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The Indy Issue from Friday March 12, 2021



Visions of the Development of Salem

By Kevin Zorn

An oil on canvas mural is displayed in the post office in Salem, West Virginia. It was painted by an artist named Berni Glasgow and its production was funded
through the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. It is titled “Visions of the Development of Salem” and depicts a group of people
receiving mail, in the background is a village and cattle.


Berni Glasgow was one of more than 800 artists commissioned to paint 1371 murals, the majority of which are featured in post offices.
Often mistaken as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative, these Treasury funded murals were created with the intent of fostering i
nspiration in the American people who were still feeling the devastating economic and social effects of the Great Depression.


It is a testament to the shift in the ideological landscape today that I cannot believe the US Government, in tandem with local governments,
was capable of doing what the WPA accomplished. Yet, here are just some of the facts: from 1935 to 1943 8.5 million unemployed men and
women were hired by the government to build over 10,000 bridges, 620,000 miles of streets and roads, 40,000 new and 85,000 renovated
buildings including thousands of schools, gymnasiums, auditoriums, playgrounds, parks, libraries, college dormitories, tennis courts, and skating rinks.


The WPA employed artists, writers, historians, and musicians whose work directly affected the lives of millions of Americans during some of the
country’s most painful years. Musicians hired under the Federal Music Project taught free lessons to 132,000 children and adults every week.
Those hired in the Federal Writers’ Project, in addition to their popular state tourism guidebooks, recorded over 2,300 slave narratives -
an invaluable collection for scholars and historians. Under the Federal Theatre Project 1,000 plays were performed across the country every month.
Incalculable is the number of children and adults inspired by this work.


Through the colossal endeavors of the WPA in both its pre-war effort and its public projects America achieved full employment by 1942,
the same year “Visions” was painted in Salem.


It is clear that the America many of us grew up in, the structures that supported our lives, the parks we enjoyed, the schools we attended,
the infrastructure we relied upon for travel, even the art classes that inspired the next generation of creators was largely built under the
auspices of the WPA and the New Deal.


This is a salient reminder that capital “H” History is not simply a collection of memorized facts and figures, dates and obscure names.
No, History is alive in the communities in which we live. It not only teaches us, it haunts us as well. It haunts us with what was
possible before and what is possible tomorrow.


Perhaps that is the greatest battle waged in the spectacle of media and politics today - the question of what is possible.
Our expectations are managed lower and lower. We learn that the climate crisis is inevitable, that homelesness is natural,
that workers are essential until they ask for a living wage. All to say that change is impossible. Visions of better futures recede from view.

But history haunts us with an alternative. By the time Berni Glasgow painted the mural in the Salem post office, the American
government had provided millions of meaningful jobs improving, with concrete and paintbrushes, nearly every community across the nation.


Nick Taylor, the author of “American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA”, writes this: 


“These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation.
They were golden threads woven in the national fabric. In this, they shamed the political philosophy
that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them,
thus fulfilling the founding vision of a government by and for its people. All its people.” 


This weeks front page:



This week in The Independent Gardener, we will be highlighting the bane of every gardener’s existence, weeds. Weed control is probably the worst part about having a garden. You plant your nice tomatoes and peppers in your freshly tilled beds and then BAM! A couple weeks later there are all these good for nothing weeds popping up, crowding your plants, taking the life right out from underneath them. Annoying. Well this week we will be looking at some easy ways to keep the weeds out with out breaking your back. 

