About Grunt and Grungy ...

For those of you who don't know about us, a little history to fill you in.

Between the two of us we had over a hundred years of experience gardening. (Now that makes me feel old.) We had gardened in climates that can be described as West Coast Marine, to Sub Arctic wilderness, to flat prairie and finally settled in what we commonly refer to as our little piece of paradise, here in the Creston valley, in south eastern B.C., Canada, located about 10 km. north of the Idaho panhandle and just below Kootenay Lake.
The property lies in a small microclimate that gives us a zone 5/6 Canadian version or 6/7 US version.
We were avid gardeners for years, and about 10 years ago noticed that more and more of the old varieties of vegetables were no longer being offered. Being raised in the generation that thought "if you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem", we decided to start growing heirloom and open pollinated varieties of vegetables (especially tomatoes) and offering the seeds to other gardeners.
Well one thing lead to another and we ended up starting a private seed bank so that our and your grandchildren will be able to have the same tastes that you are having now. This past couple of years we had gone past tomatoes and started seed banking (cold and cool storage) any annual vegetable seed.
If you have questions or would like to contribute to this blog, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Also for those who wish to trade please contact me at the below e-mail address and I will get back to as soon as possible. Thank you.

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old.

Much of the final years of Dan's journey is chronicled on this blog. He was a man who made a difference to many people, and his family believe that his thoughts in the last years and months of his life, and his work in preserving heritage seeds should remain available.


What I post about ways, methods, and results is based on what I observe in my garden. Your growing conditions may achieve results that differ from mine. I am putting this blog here to offer a site to exchange gardening ideas and methods, and to exchange seeds.
I welcome questions and discussions about anything gardening. The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask. I will try to find answers for questions that I can't answer, and may post links to sites that have clearer answers than I can come up with.


I do have tomato seeds to offer. The seeds are free, but I ask you to help cover the postage and handling in one form or another.
They can be obtained through trading seeds, or paying for postage at the rate of $2.00 for the first ten varieties or seed packs, and an increase of $1.00 for every ten varieties or seed packs beyond that. Seed packs are approximately 25 seeds each (not counted, just a pinch of seeds). Germination rate usually exceeds that of commercial seed packs. If you have problems with germination, let me know, and I will replace the seeds, either with more of the same variety, or with a variety that I think will give you something similar to what the original variety would have. Please note. I am not a seed company. Iwill only offer seeds from my current trade lists and also if I have lots to spare from previous years. I don't check germination on older seeds, but my experience has been over 80% on five year old seed.

2010 FALL SEED LIST = http://tinyurl.com/4whnxy3 Some seeds from this list may be in limited supply, but I will do my best to fill your request.

Albums containing photos of most of the varieties I have, and other photos that may be of interest, can be found at:
http://www.picasaweb.google.com/tvgrunt, or

When you have made up your list, send me a copy at grungysgarden@gmail.com

Changes ...

The status here has changed substantially, as you can see above. The blog will continue, hopefully with more frequent input than recently.
Seed saving and trading/sharing will also continue. I still want to bank seeds, not just of tomatoes, but I am older than the lead photo on the blog would indicate, and have passed the seed bank on to younger hands.
In the meantime, I will continue to pay it forward, and trade/share seed to all corners of the world, as I did with Val.
This poem, which we both have known since the 1960's gave us much comfort through Val's battle with cancer.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Life comes with no guarantee of quality or quantity. It is up to you to remember to smell the flowers, watch the sunset, hear the birdsong in early morning, and the spring frogs in the evening. What ever happens in your little corner of it, it is still a beautiful world, and you do yourself a great disservice if you fail to see and celebrate what is there.

A little footnote here, that will stay at the top of the blog. I have married again, for the fourth time. Another internet marriage, as Val's and mine was, and just as good, although completely different.
I was also diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2011, and started treatment to cure it in late August 2011.
The blog will carry on, in much the same vein as it always has. I will post mostly garden related articles, but also a few comments on things and life in general.
For a while, I thought Gump had it right = sh*t happens. He's wrong = LIFE happens

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old. His family wishes his blog to remain for those who wish to read Dans' journey.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Season wrap up

I’m pretty much back to normal now. I can eat pretty much anything, with only minimal care about swallowing, my weight is stable, and energy levels are coming back up.

