Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Victory Garden in the Family History

Husband took a day trip last weekend to a nearby city in order to photograph gravestones for his family history web site. He invited me along; I declined, preferring to start readying my garden. He invited Amigo; Amigo wanted to stay home and start his spring break by relaxing. Husband then called his mom and dad. They initially said yes, and then his dad backed out in favor of a nap or two.

On the road between here and there, Mother-In-Law talked about her childhood in Milwaukee. She meant the big city itself, not a suburb. MIL spent her formative years on Milwaukee's north side, around 41st Street between Silver Spring and Capitol Drive. They lived in a small house, and her father bought the two lots on either side when the owners were in arrears on their taxes. "He got them cheap!" as she told Husband. Using the extra lots, the family started what she refers to as their Victory Farm in the sity of Milwaukee.

They grew vegetables, they raised chickens (she remembers somewhere in the range of 500!), and near the back of their lot, they grew the grain to feed the chicks. She, as the only daughter, canned the blueberries and raspberries as they ripened. When they had more than they needed, she would work out trades with the neighbors and/or the small grocers in the neighborhood. She remembers trading berries she'd canned for a box (crate? case?) of peaches. She canned the peaches and started the cycle all over again. She threw a few peach pits in the backyard, and lo and behold, two peach trees came up. As they began to bear fruit, the family didn't need to buy or trade for peaches any more, either. The peach trees were a hardy variety, a Rocky Mountain type, so they held up well in this cold Wisconsin weather.

I've read that at one time Victory Gardens produced 40% of the nation's food supply. That figure sounded awfully high to me, but if a lot of city families did what my MIL's family did, 40% becomes more believable. MIL told Husband that the family started their Victory Farmette just before World War II. It must have been fairly well established by the time the Victory Garden became the trendy thing to do.

My backyard plot - call it Kitchen Garden, Recession Garden, or just my patch of dirt - won't come near Victory Garden quantities. I can only hope it'll grow stories that I can tell my kids when they have kids of their own. Maybe they'll talk about how their mother liked to play in the dirt all summer long and added home grown spinach to everything they ate!

Happy Love Thursday, everyone, and keep telling the family tales. That's the kind of growth our country will always need.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a story! That is an amazing amount of food raised. I'm reading Little Heathens and I think whether people lived rural or urban, they really spent a lot of time growing their own.

4/09/2009 9:53 AM  
Anonymous kim said...

What a wonderful story! Both my parents grew up in small towns in the midwest. They remember how common it was for folks to keep chickens. My dad sold berries from his family farm starting around age seven. I've never canned anything in my life. I'm almost afraid to, but I want to try it this year.

4/09/2009 5:41 PM  
Blogger Jena Webber said...

Wow, that is amazing. I am starting my garden this year. I have an entire acre of land, and I'm not planning to plant the entire thing. Thanks for visiting my blog also. I'll be back.

4/10/2009 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the post. It's one more example of how self-sufficient people used to be. I don't think we'll be raising chickens, but we have been gardening for years.

4/10/2009 10:05 PM  
Blogger Karen Jensen said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog, but I'll be back. I'm gardening this year--a little recession garden. I'm in South Texas, so I'm just finishing up the Spring crops, and am busy getting the summer crops established. Why didn't I know how much fun it is to play in the dirt and eat what I grow?

4/11/2009 11:09 AM  

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