Agricultural year slow to commence as pact established

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Above: the plots at An Fheirm in Orchardstown, seen today.

A pact for the advancement of micronational agriculture has been formed by a number of micronations. The International Agricultural Development Pact will facilitate discussion between micronations interested in agriculture, and promote agriculture as a vital economic sector for other nations. The group will also exchange seeds and other materials, promote sustainable and traditional cultivation methods, and publish a quarterly journal. The seven founding members of the pact are Leylandiistan & Gurvata, Lundenwic, Elsanor, Mallanor, Roseland, Timeria and Uberstadt. Over the past week they have agreed on a treaty for the pact, which will act as a founding document. The aforementioned states are now ratifying the treaty, after which the first quarterly journal will be published.

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Above: the oats, on the right of the bed, are thriving while the barley, on the left, is not as tall or healthy in colour.

Meanwhile, late frost in March followed by tough conditions for seedlings in April have caused setbacks in this year’s agricultural activities. Farmers in both regions of the Confederation have reported that their plantings are around two to three weeks behind on the same period last year.

One crop which is thriving in the Leylandiistani climate is “Caffreys” oats, an old Irish variety of oats. Standing over two feet tall already, the plants have not been damaged by pests or strong winds. The crop is due for harvest around July, although the oat inflorescences which will emerge in the next few weeks will be harvested before they harden into grain, in very small amounts, to make herbal teas. Much of the seed harvested will be donated to the National Seed Bank, while some may also be marketed by the Confederation Seeds Company.

DSC_0030Above: the barley crop in An Fheirm is around 6 weeks away from harvest.

The other overwintering grain being cultivated this year is barley. The awns are beginning to emerge from within the plants, with a harvest expected in late June. The variety of barley is unknown, but it is now considered likely that it is a spring variety, not suited for overwintering. It is suspected the plants may have net blotch, or a similar disease affecting the leaves, but since the barley is progressing to the grain-producing stage it is unlikely to affect the harvest or the quality of the grain. In addition to oats and barley, spring sown grains are being trialled. These include einkorn, emmer and amaranth, all of which are at the seedling stage of growth.

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Above: a view of the location where the Treaty of Union was signed in August 2014, with barley in the foreground.

Above: a robin examines some seedlings (left); young leguminous plants are among the first to be planted out, with peas left to climb a fence.

As well as being a year for trialling grains, several different types of bean are being trialled too. Gurvatan farmers are growing dwarf french beans, while broad bean, borlotti bean and soya beans are being grown in Leylandiistan, as are lentils, which are related to beans. The variety of pea in Leylandiistan this year is a purple podded pea from West Cork, while in Gurvata the “Progress #9” pea marketed by the Confederation Seeds Company is being grown.

Lastly, the National Budget for 2015 became invalid on the 1st of May, thus the spending abilities of the government have been suspended until a new budget is agreed by the Co-Presidents. They are expected to meet as early as tomorrow to resolve this situation. Béal na Tíre will be reporting on Budget Day 2016 as it happens, and will offer a summary of the major changes.

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Winter closes in as grains sown and solar electricity installed

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Above: Despite the cold conditions of late November, most of the beds are still lush with vegetation, with two remaining broad bean plants are also continuing to flower and set pods.

The temperature in Leylandiistan & Gurvata has been dropping gradually week by week, however this has not prevented the plots at An Fheirm, Leylandiistan and Eastrip, Gurvata from remaining lush and colourful. Winter crops like beetroot, leek, carrot, swede and parsley are thriving in the brassica and root crop beds, while mint and broad beans are still producing meager crops.

Above: “Caffreys” oats sown in October are now half a foot tall (left), barley growing in front of swedes (right)

An ambitious scheme is underway at An Fheirm to grow the first grains in Leylandiistan & Gurvata’s history. Two types of grain were sown in October in beds left vacant by summer crops. 1.5 m² of barley has been sown, as well as 0.5 m² of “Caffreys” oats, a heritage Irish variety of oats from the Irish Seed Savers Association. While the oats are thriving, it is thought that the barley , which is struggling somewhat, is a spring variety, thus unsuited to winter growing. Both grains will be harvested next spring.

