Seed catalogues

There was a time in my life when I longingly awaited the seed catalogues to arrive at my door. By the time it was seed planting time, I would have any and all that showed up dog-eared on the corners from flipping through them again and again. Many of the pages would have folded corners marking the spot on what I may have decided was right for our garden. Not so today.

What I do now, being back in the rural route world, is pick what I know we can grow at home without having to shop. What goes around comes around, and the economics of today, cutbacks, down-sizing, recession, depression, spell them what way you may, are right back in the circle of barter and trade that my parents felt comfort in while raising their family during the “no money” years of the Great Depression.

Raspberries, both black and double-crop red, strawberries, both early-and late-bearing, rhubarb, asparagus, garlic, and the Egyptian green onions are all winter-hardy perennials that can be contentedly gorged upon, when in season, and can overflow your freezer and fruit cellar as well. They are simply labour-saving, not needing replanting each year, nor is there need to worry about late frost wiping your crops out completely.

Yes, I know what you are thinking – they have to be weeded, and weeding is hard and backbreaking. Well, right now, I’m in the mood to break your bubble. Weeding is not hard if the timing is right and not backbreaking if the right tools are used, and it will replace your high-cost trips to the gym to exercise.

Weeding should be done at intervals when the weeds are still small, not more than two to three inches high. And the tool I use is either a well-sharpened hoe or one of those three-pronged gizmos with a four-foot handle. Both are long enough to reach weeds without bending your back or stepping into the row, and handy to lean on if you should hanker to gawk around  to see what your neighbour is doing.

The three-pronged tool is also handy for throwing a potato-sized stone into the nearby wheelbarrow and can reason well with a ripe, high-up, ready-to-eat apple. The weeds need not be gathered – they have not yet set seed and will wilt in the sun and recycle with the first rains when hungry happy worms churn them back into the soil.

I get uptight when I slouch through the food markets and see the number of products imported. Most can be grown in your own kitchen garden, under healthy conditions that you know are controlled. There is nothing wrong with cucumbers rambling along your fence, a clump of rhubarb, a cluster of asparagus, or a couple of tomato plants in your flower border – their leaf texture adds beauty. If we wake to reality and start growing and buying locally grown healthy foods, our OHIP costs could well drop by 50 per cent.

Thinking further, do the math – if 200 million North Americans refuse to buy just $20 worth of imported goods each, a billion-dollar trade imbalance could be resolved rapidly in our favour. If you think politicians and mass media are going to support this, think again. It is not going to happen.

My Dad always said, “Lead by example. Talk the talk. Walk the walk.” It is up to the one you see in the mirror each morning to bring back values to where they ought not to have left. It is easy for us to think we are victims, pointing fingers at them and they, but really it is just us. We have brought on the unhealthy situation we are in, and we’re going to have to create an environment to get us out

If you think Ottawa is going to wave a magic wand to do what it should, I’ll challenge you as a “bookie,” giving two-to-one odds, and you’ll be looking each week at the head shot of the next billionaire.

Take care, ’cause we care.



Barrie Hopkins