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I like to know if anyone is looking at my blog so please comment, if you can think of something, to say or e-mail me at madsmckeever@eircom.net

Monday, September 28, 2009

Irish Seed Savers Associaton Apple Day

Sunday, we drove to Clare to commune with the ISSA and talk about de-hullers with other interested parties.
It was a great day, the place is looking terrific, the apple trees are now trees. What a lot of work has been done over the years.

One of the really nice things about the day was meeting people in the bus queue. We met a farmer growing Miscanthus, and my godson turned up with his family. Bepe's father, Nicola has been block laying through the celtic tiger years but is now selling Italian food specialities in Markets. Lynn, his mother, is teaching vegetable growing and chicken keeping.

There was a quiet optimism in the air, and nearly every family took a tree home. What could demonstrate faith in the future more than planting an apple tree in your garden?
And there was music.....

Saturday, September 26, 2009


The kiwanos are coming along. If I restrained myself to growing one plant, as they weren't that successful last year. However, if I gave up trying things that didn't work in the first year, the catalogue would be a lot smaller. It was in a pot outside for most of the summer and I brought it in the polytunnel when the nights got a bit cool. I hope they will ripen now.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What is the matter with my rice?

Its not producing any. Carefully situated where the watertank overflows in heavy rain, it has grown nicely all summer. Surely it should have produced a few heads by now. Has anyone got any ideas?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Its funny how you can be walking past something for twenty years and then see it. It was really warm yesterday, when I set off up the road for a walk. Right outside the gate, the ivy was buzzing with all kinds of pollinators.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Skibbereen Food Fair

Lots of biodiversity here from Woodkerne Nursery's (sorry they are sideways), display of apple varieties, to the teddies at the picnic. We were there too, exploiting free labour to pod peas.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Its a great idea. You form a group in your local area, hold a meeting once a month, with a speaker, and network among yourselves about Growing It Yourself. It was started by Michael Kelly a journalist who gave up the fast life for the "Good Life". He and his team organised a conference in Waterford on Saturday. Mike and I went up to it and had a really enjoyable day. In the morning there were speakers such as Michael Kelly himself, Trevor Sergeant, and Joy Larkom. After a local food lunch, we were divided into 'pods', to discuss starting GIY groups in our own areas, and then given a chance to attend a workshop, on a subject such as permaculture, or nutrition or seed-saving. GIY groups would be a perfect network for seed swopping, as all the groups would be able to be in contact through the forum. I might try and start one here. Maybe it would lead to a CSA. We missed the threshing but it was all recorded and put up on U-Tube by Ron.

We then went on to visit Highbank in Kilkenny. I was in college with Julie many years ago and it was great to see her and Rod again. We are thinking about going to Bloom together next year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This year's squash.

This year's squash have done Ok. The wet August went against them but the warmth in July was enough for them to make a crop. time will tell if the seeds are good, this week's sun will have helped a lot.

It is a bit confusing remembering the names of squash and which ones cross with which. The green Buttercup in the top picture is Cucurbita maxima, as is the orange, Ushiki Kuri, in the next picture, and would cross with it.

The Butternut squash, above, growing outside have set some fruit, as they did last year. However last year's did not have any seed in them and any seed we got was in the tunnel produced Butternuts. The plants in the tunnel are further along than those outside. They are Cucurbita moschata and only cross with other beige coloured squash.

The Cocozelle courgettes, which are Cucurbita pepo, in the polytunnel are very different to the Green Bush down in the orchard, (also pepo) which are shorter and fatter. I will be interested to see how different they will be to eat. I am assured by some people that they are completely different. I won't be taking the seeds out for a while yet as I think they are still maturing inside the fruit. We are growing a third pepo variety, Delicata. I haven't grown them for a few years. Most of the plants have got mildew on them now but a few are growing strongly

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I'm so disappointed we are going to miss the oat threshing on Saturday. We are off to the GIY conference in Waterford which will be a summer holiday of kinds. Well, the summer is happening this week. The sun came out today fora trial run.

This post concerns the oats that were combined a couple of weeks ago, and some of which are drying in our barn. Using the grain mill opposite I tried to de hull some of them, as they are pretty inedible with the hulls on, and de-hullers cost about €20,000, or are a long way away.

It took several hours to prepare the one bowl of porridge. first I ran some oats through at various settings on the mill and tried to screen off the hulls using different sizes of sieve. Then I tried to winnow off any remaining hulls. It didn't work very well because some of the oats were very small and so nomatter what size screen I used I still got some small oats. so, I tried again first screening off the small oats then running them through the mill at a coarse setting which mostly just broke the oats in pieces.
Most of the hulls came off and it was easy to screen off any un-hulled whole oats. Most of the hulls winnowed off fairly easily but so did a lot of the smaller pieces of oat and oat dust. There were still some hulls mixed wit
h the bits which I gave up on but when I got bored, and hungry.

I put the mix in a pot and added water and of course most of the remaining hulls floated to the top. I had a nice bowl of porridge although there was still the odd annoying hull in there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tom Wagner workshop

Tom Wagner is coming to Brown Envelope Seeds to do a workshop on potato and tomato breeding. It will take place on Saturday and Sunday 17th-18th October.

