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Catalog plants seeds of hope


By BILL DUNCAN


For the Capital Press


As did most Oregonians, I awoke on New Year's Day to a solid white landscape. Like Punxsutawney Phil I had the urge to roll over and sleep it off, but then I'd only wake up to find the wood box empty and the house cold from a deep winter's night.


Actually, old Phil is not expected to see his shadow until 7:25 a.m. eastern time on Wednesday, Feb. 2, and anyone who has lived in Oregon long enough knows that February is the state's coldest month. If Phil sees his shadow he will duck back in his burrow for six more weeks of winter.


Right now, that seems awful. Oh, well I might as well trek out to the woodpile, dust off the snow and tote in several armloads of firewood to warm the inside. That will make things tolerable in this season of global warming.


It was a busy New Year's Eve and once outside I remembered I had not checked my rural mailbox. The box yielded one Christmas card and several mail-order catalogs, all with my wife's name on them.


But there was one lone catalog that quickened my heart on the snowy day -- a seed catalog. Admittedly, the garden was a sad looking place on this Jan. 1, certainly not appealing to go and spade up a plot and plant a seed. But every true gardener knows that a bountiful harvest starts with planning.


I built a glowing fire with the wood I brought in, so it was an ideal time and place to sit in my easy chair, legs extended and thumb through the first seed catalog to arrive in 2011. Winter is the ideal time to plan a spring garden and to utter a few prayers that Phil will not see his shadow.


Call it dreaming if you will, but so help me when lunchtime came and I sliced up the cardboard, store-bought tomato for my turkey sandwich, I was really magically transported to the taste of that organic heirloom tomato so wonderfully described in the seed catalog I had just read. It might have been the colorful photograph of the tomato that seeded my mind, but I think I could taste its sweetness.


Every page I turned in that catalog had enticing photographs of the vegetable varieties that made that pitiful garden I grew last year in one of the worst garden seasons of my 30-odd years of living in Oregon seem the disaster that it was.


I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, so I know not to judge a vegetable by its glamorous photo -- studio art I'm sure -- that appears in the catalog. I remember a quip I read in which the seed catalog got a letter from a client that said: "Please send the fella who wrote that fancy description of the tomato. Mine don't look a thing like that."


I've had a few of those myself, but then I blamed it on the black mud that is in my garden. If I were to put the plow to it now I would have to wait until midsummer to jackhammer the plow free.


Oh, well, gardeners are the strangest people.


Bill Duncan can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.



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