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Brown Gold

By Jerry Orton

For many people worldwide, gold is an obsession. But, all that glitters is not gold. To a gardener, gold is brown—the brown of the soil. And for those who want the ultimate in perfect soil, the name of the game is compost.

When my wife, Peggy, and I lived in San Diego, California, we had a small lot (as lots tend to be in Point Loma), so we could either grow Bermuda grass or a garden. We elected to put our whole back yard into a garden. The growing season in San Diego is phenomenal, so we had something going almost year round.

However, the soil in our back yard was poor. Even soil amendments we bought at nurseries and Home Depot never quite satisfied. Then, one day, my wife bought a book at a yard sale: “Crockett’s Victory Garden” by James Underwood Crockett, copyright 1977, Little, Brown and Company, which was the companion book for the PBS series by the same name. This book is perhaps the finest garden reference book of its kind; simple, but elegant. Unfortunately, it is only available nowadays through outlets such as Amazon.com at greatly inflated prices, because it’s become a collector’s item. But, I stray from my main topic.

On page 180 of this book begins a section on composting, entitled “The Composter, or the Brown Gold Cadillac.” Space doesn’t permit a complete recapitulation of this article, but to summarize, it defines compost as “the gardener’s best friend.” For the poor soil of our back yard in San Diego, this proved one hundred per cent accurate.

More than just a testimonial, the article provides plans for a 3-bin composter, which I built with materials purchased from Home Depot. We began depositing lawn clippings from the front lawn, table scraps, and an occasional bag of manure into bin #1, applying water copiously, and before long, we had a mixture we could transfer to bin #2, then to bin #3. The final product was a soil that was truly magnificent. When blended into the native soil, this proved to be the brown gold that Mr. Crockett promised. Our garden took off like gang-busters.

One important point that I must stress (as the book explains) is that no meat scraps are to be added to this mix. Only vegetation can be used. Meat won’t decay at the same rate as vegetation, gives off an unpleasant smell, and attracts undesirable critters.

The only negative is that this is labor-intensive. Turning the compost into each bin with a shovel on a routine basis is hard work, plus the need for regular watering is tedious. Being of the engineering persuasion, I thought there ought to be a better way. Since we moved to Missouri, I’ve tried a purchased composter made of black plastic that has proved to be an expensive bomb. For less money, the Crocket composter is a real winner.

I’m attaching a scan of the plans for the Crockett composter, and believe me, if you follow the plans scrupulously, you will produce compost that is truly brown gold. Try it and see.

Crockett Composter 001

Crockett Composter

You will find the seeds of some very unusual varieties at our store.  Take for example,

Kiwano (African Horned Cucumber) Jelly Melon seeds

Kiwano (African Horned Cucumber) which is a Jelly Melon. It is a very unusual fruit with spiny “horns.” The green-yellow skin turns a bright deep orange when ready to harvest and the pulp resembles lime-green Jell-O. The fruit has a sour-sweet, banana-lime-tropical fruit taste and is good juiced. This fruit is appearing regularly in US markets. Native to Africa, it is hardy and easy to grow; can be grown just about anywhere you can grow melons. Beautiful vine and fruit!

By Jerry Orton

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., headquartered in Mansfield, MO is reaching out to the Great Golden State of California with their first branch retail location in the City of Petaluma, in Sonoma County. They’ve leased the historic Sonoma County National Bank building, (199 Petaluma Blvd., N.) A beautiful structure in the heart of the retail district at Petaluma Boulevard North and Washington Avenue. With its 30-foot high hammered-metal ceilings, ornate lights and fixtures, and enormous windows, this venue fits perfectly with Baker Creek’s theme of heirloom seeds that trace their origins back to a time when foods were healthier, with no GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) content.

The new location will offer California’s largest selection of heirloom seeds and traditional gardening items.

The new location will offer California’s largest selection of heirloom seeds and traditional gardening items.

In a recent interview, Owner Jere Gettle said, “A huge share of our current California business is concentrated in a few counties surrounding Petaluma. Not only will we be able to serve those folks better, but we also expect to be a destination for many tourists from across the country.” He added, “The tentative opening date is set for June 8, 2009. We’ll be selling seeds and for a brief time, doing a bit of remodeling, as well, so come on out and see us.”

