Canning appealed to me from a young age. My mother never canned anything as far as I know, and was happy to be spared the job, but my Montana grandmothers did, on both sides of the family. Chokecherry syrup was their specialty, a bitter sweet concoction made with teeney tiny chokecherries that grow only in the mountains.
Neither of my twenty-something daughters have set aside time for canning training, I’ve noticed. The older one is looking for a job and the younger one is torn between two seemingly conflicting life visions, and they both call me regularly for listening and life advice. This week, the younger called me her “Solutionist”, which sounds like a chemist, which gets me to alchemy, which is what canning is, of course. Canning is transforming cyclic raw life experience into lasting nourishment. I look at this library of jars as I talk with my daughters on the phone.
But first you have to grow the garden, which is like living the life you want to create from. Gardening and canning both are great metaphors for life, and I use them liberally. We get advice from neighbors on the road all through the season. Growing the garden includes creating a community, friends who are facing similar challenges. And so at this point I would like to thank last week’s commentators — Mark from La Confluencia down in Argentina and Andrzej from Poulsbo, Washington — for their guidance on the hoop house plastic. UV treated it is! Mark’s work in Argentina is new to me and inspiring. Andrzej is an old political activist friend who is also a massage therapist and an organic grower with his wife Christine. We’ll be covering the smoothed arches with chicken wire, Andrzej, so hopefully the combination won’t be too hard on the plastic.
For readers who don’t live among cedar trees, cedar branches grow downward and then lift into an upward curve. They look droopy because the leaves, which are spiky like rosemary, hang down from the branches on twigs. It all makes great building material, as the coastal Indian tribes have shown us. My husband has made objects d’art from them as well. This strikes me as a form of canning.
As we build the hoop house and plan the garden, the rhubarb has come up! Rhubarb is another bitter plant, like chokecherries, that grows only in the north. It grows in Montana, too. My older daughter has stated that she wants rhubarb pie at her wedding instead of cake. Not that she is engaged or has a boyfriend, but that’s the plan because she loves it so. We have four rhubarb plants and they produce from April ’til August. Last year I canned a rhubarb jam series: strawberry rhubarb in June; marionberry and boysenberry rhubarb, dubbed rhuberry, in July; and peach rhubarb in August. Rhubarb adds a great tartness to them all.
Start planning your gardens, everyone. In a few years, gardening may well return as a critical skill. Plant what you like to eat. Plant what grows well and preserves well. Things will not go perfectly smoothly, you’ll have to adjust. Maybe get out of your comfort zone and rally others to your cause — this past weekend, I helped preserve the middle class. Rights are like food, and we preserve what we grow.
Both daughters were happy I went to the rally, however the younger told me not to get shot. In fact, it was very peaceful, there were more men than women, and there was a good feeling of just seeing each other — we’re usually sitting behind our computers — and expressing our sense of injustice at the backwardness and wrongly-placed responsibility for our country’s fiscal crisis. It may be a jarring experience, girls, I say as I hang up, but keep the lid on. The center will hold.
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Thanks for all comments last week. I feel blessed. And welcome to any Writing It Real subscribers who end up here after reading an article of mine published today on that terrific on-line magazine. Soon “A Free-Range Writer” will be available at the top of my blog for all y’all.