Saving and scattering seeds to welcome Thanksgiving

The pods taper gracefully. They have a central rib for support, and a green-gold skin like corn husk. I have never seen the inside clearly before. This afternoon, in the melting snow, I am standing at the sloshy top of my backyard, scattering milkweed seeds.

One of my neighbors gave them to me this weekend. We met at a potluck in a room full of folk musicians, and she invited me to talk with a group of her friends about gardening. Until recently, I have not had much room or time to garden. But I have a house now, for the first time, and a scrap of land, and I want to get to know it.

In late November, it’s warming to meet new people, and even more to drink fennel tea and talk about lilacs. We were talking about taking cuttings from shrubs and bushes. They told me about ways to encourage a low branch to take root. Our host has gently grown new evergreen trees this way.

Milkweed at Mountain Meadow in Williamstown glows at sunset on a fall day.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Milkweed at Mountain Meadow in Williamstown glows at sunset on a fall day.

It turns out to be a winter job. I had not thought of gardening at Thanksgiving, or in January. The plants are dormant now or pulling back to the roots until spring. But the business of living doesn’t stop.

Wild milkweed pods are breaking open. The down is silken and creamy white, and the seeds are dark brown, flat and very light. Lift a few gently out of the pod, and they will hold to your fingers.

Let them go and they sail sideways, telling you the direction of the wind. If you want them in a set place, you will need to move slowly and almost touch them to the ground. They’re made to fly.

My neighbor told me about the Seed Swap in Cummington this weekend, and a gathering like this feels natural at the turn into Thanksgiving week. This is a time for settling in and getting ready for winter. On the weekend before the holidays, we have local artisans and food grown and gathered here — at GreylockWorks’ Festive and the Berkshire Grown farmers markets, at Berkshire Botanical Garden …

It’s a weekend for warmth, whether we find it in a friend’s kitchen or the chords of flamenco jazz. Or, if we’re really lucky, both.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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