Have you ever had one of those days when you think you just can’t handle it anymore? I’m not talking about ending it all, but perhaps an impromptu locking yourself in the hall closet and not coming out until your luck improves.
My near breakdown recently was due to cucumbers.
It started in early May, when my husband, who is the master of his garden plot, decided to change up the summer vegetables. He had read about hay bale gardening in some hipster article and thought it sounded unique and interesting.
Since our suburbanite soil is at least five feet of clay deep, and our vegetable harvest in years past has resembled an elementary school science project involving moldy beans in wet paper towels, I agreed a change was in order.
Nine years ago, when my husband insisted we needed a minivan, little did I know it wasn’t for roomy family traveling, but for turning it into a flat bed truck and hauling sheetrock, lumber and two metric tons of hay bales.
After removing all of the seats, he filled it to the roof with cattle food — a nice earthy aroma that only livestock could savor. Consequently, I will be pulling out straw from my seat cracks until the cows come home.
Back to hoarding cucumbers: We had no idea hay bale farming would prove to be so successful. We had 80 pounds of them in the first few months. Yes, we weighed them. My cute husband chooses to enjoy math.
After scouring cooking websites for Pinterest-ing recipes, I remembered the only recipe that had consistently failed was a good dill pickle recipe. I begged friends on Facebook to send their favorite tried recipes and was excited to begin canning.
Why didn’t I remember that every year for the past four years, I had sworn aloud I would never, ever, as God as my witness, can any vegetable or fruit again?
I do declare — aging plus memory fails equal plain rudeness.
After making cucumber salsa, cucumber salads and a few new Asian recipes, I pulled out the canning supplies from the basement. Three trips later, I had the smell of vinegar, garlic and dill scorching my nose and clinging to my clothing and hair. I was transforming into the little gherkin that could.
After sterilizing the jars and filling them with fresh ingredients, it was time for the boiling bath. Fifteen minutes later, I reached for my canning tongs to sadly find they had broken in half. Being creative and overly confident, I fashioned a replacement tool constructed from kitchen tongs and spatulas. What could go wrong with that?
My first attempt to retrieve a jar from the rolling boil did not go as planned. The apparatus wasn’t strong enough for a solid grip on the metal lid and the jar splashed back into the kettle, burning my hand and wrist. A smart person would have halted the operation, but I wouldn’t be writing about this if I had slapped on a Band-Aid and turned off the stove.
Now I was really irritated and driven to succeed. After cooling my burned skin in the sink briefly, I went back to try again. Strike two! This time the wave of scalding water jumped on my neck and upper chest. Hell has no fury like a woman with her tongs.
In order to get even with the inanimate objects, I dove once more into the fire to find my abdomen and shirt doused. It only took only four times for my smarts to kick in, so I threw in the towel and my inferior tongs.
I’m not proud of my tenacity or stubbornness because at times like this, it’s literally a pain in the neck. So I’m taking a break from pickling. My epidermis will surely thank me for it.
Unfortunately, the tomatoes are coming in strong and canned salsa sounds delicious.
Do I have any takers for the job?
Looking for Emily?
Emily Parnell will return.