Growing your own food

During the depression in the ‘30s, people came to Orcas Island to live off the land: one could almost do it. Salmon, cod, clams were plentiful. The orchards, which were famous before Wenatchee got water and took away our markets, were still in good shape. Most vegetables were home grown, most women canned, perhaps candled eggs, even made soap. Men hunted deer, rabbits, ducks, quail and pheasant. Much of this is gone, but not all. People with a bit of energy might try raising a few hens for eggs and fried chicken, as we all did in those days.

Now our apples come from New Zealand, our beef from Texas or even Argentina. The ships, trains and planes which bring them here contribute to the energy crisis and global warming. The cardboard and other containers use up whole forests.

Even rather weak old ladies can grow a few strawberries and tomato plants in pots, perhaps have a row or two of carrots and string beans. Only a few square feet of land is enough to grow what a family of four needs. Compost of food scraps, coffee grounds and cooking grease helps. Kelp can sometimes be used. One old lady, who was famous for her garden in Prune Alley in our childhood, credited the use of night soil for her success. Wild food can be harvested: dandelion greens are ready for salad now. My grandmother made nettle soup (not very good unless other food was added to it), made Oregon grape jelly and used salmon berries and blackberries for jam and jelly. Blackberries are great for pie – what about blackberry wine?

Sooner is better to start a garden. Tommy Lavender would have planted peas on Washington’s birthday, but late is all right, too; some people plant in June or plant second crops even later. We can help ourselves – we’d better do it. And it might be fun.

Mary Gibson Hatten