Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cash crops to help fund my homestead

     I have been going through lots of seed catalogs this winter as I am bored off my hiney, and I have come up with many different crops that I will grow this year just for selling at the local farmers market. Some may seem quite odd to some of you but commonplace to others.
     First of these will be most obvious-eggs.  I plan on buying some birds from a friend who is trying his hand at hatching his own birds.  I think I can raise about 12 here with minimal effort on my part.  I may have to buy a bit of feed now and then but I'd much rather have them scratch around for most of their food.  Actually I would rather use the eggs as a barter item at the local farmers market if I can find a willing person to trade with.  At our house we like eggs but maybe not enough to eat everything our birds produce.  I would also like to raise quail for eggs.  I guess these birds are fairly easy to raise and the eggs are extraordinary.  I owe this idea to my wife as she loves watching the food network.  I saw Bobby Flay make an eggs benedict with these once and it just looked awesome!  These eggs also bring a premium as there aren't many farmers raising quail-yet.
     Secondly-Asparagus.  Last summer I planted a 4' by 12' bed of the stuff and it took off.  Usually it takes a few years before the plant is established enough to take being cut every day.  I plan on planting another bed the same size this year with another variety.  This will be far too much for us to eat so I will try selling or bartering some at our local farmers market.  I may also try pickling the stuff and selling it in jars.  Everything is better pickled!  I might also try this with extra eggs.  It is a great way to store food long term also.
     Thirdly-Mushrooms.  I can guess what you are already thinking, but these are the kind that are edible and non-hallucigenetic.  I purchased what is called "plug" spawn.  These are little wooden dowels that are inocculated with mushroom spores.  I guess you drill holes in a freshly cut wooden log and drive these dowels in them.  Then you dig the end of the log into the ground about 2 inches.  This helps keep the log moist.  The mushrooms grow best in a damp shaded environment like the woods around my house. I bought spawn of Shiitake, Maitake, and one called Lion's mane(this one apparently tastes like lobster!).  I think these taste the best when they are fresh, but they can be preserved for years when they are dried.  The website where I purchased these from is .  I highly recommend this company as I had my spawn in 2 days!  I would like to also market these to local restaurants, but let's just see how much I get this year.
     The fourth crop I will go into here is corn.  However, I will not be raising sweet corn as that market is FLOODED and the local farmers around my folks house raise the best stuff I have ever eaten and I'd rather just buy it from them.  I want to raise popcorn!  I bought a few different kinds of heirloom varieties that I hope to cross this year.  The first year of this I probably wont have enough to sell but I'll save the seeds and see what happens.  Also, I purchased seed to raise an ancient corn variety that is used for making cornmeal.  I wont have enough to sell the corn for cornmeal but I may try to make cornbread or muffins to sell from my very own cornmeal.  This will also call for getting a grain mill, which I can use for all the grains I plan to harvest here.  Here is a link to the corn varieties I purchased. POPCORN-

Hopi Blue
    Anyway, thats all for today.  I hope to have many more varieties of things to sell these just seemed to be the most interesting ones to talk about.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Beautiful Sunday afternoon

      It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in February and like many of you out there, the only thing I can think about today is getting my garden ready for summer!!!  Oh I think there is a sporting event on the television today too, but that is at least 3rd on the list of things running through my mind today.....GO PACKERS!!
     Yesterday I finished my seed sprouting shelf.  For this I used a wire shelving unit that I picked up at Target.  These will hold around 350 lbs of weight and you can have from 2 to 5 tiers on them.  They are a quite versatile unit to have on the homestead.  I think we have 5 of them!  The artificial lighting will be provided by a florescent lighting unit that I found in my garage and a small grow light I purchased at a local hardware store.  I picked up some plastic trays and peat pots at my local big box farm retailer also.  The total $$ I have invested in my sprouting shelf is around $100, and other than replacing the light bulbs this should last me the rest of my life.
     Having a unit like this is a necessity in a zone 4 garden climate,  unless you plan on buying started plants at your local nursery.  This I would highly recommend for a novice as all the hard work is taken care of for you.  Supporting local business is always a plus too!
   I'm going through the extra work as I plan on seed saving.  I have not studied this too much since grade school but how hard can it be?  I hope to develop my own strains of seeds that are most suited for my growing area.  I think if I plant enough varieties of things and keep crossing them, eventually I will have varieties that will be completely adapted to my area.  This seems to be the most sustainable way of gardening to me as I will never have to rely on seed companies every spring.  I am however quite lazy and will be letting the bees and wind do my pollenation for me.  This could backfire a bit depending on the crop that is planted around my house.  If I plan on planting corn this year to save seed from, I will have to get an airtight greenhouse.  Last year the farmer bordering my lot planted soybeans so since we only rotate two crops in this state, I imagine there will be corn this year.  Unless I can be absolutely sure he is not planting some kind of genetically modified Franken-corn(this is a reference to Frankenstein not Minnesota's illustrious senator), I should not even try to save seed.  This does give me another reason to buy a greenhouse though!  When I talk about GMO crops, I do not mean merely hybrids.  These types of plants will only grow one year, and are not succeptible to Roundup. Usually they do this by merging fish or insect genes in with the corn. Don't ask me how this works, ask Monsanto.  Also, if I was a commercial farmer and saved seeds for the nest year like my ancestors did, and they had crossed with my neighbors GMO corn, I could be sued by the seed company as they have the patent on that gene.  Some call that capitalism, I'd call it something else.....
     Anyway, I'll climb down off my detergent box for now.  I have been searching through seed catalogs and WOW.  I can't believe I can grow peaches and apricots in this zone!  There will be so much diversity in my yard, I may never have to rely on a grocery store again!!
     Well, that's all for now.  I have 4 hours of pre-game show to watch........or COPS.  I think COPS!