Ever circle a toy in a catalog with a marker and imagine your future self loving and enjoying it? I imagine a lot of kids have done something like that. Of course, these days they probably just make Amazon wishlists or send out URLs of their favorite things prior to the holidays.
Here I'll file for the "weird kid on the block" title once again. For most of my life, the end of January has always created great anticipation of the season of seed catalogs.
Marker in hand, I'd circle pages and pages of tomato seeds, lettuce seeds, peapod packs, squashes, sunflowers and mystery flower envelopes. I'd puzzle over whether bicolor, yellow or Indian corn would look better growing up along our garage wall. I'd ponder their packs of live ladybugs and mantises. I'd grid the garden and feed the compost pit with starry-eyed anticipation.
I wonder now if seeds helped those ancient generations of pioneers survive cold northern winters prior to the age of reliable heat, merino wool and internet access. I imagine them looking at their seeds, dreaming about their summer gardens and filling up with hope, even during long months passed with nothing more than grandma's root vegetables and one unending game of gin rummy.
I know some of my darkest, dankest, most hopeless days of winter were annually made colorful and vivacious with pages of plantable potential. After all, hope is really what seed catalogs are all about.
Tragically, my Brooklyn apartment does not come equipped with a garden, and my Januaries tick-tick-tick along without those life-restoring seed catalogs.
Beginning of the CSA summer season
But lo! There's still joyful options for sad, cold city dwellers lacking access to both personal and community gardens. For me, hope arrives now in the form of my CSA, which I'm happy to report, I signed up for this very evening.
For any who don't know, a CSA is a community supported agriculture group, which essentially works like buying stock in a farm at the beginning of the growing season. CSA members (the investors) pony up some cash and determine their terms. The farmers return dividends over the course of the season in veggies and also sometimes (if the farmer/s have relationships with other nearby farms) fruit, farm-fresh eggs or meat and flowers.
Like the stock market, the vegetable market is variable and returns are not guaranteed. Sometimes there's nothing but lettuce. Sometimes the lettuce gets washed away and it's all kale and kohlrabi. It helps to have a good attitude about adventurous eating before joining a CSA.
Different CSAs are run differently, of course, but as half-share member of the amazingly well-organized Greenpoint-Williamsburg CSA for this season, I'll pick up my goodies once every other week from mid-June through mid-November at the appointed location and I'll volunteer for a distribution shift at some point during the season.
There's also the option of going on a field trip to the farm that's supplying my veggies, and there's apparently some other social occasions (Kohlrabi fest?) during the year.
Close of the CSA summer season
No, I won't be paging through seed catalogs this year, and I won't be plotting out my garden patch. I won't be puzzling over how to keep my beneficial insects from flying over into the neighbor's garden instead of eating the fat little aphids in my garden.
Chris and Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht will be doing all that. But I'm still supporting a sustainable, certified organic business and enjoying very competitively priced local fruit and veggies picked fresh off the farm. I'll pick up 12 nifty shipments filled up with color and flavor and life. And actually, I get nearly the same happy tingle of late-January hope just thinking about that.