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Administrative | New World Seeds & Tubers - Part 2

No new article today because there’s a backlog of administrivia to take care of.

We got some great suggestions back from the article on replacing exotic ingredients. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks of these kinds of strategies.

You can read about them here (click this link).

One of the resources that came up was the “Plants for a Future” database. I think that’s a great idea, and I’ve often found articles there when researching experimental new food sources. The next logical step would be to put theory to practice. I would like to start an experimental foods garden on my farm. I’ll cover the proposal in a future post.

If you’d like to continue the conversation, you can do so on our forums:

Tater-mater seed forums

This is a new/old forum…a continuation of Tom Wagner’s tater-mater forums, which are still hosted on proboards. I suggest visiting the new board now if you haven’t before.

Tom set up his old forums on proboards before he met me. I see value in integrating all the different facets of our internet presence. For example, approved comments to these posts tend to languish for lack of attention unless visitors set up pingbacks to alert them to replies. A better way to handle them is to copy them to our forums to keep the conversations going, particularly if they’re hot topics like some have been. Hosting the forums on one of our own domains gives us more flexibility to integrate the various means by which we and our partners share interesting and useful information among ourselves.

Unfortunately I’m not sure we’ll be able to copy over all the pictures that people took of their gardens, though we’ll certainly copy over at least a representative sampling. We love to showcase our partners’ gardens, some of which are quite impressive.

At some point we’ll send email to existing forum members to alert them to the new forums.

Next detail to take care of is Facebook. Many of you are subscribed to our fan page on Facebook. I want to alert you to the fact that you might not be getting every post anymore, and in fact you might not be getting any at all (in which case, you might not be getting this alert to tell you so!).

Here is part of the story:

A Squirrel Dying In Your Front Yard May Be More Relevant To Your Interests Right Now Than People Dying In Africa
–Mark Zuckerburg

Wow, I’m surprised that comment didn’t generate more controversy. Maybe it did–but it was all filtered out!

That TED talk was given a while ago; now Facebook is filtering folks I HAVE interacted with recently, and I can’t find any way anymore to turn it off completely. I tried adding pretty much everyone to “close friends” and that helped but not much. I’m not even getting a copy of my own posts like I used to! This is odd because I frequently interact with other people who have related content. It seems as though the filtering is NOT entirely interest-driven.

The syndication software writers indicate that they’ve gotten reports of reduced traffic on syndicated fan pages, and that they have no control over this; it’s the Facebook filter.

The filtering has long existed but it looks like it is turning more restrictive.

If you want to pick and choose the content you see, without someone else over-riding your choices, you might want to sign up for our email newsletter which delivers the same posts.

Click on this link to go to the sign-up page. The same control will sign you off too whenever you like. You have full control.

Unfortunately, it sends truncated posts, and I’m not sure I have control over where the truncation happens. I’ll look into fine-tuning the system to see if I can improve the way it’s delivered. Other than the awkward cutoffs and lack of formatting, the mail integration software works surprisingly well.

BTW, I don’t do anything with the distribution list. I don’t intervene or use it for any purpose other than syndicating my posts to your email. We respect your privacy and your autonomy over what you read.

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I’m getting a lot of inquiries about when we’ll have new tomato and potato listings.

Some of them seem to be about wanting something new, some of them are from customers in subtropical climates who grow tomatoes and potatoes “off season” compared to the rest of us, and a few are from folks in the southern hemisphere where it’s now spring.

We’re both busy harvesting and cleaning seeds, and Tom in particular is swamped cleaning tomato and potato seeds.

That said, we’re aiming for December 1st to have the bulk of our seeds–at least, the ones we grew ourselves–listed on the site. Who knows, you might want to buy your friends and relatives seed for Christmas! (wink)

Unfortunately that doesn’t help folks in the subtropics or the southern hemisphere.

We would certainly like to have product available to customers who want it off-season, and to that end we’re working on trying to increase our inventory to levels adequate to have a good selection available off-season.

Seeds keep better than tubers. Tomato and potato seeds in particular keep well. For that reason, and our lack of year-round refrigeration facilities for potato tubers, your best bet for off-season potatoes is growing them from true seed.

Speaking of which, most of our customers are on-board the idea of growing potatoes from true seed, but I still get a lot of inquiries asking me “But how can you grow potatoes from seed? They won’t be true to type!”

If that’s true then I guess you can’t grow squashes from seed either, or “they’re not true to type”; squashes don’t self-pollinate either. People accept the idea of squashes growing from seed because that’s what they’re used to.

In the case of potatoes the degree of variability of the offspring depends on the type of potato, whether it was a controlled cross or a random one, and who its neighbors are. Read the descriptions carefully, and be prepared to rogue out off types if you really don’t like them. Just eat them. Overall the variability is actually a benefit: you also get at least a few seedlings that are better than you were expecting. For our most variable types, the diploids (they out-cross roughly 100% of the time; that’s their nature), typically “Pareto’s Law” aka the 80-20 rule applies: save the 20% with the best colors for replanting, and eat the rest.

