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I Can Stop Whining Anytime Now

August 28, 2013

I have successfully convinced my family that salsa fresca is a food group and that it will be served everyday…quick, easy and good on everything or by itself.  Who knew?   I should really be ashamed of myself, though, my gardening and canning mentors would never have thrown something together so haphazardly and called it dinner or supper.

Veda's Purple Podded Pole Bean

Veda’s Purple Podded Pole Bean

My best mentor has been gone now since 1985 and I sure miss her when I plant my pole beans, which really were her pole beans.  The age gap was too great for us to ever be peers or friends, I was the daughter she never had, and always the trudger at her hip as we gathered eggs, or worked in the gardens, and once I was too old to need a babysitter, I would go help them with their harvests and just hang out to hear stories.  She never would have served something as simple as a burrito filled with cold chicken and salsa fresca for a meal.  At her house every meal was made from scratch from ingredients that came from their farm, with the exception of the usual store-bought flour, sugar, spices, coffee and tea.

Once they got too old to keep a milk cow, I started taking them milk each week, and it was always a treat to walk through the kitchen and into the dining room to see what the latest canning project was.  Veda would promptly pull the dishcloth covering the jars with a flourish and proudly proclaim the days tally.

“Seventy pints of limas!”

I was always in awe of how hard they worked.  And I feel a little ashamed right now, seventy pints?  I’ll be lucky to squeak out 36 pints of green beans today.  But they will get done, because, well, they have to.  I’m at that point already where I am stomping around wondering, who the heck planted all this stuff anyway?  Yesterday, it was a basket of cauliflower that my daughter so dutifully started, coddled, harvested and prepped for me to blanch and freeze.  But I had pickles osmosing and the beans needed picking before last nights rain, I did not want to see bowls of cauliflower and romanesco sitting on the table.

I really like canned green beans!

I really like canned green beans!

This morning was the last straw for me.  I needed to shut up and start putting up.  I try to make every trip count whether it be to the barn or down to the basement for something.  We store our canned goods in the basement, so as I took a batch of pickles down to shelve on my way to bring up pint jars for bean canning, I realized I had marked those pickle jars ’12.  Luckily I had a Sharpie there on the shelf so I remarked the jars with a ’13.  Then I noticed the 28 quarts of nectarines I had put away yesterday all had 12’s also.  Arrghhhh.  That’s what happens when you’re too tired to even notice you aren’t even conscious of the year!

Just seeing the wrong date was a good wake-up call for me. No more canning at night, I am beat and too tired by the time it gets dark.  I only have to glance around our kitchen and see the cookstove to remind myself, gee, I don’t have it bad at all.  I do not have to do my canning with wood heat.  The waste of energy alone would drive me batty, let alone thinking of all the wood splitting just to keep up with the pressure cooker.  No thanks.  I will stick with my modern stove for summer preserving projects.

We’ll never put the genie back in the bottle, modern conveniences and distractions are here to stay in some form.  My mentor did not have the distraction of television (too frugal) nor the internet, so she didn’t play too much.  The mere thought of writing about canning (me blogging)  while you’re canning would have been something she never could have fathomed.  This is now though, I am glad for my memories by her side as she preserved their foodwork, but I am also glad to be blogging about canning right this minute and I am especially glad for my electric stove.

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47 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2013 1:26 pm

    You are right on the mark … 🙂 How do those purple beans compare to the Blue Lake Beans ?

    • August 28, 2013 2:50 pm

      alglenn2, thanks! Probably about the same, it’s been so long since I ate a Blue Lake bean (probably at school)I can’t remember. These are delicious, and unfortunately turn green right away when they are cooked. The seed is brown and does well in my cool soils compared to others 🙂

  2. 12Paws permalink
    August 28, 2013 1:40 pm

    Neat post! More years ago that I can fathom I watched my grandma can on a wood stove. She, too, got an electric one later on.

