When we’re bringing in the harvest, the challenge becomes balancing the time in the garden with the time that must be spent in the kitchen.

Judging by the bumper crop of weeds taking over some areas of our vegetable garden, I’m probably not doing a very good job of it — at least where the garden is concerned.

Still, our tomatoes have done better than they have in several years and seeing the pint jars of tomatoes lined up in the pantry cupboard in the cellar has been rather satisfying.

We began bringing up canning jars a couple of weeks ago. My mother washed them and we set aside some time to do some canning. After some scalding and peeling and cutting of tomatoes and chopping up of onions from the garden, green pepper and celery, and the addition of a tiny bit of salt and sugar, we had four jars of tomatoes to put downstairs for use in cooking. We canned a second batch a few days later.

On a recent Saturday we decided to try it again. We didn’t have quite as many tomatoes to work with that time, so we filled three jars instead of four. My sister had brought us a pepper from one of her raised beds to go with our tomatoes and onions and again, I did the chopping while my mother got started on the tomatoes. When we judged the jars to be full enough, we wiped them off, put the lids on and put them into the canner. I cleaned up the sink and counter while we waited for the canner to do its thing.

Canning wasn’t the only thing we had to do that day. The lawn needed attention as well. My next-younger sister came and started up the lawn tractor. I got out the walk-behind mower to work on the trim. All was going well until I tried to keep one hand on the bar that keeps the engine running while reaching down to get a pesky grapevine out of the way. In the process I lost hold of the bar and the mower stopped. It had no particular interest in starting again at that time. Finally, I pushed it into the shade, brought out a shovel and went to work digging up some of the weeds that had sprung up next to our grapevine. It was a job I’d been meaning to do sometime. I guessed now would be that time.

I spelled my sister on the lawn tractor and finished the last remaining section. We took a break to sit on the deck for a bit before I decided to try the walk-behind mower again. It started immediately this time and I realized almost as quickly that I’d left my ear protectors in the house. Well, there was no way I was going to stop the mower again for that. I mowed on.

My sister and I picked elderberries that day too and I checked for zucchini and picked cherry tomatoes from the vines that seem to be spreading over half the tomato patch. We planted two kinds this year — red and Sun Gold — and we’ve been eating them and sharing them.

The following day we gave away some of the cherry tomatoes. There seemed to be plenty more where those came from.

That evening my mother and I pulled the elderberries from their stems and froze them. We’ll probably use them to make jelly eventually, but maybe we’d better get through tomato canning season first.


Donna Thompson is the trends editor of the Times Telegram. Email her at donna@timestelegram.com or call her at 866-2220.