Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Good Hand Workout

Living in the country or in a small town, it's just neighborly to share the fruits of your labor. My daddy loved to do this with the vegetables he grew in his garden each year, and the same thing many others do with not only the things they harvest, but sometimes with the "catch of the day" (as I've mentioned before in an earlier post). Well, such was the case last week when the neighbors from down the road shared some of their harvest of grapes...Duane Aaron that is. Since Mama is the one that puts up most of the fruit and vegetables in the family, the bag was turned over to her...all ten pounds. Duane Aaron had told me his Daddy is the one that prepares the grapes before his Mama puts hers up. Oh my...somehow I sensed I was fixing to be suckered in on this grape project.

A few days later at church that Sunday, Duane Aaron asked had we put the grapes up yet? I said, "No, WE'LL probably do that tomorrow (Labor Day). What'd I tell you?
With it being a holiday, I do get to sleep in an hour later than any other day, but it's nice to get up and not have to put on any makeup, or fix my hair. Might look like road kill, but it sure does feel nice. I drink my coffee then tell mama that if she wants me to help her, I want to get started immediately as I didn't want to spend my whole day working on my day off.
How many of you have seen the "I Love Lucy" episode when Lucy is stomping the grapes in the wine vat? Check it out on YouTube, if you haven't. Too funny. Of course in my physical condition I couldn't stomp the grapes, and rolling over ten pounds of grapes with my wheelchair would be uncalled for...especially since what happened to me Saturday. (I had rolled out to the clothesline to hang up a load of clothes. The fertilizer I had my nephew throw out on our lawn back in the spring had made our grass so nice and thick, and slightly wet with dew, made it a little harder to roll in, plus hide a little deposit from my dog right down the path I chose to roll in. Of course I didn't notice it till on my way back to the sidewalk. Trust me, I scrubbed my tires and hands, and would have shot my dog if a gun were nearby.) But that's another story...

The grapes are washed real good. To be on the sanitary side I wear gloves, and for the next hour I am squeezing grapes. The gloves were also a safeguard to keep from staining my hands since I had to go somewhere later that evening, I didn't want to have purple-stained hands, looking as though I didn't take a bath. (The purple is the outside skins, and the pulp is the green stuff.)

When we "use to" diet around the house, we had a scale for measuring portions, but since it's been so long since we've dieted we couldn't find that scale, so mama would trapes back and forth to her bathroom scales to weigh out three pounds each batch called for. I proceed to squeeze the grapes, while Mama gets her canning jars down and gives them a good wash, then places them in the oven on warm to keep them hot for what she'll be placing in them.

Each batch was then boiled down (grape hull, pulp, and all) along with half a cup of water. The grapes were so pretty and purple, we were in hopes that the juices turn this same color, but they didn't. We had to create our own purple color with a few drops of food coloring to give it that grape jelly affect. This grape mixture was later drained through a sieve and the juices collected into the next pot.

Before she starts the cooking process, she arranges her hot pads, tongs, funnel, and the magnetic stick that she uses to pick up the sterilized lids for sealing the jars. The grape juices were then cooked down with only 7 cups of sugar, and when it comes to a full boil, she adds the pectin for thickening. It looks good...

Don't get in Mama's way when she's in the canning process, or she'll run over you. Well, I could think of nothing worse than her tripping and scalding me with a whole pot of the grape jelly juices, so I move out of her way. She places the funnel over each jar and pours the hot grape-mixture into each jar, one at a time. As she completes each pouring, she wipes each jar off to make sure nothing interferes in the sealing process once she places the lid on, then she turns each jar upside down, to keep everything hot (around the lid area). When she finishes pouring the grape jelly into her last jar, she turns them all right side up. When she completes this process, you know what she does? She prays. Yes, you heard me right, she prays. She prays that each one seals. Then she turns a fan on and lets it blow on her jars. Over the next thirty minutes or so you hear pop, pop, pop, as each lid seals. And with each pop goes a "Thank you Jesus." We were able to do this whole procedure two times with a little left over, but not quite enough to do a third batch.

It kills me, Mama gives away more jelly or preserves than what she keeps. Not that we're selfish people, but Mama would always (and still does) make up a batch of peach and strawberry preserves and when Daddy was living he would ask, "Who is that for? I know it's not for us because you'll give it all away before we get to try any." And Mama's reply, "I'm the one making it, and if I want to give away every jar, I'll do it." We'd get a jar though. As I left for work Tuesday morning, you know what Mama said? "Now take this jar of grape jelly to the office this morning in case Duane Aaron comes by." I wasn't out there 10 minutes when the phone rang and it was Duane Aaron asking if we made the jelly. I said, "Yes, I squeezed all ten pounds for her." He asked if she could use any more and I knew she could use about two pounds to put with the little bit she had left over...but first I wanted to make sure she felt up to it, so I told him I needed to call her first to find out. You know what her comment was? "Yes, tell him I sure could use some long as I've got you to help me squeeze the grapes." So I called him back and told him. I just shook my head. I know when it's all said and done though, ohhh the finished for use (consuming it, that is).

To me, making jelly is in many ways like the life of a Christian. When Jesus was invited to do so and came to live inside of me 28 years ago, he washed away my sins and made me like Mama did her mason jars...a clean vessel. Much like the grapes, the day to day pressures of this life are enough to feel like the life is being squeezed out of us, the heat of troubles and trials are enough to nearly kill us or knock us down real low. Though it doesn't feel like it at the time we're going through these, they can make us stronger, and in turn, with the help and comfort we receive from our Heavenly Father, we're able to help and encourage those that go through the same "stuff."

After 28 years, I can still honestly say Jesus has filled my life with his treasure, and placed a seal on me to preserve it.
II Corinthians 1: 22 says: He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
I like what II Corinthians 4: 7 - 9, 16 - 18 has to say also: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...... Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Not because of anything I have done, but because of all He has done for me...I am His finished for His use.

In closing, Duane Aaron came to pick up his jar of grape jelly yesterday, and bless his heart in return he brought 2 bags of grapes......but I must give credit where credit is due, his daughter Pricilla informed me her mother Linda had been out picking all those grapes.
Somehow I think I know what I'll be doing Saturday morning.