...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


ordering seeds / aka the cure for the winter blues

 At one point over the holiday break I was really having the winter blues.
I'm not exactly sure what caused the blues.  
Maybe just the winter doldrums, paired with a lackluster Christmas. 
Maybe I was having some PMS.
Maybe it was all of the stress and antics 
associated with caring for a sick chicken.
I knew I must have been really down 
when the seed catalogs were pouring in the mail, 
and I thought,
"Eh, why bother?"
"Why have a garden?" 
"It's so much work.  It's way cheaper to buy a CSA..."

For future reference,
aka note-to-self,
that alone should be a tell-tale sign 
of depression.

No interest in gardening?
What was wrong with me?!

Thank goodness whatever was wrong with me 
somehow got righted.

I think that all it really took 
was actually opening the seed catalogs 
and looking at them
and organizing my existing seed storage
and then thinking about what I could do.

It triggered the daydreaming / imagining / planning processes in my brain
which must activate or link into those miscellaneous brainy things 
that release endorphins or dopamine
or serotonin... maybe oxytocin?
or maybe even anandamide (the "bliss" molecule)...


Whatever it was, all I know is that
once I got into those seed catalogs,
I couldn't stop myself.
 I got the garden bug, and I got it bad.
Depression?  Winter doldrums?
Blues and blahs?


You see, my approach to the seed catalogs is an intense affair.
It's not just a casual, 
"Oh this looks cool..." or "Hmmn, that sounds fun..."

It's more like a quest or a treasure hunt...

It's detective work, really...
 to uncode the mystery of garden amazing-ness...
and I hope that each year I get closer to unlocking the mysteries.

I wade through every picture and description
in an effort to find what will do the best in our zone and soil
and also deliver the most flavor.

I'm all about the flavor.
Flavor trumps yield every single time for me, though, ideally, 
I try to find a balance of both.
And beauty, of course.

Beauty, beauty


Speaking of beauty,
yet another problem with the seed catalogs
is that it's so easy for me to get swept away 
in the stories and romance of heirlooms,
especially Italian or French heirlooms
countries and cuisines that I make no bones about lusting over.

Heirlooms open my imagination wide,
far beyond gastronomy, 
and into the realms of history and culture.

Thanks to some Parisienne market carrots
dating back to the 19th century,
I can easily imagine 
having an excellent summer snack
with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

If you let yourself really have fun with it,
gardening with heirlooms 
is a little bit like armchair travel.

And do I ever like to go places...!

So I basically read every seed catalog I had 
from cover to cover,
and after doing that 
I had such a crazy list of things I wanted to potentially buy and grow
that even a real farmer would tell me I was nuts.
Certainly waaaaaaaaaay nuts for a 2 acre plot.
Totally certifiable, actually.

After my initial run-through,
I had online shopping carts for 7 different seed catalogs.

Luckily my sweetheart would have none of that.
Ms. Practicality.

Counterpart to moi, aka
Ms. Dreams Run Amuck.

I actually sought out her assistance with my dilemma this time around.
(Good for me...!)
 I have to pat myself on the back just a little because in the past 
I might have secretly ordered ALL of the seeds I wanted 
and then when they came in the mail said, 
"Oops, I guess I got a little carried away..."

Not this year.  
This year I walked up to her and said, 
"Hi, my name is Jenn, and I am a seed addict."
"I'm trying really hard not to buy too many seeds tonight, 
so maybe you can help keep me on the straight and narrow..." 

I've been buying too many seeds for a few years now.
I even seek out clandestine sources of seeds,
and get excited by the idea of seed swaps and
I practically pass out at the sight of the Seed Savers Membership Yearbook.
(more than 4,000 tomato varieties!  over 13,000 DIFFERENT 
fruit, vegetable and grain seeds...
many rare and hard to find varieties, 
passed down through family generations  -- all available, to me?!)

 Bring me the reviving salts because I could seriously faint!!!

 Alas, the temptation to go on a seed binge is almost too much to bear.
Life is too short to possibly grow and taste them all,
but damn, I want to keep trying!!!


In order to not have to swear off seeds ALTOGETHER,
It's critical that I consult with Ms. Practicality, aka my seed sobriety sponsor.

She reminds me about what is a reasonable accumulation of seeds,
and gives me the parameters I need to work within 
if I'm going to be a functional gardener.
"Do you want to be grumpy all summer?!  
"Only working in the gardens?"
"You'll throw your back out!"  
 (like poor Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story, "You'll shoot your eye out!")


So, in all seriousness...
How NOT to bite off more than one can chew.
It's a real art form, folks.

Ms. Practicality gave me some parameters, 
all very reasonable, and I agreed with them.
After all, I don't want to be a grumpy gardener this summer
 all work and no play would make for a very grumpy girl, indeed.

BUT then squeezing my big big big daydreams
 into those "reasonable" parameters was definitely tough.

I had to say goodbye to some very special things,
I won't even bother to tell you much about them 
because it'll just make me want them more,
but I did earmark them as possibilities to revisit for next year.


Some things were disallowed.
Eliminated right out of the gate by Little Ms. No-Nonsense.

"No edamame or tomatillos.  We don't need to take up a whole spot in the garden for them.  
We don't use them a lot and we can just get some at the market." 
But... no fresh-from-the-garden salsa verde?
"Correct.  You can have fresh-from-the-farmer's market salsa verde instead." 
 No fresh steamed edamame with olive oil and salt? 
"That's right. Now you're getting the idea."

