Tag Archives: farm life

Canned

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I was in the grocery store yesterday and browsing the local produce…much of it not so local, being shipped from Chile, Spain, Costa Rica, California, and Mexico, but fresh nonetheless. Fresh watermelon and cantaloupes year around!

It is January and there were fresh beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, asparagus, squash, cucumbers, cabbages, snow peas, avocados, apples, pears, oranges, tomatoes. We take so very much for granted in this global economy. I am not talking smartphones, computers, and tablets, but simple luxuries, like fresh food.

My grandparents had a huge farm, and they had a garden that covered three acres. They taught me about gardening and harvesting.

When my own children were growing up, we had an acre and a half that was garden space.

I can’t say that we grew organic, because pesticides and herbicides were used. I can’t say it was better or worse for us, but it was fresh and local. There will never be anything tastier than that which comes right out of the garden.

We also had fruit trees and grape vines. Blackberries, blueberries and muscadines grew wild.

When my grandmother was a child, they only had whatever was in season unless they stored it during harvest time. Meat was salted and smoked, chickens were fresh killed, some foods were dried, and some were canned…not in tin cans, but glass jars.

I remember my grandmother canning vegetables, fruits, jellies and preserves. She washed the mason jars and set them in the bath to sterilize them, removed them, filled them meticulously, as this was an art form, capped them with lids, screwed on the rings, and returned them to the steaming bath to seal them. She worked for hours preparing and canning over the stove in the hot, humid kitchen all summer and into the fall. She taught me how to process foods and I did the same on our farm.

One year, we had a bumper crop of tomatoes and we canned 175 quarts of tomato sauce.

These colorful jars of vegetables, fruits, jellies, jams, pickles and relishes would sit on the shelves in the pantry, sometimes for years. Some, she would show in the county fairs to win ribbons and prizes. Some were opened and consumed before the next harvest season.

All through the winter, when there was no fresh produce to be found, we had canned veggies and fruits.

They tasted so much better and fresher than what you could get in tin cans from the store, when you could get to the store. They lived far out in the country and went into town about once a month, where they could buy staples like flour, sugar, grits, meal, and fruits and vegetables that were in season that they did not grow on the farm.

Grandmother got an upright freezer in the early 1970s, and learned to freeze most of the produce. Frozen was better than canned, both in flavor and nutrition. She still made canned pears, tomatoes and peaches, other things that did not freeze well.

Now, we can go to the store on any day of the year and get whatever we need fresh. How convenient is that? There are things that are in or out of season, flown in from all over the world, if need be.  It is a lot easier to eat fresh everyday than it was back then. It is more costly than frozen or canned, but it is available.

This year, my daughter put together homemade cookies in a mason jar.

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Now that is just too convenient!

Farm Life in Fall

harvest

Autumn for The Community Storyboard prompt

Florida doesn’t have much of an autumn and I do miss the autumn days of my childhood.  The first thing that comes to mind is change in the leaves and harvest time.  The second is camping and Halloween. The final is the preparation for Thanksgiving.  These were family times, when my sisters and cousins were most active on the farm as we joined together for autumn events.

In Georgia, September in the foothills of the Appalachians meant the landscape changed from lush green to a palette of reds, oranges and yellows.  We would go on top of Pine Mountain and look down below onto the colorful valley.  You could see for miles and it made the world seem so big.  On the farm, summer days fading into autumn brought harvest time and that was always a most busy time.

The fresh garden vegetables had already been frozen and canned.  The sweet potatoes had to be dug, the dried corn had to be shelled for the livestock, and the fields and garden spots had to be plowed under.  The apples were the first tree crop to be welcomed.  Grandmother would pare the apples that we gathered from the orchard.  Bushel baskets of them would be peeled and sliced to lay out onto aluminum panels to dry in the sunshine.  Grandmother bagged the dried slices into old flour sacks and pillowcases to hang in the pantry for fried apples pies.  Later, the dried apple slices would be soaked in syrup of water and sugar, laid out on circles of pastry dough, folded over, and then deep fried to a golden crispy crunch filled with juicy sweet goodness. The whole house smelled of cinnamon and apples when these were prepared.

We would pack the fried pies in our knapsacks to take camping.  Sometimes we camped in our own back yard which covered acres and acres, and sometimes we would go into the mountains or out by the Chattahoochee River to camp.  The older cousins would pitch the tent and prepare the site, while us younger ones gathered firewood.  The nights would bring songs around the campfire with my cousin playing the guitar, and then ghost stories to make us shudder and cling to each other in fright.  The stories got creepier the closer we got to Halloween.  Come October 31st, we were ripe for the horrors of Halloween and spent hours planning our costumes and making them ourselves. Nothing much was store-bought except the makeup we creatively applied.  Door to door trick-or-treating was done between neighbors and family without any thoughts to stranger abduction or individually wrapped candy or treats.  Some would give homemade popcorn balls or candy apples, and others would give store-bought candy bars.  We gladly accepted either without question.

Once  Halloween was over, we would start preparing for Thanksgiving.  The hired help from summer was mostly gone for the season.  After pulling weeds from nursery plants for a quarter a row on hot summer days, we were glad to see the cooler nights and the frost covered mornings.  The cold mornings meant that the pecans would fall soon.  Once this occurred, if we had a bumper crop, we would get paid a quarter a bag to pick up pecans.  We truly learned the value of a dollar.  Cousins, aunts, and uncles were all involved in this process as the pecans were gathered up from the orchards for sell by the truckloads to the local pecan warehouses.  They would then be sent to Westin, GA, where they were made into pecan brittles, divinities, fudge, fruitcakes, and other candies & cakes that would be sold at Christmas time.  Again, the pecan pies would be made that were always served with fresh whipped cream at the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving was a huge event where family gathered from all over to give thanks for such a bountiful harvest and the blessings that had been bestowed throughout the year. The season of autumn was a long and busy season, but brought family together to work and to play.  We all seem so distant now with everyone living miles and miles apart, and families dividing, growing too large to keep up with.  Reunions are a difficult thing nowadays.  I miss the autumn of my childhood, but was glad to have raised my own family on a farm in GA, so my children had some taste of what my own childhood was like and the happiness found in it.