You are probably wondering what strawberries and the blues (as in the musical blues) have in common. Well, I’m not sure they have very much in common at all other than M and I having something to do with both today. It has been a long and full day, and I’m going to rush this post out so I can keep up with my commitment so please pardon any typos, mistakes, and things of that ilk. Plus, I’m a little tired, and mistakes are more likely to happen when I’m tired.
I was up at 5:00 this morning, for no particular reason. It’s a lovely time to be awake. The sky was just starting to lighten up, the birds were singing and chatting, and there were wisps of fog drifting and dancing across the top of the pond. About the time the sky started to turn a beautiful shade of pink, I began my morning yoga practice. I finished as the sun rose just above the tree line. It was a great start to the day.
(Exhibit at the Holzwarth Historic Site, Rocky Mountain National Park)
… it must be laundry day. Well, maybe not for you, but for me it is definitely laundry day. The washer and dryer are going, the wind and sun are drying the stuff hung on the line, and I’m trying to fit in other chores in between. I hope to get out to the garden later today to do some clean-up in the asparagus bed. We’ve had some rain over the weekend and last night which makes it a good time to pull weeds as the ground is not as hard as concrete, a condition it has been in during most of the month of August when we had very little precipitation.
I have a bone to pick before I get back to the chores.
Over the weekend I was listening to The Splendid Table, a radio show on NPR, while I was prepping tomatoes and peppers for a big pot of vegetarian chili. There was an interview with a woman, Kim O’Donnel (you can read about her in this article) who, through re-tweeting (on Twitter, of course), sparked what she called a Canvolution and Canning Across America was born. In the Mission Statement on the website, it states:
Canning Across America (CAA) is a nationwide, ad hoc collective of cooks, gardeners and food lovers committed to the revival of the lost art of “putting by” food. Our goal is to promote safe food preservation and the joys of community building through food. We believe in celebrating the bounty of local and seasonal produce and taking greater control of our food supply. Together, we can.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think this is a fabulous idea. I love it. Food preservation is a wonderful thing. You not only walk away with a sense of accomplishment but you have all of this tasty, delicious, nutritious, and locally grown food put away for the winter months. I am all for it, and if this sparks a big interest in eating locally and preserving food safely, fantastic! Kudos to all those involved.
What bothered me was when, during the interview (and I see it is also in the mission statement), Ms. O’Donnel stated they were committed to the revival of the lost art of putting by food.
Lost art?? Since when?? I have been canning (preserving, putting by) food for decades. Friends have been canning (preserving, putting by) food for decades. My mother did it. Visit Hilgert’s Farm Market when they are in full swing and you’ll find hundreds of people who preserve the harvest by canning and freezing. I suspect a visit to the midwest of the U.S. will turn up thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people who can and freeze and dehydrate and pickle and ferment (sauerkraut is being made now) and find all kinds of ways to preserve their food. Young people, middle-aged people, old people. We’ve all been doing it or learning to do it. Last year I taught my daughter-in-law and youngest son how to can. I can’t speak for people in other parts of the country but I’m guessing there are still plenty of folks out east, down south, and out west (in other words, people all over the country) who can and freeze. People I know in Europe and Australia put by food every harvest season.
When did the art of putting by food get lost??
Perhaps it got lost in the cities or out west or, I don’t know. But it was never lost here. Those of us who live near where our food is grown, those of us who want to save some money, have long known that buying fresh food in bulk is a good way to go but only if you’re willing to do the work to preserve it in some way. A bushel of tomatoes for $16 is a great price but not if they are left to rot. Therefore, you must find a way to preserve them.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I want to wish all of those involved in Canning Across America much success in their canning endeavors and I hope it leads to more and more people buying more and more from their local farmers, or growing their own food, and safely preserving and enjoying the fruits and vegetables of their labors. I did enjoy the interview. I am so glad someone is getting the word out about “putting by” food.
This photo was taken at the Austin Dam Memorial Park. I like the perspective. The tree, which really wasn’t very big, looks big because of the angle while the wall of the dam, which was huge, looks small. And the park bench looks tiny in comparison to everything else. This one looks better in the larger version so be sure to click on it to take it all in.
Here is a different perspective on the bench:
Life is going to be keeping me busy for a while. I got a call this morning that the broccoli at Hilgert’s Farm has been picked and that means blanching and freezing 17 lbs. of the lovely stuff. I’m pretty certain Hilgert’s has the best broccoli on earth, especially when it is freshly picked.
Once the broccoli is in, it’s one thing after another from now until November. I just hope I have the freezer space for all the things I plan to freeze. The beans I did a few weeks ago are taking up lots of room.
This time of year is so busy for us that it is tough keeping up. It’s especially difficult to do when we spend the weekend in a cabin in the woods and in the mountains where there is no cell phone coverage, no television reception, and no internet service. It was wonderful and felt great to be disconnected for a little while. One of the things I liked about the disconnect was not knowing about weather watches and warnings, in particular a tornado watch. Without the information, we watched the rain and lightning and listened to the thunder and wind without panic or worry. Life, for me, is better that way. If I’m destined to die in a tornado or other weather-related event, I think I’d rather not know about it. Instead, let me enjoy the moments leading up to it, including the show that the storm brings with it.
