Garden Like It’s 1943

Among my many books (I collect them, so when I say “many” I mean…more than a hundred, much more) is a gardening tome called the Victory Garden Manual by James H. Burdett. It was produced in 1943, right during the Second World War years. The purpose was to instruct city dwellers in the process and possibilities of developing their urban space into what were called “Victory Gardens.”

Image: Amanda Stiver

Image: Amanda Stiver

The victory garden movement was meant to encourage civilians to develop their urban and rural spaces into large scale kitchen gardens. The kind that would keep an average family of four in potatoes, carrots, and turnips all winter long. The idea was to reduce the burden on the domestic vegetable and fruit producers so that their industrial sized haul of produce would be primarily shunted to foodstuffs for the U.S. troops. It was also meant to reduce the oil, coal and gas used to fuel transit of produce from one end of the country to the other.

This effort was so successful that average Americans produced 1/3rd of the annual vegetable crop for consumption during the war years. More importantly, a whole generation of young people grew up knowing how to garden and how to eat locally, keeping their ear to the ground as it were. Knowing how to produce food is invaluable. Even if you only have a small garden, the simple experience of watching a plant grow to maturity and seeing the fruit form gives you insight into the quality of the vegetables and fruits you will be buying at the store or the roadside stand (I recommend the latter, these folks benefit from your business and the product is usually much tastier than the grocery-store variety).

I haven’t had the means or space for a full scale garden in several years, but I still love to cast my mind back to the garden my grandparents grew. They were children of the Great Depression and their grandparents pioneers into the west before them, so “growing your own” wasn’t a leap of logic, but a standard operating procedure. My grandparents used half of their roughly one acre yard to create a substantial and highly productive victory garden. I spent many memorable moments helping dig up potatoes (they come from the ground, by the way, not trees, just thought I would clarify…you never know), picking raspberries, and other produce.

I learned what good soil smelled like, that veggies were supposed to have dirt on them, and that with plants…you have to have patience.

victory garden book for historygal

Image: Amanda Stiver

So, back to The Victory Garden Manual, this lovely little book is a project of it’s era, a red-white-and-blue cover with a big “V” for victory. It has just a few color photographs that look like they might be lithographed, but they are beautifully composed and show off the abundant produce of the test garden. Truly inspiring.

However, I have another favorite gardening book, this one, a reproduction titled, How to Grow Vegetables & Fruits by the Organic Method that was first printed by Rodale Books in 1961. The reproduction print run from 1999 is still widely available and they sport a bright yellow jacket with vintage 1960’s photos of various gardeners and their surplus.

What makes this such a great book is the comprehensive nature of the material. It covers everything from planting to harvest to saving seed and, of course, how to grow a garden with basic knowledge of soil health and structure and without toxic chemicals and pesticides. Great stuff.

I hope this post will be an insightful little nudge to go out and grow something. Anything, from a giant backyard kitchen garden to as small as a few pots here and there (my garden this year). There is an education in growing things. I think we find ourselves more balanced after time in the natural world as we seek to understand the creation and the Creator than we do in the digital creations that seek to obscure reality.

Gardening demands patience, curiosity, and the capacity to deal with loss. These are all vital qualities that help us, when translated into human interaction, to relate to others and to seek to understand them.

So dig in, don’t be afraid to grow! Because you will when you tackle vegetable gardening!

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

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Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Mt. St. Helens – “Tough Times, Strong Women” – Price of “Choice”)

Mt. St. Helens Recharging – Ring of Fire Active

In the news lately has been a flurry of news items relating to the increased earthquake activity around the Ring of Fire, the Pacific rim volcano and earthquake zones. Among these, Mt. St. Helens has begun to quake again, and scientists believe that the magma cavity is refilling. Incidentally, this is not news…it has been filling for some time. The latest swarm of tremors, however, make good news, and no doubt, are indicative of the overall activity in the Ring of Fire.

Some important things to remember when considering reports of “predicted” earthquake activity. Earthquakes are not predictable, per se. For instance, recent news items have indicated that an earthquake along the San Andreas fault line is imminent, as are earthquakes on the New Madrid fault line in the center of the U.S. Earthquakes are always imminent along fault lines because that’s where earthquakes take place. Even the Yellowstone basin is reported to be seismically active…it is always seismically active and volcanologically active, since it is a giant volcanic hotspot!

