Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 2: Gardening

It’s spring time, and people’s fancy turns to, no not THAT, to gardening.

Our grandparents lived the original “hundred mile diet.” Did they eat avocados in January? No. For that matter, did they even know what an avocado was? No!

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The garden plots on the Hanna farm

They did know about gardening because, being farmers, they had huge gardens. We had two gardens which we switched between in alternate years, plus a huge potato patch just outside the farm yard. Even most people who lived in cities had some sort of garden.

During both world wars, every city, town and village had its “Victory Garden,” usually an unused plot of land. They were promoted as providing a healthy, patriotic activity, for more produce grown at home meant more produce shipped to the troops overseas. Although they were more of a symbolic rather than an actual benefit, people felt they were doing something tangible in defeating the enemy.

Gardening provided more than fresh vegetables during the growing season; it was the source of all vegetables and fruits that would be eaten during the winter. August was a mad house of canning – and once electricity arrived, freezing – the garden produce: peas, beans, carrots, corn, tomatoes, and beets. Root crops – potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions – together with squash and cabbage went into the root cellar. Berries and apples became jams and jellies. Cucumbers became pickles. It was a matter of pride to have one’s cellar stacked from floor to ceiling with gleaming jars of preserves.

Now, we go to the store. It’s easier. And it makes us vulnerable.

Of course, there’s a significant difference between then and now. During the war periods, a large proportion of people lived in rural areas, either on farms or in villages and small towns, and city-dwellers lived predominately in single family homes. It was possible then for almost everyone to have a garden.

Today, the population is predominately urban, and many people live in high-density neighbourhoods – condos, townhouses or apartment buildings. It’s difficult to have a garden when you have only a tiny balcony, if that, for a couple of potted tomato plants.

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A few of the seeds we’ll be planting this spring

Limited garden space hasn’t stopped people this spring. Nurseries have never been more popular. Seed packets are as scarce as toilet paper. Bedding plants are flying out the doors. Cabbages are preferred to calendula, parsley to poppies.

A garden may ensure at least a small proportion of food but more important is the emotional and gustatorial satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment that no trip to the grocery store can match. And, as people will learn when they pick that first ripe tomato or zucchini or lettuce leaves – the taste! Oh, the taste! No store-bought vegetable can match that.

Alas, gardening is no longer an adequate solution to feed the many and not just because of lack of space. Most urbanites are now removed one or more generations from the gardening protocol. They have lost the knowledge of how to grow a garden and preserve its produce, nor do they have the room to store a winter’s supply. To compound the problem, they often have no one with experience to turn to. Even though community gardens and farmers’ markets provide some locally-sourced food security, they’re insufficient to feed an entire city.

So, if the idea of rationing rankles and gardening is a band-aid solution at best, how can we ensure food security during this pandemic?

Next: Security in the Time of COVID, Part 3: Relief

P.S. Tell me: what are your gardening plans this spring?

#COVID19 #FoodInsecurity #Gardening #VictoryGardens #HundredMileDiet #FoodSelfsufficiency #CommunityGardens #FarmersMarket #LocallySourcedFood #MargaretGHanna

7 thoughts on “Survival in the Time of COVID

  1. fkorvemaker@accesscomm.ca

    Good Morning Margaret: Re: planting a garden

    Plan # 1: Wait for the frost to leave the ground. Last weekend I had to dig up and repair my buried sump pump pipe – which I forgot to drain last fall (but that’s another story), only to discover that, even though it was only the depth of a shovel blade under the grass – there was still 3-4 inches of frozen ground above the pipe. Therefore, don’t plant in April, unless your plants / seeds like really cold soil.

    Plan # 2: Turn the compost pile so that we have another 18 bags of compost come fall. See Plan# 1 for that venture – more ice. Therefore, wait until the frozen lump of last fall’s compost has thawed enough to turn – maybe mid May – certainly not May 7th.

    Plan # 3: Entrust the real planting to a friend, spouse, etc., which explains the numerous little seedlings sprouting up in small containers all over the kitchen counter, eagerly vying for the southern sun light and heat.

    Plan #4: Plant only what grows best – alas, this comes from experience, so is not very useful advice for new gardeners. In our yard, carrots and potatoes are a lost cause, so we enjoy the abundance of tomatoes, beans, squash, lettuce and beets – unless the birds return for a feast of spring salads again this year. And chives grow like a weed, even in my brick path, so we have lots of those for adding to salads, etc.

    The Evil Virus is getting more and more frustrating, but I was able to take some satisfaction in identifying a mystery brick for an e-mail enquiry yesterday. The writer wondered – and perhaps hoped – that the brick he had found with the letters “OKA” in the frog, was made in Oka, Quebec. Alas, I regretfully (gleefully ?) informed him that it was only part of a brick, and the full name is “T.P. MOKA”, made at Claybank. It hurts to rain on someone else’s parade; but that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

    That’s it from me. Have a good weekend. FRANK

    Frank Korvemaker, M.S.M.; SAA (Hon)

    Ret’d Archivist / Construction Historian

    59 Compton Road

    Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 2Y2

    Tel: (306) 586-1405 E-Mail: frank@korvemaker.ca

    and

    Hon. Corporate Archivist for the Saskatchewan Association of Architects

    For Information on the Association: http://saskarchitects.com/

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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  2. Nicely done article. I’d planned to grow less food in my little potager (last year it produced 1100 lbs., all eaten or canned or frozen, or made into jam & pickles) but with the pandemic came a change in focus. Instead of more flowers, I’m doing even more food. If we don’t need it (and since we’ve barely made a dent in last year’s mammoth production we won’t need much) I’ll donate it to neighbors, the local food pantry, friends, or church food boxes. Victory Gardens can make a difference!

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  3. I’m still trying to figure out what to grow this year. I love home grown tomatoes, but rarely have luck with them. I’d like to give carrots a shot. Of course the rhubarb is already leafing out and the haskap too, maybe I’ll finally get berries this year!

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  4. I came across your blog today and have spent a lovely hour here reading post after post that you’ve written. I especially liked your Christmas post about the gift of the stuffed cow. I’m remembering a Christmas when all I wanted was the Barbie camper with oodles of attachments but received a Barbie bicycle that could do nothing – not even support a Barbie doll.

    As to my garden, because I don’t want to venture out to buy plants or seeds, I cut off the ends of my celery, romaine lettuce, and green onions and sprouted them in small cups of water and planted them outside. I also planted potatoes, garlic, and… something new for me that I’ve never grown before… ginger!

    I can’t wait to read your next blog post.

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    1. thank you for your kind comments. Welcome aboard the “Prairie Express.” I’m probably as curious as you as to what I will post next. Inspiration occasionally strikes from out of left field. Then, of course, comes the hard but enjoyable work.

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