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answering the call

2013 August 21
by Rachel Turiel












When Rose was a toddler, one of her very first joys was wobble-legging around the house gathering up flotsam and bits, purposefully stuffing them in purses. It was endearing and amusing and a little confusing. Is she shopping?

And at the risk of sounding all Anthropology 101, one day I realized that Rose’s propensity to gather sundry items and jam them in purses was likely vestigial. Somewhere in her modern brain was this very old storyline about weaving willow baskets and roaming around the forest, filling them with berries, seeds, leaves and roots.

So yesterday, when six-year-old Rose was perched on our garbage can, slinging chokecherries into a bag, and then later in the day stripping the lower branches of a neighbor’s plum tree (in typical Rose fashion: 5 in the box, 1 in the mouth), it felt like she was answering a very old, deep and primal call.

Which is to say, the harvest is on! And of all the work I do, all of which I love, it is this harvesting, this preserving, this gazing into tree of ripe peaches and seeing those peaches canned frozen pickled fermented dehydrated cellared jammed that touches a core human part of me usually buried under childraising-angst income deadlines nostalgia am I doing it right what am I doing blitz-implode.

And so, I too, answer the call.

And as usual, I’m working by feel, rather than some organized system of prior documentation whereby I’m standing under the chokecherry trees on the precise ripening date of August 20th with my collecting bags. Seems just last week the chokecherries were pebbles of immaturity and now are voluptuous orbs singing their siren song. Or, there I am, going about my August business, thinking about nothing more consequential than some day back in 1995, when I notice the acorns on the oak slope are a rich chocolately brown, or the apricots are swollen with their own orangeness. And you can almost see the lightbulb go on over my head, except it’s actually the image of a sharp knife, or long arm extending up into the fruity canopy.

And at times it seems sort of ridiculous – steaming up the house on an already hot late-summer day, getting carpel tunnel from sliding acres of skins off roasted green chiles, wringing the last clingy ounces of juice from chokecherries. I mean you can get canned green chile at the supermarket in January, right? The thing is I can’t not do this work of stuffing apples and tomatoes in jars, or picking the fruit that hangs beckoningly above me. And though I can wave the banners of frugality, sustainability and local foods, my whole food preservation obsession springs less from any philosophy than from the irrepressible fingers of my very DNA reaching for a knife when presented with a basket of plums.

And all this food preservation isn’t exactly money in the bank, but more likely to appreciate by January than any other investment I know of.

Blessings on your harvest season,



25 Responses leave one →
  1. August 21, 2013

    The picture is of Elderberries isn’t it? We have both chokecherries and elderberries here in N. Florida and what is in the first two pictures are called Elderberries here. Love your post. I have been following for a couple of years now and my how the kids have grown.
    I also answer the call for just about everything that grows wild and any fruit trees. Found three wild plum trees this year on a walk in the woods along with a wild persimmon and mayhaw. Harvesting sparkleberries now also.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 21, 2013

      Yes, elderberries in those 1st 2 photos! What a score!

  2. Molly permalink
    August 21, 2013

    Thank you for the inspiration, as usual. My girl recently requested that we MOVE underneath a particular chokecherry tree. The shade, the fruit, the river nearby. She knows when she has what she needs. :)

  3. dale_in_denver permalink
    August 21, 2013

    Me too. Even with both of us working full time and the kids starting school and Saturday sports, I cannot overcome the primal calling that I must preserve summer’s bounty. This year I found a free gas cooktop and a free section of countertop on Craigslist (two different sources of kitchen remodeling projects). Paid $42 to have cooktop converted to propane, cut cooktop-sized hole in countertop, set it on a couple of saw horses on our back deck, hooked up a propane tank, and now the heat of canning stays out of the house. It’s a wonderful set up that will breakdown and store easily (or fits in trunk of my Jetta for friends to borrow).

  4. August 21, 2013

    Beautifully said. And incredibly similar to what I tell all my canning students – that come January, all this work is worth it, because you can smell summer when you pop open those jars.

  5. August 21, 2013

    everything you write brings tears to my eyes. thank you so much. {once again.}

  6. August 21, 2013

    Lovely, Rachel.

  7. August 21, 2013

    Yes. Resoundingly, yes. I’m relatively new to the concept of harvesting and preserving and it is such a siren call. Love the connection you made between Rose’s gathering and our collective memory.

  8. Denise permalink
    August 21, 2013

    I just love seeing all those canning jars cooling on the counter and all the ziplock bags stacked in the freezer. It is most satisfying work. I feel the same about saving seed. Even though I save way more than I need, I love letting things go to seed to complete their life cycle and having bags and jars of seed. Maybe I’m a hoarder!!!

  9. Ellie permalink
    August 21, 2013

    I adore every single one of these photos, Rachel. Your words, too, of course, but that goes without saying. Your DNA pulses through this post.

  10. August 22, 2013

    making your salsa today with $1.25 a pound organic tomatoes from the farm.
    I bought 40 pounds worth this week.
    we picked 54 pounds of blueberries…. which isn’t enough but I blinked and berry season was done here. keeping a watchful eye for fall raspberries. maybe peaches. and definitely apples. do you have a pressure canner? or do you use a water bath for applesauce?
    oh yes…. and i’ve been making *tons* of roasted tomato sauce. plain & italian seasoned. I am looking forward to it over homemade pasta from fresh eggs this winter.
    happy putting up to ya~

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 22, 2013

      I just opened my last jar of 2012 salsa last night, oh so good. Love that you’re using that recipe.

      You can eat a pound of blueberries each week = heaven.

      I can applesauce in a water bath canner, and borrow a friend’s pressure canner for roasted veggie tomato sauce, green chili sauce and chicken stock (if we get lucky enough to have a chicken to butcher).

  11. corrie permalink
    August 22, 2013

    I always can peaches,( and tomatoes and beets and pickles etc. ) but last year I learned to freeze them sliced from you as well ! I’m wondering what the puree being spread out on cookie sheets is? ( always looking for new ways to put food away, here in Ontario, Canada I think we have a similar climate to you, which is to say never ending winters! )

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 22, 2013

      Corrie, we love freezing fresh, raw, sliced fruit, too. That puree is blended apricot which we’re drying into fruit leather. Hint: it’s parchment paper or saran wrap you want, not wax. Oops.

  12. August 22, 2013


  13. Melissa permalink
    August 22, 2013

    damn girl, you sure can write!
    and isn’t it great that each of our dna commands us to do different things? i could no more can and preserve than i could send an arrow flying but i sure feel called to do the things i do. love it. such good stuff here. xo
    ps. avi says that he wants to be a kee tov counselor one day. they are seriously feeding the campers some kind of good vibe that keeps them coming back for more! he loves it! and starts kindergarten monday . . .

  14. August 23, 2013

    Oh I hear you sister! I have 3 little harvesters here and living in the Yukon has really helped us connect with that ancestral survival instinct!

  15. corrie permalink
    August 23, 2013

    Thanks Rachel, I may have a tip for you ( maybe you already know ) but we have elderberries on our property which we make jelly with every year, and it’s much easier to get the berries of the stems if you freeze them first!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 23, 2013

      So good to know. Thank you.

  16. August 25, 2013

    :) love it all

  17. Liz permalink
    September 2, 2013

    Wow… Thank you for this post! I’m knee deep in a teething infant and headstrong toddler but spend all my (meager) free time preserving/fermenting/dehydrating/freezing. I know it’s not typical behavior but I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone.. And you gave the insanity such beauty.

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