2015 Mentee Blog #2 – Rachel Voth

2015 Mentee Blog #2 – Rachel Voth

It’s been an interesting season for me. Unexpected challenges and moments of deep satisfaction have marked my days.

I’m new to growing food.

The novelty of walking into my kitchen and seeing the countertop overflowing with garden fresh is still a wonder.

The learning curve has felt steep, but thanks to my mentors and peers I’ve been encouraged throughout the process. One thing I’ve taken away from the year is that it’s perfectly okay to start small, ask questions and feel a little lost.

Learning to save seed is both valuable and empowering. At the start I felt like saving seed on a smaller scale was hardly worth mentioning. Now I see it as a skill, something I want to continue and pass on. I imagine myself in the dark of winter, scribbling through my garden notebook by the fire. Planning crops for next year, knowing how far to space vegetables in the same family, knowing which plants self-propagate and those that don’t….it takes time and practice. I’m excited to set up my garden next year to save lots of seed.

When the rains came in late August, I was caught off guard.

I had spent most of the summer struggling to germinate seeds and nurse my plants along. My partner and I rent ALR land and our farm is very small-scale. We do sell our food in our local community, but our main goals have been to learn as much as we can and make a positive environmental impact. We both work off farm and haven’t had the means to put as much infrastructure in as we’d like. What I’m trying to say is that we hand-watered all our crops all year! So the rains were a welcome, but sudden surprise.

Thankfully, the rain didn’t affect my ability to save tomato or cucumber seeds. Some of the tomato varieties I’m saving include Indigo Rose, Akers West Virginia, Chocolate-Striped Cherry, and Principe Borghese.

I also saved Bush cucumbers, which are saved using a fermentation method like the tomatoes. I was interested to see that at least half of the cucumber seeds were not viable (they floated to the top of the water during fermentation), compared to the tomato seeds which were almost all viable.

I was also able to harvest our Mammoth sunflowers just as the rains came. I learned through the advice of Mary Alice Johnson at ALM farm how to peel off the backs of the sunflower heads using an x-acto knife so that the seeds could breathe, yet stay connected to the plant. I placed the sunflower heads on an overturned webbed tray so that air could circulate from all sides.

I was sad to see our buckwheat turn soggy with the rain. The beauty of the white flowers, tiny and all pressed together, gloriously hopeful, caught my breath all summer long. I would have loved to preserve the dark seed for next year. Oh well….now I have something to look forward to next season! 🙂

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