For those wondering about Saturday’s blog post, I scheduled it before we left. That’s one of the beauties of WordPress.
Before I start rambling about our weekend trip, I want to say a big THANK YOU to Cismonok, aka The Pickle Lady, for pickling all those cucumbers. Everything looks great and I was happy to see that there were no vampires anywhere near the kitchen garbage.
For those inquiring minds that might want to know what that message is all about (and it obviously isn’t too private): The Gherkin Gods spoke on Thursday afternoon. I got a call from Hilgert’s that they had 2/3 (or possibly more) of a bushel of small cucumbers picked just for me and The Pickle Lady. The Pickle Lady makes some fabuloso pickles with those little cukes and I wanted to learn how she does it so we got together and ordered a couple of pecks. Apparently the small cukes are a pain to pick (or maybe to sell). The good folks at Hilgert’s were willing to do this for us. A big THANK YOU to them as well.
This past weekend was not a particularly good weekend for The Pickle Lady or for me but we have no choice other than to accommodate the demands of the Gherkin Gods. While in the midst of getting the house and self ready for a road trip and a meet-up with old friends, the call came in and I ended up spending a good five hours or so cleaning those little buggers. I didn’t realize the clean-up of small cucumbers would be so, well, cumbersome.
My friend The Pickle Lady came by after we left and processed the cukes and we now have (split between us in an uneven manner) over 20 quarts of pickles. She said the pickling and canning process is easier than the cleaning process. I’ll have to take her word for it. But I’m happy it’s done and that the Weather Gods didn’t decide to knock out the power before the pickling could be done. Storms moved through after we left and sometime during the pickling process.
As soon as I feel up to posing those beautiful jars of pickles, I’ll post a photo. In a surprising move for me, I didn’t take any photos of all the little gherkins when I had them floating in water, either to be washed or on ice while waiting to be pickled. That’s a good indication of how rushed I was feeling at the time. Usually the camera goes everywhere and records everything. The cucumbers were a beautiful shade of green sitting in their bucket of ice water after all the washing was completed. They would have made a pretty picture. You’ll have to take my word for it.
The weekend was great fun and I want to tell you all about it but it’s getting late, I’m tired, and something must be done about dinner soon. We haven’t eaten since breakfast so we’re both pretty hungry.
I will tell you that the weekend was hot and steamy, weatherwise. It was also great fun. If all goes well tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it. Or partly about it. It might require more than one post.
In addition to no phone, no ‘net, and no TV, there was also no air conditioning. I’m afraid I didn’t feel as at peace with that lack of technology as I did with the rest. This past weekend brought a pretty brutal heatwave to the northeastern part of the U.S. and it was hot, humid, and physically miserable when you’re without a means of cooling off. It’s all about the mindset, though. We were with good friends and having a good time so the wilting in the heat and humidity was merely a small part of the big and better package.
Except for the first photo (which was the first photo I took on our trip), I’m working backwards by giving you some pictures taken today, on our way home. The heavy rains that we encountered are, I think, part of a front that is going to give us some slightly (80’s) cooler and drier weather.
Side note: I did a quick check at weather.com just now and instead of looking at what’s currently going on and what’s to come, I found myself clicking on “Tonight’s Beauty Forecast.” WTH??? Beauty Forecast??? Are we that ridiculously vain that we need a special forecast? For those that are, you should know that tonight’s check list includes lip balm (because it isn’t humid enough?), UV protection (in case moonlight is too much for you), and a light jacket. I would not need the light jacket. Tonight’s low of 60 degrees sounds heavenly after a weekend of not being able to cool off because the humidity was so high that sweat does not evaporate. I suppose that statement explains my lacks of enthusiasm for the Beauty Forecast. Comfort is more important to me than whether or not I need lip balm.
There is also a Frizz Alert (frizz likely), but you’ll be happy to know dry skin is unlikely. I’m guessing (but could be wrong) that the folks who think we NEED a Beauty Forecast think we’re too stupid too figure out that high humidity equals frizzy/curly hair and moist skin.
That was a heck of digression. It was my first visit to TWC since they went into their new (Beta) version. I will explore more later, when I can devote a whole blog post to the subject. Maybe in the winter. I’ll have more time then since I won’t be dealing with frizz alerts and the possibility of oily skin due to high heat and humidity. More likely it will be static alerts (when the hair goes straight, stands up and crackles) and extreme dry skin problems due to lack of humidity.
I’m getting silly now, a sure sign that I need to move away from the computer, sit out on the back porch or deck, and watch the sun as it makes its way below the tree line.
I’ll leave you with something pretty that I found along the way on our trip.
I have mixed feelings about chains and their uniformity. But before I tell you about my ambivalence, I should tell you what I mean by “chains.”
