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October 19, 2009


I don’t like labels much, most that people apply to us don’t fit too well.  Most people who meet us, assume Hangdog is the farmer because he is a man.   Or they think we aren’t farmers because we don’t have big tractors with cabs to ride around in, which we don’t need because we don’t till much soil.  Then gardeners don’t count us as gardeners because we garden too much?  So I don’t know what label, if any, applies here to our farm.  Not living history, because while I am interested in my local food history, I am also interested in new things like rotational grazing.  Each day on our farm and in our life is just a day, or a thread in the quilt of time that is our farm, that my grandfather scratched out from tall timber so long ago.  Nothing special, just one day at a time.

 We enjoy sunrises over Mt Hood that probably aren’t much different from the ones my grandfather saw.

My grandfather probably saw tree frogs in the manure pile, now I see them in a composted manure pile.  Same stuff, different century.   


My grandfather probably sought the warmest, least breeziest place to husk the last of the corn, and to soak up the faint, fall sun.  My choice?  The barn, complete with all the smells, cows; horses; hay; straw; leaky fuel line on the tractor, and well, just the smell of a barn that houses everything that is important to us.

100_1167Including dogs who really want some corn.

100_1162Did I say dogs who really like corn, even if it is a hybrid sweet corn?

 The caption for this picture could read:  “Canny dog sniffs out most nutritious corn for seed saving purposes.”  But, that isn’t true, he really is just sniffing it.  He has no idea that I want to select for the red ears, because that is the most nutritious, cold hardy, and earliest ripening.  He can’t count so he doesn’t know that to keep this strain pure, I will only select the 8 row ears, not the more productive 12.  Because production isn’t the end all here, in all things.  That’s why the labels don’t fit.  I grow hybrids and I grow heirlooms, not getting too tensed out about either.  I would like to think that my grandfather grew what he knew to be the best for his situation.  


I want to pay homage to the farmers before me.  I will grow similar things, and I will grow some different things.  The farm in the label above is still plugging away – different family and different crops – and I go a little out of my way each time I have to go to town, just to drive past to see what they are planting or harvesting, and to give thanks that land isn’t sprouting houses.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2009 7:41 am

    I don’t like lables much either especially the “skirtwork” ones 😉

  2. October 19, 2009 9:08 am

    I’ve never fit any labels either. I used to really be bothered by it because I felt like it kept me from finding my “tribe” these days, I don’t care. I find it freeing to not worry about it and you know what, I’ve found that my “tribe” doesn’t have a label either and I rather like that.

    • October 20, 2009 5:31 am

      Kathie, these days I am more used to not fitting in, it seems so much easier. Not enough hours in the day to worry about it 🙂

  3. October 19, 2009 10:15 am

    Well, here’s a label for you: gorgeous!

  4. October 19, 2009 12:18 pm

    You might check the Small Farmers Journal out of Sisters, OR. They publish some letters – see what those folk call their operations and craftsmanship.

    I would suggest anything over 14 tomato plants, 3 rows of beans or 2 rows of peas, plus any of squash, melon, watermelon, bell pepper, cabbage, or lettuce would be the max that could be called a gardener. Unless you never sell, swap, or gift anything from the garden.

    Once you sell, swap, or gift anything from the garden, unless you count another economic endeavor as your primary “craft” or job, you are a small farmer. If you use anything mechanized other than a rototiller, I think you are a small farmer.

    If you feed and raise a family on your endeavors in the dirt, you are a farmer.

    If you make the Monsanto GMO seed salesman grin happily each spring, you are in agribusiness, a big farmer.

    Additional labels? How about heritage seed historian. Or heritage farmer. Organic might sound trite anymore, but an honest relationship with the soil, with cover crops and diligent – non petrochemical – pest management, you can earn respect for your use of the term.

    Local food producer, transition farmer, carbon-conscious farmer or gardener, Victory gardener.

    Appropriate horticulture technology craftsman, that should make a great ball cap decoration!

    • October 20, 2009 5:32 am

      Brad, that would mean I would have to wear a hat 🙂

      • October 20, 2009 6:00 pm

        A hat is a choice that one makes.

        There are kerchiefs, there are bonnets and straw hats.

        If the object is to protect oneself from excess sun, from wind and dust, one might find a hat handy. If you work under trees, a hat might help ward off insects and falling debris. If you work under places with tools and pieces of building lying about loose above you, I recommend a very sturdy hat.

        Much of the body’s warmth escapes from the lightly insulated, but very well supplied with blood, head. A hat, a hood, a kerchief – a fold of blanket – can increase comfort an increase endurance of colder temperatures.

        But, ultimately, a hat is a choice. Unless the hat is prescribed as part of a uniform or a symbol of rank. When working with the bounty of nature, a hat, or gloves, or even a smile, is a choice that depends not on how one chooses to name their craft.

  5. October 19, 2009 4:23 pm

    Wow. This is an awesome post with much food for thought. Your photos are incredible, too!

  6. October 19, 2009 4:39 pm

    I’ve never been one for labels. You are you. No labels required. I think what you do is beyond the scope of labels. Gardener, farmer, organic or not- does it really matter? Keep up your wonderful unlabel-able work.

    • October 20, 2009 5:35 am

      Judy, thanks, I always think labels are “safe” and keep us from really getting to know a person. Thanks 🙂

  7. October 19, 2009 7:09 pm

    Thanks for this. I think about these things, too – gardener vs. farmer, which plants to choose, and which technologies to use both in the fields and in my home. The poignant line for me is this: “Nothing special, just one day at a time.” Thanks for putting these words to print.

