Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ordering seeds

The week between solstice and the New Year, I stare at seed catalogs, gardeners' pornography.

The sun set a tad later yesterday than it did the day before--while this has been going on for a couple of weeks now, last evening was the first time I felt it in my bones. Time to order seeds.

(Yes, I know I can gather my own seeds, and I do--I have thousands of seeds scattered all over tarnation tucked in baggies, many with indecipherable code. Stamp collectors buy stamps they'll never lick, anglers buy lures they never cast, I save seeds I'll never plant.)

A seed is about promise, a tiny being put together by another, not without cost. Each seed has some stored energy, a few sleepy enzymes ready to be activated, and a tiny embryo.

Within this tiny, living plant rests strings of nucleic acids, with instructions for how to create living mass from air, from water. Mostly from thin air.

There is wilderness in a seed--reminders of the edge of life that we depend on yet cannot control.

Monsanto is the world's largest seed seller. Monsanto can (and does) manipulate the world's food supply. Monsanto is a publicly owned American company. As such, its primary duty is to maximize profit. If you want to read hard-core plant pornography, go visit Monsanto.

In the meantime, I'll continue to use Pinetree Garden Seeds for my seeds, one of many small privately owned companies that exist to sell seeds. I'm sure they make money, too, but I'm also sure that they won't sue me if I save some seeds next year.

Plants will be making seeds long after Monsanto crumbles. On a late December day, when the world outside waits patiently for life-giving sunlight to return, it's good to remember what matters, and dream of Carouby de Maussane pea flowers dancing in an early June breeze.


Clay Burell said...

If you haven't seen Idiocracy, you really should. Monsanto only gets worse until 2550 or so....

Hope you're well, Michael.

Kate said...

Seed ordering time is the triumph of imagination and hope over the elements. Will this year be hot and dry or cool and damp (like last year)? Will it be heaven for the tomatoes or the broccoli?

Each year we add a raised bed to the back forty. We will add another this year, though this is more of a partial shade bed so we will have to think about what crops we can rotate through there. We have space for four more beds total.

We are planning to grow as much of our food as we can (it's big for a city garden), and I received a mandoline for the holidays so I have a new way to slice and julienne now! Last year we planted garlic for the first time. That's a keeper.

Nice eggplant. (That is what's in the photo, yes?) Got any suggestions for untried garden treasures?

I have three blog posts swirling around in my head. I should get to those.

John Spencer said...

Last year was the first time that we used seeds from our own plants. It was nothing short of amazing to see the life cycle continue.

doyle said...

Dear Clay,

I am always well--it's the Oirish way. Leslie says my tombstone will read--"I'm fine."

I hope you, too, are well. Should Monsanto (or any of us, for that matter) get past 2100 it'll be a miracle.

Dear Kate,

Indeed. If I cannot hibernate, at least let me dwell on seeds. Imbolc's less than 3 months away--won't be long before the dining room table is covered with flats.

Yes, that's eggplant. I'm trying Brussel sprouts this year--for new things, have you tried Jenmy Lind melons? Easy to grow, sweet as sugar, and fun to watch grow!

And go post--your readers are waiting....

Dear John,

Again, indeed--I may eventually go to more efficient seed saving, but I am inherently lazy, and I like my PineTree friends.

Kate said...

Okay - two posts up - and I've never had much success with melons, but this year we will plant Jenny Linds!

Making sweet potato chips with the girls. It's fun to have them in the kitchen with me.

(and "Round-Up® Ready" anything is a terrifying idea)

Kathryn J said...

As the light changes and shadows grow shorter, I too am contemplating my Johnny's Selected Seed catalog and planning my summer garden - swiss chard for sure, lots of basil (my crop failed this year). It's a nice dream for a day of single-digit temperatures. I too have seeds - some in envelopes over 10 years old, others in baggies with no labels because I would surely remember.

Carl said...

As so often happens when I start reading your blog (it's been much too long since I last perused it), I get carried away and forget why I came looking in the first place. Wonderful stuff (as usual) and, weirdly, Monsanto is why I came. Did you know Bill Schulz...yeah, our old MHSN Bill Schulz... is a high level mucky-muck with Monsanto? I'm not sure why it made me think of you, but when I got to this posting I remembered why I came.

Is there a way that I can get your postings sent to me automatically, so that I don't spend hours at a time catching up.

I think I've said it before, but I really wish you could be my kids' science teacher.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

Glad to see your posts up! your new posts!

Jenny Linds grew for me, and I can't even grow watermelons well (maybe because I don't like them). I think the Jennies fall off the vine when ripe--I had some sort of way to catch all 3 that I got--but it's just so much fun seeing melons rise from the earth it's worth the effort.

Dear Kathryn,

What do you eventually do with errant seeds? I cannot bear to throw them out, so I eventually toss mine into my never-warm-enough compost pile. My spring garden bed is a lovely collection of seedlings from years gone by. Some of the volunteers survive the year. (Pumpkins grow everywhere!

Dear Carl,

(Are you, perchance, Kuujjuaq Carl?)

Thanks for the kind words.

I did not realize that Bill was a muckymuck there. My brother made a few bucks as well, shilling for them. I wonder how many other Lions are in their den.

I think I have an RSS feed set up--at least I have an RSS logo on the side--but not sure it works. Click on it and let me know.

Oh, one more thing: Les Jersey Diables sont la!

The Science Goddess said...

One of my favourite quotes is by Michael Perry: "Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Playboy combined."

My "Johnny's Seeds" catalog arrived this week. Sigh.

Charlie Roy said...

There is a nice bit about Monsanto in the recently released movie "Food Inc." It is worth a look.

doyle said...

Dear Science Goddess,

Playboy may have disappointed a lot of lads, but a few Enron folks got to live the fantasy life for the short term. 9/11 saved Bush's bacon on that whole sleaze.

Dear Charlie,

Thanks for the heads up!