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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Seed Time

Here's a short visual tour of the first annual Sunflower Seed Harvest.

In the coming weeks, we will plant some indoor seedlings (minus the peat moss and cow poo -- see last Summer) in order to determine whether these sunflower seeds will actually grow plants -- or if the birds and gerbils will have some tasty morsels.

We weren't sure quite how the seeds would be harvested, so we set up some newspaper and just began prying them loose, adhering carefully to international standards on sunflower seed harvesting as determined by the Ministry of Harvesting of the Gerbil Liberation Front.

A close-up of the seeds. It is fascinating how the seeds pack together.

Sunflower harvesting is an opportunity to get the whole family involved. Here we see Linda Kelsey, B.S., M.S., C.A.S., C.S.S. (mom actually does have that many letters after her name, although she doesn't use them, and it's a bit challenging to remember what they all mean, it could probably just as well be Linda Kelsey, x10 or something)

Here we see how an industrious seed harvester is applying their strength to the process -- sometimes the material is hard-edged, and some may prefer wearing gloves.

Sometimes you can just run your fingers along and the seeds will come right off -- into a tray, for example. The next challenge becomes -- how do you separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, or rather, the seed from the chaff?

Fortunately for us, Fred (the former family farmer) was free to fraternize and figured out a method for non-farmers to "winnow" with the tray of seeds and chaff, by bringing the tray outside.

The sunflower seed chaff winnowing technique involves a combination of flipping the tray up as if you are flipping pancakes . . . .

And blowing over the tray -- hard enough to blow the chaff away, but trying to avoid blowing all of the seeds over the tray as well. It is likely that when using this technique, aside from adding environmentally friendly compost to your lawn, you will also pay the bird and varmint tax, adding a number of seeds to the ground. But the method works pretty well, and is quicker than picking individual seeds up from a tray -- especially when you have a plane to catch imminently back to Chicago on new year's day. It's important to winnow the seeds quickly, especially when you're about to travel, so that you can spend the maximum amount of time at the airport waiting for O'Hare to decide whether to delay your flight again or cancel it entirely. Fortunately when flying in and out of Chicago, there is also the opportunity to use Midway airport, which is a better option, and also endorsed by the Sunflower Farmer Grower's Association, the Presidential Candidates in a Hurry to Reach Another Primary Association, and the Ministry of Travel of the Gerbil Liberation Front.

Free parental labor is a wonderful thing. At this stage of the harvest it is especially important to keep your eyes open for marauding varmints.

When you are done, you may wish to run upstairs like a ridiculous buffoon and risk not making your flight, and find an image of a sunflower and add some text in a program like Photoshop, and then print them out, and tape a pseudo label on the zip loc bag.

All told, a lot of work for only about a pound of sunflower seeds (minus all of the seeds that the marauding chipmunk army obtained earlier in the year, plus the bird tax, and the winnowing surplus seeds flying into the lawn tax).

However . . . .

The point is not to eat the seeds per se, but to now engage in some testing to see whether these seeds are capable of spawning a new generation of sunflower monsters.

No longer do we have one little wimpy packet, resulting in a dozen or so 1-story voracious beasts who are ready to terrorize the neighbor's little yappy dog -- now we have three bags full of seeds -- who knows -- 200, 300, 400 seeds?

Imagine, a field full of 12 foot monsters -- or better yet, pockets of sunflower invasion scattered throughout the country, resulting in . . .


Tune in next post as preparations begin for seed germinating testing.