Tag Archive for growing

The “Cheerio Seeds” Scandal

PlantViewI’m sure most of you have seen that General Mills has been giving out free wild flower seeds in order to help save the bees. The long and the short of the issue is this: Handing out free seeds doesn’t make up for the refusal to stop using the chemicals that are killing bees in the first place.

Let’s back up and look at what glyphosate is. Otherwise known as RoundUp, glyphosate is an herbicide created by a Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970 and was marked in 1974. Glyphosate is such a strong herbicide that it was also harming crops. This stemmed the research and funding for genetically modified plants that could tolerate the chemical in order for farmers to spread massive amounts of the toxin on their crops, killing weeds and not harming the crops at the same time. Eventually bio-engineers began designing “RoundUp Ready” crops which are now used extensively in the US and in a few other countries.

The severe drenching of fields with glyphosate and the engineering of glyphosate into crops has not been studied in full, but the amount of glyphosate “leeching” into honey is alarming, especially given that glyphosate itself has yet to be cleared of possibly be a carcinogen.  The EPA is currently researching this risk, but results won’t be available until sometimes this spring, at the earliest. Coincidentally (or not so), studies have also shown that glyphosate has drastically impacted bees’ memory abilities, hampering the ability to find food and return to the hive, and their appetite, leaving them starving while producing low amounts of honey and with no drive to collect pollen, which in turn means low pollination levels and poor crop yields.

(None of this post takes into account the other environmental impacts of glyphosate of the potential cancer risk, but we’re sticking to the topic of Cheerios and bees here.)

Cheerios has tested higher for glyphosate (RoundUp) than any recently tested food article, with levels over 1,100 parts per billion. Which means that the fields in which the wheat is grown for the cereal is drenched in the chemical. (The oats themselves do not contain glyphosate as there are currently no RoundUp Ready oats. However, General Mills does still produce other cereals with RoundUp Ready wheat.)

So what does the Cheerios branch of General Mills do? They launch a feel-good campaign, which is timed right in parallel with unsealed documents that have been discovered and which raise the question as to whether glyphosate is safe for use. Cheerios decides to give out packages of free wild flower seeds that consumers can plant to help the bee population. There are a few problems with these seeds:

1. The seeds are not marked as non-GMO/organic, which means there is a very good chance that they also contain glyphosate. Planting poison not marked as poison is still poison.

2. Seeds listed in the package are considered invasive in certain areas. The company’s response to this essentially equated to, “There’s still pollen, and that’s what the bees need.” Introducing invasive species only presents other problems. Please check the label carefully to make sure you’re not causing more harm! (For example, Forget-me-nots and California poppies – both in the mixture – are very invasive weeds in certain growing zones.

3. These seeds are not a promise from the company to end the usage of glyphosate. Anyone who has taken Advertising 101 or a comparable course can tell you that this is a “feel-good” campaign in order to raise customer satisfaction and to distract from the new information surrounding the weed killer General Mills uses on the grains that eventually become their cereal, which we in turn feed to our families.

If you would like to plant flowers for the bees, by all means, do so!

Fantastic lists of native plants to grow that will help increase pollination and bee populations can be found at The Xerces Society. Make sure that the seeds you are buying are from a reputable dealer who does not sell GMO seeds, or if they do, make sure it is from a seed company that clearly labels what seeds are GMO and are non-GMO. One great example of a company practising such transparency is FedCo Seeds here in Maine. Everything is clearly labelled in their catalogue and online.

Buy from local seed dealers who will know what will grow well in your area.

Aim for native plants if you are planting only wild flowers.

Grow non-GMO, organic crops if you are gardening.

Do good, but don’t by into the “feel-good” of a company trying to undermine you.

Gardening and It’s Many Forms: Square Foot Gardening

PlantView

For the month of January, I have decided to do a series of weekly blogs looking at the different components of gardening that I take into account when setting up plans for any given season. I’ll still be adding in random posts here and there, but these gardening posts will be scheduled ahead of time.

This post starts off the series by looking at the many forms of gardening. When most people say they “have a garden” most people tend to think of the standard garden of valley and hills. While that method of gardening is “tried and true,” there are many different methods to gardening that can be practiced. Four of the most common methods of gardening are square foot, raised bed, “wild,” and companion planting. Each methods comes with positive and negative aspects. Many homesteaders tend to eventually use a combination of these methods, along with others.

SQUARE FOOT METHOD
The square foot method is ideal for small gardens when a lot needs to be grown. The square foot method literally takes one square foot of dirt and places into it as much produce as possible. In order to do this, you take the width between seed placement, not rows, and use this as a guide.

For example, if carrots are to be grown two inches apart after thinning, you take this 2″ spacing and apply it to the square foot that the carrots are going to be planted in, ignoring the recommendations for rows 8″ apart. Here’s how extensive this is: if going by a traditional recommendation of carrot seeds 2″ apart with rows 8″ apart only 12 carrot seeds would be planted in a square foot, where as carrot seeds planted using the square foot method of spacing 2″ from every other seed (so 2″ seed spacing and effectively row spacing) allows for up to 36 carrots to be planted in one square foot, 3 times the amount of traditional planting recommendations. 

Remember how I said every method has it’s positive and negative attributes? Obviously, the positive here is the amount that you can grow in a small space. The negative? Well, when plants from grown so tightly together there is a higher rate of mortality due to insects and disease. The square foot method is one that needs to be done by those willing to put in the research as to which plants benefit from this. Also, plants that need more space, such as tomatoes and pumpkins, do not benefit from the square gardening method, if anything planting these so tightly to one another more often than not ends in catastrophe.

Having played with the square foot method, I feel that the plants that this method works best for are for those with broad leaves, such as beans, or plants that don’t tend to get waylaid by disease, such as carrots. Tomatoes will be attacked by blight, lettuces will choke each other out, and pea plants will become a tangled mess.

Never ending changes…

Sweet little one

Sweet little oneThis is our life now: the constant changes that the cycle of life brings.

This is the third chick we’ve lost this year; all three were white rocks. On came in DAO, one passed only two days later, and then this little one at roughly two weeks old. It’s hard to see their little bodies so lifeless. Even knowing that they will be meat birds, we still love them with all our hearts until judgement day comes for them.

It’s not just animals, either. Even the gardens have a cycle. Seeding, tending, weeding, watching, and enjoying the growth of the plants makes you grounded, connected to each little sprout. Losing them to heat, water, predators of the herbivore variety, and then the eventful harvest tugs at your heart strings.

Isn’t that life, though? The happiness, sadness, pain, and loss all intertwined. I would rather we live with this mixture of emotions while tending our own gardens, flocks, and land than walking through the automaton world of grocery stores any day.

Spring Photo Update

We have a friend that's been around for a few years now, but he's now making daily appearances. He loves to hang with the chickens!

We have a friend that’s been around for a few years now, but he’s now making daily appearances. He loves to hang with the chickens!

The new game that the ladies have created is "Break In" - they try to see how far into the kitchen they can get when no one's looking.

The new game that the ladies have created is “Break In” – they try to see how far into the kitchen they can get when no one’s looking.

In the background you can see the new method we're trying with the pepper plants. Here's hoping the extra heat from teh window and wood stove give them a decent start.

In the background you can see the new method we’re trying with the pepper plants. Here’s hoping the extra heat from teh window and wood stove give them a decent start.

The San Diegos and Glaciers are growing like mad already!

The San Diegos and Glaciers are growing like mad already!