The month of July slides smoothly into August with hot days still prevailing. There is a sleepy midsummer hum in the air -- the buzzing of the honeybees as they visit the clover blossoms, the monotonous whirr of the cicadas and the low chirping of the crickets. At night the insistent call of the katydids reminds us that summer is slipping way and fall will soon be here.
Gardens are at their peak now, with green beans hanging thick on the vines and sweet corn almost ready to pick. The cucumber patch has flourished, spreading across the garden and producing buckets of sweet, crisp cucumbers. This humid, tropical-like weather has been perfect for this well-liked vegetable.
Canning and freezing the garden crops are also at its peak, as country housewives work frantically to harvest and preserve the vegetables they have raised. This is something that has to be done quickly, while they are at their peak flavor. We are following in our grandmother's footsteps so to speak, as we gather and string and shuck and peel. This is the life of a country housewife.
Of course we have our deep freezers now, and pressure canners have taken the place of the black washtub and outdoor canning. Yet, some things are the same. We make our sauerkraut in a churn, and also pickle corn the same way. I am making dill pickles in a stone jar this year, which is the way Grandma probably made hers. I know she made salt pickles by this method.
There is something satisfying in putting up food for the winter -- just to look at the filled jars in the cellar and know that your family is provided for in case an emergency should arrive. With the economy like it is right now, it makes good sense to look ahead have something stored for the future.
It is the same secure feeling when you have your supply of wood cut and stacked for the winter. I am sure it is the same feeling that our early ancestors had when their garden crops were dried or salted down, venison was hanging in the shed and the firewood was stacked high against the log cabin wall. Let the winter winds blow; they were safe and warm in their little cabin.
My sister-in-law Ruth is still raising a garden and canning at 82 years of age. She told me recently that this will probably be the last year she does this. My mother was 86 when she stopped raising a garden. She planted potatoes, dug them and carried them to the cellar. She didn't have to, but like Ruth, she wanted to do it. I know it is hard to quit doing something that you have done your whole life.
It is getting harder for me to do the things I once did. In fact, if it weren't for my hard-working husband, I'd never be able to put up food for the winter. That brings me to this question -- who in the world coined the phrase "the golden years?" I suppose I am in mine, but where is the gold?
I have a poem written by a friend, and she describes these years:
These Golden Years
They say these are the golden years
But mine are tarnishing fast!
My shoulders ache, my back it hurts,
And my tummy feels all gassed!
My memory is failing; my teeth are not mine,
My skin is all wrinkled and dry.