Guest Columnist #67 - Coyote's Garden

     When do you keep the mash and throw away the spirits? When you're saving tomato seeds, that's when.
     Were it not for the fact that the some of the frazzled seeds that I fermented last summer have already sprouted... they were about 1/16 inch high on the day of the winter solstice I would still be doubting it myself.
     The books say that fermenting the seeds kills bacteria on the seeds that attack the germinated seedlings. The instructions were to scoop out the pulpy mass of seeds into a jar, add enough water to cover and let them stand for about 3 days. The viable seeds, say the books, will sink. The bad ones will float.
     In a strong display of faith in the written word, I did just that. I don't know if the fermentation actually kills the bacteria, or if the smell just runs them off, but I'll tell you, a person could begin to appreciate the easy availability of store-bought seeds.
     On the third day I drained the seeds, as instructed, spread them on a plate and let them dry. They came out of the ordeal rather bleached and fuzzy looking.
     Wondering if I had done it right, I put a few into some soil to see if they were still any good. They sprouted just fine and the seedlings took off like little rockets. Then I waited til the middle of December and tried them out again. The sprouts are up and thriving.
     My confidence is up and thriving too, and since my experience with this variety of heirloom black tomatoes went to well, I ordered seeds for 4 more heirloom varieties out of a catalog of organic seeds and plants. The seeds arrived last week and, lo and behold, they have the same bleached and fuzzy looking appearance as the ones I had processed.
     Who says you can't believe what you read?

     A short while back I was wandering about the county looking for work. Paid work that is. There's all manner of work to be had done in this sorry old world, but I already do a lot free work. Once in a while I have to consider earning some money.
     Some of the free work I do is in raising herbs and heirloom plants and I had come up with the ingenious idea that maybe this free work could be turned into paid work. And so for over three years I have been working even harder, for free, trying to figure out how to make things grow, so I could sell them and get paid.
     Well, I got the idea to go find the Brandenburg's nursery, which I had been wanting to take a look at for quite some time anyway, and apply for a job there. On a beautiful fall day, all sunny and colorful, with a drive through the country between me and the nursery, this whole line of logic came together perfectly.
     Finding the Brandenburg's nursery was easy. It was right there on Brandenburg Road. The big signs and the pots and flats and tables of assorted plants were big clues Finding the Brandenburgs took a wee bit longer. I wandered about the grounds, looking at the goods as much as looking for the proprietors.

     When Mr. Brandenburg came out of a barn to greet me, I introduced myself and asked him about a job. He said they didn't need my help, the two of them handled it pretty much by themselves.

     Well, this was a wonderful thing to hear. A pretty good sized place it is, and well attended at that. I figure if the two of them can handle most of it themselves then I should be able to build up a little business with my heirloom plants and be able to keep up with it. Of course, there are TWO of them, and only one of me. An operation even half that size would be good.
     You see? I do the math and the logic is still sound.
     Mr. Brandenburg told me about how he bought the place back in the early 40's (I wasn't even born yet). He worked in the mill twenty or so years and then they started the business. Then he worked in both the mill and the nursery for a good many more years.
     At this time I was talking to Mr. Brandenburg by himself. He used the word "we" quite a bit and I assumed there was a Mrs. Brandenburg close by, in every sense of the word. Sure enough she appeared shortly and joined in the conversation.

     It was all very encouraging. She mentioned that yes they had been building it for many years and it kept them busy. They were in the off season, she mentioned, and were spending the day cleaning up the grounds and the sheds. She was going to have to send Mr. Brandenburg on a trip to the dump.
     In her hands was a stack of nursery flats and seedling pots, tied together with packing cord.
     "You mean you're going to throw that away?" I said.
     "Yes, its not much good," she said.
     "I don't suppose you would let me take it?" I said, I seeds to plant."
     "They're not much good, but if you have use for them then you're welcome to them, it will save him a trip to the dump."
     I embarrassed myself with such begging, but continued shamelessly.
     "What about those over there in the barrel are you throwing them away too?"

     And so I ended my beautiful fall day with no new job. But I had a stack of pots for my dear baby tomatoes, a new source of supplies and a half-ton load of free encouragement. According to my logic, I did well.

COYOTE'S JOURNAL is published by the Crystal Rain Agency, p.o.b. 792, Franklin GA 30217;; COYOTE'S JOURNAL is a networking paper and is available in hard copy to the public for $1.00 plus SASE. (Cash or money order, United States currency and stamps). (address info from 2001)