They no longer call it a "campout convention," because more people stay in
motels than camp in the lovely meadow across the dry stream bed. More
later! The meet was July 22-24th.
In a technical seminar in beautiful downtown Camden, New Jersey, our
instructor said "I believe more learning happens in the coffee breaks than
in the classes." That's true at the Seed Saver's Exchange annual meet at
Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa. There are tours, nature walks, speakers,
and even a barn dance (what the heck _is_
a Schottische?), but the best
part for me is the cross pollination that happens when the members from all
over the country get together and shoot the breeze. I met some old friends
from the past few conventions, and met a lot of new ones, all nice folks,
and all obsessed with heirloom vegetables. You couldn't get a bunch of
loonies like that together anywhere else!
There's a new visitor's center/gift shop, donated by Melon Maven Amy
Goldman- built by Amish barn builders from massive oak beams, all mortised,
pegged, and woodworking terms I can't comprehend. Absolutely beautiful, and
air conditioned! There were a lot of us in there "just browsing" on a hot
Will Bonsall, head of the Scatterseed Project in Maine. Amazing guy,
excellent talk... some of us chatted with him before and after the official
speechifying. Knows so much about seed saving methods and the politics of
world food production it scares me. Literally.
Ken Krotz spoke on the "Classics of Vegetable Literature." Sounds deadly
dull. Absolutely wasn't. A lot of what we modern gardeners have learned
the hard way was well known and documented a hundred and more years ago.
Amy Goldman gave the keynote speech, mainly around her particular passion:
Melons and squash. Very good, lovely pictures, but written and read. I
prefer extemporaneous, but academia and I have never gotten along.
Glenn Drowns, of Sandy Hill Preservation farm spoke on poultry genetics and
the issues of almost forgotten breeds, like turkeys that have flavor and
can mate on their own, unlike those big-breasted supermarket types. Again,
I had misgivings, but Glenn really knows his stuff, and it's contagious.
Don't think I'm ready for a flock of heirloom chickens just yet, but you
I went to a talk of seed processing given by Matt Barthel, the garden
manager. They've got a monster that can remove the seeds from a truckload
of tomatoes as fast as two people can dump them in the chute. Now,
my kind of power tool! Again, a good exchange of ideas and tricks
I can use: seeds tied up in a sock in a clothes dryer (air fluff only)?
Garlic talk with Joel Grading and John Swanson. I thought I knew something
about garlic... and like everybody there, no "ivory tower" junk... you can
just walk up and ask questions. Boy, did I!
Now, about that campsite: I got there early Friday afternoon and pitched
tent on "my" spot, which is a couple of feet higher than the rest, then
drive my Subaru across the dry streambed and parked in a lot on the other
side. I thought the thunderstorm Friday night was impressive. It wasn't.
Six tenths of an inch of rain, and nothing in the streambed to ford the
next morning. Weather fine over the weekend, and a bit cloudier and cooler
than predicted. A few of us stayed over Sunday night to shoot the breeze,
wander around Heritage Farm, and get a planned early start Monday morning.
Matt suggested the folks with the camper move it across the stream, since
they were predicting thundershowers that night.
Well, boys and girls, we got a thunderstorm of biblical proportions!
Continuous lightning that made strobe effects like a Grateful Dead concert,
and rain that did me the favor of finding out what parts of the tent needed
a fresh coat of sealer. At dawn's early light, I wondered why I couldn't
hear any rain hitting the tent, but still heard a continuous roar of water.
Yep, that little dry creek bed was now a torrent perhaps 20 feet wide and
eight feet deep with enough flow to carry off a good-sized pickup truck.
The neat thing was a waterfall coming right out of the limestone cliff that
backs up to the meadow; a spring brought to life by the four inches of rain
that fell between midnight and 4 AM. Another camper who had her 4X4 on the
"wrong" side offered to ferry me across when the stream subsided, and we
spent the morning waving to SSE Staff people on the other side who said,
"Yep, sometimes that stream will do that!" At 1PM, the water had slowed
and dropped enough that we made it across.
Would I do it again?
Are you a turtle?
Pictures to follow in a couple-three days; I'll post a link.
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at home.earthlink.net/~garygarlic
Zone 5/6 in upstate New York, 1420' elevation. NY WO G