TALES FROM THE BAYOU: The Fruits…and Veggies…of Her Labor

 

Canning, Fall, Apples, Nature, Window, House, Black Cat

 

 

I always have two memories when I think about summer. One is the fact that I am highly allergic to the sun and all the lovely high humidity coming from living in eastern Tennessee. But the other memory is all the summers growing up in Louisiana where my mother was the undisputed canning queen of the south. If there was a way Mother could stuff a fruit or vegetable into a canning jar she would find it!

At every house we moved into over the years Mother always made sure there was room for a garden. The last house before I moved out on my own boasted a flower garden  by the driveway where Mother grew her beloved tulips. But if you looked closely enough you could see the mint, green onion, or dill plants she hid among the flowers. On the other side of the house was a row of potato hills and a large fig tree where Mother would spend hours over the summer harvesting the fruit and freezing the peeled figs sprinkled with sugar so we could have frozen treats throughout the winter.

But it was the back yard where mother communed with Mother Earth the best. I was raised in a home with one small income and six mouths to feed. Back in those days there wasn’t the expanded Food Stamp program like you find in the states today so Mother would depend on what was left over from Daddy’s paychecks after the bills were paid, a monthly “food pantry” type distribution in the next town thirty miles away, whatever she could barter away from an old man who visited our town once a week with extra produce and any vegetables she could managed to grow at each house we lived in.

Mother’s backyard garden had everything from lettuce and tomatoes to beans and cucumbers. Rows of corn stood tall next to cabbage and cauliflower. One year I even remember her growing a row of tall sunflowers along the back fence. I was fascinated by those flowers and watched all summer long as they grew taller than my father with their heads almost touching the ground, so heavy with seeds I was surprised their stalks didn’t snap in half from the weight.

I knew the routine. Weed pulling in the morning, harvesting anything that was ready in the afternoon, and canning on the weekends. By the end of summer every spare inch of space in the dining room would be stacked with jars of summer goodness.

My mother was creative when it came to storing those jars. One summer she found someone in the neighborhood getting rid of two old televisions. This was back in the day when the inside of the TVs held one large picture tube and a few other wires. Other people would have simply thrown those broken TVs in the trash and not given it another thought.

Not my mother.

I remember wondering what in the world were we going to do with them, but soon Mother had thrown out the picture tubes, built shelves inside the wooden frames and put curtains on the front of each before stacking them on top of each other in one corner of the dining room. Viola! Instant food pantry! We never had to worry about not having enough to eat during the summer.

This is the time of year when I can walk through my local grocery story and see canning supplies on the shelves just waiting for the summertime harvest. It always makes me smile and remember my mother and how hard she tried to keep her family fed during hard times. What a pioneer spirit she had…

 

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For all you young adult fantasy readers, check out LUNADAR: Homeward Bound on Amazon…https://www.amazon.com/Lunadar-Homeward-Bound-Donna-Martin/dp/1732327815/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Lunadar+homeward+bound&qid=1589763041&sr=8-1

 

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Best-selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of flash fiction, children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Can You Can It?

 

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Memories of my childhood would not be complete without remembering all the canning my mother would do each year to store up enough food in anticipation of a long, hard winter with four young mouths to feed.

Everyting that flew, swam, ran, or even grew on the vine would find its way into one of Mother’s canning jars. Nothing was overlooked and I never had to wonder what we would do with our garden bounty. Late July and early August  would have my mother pulling out all the old mason jars, counting which ones she could use and how many more she thought she would need. First it was time to count the lids and seals. A bad seal, meant precious food would spoil and we might not have enough to eat during the dead of winter. Next, it was the back breaking work of actually harvesting everything out of the large gardens Mother created every year. Finally, it took an entire weekend to steam, par boil, and blanch everything that went in the jars, freezer bags and other containers used to store away every ounce of extra food that we could.

While other folks in my hometown would make do with store bought goods to fill their bellies on a cold winter’s night, we would dine on fresh vegetables basking in the warm Cajun sunlight just months before. Finish that meal off with frozen, sugared figs straight from our back yard or an ice cold banana “pop” and I’d think I was in heaven!

As writers, we store up story ideas in notebooks, on computers, even scribled on restaurant napkins, with the hope that one…or more…will someday develop into a beautifully woven writerly masterpiece to be shared with the world. Those stored up ideas take the same amount of nurturing and dedication when creating a manuscript to feed young minds as it took my mother all those years ago to make sure four young bodies were fed every winter…

 

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donna - Copy

 
Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.