Catalogs are for the home bound, people who live in rural areas, and those elderly enough to be uncomfortable ordering online. Pocket wise they are much safer to pursue because you can turn down the corner of a page, mark items that attract your fancy, and keep it by your chair for later consideration without running the risk of hitting the wrong key to place an order for something you don't want or need.
After the holiday dream books stop flooding our mailboxes the seed and plant catalogs arrive to take their place with their lovely pictures to entice our visual pleasures. It doesn't matter that a huge garden may now be beyond our capability to handle. We may no longer preserve quantities of vegetables for the winter months or have an extensive family to feed, but our imagination still runs wild with vivid pictures of rows of delectable vegetables ripening in the sun.
Tucked away in Osburn Roy's collection of old almanacs is a seed catalog from the D.M. Ferry & Co., of Detroit, MI for 1901. It is also an almanac with short articles on germination, planting, and yes, tried-and-true techniques for killing precious seeds. Who hasn't lived through the experience of sowing a drill of fresh seeds, waiting, and watching, yet nothing happens as we exercise our brown thumbs.
"A seed is a wonderful casket, locked and sealed, and which holds that which may have greater value than kings' jewel cases. Were all of the latter dropped into the sea how much poorer would the world find itself?"
The names of the varieties of vegetables have changed in the last 100 plus years, as is evidenced by a recent catalog from R.H. Shumway Co., of Randolph, WI, Yet the descriptions of a plant's growth, ability to produce, its size, and stamina to withstand summer heat has not. Those read almost the same.
The inter pages look alike as if both the 1901 and 2015 were produced the same year. I did find an advertisement for Flat Head Dutch cabbage in both catalogs, but neither had Bibb lettuce which is beloved by many Kentuckians,
Bibb lettuce was developed in Frankfort, KY in the 1920s. My mother always had a special bed she covered in mid-March with tobacco canvas to protect her lettuce, spinach, early onions, and radish garden from late frosts. Nothing tasted like ambrosia as the first cutting of these delicate greens after a bleak winter.
So many choices and so little sunny space makes the dreams of seeds catalogs fuel for the soul during the long winter months.