Victory Garden

Victory Garden

While digging up blackberry vines from the chicken coop, I thought of my

           great grandfather, the crooked house with the tall, chiming clock,

           gloriously red tomatoes hanging heavy on vines, and berry bushes

           ripe with sweetness lining the fence,

I thought also of the people I fed in the nursing home as a teenager, their lives

            dwindling from years of use, unforgotten stories carried on hunched

            shoulders, snacks of saltines and buttermilk (their favorite) a shadowed

            memory from younger, leaner years

I clipped and slashed at the thick, spiny arms weaving through cherry-blossomed branches, scratching red lines into my flesh as I cleared the space with

            a growing Depression-era anxiety

I would have made a good pioneer woman

           strong hands, broad shoulders and skin that browns in the sun

I’ve dug garden beds on the side of rocky slopes, removed stones in piles like

           my Gaelic ancestors to create rivulets of fertile ground

           bathed children and clothing in buckets of cold river water

           eaten meals solely of food grown or fished by my husband and me

           made medicine with the plants who grow here by choice

I have played the part of the frontier survivor—in the comfort of

           modern civilization and roads that lead to town

           but now the future feels uncertain

our survival is not a given

we are fixing the fence of the chicken coop, cleaning out their

            space so they have a secure place to lay—free range is hip

            if you have store bought eggs to fill in the gaps of your

            hens’ freedom

we are planting seeds to feed a small community—who knows

            what friends may have the need?

we are gathering medicine into pots upon the porch—there may

            not always be a tincture for what ails us

we are dusting off our homesteading books, refreshing our

            memories of the local plants, stuffing cabbage and salt

            into crocks to learn new sources of nutrition

This no longer feels like a weekend retreat, or what I yearned for

            in my youth, this no longer feels like a lifestyle,

it’s beginning to feel like survival


When the pandemic first began, we felt a sense of urgency and concern that our society would collapse in many ways and that we would need to provide our basics to survive. We live in far northern California, a place where many back-to-the-landers from the 1970s made their home. Their vision still inspires many of us here today.

About the Artist

Anne Fricke,  Westmoreland County
Published:  January 30, 2021