A TWA Lockheed Constellation and United Airlines Douglas DC-7 collide in mid-air over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, killing all 128 people aboard both aircraft in the deadliest civil aviation disaster to date; the accident leads to sweeping changes in the regulation of cross-country flight and air traffic control over the United States.
This was a horrible plane disaster and really, for the first time in our growing modern world here in the 50’s, we are faced with the challenges of modern travel. Air traffic patterns are becoming such that we must begin to treat them with the seriousness we have done with the opening of all our highways this decade as well. The world is growing faster and we more restless. Living in your own neighborhood and a 20 mile radius is all but gone. The modern world of travel is upon us.
There is still much debris in the Grand canyon area where this crash took place. Many people today even find such things hiking, but are not allowed to remove it without a permit. This image has an eerie sad quality. What appears to have been a ladies purse over 50 years later among the rocks and debris of the canyon.
Well, when thinking of our mortality one can also think of the future. And no one is more positive of the future than a Gardener. I think someone once said planting a garden is like believing in the future. We plant and plan for that moment when we can cherish and eat our harvest.
I have been both thinking about and doing a lot of gardening lately. Here in 1956 one may find themselves more interested in the ornamental than the productive, at least my magazines seem to portray that. These halcyon post war days are about ornamentation of ourselves, our homes and our yards. Yet, as an older homemaker and a war-bride, I would still make room for the veg and fruit in my garden, I think. Though many wives were probably happy to plant petunias and leave the peas for the grocer to deal with, my own personality tells me I would have held onto some of my Victory garden urges.
If not from the very practical point of view of saving on summer grocery bills, the satisfaction of eating from your own plants would be too much to let go. So, here happy in the boon of the American mid-century, I am still happily cultivating my fruit and veg.
Here we see some proud young boys in their wartime Victory garden. The importance on the food they are growing (here tomatoes) over the care of ornamental perfection is evidenced in the tall grasses and weeds behind them. When growing is food, we tend to forgo the ornamental somewhat in lieu of providing for the table.
So, on a very basic level we could say 1940’s war time Victory Garden meant: Survival. Lawns and rose beds were given over to veg and fruit. The 50’s Atomic Garden was the host to many new ‘helpful’ chemicals to rid the garden of pests and provide more energy for the biggest blooms and greenest most weed free lawn. The dichotomy of the two can surely serve to aid modern gardens to this: Balance. As in all things, Balance. So, give up some of that lawn, which requires so much water and chemical to some veg or even lovely flowers that are also edible. I have a tea garden started that looks as ornamental as anything, Hyssop, Bee Balm, Lemon Verbena, Chamomile, Echinacea, all of these are beautiful perennial flowers you can enjoy esthetically. They also have the added benefit of making great tea. Snip the leaves and blooms and steep fresh and also hang to dry come fall and enjoy your bounty through the winter. Herbal teas are not cheap in stores, so grow your own. All of these plants flourish in pots as well, if you only have a deck or terrace or an urban windowsill.
Yet, I too have only ornamental, for what would love be if it were all utility? I adore Hydrangea and as far as I know they provide nothing for the table except exquisite bouquets, but what a joy they are, indeed.
Here are some pictures of my garden thus far. This is a lovely edible lavender variety called ‘Kew Red’ whose blossoms can be added to soup stocks and meat dishes. They smell wonderful, but are not as perfumey in food as a more aromatic sachet type lavender would be.
I adore my little French finger radishes. They grow like the dickens and they are spicy but not so much so that you can’t use that at breakfast time. They are great in omelets and the greens are wonderful in sandwiches and salads. I highly recommend these as they are SO easy to grow and I am on my third planting already, that is how fast they grow and we eat them! And I cannot stop taking photos of them. There is something intrinsically beautiful about them. Here they are with a fresh batch of Snow Peas. These have also been a wonderful crop so far this year. We eat them as fast as they grow and I am going to give over a spot later in the summer to another larger batch of these so that I shall have some left to freeze. So tender and sweet!Here you can see my row of French Runner Beans. They are coming along nicely, but you can see they need a good weeeding. Yet, I have noticed this year my new veg garden is much more about utility than beauty. I think the ornamentation I once sought in the veg garden will find its way back, but now I am all about production and yield.Here you can see my 42 Tomato plants growing. I think these need a new place next year (you should rotate your crops anyway) as this spot does not get enough sun, I think. They seem to be taking longer to bloom than they should be.