As for other crops, some will be available by December and a few will trickle in a little later. We’re expanding our selections to try to cover the “top 10″ most popular backyard crops. So please start thinking of us as a place to do the bulk of your seed-shopping.

Except in the case of tomatoes and potatoes, we’re not going to try to be category killers. The reason is because oddly enough too many choices can be overwhelming, yet ironically they don’t necessarily contribute to your gardening success and satisfaction. We’d rather offer fewer but more selective choices.

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It’s harvest season, which means that Tom and I are SWAMPED with work.

But it also means that we have fresh tomatoes and potatoes for show-and-tell.

You wanna see some cool-looking new tomatoes?

By the way, I had a few bites of two of his new varieties a few days ago. One of them is a “black” (here we go again with the misnomers–”black” tomatoes are red with just a little “sooty” shading) tomato that is decidedly tangy with typical old-fashioned tomato aromas. The other is a semi-grape type that is surprisingly sweet for its type, as well as tangy.

Another one I did not have time to sample, but it is gorgeous and I think it will be a hit with the heirloom tomato crowd. Technically it is NOT an heirloom being a brand-new variety, but it has heirlooms in its pedigree and it has the very distinctive looks of some heirlooms–maybe even more so because it’s one of Tom’s and he likes to go over-the-top for looks. It has evenly-distributed ribs (sort of like a pumpkin), a flattened globe shape, bicolor yellow-red (I suspect through and through but he didn’t have the chance to cut into it while I was there), stems pull out cleanly from the top leaving a tidy scar, crack-resistance which is amazing for this type, and minimal catfacing.

In other words it has a certain funky character like an heirloom, without the flaws.

What, precisely, he has for show and tell will be luck of the draw. Book now and negotiate. We’re located in the Seattle-Everett area but if you’re within easy driving distance or you can arrange transportation and if necessary a place to stay overnight, we can bring the show to you. Sort of like the old Vaudeville circuits.

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We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our customers for a good sales year.

I’ve taken the last of our potato packs offline pending an inventory count, to avoid running out while there are still open orders.

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At long last, the true potato seeds are back online. We’ve got a lot of varieties, so there was a lot of copying and pasting back and forth between this site and the shopping cart site. Now I’m tired and ready for a nap, but I’ve just been reminded that my kids need lunch food for the week, so after shaking off the soporific feeling I’m off to Trader Joe’s.

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Hey where are the tomatoes?

Inventories of tomato seeds are low. I’m awaiting word from the big man (Tom) regarding whether he wants to list any others. Obviously it’s getting late to start tomatoes but some folks might still want to.

Potato packs are still available for sale, and other items we carry will trickle back to the listings as I get them uploaded into the new merchant system. Anything listed is available for sale.

Any other items that were online earlier will return (even if sold out) as soon as I am done converting over their add-to-shopping-cart buttons. We apologize for any inconvenience and for keeping you waiting.

Tom’s busy at the moment but when he’s available to talk again we’re going to decide how to finish this sales season. Some of our inventory will get planted out but obviously we’ll have some odds and ends that will need to be liquidated.

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I’ve decided to postpone our downtime so that I can do it all at once, so that nothing is offline too long. It will take me a while to re-list all of the tomatoes.

I’ll get to it after I get back to town from a day at the farm. Planting season has started in earnest. My house and back yard are full of seed trays, but some things are better started directly in the ground.

We’re receiving pictures of seedlings in our emails. Here’s a picture from one of our friends, Tom at ThreeDaughtersFarm. It’s a baby potato plant from some True Potato Seed Tom Wagner sent him.

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Within the time-frame of the next few days, if the shop looks like it’s online, it’s online.  If it’s missing, or if it suddenly stops working (sorry), it’s offline and in the process of being upgraded. Apologies for any inconvenience this might cause you.

There are several things going on, one of which is that our inventory needs to be updated because several items have sold out. Speaking of which, we’re running low on blue potatoes. We have plenty of most others but the blues go fast. The more important reason for the down time is that we’re going to upgrade our merchant system to something that will help us keep better track of orders. Paypal, which we currently use, was designed under the assumption of single items–typically household goods–being auctioned off one by one on eBay, and shipped immediately. It was not designed to account for the fact that seeds need to be shipped early so that starts are ready for planting out in the spring, while potatoes need to wait until freezing weather is over (including in transit). As a result, it has no features for queuing orders or indicating partial shipments, and the user interface is time-consuming to wade through.

The new system, once I get it up and running, will allow us to accept credit and debit cards WITHOUT going through Paypal, though Paypal could remain an option. I think eventually I can get it set up so that it will take an order and put it into the same queue as our other orders, but allow payment to follow up by check.  It’s important that all payment methods go through the same system because having multiple queues for different order sources is too hard for a 2-man operation to handle.

We wear many hats already: farmer, researcher, breeder, merchant, webmaster, order clerk,  packing clerk, customer service, and quality control.

