About the Author
  • Jennifer is a self proclaimed country girl born and raised in Northern California. After joining social media, Jenny met a farmer from North Dakota. She followed her heart all the way to the rural prairies of ND where she is now married to that farmer. Besides spending time with her farmer, Jenny can be found with a camera in hand capturing the world around her, loves the challenges of bringing culture to the North Dakota prairie through a variety of culinary creations, and using her interior design degree to flip their bachelor pad into a home. All of this and more can be found on her photography blog: jldphotographblog.com.
Please read the forum guidelines. Please post, reply, read, and view our tutorials to learn all about our new forums and features.

Life Lessons Learned from Canning

by Jennifer_Dewey on ‎11-13-2013 10:51 AM

I was never one of those girls who spent my summers canning with grandma or my mom. In all my years, I had never canned. Canning was something that intrigued me, I have wanted to can for years, but I will be honest, I was terrified of trying. Maybe it was the fear of botulism or that my cans wouldn’t seal, whatever the reason, the fear kept me from trying it for many years.


Finally, this year I had an abundance of fruit I didn’t know what to do with. So I headed down to our local hardware store, purchased the bare essentials, and decided to try my hand at canning. I made a plan for the day; I was going to be the queen of jams and jellies that day. I had strawberries, melons, and some apples I needed to use up.


First up was watermelon jelly, which I wouldn’t normally try out. But I had three watermelons that needed to be used up so I figured what the heck?  I found a recipe from a prominent canning blogger and gave it my best go. Next up, cantaloupe vanilla jelly, strawberry jam, and finally finished up with some homemade applesauce.

I found as I got going, I really enjoyed the process. Granted, canning is a lot of work but I can see why it is addicting! I was so proud to hear all the “pings” of the cans sealing. I was beaming from ear to ear that my first canning experience went so well. I found all sorts of other recipes to try out next year when we get an abundance of produce. I was hooked. 

Canning Photos -1.jpg


It wasn’t until a week later that I realized my watermelon jelly was still a liquid. Like not even close to jelly. At first, I was devastated. All the pride and success I had from my first ever-canning experience was quickly dissolved and I was left with jars of sweeten watermelon liquid. Who knows why my jelly didn’t set.. There could be a multitude of reasons. I consulted some sources and found out I could re-batch the jelly, which I plan to do. But I was still bothered by the fact that the first time out of the gate, I failed.


And then I got to thinking about my canning experience and how it is a lot like farming. I followed the directions; I did exactly what the recipe told me to do. I did it all right and yet, it failed. Crops, in some ways, are the same. I can plant the seed, I can give the plant all the nutrients it needs, I can protect it from weeds, insects, and disease. A farmer can do everything right, but yet his (or her) crops can still fail. There’s always that unpredictable factor.


But we shouldn’t let those unpredictable factors stop us from following our passions and our dreams. Yes, I had been dreaming about canning for years but guess what, it was the fear of failure that stopped me from even trying. It took me a long time to build up the confidence to try my hand at canning. And you know what, although I may have failed, I still ended up further than where I started. I walked away from the experience with gained knowledge and even some end results that turned out perfectly. I’ve been enjoying my strawberry jam for the past few weeks and may never go back to store bought!

Canning Photos -2.jpg

So now, whenever I open the cupboard and look at those jars. I don’t focus on the failure, I focus on the fact that yes, I tried. I may have failed, but I didn’t let the fear of failure stop me. I still started the race and ended up further than where I started. Even though we fall flat on our faces in life, we still had the courage to try and next year will bring a whole new opportunity for successes.


Although canning and farming are far from similar, I see a lot of parallels in that; we get comfortable in our own operations. We are afraid of change because “this is how grandpa or dad did it”. It is my hope that in your own industries this coming year, you won’t let fear stop you.. That will you remember my watermelon jelly and embrace trying something new.


Have you tried something new and failed?

Canning 5.jpg.jpg


on ‎11-13-2013 03:46 PM

On both practical and philosophical bases, we sometmes try to force something in life to fit the mold, when we might just be better off accepting an outcome that was not what we had in mInd. Re-batching the jam might be worth the effort, or you might enjoy the syrup over snow ice cream, a taste of summertime in the depths of winter. 


I think of your runny jelly as a microcosm of the doctrine of " unanswered prayers".  Garth Brooks sang about these a long time ago.  For us, a plan that didn't work out our way ended up being a prime example.


Mike and I tried to expand our small hog operation in 1993, so he could leave a very disruptive off-farm occupation.  Our county refused to give us an answer to an ordinance question.  They just held our request hostage.  We took the question up with the courts, and the judge took forever to finally come back with an unfavorable ruling.  We took appeal all the way to the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth, and meanwhile, pro-ag forces worked to change state laws, so families could not lose their right to farm so capriciously. Eventually, two years later, our position was vindicated.


In the middle of the two years this legal fight consumed, we got a different opportunity, on the opposite side of the state line.  It was an entirely different type of hog farm than the one we wanted to build back home, but it was a sure thing.  You never know what the courts will do....


We took this chance, jumped deep into debt to build this farm, and eventually relocated our family.  Long story short...the people who thought they were hurting us by fighting against our farm actually saved us.  When hog prices in 1998-99 fell to eight cents a pound, we would have lost everything we had.  Instead, we were well entrenched in the new operation by then, insulated from market swings, and now have not just the new farm, but also our home farms back in Virginia.


if we had gotten our way 30 years ago - if our jelly had set, so to speak - we would surely not be farming today.  The seven acres and one home we were struggling to pay for then are over seven hundred plus acres and seven houses today, all free and clear.  


It took me about seven years to see the light...to grasp that this situation wasn't " something God did TO us", but was instead " something God did FOR us".  Yeah, I am a slow learner, but at least I finally caught on...I would like to think we were smart, but the truth is, we were probably just lucky.  


If you need more examples of things we tried and things didn't go as predicted, the list is long and the results all about as surprisingly positive.  It is only a failure if you don't learn something from it.  



by Jennifer_Dewey
on ‎11-13-2013 03:50 PM

Extremely well said Kay! I had a friend who is also a blogger write last week on sacrifices that are actually blessings. Often times we are so short sighted into thinking we are making sacrifices in life when in reality they turn out to be blessings. Thank you so much for commenting!