The blackberries are ripeningI dug these last summer and brought them from the other house once we decided we were moving back here to stay. These are a thorn less variety that I love and could not find anymore this year. I hope to mail order some next early spring as they are great producers and no thorns! It’s heaven!
here are some of the flowers in my Tea Garden. A lovely Hyssop bloom. Their leaves impart a wonderful licorice/anise scent that I love in teas. I have anise and licorice plants as well. Here is that beauty, Echinacea, that makes a nice calming herbal tea and the blooms are wonderful. There are many varieties now avialable, including a chartruese I would like to try, but this is the old school antique wild version that I felt would be more true to flavor in tea. This is my coveted Bee Balm, which is Bergamot. I have the normal Red Bee Balm that is more common as well, but it is this plant with the lavender flowers that produces the bergamot scent I adore in Earl Grey tea. I will mix this plant with plain black tea I can buy in bulk from our local tea shop to make my own “50’s Lady Grey” tea.
And, of course, for the ornamental, you cannot go wrong with Hydrangea. The soil conditions on Cape Cod are such that the most brillant blue blooms are made. These are just beginning to color, so they are not as vibrant as they will be by the end of July.
And, as I really consider them part of the the Garden, my chicks are coming along nicely.Here you can see they are beginning to resemble little chickens and I am starting to see who is going to be roosters and hens. Those unlucky boys will either make it into my oven or for sale, as they are all more rare ‘blue’ variety of purebred chickens that would be good show quality. So, first they will get their chance to be sold locally to any aspiring 4-H-er who might like a prize Blue Rooster to show next Summer at the Fair. I will do a separate post just about their new home. It has been a few months in the making and been rather an undertaking and is almost done…almost. Come Fall, these little darlings (well the hens at least) will be providing me with all the eggs I can take and more, hopefully.
I thought I would take a photo of my shopping basket on my latest marketing trip to our local farm. To me, it was just a normal day, but to others they were amused. This is an old 50’s metal and canvas marketing basket that I use often. The day of the farm, there were many people there and as I stood in line, with my vintage basket filled with potted lavender and French tarragon and rosemary, they seemed to love it. Don’t get me wrong, most of the people on the farm had their ‘bring along bags’ but they were a motley assortment of various chain store bags sewn out of that odd plastic type fiber ( I am sure you have seen it almost all stores now offer these for sale, of course the irony being producing more and more bags for people to buy is not really cutting bag on waste-but I digress). The uniqueness of my basket made it look like a ‘magazine display’ one person told me. I thought that true, as I looked at it, but for me it was just a normal marketing day. This got me to thinking how with very little money and effort ( I think my basket cost all of 5 dollars at a junk shop) we could buy old already manufactured items to be our ‘carry all’ bags. But, again, we are a consummer culture. We hear the latest thing is to carry your own bag, so we simply buy the bag. We don’t try to make it or buy something old or use what we may already have. (I know that is not true for most of you, but I am speaking in the terms of the general populace).
So, my point was, here were many people admiring my shopping experience when it would be so easy for them to have the same type of experience. The idea of simple beauty or calm order seems unique and extraordinary and is only commonplace in photo shoots in the home and living magazines of which we cannot get enough. There may be much modern irony in a cluttered home filled with unused plastic items and expensive gadgets then piled with magazines full of images of the ‘perfect home’ as if it is only something to look at in a magazine. Like an animal in the zoo, “Oh, look honey, a coffee table with a neat stack of magazines and no clutter or remotes” “Oooh, look at that, book shelves neatly stacked with books, how novel, no clutter or piles of things”.
I think many of us allow the clutter to become just the normal background noise to our life. I know I have done so. Even now, after a year and a half in the 1950’s, I still have area’s of my life that I am ‘getting to’ to sort and organize. Not until the task begun in January of 55, did I realize what an undertaking it was. The decades of modernity have a heavy price tag both in the cost to our bank accounts as well as to our homes and physical realms. Clutter of mind and home; disorganized thoughts and bank accounts, it all seems common today as milk at the door in glass bottles in the 1950’s.
So, if you feel that in any way, pick a closet or even a drawer today and attack it. Take it all out, sort, donate, throw away or sell and put the money in your pin money jar. Then, the next time you find something cute or lovely in your home you had forgot about, an old basket, maybe the Easter basket you had as a child, woven and tattered, why not use that for marketing? Or if you’re at the yard sale and you see an unloved receptacle of some sort, plop down that quarter and go shopping in style, leave the icky plastic-cloth bags blazoned with the corporate logos on the shelves of the stores where they stand. Being unique and living a lovely life isn’t hard, it just takes a moment to think before you pass that money or debit card over the counter.