A frigid blast of winter is rolling across the Northern States and we got our share this morning.  The car thermometer saw a 9F (-12.5C) during the ride to work, and it feels more like early February rather than the week before Thanksgiving.  Strangely enough I’m somewhat prepared, and after a weekend of digging bulbs and clearing the garage I’m now able to shelter inside sorting and cleaning seeds rather than risking frostbite outside.

collecting seeds from the garden

The diversity of seeds is a cool thing. The range of shapes and sizes and colors and patterns make you wonder exactly how all this just evolved.

My seed cleaning is not an exact process.  Sifting, blowing, shaking, and picking all work to separate out the bits and pieces mixed in with the seed and I really don’t mind the job at all.  There are just two new things I learned this year.  The first is that castor bean seeds look disgustingly like obesely engorged dog ticks, and the second is that when cleaning ornamental pepper seeds don’t touch your eyes, mouth, nose or even inhale too close to the things.  Also don’t do all the above even after you’ve washed your hands a few times.  In fact don’t even take a shower, your hands are still dangerous and you may burn in all the areas your health teacher told you shouldn’t ever burn….

  castor bean seeds

I’m torn between cool and gross when I look at these tick-like castor bean seeds.

The hot pepper effect eventually wears off and you’re back to freezing.  With the harshness of this cold snap I’m glad I snuck out last Friday and dug up my fall blooming snowdrop before it was annihilated by freezer burn.  I have my fingers crossed it will be better off indoors, but looking back at my track record with watering I’m not 100% sure this will be the case.  It seems to have done well enough last winter though.  In addition to sending up a bloom this fall, it’s splitting in two and has an offset coming up the side.  Sure beats my previous diagnosis of dead.

snowdrop indoors

Just another gratuitous snowdrop picture -you’re welcome!

With the cold settled in and the ground freezing up a more sensible person would snuggle on in and start the long winter break from gardening, but I guess I’m not as sensible as I like to think.  Fall bulb clearance sales are starting and they’re soooooo tempting.  So what if I ended up planting over 200 bulbs in pots last winter after not getting things planted outside in time?  I’m sure this winter things will work out differently 🙂

25 comments on “Blech.

  1. I wonder if washing your hands with a poison ivy soap would help after you’ve done the peppers? It’s meant to remove the oil from the ivy plant, so maybe it would remove the burning pepper seed oil? My other thought was lemon juice.

    At Agway this morning, I did buy a pack of daffodil bulbs at 50% off. They’re tiny little things that I’ll use for forcing indoors–‘New Baby’, only supposed to be 4 to 8 inches tall. I resisted the 100 pack of ‘Dutch Master’ daffs–my trench digging days are over for this year!

    • bittster says:

      A smart person will wear gloves while cleaning peppers. A reasonable person would listen to advice about wearing gloves while cleaning peppers…. I haven’t fallen into either category so I wonder where that puts me 🙂
      I’m proud of you that you bought daffodils which you didn’t need at a time which doesn’t make sense. I think there’s more crazy gardener in you than I suspected! lol -but I guess since you already planned ahead on forcing them indoors it’s still the work of a sane person.
      Maybe I should ask everyone who has an order of conifers on their way in the mail to raise their hands? I might have to own up to a late night of online shopping soon and do a little prayer for a few more days of fall planting weather 😉

  2. Christina says:

    I thought the castor bean seeds looked rather like barlotti beans, I don’t think they look gross at all but then I haven’t seen the ticks you mention! Your snow drop is beautiful (last comment from me on the subject of snow drops for this year). I love all your little pots and containers of seed, like an art installation!

    • bittster says:

      There will be plenty of room for future snowdrop comments, but I promise to wait until after the NewYear!
      The castor beans are beautiful (I think) but my first thought was ‘fat tick’, so that ruined me. But I do like all the seeds together in their little pots, and I was thinking the same thing as you -that they look like a little art show. Pretty, but I really can’t take any of the credit!

  3. Pauline says:

    I can relate to the sheep ticks, having removed them each year while we had 2 dogs, that’s the joy of living near sheep! I hope your little snowdrop makes it through the winter.
    We saw the USA’s snow storm on our news yesterday, it looked horrendous, stay warm and safe.

    • bittster says:

      Ugh, I had barely heard about all the snow and then came upon a report this afternoon. Five feet and three more forecast! Fortunately it’s a relatively small area which is effected.

