Three hours of chopping, cooking and processing, plus enough dirty dishes to fill the dishwasher, has left me with three, not very large jars, of salsa and a deep appreciation of the many women who have come before me. These would be our great grandmothers and all the pioneer women before them. I just can’t fathom how they managed to preserve enough food to get their families through a winter when I barely managed three jars in round one. Round two will be spicy pickled beets, which are actually much easier because there is a lot less chopping. There will not be a round three.
I also can’t fathom, how a family could grow enough food, for preserving or storing in a root cellar, to feed themselves during the cold non-growing seasons. Families were not small back then. All I know is that it would require a lot of land, and it would not be easy.
The Doc and I have a small veggie garden that provides a few enjoyable fresh treats at best. This year there were beans, lettuce, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, Swiss chard, red onions and squash if we are lucky. The squash are still small and clinging to the dying vines.
Our growing season started late, the very end of June; and lasted just over two months. We still have tomatoes trying to ripen and those small squash that we are crossing our fingers for. We are pushing our luck because the first frost will be any day now. The temperatures have been cool and the winds unkind this October. There have been falls in the past when Indian Summer set in for a few weeks and people and vegetables continued to thrive, but this is not one of them. The deck chairs are still out but not in use and will be taken in by the end of the week. I am still hoping for one last glass of wine outside before then. The kayaks are still down by the lake but will also be taken in soon. My paddle the other day was a chilly one. Again, I am hoping a couple of days of decent weather will allow me to squeeze in a one or two more before the end of the month.
Temperatures aside, it has been a beautiful fall. The colours are astonishing, and I can’t help but admire them every time I look out the windows or drive the highway. What I really appreciate is that I have the time to enjoy them and do so many other things besides cooking and worrying about feeding my family for the next eight to ten months. As much as I love the few meals of fresh vegetables we get from our garden, I also love the fact that I just have to run to a store or market to pick up more when we run out. We are so spoiled.
I honestly would not have survived being a pioneer woman. Firstly, I probably would have died due to health issues that required surgeries. Thank goodness for modern medicine. Secondly, I was a skinny scrawny kid who grew into a skinny woman who didn’t have the muscles required to pull a plow or lift a huge pot over an open fire. And speaking of open fire, you would not want a klutz like me fumbling around in a long skirt and uncomfortable shoes anywhere near an open fire. You would also not want me using large knives to cut hard vegetables. All those turnip and squash that would end up in the root cellar. There would be scars and digits missing; perhaps maimed bystanders. Just ask The Doc. He doesn’t like to see me using large knives. It scares the hell out of him. I only do it when I have no choice, when he isn’t around to ask to do it.
When I do get inspired to do my little bit of preserving, there are stove burners that turn off and on at my will. There is hot and cold water on tap and cool air from the windows or the fan. There is plenty of light to see and space to work in. There is great jazz playing in the background, and there is a dishwasher to wash the dirty dishes. How on earth did those pioneer women survive doing what they did with what they had? Personally I know for a fact that I couldn’t do it, especially not without a dishwasher and great jazz.