Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

5 degrees above zero with a 3 mph wind here on the mountain as The Vermont Gardener crawled out from beneath the sheets after a week and a half of a cold virus that knocked his socks off. Not a seasonal flu, not H1N1, just a nasty virus picked up in a dentist office or the hospital back on December 11th. My legs still have a spaghetti-like weakness to them and my head has a wooziness that makes focusing two eyes a challenge but my mind says let's get going again even though I know more energy is something I wish I could buy today.

Our house was a cold 60 degrees this morning. In WWII my dad was a boiler maker on two destroyers, the Kearny and the Wiley and as I grew up in Woodstock, Vermont, he continued on in that role keeping several woodstoves going. Here at our place, Gail is the "boilermaker" and she does a super job 99.9% of the time. I'll get the story when she wakes up today but I think last night's guests may have done her in.

I usually offer some ideas for Christmas gifts for gardeners this time of year but I'm now too far behind to be much help. I guess my one recommendation would be that as difficult as it is at times, try to support local businesses and buy American as much as possible. Small businesses built America and despite the attention big businesses always get, praise is due to the little guys that make it all work. Here at Vermont Flower Farm we know what "little" means and we respect loyal customers who keep us going.

This is the time of year when seed catalogs prevail. Some companies are sending out more catalogs and others are only sending to proven customers. There's a fine advertising line in which way you go when times are tough and I have deliberated both perspectives. The challenge is obtaining a customer in the first place and then keeping that person, business or family so they come back for a number of years. When times are difficult one might think that gardening would be low on the totem pole but last year showed an incredible increase in vegetable gardening. The incidence of new flower gardeners visiting us was very encouraging as more people entered that aspect of gardening to spruce up around their homes. All our trade journals suggest that trend will continue and grow again this year.

Among the seed companies, Johnny's featured up top is one of the best for us. We have known this fine Maine company for a long time and the way they manage their company is the way it should be done. We have never had a problem with delivery, germination or identity of product purchased. They are on-line for home and commercial purchases and you won't be disappointed.

Many people around the world have taken to saving seeds. My friend Mike down the road from here has been saving his seed for years. He feels he has arrived at success with some vegetable varieties that produce well on his land and in this climate so he saves seeds each year. He figures he is protected from other producers crop failures and he can keep his needs met each year. When I was a kid I remember the neighboring farm ladies, Fidelia, Lillian and Eunice, saved certain bean, squash and pumpkin seeds each year to guarantee that famous pot of baked beans, that special pie or pumpkin roll. Today the Seed Saver Exchange is an example of one of the biggest processors. I've always been intrigued with bean varieties and where they originate from and this catalog is clearly not short on beans for every purpose.

For a few years now we have received Baker's catalogs pictured below. They are one of the growing number of heirloom seed producers in America and many gardeners are interested in returning to these seeds. It's always important to remember that the older seeds have fine attributes but they may not have built in genetic protections against disease. Some of the finest tasting tomatoes for example are limited in how they handle fungus and virus but if you can get them to ripen, the flavor is unforgettable. I remember my mom canning tomatoes back in the fifties and now know why she was so emphatic about getting them out of the garden, washed and canned all in a few days time.

If you are contemplating a vegetable garden for the first time this year, do some research. If you need a resource to boost confidence and make you take that final step from "just thinking about" to "becoming a for-real gardener" consider local author Ed Smith's books, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible or Incredible Vegetables from Self Watering Containers. Ed and his family are great gardeners and they offer good advice to get you started.

That's it for now. Good to be back. I'll try to get regenerated here. Good holiday wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm I've started reworking our website but it's still functional. If you need a last minute gift card, give Gail a call at 802-426-3505 and she'll be happy to help!


Commonweeder said...

Great minds run alike. I also wrote about Baker Creed and Seed Savers today. With so many patented seeds and GMO seeds around it is more and more important to support all seed savers, and their seeds.

Leila said...

Good to see you back to pecking at the keyboard again. We missed your interesting posts. Yes the catalogue season is aproaching. Do you have the High Mowing Seed booklet yet? They have some nice older tomatoes available.

~ ANNE said...

Can't you just hear this folksy voice telling you these stories? Good job once again George. Years ago my brother Paul had Paul's Premium Seeds when most people hadn't heard of heirloom seeds. Interesting to read about them. You have a very Merry. Now what can I do w/ my urban patch of land? : - ) You do inspire...

bev said...

Wow, that sounds like the real influenza, in which the malaise predominates. I have never commented before although I read your blog faithfully. I wanted to recount once meeting Andre Viette, who said his father emigrated from Switzerland and started his nursery on Long Island - in 1929. Apparently people had no money so they stayed home and grew plants! Enjoy your blog and hope you feel better!

garden girl said...

Glad you're up and around and recovering George. Sounds like quite a nasty virus that got ahold of you.

I love Baker Creek seeds, and had the pleasure of meeting Jere at the Independent Garden Center show in Chicago this summer. He's quite an impressive young man showing such passion and interest in heirlooms from such a young age, and beginning his business in his teen years. Truly impressive.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!