In praise of volunteers

[SEP2021] There’s a usage of the word “volunteer” I first heard after moving from the ‘burbs to this rural area. When errant seeds from the previous year’s corn sprout and grow in the middle of this year’s soy bean fields, farmers call them volunteers. Likewise, the potatoes that I miss when digging them out to harvest and manifest themselves in the following year’s garden as potato plants are volunteers.

This year I had several beautiful sunflower volunteers. And not in the proximity of where I was intentionally growing sunflowers last summer. More likely they’re from seeds either dropped by birds or moved/stashed/forgotten by mice or chipmunks.

When you think about it, all the potential in one tiny seed is awesome. A seed the size of a few grains of sand grows into a whole carrot. A little sunflower seed grows into a substantial plant 8’+ tall. Even more amazing is how a seed can somehow germinate and take root in far from favourable conditions. This one managed to establish itself below the woodshed deck, which is littered with discarded bark, and then grow even though shaded by a 4′ tall wood stack in front of it.

The best beauty is that which appears where you don’t expect to find it.