Sunday, March 29, 2009

My poor neglected garden

I have been wanting to get down in my garden and weed for days now. I've been meaning to plan out what and where I'm growing everything, and go out and buy my bounty, but life just seems to keep getting in my way. Today was my husbands birthday, so we went shopping for a gift yesterday. My plan was to get his gift, get some lunch stop at the nursery on the way home and head straight to the garden, but birthday boy had other plans, and I never got near my garden yesterday. I also didn't get any of my other chores done, so that's what I did today, and consequently, only enough time to walk through and take pictures of the neglect after dumping my kitchen scraps in the compost bin.

Here are some things I discovered on my garden stroll. I've got volunteer potatoes popping up, and the mint my husband planted is taking over the upper plot.

This is my Chinese Kale that I started in the milk jug cloches. It's barely hanging in.
But the Oriental Spinach is doing great! It's taken to our cool coastal weather quite well.
I also discovered that the artichokes are starting to flower. Yeah!
This is my pride and joy. I planted this chard a full year ago and it just keeps on producing!

Hopefully I'll be busy weeding and planting in the next few days. If only it would quit raining on the weekends!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Evolution of the Victory Garden Part 5

I'm finally back to write the next part of my Evolution of the Victory Garden. I had written part of it out ahead of time and thought I knew where I'd be going with this, but things are changing rapidly, and people are sending me lots of new information, which I greatly appreciate. So where to start? I'm not entirely sure, but here goes.....

We've had "Victory Gardens" throughout history. I've even read that they started beyond what I had originally posted about the depression in the US in the 1800's, back to Europe in the 1600's. This makes me think, that in times of fear and need, we turn to our connection to the land, Mother Earth, to keep up warm, fed, and safe. Once again, we, here in America at least and maybe in lands far away, are feeling that need to be nurtured by our Mother.

We now have the beginning or the Modern Victory Garden. A retreat to the land. I wonder, how is this different from Victory Gardens of the past?

The difference is in the motivation. During the depression in the 1800's and the Great Depression of the 1930's , it was about survival and morale. During World War I, it was about patriotism, as it was in WWII. Now we're in the era of big agribusiness control, terrorism, food fears, fear of bacterial/viral contamination's, in the midst of a major recession, possible depression, AND we're at war. Once again we turn to the land to save us.

We now face large centralized farms using up too much fossil fuel, using too many chemicals, accidentally spreading e-coli and salmonella. We're seeing outbreaks of dangerous bacterial diseases, obesity, and poor health, in spite of our wealth. We've lost connection with the land and we're out of touch with our food. You can't buy a piece of lamb with fat on it, because the grocery store knows Americans are afraid of the vision of fat, yet we can sell McDonald's hamburgers like no tomorrow, which are laden with more fat then the piece that was trimmed off the lamb chop in order to sell it.

As American's we've lost our collective food minds. But the sanity is returning to the sweet smell of Victory Gardens. Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, both have petitioned the White House to plant a Victory Garden. Finally, First Lady Michelle Obama is having the ground broken on the South Lawn of the White House Lawn for a garden that will supply vegetables for the First Family. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Many are excited about this "new" trend, but there is nothing new about it. In 1800 John and Abigail Adams moved in and planted the first garden at the White House. In 1801 Thomas Jefferson adds ornamentals and fruit trees. In 1814 all is destroyed by the British, but in 1825 John Quincy Adams plants fruit trees and herbs to support the first family. In 1918 Woodrow Wilson uses sheep to fertilize and mow the First Lawn to conserve resources for the war effort. Then, in 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt plants a WW II Victory Garden on the White House Lawn, setting an example for the American People. Now, here we are 66 years later, and we're returning to the soil. Curling up in mamma's lap in a time of need.

Personally, we headed toward the "self sufficiant" life style several years ago. We started with a vegetable garden, then some sheep, then chickens, and now goats. We live on the coast, my husband fishes for much of our food. We're planning on clamming, hunting, gathering, growing vegies/fruits, raising/ butchering meat. We were going to do this before the economy went south, but now, it feels like a necessity. We turned to the soil to heal other ills, now she serves us in an unexpected time of need. I am greatful to my parents for teaching me what I needed to survive in these times. And I'm grateful for my luck in having a place where I can do this and that Mother Earth is providing us with what we need.

Happy Spring, and here's to an abundant crop!

