November 20, 2009

This blog will either fascinate, or be right up there with watching paint dry, because today we write about the seed and tree order. I don’t always spend much time discussing this annual event, but this year it deserves its own place just for having reached such grand proportions.

It’s not a surprise that a farm needs to buy some seeds and trees, Every gardener buys seeds…a quick drive to the local nursery or hardware store, plunk down a dollar or two per packet, no problem. It used to be like that, long ago! I sit next to a box that arrived yesterday, it’s 12”x10”x8”.  It contains $450 worth of seeds, and arguably, the future of our farm for the next two to three years. That alone makes it as good as my own private bar of gold. What the hell can cost that much money?….it’s not as hard to spend that much as one would like to think…in fact, it represents rather a lot of thrift and probably no less than 30 hours of research and work to compile. There is an easy comparison…imagine your boss tells you “order everything you will need to do your job for the next two years….supply prices are going up and we have to acquire everything now. Oh, and don’t spend a penny on anything you won’t use.”
So, enough about why it got so big….what is in there? Well, all sorts of things…spigariello liscia ( a special Italian broccoli raab), passionflower, bitter melon, pumpkins, hot peppers, special purslane, at least 7 kinds of hybrid pollenless sunflower, amaranth greens, sweet peppers, celosia, summer squashes, kohlrabi, bunching onions, snap beans, French shell beans, sweet corn, shelling peas, cucumber, cabbage, okra, and acorn squash. This doesn’t include the other $100 order with another company for the snap and snow peas and some other assorted items that the first company ran out of. Nor does it address the fruit tree order that is already hovering at $400. Not only does money not grow on trees, it takes money to grow trees. But, like everything else, it’s an investment in the future. We were short on pomegranates this year….don’t sit around and endure that; buy 15 more trees so than in 3-5 years there will be no lack! I haven’t counted in awhile, but I try not to think about what we invest in order to have a farm that can earn our living for us….the outcome is that in some ways we are not well-off at all, but we are richer than Midas when it comes to good food for ourselves and our customers. I was taken to a fancy early dinner the other day. Every single item in the dish I ordered (spaetlze with heritage turkey confit, butternut squash, chestnuts and brussesls sprouts)  with the exception of the sprouts is growing right here. There is almost no point to eating out, except to get ideas about what to do with all of it!
But back to the seeds. Or the trees. Picking them out isn’t some random stab of the finger in the catalog. Growers who love what they do are as addicted to these catalogs as…..well, it’s bad, trust me on that. We linger over each description, searching out the one that titillates the most. Looking for a pole bean? Ooooh, here’s “Marvel of Venice”….54 days, BIG, TASTY, YELLOW PODS promises “large, sweet juicy, 8”-9” ¾” wide flat pods borne on vigorous vines. This white-seeded variety is remarkably early”. Oh, and it’s an heirloom! Bonus, I can save the seeds! But wait, a quarter pound costs $9.05. And I’m really tired of moving t-posts for trellises. And every time the customers see a bean that isn’t green they freak and I have to spend 2 days explaining that yes, that is still a bean and you eat it. Just like if it was green. Really…….oh, maybe not that one. Hm, maybe a bush bean would be better….. If you can imagine this process repeated with some variation for every vegetable imaginable, now you know why it takes so long. Then there are the slightly unusual choices…oh, look, butterbeans! “Acclaimed as the finest in green vegetable soybeans”….that sounds good! 5 lbs for $12.80? I can do that! And look, “prolific” and “relatively easy to shell”, that’s great! So after all the weighing and deciding, we made the commitment to go with the butterbeans……but nooooo, when it’s time to place the internet order, they are already sold out!! (Insert cuss words of choice). And trust us, that won’t be the only time that happens! Want to buy some snap peas? Bwahahaaaa, You May Not. Try a less desirable variety, maybe your second or third choice? DENIED. No Peas For YOU. It’s like trying to negotiate a garden with the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Well, I could go on for days, but the important thing is that the seeds are arriving and we’re going crazy planting them.

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