Another improvement will be to navigation. Right now we don’t have very many products listed, and there isn’t all that much information posted yet, but there will be and we want to make it as easy as possible to find. I’ll expand the categories, and create some intentionally redundant menuing so that you have some choices for looking up products and information.

Thank you for taking an interest in our products and services. We appreciate the friendly patronage and encouragement that we’ve received.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t see any shipping costs on my order. Is this a mistake?

We pay shipping when the order total comes to $6 or more. If the order is less than that, we only ask for $1 to defray our own costs for packing and postage. We do that to avoid customer regrets over not getting everything they might want in one single order, and also to keep hidden costs out of your purchasing experience so as not to give you an unpleasant surprise at the end.

If you consider the lack of add-on costs, our prices are low.

I didn’t get a confirmation of my order.

Paypal handles the order processing. When we increase the number of products, we will switch to a new system.

Why are you using Paypal for order processing?

We apologize for any inconvenience or lack of flexibility. In order to get our business up and running, we needed a merchant order-processing system that did not require a lot of overhead or high sales volume, and that we could install quickly and easily ourselves.

How can I send you an order and pay for it without going through Paypal, or without using a credit card?

Technically it is possible to pay using Paypal without needing a credit card; there are instructions on the Paypal system (www.paypal.com) if that is the only concern. If you want to avoid Paypal altogether, contact us, tell us what you want, we will pull the items if they are in stock, and await your check in the mail.

Please wait for order confirmation before sending a check, and please be patient as filling special orders takes more of our time than filling orders from Paypal, including time to update our inventory in Paypal. Be aware that our inventory system is set up through Paypal, meaning that special orders might not be fillable if an item has run out. We are doing our best to accommodate non-Paypal orders. Thank you for your understanding.

Why don’t you have volume discounts available?

The seeds that are selling in the highest volumes also happen to be the rarest. They’re selling well precisely because they are rare. The purpose of volume discounts is to move large inventories faster, but we have a small inventory that is already moving fast. We could offer volume discounts on our more common seeds but there does not seem to be much interest in that.

Next year when we have specific lines grown out in bulk quantities we will offer some volume discounts on those varieties.

I’m a reseller and I would like to order your seeds in wholesale quantities.

Thank you. Please send us a list of which ones you want for next year, and how much you are likely to need, and we will plan accordingly, subject to harvest.

Why don’t you have all of your seed varieties listed?

Because they run into the thousands in number and it is practically impossible for an operation our size to list every variety. We will release a few hundred every year. Varieties released will depend on our own capacity to grow them out, and harvests. We appreciate your understanding.

How many seeds are in a packet?

Potato packs contain approximately 50 seeds. They are packed by volume not count as they are small enough, and we pack enough of them, that it would be difficult for us to get exact counts.

Tomatoes vary; please read the notice at the top of the sales pages. Our rare tomato packs tend to be small, but the common types run 30-50 or more.

Squashes run 15-20. That’s because most people don’t want more than a few hills of squash, and we don’t want to waste seed. You can buy more packs if you need them.

How many potato seeds do I need to plant an acre/hectare?

Assuming plants 12”/31cm apart and 3′/90cm between rows, you could use anywhere between about 12,000-25,000 seeds, or roughly 200 packets, per acre, which is the equivalent of roughly 30,000-62,000 seeds per hectare, and roughly 500 packets of seed.

We’re not actually set up to sell on that scale, but if you do need that many seeds you can let us know precisely what your needs are, most likely for future planning. We will try to have a few potato varieties available in bulk quantities.

How do you start potato seeds?

You start potato seeds somewhat similar to the way that you start tomato seeds. Keep the soil level in each cell of the seed tray high, water with a fine gentle spray, and bear in mind that potato seedlings are physically more delicate than tomato seedlings.

Potato seeds have naturally lower germination than tomato seeds. That’s because they still have germination inhibitors that prevent them all from germinating the same year. Plan accordingly.

We will make detailed instructions available after we have had time to write them. As of this writing we are still busy filling orders and have not even gotten to peak selling season yet. Thank you for your patience.

How long do potato and tomato seeds last?

That depends on how well you store them. If you just keep it dry and cool some of it will germinate as old as 10 years, but germination will fall off. If you dry it using something like silica crystals, pack it air-tight, and freeze it, it lasts at least about 50 years, judging from the viability of seeds from seed banks.

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I put this website together in a couple days after watching about an hour or so of video showing me how to do it. Didn’t have any previous experience with WordPress–but now I am impressed at its ease-of-use. Performance seems to be acceptable too.

Now that it’s up and mostly running, it’s time to see if I can do things a little better. I’d like to try an ecommerce plugin to see if it will improve the customers’ purchasing experience.

One drawback to changes is that sometimes they don’t go well. I’ll try to schedule this during off-hours relative to much of Europe and North America, and I apologize in advance if the changes I make result in any downtime.

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