Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Seed Catalogues Are Here, The Seed Catalogues Are Here!

Do you remember the day you planted your first vegetable or flower seeds? Last week, cooped up by snow and the raging sniffles, I thought about my gardening journey.  

It started in hot, smoggy southern California.  Both my Mom and my Nana loved their 1960's suburban back yards, but never wanted to plant seeds.  Mom had six different fruit trees (none that ever produced any edible good fruit) and lots of ice plant around her nicely manicured lawn.  Nana had a lovely rose garden, a huge lawn that grew dandelions, a sweet blossoming orange tree, nice lemon trees, and a truly scary black English walnut that dropped wormy nuts every October.  

Nana also handed out pennies per pulled dandelion. Weeds, dirt and grass all smelled good to me so I never minded digging out the weeds. Besides, I liked being by myself, thinking and imagining epic tales involving romance, bravery, loss and reunion with Dr. Kildare. 

One fateful winter day when I was ten or eleven, I spotted an ad in my "Weekly Reader," proclaiming that kids could make lots of extra money selling seeds to their neighbors.  My Mom actually agreed to the scheme without too much fuss, and I wrote away for the seed selling kit.  A month later, the mailman delivered  small brown  package addressed to me!  It was thrilling, like Christmas and a birthday rolled into one.

Lifting out the packets one by one,   I read charming names above the pretty pictures: Petunias, Candytuft, Bachelor Buttons, Marigolds, Baby's Breath, and Sweet Alyssum. Of course, I had to open a package and couldn't believe what I saw   Flowers actually came from the tiniest bits of stuff, and that just seemed, if it were true, crazy miraculous.  Would these little specks really grow and become alive if I planted and watered them? 

They did,  even though I had  planted them under our clothesline in the heaviest parched clay soil imaginable.  My magenta petunias, blue bachelor buttons, white baby's breath and pale yellow marigolds made me feel like Mary in The Secret Garden and it still does.  Of course, I never sold any seeds and ended up having to buy them all, but what a small price for a lifetime love?

Now, of course, buying seeds is even more fun.  Big glossy catalogs start appearing in the mailbox in December, and  that sends me to
 2012 seed catalog haul
the Internet for on-line sales.  Here are my annual winter joys:  my favorite seed catalogs and websites.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds -   In 1998, seventeen year old Jere Gettle started packaging and selling open-pollinated, non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented seeds.  Thirteen years later, he has three brick and mortar stores in three states and some of best seeds around.  Fabulous selection.

Gourmet Seed International - Great old vegetable, herbs and flower varieties from Europe, many of them organic, and they always have something interesting on sale.  Pea seeds for microgreens, anyone?

The Maine Potato Lady - Alison may not be local, but her organic seed potato selection is consistent, disease free and delicious.  Nice knowledgeable people.

Nichols Garden Nursery - I've had nothing but great service from this Oregon company for over twenty years.  Their herbs and lettuce seeds become terrific healthy plants, and for sheer variety of color, nothing beats their calendula seeds.

Renee's Garden Seeds   - "Set the table from the garden" is Renee Shephard's motto and her gourmet and heirloom seed varieties have definitely enhanced our summer meals.  Check out her charming illustrated seed packets and helpful, detailed growing directions. Renee's home base is near my old stomping grounds in Santa Cruz, CA and I am a loyal fan.

Territorial Seed Company - A mammoth catalog filled with Pacific Northwest friendly seeds from a company that cares about quality.  Many organic varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers.  Territorial's pea varieties are endless and they have the very best nasturtium selection anywhere.

Uprising Seeds - "100% Certified Organic Open Pollinated and Heirloom Seeds from the Pacific Northwest" and the owners live in Bellingham, WA.  I've met and talked with Chrystine and Brian, and they are so dedicated to providing regionally grown healthy heirloom seeds from their own farm in Acme as well as from their network of family owned farms in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California.  Their variety and germination rates improves every year, and they are truly good, community oriented people.

There you have my favorite catalogs, and I'd love to know about your favorite seed companies.  Happy shopping, and it's not too early to start sowing spinach, herbs, and Swiss Chard starts!

Friday, January 20, 2012

January Snow: Let the pictures tell the story

This week, Bellingham and the Pacific Northwest slowed way down, blanketed by snow and ice.  At my house, the car hasn't moved out of the driveway since Saturday.  However, a good pair of boots and a camera can go anywhere.  Here are some of the images we saw from January 16 - 20, 2012.

Not sure about this stuff

Snowflakes in the garden window

Sign of warmer times-the icicle cometh

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

The sight, touch and taste of snow eluded me until I was sixteen years old and having my first New Year's Eve date in Philadelphia.  The huge deep pleasure of just walking in the woods didn't come until the following summer, when my foster family took me to the Harrison Hot Springs Lodge in lower British Columbia. A born and bred southern California San Fernando Valley girl, both experiences left me speechless with joy as my senses reached new levels, and my soul whispered, "Beauty."
Now we live a scant 1 1 /2 hours from Harrison Hot Springs in Bellingham, WA on a verdant quarter acre sloping up a hill.  Trees are everywhere, perfect for catching snow on their bare limbs, or even smaller places:

Snow, moss and tree bark

Near us, Whatcom Falls Park welcomes me and my camera, daring me to stop trying for aerobic benefits and to try instead to capture the large and small scenes I love:

Ferns joyously welcoming snow

Three season symphony

Winter creek and plants
It's snowed most of today already and I think we may be in for a major dump over the next three days.  This morning I dutifully did laundry and vacuumed, but Timmy and Boo stole my attention as they raced, batted, and swallowed the wily white stuff.  Young cats really do love snow, and will spend hours chasing it, returning home white, wet and grateful for warm homes and soft places to sleep.

It's time for me to make comfort food, especially home-made sourdough bread with my two month old starter, Fairhaven Organic Flour and my gorgeous present from Bruce, a Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer.   Fresh bread made with great organic ingredients, without additives, hot from the oven and slathered with butter is . . . as pleasurable as a walk in the woods after a snow fall.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Gathering

Today, three people whom I call family have driven from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara.  Their purpose, as in the Jewish tradition, is to attend an old friend's memorial.  My foster mother was one of Leah's  closest friends:  "We were like sisters, since we were six years old," Doris has told me many times in the last month.  Up to three weeks ago, Doris and Leah called each other weekly, sometimes more. 

Now, Doris, her son Glen, and daughter Lauren, drive up Pacific Coast Highway to say a final goodbye with Leah's family and friends.  They will celebrate Leah's good life with stories, photographs, good food and so much laughter.

Knowing how sad Doris is at Leah's passing makes me think how incredibly important it is to be a good family member, to be a good friend, to be proactively loving in our lives.  We can't wait for others to show love.  We love, we care, we reach out, we nurture.  It's our job, as hard as that is.

Tiny Tim's Garden is not perfect, and I'm too old to expect perfection in the garden or in the gardener, or in my friends and family.   My graced life has evolved from so much despair and pain as I searched for love, beauty and truth.    Now, I am nothing but grateful for the wondrous good in my life.  And in the garden,  with cats, family and friends here and around the world, life and love are triumphant over death today.