Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pioneer Woman

I've been reading Debora Clark's book Sage and it gets me to thinking if I could survive as a pioneer woman. Or if I could provide enough to keep my family alive. Sage is set in the 1860s in rural Missouri.
When I look at the Missouri Extension's vegetable planting calendar, and the suggested quantities to plant per person per year, I'm not so sure.

Here's a sampling of the suggestions:

Tomatoes: 3-5 plants/person for fresh, 5-10 plants/person for processing
Spinach: 5-10 feet/person for fresh, 10 to 15 feet/person for processing
Peppers: 2-3 plants/person for fresh
Peas: 10-15 feet/person for fresh, 25-30 feet/person for processing

I've seen this picture several times while looking for information on Victory Gardens. It's of a WWII garden. It's a different era than Debora's book, but still gives a sense of scale of how big a garden needed to be. (I've never seen the original caption for this photo, so as far as I know it may be a community garden.)
I think back to the garden on the farm, which is easily 1/4 of an acre. (I've never measured it, but it seems that big!)We planted a pretty big garden when I was little, but we still supplemented with fruit and veggies from the store. I only remember canning tomatoes, green beans and jellies.
Granted, if I lived back in the 1800s, or even during WWII, I wouldn't be an architect. I'd be a stay at home mom-gardener-farmer-maid-wife-jack of all trades, and I'd have time to tend such a massive garden. Maybe. If I wasn't chasing goats or small children or scrubbing laundry or fixing fence.
I have a lot more respect for the generations that had to provide for their families or risk starving, especially now that I'm trying to grow and can enough tomatoes so I don't have to buy storebought in the middle of winter... Estimating the number of plants I need, and the number of pints I need to store, and then finding the place to store them is a chore. I can't imagine having to do that with every vegetable.

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