  8. October 19, 2009 10:43 pm

    Hi Nita, Love your photos … especially those old signs and that white tub. I’ve thought about this post all day long. I almost didn’t respond, especially since I fear my viewpoint will be lonely here. Ah well, here it goes. My initial reaction to this was that labels are limiting, and that I don’t or rather that I shouldn’t use them. What I realized, though, is that I actually do use labels all the time. I do believe, though, that I do NOT approach labels in a limiting or derogatory way. It’s more like I’m making associations … all of which change as time goes by.

    Looking at myself, I find host many labels that I’m proud of … some of the obvious ones being wife, mother, daughter, grand-daughter, sister, novice gardener, etc. I remember the first time I was introduced as a wife (it was cool and weird at the same time) and then the first time as a mother (I melted!). Just the other day, I was introduced to someone as “Tessa’s mom” and I still got a thrill out of it. I have friends who are relieved to be labeled as a cancer survivor, and still others who enjoy their jovial titles such as basketball fan (or fiend) or coffee adict.

    I guess it’s a matter of perspective. This kind of goes hand in hand with “do I care what other people think of me.” While I wish I could join the ranks of those who respond no without hestitation, I guess if I were honest (and despite my ornery nature, I am honest) I’d have to say that some peoples opinions do matter. There are others, though, that I truly couldn’t care less. The opinions of people that I love and my friends are important to me. I guess it’s all part of me being a Libra (see … another label!).

    Anyway, I do believe that there are folks who like to use labels to limit the achievements of others, just as there are people who will try to make someone else feel bad. I guess they have too much time on their hands.

    I guess if I’d have to put a label or two for you, just coming from my perspective, I’d come up with a half dozen or so …. teacher, farmer, animal lover, master gardener, homemaker, land steward, student, historian, quilter, and friend. I could come up with more, but don’t want to get expelled!

    • October 20, 2009 10:44 am

      Paula, I think we are in total agreement – sometimes I care what people think, most times not. Actually we get quite a kick out of some of wrong ideas people have about us – and homeschooling brings out lots of opinions!!

      I absolutely love that label, and the farm. I have very fond memories of those farmers, and their children. The cannery is gone now, but the farmhouse and farm are still going strong. 🙂

  9. October 20, 2009 7:13 am

    Ouuu- I LOVE your “red” corn! I haven’t seen a lot of heirloom or hybrid corn (most likely because I haven’t been exposed to them in the grocery store). I wonder if I could find some at the farmer’s market here…

    labels are interesting- i use them when they suit me (for myself that is) but I do believe that we are actually a generation that is known for eschewing labels… which in of itself is interesting. a cultural generational non-label trend.

    • October 20, 2009 10:08 am

      EcoYogini, you might be able to find some red corn at the farmer’s market – usually Bloody Butcher is the most common red heirloom available. The one I grow is Abenaki Calais Flint for cornmeal. The ears range from yellow to red with orange being in-between. 🙂

  10. October 20, 2009 9:10 am

    I’m not much for labels either. A label doesn’t make someone a better nor a worst person.
    I love corn and so are my dogs. 🙂
    This is probably a stupid question but I will still ask because I don’t know. Are those “red” corn edible?

    • October 20, 2009 10:15 am

      YDavis, the red corn is for corn meal – and some of the ears are yellow and some range to the dark red. It’s a flint corn, which is more nutrient dense than dent corn, and the red is supposed to be even more nutrient dense than the yellow. It’s pretty in the cornmeal, yellow with red flecks 🙂

      High Mowing Seeds has the original strain. Roy’s Calais Flint.

      And Fedco carries a reselected strain. Abenaki Calais Flint.

  11. October 20, 2009 10:07 am

    um, your banner photo is scaring me!

    (in a good way)

    it took me a moment to figure it out.

  12. peacefulacres permalink
    October 20, 2009 11:52 am

    As I was reading Paula’s comments… hit me….I’ll just call you friend because that label fits just fine.

    Hey, that’s some pretty tasty lookin corn, I can understand the doggies drool! I’m guessing from some observations (no bugs) that it has very high brix! I am in so much envy (sorry I say that alllll the time to you 😉 ) of your growing season. I never knew what a wonderful place it was to live in the Pacific NW. The beauty is so absolutely gorgeous.

    • October 20, 2009 1:31 pm

      PeacefulAcres, friend sounds pretty good 🙂 You have probably heard countless tales of The Oregon Trail, some are true and some not, but I live close to the Willamette Valley that was the terminus of the OT. It’s pretty rainy here, but doesn’t get that cold or that hot. Mossback or Webfoot are common terms around here, the greens and cool weather stuff grows great, but it is hard to ripen warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers. But not too shabby all in all!

  13. October 20, 2009 6:07 pm

    Gloriously You. (your label!) And I think I could look at those gorgeous corn ears for hours on end…what colors!

  14. October 21, 2009 6:20 pm

    Lovely post Nita. Like your philosophy. No sense to go all hog wild about one particular method, do what works for you!

  15. October 25, 2009 3:02 pm

    I really enjoy reading through your posts. And the pictures are so vibrant. I live in the suburbs right now, so it helps me get my fix of country living. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

  16. February 9, 2011 9:41 pm

    How far apart do you keep the corn for seed saving?

    • February 9, 2011 10:50 pm

      If the maturity dates are different you can plant at the same time, and to be sure just save seed from the middle to the far end of the patch.

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