This week clearing through old files, I came across a short story I wrote back in 2013 when we were setting up GreenPlantSwap. It's never seen the light of day, so I thought I'd share it.
The conclusion is, or was, more than a little supportive of the GreenPlantSwap concept ;-)
But the story makes a point I feel is as relevant now as then ... and I hope you enjoy the read.
Happy New Year.
Little seed's big idea
This is the story of Little Seed, born in a vegetable patch. Little Seed had a smart stripy pod and came from a long line of Madeley Kale seeds.
At nursery school with the other seeds, he learnt all about the ‘Good Old Days’ when humans treasured the seeds, passing them on to their children and children’s children.
In those days plants lived to a ripe old age. They tended to be hardy folk and repaid the humans’ kindness with food for the table year after year. This was in a land which was so mild and wet and delightful for plants that Little Seed had more than 55,000 happy plant cousins, from the trees and shrubs to herbs, ferns and vegetables like him. These provided all kinds of good things for the humans: delicious food, furniture, fire wood, medicines, lovely countryside to walk in and flowers for the table.
Little Seed could see it was a very good arrangement all round. But somewhere, somehow it had changed. Humans had lost much of their interest in plants. They rushed around in noisy tin cans and lived in brick and concrete towers and lost sight of most things Green.
There were some special Stores where they sold green plants. But only a few of Little Seeds more common cousins made it into these – less than one in a hundred in fact. It seems they had become ‘products’ that had to earn their place alongside the paints, dog-leads and bathroom suites also for sale. His teacher said it was ‘survival of the most profitable’.
In the vegetable patch, things were even worse. The disinterested humans had almost lost the plot. In the past 40 years, nine out of ten of Little Seed’s vegetable relatives had died and no new seeds had taken their place. Now in the vegetable patch were big rude thorns and thistles who jostled for space, grabbed the sunlight and glugged more than their share of the rain water. It was so unfair!
As the humans had stopped collecting seed, they now went shopping in supermarkets. And there they found some very strange vegetables indeed. Pumped up and preened, the supermarket vegetables looked like body-builders, or soldiers on parade. He had heard they were grown in funny beds and given strange ‘growing medicine’, and were mostly short lived, lasting no more than a season. It certainly wasn’t natural.
Little Seed shuddered at the thought of his offspring ending their life wrapped in plastic on a shelf next to them. He also learnt, because there was a special class on it, that it was very dangerous for humans to rely on too few plants. There was the terrible story of the lumpy potato that all the humans ate, which got a horrible disease that made it go mushy, and hundreds of thousands of humans died. This greatly alarmed Little Seed.
Meanwhile other big things were happening. All the humans’ noisy tin cans and smoky chimneys had made the world warm up. Little Seed had heard the cries of the bluebells in the wood who said their stems now ached. There seemed to be less and less of them each year.
But this made him think. Perhaps some good could come of this. Humans were getting worried and more interested in Green things again. Vegetables like him, which they labelled ‘Organic’ or ‘Heritage’, were becoming more popular, as in the Good Old Days. One of the big supermarkets had what they called a ‘Let’s Grow’ campaign which got human schoolchildren all across the land growing vegetables again. This was a jolly good thing.
Then there was the Internet. He was only a Little Seed, so it was pretty hard to understand and he needed more classes to really get a handle on it. But from what he could tell, all the humans were now connected and could do much bigger things together. One web site called Landshare had already got thousands of humans who didn’t use their gardens to share them with those who were keen to do the gardening. That was good.
Then, as he lay in his bed one night under the stars, the idea came to him. If there were still millions of gardens with billions of plants multiplying in them, why not use the internet thing to get lots of humans swapping them. If humans will share gardens, surely they’ll exchange the plants that grow in them if it’s made easy to do?
They could buy, sell and swap the plants with other gardeners near to them, and all sorts of good things could come of that. They could have a much better range of food to eat and plants to enjoy in the garden for next to nothing. There would be far less use of noisy tin cans and smoky chimneys getting plants to the Stores or wrapping them in boxes to send long distances.
Older overgrown plants, who so often met their fate hacked back, dug up or burnt, could be divided for their offspring to find new homes in other gardens. Seeds like him, and cuttings, could be collected, grown on and swapped. He shivered slightly at the thought of the cuttings, it seemed such a painful thing to do, but many of the plants said it was just fine and a great way to have little plants.
