My Daddy loved to plant a garden and watch it grow. He didn't like weeding it, or picking the veggies, or helping with the canning or freezing, but he did love the eatin' part of the whole thing.
Mama didn't like the garden - not one bit! When early spring came, she complained about all the seedlings scattered round the house, soaking up sun in the windows, sprouting under lamps and needin' water. Once they were out of the house and in the ground, she didn't mind so much.
The six of us kids hated the garden! It was our chore to do all the weedin'. All spring and summer we had to keep after the garden, pullin' weeds, dusting the plants for bugs, scatterin' Miracle Grow - such a boring way for a kid to spend their free time!
I remember one year when the garden was more than plentiful. Daddy beamed with pride, us kids stole all the strawberries before they could ever make it to a shortcake and Mama - well, Mama was not a happy woman that year. You see, a plentiful garden means lots of jars to boil, lots of corn to shuck, peas to de-pod, beans to string, and so forth.
The day she canned tomatoes sticks out in my mind. There must have been twenty bushels to be canned that day. Me being the only girl in the family, it fell to me to help her. We boiled water, blanched the tomatoes, stuck them in ice water, then peeled them. Next came cutting them up and fitting them in the sterilized jars, pourin' on some liquid and screwing down the lids.
Now, normally Mama canned our tomatoes in a water bath, but this year she had found a pressure canner at the Goodwill and thought it would make the job a might easier. We got the first batch filled and in the canner and Mama locked the lid down tight. We watched the gauge to make sure it got to 11 lbs of pressure just like the instructions said, then we put the little weight on its prong and went to work on boilin' another batch.
Pretty soon that little weight began to jiggle and hiss.
"Mama, are you sure that thing's safe," I asks.
Mama just shot me one of her looks and went back to icing down the tomatoes. Did I mention that Mama didn't really enjoy canning?
Well, a little more time goes by and that jiggly thing was a hoppin' like a mad cricket. It sputtered and hissed and made an awful racket. I was really getting' worried about it, but didn't want to get Mama all riled up by asking her about it again, although I did see her steal a nervous glance at it a time or two.
We was just filling the next batch of jars when all hell broke loose. Oh, excuse me, I ain't allowed to say that word. I meant when all heck broke loose. We heard a terrible loud boom and the lid blew right off the canner, jiggly thing and all. Jars began explodin' and tomatoes began splatterin' and I began screamin'. Mama reached over and turned the fire off from under the pot, then we both ran outside to catch our breath.
Daddy came a runnin' from the shed to see what all the commotion was about. He took one look at the kitchen and commenced to laughin' til I thought he'd never stop. I don't think that was such a smart move on Daddy's part, though, because Mama came all unglued and before you could say Jack Sprat, Daddy and all five of my brothers (except the baby, of course) was scrubbin' tomatoes of the kitchen walls.
After that, we went back to using the regular canner, but canning was much easier in all the years that followed because for whatever reason, Daddy began planting much smaller gardens.
That made us all happy.
(Copyright © 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)