (worm bins)

-Add directly to soil for organic matter

-Mulch with coffee grounds

-Add to you Organic liquid fertilizer

-Mix with carrot seeds to improve germination and soil aeration


There you have it!  Do you use Coffee Grounds in the garden?
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HEIRLOOM TOMATO ANNOUNCEMENT & SALE Posted on 15 Feb 06:55 , 1 comment

We sent this out yesterday to our e-mail list but thought it would be nice to share to our blog as well.  Happy Planting!

Mary's Heirloom Seeds
Quick Links
Join Our List
A few favorites @MARY'S HEIRLOOM SEEDS
February 14, 2017
We are SUPER excited to announce the addition of several new (to us)
As promised, we're continuing to add heirloom varieties to our already unique selection at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.  As an added bonus, the varieties we are announcing today are on Sale thru February 19th!

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SEEDS added today!!!    

Seeds listed in this section are ON SALE thru February 19th.  
We have a $10 order minimum 
with the free shipping option. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
*Excellent for HOT climates*
 
 
If you're wondering what to plant, 
check out our
and 
Also ON SALE thru February 19th @ Mary's Heirloom Seeds




If you have additional questions please feel free to ask. 

 

Happy Planting,

 

Mary's Heirloom Seeds, P. O. Box 3763, Ramona, CA 92065

SOIL Recipes for Raised Bed Gardens Posted on 31 Jan 14:33 , 4 comments

I love our raised bed gardens!!!  There are so many benefits such as less water usage, almost zero weeding and best of all, LOTS of food produced in a small space.

I've had so many questions about what to use for Garden Soil.  The thing is, you can ask all of the "experts" and there is no absolute "right" way.  No one way works for everyone so below you will find some of the recommended recipes for gardens beds.  You'll also find my own recommendations based on what has worked for me.

Vegetable plants need loose, free-draining soil with readily available nutrients to produce abundantly. Each year's crop takes a bit of the nutrient base of the soil with it, so this must be returned on an annual basis to keep the garden productive.  This means adding amendments every year to maintain a healthy balance of nutrients.

First, a caution for the thrifty.  Be wary of advertisements for cheap or free bulk topsoil, as this material is generally scraped from construction sites and may be full of roots and rocks, making it unsuitable planting vegetables. Go to the landscape supply yard and look at the options to make sure you are getting a loose, clean, lightweight material that has compost already mixed in.

If you are building and filling  multiple beds, buying bagged soil isn't economical.  Call around your area and ask for bulk organic topsoil.  You might not be able to find "organic" soil so you can always ask for untreated soil.

1 - 4 foot by 4 foot raised bed takes 16 cubic feet of soil or approx 1/2 a cubic yard of soil

I saw one recipe that called for 1/3 Peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost.

This is not a recipe I use.  First, peat moss is on the acidic side.  Coconut Coir is neutral and a more sustainable addition to your garden.  Next, too much vermiculite will keep your soil from retaining moisture and nutrients.

Here's another recipe I found:
  • 3 parts compost
  • 1 part peat moss 
  • 1 part vermiculite

Here's my all time favorite from Rodales:
You want the kind that’s dark, rich, and loaded with microorganisms. Fill your beds with a mix of 50 to 60 percent good-quality topsoil and 40 to 50 percent well-aged compost. Before each new growing season, test your soil for pH and nutrient content. You can buy a kit at most home-improvement stores. If your test shows a need for additional nutrients like nitrogen and potassium, raise levels by working in amendments such as bone meal and kelp. Dress beds with an additional ½ inch of compost later in the growing season to increase organic matter and boost soil health. 

I use my own version of the above recipe.  I add coconut coir to each bed.  Depending on what I'm planting, if it needs lighter soil I'll add a bit of vermiculite.  Most of our beds are fed with our own DIY Organic Liquid Fertilizer Mix

We've been building up our own compost and amending the topsoil we purchased by the truckload several years ago.  If you are just getting started, you might have to shop around for a healthy option.


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Build Your Own Raised Beds and GROW! Posted on 31 Jan 13:22 , 4 comments

We're finally updating our Build Your Own Raised Bed tutorial!  Our first post was in 2015 when we moved to our new homestead and built a bunch of 8 foot by 4 foot beds.