I have an appointment for a CT scan December 5, and there will be a video conference with the chemo oncologist some time shortly after that, which will tell me how they did with the radiation and chemotherapy. I am confident that they have done what they said they would, and gotten rid of the cancer, but the verdict will be what it will be.

I got everything harvested, with the exception of the leeks = they are frozen in place now. I had them hilled up very nicely, so there would be more nice clean white stems on them. The hills are frozen solid now,and any attempt to get them out is going to thoroughly mash them. Still have to thresh out the majority of the beans, but they are all nice and dry. There are three bundles of Ethiopian lentils hanging under shelter, waiting for me to figure out just how to beat them out. They are dry enough that I think most of the plants are going to basically powder when I start thrashing. It doesn’t look like the pods are going to hold on to the seed very much = actually, I’m hoping I can get something around the bundles without losing too many seeds in the process.

Most of the tomato detritus is still in place in the rows, along with the rest of the debris. Cornstalks still standing, lots of immature onions frozen stiff and unusable now, Florida weave stakes standing alone and lineless now (I got most of the lines out of the way, but not past that). Potato beds are all set to receive seed potatoes = I intended to put them in and cover with a few inches of mulch, but we got a hard freeze (-9.5C or 14.8F) the night before they were to go in the ground. The ground was a little too stiff to dig them in, so I guess I do it in the spring. The leeks were supposed to come out right after the spuds went in = they aren’t going to be trialed in the spud pit this year after all.

Got all of the apples off for juicing. Still have four boxes in the basement, for consumption through the winter = that is a first here too. Usually, there are too few apples worth looking at at the end of the year, to do more than make juice. I can juice apples that are not in good enough shape to store for the winter, and there are usually too few left that have enough flavor to put in storage. This year, there was a bumper crop of good flavored apples on my Red Delicious. Most years there is either a poor crop, or the flavor just doesn’t develop in them, and they aren’t even usable for juice. I saved two boxes of Red Delicious, and got two mixed boxes of MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, Spartan and Jonogold from my neighbor for juicing all of her apples for her.

Most of the pruning is still to be done. Hopefully we will get some milder windless days through the winter, so I can get it done before spring. I would have preferred to get more done before the garden season ended, but I’m satisfied that I got the necessaries out of the way. There’s always next year to do better in, and I don’t foresee having any limitations to what I can do from now on.

And the adventure continues

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Eating is almost back to normal now. Still have to watch temperature and bite size, but with thorough chewing, almost everything is back on the menu now. Have to increase my fluid intake a bit more now, and stay hydrated. No stamina at all presently = the last round of chemo, and the over all effects of the radiation treatments, have me down to maybe ten minutes at a shot, then rest for a bit, and start off on what ever is next. I'll keep plugging at it, and pushing myself a bit, just to keep active, and try and shorten the recovery time. Still have 90% of the garden cleanup to get done this fall = if the weather holds for me for another three weeks, I might actually get some of it done.

Got into the orchard and picked the apples on Friday, and even had time to pull the last bed of carrots = the church will definitely be getting some of them, as there are at least another 6 pails = spud pit only holds 14 pails, and I still have to put spuds in it. There are already 6 pails of carrots in the pit, and I want to put a pail or two of leeks in, just to see how they do.

Finally got to press apple juice yesterday. It took me longer to get the press set up than it did to macerate and press the juice. One load in the press gave us 65 quarts of juice = still have another 40 quarts worth of apples to do for us today, and probably another 100 quarts or so for the neighbors. I did remember to take photos of the equipment and process, but rather than post 18 photos, I’ll give the link to the album they are in.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All this and Epigenetics too

In the first few days after the last post, eating became substantially easier. I still have to be careful with temperatures, make sure I chew everything very thoroughly, and swallow small amounts at one time = but I am eating almost normal amounts of softer foods = noodles, ground meat in soups, fish, and vegetables. I’ve already picked up about 2 pounds of what I lost, so I should be able to get back to what they will consider an acceptable weight for next week.

Temperatures are starting to drop at night (-9C or 15F), but we are still getting reasonable daytime temperatures (10C or 50F). If I can get enough energy together, carrots and spuds will hit the pit in the next couple of days, provided we don’t get rained out of digging. Still have to get the macerator and press wrestled out of the basement, so we can make some apple juice = I don’t think we have enough pears left to make pear juice, but I might try a small batch, if we can find enough to make it worth while.