Moving on.
"Fava beans?  When did we last eat fava beans?  Let's just get those at the store."
But the descriptions say they're so buttery and amazing when they're fresh... 
incomparable to dried favas, and that you haven't lived until you've had fresh fava beans...!
  "Forget it.  You've been living just fine.  
And if you want all of those different pole beans and bush beans, 
you have to draw the line somewhere."
Alright, alright.  Fine.  Maybe next year.
 "Onions... every year you've tried to grow onions, they've been a flop. 
Onions give you heartburn anyway. Besides, they're so cheap to buy..."

 "Forget the potatoes, we just don't have the soil for it.
Too much digging anyway.  Let's just buy them at the store."

"Brussel sprouts seem tricky and they'll take up a bunch of space. 
We eat way more than you could possibly grow."
"Leeks... sure, they're beautiful, but how many leeks do we really use in a year?"
But... blue de solaise leeks are gorgeous french heirlooms, 
they're like edible artwork!
"Well, see if you can muster the strength to cope without them..."

 "You're not seriously going to try to grow heirloom wheats are you?"
"Tell me you're kidding."
"What?  You want an heirloom pancake patch?"
"You already bought a sickle?"
"I really thought you were kidding." 
"Well, you're on your own with that one.  Happy threshing, honey pie...
I hope your one pancake is worth all of that work...!"
"Tomatoes -- we've had blight for several years now.  
Last year was the worst yet.  Unless you plan on building a hoop house to protect them, 
you can scratch those off your list, too."

(So, guess who's planning to build a hoop house?)
(And guess who also searched and searched 
and happened to find two open-pollinated late-blight resistant tomatoes?) 

Heck yeah.


At least that was the end of the automatic elimination round.

Of the remaining contenders, I was allowed, on average, 
about two varieties per type of vegetable.
 (I bent the "rules" and cheated a little, but not too much...)


So, here's what we ARE planning to grow.
Most names I've been able to link to the catalog where I bought them
so you can see pictures and read descriptions if you'd like.

(a stunning variety -- hopefully worth sacrificing those fava beans for!)
Fortex Pole Bean
Emerite Pole Bean (OP)
garden of eden (romano)
Garden of Eden Romano Bean, Green, Pole Organic 
purpiat (romano) - reminds me of Willy Wonka! 
Romano Purpiat Bean
Soleil Bean
and dragon tongue  aka dragon langerie
two heirloom french types

p.s. I'll let you know how Gertrude and Alice B. are. 

crapaudine (the oldest beet variety on record, over 1,000 years old!)
plus cylindra 
Cylindra Beet  
Early Wonder Tall Top Beet
(in case old crap-o-dean really sucks, 
a girl's gotta have some back-up beets.)

giant of Naples - an Italian heirloom

Umpqua Broccoli Organic 


red express cabbage
January King Cabbage
gorgeous... green and purpley red!

and an heirloom cuke from the Hmong.


(Simply the best we've ever tried, 
and they don't give me any indigestion like peppers often do!)

Sooooooo many types of lettuce!
romaine:  truchas
Truchas Lettuce Organic & Pelleted

looseleaf:  bronze beauty
Bronze Beauty

butterhead:  little gem 
Carmona Lettuce Organic

batavian: pablo
Pablo Lettuce 

crisphead: superior
Superior 1 Lettuce Organic

Sweet Horizon Peas Conventional & Organic
Super Sugar Snap Peas
little marvel shelling pea
Garden Pea

kales (including a Portuguese type called tronchuda that's heat-tolerant)
some mild, sweet chard varieties (erbette, verde de taglio)
Verde De Taglio
and some others (spinach, mache, arugula).

late blight resistant:  legend and rose de berne 
Legend Tomato Conventional & Organic

Rose De Berne Tomato

delicious slicers:  pineapple, ananas noire, and black krim
Ananas Noire or Black Pineapple Tomato
 Black Krim Tomato

cherries:  peacevine, blush, isis candy
Peacevine Tomato Organic

Cocozella di Napoli squash
Japanese pie (c. mixta)
Japanese Pie Squash
Galeux d'Eysines (c. maxima)
Galeux d' Eysines
Delicata (c. pepo)
Delicata Squash
Rogosa Violina

4 types (Persian, lemon, lime, and of course -- Genovese)
I'll also be growing some other kitchen herbs,
but I have last year's seed stock for things like cilantro and dill to use up.
A couple herbs we'll get from local nurseries (rosemary, lemon verbena)
and most other herbs we have growing as perennials in our flower gardens.
We're always happy to see oregon, sage, and chives coming up!  

For the little feathered ladies I'll be growing
fodder type kales (thousand-headed, proteor, marrow stem), 
and various lettuce mixes so they can have a salad bar buffet
and a sunflower mix - they love sunflower seeds!
Plus I plan to grow trailing nasturtiums along their fence and run area
edible for us and for the girlies.

So there you have it.
The whole seedy ordeal.

At the end of it all, I feel like I've given birth!
My favorite kind of birth - to a new vision, 
an idea taking form.

Now I have plenty of things to look forward to doing 
with my hands
and my heart
out in the fresh air.

My head is dancing with time-lapsed visuals 
of seeds germinating 
and vines climbing 
and flowers opening
and bees coming and going...

Mental images of spring and summer 
and where to take the gardens this year,
and where the gardens will take me.

Plenty of thoughts 
to keep those blissful anandamide brain molecules at work! 
Wasn't it Joseph Campbell who said,
"Follow your bliss?"

Where will your bliss take you this year?

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