Following Two People, Three Chickens, Two Dogs, and One Quarter-Acre

It Was Always A Farm: For The Love Of Seeds

For The Love of Seeds.

I find seeds incredibly exciting. Each little capsule has a unique appearance, a distinctive feel in your hand, and holds a tiny, wild creature. It’s sitting there, hoping to be chosen and tucked into the soil. “Will it be me? Will my life begin today? Please let me out!”

I am in awe as I open each package of seeds: a slick purple spotted bean, a tiny lettuce seed that has somehow been saved rather than eaten, and one that looks like a puzzle piece with jagged, geometric edges. To me, a seed is an entire encyclopedia of biology crammed into a container the size of a pebble.

I fed this fascination of mine with the myriad of baby plants I brought to life the very INSTANT we had the keys to our very first little house and quarter acre dirt lot.

“We can finally start a farm!” I said seriously as my husband Tito half-heartedly replied “great…”

In my introduction, I spoke of an educational farm I studied on last year. I have an entire notebook filled with biology, notes on ensuring proper conditions in which to start seeds, how to transplant, irrigation, safe and regenerative pest control methods – you name it. After learning these things and organizing them in my bible of organic farming, I wanted to see if it would work so badly. I was chomping at the bit!

So when we moved in, I spent every single afternoon poring over the pages of seed catalogues, thirstily peeling back seed packet adhesive, and marveling at these wondrous little objects. It was as though I could envision their unwritten futures as I tucked them into their soil-filled germination cells.

First lesson learned: It definitely works. They all became plants.

“Where are they going to live?” Tito asked.

“Don’t worry about that!” I chimed!

I was too spellbound by my new tiny green babies in all shapes and sizes to bother myself with the perplexity of where they’d live.

“It will be fine!” I urgently reassured my husband. Hungering for bumper crops of tomatoes for preservation, fields of ancient corn for both grinding into flour and seed saving, patches of pumpkins for the delight of our friends’ children in the coming autumn, I shoved all reason aside.

Even now, when I run downstairs to my seed-starting table and discover a tiny, green filament peeking out of its soil bed – one that wasn’t there yesterday – I experience something truly remarkable. I am unable to fully convey the wonder I feel upon observing this first glimpse of life. In these moments I almost believe such grand events are orchestrated as gifts just for me.

OF COURSE I realize that in the wild, nature has been reproducing successfully without my help for thousands upon thousands of years (my husband Tito reminds me that it’s more like 358.9 million years). Yet it FEELS like a personal accomplishment – alchemy that I somehow had something to do with.

I still find it magical, every time.

Perhaps you begin to understand the disaster I was creating.

Tito had an amusing suggestion when I finally started to panic over where my babies would be planted. He suggested if we couldn’t come up with “practical” and “well-planned” homes for my many trays of fruit and veggie starts, I could give them away or COMPOST THEM and start again once we were more organized.  I mean, the gall.

I thought this was hilarious. Or horrific. Or something… I would DEFINITELY NOT be composting my glorious green children. My parents, who live 45 minutes away, would need to drive down, table saw in tow, and help me build our first raised beds for the future of all humanity.

Now, keep in mind I work for a company that builds and installs raised beds such as these… and also in-ground beds, food forests, trellises, arbors, designs farms and home gardens, installs orchards, etc. However, hiring them wouldn’t allow me to be the blind idealist I am, and I wanted to build this thing myself. I am a Farmer, for crying out loud!

So when my husband and parents built my raised beds for me, it was more than benevolent of them to let me drill the last few bolts in place, officially announcing the glorious beginning of our farm.

I am learning everyday that even on a quarter-acre, every eight hours spent on the land looks like a spec of progress.

These past few months have been one mad scramble after another to assemble 4’ x 8’ raised beds, amend a small in-ground spot on our front hillside, and break up and condition a patch for 6 heirloom corn varieties. (Future post on what happens to corn when you plant multiple varieties together…)

When we found our land, I had received advice to patiently observe the land, be thoughtful to it, learn from it, and nurture it, allowing it to become a fertile and nutrient-rich space capable of supporting life and growing food. Clearly this is not easy for everyone.

Now that I am wise (for the moment) I’ll share what I have learned in all of my excitement (impatience):

I highly suggest before you create a food-producing army of seedlings, you plan and prepare where they will live.

Sit on your hands if you have to so those gorgeous pages of the Baker Creek Seed Catalogue can’t be turned; because once you have those astonishing little seeds in your hands, you won’t give logic or reason a chance in the world. Maybe it’s just me. Regardless, I wish I had dealt with the land first and then started my prolific little green beauties.

My long-term plan for this quarter-acre includes farm rows for tomatoes, corn, chard, peppers, etc. The hillside will become terraces for squash, watermelons, and other climbing vines, and an orchard in the lower terrace. (All currently filled with rocks and weeds.) One step at a time, they say.

I have now learned planting seeds works, and due diligence is valuable. (Shockers, I know.) If you place a seed into soil, keep it warm and consistently watered, it will grow. I should have been patient, but it’s OK. The plants will forgive me, because I love them, and we will continue to grow together as we gradually build this farm.