From Houseplants Back to Seeds…

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As pandemic life changes, and we begin to move around the cabin a bit more, it’s clear to me that many of us are reassessing our lives and how we live them. As a childless middle-aged woman it has meant helping my elderly parents a bit more. I have older siblings, and they’re dealing with their own lives, and for once in my life, I’m well enough to help out a bit with basic things they need. That was an easy and clear choice. I’ve enjoyed shifting my priorities to help them since they helped to support me for years when I was very ill. I can never pay them back for that but I am beyond grateful to have been helped.

When it comes to my work/life balance things are more murky. I think this is something all of my friends are thinking about too. From the start of the pandemic I was considered a necessary worker in my state. I work in agriculture basically and Oregon has a large ornamental horticulture industry. Unlike many people, I was not laid off, and I did not work remotely. Going through all of this was a learning experience, especially when coupled with the fact that my industry has been booming. I cannot make plants fast enough, and when it comes to buying in starts to pot up, well, many wholesale growers are out of everything, and when I say sold out, I mean for at least another year or two. Gardening has become very popular during the pandemic and that has made me quite pleased.

Being hired to give Zoom presentations was a wonderful surprise and it’s a great change as an additional revenue stream. Horticulturists need that extra boost and we do have a lot to say about what we do. I have teaching and speaking experience and I very much enjoy communicating about what I’m passionate about. I look forward to doing more of it and having more contact with consumers. I just never would have imaged that this is how it would start for me. With houseplants being so popular, and my having grown so many for years, I have a lot to say about them. I’m happy that being chronically ill my indoor gardening has become such a positive thing. Long ago I started growing the plants indoors to make me feel better, to help with depression, and to feel like I was part of the horticulture world even when I couldn’t function as well as others my age. Sometimes the number of them seemed embarrassing but it turned out to be a good thing for me in a way I had never expected.

Well, not long ago I had to transition back more to my normal life of propagating with seeds. Between the two nurseries where I work, as well as my home, it’s a lot of information running around in my head. I grew free veggie starts for folks in my neighborhood this year, and I also committed to growing seeds again at home in a more organized fashion, but it seems as though everything I do is more complicated and messy than simplified and organized. I have a lot of delayed maintenance to do and that’s part of the mess I’m experience but I’m getting things done. I think the pandemic has helped many of us with that.

I changed the name of my Etsy shop to the same at this blog not long ago. As my friend Paul at Xera Plants has said over and over, branding must be simplified. It’s been disheartening though at times doing customer service in addition to everything else during the last year. I sell seeds because I love them so much, but I don’t make much money if any when it really comes down to it. Receiving rude customer messages during the pandemic, especially from beginners who bit off more than they could chew, was sometimes really painful. No, I cannot refund your money if you didn’t follow the directions and do your research. This all happening at the same time folks online were sometimes making thousands of dollars selling houseplants in the underground market. It made me want to pull my hair out. Honestly, I’ve felt a lot like the naive idealist. How thinly can I sow myself? How poor do I want to be? Why am I even bothering?

I’m committed now to do better. It’s important for me to be responsible and professional in the industry that I love. This summer I scheduled an Open Garden with the HPSO in the hopes that it would help me get my garden in order. I’m also getting my seeds back in order too. Sowing new crops, I’ll be collecting from friends again, and I’ll try for another year to make the Etsy shop (or just online seed sales) work for me. In addition to two other jobs, this may not work out, but I am going to try.

My shop will be closed from June 1-September 1 so that I can reassess it further. I look forward to less harried and slightly more social summer. Stay safe out there and please get a COVID-19 vaccine!

Amateur Bot-Ann-Ist Seeds: the Seed Shop Returns!

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The Covid-19 pandemic has been good for business. When folks stay at home, many turn to gardening to stave off boredom and anxiety. Inevitably, they wonder about growing things from seed. My online Etsy store (formerly Milton’s Garden Menagerie) ended up being slammed with sales last spring due to folks staying more at home. After the parent site decided to advertise some of our shops on third-party sites for increased traffic, I ended up with 8x the usual amount of orders and actually had to shut the shop for 5 or 6 months. The experience was exhausting and I lost money due to the amount of customer service that was required.

My shop is not exactly a viable business. To be honest, I likely lose money selling the seeds that I do because so many are grown and/or harvested by me. Cleaning them is a messy nightmare, and storing them takes time and energy. Then I have to pack them. Over the years, my eyesight has worsened, so I need a magnifying glass light in addition to glasses, and we are on the brink of ordering a new bonus fridge for the household so that my seeds can all be moved back out to the Seed Studio aka detached garage. That’s not an easy problem to fix when you’re earning a dollar or two here and there.

My shop is a labor of love, but I very much enjoy doing it when the customers are excited plant lovers like me. The selection is a bit random. I’m focussed more on growing my own seeds, selling seeds collected here at home or in the gardens of friends, and from some wild collection too but only in places where it is legal and there is an abundance of seeds.

What I currently re-listed is the good stuff for 2021. I will continue to add to it too as the months go on, and I hope that I won’t have the experience that I had last year. I’ve been selling seeds on Etsy for over a decade now and my experiences have always been wonderful. I just hope to be able to offer some plants soon as well, but there will be more on that in the future.

If you’d like to see what I have in my shop, please feel free to look. It’s not a lot right now, but I will be back at it all over again in 2021 with more new items. If you have fresh seeds of some kind that you think I could sell, please let me know. I am always looking to add interesting things but cannot afford to pay you for your harvest—unless you live nearby in Portland and I can trade a houseplant. I have plenty of those. 🙂

Click this link to visit my shop: Amateur Bot-Ann-Ist Seeds