Way back in 1995, while living in Michigan, I had my husband (poor man) roto-till up a 25 x 8 foot garden bed. And I planted it. I planted kale, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, garlic, you name it – it was in that garden. In the fall I had to do something with it all. I learned to can. I went to the hardware store, bought the canner and the jars and I started “putting stuff up” as my grandmothers would both say. They put stuff up for years. Grandma Hattie had a huge garden and I know for a fact she never bought a darned thing in the winter …….. because she already had it in her pantry and it was home-grown and delicious. I remember she even made soup and canned it too. Grandma Nannie made some grape jelly once and I think she pressure canned it because it exploded all over the kitchen. It was tasty ……. just messy.
When we moved to Prince Edward Island in 2000 I didn’t have a garden bed or one prepared. We’d left the tiller behind. But I had resources! There was a farm up the road that sold the most marvelous vegetables and eggs you’d ever eat. Broccoli stalks with huge flowerets, carrots, tomatoes, corn (people would buy a bushel of corn) onions, green beans, cauliflower, zucchini (of course) and earlier in the year spinach and kale. That farm kept me alive. Dad had bought a large freezer when we moved in and I filled it with blanched produce to last a whole year. Buying vegetables at one of the two grocery stores close to us on the Island just wasn’t much of an option. All our food had to be brought to the Island by truckers from all over. It wasn’t always the freshest stuff I’ve ever seen. I’ve actually thought stuff in the dumpster would have looked better than the produce at the grocery stores. I didn’t buy it.
In the fall there would be apples for apple pie filling and plums for jam at the orchard just a ways away. I could get 50 lbs of potatoes – but we could never eat that many and anyway I wasn’t too happy about how they might have been grown. I prefer stuff without pesticides.
I spent days happily preparing vegetables and fruits in my kitchen for the long winter. We bought our coffee from the coffee roaster also right down the road. I did then, as now, bake my own breads. In that house, I had a baking station equipped with lower counters for kneading and a marble counter top. I had a professional restaurant-style Garland stove that cooked like Beethoven composed music. I lived in that kitchen.
But it came to an end as all good things do from time to time. My need to get off the Island and back to America overtook my desire to live in the country where I knew hardly anyone and those I did know didn’t like my nationality.
So we came back to America just 8 years ago. Eight years there, 8 here. I’ve now lived in this house almost longer than the one on PEI. And although I miss the auctions, the ocean right at my door, the bountiful fall produce, we have most of those here. It’s just a matter of hunting it out ………….. and I can still “put stuff up” if I want to.