Yes I Can.

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When I woke up this morning I had the faint memory of a marathon of sorts happening in my kitchen yesterday, though through my sleep-clouded eyes I couldn't remember any details. All I knew was that it was morning and time to get up yet I was still exhausted and had a strong feeling there was lots more to do.

I headed into the kitchen and stopped in my tracks. Dishes. Everywhere. A culinary disaster.

Yes, we cleaned up after dinner. Dishes washed, food put away. Then we took a quick bike ride to the coop (for spices for canning) before bed. After the kids were snuggled in I had work to do. (I was home alone with the kids last night while Pete went to do some "product testing" of our reformulated natural bug spray in the local spring creeks with his fly rod. Really. He was working. I swear.)

And so was I.

You may recall that Tuesday is my farm day. The kids and I had made our regular visit to some farmer friends yesterday and came home with gallons of milk and cream (for making butter, cheese, and yogurt) and pails and bags of fresh organic produce – green beans and wild blackberries in particular were begging to be put by at their peak. And let's not forget the garden harvest of zucchini that was taking over the kitchen from the day before. (There is something mildly manic about this time of year.)

Last night between the kids bedtime and my own I made two gallons of yogurt, a ruby-colored batch of blackberry jam, a half-dozen quarts of spicy zucchini-cumin pickles, a batch of chicken stock, and an enormous mess.

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Today? Will be busy. We have homeschool group down by the creek, a playdate with friends, and then my weekly evening out – just me and my serger at a girlfriend's house. But somehow between here and there I have to manage putting by a 1/2 bushel of green beans, making a few more quarts of kraut, folding two loads of laundry, and washing a kitchen's worth of dirty dishes. Arrrrrggg!

Really. Why torture myself?

I can buy sauerkraut and blackberry jam any day of the year at the coop. Organic even. Heck, where I live there are two live, organic sauerkraut producers so I can even align with my ethics of supporting the local economy and foodshed. I would guess there is local jam too.

But then, I would miss the whole point of self-sufficiency. When winter comes and its dinner time I want to go – not to the coop or the grocery store – but to my basement or my pantry to choose what to serve with our dinner. There are still months left to put food by and already our options are: canned spicy zukes, garlic cucumbers, dilly beans (spicy or tame); live fermented sauerkraut, pickles, and dilly beans; and lots of jam – blueberry, strawberry, or blackberry so far. Plus the freezer is brimming with greens and fruits for anything we might want to make in the winter when all the veggies at the coop are from California.

I've never put food by on this scale before. It is still arguably a baby step towards self-reliance, but it's more than I've ever done. And there really aren't words for how happy those shelves make me. Sometimes when I walk down the stairs I open the cabinet doors just to gaze at the jars, smiling.

As I type this Sage is stacking last night's jars in the pantry and saying, " We're putting a lot of food by for winter! Even just putting them in the cabinet is satisfying."

My heart swells.

Note: You can find more canning and food preservation posts here, here, here, and here.

31 thoughts on “Yes I Can.

  1. Anne-Marie says:

    Do you mind posting how you do the spicy zucchini?
    We made blueberry jam, blueberry fruit leather, and also froze yet more blueberries for winter baking yesterday… my kitchen was also a mess. πŸ™‚

  2. Casey says:

    You should be so proud. It’s clear that Sage is learning your important lesson very well, and I’m sure Lupine is hearing the message loud and clear, too! Self-sufficiency is such a beautiful, satisfying goal. Any small steps in that direction are well worth the time, trouble, and effort. And mess.

    FYI, in the future I’d happily come help you, even with clean up. Washing a myriad of dishes after a day spent canning and cooking with family and friends — one washing, one drying, one putting away — are some of my favorite childhood memories.

