And why we should share them.
Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them I am a beekeeper, 90% of the time I get one of three responses:
- “ A bookkeeper? Cool.” And then a quick change of the subject.
- “How many times have you been stung?” or “Wow-have you ever been stung?”
- “Hmm..so, is that, like, what your family does?”
No, I am not a legacy beekeeper. My grandad was a cotton farmer, and I did grow up in and around a lot of families in agriculture, but to my knowledge, there is no family history in beekeeping. Many of you already know my story: Girl grows up in a town, population 430. Ends up at Duke University, somehow. Pulls a fast one at a career fair and ends up at the Central Intelligence Agency. While splitting time between Afghanistan, Austin, and Washington, DC, takes a beekeeping class back in Austin and very irresponsibly quits her job to start a honey company. The End.
The “Before” Times
Because I am not a legacy beekeeper and I came to this profession as an adult after a whole other career, I am still close enough to the beginning to remember the ‘before’ times. And during the ‘before’ times, I knew very little about insects, plants, or the ecology in general.
After I took my first beekeeping class (and consequently became obsessed with bees), it makes sense that I became obsessed with plants and their importance to honey bees. I started my first garden on my front porch. I started noticing what bloomed and when. I became obsessed with wanting to know the names of all the wildflowers growing alongside the highways in Central Texas. And this is when I remember hearing the phrase ‘seed saving’ for the very first time.
It’s really funny to think back to it now, but at the time I hadn’t quite made the connection of the purpose of a flower to the reproduction of a plant. (By the way, if you are reading this now and also haven’t had the fortune to understand this connection, DO NOT FEEL BAD. A mere 10 years ago, I was no doubt way more clueless than you.) My mind was BLOWN to realize that a plant produced a flower, and then when that flower ‘died’, it is actually the process of the plant producing dozens, if not hundreds, of seeds to create more plants. That dead flower was just…seeds? Free seeds? Free seeds I could plant to make more plants??
The only thing I loved more than bees was free stuff, so I dove in head first to try to understand this notion of seed saving. I sought out classes on seed saving. Read blogs. Watched videos. It clearly was a super complicated process and I had to understand how to find said seeds. How and when to pick. And of course, the ever important storage.
The Opposite of Instant Gratification
Somewhere along the way my need to overanalyze and overcomplicate everythings melted away and I realized…..seed saving is not hard. In fact, seed saving may just be the easiest part about gardening. (Full disclosure: I am not a great gardener, but I am getting slightly better.) Seed saving can be as simple as stumbling across a plant that has gone to seed, pulling the dead flower head off, shaking or pulling the seeds into a brown paper bag, labeling and storing in your pantry. (Yes, some varieties of seeds may require a bit more, or perhaps refrigeration, but truly for many of our annual wildflowers, it is truly this easy.)
And once you have seeds saved, the real fun comes in the seed swap. There are entire regional Facebook groups dedicated to swapping seeds. Being able to share seeds with another is sharing new life, beauty, and a wonder and love of plants. I love walking the Honey Ranch with visitors and sharing my favorite pollinator friendly plants, then sending them home with seeds so they can create the magic in their own yard. And I really really love getting to learn from so many of you eager to share your own incredible wealth of knowledge of so many plants.
Most of what stimulates us every day is defined by instant gratification: a silly meme, a funny tiktok video. A half hour TV show. Thanks to Netflix and the ability to binge, we no longer even have to wait months to find out what happens to our favorite TV characters. We can find out the start, middle, and ending all in one day.
The ultimate outcome of saving and sharing seeds is the opposite of instant gratification: it’s an experience that is long and full of anticipation. Many months long. But for me, when I first see the tiny sprouts of new growth from a seed I have planted, I get just as excited today as I did with the tiny little basil plants I saw poking through top soil in my first garden so many years ago. It’s the ultimate experience in storytelling, from the person that shared the seeds with you, their history, how they grew the seeds and their relationship to the plants created by those seeds, all the way through your own story: where you chose to plant the seeds, how long you had to wait before they germinated, the emotions you felt while watching the plant grow, flower, and ultimately create more seeds. And the story continues when you share these seeds and this story with someone new.
And this is where the need for a seed swap comes in.
Seed swaps are just that, a place to share the seeds and the stories of those seeds. I’ve wanted to host one for so long. I’m excited to report that on September 23, we are hosting our first seed swap with the help of Central Texas Seed Savers!
Click here to register for our first ever seed swap! The event is free, but to manage limited space you will be charged $10 to register, but upon arrival we will give you a $10 credit to use at the Honey Bar. SEEDS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE! If you’re new to the seed game please still register.. we will be honored to help you get your seed start! I am excited to share the stories of my own seeds with you.