Sunday, September 30, 2018

It's Over.........

Yesterday I stood on the patio, a bright sunny Fall day and realized I had just run out of propane.  Hooking up a spare raku tank, my igniter was out of butane too.  I was also out of jars and vinegar, all signs it was time to stop canning, walk away, get out of the kitchen, save yourself!  I had given myself one too many vinegar facials.  Pictured above is  the final list of everything that has been packed away.  I did the final inventory this morning and fell to my knees when I realized I had not put up one jar of pasta sauce!  I checked this morning and they are still picking tomatoes out at the local farm but I talked myself off the ledge and double counted the jars of chopped tomatoes and thought just use those!  Do 2 people really need another half bushel of tomatoes..... NO! 

Here are the final pictures of very full shelves. (converted pottery shelves as this was my very first studio some 30 years ago).  

Soooo many people have pointed out how much work this is.  OK, it's NOT!  I prepped in the evening and canned the next morning.  Usually finished by 10 am or noon depending on what was being processed.  
I have memories of my great grandma's basement canning parties, butchering parties, lekvar parties (prune butter) being kind of fun for the old ladies. I am using the term "party" very loosely here, as these were short, wide woman rocking hairnets and sweating over bubbling pots or as memory serves me..... cauldrons, yup they must have been cauldrons and the Hungarian flew off their tongues.  As a little kid, ducking the under arms of these large woman washing jars, stirring pots and yelling, my only thought;  they had just had us kids to run stuff up and down the stairs a million times.  We ran dead, beheaded chickens from behind the garage, through the back screen door, down a flight of steps where a gaggle of women waited with open arms and scalding pots.  I can still remember the smells vividly.  It was a family affair and I was not super happy with any of it.  But at the end of the day, the food was pretty good, everybody was tired and the shelves or freezer was full.  Today it's a solitary adventure and I'm still running the stairs and counting jars on shelves and freezer.  Whatever happened to community canning centers or kitchens?  

The amount of food three woman could put up on a Friday or weekend, if it was high holy canning season, was staggering.  My great grandmother was still leery of the Kroger that had just come to town.  I remember riding in a big old Dodge every Thursday morning with the same woman now clutching coupons and comparing notes on what was on sale, while Great grandpa Frank got behind the wheel.  He could barely see over the wheel and after a couple blocks has to take a Nitro pill because there was no power steering.   I think back and can't believe how big that Dodge had to be, 3 large woman, one small man and two kids, who sometimes had to sit in floor wells behind the front seat.  It held all the groceries and got us back home.  We were not really squished.  Oh and they worn good clothes to go grocery shopping, sometimes rocking a hat........  Have you been to the store lately and looked around?   
Speaking of the store....... I spent $170.00 TOTAL.  The woman checking out in front of me spent $283.00 on food.  Because I am that creeper in the check out line, I had to ask;  How long will that last you?  She was feeding 5 and it would get her through about a week.  Catch me, I had the vapors!   I had been doing a quick inventory as her groceries rolled down the belt.  She did have a lot of processed food, frozen pizzas, pop tarts, some cereal with a gorilla on the label,  frozen pouches of doughy goodness, large Styrofoam trays of meat, lots of soft drinks, chips, large loaves of white bread and those things called Lunchables I didn't know they still made those.  Not being judgy, just observant..... ok maybe a little judgy.   I GET IT!  She works, is raising three kids, and and and .... I really do get it!!!  My Mom worked full time from the time I was five and it was nuts and thank god for the grandmas or we would have never eaten a real canned tomato.  And besides the woman dug a credit card out of her Michael Korrs hand bag and kept her credit card in Kate Spade wallet.  She smelled good and her nails were "done".  I looked like homeless person paying with change dug out of my garden jeans with holy knees and I probably smelled like a goat who sprayed down with barnyard pheromones .  So I guess it is about what makes you happy and what you want.  I want comfortable shoes, a shelf full of garden fun and I will work on smelling good .  

I have not done this for three years due to the gallery and show obligations.  I ran pottery pretty hard these last three years and didn't have a lot to show for it.  This year I realized my life is bigger than just pottery.  I have loved my yard and outside stuff this year.  Finding bugs, figuring out if they were good bugs or bad bugs and then blasting there little butts in a jar of soapy water.  I lost a few battles and won a few battles, like cucumbers and terra stigillata (studio stuff).  I learned hydrogen peroxide works on all plants and a bit of Epsom salts works wonders on the tomatoes and roses; not just as a flocculant for glazes!  I heard the birds again and left the spent echinacea heads up in the garden for the gold finches, now wearing there Sunday best colors.  I guess my worlds are starting to merge a bit and I'm kind of liking it.  

