welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Sunday, January 24, 2010

planting for the future

Yesterday the first of this year's seeds were planted. Each plug tray has 288 cells, and two of them are full of seeds now, so there are 576 future plants germinating on my kitchen counter.

Is it normal to love running your fingers through dirt? To love the smell of fresh, moist soil? It's almost as good as puppy-breath. And you dog lovers, you know what I'm talking about here. Smells that make you close your eyes, breathe deeply and sigh. Because for just that one moment, all is well with the world*. How could it be otherwise when innocent puppies and freshly sown earth both exist? So much potential, so much life waiting inside these tiny packages.

I started with the strawberry seeds. Ordered one hundred and was surprised at how small the packet was. And inside that packet was an even smaller glassine envelope. That's when I knew I was in trouble. Strawberry seeds are incredibly miniscule, and nearly impossible to pick up. And whatever you do, don't drop one - you'll never in a million years find it again. You know how the seeds in strawberry jam are so tiny you barely notice them? Until one gets stuck in your teeth? Like that. I poured them out onto a saucer and thought "there's no way there are a hundred seeds here." (There were 108.) And by the way, who's job is it to count and package seeds that are smaller than a pinhead?

Trees were also sown. Yup, trees. Planting for the future. With trees, you are often planting for the next generation. It's a different sort of feeling. First I seeded a couple dozen tulip poplars, or "tulip trees" as they're known hereabouts. Also going in were nearly a hundred apple trees. Un-named, open-pollinated seeds from trees grown from seed that came from Kazakhstan, which is believed to be the original source of all apple trees. After reading The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, I contacted the person at Cornell University who is in charge of the apple genetics program or some such thing. As the book says, he'll send seeds to anyone that asks. It must be true because he sent some to me. Now apparently open pollinated apple seeds do not breed true. In Kazakhstan, they grow as shrubs and big tall trees and everything in between. Bitter, sour, sweet, you never know what sort of apple you're going to get. So these seeds I got? They're a mystery. I'll be planting a bunch of seedlings here on fence rows and along the edges of the woods. The rest I'll offer up for sale along with all the other plants. But if you'd like to grow your own, read the book, contact the guy at Cornell and have fun!

*And no, I'm not making light of the terrible tragedies that happen every day all over the world, but sometimes, just for a moment, all is well.


Sheltie Owner said...

I know what you mean--those smells that just make you stop and give yourself over to the moment. Yes, puppy breath is on the list, as well as that wet grass, morning after a rain smell. It makes me think of dog trials and reminds me of beginnings and potential.


Jennifer and Steve said...

this is so exciting! we are thrilled for you and completely, totally get what you are saying about soil and seeds and potential. there really is nothing like it. we hope germination rates are excellent for you!

Teri said...

I just love your updates! It is great to be able to follow along with your progress - I'm very impressed with you diligence. I know you are inspiring me to get out there and get my seed trays and things cleaned up and ready. Seed planting time will be here before I know it. And YES - you are exactly spot on with the soil thing!! (ok - and puppy breath too!!) It is a wonderful aroma! Keep up the terrific work!!