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Preservation and Self-Preservation

September 14, 2010

Yesterday, Micah and I peeled, boiled, mashed, honey-ed our way through about 60 lbs of apples and 50 lbs of pears. This is after “putting up” about 14 pints of pickles, and 14 pints of dilly beans earlier in the day. Micah also had a triumphant tuna fishing trip and returned home with about 20 lbs of albacore to can yesterday, too. We had double burners going, plus a pressure canner outside on the porch using the propane burner for Micah’s tuna. Beers, music, and many, many hours later, we cleaned up the kitchen and called it a night.

Today, after harvesting another 10 lbs of green beans, and another 15 lbs or so of cucumbers for pickling, I brought all of the stuff in and looked at it and just marvelled at how our grandparents used to do it way back when… which is a little serendipitous, since just yesterday, Jon and I were chatting with our neighbors who had been on their small farm for over 60 years. 60 YEARS! 

They bought the farm as newlyweds right after WWII. They wanted a house in Newberg proper (town), but the $4,000 price-tag was too rich for them. So, they opted for a small house in the country with 5 acres. Now, their property is worth well over a million dollars, and it’s the last stronghold against the encroaching vineyards all around them.  These two bought a TREE  from one of their vineyard neighbors for $500 just so it wouldn’t get cut down. “We like that tree”, they said. They could see it from their kitchen window, and have been looking at it for over 6 decades!  They sort of laughed when they told us that most of the community is waiting for them to die so more Pinot vines can go in. They were joking, but I couldn’t help but wonder if they were right.

We got the impression that they NEVER went to the grocery store. Why would they? She “puts up” enough of the fruits and veggies that he grows in the summer to last the two of them all year long. I’d love to say it’s a lost art… but judging by prices of canning jars at Wilco, I’m guessing that the art is alive and thriving. I even heard a program on Splendid Table last night about how the canning revivalist movement is taking Twitter by storm.

It gives preservation a new meaning. These two are in their late 80’s… still gardening, still raising their own meat, still eating food from their own soil. Every once in a while, while walking Pacha up the hill near their house, I can hear them laughing together in the garden. It had me thinking a lot about ‘self-preservation’. How to live to be old and healthy by eating the right things and living a happy life.  The food movement that we’re all a part of KNOWS that somehow holding on to these old traditions is what is going to save us from industrial food systems that are becoming increasingly unsafe and unsustainable. It’s one of the very simple medicines that we can always come back to,  that will allow us to live till we’re old, and laugh in our garden.

As I type this, the last 2 bins of pears in the kitchen are becoming more and more insistent that I pay attention to them and stop wondering what it’s all for. But I have faith that every small action in this CSA endeavor brings us a little closer to something very meaningful. Hope you guys feel it too! It’s kind of cool, and it’s kind of “new”… but what we’re all trying to do here together is as old as the hills.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cat permalink
    September 14, 2010 4:16 pm

    when I was a little girl, my Grampa (a Reformed Church of America minister, imposing, 6’3″ tall, flowing mane of snow white hair) would slice up pears with a paring knife, and feed me the slices right off the knife. Something my Gramma would NEVER do…she was convinced I’d cut myself on butter knives and drip pear juice on her furniture. Grampa wouldn’t say anything, we’d just slice up a pear, juice dripping down our chins, all the way to the core. So I did the same thing yesterday with my Happy pears.

  2. Polly Basile permalink
    September 15, 2010 12:10 am

    Here, here….I say as a blast from the past is happening right here in our little “neck of the woods” too. Although I’ve canned for years…(I wonder if Jon remembers) farmers markets and gardens have always been a big part of my life. There is something so satisfying and spiritual about connecting with the soil and producing your own food. I used to kid with Ed and say “I should have been a pioneer!”, but he’d just smile and tell me I was one anyway….love that…. And love home made, hand made and made with love…..

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