Hey! Why don't we come up with posters for the new Victory Gardens? Got any ideas? Leave them here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Victory Garden Handbook

I still have a part 5 to add to my Victory Garden series, but have got behind having to deal with sick kids, a sick dog, broken appliances (dishwasher) etc. etc.

To add a little nibble to the subject go to this site and check out the Victory Garden Handbook of the Victory Garden Committee War Services, Pennsylvania State Council of Defense, published April 1944.

I'll be back soon to add to my series. Have a wonderful first day of Spring!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Evolution of The Victory Garden Part 4

Victory Gardens of World War II - These are the gardens my parents talked about and helped to grow with their families.

Many of the Victory Gardens of WWII sprouted from the the Relief Gardens of the Great Depression, and many had their start as WWI Victory Gardens.

During World War II the War Food Administration created the National Victory Garden program and it had five goals.

1. To lessen the demand on commercial vegetable suppliers and therefore make more food available for the Armed Forces.

2. To reduce demand on strategic materials used in food processing and canning.

3. To ease the burden on the railroads transporting war munitions by releasing the produce carriers.

4. To maintain the vitality and morale of Americans on the home front through production of nutritious vegetables and being outdoors to cultivate them

5. To preserve fruit and vegetables for future use when shortages might become worse.

Shortages were very real during WWII and rationing of food and resources were a reality for Americans at the time.

In 1942 5.5 milion gardeners participated in the War Garden Effort. Seed package sales rose 300%. The USDA estimated that 20 milion gardens were planted with and estimated 9 to 10 million pounds of fruit and vegetables grown per year. That was fourty-four percent of the fresh produce grown in the U.S. In 1943 315,000 pressure cookers sold for canning. Only 66,000 sold the year before.

The Victory Gardens of World War II helped to improve the morale of Americans and provided and outlet for patriotism, fear and anxiety, with loved ones off to war.

Today, we're seeing a resurgence in Victory Gardens and there are many similarities to the Victory Gardens of World War II, but there are some stark differences as well. Stay tuned for Part 5 of the Evolution of Victory Gardens, when we explore the modern Victory Garden.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Evolution of The Victory Garden Part 3

The Great Depression 1929 to 1939:

The stock market crashed, jobs were lost and people were hungry. Once again municipalities turn to gardens to lessen the burden on the American public. Relief gardening programs were put in place to combat hunger, poverty and emotional stress. These gardens were known as welfare gardens, vacant lot gardens, subsistence gardens and depression relief gardens. It was believed that these gardens would improve health and spirit, create feelings of usefulness, productivity, importance and provide opportunities for food and work.

There were three phases to depression era relief gardens. In the beginning the program was hindered by disagreements on the size and placement of the gardens, who would be involved in creating them, uncertainty on the length of the depression and the fact that these gardens would no longer be grown for the sick and disabled, but for healthy people unable to find work. Most support for these gardens came from the citizens themselves in the beginning.

In 1933 these issues were resolved for a couple of reasons. First non government organizations such as The Family Welfare Society and Employee Relief Commission formed garden committees to combat hunger. People with land were encouraged to cultivate and seeds and supplies were provided. Many farmers disliked this program because they felt that by growing more produce in these relief gardens caused overproduction which in turn maintained the depression. Second, President Franklin D. Roosevelt became president and started the "New Deal". Over the next three years the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) gave over $3 billion of aid to work garden programs. Gardeners received wages for cultivating and distributing to those in need. This program lasted until 1935.

How well did these programs work? In New York City a gardening campaing led by the Welfare Department and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created over 5000 gardens in vacant lots producing $5 worth of vegetables for every $1 invested which came to $2.8 million of food produced by 1934.

In 1935 government funding ended and the third phase began. The gardens were no longer viewed as opportunities for success and improvement. The attitude of the public began to change to viewing the gardens as a tool for poverty and laziness, and that they were best geared towards the disabled and sick. The connotation went from "relief" gardens to the pitiful impression of them becoming "welfare" gardens.

But by 1939 another war was brewing in Europe and these connotations would be looking to change soon. Next up, World War II Victory Gardens.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Evolution of The Victory Garden Part 2

The original "Victory Gardens" began during World War 1, even before the U.S. entered the war. In 1914 in Europe, the allies had most of their farmers go off to war leaving crops unharvested and rotting in the fields, most of the farm land had become part of the war zone, and it was becoming more and more dangerous to ship food to Europe due to the German submarines. There was virtually no meat available, and dairy products were so limited that a person had to get a doctors note saying that it was necessary to their health to acquire them. Bread was often not available at all.