We are STILL using these beds but we ended up putting gopher wire on the bottom to keep the gophers out.  We've also adapted this tutorial to make a few 4 foot by 4 foot beds for different projects or just because they were easier to handle.

Many of you have seen our updates on facebook.  We have expanded our growing area over the last week.  This place is HUGE!  We wanted to get growing fast but with the rocky ground (and gophers) at our new homestead, we decided to build raised beds.  Here's how we built...


Tools:
Drill (required)
Circular saw (optional)  
Staple Gun (optional) 

Lumber & Supplies:
We purchased 2"x12"x16' untreated boards
untreated 4"x4" posts-Buy it 8 feet long and have it cut in 1 foot long posts
48" landscaping cloth (optional)
 3" deck screws from a local hardware shop.
It takes 1 and a 1/2 boards to make these 4X8 beds.  
That means 12 boards will make 8 beds.


A few thing I've learned:
Landscaping cloth works to keep the weeds out but NOT gophers.

If you have gophers or other burrowing pests, I highly recommend gopher wire or hardware cloth (it's not actually cloth).  Affix the wire to the bottom of the bed after you build the bed but before you fill with dirt

The 3 inch deck screws can be expensive but they are well worth it

I was told that the 4" post at each corner was overkill but I feel it is worth it.  Our raised beds are in great shape so far!

If you choose to build 4 foot by 4 foot beds, you can purchase pre-cut boards OR buy 1- 2X12X16 and have it cut into 4 foot boards.

If you prefer to make smaller beds then you will need to re-adjust length/quantity of boards. 

Screws: 32 
3 inch "Star Drive" deck screws
*These include a drill bit* 
The 2"x12" board were cut in 4' and 8' pieces.   
The 4"x4" posts were cut in 12" pieces.
If you don't have a circular saw (or want to make the boards easier to handle) I suggest having the people at the shop cut your boards. 
The 12" pieces of 4x4 post were attached  
to the ends of the 2x12x8 pieces with the  
3" deck screws: *4 screws per board per corner* 
32 screws total


After taking the 4' and 8' boards to the garden the 4' and 8' boards were assembled so that the 4' boards covered the ends of the 8' boards with their attached posts. 


This gave the assembled bed a 4'x8' OUTSIDE dimension gopher wire was attached to the bottom

Now, we have pictures of our 4 foot by 4 foot beds!


4 ft by 4 ft bed


4 ft by 4 ft bed with gopher wire


We used a staple gun to attach the gopher wire to each bed
The assembled bed was then placed gopher-wire side down and filled with good, organic soil with plenty of Organic Nutrients added to the beds.

4 X 4 growing Organic Radish


For 4 beds @ 4ft X 8ft we used about
5 cubic yards of soil.
Water the bed once it's filled with dirt and organic plant food.  We added more dirt once the soil compacted a bit.
TIME TO PLANT HEIRLOOM SEEDS!

If you have additional questions about getting started or would like more info please feel free to ask.  As always, I am happy to help.

If you'd like to check out some of our gardening tips, check out our fb page. 

Stay tuned for info on FILLING and maintaining these beds!


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BEST VEGGIES FOR HOMESTEAD GARDENS Posted on 05 Jan 16:31 , 2 comments

I've shared previous "best of" articles from Mary's Heirloom Seeds such as Mary's Top 10 with Companions and Heat Tolerant Veggies.
 
But how about homesteaders?  Some of you, myself included, are growing to become more self-sufficient.  We're also working on a soil-prep article so stay tuned for that
 
What are the Best Veggies for Homestead Gardens?
 
I'm starting with Radish because it's one of the first crops to mature in our garden.  As long as your soil has balanced organic matter, Radish is an easy crop to grow and usually pest resistant.  The Early Scarlet Globe Radish is heat tolerant and matures in as little as 22 days. The German Giant Radish matures in as little as 29 days and can be harvested small and early or let them grow as large as a tennis ball (no joke.  I've done it)
 
For a mild flavor, the French Breakfast Radish is an excellent variety.  For a longer growing, spicy option, the Japanese Minowase Daikon Radish
 
 
If you're looking for a good dual-purpose crop, Beans are your go-to homestead crop.  Some varieties can be picked early as a snap bean or left on the plant to mature for a nice dry bean (for soups, etc).
 
