oh seed

“Though I do not believe
that a plant will spring up
where no seed has been,
I have great faith in a seed.
Convince me that you have a seed there,
and I am prepared to expect wonders.”
~Henry D. Thoreau

seed 2“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”    ~Mr. Weasley, from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Seeds are sprouting. They’re sprouting where we planted them, and hundreds of thousands more are sprouting absolutely everywhere. I have great faith in seeds. Trusting ourselves is a little harder.

Each year I go through some changes about it. We saved that new pepper seed. We didn’t order new seed. That pea seed was a completely impromptu experiment, then the peas got back-ordered. What if it doesn’t sprout?seed 1

(The answer is easy: we plant again.)

Did we order new parsley seed? Sometimes we have excess seed at the end of the season and we don’t seem to need it, but we also can’t keep ALL of our seeds in the freezer, either, so its not ideal storage conditions…

which leads to weak germination. (Lesson learned. We plant again.)

It wasn’t the seed’s fault.

But what is there to trust in the seed? Mr. Weasley’s question makes me smile each time I think of it. Where is the seed’s brain?

I think the seed’s brain is in the whole earth, and in the whole earth there is reflected the influence of the whole cosmos. That smart little seed, rolling around in my fingers, dropping into the wet ground, hiding in the dark, playing with the sun and air and water. It’s brain is so much bigger than mine.

Lucky we, to have such strong and wise companionship in these seeds. It is a relationship worth investing in.seed 3

heirloom yoga

The wave has crested. We have reached the far side of the summer.corn2

Down here, that means it is hotter than ever and the ragweed, ironweed and eupatorium are towering and swaying their flowers over our heads. The air is like a wall of water. Threats of rain don’t mean much. We’re already soaked.

None of us are sad to see the tomatoes begin to decline. We’ve been drenched in their abundance, unable to get them to market in time to be used, unable to pick them all before the hot wet days crack their tender skins. They do not get eaten, but there is no waste here. They get thrown to the chickens. They fertilize the fields.

Each year, we grow new varieties as “trials”, just because they sound good. Just because we’re curious. Sometimes there are some real winners in there. Sometimes, not. This year, the Vorlon and Dora tomatoes are keepers. Both turned out huge gorgeous delicious tomatoes that would have taken ribbons at the fair, had the timing been right.

At the same time that we were loving those new fruits in the patch, it looked like one of our old favorites was taking a turn for the worst. The Paul Robeson, one of our all time favorite tomatoes, didn’t seem to be thriving. A couple plants died early and a couple more just didn’t look as robust as they should. I had thoughts of maybe phasing out this stand-by and working more with one of the new varieties instead.

That was before the August rush. This last big rain, followed by the big wet heat, sent the patch into overdrive. When the heat wave hit the tomato patch, the Vorlon and Dora plants lost their cool. The fruits split and cracked and the vines withered to almost nothing. The Paul Robesons on the other hand, whose seeds we have selected for at least five years now, were relatively un-phased.

Take-away lesson for the day – keep with it. It may still be working, even if it doesn’t look like it.mr toad

This is not to say that we will not develop our own seed stock of the Vorlon or Dora tomatoes. There’s always room for improvement, in any chosen direction. It just pays to maintain direction.

It would be easier sometimes, to NOT. On many levels. Sometimes I think there are too many fruit flies involved with this seed saving thing; is it really worth the effort? Sometimes the number of things to do is sheer-ly overwhelming. Sometimes I’m tired of picking tomatoes in the hot sun. And then I get reminded…

Yoga Sutra 1.20:  sraddhaviryasmrtisamadhiprajnapurvaka itaresam

“Through faith, which will give sufficient energy to achieve success against all odds, direction will be maintained. The realization of the goal of Yoga is a matter of time.”

Mr. Desikachar adds: “The goal is the ability to direct the mind toward an object without any distraction, resulting, in time, in a clear and correct understanding of that object. Faith is the unshakable conviction that we can arrive at that goal. We must not be lulled by complacency in success or discouraged by failure. We must work hard and steadily through all distractions, whether seemingly good or bad.” (gratefully quoted from The Heart of Yoga, by T.K.V. Desikachar)

Please, follow me while I turn this plow onto another row. The same garden of thought, just a different crop.

Sometimes I forget how valuable Yoga practice is in my life. Sometimes it’s easier to not make the time. Sometimes it’s easier to not feel the aches and pains in my body and work with myself, as I am.  Sometimes it would be simpler to just let my mind swing from tree to tree without hindrance.

During those times, I might contemplate taking up Tae Kwon Do, or doing Zumba. Not bad things to do in and of themselves, and they might be good for me too. But, in reality, I shouldn’t stop doing yoga. If anything, these little impulses are my wake up call, to not be distracted, to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve learned, and to keep practicing, however I can, whenever I can.

For awhile, it looked like the Paul Robeson tomatoes were failing.  Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like my yoga practice is helping me the way I want it to.  But the fault is with my own perception, my own faith, not the tomatoes, or the yoga.  There’s always room for improvement, and the way toward it may not be fast. Things are rarely as they appear, especially through the colored lenses of the mind’s eye.

Keep the faith. Stay with it. This applies to everything.me and kids

seed dreams

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.

ice creek

I wouldn’t drive on it, but it’s all ice under there.

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.

But, the cold is making such a nice clean palette.clean palette

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.

It’s beautiful.ice 3

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.ice 2

Like seeds.

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.ice leaf

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.

family on ice

Taking a rare walk on the frozen pond.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to another post about our seed saving methods and philosophy.