Zombies vs. The Joy of Canning: Motivation in the Productive Home

“Hey, we were planning on getting together later today, right?” I asked my friend.

“Yeah, but after dinner.”

“Can we push that back to later in the week?” I was exhausted from Can-o-Rama and the idea of a social commitment after dinner was more than I could handle.

“Sure. What’s up?”

“I’m pretty tired. I stayed up until 2 in the morning yesterday wrapping up a weekend of canning.”

Long pause.

“Um….why?!?” my friend laughed.

I muttered something about trying to have my year’s supply of canned tomatoes be home-canned.

“Wow, ok. You’re really crazy!”

Why? Why do I do this?

I ask myself this question with some frequency, actually. When I have a list of a million things that all need doing and very short windows of time in which to do them, I ask myself what the point of playing urban farmer really is.

Chickens, crops, children, canning, cooking – not necessarilly in that order.

Chickens, crops, cooking and canning are entirely optional (children are optional too, I suppose, but only before you have them). Most people don’t do these things. I have realized this lately. Most people don’t even cook. Maybe they heat stuff up, but balls-to-the-wall, from-scratch cooking? That’s more unusual than the popularity of cookbooks and Food TV shows and cooking blogs would lead you to believe.

Most people consider real, honest-to-God, from-scratch food to be entertainment, not a thrice-daily reality.

So, why? Why can my own tomatoes? Why grow my own lettuce? Why make my own deodorant?  Why use cloth diapers on my son? Why cook from scratch? Why check the thrift store first?

In a nutshell: why voluntarily take on the complications and efforts of the productive home when the economic system I live in means I simply don’t have too? Why make life harder?

There’s a lot of answers to that question floating around the world of the self-proclaimed Radical Homemakers, Urban Householders and Punk Domestic badasses.

A lot of the answers are political-economic. You’ll hear that we owe it to local farmers to source directly from them and provide them with a market for their goods. You’ll hear that rejecting industrial food undermines soul-less corporate interests and is, therefore, a radical political statement. At the micro-economic level you’ll hear about the money that can be saved if you can your own tomatoes (a dubious claim unless your garden is putting out a lot of excellent-quality canning tomatoes).

There’s rallying cries about supporting different markets – local markets, sustainable markets, alternative markets. Anything but the international, corporate-dominated, local-to-nowhere market we currently enjoy.

“Occupy your food supply! Make your own jam!”

“Be prepared for Zombies! Grow a garden!”

“Take out insurance against Midwestern crop failures – support your local farmers!

These claims are how the lifestyle of the productive home is sold. They say: be a part of something bigger. Be a part of a movement. Help to change the world. Join our gang, we jump you in with homemade scones and really delicious bing cherry jam. You’ll love our global fight for justice! We wage our battle at at the fair-trade, shade-grown coffee shop!

All these motivations are very good reasons to attempt to make your home a place of greater productivity and less consumption. And I’m not saying the world couldn’t use a little changing.

But all that political spitfire, as much as I enjoy it occasionally, isn’t really why I do any of this. I don’t bake my own bread to fuck over Wonder Bread (owned by Hostess) or can my own tomatoes to stick it to Muir Glen (owned by General Mills).

While I do have some grave concerns about the just-in-time food distribution system that connects most people with their calories, I don’t expect hoards of zombies to suck my brains out or neighbors to take my butternut squash at gunpoint any time soon.

The drought in the Midwest is bad. It’s going to be very, very bad for farmers and ranchers and very bad for companies and consumers that rely on cheap cereal grains and products made from them. It’s going to cost taxpayers a bundle, even though most will have no idea that they are paying for it, and the knock-on to the supply/demand curve will send grocery prices higher more-or-less across the board.

But that has almost nothing to do with why I visit the farmer’s market, or buy boxes of fruit in season from the family farmer just over the mountains in Central Washington.

Really, I can my tomatoes, make jam, keep chickens, bake bread and – perhaps most consumingly – grow a rather large garden – because I enjoy doing these things. Even if once a year in late August that means a few late-nights in front of the canning pot, I still enjoy this life.

I think, against the backdrop of big reasons why productive homekeeping is A Very Important Movement and all that, the simple pleasures that come from nurturing and creating in the home are sometimes lost.

When we feel like we are obligated to do something, because doing that thing is how we make our political statement in a world gone mad, or keep our families safe against unseen, unknown, and as-yet-unrealized threats, or protect our assets against the vagaries of a complicated global economic system, we are acting from fear or from anger.

We are stretching out our hand to try to take some measure of control back from that which seems so out-of-control.

We are saying with clenched fist, “You and your peak oil and BPA and your global banking crisis and your housing collapse and your high-fructose-corn-syrup, pink-slime, diabetes-nation food system, you can push me into the dirt. But I will rise back up and when I do, I’ll be holding these homegrown, organic cantaloupes, motherfucker! Yeah!”

There’s nothing wrong with this, to a point. Anger that changes behaviors and fear that motivates people to examine their deep values can be a catalyst for great and positive change. But at the end of a long, long, long day of canning, or weeding, or sowing, something greater than fear and anger has to carry you along.

After 16 hours of processing tomatoes, if you have the energy to be fist-raising, passionately upset about anything, you should look really into anger management classes.

Nah, when push comes to shove, you have to do this stuff because you like it. You have to like patiently reducing strawberry syrup to get just the right texture in your jam. You have to like bullshitting with farmers and ranchers and going out on field trips to where the food is grown. You have to get a small thrill when you harvest an egg that is still warm, or find yourself covered with sticky gold from the beehives you’ve helped along.

You have to be in love with the miracle that is a sqush seed – no bigger than a fingernail but able to produce 100s of pounds of food in a single summer with only a little help from you, the gardener. You have to find a certain calm prayerfulness in the act of working your earth, even as your To Do list presses in on you ceaselessly.

You have to love food enough to work for it, and not in an abstract trade-space kind of way. Not in the, “An hour writing this code for the latest version of Microsoft Excel pays me enough to buy a month’s worth of hamburgers on the road!” kind of way.

You have to be okay getting your hands dirty, and your brow sweaty, and your forearms scratched from the cuts of a thousand blackberry brambles. You have to not just survive that kind of labor, but revel in it.

Right now, we do have a choice – those #10 cans of tomatoes are cheap and easy to buy. Those pears from Argentina are available in June. That feedlot ground beef is on special for $2.49-a pound. McDonalds is on the way and Hot Pockets and Lean Cuisines are in the freezer section.

So why go to all that trouble? Why not run out and grab a can of crushed tomatoes and a jar of jam right alongside the Lean Cuisines and Hot Pockets?

Why?

Because I have a pantry that reflects a summer spent in relaxing work and joyful creation.

Because cooking dinner makes me proud.

Because the food is delicious.

Because this kind of work makes me happy.

That’s why. And that’s enough.

Why do you do it?

