wise man once stated: "A person will do a lot of things he wouldn't ordinarily
do if he is taking up a hole in his belt occasionally." Hunger and the fear of
hunger has always had a way of leveling the various classes of the population
and changing their habits.
One of history's most famous hunger catastrophes
was the Irish potato famine where 2.5 million people either died or were displaced
in the 1840s. At that time only a few varieties of potatoes existed for planting
and all were subject to the potato blight disease. Today, most potato varieties
are resistant to the disease, and such famine could easily be prevented.
and other historical famines are the main reason for the establishment of the
new "doomsday seed vaults" being built above the Arctic Circle to store the millions
of varieties of world stock seed both old and modern.
Before modern transportation
methods made distributing foodstuff easier, the U.S. government made an attempt
to bridge the gap between surplus and unsold foodstuff raised on farms and the
needy urban people in the cities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture started the
first relief (welfare) program on May 16, 1939, in Rochester, N.Y., issuing blue
and orange colored food stamps to exchange for surplus farm items like eggs, butter
and dried beans. The original program ended in 1943 after serving about 20 million
people. The surplus was needed for the World
War II effort.
Most old-timers who survived the Great Depression and
Dust Bowl will tell you, "Our garden produce and home-canned foods pulled us through."
Cellars and pantries with shelves of home-canned fruits, meats and vegetables
kept hunger at bay though few had money to spend.
a trip today through the small towns and communities, and you will see countless
gardens growing food for the families. Evidently garden seed is in great demand
as we hear gardeners complaining of lack of supplies to choose from and the high
prices. A small envelope containing a dozen or more seeds can cost many dollars.
is a long way from the old days when all gardeners selected seeds from prize varieties
to dry and store until the next spring planting. My grandparents kept seed in
coffee cans, small glass jars or used envelopes. A day or two before planting
time, the seeds were soaked in water with Garrett's Snuff added hopefully to keep
the worms and birds from eating the seed after being planted.
early settlers, lacking today's handy containers, raised gourds of various size,
harvested, dried and cleaned them to make seed containers. Somehow the gourds
kept the seed dry, insulated and prevented mold. By hanging them from the rafters
of a cellar or barn, the rodents were kept at bay. Some plants, like dill, were
hung by the stalks until needed.
I imagine the elders of that time slept
a lot better each winter knowing the next year's garden seed was safe and sound
and ready for planting.
© Delbert Trew
All Trew" July
28, 2009 Column
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