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Dear Methow Gardeners,
By Jane Gilbertsen 

March 10, 2011

Bring it on Spring!   In anticipation, I cleaned up the greenhouse during our magnificent sunny day this week. ¬†Even with all the snow hanging on and the incredible mud and mush I rallied to be ready to plant seeds.  I have most of what I want ready to go but I am stalling so I don't have to supplement heat or light very much.  Even though lots of things can be direct-seeded eventually, it is essential to get the warm season crops going ahead of time and nice to have a few cool season crops available for transplant so they can be enjoyed super early.  

Consider signing up for all or part of the very fun and helpful-sounding "Spring Planting Weekend" hosted by the Methow Valley Inn and our own brilliant teacher, Tess Hoke of Local 98856.  Set for the weekend of March 24-27, it would work for visitors and locals alike.  In fact, it might be a good way to get a friend to the valley for a visit during our sloooow time.  The Methow Valley Inn website has the schedule and details.  

April 1 will be my personal first day of Spring.  That gives this weather a bit more time to get it together and actually be Spring.  So far it should be ashamed.  By April 1, I should be able to sit in my "vegetable garden/upper chicken yard contemplation/ planning chair".  Isn't it amazing how a simple metal chair can demonstrate effective snowmelt power just by virtue of being a heat sink and then a heat radiator.  It creates its own powerful microclimate.  

Local 98856 has their seeds in now.  They will carry a bunch of good stuff this year for your garden.  And thankfully, so will Wildhearts!  

Despite the For Sale sign still being up, Dan Kirkmire confirms that he will be celebrating his 10th year with Wildhearts and he is happy about it all.   This year he will have native stock growing in the fields and native conifers in grow bags.  I think this is the best way to go for getting locally adapted stock.  The trees won't come in from other places where they are often grown and then balled up in clay.  (Roots just hate moving out of clay to our soil!)  Dan will also have bare root fruit trees which do well here, often better than balled and potted stock.  It takes a bit to get them going but they don't end up root bound or stuck in that clay.  He'll have grapes and berries.  Grapes have done well for me over the past few years since the growing season has been longer.  Berries that ripen earlier than late summer do well.  If they fruit too late in the summer the yellowjackets get them and picking is a very dangerous affair.  Oh, and a bunch of vege and flower starts as usual.

Seeds are a big deal.  Your choice is a political act.  Most of the global seed industry is controlled by the Gene Giants, the biggest of which are Monsanto and Dupont, controlling 38% of the market.  The Big 6 have entered into contracts to control genetic engineering, herbicide tolerance and the expression of insecticidal toxins (from within the plant).  They and the other giants of food, fertilizer, pharmaceuticals for people and animals - all the life industries, own nature (per plant and gene patent law).  One-quarter of the earth's biomass itself is owned by industry.  I suggest we fight back here at home in our own gardens and plant locally adapted and open pollinated seed.  That being said, I always buy a fancy sweet corn.  They just taste so much better.  I am a hypocrite.

Uprising Seeds of Bellingham is a great seed source, selling some varieties supplied by our own Lexi Koch and Chris Doree of Ancestree Herbals and Kelleigh McMillan of Sowing Seeds Farm and the Red Shed.  They have a complete list to choose from.  I was intrigued by their seed collection named Ark of Taste from Slow Food USA.  The collection includes eight varieties from the RAFT list - Restoring America's Food Traditions.  This collection would be a fun way to get into the swing of the anti-corporate food movement.  Oh yes, Uprising Seeds are sold at the Glover Street Market.  

The Good Seed Company in the Okanogan Highlands is another excellent source I have been using for some years now. You can buy from their website using Paypal.  The seeds are open pollinated and adapted to our North Central Washington climate and soils.  They have developed their varieties over 30 years.   If you are diligent you can learn how to save your own seed and be totally independent after a couple years (some things are annuals and some biennials).  I do this with the easy ones like squash, spinach, romaine and cilantro.  I have been pretty lazy with all the others.

In the meantime, in a "paroxysm" (sudden attack or violent expression or emotion or activity) I put my fertile mutt chicken eggs in the incubator almost 21 days ago.  The first tiny pip crack of the first batch is starting to show.  My gorgeous mutt hens are working hard to keep up the supply.  Here you will see Cochin color-cross KOL trying to shove Brahma/Gold lace Cochin Sissy off the nest.  I took the picture after hearing some amazing screaming which I translated as "Get off get off you ____"  It was hard to believe from the sound that they were actually best friends.  

Get out there are get your seeds.  Someday it will be Spring!  
Thanks for reading,

Jane Gilbertsen