  3. Cheryl says:

    you go girl!
    I hope this doesn’t come as unwelcome advice, but I noticed some separation in your jam. If you let it cool a bit in the pot before putting it in the jars and processing you will get a more even distribution of solids. Lots of people just don’t care but I was excited to figure this out personally by accident πŸ™‚

  4. Amber says:

    what a satisfying feeling! i have been spending all of my spare time putting away tomato puree, sauce, and paste, pickles, chutneys, jams, and tons of fruit and greens in the freezer. watching the space in the food storage dwindle is rad! one day after a particularly busy canning day- with a 6 month old in tow mind you- i woke up, and the bottoms of my feet felt bruised from the standing and canning and freezing! but what a good pain to have! it will make winter all the more enjoyable!

  5. Jenny says:

    I would love the recipe for the zucchini pickles! My son loves pickles and I actually have to limit how many he eats a day or else he’d eat the whole jar in one sitting. So as this is our first year of urban homesteading, we planted a “pickle garden” with cucs and dill. None took! ugh! My son is dissapointed. But we have LOADS of zuc so maybe we’ll try pickling them.

  6. melissa says:

    I canned peaches and peach jam yesterday! Do you have any good time saving tips for canning? or how to get more done in one session- I seem to not be able to manage much more than 2 things going at once when it comes to canning!

  7. Gypsy Forest says:

    I have totally been obsessed with putting up this year too (50+ jars of jam!!) I totally know the joy in torturing yourself in this way…. opening up those jars in january will make your sing and bring you rays of sunshine. For reals πŸ™‚

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    It will keep for weeks if in the fridge, becoming gradually more sour. We eat it daily, so believe it or not its only 1/2 gallon extra (because weve been running out before the end of the week.)
    Rachel

  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    Melissa,
    Im still a canning newbie so no, no suggestions yet. I still feel kind of ADHD when I do it, bouncing from point a to point b. Last night what the most efficient I have ever been, I think because I was doing two canning batches at one go. Less heating of water/sterilizing of lids. So thats the best I can do for advice! Practice, practice, practice. πŸ™‚

  10. Amber says:

    well, yes, lots of baby on the back time in the ergo- and also, my little man is now sitting up unassisted. so the adorable vintage wooden high chair that i scavenged from my parents basement came in handy that day for the first time (score). he was VERY interested in what i was doing. and it turns out, my new tattler lids proved to be very interesting to him and his new found grip on any and all objects.

  11. Anne-Marie says:

    I’ve also been doing the baby on the back food preservation thing. πŸ™‚ Sam has taken short naps every day for the last week, too. But he has been pretty pleasant and agreeable hanging out in the ergo– I think he likes watching the big kids do things.

  12. Pamela R says:

    I have to get that spicy zuccinni recipe. I really have so much (I don’t plant it…it just shows up at my doorstep….A LOT of it!). I really don’t particularly like it (although my youngest two certainly do after having it at your house for dinner). πŸ™‚ But spicy, pickled zuccinni…that I could handle.

    We have buckets of live fermentation, but I haven’t pickled beans or cukes yet….and the Summer feels like it’s already nearing it’s end with it’s short, short days. I’m thankful for all of those frozen berries, though. πŸ™‚

  13. Laura Baker says:

    Canning is just such a satisfying craft. I have been canning since I was a young girl learning from both my grandmothers. I don’t can as much a I did when I was younger but there on some things I just can’t give up. My raspberry freezer jam is just like eating fresh berries. I made nine pints this morning and I think I am going to have to go back and get another half flat because I don’t think that will last all winter. I eat it on sourdough toast and on vanilla ice cream. The strawberry freezer jam is a favorite of several of my grandchildren. I also still love my own garlic dill pickles over any I have found in the stores. When we continue to hear all the problems and contaminations with manufactured food items, it makes me want to go back to making everything I can.

  14. Grace says:

    It is so true…both the hard work and the sense of satisfaction. I grew up with a huge garden and a mom who canned. She would arrange the jars on the shelves to make a beautiful rainbow of colors, and I remember her commenting often on how she loved to just admire them. πŸ™‚

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