    • August 28, 2013 4:27 pm

      12 Paws, I know I hate to think how long ago it was when my mom got her electric stove, I think I was about 3, and it WAS A BIG DEAL. Now I understand that 🙂

  3. August 28, 2013 1:45 pm

    Sometimes we miss our wood burning stove. But when it’s Summer we don’t miss its heat in the kitchen and when you get in late and are preparing a meal from the garden produce our gas stove helps us forget about chopping wood and lighting the stove. For some the TV may be a distraction but after a full day of toil its a great way to relax over a meal and enjoy a favourite show. Blogging is a wonderfully creative task helping to exercise the mind. Nothing more satisfying than rephrasing a passage to make it more understandable and readable. And of course a good record to be looked back on in the future as well as bringing entertainment to others.

    • August 28, 2013 4:25 pm

      Len, I make sure I keep the cookstove covered with jars all summer, then there is no way I’ll be asked to move all that to make a fire. I am not looking forward to that first fire, that’s for sure.

      Blogging is creative, and I am sure if it was available back in the day, folks would have adopted it then too.

  4. August 28, 2013 2:20 pm

    Beautiful beans, and a beautiful friend to have had.
    I think that burrito sounds like a perfectly lovely supper (ours is sandwiches [altho on homemade bread] because it’s 100 degrees on the front porch by noon here [central TX] and cooking happens before 10 a.m., after sunset, or not at all), and if you didn’t tell me it was accidentally thrown together, I’d have given you points for cooking today’s chicken extra when you cooked yesterday’s chicken. Take credit for your own planning, even when you didn’t.
    And, yes, thank the good Lord for electric appliances . . . some of them, anyway. It’s the fallen angels who’re responsible for most of what’s on TV.

    • August 28, 2013 4:23 pm

      Magpie, goodness 100F! We would melt here or our moss would dry out on our backs 😉 Yes, I agree, some appliances are well worth their weight in gold, others not at all.

  5. Ben permalink
    August 28, 2013 2:52 pm

    I think you deserve a good break from the canner. We only can a few things and its just 2 of us so we only put up a few dozen of this or that. I hear you on the night thing, since our farm is a commute seems like the evening are the only time to get some cannin done. And of course we are both tired and irritable…

    • August 28, 2013 3:05 pm

      Ben, I took a nice break and went and did my cow chores – that’s rejuvenating for me. I am not canning nearly so much as I used to, but our freezers are full, and somethings just don’t translate well to freezing. I guess when I say canning, I mean preserving in all forms. Big stuff coming up: Italian prunes to dry, corn to freeze, and the rest can just be harvested and stored like onions, potatoes and winter squash. It’ll be nice to be on the other side of harvest season, kinda sorta. 🙂

  6. Ben Hewitt permalink
    August 28, 2013 3:17 pm

    Sack the canner and ferment them beans! Easy, tasty, nutritious: Pick any three.

    • August 28, 2013 3:55 pm

      Ben, sounds good, but I’m getting my fill of fermented everything 🙂 ‘cept maybe that rhubarb wine 😉

  7. VaGirl2 permalink
    August 28, 2013 3:35 pm

    I’m VERY glad you can take the time to blog about your canning & farming, too! And your story about Veda…reminds me of the women (passed on, now) in my life who made a difference with their simple frugal ways…albeit hardworking ways. They worked harder than I will ever dream of.

    • August 28, 2013 4:20 pm

      VaGirl2, I know what you mean, I miss those gals, some were so stuck in their life. One lady was the oldest of 11 kids, and she always seemed so prim and proper to me, wearing a dress, baking and of course sporting the blue hair at the monthly Grange meetings. But she confided one day over a quilt that she longed to be the one to drive the teams to harvest when she was girl, but it wasn’t allowed, her brothers and younger sisters got to go to the fields and she had to stay in and cook, and help with the housework and baby siblings. Never in my mind would I have guessed that about her. She always seemed so lively marching as the Lady Assistant Steward at beginning of each Grange meeting, I just couldn’t picture her as a tomboy, ever. She just accepted her role in the family as it was, with no real regrets, I think.

