One hundred spring seasons have bloomed and faded away since 1923, but residents of Owensboro, then as now, looked forward eagerly to the season of renewal and refreshment.
A poetic article illustrated with a pen-and-ink drawing by “Artist Satterfield” fairly sings with the observation of spring’s swift approach, and “the seed-planting instinct inherited from the days when our ancestors lived naturally, close to the soil. It is an instinct that dies hard, even when smothered by the congestion of cities. You realize this as you see the city man planning a home garden almost pathetic in size, and his wife eager to plant flowers.”
That seemed to be the case throughout Daviess County, as a newspaper headline from March of that year confidently proclaimed that “Signs of Spring are in Evidence,” with “activities pointing to beautiful homes, early gardens everywhere.”
The anonymous writer warned that “city gardeners usually get the ‘fever’ early,” while their rural counterparts knew “it is futile to crowd the season.”
Easter fell early that year – April 1 – which inspired many to hurry in putting out their gardens, ignoring the very real possibility of a late-season freeze that would undo their efforts.
“Experienced gardeners do not often take the chance, but wait until the ordinary probability of freezes has passed,” the article stated. “In the long run, they say, they get earlier gardens than those who plant early and suffer setbacks by freezes.”
Nevertheless, another article published in mid-April reminded readers that by the end of the month, their home gardens should be planted with string beans, sweet corn, leaf lettuce, and the second crops of peas and radishes.
Gardeners were also cautioned to tend to their rhubarb plants, with specific guidance offered that the ground “should be worked thoroughly in the spring and a little well-rotted manure worked into the soil.”
Whether or not they were assisted by well-rotted manure, we do not know, but ladies across Owensboro were engaged in keen competition to win a free trip to “Farm and Home week” at the University of Kentucky, a prize to be awarded to the woman whose garden and canned produce were judged to be the best at the end of the season.
While home gardens were an item of intense interest, sadly, school gardens were already becoming a thing of the past by 1923.
An April 17 article announced that “no school gardens will be planted and supervised at Owensboro Public schools this season as interest and results were poor last summer.”
Large quantities of seed that had been received from the U.S. Agricultural Department had been distributed to students with instructions for them to be planted at home during the short vacation – apparently Spring Break was a “thing” back then, too.
School principals were expected to inspect their students’ home gardens sometime in May, apparently to ensure that this “home work” assignment had been carried out.
Meanwhile, down on the farm, dairymen faced the annual challenge of minimizing or preventing “badly flavored milk and cream, due mostly to weeds.”
The article went on to say that “probably the most undesirable flavor that contaminates cream during the spring months is that of onions. Since there is no satisfactory method for removing this flavor, dairymen should remove the cause of it and keep cows off all infected portions of the pasture.”
Returning to the article with which this column began, the writer – his name forgotten but his words remembered – encouraged readers of 100 years ago to hold fast to a truth that stands still today: “In all philosophy, there is nothing more fundamental and far-embracing than the Biblical parable about the sower who went forth to sow. … Effort is like seed. Not all of it brings results. But some does. … Handed down from the misty past is the bit of wisdom, that we reap as we sow. Many of us, wretched and unhappy now, are merely reaping the harvest of wrong seed sown in the past. The approach of spring should bring new courage and determination, for spring fairly shouts to us to forget the old crop and sow seeds for a new harvest. As we are sowing now, we’ll reap later – money, fame, happiness, health.”
May your harvest in 2023 – and beyond – be bountiful. OL