Posted by: cindydyer | May 20, 2012

Memories are in the seed

May 19—It was a very warm day at 86 degrees Fahrenheit. High winds appeared to sap the oxygen right out of the air as dust swirled around in small whirlwinds. I needed to plant potatoes that should have been in the ground long ago. The potato spuds had sprouted and needed to be covered by earth. Left: Red potatoes have pink flowers. Photo © Mary Ellen Ryall

I watched the sky all day, wondering when the rains would start. I knew they were coming. My rain barrels needed filling. The transplanted trees and shrubs were bone dry and leaves were wilted.

I saved over-aged russets potatoes with eyes. This year I bought red and yellow starter potatoes to add to the mix. I have been planting a diverse crop of potatoes together for many years. It appears to keep potato beetles away. I have always had a happy and healthy crop. Right: JoAnn Flanagan of Oregon, OH, hand wove this beautiful potato basket. Photo © Mary Ellen Ryall

Last year I was able to use my own potatoes right up to the middle of march. Imagine that! What a thrill not to have to go to the grocery store to buy potatoes for nearly an entire winter. I knew where my potatoes came from. I was enjoying being sustainable and providing for my own food.

I planted a bed of beans that same day. This year I added Kebarika bush shell bean, bought from organic Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia. The bean species is purple, looking much like scarlet runner. The bean was added to a mix of saved Hidasta—black and white soup beans. I’ll grow those vine beans up on devised bean poles.

After I finished planting potatoes, I started weeding the next bed. Lo and behold, the garlic I planted from seed in 2009 was growing. I thought it had died out last year, but it hadn’t. I dug one up to make sure it truly was the garlic grown from seed. Saved seed do have stories. I remember an older man had come to our seed-saving workshop at Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Ojibwa College’s Wellness Fair at LCO Convention Center. I wish I knew his name. He told me his grandmother had brought garlic seed to America when she immigrated from Poland. He has been growing the garlic ever since. I felt honored that he thought to give Happy Tonics the memory seed. How I wish today I had his telephone number. I could call him up to tell him the continuing seed story from Minong,Wisconsin. Above, left: Here is a sample of potato diversity grown in my garden in 2009. Photo © Mary Ellen Ryall

I realized in 2009 that I had to start writing down people’s names after this experience. How could one carry on the story without a name? Seed is handed down from one person, culture, and tradition to another. It isn’t a story of just the seed, but the people who lovingly tended the seed, making sure the seed was passed to the next generation. Yes, the man was an elder. His story was important even if he didn’t think so.

If you are a seed saver, I hope you will remember to write down the person’s name and pass the story on.


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