Category Archives: Gardening

Gardening: More than just a Pastime

rationing posterAt the time of my grandfather Dennis Gilbert’s childhood, World War II was just beginning, and sacrifices had to be made by civilians like him in order to support America’s troops. On top of various materials and tools, such as tires and gasoline, food had to be rationed so that sufficient supplies could be sent to soldiers who were fighting overseas. Although these rations were not debilitating, families usually had little, if any, extra food. Small family gardens were perfect solutions to this food problem. My grandfather assured me that his family would have been fine even if they had not planted a garden each year. Their gardens were simply used to supplement their stores of food. He went on to tell me that their garden produced delicious fresh vegetables that were difficult to obtain in any other way. Because they were such wise investments, family gardens were fairly common during this time. They were small and could be managed by a small team, yet they still produced a fair harvest each year.retired-man-cultivating-plants

Gardens, profitable as they were, required much effort to maintain. Pests, weeds, and disease had to be combated constantly. In addition, the ground had to be marked out, tilled, cultivated, and fertilized on a regular basis. To make matters worse, this work had to be done manually unless expensive farm equipment was available. As a child, my grandfather had to turn the dirt of his family’s garden with a pitchfork, and he and his mom had to cultivate the ground with a hoe before planting. His father was unable to help them, as he worked twelve hour days, six days a week.

Victory Garden

These struggles didn’t stop families from gardening, however! In fact, according to my grandfather, the ratio of agriculture- related professions to more urban, technology- focused professions was 50-50. As my grandfather said, “I enjoyed getting out there in the garden and working.” He also told me that his ancestors were farmers, and that “farming was in our blood. … I inherited that.”Part of small time gardening’s success came from the efforts of the national government, which helped convince people to garden. It glorified these gardens, deeming them “Victory Gardens” because they allowed for a greater amount of supplies to be shipped to soldiers fighting in WWII. In my grandfather’s family, young children did not work on the gardens. As he grew up, however, he began to take on most of the gardening responsibility, and all of the hard labor went to him, while his mother helped out in other areas. Fortunately for him, his family moved to Connecticut when he was in high school, and a neighbor named Mr. Knapp helped plow the garden with his tractor. In addition, my grandfather’s dad got a machine called a rototiller, which dramatically helped him till the ground. These machines made work much easier, and they increased the size and productivity of his family’s garden.

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Such help as that which my grandfather’s family received was not uncommon. In fact, families in the same neighborhood usually helped each other out when another was going through a tough time. For example, if a family was too sick to work, or if someone in that family was injured, their neighbors would work the garden until they recovered. Families also shared their harvests, and the elderly, especially, were given produce often. Only a few varieties of crops were planted by each family in my grandfather’s neighborhood, so families would trade surplus produce. My grandfather’s neighbors were very fond of growing zucchini, and they gave their extra stores of it to his family. There were a few staple crops that almost everyone grew. These included tomatoes, squash, green beans, corn, cucumbers, beets, bell peppers, and radishes.

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After considering common issues in today’s society, my grandfather told me that he feels every family should have a garden. He then continued to tell me that if family members worked together on such a project, they would develop a closer bond with each Gardens have greatly affected Missouri. Cities, communities, and even individuals are different as a result of it.  This lifestyle has become a part of our heritage, and as long as there is a single gardener in Missouri, it will always be important.  Regardless of how it is conducted, gardening will always play a role in shaping our culture.other. He also explained that young children would come to develop an understanding and appreciation for gardening and hoped that they would eventually begin a similar project with their own families, continuing the cycle.  He concluded, “There’s just something about going out and picking garden-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, or green beans. There’s a sense of accomplishment. It would help teach responsibility to children.” He told me that it is easy to get into gardening, and that there is a variety of gardens that can be grown, such as flower and vegetable gardens.

 

 

Citations

Gilbert, Dennis.  Personal interview.  24 Nov. 2012

“Victory Garden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

Berger, David. “Country Lore: Homemade Rototiller.” Mother Earth News. N.p., Apr.-May 2007. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

“Retired Man Cultivating Plants.” 123RF Stock Photos. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

Stambaugh, Liz. “How Personal Recycling Can Help Your Garden And Wallet.”Examiner.com. N.p., 10 Mar. 2009. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

Selasa. “Guide Food Travel.” : WWII Rationing: Golden Barley Soup and Mock Duck. N.p., 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.

Smiles and Seeds

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Shirley Ramsour, age 90, was born and raised in Joplin. Though her mother, Rose, died from pneumonia when she was seven years old, Shirley lived a very privileged life. Her father was an architect and they lived in a grand house that looked like a castle on the outside.

Before Shirley’s mother passed away, she was an avid gardener and had a large garden. When Rose was in the garden, Shirley was always there to help. It might have been little tasks such as pulling weeds or counting seeds, but she remembers her mother giving her great amounts of praise for the help.

Before she got sick, Rose did all the landscaping for the house. Shirley and her sister Margot would be amazed by the fact that their mother could plant a whole garden in a day’s time. Shirley said her mother taught her that she could not count on every single seed sprouting, and that only three out of four seeds would grow.

Shirley’s family had a nanny that lived with them. She cleaned the house, cooked the food, and took care of the children when their mother was out. The nanny insisted she would help Rose in the garden, but Rose simply refused, though she allowed Shirley to help.

