Thursday, September 13, 2007

Old beans

Every Seed Grows by Flavia Weedn
Every Seed Grows

The onions have been drying in the polytunnel and have been tidied and brought into the house. I have noticed that when the season changes, plants too show signs of season change. Some start growing in a desperate attempt to put out their seeds. The sunflowers are taking advantage of the sunny rays to open up and let their seeds ripen. Other plants simply start to die off as they know they will not even make it to that stage. No matter how much you water them, they start to dry off and leaves become brittle and break off.

According to James Hillman in The Force of Character, this is a natural process that happens to people too. He says that when the stem of the rice plant has bloomed it bends over and that when we get older, we also return our gaze from the sun to the ground. We shrink, we wither and then we leave. What we may lose in physical appearance, we gain in strength of character. I like that thought.

The thoughts of growing older may seem difficult to grasp and in our society we do not revere older people as much as in others, but when I look at the desperate attempt by the borlotti beans to flower on the one hand and the french beans withering and going dry, I see that both have come to the end of their life cycle. They both have the same process happening and their reaction to it is opposite. The french bean has given up its harvest and by drying out and withering leaves me with seed pods that I can plant next year which will give me hope of a good crop of beans as the plant has given up its life for a new bean life next year. The borlotti beans are trying to give their all and yes, will give me a harvest this year but will not have enough strength to produce seed for next year. In the long run, which option gives a longer lasting harvest?

You may question why I raise this comparison in a world, where the image of the young person, the perfect figure, HRT and prolonging life is now the norm, a respect of the natural process of growing older has been erased. With it, also the possibility of the seeds of wisdom that wither with it.

What we have in seed catalogues are seeds that are hybrids and that need to be planted and bought each year. In a sense they have been improved to provide a maximum harvest but they lack the wisdom and strength of species inside them to produce the seeds that will give us more of the same another year. Companies like Monsanto count on that so that farmers will grow that seed with fertilisers and then require to buy seeds once again from those companies.

Against that are heirloom varieties, whose names we no longer can remember, who may not have been cultivated for appearance, but for taste, colour of flowers or their benefit to nature. Profit does not figure in that because the way you cultivate them and learn to go with their growth process will either give you seeds for next year or not, that is your choice.

Next year, the old girl plans to grow some heirloom varieties in her new garden as well as garden on a much smaller scale. I want to do this to show you what is possible in a minute space with older varieties.

The Heritage seed library does exactly that.

In the polytunnel the cat stood next to me on the shelf while I was sorting the onions. The cat has shown me this summer how to enjoy the few sunny days basking in the sun and how to curl up on the sofa when rain is forecast, he goes and catches his own dinner. We had a moment of togethernessand mutual understanding in the garden where I somehow felt he was telling me.....well done you are getting it old girl, why struggle when less is more. I know for certain that if I contravene the cats or my DH does, there is always their way of telling us we are wrong. The mouse by the way was found on the bathroom mat, it had died.....and they had left it there.As I have said before, never underestimate cats.

Old bean carries a harvest in the future in its seed pod and old girl here has only just noticed that today.

I need watering now in case I to the kitchen for a glass of blackcurrant cordial.

1 comment:

Willow said...

my sil grows heirloom tomatoes and i get seeds and tomatoes from her every season.
I enjoyed your hybrid vs heirloom analogy. I'm an heirloom sort of gal myself.