The first and simplest way to rid your garden from weeds, is a good old fashion hoe. Hoeing between rows and plants can be a lot easier than stooping over to pluck out weeds by hand. Annual weeds will die when you cut the stems from the roots, so using a sharp how can cut back on weeds tremendously. Weeds that return from bits of roots, like a dandelion for example, will need to be dug out. However, if you hoe the annuals down, the perennials will become easier to spot and remove. A typical square hoe will do you just fine, but you do have some better options out there. A more effecting style of hoe is the swan neck hoe, also known as the half moon. This tool style is Dutch in origin and is designed for cutting weeds. Unlike the square hoe, the blade on the swan neck is a little different. The edge is still flat but the back side of the head is rounded, forming a crescent shape.  The neck of the tool is slightly curved, unlike the straight pole of the square hoe. This allows for the hoe to better get into those hard to reach places. The handle is shorter, but more accurate. It isn’t for hard tilling, but rather gentle, precise use. Using the edges and the corners of the blade, drag gently about an inch under the soil and cut the pesky weeds down, above the roots but below the soil. Another style of hoe good for weed control is the oscillating or the stirrup hoe. The pole is straight, but the head is totally different than the square and half moon. Instead of a flat, vertically placed blade, the stirrup hoe has a horizontally placed blade. It is referred to as an open box blade and appears like a stirrup on a horse’s saddle. The edges are all sharpened and it will work when pushed or pulled through the soil. The sizes vary with these hoes, but all will work for tight spaced weed control. The handle on this model is usually longer than square and swan neck hoes, for easier use and less back breaking bending. With the use of any style of hoe, proper grip is the most important aspect for easy weeding and preventing back pains. Hold the hoe as you would a broom, thumbs pointing up, and closer to the back of the pole. The closer to the back of the handle, the more leverage you will have and the less stooping you will have to endure. 

The next easy weed control method is mulching. Mostly mulch works by keeping the light from getting to the weeds, preventing seed germination and photosynthesis. This also makes weeds that emerge shallow in roots, easier to pull and easier to see. Mulch can come in a variety of forms. Natural mulches include straw, grass clippings, leaves, and shredded bark or wood chips. These are typically cheaper, some being from your own yard, and easily obtainable. For added protection, consider laying sheets of newspaper or cardboard down around your plants prior to mulching. The paper further smothers the weeds, but still allows water to seep through.  The best thing about mulch and newspapers is the biodegradability. After your garden is harvested, you can just till the whole thing under, plants, mulch, and paper, without worry. The mulch mixed with your soil will decay and add nutrients to your beds. A win-win situation is you ask me. 

Now you might have some well established, persistent weeds. Or a whole lot of weeds. Or maybe some weeds in hard to remove places, like in wedged between patio stones or gravel. You might like to use a chemical and just kill the weeds off. Before you reach for the harsh stuff, you might try something from your kitchen. Vinegar has been used as weed killer for some time now. There are many different recipes out there for different potencies and purposes.  Vinegar is less chemically and mysterious than some of the store bought herbicides, plus its a ton cheaper.  Many of the common herbicides are not biodegradable as well, while vinegar is. In fact, in 2011, Monsanto, a well known producer of genetically altered seeds and the popular herbicide Roundup, agreed to discontinue the use of the terms “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly” in their advertisements for the product. It’s not just Roundup though.  Most of the herbicides produced today will remain in the soil for who knows how long, after your weeds are long gone. If your going to kill weeds, why not do it with something cheaper and less harsh. However, be warned that vinegar KILLS ANYTHING UNSELECTIVELY. So do not go spraying carelessly. It is effective, too effective. You can use it in a pump sprayer for larger areas or sidewalks, but I would not recommend this sprayer for selective spraying. A small, handheld spray bottle would be more ideal for in between flowers or crops. Many folks use plain undiluted vinegar.  Just spritz it on the weeds you want to destroy and wait. Eventually the acid will kill all those unwanted plants by drawing out the liquid in the plant cells. Then all you have to do is gather the dead weeds up and pitch them. There are recipes that include combinations of salt of salt, soaps, water, and vinegar, but really experimenting with different mixtures is the best way to determine your weed killing needs.  This is a very unpredictable method of weed killing, so test it on a small scale before you go spray crazy, just to be sure your will get your desired results. 

The most effective solution to weed control is persistence. Weeds will always grow back. There will always be weeds in your garden. Finding what works for you and sticking to it is the only way you can be weed free. 

If you are interested in newspapers for weed control or any other purpose, stop by The Doddridge Independent office at 200 East Main Street in West Union for free papers! 


– Happy Planting!