(the sunflower. essence of summer. gifted in csa box)
I’m sure you can only imagine where we’ve been. Yep. We’ve been in the kitchen cranking up the canner. And boy have we canned some stuff. We got the green beans canned, potatoes jarred, the lemon mint vinegar put away and managed to get some beet and sage relish under our belts.
During all the time prepping, on top of the time canning, my wheels really began to churn. As we got deeper into the ebb and flow of the canning process the deeper my thoughts went. My first initial thoughts were why would anyone not want to can. The empowerment to take locally grown food and turn it into something for your family to take delight in on those long winter nights is pure pleasure. That was the first twenty minutes.
About an hour into the process I started thinking about my grandmothers, their lives and their chores as farm wives. Children, cooking, cleaning, feeding the farm help, feeding her family, tending to the family garden and canning all the goods that come from the garden. That was their job. Full time, year round, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Grandma Birdie had three children. Grandma Iris had four. Now granted they had help at the house doesn’t mean they were sipping mint julips on the porch while barking orders. No. These were farm wives. They worked their fingers to the bone.
These thoughts led me to begin thinking why women and families left such practices behind. Oh the thoughts started swirling then. Surely, women got tired of the long hours without pay and demanded more respect. No, that really wasn’t it. Not once in Birdie’s life did I ever hear her mutter one negative word about her life. It was what they did. No question. Without pay? They got paid when the crops where sold. Their duties were symbiotic with all duties required on the farm. They were part of their own ebb and flow. Duties required to make a farm successful, just like planting, watering and tending the crops.
So, if it wasn’t that then really what was the reason? We are probably two hours in now for a four hour process. A break from my thoughts to help tend to my own child and animals. Of course, I have help. My husband is partaking 100% in the processing which actually has me involved only half of the time as my predecessors. Once I return though I am right back into thought.
I start thinking back to all the farm stories I heard my entire childhood. My PopPop would gather the men all around at every family gathering and he would roar out stories. The good, the bad, the ugly. Smaller farms were getting bought out by big Corporate companies. So, what now? Maybe those wives didn’t have a choice but to find work outside of the home to help support their families. My grandmothers continued to stay home and tend to their homes, gardens, now grandchildren and canning. I do believe that the population split for many reasons. Leaving less families canning.
Bringing along the baby boomers. Our mothers. Fighting for all. Why do we have to stay home clean your mess? We won’t go into the details but strong woman became a logo in many homes. I’m certain this was the demise of canning. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful for the stand. The cause was and is great. There are more and more opportunities for women like myself to succeed in the work place. I am able to be a successful co-owner of a business that is doing extremely well. My partner, aka husband, is proud to run our business side by side. Equally. But I’m not really concerned about the political issues women face, not in this post anyway! I’m here, in thought, trying to figure out what happened to the task of canning.
Here comes my generation. Generation X. The Generation that all feared. Well, maybe not feared but with a name like that there doesn’t seem like there was much confidence in us! We are the generation, all of us, ALL men and women, trying to find a balance between parenting, working, house chores, choosing and maintaining sustainable practices. We are trying to connect with our past and flow with the future. Make them work together. So, we both clean the house, both answer customer service calls, both tend to the child, both choose new practices and figure out how to do them together.
As we are doing this all together there still feels like there is a gap. While we were both prepping the potatoes, the water bath, the jars, and lids our child was left to entertain herself. A little TV here, torture the dog there (the dog thrives on the torture:), play with her toys in her room. All fine, positive skills. The balance was/is hard for me. I like to interact with her. We do that whole attachment parenting thing. Even though she doesn’t nurse or sleep with us anymore (all her choice) we still like to connect with her. Challenge her. Help her strive. For the time being, until she is old enough to partake, canning in the kitchen took me away from that. Some recipes take up to 4-5 hours.
So where’s the balance? It titter totters everyday for all us. It is an art we all try to master. Canning is making a come back. I love the craft. Can’t wait to teach the child. However, if you can’t find room for it in your life without throwing off all your balance then that is ok too. At the end of the day you have to do what is right for your family. Make choices with your spouse that are right for you all. As for me, I will choose specific days to can. Not go wild like last week. It was a bit heated (literally) with the canner on full steam for three and half days straight. It is hard. It is time consuming. It is rewarding. Just remember, if you choose to can, respect your time and energy. If not, that ok too.