Sometimes, when Rose cut fresh flowers from the garden, she would let Shirley and Margot have a few. The sisters would go to the end of the street, set up a booth, and try to sell the flowers to the residents of the neighborhood.

The sisters would go to the market with Rose at the beginning of spring and help her pick out seeds and plants for that year’s gardens. Shirley and Margot would run up and down the aisles looking at all sorts of seeds. They would pick out many packets just because of the color and picture of the flower on the front. A package of sunflower seeds cost five cents in 1920.

“My favorite memory of my mother was of a spring day when I was five years old. I woke up to sunshine streaming through my window, and I went to the window and saw that all of the flowers in the garden had bloomed. There were gorgeous petunias, beautiful tulips, and blushing rose bushes. The grass had been freshly cut and it glimmered with morning dew. I remember intently watching my mother’s face. She turned around in a few circles, admiring her work. Then, she had the biggest smile on her face. It was very enlightening to see how proud my mother was. Gardening meant a lot to her because back in her time women were not allowed to do much, and gardening was an escape for my mother.”

After Rose died, Shirley and her sister no longer gardened. Their father hired a gardener to take Rose’s place. It made Shirley sad to see other people work in her mother’s gardens, but she and her sister both knew that they could not make the gardens as beautiful as their mother had made them.

Shirley married Bart Ramsour in 1947. As soon as they got settled in their home, Shirley decided she wanted to start a garden. “I thought I had forgotten all that my mother had taught me. Once I started buying the seeds and digging up the earth, I knew that the knowledge had not left me, it had just been tucked in the back of my mind.”

Shirley says gardening is a great escape. It is hard work, but the end result brings joy and beautiful sights to set one’s eyes upon. Some of the traditions of gardening have changed but one thing remains the same: gardens can be the window to a beautiful soul.

Ramsour, Shirley. Personal Interview. 22 Nov, 2012.

The Lost Art of Self-Reliance

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Knowing how to sew and make one’s own clothes is one step toward being self reliant; knowing how to grow and preserve one’s own food is another. My grandmother grew up in the post-depression era, and her family was heavily impacted by the Great Depression. They learned how to take care of themselves.

There were many skills that were deemed necessary for survival, but the most important was, as my grandmother said, “all of them.” One of the great many skills that my grandmother utilized quite heavily was the art of sewing and cloth making. She used to, and still continues, to make her own clothes and quilts. It is not a skill that one forgets when it is used to survive the harsh times; the clothes that she makes represent a lifetime of fending for one’s self. The stitchings in her work show a level of mastery that can only be rivaled by the modern mass made sewing machines. The amount of time and art that is put into the making of her clothes shows a level of determination that has all but disappeared in today’s society.

The life that many Americans lead in these modern times is one of mass production and mass waste. In the Depression Era there was little to no waste, and anything and everything that could be saved was saved and reused later. The amount of things that people were able to use time and time again was tremendous! Some food preservation techniques were advanced and effective. Take the art of canning.  Canning was a very effective method of food preservation. It allowed for things such as jellies and fruits to be preserved for long periods of time without spoiling. Canning was a tremendous breakthrough for the world of food preservation and was utilized by many, many people to save all that they could. My Grandmother is among them.

My grandmother has been described by many as “eccentric” because she does numerous things to prepare for times of crisis, such as growing her own food. The art of growing one’s own food has been around for centuries, and it allows for individuals to be reliant on themselves. This activity today tends to make people think of something that is “unique” or unneeded. Some people tend to rely heavily on the almighty supermarket, oftentimes spending hundreds of dollars just to have food for only a few weeks. However, by raising their own food, like my grandmother, they would be able to eat for months for a rather small amount of money.

My grandmother still uses the skills she learned as she grew up in the Post-Depression Era. She can make her own clothes and her own quilts, she can grow and preserve her own food, and she knows how make it through tough times. She is truly a shining example of self-reliance in the world of today.

Childhood Memories of Gardening

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While growing up in Southwest Missouri, gardening and canning were very important aspects of the early life of Katherine Rowe.

Rowe typically began her mornings by getting up and going out to the garden to check on the vegetables. First, she would pull all of the weeds and pick the ripened vegetables. Then, she would take them in the house, clean them, and set them aside to dry. Meanwhile, her brother would go out and shovel cow manure to be used as fertilizer, which she recalls as “very amusing to watch because he hated it.”

Garden House

Rowe’s family had a very large garden with lots of different vegetables, including things like tomatoes and peas. She said that even though it took a whole row of peas for one bowl, and took a lot of work to harvest them, they still grew the peas. However, she said her favorite part of gardening was probably being able to take a bite of a freshly picked tomato, which she stated was “very delicious. I loved the tart flavor.”

When recalling the difficult aspects to gardening, such as having to plow the garden by hand or having to shovel the dirt, Rowe said that she didn’t like having to pull the weeds, because it was “hard, boring, and time consuming.” She said that even though the hardest jobs were given to the boys, gardening and picking vegetables were still hard jobs for the girls.

PeasRowe said that she enjoyed eating the freshly grown vegetables and loved the fact that she didn’t have to go to the market anytime she wanted fresh vegetables. She said that she still wishes she could have a garden today, and have the pleasure of biting into one of those delicious, tart homegrown tomatoes.

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