Comments

  1. Yes, for me, the first reason is because I enjoy doing it. Followed by because it tastes better, because it’s healthier, because it’s often cheaper, because it’s creative, because it’s usually eco-friendly, and because it’s something I can do that most people can’t/won’t.

    • myra zocher says:

      ditto – all of it – because it makes me feel connected to this world – because it is (now) my religion.

  2. Stephanie says:

    I canned my CSA tomatoes to reduce my BPA load over the winter. Also because they would have gone bad otherwise. I think I’d enjoy it a lot more if I could get other members of my household excited about the process. My chicken still haven’t laid an egg yet, so they are just entertaining pets currently. And my puny garden on the deck, I planted for the fun of it.

  3. I definitely enjoy what I do – making bread, cheese and yoghurt, managing a pretty big productive garden, looking after the chooks, preserving the best of the season. But while I enjoy the actual doing, the main reason I do these things is for the end result. Planting asparagus on a freezing winter morning isn’t particularly fun, but the sweet, juicy explosion in your mouth when you bite into the first stalk of the season, picked only a second before, is something I look forward to every spring. Weeding and thinning and staking and transplanting are all pleasant enough tasks, though sinking my teeth into the first juicy ripe tomato of the season is really what I enjoy.

    I guess I also do it to show others that it’s possible to produce your own food and support the local food producers. My garden is in my front yard, and it’s certainly a talking piece.

  4. I do it because I enjoy the fruits of my labor. I can’t stand strawberry jam/preserves unless they’re seedless – and have you tasted what smucker’s sells as strawberry jelly? yuck! I like opening up a jar of jam that tastes fresh and *good*. I enjoy giving away apple butter to all of the folks that like it. Tomatoes don’t last long enough around here to bother canning, and we don’t use them in general, so we haven’t gotten to putting up any tomatoes, but we enjoy growing them and eating them when they’re available.

    You can make so many interesting things that you just simply cannot buy in a store. That’s why we do it.

  5. For the love of it. To see if I can. To connect with my food, which is connecting with life, which is connecting to God. It’s sort of my religion, I guess. We gave up church years ago. We may go again someday, I don’t know. But I do know that there is something deeply spiritual in the food chain… and I am more connected, centered, spiritual, happier with dirt under my nails and sweat on my forehead. You can’t buy that. You can’t get it somewhere else. I’ve never found it in a pew. You can only get it at home. No one else can make it for you. You have to forge that connection with dirt and sweat and spoiled crops and the faith that is a seed and caring for something that depends on you for survival.

  6. This post made my day! I garden and can to get back to my roots. I grew up on processed food, but my fondest memories are of my bringing in a handful of fresh green beans, and a can of pickled beets from the basement for dinner when we were spending time at their house. I do it for my health, and it just plan tastes better :)

  7. Excellent blog – thank you.
    I don’t can but I have to grow vegies – I think we do all this because we have to – it’s in our blood.

  8. beautifully said. we truly have to love it. thanks for this excellent post!

  9. I LOVE YOU for putting into words what I want to say to everyone that thinks I’m nuts. People think I’m crazy but the gardening, the local farms, the canning (so much canning), is something I truly love doing and it actually keeps me sane. I also love serving all my preserved goodness to my family, especially in the winter, and have them say how fresh and delicious my food is. Thanks for this post.

  10. Linda McHenry says:

    I do it because I can, it’s time well spent, I enjoy the results.
    We have chickens, bees, a garden large enough to supply fresh summer veggies. My canning produce is purchased at the farmers market.
    I’m at the age where I no longer need to work outside the home, the kids are grown and on their own……my time is my own to do as I please. I garden, put food up and tend bees in the summer…….read, do needlework and nest in the winter……..cook and tend chickens year around. Keeps me busy, out of trouble and “it” makes me happy.

  11. you said it PERFECTLY!!! I hate getting strange looks from my family and friends as I continue to learn how to grow, can and cook all things from scratch. They think I’m going too extreme. It’s not only for my health but I truly enjoy it. They don’t get the second part. They think I’m going overboard. In my opinion, nothing is better then produce and meals from scratch. Nothing is better then connecting with your local growers.

  12. My grandmother was a farmer’s wife. They didn’t have a lot of money (it was all tied up in the land and equipment), and for her the growing and preserving was not optional. She’s been gone a few years and I miss her a lot. Growing our own food and preserving it makes me feel closer to her.

  13. “Because the food is delicious.”

    Yeah, that. Have you bought a peach at the grocery store recently? Rock-hard and bitter, right?

    The *only* way to get really good food the way it’s meant to be, not chosen for how well it ships, is to grow it yourself or know people who do.

  14. “A summer spent in relaxing work and joyful creation” says it all. I take such great pride in working the soil, cooking from scratch with what it produced, and putting up the extras. I have spent days canning as well and ended up tired and completely satisfied. My partner created a shelving unit in the living room to display my beautiful bounty. Knowing that I CAN do this (and love it!) keeps me going.

  15. Because it’s relaxing in a weird sort of way. To go down in the basement’s cellar on a cold winter day and grab a jar of summer tomatoes for spaghetti sauce, and frozen garden green beans that were blanched at perfection and properly packaged; and to grind my home sprouted wheat for tasty sourdough bread baked in a cast iron Dutch oven; and to pull out a package of peach pie filling from the deep freeze and top with whipped cream made from fresh heavy cream from the farm … Mrs. Smiths and Sara Lee and impostures! When you taste the real thing .. it’s so easy to turn your nose up to fake food. The North Wind can howl and scream for months on end each winter …. and it’s a comfort to know our food is squirreled away to be rationed out if necessary.

    • Elizabeth F says:

      So true. I had a coupon for a free 7″ apple pie, frozen, at the grocer. I thought, OK. Well it was full of chemicals and had lard in the crust (we are vegetarian so that is as bad as chemicals to us) so I just handed off the coupon to someone behind me.

      Last summer we had amazing crop of apples so after making 50 some pints of applesauce my youngest and I took every pie plate we could find (except 3) and made crust and filled with apples, butter, spices, flour, sugar and wrapped each in saran, then into freezer bags. I think we had about 8. Sunday my husband was rummaging in the freezer and found one we missed, a small one, probably about 7″ like they freebie we turned down. Unwrapped, stuck in oven at 400 and voila, perfect pie. My husband and daughter each at half …they were so happy.

      Very sad as this year too early warmth caused apples to bud, then went back to normal freezing temps and buds killed. Almost no apples.

  16. Because the kids, or their kids, might have to know how some time. And, wouldn’t you know, they’re all starting to finally ask questions, especially the youngest — who is 27.

    • Elizabeth F says:

      It is so important that they know these skills. My son called me about the beets he roasted and made hummus out of. I am amazed. He brought home pretzel rolls he made…delicious. He and the middle daughter are always texting me pictures of their food creations. I never know when the youngest who still lives at home is going to pull out a cookbook and the Kitchenaid and start some sweet treat going. ( She only believes in baking and is convinced she could survive on her own if she had to on salad and dessert. Everyday.)

