Only 15 years old, Betty worked a garden 50 by 100 feet. She received a silver medal for winning the state contest and then a $500 war bond for her national championship. When asked what advice she would give other victory gardeners, she responded:
"Plan your garden, work to those plans, have the determination to carry your plans to completion, and conserve what you grow."
["High- and Grade-School Garden Champion Reports," Education for Victory, April 20, 1945.]
I should have listened to Betty last garden season: while I began with a plan, the plan never took into account my household's food needs, succession plantings, even distribution of labor over the summer, or the labor of conserving and cooking the food after harvest.
This year, I was determined to do better.
I was going to plan early, plan well, and plan hard.
I was going to plan for everything, just like Betty told me to.
Much to my delight I then received another fellowship offer (also four months long) at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in downtown Philadelphia! I couldn't be more excited to join the amazing community there of museum professionals, scholars, and #twitterstorians. While in residence, I'll be researching how industrial agricultural chemicals developed and then entered the domestic space of the garden in World War II as well as using their amazing archives to flesh out other aspects of my dissertation already in progress.
Between my two residency commitments - and a June that involves three conferences for me! - I just didn't see how the garden was going to come together for me, or how my experiment could continue for the 2017 season.
Luckily, and to my great delight, I can still garden even if I couldn't go 'all out for victory.' In fact, my husband expressed a desire to plan the garden himself! Therefore, while I struggled to make up for work-time lost to illness this winter, Tim planned, fenced, and began planting the garden. It turns out he had a lot of opinions about vegetables I didn't take into account last year:
- To compensate for a year with no brussels sprouts (the few I planted in an odd corner were eaten by rodents!), Tim has planned almost 20 feet of them.
- Apparently the late-season discovery that all of the corn I planted was POPCORN was not a pleasant one for Tim. This year, he is planning on an abundance of sweet corn to eat fresh out of the garden. (I don't understand how any other version of corn could be preferable to popcorn, but that's a rant for another time...)
- Green beans took more effort harvesting than Tim derived enjoyment out of eating, so I am signing on to support him in a garden with NO GREEN BEANS planned. (!)
I still aim to work the garden, but more in the role of children shipped from their urban schools out to the countryside to help with labor shortages than in the role of garden manager, as in last year. I have big plans for the Victory Garden of 2018, but this season's priority is to grow the chapters of my dissertation.
... And, of course, spend lots of time getting lost in the Smithsonian & Chemical Heritage Foundation collections!