February 23 – Along with the cooking and baking, Ma really put her hands to work during the canning season. During early summer she would walk up to the Blackwoods’ land that had lain idle for a long time. There while I sat under the shade of a tree or some big elderberry bushes, she would move from place to place slowly, sometimes bending over, sometimes kneeling down and picking the tiny red perfumed wild strawberries to fill the two eight-quart baskets that she had brought with her. How I wished this task would be over soon, for as a small child I soon tired of sitting by myself, trying to amuse myself with the flowers or bits of nature around me. Now that I am older I can well believe that Ma wished that thing even more fervently than I did, for she was doing the work, and I am sure she would have welcomed the chance to sit in the shade and do nothing just for once.
When the baskets were full, we would walk back down the road to the house where the berries were dumped into pie plates, and the whole family (except Pa) settled down to several hours of boring work, “shucking the berries.” By the time we were finished, our necks were stiff from bending over the pie plates, our hands were stained with red, and our fingers were wrinkled from being in the water so long. But then, at least, our job was done. Ma wouldn’t be done for hours yet, for she had to take the berries into the house and process them into the best-tasting jam to be had anywhere in the world. Sometimes she would can them too, since she had no freezer. The berries would be fuzzy-looking and purplish as they went to the top of the jar while the juice stayed in the bottom.
When I see the beautiful huge berries for sale in the stores, or find small jars of strawberry jam, I am reminded how life these days is not like that we experienced way back! – CHRIS