  17. I have been thinking of this after my sister’s response to my note about putting up dill pickles and canning tomato sauce: “Why would you do that?” And she does grow tomatoes and throw them in the freezer for the winter. So she does appreciate some level of it. I do it because I get a thrill from pulling out a jar of dill pickles and know that I grew the tomatoes, garlic, peppers and dill in them. I like knowing HOW to do things. I try new things every year and decide some aren’t worth it (zucchini relish anyone?) but other things become part of my season (dill pickles for example). I’m also learning how to knit (on my fourth dishcloth and hoping for a square one this time!) for the same reason. I like having homemade things in my home and I like sharing them with others, too.

  18. dale case says:

    Thank You! I think with this post you rang just about every bell I have. Chickens and a large garden and cooking and bread making and canning and trying to not be a slave to large corporations that make huge profits and trying to be somewhat prepared for a world less user friendly than the one we grew up in and being happy and satisfied with life in general…. Thank you for putting it all into words in one coherent post.

  19. My main reason for being interested in canning and more is so that I can control what I eat. So many foods being sold has HFCS, MSG and nitrates (to preserve color ). My body just can’t handle those ingredients anymore and is beginning to reject them outright. Mostly, it’s for my health and peace of mind!

  20. Anisa, I hear you!

    I’ve abandoned religion completely– it was destructive and bad for me, but… connection to the land is a thing I cannot abandon (and was never part of my previous religion anyway.)

    I don’t can to the extent that many of you do, but much of what I do prepare was picked wild… found in hedgerows and the overlooked forgotten about areas in my world… Going around searching for these things, I feel connected to all the people and other living things which have made this piece of land home for milenia– and when I do it in a foreign space, one I’m just visiting, it makes me feel less like a trespasser and interloper.

    I’ve read recently some things about magic working, whether in or out of a pagan construct, and some of it resonates. Eating, fundamentally to me, is a kind of magic. Perhaps not supernatural in the way “industrialized religion” has named the word, but it is transformative and life-sustaining. Gathering, cooking, preserving… all are linked to eating and all that is linked to living in a very strong, deep connection to “place” that I seem to need, and that is hard to get in any other way.

  21. Thank you for saying it much better than I could have. Everyone I know thinks I’m nuts between gardening, canning, bread making, yogurt making, cooking from scratch and gasp homeschooling, I’m certifiable!! I do it because I enjoy it, the food actually tastes good, there is comfort in knowing we can eat for a long time on what is in my pantry. I’m shocked by the amount of people I know that can’t cook, that regularly eat take out, that claim they don’t have time to garden but spend hours watching tv every day.

  22. There’s simply nothing better tasting than something you grow, can, and cook from start to finish. It’s the only time I enjoy cooking or feel quite the same satisfaction from anything I do!

  23. There’s a ton of reasons to try growing your own food. Even if it’s just to see if you can. Replace an annual flower with a kale or brocolli, or plant a blueberry bush instead of a barberry. Just one berry or leafy green bite will make you feel like you’ve pulled a fast one on your grass-carpeted, boxwood-bordered neighbors! I like to garden because I’m curious. It isn’t necessarily cheaper (I once grew a $75 tomato while living in British Columbia, and it was mealy and wonderful all at once) but I can grow things I’ve never had or seen before just to see how it looks and tastes. Puprle beans and Brussels sprouts! Cool! Who can resist a tomato called “Berkely Tie-Died? I can grow things that I love to cook with and it’s more fun to say I grew it too. I grow things to force myself to cook what’s in season, rather than some random recipe I just saw on th internet. I can grow zucchini, not because I necessarily like it, but because it forces me to figure out creative ways to deal with the damn things without getting that tight-jawed “yum, dear” from my husband. Creativity! I grew some mint (in pots!) and badgered my husband into making ice cream with it. Now he can’t stop. The garden gives me something to putter with in the morning while I’m drinking my coffee. It saves me bulk when I’m walking home from the grocery store (gotta have room in my bag for WINE). And when I cook something really good with something we grew ourselves, my hubby just can’t stop hugging me. So there!

  24. Lady Banksia says:

    I do it because its who I am, and its what I do, because I can, and because I want to. Sounds selfish? Maybe, but its cheaper than therapy, and its on my time and my dime. We grow it, we eat it, we admire it, we curse it, we save it, we share it, and we get to do it every year. How much better does it get?

    • Yours is my favorite answer so far!

      • Lady Banksia says:

        ..umm… thank you. <:~)

        Just did a batch of Apple/Blackberry Jam, now cleverly disguised/labelled as Fruit Sauce (because the dang jam didn't set..) Yeah, I cursed it a little; but we will gladly eat it, as it will be on this Sunday's pancakes, and several after that. Might find it in a cream-cheese danish, too. (Come to think of it, there's still some poundcake in the freezer… Yes!) Gonna be awesome!

        • “Loose” jam makes a great ice tea additive too!

          • Elizabeth F says:

            Addition to tea, will have to try that! I had a batch of strawberry jam never set. First and only time I ever used liquid pectin. Used as pancake and icecream topping.

  25. We’re all doing what we like. Some people like to spend their time watching TV or shoe shopping, some people wanna play Call of Duty or read a book. To make time for the things we like, we shove the things we don’t. Because *we* like something, our monkey brains can’t conceive of someone else not. I don’t want to craft. But I do like to eat well. Eating well does not include McDonald’s. But for someone who likes to scrapbook, maybe it does.

  26. I enjoyed this post. :) I don’t can (or garden!) on your level, but I put up more than most people I know. I enjoy it, too, but am mostly motivated by wanting to feed my family as locally and organically as possible, and canning makes that possible. My garden puts out a respectable number of tomatoes, but I buy canning tomatoes from my CSA and at 1.50 a lb for beautiful, organic tomatoes grown by a lovely local farmer who I trust …. what I put up is worth it to me. I can garden decently and I can preserve and bake decently…. these are some of my favorite household chores, so they are my focus. I don’t do as much of the things I suck at, like building or sewing.
    I think making our food supply as local as possible is very important on an environmental level…. but, if the zombies do come, I look forward to eating jam with my hands and drinking down the wine we made. I need to put a corkscrew in the basement. :)

  27. I have realized this as well. But there is a twist to it in my heart that I am struggling with. If I truly do this because I enjoy it, why do I need appreciation and recognition from my family? I make lovely dinners because I love good food, I am happy while cooking (most of the time) and I am proud to have grown what is on our plates. But when kids get whiny and DH doesn’t even say thank you, or worse yet, complains that I spend too much time in the kitchen or garden (doesn’t occur to him to help) and really doesn’t appreciate the lifestyle in the same way that I do- I get resentful. Which is bad. Does anyone else struggle with this?

