Never too Busy

When people say they’re busy, how often do they really mean it? And is there a percentage of waking life that needs to be filled with required tasks in order to truthfully claim the adjective for yourself? And if just organizing thoughts and tasks in your mind qualifies, does the word actually have a valid meaning?

I thought of telling a small group of friends I have that I was too busy to go out for a beer with them last Friday night but I reconsidered and encouraged the get together, in fact I even suggested that we lengthen it to take in a meal – what did it matter that I had to be up early the next morning to host a garage sale single-handedly? We don’t meet very often and I refuse to get bogged down in tasks, of which I’ve had a few lately.

As it happens, we were going to take a trip starting in March but got waylaid by illness.  We’re still going but now we’re leaving in about 2 weeks – for 3 months, not all of which is organized.  While we were hanging around waiting for Jerry to get better, we decided to buy a new, cheap home to store all our crap in instead of the aforementioned storage lockers and also so that we wouldn’t have to rent a home on our return.  So, we found a place around the corner, viewed it and bought it.  Well, now we come to the touchy part.  We set a goal once Jerry was able to get around on his hind legs again: the second storage locker would be emptied by the end of February – FOR SURE.

Luckily, we were kind enough to have bought the aging Chevy truck from our son who left for Alberia to work (he assured us that it was a good price, after all, it’s almost collectible!) Now we had a means of transport for the jumbled mass of tools, equipment, china, tubs of kid’s stuff we are storing and a few arty collectibles.  So with a hop onto the mouldering bench seat and a turn of the key, it almost started. No problem, a bit of tinkering and a lengthy recharge and we were on our rumbling way to the mini-storage.

I could have cried when we opened the garage sized door.  There was a mountain of objects, in no particular order. For many, many, many trips we pushed and grunted and shoved masses of junk into the back of the truck and then into our home and back patio. Mission accomplished though.  Next stage was the sorting for keep, resale or garbage stage.

To make a long story short, we sorted, we sold, we went to the dump, we repeated the process with the second storage locker – albeit a lot creakier of skeletal joints, and a lot less fussy about what was worth keeping.  It was nice to have converted so many cubic metres of stuff into a tidy stack of twenty-dollar bills.  The last few things were thrown on Craigslist – that saviour of the frugal junk collector.

Then, there was the move in to a new place and the cleaning up of the old place. Then the re-booking of travel tickets (amendment: we’re leaving in 3 days now), travel insurance, new house insurance, arrangements for looking after things when we’re away.  Busy, busy, busy …. I believe I’m qualified to use the word.

Well, I made it for the beer with friends, the wine and dessert with other friends and a couple of tea and walk events.  We’ve managed to cover it all (I think) and the socializing helped us keep everything in perspective – we should never be too busy for friendship because no matter whether you are going around the corner or to the other side of the world, your compass needle swings on a fulcrum human connection.

If you’re interested, you can click on the link to a new blog  “Where did I put my Suitcase?” and follow our travels.

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Plum Jam

My choice today is a) make jam or b) write blog post.  Although I gaze across the counter at an enormous pot of thawing plums, a couple of boxes of Certo and a sink full of dusty canning jars, I choose b).

It has been awhile since I assembled all the necessary components of a successful canning session and this time, the challenge is on as most of my stuff is in a storage locker.  But I am determined to make this work; my homesteading ancestors made this work.  I refuse to move a freezer full of plums to one more residence – ours has been moved three times this past year and my boys are giving me increasing dirty looks every time I suggest they help out “with a few things.” So, my husband has been sent to pick up a ladle from a thrift store because I refuse to buy a new one knowing that there are at least four in the packed boxes.  I will manage somehow without a colander when it comes to pit removal (currently working on a plan).

But the plums!  Ooh la la!  They are a deliciously sweet and sour, rosy-golden variety I have yet to identify.  They are from the bumper crop our tree produced last year – the last year on the property where we had lived for almost 23 years. My Dad chose the tree when we first moved there, he being the real gardener, wanted to set up a few fruit trees for me right away. Over the years, the other members of the orchard were attacked by disease, deer and bear or never really produced.  This lovely bearer of clouds of plum blossom in the spring outdid herself by the end of many summers with branches that creaked with the weight of plump fruit.

Back in the days of running a busy home full of kids and pets, an acreage with fowl and small  livestock and flower and vegetable gardens (yes Dad, I did have a big garden one year) I found time to do pantry loads of preserving: peaches, pears and plums, salsa, pickles, jams, chutney, vinegars and tuna (once!). And then there were the veggie freezer packs and the chickens, turkeys, rabbits and sheep to process and freeze – not that I did it all myself. There was nothing like the smug feeling as autumn blew in that I was ready for any breakdown in the world order whether by war, martians, zombies, an arctic winter or financial ruin, that no matter what, I would be able to produce a five course meal and snacks!

Although I’ve made plum cakes, sauce and sorbet, the jam is just so good that the investment in time, burned fingers and kitchen mess is worth it. Hell yes, I’m jammin’!

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Update: decided to go big and quadruple the recipe in the big canner. Immediately, I accidentally flipped a drift off the tip of the sugar mountain with my wooden spoon, scattering the white poison over my counter and into the toaster. (Now toast smells like a sugar plantation.)  Then, a bit of sizzling and cracking on the element suggested that there was a small leak in the tiny chip on the bottom of the pot. In the old days, I would have ploughed ahead figuring that a 50/50 chance of the product working out was good enough for me. But not now. I have matured. I have learned from disasters of the past. (Jerry enjoys reminding me of my sloppy liver muffins – a failed attempt at fancy French mini pates.)
Dutifully, I divided the batch into four manageable portions that fit into the heavy bottomed pot that was available. I cooked, I sterilized, I sealed (4 times) and to my great joy, I wound up with 18 pints of beautiful, golden jam cooling on my counter.

Today, I’ve just made dilled beans.  I’ve  added an inspirational sprinkle of red pepper flakes to each jar. Tomorrow, I’m making dill pickles – 1 quart thanks to a cucumber donation from a friend’s garden.  In the pickling heyday, I wouldn’t have considered making less than 24 quarts in a session.  Now, small is beautiful.

p.s. Jerry forgot the ladle so I used a measuring cup for pouring  and just dove in with both hands for plum pit removal – a tactile experience I recommend.