First World Problems in Third World Times

Out here on Crow Farm, we were prepared for the pandemic, we just didn’t know what we were preparing for. We have chickens, although most are pets instead of laying hens. I have a garden, but I get more produce from the nearby farmers’ market than I do from my own labor. Under my piano, in metal tubs, are peas and beans and rice.

I didn’t realize how quickly I’d run out of fresh lettuce, you know, that kind that comes prewashed and wrapped in plastic. I started a flat of micro greens that will last a micro minute.  And I got out my sprouting jars and seeds, but even as I was measuring a mixture of mung bean, alfalfa, and broccoli seeds into my jar, I started wondering what would happen if the farm system broke down and I couldn’t get my sprouting seeds. How many acres would I need to plant for a seed crop? Which seed crop would be most productive? Who am I kidding?

As the first cases of COVID-19 came ashore on the west coast, I made a Costco run. I got the last twelve-pack of almond milk on the shelf. There was plenty of oat milk, but I have never tried oat milk, so I didn’t get any. I probably should have.

I didn’t buy raisins, a staple in my breakfast oatmeal, or the big box of Quaker Oats, because I had plenty to last me until my next follow-up appointment with my oncologist. Silly me! Two weeks later my oncologist and I agreed to postpone appointments for at least two months. I wonder if Costco has any raisins and oatmeal left.

Then there were those things I kept putting off. My phone and my laptop are out of date. I need my piano tuned. Oh, the piano isn’t too far off, but it may be by the time this pandemic plays out. Playing the piano keeps me sane.

I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought I was, but I have resources not everyone has. Most important, I have a new crop of seed that I ordered over the winter and a garden in which to plant my seed. I have enough beans and rice to last a few months. I still have peaches and applesauce canned last summer.

The question niggling at the back of my mind isn’t, “Where’s my next meal coming from?”  It is, “Will I be able to can peaches and green beans this summer?

I realize the privilege of my question and how small my problems are. So, what can I do to help those who don’t have the same privileges? What can I do to ease someone’s anxieties? Privilege isn’t worth much if you don’t share.

Canning in April

I’ve always loved beans, but my mother, not so much. When you grow up poor and one of a dozen children, as she did, beans are always on the menu. But she knew we loved them, and it was a real treat when she made her chili beans.

Beans are one of the cornerstones of my diet, along with whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. My man isn’t quite as fond of all-things-beans as I am, but there are a couple of things he welcomes on the menu. One is my home-canned blackeyed peas. The other is our pantry version of black beans and corn salsa.

If you’re a prepper, you know dry beans store well. For the long haul, it isn’t necessary to can them. For the short term, though, a few jars of canned beans and peas in the cabinet sure make meal planning easier. Whether you buy them from the grocery store and can them yourself depends on your circumstances and your taste. I prefer my home-canned beans in glass jars.

Whether you can fresh beans or bags of dried beans from the grocery also depends on circumstances. I do both.

I shelled and canned a bushel of purple hull peas last summer.  Fresh peas need to be processed quickly.  Even partially dried ones can mold on you.  They can be canned or frozen. The frozen ones still require some cooking time, but they are a good choice for people who limit salt.

The 24 pints of canned peas I got from that bushel didn’t last long, and I found myself buying bags of blackeyed peas at the grocery store to can mid-winter.

We eat blackeyed peas at least once a week. I just open the jar, heat the peas, and serve them with cornbread.

To make Mama’s Chili Beans, I open a jar of my canned pintos, add a teaspoon of Williams Chili Seasoning, and heat. When I serve it, I add a few teaspoons of salsa to the bowl. Yep, it’s that simple.

You can serve chili beans over rice or with cornbread. They also make good tostados.

To make our Pantry Black Bean Salsa, I rinse and drain a can (or pint jar) of black beans and drain a pint of my whole kernel corn (or thaw a pint of frozen corn). I toss them together with a cup of salsa, cover it, and let it sit in the fridge to chill and marinate.

Serve the salsa with tortilla chips or tortillas. If you have fresh cilantro, so much the better! And don’t let anyone tell you that chips and salsa are not a complete meal!





I don’t remember eating beets

when I was a kid.

Maybe they don’t grow well

in the humid heat of Zone 7.


Now, it’s one of the staples

of my pantry.  We eat them



just out of the boiling water and sliced,

as a side dish,

on a salad.


Remember the discovery!

I was experimenting with pickled beets

and sliced off the rough edges,

popped them into my mouth.


Ate a bunch.


Next day, thought I was dying.

No tummy ache,

just the mistake

of looking into the toilet

when I flushed.


This year, though,

after a couple of dry years,

a friend asked if I wanted beets.


She planted two rows,

and did they grow!


Two bushels.

Maybe three.

I’ve canned,




Now I’m giving them away.



What if next year is another dry one?

Maybe another canner full,

a few more jars,

one more day boiling water,

slipping skins,

slicing off the rough edges

and popping them into my mouth.