One of the things I like to do every year is to review what worked, what didn't work, what went well, what could be improved. One big goal in 2020 was to save more seeds to share out with people to grow their own gardens. So, while I harvested a lot of herbs that were shared out and saved, I also let a lot of plants go to seed and gathered plant heads in the autumn to save. From there, I processed all seeds through a little japanese screen system.
The small screen system worked well, although I was out winnowing seeds in below freezing temperatures a few times when the wind was just right. From there, the labeling and bagging went well, and I saved thousands of seeds and stored them in the cold storage for the winter in bulk paper envelopes that were stored in larger airtight containers buckets and bins.
As we hit the new year, I started bagging seeds down and labeling them all to share in seed grants. I divided saved seeds Into hundreds and hundreds of envelopes that I shared throughout the US. I kept some of each plant seed type in the seed bank I maintain so that there is a backstore of seeds in case something happens.
I saved easier seeds this first year I tried in bulk, and plan to expand to include more plants I grow, and I hope to reach over 100 seed varieties saved next year. The key is to being mindful of the plants and where they grow, using permaculture and organic methods to maintain disease free healthy plants, to wait to harvest the heads until the right time, to fully dry all seed heads first, and to carefully thresh and winnow so that clean, dry, seeds are remaining, and then of course, store them properly.
I love a challenge. I like learning new things, expanding and making systems that create sustainable sharable mutual aid systems and processes that shares the bounty with many, without overworking the few. While I would like a bigger seed cleaning system, my little screen set worked well, and I think is fine for a few thousand of each type of seed each year.
Part of our plan is ongoing social permaculture, and the giving back and supporting community in all that we do. Seeds are a part of that system, and an important part of our master plan every year.
I love planting season. Starting seeds is about what we will have to eat this year, in some part, about beauty or medicine or flavor or mini environments and ecosystems, in the rest. It is also about creating systems that support plants growing in a way that they need to thrive.
I like the simplicity of plants. I like the complexity of plants. I like the chaos of plants. I like the order of plants. Plants create relationships and communicate with each other through chemicals released via rhizosphere and transported via soil fungi and through chemicals they release in the air. That is pretty amazing, isn't it? I like to think of plant communication more like our music and art than our speaking. As a synesthete, I see music as colors and wavelengths based on the tones and some sounds are perfect and clear colors along lines and others are more like sizzles or spots. Planting plants together that are together in the wild or that benefit one another makes me feel like they are experiencing a clear singular connection and do better together than alone. I imagine those threads of life under the soil creating this amazing network of life and microbia and electrical connections.
So when planting season gets underway, I feel like every plant that goes Into the ground Is an opportunity to create something not only nourishing, and beautiful, but also doing something underneath our feet that is improving and changing the very nature of what exists where we are right now. Every time we plant something, the soil, the insects, the earthworms, the chemical components and minerals change.
I am dreaming of sunshine and blue skies, warm sunshine, and green grass. But I am also dreaming of planting the plants In the ground. The trees, bushes, bulbs, food. The native plants In the woods and the prairie plants In the field. The food plants In the little beds, and the flowers around the fruit trees. Every plant is a step in creating a new soil and making things different from what we have and having the faith in plants to know what they will become - this summer, next fall, in 5 years, in 20 years, in 100.
I love driving through rural Wisconsin. You can tell where farmhouses used to be even in empty fields where no house stands anymore. Rows of lilacs all in the windbreak line, and the big wavy leaves of rhubarb. We leave something behind every time we put a plant into the ground, and we are changing things one way or another. Above and below. I wonder if someday someone will drive past my old abandoned house, and see a row of crooked and heavy laden fruit trees, and a woods lined with medicinal plants, and wonder who lived in that place. I hope my children stay here, though, and talk about the summer we planted that peach tree, or started that linden, or put that monarda into the soil. I wonder if my hair, my skin, my bits and pieces that come off me every day become a part of that plant that I touched and carefully put into that little hole.
We leave pieces of ourselves everywhere we go in our actions, our interactions. In our art and music and words. In our children. I am reminded of this every planting season as I dig a hole and plant each and very plant. Thousands of times I repeat - dig and plant. It makes me think of what I am trailing behind me in my wake every day, and if it is changing what is beneath for the better.
This is a work in progress as we update our seeds lists, plans for growing, and join a few trials to grow out new varieties for testing/research or seed purposes.
Click to view the google sheet in progress: docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1VxLb230ck2eiWdeCArtXjtVbn7CPJJ7bd54zOjI-C-I/edit?usp=sharing
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculturist, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.