victory gardens / mend and make do

I’m very inspired by World War Two imagery around Victory Gardens and Mend & Make Do campaigns. I’m also fascinated by the Land Girls / Womens’ Land Army, and the way WW2 changed work life for women in the West forever.

I recently had a pile of WW2 social history books out of the library and wanted to share with you some of the images. (Sorry I didn’t have the time/patience to scan them, so they are photographs of book pages. Not ideal. Forgive me.)

I don’t at all idealise the 1940s. I’m know it was a very hard time, a frightening time, lots of death and fear and sadness and people worked very hard just to keep their houses clean and keep their families fed. All the same, I enjoy the parallels between the Victory Garden movement and the 21st zeitgeist of backyard chicken farming, raised bed gardening, community gardening, CSA schemes, Seed Banks, recycling, upcycling etc….the similarities are strong.

There’s a great shop on etsy which sells modern day ‘victory garden’ posters – great witty designs. It’s called ‘The Victory Garden of Tomorrow’. I so want to buy something from the shop for my kitchen, but I can’t make up my mind which one I like the best!

Here are some of my favourite WW2 images from the books:

Women darning their tights….

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In today’s world of ‘from sweat-shop to landfill’ fashion, I’m proud to say I DO mend my clothes…as below…

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Dig for victory NOW!

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I would join this girl gang of happy gardeners!

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Have you ever seen a sugar beet? Not the most inspiring of vegetables…. 

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The lawns of Kensington Park in London were dug up for food production….

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Love the way the word ‘FOOD’ is made from vegetables here… 

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Even Yardley face cream got in on the victory gardening trend for it’s advertising… 

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WOMEN MUST DIG!

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recent reading, ongoing thinking

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I haven’t been writing about my writing much lately because a) I’m not sure it’s that interesting to anyone but me and b) I try to save all my energy for the actual writing project but anyhoo…a small update…

This year for me feels like a year of withdrawal, processing and deep thought.  I decided to focus inward on the current writing project. It’s a bit scary because I am writing prose rather than poetry, so I’m kind of in unchartered territory for me. (I am also feeling sad that poetry has left me for while, but I have been doing this for long enough to know that it will return. Lately when I try to write a poem, I feel like I keep writing versions of poems I’ve written before. When you are boring yourself, chances are no one else is going to be that excited either!) I have no idea of the ‘market’ for this meandering, tangential stuff I’m writing but I try to flush out those kind of concerns and focus on getting on with it! Over the winter, I had the Massey Residency and that was a wonderfully immersive and productive few months. Things have been a bit more hotch-potch since then as freelance work and Life have to be negotiated, but I plod on!

I noticed a theme in my reading recently – lots of books with ‘Wild’ in the title! I am reading and writing about nature/bioregionalism/ecology/contemporary spirituality….so I guess ‘wildness’ is a thread through all of these things.

The Wild Places, by Robert McFarlane

Wild, by Jay Griffiths (This book remains my favourite book IN THE WORLD EVER.) 

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg

Coincidence? Or maybe it’s just that I would read anything with WILD in the title? Ha ha.

Robert McFarlane’s book led me to…

Waterlog, by Roger Deakin – a remarkable account of Deakin’s desire to swim in as many wild waterways as he could across the UK. (Roger Deakin was an incredible person who seemed to live almost in an alternate universe where he was part-tree himself. What an amazing man.)

In fact, this is the trajectory so much of contemporary nature writing takes – a person leaves the urban environment and takes off to the waterways or the wilds, the forests, the mountains and then experiences the edges of their pathetic humanity and learns a pile of stuff about themselves. It’s compelling stuff! Escape, edge-dwelling, deep nature….

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As inspiring and firing as these books are, though, I cannot write this kind of book. I am a mother of two children, tethered by family to a small suburban piece of land in a medium-sized, unsensational city. So my challenge is how to extrapolate a compelling narrative from my own situation.

To my rescue (to some extent) comes bioregionalism, Urban Resilience movements and Transition Towns giving me a steadfast political framework to staying put in the urban environment and making the best of it, or making it better more to the point.

I am on the hunt for any books which address the URBAN ‘wilds’, or ‘domestic’ nature narratives, so please do suggest some if you know of any.

One I read and thoroughly loved recently was ‘Feeding Orchids to The Slugs’, a book about a woman becoming a Zen Retreat cook.

I’d love to know if there are more New Zealand books in this vein. I read THIS ONE by Harvey McQueen recently, it was charming, but a little too restrained for my taste.

How do you write a compelling nature-based narrative when you live in suburbia and can’t stray very far? This question is at the heart of my project.

So far, I’m finding it’s all about ATTENTION, rather than literal travel. That the ‘wild’ is as much within as without. I cringe a bit writing that, but what the hell, it’s what I’m experiencing as true.

‘To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.’ -Mary Oliver

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I would gratefully receive any book suggestions around any of the above stuff. I feel like I need to devour another few hundred books to get to the bottom of my thinking around this stuff, and it all feeds the creative fire!

(If you got to the bottom of this, you are a trooper and I thank you over a million times for your attention.)

 

How Green Are My Wellies?

Back between 2004-2008 when I was first blogging – I had a notion to take some of my blog posts which were about sustainability, gardening, thrifty living and put them together, expand on them and write a book. I didn’t, of course, and in retrospect am kind of glad because there has been a positive deluge of such books onto the market in recent years – many of which are far superior to anything I would have done!

This book, ‘How Green Are My Wellies?’ by Anna Shepard came out in 2008 – and my friend Sarah emailed me a link saying ‘Someone’s written the book you should have written!’ – when I saw the lovely cover of this book, I could see what she meant.

It took my four years to get around to reading this book – because I had this irrational association between it and my unfulfilled plans and thwarted intentions – I’m neurotic like that….but I got over it, got it out of the library, just finished it and it’s great.

What sets it out from the manifold other ‘how to live greener’ books, is that Anna Shepard has a very engaging, funny voice in her writing. The book is not a finger-wagging ‘do this now’ kind of book. Her tone throughout is one of light-heartedness and adventure. The best ‘green’ books get people inspired by showing what an adventure green-living can be, how it isn’t about guilt and suffering but enrichment and engagement. This book achieves that with Shepards wonderful witty anecdotes and humour.

The book is divided up into months of the year, and she goes through the relevant seasonal ideas and hints. There are all kinds of interesting tips and asides and resources. Also funny throughout the book are her stories about her long-suffering, not-especially-green partner and her slightly dotty but very green mother. I also like the way she admits her failing and flailings and doesn’t pretend to be perfect – she calls herself ‘the eco worrier’ rather than ‘eco-warrior’.

By the time I finished the book, I had learned a lot, resolved to do better, laughed a lot and also, felt like I’d read a warm-hearted memoir, rather than just another green ‘how-to’ manual.

I never did write the green book of my imaginings, but luckily Anna Shepard did! This is a stand-out specimen of the very full ‘green-living’ book market.

(I read a lot of these eco/green/sustainability/frugal living books. If you are interested in hearing about them, I will continue to review them. Let me know in the comments.)