Seed Midden

The Newsletter of
The Abundant Life Seed Foundation
P.O. Box 772 
Port Townsend, WA 98368 
Supporting Sustainable Agriculture through the preservation of open-pollinated, rare and endangered seeds.

Celebrate Volunteers!

This edition of the Seed Midden is dedicated to the wonderful world of volunteers. Without these special people, who give their hearts, time and energy to Abundant Life, we would not be able to accomplish nearly what we do. While donations and financial support are essential to continue this work, volunteers allow us to spread donations that much farther. These are the people who join their hearts in with ours to make the goals of Abundant Life a reality. They are growers, computer programmers, woodshop tinkerers. They are people with ideas and optimism. People with a willingness to risk and get involved. They are people to honor. In this issue, almost every story is either about, because of, or written by a volunteer. Please join us in celebrating our volunteers.

World Seed Fund

Our Super Volunteer of the month is a woman dedicated to the goals of Abundant Life, with an extra soft spot in her heart for the World Seed Fund. Her name is Linda Frumolt, and she calls herself the East Coast division of Abundant Life. Linda's vision that by the time she moves on from this life, world hunger and starvation will not exist. She is a whirlwind of activity to help this happen. Last year she did a promotion through a supermarket in her area, of selling flowers to feed the hungry. They sold promotional bouquets of flowers, to give a percentage to the World Seed Fund. Linda created, coordinated, and ran the whole promotion. This year, she went a step beyond. She represented the World Seed Fund in Klamath Falls, OR, at a Cell Tech, Quality of Life fair. Linda set up a booth and even had the opportunity to speak to the 5,000 people attending an evening seminar. Linda passed out about 1,000 envelopes stamped with our address for people to send their donations in. So far, we've received about $1600, and donations are still arriving.

Linda thinks she hit on a great method for fund raising. Cell Tech is a network marketing company, and not the only one around that is a caring, holistic oriented organization. She plans to use her connections through Cell Tech to continue promoting the World Seed Fund, and she says if anyone else is interested in advice or ideas, that can give her a call. Just call the office here, and we can pass her number along.

Often, I am amazed by Linda's generosity and motivation. Many more seeds will be sent for free to those who need them because of Linda's efforts. This is just one expample of how you can get involved. Linda lives on the other side of the country, yet is active and a presence in Abundant Life.

Seed Storage Room

Since moving our office in February, we had been working in a sort of controlled chaos. We moved in the middle of our really busy season, and it was all we could do to move our office (and accumulated stuff) of 15 years, drop everything as efficiently as possible, and get through the busy season. Then when the sales trickled out, it took another month to catch up with everything that had been put off. Finally, in June, we were able to begin building our seed storage room and think about how we really wanted the office to fit together. I suppose with all building projects, it's much more difficult, longer and more expensive than you ever plan. For two months, we worked in the middle of building materials and drywall dust. We spent part of our weeks painting, cleaning, moving. We had two windows installed. We discovered the wiring was not up to par, so we had new wiring put in. We had a donated kitchen sink installed (finally, tea again) And, thanks to the efforts of some wonderful people, it was not the ordeal or the expense it could have been. Three Outstanding Volunteers of the Year gave up a whole weekend to build our three room office/storage within our new office. But it didn't stop with one weekend. Many little things continued on, and they all came in at separate times and gave freely of their time and energy.

Brent Wickline planned the whole event, and Fred Garrett and Will Moran added their skills. Together, free of charge, (they are all professionals in their fields), they saved us, literally, thousands of dollars and built this needed room. Part of moving to our new office meant a commitment to building a seed room and creating a more controlled environment for the storage of our valuable seeds. We are nearly there, thanks to the efforts of these three men.

Right now our room is air conditioned. We hope in the next year to get some kind of refrigeration, to maintain the temperature at 50 degrees (while controlling the humidity, as well). We think if we start looking now, we may find a donation or a great deal, to install by late spring. If you want to be part of this wonderful project, please contact us. Materials and expertise would be appreciated.

Your Help Needed

Even though thousands of dollars worth of labor were donated, we still had to pay for the wiring, plumbing, moving the phones, and, of course, all of the materials. All of this puts a terrible crimp on the year-end budget, no matter how necessary and positive it was. We have about four times the previous space, for the same price, not including the building project. We are positioning ourselves to leap into the future, and it's exciting. We are hoping to do some serious grant writing, now that we are through the energy of moving and building.

If ever there was a time to donate to Abundant Life, it is now. Things are always a little tight at this time of year, but you can have the opportunity of supporting us when we are transitioning into a stronger, more focused period. When thinking of your end of the year donations, please include Abundant Life.

