Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nut Trees

Nuts are a wonderful food source. Nuts are high in energy, and have a shell that helps protect the highly nutritious nut inside. Native Americans used various nut trees as a diet staple, and perennial nut trees seem a sensible permaculture (permanent agriculture) addition to every homestead. Author David Bunker suggests the homesteader plant 5 to 10 trees each year.

Let's look at some of the nut trees that are popular in the USA. If you have experience with ant of these, or one not listed, please add your comment below.

This was once a dominant tree species in its range, but it has been decimated by the chestnut blight. New options of American species that are resistant are sold, as well as hybrids with a Chinese chestnut tree. These trees can grow to 70 feet tall, and withstand down to -20 degrees F.

English Walnuts
These are wonderful trees, but the nuts are encased in double layers of protection. Once you get to the nut flesh, then you will begin to think the effort was worth the effort. Actually, the English walnuts are thin shelled, and quite nice. I have had some where you could hold two in your hand and crack them together. The trees will grow 40-60 feet tall. Some may self pollinate, but plant at least two trees for good pollination. These trees are hardy in zones 4-8.

Hazel (Filbert) nut
These trees will grow in a bush-like habit, to 18' tall. They require at least two trees for pollination. The nuts are small and sweet meat. It is reported that may get nuts from two year old trees.

Shagbark Hickory
This native tree of America grows well from zones 4-8.
The tree grows slowly and once producing the tree can offer nut harvest for 100+ years. It produces a nickel sized nut that can be split with a knife in half and then halved again to easily remove the flesh from the shell. See the pictorial instructions on how to open Shagbark Hickory nuts.

We find the nuts are smaller than other nuts we use, but the flesh has a good taste, very similar to a pecan. They seem hardy and a large tree will produce a lot of nuts!

From what I gather, pecans may be relatives to hickory trees. One reference went as far as to call them pecan hickory trees. Pecans generally are considered warm loving trees. They are long lived and these trees grow to be very large trees. (Plan on this before you plant one!)

Pecan trees need both a specific range of warmth, and a specific range of chill. So you basically need to get your pecans from a nursery where you know is compatible to your climate. You would hate to wait 15 to 20 years to find that the pecan you planted years ago will not produce in your area! For those in the far north, I have a link in the resources below to a nursery that claims to be getting full nuts from a pecan tree in Michigan.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Fava Beans

Fava Beans are a new part of our garden experience this year. The more I learn about fava beans, the more convinced I am that I should have known about these botanical wonders long ago. These are closely related to vetch, and will not genetically cross with other garden beans. The cool thing is that these vetch plants grow fast and do well in cool weather. They can germinate and grow with nights below freezing, and are reported to withstand 15 deg. F. This is a cold hardy plant! Some varieties withstand down to 10 deg. F. before they winter kill.

Photo taken May 10, 2013; 47 days post planting seed.
It is possible in many areas to overwinter with these beans, and a very early planting may infuse the soil with nitrogen for later crops that can be subsequently planted as the season warms. To assure your fava have the needed nitrogen fixing bacteria, I suggest you purchase inoculant. Adding the incoulant is easy and will help assure the fava grow well. A retailer suggested I use "N-Dure inoculant for peas, vetch and lentils." Protect the inoculant from sunlight or high temps. Wet the seeds, and gently mix in the inocument, coating the seeds. Plant the seeds immediately.

Fava have a long central tap root that helps to break up clay soil. This is exactly the kind of plant that would be helpful when converting raw land to a crop field. Fava beans can be incorporated into the soil at flowering time if you will use the entire crop as a green manure. If you allow the crop to go to seed the plant stems will have grown larger and tough. Incorporating mature plants into the soil will likely require more mechanical chopping to physically break it down.

I plan to let my fava crop run through to maturity, as I want to see how these beans taste. I have read that there is a membrane around the bean that has to be removed. Some references talk of streaming the entire bean pod, and then shelling out the beans individually as you eat them. Some people eat edamame beans this way. I have heard of fava humus being very good, and perhaps for the humus you don't have to remove the inner membrane.

As you would expect from a miracle plant, people also eat the tender green leaves. It can be placed in fresh salads, cooked soups and a variety of other dishes.

The ground was dry enough to till the patch were I want to plant fava beans this year. Perhaps I will plant fava seed tomorrow, even though it will be 38 degrees F. I will post some pics when they come up.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Acceptance vs Performance

I recently heard a sermon in which the speaker used a poster board with two words written on it: "acceptance" at the top, and "performance" at the bottom. These two words were contrasted as a true and false way to look at salvation.

Some today would emphasize a form of salvation in which the only thing man must do is to accept God's gift of grace. Taken to its extreme, this emphasis would teach that acceptance and performance are in conflict with each other, or have nothing to do with each other. They would say only believe, and continue sinning. God's grace covers you, no matter what your performance or intent!

Acceptance of God's gift of salvation is the first step. Our action or performance is not a precursor to God giving His grace to mankind. God's Spirit must first touch the heart for mankind to have the impulse or desire to accept salvation. So the first act of the sinner coming to Christ is to respond to the call to accept salvation. The immediate benefit of salvation is forgiveness from the penalty of past sins. The story of the dying thief on the cross illustrates this immediate bestowal of the promise of salvation. "You will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43. This portion of the call to salvation extends forgiveness for past sins, and places the sinner at a clean starting point. The call of salvation contains the empowerment of grace and forgiveness.

Is there anything more within the call of salvation? We accept the call, and then we must heed the call. So what is this call? The call of salvation is to become like Jesus. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17. The call is to holiness and a life of purity actuated by the power of God. The call of salvation is for us to be like Jesus. The intent of the call is that we perform. In the instant of accepting salvation, the empowerment of grace is for mankind to resist the character qualities that are at enmity against God.

God loves us and accepts us the way we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. And in this perspective, acceptance is not in conflict with performance. This is not an "either / or" situation. In fact, we can not have acceptance without performance. The two are linked into the same call. They are two tones that blend into the chord of salvation's call. I fear that some would cut the call of salvation of God into parts. Some would accept the gift of grace, but discard the purpose of the call. There is danger of separating these two tones as separate and distinct from each other, or even to present the idea that they clash with each other in disharmony. Remember, God loves you too much to leave you in sin.

From the pen of inspiration, "Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel. Every sinful indulgence strengthens the soul’s aversion to God." SC 34. "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" James 2:20.

So when we talk of salvation there is no need to contrast "acceptance" and "performance". They are two tones within the same beautiful chord. Neither acceptance or performance are based on man's ability, but both are the result of committing our will on the side of God. Neither have one shred of self sufficiency or self righteousness.

May your heart accept the free gift of grace, and be empowered to commit your will to the prompting of His spirit. May we be like Jesus in all we do.