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Oh deer! | New World Seeds & Tubers

Wicked bad critters

Tom and I went down to the farm on Sunday to get a few odds and ends taken care of.

The bad news is that every last red tomato that was ripe has been eaten by the deer. We didn’t notice any deer predation last year so we didn’t think about it. Some people claim that non-primate mammals can’t see colors, but I know they do have cones in their retinas, just not as many as we have. I would guess they have some vague awareness of colors.

Luckily a weirdly high fraction of Tom’s tomatoes ripen in colors other than tomato-red. They didn’t touch the “blue” (there we go again) tomatoes–some of which are just about Nightshade black! In fact Tom wondered if the black-berried Nightshades growing very nearby spooked the deer away from the matching tomatoes.

Speaking of which, one of the “blues” looks almost sinister with red hues visible through the almost black skin for a Halloween horror effect, while several others are approaching inky black–well beyond the more typical eggplant purple. Tom has been trying to get them more and more and more saturated. I assume it’s still only skin deep but one of these days someone’s going to figure out how to make the color bleed into the flesh. Some tomatoes–the so-called “blacks”–already have sooty hues in the flesh.

Green-when-ripes did not attract as much attention as the reds but we are worried as the deer are clearly watching the fruit carefully.

Thankfully the deer have not touched most of the perennial grain. We had a fairly good harvest of perennial wheat, a few perennial xTriticale, and a few perennial rye.

Speaking of which, I’ll be announcing a sale of perennial cereals shortly for folks who, like us, plant hardy cereals in the autumn. Sorry, no pre-announcement sales; it would be impossible for me to reply to the flood of emails, and it might result in some hurt feelings from folks who try to order and it’s already sold out. The only way to buy will be through an automated system that I will set up once the seed is ready.

This will be the only sales of perennial cereals until next Autumn; it was a serendipitous harvest of some varieties that have been very well-selected during a multi-year program for longevity and performance. Everything else is getting replanted to build up our supplies so that we can get it to our customers in useful quantities as fast as possible. Perennial grains were never common and we had to start from the equivalent of thimble-fulls of seed.

If you want to hear about the sale as quickly as possible, sign up for our email list on the form on the rightmost sidebar if you haven’t already. I will also announce via a post on this blog, which is eventually forwarded to our Facebook fanpage, which hopefully you’re subscribed to if you use Facebook. I expect this grain to sell out quickly as it has been mostly off-the-market for several years now since Peters Seed and Research went out of business.

All proceeds benefit Tim Peters. For that reason, and because it’s going to sell out anyway, I might ask a higher price than normally we would. We think it’s worth it to have something that is rare and getting more so all the time; the projects that developed perennial grains tend to have funding for a limited time and then they run out. When a few more projects run out of funding, that’s probably it for the foreseeable future, as projects like these have low priority during sovereign debt crises.

In general there has been a problem funding open-source crop development projects, which unfortunately has adversely impacted all the independent breeders we are aware of. It’s a problem a solution to which we’ve been brainstorming for a while now. We think part of the solution is critical mass and efficiency of scale, so if you’re an independent plant breeder who wants to join us, contact us.

I’m threshing the wheat right now. Tom has the rye.

Speaking of perennial cereals, Tom’s got another idea regarding what some people might do with them: he suggests experimenting to see if animals could graze on them late in the year, then let it be to grow out early in the year to bear a crop.

That would probably only work in some climates, which brings up an issue we don’t have an answer for: we don’t know just how coldhardy these perennials are. We think one possible vulnerability is that of seedlings dying from late freezes after warm late winter or early spring weather.

I suppose it’s worth a quick report on some other grains:

The early white Sorghum is doing OK and the bird-resistant Sorghum is just about to bloom except for one oddly precocious plant–meaning the latter will be nip and tuck to get much to ripen. If we get any we’re doing OK; it was a year of unfavorable weather for us. The corn is having a hard time of it too.

Hmm, one nice thing about Sorghum is it is fairly deer-resistant. When stressed, the plants produce Prussic Acid (read that: cyanide). If they nip at it enough they’ll wish they hadn’t.

Quinoa ‘Faro’ is drying down. We harvested a few plants and threshed out a small amount of grain to see how they were doing. It should be fully dry in a week, and other quinoas should be following along shortly thereafter.

Productivity per plant is quite modest…but…most of them are growing in a field with very thin soil and NO irrigation. A few plants growing on richer, moister bottom-ground have much heavier heads (maybe even a little too heavy! Hope they don’t lodge).

We’ll have enough for some modest spring sales; the rest will go to expanding our production as it looks like at least some varieties of quinoa are well-adapted here. What we’ll probably do is plant some on the bottom-ground, and some up on the higher ground with thin soil too just to make use of what would otherwise be wasted ground aside from quinoa and autumn-sown grains. The soil on the upper ground is too thin and too dry for anything else.

Which goes to show you that there’s hope for ground that’s unsuitable for most crops but might be suitable for some. Ironically, some of the most fundamental staple crops can grow were a lot of more insubstantial crops can’t.

PS: Ha ha, the Adsense ad that came up when I reviewed this post was an ad for a Ford pickup to take deer hunting!

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