By LYNNE IRONS
I have been wracking my brain to come up with a garden topic this week. Should I stay with some sort of winter theme or get fully into the gear-up for spring?
I think I’ll take on credit cards instead.
Here is my best shot at a segue. I use my credit cards for the gardening business: ordering seeds, plugs, and bare-rooted perennials in mid-winter and paying them off in the summer when the money starts rolling in.
I did get into trouble with credit a few decades ago. Was it Bill Clinton who said, “When you find yourself in a hole — stop digging”?
Did you know that the credit card business made more than $12 billion last year in late charges alone? The companies are so unscrupulous that they change the due dates at will. One used to have 30 days — now it is less than 20. I pay my bill right in the post office upon receipt to avoid losing the invoice and thus incurring a late charge and then a hike in the interest rate.
If you ever read the small print (an impossible task for us boomers), you will note that they can raise the interest if you default on another unrelated bill, such as Comcast, the hospital, or another card company.
You must become the proverbial squeaky wheel. After calling the 800 number and spending the better part of an hour listening to and following directions from a computerized menu, you might be fortunate enough to get a real human being who, hopefully, doesn’t live in Bangladesh or Mumbai. The first thing I do is write down their name and ask for their last name as well. I use their name frequently during the conversation. I ask for my interest rate to be lowered in accordance with Mr. Bernanke’s directives. It is remarkable how politeness and the personal touch get results.
Next, there is the completely annoying issue of the constant solicitations for more cards. Use the no-postage-due envelope and put everything including the original envelope back inside with a big “NO” written across the pages. They will have to pay the return postage. Hey — why should our post office have to pay to cart away their trash? The post office could save the money and use it to clean up the cigarette butts out in front.
I am determined to eat up all my canned produce from previous summers before another harvest season. The beauty of jarring your own fresh produce is that it stays as nice in the jar as the day it was processed. This is, unfortunately, not true of the freezer. There is a shelf life of about six months before freezer burn sets in. The jars need only to be kept out of the light. I am now working on my corn and green beans.
The corn was grown at Morning Glory Farm. I buy several bushels at the end of the season, in late September. It comes in enormous grain bags. I arrange to have it picked the morning of the project. The grain bags hold about a bushel of corn — about 40 pounds — or 100 ears. It will convert into 20 pints of product. This is exactly the number of pint jars that my pressure canner holds. (They can be stacked up top of each other in just two inches of water at the bottom of the canner).
Because corn is a low-acid vegetable and prone to botulism (a soil-borne bacteria), it must be pressure-canned. Ten pounds of pressure is the same as 240 degrees or 28 degrees above boiling. It must be kept at 10 pounds pressure for 95 minutes. A watchful eye is a must to insure a constant pressure. It is an excellent opportunity to pull the kitchen into some semblance of order, gab on the phone, or write a newspaper column. One summer’s day converts into 20 meals. A couple of years ago I did 60 pints. I made a lot of chili and corn chowder that winter.
I love canned green beans. They are so much more flavorful than frozen. It may bespeak my Appalachian upbringing but there is nothing quite like opening a jar and having it mixed with fresh pork. I grow my own and put the perfect ones raw into the quart jars, cover with boiling water, and whip it up to 10 pounds pressure for 25 minutes. It is not outrageous to do at least 40 quarts. It is beans once a week off-season. The pressure canner holds only seven quarts. A bushel of green beans converts to 20 quarts in the jar. I am thinking of a canning class sometime next fall. Any takers?
Check out the witch hazels in full bloom at the old Middletown Nursery in North Tisbury and next to the barn at Brookside Farm on Middle Road.
William A. Collins writes in last week’s Liberal Opinion:
When all your taxes
Go for guns.