As I tucked the last jar on the shelf this chilly Sunday morning and climbed back up the steps to sunlight my brain boarded the pottery train.  Yes, just that fast!  I set up for a four day show on Wednesday!  Again, out of business cards and it's time to climb the pull down stairs in the studio and start bringing down all the booth stuff and empty boxes.  I have way too much inventory as I did manage to make pots all summer.  But the thought of digging all the crap out for a booth is a little dizzying, especially with the reoccurring theme of stairs in my life. 
I'm kind of over the woven pots.  Ya they are nice and the gallery's love them but they just don't sell that often.  I look at my shelves right now and I see fermenting jars, soup bowls, tea pots and for the most part.....  functional work.   I did sell one woven piece at the Lakeland opening and that was great!  But as I look over the past few months I've sold nice decorative stuff in the $45-$85 price range with no weaving, mugs, and a few bowls.  The woven stuff takes an incredible amount of time to make and I found myself weaving on the patio wishing I was anywhere else doing anything else.  I have an attic full of woven pots but the galleries want "new" work; something that hasn't been seen before.  These are all sure signs to move on to other things.  

I guess I'm getting there although I'm not sure where ........ peace out for now blogosphere :) 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Balance.......... nope!

Over my short life I've strived for balance, great good balance.  I've OHMMMMMMM-ed myself some years to deafness, especially when my kids were little.  I OHMMMM-ed in the bathroom while one kid blew her recorder under the bathroom door and yelled; "MOM! CAN YA HEAR ME?"  After a summer of insane heat and garden madness I suddenly piffed;  an epiphany, as in giving myself a psychic noogie.  Wandering around the big blue marble for 60 plus years, always thinking; Why can't I get this balance thing?  I had a girl friend in grade school who could wear white tights on the playground and eat catsup on her bologna sandwich and went home in really white tights.  She jumped rope and never broke a sweat.  I was not that kid but was very aware that a person who could wear white anything on the playground, eat catsup at lunch and get on the bus looking like she did at 8 am upon arriving to Parkview elementary was pretty awe inspiring.  I was a walker and by the time I tripped out the side door, swinging my plastic lunchbox at my brothers head and missing,  I had ripped my tights and blood was usually streaming down both knees into my rubber boots that left big red marks on my calves as I chased him to school yelling really bad things...... I was THAT kid.  By 6 years of age I was pretty sure balance was going to be very elusive.

As I stood in the backyard with my headlamp beam pointed at the jalapeño pepper plants on the dark side of the moon, I had an out of body experience.  I love my little backyard grocery store and what the hell are you doing out here in the inky darkness with scurrying critters?  WHERE'S THE BALANCE?  I was making salsa at 10:30 pm and forgot to pick the peppers.   And the garden said; You idiot, there is no balance!  We had the explosion of growing in the Spring, a bit of lull during the middle of July letting you rest up for ALL THIS! The explosion of plants reproducing through seeds;  which we humans like to eat in the form of fruits, nuts, roots and other nutritious stuff and they do it better than anything we can even come close to reproducing in the lab, like fake meat! No, not everything sits on a Ritz!  And when it's on it's really ON!  So I have made peace with this thing called balance and I'm probably never going get it because I plant seeds.  In fact every year I plant seeds, can't remember a year I didn't plant seeds.  So I guess I'm just going to be a lunchbox swinger until I no longer plant seeds ....... like never!

I really wanted to complete a blog post each Sunday but it's nuts right now and I'm in the middle of this big grand experiment called my backyard.  How much will this place produce?  And it has not been a very good year!  We have had more than 20 days with 90F degrees (33C)  and above and not much rain.  Pests abound this year but my little jar of dawn dish liquid with hot water have made my reflexes very quick and fingers quite nimble picking little pests off delicate buds and leaves.
But here is where I am thus far.

I spent about $5 on seeds this year and $25 on starter plants like peppers, tomatoes, cukes.   I don't have a very good place to start seeds but I am working on that.