    • Shannon, I think all this from scratch lifestyle stuff is easier when everyone in your home is an active participant. I am lucky in the fact that hubs loves having a big garden and is just as excited as I am about getting eggs from the chickens. It makes it easier come preservation time to have an extra set of hands to help with the workload, plus it’s good quality time together. But for me, if I don’t feel that the people I am cooking for are thankful for my efforts, I’m resentful whether I made everything on the table from scratch or just tossed a pizza in the oven. You want your efforts to be appreciated, regardless. But at the end of the day, do it all because you love doing it. A thank you here and there is def nice. Have you asked your hubs and kids to partake in all that homemade goodness? Sometimes, them lending a hand makes them more appreciative of what they have. :)

    • Elizabeth F says:

      My husband can be like that deep down. I know he loves the food I make and the food we grow, but it bugs me if he stops at store and get a package of cookies. If he is content eating whatever then why do I bother. He can have homemade cookies anytime he wants, and usually there are at any moment. Just this week my daughter has made a batch of peanut butter and a batch of choc chip.

      I blame it on his parents. They were cheap when came to food, always the cheapest which usually resulted in the lowest quality. Anything good was always saved to another better occasion. So the good can of red sockeye salmon we gave them was put away and never used, for example, and the cheapo brand was. I resented that no occasion was ever good enough to make an effort on their part. His mother couldn’t cook, let alone can. So I see my husband being very happy with good food, healthy meals, nice stockpile in the pantry, but at the same time he grew up on junk (meaning low-quality) food and easily falls back to it.

      I remember the first time I had him over for dinner (1979) I made lasagna, salad , bread etc. I noticed a piece of lettuce that I thought was kind of brown so I picked it out. He said that would be normal (brown) for a salad he got at home from his mother. Yech.

    • Perhaps you could get him involved in other ways … my husband told me up front that he’s not interested in the planting, weeding and daily tending of the garden. He grew up farming and would really rather not. But he does love building things so I have great raised beds with an irrigation system, my Christmas present was a greenhouse kit that he put together and his latest contribution was new shelving for all the stuff I can. It’s a win/win deal for both of us.

  28. I started this because of my health. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and they wanted to treat me with cancer drugs. I just wanted to heal myself. It has been a long path, but I test negative for the autoimmune disorder now. I became vegetarian, then went straight organic, then dropped packaged, then began to grow my own, have my own ducks and chickens for eggs… as the journey has progressed I have fallen in love with the simple act of creation. Creating gardens where there was a pasture, how everything works together to create good food and good health, how the hay laid in the barn for the ruminants and the poultry becomes nourishment for my garden, how the duck pool water becomes the drink for my plants and the plants become our food. I’m just beginning to can this year and am struggling to keep up with it all. I’m doing a lot of fermentation because it is easy to do in small batches as things come in from the garden.

  29. I keep my garden and my orchards and my chickens and do as much preservation as possible (although not nearly as much as I’d like) in order to keep the knowledge and the traditions alive. To stay connected to The Ancient Ones. To show my children and my friends that there IS another way to feed one’s self and one’s family. To nourish myself and those around me in every sense of the word. I do it because it is vastly cheaper than therapy, more spiritual than church on Sunday, and generally results in a great pot of soup.

  30. How right you are. There are so many noble and political reasons to grow and preserve your own foods, to raise chickens. But the bottom line is that none of those reasons matter if you don’t like canning, preserving, and taking care of the chickens and garden. Sure it’s work, but it’s work that is worthwhile. I do it because I love having shelves and freezers full of things that I have grown and preserved. Is it a time saver? Nope. But it does help to save money – I get a large yield of tomatoes so I can water pack jars with whole tomatoes, pressure can pasta sauce, and have some frozen to plop into soups and stews. Dried beans go from 4lb bags to 16 jars on the shelf. I would rather do as much from scratch as I can because I LIKE the comfort of knowing WHAT is in my food, HOW it has been handled. I want to be more AWARE. And if in doing all of this from scratch cooking and canning can convert just one person over to this type of lifestyle, it makes the journey even more worth it. Thanks for this post!

  31. Dennis Byras says:

    If you need another reason to process your own food look up allowable percentages FDA. I have been on just about every side of the food world, Chef, Factory worker, Organic Gardener, Conventional Gardner, Home freezer / canner and I can tell you all of em are nuts top to bottom. Corporate america has convinced us that are tap waters not safe, home canning will cause botulism and a certain percentage of rat hair is okay in the pumpkin pie. Some of the organic crazies are just as bad though I think they actually believe what they say. The one thing I can say with certainty the closer you are to the food source the lower the ick factor. If you cook your own steak you don’t have to wonder what the cook does with a 20 dollar filet that accidently landed on the floor. Besides if I go into one more store and see 100 varieties of cake mix and no flour I’m gonna scream. I have worked in bakeries where if they didn’t have cake mix they wouldn’t know how to make a cake. That’s sad.

    • Elizabeth F says:

      I just read that packaged frozen fruit is OK with up to 70% of the fruit showing mold or decay at time of process.

  32. Because it makes me happy to see my beautiful jars lined up in rows on the shelves and know that I did that. Because it makes me happy to feed my family healthy GMO, BPAfree, flouride free, aspartame free, glucose/fructose free jars of canned products. Because it is fun to weed and harvest and see beautiful food growing from just a tiny seed. Because my garden is free of pesticides and that makes me feel I am doing something positive for the health of my family. Because it makes me feel closer to God, nature and the earth. Because it is economical and the food produced in the garden and picked fresh for use within an hour tastes super good. Because one day if I have grandchildren they can come to gramma’s and learn that dill pickles don’t grow in jars. Because if I cook in HUGE batches and can what I cook then I have more free time later and also save on electrical bills later on. I might use a lot of electrical now… but I won’t have to use half as much later on and the food will STILL be homemade. Because I want to become self sufficient so that one day I can hopefully afford to retire and not have to work at anything…. except my garden and my joyful activities. But mostly… because I love seeing those jars lined up and knowing… that it was me who did that for my family with LOVE.

  33. I do it to save money, to eat better and healthier, and because I like it. But it’s also out of love for my partner–I want him to have wonderful, home-cooked, special food that I made for us. And I sometimes also feel like it’s a little something I can do to keep illness away . . . we both have health problems and I’ve seen my parents decline over the past few years and buried my father last January. I guess it makes me feel safer in that way; there’s a bit of magical thinking there, but there’s also some truth in it.

  34. I do it because I have kids that are allergic to soy, so I try to have a garden every year, and we are starting chickens. I am slowly learning how to can, and I know how to bake my own bread (even if I don’t do it all the time). It isn’t easy, but its my life. For us, its the difference between the kids being healthy and not.

