Is it normal to go crazy when ordering seeds for the first time?

This is my order – with Fedco Seeds only (choosing just from them was difficult enough: I didn’t dare add the selection from any other gorgeous catalog).

  • Provider Bush Green Bean OG (A=2oz)
    Maxibel Bush Haricots Verts OG (B=2oz)
    Cannellini Bean (A=2oz)
    Red Kidney Bean (A=2oz)
    Mayfair Shell Pea ECO (A=2oz)
    Blizzard Snow Pea OG (A=2oz)
    Boothbys Blonde Slicing Cucumber OG (A=0.5g)
    Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG (A=1/8oz)
    Early Summer Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash OG (A=1/8oz)
    Uncle Davids Dakota Dessert Winter Squash OG (A=1/4oz)
    Scarlet Nantes Carrot (A=1/8oz)
    King Sieg Leek OG (A=1/16oz)
    Evergreen Hardy White Scallion (A=1/16oz)
    Clear Dawn Onion OG (A=1/16oz)
    Long Standing Bloomsdale Spinach OG (A=1/4oz)
    Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce OG (A=2g)
    Cracoviensis Lettuce OG (A=1g)
    Summer Lettuce Mix (A=1g)
    Winter Lettuce Mix (A=1g)
    Bright Lights Chard (A=1/16oz)
    Gigante dItalia Parsley (A=1/16oz)
    Golden Purslane OG (A=0.5g)
    Broccoli Blend (A=0.5g)
    White Russian Kale OG (A=2g)
    Redventure Celery OG (A=0.2g)
    Applegreen Eggplant OG (A=0.2g)
    Peacework Sweet Pepper OG (A=0.2g)
    Glacier Tomato OG (A=0.2g)
    Ida Gold Tomato OG (A=0.2g)
    WOW! Tomato ECO (A=0.1g)
    Sun Gold Cherry Tomato (A=0.1g)
    Arnica Chamissonis OG (A=0.02g)
    Sweet Basil OG (A=4g)
    Genovese Basil (A=2g)
    Borage OG (A=0.5g)
    Catnip (A=1g)
    Caribe Cilantro OG (A=1g)
    Bouquet Dill OG (A=2g)
    Purple Coneflower or Echinacea OG (A=1g)
    Elecampane OG (B=0.3g)
    Garlic Chives (A=0.5g)
    Ladys Mantle (B=0.2g)
    Lemon Balm (B=3g)
    Sweet Marjoram (A=1g)
    Common Mint (A=0.1g)
    Stinging Nettle OG (A=0.2g)
    Greek Oregano (A=0.2g)
    Pennyroyal (A=0.1g)
    -Rosemary (A=0.1g)
    Rue (A=0.5g)
    Broadleaf Sage (A=1g)
    Stevia (A=0.01g)
    German Thyme (A=0.2g)
    Sweet Woodruff (A=0.2g)
    White Yarrow (A=0.1g)
    Kablouna Calendula Mix OG (A=1g)
    Calliopsis Mix (B=0.9g)

You can tell me, honestly: did I go crazy? I will probably need 3 acres to plant all of these, but then I figured most of these seeds can be kept for 2-3 years, so there is no rush to plant all of them in one season. I shouldn’t in any case, since some of these cross-pollinate, and we want to save seeds but have not enough land or any way of isolating the plants.

We’re still travelling. We’re in DC now and in the New Year we’ll head back home via NY City. Next task: making and purchasing growing-from-seed supplies. Almost forgot: got to ask all our friends and relations to save their gallon milk and juice  bottles for us.


I’ve been quiet about Amie’s reading and writing here because it’s tough to know where she stands. One day she reads and writes enthusiastically, the other day she won’t even write her own name properly (and that she has been able to do since she turned two).

She has been reading simple words, slowly stringing the sounds together and in some cases sight-reading them (“the”, for instance). Yesterday we made a quick visit to the mall (I know! It was horrendous. I got a splitting head ache. But we had to pick up our new glasses) and as we drove by she read: “S-Eh-Ah-Ruh-S” but couldn’t make sense of the word. She listened carefully to our explanation that “E and A in this case sounds like Eee, but sometimes it sounds like Eh, as in BEAR”. Wow, it must be so confusing to her! But she takes it all in stride.

She can also do the process in reverse, spelling out the words. She can isolate the sounds pretty well and then write them down as she hears them. She can write all the letters, even the S, sometimes mirroring them.

Some days ago  sat with her as she drew the picture above. It’s of Santa and a snowman (for some reason she drew these upside down, getting the smiles right) and Mama (“with sweet fluffy ears”). I helped her practice her S and spell “Santa Clos”. Later on, when we were not around, she wrote on top, in a combination of pen and sticky letters:


When I asked her what it means, she said:

– Oatmeal.

She hadn’t quite remembered how to spell the EE sound, so she had invented her own sign for it.