The take away from all this is that yes, indeed, the Ring of Fire is more than usually active, there are many fault lines and many possible locations for earthquakes. Most earthquake preparation is done ahead of time, building codes, tsunami warning programs, etc. Be aware of the risks in your area, know what to do, and pray. Same goes for volcanoes, although they have a better rate of prediction. Above all, don’t panic without good reason!

Tough Times, Strong Women – Worth a Read

I just finished a unique history book a few days ago. Titled “Tough Times, Strong Women” and published by nostalgia publication “Reminisce” magazine, this compilation of first hand, personal stories and memories of women in the 20th century, particularly during the Great Depression and World War II, is rare among history works.

Most history books are theoretical, sometimes annotated with quotes from primary sources, but by and large are an abstract overview. This book is different. It’s like listening to your elderly aunts talk all about the “old days”. All the wisdom and appreciation that the generation who lived through the Great Depression learned. Most of these accounts are short, just a memory or a summation of a life, but they are very powerful because of the world that they record.

Right now we live in a vapid age, full of short attention spans and technological and moral quandaries. Those who came before us were not perplexed by such things, they knew if they were men or women, that marriage was designed to produce children, that food grew out of the ground, often from their own garden, and that drug (recreational or pharmacological) and alcohol abuse destroyed lives. Most had a firm belief in God, and a sense of moral rectitude, knowing what was right and wrong.

We no longer have a society with moral rectitude. The painful reality is, however, that “freedom” from essential truths that have been understood for centuries is not necessarily going to bring happiness. Belief in a Divine Creator, whose design for the natural world and the moral world was created to help humans flourish, begs that we put aside our secular constructions and consider the fact that the Divine design is better than the designs and experiments of the created.

A good book can spur many contemplations!

The Cost of Abortion as a Societal Norm

The decision to legalize abortion in 1973 was, and still is, seen as a triumph of women’s rights. In order to accomplish this feat of mental gymnastics, one must accept the fact that the rights of the born outweigh the rights of the unborn, that life does not start at conception (which has recently been refuted by a stunning discovery and recording of the flash that occurs at the moment of conception), that we are better off with fewer people on the earth (a form of population control, which is a foundational principle of abortion theory), and, ultimately, that human life is not sacred, that future generations are not a blessing, and that women are capable of giving birth at any age thanks to advances in science (by no means universally true).

After that exhausting series of leaps and bounds, ignoring the emotional, physical, and mental cost of terminating a pregnancy, some still insist that there is no price to be paid for accepting abortion. Even the 58 million lives lost since 1973 (far more than the Nazis managed to kill during WW2) aren’t enough to move the minds and hearts of many.

However, simple economics may make that irrelevant. 58 million fewer Americans means increased taxes for the surviving younger generations, since somebody has to pay. Fewer people in the workforce. Fewer productive individuals to support industry, agriculture, and business. It means America (to say nothing of Europe) does not have enough births to replace those who die each year, and this nation will gradually, or catastrophically (if we have too few people to defend our borders), disappear in the course of time. Quite a cost (Michael Swartz, “The Long-Term Effects of ‘Choice’ Come Home to Roost,” The Patriot Post at PatriotPost.us, May 13, 2016).

The lesson: Every choice in history has a cost and, ultimately, that price will be paid. No man or woman is an island, one choice becomes many and affects everyone.

Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Trump – Holocaust – Year Without Summer)

“Today’s news is tomorrow’s history,” is a quote attributed to Judy Croome, a South African writer. However, the jist has long been known to historians, is ignored by politicians and celebrities, and has become the fight song of History teachers throughout the world…if only students would listen!

So follow along as we look at some current events, possible implications, and a few random pieces of history that should interest and amuse:

THE GOP PICKS A FINALIST:

DONALD TRUMP APPEARS TO BE THE GOP NOMINEE FOR THE 2016 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

It seems the era of American oligarchies may have begun (though it has surfaced now and again for decades). Mr. Trump has the luck of FDR with him at the moment…a promise of better things, regardless of the existence of a down payment. Mrs. Clinton is a known quantity with a great deal of baggage and bad health. Mr. Sanders plays well before but one audience, the young, starry-eyed Millennial population that has been taught to idolize the socialist ideal, but has never lived in its dangerous and constrictive borders.

