Memories are in the seeds

May  – It was a very warm day, at 86 degrees Fahrenheit. High winds appeared to sap the oxygen right out of the air, as dust swirled around in small whirlwinds. I needed to plant potatoes that should have been in the ground long ago. The potato spuds had sprouted and needed to be covered by earth.

I watched the sky all day wondering when the rains would start. I knew they were coming. My rain barrels needed filling. The transplanted trees and shrubs were bone dry and leaves were wilting.

Red potatoes have pick flowers
Red potatoes have pick flowers

I saved over aged russets potatoes with eyes. This year, I bought red and yellow starter potatoes to add to the mix. For many years, I have been planting a diverse crop of potatoes together. It appears to keep potato beetles away. I have always had a  happy and healthy crop.

Potato basket hand woven by JoAnn Flanagan, Oregon, OH
Potato basket hand woven by JoAnn Flanagan, Oregon, OH

Last year, I was able to use my own potatoes right up to the middle of march. Imagine that! What a thrill. Not to have to go to the grocery store to buy potatoes for nearly a whole winter. I knew where my potatoes came from. I was enjoying being sustainable and providing for my own food.

The same day, I planted a bed of beans. This year I added Kebarika bush shell bean, bought from organic Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, in Virginia. The bean species is purple, looking much like the scarlet runner. The bean was added to a mix of saved Hidasta, black, and white soup beans. I’ll grow the vine beans up on devised bean poles.

Sample of biodiversity of potatoes crop 2009
Sample of biodiversity of potatoes crop 2009

After I finished planting the potatoes, I started weeding the next bed. Lo and behold, the garlic I planted from seed in 2009 was growing. I thought it had died out last year, but it hadn’t. I dug one up to make sure it truly was the garlic grown from seed. Saved seed do have stories. I remember a man had come to our seed saving workshop, at Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Ojibwa College’s Wellness Fair, at the LCO Convention Center. I wish I knew his name. He told me his grandmother had brought garlic seed to American, when she immigrated from Poland. He has been growing the garlic ever since. I felt honored that he thought to give Happy Tonics the memory seed. How I wish today I had his telephone number. I could call him up to tell him the continuing seed story from Minong, Wisconson.

I realized in 2009 that I had to start writing down people’s names after this experience.  How could one carry on the story without a name? Seed is handed down from one person, culture, and tradition to another. It isn’t a story of just the seed, but the people who lovingly tended the seed making sure the seed was passed to the next generation. Yes, the man was an elder. His story was important even when he didn’t think so.

I hope if you are a seed saver, you will remember to write down the person’s name and pass the story on.

Monarch Butterfly Chatbook – Sunflower and Native Bees


Bees are the number one pollinator and butterflies are the second most important pollinator in the world.

Pollinators are necessary to pollinate flowers, crops and fruits and include native bees, butterflies, moths and bats. It is harmful to use herbicides and insecticides on lawns, farm crops, along roadways and in the garden. Insecticides kill larva and adult insects including bees and butterflies. Herbicides kill weeds often eliminating biodiversity of native plants that pollinators need to survive.

Without pollinators, many of the world’s crop species would disappear. This could include foods such as native squash, potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkins. Only the native bumblebee pollinates potatoes and the bumblebee is being used commercially to pollinate tomatoes.

According to The Xerces Society, Franklin’s bumblebee is already threatened in California. There are hundreds of native bee species in the United States. Bees need a place to live and they need healthy pollen sources. Won’t you make your garden pollinator friendly? In return, native bees and butterflies will delight you by visiting your garden.