About Bellingen Seedsavers

We are a group of like-minded growers of edible and useful heritage plant varieties in the Bellingen area of northeast New South Wales, Australia.

Our climate varies from frost-free coastal areas to inland river valleys and highlands with frosts. Bellingen has an average annual rainfall of 1507ml.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Irene's November Newsletter

Hi Seed Savers

It's almost Summer and we are galloping towards the end of the year but we can still look forward to our  December Gathering at Bec's home in Bonville from 1pm on Thursday 1st.  This will be our first time in that direction and this should please those of you who have to travel along the Highway from the north or the south.  I'm sure we will have a great time at Bec's and hope you can come.

The weather was kind to us for our last Gathering  in Fernmount and everyone was in awe of what John and Carol have achieved and there are some photos on the blog.  Many thanks to John and Carol for their lovely hospitality and for sharing their beautiful garden with us.
We had a particularly interesting mix of seeds* and plant material to share with one another we welcomed lots of new people attending their first Gathering. It was lovely to welcome Dean and Teal, from the Bellingen High School garden and, on behalf of BSS,  I presented them with a copy of The Seedsavers' Handbook.  This book is invaluable and I still have a few copies available for $22 for BSS people.

How we have grown in the three years since five people attended the very first Gathering - from 5 to 208 on our mailing list!  There are a couple of points that I would like to highlight - the first is that we had no idea that we would experience this sort of growth.  The level of interest that we receive from people at plant fairs and other events has risen with each one - it was overwhelming at the Spring Plant Fair this year.  Our main aim is to ensure future food  security in our community and we do this by saving the seeds from our best plants and sharing them around. We have a wide variety of micro-climates in our individual gardens and if someone experiences a failure of a valued crop in their garden, we need to be in a position to provide replacement seeds.   The more varieties of resilient seeds we have available, the better.  Many of the old heritage varieties have disappeared.  We notice that seed suppliers' lists of offerings develop gaps.

In addition to our gatherings, we distribute large quantities of seeds and plant materials at our stalls.  The higher the level of interest from the public, the greater the quantity and varieties we need to be able to offer and this is where we rely on our members to play their part.  We have founding members, who have been saving and sharing seeds for the last three years (some for many more), and we also have new people constantly  joining us, who have enormously varied backgrounds and experience in gardening and seed saving.  We are delighted to welcome everyone.  It takes a little while to get into the swing of seed saving but it is so rewarding.

We are all volunteers and we all enjoy our garden visits, where we can learn from one another.  For the first time this year we were very happy to have Jude and Michel Fanton, the Founders of The Seedsavers' Network, spend a week-end with us, sharing their expertise.  This was very successful and this event and future presenters are funded by our activities at plant fairs and other events.  We work very hard to ensure that we have an attractive, informative stall laden with packets of seeds, plant materials and all sorts of goodies from our gardens.   We are totally self-funded.  Obviously, the more people who contribute, the more it spreads the load - and the joy.

*Labelling of seeds and plant materials.
The bigger our 'membership' becomes, the more important it is that the seeds and plant materials we share at Gatherings are labelled (see attachment).   If you do this before setting out to a Gathering, it saves confusion as the share table is often very crowded.  It is so easy to arrive home and find yourself with anonymous packages - so frustrating!  If you include details of your name as well as the seeds, their origin, plus any specific information needed to raise them successfully, we can all keep track.  I am attaching the label that you can complete (as far as you are able). You will see that one of the questions asks whether you are willing to 'adopt a seed'.  This means you are willing to ensure that you grow sufficient numbers of the variety and can ensure that they are protected from cross fertilisation, so that when we label the package we can be reasonably sure that it contains what it says.

2012 Gatherings
I would love to hear from anyone who would like to offer their garden for a Gathering next year.  We enjoy all sorts of gardens - and they don't have to be immaculate.  We all live in different settings and no two are the same -  and there is so much to learn from experiencing them all.  We can bring everything we need (cups, food, chairs, etc.) and some of us are happy to offer to help with some gardening while we are there.

I am just re-reading a favourite book by Margaret Simons called 'Resurrection in a Bucket - the Rich and Fertile Story of Compost".  I love this quote she uses by Simon Schama:  'The sum of our pasts, generation laid over generation, like the slow mould of the seasons, forms the compost of our future'.  Ah, compost - to be treasured.

Please ensure that you let me know if you are coming to the next Gathering in Bonville on Thursday 1st December - by Monday 28 November, so that I can send you all the directions in good time (I received 14 enquiries in the last day or so before the last gathering.  I think it is only fair to let the host know how many people to expect in good time.

Looking forward to seeing you at our end-of-year Gathering.


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