New Digs: The Seed Library is growing!

by Ken Greene

The old Catskills camp we call home has a lot to offer, but needs a ton of work. Ten years ago when we bought the land there was nowhere to live, 14 dilapidated buildings, and the few open fields were already ceding to the forest.


hotelfromcabinstoop (640x480) The original Cold Spring Hotel which unfortunately is too far gone to save.

My first spring here was spent living in a tent under a cedar tree. Since that time, progress has been slow and has come in growth spurts (when we can afford it) but we now have two livable homes- one for Carrie and Michael, and one for me and Doug. We've (mostly) cleared out an open pavilion for drying the Black Walnut we milled, holding workshops, and hosting a weekly ping pong night. More importantly (not that ping pong isn't extremely important) the back field is cleared, the soil revitalized, and the harvest is the heart of the Seed Library.

But we're running out of room. We've outgrown our scrappy office spaces (again) and maxed out our growing space in the back.

gift zinnia and skyscraper sunflowers (1280x960) (640x480)

This season we're taking on some bigger projects both to house the growing Seed Library and make room for growing more seeds. We're still waiting to hear about a loan from Farm Credit which will help us renovate one of the existing boarding houses into a new Seed Library home and tear down two of the buildings we can't save. Meanwhile we're diving into clearing a side field so we can get in some cover crops this season. The cover crops will help us add nutrients to the soil and break up some of the compacted top layer while smothering out weeds- leaving us with more usable beds next spring. The byproducts of clearing scrub, brush, and small trees include wood chips for mulching paths and staging areas, wood to keep us warm, and new view of a hidden stone wall, and a new perspective on stewarding land and finding a balance between our natural and cultivated ecosystems.

SLIDESHOW: Out in Left Field: Clearing new land for seed growing.

We used to run the whole Seed Library out of our 450 square foot cabin. Eventually we realized that we needed a home, not just a place we slept surrounded by stacks of seeds and boxes. We renovated the camp's concession stand into better cold storage for the seeds and a tiny 6x12 office space. At times there were 4 or 5 people working in there all at once- taking business calls, filling orders, packing seeds, designing packs, counting seeds, and shipping them out. We wanted to move into one of the other buildings on the property, but we just couldn't afford the renovations. So we bought a used office trailer. It's kind of an eye sore, but it's been a good home for the Seed Library for the past two years.

But, once again, we've outgrown the space. During the time we've been here, we've developed a great relationship with Farm Credit. They've helped the Seed Library get off (And in) the ground through a beginning farmer program. Now, they are helping us take on our next move to our new digs. Although we're nervous about going into debt, we feel good about taking that on with Farm Credit and are really excited about renovating the 1940s boarding house into warehouse, shipping, cold storage, and office space. We'll actually have running water!

SLIDESHOW: New Digs: Demolition and renovations start on the new Seed Library Building