Above all, Mr. Trump is shiner, wealthier, and exudes more power, and those three things play well in American elections, especially in an era of underlying financial recession (where the economy looks good-ish on the outside, but beneath it is in peril). The outcome remains to be seen.

Whatever the choice, it is clear the U.S. is barrelling rapidly away from the foundations of the Union, the Constitution. We are drifting perilously close to the shores of a confederacy, rather than a union of states. Love them or hate them, the Judeo-Christian principles upon which the nation was founded gave us greater purpose, cause, and humanity. Without that we tread toward a dark age (incidentally, those are never pleasant to live through, and most die in them).

TO REMEMBER THE HOLOCAUST

An interesting news story re-surfaced this week thanks to the algorithmic aggregators of news that feed us our daily thoughts on Facebook as it followed on the May 4th and 5th occasion of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), commemorating the Jewish lives lost in the slaughter by the Nazis. Featured on the “House Beautiful” magazine website, it related the discovery last year by renovators in Holland of an inscription on a door. Written in 1942, it appears to be the last written testament of a Jewish couple in hiding during WW2 (Nikki Erlick, “A House Reno Reveals A Heartbreaking Message Etched Into A Door,” House Beautiful at HouseBeautiful.com, July 17, 2015).

A short, simple inscription in Dutch which said, “Look on the roof and find my last personal things and try after the war to find family of ours. Give them my things and you will become something. Oh God of Israel, have mercy on your humiliated brothers. Signed, Levie Sajet born at 1-8-1881 born in Nijmegen and his housewife Ester Zilberstein born at Stettin on the 28-7-1899.”

Tragic events in history can become so big and anonymous that we sometimes fail to relate on an individual level to those who have suffered. But such a short, sad witness to two lives must affect us. It must bring us back to the understanding that people just like us died then, and die now, and that murder is evil.

This tragic replay of history was cited in a quote by Mordechai Palzur, a Holocaust survivor and former diplomat, “I’m not sure that there is any improvement because we see that hundreds of thousands of people are being murdered and they are showing how they cut off the heads and so on and nothing happens [referring to the current conflict across the Middle East]. I would not generalize and say that there has been a change, but altogether from what we see today the people who were cruel then they are cruel today,” (Sam Sokol, “Against Orders, Some Diplomats Saved Jews During Holocaust,” The Media Line for The Jerusalem Post at JPost.com, May 5, 2016).

1816, THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER

Let’s take a step back, say, two-hundred years to 1816. It was, in many ways, a frightening year. The sun stopped shining brightly, crops failed (accounts speak of frosts in mid-June), and the warm, sunny productive season of Summer was nowhere to be found. Don’t worry, in case you are, it wasn’t man-made global warming, but rather…just plain old global cooling courtesy of the planet itself.

The reason, fully understood much later, was a volcanic eruption in the Indian Ocean. Mt. Tambora, erupting in April 1815, had sent ash high into the atmosphere, which manually blocked the sunlight from filtering down to the surface of the earth, where it was needed. Overall the year wasn’t an overly cold one, it just happened to get very cold right during growing season leading to crop failure and food shortages. Even Thomas Jefferson noted the phenomenon in his copious records keeping at Monticello. (Robert McNamara, “The Year Without A Summer Was A Bizarre Weather Disaster in 1816,” About: Education at History1800s.About.Com, November 27, 2014.)

Some historians even suggest that this dismal year for crops pushed restless souls west to seek better land, becoming therefore an impetus for the vast westward migration and settlement in American history. My own family, one of them at least, had just survived a stint in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in the disastrous invasion of Russia of 1812. He picked up his family a few years later in the 1820’s and departed the Swiss-German borderlands for Pennsylvania, a generation later his children would push west with the rest of the migration and settle in Nebraska.

The lesson, watch out for earthquakes and volcanic explosions that have far reaching consequences (I say this as we experience an increased amount of seismic activity in the Ring of Fire). Also, remember, an event here, a consequence there, and we, too, can feel the very pulse of history, if we are not careful. Events trigger other events, so keep your eyes open and stay the course!

I’ll be back next week to bring you another weekly roundup of tomorrow’s history!

Keeping thinking history in the meantime!

