Seattle Tilth is an organization that helps people to grow their own organic food. They say this on their website in TilthSpeak, a dialect of GrantSpeak. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here, or rather was there is their spring edible plant sale, which I went to last Saturday.
It was Tim’s idea. He’d been talking about it since, oh I don’t know, before I even knew him and I’ve known him for 15 years. In case you’re new here, Tim is my friend who when he downsized, missed his garden so much I gave him mine. We are into our second year of planning, digging, and planting and it’s been a fun collaboration. When plants and gardening paraphernalia began showing up in stores, and when signs for sales starting sprouting at intersections, I asked Tim what his ideas were for new plants.
“Let’s see what they have at the Tilth Sale.”
That was the beginning. Ensuing conversations went like this:
“Where would we get a thimbleberry?”
“The Tilth Sale might have one.”
“Two dollars a plant is pretty good for tomatoes, no?”
“Why don’t we wait for the Tilth Sale?
As the weekend of the sale got closer, the actual details came into focus. For one, I would have to drive as I’m the one with a car. (I immediately and cravenly invited my neighbor Gwen who knows something about just about everything to join us knowing that she would gladly drive. Or willingly. If I begged. But Gwen only does flowers.) If I was driving that would mean I would have to park. Do you know how many places I don’t go simply because I have to park? It’s not that I don’t know how to. I actually do a smooth, efficient parallel park that I am quite proud of. It’s the difficulty in finding a place to park in Seattle that foils me. In Wallingford, where the sale was, the cramped streets were already lined with cars on both sides, making them essentially one way roads. Trying to park or even drive two blocks in a row creates a back-up that can last fifteen minutes.
Secondly, there was the time of day. The sale started at 9:00. Tim wanted to get there at 8:00. That meant picking him up at 7:30. On a Saturday morning. My mornings are sacro-sanct. It’s when I write and practice. I’m up at first light these spring mornings and I love my routine. I’m wide awake, functioning and happy as long as I don’t have to talk to anyone or get dressed. I would have to do both those things in order to then stand in line for a whole hour in the rain waiting for the sale to start, fight and claw for half an hour like they do in Filene’s Basement, and then a second hour of standing in line, this time laden with dripping plants, and waiting for a cashier. Even though I agreed to this violent disruption of my life, I felt whiny about it.
The closer it got to the date of the sale, the more Tim talked about it, and in direct proportion, the less I wanted to go.
Finally I said: “I know you’re looking forward to this, but I need to say that I’m dreading it.”
“Well, look I can stand in line and you can get coffee and fun things to eat from the Vendors.”
“Vendors? Like taco trucks?”
“Well, yeah, but organic companies. And there’ll be music.”
“MUSIC? Oh, god NO.” I actually started to sweat. “Music” at sales is always bad and in the rare instances that it’s good, it’s too loud. “I need to remember to bring earplugs.”
If all this wasn’t enough, Tim decided we needed to plan what we would buy. Hoping to discourage this, I gave him as tiny a window as I could for when I could get together and “plan,” but he made it work. He printed out all 28 pages of the index of plants that would be for sale and we went through every frigging cultivar, a word I now know, to draw up a list of roughly 35 plants we would get.
“There’ll be map of where everything is so we can—“
“Oh god,” I interrupted him. “It says we are issued wristbands for our entrance time. Are we even going to be out of there by noon?”
Everything, it seemed, was getting piled on the Tilth Sale until in my imagination it became as big, noisy, crowded and as gigantic a parking nightmare as the Puyallup Fair.
Saturday morning I woke up feeling nauseated and the sky looked like it was timing itself to dump on Wallingford at 8:00. I wasn’t actually vomiting and I didn’t think I could convincingly call in sick so I got in my car and drove down the street to pick up Tim.
He got in the car. “Now I’m dreading this,” he said. “I looked on Google Earth and the place is already crowded.”
We drove gloomily to Wallingford. Here’s how the morning went: I found a place to park a half a block from the sale. We were 20th in a line that numbered 200 by 9:00. The (bad)music didn’t start until close to 9:00 and then after a half an hour or so it either stopped or I (unaccountably) stopped hearing it. We had some fun conversations with interesting people. I took a lovely walk around the Good Shepherd Center while Tim held our place in line.
The organization of the tables of plants was a thing of beauty. And I have to say that I am glad we planned. Otherwise I would have thrown up from sheer overstimulation. The sale was swarming with cheerful volunteers in bright orange vests, easy to spot, knowledgeable, and willing to do anything including hauling flats of plants and standing in line with them. When I called out “Hey orange person!” to get their attention, they laughed merrily. It didn’t rain. We were out by 9:50.
We came home happy and satisfied, bubbling over with plans to plant. I can’t wait til next year’s sale!