Baby tomato plants, just putting out their first real leaves.

New starts

Baby tomato plants, just putting out their first real leaves. Baby tomato plants, just putting out their first real leaves.

My bedroom is alive with the fragrance of moist earth, as if spring has moved inside with me. In a way it has: The floor closest to the 8-foot-wide sliding glass door that opens to my bedroom patio is full of tomato and basil seedlings.

Two and a half weeks ago, I spent a happy couple of hours planting their seeds. I unearthed my seed-starting flats from the shelves in the garage, found the heat-mat and the bag of organic seed-starting mix, and laid newspaper on the floor in the bedroom.

I poured water on the wicking mat in the tray the flats of pots sit in, filled each tiny pot with soil, and wrote the names of the eight heritage varieties of tomatoes, plus one kind of basil on post-it notes to label the rows in the flat.

Organic seed-starting soil, pots, and the flat with its water-wicking mat to help the pots stay moist. Organic seed-starting soil, pots, and the flat with its water-wicking mat to help the pots stay moist.

Then I began pressing seeds into the soil. First, two varieties to eat fresh off the vine: yellow pear and silvery fir. (The tiny and sweet yellow pear tomatoes are a favorite variety from my primary seed-supplier, Renee’s Garden Seeds, run by the brilliant seedswoman Renee Shepherd, whose life-mission is to bring flavorful, beautiful, and now, organically grown varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers to home gardeners. The silvery fir tomatoes come from Colorado’s own Botanical Interests.)

Then six varieties of slicing and cooking tomatoes: Persimmon, huge, orange and citrusy; Marvel stripe, beautifully marbled red and yellow; Black krim with a dark green top and rich flavor; Stupice, intensely flavored and productive; Pompeii Roma, the best for cooking and paste; and Cherokee purple, sweet with beautiful ruby flesh. (The first five are from Renee’s Seeds, the Cherokee purple comes from Botanical Interests.)

Black krim seedlings with their first real leaves growing up between the outstretched cotyledons or seed leaves. Black krim seedlings with their first real leaves appearing between the outstretched cotyledons or seed leaves.

Next to that flat are three pots containing hanging basket begonias. The fat tubers spent the winter in the garage in their pots, dormant. I brought the pots inside this afternoon, carefully watered the soil, and then set them in the sun next to the tomato and basil seedlings. In a week or so the begonias will begin to sprout leaves, “waking up” indoors until it’s safe to put them outside.

The fragrance of moist soil and growing plants in my bedroom smells like spring to me, like new starts.

There’s another new start just beginning to appear at the other end of the block.

The long-vacant lot where my new house will be. The boulders in the foreground are Richard's spare sculpture materials. I'll use them to terrace my front slope. The site of my new house. The boulders in the foreground are Richard’s spare sculpture materials. I’ll use them to terrace my front slope. The house in the background is my neighbor.

Yesterday afternoon, a yellow backhoe chugged up onto the tail end of this formerly blighted industrial property and dug two five-foot-deep trenches in the rubbly soil for the project engineer to inspect. Looking into those trenches with their layers upon layers of river cobbles embedded in sand and gravel (this land is a prehistoric river terrace), I don’t think the engineer is going to have any problems with the stability of my “soil.” It’s not going anywhere anytime soon!

Once we get the engineer’s okay, Tommy, the excavator, will begin digging out a place at the back of the lot for my garage with its studio on the second floor, and using that fill to create a level spot closer to the street for my small house, with its big front deck coming right to the upper bank of the tiny spring creek that bounds my long, skinny lot.

An early version of the front of my tiny house-to-be. An early version of the front of my tiny house-to-be. Plans by Tom Pokorny, Natural Habitats

If all goes well, this vacant lot will sprout a finished house and garage/studio by my birthday this fall. I hadn’t consciously planned to start building in the first weeks of spring, the time of new life and growth, and finish in fall, as life here in the Northern Hemisphere tucks in for the winter. But now I think about it, it feels right to be part of that cycle.

My bedroom smells like spring. And down the block, the promise of my new house is beginning to appear. As the love of my life used to say, “I am a fortunate person.” I am indeed.

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