Hello. My name is Stephanie. I’m a seed hoarder.
I’ve been a hoarder since I was a child. I’ve tried to stop, but fail every year. I’m obsessed. I’m passionate. I have a crazy compulsion for seeds. I’m an addict. Cold winter nights are spent under a blanket and several cats perusing seed catalogs, dreaming of warm dirt between my toes. When stores put out the first seed displays, I have to buy at least one packet every visit. Hope. A promise. Inspiration. A reason to live.
There’s a couple hundred dollars’ worth of seeds in that box pictured above. That’s just a small box — the ones I’m going to plant this year. There’s a giant plastic storage tote filled with seeds in my living room. I used to have two but downsized to organic and heirloom when GMOs were introduced to the market. (In my younger days, seeds were seeds. We didn’t have to worry about DNA from another species in them.)
Beginning Seed Collecting
I’m not sure when exactly the obsession began, but I was very little. I grew up spending much time with my grandparents and aunt. They provided for themselves with a giant garden, raising animals, harvesting and preserving their own food. Many a summer day was spent in their company in the garden pulling weeds, planting onions, watering and feeding all the plants and creatures; then in the kitchen with my grandmother and aunt as they processed, preserved and cooked the delicious beauty that was the product of their labors.
In kindergarten, I recall starting flower seeds in a Dixie cup to give as a Mothers’ Day gift and growing vegetables from discarded kitchen waste like carrot tops, potato peels and sprouting avocado pits. I couldn’t have been more proud with my projects. I was so excited to plant them.
My father built us a sandbox, square and orange with four triangular seats in the corners. I was a bit old for sandbox at 9. I decided to be practical and plant potatoes with remnants from my father’s project, the potato bin. His project was grand, feeding all our mouths with a tonnage of taters in a bin in the basement, the discovered downside too much moisture and a lot of sprouting spuds. I planted them in the sandbox. My folks were impressed when we ate the result for dinner.
Seed Saving as Memorial
I have a special box of seeds from my dad. He liked to try new and unique specimens. He’d collect and share, putting them in pill bottles with handwritten or labels made on a real typewriter. I treasure these — a tangible piece of my father, how he thought, things that inspired him. I planted and shared scarlet runner beans from that box for several years. We tried unsuccessfully to germinate blue meconopsis together. I get sad remembering as I fondle the containers and read his notes.
Then there are the coffee cans from my grandparents, rusty metal tins of history and fond memories, filled with ancient, unopened packs of beets, corn and rutabaga that were winter storage staples. I broke into the can of dill seeds, hand collected from their giant garden yesterday and scattered a handful in my newly planted wildflower bed. I would be so thrilled if even one germinated. Melancholy finds me as I scoop in my hand the viable connection to my elders and the cycle of life. I miss them all so. I keep photos of them in the garden on my nightstand. The seeds help keep them alive. They touched all these seeds. Their love and hard work is still ongoing, perpetuating, now in my hand.
Watching life emerge from these tiny bits of matter is nothing short of magic, stardust and dirt. How is it even possible? These tiny, little seeds are alive, waiting — waiting for someone like me to put them in soil, give them a drink, wake them out of their rest and help them emerge and transform.
Perhaps the desire is passed down in our DNA, we the keepers of specks of life that feed and beautify the planet. Perhaps it really is magic, the anticipation and celebration of new life that is the attraction, the interconnectedness of all living things that I cannot get enough of.
Stephanie Bishop is an award-winning floral designer, sustainable wedding and events planner photographer, gardener and author in Central Wisconsin. View thousands of her food, floral and animal images on her Facebook page at Stephanie Bee and browse floral design ideas at Bishop Wedding & Floral Art.