Welcome to our seed-blog! From time to time we will highlight what William has going on in his garden and in his work. Check back now and again to see what's new!
Cultivating Communities Through Seed Saving
By Carolina Norman, June 2, 2022
Chelsea Askew, a farmer from Northwestern Georgia, grows many fruits and grains. By fostering a hospitable environment for their seeds to recreate, she can then collect those seeds, saving them for the next year.
“Seeds contain all the DNA and essential first energy sources for that seed to become a plant,” Askew says. “All of that’s packaged in there — whether a tomato or corn kernel. It allows you to continue to grow that particular kind of plant. More of my focus...*Continue Reading Article at AppVoices.org*
I'm not exactly sure how these folks found me, but I was asked to give some advice about container gardening for an article featured on Redfin|Blog. I don't do a lot of container gardening outside of my houseplants anymore, but I have had very good luck with Horace Pippin's beautiful "Fish Pepper." My seeds came from my friend Bob Alsup in Winston Salem, but they all track back to William Woys Weaver and his grandfather's seed collection and black painter Horace Pippen. In brief, Horace sought relief from arthritis, and using an age old (and effective) cure, he sought out a local bee keeper (H. Ralph Weaver) to borrow bee sting or two. In exchange, he brought along some of his stunning and flavorful little peppers. I like to grow them for a few reasons: 1) They have a great story 2) I got my seeds from a dear friend 3) they are beautiful and unusual 4) they are prolific and flavorful.
You can read the Redfin|Blog article here.
I have (like many other people I'm sure) entered into this new year with deep trepidation, not to mention a nice complimentary wave of depression. The turn of the year has become especially tough for me as I have leaned more and more into the work of gardening and maintaining the special roots and seeds of friends. It's the time when I have to start really thinking hard about what will go into the limited ground in my care. So many deserving little sleeping frozen gems. There's also many trees to prune, (perhaps others to graft) This year in particular, I also have the added weight of many un-started projects--between Bobby McMillon's papers and books, my South Arts Emerging Artist program, and also a long-time-coming CD.
See, I both love the work of gardening, and also strangely dread the responsibility of caring for a garden. I also dread the disappointments and frustrations that seem to be largely absent from the oh-so-cultivated-and-perfect gardens that people share on instagram. Please, show me your errors, your messes, your mistakes. What "eyesore" is left out of frame?
Today I made my way down to the lower garden, hoping against hope that a very special plant had pulled through--despite my rather poor care of them. This fall I had dug up a few roots of my dear friend Ray Dellinger's horseradish plants. They had always been there at his place beside the camper. A neat strip contained by mowing. I dug them up before the old place sold, determined to keep up a little connection between me and a dear friend taken by 2021 and Alzheimer's. But In my scattered state, I promptly forgot them for a week or more in the root cellar. I knew Horseradish to be survivors, but they looked terrible (and for the forty billionth time in my life I was furious with my absent-mindedness). But I hoped hard, put them in a tender hill in the bottom, and covered it with a blanket of straw. Nothing much happened after that despite this global weirdness warm, and I grieved losing another little part of Ray.
Today, as we were moving an old chicken-coop-turned-tool-shed down to the lower garden. I risked a look at my little straw-covered row and was filled up with joy to find that every bit of root I stuck in the ground had sprouted a beautiful little fractal crown of horseradish. I was reminded then of that sister emotion to grief, and close kin of Joy:
And how good wonder-surprise-joy feels when it pours into those holes left by grief pouring out. It is dangerous to love. There's a grief-price you must be willing to pay. I will let some of my plants down this year, bugs and varmits will eat others, tornado winds may rip through the holler again and flatten half my corn, and I may lose out on the seeds for something that just can't be replaced. There's no seed catalog for the things I grow. It hurts, it's embarrassing, and frustrating, but goodness is it worth it when those little sleepers burst through the clay and open up their arms. And good food is just a healing thing. They say hunger is the best spice. But "I grew that" is damn delicious.
So here's to wonder, joy, and grief. Can't have one without the other.
And Jeannette, thank you so much for this picture, of Ray in his element with two of his favorite joys. There's really not words to describe how grateful I am for it.
Tuesday, March 16th, I'll be appearing on the Gateway to the Smokies podcast. Listen live at 6pm Est. on Facebook or https://www.TalkRadio.nyc/listen-live
It's been a little bit since I've written an "ethnobotanical" (the study of a region's plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a local culture and people) song. Recently I was working our Sylva Candyroaster page and I even wrote "I still need to write a song about candyroasters." Then I thought, maybe I should just write one right quick--and I did! A few years ago I submitted an article about this fabled Appalachian Squash to the NC Folklife Food Blog. Their Food Blog is really worth a gander!
A little bit of old news here, but I was very pleased to participate in a great little online program with Mars Hill College and the Appalachian Barn Alliance late last year. There's lot's to learn here about old barns and also the Farmers Federation (which historically had a huge role here in WNC). To see the virtual mountain farm tour *click here* Lots of great photos and information there!