(AKA Experiments with Storify)
Special thanks to the whole Smithsonian Staff led by Paula Johnson and Susan Evans, the presenters and moderators, and also to my co-tweeters, especially the fantastic Emily Contois!
(AKA Experiments with Storify)
I attended the amazing, marvelous, fantastic Food History Roundtables event at the Smithsonian on Friday. During the event, I and a few others live-tweeted it so that people unable to attend could still experience a bit of the magic on twitter -- and even submit questions there for the speakers! The hashtag for this event and all other food-related things at American History is #SmithsonianFood. (Click through and check out its mentions for a much more complete and chaotic overview of the event.) Here's a summary of my live-tweeting experimentally created on storify, for those interested in the conversations swirling around the NMAH on Friday!
Special thanks to the whole Smithsonian Staff led by Paula Johnson and Susan Evans, the presenters and moderators, and also to my co-tweeters, especially the fantastic Emily Contois!
Producing for Three-Quarters of the Year
As Mr. Bailey explains above, in World War II it wasn't just planes and munitions plants that were on a "strict production schedule," but also "our Victory Gardens--those food factories that are such vital elements of home-front industry"!
Simply planting a garden is not enough! What was called for was continuous replanting; three full shifts of production for those who had the luxury of a long growing season: spring, summer, and fall. Not only is this imperative for getting the most out of your square feet by reusing the soil multiple times in a season, but it can be the only practical way to grow some vegetables: while eggplants and peppers thrive in the heat of midsummer, collard greens go to seed and grow bitter, and other brassicas simply fail to thrive.
Having gardened previously in the fine, but very cold, state of Wisconsin, I was determined to take full advantage of the extended, mild, mid-Atlantic growing season in Delaware -- but alas, we ran into some difficulties . . .
Rows Strike Again
How rows made succession planting exponentially more difficult:
Each crop has different dates when they can first go into the soil, and beyond that, different growth cycles and days to maturity. In our lettuce/radish row, for instance, lettuce reaches maturity in 45-55 days and can be selectively harvested for many days thereafter. However radishes can go from seed to harvest in as few as 20 days if you want them young and tender. Therefore, we couldn’t replace the whole row at once without letting the radish half lie fallow for a while. And trying to keep up with replacing such short-season crops as radishes can be exhausting because of how often you can replant them.
So why not replace them with something longer-slower growing after your first harvest you ask?
Well, you have to replace them with something that uses the same spacing scheme as what was in the former row. When you plant in rows for a small garden, as we did, each row is spaced differently because each contains different crops. The tomatoes needed a heck of a lot more room than the carrots, and carrots more room than the spinach. I couldn’t replace the radishes with broccoli or squash, because there wouldn’t have been nearly enough space.
Furthermore, you want to be sure that your succession crops are of a different family than the plant that preceded them in that patch of soil; that way, soil diseases, pests, and other nuisances are ‘kept on their toes’ as it were, by the continual variation.
Not a Pretty Garden Picture:
Solution: Plan Better!
Diagnosis of our operational problem? We did not plan for our third (or even second!) shift ahead of time and were caught sorely unaware. We didn’t have a strict timeline, in part because the weather has been unpredictable and different from years past (thanks global warming!). Indeed, nearly all of our early replanting efforts failed in the extreme heat of late August and early September -- a lonely brussels sprout stands where the potato patch was, instead of a mighty forest, alas!
However, the embarrassing truth must be told. We didn’t plan for replanting mostly because the plan we selected didn’t do it for us; it didn't come with provisions for replanting and succession-planting. And I was cutting corners. I assumed that with the whole summer looming ahead of me, I’d have plenty of time to ‘figure it out’ on the fly. Not so.
So only at the very tail end Summer, the weather has been cool enough that the heat won’t stop our cool-weather crop seeds from germinating. But now I have fears that anything we start in the soil won’t have a long enough growing season to come to fruit before the first frosts hit – even with the unseasonable heat. It is quite the conundrum.
Plan, For the Remainder of the Season . . .
In the end, the arugula and other odd survivors of our September plantings became our only third shift, plus some beans and radishes we planted in late August. We are still hauling in tomatoes somehow, so we've let those be. We only recently tore down the popcorn stalks (we were supposed to let them stand until dead), and our kale and broccoli kept seeming like they were on the verge of making a comeback from the mid-summer slump, so we never yanked them or replanted!
The name of the game for the rest of the season is slowly ripping out and harvesting everything we can, then replanting with a cover crop that will hopefully have time to germinate and become green manure over the winter, fixing nitrogen and replenishing the soil. To be frank, another major factor keeping us from doing more is simply that with the full onslaught of the semester -- visiting scholars and talks by friends, research trips, family visits, drafts due, grant and fellowship applications, and scheduling/preparing your own talks can make it difficult to do as much with the garden as you want to!