Another agricultural project is the Confederation’s seed industry, in the form of the state-owned Confederation Seed Company. The first draft of the company’s 2015 seed catalogue received widespread attention. An article in the Coprieta Standard was devoted to the catalogue as well as the agrifood sector of the Confederation. Significantly, Brown Envelope Seeds, an organic seed company based in west Co. Cork (the same Irish county home to the Confederation) gave a welcoming endorsement to the catalogue, sharing it on their Twitter feed.

Trading these seeds with other micronations, with a view to encouraging food cultivation in micronations, is still in the planning phase, though it is understood Lundenwic, Uberstadt and Siar Fordell have shown interest in exchanging the seeds for their own goods. Béal na Tíre understands that discussions with these countries are at an advanced stage. Packaging for the seeds has also been designed, and will be publicised when the final draft of the seed catalogue is released in the coming weeks.

Government policy on environmental protection and sustainability has been extended for the first time beyond agriculture with the installing of solar powered electricity late in October in the summerhouse of Orchardstown, which had been built by the government and paid for privately by Co-President Ó Cathail in March. The front of the summerhouse, which has also been used as a storehouse for crops and seeds, is now lit every night, free of charge, by these solar powered fairy lights. The interior of the summerhouse is currently lit with candles and a paraffin lamp, though these may be replaced with more solar powered lighting. It has been proposed that the money collected by the National Contribution Charge since last October will go towards more environmental projects like solar and wind powered electricity grids. The Co-Presidents have met to discuss reducing the carbon footprint of the Confederation using such schemes.

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Above: The winter crops of Leylandiistan (left to right); beetroot, carrot, curly leaf parsley, more carrot, swede.

 

Autumn proves bountiful as seed company established

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Above: Cider produced in Leylandiistan using only apples grown in Orchardstown (left), while some of the onion harvest lies on display in front of nasturtiums and marrows

The harvest is well under way in Leylandiistan & Gurvata. A number of milestones have been achieved so far. Three litres of cider have been produced by Leylandiistani brewers. The alcohol content of this cider has been measured at 5.25% ABV using a hygrometer. Vegetables have also been harvested in large amounts. Almost 6 k.g. of onions were harvested in total from An Fheirm. Most of these were white onions, though a small amount of red onions were also grown and harvested. Statistics will hopefully be available in full soon for other vegetables like beetroot, while estimates may be calculated for unrecorded crops like courgette.

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Above: Harvest work: Flaxseed pods were picked from flax plants at a patch in Orchardstown to be crushed in order to extract the flaxseed.

Meanwhile, efforts to export goods for the first time have been greatly advanced lately. This is because Leylandiistan & Gurvata has assumed the presidency of the Saint Josephsburg Economic Pact. The organisation has been in a planning phase for a lengthy period, but with the necessary frameworks now in place in all member states, real efforts to trade goods are now being made.

The primary good which will be exported from Leylandiistan & Gurvata is seeds. This is the main non-perishable good produced in a significant quantity by domestic producers. On the 2nd of September 2015 the Confederation Seeds Company Act 2015 was signed into law by the Co-Presidents to create a state-owned monopoly on the seed industry. The company will purchase seeds from growers in the Confederation and sell them on to individuals, firms and state bodies in micronations, as well as other potential customers. A system of contracts will be used to negotiate a fair price for both the farmer and the company. Pea, mizuna, mustard, chive, lupin and flaxseed have been harvested in exportable quantities by growers so far, and the new seed company also hopes to export seeds of borage, lovage and lettuce. A number of nations have already expressed interest in these proposals, both inside and outside the SJEP. All of the company’s profits will go directly to the National Treasury, creating more funds for government projects in the national interest

Agricultural regions lush and productive, produce plentiful

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Above: Globe artichokes (left) are an unusual sight, while pea pods (right) hang from peastalks.

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Above: A sugar beet (left) and unusually large onions, both scheduled for harvest in August or September

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Above: An attempt is being made to set the micronational record for the largest marrow (left) while plentiful red apples ripen on leafy branches (right).

At Eastrip in Gurvata and at An Fheirm in Leylandiistan, the latter being the location of all 6 pictures above, the agricultural plots have significantly improved on last year’s performance. This is despite the weather conditions being noticeably worse, with this July being far colder than the same time in 2014.

