Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Why I Only Plant Non-Hybrid Seeds

There are countless reasons to sing the praises of non-hybrid seeds. However the one that I can most simply and plainly name is this: survival. Yes, our survival depends on the preservation and usage of non-hybrid seeds to plant our food. Why? Well, essentially, as seed companies continue to over-hybridize seeds, they risk wiping out genetic seed diversity. It is through the use of diverse heirloom seeds that we preserve different qualities of fruits and vegetables. Truly, using only hybrid seeds can have catastrophic results. Here is an example:

Let’s say that all potato farmers in America are using an F1 hybrid (meaning it has been hand-pollinated to receive specific qualities) of potato seed. This potato seed has been created to grow large, firm potatoes that have a long storage life and resist rot. However, this advanced potato seed does not have the ability to fend off the “obscure” Colorado potato beetle. These large, convex, black and yellow colored beetles could then wipe out the entire country’s potato crop, systematically and quickly migrating from the Rocky Mountains, to Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, then all the way to the coast of the Atlantic, chowing on potato plants all-the-live-long-day. There is nothing to stop them because they can simply hop from one plant to the next if all of the potato plants are exactly the same.

Does this sound far fetched? Well it’s not. This bug migratory pattern is exactly the path that the Colorado Potato Beetle took when it spread throughout the country between 1824 and 1874. It started out as an obscure insect, then made its way across the states, hopping from one plant to another. It even eventually made its way to Europe. Today, it is cited as a pest problem in all states such except for Florida, Nevada, and California. How is this relevant to hybrid and non-hybrid seeds? Because we simply must keep planting diverse types of potato seeds in order to interrupt the bugs’ migration. Additionally, we may quite easily find an heirloom potato variety that is not attractive to this pest. They may simply fly past rather than stopping to lay their eggs under a leaf.

Here is another good example. Let’s say that we are in Ireland, and the year is 1840. All of Ireland’s potato farmers have planted the same type of potato seed, because it is quite simply known as the best seed. They are counting on harvesting a bountiful crop, and of course counting on the potatoes to feed their families for the entire year. Instead, the potato crops are hit by blight. Not just some of the potato farmers are effected- all of them are. There is no potato harvest in 1840.

Now, if this one sounds far fetched, then second guess yourself! Because this is just what occurred during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, which led to the death or displacement of 2 and a half million people! All of the farmers planted what they believed to be the best type of potato. But this potato did not have the qualities necessary to resist the blight. If the Irish farmers had planted several different types of heirloom potato seeds, it is likely that they would have had at least one type of potato crop that would resist the blight.

If you fear that your choices are limited when it comes to the selection of non-hybrid, open-pollinated heirloom seeds, don’t worry. You actually have a huge array of choices. For example, there is only a small handful of F1 hybrid apple seeds available, whereas there are a good 10,000 types of heirloom apples.

When selecting seeds, look for the words “heirloom” and “open pollinated.” By planting these seeds, you are helping to promote plant variance, and preserving these genetically diverse jewels.


What is a Prepper?


No, not a “pepper,” as in a delicious veggie that you may be growing in your garden right now. A “prepper.” Have you heard this term before? A prepper is someone who prepares in advance for catastrophic events such as natural disasters, or social chaos as the result of economic collapse. So if have started a crisis garden, (as I have been urging you to for months now) you are a prepper. Little did you know you had this catchy little nickname.

Two decades ago, preppers were thought to be extremists- those who were militia members stockpiling guns and ammo in their basement crawl-spaces. This is no longer the case. Fortunately, the general social attitude towards preparation for crisis has really drastically changed in the last few years. People from all walks of life are embracing survivalism and crisis preparedness. This comes as a tremendous relief to me, as I firmly believe that a self sustaining way of life  is integral to survival. The more people who realize and embrace this, the better.

Being a prepper is not about cutting yourself off from the “real world” and becoming a food-hoarding recluse. (People who perpetuate this stereo-type are unrealistic and foolish.) Being a prepper means that you have the ability to grow and preserve your own food. It also means that you have the ability to use herbs and natural remedies, rather than drugs, to treat illnesses. Preppers take the time to learn and teach important skills such as self defense, hunting, gardening, and how to locate fresh water. Preppers are those who strive towards self sufficiency, energy efficiency, and conservation.

If “prepping” still sounds like something you can’t get on board with, think of it this way: Being a prepper simply means that you believe it is better to be safe than sorry. Prepping allows you to take personal responsibility and control in the face of terrorist threats, war with two different nations, global warming, and natural disasters. Realistically, by growing your own food and medicine, you are taking no harmful risks. All you are doing is increasing your level of preparedness for crisis.

