Tuesday, 13 October 2015

08:38 – After a lot of research, I’ve come up with the final lineup for our open-pollinated seeds kit. Everyone who offers such kits lists the total seed weight and total number of seeds, both of which are useless metrics. I can tell you that our lineup includes more than 5.5 pounds of seeds totaling 78,000+ seeds, but that really means nothing. The number of seeds per ounce in our kits ranges from about 55/ounce to about 450,000/ounce. Some of the other “emergency seed kits” I’ve seen appear to be optimized only for maximum weight and number of seeds for the lowest production cost possible.

As you might expect, we went at it very differently. We selected seeds based on maximum nutritional value (no lettuce!), reliability (particularly for novice gardeners), adaptability to a wide range of temperatures, rainfall, and other environmental conditions, resistance to common diseases and pests, minimal likelihood of cross-pollination (to make it easier to maintain pure breeding stock), adaptability to small-scale gardening and harvesting, and so on. This kit is what we’ll be depending on ourselves as a last-ditch food source, so you can be sure we took great pains to get it right.

We ended up choosing three grains (barley, corn, and oats), four legumes (dry beans, green beans, Lima beans, and peas), ten vegetables (beet, broccoli, carrot, onion, parsnip, sweet pepper, summer and winter squash, tomato, and turnip), and one oil seed (sunflower). To make a diet of grains, legumes, and vegetables more palatable, we’ll also include eight culinary herbs (basil, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, stevia, and thyme). There’s also one medicinal herb, St. John’s Wort, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and antidepressant. There’s enough of each type of seed for a year-round garden large enough to provide for a family, with sufficient excess to allow for beginner mistakes, unexpectedly low yields because of weather or pests, planting a second-year crop of biennials (which don’t yield seed until the second year), and saving sufficient seed to make the garden sustainable indefinitely.

Finally, we’ll include a phosphate-buffered saline stabilized suspension of mixed Rhizobia species that are suitable for greatly increasing yields of various legumes, including those that come in the kit. This is really a Hail Mary effort, because we have no idea of (and no way to test) the viability of this suspension over the long term. Ideally, you should treat your legume seeds with a fresh commercial mixed Rhizobia inoculum, such as GUARD-N, but we can foresee situations in which the commercial product may be unavailable. If that happens, you can cross your fingers, hope for the best, and reculture this suspension by transferring a small amount of it to a culture broth made up of a tablespoon or two of table sugar in a liter of a dilute beef or chicken bouillon solution. If it works (which it should, but no guarantees), you’ll end up a few days later with a liter of solution that contains trillions of R. spp. nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which you can use to treat your legume seeds when you plant them.

We’ll package each seed type in one of many different containers, many of which will be familiar to anyone who’s used one of our science kits. Depending on the type, size, and number of a particular seed, we may package it in 1.5 mL micro-centrifuge tubes, 5 mL RIA vials, 15 mL centrifuge tubes, 50 mL centrifuge tubes, or even regular ziplock bags or coin envelopes. The outer packaging will be heat-sealed 7-mil (very heavy) foil-laminate Mylar bags, which can be resealed with a clothes iron set on high. There won’t be an oxygen absorber, but there will be a food-safe (“do not eat”) desiccant pack in the outer bag, which can be re-dried in an oven if you need to open and reseal the outer bag. And we will encourage people to use these seeds rather than just sticking them on the shelf. Gardening is difficult and uncertain at the best of times; when your ability to eat is the issue, it’s critical that you have some prior experience.

We’ll store the seed kits here refrigerated, which extends useful shelf-life by a factor of about four. We won’t freeze them because we want to minimize the number of freeze/thaw transitions, although we will recommend that buyers freeze them for long-term storage and keep them frozen. After, of course, planting test crops in their own environments to verify the suitability of the different seeds.

We intend to price this kit at $181, but my earlier offer remains open to regular readers. For the time being, we’ll ship one or more of these kits anywhere in the 50 states for $100. If any of you regular readers/commenters want to order one or more of these kits, you can do so for $100 per kit. To do so, go to paypal.com, choose the option to send money, and transfer $100 for each kit you want to orders (at) thehomescientist (dot) com. Make sure to include your mailing address, either street address or PO box. Orders will ship sometime next month.