Seeds in the Winds of Change

I look at the seed catalogues piled up on the little table next to the chaise. They have been piled there since December and I have not been interested. But the sun is at a higher angle and the air, while still annoyingly cold, has softness not discernable two weeks ago. The cardinal is calling, as are the chickadees, and the goldfinches are starting to turn from buff to yellow-buff. Yes, spring’s coming—hard to fathom as I look at the 30 inches of snow covering the landscape—but it must be. So it really is time to knuckle down and make seed decisions.

But I’m still not interested.

I’ve been planting vegetable gardens from seed every year for thirty years and I have to admit it—the thrill is gone. Maybe it’s because the local food supply around here is fantastic. I belong to both a meat and a vegetable CSA. I joke that all I need is a dessert CSA and I’m set.

So I’m thinking about something radical. I’m thinking about planting a flower-cutting garden in place of the vegetable garden. Flowers, big, honking, colorful armloads of flowers. A crop of color and scent. Can I do it? Can the practical Swede throw a season to the wind and be frivolous with flowers?

Ja, I believe she can.

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Don’t Ask; Sell

Crowdsourcing troubles me. I have a hard time separating it from begging. And I wonder, is it a veneer of anonymity that gives crowdsourcing a social palatability that begging doesn’t have?

It’s not that I don’t support the idea of supporting talent–it is, after all a time-honored social system—patronage. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a product of patronage, as is Michaelangelo’s David. Today, we enjoy so many great works of creativity because the artist had a patron who supported him or her. But how crowdsourcing differs from patronage is in the product–there has to be one. If there isn’t, an ethical principle is being polluted.

That ethical principle is why, traditionally, Girl Scouts have sold cookies and people have held bake sales and spaghetti suppers to raise money for their cause. They do this because they intrinsically understand that there needs to be an exchange of power.

My father once told me a story. Many years ago, when he was doing some repairs on his sailboat in Bermuda, two young Bermudians came up to him and asked him for money. He knew how he looked to them—white American with a sailboat; must be rich. But coming from a place of having earned the money through sacrifice and hard work to be in a position of being able to repair his sailboat in Bermuda, he didn’t give them money, instead he told them: “Never ask for money, always offer something for sale.” With his words, he was reminding them of the importance of their own self-respect. The kids went away and a few hours later came back with a bead necklace. My father bought it. The balance of power and therefore self-respect was maintained on both sides.

The ease of internet anonymity may be tempting to some, but the price is self-respect. Don’t ask; sell.

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May I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?

Tomorrow’s forecasted snow is number five? Six? I can’t remember. At any rate, there’s already plenty, thank you very much, of snow on the ground. I walked in my snowshoes thirty yards or so to check the culvert and it wore me out, the snow was so deep (although to be fair to myself, I was coming down with a cold).

In the food department, I find myself leaning toward making dinners that are heavy on the carbs—no surprise there, since we spend huge amount of calories outdoors just shoveling and hauling wood and whatnot. So last week, I decided to make baked beans in the oven for dinner and as I was assembling the ingredients—maple syrup that was a gift from a friend’s farm, onions and garlic from the garden, bacon from the farm a half-mile away—I dug out the molasses and realized two things: one, molasses really is slow in January (or February) and two, I had just enough for the recipe. I wondered, had I not had enough, what I would do, since driving to the nearest store, even when it’s not snowing, is still almost an hour’s commitment of time. Then I thought, well, of course, I would ask my neighbors up the road if they had any.

Way back when, when stores weren’t close or transportation so readily available, neighbors really did borrow a cup of sugar or a few tablespoons of molasses to finish up a recipe if they found themselves short. And they supplied to their neighbors as well, when it came to it. So that old saying about borrowing a cup of sugar is based on an agrarian truth, like so many of our adages. It reveals the heart of a community, underscored in a rough winter. Asking for a hand: It’s what people do when they have to and it’s what people give, when they’re asked.

P.S. For a passionate, poetic view of  life in the country, in the winter, see Ben Hewitt’s blog. 

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Digging Winter

I don’t know where I got the idea that winter was a quiet, introspective time. If we’re not shoveling paths, we’re raking the roof; if we’re not raking the roof, we’re digging out the generator; if we’re not digging out the generator, we’re filling the bird feeders; if we’re not filling the bird feeders, we’re hauling wood; if we’re not hauling wood, we’re cleaning off cars; if we’re not cleaning off cars, we’re shoveling paths….

I’m way behind in my indoor work; my writing schedule has gone to pot, I haven’t even started on my website; all that yarn I spun is still waiting to be woven off on the loom, and I haven’t even ordered my seeds yet. My upper body strength, however, is flourishing.

Buddy, the Adventure Maltese, is currently not having any adventures because he is confined to running around outside shoveled paths since the snow is twice as high as he is. He makes the best of it, though, galloping back and forth in his white canyons. He’s a plucky one that Buddy.

I’m thinking I’d like to take advantage of all this snow we’ve got and go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on the pond.

If I can ever carve out some free time.

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