Sunday, August 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: Victory?!?

There was a time in the not so distant past when Americans stood united behind their president as he called for the nation to support the war effort by conserving resources (in the first organized recycling program) and growing their own produce so that canned goods could be sent to the troops overseas. In answer to the call, the “Victory Garden” was born. On farm plots, city lots, and rooftops across America, families and neighbors planted vegetables — in every available space. Nearly 20 million Americans rose to the occasion, with gardens producing some 9-10 million tons of food, an amount equivalent to what was being commercially grown! 

To get an idea of what was planted in a 1943 Victory Garden, check out the one which was recreated outside the National Museum of American History’s cafeteria and the info and images included on the museum’s website

After World War II ended, many of the plots turned back into lawns or flower gardens, or simply roofs. Some of the community gardens continued on as rental plots on conservation land. [My dad had one for years at Rock Meadow in Belmont, MA.] But most Americans returned to shopping in the store for their produce needs.

With the renewed interested in eating local food, backyard gardening is once again on the rise. [Look for a post in the near future on what is happening in New Haven.] For now you will have to settle for a brief report on what’s been happening in my backyard, which those of you who follow my blog know is very small, heavily shaded, and very near a very busy street.

There is nothing like a fresh-picked tomato. When the nursery school offered grape tomatoes as a selection in the plant sale a few months back, I decided to practice what I preach and give backyard food gardening a try once again. I bought two plants, planted them in two large pots, full of homegrown compost, and placed them in the sunniest spot in my yard. I know I don’t have enough sun for Big Boys : any variety with which I have ever experimented has ripened at least one size smaller than promised. The grape variety, however, has been a huge success. I put the plants in cages and let the vines roam all over. [I know that sounds like a contradiction.] I’ve been picking them by the handful, and they taste great!  There are still plenty of green ones on the vines and lots of new flowers. Just about a week ago it even looked pretty certain that these plants would prove to be a good economic investment.

My pride and joy.
But last Saturday I noticed the andromeda bush out back under the crabapple tree shaking with unusual vigor for a calm day. And then I spied a large rodent waddling through. I watched it disappear through the hole in the fence into the yard next door, presumably to a burrow under the abandoned shed. After hearing the tales of my friend across town I was pretty sure a woodchuck had paid a visit. I Googled, and discovered that the ground is littered with one of the woodchuck’s favorite foods – the crabapples we don’t eat. This could well be what attracted him or her to our yard. While I can marvel at some of the woodchuck’s habits, such as the fact that its den includes a chamber designated as a bathroom, I can’t say I’m thrilled with the possibility that it might stay here and raise a family. Once they like a place, it is very difficult to get these critters to leave, and my yard has lots of amenities.

I know my friend’s “Woody”  ventures onto the back porch to raid her tomatoes. Are mine doomed to be woodchuck fodder? Just in case, I’d been particularly careful to pick all the ripe fruit over the last couple of days. Then early this afternoon I had a close encounter of the woodchuck kind. I had almost forgotten all about Woody when I glimpsed from my garden apartment window what I thought was a gargantuan squirrel [all I could see was its head] peering out from behind a flowerpot and eyeing my crop. It lt stared at me as I stared at it, and then off Woody lumbered. Woody is really big! You’ll just have to believe me for now, but I’ll be ready to point and shoot [a photo that is] next time. I promise to keep you posted.

Have a good week and please visit again soon.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

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