If you are not yet a prepper, I implore you to start today with living this more self sufficient way of life. Not sure where to start? Begin with baby steps, such as purchasing your Survival Seed Bank and Survival Herb Bank. Each month, set a new goal for yourself, such as learning how to can your own peas, or build a fire without matches. Take it one step at a time. You will have an impressive prepper resume before you know it, and have the confidence and security of knowing that you can provide for yourself and your family in the face of crisis. To me, there is no greater peace of mind than this.

Need a little boost to get started? Check out some online resources, of which you will find plenty. Try Pioneer Living or this Surburban Prepper blog. I regularly follow along with news from the Virginia Preppers Network. A quick internet search will allow you to locate a prepper network in your own home state. There is a whole online community that is ready to support you and your efforts.

Catnip’s Not Just For Cats

Have you ever seen a cat’s reaction to catnip? Oh, I think it’s just delightful. While I am not a cat owner, over time my wife and I have had our share of feline visitors to our catnip patch. They flop right down into the center of the plant, and curl their spines into a flexible, worm-like shape. Their little paws bat away at the air, and their bright yellow eyes come to focus on, well, nothing. Sometimes they completely squint shut. A cat’s almost instantaneous reaction to catnip exposure is a state of blissful zoned-out-ness.

Something interesting about catnip, which is a member of the mint family and also a very distant relative to marijuana, is that it is a stimulant only when inhaled. Oftentimes, cats begin by rolling in catnip to release its essential oil, which is called nepetalactone. So when kitty rolls around in the plant and bats the air, he is releasing this natural oil, and stimulating his feel-good pheromones. However, when this oil is ingested, it actually has sedative effect. So if you notice kitty has fallen asleep after about 5-10 minutes, it is probably because he has licked or eaten the leaves.

For cat owners everywhere, catnip in either its fresh or dried state has provided hours of entertainment. But what most people do not know is that catnip is beneficial for humans, too. I have used the catnip plant from my Survival Herb Bank in order to treat colds, respiratory infections, and the flu. It is powerful enough to even treat nasty infections such as bronchitis, and reoccurring conditions such as asthma.

To treat a cold, chest congestion, or respiratory infection, try pouring one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried or fresh-cut catnip leaves. Keep your teapot lid on so that none of the valuable oils escape in steam, and let this steep for 10 minutes. Then, strain out the catnip leaves before drinking the tea. I do not find the flavor of catnip unpleasant at all. In fact, it is quite nice. But if you wish to flavor your tea, you can add some honey or lemon.

Catnip is also helpful in treating a variety of other ailments including diarrhea, stomach-ache, and heartburn. It is great at reducing headaches, anxiety, and tension, and also for inducing sleep. It is gentle enough to be used with infants and is very good at treating colic. For children under one year of age, only 5% of an adult dose needs to be used, so use only a pinch of dried catnip. Try mixing it in with your baby’s bath water so that he or she can inhale the soothing oils. One thing to note is that because it may increase menstrual bleeding, catnip should not be used by pregnant women or women with menstrual disorders.

How Can I Start a Crisis Garden If I’m Not a Land Owner?

By this time, hopefully you realize the importance of maintaining and harvesting your own crisis garden. It is the only way to insure that you and your family will have a self-sustaining source of food when the impending food crisis occurs. Literally, it could save your family’s life.

In May we discussed how even urban dwellers can create a spot for a crisis garden by using a rooftop space. But what if you don’t even have a  rooftop? What if you don’t have even a small patch of land on which to grow? If this is your reality, then you are a good candidate for pirate gardening.

What exactly is pirate gardening? Well it is basically just planting a crisis garden on a plot of land that is not your own. You can accomplish this by using state owned land, or with the permission of a farmer who owns the land. “Aware Patriot” does a nice job of explaining the concept and basics of pirate gardening in this YouTube video:

Here are some basic tips for beginning your own pirate garden:

(1) Plant edibles that require very little maintenance. Your goal is to plant the edible, water it only once, then leave it and return only for the harvest.

(2) Once you have planted your edible, cover it with a good deal of leaves, grass clippings, and other compost. This will help to protect it from animals and hold moisture in.

(3) Plant several edibles throughout a large area, rather than one large pirate garden. The point is for your edibles to be largely undetectable. If you have trouble remembering where you planted things, use a GPS tracking system to record their points.

(4) Do not expect all of your edibles to survive and produce food for you. About a 30% survival rate can be expected. To increase your chances of success, plant edibles that are native to your area.

(5) Plant “underground” crops such as potatoes, beets, onions, and radishes. From the top, these pretty much just look like weeds, allowing them to remain quite inconspicuous.