January is sun season, and it's also seed season. My skill at seed starting has been spotty at best, mostly because I resist instructions and gadgets. Everyone says pepper seeds need heating pads, and after several years of thinking this didn't apply to me, I finally invested in one. The peppers grew beautifully.
This winter, I was introduced to Akira Miyawaki's work, and seeds have been on my mind ever since. I planted bur acorns in pots, but the squirrels got to them; my plans for growing an oak forest are deferred. Some of the compass plants in the prairie still have seeds, though, and they live almost as long as oaks. I brought some home, scattered a portion on the soil, refrigerated others in a wet coffee filter, and put the rest in a milk jug outside with potting soil. We'll see what happens. The invitation of seeds is to be curious and playful: a seed is free and a seed is unique, just like the rest of us.
The other seeds I'm giving a similar treatment are ones I bought: shooting stars and euphorbia, and some river oats for my parent's hillside. The milk jug trick has never worked for me with natives, but I'm trying again anyway. Like Pessoa says, in all the world, everything is worthwhile. The shooting stars seem especially unlikely to amount to anything- they're slow growers that take several years to flower. But why not try? I've never seen a baby shooting star.
It's been a cold start to the year without much good snow to play in; my focus has been indoors. The fires have been warm, the work has been interesting, and I learned to roast potatoes in the wood stove. For a while now, some seeds have been sitting on my dresser that I meant to snow-sow where the juniper had been- every day's had a reason to hold off until tomorrow. I finally got out to scatter them this morning. It was cold and very bright, and once I started winter garden work, I found myself re-engaged with my frozen yard and ready to do a hundred other little things.
I used the word "work" about the winter garden, but of course, the interesting thing about the garden in January is that it is has nothing to do with work. It's mostly about observation and enjoying sun as the days get longer. I wandered around looking at the shapes of things and contemplating different ways to prune my fruit trees. The opal plum I planted two years ago has little spurs, now, but the schoolhouse plum next to it looks youthful and uninterested in flowering.
Winter gives the impression of sameness, but there is always a surprise behind one door or another. There were deer tracks in our yard (we rarely get deer) and when I pruned some branches off the hemlock, I found the rings inside beautiful- rosy and dark. There's a new path, now, from the backdoor to the sidewalk. The hemlock above it has thousand of little cones cones, too small to call attention from a distance.
There's no snow, but the ground is cold and hard. I covered the parsley and chicories with leaves to protect them from the cold, and I forget about them. Or if I do remember, it’s after dark, when I can’t be bothered to dig through frozen leaves for a handful of greens. Otherwise, leaves work well. I’ve tried hoops and row cover, but it’s easy to be sloppy putting them up. The second heavy snow usually collapses mine, and I hate trying to keep the row cover from tearing, rolling it up neatly, finding a place to store it. In gardens, like in everything, it’s best to work with your nature.