Since we moved into our new rental home a few months ago, my husband and I have been busy clearing out the large backyard of ivy and other plant-creep. The home and garden were clearly loved, but in the past ten years the owners of the home started to grow elderly, and just couldn't keep up with the garden tasks the way that they had over the fifty years they lived here. It's a work in progress:
It's been a sweaty and often muddy job, but the backyard is starting to get into shape for a summer vegetable bed. Watching the buds emerge from the stark greys and blacks of the fruit trees, watching a small bird build a lint and leaf nest outside of my office window... these moments of spring have been very close and poignant to me this year, perhaps because I am watching it all with a very inspired and wide-eyed toddler in tow.
It got me thinking about the relationships our ancestors had to land. As we trace out relations back through the years, moving out from the urban landscapes in which many of us live, through the neatly gridded suburbs, to the orchards, ranches and farms which sprawl through our family histories like expansive landscapes, you have to wonder what legacies of a relationship with spring, growth, land and earth we have inherited over the generations. You have to wonder, as well, what lessons and values we have lost.
I poked around and found some interesting links to online historical vignettes and information about all sorts of ways we have interacted with The Great Mother Earth over the generations. Hope you enjoy and are inspired by some of them the way I have been. Happy Spring to everyone.
* The American Gardening Museumincludes a small but very nice online exhibition of New England gardening from the 1920's through the 1940's.
* Wessels Living History Farm of Nebraska has a great website covering Midwest farming techniques and history from the 1920's through the 1960's. The site includes some Quicktime video interviews and oral histories with Nebraskan farmers.
* The LOC has some great materials online documenting how we turn to the land in dire times, like the War Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables manual published in 1919.
* Growing a Nation, from the USDA and Utah State University, offers tons of information about historical farming, including a great Flash program about the history of American agriculture, and a very informative timeline of American agriculture throughout the decades.
* Harvest of Freedom from Cornell University outlines the history of kitchen gardens in America, and includes close-up images of historic seed catalogs and gardening guides.