“We want to thank each and every one of you for making our family business of seed preservation a success,” said
Gettle, “helping us swim against the river of modern agriculture, as we continue to work for the farmer, the gardener and most of all each and every eater!”

Over 1200 varieties of heirloom seeds will be offered, including vegetables, flowers and herbs, the nation’s largest selection!

Over 1200 varieties of heirloom seeds will be offered, including vegetables, flowers and herbs, the nation’s largest selection!

Interested in working with seeds?
Baker Creek is looking for several employees to manage their new store in Petaluma, CA.
If you live close by and would like to talk about this exciting position, call 417.924.8917 or send an email to webmaster@rareseeds.com

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
2278 Baker Creek Road
Mansfield, MO 65704
417.924.8917
FAX 417.924.8887
http://www.rareseeds.com
Contact: Andrew Kaiser or Bill Timmsen

The spring planting festival was a huge success despite very damp conditions on Sunday. Thousands of visitors tramped through very muddy ground to get to the huge event we had this year. Most everyone seemed in good spirits despite the weather. Plan now to come to our monthly events, held the first Sunday of each month. Here are a few snapshots of the big spring festival…

Thousands of varieties of plants at the spring festival!

Thousands of varieties of plants at the spring festival!

Visitors enjoyed hundreds of reenactors, musicians and vendors at the Spring Planting Festival.

Visitors enjoyed hundreds of reenactors, musicians and vendors at the Spring Planting Festival.

Thousands crowded our streets to purchase plants and handmade crafts.

Thousands crowded our streets to purchase plants and handmade crafts.

Visitors filled our new restaurant to capacity both days of our Spring Planting Festival. Food was served by donation.

Visitors filled our new "historic" Chinese restaurant to capacity both days of our Spring Planting Festival. Food was served by donation. Sitting in the foreground is Wayne Horsburgh, Australia's Country Performer, eating with Grandpa Tabuchi.

Yodeling legend Sourdough Slim performed along with dozens of other musicians.

Yodeling legend Sourdough Slim performed along with dozens of other musicians.

Children and adults alike enjoyed our many varieites of historic birds and animals.

Children and adults alike enjoyed our many varieites of historic birds and animals.

Despite the weatherman’s forecast of occasional showers on Sunday May 3, and Monday May 4, the Bakersville Planting Festival will go on as planned!

We have lots of indoor space and attractions, and several large tents where folks can get out of the rain if we do get an occasional shower. There will be about one hundred vendors of plants, crafts and lots of other cool stuff, not to mention a top-notch selection of gardening speakers sheduled for both days.

So whether you’re looking for heirloom plants, organic-lifestyle crafts, or maybe just want to enjoy a day of bluegrass music and camaraderie with like-minded neighbors and friends, do plan to attend either day. Or better yet, come on out both days! Don’t let a little rain stop you!

New Happenings…

warehouseIt’s been a busy month around the company. We’ve been feverishly working to get all the last minute projects completed before our largest event of the season, The Spring Planting Festival (May 3,4). In between all the last minute ends to tie, we’re adding a new warehouse… and working on getting the restaurant in tip-top shape for the grand opening. hotel1

Jere and I just recently returned from a three week trip to California. We traveled from the Mexican border to San Fransico. It was a beautiful escape from the last few days of winter. We were able to visit several farmer’s markets which were always a highlight of the day.

emily-dowdenIf you’re not already planning to come to our May festival, we invite you to visit us at our farm Sunday and Monday, May 3 and 4. You will be entertained by top musicians, educated by terrific speakers, and tempted by 1000s of plants and handmade crafts. Swing by for some old fashion fun. We hope to see you soon!

Heritage Day Vendors

Vendors selling their wares inside the seed store at our March Heritage Day.

Ozark Folk Music

Customers enjoy old time, Ozark folk music!

Local Honey

Local honey from our vendors.

Cupcakes

The bakery offered homemade soup,  fresh bread and sweet treats!