Master Canning List 9-1-18

7-18.     Dilly Beans                22 jars.       $0  garden produce
             Peach Butter.                3 jars        $4
             Pickle Relish                9 jars        $0 garden produce
             Mixed Veg. Pickles     12 jars       $4 for corn, the rest garden produce
            Caponata                      13 jars       $0 garden produce

8-18.    Plum butter                    2 jars       $3 Italian prune plums on sale $1.29 #
            Tomatoes chopped       10 qts.      
            Tomatoes chopped       14 pints     $20 for a bushel of tomatoes
            Kidney beans                 9 pints     $1.78  2-1# bags
            Black beans                   9 pints     $1.78. 2-1# bags
            Salsa I.                           7 pints.     $0. my tomatoes
            Tomato Soup                 10 pints 
            Chili Sauce                    18 pints
            Salsa II                          15 pints 
                                                   2 quarts
           Veg. Soup                       4 quarts     from Tomato Soup to Salsa II are from the second 
                                                                    bushel of tomatoes for $20
           Elderberry jelly              3 half pints  $0.  my elderberries

9-18.   Peaches                          6 quarts
                                                11.5 pints      $28 for one bushel
           Cowboy Candy              9 half pints  $0. my jalapeños 
           Lekvar Plum butter        9 half pints    4 pounds @ $1.29 #  $5.16

still needed corn relish and applesauce and more tomato soup, and catsup...... for my white tights :) 

Master Freezer List

7-18.   Chicken Stock           20 quarts       $0 my chickens, celery, carrots, onions and parsley
           Blueberry curd            3 pints          $0 my blueberries
           Rhubarb Cordial         3 pints          $0 my rhubarb
           Strawberries              30 pounds      10#'s purchased at a you pick farm for $22.50
                                                                    the rest are from my garden.
           Blueberries                20 pounds      $35 picked from local farms
           Roasted tomatoes       1 quart          $0. my garden 
           Squash Soup              3 quarts         $0. my garden
           Roasted bean & corn 3 bags            $4
           Cherry tomato jam     3.5 pints        $0 my garden

also 2 pints of boozy cherries and 2 pints of boozy peaches.   
Ok, I'm a bit gobsmacked, in a good way, after seeing it on paper.

the clip board is hanging on the basement door and this inventory sheet is fastened tight.  

I am out of pint jars and half pint jars and not sure if I really need anymore jars.  I still have quart jars but realized some of the quart jars which I have been using are from my Mom and Grandma so must be quite old!  Should probably think about upgrading a few those.  My pressure canner I bought in 1978 and it still works great.  My water bath canner was purchased at garage sale for $5.  Ball Blue book could use an upgrade so I borrowed one from the library to make sure I am current and up to date on my times, pressures, acidity levels etc.  

So why am I doing this?  I keep reading articles on stuff in my food I don't want!  Two weeks ago I lost my mind when I read the new report out on oats.  I've eaten Quaker Old Fashioned Oats forever and Bob's Mill oat bran for a very long time.  Figured they had't screwed around with Oats too much as far as GMO etc.  Never really thought I was getting my RDA of Round Up or otherwise known as Glyphosate with my morning breakfast.  There I was sitting in front of my computer early one morning unconsciously shoveling oatmeal with raisins and oat bran in my face while reading this.......... my Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal dribbled down my chin.   But not to worry because they are telling us no problem it's safe to eat, go for it, it's fine.  IT'S NOT FINE AND I DON'T WANT IT!   I always believed if you can't pronounce it don't eat it but they don't even need to list this on the package.  We are doomed!  Isn't some government agency supposed be looking out for us?  Oh  wait they are way out of balance at the moment, even more so than myself!  Scary huh?  

The only label with not one PPB of Glyphosate was Whole Foods 365.  

The next week I had just started switching out my recipes to use coconut oil because it's sooooo damn good for you.  I posted the recipe on this blog.  Then news flash a Harvard Professor declares coconut oil is poison..... ya here is the article coconut-oil-is-pure-poison-  back to pig fat! 

So eat your vegetables, without a healthy dose of Glyphosate and dig out the olive oil again.  

Here are few pictures from kitchen or frontline ........ 

Elderberry tip; freeze first and the berries come right off! 

I inherited the Squez-O from my Mom :) 

first batch of peaches

Jalapeños for cowboy candy

Lekvar (Hungarian plum butter) 

and I'm weaving too as my pots are due on Friday!! 

and just want to say, 
I'm never going here...... 
nope not even on a handmade plate or bowl but thanks Edible Cleveland.