Connecting Seeds and People Around the World

A few months ago, Beth Burrows, a former board member of Abundant Life, and Director of the Edmonds Institute, offered to deliver some seeds from Abundant Life and present them as gifts to fellow seed savers in India. Beth was invited by Vandana Shiva to speak on "Biotechnology and Biodiversity" at the Convention on Biological Diversity in New Delhi, India.

We have always known that the more people growing and saving seeds, the better chance we have of maintaining these unique, beautiful, and scarce treasures. However, we would realize later that Beth Burrows was offering more than to simply deliver seeds. She helped us to recognize and appreciate the people from whom most of our food crops originate, that is, from non-Europeans, in mostly developing countries. What we enjoy on our tables today is more than the recent innovations of modern crop breeders. Instead, those crop breeders have built on the shoulders of giants, individual farmers, who have for generations improved crops through their cultivation and careful selection. But today, these indigenous people are too often overlooked, forgotten, or stolen from. Beth allowed us the opportunity to thank the descendants of some of the people who contributed to our food supply today.

We sent with Beth four packets of seeds with the following letter, signed from the staff and board of Abundant Life:

Dear People of India,

We are happy to present to you these traditional, heirloom seeds grown in our region, the northwestern part of the United States. From one seed saver to another, we present these seeds to you, to share in the responsibility and joy of preserving these seeds for people today and future generations.

We consider seeds as vessels of life. In each seed, lives a blueprint for a unique life, waiting for soil, sun and water, to grow into a full and complete plant. We send these vessels of life to you, their guardians in another country and culture. We hope they will adapt there as they have here, and will share with you their richness and vitality. Please plant, grow and share these seeds from our culture, with others within you culture.

We are grateful to Beth Burrows, a former Board Member of Abundant Life, the ambassador of our seeds, for carrying them safely to your people. Please keep well these genetic treasures.

In August, we received this wonderful report from Beth after she returned from India:

Dear Abundant Life,

I am writing to tell you how well-received were the seeds you sent with me to India this summer. I presented them to Dr. Vandana Shiva, head of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy and founder of Navdanya, a seed saver organization in India.

The presentation came at the end of a conference on "Globalization, Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture" that took place in New Delhi at the end of July. The audience contained farmers and organic growers and food activists from all over the world and particularly from all over Southeast Asia.

As the very last thing on the program of the conference, I read the letter you wrote. Before I presented the seeds you sent, I added: "You know, I have been thinking about these wonderful seeds that the people of Abundant Life have sent as a gesture of sharing. All of these varieties which now seem endangered to us are not really Pacific Northwest natives; they derive from crop plants that are not indigenous to our area; all of them come from other places. And, as I look out on this audience, I see faces from the places from which the ancestors of these seeds came. So, I must ask you all to welcome home the descendants of your crops...welcome back the seeds!"

They gave the seeds a huge ovation (and Vandana Shiva gave me a big hug and thank you for all of you).

After the presentation, Joseph Keve, one of the Indian farmers in the audience, reached into his pack and gave me a handful of huge, beautiful red seeds to bring you by way of a gift and exchange. He gave me his address and wrote out a description of and recipe for the crop to be expected from the seeds:

"Sword Beans" It's a creeper, could go up to 12-15 feet in height. White bunches of flowers and produces a long bean (about 8 to 10 inches long). When tender, can be cut into small bits and added to any vegetable dish. Or even be cooked with meat.

I graciously accepted the seeds and gave him a hug. Sincerely, Beth Burrows

Thank you to Beth Burrows for being our seed ambassador and becoming involved again with Abundant Life.

SOS...Save Our Squash

If your garden is being overrun with squash right about now and you're wondering what's the best method to process squash for seed saving, this is the news for you.

First of all, you need ot be sure that your squash has not crossed with any others in the same species (except for experimental purposes). You need to know the Latin names to know if they are in the same species (our catalog includes the Latin of all our squashes). any maxima can cross with another maxima, so you either needed to plant only one of each species, or needed to take measures to insure isolation. However, they cannot cross from one squash species to another. for example, Silver Bell (a C. maxima) will cross with Red Kuri (another C. maxima), but will not cross with Ebony Acorn, a C. pepo.

Don't be too hasty to harvest those squash for seed, as you want ripe, mature fruits so the seed will be fully developed. When a light frost kills back the squash leaves, then it is time to harvest all the fruits that are still on the vines (several may have ripened and been picked earlier).

