Monday, March 23, 2020

Revisiting Victory Gardens

As the news of the virus and a down turn of our economy is reported with increasingly depressing predictions, it would be wise to revisit the past for instructions on how to proceed. With the onset of both World War I and II, the nation was required to tighten their collective belt and a program of rationing was initiated. When my father was stationed at the Pentagon his letters to his parents speak of his offer to send them his coffee and sugar vouchers so shortages were a daily reality.

In 1917 and then again in 1941, the Agriculture Department informed the American public if they wanted fresh fruits and vegetables, they would have to grow their own. With that edict, the concept of the Victory Garden was born and many people who did not know a trowel from a hoe began to garden. To aid in the effort, the War Garden Commission compiled instruction booklets which were distributed by the Department of Agriculture, International Harvester, and Beech-Nut.

From the efforts of individuals America was transformed. Over forty percent of all vegetables consumed nationally were produced from small scale gardens. Back yards, apartment building roof tops, and vacant lots became gardens and individuals felt they were contributing in a patriotic sense. From the World War II data, it was estimated these ‘Sunday farmers’ had created over 20 million victory gardens and added eight to ten million tons of food for consumption here at home.

Oddly since the turn of the century, many large cities have begun to reinstate the premise. In San Francisco the “Victory Garden Project 2008” was created and built on the aforementioned premise with the term ‘victory’ redefined to mean urban sustainability. Growing food at home for health benefits, security, and reduction of the food miles associated with the transport of produce makes logical sense.

With our country at war, the loss of many retirement funds, and the word ‘recession’ being tossed about, perhaps now is the time for us to remember who we are! Even though we are a rural community and famous for our self-sufficiency many of the younger generation need to be encouraged. By growing food, one may save money by not having to buy at inflated prices and be assured of quality. The message that will be sent is that in a time of uncertainty we will find an advantageous use of our time and efforts. Resourceful hard work and voluntary simplicity are our honored traditions and must not be lost.

Monday, March 2, 2020


The lovely Honeysuckle arrives early each Spring. Although she is just beginning to leaf-bud, soon there will be flowers to fill the early air with their sweet scent . They are white, yellow, and sometimes red, but all are in tiny clusters that travel along the woody branches.

The Honeysuckle family is large, consisting of over 180 species, originating in both the Orient and the Americas. The Japanese and Korean Honeysuckle are a vine that is extremely hardy, will endure severe pruning and enjoys a trellis for support. In cold climates it will die back over the winter, but once out of dormancy may grow thirty feet in a year. Brought to New York in 1806 as a food source for wildlife, it was soon noted it was equally efficient at preventing land erosion, where its vigorous growing habit soon labeled it as invasive.

The American Honeysuckle may appear as either a vine or shrub, with heirloom varieties reaching tree-like proportions with a height and spread of over ten feet. Besides bringing early spring blooms to the garden, Honeysuckle has been traditionally important in both medicine and lore. For centuries the Chinese used honeysuckle for snake bites, to help remove poisons, reduce swelling, and promote healing. In Middle Ages European monks used Honeysuckle to cleanse a wound and reduce inflammation. The woody stems were pounded and eaten for arthritis, mumps, hepatitis, respiratory infections and dysentery. The delicate flowers were used to cure skin diseases, tumors, rashes and sores until the early 1900’s and the advent of ‘modern medicine’.

According to lore, it is said that bringing the blooms of Honeysuckle into the house will mean a wedding within year. In superstitious Scotland, at one time Honeysuckle vines were hung on barns to prevent cattle from being bewitched. And in the language of flowers, Honeysuckle is the symbol of love and fidelity with the fragrance said to induce dreams of passion should a bouquet be placed beside the bed.

The name Honeysuckle comes from the drop of sweet honey-like nectar that is within each flower. As a child, I spent many hours under my grandmother’s Honeysuckle gently pulling the center stamens to allow the drop of nectar to appear. The offspring of her heirloom Honeysuckle appear in my garden and those of my children. With its tree-like proportions the early humming birds feast and nest as the bees buzz about... and the sweet nectar tastes like spring!

Transplanted from my grandmother's 1935 landscape... she was resting beneath her Mother, a six inch baby, just waiting for me.