Tag Archives: Victory Garden

A Time to Sow

Pink & Black Ornamental Garden Box

Dear Reader:

There I was yesterday, crouched down next to the garden boxes, dropping miniscule seeds into warm compost, patting a covering of compost over the “babies,” and dreaming of how the boxes will look when the seedlings emerge and begin to grow.

Moth & Chive in the “sunny” perennial bed

Giant bumblebees buzzed around and into the self-propagated purple and pink columbine. Moths and monarch butterflies visited the puffy heads of chives. Birds called. My fingernails turned black, and I didn’t care. I just kept dreaming of the months to come when I could sit and watch the plants grow.

Heirloom tomatoes in straw bale

The day before, after a $100 trip through the greenhouses at Snell’s Family Farm, I had all the starter plants on my list, plus more.

First, the tomatoes. I went with three Early Girl tomatoes, one brandywine called “Mortgage Lifter,” and two green-striped German heirloom tomatoes to go in the straw bales.

Digging out spaces in the bales was tough work. My father was visiting and helped with this chore while Mom watered and carted the extra straw to the compost pile for recycling. The bales were moist and beginning to break down inside nicely, creating some heat that I hope will make for happy tomato plants. After digging into the bales, I put in a couple handfuls of compost, stuck the plant in, and filled in with more compost. Following directions from my straw-bale gardening booklet, I then pressed on a layer of potting soil along the tops of each bale and planted spinach to grow in the shade beneath the toms.

Straw Bale with Front Garden Boxes

On the ends, a circle of pumpkin seeds will hopefully produce a few orange globes come fall. To go along with the “fall harvest” theme of my bales, I took a chance and planted a few corns seeds and some beans on the ground beside the bales. This is now a Three Sisters garden: corn, beans, squash. I’m not expecting much in the way of corn, but the stalks will look festive with the bales and the pumpkins if it all works out.

Inside the Garden Box

As for the boxes, I squished as many varieties into them as I could, intermixing veggies and flowers for visual appeal and maybe to also attract beneficial insects like bees. Already the hummingbird zipped down for a look-see yesterday.

Here is a list of what I planted this weekend:

Herb Box–basil, camomile, calendula, dill, rosemary, fennel, sage, pole beans.
Pink & Black Box–red cabbage, chocolate mint, geranium, Japanese shiso, cucumber, sweet potato vine, petunias.

Salvia & Red Cabbage

Diamond Design Box–salvia, red cabbages, cucumber (and I think something else but I can’t quite remember so it will be a mystery until something comes up between the cabbages.)

Sungold cherry tomato in a pot.

Root crop Box–small onions, carrots, parsnips, radishes, eggplant, geranium.

Peas & Pepper Box–peas, chili peppers, zucchini, summer squash.

Four Greens Boxes–Green leaf, arugula, romaine, greens mix, spinach, a leftover red cabbage, a cherry tomato, a zucchini, a few small onion is a square, and green beans and leftover cukes.

Phew! I spent the better part of two days planting and then sat outside to drink a glass of tea and enjoy the view. I took a shower and went to bed.

After midnight, around 1 a.m., the light show started…a tremendous thunderstorm that ripped through the sky for four hours, dropping torrential rains and some hail. All I could think was, “What about my itty-bitty seeds? What about my tomato plants?”

Luckily, the plants seem fine this morning. Now I have to chose: dig up the soil and replant the seeds or wait for ten or twelve days to see what, if anything, emerges from the compost. I think I’ll wait.

The weather forecast is calling for more t-storms, and I have to go to work at the library today—unlike this luna moth who has been literally hanging around all over my house for a week.

Luna Moth

What is she doing, I wonder? Resting? Waiting to take the next stage in her journey? Maybe that is the lesson for today. It’s all about timing. Rest when you need to. Look forward to the next stage in your journey. Soar when the time is right.

If there ever was a time to sow the seeds of change, it is now. What kind of future do you envision for yourself, your community, the world? What can you plant now for a better tomorrow…in your garden or Outside the Box?

Days 20 & 21: Shoe and Tell

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

Dear Readers:

I think it would be fun to create a D.C. scavenger hunt based on shoes. I’ve heard about these scavenger hunts. Someone makes up a list of unusual places/sights/objects around the city and sends tourists off to find them. I would create a shoe-hunt. One of the places I’d put on the map would be the Museum of American History.

