Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury



It doesn’t seem that many years ago, that I would plan my weekends, during the growing season, according to what local crops would be available at the market.

Weekends were for canning in the spring and summer, and for freezing produce in the fall.

I worked outside the home, except for when my two youngest were babies—I went back to work after my daughter started school. All through those early years, we did whatever we could do to outside of earning pay checks, to help feed ourselves. We had a massive veggie garden that the neighboring farmer would plow and disc for us every spring.

When the kids were small, my poor husband had a stretch of time when every job he got ended just before the three month mark. In those days, with so many people looking for work, it was common for companies to hire people for the short term—without telling them that, of course. This meant anything we could do to stretch those pay checks, dollars, we did.

I don’t know if the practice of using newly hired employees as unsuspecting temp staff is still in vogue, or not. But if you hear me grumbling about “big companies” at least now you know where that’s coming from.

Each year while my family was growing, I would make jams—strawberry from end of June to first of July, and from berries we’d pick ourselves because they were always a lot cheaper that way; blueberry from mid July to August; and then finally, also in August, peach.

Also in August would be a good time to go to the farmers market to get small cucumbers to make baby dill pickles, and bread and butter pickles. The larger cucumbers were good for making green pickle relish. Then in late August, early September the preserve and pickle making would give way to produce processing. We’d buy bushels of broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and, of course, sweet corn.  I copied my mother’s method, and instead of putting those first four veggies into “meal sized bags” I would spread the pieces out on cookie sheets, set them in the freezer and then as soon as they were frozen, we’d put them in larger storage bags. I would do that with my pork chops, too.  It was a savings to buy the very large pack of pork chops. Freezing things that way meant if you needed a couple more or a couple less for any given meal, you were able to take what you needed out of the freezer without wasting anything.

My husband helped me a fair bit for most of these activities, except when it came to the jam. He loved nothing better than fresh warm jam on fresh warm bread. I’ve never made my own bread from scratch nor have I ever had a bread-making machine. But I used to buy the frozen unbaked loaves. That was easy enough. Let them thaw, and rise, and then bake them.

So when it came to the jams, he used to help by eating them.

Of course, that was a few years ago when I was in my 20s and 30s. In slightly under 2 weeks I’m going to be 60, and let me tell you, I don’t have nearly the stamina I used to have. In those younger years, I would make all my own because it was cheaper. These days, when I make my own, it’s for the love of doing it, of remembering those days when it was a way of life, and so that I have fresh jam to give to my loved ones, friends in Texas and family alike.

Last weekend my beloved and our daughter went to the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market. I’d given them a list. I knew the strawberries were ready, and I’d heard it was going to be a short season this year so I wanted some of those. And I wondered about the blueberries. I never can keep it straight in my head when they’re ready. So I asked them to let me know what the status of the blueberry season was.

Apparently we are in blueberry season now, because husband and daughter came back with more than six quarts of them.

Yes, I spent a good deal of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning making jam. I still get a sense of pride when I look at all those finished jars—10 one cup jars of strawberry jam and 14 one cup and 2 two cup jars of the blueberry.

But like I said, I’m nearly 60 and that shows. I am almost, but not quite, recovered from the experience.



Love,

Morgan



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