Every year, my compost pile sprouts an array of plants that I don’t particularly want, such as about a zillion
tomatoes of what-not varieties. In a normal year, I pluck them out and return them to the compost pile. But this is not a normal year. In fact, I don’t think
things will ever be “normal” again.
Something is happening that is very bad. Bad companies, like Monsanto, and frackers, and the people that are spraying those poisons all over us in the form of chemtrails are doing perhaps irreparable damage to our delicate balance on this planet which includes the ability to feed ourselves by growing actual food, not some chemical garbage that comes in a package. Twenty years ago I began doing public speaking on this downward spiral of self-destruction that was gathering steam, especially with the advent of genetically modified seeds. Not too many took me seriously. Unfortunately, with this sort of thing, unless you actually observe the consequences of the selfish and greedy actions of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against our planet and its living beings by living on a farm, you are basically oblivious to the glaring situation in which we are now find ourselves.
When I was growing up here on this farm, we had so much food we couldn’t give it away, yet nothing went to waste. We canned and preserved and ate well, even in poverty. Hunger was something I never experienced.
Now, over fifty years later, I am noticing some extremely disturbing patterns that are not going away.
One is the longevity of seed life. I used to buy seed in large quantities from companies such as Willhite, one of my very favorite seed companies located in Poolville, Texas. One pack of seed would last for years, with barely an affect on the germination rate. Not so any more. The last several years, I have had problems with their seed dying after a couple years, or not germinating at all. I know they have been struggling with environmental issues lately, mostly in the form of extreme drought and wildfires which I though perhaps was affecting the quality of their seed. And this is not genetically modified—in fact, most of what I buy from them are basic open-pollinated gene-pool-type varieties, not even hybrids. If the gene pool gets destroyed or corrupted, we are in deep shit.
Another disturbing trend I am seeing is the lack of production from summer-type squash, including zucchini, and even cucumbers. Some have said the bee issues are causing the problem, but I have plenty of bees. And I grow mostly gynoecious varieties, meaning that most of the blossoms are female. (In case you didn’t know, in cucurbits (squash, pumpkin, melon, cucumber, etc.) the blossoms are clearly gender-defined. The female blossoms have a fruit, and the fruit appears long before the actual blossom.)
Under normal condition, most of those fruits will develop into a full-sized edible vegetable. But this isn’t happening, and I am not the only farmer that is noticing this trend. And germination rates overall seem to be much lower.
Last year I had the strangest thing happen to many of my pumpkin and gourd seeds. As they germinated, they seemed unable to flip over so the root part went downward, and the seed-leaves emerged upward. I would find seeds struggling in the soil root upwards and flip them right. I have never observed anything like it.
I am also noticing the preponderance of certain diseases, another condition that had never really been a problem before. I used to grow tons of miniature yellow and red pear tomatoes. Now they seem to be struck down with some kind of virus or fungus or bacteria. Whatever it is, it shuts the plant down. The same with cucumbers, another reason I grow them in the greenhouse, which seems to protect them for most of the summer. (See The Enchanted Cucumber Forest). And I won’t even go into the malnourished soil. Despite years of pouring organic materials into my fields, they are getting deader and deader each year. The weeds are out of control and getting worse each year. The weather is either too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. I blame human irresponsibility and greed on all of the above.
But this year, I had a very uncommon quantity of “volunteers,” and an even stranger range of varieties. Keeping all of the above in mind, I decided to bless them, nurture them, and gently transplant them where they could thrive. After all, the fact that they had germinated after surviving less than ideal conditions over our rough Northeast Ohio winters told me that these were the strong ones and I should take notice.
Before continuing, perhaps some definitions are in order for those who are unfamiliar:
Perennials: These are the plants that are supposed to return each year. Their root systems over-winter according to their hardiness zone. Here in Northeast Ohio, it is Zone 5. These would include herbs such as chives and oregano, and flowers such as Sweet William and Oriental poppies. Hardy bulbs would include daffodils and garlic, and rhizomes would include irises.
Self-seeding annuals do not have hardy root systems, but their seeds over-winter and germinate wherever they happen to land. The beautiful herb borage comes up all over the place, and so do most poppies, like opium and corn poppies. I have a rare and exquisite opium poppy called “Lauren’s Grape” that is a very reliable self-seeder.
But the volunteers are another critter--flukes, and haphazard survivors. Certain varieties of morning glories fall into that category, especially in the greenhouse, where the conditions are much more conducive to winter survival. Often squash and gourds will reseed, but they usually end up producing grotesque fruits, unless you are growing them under specific breeding conditions to produce savable seed.
This year I had tons of tomato volunteers, which is pretty ordinary, but, as I said above, I took a different attitude toward them. They were up way before I had mine planted, so I put them in cups until they were ready to go into the ground. Now, here in early July, I already have baby tomatoes, which is very early for me in this cold valley where I live. My first two-and-a-half rows of tomatoes are all volunteers.
Last year, I grew my currant tomatoes in pots in the greenhouse, and they seeded generously. They are a true “gene-pool” variety. Technically classified as wild, they are very tiny, and used by breeder to cross with other varieties to produce hybrids, such as cherry tomatoes.
Keep in mind, though some growers only want “open-pollinated” varieties, in other words, breeds that have not been crossed or tampered with, there is absolutely nothing wrong with hybrids. They are simply varieties that have been crossed with other varieties to accentuate certain traits. They are not damaging to the ecosystem and are absolutely NOT the same as genetically modified seeds, where animal and plant genes are mixed, and God knows what else these criminals are doing.
The tomatoes I expected to come back, but I also grew my pineapple tomatillos in the greenhouse last year, and this year I got so many volunteers I did not even replant. (See photo above.) In fact, they already have fruits, which is very early indeed. One thing you have to be aware of is that nightshades have very toxic family members, so be careful to make sure that what has been created is not a cross with, say, deadly nightshade. So far, my tomatillos look normal, but until I see the actual fruit mature, I won’t be certain they are edible.
What was so unusual this year, however, were three flowers that I never would have expected to reseed: celosias, portulacas, and petunias. I have gobs of them, and they are in full bloom. The portulacas I grew last year were not hybrids, and they occasionally do reseed under good conditions. But the petunias and celosias were hybrids, so their flowers are not the same as in their hybrid form, and will probably produce sterile seeds this year, which is typical with hybrids. Or else they revert to a really basic, almost wild form. In any case, I have much earlier flowers this year without the work or cost of seed, and they are lovely, so I am glad I saved them.
I guess the last point I have to make that has me more than mildly concerned is availability of future seeds. For the past several seasons, varieties that I have grown for years are becoming less and less available. I always grow purple cauliflower—Violet Queen—which was not to be found this year. It has been several years since Rosalind purple broccoli has been available, and this year pearl cucumbers—probably the most tasty and productive (white) cucumber on the planet seem to have disappeared. I find these trends disturbing, which is another reason I have started to save the volunteers. If the situation gets much worse on this planet, saving our own seeds may be the only means for us to escape starvation.
In the first photo you see some volunteer red mustard. Next are pots of petunias, celosias, a tomato, and a very lanky tomatillo. In the third photo is a wealth of portulacas. Below are currant tomatoes, considered wild (their leaves are quite distinctive), and a true gene-pool variety, along with a stray collard green.
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