A great number of different plants have been trialled this year. While dwarf bean trials at An Fheirm have proved unsuccessful, with only four pods on six plants, other plants like potato, onion, pea and artichoke have exceeded expectations. At Eastrip, Gurvata, blueberry bushes have scant fruit, though sunflower, lettuce and tomato plants all stand over a foot tall.

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Above: Small pods develop on soybeans (left) while long thin pods branch off of fenugreek plants (right).

Trials of more unusual plants have also taken place. Two such trials involved exotic leguminous plants, soybean and fenugreek, at An Fheirm. Though both have produced satisfactory results so far, fenugreek has been found to have more practical uses. Both crops will be assessed fully along with the others when they are harvested.

Currently beetroot, courgette, peas and salad leaves are regularly harvested. Onions and carrot should be ready for autumn, as should the trial row of sugar beet. The latter has proven to be an ideal plant for the Confederation’s climate, and a technique for extracting the sugar with minimal equipment has been devised, to be employed upon the beet’s harvest. Should a significant amount of sugar be extracted from the beets, a larger patch of up to 70 sugar beets will be planted on the site of an old greenhouse.

Agriculture is the main economic sector of Leylandiistan, with the next being beverage production, followed by furniture restoration. However, with seeds of chive and lupin already collected and several more species yet to have their seeds saved, it is likely the top item on the agenda for the government when it reconvenes in late August will be setting up a government owned seed company. It is known that interest is already being gauged among representatives of other micronations for Leylandiistani seeds and Gurvatan seeds, and Béal na Tíre is aware that chive seeds will be exported to North America in autumn. Whether or not other products, agricultural or not, will also be traded with other states, has yet to be established

Initial harvest begins as Co-Presidents discuss taxation and other measures

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Above: A honeybee pollinates chive flowers at An Fheirm, with salad plants like mizuna in the background.

The agricultural season has produced its first initial harvest. The two plots at Eastrip, Gurvata and An Fheirm, Leylandiistan have been supplying residents of both regions with fresh salads and, as of this week, summer carrots and peas.

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Above: At Eastrip, Gurvata, lettuce has already been harvested, while sunflower and tomato plants are too small currently to produce fruit.

The plot at Eastrip, Gurvata was redeveloped in May, with a raised bed and stone surrounded extension were built, visible above on the left. This is in addition to the greenhouse, which has a brick path leading up to it. Crops produced in Gurvata this year are lettuce, rocket,  tomato and sunflower (only the first two have been harvested), along with herbs like tarragon, lemon balm and thyme.

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Above: (left to right) Peas, globe artichoke and fenugreek being cultivated at An Fheirm.

In Leylandiistan, peas and carrots grown at An Fheirm have followed salads to resident’s dinner plates. Rocket seeds have been harvested as well, and a very significant surplus is expected, so the excess is likely to be exported. A trade deal involving a seed exchange is currently being negotiated with a North American micronation, so that a good part of the next season’s seeds will be supplied by domestic farmers within the Confederation, or other micronations.

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Above: The beginning of the carrot and pea harvest at An Fheirm, with the first produce displayed at Orchardstown.

These agricultural successes were the backdrop for the meeting yesterday of the Co-Presidents at Orchardstown. They discussed taxation yet again, and they have formulated a foolproof procedure to ensure payment of the National Contribution Charge is received, recorded and archived by the National Treasury. It has been revealed that uptake of the three grant schemes set up by this year’s National Budget has been very low, and thus taxation may be halted for the month of August or more. The possibility of revisiting the budget, as well as amending current agricultural legislation to allow for slug pellets should an emergency occur (as Gurvata was ravaged by slugs earlier in May) was also discussed, and a further meeting on these matters will take place this Tuesday.

Finally, the building constructed at Orchardstown for government use earlier this year will be officially inaugurated at an opening ceremony by the two Co-Presidents. A traditional ribbon-cutting will take place this Wednesday, 1 July. This event has been long anticipated. It will also be the first Perhaps we should implement a Call of the House system public event attended by both Co-Presidents (or indeed the first significant public event since the signing of the Treaty of Union last August). Béal na Tíre will be reporting on this significant event.

