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Canning + Firewood

When you grow 50 pounds of green beans, you better get creative. We love to roast them. I’m also happy to steam them and cover in butter and salt and pepper. And they make fun dog treats – for Pippy, at least. He’ll sit, then get up on his hind legs to gently take the green bean from me, then shred it to bits somewhere nearby. If he eats it at all, I’m not sure. I often find it on the ground later. Wilder often won’t even take it. Eww, vegetables, no thanks.

Roasting beans for dinner never gets boring. I personally like to harvest the pods just a hair past ripeness – or maybe they’re just right? – so there’s some bean in there to carry that roasty toasty texture. Most beans in the grocery store seem to be all pod – yet we call them green beans, how strange….

And if I pick beans that are so ripe they’re stringy, or tough or rotting, well the chickens find endless entertainment in solving the “pod puzzle” to get the beans out. When I inevitably find a ripped apart bag of freezer-burned beans in the bottom of the chest freezer, I fret not while tossing these bonus snacks to the birds. The yankee grampa in me hates wasting food, but the fact is, I’m not wasting a thing, so get over it, pops! I’m converting these old beans into eggs! I’ll try my hardest to save all that freezer-burned snackage for mid-winter so I can guarantee the chickens have something interesting and green to eat during the leaner times.

This year I’m canning green beans. I love pickled everything. Every year for Christmas, Kay’s dad buys me a fun food item as a stocking stuffer (sometimes just to see if I’ll eat it) and one year he gave me dilly beans. Another year it was pickled carrots. It has opened my eyes to how many foods can be pickled (not just cukes!) – and well, our glut of green beans this year are just begging to be dillied.

Dill and chili pepper and garlic into the jar, then green beans and brine. And out to the canner. I say out because we have a glass stove top and you’re not supposed to load a heavy canner on top of those things. I bought a 16” propane burner and set it up out back. I can do a lot with this other than can – I can finish maple syrup, I can fry a turkey, I can use it as a boiler to chuck chicken carcasses into before plucking, to loosen their feathers. It’s a cooktop for a skillet – if there’s ever a power outage. A little more robust than the camp grill, a little easier in a pinch than the charcoal grill. Everything has multiple purposes around here.

So I’ve got my milk crate filled with jars, ready to can, and I’m lugging it toward the door while the dogs and the cat brush against my leg like brambles. When Kay tells me it’s supposed to rain, I reply with the only answer I’ve got: the stoic one. “Oh well.” We had just been the welcome recipients of an isolated t-storm an hour before, and apparently more weather was on the way. But my plan was to boil these already sealed jars, so a little rain wouldn’t bother me. It wasn’t raining yet, anyway.

While the flames danced around the base of the canner pot, I decided to chop firewood. Pip watched me from the window, five feet away, absolutely offended that he couldn’t join me while I swung the axe through impenetrable elm. Most wood splits; elm untangles. I didn’t expect to make much progress with this pile, but my boil took forever to bubble, so the pile got smaller. Thwack! Axe stuck, use foot to hold down log while I pull out axe. Sigh at pockmark in elm, wonder if it will ever crack. Repeat. Admire pile. Oil bill, schmoil schmill.

And then it started raining. The maple trees right above me offered wonderful respite, however – the comfortable canopy shed off almost all of the rain. After my thirtieth shot at the same elm log, I looked back at the pot and it was boiling over, splashing down onto the propane flame.

Figures, I escape the soak of the rain with the great placement of a maple canopy, yet the very water I’m boiling spilled down to the fire source. Oh well (that stoic response again), just make some adjustments and the dillies start dillying.

In the end, all’s well that pickles well. And Pip and I will be enjoying our pickled green beans – and we’ll enjoy the heat from all of this lovely elm firewood – well into the winter season.


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