The Mighty Mighty Seed

homestead story

I get to live in green. When I drive home, I pass farms and oak groves. I wake up to a forest floating on an emerald green understory that will become ignited at sunset when the orange tipped leaves of the native Pajaro manzanita turn into a million dancing candles.
I think living in green changes who I am. I behave differently because I’m swaddled in that blanket. I see you differently because of the greenness of my world. I think I might even see more of who you are.

Its not hard to understand the power of seeds where I live. Everything that is green here comes from seeds. Our trees, grasses, flowers, vegetables etc etc etc etc – all of it. Our animal life depends on seeds as well. All the birds and mammals are either eating seeds, plants that grow from seeds, bugs that eat plants and seeds, or other mammals that eat seeds, plants, and bugs. No seeds = no life.
The seed is one of the most extraordinary expressions of the magnificence of life. These tiny gifts are bundled for global travel, in the belly of birds, the pockets of adventures or the currents of the waters of the world. Infinitely unique, every evolving, life has been using them as a means of perpetuation for 350+ million years. The oldest seed known to still germinate was 2,000 years old (read more here). Any human community has survived and thrived only in as much as it managed to work well within the fabric of seeds that adorns our planet.
Seeds are stored potential. Their precise form and content records, transmits and provides initial nourishment for a new generation of life. They are perfect in expressing only that which is essential for life to continue to unfold. If we were able to design a battery as easy to produce and fill with potential energy, efficient, durable and compostable as a seed, we would solve all the worlds energy problems. If we were able make a battery that was even 10% as effective as the seed we would probably still solve all the worlds energy problems. Many of them taste really good too. Wow!
The symphony of seeds fills our lives with harvests, the bread on our table, livestock, beauty and even the air we breath. Its no surprise we’ve made contributions to the song over the centuries through breeding plants. I think you could make a good argument that civilization began when we started to learn how to cultivate new plant hybrids that still produced seeds. Seeds = civilization.
In cultivating new varieties and trading them, we’ve become agents working for seeds. As Michael Pollan so eloquently detailed in his book “The Botany of Desire: A Plants-Eye View of the World”, human kind has done much to excite and extend the power of seeds in our world. Its not always easy to create a hybrid that will reseed itself correctly and that can survive the competition of the natural world. It seems our honest failures are quickly forgotten.
Today the rich tradition of seeds as the fabric of life on the planet is threatened by genetically modified hybrids. Combining non-plant genetic material in test farms that stretch for thousands of acres introduces a new participant, one that can ignore the usual rules of evolution. These new Frankenseeds don’t serve the will of life, so much as the desire to produce massive volumes of food. They are in effect, hateful gossip in what was otherwise a delightful, inventive conversation stretching back for millions of years.
They have already joined the global conversation, transforming private heirloom seed crops into fertile grounds for spreading their new language. This shouldn’t be surprising – we are an industrializing people. We have to touch and test everything until we burn our fingers badly enough.
We can fight this, we will fight this, but more importantly, we can increase our celebration of the mighty mighty seed in all its free glory. Seeds do not belong to me or you, they belong to the Earth herself. She wants us to save them, to share them, to preserve them, to love them, and most of all to celebrate them. Nothing can defeat a genuine appreciation of this wondrous gift life has give us all. Spread a few today. Remember the green of the world, the wine in your glass and all of the food on your table comes from them. Tonight I’m lovin’ the mighty mighty seed.

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