Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Race, by Charlotte Boquist

Fall comes early in Wyoming. Usually by the middle of August you wake one morning and know that it is fall. There is a feel in the air, a smell that is fresh and crisp and you know….. It won’t be long until the night turns cold and one day very soon snow will cover the fields and the garden. This morning with the first hint of fall, you feel an urgency not fully realized in the long summer days before. You know that soon the garden’s bounty will have reached its limit.

For several weeks we have been harvesting the bounty from our garden, racing against time to “put up” our winter’s food. This morning it is green beans being picked. The bucket is brimming and you carry it to the welcome shade of the back porch where Grandma has been waiting impatiently to get started. Her age hasn’t allowed her to take part in the harvest and she misses her garden. She is happy that she is still able to be useful. You sit with her there in the cool of that protected space as the two of you spend an hour snapping the fresh green beans.

It is a pleasant time of companionship. Two generations working together toward a mutual goal. Chatting while you work, grandma passing on her knowledge and history of the family to you. It is a lovely time of communication; the two of you working together accompanied by the steady “snap, snap, snap” of the long crisp beans.

Soon the bucket is emptied and the process moves to the kitchen where the vegetables are prepared and packed into sterilized jars. The filled containers are then moved into a kettle where they are further processed in a hot water bath. This is boiling the jars and their contents for a certain amount of time, which makes the food safe for consumption for as long as a year afterward.

Day after day the process has been repeated through the hot summer. Lining the shelves of the root cellar are jars of red tomatoes, green beans, peas, and brilliant maroon beets. We’ve make pickles both sweet and dill, lovely applesauce and apple butter, rich with cinnamon. Peaches and pears have been canned and currant jelly joins the parade. Potatoes, carrots and squash are stored whole in bins in the dark, cool space.

We know that we are in a race against Jack Frost’s inevitable visit that finally ends with the first snowfall.


  1. Charlotte, though it is evident that planting, tending the garden, then gathering,and canning was a lot of hard work- there were also many lasting life lessons and memories to reap from this almost sacred experience.
    Your wonderful story made me lose my taste for McDonalds.

  2. Charlotte I love the simplicity of your stories. They capture the era so well along with the smells and sights. It was a simplier life in so many ways but a hard life. The experience of hard work was available for everyone and there was little complaining. Each knew it meant their survival and each learned lessons books couldn't teach. You have captured a lot in your writings.