Canned 44 quarts of pears, which finishes what Shaoling has not given away or been frozen. I guess we must have had a few nights that were colder than I thought, because we lost most of the remaining Asian pears to water core, which means they were frozen. Checking the max/min thermometer memory, we have already been down to -14.5 C (5.9F), so I guess the water core should be no surprise. I suppose they could have gone to a juicing attempt, but it didn’t occur to me until later.

I caught part of an interesting discussion/explanation of epigenetics on CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” on the way home from my second to last chemo treatment.

It is standard knowledge that DNA is formed from a combination of the parents DNA, and does not change through the life of the progeny. Epigenetics were explained this way = If you take the DNA as a string of letters that gets punctuated into words and sentences, epigenetics is what happens when the progeny are still in the womb, or in the early stages of life. Experiences and circumstances that significantly impact the mothers health and life style or quality, alter the punctuation to prepare the offspring for life. It does not alter the actual DNA, but rather alters the state of the expression of the DNA = turning some processes on, and others off. For example, if food is in short supply for the gestation period, then the ability to convert food into energy and save it is cranked up, trying to ensure the progeny will be better able to survive. If water is in short supply, the processes that regulate water utilization are fine tuned, to allow better usage in the progeny. The epigenetic “punctuation” may be changed to some degree by life experiences, or perhaps by chemical means (something they are trying to figure out).

The study that found this, used data from a long term, large bodied medical study, (for what I dis-remember) that had blood samples of those studied for a long period of time. They were looking for information that could show if there was any genetic footprint left on DNA by living in poverty. They tested DNA for individuals over a period of ten years, and could see the “punctuation” was altered by several indicators of poverty during the gestational period and early life. The “punctuation” was so definitely changed, that they could pick out individuals whose mother had smoked during the pregnancy, and even to some degree, the children who had two parents who smoked while the children were young. This would also tend to explain Fetal Alcohol Syndrome = scrambled “punctuation”.

The above might be something that would appear a bit strange in a gardening blog, but the phenomenon would be the same in the plant world = what your plants experience in your garden influences what their progeny are going to act like in the next generation. Gives you pause to think about how you might be able to “engineer” a little change in production or size in a variety, by how you treat this years plants. It would also explain why some varieties change over a fairly short period of time when grown in the same location year after year = epigenetics start changing the punctuation. Good examples are Blacktail Mountain, and Small Shining Light watermelons = first time I grew them, they came in at a size that was just about perfect for two people for one meal = this year they are about three times that size. And my weather conditions here are almost identical to those that Blacktail Mountain was developed in, with the exception that I have been feeding and watering mine somewhat more than the originals got. I have heard of people who have grown Blacktail Mountain for longer periods, and are now getting 20 - 30 pounders. I suppose the way to get back to the original size would be to grow them in less than optimal conditions for a few years, and get some of the original “punctuation” back, or re-punctuate in some way.

It is going to be squirming its way through my so called mind quite a bit now = what changes could I make if I........

I am now eating almost normally = only a small amount of pain when I get careless with swallowing. Tomorrow I get my last chemotherapy treatment. Sometime around the end of the year I will have another CT scan, and talk to both the Chemo and Radiation oncologists sometime in early January. There will be periodic checkups after that, to make sure things stay good, but other than that, I expect life will get back to what it used to be for many years to come = Shaoling says she wants "at least twenty years", and I intend to give her as many of them as I can.

We did get one carrot bed dug and into the spud pit = 6 pails worth. Still have almost as many more to pull from the other bed = they have sized up much better than I expected them to. I have a feeling the church is going to be getting quite a few of them, so I will have room for the spuds in the pit too.

This weekend should see us making apple juice, if the weather cooperates. I will be stripping the apple trees on Friday, weather permitting. For a change, all four trees have a good amount of fruit, and they have had enough water this year that they have a reasonably good taste = juice should be very good. I am fortunate enough to have a very good wine press to process the apples with. I'll try to remember to get the camera out and document the process, from box, to macerator, to pressure cooker. The result always beats anything you can buy.

And the adventure continues.