“You save your own seed?” said my cousin Bev, who’s recently discovered the joys of home vegetable gardening and has informed her husband that they’re eventually going to be keeping chickens. “Will you save something right now and show me how?”

I looked, I’m sure, dubious. Bev and her family came to stay with us for a week, and while I knew she wouldn’t blame me for having a jungle instead of a garden, since she’s had a six-week-old herself, I wasn’t sure there was anything out there I could really show her without scaring her off of gardening for life. However, the gardening bug has bit her hard, and I did have a few things out there. “Do you like parsnips?” I said, deciding.

“Yes.”

“Then we’ll go collect some parsnip seeds for you.”

We walked out to the backyard. “Tell me about all the food plants you have,” Bev said, so we talked about my bank of raspberries, about the garlic patch and the carrots and the tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and dill. I showed her the parsnip plants (all quite brown now, and full of seeds though I’ve been snipping them off for a few different people now) and described how to save the seed–plant them one year, let them winter over and grow, cut the seeds when dry. I told her about online seed trading and winnowing. We looked at my poor tomato plants with tomatoes rotting on the vine, at the green beans that sorely need picking. “Weeds or no, your garden is so productive compared to mine!” she said.

Considering this has been a lousy year for produce, I was pleased, and a bit startled. I’ll be sharing my seeds with her this winter (especially since I hope not to be around to harvest next year’s garden and so won’t be devoting a huge amount of energy to it), and I’m looking forward to hearing more about her plans to reclaim her husband’s rose bed for vegetables next year. Maybe by the time I move out to the West Coast, where they live, she’ll be able to share seeds with me.

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