So is she writing now? She’s playing at writing, that’s for sure. We should all still be playing at writing. I am, for the most part. Are you?


Dark-Eyed junco and American Goldfinches

Who knew birdwatching in winter would be more fun than in summer!

We’re experiencing our third snowstorm in five days – or is it the second one come round again? The scene outside is magical, but to me there is also an aspect of danger. I see the trees laden with snow and think: oh, so beautiful! Then the wind blanks out the view and I think: electricity outage!

Amie has been nothing but ecstatic. She has made angels, climbed the snowbanks, eaten the snow (making the funniest faces), threw snowballs (it’s not sticking much, though, so no good for snowmen) and sledded down our front yard hill. Pulling the sled and the child back up was Mama or Bab’s job, as was shoveling and maneuvering the car back up the steep and long and slippery driveway.


The birds at our feeders are just as ecstatic. Except for the Juncos, the Mourning Doves, the Northern Cardinals and once in a while a Downy Woodpecker, many were not to be seen… until the snow came!


Mourning Dove (click on image for larger)


Black-Capped Chickadee


Tufted Titmouse


Red-Bellied Woodpecker


Northern Cardinal

Suddenly there they were again: the Black-Capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice, the Carolina Wren and the Blue Jay, the American Goldfinches, the White-Breasted Nutchatches and even the Red-Bellied Woodpecker (who is supposed to live in Florida). The Dark-Eyed Juncos are out in droves, playing in the snow, chittering at one another, performing great feats of on-the-spot flying (we call that “bidden” in Dutch: praying).  No wonder they’re called snowbirds: they love the snow!

It makes for a big hullabaloo at the feeders as they all vie for prime feeding spots. I deny the compost bins our old bread and rotten apples, putting it out for the birds instead. I stand by the bedroom window, watching the woefully overgrown juniper and Rhododendron bushes where they take shelter. I could stand there all day…

It’s supposed to snow more today and this evening, and then there will be a couple of clear and windy days and a deep freeze. I’m sorry we won’t be around for that: I wanted to experience walking on the ice on top of the snow. We’ll be off tomorrow to NY City and then Washington DC until a couple of days after New Year’s. I might be able to post, I’ll do my best!




Finally we got some snow: about an inch, I should say. Amie ran out to play before school. For once it wasn’t difficult to get her into her clothes! Sadly the snow was too hard for snowmen, snow angels, and snowballs, but she had a lot of fun just scraping it off our car and pelting her snow-shoveling Mama with it! It is going to rain later on in the day, so I let her play and be just a little bit late for school. We packed away a snowball in the freezer.


Inside the house, I finally began selecting seeds. I was very intimidated by the process. I’ve been intimidated by this garden all along! I can never do something simply, but want to know and plan everything first, and then get daunted  by the complexity of the scheme. First I fretted about  the location and layout and how much and where to plant and how to prepare our crummy soil. Then I got flustered with how to start the seeds, and when, and should I buy peat pots or plugs or make my own? Then – oh no – where to buy seeds, and which?!

Then I read on Sharon’s blog that some seeds are already sold out and that only augmented my paralysis. But yesterday I saw that both risa of Stony Run Farm and Kathy of Skippy’s Vegetable Garden have ordered their seeds. That got me going: apparently I needed a positive message. A “you can do it too – let’s get started” message.

So I chose one catalog: Fedco’s, which is suited to my climate and has so much useful information. I spent the entire evening with the downloaded version, jotting down what appeals to me. Most of my chosen seeds are organic, from small growers, and not patented. I’ll publish the list as soon as I’ve made my order!

In the meantime: my neighbor’s snowy pine (?), from our living room window. I love that majestic tree!



It’s warm! 50 F in the shade at 9 am and now, at 11:30: 60 F! This weather is unbelievable… But I believed it and immediately went out to set up that compost bin I talked about earlier.

The only problem with the plan was that it was impossible to get the 4 stakes that are supposed to hold it open and support it into the ground. The soil is dense forest soil, shot through with tree roots. I tried for about 15 minutes, but it would have involved digging a trench, which was overkill for a portable bin made of chicken wire! So I cut 2 sturdy sticks to the size of the diameter and simply made a cross inside at the bottom of the bin. It does the job. Sorry, forgot to take a picture.

Cost: $7.94 for the chicken wire (36″ high, 10 feet long).

Then I moved over the content of our second Earth Machine, the one with the coffee grounds/orphan pumpkins/leaves and straw. That heap had cooked initially, but then had gone cold as the bin filled up with waterlogged grounds and everything got very compacted and possibly even frozen through (because it was so wet) when we had our hard frost. So moving it to a rather airy location (we are planning on making a wind break around it) and adding many layers of straw was, I hope, a good idea. It has enough critical mass, air and moisture to start cooking now.

