Friday, October 16, 2009

Seedy People

Flax seed, saved and winnowed on the Indian Valley Farm

Let's accept the facts... We are all seedy people.  Whether we like it or not, we come from seed.  Along with the rest of flora and fauna on our planet, we are a great blended genetic mystery, born from seed.  So... there's one big thing we have in common.  Maybe if we focus on that we can get along a little better.

Yes, of course we find differences amongst us living organisms of planet Earth.  Unbelievably complex many amazing adaptations we've been able to work out over the eons.  Thank goodness for these differences.  Diverse and together - that is the only way all us seed-born creatures have been able to stay here.  How about we honor each other, especially for our differences... all the while remembering that every one of us came from the same place.

On this tropical storm Wednesday, we made our way through the series of small standing water lakes that is Marin county after 5-6 inches of rain, to the College of Marin classroom to listen to Wendy Johnson who reminded us of our seedy start.   This led to a discussion of Sexual vs Asexual (or Vegetative) reproduction.  Wendy mentioned that her 7th grade students get very attentive when the word "Sexual" comes up at the beginning of class.  I tired it out on my Middle School students the next day, and sure it enough, works like a charm.  Only problem is that my daughter sat in the front row in one of the classes, and, needless to say,  she was horrified.  Her head actually fell onto the table with a loud thud.

We talked about Comfrey, known for both a capacity to easily reproduce by root division (stick a small piece of root in the ground) and its healing qualities for almost any ailment.  As I get to know plants better over the years, I've come to respect perennial hard-workers.  They seem to garner the most concentrated beneficial nutrients and essences for us humans.  Is it a coincidence that many ancient perennial crops, like fig, artichoke and olives, are top the lists of "Food We Should Eat?"

Speaking of turns out Vegetative Propagation came first in terms of human agriculture.   Figs were first.  This is a link to an article about the discovery of evidence, outside of Jericho that asexual fig trees were shared amongst communities.  This was 11,400 years ago, well before the use of written language, and also before the rise of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. 

Wendy made a list of essential reading about seeds, botany and propagation. Here it is:

Botany For Gardners by Brian Capon

Botany In A Day - The Patterns Method of Plant Identification Thomas J. Elpel's Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families

Seed To Seed by Susan Ashworth

The Secrets of Plant Propagation

Plant Propagation

The Lives of A Cell

The Metamorphosis of A Plant by Goethe

Goethe, the famous German author of The Sorrows of Young Werther and Faust, was an amateur botanist. He took a six week "plant walk" in the Swiss Alps and his observations of a great pulsation that was the cycle of a plant.  The plant as "process."

Here are four stanzas from a poem of Goethe's that by the same name  The Metamorphosis of Plants (you'll find the full text at the link) that capture his sense of wonder in observation of  the mystery, the great blending of genetic material that is life.

Twofold as yet, hasten on, destined to blend into one.
Lovingly now the beauteous pairs are standing together,

Gather'd in countless array, there where the altar is raised.
Hymen hovereth o'er them, and scents delicious and mighty

Stream forth their fragrance so sweet, all things enliv'ning around.
Presently, parcell'd out, unnumber'd germs are seen swelling,

Sweetly conceald in the womb, where is made perfect the fruit.
Here doth Nature close the ring of her forces eternal;

Steve Quirt winnows flax seedat IVC Organic Farm

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