ProfessorRoush hasn't read his way completely through a gardening-themed book all winter. I've picked around at several, picking them up for a few pages and putting them back down, but none of them grabbed my attention. Until recently, that is.
The winner of this year's ProfessorRoush Winter Gardening Reading award goes to Ms. Diane Ott Whealy, for her portrayal of herself and her family in Gathering; Memoir of a Seed Saver. Those who don't recognize the author may be more familiar with her as the founding "mother" of the Seed Savers Exchange and the wife of Kent Whealy, the founding "father" of the movement.
Gathering is a memoir that I didn't want to put down once I got hooked. Part biography of the Whealy family, part history of the formation and growth of the Seed Savers Exchange, it chronicles the farm and lifestyle that became the forefront of current efforts in heirloom seed preservation. The early nomadic lifestyle of the Whealy's as narrated in the first few chapters made me a little worried that I was really going to enjoy it. Diane spent some time early on talking about the 1970's and '80's, and this is the first time I've read a book that talks about events in my lifetime that make the 1970's sound like they were ancient history. That realization can be quite a blow to an old gardener. But things took a turn around the time of their move to Missouri and the founding of the Seed Savers Exchange, and then got exciting during the purchase of Heritage Farm. About this time in the text, recipes and descriptions of heirloom vegetables and apples started to fill the pages and it all took life before my eyes. In past years, I've ordered some of the very varieties from Seed Savers that Ms. Whealy describes, and her stories of saving those heirlooms bring their tastes right back to my palate. If you want to try some of those varieties yourself, the new digital catalog of the Seed Savers Exchange is here.
Gathering was published in 2011 and I'm not sure how I missed it until I found it last month on the shelves of the local Half Price Books as a used copy. During my own pre-gardening years and before Seed Savers were a household name, I probably drove past Heritage Farm scores of times as I traveled around the Midwest, but now I've got to schedule a special trip to visit. Anyway, if you're ready for a story of hard work, perseverance through difficulties, acceptance of life's twists and turns, and single-minded pursuit of a dream, then pick up Gathering and it will surely keep you reading. The good recipes you'll find along the way are just icing on the 'Moon and Stars' watermelon.