Waste not, want not

I hear a lot of folks talk about the “good old days”. Things really did seem simpler back then. For one thing there were not as many food additives. We did not have to worry if things were organic or not. They came from local farms. Farmers ate their own produce as well so they were careful what they added. Oh, the apples were not picture perfect, but they tasted good. You might find a blemish on a peach, but it was fine to eat. The bigger the farms became the less thought that was given to the consumer. Production was the key.

I think back to the days when I used everything we grew. We found ways to make use of most parts of the pigs and chickens. If nothing else, we used parts to create our stocks. I even rendered my own lard.

In the spring and summer we foraged for our food. We picked wild berries. I just told someone the other day that I used to make dandelion jelly. Now that I have my pets close to the house the conditions are no longer ideal for that.

The children and I picked berries along the road. There was less traffic in those days and they were not using anything dangerous along the road. I remember the children pointing from the stroller when they saw some more berries.

I also picked mint and made mint jelly. It grew in the wet areas along with the watercress. I considered that I had done a day’s work after I picked berries and canned them.

I found a couple jars of seckle pears that I had pickled a while back. My daughter and her family live on the farm where I used to pick them. The first year I made pear pickles I peeled each one. That was difficult. They were very small. Later I learned that you only needed to pierce the skin so that it would not burst. I still have another jar as a treat for another occasion.

Dessert was often either fresh fruit or a jar of home canned fruit. In my larder I had canned cherries, peaches, pears, blackberries, and blueberries. We usually picked the cherries, blackberries, and blueberries. A trip to a farm near Forestville, NY was where we picked the cherries. I remember the grandmother who checked us in and out wore a garland of cherries in her hair. She was so cute.

When we picked cherries we picked both sweet and sour if they were both available when we got there. Of course, the haying had to be done before we began our picking season. We carried our lunch with us and had a family picnic. The children enjoyed the little pond that was in the orchard- a different one. They attached safety pins to the end of sticks and fished. The pond was full of little sunfish. Once they caught something they threw it back. It was all about the fun.

Grandpa insisted that we fill all of our containers. We always came home with more cherries than we planned on. Sweet cherries were fun to can. I held a big pin in my hand and pricked each one as I dropped it into the jar. I made syrup and poured that over them. A few minutes in the canner was all it took to seal the jars. The sound of the pop made me very happy.

Blackberries grew wild. We took to the back forty to pick them. The children set up houses and offices in the tree line where I picked. In the day that I picked blackberries the children were small. They could not reach the tall bushes. Usually I packed a lunch. The children could hardly wait to get into the cooler. I usually had some fruit for a snack to keep them happy. We literally spent the day up on the hill. I was too tired when I got home to think about canning berries. That would wait until the next day.

When it came to blueberries there were several places that we went to pick. One year we found a patch of wild berries on a friend’s property. The berries were tiny, but they were very sweet. We had to wander into the tall bushes to get them, but it was well worth our effort.

Of course, I cut my rhubarb at home. I checked outside my back door to find that my two rhubarb plants are indeed growing. I will have to supplement my supply with some from my daughter’s patch. I think my supply in the freezer is about gone so I hope to freeze some more.

April showers bring May flowers as the saying goes. My lawn is littered with purple crocuses. The bank has clumps of beautiful yellow daffodils. That is what I love about springtime. Those bulbs that were nestled in the ground send up green shoots, then blossoms.

Each morning I listen to the birds. The weather has not been such that I want to have my morning cup of coffee outdoors, but I have been able to enjoy a cup of tea outdoors later in the day. The sunshine just makes us all feel better.

Although my allergies are in full swing I still enjoy spring. I love watching the trees bud and leaf out. I love seeing pops of color where the spring bulbs have burst into bloom. I have already had my hyacinths in bloom. They are so fragrant. Now I await the tulips as the days continue to warm.

We have had our share of rain but we put up with it thinking at least it is not snow. We have had snow in the air up here, but the beauty of April is that we know it will not stay. Spring has sprung!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net