When I was a girl I loved - I mean really loved - the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don't have a lot of memories of my childhood, but one that stands out clearly is the day my parents brought home a Little House boxed set for me. I had been a fervent fan for at least a year before that, and had read every one of those books. But to own them all - I can't articulate how rich that made me feel.
I still have those books - me, the one who ruthlessly pares down my belongings every time I move, and who has moved twenty-two times since then, between four different provinces. The box is long gone, and the books are more than a little worse for wear, but I know exactly where they are on the shelf. Those books will be with me forever.
My nine-year old imagination was dominated by those books. I played Little House on the Prairie and made pioneer dresses for my dolls. I had a rag rug in my bedroom, and a washstand, and I dreamed of the day I would have a basin and pitcher to go with them.
I was captivated by the self-sufficiency of Laura's family. Her ma made soap and cheese and bread and sewed clothes. Her pa grew wheat and chopped firewood and built houses from logs and sod. That wasn't all of the attraction for me - I knew all about the magic of homemade music at night by the fire - after all, I learned all fifty-seven verses of "The Fox Went Out One Chilly Night" at my own father's knee as he strummed a guitar in front of a campfire. I knew about the sense of safety and security that came from being with all my family under one roof - in my case it was the canvas roof of a tent when we went camping. But the resourcefulness, the ability to make things instead of buying them - those were awe-inspiring to a nine-year-old and still are forty years later.
So maybe I've been channeling my inner Laura these last couple of weeks. When I look on the porch there are onions and garlic I grew and harvested drying in the summer heat. In the cold cellar are the first of the potatoes, still dusted with dirt and wrapped up in paper bags. On the shelves in the storage room are jars of pickled beets, Victorian barbeque sauce made with rhubarb, blueberry and rhubarb chutneys, gooseberry and lavender jellies, bumbleberry, blueberry and rhubarb jams. Curing on the table in the dining room are my first two batches of handmade soap, and the third, made this morning, is cooling in the milk cartons I used as molds. The first round of tomato sauce is processing in the canner as I write, and in the crock on the counter is my inaugural attempt at sauerkraut, tasting wonderful but still needing a bit more mellowing.
There are good, practical reasons to do all of this. But somehow food security issues and reducing footprints and food budgets don't explain all the deep pleasure I get from growing and canning and making.
I think, when it comes down to it, I have Laura to thank.