  4. AnnetteM says:

    I’m with Christina – the castor bean seeds look beautiful, but that is maybe just because of my ignorance on ticks too. Excuse my ignorance, but why do you need to clean the seeds? Do they keep better?

    • bittster says:

      You are fortunate to be ignorant of ticks and chiggers and other biting things. I wish I could say the same!
      I don’t know if “clean” was the best term, what I meant to say is I’m taking out all the non-seed bits that ended up in the collection. Things like stems and old blooms and dirt all end up in my cups, and they all have to go so I can admire the beautiful little seeds!

  5. Wonderful photos! The first one makes me want to plunge in and plant. I never thought of castor beans looking like dog ticks, but I won’t be able to think of them differently going forward. The castor bean is a fun ornamental, but it’s so toxic I’m terrified to have it around my house.

    I don’t have any fall-blooming snowdrops—yet. Hoping to acquire some seeds of a few different cultivars this year and grow them out. I’m working on filling the bloom gap around here between November and January.

    Stay warm! No snow here but enough cold to make the dog not want to play at the dog park.

    • bittster says:

      You’re lucky to have the option of filling your garden with winter interest. My only choices seem to revolve around conifers and other bone hardy Northerners, none of the camellias and mahonias and winter bloomers which you have. But then again even if there was stuff going on outdoors I might have to side with your dog and just stick to the indoors until things warm up!

  6. Cathy says:

    That is pretty cold Frank! Glad you rescued your pretty snowdrop in time. If our mild weather continues we are heading for the warmest year on record, every month being warmer than normal except August, strangely enough! Good you didn’t get all that snow-it was headline news here! I think we are just a bit envious… 😉

    • bittster says:

      Earlier in the fall they had predicted a more “normal” winter this year, but looking at your weather and seeing our up and down spikes I think we might have something close again.
      That might not seem too bad from your end, but just remember us when we’re under ice and you’re looking at spring blooms!

  7. Chloris says:

    I agree the castor oil seeds look just like ticks as anyone who has had dogs will know. In fact the Latin name ‘ Ricinus’ means tick. Yuck! Don’ t forget to wash your hands, they are deadly.
    Your seeds are all so tidy and organised. My seeds usually end up in pockets. And then I forget what they are. I am always sowing pocketfuls of seeds and then waiting with interest to see what comes up. I would like to be well organised like you.

    • bittster says:

      Don’t be fooled by my closeup on a few tubs of clean seeds, the wider angle would show piles of mess and hastily thrown tools and containers all about. -Oh and I shouldn’t forget the layer of spilled dirt and dried plant bits all over the floor.
      Also there are plenty of envelopes of unknown seed and mixed seeds with clumps of pocket lint mixed in. Someday I’ll get to that, but I’m not making any bets on when.
      I’m so pleased to have learned another bit of latin, that was a new one for me!

  8. Annette says:

    I know all about burning sensations after dealing with my beloved hot peppers as I cook with them all the time. Tricky, haven’t found a solution yet apart from gloves. Can’t get over how cold it has got at your end of the world. We’re having 20°C these days and today I was able to do my computer work in the garden with bare feet! Well, I won’t bore you anymore with these details 😉 . Don’t get too carried away during these bulb sales, Frank!

    • bittster says:

      Bare feet? Here the kids are off from school today due to snow :/
      -and I was very responsible during the bulb sale. It began a few day early and was only good for bulk purchases. I thought twice about ordering hundreds of bulbs after spending Sunday digging through frost 🙂
      (I did buy a few things though!)

  9. Lisa Rest says:

    Sorry you had to learn the hard way with the peppers, I have to remind myself all the time whenever I handle the even milder ones to eat. Ouch! And kudos to you for continuing to garden and insuring spring will return. 🙂

  10. Amy Olmsted says:

    Seeds are endlessly fascinating! So many shapes, colors and sizes that grow into fabulous plants!!
    I too always thought of the Ricinus seed looking like a big fat and disgusting tick but yes also beautiful.
    I have a huge job cleaning seed for the APS seed exchange and I use all the same techniques as you….whatever works where we don’t loose too much of the seed onto the floor. ;>P

    • bittster says:

      Hi Amy, always good to hear from you!
      I’m glad to hear that showing off my seed cleaning didn’t result in me embarrassing myself 🙂 I always think of it as a little short on efficiency and long on mess.

  11. donna213 says:

    I thought your tick comparison was hilarious. They really do look lie ticks!

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