Thursday, 22 January 2009

Seeds of Promise

"One little seed the size of my thumbnail
in a pot of black compost.That’s how it started..."
from 'Pumpkin Soup' by Lucy Coats
It's time for another January ritual--seed ordering. Thump go the mail-order catalogues on the doormat, thump thump thump, fat bright books full of the promise of summer feasts and blossoms to come. The miserable, dreich morning weather does not hold out much hope for Spring, despite the lumpy, bumpy hummocks of dull green-grey pushing through the earth with a hint of white at their tips. But if I do not put the order through in the next day or so, it will be too late. I have left it till February before now, through laziness and general disorganisation. Then the lovely Suffolk lady at the other end of the phone is full of apologies. "I'm sorry, madam. The Red Baron has been very popular this season." So that year we did without red onions. A shame, because my red-onion jam is a joy and a pleasure to all, embraced with love by any meat it finds itself next to on the plate. But I digress.
The ritual of seed ordering is the same every year. First Vertumnus and I ponder the holy seed drawer. Will the remaining carrot seed take? Is it safe to ignore the 'use by' dates on the broad beans? How many sunflowers do we need. What about those Valor potatoes that got the dreaded 'rot' last time? Do we want those again? Lists are made of what we have (and which empty packets we need to restock), and then a large pot of coffee is brewed, preferably accompanied by home-made brownies. But a digestive biscuit will do. Now it's time for the serious work. The catalogues are piled high, and we go through them to see what's new this year--what marvel of nature (and F1 hybridisation) we can grow this time round. Another, longer list is made. Ooh and Aahs and cries of 'Oh, how pretty/delicious that looks/sounds! We must have some of that!" echo round the kitchen. We always order too much, though perhaps not this year, because the Lovely Husband is now working from home, and wants to be involved this time around. He has made charts and plans and planting schedules (even though Vertumnus and I have been doing this for years, we all agree that our succession sowing is something that needs to be worked on finally, so that all the vegetables don't appear in a great glut of plenty in one week).
In a few weeks, packets and boxes will arrive through the post in dribs and drabs. The soil will be turned over again to incorporate its winter coat of mulch, and the seeds will begin to go into the earth. Then, and only then, will the promise of a new Spring truly begin.

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