We had one glorious glimpse of spring yesterday. This reluctant gardener was suddenly eager to get going on a project as was my husband, the person who really makes everything happen. I had tried to winter over the strawberries from the hydroponic set-up by tucking them into class-covered seed beds. They, like we, were perking up at the thought of spring so we brought out the Mr. Stacky tower, which is one of those inventions you wished you’d thought of. Instead of becoming increasingly smaller as the tower rises, each same-sized pot is offset from the next. The entire set up is quite expensive but you can buy the pots separately. Again, the person who makes everything happen, used a length of PVC pipe and a tub which previously had held mineral lick for the sheep as a reservoir. A small fish tank sized pump and an equally tiny aerator, and we were back in the strawberry business.
Like many of her generation, my grandmother was born and raised thrifty. Her motto of “make do with what you have” had gone out of fashion in the glut of consumerism in previous decades. That attitude is changing as society at large began to realize that resources are finite. I asked my mother, who was born in 1924, about growing up in the Depression years. She replied that she and her sisters didn’t realize what was happening. Insulated in a rural area far from the dust bowl, the girls had everything they needed. My mother is thrifty too. Me, not so much. But I am learning.
One beautiful example of Grandmother’s thriftiness is pasted in an oversized school teacher’s ledger. Grandmother had briefly taught school before her marriage – and remember, she never threw anything away. Instead, she pulled the ledger out and, with her three young girls and Great-grandmother Alice, created art out of circa 1920s- 1930s seed catalogs. Season after season of beautiful flowers, fruits, vegetables, and farm crops were patiently cut from the pages of the catalogs and artfully pasted them into the pages of the ledger. Many of the crops represented in the scrapbook were varieties grown on the farm. My mother gifted this heirloom scrapbook to me some years ago, and I treasure it. Their work raises scrapbooking to a work of art, and demonstrates that it is not necessary to buy a cartful of scrapbooking supplies from a craft store. All that is really needed is scissors, glue, and imagination.
Today, if we do part with a seed catalog (who doesn’t until the new edition arrives?), we feel good when we recycle – and we should. Before recycling, why not consider an adaptive use of the catalogs that preserves their beauty and teaches children something about fruit, vegetable, and flower varieties during some rare and precious family time when spring is teasing you about an early arrival but then Old Mother West Wind begins to blow and temperatures once again plummet, reminding us of my grandfather’s proclamation that nothing much happened on his farm before April 15.
A resident of USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5A, Elizabeth Janoski writes often of the history of her family’s farm and her reluctant but inherit compulsion to garden. Write to her at ElizabethShipmeadow@gmail.com .