  8. August 28, 2013 3:48 pm

    Well we don’t have TV and I am convinced this means i have more time to do stuff, though with the heat i do stuff outside after dinner when it is cooler. You leave me in the dust with all your canning. I do heaps but I need to do more, in fact i need to plant more but I am not the gardener, that is my husband. – John – and he is slowly building up .. I deal with the large animals but if I interfere with the garden there are Words! Your recollections about the older lady who influenced your canning (we call it bottling in NZ, but none of our produce goes into a can or a bottle .. It goes into a JAR So why is it not called Jarring!) Anyway that reminded me of my Godmother who never had an electric stove, always wood/coal, a beautiful old cast iron coal range , she even made her own soap.. her house always smelt beautiful. funny how we can remember scents.. hmm.. lovely post.. thank you.. c

    • August 28, 2013 4:02 pm

      C., it’s the other way around here, I’m the gardener and hubby just delivers compost etc. It’s funny you mention the soap scent, that is what I remember the most about their house, they made soap in the mudroom and did their laundry there. I visited there 20 years after they had passed, and when I went in the door I could smell that homemade soap scent. Tallow and lard combined to make lasting memories 🙂

      • August 28, 2013 5:11 pm

        Amazing that the scent clings that long, but it does.. c

  9. August 28, 2013 8:06 pm

    Your post made me smile, I missed the canning this year. I haven’t done that much. I have frozen lots though and later on in the year I may even do some canning of some baked beans and jam. I just couldn’t keep up with the gardening, studying and then on top of that to do canning. One day we will have a house next to my garden and then I won’t have to pick one day and deal with it the next, because by the time we get back home there is only enough time to throw something together to eat and then not much else.

    Our sweetmeat and naked seed squash are doing well, so thanks for the info on those. At least I don’t have to deal with them right now.

    • August 28, 2013 9:13 pm

      Joanna, with gardeners and preservers there is always a next year 😉 Glad the squash is doing good!

      • August 29, 2013 8:16 am

        Oh yes! There is always next year. Mind you, it might be hubby doing more of the planting – I might still be studying and this year I got in an awful pickle with labels.

  10. August 28, 2013 8:24 pm

    Hah! I just said the same thing to myself today – stop whining anytime, girl, you got it good! My amazing first-year garden is burying me and I’m complaining? Really? Get a grip, TD! And snap those beans while the water tank is filling; roast a batch of tomatoes while you’re eating lunch; measure and mix the water/vinegar/spices for the dill pickles when you have a free minute, it’ll make it easy to roll right into the process and get it done faster.

    Last year I bemoaned the fact I didn’t get here in time to have a garden, and I went all winter with no homegrown provisions to eat. NO WAY I am going to cry about the work it takes to harvest and maintain the bounty I’m blessed with. My grandmother would swat me. And those pints of canned green beans, in January, are like gold. Thanks for the perspective!

    • August 28, 2013 9:12 pm

      TD, I hate being a baby! But seeing the shelves fill up in the freezer and pantry is a good feeling. I have piggies now too, so all those odd things that made their way into the stores last year will become pork, and some of the guilt goes poof! My vow this year was not to waste time making all those “odd” things that never get eaten. Note to self,no one here likes chutney – not even the pigs!

      This has been a year here for gardening, like it used to be, although now it seems like an oddity after so many cool years. I will have prunes ready before Labor Day! Unheard of since I was a kid. Makes me think back to historical accounts of our mountain area having a prune industry in the late 1880’s to 1930’s. You would never believe it from the last 40 years of hit and miss prune crops.

      What a change you must be experiencing garden-wise compared to San Diego 🙂

  11. August 29, 2013 2:53 am

    You win. I’m an official sloth. I’m with you 110% on the gussied up preserves. I was a sucker for those kinds of recipes when I first started canning and they are always the ones that nobody around here will eat.

    Contrary to their PR, my pigs are kind of particular which was a surprise to me. I’ve been a day late and a dollar short on most of my gardening projects this summer – I think they’re going to revoke my farmer badge, lol.