Let’s see if the critters move in. I didn’t make a bottom or a lid, as you can see, as I ran out of wire. We didn’t buy much because we were afraid that the 1 inch openings would let too much fall through, but some clever positioning of the straw and that was not an issue.

Took me 2 hours to make the bin and move the heap. It was great, being out there, in the perfect temperature for hard physical work. Even the gusty wind felt warm, and it whipped up the leaves and shook the trees overhead…

We had two experiments going on here yesterday and part of today.

  • First: dunking cones


When we found this cone on our Outdoor Hour walk last week, we identified it as a Norway Spruce cone. It was wet and cold when we brought it in, and we (I) had observed that the scales were slowly opening as it was drying out, or as it was warming up.  Then I read  Michelle’s cone experiment, which suggests it is the water that closes the scales. This makes sense: so the seeds won’t get washed or washed out. Yesterday we got to reproduce the test. (The stone on top was to keep the cone down in the glass.)

Amie was very into it as a Game With Water, in the living room no less!


I took the lead, going on an on about seeds etc. But Amie really got the point once we had a wet and a (as yet) dry cone one next to the other. When her Baba came come she could tell him the link between wet and closed.


Isn’t it amazing? I mean, the cone is dead, right? it has been severed from its tree, even its tiny seeds have long gone… Yet it still moves, it still functions. Maybe something to do with the construction of the scales: contact with water produces a chemical effect that makes them contract in a certain way… Gotta find out exactly how that is.

{UPDATE} “The scales open when dry because their outer halves shrink more than their inner halves, and they pull away from the cone. When wet, the scales swell shut.” (here)

  • Winter apples, winter animals

Our second experiment involved an apple that had gone mildly bad. We ate the good part and rather than throwing the bad part into the compost, I cut it up and put the segments out on our balcony, right in front of our big living room window.


Who would come and eat it?


Bird? Or mammal?

Not one animal touched the apples all afternoon, all evening, or all night! Then, today between noon and one, our resident squirrel picked up piece after piece, moving some to we-don’t-know-where (his nest? a “cupboard“?) and munching others in plain view on our balcony. We talked about how squirrels don’t hibernate, but chipmunks do (sort of, to some degree). We haven’t seen a chipmunk in over a month.


What a treat, to have been kept waiting and then to see the happy squirrel eat the apple made of the bright winter sun!

I also happened to read Mary Oliver’s Why I Wake Early yesterday. There’s this line, in “Something”:

and sometimes I am that madcap person clapping my hands and singing;

and sometimes I am that quiet person down on my knees


Amie has taken the next step in the development of drawing humans: clothes.

She had just come home with the cutest class photos and we were discussing that we should cut some out to send to the grandparents and godmothers. She didn’t want to.

– I want to keep all of them. (*)

– But they’re all the same (I returned, admittedly quite nonsensically).

I explained how much they would like a photo of her, to frame and put on their mantelpiece… Amie saw we were at an impasse. She is very proud of her compromising  skills (*), so she said:

– Okay, I have a solution. I’ll draw them a picture of myself and we’ll send them that.

Well, I’m never one to say no to a drawing.

She sat down and was about to draw the arm when she paused and drew… a sleeve.

– See, she’s got sleeves, right? Like me, I’ve got sleeves too. And her arm is in it and comes out of it.


Then followed trouser legs and shoes and “humongous hair that hangs in her face”. Which is also quite realistic:


(*) I’ll write soon about sharing and compromising with Amie. It’s taking on interesting aspects, to say the least…

I’m pretty sure that our Tia Tata doesn’t read this blog, so I think we’re fine, but


Okay, that said, all the rest of you can get a preview of one of our homemade Christmas presents. It’s a diorama for our friend Tia Tata, who is a social worker, marine biologist and diver (she founded and runs Dive Kulture, just so as you know, a fantastic program for inner city kids here in Boston). So of course it had to be of the ocean.

Amie was all for it, and she adores the word “diorama”. We sat together many afternoons drawing and coloring and cutting out  fishes, gluing together an octopus and several more fantastic creatures.  They’re hardly  anatomically correct – we’ll make it also a learning experience  next time around.  We selected a box and painted and decorated it, then played some, of course, and then put it all together.

Except for the glue and paints, some of the paper and the googly eyes (which were a gift from my mom), the whole thing is made of stuff that was bound for the recycling bin or the trash. Just like our Manush house way back when.

Here are the results (Tia Tata, if you are still reading, look away now). Click for larger images.
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So much fun! Now, with me falling sick we’ve also fallen behind on our present-making… We’ll have this week and the next to make up!

This hurts, because to tell you might dimish my own chances – no one said I was perfect – but Peak Oil Hausfrau is hosting her first give-away: a year’s subscription to Mother Earth News!

Don’t go over there, though. I mean: do go over there, by all means, just don’t comment.

Oh that’s not good either.

Do comment but on another article.  ‘T Is the Season is a great one, about more era-appropriate gift baskets.

{UPDATE} Bummer!