"Guess Again" Desserts
When you remember that Americans across the country being overwhelmed with garden produce of all sorts over the summer, it's less surprising that they looked for ways to incorporate their harvests into the dessert course as well. In fact, with the rationing of sugar on the home front, looking for alternate sources of sweetness--whether it be sorghum syrup or sweet potatoes--was more important than ever if you wanted a sweet finish to the meal. But there was another, classic parenting motivation at play; the recipebelow reads "Desserts form the Victory Garden? [...] Their good taste hides their secret, of course . . . no one would ever guess they're just bursting with vitamins and came right out of the garden."
While carrot cake and pumpkin pie are popular and widely-accepted vegetable-based desserts today, I wanted to try something a little . . . bolder.
Tomato Spice Cake Recipe:
First of all, we did not have canned soup since we were drowning in fresh tomatoes -- same as the Victory Gardeners this cookbook claims to be pandering too? Very confusing. I went to another World War II cookbook I own and whipped up a small batch of tomato soup in a sauce pan -- but both out of laziness (we didn't have any on hand), and out of distaste, I left out the celery. And no to garlic in a cake. But yes to onions, tomatoes, black pepper, and some veggie broth!
A Sacrifice: I could have substituted butter for shortening, and had an undoubtedly more yummy cake. In the name of committing to the experience, I got out the Crisco and the whisk instead though.
A Cheat: You may notice the lack of SALT in this recipe. I decided to fix that, authenticity be damnned. Good food needs to be salted well.
This took wayyyy longer to cook in the oven than the recipe suggested. At 36 minutes, the center was still almost all liquid; we cranked up the heat to 375 degrees for five minutes and then turned the oven off and left the cake in until it cooled (we were also baking bread and twenty thousand other tasks . . . we economized our labor) Our cake was poured into a springform nonstick pan if that makes any difference?
Another important point for anyone thinking of doing this at home is that this is only enough batter for one cake layer in this recipe; originally I had dreamed of cutting our cake in half and putting icing in the middle as well as the outside, but if this is your plan, you need to at least double the recipe.
Final Result and Flavor Review:
Well, I forgot to take pictures of the finished result, but here's what was left after we got back from a potluck dinner with friends.
The glaze was whipped up out of bourbon, vanilla extract, butter (screw it, this would be worth saving up ration points for) and confectioner's sugar. We thickened it up over heat and poured it over the cake, after which I topped it with more crushed walnuts and some shredded carrot for garden-like effect.
At our dinner, the carrots were a dead give-away that it was some sort of veggie cake, but the front runner guess was actually sweet potato until someone finally guessed that it was TOMATO cake!
Which is to say, this did not taste like a vegetable cake. It tasted sweet and spiced and covered bourbon. The garden-acidity actually balanced the sugar and sweet so that it faded away. The umami notes of tomato added surprising depths to the simply spice blend. You didn't think "tomato"!
It wasn't my favorite recipe -- I'd experiment with adding oats for more texture and nuttiness next time, and definitely try to increase fluffiness. And two layers is always better than one. Nonetheless, I encourage everyone to try a tomato cake sometime -- you just may be surprised at how good it is!
I'll keep this brief; first of all because there are so many other important reads out there on this topic, and second, because I am in mid-writing-binge and need to get back to the dissertation.
In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness week and calls to live #stigmafree, I have absolutely no problem sharing a part of me so close to my core it feels weird to admit to: I have had and continue to struggle with mental health issues. Unfortunately, this hardly makes me unique among academics at large, and even puts me almost in a majority among grad student populations.
In fact, this is what truly prompts me to write here: a long-standing obstacle between me and achieving the mental health and balance that I enjoy (and work hard for) today connected to my identity as an aspiring academic. I can tell you the year I first saw a therapist or first started on medication, but I cannot tell you when the sadness first started -- when was it normal people-sad and when did it turn into clinical depression? Who knows. But as long as I can remember, I learned that mental illness could be positive and something admirable and/or tragic in society --
IF AND ONLY IF it accompanied genius.
This myth is everywhere; from depictions of savants in movies and television as in Rain Man or A Beautiful Mind, to the haunted reputations of creative artists like Van Gogh, Beethoven or Edvard Munch. The correlation even carries over back into the land of mental-health stigma, like how people love to point out that the Unabomber had a ridiculously high IQ. Perhaps most influential of all for me, though, was the predominance of authors for whom their mental illness is an important part of their sanctification as a brilliant genius. Admittedly, I did and do have a predilection for Russian literature and French existentialists. The suicidal Hamlet has always been my favorite Shakespeare character. My favorite romance went from the uplifting Jane Eyre to the much more morbid Wuthering Heights almost as soon as I picked it up in seventh grade. Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, and Kate Chopin's The Awakening . . . I didn't have a lot of positive role models insofar as brilliant female authors of positive outlook and sound mind went. Besides, wasn't feel-good literature all just pop-fluff? I wanted to read the real geniuses.
