I have been wanting to return to Seed Savers Exchange since I visited Decorah a couple of years ago. Only this time I was not in search of ancient memories from places on Water Street; rather, I wanted to revisit Seed Savers Exchange, a magical place where saving seeds from heritage plants has been the mission since 1975, making it "the largest non-governmental seedbank of its kind in the United States."
|Lina, White Park cattle painting by Steel Cow|
So I twisted the arm of my good friend Mary to join me for the day and oh what a day it was.
We both loved all of the raised beds in Diane's Garden, dreaming of ways we might incorporate more of these structures into our own gardens at home.
Of particular interest to both Mary and I were the willow structures constructed in a child's garden by Willowglen Nursery, also of Decorah, IA. Mary had taken one of their willow trellis making classes this summer.
But for me, it was all about the flowers.
I love flowers, and I've missed growing my own since moving to the Little Farm.
Ironically, I used to grow hundreds of flowers from seed every year when I lived in places where I had no land to plant in - now I have more land than I know what to do with, and no time to cultivate flower beds!
One of the most famous flowers to come out of Seed Savers is Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory, an easy-to-grow flowering vine with deep purple flowers which I had been purchasing for many years before learning it was one of the first seeds given to Seed Savers when it all began.
For me, no trip to SSE would be complete without going out to see their herd of Ancient White Park Cattle, a heritage breed from the British Isles dating back to pre-Christian times. The farm hosts two distinct herds of more than 80 animals and have helped the breed move from "critical" to "threatened" status by the Livestock Conservancy.
We probably could have spent more than the few hours we did, wandering, perusing, and gathering ideas (and seeds!) but eventually we needed food and water and to sit down and rest our backs. So we drove into Decorah and stumbled upon the Nordic Fest - unintentionally, but a nice bonus to end our day!
I enjoyed several pieces of fresh-from-the-griddle lefse - a taste that can never be replicated by refrigerated, store-bought lefse, and we enjoyed wandering down Water Street, watching people and ducking into gift and art shops.
My only regret is that I don't live even closer, as I would be a much more frequent visitor to this area of Iowa.