I grew up not too far from where we live now. In the next county over, as a matter of fact. And like most people ’round here, my grandparents were close by. They didn’t live next door like a lot of my friend’s grandparents did, but they were only a short drive away and we were there most every single day of my life for as long as I can remember. Most of my childhood memories involve Granny and Paw in some form or fashion and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of those memories that’s been replaying in my head over the past couple of months involves helping Paw in the garden and then, later on in the summer, sitting on the porch with Granny and my Mama, either breaking or shelling beans to be canned. Even though I absolutely loathed this task as a child, I sure do miss those hot afternoons spent listening to Granny and Mama gossiping back and forth while we all messed with those beans ’till our fingers were raw and in bandages.
As a young child, I never really understood the value in all that painstaking, backbreaking work in the garden and then later in the sweltering hot kitchen. I didn’t understand why on earth they didn’t just buy their food at the grocery store like “normal” people. Didn’t they have anything better to do than work their fingers to the bone? Literally, to the bone at times, I might add! Weren’t they absolutely exhausted after working 8 hours on their jobs? Didn’t they just wanna come home, relax and unwind, like “normal” people? Wouldn’t they rather spend their weekends doing anything other than planting, weeding, watering, weeding, feeding, weeding, harvesting, breaking, shelling, shucking, peeling, cooking, canning, and freezing?
Whew… Just typing that was exhausting!
Now… Fast forward about 25 years or so, and here I am, living a very similar kind of life. On a much smaller scale, of course. We don’t have the space for a huge garden like Granny and Paw had. Our garden may not be huge, but it keeps us busy enough, that’s for sure. Living on the side of a mountain, we didn’t exactly have the luxury of just plowing up a little plot to make us a garden. Mountain Man and I literally built our garden! We have a raised bed garden that required dirt to be moved from one area to fill it in. And let me just tell ya, that was no easy task.
Then of course came the task of sectioning off different areas for different things, the planting, the watering, the weeding, the feeding, more weeding, more watering, and so on, and so forth. You get the picture. But, you know what? I’ve gotten more enjoyment and fulfillment out of this garden than I ever thought possible. Mountain Man and I walk out there every afternoon to tend to our creation and take care of any weeds or bugs that might be threatening our harvest. We fight off the little flying winged devils that threaten to carry us off every time we set foot outside and we withstand this scorching heat that’s taken over here in the mountains. And we love every minute of it.
We’ve now started to see some of the fruits of our labor and with each delectable bite, I’m starting to see why Granny and Paw always insisted on growing their own vegetables instead of just settling for whatever the grocery stores might be offering. And what good would a garden be for people like Mountain Man and myself if we weren’t going to try to preserve some of this wonderful goodness to enjoy when Old Man Winter decides to show up?
So, along with the gardening, we’ve also ventured down the path of canning and preserving our harvest. Neither one of us has ever canned anything before, even though my childhood is rich with memories of this process and his parents can food every year. As you can imagine, this has been an interesting endeavor to say the least. We’ve studied up on the subject, perused the internet, bought a book, bought all the necessary equipment, bought, picked and harvested all the necessary ingredients needed, and set out on our task.
We both made phone calls to our families for extra tips and helpful hints. I called Granny, of course, and he called his Mom and Dad. And you know, with a little help from them, a few recipes, a little luck, and a wink and a nod from the canning gods, we managed to make it through our first canning session and we have many more planned for the very near future.
This latest adventure has given me a whole new appreciation for my grandparents and all the hard work they put into making sure we all had food for the winter. Even though we never really would’ve gone hungry since we only lived about 15 minutes from the nearest grocery store! All that hard work paid off when the first chill of fall set in and then later, with the biting cold of winter knocking on our door. Eating those beans, tomatoes, pickles, corn, soups, sauces, jams and jellies that Granny had canned and we had helped her to prepare not only nourished our bodies, but they fed our souls as well. Honestly, nothing you can buy in the grocery store will ever taste as good and be as soul satisfying as something you’ve poured your heart into. And to think, it only took me a couple of decades for this little epiphany to occur and settle into my existence!
Up next: Adventures In Canning!!!