Growing up, fall meant endless hours of canning fruits and vegetables with my mom. I always swore that when I was an adult I would never make my kids preserve our own food. I spent my summers weeding row after row, and then autumn was all about canning. I wanted to be a ‘normal’ family who bought their food from the store. My poor mother. I wish I knew then how much I would love being able to grow and harvest and preserve my own food…not out of necessity, but out of pure joy. It has become one of my most treasured skills to use year after year. And yes, I do make my children help:)
Those endless summer days of weeding allowed me to explore so much in my head. I remember about the time I was 14 thinking I must be crazy because I started looking forward to all the time in the field to just think. To day dream, innovate and evaluate the world around me. I later learned this was one of the treasures of being an introvert. I long for those days filled with hours of just “thinking”.
As children, my brothers and I sold flats of strawberries that we had grown to neighbors and were allowed to use the money for our family to go out to dinner – something we would not have done without the strawberry money. My favorite parts about the summer work was opening the irrigation gates and playing in the water.
My days are filled very differently now. I rarely push work aside, but when fall comes around, everything becomes secondary to canning and preserving our harvest. As an adult, I love knowing that my food is pesticide free, preserved with limited ingredients and fills my shelves with beautiful jars of color.
One of my favorite things to do in Malawi, is to see how they preserve food. I just received a photo from my friend who had been spending so much of her time harvesting honey to sell over the past two weeks. This honey is usually one of my first requests when I arrive. Now I like to purchase the honey from her and then have it delivered to the families that I know are in great need in other areas.
I have spent a few minutes learning to harvest maize in Malawi and learned that my thumbs ache very quickly. I love seeing multiple women gather together and process the corn and laugh and enjoy each others company. I even enjoy the laughter when it is directed at me with my limited ability at keeping up with them. The unity and friendship among the women is something I will always cherish when I am there and one of the greatest things I miss when I come home.
I am so grateful to have learned so much from my parents about hard work, business models, work ethic, and self reliance. I just regret not understanding the value of it all when I was young.