Agricultural year begins with first crops picked

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The agricultural year has gotten under way in recent weeks as the weather has improved. At An Fheirm, south of Orchardstown in Leylandiistan, the plots have slowly begun to fill with green leaves and shoots. The first vegetables have already begun to be harvested, while on the numerous fruit trees and bushes blossoms and small berries have started to appear.

The government fulfilled its commitment to double the amount of land cultivated. In fact, the total land now used for agricultural purposes outside of the orchard has trebled. Last year, just three raised beds were used for growing, this year that total is 8, after a significant private investment by Co-President Ó Cathail. Crop rotation is being practised, while crops grown are subject to organic rather than conventional growing methods. Seaweed extract is currently the only fertiliser permitted by the Confederation’s State Organic Regulation Authority (SORA), established a few weeks ago.

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Above: Radishes have been harvested since late April, while rocket is now also being harvested as summer arrives.

While radishes and some salad leaves have been harvested already, most crops should be ready between August and late September. A large amount of onions and garlic, both of which store well, will be harvested in September and dried traditionally by plaiting the stems. Carrots, beetroot and potatoes will be harvested from September, with swedes arriving on the scene later on, though salad or “new” potatoes are expected around July. Peas, runner and french beans and a trial plot of three soybean plants also feature in the raised beds. Trial crops of sugar beet for molasses and sugar production, flax for fibre and buckwheat for flour and grains have been sown in Gurvata and Leylandiistan. All crops have been grown from seed, much of which is also certified organic.

In other news, a government meeting regarding the agricultural sector has concluded that plots should remain under private ownership with state guidance on some matters. The planned formalisation of the management structure of agricultural plots under bodies called co-operatives is to be delayed until next year. Agricultural Payments outlined in the budget will be made in March 2016, when plots return to activity after winter.

Harvest Review: First cider brewed, apples and carrots plentiful

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Above: Caochóg Cider produced four bottles of cider this week.

The harvest season is under way in Leylandiistan & Gurvata. Yesterday in Orchardstown, four bottles of cider were produced. 2.8 litres of apple juice were fermented for two weeks. The apples were grown, picked and juiced in Leylandiistan. The cider has been described as being “soft and sweet”. While the exact alcohol percentage is not known, it is said to be quite low. Residents were so pleased by this first batch that a second batch will be prepared on Tuesday. The cider is named after the Irish name for the Cubbyhole area, “Caochóg”, while the logo was designed by Fionnbarra Ó Cathail. The successful production of cider has proven to be a major milestone for not only the agricultural sector but the economy as a whole, as it proves the Confederation has the capability to produce exportable artisan products from its primary agricultural products.

Apples have so far dominated the harvest. Several jars of apple chutney have been produced, and more is on the way. Apple juice has been another favourite, while stewed apple, apple pie and apple crumble will all be prepared. Organic lemonade has been produced by Leylandiistan Beverages, but LeylandiiCola has had an uncertain season.

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Above: An Fheirm Agricultural Co-operative is reporting great success so far.

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Above: Carrots freshly picked at An Fheirm, while new workstation is up and running.

Elsewhere the harvest has also proven fruitful. So far 31 carrots have been pulled from the ground at An Fheirm, Leylandiistan’s agricultural co-operative. All the carrots have been consumed by residents of Leylandiistan. Meanwhile in Gurvata, citizens have also dined on fresh Gurvatan carrots. The small orchard in southern Gurvata is said to have provided plenty of apples. Plots in Gurvata and Leylandiistan are also producing tomatoes, while at An Fheirm melons and peppers have yet to ripen.

A new workstation has been installed at An Fheirm Co-op. The stone surface was salvaged from the hillside at Kilcatherine Point, Co. Cork. The flat slab was balanced on three rocks, in the style of ancient dolmens. It is said to be useful addition to the co-op, where it is used to pot plants, process herbs and lay out produce. Already An Fheirm is looking to the future, with hopes of expanding its facilities and range of crops. The government is also reviewing agricultural legislation, and hopes to begin an organic certification programme next year.

The weather is looking up for the rest of the harvest, and there is plenty of growth to be had yet. A final harvest review at the end of the autumn will be available here at Béal na Tíre.