Squash Seed continues to mature inside the fruit for 20 days after harvesting. Find a nice, warm, dry spot to keep them awhile. It is a good idea to gently wash those beauties before storing to prevent mold. Check once a week to make sure they are still sound and if one starts to mold, go ahead and process it right away.

After about three weeks, cut open the fruits and remove the seed and their attachments. Rinse off as much material from the seed as you can, but do not leave seeds in the water longer than a couple of hours. Overnight is way too long, and they will sprout and be no good for seed.

Lay the seed out on a tray in a warm spot, out of the direct sun. 95 degrees is too hot, so measure the temperature where you plan to dry them. Stir or turn the seeds a few times. If the seeds still bend, they aren't dry enough. If they break, then they are dry enough to store. This usually takes longer than you might think, maybe a week. A fan helps blow off the moisture if you are in a hurry.

How you can label and store the seeds in a dry, dark, cool place. they will easily last about 7-8 years. If you have a lot of squash, and just can't face the canning, freezing and giving away process all at once, you can do one or a few at a time for months. Just keep checking them to be sure they aren't molding. Happy Harvesting.

In the Garden

by Tricia Paffendorf, Farm Manager

The cool and dewy morinings are leaving hints of autumn.. and lots of seed to collect. The harvest season is the time of year that we hope for dry, warm days to assure that our seeds fully matureand dry adequately enough to make collecting quick and easy.

What is exciting about this harvest season is that we are expanding our drying and storing facilities. Thanks to a donation from the Whitney Foundation and generous efforts and building skills of volunteers Eric Wennstrom and Ole Kanestrom, we are now able to dry, clean and store seed at the farm in a protected, climate controlled enviroment. A warm thank you to all those involved with making this possible. We are still, however, looking for donations to purchase materials and construct seed racks and screens for the new seed processing room.

In addition to collecting seed we are also collecting information on all the varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs that grow at the farm. In this way, we are continuing to use the farm as a resource to trial unknown varieties and learn about the specific characteristics of our unique varieties so that we can better describe the taste, color, productivity and suitability to our Northwest climate for our catalog.

Another summer project has been to develop a self-guided tour for interested visitors. With the help of Amber Gayle, we have begun to interpret the garden and select particular areas of interest for the tour. The design of the pamphlet will include a map, description of the garden and an overview of the Foundation. We believe this will be more accommodating and educational for visitors. It is expected to be complete by next spring...come try it out!

Once again, I would like to thank all the volunteers who helped throughout the season. The garden would not be what it is without you.

Harvesting Apples

This is the timeof year when we are finally able to reap what we sow (although it's been happening a while now). Many of us know when it's time to eat our lettuce, pick our tomatoes or munch on those carrots. Even though we don't sell fruit tree seeds, we realize it can be difficult to know when's the best time to enjoy the fruit harvest. Volunteer writer and member, Pete Kaiser, agreed to give a few tips on apple harvesting, to help you enjoy the most from your harvest.

For most fruits and for best quality, picking should be selective for fruit on which a warm tint, or full varietal color, has come. Of course , this is one of many ways in which home grown fruit may be superior. Drops are an early warning that the fruit's almost ready, probably hastened by insect damage or blemish, or perhaps sound fruit pushed of a cluster (which should have been thinned!)

Each apple variety had its way of coloring, and an old-time apple grower is the best guide. For well-known varieties, the warm coloring, yellow or shades of red or orange, tells the story of the change from starch to sugar in the juice.

The English say that they judge fruit by flavor and texture, while the Americans judge by looks; hence, the Red Delicious. How, even in supermarkets, varieties can be sampled, but this is where the harvest factor enters. The Jonagold has at least some flavor if picked early and poorly colored, but the home grower can do better. the MAC, or McIntosh, is at the other extreme. If it's picked with only 50% of the red coloring, then the flavor is only mediocre. You can lose the coloring by over-fertilizing and picking too early. The home grower can still do better.

Try a sound apple that's dropped, or pick a well-colored one for the best flavor. To store any apple, the best ones are fully ripe, but sound and firm. These will keep best for either short or long storage.

apple varieties vary widely how they hold onto the tree when ripe. McIntosh and its crosses, such as the Summered and Spartan, tend to drop early. But the popular Gala holds its stem tightly, so that the usual twist and pull may take off the whole fruit and leaf spur (clipping may be preferred).

I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labor in yummy ways like apple pies for Thanksgiving and apple sauce.

Coming Next Issue

Spring '97

How to plan a garden with seed saving as one goal. How to test if last year's seeds are still good.
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