The joys of seed catalogs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2002

“Where have you been?&uot; I ask.

“I went shopping,&uot; replies my wife, The Queen B. She is visibly upset. &uot;I needed some groceries, so I went to Gomer’s Grocery Store in Hartland. I wanted to pick up a couple of vegetables and was looking for something organic. I don’t think I like the new produce guy there.&uot;

“Why?&uot; I ask.

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“Well, I couldn’t find the organic vegetables, so I asked the produce guy where they were. He didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about. So I said, ‘These vegetables are for my husband. Have they been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?’&uot;

“And what did the guy say?&uot;

“He said, ‘No, ma’am. You’ll have to do that yourself.’&uot;

Seed catalogs

They are evil, seductive things that fill my mailbox every winter. These creatures entice me to part with my hard-earned cash for the fantasies they offer. They are full of promises and present stunning photographs as proof. They want to lead me down the garden path. They promise me a rose garden. They are seed catalogs.

Seed catalogs plant flowers around my dreams. I love seed catalogs. Even if I planted no garden, I would glory in the pictures of the tasty tomatoes, the potent peppers and fragrant flowers they display. I look at a catalog and I can almost smell the soil as it smells after a gentle rain. I look at the vegetables and grow hungry. I have trouble thinking about anything other than a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. I want to plunk myself down right smack dab in the middle of a sugar snap pea patch and then eat my way out.

A seed catalog offers to keep me from becoming too civilized, too citified. The seed catalogs are so well edited that they even make weeding sound romantic. Winter always gives way to spring and it does so first with seed catalogs. The products therein look like toys in a little boy’s Christmas catalog to me. The photos show that Mother Nature does indeed smile in flowers. The only green thumb that I need to get the promised results is the one that helps pull the greenbacks out of my wallet. I turn the pages of the garden wishbooks. They show me that I can become an Ivy Leaguer by cultivating a wall of ivy. The photos and the accompanying descriptions make me want to plant flowers and watch over my phlox by night.

I was taught at an early age to plan my work and to work my plan &045; but garden plans have a tendency to go to seed. The plant models in the catalog look too good. The seed catalogs and their descriptions and promises even make weeding sound romantic. When the time comes, I rush to our friendly local plant provider and buy way too many plants. Therefore, I plant way too many plants.

Annuals, perennials and whatever you call those plants that die the minute they come into contact with the ground are planted. Oh, a perennial is a plant that would have come back year after year had it survived. First, I had to buy bags of soil because our dirt wasn’t good enough for the plants. Then I had to buy bags of manure to encourage the plants to grow well. Bags of manure? My father, a lifelong livestock farmer who raised many a cow and pig &045; and shoveled after them &045; must be spinning in his grave.

The wildflowers go wild. Mild-mannered, dainty little violets eat up property like a money-grubbing land baron gone mad. It rains when it shouldn’t and doesn’t rain when it should. I can’t decide whether to put in a pond or a desert. I am sure that I heard dandelions talking about me behind my back and I know the quackgrass is laughing at me. And crabgrass thinks it is crabby? My mulch pile begins to smell like cat poop. My faithful canine companion made a real bed out of my flowerbeds. Rush Limbaugh picketed my garden because I was raising bleeding hearts. The hostas my wife planted lurk in the shadows and I can’t prove it, but I think they mugged my money plant. I grow slimy okra, but I don’t know why. But I get the garden in. The plants grow well.

Everything is copacetic. I dream of plant delights. Then things begin to go horribly wrong. Other plants begin to appear; plants that I did not invite to my garden party. The invaders flourish while my plants suffer from the competition. I grew up on a farm. If it was not corn or a soybean, it was a weed. I realize that this is not true and that a weed is merely a flower growing in the wrong place. But I still don’t like weeds. Often, the weeds win the garden battle. They win with help of rabbits that make a self-serve salad bar out of a garden. The bunnies drive me to distraction. I begin to act like Elmer Fudd. I stand guard all night holding a shotgun. The rabbits still eat most of my garden. Most, but not all. I still have some pretty nice looking plants growing. Of course, they are all weeds. As I watch my weeds grow, I come up with a brilliant idea for growing a vegetable garden to beat all vegetable gardens. If the plants that do the best are the ones that you do not plant, next year, I’m going to save myself a lot of work next year and just plant weeds.


Millie Westland of Hayward is the kind of person that Purple Martins love. This year, Millie and her husband Dale, have 31 martin nests with 50 babies and 61 eggs.

Warren Wayne reports a Cedar Waxwing nest near his home. Other great bird reporters this week included Wendy Buffington, Warren Sorenson, Nancy Royce, Jean Wendel, Mark Blong, Jeff Renchin, Tiffany Severson, Annette Kaasa, Shelley Harves, Jim Gullickson, Ron Deike, Ruth Searle, Roberta Garten and Theresa Wright.

My thanks to all the folks of the Prime Time Club of the Associated Bank of Red Wing, the Sterling Silver Club of the Sterling Bank of Austin, Brown County Senior Citizens, the Emerald Club from United Bank of Lake City and Rockwell City and the residents of Lakeshore Nursing Home of Waseca for being such wonderful audiences for my stories.

My thanks to all those who accompanied me on field trips &045; SNAP, Head Start, Open Arms at Lakeview School, the members of the Mankato Bird Club and the Albert Lea Audubon Society, at the Hormel Nature Center, at the Blazing Star Trail, on the Pelican Breeze, at Sondergard Park, around Dane Bay, on Monkey Island and all around Waseca County.

&uot;I have discovered that all human evil comes from this: man’s being unable to sit still in a room.” &045; Blaise Pascal

&uot;Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” &045; Richard Bach