  35. I was at my packed, obnoxiously busy grocery store this morning, and I started to think to myself, “Why am I buying bulk dry beans when my husband would be just as happy with frozen veggie burgers from Trader Joe’s as he will be with the ones I make and stock in the freezer? Why am I trying to coax three grape tomato plants to produce even a handful of fruit on my back porch in the middle of a major city? My friends don’t care if I make the crackers or buy the crackers I’m going to serve with dip at the party. Cargill and Purdue don’t care that I made Meatless Monday into Meatless All Week…” I spent about five minutes feeling resentful and thinking I should just put everything back and go to the freezer case, but then I decided it doesn’t matter if anyone else cares I do these things – I care, and that’s enough. No one will ask where I got the crackers, or if I grew the tomatoes in the salsa myself, but oh my goodness did I have fun doing it. :)

    • Elizabeth F says:

      I am reading this while eating a sandwich of my homemade bread, homemade raspberry jam, a homemade iced coffee brought from home in mason jar. It is just life as we know it.

      I too do enough tomatoes to last a year. I only do salsas and juice now. My juice is like a thin tomato sauce. I find it works great for almost everything from soup to chili to rice dishes and cooked down with lots of vegetable goodies added it makes a nice pasta sauce. Also a good base for tomato basil soup.

      I have not been able to cut down on the amount I can even though I only have 1 child left at home. The others regularly raid the pantry and when returning home bring their laundry and a load of mason jars. I passed down my old enamel canner to my married daughter and she started her own canning this year. She did jams so far but starts grad school in Fall and will have to commute so not sure if she will do more canning.

      I can , and freeze and dry, because I can….it is really the only way I know.

  36. Why, oh why must you degrade yourself and your talent by using language such as “I don’t bake my own bread to *fuck *over Wonder Bread… The “F” word is just not necessary or desireable for an established blogger! You have wonderful information on your blog and I appreciate it all. But, I get distracted when I come across words like those and feel I can’t have your blog up on my screen – what if young eyes read it?
    Please consider cleaning up your verbiage. You are better than this.
    Thank you!

    • I find the use of ‘offensive’ language, language I use every day in my own conversations (or at least want to) refreshing. I find it awesome. I find it real and I relate to it. When I read Erica’s ‘motherfucker’, I think ‘fuck yeah!’. What if young eyes read it? Will the world end? Will there be lifelong scars? Unlikely. I think there are far far FAR worse tragedies than a stray curse word or two.

      Just a word from the pro-cursing demographic. ;)

      • Lady Banksia says:

        I’d say we almost got us a good ol’-fashioned ‘cussin’ contest’ here…. LMAO!
        I’m laughin’ so hard, I can’t type!

        …but regarding ‘young eyes’: listened to any so-called young-folks’ music lately, or seen the social-site pages? Unbelievable, it is. I certainly respect your position, but sadly these days, a few f”s dropped on a blog probably won’t do much damage.

        • It would be different if Erica dropped the F-bomb in every post. It would get old quickly and I’d probably move on. She does it so infrequently, though, that it adds color and emphasis to her posts. I have no problem with it being used in this way.

          • I’m on the no cursing side BUT after 12 hours of making strawberry jam, I was ready to let out a few choice words myself . . .

    • Hi Frankie, I’m glad you like the information here and find it of value. I know you’ve expressed concerns about the language on this site before, and I appreciate your feedback. You’ll notice this post is filed under “Editorial.” Almost all the the posts I write which contain swear words fall into that category. You will not typically find, for example, “How To Make F-ing Good Tomato Sauce” or “5 Reasons Why This Weather F-ing Sucks For Growing Tomatoes” or the like. In the context of the majority of my posts which show how to do things, make things or grow things, swear words – particularly “heavy” swear words – are generally pointless.

      However, when I am writing editorial posts such as this one, what you are getting is pretty much my observational opinion or an argument for some perspective. In posts like these I feel it can be entirely appropriate to use the saltier words of our language because I am deliberately trying to convey to and elicit from the reader specific feelings.

      I do not agree that using swear words in this way degrades me or my writing. On the contrary, I consider carefully the impact my language is likely to have when I use a swear word. In this post, for example, I debated using the term “motherfucker” extensively, because that is a very strong word. In the end I decided it did convey – and was the best word to convey – exactly what I wanted to say.

      I completely respect your perspective on this matter, but you need to know that I get requests pretty much every day from someone who wants me to change something about my writing, my blog design or the topics I cover. I can’t run this site as Blog by Committee, and I won’t. At the end of the day only you can make the decision about what is acceptable and appropriate for your home and your values, and what you are willing to risk letting your children stumble upon. If, in those calculations, the swearing on this site outweighs the value you get from the non-swearing parts, and this makes my blog a no-go zone for you, I will be very sad to lose you as a reader but I will respect that you have to make the decisions that are best for your family.

      Then again, perhaps it would just work for you to avoid the posts filed under Editorial? That would probably screen out 95% of the curse words you’d run into here. Thank you for reading and for your feedback.

      • Dixiebelles says:

        Oh Erica. I was just re-reading this post, and was looking through the comments to see if I commented on it already, when I saw this. Thanks for the post, BUT thank you even more for this reply.

  37. Love this and the use of the possibly offensive language to some. ;) I do this because I started and I can’t not do it. It tastes better and the animals were treated the way I think they should be either from a local farm or my backyard most of the time.

  38. Oh thank-you Erica for another fantastic post. You say all the things I wish I could articulate. I just had a can it or buy it dilemma with tomatoes yesterday. I tried to explain to my husband the fact that if I buy Eden’s organic tomatoes (in glass) how that it is cheaper than buying the local organic tomatoes and having to can them but I would feel like a failure. The fact that I get tired and frustrated while canning is totally outweighed when I see those beautiful filled jars on the shelf. Everyone tells me that I’m trying to do too much but I really like it and it gives me joy.

  39. Wence Dusek says:

    Well said Erica. I grew up on a homestead in the eastern Europe. Now I live a city life in a small town in North Carolina. We just bought and remodeled an old house on a nice piece of land. So next year we will be planting a decent size garden. I am really excited after the curent one did well on 4×12 foot plot. My wife got me to read your blog recently. You’re a great inspiration. Thank you. P.S.: I won’t be canning tomatoes. I hate tomato sauce unless it’s on pizza. Wence Dusek

  40. Brook Hinton says:

    Amen sister!! Some people paint, some people sew… every canner is a passionate artist in their own right… and like art, gardening and canning connect people through time and place and across social classes… it’s a skill that can be learned, but definitely a talent that envokes passion.

  41. I just came across your blog today and just wanted to let you know I think it’s wonderful! I’ve only just started canning this year and it’s really changed the way I consume food in such a positive way. I live in Toronto but my family has always grown a lot of food just in our backyard and it’s one of the most satisfying things ever. I’ve also started to bake my own bread and it’s so good I can’t go back to store bought. I love the idea of being able to make my own things not only because I know what goes in it but because it brings me so much joy and sense of accomplishment. I really enjoyed reading this post and will be sure to return to read many more!