Most people who come to view the First Ladies exhibit focus mainly on the fabulous gowns. Granted, these are spectacular, and if you are at all interested in clothing design and fashion, you will be in heaven here. What you may not tend to notice, however, are the smaller articles displayed around the dresses. Mirrors and combs. Dinnerware. Silverware. Fans.

Shoes.

Abigail Adams's Slippers

These pretty embroidered leather slippers were worn by Abigail Adams in the late 1700’s. Over two-hundred years later . . .

Michelle Obama's Jimmy Choo's

. . . we have the Jimmy Choo’s that Michelle Obama wore with her Inaugural Ball gown.

Michelle Obama's Inaugural Ball gown

Both the Teen and I enjoyed looking at the gowns and shoes and designer sketches. We viewed a short video of Michelle Obama’s speech at the museum when she donated the gown to the exhibit, and I was impressed once again by the First Lady’s down-to-earth demeanor, her humor, and her intelligence. I also can’t help loving her for her passion for healthy eating, starting the Let’s Move program to fight childhood obesity, and, of course, planting the Victory Garden at the White House. Click HERE to watch a video of this year’s spring planting at the White House Garden.

George Washington In A Toga

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in Washington so far. I can’t help laughing. Here is George Washington in his Colonial wig and a toga. A toga! Did you check out his feet? Sandals. I’m sure the sculptor had some grand vision for portraying our first president in this way–yes, democracy has its roots in Greece and all–but in my opinion, this is just wrong. Eh, can’t win ’em all.

The Teen shushed me. “Stop laughing, Mom.” So on we went.

Bon Appetit!

Here I am with another of my heroines, Julia Child. Why is she my heroine, you ask? Okay, I’m not really into gourmet cooking, but she inspires me because she never gave up trying different things until she discovered her true passion. Once she found that passion, she jumped into it with both feet. When she had ample reason to give up when trying to finish her cookbook, she persevered. And she continued to follow her passion the rest of her life.

The museum exhibits her famous kitchen . . . no shoes, unfortunately, but I’m sure Julia would think the cooking utensils were more important than shoes.

Julia's Kitchen

Giant History Poster Project

I loved this wall collage (is that the right word?) of all things Julia. “Wouldn’t it be fun to be the person who works here putting these exhibits together?” I said. I got a shrug in return. Okay. Guess I’m a dork.

Julia's books

Here are a couple editions of Julia’s book, MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING.

The Paper Engineering Exhibit

Speaking of books, we were delighted to discover this exhibit dedicated to the art of paper engineering. Students at our local elementary school have a wonderful librarian who teaches lessons every year on various bookish subjects, including paper engineering. I believe the Teen was more interested in this exhibit because of that early introduction. Connections between school learning and real-life learning. So important.

Soapbox moment: Library programs are important to the education of our children and foster self-directed and life-long learning skills. These programs should be retained and restored in our schools.

Leaving the pop-up books behind, we toured the American On The Move exhibit. We weren’t sure we were all that interested in transportation, but we ended up glad we decided to give it a try. We saw trains and carriages and cars and a police motorcycle and an early bicycle and a trolley car. I enjoyed the exhibit’s focus on how transportation changed commerce from mostly-local economies to our current, vast global economy.

Early Train

Trains started off rather small and plain.

Pretty Train

But they soon got much bigger, more efficient, and startlingly beautiful.

Loading boxes of produce

This scene shows how boxes of produce are loaded from the train to a horse-drawn cart and then unloaded at the local store.

Shipping Containers

Today, products are shipped all around the world in these huge metal containers. In 1960, 25 million tons of goods were shipped into West Coast ports in these containers. By 2000, 250 million tons. That’s alot of containers! There are so many laying around, in fact, that some people are building houses out of them. Click HERE!

Both the Teen and I agreed that this was an excellent exhibit. Don’t miss it if you get a chance to get to the museum.

The Original Muppets

We made our way upstairs and found the ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog, and a wonderful doll house donated to the museum by Faith Bradford, a retired librarian.

Faith Bradford's Dollhouse

The house has twenty three rooms, each filled with the appropriate furnishings.