– Amanda Stiver

Quotes and Thoughts: The Revolutionary War and the Price of Rebellion

“Like most ‘wars of liberation’ the American War of Independence was a bitter civil war too. One contemporary guess divided the people into three: the patriots, one-third, the Tory loyalists, one-third, and the remainder prepared to go along with either party. It is likely, however, that those who declined to take an active part were fully half the nation, the militants being almost equally divided, though the Tories, by their very nature, lacked leaders and the extremism which drove the liberators. They looked to leadership from England and were poorly served.” — Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, 1997, page 171.

WHAT can a random quote from a history book on any subject teach us? Isn’t this an exercise in futility? Don’t we need more information?

WE do need more information, but let’s use this exercise as a memory building tool. When developing your historical memory, and yes, memory function comes pre-installed in our brains when we leave the production center (other wise known as ‘birth’), you need to retrieve the current stock of what’s stored up there. Find out what you know, and then fit in the new information presented in a quote like the one above.

So what do we know?

Let’s start with the quote itself…what era, or period of events connected in historical continuity, is the quote referencing?

Okay, let’s assume first that we are Americans reading this quote. If we have spent any time in a US school we’ll have some idea that the “American War of Independence” is also known as the Revolutionary War (note, the author is British, so he is using the academic title from across the Atlantic for that colonial disturbance centering around 1775). We know that the events surrounding that era had to do with a break with the British government, which had in various ways originally and until that time considered the 13 colonies of the eastern shore of the now United States to be British territory. There were strong, vocal colonial opponents of British oppression, excess taxation and lack of Parliamentary representation, and these we, as Americans, know as “Founding Fathers.” George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Sam Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Henry Lee, among many others. They were extremely influential in the early years of the United States and all the constitutional and legal documents written then.

As the quote shows us, there were also opponents of the rebellion who were called “Tories”. They desired to remain loyal to Britain, wherein many of their business interests were entwined. They were fighting for a “status quo”, which is a difficult position to fight from, and particularly, as the quote implies, without solid recognition and support from their motherland, England. Indeed, may of the Tory families were treated with nearly as much contempt as rebel families by the British Army when it arrived in the colonies and was installed in the homes of the colonists. It was difficult to remain loyal to a country that didn’t seem to want them.

An additional fact that we can add to our historical memory is that, as the quote explains, there was another group of people who simply wanted to live their lives, without interference from either side of the battle. Perhaps they were unsure of the outcome, or unsure where their true loyalties rested, or maybe it took a bit of convincing through the brutal realities of British occupation that they eventually had to stand for something. Who knows, but it does tell us one thing, that despite the noises of the “militants” and “activists” in any nation, and any cause, there will always be those who simply want to grow their crops in peace, make a life for themselves and their children. These are the people who eventually struggle on when the voices of the extremes have faded and, sadly, these are usually the people who get trampled by both sides in their quest for supremacy.

Am I saying the Revolutionary War was an aimless quest? Not at all, Britain and America were on a course for separation, and the tendrils of financial investment and history between the two made it almost impossible for a separation to come without bloodshed. Is this the best way for people to reconfigure their alliances? No. Is it the way of humanity? Yes. Is there another way? Yes, but not without help from a power greater than the finest of our human minds. A subject for another time.

SO, AS OUR EXERCISE comes to a close take a moment to realize all that you already had in your historical memory about the Revolutionary War. Are other details coming to you that you may have picked up from articles, books, or even movies? The way people ate, fought, dressed, scenes reenacted of the battles and atrocities wrought on some colonists (I’m thinking of The Patriot here)?

We’ll do this again sometime, using a quote as a gateway into history. You’ll be amazed at what you know already and can learn!

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

What Other Flags Fly in Support of Slavery?

IT’S A WEEK for heavy subjects, so let’s look at the recent flag removals from Southern state capitals…

Though the removal of the flag of the Confederate States of America (a long-dead representative republic based, economically and culturally, on the repugnant sin of human slavery) ought to have come many years ago, not just in reaction to a tragic massacre, but as a matter of course of the acknowledgement of the Union of the United States after the American Civil War; one cannot help but notice a certain hypocrisy among American politicians.

Readily and eagerly they hop on the bandwagon of publicity by taking down flags of a defunct republic (a noble thought, but not one that faces significant opposition), while at this very time, a mere 12 hour flight away, another self-proclaimed nation/terror state – the Islamic State, which is a theocracy, and does violence and murder to any under the rule of its flag, is also presently, culturally based on the human slave trade.

