Seeds of Life

Seeds of Life

Grandpa Watts on the farm in Minnesota, 1940s

Our pioneer ancestors depended on seeds to survive and earn a living. For my farmer grandfather, and many generations of farmer ancestors before him, seeds were central to their survival. Without seeds, there would be no crops, no income, no food, no livestock, no future as a farmer.  

My great-great-grandparents, John and Anna Slechta, 1879. Both immigrated from Bohemia, Czechoslovakia and met and married in Iowa when Anna was 16. John immigrated in 1868 at age 17 and homesteaded with his brother. The 1880 census shows him as a farmer. His obituary states that he was a “prosperous farmer – the owner of about 250 acres of land.”

Today, the average “Modern Pioneer” isn’t dependent on seeds for survival. For me, gardening – especially starting plants from seed – promotes a life closer to the earth. And when I plant those seeds, I can’t help but feel close to my ancestors … many of whom were farmers.

Seeds were once a rare commodity. American pio- neers searching for a new home in a new frontier gener- ally only had the seeds they might have taken with them on their long, treacherous journey … or the seeds they were able to purchase from neighbors when they arrived at the new homestead. The closest general store may have been too far away or too cost-prohibitive.

From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s By the Shores of Silver Lake:

“Ma and Mrs. Boast talked mostly about the homesteads. Mrs. Boast had seeds enough for two gardens; she said she would divide with Ma, so Ma need not worry about seeds. When the town was built, there might be seeds in town to sell, but there might not. So Mrs. Boast had brought plenty from the gardens of her friends in Iowa.”

Seeds bring life and help keep us alive. There are parables about seeds throughout the Bible and other ancient legends and texts.

Do I focus on these deep thoughts when I’m standing in front of the vast variety of seed packets available for a dollar or two at Home Depot or choosing non-GMO seeds to order online? Not really.

But by the time I get the seeds home and start the process of planting, I’m definitely tapped in to the cord that connects me to my pioneer ancestors, my farming grandparents.

With our crazy growing season and seriously hot sun here in the Sunshine State, my seeds sometimes don’t even make it out of the soil. Or the plants grow for a while but don’t produce … and then shrivel up in the heat. (Like my pole beans and squash this year.)

But you know what? That has little bearing on how I feel about the process of gardening. Regardless of the harvest, the simple act of having my hands in the soil is connecting me to generations of people … across the U.S. and the world … who have participated in that same act of living close to the land.

For the beauty of the Earth, indeed!!

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