Goldfinches and Burdock

I grow burdock (borre) in the garden both as a vegetable but also for the birds. Goldfinches / stillits (still relatively rare in my area) eat  almost exclusively the seeds of this plant in winter. This year I cut down a few of the plants and placed them in a large pot of earth right in front of the kitchen window…and 4 birds discovered it today. How  they avoid the burrs attaching to them is a mystery….

Some of the seed burrs had fallen to the ground in a storm a week ago. This video starts with siskins feeding next to the window on birch seeds:

Snow covered with storm blown debris and seed

After the storm some days ago now, it was interesting to see how evenly the seed from Norway maple / sycamore and birch (spiss- og platanlønn og bjørk) was spread evenly over the whole garden…it’s easy to imagine how the more open parts of the garden would quickly transform to forest given the chance!
Most trees had an enormous production of seed and berries this year following the hot summer  in 2018 and mild winter last year.

The winter’s first salad shoot salad

The first winter shoots were harvested from the cellar today. It is almost totally dark in the cellar and currently about +6C. The blanched shoots in the picture are (from L to R) dandelions (løvetann), perennial kales (flerårige kål) and catalogna chicory (sikkori). Otherwise you can see Korean celery (Dystaenia takesimana), perennial celery / fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), turnip (nepe) , carrot (gulrot)  and lemon balm (sitronmelisse).
The salad was decorated with Begonia flowers from the living room!

Tawny owl in the botanical garden

I was walking through the garden yesterday towards the office at the Ringve in Trondheim  and I heard a lot of noise coming from a group of conifers, magpies (skjære) excited about something. I walked around the trees to see if I could see what it was only to meet a couple of birders with long telephoto lenses! A tawny owl (kattugle), not something you see often in the garden. There are 3 reports of this species from Ringve, all in February during the last 10 years!

Visit to Seed Savers Exchange and the Vesterheim

(For a Norwegian version of this article, see KVANNs Nyhetsbrev #12: https://kvann.no/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/KVANNs-Nyhetsbrev_12_fin.pdf)
I toured eastern and mid-west USA for 3 weeks in September / October 2019, on the back of being invited to the Mid-West Wild Harvest Festival in Wisconsin where I gave the keynote speech as well as a couple of classes. One of many highlights was a visit to Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) on September 26, just outside the small town of Decorah, IA, just an hour’s drive from the festival.

Decorah has become a centre of Norwegian-American culture. This originates from a large number of Norwegian settlements that started in the 1850s. Every July, Decorah also hosts the Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture. Decorah is also home to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the largest museum in the country devoted to a single immigrant group. Until 1972, one of the largest Norwegian-language newspapers in the nation was published there, the Decorah Posten. I have long been a member of the Seed Savers Exchange, which is KVANN’s biggest inspiration, an organization that started as early as 1975 to take care of heirloom plants. Since then, SSE has published a yearbook every year. In the SSE Yearbook you will find, in 2013, as many as 12500 varieties of vegetables on offer over 500 pages of small print. This is real diversity. SSE was founded by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy after Diane bequeathed the seeds of two heirloom plants that her great-grandfather had brought to the United States from Bavaria in 1870!

I rented a car from Madison and drove through a dull monotonous landscape of almost exclusively arable land with ripe corn and soyabeans. The contrast was therefore remarkable arriving at Heritage Farm, where Seed Savers Exchange is located, and where one can find perhaps the largest vegetable variety in the world? They grow here over 1000 varieties of seeds each year and at the same time conserve the nature of the wooded river valley conservation area. The farm was larger than I expected, at 390 ha, but it is necessary to be able to isolate the vegetables far enough apart to minimise the danger of crossing in seed production!

I was really made to feel welcome by the staff of the Seed Savers Exchange and especially by the brand new executive director, Emily Rose Haga, who has long experience in vegetable breeding, and especially tomato, pepper and lettuce varieties, at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine since 2012.

In the morning I made a presentation to the staff of about KVANN and a little about my work with perennial vegetables which I talked more about in my evening talk (more below)!

Afterwards, I was given a tour of the facilities with Facilities Manager Jim Edrington who drove me around the farm to see the isolation areas for seed production, nature conservation areas, a collection of historic fruits and pastures with Ancient White Park Cattle (see http: //blog.seedsavers .com / blog / ancient-white park cattle-new-babies). Below is a picture gallery from my visit and at the bottom more about my evening talk in Decorah.

