The mature pumpkin with its naked seeds looks like this, ready to make into a delicious soup.
We investigated the process for breeding naked pumpkins from Patricia's seeds. The hopeful farmer identifies a number of about-to-open blossoms and tapes them shut on the evening before they will open.
Then, early the next morning, the farmer untapes the blossoms. She rubs the pollen from the male rod onto the female basket. If there are several candidate male blossoms, she uses them all. The more pollen the better!
Then the female blossom is taped tight again to prevent any further bee helpers from carrying in wayward genetic material.
This last year a local artist, Lou Cabeen, came out to help us. She tied a red-threaded chastity-belt onto our fertilized female blossoms.
The blossom is tagged so that if a fruit sets, the farmer knows to save those seeds for planting the following year. Luckily, one carefully fertilized pumpkin in both 2017 and 2018 "set."
Our vines produced many more pumpkins, but those fruits may or may not have been pollinated by other naked pumpkins. So we have enjoyed eating them, but haven't counted on them to grow next year's crop.
The mature pumpkin with its naked seeds looks like this, ready to make into a delicious soup.
In 2016 Patricia was given some seeds from an heirloom Eastern European pumpkin, one whose seeds lack an outer shell. Thus they are known as "hull-less" or "naked" pumpkins. The seeds can be eaten directly, without roasting or shell-cracking, and are high in protein and other nutrients. So, of course, we wanted to grow more of them!
However, getting squash (pumpkins are a variety of squash) to "breed true" is a tricky process. Their flowers are flamboyant and attractive to pollinators. How does one prevent an industrious little bee that has just visited a zucchini plant from carrying zucchini pollen over to our naked pumpkins? And you can't tell from the fruit whether or not the seeds will make new naked pumpkins. You have to do your best to ensure that the right kind of pollen meets the right kind of blossom and then wait a full year to see if those seeds produce the kind of squash you want.
The first step is to identify a male flower that is about to open, and a female flower that is about to open. The female flowers have a miniature teeny tiny fruit at their base, and grow further out on the vines. This is a photo of a female zucchini blossom starting to open:
The male flowers lack the mini-fruit and grow from the middle of the plant. This is a photo of a male zucchini blossom:
Inside, the male blossom will have a little rod full of pollen at its base, and the female blossom will have a little basket at its base.
The squash plant makes several male blossoms before it puts out a female blossom, perhaps to get the local pollinators used to visiting this particular neighborhood. The farmer's job is going to be outwitting those busy insects.
Yesterday, Laura and Mary met with John Harmelling from the Seattle Rose Society. He has been tending roses for 40 years. He also knows the woman who gifted us our rose collection! Nancy came by to let him know about Fred's involvement in the initial acceptance and planting of the roses and to ask if Rose Lee (the woman who gave us the roses) is still around. She is, and is still giving talks at the Rose Society. Perhaps at the height of bloom time we can invite her out for a little appreciation and perhaps even hear her story of the donation. Perhaps a thank you gift of some kind?
I digress. John gave us excellent advice. He shared his deep knowledge of pruning, had watering advice, showed us his favorite tools for pruning, suggested fertilization products and let us know what he is willing to do. He will come for 1 1/2 hours to do a pruning Demonstration. I will also be proposing to the Biogaians the possibility of hiring him to do a few of the older plants of distinct types. We may want to have him come back at the end of June as we learned that some of our plants need to be pruned again betwween the time the blossoms are done and the hips are formed.
The most important thing that came out of our meeting is a date for him to come out and give a pruning demonstration and kick off our Pruning Party!
You will hear more about this soon, but mark your calendar's. The event will happen on Saturday, February 23rd starting at 10:00.
May your love of growing be ignited by the Spring,
Wow, Dear Community, it’s been a while since I have shared with you in this way. I miss it. In addition to not making the time to do it, I have felt some sort of blockage on my voice since accepting the position of Garden Steward here. But I think it’s really important that I flesh out that blockage. Writing plays such a huge role in my own mental clarity, and I know it can be a way of connecting with the community that allows for a deeper look into a person’s thought processes and intentions. Thank you for reading.
I want to start with a story. As some of you may know, I am currently working on a Stewardship Plan for the Songaia forest, with support from the Biogaians, knowledgeable community members, WSU Forestry Extension, and the Outdoor Wellness Club at the University of Washington. It feels really good to be applying what I learned while studying ecology and ecosystem restoration at UW Bothell, especially in service to all you sweet people and to this piece of land that I have been cultivating an intimacy with.