    Cindy

  42. Nice post. I agree that mostly I garden/preserve food because it is fun. Really if you calculated the money you put into it and the time, you wouldn’t really be saving money most of the time. But I do think that you get a quality out that is difficult to get in store bought foods. Last year I made apricot jam with a little vanilla bean in it. So good! Also, you can grow varieties of produce that taste better than what you can find in the store. Do you have a post on your favorite varieties of vegetables?

  43. Reading your website has been the best use of my time on the web this year. Thank you for all your words of wisdom. I really appreciated this post, too. Sometimes it’s hard to own up to the fact that I really like being in my garden or kitchen- enough to not schedule tons of get togethers and thereby sacrifice aspects of our social life. I don’t know why I see shame in it, but I’m thinking through that—definitely something cultural / feminist (which I consider myself) and personal. High-five, for sure!

  44. Oh, I totally do it because of the Zombies ;)

    It’s fun, it’s organic, you’re totally in control of what your family eats, whether you believe there are poisons in the mass produced food items or not, you do know exactly what went into the food you eat if you make it from total scratch!

  45. Yes, yes, yes. You said it. I was part of an earlier wave of ‘back-to-the-land”, much of it fueled by a fear of imminent societal collapse that is even stronger today. For good reasons, but that is another topic. But the reason I am still here 40 years later is that I LOVE this rural life. Write a book, I will buy it as present for my West Coast Urban gardening offspring.

  46. Last winter I decided to take all that I knew about Horticulture, swirl it about and learn to do veggies. I had goals to can, dry, ferment everything I grew. The learning curve was steeper than I thought, and had it not been for a lot of help ( Erica, I’m talking to you :) Hours of reading, and in some major way’s, let go of “what I knew” and be ok ‘not knowing’ I would have failed. What I have come to see is that I do love, my ass being kicked just for s string bean. So This year I have let my ego go, and just be happy and proud of what I did learn and do. I am kinda stoned on my ‘ Little garden that could’, and that’s something! As I write this I have a bunch of lemon cucumbers, string beans, and beets on the front porch, waiting to be eaten fresh. So for me my love of eating it all in the moment is why I will take the plunge into all the different ways to keep it year round. :)

  47. Though my parents canned when I was growing up, I was sort of grossed out by the whole thing. We lived in a small house with no air conditioning, and the smell of brine at the hottest time of the year was a bit much for me.
    Perhaps learning to can—-a recent thing in my life—would have been easier if I would have paid attention to my parents’ work when I was a kid. But I didn’t. And I’m finding that one of the best things about learning to can—and preserve food in other ways—is that it’s really interesting. The more I read and do, the more I’m amazed by human ingenuity as well as my own capacity for figuring something out.
    Plus, I can make things I can’t easily buy where I live…treats like elderberry jelly, black currant sauce, etc. And when I tasted one of several versions of shrub I made, I realized that even though I’ve not figured out the best ways to use it, it tastes so alive I’ve got to have it.

  48. I do it because it is the passion and joy of my life. It is my gym membership, my pedicure, my counseling session, my yoga. It is what gets me up in the morning. I love everything about this life, including the sore muscles and exhaustion. In fact, those are some of my favorite parts.

    The flavor of the food that I grow and create is unlike any other. It is made the way that we like it, not the way some big corporation has told me to like it. My kids are in love with the fact that their mother can make virtually anything from scratch and it tastes amazing. It’s like a super power. Since my kids are with me as I do all of this, it is something that I am passing along to them. Keeping these traditions and this knowledge alive is incredibly important to me. It is what I am.

    • Love the super power notion. Sometimes when I roust eveone out to can they scream like I am pulling a kidney out their nose, but they sure brag on me to their friends.

  49. It’s a pretty luxurious life, really. Lots of sweaty, poopy, nasty hard work, sure…according to “indoor life” standards. But to know your chickens will be sleeping in a clean coop, to groom your rabbits, to harvest peppers and eggplant…to me, it FEELS like wealth. I don’t feel rich in a fancy car, or wearing fancy stuff. My cole crops under my grow lights, quietly sprouting toward my winter cold frames, feel like wealth to me…

  50. I’m taking up canning now.

  51. Elin above mentioned a connection to ‘The Ancient Ones’ and I totally feel this :-) It is easy, during internet research, to get sucked in to other people’s reasons and personal passions; BPA, Organic, Anarchy, ‘healing the gut’… but for me it comes down to this: I get a thrill each time grab something from the garden to put into our dinner. I get a thrill when I open up a jar of homemade passata to make a simple pasta sauce for dinner. I love that I can go out side today, harvest a couple of savoy cabbages and turn it into delicious kimchi. It provides me with JOY!

  52. treatlisa says:

    Very few people that I know can relate to why I do what I do. I Loved your post and reading all the comments. Fun to see other’s explanations. In my case, I know it is definitely because I love it. Being self sufficient is my hobby – the learning, creating, freshness, deliciousness as well as the connection to a rhythm of life, something bigger than me. I go further than most with having my own cow – which adds a whole ‘nuther layer of ‘why in the world would you do that?’ Same reason… I love the lifestyle, the cheese, butter, oh, and the ice cream! I love having food independent of the grocery store . I love eating fresh food and putting the rest up for later… So fun to know there are others out there like me!!

  53. This post made my heart sing, Erica. Thank you.

  54. I do because like you, I love it! I like making bread, seeing rise, smelling it bake and making DH a delicious sandwich. I like looking at all of those jewel colored jars of jams and fruit butters. But then again, I also like folding laundry, changing the bed with crisp clean sheets, cleaning up the kitchen each evening and stepping back and looking at the heart of my home. I always said I was born about a century to late. I love being a homemaker. I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. I was quite successful in my unchosen field by necessity, but now at the ripe old age of 53 I get to be what I’ve always wanted to be…a housewife. A housewife who makes anything I can from scratch, who knits, crochets and quilts in between house cleaning, gardening and canning projects. I’m in heaven and thankful for it every minute of every day. This is what my destiny has always been. I know it isn’t PC anymore to say these things but I think the world (especially the USA) would be a lot better off if women took care of their own children and homes. Well…that’s my 2 cents worth for the day! Happy Homemaking!

  55. There is something so incredibly satisfying and real about it. Sometimes all the busyness can feel so meaningless, but picking a ripe tomato and popping it into my mouth, communing with the chickens, hearing my son chatter on and on about growing his own food. Those things are grounded and meaningful.

