Yesterday I did not cry over spilled milk.
Or spilled cream.
Come to think of it, I did not cry over the spilled yogurt, salt, vinegar, bone broth, or tea that also found their way onto my once clean counters, floor, and the inside of our refrigerator yesterday. (Those spills I handled with varying degrees of grace.)
I did, however, cry over the spoonful of ghee that spilled directly into my pickling brine. The brine that I made from the very last of my apple cider vinegar.
Poor kid. He was just trying to make quesidillas. It was simply poor planning that his path with the dripping spoon when directly over my simmering pot.
I had to leave the kitchen.
I threw myself face down on my bed and shed a few tears, then collected myself and returned to start the brine again (with the white vinegar I keep on hand for cleaning).
But really I wasn't crying over spilled ghee as much ans I was crying over the overwhelming size of the bushel of green beans in my kitchen (a full sized cooler filled right to the top) and the shadow of a second bushel looming on the front porch.
So I had a little cry and got back in the game canning pound after pound of dilly beans and wasabi beans for the fall and winter.
I was overwhelmed.
And could have used a little perspective. My friend Mary for example cans thousands – literally tens of thousands – of quarts of food each summer. She showed me her pantry once and I was speechless.
She is feeding herself, her husband, and their seven boys. Mary is Amish and therefore she does this work without electricity over a woodstove in their kitchen – regardless of the temperature outside. She washes her thousands of jars without consistently running water and does her clean up by heating water on the woodstove.
(As an aside she once referred to herself as "lazy" to me in conversation because of a modest shortcut she takes when canning pickles. I almost fell off my chair.)
Mary's family survives on the food she puts by. Canned produce, root cellar veggies, pantry staples, and dairy from their cows feeds them all winter.
So how can I complain about a little work with a box of beans yesterday?
But hard work is hard work, regardless of who's doing more. When I forget about the work my friend does for a moment, canning almost 30 pounds of beans is serious. Heck, canning 30 pounds of anything is a big deal.
But unlike my friend I have a chest freezer. A refrigerator. Air conditioning. I've got a pretty cushy life here. I don't need canned beans in my pantry for the survival of my family.
Dilly beans won't save us if things start to fall apart.
And on days like yesterday when I feel overwhelmed by the choices I have made I wonder: why am I doing this?
Because when I am not in my flow canning the abundance of the season feels a lot like whacking my head against the counter.
But then it happens.
The jars begin to line up in long steaming rows on the towel.
And all of a sudden I can measure my success. The cooler of beans begins to empty and the counter of jars begins to fill.
And in that moment I remembered why I was doing this.
Because I can. (No pun intended.)
Because my hard work now feeds us – in part at least – throughout the year.
Because I would rather eat one jar of homemade dilly beans that 100 jars of store bought. Because these beans have soul.
Because I planted seeds and harvested fruit (or in this case connected with a farmer doing that work, the hardworking friend mentioned above in fact) and made brine and packed jars and put food by. To feed my family all through the year.
And there is something deeply satisfying in that work. At least when I shake off the overwhelmed sensation and connect with the spiritual side of my efforts.
Because be it one jar or ten thousand, putting food by feeds more than just our bodies. It's big work, but it's important work as well.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
In closing, this may be my favorite photo from the day.
The tidy and photogenic jar on the right was in the first round that went into the canner. The wild and messy jar on the left was in the fourth round. The jar on the left was filled when I reached the "Dear God, just let this be done!" phase of the project.
They'll both taste amazing, but filling that jar on the left took 1/10 the time. I think Mary would go for the messy jar, yet judge herself and being "lazy".
As for me, I'm not lazy. I'm wisely budgeting my energy.
Aesthetics be damned! The beans are done.