1950s Gardening

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Clotheslines, raising chickens and goats, heirlooms, growing fruits and vegetables, canning and seed saving the way our grandparents did is back in style. "We are channeling an old-fashioned style of gardening in 2015, with an emphasis back on small-farm ideals," says University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Clotheslines can be a simple weekend project bound to save you money and give your clothes that fresh scent naturally. My grandparents had a clothesline, very large and sturdy, that stood outside the back door. Pinning and gathering the laundry was always my chore during summer vacations. Without a dryer, we used the sun and wind to infuse our clothing with the smell of country air. According to the Pew Research report, more and more respondents considered clothes dryers as an extravagance and not a necessity. Consumers are opting to reduce their carbon footprint and save money by skipping the energy guzzling clothes dryer. Even apartment dwellers use racks and hangers inside to skip the cost of using the dryer and reduce the wear and tear dryers can have on their clothing.

Chickens have become a widespread country garden endeavor and have pecked their way into suburbia. At my grandparents' house, a chicken coop lined the east side of their home, with a small creek meandering between it and an acre of vegetables. The grandkids tended the chickens during the day and closed the coop before dark. Fresh eggs were gathered for the morning feast. Chickens also can be of great use to gardeners for pest control and composted manure for the vegetable garden. Raising chickens is a natural transition for urban gardeners and locavores to have fresh eggs and chicken on the dinner table. Chickens are also moving into the capital city and out of the country. At a recent tour of the governor's mansion, tucked in the corner of the garden was a chicken coop boasting colorful breeds. Check with your city ordinances to see if chickens are allowed in your area.

There was a goat in the pasture just west of my grandparents' house. I remember vividly racing her around the barn and feeding her weeds from the sides of the roads. At dinner we drank goat milk and one Christmas we had roasted goat. Goats are now being used by some instead of lawnmowers. The O'Hare airport in Chicago recently employed goats, a llama, burrows and sheep to take the place of mowing in some of the more difficult terrain.

Sweetly fragrant heirloom roses with bees surrounded the pump house at my grandparents' home. As kids, we would follow and investigate the butterflies and bees that were lured by the roses. Usually, heirloom roses are larger and more fragrant. They are generally long-lived and very winter hardy. Gardeners may prefer heirlooms because of their pollinator services to hummingbirds and butterflies. Some of the newer varieties of roses may have lost some of their fragrance in the selection process.

My grandparents grew an acre-sized vegetable garden, along with fruit trees, grape vines and blackberry patches. I picked peppers, tomatoes, squash, sweet corn, onions, potatoes and watermelons and washed the harvest in giant basins in the garage. I was sent to pick from the cherry trees or the blackberry patch so that we could make a pie that night. Everything we didn't eat, my grandmother canned and stored. Placed next to the year's farm harvest would be jars of seed my grandfather would collect. Vegetable gardening may take time and money, but the benefits have been some of the best-tasting country meals of my life. According to the National Gardening Association, 35% of households are attempting to grow their own food at home or in a community garden setting. The National Gardening Association had suggested that a $70 investment would yield $650 worth of produce, which was definitely a motivation for my grandparents.