After visiting Seed Savers Exchange, I was given a tour of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah with the director before my lecture on perennial vegetables co-organized by the Seed Savers Exchange. What is missing from the museum is obviously a collection of Norwegian vegetables!

The lecture was in Vesterheim’s Gathering Room, where the administrative part is located, an amazing room decorated by Sigmund Årseth’s murals (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWNQe3NmDLY) and to my delight it was full of people from Seed Savers Exchange and other interested parties. I even met the founder of Seed Savers Diane Ott Whealy, a great honour (she gave me a copy of her book) and also David Cavagnaro, Heritage Farm’s first “farm manager” and known from the Pepperfield Project (see http://www.pepperfieldproject.org). Sadly I wasn’t aware who I was taking to at the time! Probably the most knowledgeable group I have had the privilege to give a lecture for!

 

Return to Austria

I’m returning to Austria in January and giving two talks at two seminars at the 7th Langenlois Woody Plants Seminar on 21st January with focus on woody edibles
https://www.gartenbauschule.at/…/040_langenloiser_gehoelzt…/
and the day after at the 29th Langenlois Herbaceous Perennial seminar
https://www.gartenbauschule.at/…/041_langenloiser_staudent…/
..and I’m happy to say that I won’t be flying. It actually only takes two days from Vienna to Trondheim with one night on the Rostock Sweden ferry and the Oslo – Trondheim night train! I’ll be travelling via a family visit in England!

I’m also talking at the University of Graz on 20th January! See
https://alternativ.oehunigraz.at/20-01-2020-edimentals-talk-with-stephen-barstow-in-english/?fbclid=IwAR2UP_AG1lXJErkriUbct–0c5LU-RSf_qx1tR3OD5NpG2Hr8A2hptDvTbY

Siskins dining on the roof

Close encounter with an Eurasian siskin on the other side of the window

It was fun this morning watching a flock of up to 80 siskins (grønnsisik) with a few house sparrows (gråspurv) feeding on birch seed that had fallen on my extension roof! They couldn’t see me on the other side of the window and came really close!

Dawn and dusk

At this time of year dawn and dusk coincides for several hours and there’s no sun-up and sun-down again until after11th January; this is the most beautiful time of year. This morning the beauty didn’t last long as the storm and sleet showers moved in from the west!
The video shows the sun illuminating part of Forbordsfjellet on the other side of the fjord.

A weekend in paradise: arrival and the Celo Inn

In April 2018 both myself and Joe Hollis were invited as speakers at The Potential of Perennials for Food System Resilience Symposium in Stans,  Switzerland. I also had the opportunity to spend a great day botanising at two of Zurich’s Botanical Gardens with Joe, see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=17040

Joe said to me at the time that I should come visit if I was ever in the US. I already knew at that time I was invited by Sam Thayer and Melissa Price to the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival at the end of September this year, but Joe’s place seemed a long trek south, so I forgot the idea. Then this spring, I was asked if I would be interested to do a talk at the Atlanta Botanical Garden….and I managed to change my travel plans to do this…and looking at the map I noticed it wasn’t too far from Joe’s Mountain Gardens (aka as Paradise)! So I contacted him and he replied: “Good to hear from you and that is great news!  I am very much looking forward to showing you around my garden and adjacent National Forest land, there is a lot to see”.

So it came to past that I arrived in Asheville, North Carolina on 21st September 2019 and picked up a hire car as Joe’s place was an hour or more up in the Black Mountains subrange of the Appalachians. Four hours later I arrived at my hotel, the Celo Inn (as for why it took so long see the album captions).  It turns out that the Celo community is one of the oldest intentiona communities in the world (1937), based on ideals of cooperation between residents and care for the natural environment….and it turns out that a neighbour and old colleague back in Trondheim actually went to school here…small world!

The pictures below show the approach road to Mountain Gardens from the Celo Inn (only a 5-10 min, drive away) and my first look into the garden!

Entering the garden for the first time I spy what is probably the native North American devil’s walking stick Aralia spinosa in full flower. Does this species flower much later than Japanese Aralia elata? My A. elata had finished flowering at home.

The following morning I walked around the grounds of the Celo Inn on a warm sunny day with monarch and swallowtail butterflies on the ornamental Asters. The owners had quite extensive vegetable beds and the ripe chilis bore witness that the summers were hot even up here in the mountains.

A type of swallowtail butterfly at the Celo Inn

Edibles & ornamental plants

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