  56. Another great post Erica. I don’t know why generally people are horrified by the commitment of growing harvesting, storing- living by the seasons- especially with a high profile ‘real’ job that takes me off farm five days a week. Then one of my colleagues will sidle up to me in the tea room and say- um, tell me how did you get all the flavour into that pie/cake/bread/OMG is that cheese you made……from a cow……..
    But it is who I am. And one day I will not have to work in the corporate world for an income and I will still get up super early and do it because it’s what I do. I love it. And I do it for my kids and their kids. Setting up the structures and rhythms that will resonate with them one day just as natural a part of their lives as breathing is. These skills need to be passed along, yes that’s true; but the journey is just so so DELICIOUS!!!!! Rain, hail or shine…..it’s a satisfying life.

  57. Awesome, awesome. I LOVE that there are other people in the world who get off on this weird work. Having a partner who does not, however, has taught me that the other side of this revelation is that those who love it should be proud to do it, and those who don’t love it should be proud to do something THEY love. With mutual respect all around.
    Glad you’re still pumpin out the good stuff. Via canned tomatoes and wise words.

  58. Terri Jensen - Brown says:

    Bravo.

  59. LOVE IT! I love your attitude. I love the way you approach this topic.

    In reading your post, I thought to myself – why do I put myself through canning, cooking and curing my own salmon? Why do I love working in the kitchen for 4 hours to sit down exhausted with a group of friends and a *few* bottles of wine? First off, it’s the simple satisfaction of a tangible accomplishment. The fact that you did your best and put your heart and love into the food that will be nourishing those whom you love. And second- because it TASTES BETTER! I live in SF (but grew up in Seattle) and I only eat out infrequently at fancy restaurants now (and a few good cheap eats) because I know the food will be better or different than what I can prepare at home. There is no greater disappointment than dropping a shit ton of money on a meal that you could have made yourself. But you’re right, so many people think that dinner comes from a can, a take out restaurant, a microwaveable tray.
    Another point, is cooking at home and preserving takes sooooo much time. I typically spent 2+ hours a night cooking and cleaning up from dinner. When you work full time (which I luckily am not currently doing), its hard to spend so much time in the kitchen.
    But thank you for your blog. I love how honest, open and down to earth you are!

  60. Seriously, you’re the best. I love the honesty.

  61. Great post! Yes, I do it because I enjoy it. And because for me it is a creative outlet – to some it might not be as significant as their insipid watercolour or wonky piece of ceramic, but I find ‘home stuff’ as it is known in this household, to be a rewarding expression of creativity. With the added practical bonus of developing skills just in case there is a zombocalypse. Not many other creative skills will get you through that :)

  62. tornadogrrrl says:

    This came around at the perfect time for me, as I stress about NEEDING to get the applesauce put up right in the middle of finals madness for summer term.
    Yes, I love this life. The food that I make with my own two hands is delicious and feels respectful of all of the goodness in the world.

  63. It gives me a purpose, creative outlet; provides food for thinking (planning, problem solving…)
    Because I like my chickens happy and eggs blue and white and tan and speckled…
    Because I like to grow brown cucumbers, fuzzy peach tomatoes, blue-green corn, tri-lobed green pumpkins, purple speckled beans… I like to expand my kids horizons: Orange does not define a carrot or a pumpkin; brown does not define a potato.

  64. THis is why I love making my own jams and pickles, soaps and candles, and why I knit (and want to eventually learn to spin). It makes me happy to provide for myself and my family. It gives me joy to cook up big batches of food at my boyfriend’s house so that he and his son can have healthy, home-cooked meals when I’m not there (long-distance sucks). It gives me a thrill when my kids bite into a fresh-from-the-oven banana bread and close their eyes in delight.

    That’s what makes it worth it. The fact that I’m supporting my local farmers more directly is a plus, and it also makes me proud to buy things that are produced locally (honey, cheeses, meats, etc.), but the real reason is the happiness it brings me :)

  65. “Join our gang, we jump you in with homemade scones and really delicious bing cherry jam.”

    I keep going back to that line and giggling…teeeheee!

  66. Beautifully put! Thank you for reminding me why I spent my entire evening after work the other night canning rhubarb. :) I can lose track of that in the midst of all my canning frenzy. (Carrot pickles this night, rhubarb that night, cherries, jam, peaches…ack!) But now I’m reminded that in the darkest depths of winter (which do get quite dark here), when it’s -30 or -50, it will be lovely to pull out one of those cans and make a gingered rhubarb crisp which tastes like summer. And just for a few minutes, winter won’t seem so dark and cold anymore.
    Thank you.

  67. I’ve definitely been called a housewife more than once, and it’s often frustrating when I can’t clearly define what I do. I get condescending looks if I talk about being busy, which I’ve stopped saying when talking to family members. The look that says [B---, you don't know what busy is!] In addition, many people can relate to the SAHM, but not *just* a radical homemaker/householder, so without having kids, I appear to be crazy. Or lazy. Or just plain avoiding ‘real life’. As a retired-after-6-years high school teacher who needed to get out of the conventional educational system, people are always saying ‘…but we really need GOOD teachers! They need you!’ Trying to explain that my brain doesn’t work right if I don’t have my hands in the soil usually gets blank stares. THANK YOU for writing a positive reminder that there are many of us, though we are spread out, and that we’re supported to keep doing this because it’s the best way we know to be happy, fulfilled, active in our communities, and supportive to our loved ones.

  68. I LOVE this post! I just about fell out of my chair when I got the the organic cantelope portion – which isnt good since I was sitting at my cubicle! I have reached a point in my life where I believe all your reasons for doing what you do have been missing from my life. The good thing is that I have realized it and am doing my best to take strides that will allow me to be happy BECAUSE I am canning, or growing, or hatching rather than watching endless hours of foodnetwork after hours of sitting on my ass at work. Life is looking up!

  69. I’m grateful to you for saying this. I am a farmers market manager and see folks every day who don’t know what certain fruits and vegetables are. I see it as a colossal failure on someone’s part to educate people and do the best I can to help. However, as a farm kid who did exactly what you’re doing now, there was a loooong period in my life when I wanted to turn away from all that. The work on a farm is so, so, so hard. The days are so long. You are constantly at the mercy of a million factors beyond your control. My farm-wife friend says she gets up with one plan every morning, then goes into triage mode and half the to-do list gets chucked aside. And that’s the real truth of a real farm. But everyone doesn’t have to go whole hog. Everyone, even in a tiny apartment with a balcony can do something. Grow a tomato, plant some herbs, buy in bulk to can for yourself what you cannot grow. And now, as an almost 36-year-old responsible for feeding a daughter and spouse and looking with worry at our food supply, I find that I am very strongly being pulled back around to the farm life where I started. While I will not say I am doing it out of a place of fear, I am doing it for a sense of control. I know the food I prepare my family won’t make us sick. I know I can can, I can raise chickens, I can take care of bees. I was brought up being able to do this all and so much more. Why do we rely so heavily on others to do it for us when nourishing ourselves is perhaps the most important task there is? I saw a quote from Joel Salatin today that said something like “You think the cost of organics is high? Have you priced cancer lately?” And while that seems extremist, it also rings of truth. Right now we live in town and have two small (to my eyes anyway) gardens. People comment on them all the time. If we were allowed by our town to have chickens, we’d have some as well. I may do it anyway. Let them write me a ticket. But I can see in my future the way back to a bigger yard with more time spent taking care of my own food supply. Partly because I know I need to (for 1000 reasons) but partly because there’s some peace to be found in front of the canner that I do not feel at the store. Thanks for being an inspiration.