The depressed ones.
They made sense to me, and made me feel less freakish.
I think that for years, I was actually scared of what would happen if I lost the comforting blanket of depression, anxiety, and whatever else was going on. I wanted to not be in pain, but I was also scared to death of life without mental illness. What if I was no longer special? What if the depression and my academic successes were coming from the same root source, and I couldn't have one without the other? I would be that much less like so many of my tortured, miserable, suicidal intellectual heroes.
But here's the truth. I am well now. I am getting ever better all the time with continuing support, love, exercise, good eating, mindfulness, and tackling my problems one by one, just as everyone should do. My dissertation is getting written.
I am smarter, sharper, more insightful, more analytically grounded, and more intellectually bold than ever before.
And even if I wasn't:
I'm still here to share my thoughts with the world, whatever they are worth -- and that is worth a lot.
Recently, I had the opportunity to organize and throw the exact workshop that I wish I could have attended during the first month of my first year of grad school.
When I arrived at grad school, I had no coherent note system besides home-made binders of one-side-printed paper foraged from recycling bins on campus, with recycled cereal boxes (also foraged) to use as dividers. I didn't have any particular work ethic besides "read what looks interesting to me" because I only took classes that were absolutely fascinating and had professors that worked hard to make even the dull points seem intriguing. I had an intense social network of friends who also valued schoolwork, so there was always quiet peer pressure to get work done (even if only so we could party hard later!).
All this changed when I moved to Delaware. I felt really, truly, alone, with more work to complete and information to process than I had ever been tasked with before. I spent the first two months reading every word of every book assigned until I finally couldn't and collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. I want this experience for no one.
Once the first Professor opened my eyes to bibliographic software, once I was first told I shouldn't be getting bogged down in every word of every book, once the first upper-year grad student confided in me that there were better, smarter, systems of getting work done, life improved by 1000%, as did my productivity and comprehension. With each new phase of my career in history, I've had to adapt again, growing new skills, strategies, and tools for reaching my goals. The time has come to pass on my tiny pile of accumulated advice and knowledge to all who may need it, as I once did.
Nota Bene: This blog post represents nothing original to me; I have groveled at the feet of many wise mentors and confided in many sage peers, who together have built this archive of productivity-making-strategies. Thanks to all of you.
How to Read A Book
Yes, you can make it to graduate level studies in the humanities and not know how to read a book. I know I did! I knew how to move my eyes from right to left, from top to bottom, make sense of the words, take some notes, and even come up with some analytical thoughts, questions, or critiques. But I didn't really know how to most effectively and critically read a book for academic purposes. You need to talk to your mentors, peers, and others in your department and discipline about best practices for you. I will simply pass on my primary introduction, which shaped my reading from then on: How to Read A Book by Susan Strasser. (Go to Section 2/page 3.)
Citation and Note-taking Software
I use Zotero, made by historians, for historians, for free. I love it dearly and it is one of my gods. That said, people use a lot of other tools. You should talk to people in your department, discipline, and library, as well as watch demos online to figure out what is right for you (and your budget; some will require purchase of software, and some might require a subscription fee). Other popular options used by peers of mine include: EndNote, EverNote, Mendeley, and RefWorks.
There is another set of closely-related programs that can also be used for note-taking, but prove their real worth when helping you write and make new material out of the source material you've assembled. Some people use one software from the above category for all their needs and Word for writing (like myself), some people use software from this second category exclusively, and some people use a citation software from above and one of the writing softwares listed here (I am thinking about making this transition.) In this category are: Scrivener, Idea-Mapping softwares (link to an inventory of several in this category), LibreOffice, and FocusWriter.
Setting Goals, Scheduling Tasks
"Things that get scheduled get done."
While I have settled on old-fashioned pen-and-paper to-do lists (preferably held within a Slingshot Organizer), there are many ways to skin this most-crucial-of-all-cats. You NEED to know what you have to do, in order to do it. I've heard personal testimonials about other list-making-systems including:
Actually, Really, Getting Stuff Done
So you have the software and notes ready, you know what you have to do . . . and sometimes the writing and working still doesn't happen. (If this isn't true for you, keep it to yourself and be frickin' grateful, please). I've discovered first and foremost that I am a socially-motivated, socially-oriented creature. I deliver best on things when I run the risk of disappointing people if I don't come through, and impressing people when I do well. Peer pressure has almost always served as positive force in my life, thanks in no small part to the excellent people I have been able to surround myself with. So here is my working tool-kit:
Final Thoughts -- before I get back to my dissertation
If there is anything I've learned in this process, it's that contrary to the philosophy of Fredeerick Winslow Taylor, there is no "one best way" to scientifically manage your way to success. I have a broad toolkit because some tools work some days, and some on others. Start collecting your own set of tools. Make checking in with your work practices an important part of your self-care routines (which you should totally have, and should include exercise!).
