The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Victory gardens

Victory garden poster

During World War II, 40% of American vegetables came from 20 million victory gardens.  With American men fighting abroad, women were raising their kids alone, working outside the home (to fill those men's jobs), and still finding time to till up their backyard and grow food for their families. 

(Doesn't that make you feel a bit silly for saying you don't have time to plant a garden?  There's still time to put in lettuce and greens for the fall, by the way.)

"Don't waste food" poster

Canning poster
Posters like these from both World Wars admonished women to plant a garden, can and dry the excess, and never waste a crumb.  The propaganda definitely worked --- Americans ate potatoes instead of wheat so that the less perishable grain could be sent abroad, and they generally managed to subsist on what those remaining at home could grow.

As Sharon Astyk pointed out in her fascinating analysis of why and how we have been trained to believe that our individual consumer choices make no difference to the world, victory gardens are clear proof that your personal actions can have a worldwide impact.  Leading by example, you can even suck your friends and family into a mode of eating that is lighter on the earth.

Poster advocating running water

America has plenty of food posterBut after the war ended, the propaganda took an abrupt about-face.  Suddenly, posters were telling us to buy, buy, buy!  And, once again, we followed along like sheep, dropped our shovels, and went out to spend some money.

While I'm tempted to talk here about our current government's admonitions to spend money to prop up our ailing economy rather than striving to become more self-sufficient, frugal, and debt-free on a personal level, I won't.  Instead, I think the takeaway message from the victory garden campaign is clear --- think globally, act locally.  If you believe that the environment would benefit from food grown in an ecologically conscious way, then look into permaculture and plant a diversified garden.  Anyone living anywhere can plant something, preserve something, and cut back on food waste.

To see the source of these posters (and peruse many more --- huge time sink, I warn you), visit Beans are Bullets, a website/exhibition put together by the National Agricultural Library. 

If you're thinking of adding a laying flock to your homestead, consider providing a homemade chicken waterer for healthier hens and more eggs.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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