    I so wish I’d had a Veda but they don’t make them like that anymore. Your blog is as close to a Veda as I’ll get…

    About the urge to blog, have you found Martha Ballard’s journal yet? Thank goodness many people have the urge to record and share and Martha kept a journal of her late 1700’s tasks, meals & such – it’s fascinating: http://dohistory.org/diary/

    Blogging is just our modern version, like the electric stove, much improved. Though I wonder what will happen to all our labors one day? Martha’s journal lives on but who will preserve our blog posts?

    • August 29, 2013 5:22 am

      AMF, oh Jackie, don’t worry about not getting stuff done. You have to remember that a lot of what I do and write about is second nature, I have always been around cows, gardening, and preserving the harvest. You do pick up a lot by just being there. My kid had to play with canning ring bracelets on a quilt on the floor while I did my preserving when she was little. She can spot a bad seal or crinked ring at a glance.

      Thanks for the link to the journal, I love reading stuff like that. My favorite book in the Little House series was always Farmer Boy because of the descriptions of daily farm food and farm life. I never even read the other Little House books until I was an adult.

      How I wish my mom had lived long enough to blog and have free software at her fingertips. When I was small she and a friend interviewed as many of our local pioneers as they could, and set down that history. A typewriter and a mimeograph were the norm then. I treasure those books and the stories they contain about settling this area. Priceless.

      • August 29, 2013 9:59 am

        Ah, the smell of mimeograph ink.

      • August 29, 2013 2:20 pm

        I know the smell of mimeograph ink too. My mom typed the church bulletins on that blue paper stuff and ran them off on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine for years. She would have been a great blogger too, in her day. But her canning and gardening and work ethic are what I’m remembering right now.

      • August 29, 2013 6:28 pm

        Wow – what a cool project your mom did. You come by it all honestly. I’ve actually been thinking about doing something like that recently – there are several elderly women from old farm families around here. They are alone now and the farms are mostly gone, but the recipes and stories should be remembered.

        I’m a city girl raised in an apartment. It was just me and my mom and our toolbox was a worn shoe box with a cheap hammer, one screwdriver, a pair of pliers and a roll of masking tape. And a fridge full of processed food. I love hearing those women talk about putting up…

      • August 29, 2013 6:31 pm

        There’s a PBS show about Martha Ballard I found recently too – it looks really good. I haven’t had time to watch it, but I’m sure we’ll both enjoy it when we’re snowed in…

  12. August 29, 2013 7:06 am

    This is about the time that you start secretly hoping for crop failures : ) Your back hurts, your feet hurt and everywhere you look there are jars of something, buckets of something, trays of seeds. You give up housework and start canning from the moment you get up till sunset. Like you I do not can at night anymore after burning myself one time canning tired!
    I can remember my mother canning for weeks on end to feed her brood of 5. My grandmother stood over a wood stove in the sweltering heat to can for hours. I will fight you over my modern gas stove.

    • August 29, 2013 7:34 am

      CQ, I hear you on that, or at least a lull in the flood. Today it’s finally raining enough to do more than settle the dust. So thankful for that and that the tomatoes are in the greenhouse, I’m imagining a lot of split and moldy tomatoes if someone has field tomatoes. Mine split in the greenhouse when it rains like this just from what the roots uptake.

      Yes, so thankful for a modern stove or a camp chef in a pinch. Too much danger of fire to be having a fire here in the summer. We are always low humidity, and months without rain during the summer.

    • August 29, 2013 8:15 am

      That made me laugh, I have been wondering when our first frosts will be. We have had frosts as early as September 1st one year and I keep wondering if it will be the same this year, in one way I hope so and in another I definitely don’t. 😀

  13. August 29, 2013 9:55 am

    The stove was turned off at 11:30 last night. I have snapped my last bean for a few days at least. Now it’s back to the tomato harvest.

    You and your narrow-mouth jars. Was your mentor the source of a big chunk of your jar collection?

    • August 29, 2013 10:15 am

      HFS, me too, I need to pick a peck of peppers today too, and we had our first corn last night for dinner. I love summer dinners, corn, tomatoes and cucumbers who needs anything else?

