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By LuAnn Schindler

-Isms: Views on life in rural America


April 30, 2020

All I really needed to know about gardening I learned from my grandparents.

Gardening is hard, yet rewarding, work. Planting seeds, caring for tender plants, watering daily and harvesting require patience. You learn to adapt, sometimes you try new things. The end result, though, is worth the time.

My Wausa grandparents grew rows of green beans, cucumbers, potatoes and a lot of sunflowers. I remember a few tomato plants, too, although I do not remember Grandma cooking a lot of tomato-based foods.

My Tilden grandparents grew a bountiful garden. Cucumbers to be pickled; green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, turnips, parsnips and squash. Over at the Ponderosa, a strip of land Grandpa farmed between Tilden and Oakdale, they planted watermelon and muskmelon.

Both sets had fruit trees on their property, primarily apples. Grandma Larson baked a lot of apple crisps from the bounty. Grandma Fields taught me how to make apple pie, although I never could make pie crust like hers. My favorite, though, were the pickled cherries, canned fresh using the tart red fruit.

Both grandmas spent many autumn days in the kitchen canning. I attribute their skill to necessity; both lived through world wars, knew the importance of raising food to supplement rations.

During World Wars I and II, victory - or war gardens - were planted to reduce strain on the public food supply.

The movement escalated during World War I, when Americans were asked to produce food where they could: small strips of land, large parcels of farm ground and even rooftops.

The gardens, an idea first promoted by George Washington Carver, eventually resulted, by the end of World War II, in approximately 40% of the nation’s vegetable production from 20 million gardens .

Life changed after the end of WWII, and for many, gardening slipped to the wayside.

But there were those - like my grandparents - who never stopped the cycle of planting, weeding, harvesting and canning.

Maybe it’s time to bring back victory gardens, to become self-sufficient.

More than 100 years after the concept took root, our situations are nearly parallel. We’re fighting an invisible enemy this time; our ancestors did not.

If concerns about food insecurity continue, why not plant and grow your own food?

This weekend, I began plotting our garden: four varieties of tomatoes, three different types of cherry tomatoes, green and red peppers, a few jalapeño and habenero plants, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I’m sure there will be several rows of green beans, and maybe, pumpkins.

Sure, there will be a lot of late-night canning sessions this fall, resulting in salsa, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice and beans for later use. Maybe I’ll pick some of our fresh raspberries and make a batch of raspberry-habenero jam. Sweet and spicy. Yum.

Raising your own food teaches how to provide for our most basic needs, including reconnecting with Mother Earth. It’s a creative art on so many levels, and it’s gaining steam.

Time to dig in.


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