  70. There is a certain pride and sense of accomplishment from producing for one’s self, whether putting up food or building a set of shelves, that one does not get from spending your “hard earned money” on some item at a store. People who have never really produced anything for theirself have never felt that inner satisfaction and so have a hard time understanding it. “Mommy, look what I did!”

  71. Yep. It makes me happy and fills me with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It (all of it–from amending the soil to hearing the pop of the lid as the jar takes the seal) connects me to my own existence, to being alive. It makes me feel close to, and grateful for my first mother: Gaia. Those are the deep, primal, psychological reasons for it. The added benefits of being healthier, of having a smaller ecological footprint, of being able to turn away from the consumption crazy lifestyle that has become the general norm in this country… those are good, too. Oh, yeah. I do it for my kids as well; so that they have a chance to put down some emotional roots in the earth while they’re still young just by seeing where food comes from and by getting their hands dirty as they engage in the process with me. Even if they “turn away” from it all for a while, those roots will be there to anchor them later in life.

  72. My mother made me learn how to do all of this.. I hated it, I didn’t want to do it… I thought microwaves were the new space age future. Roll forward 40 years.. Oh what an idiot I was.. Thank goodness for the lessons, as now I am addicted. The act of growing, the canning and then eating something that I planted is nectar to my taste buds. I don’t care if I have spent more money than the shops… It’s mine.. Created by me, and I am damn good at it. I don’t even mind the backache of standing next to the stove for hours waiting for the the right smells and textures to come together resulting in me taking a long, deep, chest filled breath, of heaven in a jar.

  73. I wanted you to know that we read this article in my freshman writing seminar at UCSD, and I’ve cited it in two out of our three essays so far. I even wrote my third essay about how your method of thinking creates a hybrid between past ideals and modern practices in order to create the best thought model for the future. While I must admit the subjects you cover really don’t factor into the interests of an 18-year old boy, I enjoy your writing style and appreciate the wealth of knowledge that you share with the world. When we discussed the douche-waffle blog, I couldn’t understand why people would be so critical of you until I realized that in a way, you’re a revolutionary. You have ideas that would upset the social norm, and even though you are not trying to force them on anyone, this scares the sheep of the world. I hope you get to read this. Have a good life.

  74. There are days when I have to stop and ask myself this question, when the kids have been melting down for hours and the cucumber pile looks like we haven’t touched it, no matter what the cooling jars say. I enjoy the process (usually) even on those sweltering days in August when you think you might melt from the heat, even if I don’t always like getting up the next morning after a late night canning session. I like eating stuff I made. It tastes good. I like sharing/giving gifts of what I’ve made. I have always loved being in the garden, getting my hands in the dirt, watching things grow. I love using what I have. And I love the practical, physical productiveness of all of it—as my shelves and freezers fill up, I see what I’ve done. And then I get to eat it.

  75. Jennifer Akes says:

    A little over 2 years ago I lost my dad to a very rare form of cancer. He went from a 6’4″ man who radiated health and wellness to a shell of a man in less than 3 weeks. As I watched the man I had grown up and truly believed he was superman minus the cape die I came to the realization that although he did none of the “Red Flag” things that made him a likely candidate for this disease. According to his doctor at least. That something had to have caused this illness. My Dad’s weakness was ready made meals and on the go food. He was a single father for most of my life and although he loved to cook he rarely had time between working a full time plus job, as well as all of his community involvement. It wasn’t unusual for his only real meal to come at my house on Sunday. I was at the time of his illness a full time returning student pursuing my college degree. In the class I was taking at the time of his death I was required to read a book regarding our food and what was really in it, an English class if you can believe that. It made me look at my food in a whole new light. I began to learn about all of the chemicals they add to our premade foods, the antibiotics and genetically modified animals they put on our plate and the horrible conditions under which they were kept. I made an active decision that for my family and myself I didn’t want to lose another member of our family to this dreaded disease. I know rationally that Cancer can hit anyone at any time. That it can and will take whomever it chooses regardless of what steps we may take to avoid it. But it is also like standing in front of a speeding locomotion and saying I dare you to hit me. So I made a healthy lifestyle change and began raising our own food. Our first year we had 20 chickens and a small garden. I learned to can and dehydrate and how to cook from scratch. We are going into our third year with this growing season. I saw our first sprouts of the season today in our plants harvested from heirloom seeds and we now have 47 hens, 3 roos and 2 ducks (the ducks are pets not for eating by the way, Donald and Daisy Duck). I have a greenhouse in which I winter over our plants and we eat what we raise and we save our seeds for the following years crops. We aren’t large, we aren’t high tech. But we are much healthier and we share our bounty with friends and family and our community. I even have an egg run now for those who want humanely raised and pasture kept eggs that aren’t being laid by hens sitting in dark warehouses and being slaughtered as soon as their prime laying days are behind them. I have a beautiful garden that is chemical free and I have no fear when my grandchildren come for a visit and pluck a ripe tomato straight from the vine and into their mouths. I love our life. My husband works a very demanding job and helps out when he can but I raise our food. I cook our food, and I preserve our food for enjoying year round. We harvest a lot from our local countryside and nothing beats the taste of wild blackberries picked that moment of ripeness and consumed standing in the middle of a blackberry patch. I can proudly say I have had berry stained hands and berry stained lips and am loving it. Loved your blog and shared it on my wall, hopefully it will help some of my facebook friends who are convinced my train has left the station without me why I do what I do and maybe just maybe they will be motivated to take similar steps to take back their own dinner table and provide their families with the freshest and healthiest food possible.

  76. Thanks for putting to words what I think of, but haven’t been able to express by myself. That’s why we moved to an acreage in the country, and that’s why I spend long hours digging around in the dirt outside to convert neglected pasture into a garden, rain or shine. Not because I really, really need to, but because I really, really *want* to, and enjoy all of it! And there are tomatoes in the end, which is a bonus. :)

    Best regards,
    Penny, or as I’m sure the neighbors call me by now, “That crazy girl next door is digging in her yard in *this* weather. Again!” ;)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] but had to bump it to share Tomato Soda with you? Well, this is that post. I wrote this post before Erica posted about the joys of canning, so my impression when I wrote this post about her goals for the food, gardening and DIY things she [...]

  2. [...] I found “Zombies vs. The Joy of Canning: Motivation in the Productive Home” by Erica at NWEdible. Go read it, I’ll wait – she’s hilarious. She goes more in-depth in [...]

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