Cereal driers, often called corn dryers, played an important role in cereal production, especially in damp climates such as Ireland where they were used to remove moisture prior to storage as well as to harden cereals to facilitate threshing l and milling. They were used right up until the 19th century and would have been a significant part of the local agrarian economy. The kilns typically consist of a sunken pit, which may be keyhole or figure-of-eight shaped in plan. This was then covered in a superstructure that could be made out of variety of materials such as earthen sods, wood, stone and straw. In nearly all archaeological excavations, all that survive of the kilns is the sunken pit that would have held the fire source and over which the grain was dried.. Rererence
The seeds that gardeners hold in their hands at planting time are living links in an unbroken chain reaching back into antiquity. Today's gardeners cannot possibly comprehend the amount of history contained in their seeds, both what has come before and what may potentially come after their brief involvement. Our Stone Age an-cestors began identifying and do-mesticating food plants thousands of years ago, with the simple act of select-ing seeds for replanting. Whenever gardeners begin to save their own seeds, they also become part of this ancient tradition. Our grandparents and their ances-tors were seed savers by necessity. Their best plants were carefully se-lected to produce the next year's seeds, which were traded over the back garden fence with neighbors and faithfully passed down to each new generation of gardeners. Few of these family heirloom varieties have ever been available commercially, until just re-cently. Many have been grown on the same farm by different generations of a family for 150 years or more. This often resulted in the seeds slowly de-veloping resistances to local diseases and insects, and also gradually becom-ing well adapted to climates and soil conditions in family gardens through-out the United States. Countless heirloom varieties are still being maintained by gardeners and farmers in isolated rural areas. But today's society has become extremely mobile with young families moving every few years, often to urban homes where gardening may not be possible. The steady erosion of rural populations was rapidly accelerated by the farm crisis, leaving ever fewer farmers and gardeners to save the family history growing in their own backyards. Untold numbers of old-time varieties are lost each year, because elderly gardeners can no longer find family members willing to grow and maintain these living heirlooms.
Seeds from a War-Torn Ciity
Biodiversiy & Sustainable Agriculture
In the fall of 1879, Dr. William James Beal walked to a secret spot on Michigan State University’s campus and planted a strange crop: 20 narrow-necked glass bottles, each filled with a mixture of moist sand and seeds. Each vessel was “left uncorked and placed with the mouth slanting downward so that water could not accumulate about the seeds,” Beal wrote. “These bottles were buried on a sandy knoll in a row running east and west.” In the spring of 2000, under cover of night, current WJ Beal Botanical Garden curator Dr. Frank Telewski and his colleague Dr. Jan Zeevaart crept out to the same secret knoll and dug up the sixth-to-last seed bottle—completing the latest act in what has become the world’s longest continually monitored scientific study. When he buried those bottles 137 years ago, Dr. Beal didn’t aim to start the As the World Turns of garden experiments. As a botanist at an agricultural school, he was just trying to find a rigorous answer to a question that has dogged farmers for millennia: how many times do you have to pull up weeds before they stop growing back? “Back then, [farmers] didn’t have herbicides,” and weeding was the most tedious part of the job, explains Telewski. “Have you ever heard the expression ‘that’s a long row to hoe?’ That’s where that came from.”Dr. William James Beal, father of the longest-running experiment in history. (Image: Internet They may be tiny, but seeds are notoriously tough. Without water or sunlight to spur them into action, they can lie dormant for a very long time—in 2005, Israeli researchers grew a healthy date palm out of a 2,000-year-old seed (that tree, nicknamed Methuselah, recently became a dad). Hoping to figure out exactly how many years local species could hang on in neutral conditions, Beal filled 20 bottles with 50 seeds each of 23 different plant types. The bottles are unearthed one at a time, and the seeds are planted. Fifteen bottles in, the clear winner is Verbascum blattaria, or moth mullein, a splay-flowered weed common throughout the United States. Verbascum has popped up consistently in every bottle, and “of the 50 seeds of that particular plant, 23 of them germinated” in 2000, says Telewski, a “phenomenal” result. Distant second place goes to Malva rotundifolia, a round-leafed mallow nicknamed “cheeses” after its wedgelike seeds. Only one of those seeds sprouted in 2000. Dr. Telewski in 2001, among some thriving century-old moth mullein. (Photo: Frank Telewski) As for the other 21 species, none showed even a tendril. While this might have pleased the farmers who inspired the study, it’s a little sadder for those who are now watching it most closely. These days, farmers have a whole arsenal of anti-weed tools, and Beal’s biggest devotees are conservationists—those who hope the study’s results will help them better understand the bottled seeds’ wilder counterparts. “Many species of plants that are locally extinct may actually still be viable in the soils of those particular environments that have been disturbed,” Telewski explains. Stir them from their slumber, and these Lazarus plants could restart a whole population.
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One Acre Fund