Today was so much fun. I got to hang out with Trudy, who taught me how to can vegetables. I grew up in rural Appalachia and was even in 4-H, but to my knowledge I never personally canned produce. However, this summer we’ve ended up with surplus jalapeños and shishito peppers and I knew I had to do something with them. So a few days ago I fired off a quick text to Trudy and within minutes we had decided on today for my foray into the world of preserving the fruits of my labor.
As a business, we’ve noticed that this summer is way different from this time last year. Last July people didn’t venture far from home. Scores of people primarily stayed home, gardening, cooking, crafting, etc. Being an outdoor business, we were slammed with glamping bookings and produce sales. This year, though, as folks have more options for traveling and they’re eating out more, we find ourselves with more open nights in the tents and extra produce in the towers.
Like other small businesses, we’re adapting. We’ve recently dropped the two night minimum in our Retreat Experience and have seen an uptick in bookings. And I’ve begun looking for alternative ways of using our veggies. While our pigs and donkeys can eat leftover chard, they can’t help us with tomatoes and peppers. Both are in the nightshade family and eaten in large quantities can be toxic to animals.
So today I did something with some of that beautiful produce. I learned how to can! And you know what, it wasn’t that hard. We made jalapeño jelly (delicious with cream cheese and crackers), cowboy candy (can’t wait to try it) and pickled shishito peppers (yum). I’ll be able to sell these to our customers and even add samples of them to grazing boxes for our glampers.
As excited as I am to have additional offerings for customers, the highlight of the day was spending time with Trudy. I first met her when she sold us our sweet Boxer puppy, Marshall. Later she and her friends glamped at our farm. We’ve been acquaintances, but today she became my friend. While she showed me step by step how to preserve summer produce, she shared her life with me. And I shared mine with her.
The hours I spent in Trudy’s kitchen were educational, but also spiritually and emotionally uplifting. She has a strong faith and a great can-do (pun intended) attitude. I left with 16 jars of beautifully preserved peppers, but that’s not all. As I pulled out of her drive, I knew I’d gained so much more: a new friend.
This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column “Finding Myself in a Small Town,” in the August 14, 2021 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.