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Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's Canning Season . . .

It's canning season.   I've been canning throughout the summer, but now is the time where things really pick up.  This time comes with mixed feelings.

In one sense, it is wonderful to see my efforts in the garden come to fruition . . . or vegetablition, whichever you prefer.  After all of the planting in the spring, the mulching, the weeding, etc - it's nice to get some rewards out of the garden.

On the other hand, some days I just don't want to deal with the garden.  I've been in there hours on end for the last 4-5 months. I have other things I'd rather do, or just other things I need to do, or I just want to go to bed.  But when the produce is ready, the produce is ready.  If you don't take care of it, it spoils.  And then what was the point of putting in all of that labor beforehand.

On those days, I have chosen to tackle my garden tiredness two ways.  First, I have realized that my hobby has turned into my job.  It's a way that I can save money for our family.  A penny saved is a penny earned, right?  And then I remember that I am blessed to be able to have a job, a way to contribute to our family, that is at home.  On the farm.  With the kids. (Who are not always in the garden with me, mostly because of their age, but are playing nearby as I watch their joy in being on our farm with each other.)

The second thing I do is to try and build memories.  When I take my 5 gallons of beans needing to be snapped on our weekend away visiting family or to Bible study or to a visit with family friends, I have often had our friends and family offer to help. (Which isn't why I take them - it just needs to be done.) Or when I sit on the porch with the kids after supper, I call them over and we have a little contest.  Can they keep up with me snapping the ends off of the beans faster than I can snap the bug bites off?

And with each memory I put a mark on the lid.  GK for when I sat with my grandma snapping beans as she shared with me about the orchard that was on her farm when she was growing up.  How their large farming family was poorer than poor but let friends and family come and not purchase but freely pick from the 50 or so apple trees that were on their farm when they purchased it. WBS for my friends in my Women's Bible Study who snapped beans as we visited and shared about the Lord.  I and J for my two littlest boys who joyfully plucked tomatoes out of the cold water bath in order to hand them to me to prepare them for filling up the quart jars.

After those marks of memories go on the lids, the jars go into my pantry.  As the pantry turns from empty jars to a colorful array of jars packed with the harvest, I am reminded of how the Lord has provided for our family and has blessed my efforts.

After I have cleared out and tilled up the garden, and as the days grow shorter and nights turn colder, we start pulling out those jars one by one to fill the plates on our table.  And as I pop off the lids, with the sweet little marks from our children and the marks I put on as well, I am reminded of the memories made throughout the summer and of those who have blessed our family as they have joined me while I do my part for our family.

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Tools of My Trade
Beans must be pressure canned due to their low acidity in order to kill all bacteria that would cause dangerous food born illnesses. They can be safely canned by using the recommended times and pressures given for your altitude. I have a couple older Mirro pressure canners given to me that work wonderfully, and my mom has a newer one that she loves as well. If you do some asking around, you might find someone who has given up canning and has one available, or you can look for one like the one pictured below. It should hold around 9 pint jars or 7 quart jars.

I also have some canning tools that are invaluable. The wide funnel helps keep messes to a minimum when filling jars. When I heat my lids, I just drop them into the hot water of my canner and then lift them out with the magnetic wand. The jar lifters are great for getting those hot jars out of the canner as well. You can buy these tools separately at many stores, or you can purchase them in a kit which contains other useful canning tools, such as the one pictured below.
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