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A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary
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A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 07 November 2010 by Diane Clement

Diary Entry No 34 - Seed Reception

In case you were wondering why I haven’t written a diary entry for a while, it is because the AGS seed exchange has taken over my life for the last few months. Several people have suggested that I outline what takes place during this time.  

A great number of people are involved with the Seed Exchange at different stages - The Reception stage, The Packing Stage, The Distribution, and after that, selling seed at shows (a crucial part in the financial health of the Seed Exchange!). 

The Reception part of the Seed Exchange takes place during September and October and during this time the seed arrives at the houses of our four seed receivers. Their job is to check that the packet names match the names on the donor form, seal all leaking envelopes, and then check the names against a draft list that I produce each year in August when I have done the annual check of all the names. The seed receivers email or post me copies of all the forms so that I can check the remainder of the names that are not on the draft list (approximately 30% each year). I enter all the names for this year into a spreadsheet and also other information that we will need into other spreadsheets. I send the information back to the checkers to enable them to update their lists and alter the packets if names have changed. The checkers file all their seed alphabetically as they go along. 

During the last week of October, all the four lots of seed comes together under one roof, that of Margaret Mellows, who kindly hosts the amalgamation of the seed and provides shelter and food for Colin Dolding and myself. It’s then very long days and tough work for a couple of weeks in order to create some order and logic from the chaos of over 11,000 packets of seed. 

Here’s part of the filing system from one couple in our checking team, Mike and Louise Overton who take great pride in their work 

The next stage is to put together the four lots of seed from each checker into one alphabetical list. Some packets of seed are small and some are large, it’s sometimes difficult to file them. 

Here’s some seed in the process of being filed

All the seed from the four checkers is put into these brown filing envelopes which are individually labelled with the plant name. 

This filing system of brown envelopes is set up in the summer each year, to match the draft list. It is altered on a weekly basis as more seed comes in that is not on the draft list.

There are 20 of these plastic crates. Once the seed is filed, then I start to go through the envelopes, matching seed with the checklist. I have to make decisions to “lump” or “split” names depending on quantity of seed donated, especially for colour forms and other horticultural differences. Various packets have to be re-filed and re-entered at this stage. When I am part way through the checking, I allocate numbers to the seed and print numbering sheets, and helpers come in daily to number the packets. 

Here's Margaret getting on with numbering the packets

It is a great help to have local people willing to come in and help with filing or numbering for a day or two. 

Meanwhile, Margaret, Colin and I work round the clock - a typical day starts at 6 and ends at midnight (yes, really!). It takes me about 5 or 6 days to do all the checking, printing and various daily things that arise. Once the numbering has started, then the packing boxes can be started on. 

Colin makes up the packing boxes, he checks the seed as he goes along, and we discuss viability of various seed and whether some seed is correct. We produce an audit list with packing numbers and how many we used last year and these are used to produce packing numbers for this year. 

He makes up a lot of boxes for the packers and the pile gets higher! 

Sharp eyed among you will notice the appropriate picture above the fireplace!

Meanwhile I carry on checking the packets in the envelopes against the database.

After I finish each crate, I print a sheet for the helpers to put numbers on the packets.

After a week I have to pack the car and return home.  Half term is over and I have to go back to work 

The job isn't over, but I have to continue working at home. 

So this brings my story to last week, when I have been working every evening on the wild collected donations, checking and cataloguing and making up the packing boxes. Then I check all the seed which has arrived late or for other reasons is not in the main list. Some will go in an addendum at the end of the list. The work hasn’t finished yet, as all the sections of booklet have to be finalised and it all has to be at the printers very soon! 

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