I’m kind of scraping the barrel for photos to post right now because it’s been rainy, the parks have been muddy (and even closed in some cases), and to be honest with you, I haven’t been myself lately. It seems like all the normal rules are out the window in this country lately and like a lot of people, though I rarely talk about politics, it’s hard not to right now. I don’t want to exaggerate what I’ve been going through and I mean no disrespect to people who actually suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome and for legitimate reasons, but in some ways, that’s what I feel like I’m dealing with. I think about four people read this blog and probably all of them know I work for the EPA; not as a government employee but as a contractor at a government contracting company. I’ve worked there for 12 years and love my job. So I’m taking the looming serious budget and personnel cuts for the EPA the most personally, as I fear for my job, but other than the EPA stuff, I feel like Trump and the GOP are attacking me and everything I value personally. I’m not as upset about possibly losing my job as I am the future of this country and planet if environmental regulations continue to be overturned. Scott Pruitt seems to think it is his job as EPA administrator to “create jobs” instead of protecting the environment, though ironically he may very well cost me my job. As you can tell from 30 seconds of reading this blog, my life revolves around animals and wildlife, and now the Endangered Species Act is in danger, which I find extremely upsetting. Animal welfare took a huge hit when the FDA without warning or explanation removed all of their animal welfare reports from their website. I believe very strongly that our country WAS great before Trump took office because of its diversity and I am appalled at what’s going on with immigration, ICE, deportations, and Muslim/travel bans. Killing the NEA and PBS because apparently Republicans hate art, making drastic cuts to the Department of the Interior because they hate preserving national parks, refuges, and lands, putting known enemies of agencies in charge of them (Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, etc.): all of these things make me hate this country. The United States has NEVER been less great. I hate Donald Trump because he’s turning me into someone I don’t recognize: I don’t laugh any more, I’m not cheerful; I’m anxiety-ridden, deeply depressed, and sleep-deprived. I don’t think I even realized what a buoyant person I was before until suddenly I feel smothered, helpless, and leaden.

I know that getting out and hiking would help my mood – it always does – but it’s been difficult to do. So what I did instead the last couple of weekends is can. Something about food preserving makes me feel at peace. When I spend a day canning, I blast music and always end up dancing around the kitchen the whole time because it puts me in a good mood. Sometimes the cats dance, too. So today you are being subjected to photos of my preserves – because I was in the house this weekend, out of photos for the blog, and decided to take some photos indoors. What’s important to me in the house are the cats (as you’ve seen over the last few days) and FOOD. Cooking and canning ground me and make me happy. I especially love buying fresh, locally grown food at farmers markets, stands, and even farms, and canning it, and I love that fresh smell that greets me when I later open the jar.

Here is my current collection of home-canned goods. Honestly, they should be stored somewhere dark, but a) we don’t have a basement in this house as we did in Virginia, and b) I love looking at my jars.

I invested in a pressure canner a few months ago when I made the awesome (but by no means isolated) decision to buy 60 pounds of tomatoes to can in one day. Tomatoes can be done in either a water bath or a pressure canner but the latter (at least the model I bought) can process 22 pints at time, which is a huge time saver when you are looking at 60 pounds of tomatoes. After the tomato extravaganza, though, I wanted to get my money’s worth out of the canner, so I started canning all kinds of things that are impossible in a water bath canner. SOUP! BEANS! NON-PICKLED VEGGIES! I love the new possibilities this canner gave me, and also enjoying using the output. I’m always very pleased with Past Renae when Present Renae opens up a jar of something I took the time to can. This shelf is all pressure-canned jars. I confess I’m a bit of a kitchen gadget junkie and I bought the pressure cooker kind of on a whim, so there was a bit of a risk that I’d use it few times and then it would rust in a closet, but as you can see I’ve probably already recouped the cost of the canner:

This shelf is all water-bath canned goods, which would be pickles and jams. You may notice I’m out of cucumber dill pickles (okay, I’m sure no one would notice that), but you’ll be happy to know that I was actually canning 6 pints of turmeric dill pickles when I took this photo (you can sort of see the water bath on the stove behind us in some of the shots of me and Mezzie a couple days ago), and the jars are cooling as I type this. Above this shelf are a million jars of canned tomatoes (my #1 canned good; I go through a couple jars a week) and tomato soup (which I accidentally went overboard with this autumn, but going overboard is something I’m very prone to, and can you HAVE too much soup?).

In addition to canning, I also love fermentation and often have random jars of stuff bubbling on my kitchen counter. This jar of fermenting peppers will be homemade sriracha in a few days. Yum!

Fermenting peppers, with a Torticia shape in the background.

I’m writing this several days in the past and queuing it up to post automatically, but hopefully between then and now I will have gotten my butt out to a park and will have more interesting photos for you tomorrow…

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  1. Jain
    March 20, 2017

    That’s an impressing canning bounty! I’m glad you found some peace in canning the past few weekends. I’m sorry about your job stress. In my last job, I worked with a dozen federal grant recipients (mostly EPA) and I fear for them all. I keep thinking that things are SO BAD politically, it surely has to end soon.

    • March 21, 2017

      Thanks, Jain. I think along the same lines and do feel some slight optimism trying to bubble up, like “it can’t get worse than this; it must get better”, but it’s hard because so often it does just get worse. I guess I just have to look much harder than usual for good things…

  2. March 23, 2017

    I’m so glad that, amidst the political madness, the worry about your job, and while you can’t just go hiking, you could find pleasure (and maybe some solace) in canning. Thank you for sharing those pics of your jars! It’s no wonder that Future Renae is a huge fan of Past Renae when she gets to enjoy the contents of those jars… And homemade sriracha? Just one more reason why I think you’re absolutely awesome!
    Take good care of yourself. Talking about self-care may sound kind of cliché, but since we have no idea how long it will be before things get better (and how much worse they can get before then), prioritizing it may be more important than ever.

    • March 26, 2017

      Thank you, Josiane. Things are drying out a bit here so I’ve been able to get out more often and have definitely been partaking in some hiking-related self-care. It does help.

      And the homemade sriracha is really easy…and really good. 🙂

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