The Seed Saver's Exchange 2003 campout and convention, 7/18-20/2003.
First, this is an entirely subjective view from an entirely subjective guy.
Other folks may have attended an entirely different convention. You have
been warned. Up front: I have always (having attended two of these, I'm an
"old hand" now) found the "honored guests" to be very accessible, and
anyway, I think a large part of the benefit of these things is the "cross
pollination" effect between us commoners. You _may_
find a garlic bias
Decorah wasn't as hot as last year, which they tell me is unusual, so the
camping in a lovely meadow at the foot of a limestone cliff was wonderful,
though I can't understand why some folks pitch their tents right next to
the sani-john. There are several motels in Decorah itself, and a number of
folks stayed there. Wimps.
Lots of workshops on various topics. I went for the "demanding" walk
through the expanded
valley.... Heritage Farm was able to acquire an adjoining 700 acres, most
of which is completely free of buildings, power poles, cell phone towers,
etc. If you overlook the corn peeping over one ridge and the fence
confining the ancient White Cape cattle, it looks just like it did hundreds
of years ago. Walks through an ancient orchard and up the both sides of a
valley were beautiful as well as good aerobic exercise... I'll only admit
to falling on my keister twice (once helped by a fallen tree in the grass),
and point out that there were people even slower than me. Not many.
Well, one... Dan Busey, the apple grafting guy, is already trying out how
to map out that old orchard and figure out what the trees might be. In
some cases, he's found records of what was in such. The really big deal
about the expansion is that some seed production that now needs caging
plants can be done in isolation there.
William Woys Weaver was the keynote speaker, talking about his passion for
food history and how various plants figured into the various societies.
Wonderful stuff, and a list of things I absolutely have to try that give me
powerful incentive to take good care of myself. There's several lifetimes
of things to grow and try! Chatting later, he admitted that his garden in
Pennsylvania was rapidly turning into a jungle, and I made the obligatory
"So Martha Stewart isn't allowed?" comment. The reply, "Actually, she
wants to shoot a piece there..." Martha hasn't asked to cover _my_
even as a "what not to do" segment.
Great talk by Fred Schneider, U of ND Anthropology Professor on "Native
American gardening and the Oscar H. Will Seed Company." Much better than
it sounds, with lots of information on where our modern corn came from, and
more additions to the "must grow" list.
I've never been a melon enthusiast, but Amy Goldman pretty well convinced
me I should try. Hmm... maybe that "back 40" plot could grow some melons?
Deborah Madison talked about "The Joy of Making Big Connections," which
really came down to why what we do is so important in a day when a few big
companies clearly want to dominate the world seed and therefore food
supply. She's one of the contributors to "Slow Food." Something else to
read and digest, right after I till up some new plots!
John Swenson on garlic... held in the loft of a barn in which SSE's garlic
crop was hanging to cure... not a vampire for miles! I met John last
summer, so the urge to kiss his feet has subsided just a bit, but it's a
little daunting to hear "Oh, those wild garlics grow two feet deep in dry
stream beds in Russia; we had to settle for taking some topsets, because we
couldn't dig down to the main bulb." Tidbit of the day: The main
healthful ingredient in garlic, allicin, is made only when the bulb is
crushed or chopped, and is quite short-lived. None of the available pills
have a useful amount of it. If you really want to get with it, eat a raw
clove or two a day. If your friends object, get new friends.
I'll not spend too much time on Saturday night dinner which was excellent
or Sunday breakfast (off-premises) which was iffy, but I surely didn't grow
hungry, even though I should once in a while. The barn dance was a good
antidote, with live music of the country, swing, and what a friend once
called "gluebrass." (That's anything with a five-string and a mandolin). I
was in a lot more cheerful mood this year than last... time does indeed go
This is already longer than I intended, so I'll skip over a visit to
Spillville just down the road (Some musician spent a year there; finished
up a symphony a few folks have heard of), and the seed swap sessions which
I resisted (NOT!). Well worth the trip; when I get pictures up, I'll post
a much shorter message with the link.
Yours in bad breath,
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at www.albany.net/~gwoods
Zone 5/6 in upstate New York, 1200' elevation. NY WO G