Getting ready, feeling safe  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

Sweet corn appeared at our Farmer’s Market two weeks ago, and we carted it home by the sack- full to eat and to freeze. Though I couldn’t have verbalized it as I was growing up, it’s clear to me now that as a kid I longed to be somewhere safe. A place where a critical eye wasn’t constantly watching, and where, most of all, I could feel safe about what might come tomorrow and the day after that.


Somewhere deep in my memory, I remember my grandmother’s basement. It wasn’t, all things considered a very pleasant place—an unfinished, cobwebby place where the furnace and hot water heater creaked and clicked. But on the walls, in long lines on simple wooden shelves were endless rows of glass jars, filled with vegetables my grandmother had canned. She was Dutch-German and so never threw anything away, which meant that some of the jars had been there for years. It was difficult to identify what some of them contained, as if over time whatever it was had taken on a life of its own. But those were in the back, and Grandmother said not to worry, she’d get to them someday.


Often I was sent down to get one of those jars. Green beans or sweet corn put up the previous summer, and they never tasted like the bland stuff that could be bought in a grocery store. There was strawberry jam, slices of pears swimming in juice, and in the corner, a large vat where the huge cabbages she had raised in the garden slowly turned into sour kraut.


Ever since I have felt more secure with the coming of winter if we have food in the basement. Margie doesn’t put up things in canning jars anymore, except for freezer jam, but getting our freezer full each autumn is something that is deeply satisfying.


So we slipped the ears of sweet corn in boiling water (for 3 minutes), dropped them into the sink filled with cold water, then cut off the kernels and put them up in freezer bags. Today we drove to a nearby town to pick up the frozen meat of a hog we had purchased from one of the venders we’ve come to know at our Farmer’s Market. And later this fall the ½ beef and 2 turkeys we’ve purchased from another farmer will be ready. It’s been wonderful getting to know the people who raise our food.


And though I know that we live in a different time than my grandparents, watching the freezer fill up always makes me feel, well, as if we’re getting ready for winter. I know the reality of our lives and that the freezer only supplements what we get at the grocery, but that isn’t the point, at least to me. Feeling safe is a fragile gift, and not to be taken lightly.


And I tell you: if you haven’t tasted Margie’s sweet corn and strawberry freezer jam in the dead of winter, then well, sorry.

This entry was posted at Thursday, August 21, 2008 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Denis, don't you wish that you could have farmed? At least a little? I resonate with your words here. There's a simple joy found in these things. Here's a recent post I wrote of my time in your neighboring state of South Dakota. I hope it does service to my penchant for the upper-mid-western-states.

December 1, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Actually, no. I've never been burly, never been drawn to physical tasks, have always been mechanically challenged, and without a handheld GPS would get lost on my own acreage. I was never good at athletics--I went to state on the debate team. Farming has never been attractive to me.

But I think I know what you mean. I've loved hunting (deer primarily), not caring if I bagged one as long as I could spend all day for a week in the woods watching, listening, being. I am passionate about feeding birds in my yard and think of the goldfinches that swarm outside my office window as "mine." And our best vacation each year used to be camping in some remote spot, and now is being a cabin at a remote lake, off the grid.

Farming has never drawn me, but creation does.

Your post on SD is wonderful; reading it was like being with you there.

December 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Denis, your response made me laugh! I remember that about you now.


December 1, 2011 at 1:18 PM

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