I am not a hoarder. My wifey can tell you, I am an anti-hoarder. I get rid of things sometimes to the point that I wish I hadn’t given away those extra ski pants or that hoodie that I never wear but that I remember wearing when I was 23 and my life was so, so different. Even in those moments of minor regret, I usually work through it and am happy for the space in my drawer, on my shelf, in my psyche.
The only exception to this general way of being is this time of year and then I start to collect. Too many pounds of peaches. Box after box of tomatoes. Bags of basil. And apples, don’t forget the apples. I eye my neighbor’s kale and fight a deep urge to pick it, chop it and put it in the freezer.
One of the things I love most about our house in Arlee is the kitchen with its tall, expansive cabinets lining the walls. Each shelf in the cabinet is just tall enough for a quart canning jar and each year we lived there I accepted the unspoken challenge of filling these cabinets with canned peaches, beets, apple sauce, tomato sauce and jam. I never, ever got close to filling them completely but I gave it my best effort and somehow felt that I’d satisfied the historical benchmark that living in a 100-year-old farmhouse presents even if silently. After all, this house had chosen us, for better or worse, and there were cabinets to fill, the lineage of past farm wives to honor.
So fill I did while creating the most epic mess each year. Each fall, after the canning frenzy had subsided, I’d wipe tomato sauce off the walls and know I had done something right.
This year, my landscape of putting away food looks a little different. We have what amounts to a bathroom vanity’s worth of kitchen counter space and a four (small) burner apartment stove. Even still, I haven’t stopped my hoarding.
I ordered 60 pounds of peaches and nectarines a few weeks ago. I, sort of, (read intentionally) forgot to tell Seth they were arriving. I got my hands on 10 pounds of basil and 20 pounds of tomatoes which seems like not nearly enough for all of the sauce I want to make.
Seth practically begged me to reconsider my annual collecting of food but I’ve roundly ignored him. We have to be who we are, I told him. Even in 282 square feet. Putting away food is not actually a choice, it’s something primal that I can’t turn off, evidently, and I’m not really going to try.
Knowing not to fight animalistic intentions, Seth put up an extra shelf. We borrowed a one burner, outdoor propane stove from a friend and Seth went to Ace to buy a regulator for it. He filled the canning pot with water the night I blanched, peeled and cut peaches at a friend’s house. I brought back one stock pot and one giant bowl full of ripe fruit, ready for jars. The next day Lucille and I filled jars with slippery fruit, a simple syrup and fitted lids to jars. Seth came home and lit the fire on the propane stove outside. We canned well into the night. When I was finally fell asleep after four or so rounds of lifting hot jars from boiling water, Seth said he’d get the last batch out before he went to bed. When I woke up the next morning jars lined a table outside on our patio and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We didn’t know what we’d have to give up moving our lives into such a small space. And that morning staring at row after row of canned peaches, it didn’t feel as though we’d given up anything at all.