If you would like to come to the workshop email me at madsmckeever@eircom.net It will be a really great weekend and hopefully a good chance to network with other seedy characters. The workshop costs €80. Workshop fees will go towards Tom’s travel expenses in Europe and towards the introduction of some of his important new varieties. As Tom devotes more and more of his time to being a seed ambassador of sorts, these fees will help continue his future workshops.

Tom is touring France in September and giving workshops there, before moving on to Denmark and Germany, then he will be in Ireland before visiting the Isle of Man where his grandfather came from, and finally the UK.

To get an idea of what he does have a look at his blog Tater Mater.

Tom has been breeding potatoes and tomatoes for over 50 years. He has created hundreds of varieties including potatoes resistant to blight,

He will be talking about what an independent breeder of tomatoes and potatoes does and possible release of new lines of potatoes and tomatoes.

Some of the topics that will be covered will be:

The history of Tater Mater Seeds

The development of some of Tom’s classic tomatoes such as the Green Zebra, along with dozens of other varieties that are available in the open market.

How Tom is rapidly accumulating a large germplasm of potato clones and TPS (True Potato Seed)

Hands on demonstrations of how to cross tomato and potatoes, many times with actual plants and with video and power point presentations.

Tom will talk about how he has taken just a few varieties of potatoes and tomatoes and created a vast diversity of seeds for the future. By using heritage potatoes and tomatoes, and adding some newer releases to cross with, Tom is working with these to create tomorrow’s heirlooms.

Tom will discuss making F-1 hybrids that anyone can make over and over again. He will talk about making backcrosses and taking each year’s seed increase to the filial level of F-5 on tomatoes which indicates a rather stable line. Tom will illustrate how his potato lines have better berry production which aids hybridization efforts.
Tom will talk about the nutriceuticals of tomatoes and potatoes; the essential nutrients that these crop could contain with a bit of breeding expertise. Enhanced antioxidants, anthocyanins, carotenoids, lycopene, are but a few. Fast cooking times in his new potatoes clones that cook in 5 minutes in boiling water will be featured in his topics.

Through a variety of breeder/grower initiatives beginning with the workshops, there will likely be many cooperatives dealing with plant breeding and variety development starting with seeds of Tater Mater.

These workshops will be part of an effort to keep seeds free and available to the public and not be allowed to be controlled by major seed companies, universities, or governments.

A concerted endeavor will be launched to work with local heritage varieties to incorporate them in variety improvement and to avoid GMO’s at all levels.

Potatoes can be grown from true seed and avoid the virus contamination of tuber trades. TPS is but one way to foster diversity and reach local needs for flavor, storability, yields, disease resistance, all with organic growing methods

The workshops will features many ways to look at seed extraction, seed saving, clonal selection.

Single seed descent and bulk population breeding and variety maintenance will be discussed.

The workshops will try to feature local gardens and local growers.

The goal is to find ways for this to help Tom in his work and how he can help local growers in return.

Video and audio recording will likely be part of many of these workshops. Some of those may be shown at succeeding workshops to show the growth of the information exchanges. A few clips of how to cross potatoes and tomatoes may be linked to the Tater Mater blog. Many still photos will be shown of his tomato and potato varieties.

Each of these workshops will invite anyone to submit questions to answer during the workshops and/or later in an interactive format. With sufficient interpreters present, these answers will be delivered in the original language.

The goal of Tater Mater Seeds is to get young people involved in plant breeding, therefore, if Tom can be a mentor and teacher for many potential plant breeders, justice is done.

During Tom’s 56 years of breeding plants, he has not only proven that anyone can be a home garden plant breeder but will show many how they, too, can be plant breeders. His unique collection of proprietary seeds of tomato and potatoes will be a great resource for plant breeding groups in each nation.

Tom started out breeding plants on his family farm near Lancaster, Kansas. He kept a family heirloom bean alive and growing each year in his gardens from a few beans his great grandmother brought to the USA in 1888. He kept growing new selections out of his breeding work even while he obtained degrees in Anthropology, Botany, Geography, and Education. His career includes farming, managing garden centers, managing greenhouses, potato buyer, potato and tomato breeder under contract, teaching, seed catalog, and a wide host of other professions. He has offered many of his creations in Farmers’ Markets and has introduced his varieties to other organic growers.

Tom stays busy with his TaterMaterSeeds forum and is a moderator on the Tomatoville.com for CrossTalk and Potato sub forums.

Tom currently lives in Everett, WA. His plots are all organic and shuns any chemicals applied to the soil.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Painted Mountain Corn

'Maybe the most beautiful food we have ever seen' according to: Allan Jenkins of the Guardian

Ours wasn't sown until June and isn't ready to harvest but it is growing well. Who said corn needs a good summer? The pictures show ours from June to September. What is nice about corn is that it is a staple you can process at home with a grain mill and make things like plolenta and corn bread and tortillas without a lot of technology. The oats are a different matter but more about them anon.....