Then if humans did all this they might learn to love plants again, and learn more about how they grew and what they liked best. They might even get better at identifying them. The trees who, being so tall, got to see most things, had told Little Seed many times about humans who now didn’t know their Hostas from their Hebes or their Courgettes from their Cucumbers. You never know, thought Little Seed, I might even find some of my long lost cousins living safely in another vegetable patch.
It was a grand idea and as he thought it over, it grew and grew, so when he finally fell asleep the cockerel in the farm next door had already started.
The next morning Little Seed could barely stay awake in nursery class and, in break, was too distracted even to play ketchup with the Tomatoes, which he normally loved. Though he was tired, he had thoughts for only one thing: his Plan. He realised that to make it happen, he had to tell a human, and the right one. One that could really get it going.
The human who owned his garden was no good. He barely came out in the garden and, it seemed, spent most of his time either hitting little balls with sticks or watching noisy tin cans race round in circles on a box inside the house. Humans could be strange!
But he had heard the gardener, who tended the vegetable plot, say there was a very clever man up the road he worked for who loved his garden, wrote stories and did things with the internet. If Little Seed could tell him the idea, he might just get behind it.
But how? Little Seed was a good talker, or so his teacher said. But he couldn’t do much more than wriggle, let alone walk all the way up the lane to the neighbour’s house. It was a problem and that night he got really quite down at the thought he’d never be able to share his idea or make anything happen. If it wasn’t for the old willow tree next to the vegetable patch cooing gently in the breeze, he would have got quite depressed.
But the willow tree noticed Little Seed wasn’t his normal self and asked “What’s wrong Little Seed?” Little Seed told him and the willow tree listened intently. He had heard many things, but he’d never heard this, a little seed with a brilliant idea to help the humans and the plants. And then he began to shake all over as if it was very windy, which it wasn’t. ‘I’ve got it. I’ve got it” he willowed.
The next morning, the gardener arrived as usual with his fork and spade in a wheelbarrow. He picked some bugs off the runner beans, then filled the watering can and took it into the greenhouse. As soon as he was inside, Little Seed heard a rustly voice high above him whisper “Ready”. “Ready” he replied. Then when the next breeze blew, one of the willow’s long limbs rose up, swept down, lifted Little Seed quite out of his bed and put him in the wheelbarrow.
“Good luck” said the willow tree.
The next thing, the willow was telling the oak, the oak told the hornbeam, the hornbeam told the mulberry and so on across the garden and up the lane to the neighbour’s garden and vegetable patch, beside which stood a shed, where the human wrote his stories and did his internet thing.
So that when the gardener arrived at his next job with the wheelbarrow, the cherry tree beside the shed was ready. At the first gust of wind he lifted Little Seed up from the barrow and put him right through the open window and onto the desk of the writer. It all happened so fast and was so exciting. Little Seed was, for once in his life, completely lost for words. The writer “tut tutted” and shut the window. Oh my goodness, what should Little Seed do now?
There was only one thing for it. He started to wriggle and started to speak as loudly as he could. At first the writer didn’t notice. Then he slowly lifted his head from his laptop and leaned forward. For a moment, Little Seed was dazzled by a glint of sunlight on the writer’s reading glasses inches from his shell and felt the warm breath from his nostrils. He heard his own voice go squeakily high. Little Seed had to keep going.
And so, the whole story tumbled out. Goodness knows what the writer was thinking or what he would do next. Little Seed just kept going. And then as he spoke, the writer quietly reached for a sketch pad and started to draw. Little Seed saw first a spade, then a plant, then underneath it the word ‘GreenPlantSwap’.
And then he got it. That was the idea! The writer was taking his idea! Little Seed almost jumped for joy. But as he did, an even stranger thing happened. Something that had never, ever happened to Little Seed before. It could only be described as a kind of bursting feeling. Then a sharp, shooting pain across his shoulders. Then the sound of a crack like a whip.
Little Seed was quite faint with excitement and sick with fear. What was happening to him?
He was so alarmed, he barely noticed the human quietly reach out with his thumb and forefinger and gently lift him up. Then, with great care, put Little Seed down in a flower pot on his desk and nuzzle the moist soil around him so that just a small, green shoot peaked from the earth.
Little Seed felt the warm dampness envelope him and gradually became calm. Everything was going to be OK.
Learn more: The bigger picture for plants.