I will do anything to avoid doing my taxes. Honestly I need to be locked in an empty room with my receipts and no phone. This past weekend I spent all my waking inside hours pouring over seed catalogs instead of my Internal Revenue tasks. I don’t even mind paying the money as much as figuring it out. I am grateful to have work in these uncertain times. I have mentioned before, I pay taxes so I can get services. I want the roads fixed, my grandchildren educated and help when the house is on fire. No Tea Party membership for me.
Where was I? Oh, yes, seed catalogs. I receive an enormous amount of them. The other day I needed help from a postal worker to pry them from the mailbox. I would love to order from all of them. The photographs and descriptions are certainly tempting.
I have begun discarding those from parts of the country other than the Northeast. I try to keep things as local as possible. That is why I was delighted to hear that Jere and Emilee Gettle, owners of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, have purchased Comstock, Ferre and Company in Wethersfield, Conn. It is the oldest seed company in New England. The 20th century has left its mark on Connecticut, replacing farm fields with developments and interstates. The seed company was in the (pardon the expression) “crosshairs” for demolitions but is now revitalized.
The earliest known record of a seed business in Wethersfield was in an advertisement for Joseph Beldon seeds in 1811. After Belden’s barns and seed houses burned in 1834 the business still survived and was sold to Judge Franklin Comstock. The judge adopted the Shaker innovation of selling seed in “papers” as still happens to this day. He also was the first to add decoration to the packet.
Until the 1880s young men traveled the country selling the seeds to general stores and collecting the previous year’s money. By 1845 Henry Ferre of Massachusetts came on board as a partner.
In 1991 Pierre Bennerup, owner of Sunny Border Nurseries, purchased Comstock, Ferre and Co. but after almost 20 years decided to return to his original family business.
Enter the Gettles. They brought in an Amish crew from Missouri and have begun the restoration of the historic buildings and barns to their 18th century charm. As they put it, “Our goal is to erase modern influences around our company and return it to something William Comstock would recognize. Comstock will be a type of living history museum dedicated to agriculture and our diverse inheritance of heirloom seed varieties that are in danger of extinction, some of which have already passed through the sands of time.”
February may be my favorite month. February 1 has 10 hours of daylight — the first time since November. Spring and hope are in the air. I am a crazy woman in the greenhouse. Last summer I inadvertently neglected a box of seeds in the way-too-hot and dry hoophouse. I took a chance and planted some (lavender, sage and thyme) on a 60-degree propagating mat. After two weeks they actually germinated. It gives credence to the rumors that seeds found in the pyramids have germinated to kamut, an ancient wheat.
I also started collards and kale seeds on a 50-degrees mat. They germinated in four days. I am going to painstakingly transplant them into a cold frame by week’s end. They can handle nightly freezing. Why I bother is a mystery. A small critter has eaten all my wintered-over kale. Marie and I ordered a game-cam to see with what we are dealing. How’s that for old-fashioned farming in the technological age?
This week marks the beginning of year five for this column. It is remarkable, the speed of time. I hope, dear reader, you can take another year of my ramblings. Thank you for your feedback and encouragement!