Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Signs of Life

Signs can point us in many directions. Lately, my oldest son who is pushing 15 has been paying much more attention to signs. I think it has something to do with the fact that driving a car is a possibility in the near, rather than the far, future. At any rate, he takes great delight in reading road signs out loud. Some of the messages make little sense out of context to a young person who’s never read a driver’s manual. But they’ve brought a bit of humor to our daily travels and even inspired a little deep thinking.

Driving to school yesterday (Yes – we missed the bus on the first day! Doesn’t bode well for the new school year.), we passed a farm with a sign that all of my children find hilarious that says – “GOATS, SHEEP, LAMBS, KIDS 4 SALE”. Driving to a friend’s house over the weekend, Brady announced, “WATCH CHILDREN.” Then he stifled a giggle and looked around. “Where?” he asked. When we turned the corner, there was another sign. “WATCH CHILDREN!” he yelled to me as if I hadn’t done it the first time. By now I was laughing too.

Once as we were driving on a particularly narrow and winding road, we came to a sign that said, “DO NOT PASS”. As we passed the sign, Brady yelped, “But you’re not supposed to pass!” Another time driving with my husband through a construction zone, he announced, “BE PREPARED TO STOP,” My husband mused, “That seems like a good way to go about life.” Profound thoughts for an early Sunday morning.

In Australia, instead of saying, “YIELD,” my daughter informs me that the signs say “GIVE WAY” which seems like a much nicer way of putting it. Our house is backwards and requires that all guests drive around to the back of the house (to get to the front of the house). This creates a blind spot of sorts and cars can surprise my children when they are shooting hoops or playing four square in the drive. For years we had a sign posted that said, “DEAR CHILDREN AT PLAY”, just in case the UPS man doubted that our children were important to us as he backed up the driveway at 30 mph.

When I worried that one of our cats might get hit because they frequently play chicken with the cars ascending our hill, my then-six-year-old daughter found a board and painted a picture of a cat on it and carefully lettered, “BE CAREFUL OF CATS”. I think it’s all in how you ask. People always drove slowly up the drive after that (with a smile on their faces).

This summer I’ve taken two road trips which required full days of driving with a car full of kids (and no husband!). I’m happy to say we all survived and have reached a new milestone in maturity. Of course the number of devices plugged in at any given moment nearly drained the battery. But we do what we have to do, don’t we? Besides reading a lot of signs, it also gave me time to think and filled me with ideas for blogs, essays, experiments, and plans. I apologize for the summer of few posts and promise to get back to posting regularly this fall. If there’s a topic you’d like me to explore, please let me know. I’m happy to be given some direction. All I need is a sign.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Top Ten Reasons We Can

I had a hot date with my hubby last night. It got pretty steamy and altogether messy. We canned tomatoes until the wee hours. It’s that time of year. Twenty pints of pizza sauce and nine quarts of tomato sauce. And still the tomatoes keep coming.

We’re taking a break and moving on to peaches today. Bought a huge bushel of seconds peaches ready and ripe. This weekend’s date will involve skinning the luscious beauties and squeezing the pits out of them before we cook them in to peachsauce (just like applesauce only peaches and no sugar!), peach Barbeque sauce, and maybe some peach jam or syrup. It will definitely get sticky.

Canning can be a solitary endeavor, but it’s much more fun with company and music (and some wine). Sometimes when I’m elbow deep in the mess I wonder why we do this. It would be so much easier to buy tomato sauce at the store. And even if the price of organic tomato sauce can be dear, I’m fairly sure my time is worth just as much.

Inspired by my son's excellent blog, How To Kill Your Characters, (It’s all manner of musings on Dungeons and Dragons on the surface, but underneath it’s pretty philosophical and just plain good writing. He puts me to shame.) which is filled with Top Ten Lists, I present:

The Top Ten Reasons why I can each summer:

1 Popping the lid off a jar of tomato sauce in the dead of winter returns summer if only for a meal. All the flavors of five different heirloom tomatoes in one jar is divine. No can from the store, no matter how exclusive and expensive the brand, can compare.

2 My youngest child considers homemade peachsauce such a special treat, he opts for it over all manner of junk food.

3 Instead of empty calories and chemicals in store bought pancake syrup, we slop on homemade blueberry syrup any time of year not just special occasions.

4 Once you grow accustomed to homemade applesauce it’s pretty much impossible to eat that mealy mush they sell at the grocery store.

5  I feel connected to my mother and grandmother and all the women before them as I “put up” healthy, homegrown food for my family.

6 I can’t stand to waste anything. And I can’t stick to one kind of tomato or cucumber. How else could I keep from throwing all the extras on the compost pile?

7 I like cherries, blueberries, and peaches too much to eat them only a few weeks a year and I can’t bring myself to buy (or pay the price for) produce shipped from the other side of the globe in the dead of winter.

8 It may consume my time in the summer, but it saves me time in shopping trips to the store the rest of the year. We always have sauces, fruits, veggies, and jams on hand year round.

9 I get incredible nerdy satisfaction from hearing the jar lids “pop”, writing the contents on the lids, and lining them up neatly on the shelf.

10 It’s one tiny step I can take toward living more self-sufficiently. If I had my way we’d live off the grid on the side of mountain, but thankfully (for my kids at least), I married a man who enjoys the marvels of modern conveniences. Although he makes a damn fine lumberjack, I must say.

I hope you’re inspired to get canning yourself! If you need some tips or ideas check out some previous posts

Canning foibles, canning basics, canning tomatoes, applesauce , more canning ideas

Or locate a copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving – it will tell you everything you need to can anything. Canning isn’t rocket science, I promise. You can do this!