Saturday, December 25, 2010

Better than Christmas - 2011 Fedco Seed Catalog

I picked up my Christmas turkey at the Lebanon Food Co-op on Wednesday. I must say that I felt a little smug about planning ahead and pre-ordering my turkey, as the woman next to me at the meat counter asked "Do you have any turkeys left?" and was told no. Then, I realized that she was just being opportunistic - as in, "oh, maybe I'll pick up a turkey just for fun..." That sort of took the wind out of my smug sails... but I was secretly glad that I wouldn't have to hustle my turkey out of the store with a wild woman chasing me down in the parking lot. I realize that this story doesn't have anything to do with gardening, but thought a little holiday anecdote would be apropos.

More exciting than the turkey - which is pretty exciting because we honey-brined and smoked it - is the 2011 Fedco seed catalog that I picked up at the Co-op!! The Co-op does a bulk order for its members, and this year, the deadline is January 16th, up a few weeks from last year. So, I need to get planning for next year's garden now.

The Fedco catalog is great because they have an enormous variety of vegetables and flower seeds (including plants used for dyeing like indigo - how cool is that?!) This is not a pretty color pictures catalog - it's black and white on newsprint - but the descriptions are just awesome. The layout is a throwback to the old Sears and Roebuck catalog, where you try to fit as many goods on the page as possible. How many catalogs come in a size 8 font size with line drawing illustrations any more?

I'm not completely consumed by perusing seed catalogs in winter. I just do the Fedco catalog because I have a tiny garden and Co-op members get a discount. But I do have hours of entertainment reading through the Fedco catalog, and circling everything that strikes my fancy. Then I cull that list harshly to what is actually practical to grow in my garden. I will probably not be growing any indigo this year... and probably only one variety of sunflower, not five. I can already see myself opening the paper seed packets and starting them next to the chimney on the second floor in March...

I have been really pleased with the Fedco seeds I bought last year and I'm looking to expand some of the species that I'm growing this year. They are continuously expanding their selection of organic seeds, which is a plus. Fedco is based in Waterville, Maine, so I like to think that plants that do well in Maine should also do well in New Hampshire. I haven't tested this hypothesis rigorously, but it does follow common sense. Fedco is online - so if you don't happen to have your own copy sitting on your coffee table, you can see what I'm talking about.

I'll post again soon with my picks for the 2011 garden! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter Sunshine

The weather forecast had predicted snow for this weekend, but it turned out to be largely a beautiful sunny weekend. Cold - it was 56 in the kitchen at noon today and stayed below freezing outside all weekend - but still partly to mostly sunny! Wonderful!

While New Hampshire is a far sunnier location in winter than other places I have lived (Ohio, Syracuse, Oregon, the Czech Republic), it can sort of drag you down when it gets dark out at 4:30 in the afternoon. It becomes extremely enticing to go to bed early and cocoon yourself with blankets on the couch.

It's this time of year when I become immensely grateful for summer. Grateful for summer in December - huh? Because of the vegetable garden, I can conjure up the colors and tastes of summer even when it's cold and dark outside. As I have written before, it was a prolific year for squash, and I can take a walk to the pantry in the garage, pull out a butternut squash from the squash basket, roast it in the oven, scoop out of the inside and puree it - and voila, instant winter sunshine!

Besides its lovely cheery color, butternut squash is high in vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. This squash was exceptional - so sweet and creamy - that Adam didn't even have to add maple syrup or butter, our standard squash flavorings. (Also good are sage, browned butter, blue cheese, or brown sugar.) I took some more puree for lunch and then need to turn the rest into creamy butternut squash soup.