|The garden angel has been busy! This is a small piece of a crazy quilt I'm working on.|
Comox means “land of plenty” and we’re experiencing it in spades. Grrr. The beans have taken fertility drugs and are multiplying faster than we can eat them. The cabbages are splitting at the seams. The zucchinis look like baseball bats. If I don’t harvest the beets soon, they will be too woody to eat. We’ve shared with our neighbours and friends, but there’s more. More. More. It’s hot. I’m crabby.
|This is a square from a quilt I made 5 years ago, celebrating the bounty of blackberries and Oregon grapes that grow free for the picking here in the land of plenty. I turned them into jam and jelly.|
All of this was going through my mind yesterday, as I hauled our camp stove and canning equipment to the patio, my makeshift summer kitchen. The thermometer hovered around the 30C (86F) mark. Who in their right mind wants to can dilled beans, pickled beets, and zucchini salsa? Clearly, something needed to change if I was to get the job done.
And so I dig deep and remember what’s important to me.
I remember my dad’s garden – how every evening after a long day of work he would tend it with love. I remember the bare root roses he bought at a winter fund-raiser -- how against all odds, they survived till spring and graced our front yard for years to come. The practical business of growing food for the family and the aesthetic principles of beauty were equally important to him. Although he’s been gone many years, now, I feel as though he’s looking over my shoulder and smiling as I work the soil and plant the seeds every spring.
I remember my mom’s role in gardening. She was the preserver of bounty. After picking those prolific beans, mom and whoever she could rope in (often us kids, but also sometimes friends and aunties who shared the chores) would spend the afternoon in the backyard tipping them. Later, sweating in the kitchen over a hot stove, she canned or blanched them, probably feeling just like I do now. She’s probably also looking over my shoulder and smiling knowingly.
I remember meal preparation on dark winter days, when I’d be sent down to the cellar to fetch the jar of beets or the bowl of sauerkraut that became an important part of our meals, adding flavour and zest to the conversations that circulated around the dinner table.
Yes, I know: that was then, and this is now. Growing your own food and preserving it today really doesn’t pay, financially, not when big trucks haul in tons of veggies from California and Florida and sell them for practically nothing. But I also think about our increasingly urban world, where people are more and more disconnected from their food sources. I know how much I will enjoy the hard-earned fruits of my labour when the winter rains come.
As I reflect, I realize I am harvesting and preserving something more than vegetables. I realize again that when I work in the garden I am connected – connected to the earth, to the cycles of the seasons, to the mysteries of growth and regeneration, to the community I live in, to the community that raised me, and ultimately to the Creator who is the source of it all.
Preserving the plenty comes with the territory. And so I begin.