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
“I dunno’,” I replied.
“I’ve always wanted one.”
He squinted at me suspiciously. “Why?”
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
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
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?”
Squints wrinkled his nose.
“They’re just going to…sit
there? On the counter?”
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
Now that’s progress, for sure.
Labels: Creative non-fiction, Raising Children