My memories of kindergarten in Thornwood are bittersweet. When I wasn't relegated to wearing the pointed dunce cap and sitting on a high stool with my face toward a corner, I enjoyed the music.

Among all the games and songs we sang and played in 1942, a set of lyrics has remained with me. I can easily recite the chorus: "Oats, peas, beans and barley grow. Can you or I or anyone know how oats, peas, beans and barley grow?"

It began when the farmer sowed his seed and continued as he watered it, hoed it and harvested it. We stood in a circle and went through all the motions to mimic the farmer who stamped his feet and clapped his hands and turned around "to view his lands."

To illustrate my circuitous train of thought these days, I walked into our Morrisonville dining room this morning with a tape measure.

Holding it up against the tomato and cucumber plants thriving in the east-facing picture window, I measured 24 to 36 inches as the length of each one.

It's been hard not to "jump the gun," as my late mother used to say. I guess I was always jumping the gun throughout my childhood. I would confer with her many years later about gardening. "Don't plant before June," she would warn.

And, like my childhood, I didn't always heed my mother's sage advice. I often jumped the gun and paid the price. Late frost often flattened my seedlings and I had to go out and buy new ones.

This year, I've been a relatively good boy. I've waited and waited and will try to get the "crop strip" planted by this coming Friday. Alta Grace would be proud.

Oh, I might try to agitate her spirit by sticking one or two of the hardiest plants in the ground today or tomorrow, just to tempt fate. So, what else is new?

Once again, my plants will climb the fence separating us from the Morrisonville Fire Department. And, once again, I'll offer the volunteers next door anything that grows over, under or through the fence. It's only fair.

While I was learning the "oats, peas, beans" song in kindergarten, a massive propaganda campaign was getting under way across America as well as Canada and the UK. It had to do with promoting the "Victory Garden."

Farmers and rural folk had been doing it for generations; but, this was a concerted effort to grow vegetables in urban settings such as lawns, parks, school yards, baseball fields, window boxes, roof tops and anywhere else that could serve the purpose.

There were posters and public service booklets galore. Growing a Victory Garden was touted as a patriotic duty. Some 20 million people answered the call in our country alone.

"Plant a Victory Garden: Our Food is Fighting," the posters declared.

"Dig for Plenty," "Dig on for Victory," "A Garden will Make Your Rations Go Further" and "Plant More in '44" shouted others.

There were magazine articles, radio shows and a plethora of promotions in every medium of the day. It was an effective plan. Victory Gardens served all the obvious aims and some that are much more subtle.

City people who had never had their hands in the dirt were tending their plots and the fall exercise of "canning" those harvested vegetables became commonplace. Even as little kids, we all felt like we were part and parcel of the war effort.

As much as 10,000,000 tons of produce were grown by non-farmers at that time and the result was positive. We got more vegetables in our diets; we saved more of the rationed canned goods for our troops and it resulted in a win-win proposition.

My mother even purchased a pressure cooker and I remember the time it blew up in her kitchen, splattering the ceiling and walls with an unspeakable mess. Thank God no one was injured.

What you might not know is that the idea for Victory Gardens pre-dated WWII and is still very much a part of life in America today.

I learned that a similar campaign was undertaken during the first World War as "city farmers" were encouraged to plant gardens.

From California to Boston, Victory Gardens are flourishing. The so-called Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston are advertised as "the nation's last remaining of the original gardens created nationwide during World War II."

There is even a Victory Garden at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. It is located on a terrace outside the National Museum of American History and is copied exactly from a 1943 pamphlet.

I doubt if our modest "crop strip" along the fence will serve to support the current war effort in Iraq, but if Kaye's lovely green thumbs and my funny fat ones have anything to do with it, we'll have some goodies on the table in due time. That will be a Victory all by itself.

Have a great day and please, drive carefully.

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