It's that time of year again, when the gardens are in full swing and so is the harvest! For the past few weeks I've been busy picking and cutting, canning and freezing...with a little "sharing" thrown in. I don't do a big garden anymore, haven't for years, but our little one always manages to produce plenty for us, some for the kids, and when we're lucky, a little bit to share as well.
This past week the tomatoes have really kicked in on production and so the girls and I have been working on two of the family favorites...salsa and pasta sauce! I learned early on in my gardening experience to "work up" the firsts and hope for the "lasts". With unpredictable temperatures and rain fall, I know if we hope to have anything saved for future eating we need to start early with our canning/freezing because the pickins' can be slim as the weeks progress. Not that we don't enjoy fresh sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, fried zucchini, or sauteed green beans in between times, but I like to take those first pickings and get them started on their way to our Fall enjoyment! :)
But I think my biggest enjoyment in all of it is seeing my girls involved. When my oldest daughter moved to their farm years ago, she decided to try her hand at gardens. And not just "a garden"...it was more like a "truck patch"...it was huge and she had TWO!! While that might not seem like a such a big thing to some, for the girl who was always the "blonde cheerleader, don't do the country thing" it was quite a feat!! :) She grew and canned everything she could get her hands on and was very proud of her accomplishments...her mother was too! One year her garden did extremely well and mine didn't and she passed along her extras to me...I carted off a couple buckets of green beans as well as tomatoes, and one year she even had extra okra...ummm. Beck took to "farming" like nobody's business...it was great!
Our youngest daughter wanted no part of it either...well, she liked eating the results, but to actually be interested in the process of getting it from the dirt to the jar? No way! It's rather funny really, because both of these girls were raised on country...mostly their mother drug them kicking and screaming through the many processes involved in country living, but still it was a part of their lives. However, they both seemed to want as far from that former life as they could get until one day...the magic happened!! ;) I always think of the verse in the Bible where it says, "raise up a child in the way they should go and they will not soon depart from it" (paraphrasing here!) and while I know that verse has to do with the spiritual aspect of a child's life, it also fits into other areas of our lives as well. And it seems to fit my girls! Over the years they both have grown into the satisfaction of putting a seed into the ground, watching it grow, and then enjoying the harvest...and that makes me...well, proud too! :)
Like my girls, I was raised on country. The difference in mine and their raising was necessity! But, like my mother, I never "made" my girls help...they were around it, exposed to it, and told about it, but I never forced them to help...they did, the same as I did, but it was never a mandatory option and I think that was a good thing. They've come to their own enjoyment of the doing and with that is the fun as well. I still remember my own sense of pride and accomplishment as I pulled my very first jars from the canner and heard the beautiful sound of the "pop" that told me I'd done it right...I still enjoy the sounds of those lids sealing! :)
In the midst of all this learning and enjoyment enters my daughter-in-law...she's taken to the art of harvesting as well. She's not had enough dirt to grow a lot, but her and the son have done raised beds in order to have fresh eating and they both like the idea of growing and preserving their own. Almost from the get-go, my d-n-l volunteered to help...with anything and she's done so. This year has been no different...her and the youngest daughter have been down several days and we've all worked on putting up the various produce. It's a lot of fun because while we work, we're also gabbing and usually laughing ourselves silly too...you just can't call it work when all that is involved!
While the two girls still come here and we work together, I have the enjoyment of knowing that one day they will be fine to do all this on their own. I've "talked" them through most all the process and now, they just walk to the stove and get it all started. I had to chuckle at my daughter the other day when she said, "For some reason I always thought canning was hard...I could do this (meaning by herself!), it's easy!" Ahh, those light bulb moments! But I'm sure she recalls the days of her mother at the stove from daylight til dark, working on jar after jar of everything I could get my hands on...to a kid, no doubt it did look hard and like a lot of work. There was a time when working up 75 quarts of tomatoes was nothing, add to that green beans, pickles, beets, chicken, deer and beef broth, sauerkraut, jellies, and more...and yes, putting up that much "stuff" takes a lot of work and I don't think even I would want to go back to those days, but I sure enjoyed the doing at the time.
I can recall the year my s-n-l convinced me to enter my canning in our local fair...I won several ribbons, some of those in blue and that just sealed the deal for me! I went on later to enter some in our state fair and again took various ribbons...it was awfully hard to crack open that blue ribbon jar in late winter...I wanted to keep it forever! For several years after that I canned with the thought of ribbons...sifting through the green beans to get them just the right size, picking the reddest tomatoes for the entry jar, making sure those beets were a glowing purple! I didn't always win blue ribbons, but I was just as proud of the reds and whites as I was of those blues. I don't enter the fairs anymore, haven't for a long time, but the memory of those days is still vivid in my mind and apparently they are vivid in the daughter's as well...as "hard work"! And I guess it was hard work, but it brought with it that sense of accomplishment and a job well done.
Back in those days I had the privilege of being a stay at home mom and so I filled those summer days with filling jars...lots of jars! And sometimes I was filling right up to and through the Fall! Nowadays my canning and freezing falls only into that time slot where I'm off work. Thankfully, working at school allows me a good stretch of "free" time and I try to fill as much of it as I can with filling jars and freezer bags! I get a window of opportunity that I put into full swing, when I've got the produce, knowing that once August rolls around I'll need to be done and that's okay. Not having a full family to feed anymore doesn't require as much time and effort as it once did. I noted this the other day as I realized I rarely use quart jars anymore...it's all pints! It just doesn't take as much to feed two of us as it once did five! :)
I plan to harvest and preserve as long as I'm able and hopefully that will mean enough years that I can also pass the art onto my granddaughters. The two that live close have already been exposed, the oldest, like her mother before her, finds no interest in it at all, but the youngest (at five!) wants to be involved in all of it. My other granddaughter is also being exposed through the planting, picking, and processing as her mother plants those truck patches and reaps the harvests. I have hopes that raising them up "in the way they should go" will one day bring their own "light bulb moment" and they'll remember back to those days when their Ga stood at the kitchen counter filling jars. I also hope they won't always view it as work, but as a job worth the doing!