Progress

Squints and I were talking about pocket knives the other day.  “Why would a kid want one of those, Mom?”  He asked, glancing up from his iPod. 

“I dunno’,” I replied.  “I’ve always wanted one.”
He squinted at me suspiciously.  Why?”

“To whittle?”
He rolled his eyes.  “Mom, kids today are different.”  And he returned to his iPod.



Man, do I regret getting him that thing for his birthday. 
To me, his time would be better spent whittling.  Because a kid needs to know how to use his hands to produce something of value.

So for school next year, Squints and I are going to make a fire piston, a nifty little device that uses compressed air to start a fire.  No one knows for sure when the fire piston was first used, but it was introduced to the West over two hundred years ago.  Likely our fire piston will be poorly constructed.  Too, it will probably not work.  But we will try.  And perhaps that’s what’s most important. 
A few weeks ago, I tossed two peach pits in the freezer.  A couple of days later, I removed them and tucked them into the back lawn.  I added a shovelful of compost to each and then cut a plastic milk jug in half to create a cheapie version of a French cloche.  I got this idea from a book I recently read.  The book’s author got the idea from an old woman whose family started trees this way. 

Mid-summer’s not an ideal time to plant a peach tree.  But some things, like dark chocolate, are too good to wait.  Every morning, I remove the milk bottles from my peach pits and look for life.  I’ve nothing to report so far.  Likely my peach pits will not grow.  But, as we finish the last of this year’s peaches, I’ll tuck a few more pits into the freezer and save them for spring.  I will try again.  And perhaps that’s what’s most important.
Four days ago, I picked five pounds of Boothby’s Blond cucumbers from the garden.  And instead of pickling them in the usual manner, I decided to ferment them, slicing them into quarter inch rounds, adding some mustard seeds and dill, garlic and water.  And salt, of course, to make the brine.  I set my jars of pickles into the closet and tried to forget about them.  Every couple of days, I open the closet and examine the jars to check on their progress.

I threw out my last batch of pickles.  Immediately after I finished them, Squints came inside from mowing the lawn.  “Oh, pickles!” he cried, opening one of the jars and sticking his grubby fingers inside to retrieve one. 
“Get out of those pickles!” I admit I yelled.  “They need to ferment!”

“Don’t you cook them, Mom?”
“No.”

Squints wrinkled his nose.  “They’re just going to…sit there?  On the counter?”
“Yep.”

“How long?”
“Days.” 

I thought about my pickles fermenting on the counter for days.  I began to doubt the safety of this method.  I began Googling. 
I read about jars exploding from the pressure.  I envisioned my jars shattering all over the kitchen.  I envisioned serving spoiled pickles to my family. 

I threw my pickles out.
But I tried again.  And I’m happy to report that my fermented tomatillo salsa was terrific.  And my pickles are happily fermenting in the closet.

Too often, we abandon the old way in favor of the new.  And I’m not so sure that’s progress.  And so I will plant my peach pits.  I will ferment my vegetables.  We will make a fire piston.
At the end of the day, we may not be able to start a fire with compressed air. We may not have an orchard. We may not even have pickles.
But we will have tried.

And who knows?  Maybe Squints will want a pocket knife for his birthday this year.

Now that’s progress, for sure.

Labels: ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Progress

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Progress

Squints and I were talking about pocket knives the other day.  “Why would a kid want one of those, Mom?”  He asked, glancing up from his iPod. 

“I dunno’,” I replied.  “I’ve always wanted one.”
He squinted at me suspiciously.  Why?”

“To whittle?”
He rolled his eyes.  “Mom, kids today are different.”  And he returned to his iPod.



Man, do I regret getting him that thing for his birthday. 
To me, his time would be better spent whittling.  Because a kid needs to know how to use his hands to produce something of value.

So for school next year, Squints and I are going to make a fire piston, a nifty little device that uses compressed air to start a fire.  No one knows for sure when the fire piston was first used, but it was introduced to the West over two hundred years ago.  Likely our fire piston will be poorly constructed.  Too, it will probably not work.  But we will try.  And perhaps that’s what’s most important. 
A few weeks ago, I tossed two peach pits in the freezer.  A couple of days later, I removed them and tucked them into the back lawn.  I added a shovelful of compost to each and then cut a plastic milk jug in half to create a cheapie version of a French cloche.  I got this idea from a book I recently read.  The book’s author got the idea from an old woman whose family started trees this way. 

Mid-summer’s not an ideal time to plant a peach tree.  But some things, like dark chocolate, are too good to wait.  Every morning, I remove the milk bottles from my peach pits and look for life.  I’ve nothing to report so far.  Likely my peach pits will not grow.  But, as we finish the last of this year’s peaches, I’ll tuck a few more pits into the freezer and save them for spring.  I will try again.  And perhaps that’s what’s most important.
Four days ago, I picked five pounds of Boothby’s Blond cucumbers from the garden.  And instead of pickling them in the usual manner, I decided to ferment them, slicing them into quarter inch rounds, adding some mustard seeds and dill, garlic and water.  And salt, of course, to make the brine.  I set my jars of pickles into the closet and tried to forget about them.  Every couple of days, I open the closet and examine the jars to check on their progress.

I threw out my last batch of pickles.  Immediately after I finished them, Squints came inside from mowing the lawn.  “Oh, pickles!” he cried, opening one of the jars and sticking his grubby fingers inside to retrieve one. 
“Get out of those pickles!” I admit I yelled.  “They need to ferment!”

“Don’t you cook them, Mom?”
“No.”

Squints wrinkled his nose.  “They’re just going to…sit there?  On the counter?”
“Yep.”

“How long?”
“Days.” 

I thought about my pickles fermenting on the counter for days.  I began to doubt the safety of this method.  I began Googling. 
I read about jars exploding from the pressure.  I envisioned my jars shattering all over the kitchen.  I envisioned serving spoiled pickles to my family. 

I threw my pickles out.
But I tried again.  And I’m happy to report that my fermented tomatillo salsa was terrific.  And my pickles are happily fermenting in the closet.

Too often, we abandon the old way in favor of the new.  And I’m not so sure that’s progress.  And so I will plant my peach pits.  I will ferment my vegetables.  We will make a fire piston.
At the end of the day, we may not be able to start a fire with compressed air. We may not have an orchard. We may not even have pickles.
But we will have tried.

And who knows?  Maybe Squints will want a pocket knife for his birthday this year.

Now that’s progress, for sure.

Labels: ,

6 Comments:

At July 28, 2012 at 10:56 PM , Anonymous Tessa said...

You sure captured today's kids and our obsession with technology. At least my 3, 5 and 6 yr old grandchildren do not have cell phones yet. The 14 year old has had one for at least 3 years. Babies can play games on the phones and iPods LOL!

 
At July 29, 2012 at 5:11 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

Love they way you tied all this together. I think you can be dubbed... "The great observer" and that is a good thing...

 
At July 29, 2012 at 1:49 PM , Anonymous Nikki said...

Mine is getting a new pocket knife this week (he lost his old one a while ago) and he loves to whittle, so he may convince Squints that is a worthwhile pursuit.

 
At July 29, 2012 at 1:56 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Oh, he can teach me, too! I have an idea to carve a bunch of spoons out of wood...

 
At July 29, 2012 at 1:56 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks!

 
At July 29, 2012 at 1:56 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Yes, between iPhones and iPods in this house, I'm going crazy.

 

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