As most of you have probably felt in one way or another, creating a plan to care for our beloved forest is overwhelming. There are so many aspects to consider, from laminated root rot, to vulnerable new plantings, to liability, to our diversity of misplaced (non-native) species, to the increased habitat fragmentation due to development, to the changing climate. How do we responsibly steward a remnant forest surrounded on all sides by human development? Most days I’m able to step back from that overwhelm and look at it-- watching it pass by me, but not letting it color my days. Some days it consumes me. Earlier this month, the forest made an appearance in my dreams.
I woke up in a place that wasn’t my home, but I recognized must have been. It felt like home. Unit 10. I heard the wind ripping past my window. A mighty Pacific Northwest windstorm was moving through and had been since earlier that morning. I looked out the window to the north and saw huge Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees crashing down in the Crestmont development, flattening fences. In the flash of a panicked thought, I was outside, standing at the base of Spring Hill. The forest was gone.
All but ten trees had fallen throughout the night. Not only had the trees fallen, they had disappeared. It looked like Weyerhauser had come through and hauled all the trees away, leaving a tangle of dry and mangled organic matter around the stumps that dotted the hillside. I saw a group of people and pickup trucks up on the utility easement. In the flash of another thought, I was at the top of Spring Hill. I observed these people, who I recognized as owners of the houses in the surrounding developments, chopping the trees into rounds and taking them away in their trucks. Most of them just seemed like they were doing it mindlessly, like--why wouldn’t we do this? I somehow knew what to do.
Holding back my outrage and grief, I approached the people from the developments and asked them if they would circle up. I wanted to welcome them and ask them some questions. They did so, with the exception of one middle-aged white man who continued to load his truck. He was red-in-the-face, radiating anger and a masked desperation that came out as a determination to get his share. Once he noticed that everyone else had circled up, he joined, grumbling.
As we circled, my dear friend, soul-bud, feather friend Joey Crotty appeared. Playing off of one another, he and I asked these people a series of questions, ranging from the practical to the philosophical.
“You all have been neighbors of this forest. What did this forest mean to you before it fell? Did you notice it? Did you ever enter it? Did you know it was ailing?”
“Why are you taking these trees away? What have you to gain? What need are you trying to meet? What do you really need? What is it like to be you?”
Round and round the questions went, their answers knitting us together--humanity shining out the eyes of each person, awake in the world and seeing each other.
Hayra came. And as we turned to look at the denuded hillside, the dream ended with deep belly sobs. In the glow of this freshly woven human community, we felt the grief of the remaining Douglas fir trees, who had just lost the better part of the community they had known. We felt their grief as our own, knowing somehow that our well-being was tied to the well-being of this remnant forest stand.
Do you ever have those dreams that linger? They stick with you for days after you’ve had them, begging to be remembered, or told, or interpreted? This dream lingered for days after I had it, and I am still grateful every time I see the forest standing.
On Tuesdays, piglet meetings are normally a big deal, and today was no exception. Helen, and I, along with Brent and Nura all joined alongside the round table; Anita was there to lead the discussion.
The weather outside was grey and soggy, but it didn’t hold back our energy, and there was lots to be done. We all sat as equals, and discussed where our energy was in, these early days of 2019. Some of us were investing energy for traveling abroad, and some were investing in change from within.
Suddenly, in walks our good friend Laura, who had just arrived back home the night before. Alas, the gang was all there. We convened over tea discussing the tasks that lay before us. It seems that Songaia associate and long time friend of the community, Bay, had donated lots and lots of canning jars! This means someone had to take on the daunting task of actually organizing the dreaded canning closet. It would be no easy task. Secondly, the Happy Greenhouse needed some attention too, because February is coming fast and we needed that space to be organized and ready to use. The squad decided to split up and tackle these issues in two teams. Nura, Helen and I were to organize the greenhouse while Anita, Laura and Brent tackled the canning closet.
It was truly a daunting sight seeing Brent load several carts filled with jars, when the closet was already full and completely out of order. It took hours and hours of works and several people to complete, but you best believe we all got the job done. The greenhouse was the first, but the dustiest, to be completed. The canning closet, however, took vastly more effort. A big shout-out goes to all who helped, we’re like real life superheroes, especially when we all unite as one to fight for good. Go piglets!
Garden bloggers are community members, volunteers and interns at Songaia.