I dearly wish I could remember the French name for the philosophy because the English translation is unwieldy: Eat the View. Mange l'horizon? That would explain why we don't use it; we can't pronounce it!
But in the face of skyrocketing food prices, it makes a lot of sense. Did you know that Victory Gardens, during World War II, provided 50 percent of Americans' produce? When the going has gotten tough, gardeners have gotten going. It doesn't have to be the 30- by 30-foot farm garden my husband still has nightmares about weeding. A patch as small as four by four will feed a family of four, and I'm guessing some canning will be involved.
We've lost many of our old traditions, but I still see Mason jars on sale every summer in the grocery store. I can remember (and I'm not that old) when the only way you could taste a strawberry in January was if you'd put up some strawberry freezer jam the previous June. I'm also willing to bet the expression "put up" came from the shelves everyone had in their basement, on which sat not only a lovely, but tasty, array of vegetables and fruits in glass jars. My mother could even remember, in the days before refrigeration, canning meat! They have been available for years, but I still marvel at the February raspberry. I cannot any longer, however, ignore its carbon footprint.
Photo by Sarah Hatfield
Grasses can be a great addition to the garden.
So I have joined a food cooperative. Once a week I pick up my tub of fresh veggies. I can't wait to see what's in there, and I'm not too embarrassed to admit, sometimes I don't what everything is. But it's locally grown, good for me, and I'm willing to try new things. Besides, now I don't feel quite as guilty about that January raspberry I really don't want to give up.
Don't get me wrong. I know personally the heartbreak growing vegetables can be. When the weather goes horribly wrong, a perennial, by definition, gives you another chance. Vegetables are a one-shot deal, and you might as well put out a written invitation to all the wildlife in the neighborhood.
But with prices rising, our atmosphere dissolving, and the price of gasoline headed to frightening places, wouldn't it be worth sacrificing a little lawn for the cause? You know you need the exercise, and it's an excuse to be outside. Digging in the dirt can be transcendent. Talk about your original back-to-the-Earth experience!
And while you're out there with the vegetable seeds, why not plant a few flowers? They say marigolds keep away the Japanese Beetles, and the same bees and butterflies you need to pollinate your vegetables will come for the spiderwort and bee balm. This gardening thing can be fun, and it's something the entire family can do. You can't punch Exxon in the nose, but the satisfaction you'll get from those homegrown tomatoes will amaze you. Then there's the canned tomatoes for winter chili and homemade spaghetti sauce. Heck, if the tomatoes just keep on coming, call me for my Aunt Ida's homemade ketchup recipe. Heinz will never taste the same again.
Gardening is one of American's most popular hobbies. Newspaper articles, books and Web sites abound to aid your endeavor. Local nurseries, garden clubs and fellow gardeners stand ready to assist. If you're looking for inspiration, might I suggest attending the July 19 Secret Gardens Tour? We even have, for the first time, a naturalized garden, something that will challenge your traditional idea of what a garden is. Remember: Each of these magnificent gardens started, just like you will, one patch at a time.
If the Secret Garden tour sounds right up your alley, call Audubon for tickets. If you'd like to tour Audubon's gardens, just show up any day. The grounds are open from dawn until dusk. There is a native plants garden, a wildflower garden, an herb garden and a butterfly garden. All the gardens are organic, because nature provides everything the plants need.
You can stop in the nature center and see the exhibit as well. The hours for the nature center are daily from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., except Sundays, when we open at 1 p.m. Liberty, the Bald Eagle, is available for viewing from dawn to dusk daily. For more information, call Audubon at 569-2345. Or, visit the Web sites www.jamestownaudubon.org or www.jamestownaudubon.wordpress.com.
Merle Szydlo is a volunteer at Audubon, coordinates the newsletter and helps to coordinate the Secret Garden Tour.