Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Coösauke Kale

8/9/2013 10:29:00 AM

Tags: growing season, saving seed, Bethann Weick, Maine

Kale"Coösauke Kale" - that is what I wrote on the package front as I methodically folded the old paper, sealed it with duct tape, and stored it carefully in the well-worn paper bag full of seeds. While it’s only August, we know the seasons don’t stand still for long. Goldenrod is blooming, filling the roadsides and old fields, and signaling the gradual descent from summer into autumn.

Around the cabin, this ongoing cycle of season giving way to season is our never ending story, unfolding around us each day. The roots of last year’s kale held on through the winter and flowered late in spring, setting seed that dried under the July sun. A week or so ago I gathered seed heads in my basket and allowed the last of their moisture to evaporate as I laid them out above the cookstove. When a spurt of rain kept me inside recently, I shook free the seeds still clinging to their pods, then sorted out the chafe by hand.

The final product was approximately ¼ cup of dark, round seeds that I delicately poured into a homemade envelope. It’s now tucked away with my other pouches, packets, and bags of seeds, ready and waiting for the flurry of next spring’s seeding.sunflower and squash

Seed-saving is akin to a flag of independence. A quiet act requiring only care and attention, it closes the loop of self-sufficient food production. While I cannot claim expertise, I am learning through practice and observation. Seeds, like little magic tricks available for purchase each spring, become the bounty that we – all of us – rely on for sustenance. To collect our own seed is to create our garden from the previous season’s efforts: it is the empowering process of relying on ourselves for that which we need.

garden in sunlightIt is a humbling process to be thinking a few seasons into the future, while working in the midst of this present summer season, and handling the seeds produced by a past season’s plants. The web of Life to Death and back to Life can make one’s head spin; it is mind-boggling just as it is simply cyclical. Even as I handle these small kale seeds, destined to be next year’s food, a look out the window reveals the crazy lushness of a late summer garden. Winter squashes are running well beyond their allotted territory, cucumbers crawl over their trellis on their way to somewhere else, and sunflowers arc with the sun. Mint – quite the social plant – is desperate to be everywhere at once. The oranges, pinks, yellows, violets, and reds of flowers dot the landscape already rich with the varied hues and textures of green. These plants are in their prime, hustling to grow while the sun is warm and the days long. From seeds to abundance, they fill our gardenscape; and, one not too far-off day, from abundance to seeds, they will ensure our gardens to come.

For ecological garden design and maintenance, or weeds pulled from your garden or landscaped house front, please contact Beth via

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