By my calculations, this may be the most consistently cold winter we’ve had in these parts for about 20 years. I say that from the remembrance of a winter I spent home from college, about 20 years ago (yikes, really?). I was staying at a friend’s farm, ostensibly doing independent study on modern homesteading skills, but the winter was so brutal that we spent a fair amount of time snowed in around the fire (practicing that timeless homesteading skill of tending fire and telling stories), sometimes driving out over multiple creek crossings just to catch a glimpse of humanity. I remember driving over the icy creek crossings, and not breaking through.
And then we did break through. And then we were stuck.
It was a memorable winter. As is this one.
Somehow, I’m feeling more capable of appreciating this one, in a different way. Yes, the children climb the walls on grey days, not wanting to do the necessary bundling to make themselves comfortable in the exhilarating COLD. Yes, the winter to-do list is getting cramped abit, as certain outdoor projects just don’t get done when the high temperature is 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
There’s talk sprinkled through Rudolf Steiner’s Agriculture lectures about the crystallization processes that occur during winter. Certain preparations that we make to help enliven our compost piles and the like are best buried underground through winter so that they receive these crystallizing forces.
Theoretically, it doesn’t have to get really cold for crystallization to happen, because people in tropical locations make these formulas with success. But, on a winter like this, we can really see crystallization at work.
When I walk around the frozen garden, it feels so still. But it also feels deeply alive. And it feels clean. Maybe you’ve experienced this. It’s an interesting sensation.
Back in the warm house, later, in my mind’s eye, I am sorting the garden beds, seeing the possibilities for the year to come pass before me. What grew where last season? Did we compost that in the Fall? Is it mulched, cover cropped, or open? The frozen ground is laden with potentiality.
We’re sorting seeds now. Flipping through our favorite catalogs, falling in love with pictures of flowers, and vivid descriptions of the black tomato from Russia that we haven’t tried yet. We squeeze and shake last year’s packets, and pick through the beans and kernels to see what looks good. What to grow this year, and what NOT to grow? Where will we put those flowers? How many kinds of tomatoes will fit in those rows? What will it all be?
Our seed orders have been shrinking the past few years, but our gardens haven’t. There are a few standby hybrids that we buy, and some special lettuces that we won’t give up, but as my Fellow Man improves his hand at the craft of seed saving, we find need for less and less from the catalogs.
This year, for the first time “officially”, we’re feeling flush enough in supply to offer some of our favorite seeds to others. We’re not a seed warehouse. We’re just a little family with a particular leaning toward this art. My husband has a gift for meticulous tasks. He selects with care, and tends to his work. There are times in the late summer when I question how reasonable it is to have so many small containers of fermenting seed projects at once. These processes are not all tidy, and they don’t always smell good. But now, when we have this beautiful selection to contemplate, it’s worth it. We’ve done this for enough years now to witness the strength of home grown seeds. Our favorite varieties that we save grow more vigorous and well adapted as we pay them this good attention.
There may be genetic variability. There are sometimes deep purple veins in the flat leaf white kale. Last year, some of our cherry tomatoes exhibited a crossed trait that created an amazing tasting burgundy fruit. We saved some, and will be stabilizing that line each season. Variability is part of the fun.
Our for-sale seed list is posted now HERE in our market. Until I work out the details of on-line trade, you’re welcome to mail or email us an order, the old fashioned way. Let us supply you some sweet mid-winter seed dreams. Support this garden-roots economy. The gardens are beginning now, from the crystallized earth, and the beautiful creativity of our own minds. Let winter be winter. What a GOOD time it is.