Friday, December 21, 2007

Planting Is Just Around the Corner, Past The Worm Poop

Okay, remember a while back when I was in my manic steroid half blind craziness in the middle of chemo and radiation when I talked about counting the seeds on a cilantro plant (coriander seeds, cilantro plant, I'm not sure why the difference in name)? I promised that after I finished counting, I would let you know my results.

I finished counting a couple of months ago, after the worst of the fuzzy chemo brain was gone and after the eye drops helped me to realize that I wasn't going to lose my eyesight from the chemicals in my veins. (Again, minor memory markers--see post from a few minutes ago.)

Why, you ask, do I bring this up when the ground is white with snow and my greenhouse is (once again) missing several panels due to strong winds sneaking in and blowing them outward. Well, it is almost January. It is almost time to think about next year's garden as I look at the brandywine tomato plant that I valiantly tried to grow inside during the winter months in a pot and promptly killed due to lack of light and irregular watering. I think of seeds as I look at the baby pepper and tomato plants that are about 9" tall in the pots of adult decorative plants in my bay window. I re-potted them this summer, using what I thought was finished worm compost, with everything pre-digested and ungrowable thanks to the legions of worms in my office. Really, what I thought was simply rich, fertile worm poop in a pot must have been hiding a few small, unseen seeds underneath. I think I may re-pot these brave upstarts to see if I can keep from leading them down the stray path of that poor dead brandywine.

Another reason why I bring this up is that I am sick of the large plastic lid from a cottage cheese container taking up space on my coffee table. Evidently, in my seed-counting compulsive mania, I didn't have paper and a pen handy. But I did have a plastic lid and a Sharpie on hand. I think I actually picked the lid so I could count out seeds one by one without them flying all over the house.

That did work, to an extent. I still lost a lot. Under the loveseat. In my lap. Sprinkled throughout the living room, to find a home in the vacuum cleaner thanks to Deb being so great about cleaning the house when I was unable to help in any way.

I promised you a total, and here it is: 2,439 seeds. That is not the total total. That is only the total that I was able to count. That number does not include those flung throughout the house, or the even greater number that fell off the plant in the garden itself before I yanked the plant, then a whole mess of them that fell in the process of the yanking. I figured, using a calculator, that that one volunteer cilantro plant started out with approximately 3,658.5 seeds on the fine, lacy branches of the once leafy parsley-like plant. I'm not sure how I got that number. I think I figured that I lost about 1/3 of the seeds. Math has never been my strong suit, especially with Cisplatin clouding my brain at the time of the figuring.

Now, the question (or uestion, when my Q key is not working) is, what in the world will I do with 2,439 coriander seeds? Even with accounting for ones that may not germinate, (isn't there a bible story about mustard seed not growing on rocks, but only in fertile soil? This train of thought brings me there.) I still have the potential to grow around 2,000 little cilantro plants. That's a lot of salsa.

I can freeze some of the herb, but 2000 plants will take up an awful lot of my limited raised-bed garden space. Where will I find room for my tomatoes? Even if I plant everything way too close as I have a tendency to do?

Last summer, I ended up letting about 100 little tomato plants die because I planted so many that I had no more room in the garden for them despite cramming them only about 13 inches apart instead of the requisite 24 inches. I gave away as many of the seedlings as I could (considering that I planted the seeds several weeks late and by the time the seedlings were ready to go into the ground, most people had already bought their tomatoes. They had no idea what delicious delights they missed out on). I don't want to make that same mistake again this year with cilantro, or tomatoes. The one UNrescued brandywine was the biggest, strongest of these neglected seedlings that still had the gumption to grow in tiny starter pots in October.

Sometimes it is hard for me to let go of things. Even one small seed or one weak seedling. I even take about 10 times longer to harvest my worm castings than I need to because I carefully sift through the dirt-like poop and carefully, lovingly pick out each worm cocoon that I find. (In this tiny lemon-shaped pouch 5-10 baby worms wait patiently for the right moment to crawl free. How can I sacrifice them to speed and convenience? Evidently I can save them, but pass over the undigested tomato and pepper seeds and leave them to sprout uninvited in the pot reserved for some green plant left from my mom's or Deb's mom's funeral 7 and 8 years ago respectively.) Every time I harvest that free, beautiful loamy fertilizer, I swear that I am going to be quicker. I swear that I will sacrifice some of those baby worms in order to be more efficient with time and with the completeness of my poop harvest.

It's that time again. It's that time to make that promise to betray those baby worms in order to remove the excrement to keep the living environment safer for the other worms. Can I do it this time? I haven't done much with them since my surgery since bending over hurt so much and the bins are heavy with castings. I couldn't pick up over 10 pounds until 2 weeks ago. They are both so full that they are over 10 pounds worth of poop. I want the casings to have time to dry out a bit before I mix them carefully with seed starting stuff to begin again the cycle of over-planting my garden.

I'm such a bad worm mama. Deb has been keeping an eye on them and she is not even the one dedicated to having them in the house. (For the first 2 years, she wouldn't let me bring them very far into the house. They made it into the entry way, out of the heat and cold extremes, but remained lonely, relegated to the entry way. Now they are lonely because I am a neglectful mama. Yes, I know that I am anthropomorphizing (I'm glad I have spell-check) their little slimy feelings. Can't help it. I sing to my tomatoes too.)

I'm going to sign off now, maybe harvesting a few worm turds before climbing back into bed to try to get some sleep before working tonight.

In case I don't get around to the laptop again, I hope your Christmas and Solstice are awesome. I hope the Chanukah man was good to you as well. Did I forget to mention that St. Nicholas brought me the Old Farmers' Almanac in my stocking? Hmmmmm time to think about planting again? Gotta finish putting the 2007 garden to bed. Gotta plan out our beds better so we are not over buying plants and underutilizing seedlings. Gotta harvest worm poop, pet the cat, wash the dogs, laugh, love, learn.

PS.... the picture at the top is part of this summer's garden. The cilantro was in the next bed over. The greenhouse wasn't covered in snow yet. The plants hadn't become "Jurassic" yet from playing in the horse poop and topsoil. The dog wasn't yet stealing carrots. (Did I mention that anytime in the last few posts? another story from a crazy yellow dog.)


  1. Hey, I need some coriander seeds. The black raspberries crowded mine out.


  2. Gee, I think I can spare a few. We are looking at seed catalogs these days, want to coordinate and share seedlings? I'll try not to burn them up this year.

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