Be well, and WORK!
Call for Papers: ASEH 2017 Writing Workshop
The Graduate Caucus is pleased to announce its call for participants for the 5th annual Graduate Student Writing Workshop to be held at the ASEH annual meeting in Chicago in 2017. Selected writers will join in small discussion groups with other graduate students and a faculty mentor to workshop pre-circulated pieces of writing. These small working groups will be organized by type of material - thesis/dissertation proposals; conference papers; journal articles (including Gallery submissions); and thesis/dissertation chapters. Please note that a 15-20 maximum page limit will be enforced. Applicants are invited to present their most current work.
The purpose of the Graduate Student Writing Workshop is to provide a forum for graduate students in environmental history to develop their writing and research skills. Guided by the faculty reader, each participant will read and comment on the work of fellow participants. The workshop will emphasize all aspects of the writing process, from cultivating the first germ of a project, to chapter organization and revision, to shaping proposals and abstracts. Groups will be encouraged to discuss writing style, voice, and mechanics, as well as practice how to get and give good feedback. Confirmed faculty participants include Andrew Case, Finis Dunaway, Catherine Dunlop, Stephen Pyne, and Kendra Smith-Howard.
To apply, submit a one-page (double-spaced) summary of the work that you intend to bring to the writing workshop. Note in your application the subject matter of your work as well as the format and potential audience. In addition to the one-page summary, include a one-paragraph bio indicating your research agenda, educational affiliation, and current contact information. Applications should be sent via email to Anastasia Day (firstname.lastname@example.org). The deadline for applications is December 1, 2016. Please note that, if accepted, the final version of your work must be submitted to your faculty reader and fellow participants no later than February 27, 2017.
"Only two things money can't buy
(Do watch the whole thing; it's 2:30 of pure joy and you will hum it while reading the rest of this post)
If I's to change this life that I lead,
'My one and only,' He cried passionately, 'come to me. Shake off the hackles that are holding you dormant, arise and let me take you in my arms. Let me display you in all your pristine glory to envious friends and passersby. Raise your head to the heavens and your face to mine, and by so doing make me the happiest, proudest, and most fortunate man in all the world. Arise, my love, arise.'
A 2015 Autism Speaks report found that only 30 percent of high school graduates with autism ever attend a two- or four-year college, and those that do fare poorly. Research suggests that 80 percent of them never graduate. Furthermore, only 32 percent of high school graduates with autism find paying work within two years of graduating high school. This need not be. Half of all individuals with autism have average or above-average intelligence. They can do the work. The problem is not the students. It’s the colleges. [....] Together, we have seen the many ways that colleges fail students with autism.
When students felt their social needs were met -- in particular when faculty members proved willing to modify their teaching style -- students had much more positive experiences. But American professors are not required to modify their teaching style for disabled students
It would help if faculty members understood how autism affects learning. But professors are busy [...] professional development seminars are often poorly attended, especially those focused on helping students with special needs. [...]Even when given the opportunity to learn more about the needs of disabled students, professors turn those choices down.
Elizabeth, for example, struggles with understanding if professors are being sarcastic or rhetorical. Uncertain, she often responds too much or too little. When one professor expressed frustration at her eager hand raising, she asked privately if he would signal her when he wasn’t being serious or didn’t require a response. “No,” he said. “I don’t need to change my teaching for you, and you need to learn sarcasm.”
For Elizabeth, the greatest support has often come from students who have chosen to act as social interpreters. A whispered word or two is often all she needs to better and more appropriately engage with her curriculum. Colleges like California State University at Fullerton already have mentorship programs that pair neurotypical and neuroatypical classmates. We recommend expanding such programs so that peer mentors -- perhaps those offered the coveted privilege of priority registration -- work side by side with autistic students in the classroom.
"Make the rows straight. A good garden line is as necessary as any garden tool.”
-John A. Andrew, Kitchen Garden Guide (Philadelphia, Pa: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1942),
"Garden-o-meters show the proper distance apart the rows should be for each type of plant." – pg 52, Gardens for Victory, First (New York, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1942).
[This is most certainly NOT what Putnam and Cosper were referring to, but this was the first google image result for "gardenometer" .... however, when unable to find any "garden-o-meters" online, my first thought was not dissimilar. I immediately went to an article I had just read on singularityhub.com entitled: "FarmBot Will Grow Your Food For You; Just Press Go" . . . god, I really should write a post about farming-futurism sometime . . . ]
Historian-in-the-making. Writes about environment, food, people and how the past informs the present.