Way, way, way back, a long, long, time ago, practically in another world, 1992 I believe it was, My family went a lookin’ for some propane in Southern Indiana where we were living at that time. We were told we could find what we were looking for at the home of a man named Kenny Freeman. So we wound around on some country roads and came upon a cozy little farm with a wonderfully kept garden. Sure enough this was the place!
The friendly farmer came out and greeted us and quickly set us up with the propane we were looking for. But by the time he had finished we had struck up quite the conversation, and to complete it he needed to take us on a tour of his little farm. He showed us his tool shed with its immaculately cared for spades, digging forks and the like. Then he led us all around the garden, talking about varieties and methods. He was a veritable wealth of information!
Finally we came to rest in front of a trellis packed with tiny golden balls! Cherry tomatoes of a sort I had never before encountered! I was too polite back then to just pop a couple in my mouth, so I waited for he and my sweetie to stop jawing a spell and asked him what they tasted like.
He pulled three tomatoes off the vine and put them in my hand and said “Don’t eat these. Take them home and squeeze them out into a jar. Fill the jar with water and put a lid on it. Every day for the next three or four days shake the jar up, and when only the seeds sink to the bottom carefully drain off the water. Fill it again and shake to rinse off the seeds a couple of times, then drain the seeds well and lay them out on a plate. When they dry, put them someplace safe. Then next year plant those seeds and when the plants bear, you will know what those tomatoes taste like!”
This was completely unexpected, but it started me on a journey I have never turned back from! I never asked him what the varietal name was, but for our family they have always and only been known as Kenney’s Gold! We have saved them (sometimes through other folk’s plantings) for 28 years and counting! All the while we have taught countless people about seed saving and the desperate importance of using open pollinated and heirloom varieties in their gardens!
This is how I feel. Like a flower just aching to burst into bloom. It’s been a while since I’ve written, I guess I’ve been in hibernation. But, though it is only February, the world is coming back to life, and I’m coming right along with it!
I finally had the opportunity to spend some time in my central medicinal herb garden this afternoon and it was such a profoundly refreshing experience that I had to share it. I thought a good many thoughts and here are just a few of them.
My primary purpose was to clear out at least the edges so that last year’s perennials (and hopefully some self seeding annuals as well) could begin to recover from their own long winter’s nap. As I cleared, I came up against a typical quandary for a “natural” gardener like myself. many of the “weeds” that I was clearing away with their intensely netted webs of roots, are actually medicinal herbs themselves! There was chickweed (highly nutritious and useful for healing skin conditions and easing bronchial distress), and yellow dock (a wonderful liver tonic) in the way of my Valerian (calms anxiety and gives rest to insomniacs) and my hyssop (immune system booster). So how do we choose? Why is one herb more deserving of the space than another? Mostly, I’d say it is a matter of effort. I intentionally planted the Valerian and hyssop, while the other plants (not really weeds at all) volunteered to come up there. Also, the Valerian and Hyssop will never choke out the chickweed and yellow dock, but the reverse is not necessarily true. So weed I did, and ruthlessly at that.
My secondary purpose was to get this aging body moving! Pulling out the strawberry hoe and using my muscles to achieve a goal just plain feels good, and without the fusty aroma of a gym!
The strawberry hoe is one of the farm’s best friends!
And last but certainly not least, there was the silence. Oh the blessed silence. Of course there were sounds, there were songbirds singing, Guinea fowl “potracked” nearby, neighbors conversed, and naturally there was the sound of that hoe breaking through to the precious soil. It was more of a spiritual silence, away from the distractions of this computerized world.
I hope you have a piece of soil for yourself. Whether it be a garden, a small square of land in front of a walk up apartment, or even a five gallon pail full of purchased soil, plunge your hands in and see what you find. You may just discover that you’ve been more asleep than you thought. Let that piece of soil bring you back to life too!
Peppers are annuals. Everybody knows that right? The funny thing is, we’ve all been taught that by our seed catalogs and gardening magazines, but it isn’t really true. A number of times, Joe and I have kept pet pepper plants—or tomatoes or eggplants—over winter. Continue reading →
My husband and I bought our first piece of land in Freedom, Indiana back in 1992, when our oldest boys were three and one. I will never forget the moment we signed that contract or the words of the elderly farm couple who served as the land agents, as we shook their hands, “We think you’ll like Freedom.” Continue reading →