animal kingdom / IN MY KITCHEN

it’s a good thing we’re not pioneers

I'm not sure who makes out better on the days when I can — us, with our jars of summer goodness stored away on the shelves for winter, or the chickens who get to scratch through the scraps of fruit that I toss into the flower beds.

the do's, but mostly don'ts of canning

As soon as I emerge from the house with my big bowl of scraps and call "chick-chick-chick", they come in a mad-dash, head-down waddle across the yard. They know exactly where to wait for the big dump. Then they grab hunks of fruit in their beaks and run off to a more private place to gobble down the spoils. 

Each year, I get a little more ambitious and a little more comfortable with canning. Every year I learn and try something new, and every year I still make a few mistakes. 

Let's discuss this year's mistakes (so far):

Mistake Number One:

On a day when I must have been feeling quite energetic and organized (I must have given the kitchen a good cleaning that day) I stopped at a local farm stand and picked up not one, but TWO boxes of peaches.

Mistake Number Two:

Feeling thrifty and oh, so wise, I purchased seconds. I was so proud of my good deal, wise-thinking, and smart spending. And at first glance, the peaches (a.k.a the ones on top) seemed to be in pretty good shape barring a few soft spots, misshapen sides, and blemishes, of course.

Mistake Number Three:

I needed somewhere cool and dark to store my TWO BOXES of peaches. The coolest place in the house? The downstairs bathroom, which also holds the door down to the basement (hence, the coolness.) Doesn't everyone store peaches in their bathroom?

Mistake Number Four :

When I purchased the TWO BOXES of peaches I didn't consider that I would be tied up with errands, lessons, soccer practice and a heat wave for the next several days.

And so, this year we learned a lot about buying only what you can use right away. Avoiding seconds if you have any hope of canning sliced peaches versus jam. How quickly a colony of fruit flies can grow over night. And how to make one heck of a fruit fly trap. 

I will not discuss, how many POUNDS of peaches went to the chickens. I won't discuss the pathetic amount of jam I got from TWO BOXES of peaches. I won't discuss all the places in my house I am finding clouds of fruit flies. 

But I am learning. The hard way, perhaps. But still learning.

And thank the Lord, that we aren't a pioneer family on the lonely plains who's survival through the long, cold, harsh winter depends upon my ability to store away food. 

I'm not sure who makes out better on the days when I can — us, with our jars of summer goodness stored away on the shelves for winter, or the chickens who get to scratch through the scraps of fruit that I toss into the flower beds.

the do's, but mostly don'ts of canning

As soon as I emerge from the house with my big bowl of scraps and call "chick-chick-chick", they come in a mad-dash, head-down waddle across the yard. They know exactly where to wait for the big dump. Then they grab hunks of fruit in their beaks and run off to a more private place to gobble down the spoils. 

Each year, I get a little more ambitious and a little more comfortable with canning. Every year I learn and try something new, and every year I still make a few mistakes. 

Let's discuss this year's mistakes (so far):

Mistake Number One:

On a day when I must have been feeling quite energetic and organized (I must have given the kitchen a good cleaning that day) I stopped at a local farm stand and picked up not one, but TWO boxes of peaches.

Mistake Number Two:

Feeling thrifty and oh, so wise, I purchased seconds. I was so proud of my good deal, wise-thinking, and smart spending. And at first glance, the peaches (a.k.a the ones on top) seemed to be in pretty good shape barring a few soft spots, misshapen sides, and blemishes, of course.

Mistake Number Three:

I needed somewhere cool and dark to store my TWO BOXES of peaches. The coolest place in the house? The downstairs bathroom, which also holds the door down to the basement (hence, the coolness.) Doesn't everyone store peaches in their bathroom?

Mistake Number Four :

When I purchased the TWO BOXES of peaches I didn't consider that I would be tied up with errands, lessons, soccer practice and a heat wave for the next several days.

