Red juices splattering and overflowing onto the white enamel stovetop, I wonder, are they done? Hastily, I poke the flesh of a small beet. Still hard. I guess I’ll keep them cooking. Meanwhile the crockpot applebutter is piping hot by now. And the half
These are the sights and sounds of the simple life, right? That life we create by going back to basics, living off the land as much as possible, following the trail of our great grandparents. Within our grasp and easily attainble, well, that’s what we tell ourselves at least.
Gripping the bell pepper plant’s hardy stalk, and tugging, up come the roots of the knee-high, green plant. I’m spending this warm fall morning pulling out the waining plants of the garden. Up come the habaneros, goodbye to the jalapenos, the dark brown soil falling to the ground.
Laying out the plants in a row, and starting up the mower, I begin mulching them. Flying out the chute come bits of leaves, dark green stalk, and tiny chunks of peppers to small to pick. Gathering up the remains with a rake, I begin sprinkling the fresh mulch and other compost over the wet soil of the garden. As the shovel digs in, making a slicing sound, I turn the ground mixing in the mulch.
My mind, deciding it is wanting to wander, gives thought to the pickled beets I’ll be making. Then the applebutter. And if I still have time and energy, making some kolarabi fritters. With the garden under control for autumn I head to the kitchen.
I cock the ignitor. Whoosh! A radient blue flame circles the burner. The brief smell of natural gas trails under my nose. Condensation, from the heat, quickly forms on the bottom of the canning pot.
Dropping in Mason jars and rings, I shift my attention from the canner, knowing it will be at least 20 minutes before it gets close to boiling. I begin filling a pot with water, sinking the beets. Cranking up the gas, and spinning around to stir the applebutter still in the crockpot. It’s dark and smooth texture, along with it’s spicy flavor captivate me. And I’m momentarily lost in thought. Thoughts about next year’s garden, will cukes work? Will my neighbors think it odd if I add a raised bed to the front yard?
Hearing a faint metal rattling, I’m brought back to the present moment in the kitchen. The canner must be boiling. I check. It is. The dark metal lid is chinking against the pot. I’ll bring the beets up to a boil now.
Turn off heat under canner, drop in lids. Wait five minutes. Pull out jars. A clear and repetitive science for my brain. With the jars on a clean towel, I reach back in with my tongs snatching the metal rings. A thought invades my brain. Would it not be easier to just go to the amish store and buy pickled beets? Why all this trouble?
Stabbing a beet with a fork, and noticing they’re tender, I toss them into the waiting ice bath. The steam fogs my glasses. I’m still pondering this question. I am a consumer in a service economy, there are plenty of people who can make pickled beets for me, right? Shouldn’t I just purchase the beets from them?
I begin to peel the skins from the beets, my hands now crimson, dropping them into a mixing bowl one at a time. Darn! I forgot about the applebutter. I need to be jarring that right now. Finishing up the beets, I rinse my hands under cold water, and try and remember where I placed the ladle. Countertop?
Still I’m wondering. Garden. Compost. Applebutter. Beets. Canning. Why am I doing all this? Shouldn’t I be watching television or wandering around the local mall? And buy everything I’ve been making today.
I scew on the lid to the last half pint of applebutter, the jar hot to the touch. I’m ready to pack the beets in the pint-and-a-half jars. Stuff onion slices in bottom. Beets next. Layer onions. Then pickling spice. Top with boiling vinegar. Six jars of beets, and six applebutter. Into the canner, the hot water rising above the silver tops.
The lid clangs on the canner as I haphazardly fling it back on. Opening the fridge I grab a bottle of beer, twist off the top, taking a long draw.
I realize something. I’m different. I’m independent. Self reliant. And I down right enjoy it all. I enjoy cleaning up the splattered beet juices. I enjoy burning my fingers on hot jars. Splashing vinegar in my eye. Peeling apples. In also enjoy hearing the little ping the jar lids make when they seal. I enjoy my garden and it’s small, but highly valued crop. I enjoy making a compost pile. I enjoy drying herbs.
In appreciating these small things and others, I become fond of the times I fail. But especially grateful for the successful times I do manage to see. When someone starts down the path toward the simple life it’s not an easy life one should be looking to attain. We should be looking for understanding, love, a desire and passion for those tiny, insignificant moments of life. It’s within their simplicity that we truly become one with ourselves. One with our environment. Our loved ones. We become at peace.