The Wash room

Hungry and getting a little tired, the Teen and I reluctantly left the museum, chosing to find lunch up in Penn Quarter rather than eat at the cafe or the larger downstairs cafeteria in the museum. We strolled around the Quarter feeling a little out of place in our tourist garb amidst all the suits and ties out on their lunch break. Unfortunately, we ended up at a Starbucks again. I’m having a hard time finding local coffee shops. Time to deliberately research instead of hoping to run across them serendipitously.

On the way home, we zipped into the Hirshhorn so the Teen could have a look. “It looks fluffy but it is made out of pins,” was the Teen’s observation about this piece. I agree that the irony is pretty cool. What wasn’t cool was being told by a docent that I wasn’t supposed to be using flash. This was weird because I deliberately asked the docents on Monday if there were any restrictions on camera use. They told me there weren’t, and so I proceded to go around snapping beaucoup snaphots with flash all around the museum. Now I feel guilty . . . but glad I got the nice pictures.

This incident flattened my mood a bit, but when the Teen said, “We should do this every day, Mom,” my spirits lifted. I hope this experience is something that she’ll remember the rest of her life. I also hope it inspires some interests in art or history or fashion or travel or social issues or architecture . . . or all of the above!

Kermie

No shoes on this guy!

Where are your travels taking you this summer? Drop us a line . . . Outside the Box.

Community Garden . . . Inside the Fence

Last year's garden beneath the trees

Last year's garden beneath the trees

Dear Reader:

Sometimes thinking outside the box gets you into the strangest places–in this case it got me fenced in. Let me explain.

I live in a subdivision. Okay, nobody here wants to call it that because it doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter subdivision ala WEEDS (too many trees and dirt roads), but our “homeowners association” is 2000-houses big, is situated on the outskirts of town, and it is a good 35-60 minutes from any of the cities where most of our community members work. Every day, members of my community hop into their individual gasoline-powered vehicles and leave the community in order to travel to their place of employment. We have no restaurants, grocery stores, corner markets, coffee shops, bookstores or any other retail businesses within the borders of our incorporated development. We have to drive out of the community for food, clothing, furrniture, trash bags, tiolet paper, lattes, cigarettes, and everything else people can’t live without. Needless to say, there is no public transportation.

Our 1/4 to 1 acre lots are shaded by tall, half-dead white pines whose tendency to crash down during wind and ice storms can knock electricity out for days, but on this former productive farmland whose old stone walls stand testament to our community’s agricultural past, we cannot cuts trees in order to provide sunlight for backyard gardens. Tweaking the tree-cutting policy to make room for veggie gardens would take an act of the State of Maine legislature, or so one of the community trustees informed me at a Board meeting. However, the Board was willing to consider an alternate suggestion–the community garden.

I can work with that.

Community gardens provide space for food production, foster relationships among neighbors, encourage self-sufficiency, and give our kids a chance to learn gardening techniques. The American Community Garden Association provides guidelines and suggestions for groups just starting out on a communal agricultural venture. Click here to learn more.

Our first garden committee meeting was held this week, and we discussed possible locations. An unused tennis court seems perfect. It is 117 x 117 feet and surrounded by a tall fence–perfect for keeping out pesky deer that love to munch on tender vegetable seedlings. We will be asking the Board for permission to dig up the cracked court surface and to use community-owned loam to provide soil for the garden. Specifics have yet to be worked out such as size of lots, best-practices (i.e. rules), and whether or not we will make a driveway through the center of the garden area so that people can back their pickups to their plots, but community members are interested, echoing a trend across our country to pick up where Victory Gardens in the 1940’s left off.

When the First Family puts a backyard garden at the White House, we know something is changing out there in America. We are beginning to realize that in order to have a sustainable lifestyle, we need to bring food production back home, as in back of the home.

If towns and cities and subdivisions foster a spirit of self-sufficiency regarding food, then we are one step closer to weaning ourselves from big agriculture, big corporations, and big oil. We will provide a safety net for ourselves independent of big government. The spirit of freedom in a summer squash. Self-reliance in a sun-ripened tomato. Can it really be that simple?

A backyard or community garden is just one way to cut your reliance on multinational supermarket chains, food trucked thousands of miles, and genetically-modified vegetables. Other options are shopping at locally-owned grocery stores, frequenting local farm stands, and joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. More on these later. In the meantime, enjoy the warmer weather, the daffodils, and the sound of the “peepers” at dusk . . . outside the box.