You may recall that the cats grounded me a couple months ago because I had derelicted my duties as humble cat slave. Also because, as they pointed out, “We can’t let you go anywhere unsupervised! You’ll just get into trouble.”
Which is entirely true, as I demonstrated last Tuesday by sneaking out of the house and heading up to the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa. Here’s what came back with me:
This is, of course, not an excessive amount of garlic. Not at all. There were at least 21 kinds of garlic available at the Expo, and I only bought fourteen of them! The soul of restraint.
Those 14 varieties, plus the 3 varieties I’m carrying over from last year, the variety I picked up at the farmer’s market a month or two ago, and the seven varieties that just arrived from Filaree Farms, bring me up to 25 varieties. I’ll note that Filaree Farms offers 120 varieties of garlic, so with only 25 varieties, I am still nowhere near obsessive. (At least, compared to a farm that specializes in selling seed garlic. 🙂 )
I also fell in love with these two hand-forged garden tools:
I actually fell in love with the twisted handle on the trowel, but the hand hoe fell into my bag while I was admiring the trowel, and it just wouldn’t come out, so there was clearly nothing to do but buy it. 🙂
Then I hit up the seed vendors, bought some terrific balsamic vinegar that had been aged in the barrel for 18 years (and was being sold for WAY too little!), and got seduced by an array of potted plants. I wound up buying three cardamom plants, a yacón (South American tuber, used for food), and a rose geranium. I even succumbed to temptation and bought a flowering plant! Almost all my plants are edibles, but this geranium was too pretty to miss – each of the flowers in the umbels looked like a tiny peony, white blushed with pink at the edges. Pics once it’s blooming!
The coolest part of the exhibit was the giant mound of squash in the center of the exhibit floor:
Here’s a closer look – I love the “snakes” slithering through the pile!
There were rows and rows of tables exhibiting squash, tomatoes, peppers, and other fruits and veggies:
And a display of Florence winter squash, which I wanted to title “Orgy”:
There was an impressive squash contest. I didn’t stay until the end, but at least one of those squash weighed in at 1,155 pounds!
But here’s the prize photo of the day!
That’s me with Brad Gates and Ben Cohen, both of whom are professional tomato breeders. I’m holding a branch of Fuzzy Mix, and Brad is pointing at a baggie full of Fruity Mix samples that I brought to the Expo. Both of them are very interested in breeding with both Fuzzy and Fruity – which means that the lines will not be lost again. Which means I have achieved my goal of rescuing both varieties and ensuring their future!
Brad and Ben aren’t the only ones interested, either – I spent two hours walking the vendor hall, handing out samples of Fruity and showing people the branch of Fuzzy that I’d brought with me. It was impressively unwilted despite having been broken off the previous day – Fuzzy is very drought-tolerant – and of course attractively furry. I now have a list of five or six tomato breeders who are interested. As soon as I get enough seed to send them, I’m pretty sure that the future of Fuzzy and Fruity Mix (or rather, of the genes and characteristics they represent) is secure. What a relief!
Brad gave me seeds for some of his tomatoes:
He was out of seeds for a variety that I liked, Gold Berries. I asked him if he had any more seeds, and he said, “No…wait!” He popped over to the tomato display and handed me four Gold Berry tomatoes. It took me an instant to realize that he was giving me a packet of seeds – still tucked inside the tomato. (I thought it hilarious that it took me a second to connect ripe tomatoes with tomato seeds – especially since we’d just been discussing tomato breeding and seed-saving.)
I also went to Brad’s lecture on tomato breeding, which gave me all sorts of ideas for what to do next. I’ll detail those when I get a chance to do a tomato update.
I had a great time at the Expo, but an even better time the following day, when I ran up to visit my buddy John Marshall in Covelo. John has an enormous collection of fine Japanese textiles, and when I told him I’d been obsessed with velvet recently, said, “Oh, I have several trunks of Japanese velvets! Come up and I’ll show them to you.” So I turned up on his doorstep, and he not only showed me his collection of spectacular Japanese velvets, but insisted on loaning me two enormous boxes of them so I could inspect/analyze/be inspired by them at home. John is every bit as generous as he is skilled at dyeing, and that’s saying a lot!
But that is a subject for another blog post, and I need to photograph and analyze (i.e. drool over) the velvets first. So watch this space! Next week, I promise.