I Almost Canned Stuff (and other reports from September)

Today I flipped the calendar to October, which is a particularly satisfying calendar flip. September hints at the promise of fall, but October delivers on the promise.

Right now, in fact, I'm sitting on my front porch, still reflecting on the message from church this morning. The faint breeze makes me grateful for my cardigan, and the orange-tinged tips of trees make everything feel cozy and right. I agree with Anne of Green Gables: "I'm so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers."

We've been on a roll the past few weeks. I've taught my classes, which are going well. We've rented our house for home football weekends, which has required extensive cleaning (satisfying) and extensive laundry (necessary). In waves and spurts, I've embarked on organizing kicks: going through our closet, cleaning out a pantry, and sorting a medicine cabinet. I've capitalized on the beautiful days tucked between rainy stretches to cut the grass, start the process of putting the gardens to sleep, and spray paint DIY projects in the driveway before it gets too cold.

I've also picked pears. A few years ago, Joel planted a pear tree in our back yard. This is the first year that it's produced an actual harvest. Somehow, I'm always shocked when things grow, when this process of fruit and vegetable "production" actually works. I don't know why I'd expect differently, but when I pick apples from my apple trees and pears from my pear tree, it's always with a sense of wonder tinged with disbelief. 

We grew stuff. How did this even happen?

This leads me to two weeks ago when I gathered all the large bowls and baskets from my house and carried them, along with a picker resembling a lacrosse stick that I borrowed from my neighbor, to the far side of my yard. This same neighbor also had loaned me a few dozen Ball mason jars and lids, along with verbal instructions on the sugar-to-water ratio for simple syrup that sounded easy enough even though I knew I'd never remember it. As she sent me on my way, I could tell she had great hopes I'd become a person who cans fruit.

And I tried. Well, I sort of tried.

I picked lots of pears. I filled bowls and baskets with them. I carried them into our kitchen, rinsed and patted them dry, then inspected for soft spots. This was on a Thursday. We were renting our house the next day, so it didn't seem like an opportune time for a first venture into the canning process. I relocated everything to the garage, trusting I'd pick up where I left off once we returned to the house on Sunday.

Sunday came and went, filled with church, post-rental cleaning and laundry, a trip to the grocery store, and who-knows-what-else. Monday came and went, too. As did several other days. 

When I finally went to check on my pears, thinking that I'd bring the bowls, baskets, and mason jars back into the kitchen, that I'd finally commit the recipe for simple syrup to my memory, that I'd boil and seal jars to my heart's content, I had one thought:

I don't even buy canned pears from the grocery store.

I mean, I like pears well enough, I guess. But I've never actually sought them out in canned form. Not once have I entertained a hankering for canned pears so deeply that I've needed to get to the store right away to satisfy that craving. 

As I stood there with my illusions of homesteading crashing to the ground around me, I thought, "Yeah, no. I'm good."

I've eaten the pears with my lunches, shared them with neighbors, and made a pear tart. These assorted uses seem even nicer than canning them.

Who knows? Maybe I'll eventually be a person who cans. Maybe October is my month. Or maybe I'll return the fruit picker and the clinking, empty mason jars back to my neighbor with a shrug of my shoulders. I'll hand over a few ripe, uncanned pears as an offering of apology.

So, yeah. I almost canned stuff. Somehow that feels enough.

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