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On a recent trip to Williamsburgh, Virginia, I took a guided tour around the Colonial gardens. The tour was very interesting and the guides were informative and knew their stuff.
Interestingly, the main vegetable garden was laid out in - wait for it - raised beds! And we thought this was a recent improvement on traditional gardening! Below is a photo of the raised bed area.
I was struck not only by the good sense of the garden lay out but also by the neat orderliness of the situation.
Back then, the woman of the household was the one who tended the veggies, and the only way she could water the garden was by pulling up buckets of water from the well house. I 'm glad we have improved upon that particular situation.
Each house was allotted half and acre which was split into 3 main areas; the area around the house with the well and a small orchard of fruit trees; the garden area for veggies herbs and flowers; and the furthest area from the house which was used as a paddock for any livestock held by the family. This was the model for the average, poor - not quite so poor household and gave the family enough room to chop wood, grow some fruit and supplement their diet with healthy vegetables which they may not otherwise have been able to afford. The garden also produced herbs which were used in the kitchen as well as medicinally. The whole layout made perfect sense to me as a model that addressed the needs of the population.
Just think how it would be if each modern household had this much land around their house to be used in this same fashion. By products would be less crowding, better air and fewer cars parked in the road.
Above shows the foreground house 'yard', the garden beyond and furthest is the paddock for livestock.
This is where the whole idyllic picture went sour for me as I learned that the richer folks, who also had the same allotment of space, did not grow vegetables but had ornamental gardens, often laid out like English formal gardens with small hedges and flower beds, and did this to flaunt the fact that they could afford to buy veggies and could hire slaves to tend the flowers!
It occurs to me that people in the US seem to be living as if they are all rich - like the folks back in Williamsburgh. In my neighborhood, it is the norm to have no veggie garden but the front yard laid out to create 'curb appeal' or some such other real estate jargon. Most new houses these days are built with a huge house taking up all the available yard area except for a small border of flowers or shrubs. And what about the folks who inhabit apartments? No room any where for any kind of self sufficiency there at all.
When did we get away from the sensible way of having a small building to live in and a large yard to grow food in? How can we all live like the wealthy? Is this a sustainable model? I think not, but it has become the model of the American dream. No wonder we are in such dire straights.