In the U.S. citizens had to cut their consumption of food as prices rose and as the burden fell on North America to provide food for 120,000,000 people. Meatless and wheatless days were promoted in order to conserve. As a response to this community gardens started to pop up everywhere.

In 1917 Charles Lathrop Pack founded the National War Garden Commission. The Commission campaigned for backyard Victory Gardens with posters, cartoons, press releases, and pamphlets to "to arouse the patriots of America to the importance of putting all idle land to work, to teach them how to do it, and to educate them to conserve by canning and drying all food that they could not use while fresh." (Pack 1919). Posters had sayings such as, "Will you have a part in Victory?", "Put the slacker land to work", and "Can the Kaiser". President Woodrow Wilson stated that, "Everyone who creates or cultivates a garden helps..."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture formed a committee on public information to help plant "a million new backyard and vacant lot gardens." These gardens were meant to feed America so that the country would be able to send food abroad to support our European allies, and to save fuel and free up transportation and middleman jobs to help with the war effort.

How well did this effort work? In Dallas Texas in 1918 there were 20,000 gardens producing 17,500 cans of vegetables in only a few weeks. In Marion Indiana where 29,000 people resided there were 14,081 gardens. Nationwide in 1917 there were 3 million garden plots. By 1918 that had increased to 5,285,000 plots with a harvest of 528.5 million pounds of produce for that year.

When put to the test, individual Americans can really produce.

Next stop down garden history lane will be Depression Relief Gardens. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Evolution of The Victory Garden

I've been hearing the term "Victory Garden" thrown about more and more these days. I had to wonder, how many people really know what a Victory Garden is. Or, should I say was? I grew up hearing the term, having parents who grew up during the depression and who lived through WWII. Their families had Victory Gardens, and they often spoke to me about those gardens, which went beyond vegetables to include chickens, and usually a milk cow. I've seen my Mother shudder at the sight of a butter churner in antique stores. Yes, she had to churn her own butter, but that's another story all together.

My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to blow off chores and do some research on Victory Gardens. I discovered a rich history in American gardening and I'll share what I discovered in my own little series here. So story number one, where did Victory Gardens begin?

I had a vague recollection that WWII Victory Gardens had their start in WWI. When I started researching WWI Victory Gardens I discovered that The U.S. has had a long history of encouraging backyard gardens as a way to get by and even to control the impoverished.

Between 1890 and 1910 a group of middle and upper middle class city dwellers started the City Beautiful Movement. It started out of their fear of the masses of poverty stricken citizens they reluctantly co-existed with. Between 1860 and 1910 the US population had tripled which put a lot of strain on urban areas. Nearly 19,000 people lived in 303 alleys in Washington DC. Sanitation, crime and overpopulation were becoming major issues. It was believed that by beautifying the city it would inspire civic loyalty and improve morals in the poorer civilians, which would, in turn, reduce crime.

Part of this movement involved city gardens, which they hoped would improve the health of the poor population by getting them outside and providing them food and giving them a rest from the stresses of life. One group in Minneapolis grew so much in their City Beautiful garden that they began supplying local stores with their produce.

During the depression of 1893 to 1897 backyard gardens were also encouraged due to increasing poverty and unemployment. Detroit Michigan was hit particularly hard at this time and Mayor Haze S Pingree put out a request to owners of vacant lots to be used by the unemployed to grow vegetables for subsistence. These vacant lot plots later became known as Pingree's Potato Patches. It was hoped, that in doing this, that the food supply would increase and supplement income, and that a sense of self respect and independence would grow as well as gaining the benefits of fresh air and exercise. The gardens ended up saving the city money. Detroit invested $3000 in supplies and in the first year yielded $12,000 worth of vegetables. This allowed the city to not have to raise taxes to support the unemployed and saved Detroit $9000.

2000 people participated over several years between Detroit and Buffalo. One goal for the potato patches was the hope that recent immigrants, like the Polish women pictured above, would socialize and become more ingrained in the "American Way". Similar programs existed in Minneapolis and Denver.

The U.S. has always had a rich agrarian history, but I've never really looked into the city side of that history before. I find it fascinating how city gardening has been used in the past to help the poor become more nourished, not just physically, but emotionally in the past. I have to wonder why (I think I know why) it's not being encouraged so much today.

Next I'll share what I've learned about the Liberty Gardens of the Great War, or better known as World War I.