Although intent of this blog is to convey information about the Victory Seed Company, our personal and work lives are nearly inseparable. We quite literally live and breath the farm and preservation work that we do. We would have it no other way. This means that from time to time, you’ll find a post, like this one, that is more personal in nature.
What I Did On My 2015 Summer “Vacation”
If you live on a farm, you know that it is generally very difficult to get away for any extended period of time. Denise and I have been married for several decades, most of that time living here at the farm, and I can just about count on one hand the number of vacations we have taken that extended more than a few days. Don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly believe in the restorative power of time away, but out of necessity, ours is usually taken in mini-vacations and day trips.
This summer we made the time to take a week-long trip with our youngest daughter. It was an awesome trip for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was great to travel and spend time with Denise and Hannah. But as a hardcore “seed geek,” the destination was a very close second for me.
Although we didn’t camp (we chose a nice, comfortable hotel room in beautiful and friendly Decorah, Iowa), we were able to spend many hours, spread over three days, on the campus / farm of the Seed Savers Exchange. Being a longtime member, for me to finally make it out there to tour the facilities and fields was awesome. What a beautiful place and what great staff they have performing the day-to-day functions. Additionally, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the organization.
The visit allowed me to meet up with folks that I have corresponded with over the years and to finally have the opportunity to put faces with names. One of the coolest things was to have the opportunity to visit with people who can be considered some of the “founding fathers and mothers” of the seed preservation movement. There were real seed preservation “rock stars” at the campout. These folks, in no specific order, included Diane Ott Whealy (co-founder of SSE), Amy Goldman Fowler (philanthropist, preservationist, gardener, and accomplished author), Cary Fowler (work’s to protect the world’s food supply), Russ Crow (“THE” bean man), Pat Mooney (began working with Cary Fowler and Hope Shand in the ’70s on biodiversity and seed issues), and David Cavagnaro (seed preservationist, horticultural photographer, gardener, founder of The Pepperfield Project). There are many more but these are folks we got to visit with.
I have to share a quick story about an impressionable youth who had been a lifelong gardener and Mr. Cavagnaro. Back in the Fall of 1980, I was enrolled as a botany student in a university’s biology department colloquium series. The speaker that November 12th was David Cavagnaro and his presentation was entitled, “A Biologist’s View of the Garden.” That talk was one of the brief encounters that affected the course of my life’s path, and along with other influences, led me to the work that I do today. It was so cool to finally meet up with him again after nearly 35 years.
Denise and I also got the opportunity to spend time visiting with our good friends Sue and Craig LeHoullier. Living on opposite sides of the country, we rarely get to see each other and are limited to phone and email “visits.” It was so good to catch up and just spend time together. If you have spent much time on our website, especially if you are a tomato gardener, you should recognize his name by now. Along with being one of the major contributors to popularizing heirloom tomatoes and getting them into the mainstream over the past several decades, he is a gifted writer (his recent book “Epic Tomatoes” is an excellent read and reference tool). As an added bonus, we got to hear him deliver the keynote speech. I sure wish that I had his gift for public speaking.
We were only gone for a total of seven days in July, but it was an extremely activity packed and memorable time away from “real life.”
Quick Trip to Canada
Last month after we moved our youngest off to college, Denise and I decided to take a much needed, albeit short, road trip last month. Since the Canadian border is only about a six hour drive from the farm, we decided to do some “international travel” and spend a couple of days exploring Vancouver, British Columbia. It was a perfect trip with perfect weather and we both agreed that we need to go back in the future to spend more time there.
As a seed guy, even trips to big cities have some aspect involving plants, gardens, seeds and nature. On the way up to B.C., we spent a day in Seattle “The Emerald City” taking in some sites that we have never been to. We toured the EMP Museum (formerly known as the Experience Music Project), ate brunch at the top of the Space Needle, and took in the amazing sites at the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit.
If you are not familiar with the work of Dale Chihuly, you should check it out. As I wandered through the exhibits, I daydreamed about how cool various sculptures would look in different gardens and beds back home on the farm. Below are a few favorite photos. The next morning we headed off to B.C.
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Before exploring the city of Vancouver, the first stop that we made was at the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver (one that I would recommend and one I hope to revisit!). It was huge, right in Vancouver, and very interesting and beautiful. I took a lot of photos there as well!
In extreme contrast to our life on a farm in a hundred year old house that my Great-grandfather built, our accommodations in B.C. were a corner apartment, with floor to ceiling glass walls, on the 27th floor of a tower within walking distance to everything. The views were spectacular and the change of scenery, from natural to man-made, was appreciated. I even found some cool seeds, open-pollinated varieties of course, in a shop in the city’s China Town District.
On the way back home to the farm, we made a (long) detour from the interstate and visited the site of the first mail order seed company in the state of Washington, if not the Pacific Northwest.
As a seed preservationist and horticultural historian, I spend a lot of time collecting and studying old seed catalogs. They are invaluable tools for researching the histories and pedigrees of the plant varieties that we are actively working to protect.
If you look at most older seed catalogs, and even some modern ones like ours, it is common to find an introduction near the front of the volume that is often quite personal, detailed and a window not only into the life of the company and the people associated with them, but a glimpse into the times as well. They are like the “olden day” equivalent of a blog post or that letter some folks include in their Christmas cards every year. So as a byproduct of researching plant variety origins, I have become somewhat intimate with the histories of the companies and seedsmen that bred and introduced old plant varieties.
The Tillinghast Seed Company is an example of how a collection of old seed catalogs led to a better understanding of the company and its influence on the seed trade in the Pacific Northwest. Time permitting, this is also the kind of information that I try and share. You can find a link to a history of the Tillinghast Seed Company here.
Those are our vacation highlights from this summer. Now it is time for us to buckle down, get the harvest cleaned, tested and packaged, and the catalog and website ready for the new year ahead. I hope that your summer was also enjoyable, that you had time to get away from your day to day life and to explore some part of this awesome planet we live on, and that your harvest was bountiful.
We look forward to your support of our seed variety preservation work with your orders and to be of service to you in the 2016 garden season!