      Why on earth would I spend the extra money on wide-mouth jars and lids for stuff that doesn’t need a wide mouth? That was a markdown on the score card at the fair. Proper jar size for the contents…I loved getting those pretty ribbons and high scores 🙂 Actually her kids gave me her pints, and yes they are narrow mouth, but I have both, and square jars for my pickles, etc., and certain jars for my butter. I do admit to OCD when it comes to jars, but frugality has to come into play somewhere. And in case you’re wondering, I did can my nectarines in wide mouth quarts, because that is the proper size 😉 Oh and yes, I am a dinosaur, I wash my dishes in the sink. By hand.

      • August 29, 2013 10:22 am

        We wash by hand too. I’m not in 4H and my hands are huge. I can get my fingers to the bottom of a wide-mouth quart with my thumb outside of the jar. I have to use a wooden spoon to push the sponge to the bottom of a narrow-mouth jar. Since nobody is lining up to hand me free jars, I buy wide-mouth.

        • August 29, 2013 10:27 am

          What no bottle brush? I was going to say what’s with you and those wide mouth jars anyway? A friend dropped by the other day and wanted to show me her tomato sauce, and we about recoiled in horror to see it in a wide mouth jar. Her money I guess, frankly I would rather keep mine.

          Really no one is giving you jars? Someone just gave me 5 dozen pint and half jars the other day. I’m not sure what to use them for yet, but I took them anyway…

        • August 29, 2013 10:59 am

          A lot of people still canning around us. Jars have value. I guess we could go to an estate sale or an auction…

        • August 29, 2013 11:03 am

          That’s where I got most of mine, or from friends. The lady who gave me the pint and half cans as much as I do, but she used those for her dad and he is dead, and she wants either quarts or pints not in between, so I gladly took the jars. Around here it’s either old hat or the latest fad. Just depends who you talk to. I have to exist in both worlds, which sometimes is a little exhausting. Off to can my salsa, in, wait for it, nm pints.

        • August 29, 2013 11:08 am

          You can do that because you aren’t built like Ichabod Crane.

        • August 29, 2013 2:24 pm

          HFS: really? Your fingertips reach the bottom of the quart jar? M’gosh. I could use a dishwasher helpmeet like you around here…

          I wash my dishes by hand too. The little dishwasher is just a storage rack for canning jars. 🙂

  14. August 29, 2013 10:01 am

    I’m glad you are blogging, too. Although those green beans look beautiful!

    • August 29, 2013 10:17 am

      Basically Benita, thanks! They are pretty and delicious, we’ve been enjoying them roasted lately, add a little garlic and olive oil. Yummy!

  15. August 29, 2013 2:15 pm

    Loving the reminder that there are others in this boat; the kitchen is full of baskets and bowls of things! And I … am behind… of course. Some days I get home from work, and think Ok, now I’ll get to canning — and then pick up a book instead and forget to put it down. Must buckle down and get back to it, though; that fresh produce won’t last! Your purple green beans are gorgeous!

  16. Mary permalink
    August 29, 2013 6:22 pm

    Hello. I so enjoy reading your blog. You have such nice pictures and stories! But i have a question. Is there a site where i can read about the proper jar? I mean regular mouth or wide. I have many of both but prefer to use regular mouth due to the cost of seals. I hope my question made sense to you….. Thanks!

    • August 30, 2013 5:22 am

      Mary, I think these days you won’t find anymore than a suggestion for what to use what jar for what product on the Ball website. Heaven forbid that anyone be inconvenienced by having to wash a narrow mouth jar these days. I use both, and reserve the more expensive wide mouth jars and lids for things that contain fat (hard to wash properly), or things that require hand packing instead of pouring, for instance, things like peaches, pears, whole tomatoes etc. Foods that can be poured or spooned into a funnel like sauces, purees etc., are good candidates for the regular mouth jars.

  17. Desiree permalink
    September 3, 2013 2:31 pm

    Oh my Gosh! Had I not discovered your blog today and read this entry about mis-marking the dates on your jars….I would not have realized I did the exact same thing with my last week of canning…so that will be about 75 jars of various things I will need to dig out at some point and re-date! Thanks for the heads up:) I can’t even blame the late nights on it:) I am enjoying reading about your life.
    Desiree

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