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High Mowing Organic Seeds
High Mowing Organic Seeds High Mowing Organic Seeds

Getting Seed Up to Speed!  - Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith Ph.D

Some is prickly, some is smooth, either oval or fully round. Some is papery thin and fragile, some is hard and tough. Some is so small you’d think it dust you just swept up
from under the rug. Some is so dusty it mostly IS the dust you would sweep up from under the rug. Much of it is brown. But some is pure creamy white. Some is glossy jet
black. Some is buff-colored, mustard-yellow, various shades of green, or, if you happen to be a dry bean, nearly any earthy color you can imagine. This is seed, of course.

And if you happen to be one of those odd folks who really just like seed – like the look, the feel, the sounds of it – like the oddity of the shapes and the colors and the many
textures. If you like taking a handful in your palm and studying it – attempting to assess that elusive aspect we call “quality” – a measure of the maturity and the purity of
the seed – this is your season.

Cleaning SeedsAnd believe me it is not for everyone. It may sound like a party, but it is actually a very dusty and very finicky job. A job that takes a whole lot of patience and a whole lot of making expensive judgment calls – because  you never clean out just the bad things, you always take a cut of good stuff at the same time. So you are constantly weighing fractions of seed mixed with not-seed (or weed seed) - deciding how much is too much - trying to get it as clean as you possibly can and simultaneously trying not to throw away more than you possibly need to. And constantly thinking of how much each ounce is worth – and how much you are proposing to throw in the compost. So no, not a job for the squeamish.  But, if you happen to be one of those nut-cases who like it anyhow, you’re in your element right now. Because now is the time when the artistry of it all
starts to come in.

By this time we have cleaned all the easy seed. The “easy” seed typically starts with the larger seed – your corn, beans, peas, squashes, etc. These are so big and heavy that it is usually easy to blow away all the lighter weed seed and chaff. And then you just have to deal with separating out the rocks. Hopefully not too many. And then there are the medium-hard clean-up jobs – the pepper and tomato seeds of the world, the round brassica seeds, the other various mid-size seeds that can usually be cleaned up with a few passes through shakers and blowers and multiple screens. 

And then you get to the artisan seed… the stuff that will make you a nut-case if you did not already start out that way. This is usually the very smallest seed. Much of it more finicky in the first place than larger seed, requiring either time or temperature shifts to let it break dormancy. And then it is usually mixed with other small seed, or chaff, all of which must be separated out, and, as you can imagine, small seeds do not separate cleanly away from one another in simple ways. We do much shaking and blowing. And then we employ our most exquisite tool – the gravity table. “The table” shakes and blows all at once in just such a way that it can separate away seeds that are identical in every way, except for weight – i.e. density – which is a measure of how much life is left in a seed. A heavy seed has new life in it – an embryo and food for that embryo – while a light seed is empty of life - has either metabolized away its stored food or else never acquired it in the first place –i.e. never “matured” on the plant.

And so that is where we are at folks. Trying to work our magic on the lots that have yet eluded us. The lots that required time in the freezer, and then took several cleanings before they passed their germ test. Or the ones that have yet to pass their germ test and we have to make hard decisions about how much more to try to keep cleaning them – or whether to cut losses and stop working on them. There are always the losses. And then the heartbreaks, the seeds that we really really wanted – the ones we have been working on for years – selecting and tasting and trying to grow seed of - but that did not quite mature in the field. Or that remain dormant for mysterious reasons.

And of course, there are the great joys of the season – the nice big crops of nice plump seeds that will continue to make new food for many years to come. We win some and
we lose some. It is seed cleaning season!

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76 Quarry Road :: Wolcott, VT 05680 :: toll free: 866-735-4454 :: fax: 802-472-3201
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