An excellent Dry Bean options is the Blue Speckled Tepary Bean, which can be traced all the way back to the Mayans and was a staple for Native Americans.  Additional and delicious dry bean options include Cannellini, Jacob's Cattle and Red Striped Greasy Snap Bean
 
Th Scarlet Runner Beans make a great fresh bean or soup bean.
 
 
 
Greens are arguable one of the easiest varieties to grow.  Depending on the variety, they can give very successful yields for several months.  Most popular with our customers are Little Gem, Tom Thumb, Rouge D'Hiver and Parris Island Cos Lettuce.
 
 
 
While it's listed as a GREEN on our site, we're separating Swiss Chard from lettuce because it's a MUST on our homestead. 
-We use Swiss Chard fresh in our salads
-We give some away for my sister's goats and chickens
-We sautee swiss chard with garlic and onions as a meal or snack AND use sauteed swiss chard in crustless quiche. YUM!!!
ALL of the Swiss Chards are delicious but the Ruby Red and Rainbow Chard are our favorites.
 
 
 
Here's another dual purpose for your homestead.  Glass Gem corn for example is a great popping corn and can also be ground to make cornmeal.  Floriani Red Flint Corn is a very unique, strong variety for cornmeal.  Blue Clarage Dent Corn can be picked and eaten in the earlier stages or grown longer to use as a cornmeal OR chicken treat. Sweet Corn varieties can be used right away, frozen or canned.  So many possibilities!
 
 
 
Even the pickiest of eaters might enjoy a nice beet green salad.  We grow beets almost year round here on our homestead.  The tops make a great salad.  Beets can be eaten fresh, roasted or canned.  Most Beets mature in 50-60 days, and are somewhat pest resistant.  Even if bugs eat the tops, the bulb usually survives.  Detroit Dark Red, Chioggio and Golden Beets have been our best producers so far.  The Early Wonder is a great early maturing variety.
 
 
 
Onions take about 5 – 8 months to mature from the time the seeds are planted, so you’ll want to begin them early in January or February.  If you are in an area that gets frost in winter, plant them indoors in pots or in a greenhouse to give them protection. Bunching onions are a faster maturing option.
 
 
For an early harvest, the Thessaloniki and German Lunchbox Tomatoes are fantastic producers.
 
Determinate VS. Indeterminate Tomatoes
Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called "bush" tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet). They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period).
 
Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the growing season.
 
Our all-time favorite, heavy producing tomatoes are Amana's Orange, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra and San Marzano
 
 
 
Sweet, Spicy, Stuffing, Frying, Pickling and so much more!!!  Peppers are a great crop for homesteaders.  Our favorite for an all-purpose pepper is the Cal Wonder Bell Pepper.  For a sweet (big) pepper, we like the Quadrato D'Asti Giallo Pepper.
HOT peppers are tougher to pick.  We grow as much as possible for hot sauce, pickling and our Organic bug spray.
 
Jalapeno is a great mild hot pepper
Serrano is a great hot pepper
Corbaci is a new, mild-hot pepper that we're growing this year.
Habanero is a great HOT pepper
Ghost Peppers are the hottest pepper we carry and they are not to be taken lightly.  They can cause severe reactions/discomfort if you're not careful.
 
 
Summer squash are usually a faster maturing option.  Summer Squash take longer to mature but usually store for longer than summer varieties.  Squash is a great addition to your homestead garden since they are heavy-producers and make seed saving a bit easier IF you are mindful of cross-pollination.  Black Beauty Zucchini and Golden Crookneck are our homestead favorites.  Spaghetti Squash and Butternut Squash are Winter Squash favorites.
 
For Pumpkins, the Small Sugar Pumpkin is a must.  This is a great pumpkin pie variety.  
 
 
 
Give Peas a chance!  But first, decide what type of pea you'd like.  Southern Peas, also called Crowder Peas are not your garden variety peas.  Southern Peas are used like you would a dry bean.  Our homestead favorite is the Whippoorwill Southern Pea.  Then you have Garden Peas, also called Shelling Peas, and these are great for canning and soups.  Sugar, Snow and Snap Peas are useful for homesteaders as well.
 
 
There are so many unique veggies available, too many to list in a single article.  We've gone over a few of our favorites.  We'd love to hear from YOU about your favorite homestead crops.

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