And so, this year we learned a lot about buying only what you can use right away. Avoiding seconds if you have any hope of canning sliced peaches versus jam. How quickly a colony of fruit flies can grow over night. And how to make one heck of a fruit fly trap. 

I will not discuss, how many POUNDS of peaches went to the chickens. I won't discuss the pathetic amount of jam I got from TWO BOXES of peaches. I won't discuss all the places in my house I am finding clouds of fruit flies. 

But I am learning. The hard way, perhaps. But still learning.

And thank the Lord, that we aren't a pioneer family on the lonely plains who's survival through the long, cold, harsh winter depends upon my ability to store away food. 

26 comments on “it’s a good thing we’re not pioneers”

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself about the peaches. Just think of the fun stories you girls will have and what they learned. I am so excited to learn canning from my mom this summer. We have already done two types of freezer jam and tomatoes. Yum! Plus the times spent and fun stories/experiences make it even better. Glad you’re back!

  2. Loved this. I grossly overestimated the amount of peaches we should pick this year; fortunately, my husband helped save my tail, but we still have two batches to finish going through the dehydrator. Thank goodness, indeed, that we’re not pioneers!

  3. Ugh, fruit flies. Hate them. It’s so easy to talk yourself into ‘good ideas.’ I came home with a case of tomatoes over the weekend. As of tonight they are all canned but it almost killed me. It must have been over 40lbs. I got 3 quarts and 24 pints (except for the one that exploded… that’s never happened to me before!). All I have left to accomplish this week is jalapeno jelly. I bought a small basket of peaches and I should make a cobbler or something but I kind of don’t want to see the inside of the kitchen for a while.

  4. Oh, the temptation of fresh goodness at the farm stand, and the problem of knowing when you have time to put it up and when you just don’t! I have had boxes of raspberries go bad waiting for me to make jam – and if anything feels sinful it’s wasting raspberries. 🙂

  5. I’ve just begun my adventures in canning, so this really resonates with me. I tend to totally dive in to things, even when I’m not completely prepared.

    As for fruit flies. Well, we aren’t the best at cleaning things to perfection. And in a house with nine cats, a dog, three children, and two adults… in the heat of Florida, we know all about fruit flies. Ugh. Even if I didn’t already love Autumn, I look forward to it as it means an end to the swarms.

  6. Oh, but I doubt pioneers had soccer practice! I bought a box of seconds this year and they worked out great 2 days after I bought them. I enlisted my kids to do the slimy peeling and it was good sticky fun 🙂

  7. That’s a good lesson to learn: fruit seconds are for mashing. And a bushel of fruit is always more than you think it is. For sliced peaches I find it takes about 6.5 medium peaches to fill a quart jar. The half-bushel I just went through had 51 in it.

  8. Oh that is priceless! I pull this kind of thing all the time. Speaking of, I better get to the half dozen giant zucchini I adopted a week ago not expecting to be busy and then gone for an extended weekend. Hopefully there is enough firm zucchini left to at least make bread!

  9. You don’t know how much I appreciate this post! I have been trying to do more canning this year, and I make mistakes and miscalculations every time. I think that I have such a romanticized view of canning, but the reality is that it is hard work that requires experience and calculation. I had grand plans of putting up a winter’s worth of tomatoes this year, until I realized how many pounds and pounds of tomatoes that would be and how much processing is involved. I will just have to hope that I do better next year!

    I am a new reader of your blog (after finding you through habit) have been enjoying it. I’m glad to see you posting again.

  10. Ha! I made the mistake of buying not two but FOUR boxes of peaches. And this, in a week where I was hosting a theatre camp for all of our homeschool friends. Did I mention I have a nursling, too? DUH. Well, do you know that those peaches sat there all week and I did NOT can them because many of them were icky and by the time I was ready to can I was in a foul mood and afraid I would infuse those peaches with that foul mood and have to relive it every time I opened one this fall. They’re in the freezer, the ones that could be saved. Too bad we don’t have any nice hens to heat the baddies. I really like your blog! 🙂

  11. Hi Molly, I was laughing out loud (with you, of course) as I read your post, as I did the exact same thing. Bought seconds, decided to make jam, waited too many days to start the process, then decided to do back to back batches to get it all over with…. only to have my dozen jars of jam NOT SET! UGH! Guess I’ll be buying lots of vanilla ice cream to use up my “peach dessert topping”!