I’m talking about franchises. Big box stores. Hotel and restaurant chains. Big Corporate Businesses. The places where we are supposed to be spending our money in order to boost the economy.
The reason I have mixed feelings about them is because M and I have recently started using a certain hotel chain when we travel. The reason we started to use a specific franchise was because they are in our price range, they are conveniently located, and we can usually rate our stays as “very satisfied” (which is an A+ according to a letter from the manager of the hotel where we stayed in Greensburg, Pennsylvania). We used to stay at small family- or locally-owned hotels or motels. But after a series of bad experiences, we gave up. There are one or two exceptions. A certain hotel that has been family-owned for a long time in State College, Pennsylvania comes to mind. Their rates are great, the rooms are small and dated, but they are clean and we have never had any problems while staying there.
The people buying into the small family- or locally-owned places are obviously not too experienced in the hospitality business, at least not in the way we’re used to thinking of it. Dirty sheets, moldy/stinky/dirty bathrooms, bugs, and glasses that look like they haven’t been washed do not make for a good hotel stay. Bad attitudes about complaints are a guarantee that we won’t be back.
I suppose that makes me sound like a snob and a complainer. I’m not. It doesn’t take much to satisfy me (and I dislike having to complain about anything) but cleanliness ranks pretty high on the not-much list. Camping is one thing. I expect dirt when we’re camping. Staying at a hotel/motel is another. To be honest, I’d much rather stay at a bed & breakfast but in the U.S. they are often more expensive than a hotel/motel. When traveling abroad we usually do stay at B&B’s which have often been someone’s spare bedroom blocked off from the rest of the house by a curtain. I find that much more interesting as it gives us a chance to get to know people.
We have gotten sucked into the chain-hotel system with points and platinum memberships and free stays. I don’t think we’ll make platinum next year. Gold is more likely, but we’ll be close to platinum.
The thing is, we have a long standing tradition of trying to support the local economy of wherever we live and travel. We rarely eat at chain restaurants. Usually that happens when we’re with family or friends who prefer that style of eating. I understand the appeal of it. One of the reasons I understand the appeal of it is part of the ambivalence I mentioned earlier. You know what you’re getting when you go to a chain restaurant or hotel. When I woke up in a hotel room on Wednesday morning after having actually slept (something I have trouble with when traveling), I thought, “THIS is why people like chains.”
I like the beds and pillows of the particular chain we have been giving our money to when we travel and are in need of a room for a night or two or three. I know what to expect for the breakfast that is included in the price. I can boot up the laptop and get online without worrying about extra costs because it’s included (not the case, by the way, in the more expensive places). When we were unable to open the in-room safe, someone from the front desk was there within minutes of our call. Someone friendly. That’s up there with cleanliness as far as I’m concerned.
Within this one chain of hotels there have been regional differences. Staying at one of their hotels in New Orleans was a completely different experience than staying in one of their hotels in New Jersey or in Chicago. Yet the pillows and beds were what we’ve come to expect. The friendly service was what we’ve come to expect.
And so we have been trapped in that way as well. We know what to expect.
That is what makes me understand the reason why people will go to chain restaurants. You know what to expect. The food is uniform, whether you eat at one of their restaurants in Maryland or in California. The same is true with shopping in the big box or franchised stores. Sometimes the layout may be different but the stuff is the same. Whether you’re buying clothing, towels, or tiles for your bathroom, you can find the same thing though out the nation. I suspect everyone will have the same decor in some way or another before long because the choices seem to narrow as the chains take over and the smaller businesses disappear.
It’s got me thinking about diversity and how little of it there might be if the consumer world continues this way. It’s also got me thinking about ways to support the economy on a small scale. When I try to look at the big picture it’s, well, too BIG. It’s easier for me to look at things on a community level, the place where maybe we should all start looking. Perhaps supporting the economy, turning around the economy, begins at home.
I know I’m not the first to bring up this subject. Other, brighter, better-with-words people have been talking and writing about it for years. There are probably small movements out there where people have made the decision to stop giving money to the big corporations and to start investing it in their local economy by shopping local. Foodies refer to it as being locavores.
I have a proposal for you, particularly for you bloggers out there. If you’re not a locavore in some way or fashion, how about giving a local restaurant or hardware store or other business a try? Maybe take a trip to your local farmers market. Then write or post pictures about your experience. Perhaps it will give them a boost (assuming your experience was a good one).
As for me, I’ve been beaned. Yellow wax beaned. A whole bushel of ’em from Hilgert’s farm up the road has been taking up my days. I hope to finish up the blanching and freezing process today. Tonight’s dinner will be an experiment in stir-frying the fresh and tender beans (part of my cookbook adventures which I’m sure you’ll hear all about in tomorrow’s post). I haven’t been able to keep up with other blogs lately, for which I apologize. Mother Nature has decided our harvest will be early and abundant this year. I will be busy over the next few weeks, preserving that harvest. I will catch up when I can.
In the meantime, I hope life is treating you well and that your harvest is as abundant, whatever you may be harvesting in your life.