A few days ago our daughter arrived with three of her four children for a brief visit. The challenges of a busy active family has not made such a visit possible in the summer for a number of years, but they managed to tuck this one into a full summer schedule. There were multiple purposes, but a primary one was for me to share with my 14 and 16 year-old granddaughters how to can peaches (also review it for my daughter). A second key purpose was for our 12 year-old grandson to be able to spend time with my husband practicing shooting his .22 rifle and throwing a hatchet in preparation for competition at a Brigade camp in a few weeks.
This year Ohio has had perfect weather for peach trees to produce an abundant harvest of delicious juicy peaches. Since it has been a few years since weather conditions were just right, I was certain I could get peaches for the task. The challenge would be to find the cling-free peaches I would need that hit the exact ripeness needed for the day we scheduled to do the job.
Several Amish ladies at our local orchard helped me select the very best ones and a few days ago we enjoyed this special memory-making time. It reminded me of another day a few years ago when my daughter-in-law invited me to teach her the same skill with a bit of help from her daughter (our oldest granddaughter).
Growing up on our family farm in Ohio meant I experienced a very busy summer each year. My father’s garden was full of an abundant assortment of vegetables and fruit. There were berry bushes and fruit trees as well. Whether the task was freezing, canning, jelly-making, or pickling, I was taught all of them and worked alongside my mother as an apprentice of sorts from June through September.
I am not sure I would have counted it a gift then. It was all a part of our life and the life of all my aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a new wife and mother, I continued some of those traditions for a number of years. Then when I started teaching full-time and our children had busier schedules, I set it all aside. My parents lived just two miles away and they blessed us with some of these gifts of preserved fruits and vegetables for some years also.
Peach season was a favorite one of mine back then. My mother never looked at the task of canning several bushels of peaches as a burden, but much like the Proverbs 31 woman she saw it as a way to provide healthy food for her family. I recall so well watching my mother do all the peeling of the peaches. Her hands soon dripped with juice as she laughingly told me that she had to eat any bruised spots and often offered one to me.
As I set about canning peaches a few days ago, I needed to brush off my dusty memories of some of the specifics. (My daughter who had helped me years ago did so as well.) My two granddaughters had no idea what to expect, but as we got into the project each watched with a keen set of eyes and joined in with the various steps involved.
By the end of the process, they admired the peaches arranged row-by-row in the glass jars as they enjoyed how they helped make the end product happen.
As they traveled home and talked about the time, my granddaughters expressed surprise at how relational the whole process was (unlike many kitchen duties). Helping each other at each step, laughing and chatting about the task and other odds and ends made the work at hand go faster.
How often we rush about looking for the quickest and fastest way to prepare and serve up food for our families much of the time! It can even be hard to have everyone home to eat dinner together many days. Days when canning were a common part of life were busy, but they also bonded the women together that shared in the experience.
The end result? They had not only beautiful jars of peaches on their shelves, but also a rich relational heritage.
My granddaughters joined that legacy a few days ago and I have no doubt they will smile when they open the first jar of peaches later this winter they helped to can. I am also sure that my mother would smile broadly as well to know the heritage she gave me has passed to two more generations beyond me.