Eight Tracks to Freedom: Re-purposed 8-track Seed Organizing Case

by Ken Greene

Guest Blog Post from Jacinta Bunnell and Neko Case

photo-1Jacinta: Fixed in my mind are the memories of driving around town with my mother listening to The Sound of Music, Paint Your Wagon, and Blood on the Tracks on the 8-track player in our car.  My mom was and still is a great fan of musicals and Bob Dylan. We had a humble collection of well-loved 8-tracks, more like relatives than collections of songs because of the way they were woven into the fundamental nature of family life. As much as I adore the ease and comfort of my life now, I find myself hankering for certain aspects of an extraordinarily vivid and simple past, a time when I did not have thousands of songs in a digital library I can carry anywhere, when the only periodical to choose was Mad Magazine, when I would stretch the coiled phone cord into the other room to have a private conversation with a girlfriend. I could be ever so satisfied with a life surrounded by heirlooms. When I was young, my mother feared I would be crushed eventually by my collection of all things baby and all things old. I wanted to be surrounded by old details like grandmas, Roman numerals and oak iceboxes. Baby everything (game pieces, furry animals and sequins) have always been irresistible to me. Heirloom seeds are the perfect combination of baby and old: a single seed contains ancient shared intelligence that each of us can tap into and yet is not even in the infancy of its growth: all at the same time!  When planning a visit to see my friend Neko Case at her farm in rural Vermont, I wanted to bring her a personalized gift.  I knew she had a huge garden filled with heirloom vegetables that was her solace after long exhausting weeks of travel as a touring musician. So I re-purposed a vintage 8-track cassette case for Neko and filled it with many of my favorite Hudson Valley Seed Library seed packets. On the inside of the box, I carefully wrote the word “heirloom” in a script inspired by old-fashioned handwriting. I even prefer old lettering to new. Upon receiving the gift, she added to its riches with her existing collection of heirloom seed packets without delay. Later that weekend, she proudly showed me around her garden as we harvested that evening’s dinner. Of the treasured growth, there was none she was more proud of than the beans she had grown from saving last year’s seeds.

Neko: Receiving the 8-track seed case was like getting the most custom-made personal gift ever. Jacinta knows how I feel about heirloom seeds so it was the most hopeful and super joyful gift anyone could get. The 8-track player was a huge part of my childhood and I have always bought those 8-track carriers at thrift stores. I would feel bad throwing out the organizing slots because I am not a thrower-away of stuff. But seed packets fit perfectly! I am not surprised that Jacinta came up with this idea because she is a super clever person. It is one of those times when you feel like a total a-hole for not coming up with it yourself!  I come from a farming family. All I am thinking about right now is this particular time we live in and what rebellion means within that context. The most subversive thing you can do in the U.S. is to grow your own food. It is traditional, therapeutic and grounding. Feeding people is the greatest feeling. Seeds are about community, even if you are just growing for yourself. Growing plants that are native to your region gives you a real respect for your food. It is our most basic need next to air and water.  When I received the 8-track seed case I thought about how Fred Flintstone always bought Wilma a bowling ball for her birthday because it was what he wanted, not what she wanted...and how Jacinta’s gift was exactly the opposite of that. It made me realize how much someone really cares about me and knows me. It is a f*ing genius idea!

Jacinta: I just completed my design for another seed packet for Hudson Valley Seed Library. I feel honored to be part of the mind-blowing cadre of artists that Ken and Doug have chosen to be part of the 2011 line-up.  But you will have to excuse me now while I pop another 8-track into the player.

Jacinta Bunnell is an artist and educator who lives in the Hudson Valley. She previously designed the Calico Popcorn seed packet for HVSL.

Neko Case is a musician and gardener who lives in rural Vermont.