  12. Oh goodness, we just went through the same. We had spent the morning picking 5 peck bags with our two children. (We picked in Delaplane, VA since we live in Fairffax. And since our children are 2 1/2 and 4, we have a very small window of in which to play around with the trees.)

    Five beautiful bags worth of super duper juicy and very fragrant ripeness.

    So much so that the peaches on the bottoms of the bags bruised, crushed, and spilled out all over the driveway, twice.

    I neglected to cut and freeze them all right away, and nearly half a peck started a mold colony on my counter right under my nose. I nearly cried as I threw them away.

    It is nice to know that learning is universally slow. Learning is experiences had. Learning is from the heart, with the best intentions in our heads. And learning is what takes us through life.

    Thank you for your words…and your chickens are beautiful! I am over from SouleMama today!

  13. I am reading the Little House books to my Little Girls and, despite our lovely garden and lovely hens and my desire to keep everyone in knitted goodness,at the end of every chapter I say, “it’s a good thing we are not pioneers.”

  14. I’m a new reader, as of today, and it looks like I came over right on time. Your list o’ mistakes with the peaches made me smile!

    Last month my son (6) and my mother went on a neighborhood walk and discovered one of the neighbors was giving away their peaches – lots of them, on a table in their front yard with a FREE sign on them. I high-tailed it over there with my largest mixing bowl and a small shopping bag. I didn’t want to be seen as a hog so I only took what I could carry on my own. After peeling, pitting, sectioning it came to 6-1/2 lbs = which as it turns out equaled 5 pint jars. Much labor, much love: not so much jam. :>)

    I discovered our hens l.o.v.e peach guts. And, where after 3 days of idleness do fruit flies come from? Seriously? They didn’t show up until the peaches arrived.

    Enjoyed your blog very much today. Cheers~

  15. I totally feel your pain. I got a free bushel of peaches unexpectedly a few weeks ago and was scrambling to get them all put up. Of course, I didn’t make it before the fruit flies about took over the house. A great trap for them though is a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a shallow dish and a drop of dish soap. Then fill it will bit of water so that it’s about an inch deep. within a couple days (changing the water every day), you should be fly free.

  16. Ok. See, this is why I haven’t even ventured into to ring. I would do all of this and more. It’s a good thing my family doesn’t depend on my cooking skills on a daily basis, much less sustenance through the winter!!! I’m giggling with you, my friend. xo

  17. that is about what would have happened to me.As far as the fruit flies…I have found opening up a bottle of rice wine vinegar to be the best trap. They go right to the sweet sour and with the shape of the bottle and the special top they can’t get out. Just put it on the counter or near where the flies are. It will last about 10 days or so.

  18. so funny to see so many shared experiences like this in the comments–we picked two boxes of white peaches earlier this summer, not realizing the differences between them and regular yellow peaches–i.e., they bruise much more easily and are not as good for canning as slices. Luckily I stayed on top of freezing them and was able to make preserves from the rest. now I just have to make a point of fixing many, many smoothies before the frozen ones go bad!

  19. i don’t think this is a new to canning problem, for me it’s an almost every year problem. at least once, with some fruit, it slowly goes to hell in my fridge or basement or right in front of me on the counter. It’s good to hear other people do it too.

  20. Hoo-rah!! So glad you’re back, refreshed, rejuvenated, still learning as you go :). Canning continues to terrify me no end. I’m all for preserving… via the deep freeze. Somehow, your tales of fruit flies and ambition fortify me, though. Maybe, maybe…

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