Why are these same voices in America so utterly silent? Why, if they truly wish to abolish the sin of human slavery, do they not declaim those who continue to indulge in its depravity around the world, in the Middle East, in Asia, and other places?

Keep thinking history.

– Amanda Stiver

Tragedy in Charleston…Division is Destructive

YOU KNOW, what strikes me with this latest tragic shooting in Charleston, is that while the US media has been preoccupied with the high profile psychological problems of two individuals (Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal), we have been neglecting the core principles of what makes America great. It is our heritage of honor, dignity, respect, morality (hard fought for during a bloody Civil War), and, most importantly, fear of God and His Law, regardless of ethnicity, that has made and can make America great. Bluntly, our professional media is divisive and destructive. Respectful coverage of the lives of the individuals lost in this recent shooting will be neglected for political aims (as we lead up to a campaign year), and skewed for various agendas. Tragedy of loss of life, compounded by the tragedy of division.

As a student of history it is not impossible to understand that what happens when a society is riveted by its rifts and hatreds, its criminals, and its moral inadequacies. We can look to the debauchery of Rome as it slid into oblivion to see a case study for lost focus. America is great because it is full of regular folks, being regularly law abiding, and caring about their neighbors, regardless of ethnicity. Millions of immigrants from various backgrounds have come here to become “Americans.” Some came by force, some came by choice, but without that coalescing of identity into “American” – we will become stressed and fractured by division, hatred and violence. America is framed by a set of laws, a Constitution. Back in the day, a constitution was what we called our human frame, our bodies. If you don’t have a body of laws that frame our society, that protect the individual and define respect for same, we have nothing, we simply have to wait for the “strong men” who want a piece of the action to hack away through violence and intimidation so we can pay for the pleasure of not being killed. Am I being extreme? I think not…please refer to recent coverage of the Middle East and the rise of ISIS.

ABRAHAM Lincoln once quoted this simple statement, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” If you want to quote Lincoln’s source, see the book of Mark, chapter 3, verse 25.

If we continue to feed on divisions, to disdain the beauty and mechanics of law abiding, and to neglect the value of life, our house, our nation will fail. If by chance, we can summon the courage, by the grace of God, to reject division and those that feed on it, to treasure the Divine intelligence of Law, and to respect life…we might, might have a chance. The choice is ours.

Value, and keep thinking history! For we are living tomorrow’s history today.

– Amanda Stiver

A Wish for the 4th

american flag on iwo jima statue

Image: Amanda Stiver

Here’s to the 4th!

Living in the United States is a unique experience at this time in history. Daily I enjoy the bounty procured by generations, but as my nation moves away from the basic tenets of law, justice, and the duties and piety of citizenship, the future may hold unpleasant surprises. I say, savor freedom while it is ours.

As a child, the 4th of July was on my radar because of the cookouts, the fireworks, the firecrackers, and the patriotic music, but as I grow older, the meaning of the day supersedes the accoutrements.

The price

Our Declaration of Independence includes these words, “…Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…” Yet we live in an era, a half-century or so, of changing governments around the world. Some changes justified, others simply to satisfy the whims of a slim minority.

When the men who signed their defiance to the crown with the words, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence [God, in our modern parlance], we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor,” they put their lives on the line. How many of us use such words anymore? Is it perhaps because our causes are not sacred, nor honorable?

John Adams, firebrand political figure, described his feelings about the Battle of Bunker Hill (a loss, but a gain in courage for the American forces) in a letter to his wife, Abigail, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Trust in him at all times, ye people pour out your hearts before him. God is a refuge for us. –Charlstown is laid in ashes.” Whatever your creed, these are the words of a man who didn’t put all his faith in his own powers of brilliance or strength of arm. Self-reliance is noble, but all human selves eventually fail.

The Light and Glory

Adams projected a future beyond himself when he described what he foresaw as the festivities of the future Independence Day in America, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival… You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. –I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. –Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.”

May this Independence Day remind us that freedom is a gift of God and that liberty is bought at a price.

And may you, in whatever nation you live, know and accept the responsibility that what you do now, what ideas you support, and causes you uphold, will be paid for by the generations that come after us. For better or worse.

Keep thinking history! Keep thinking ahead!

– Amanda Stiver