During the past two weeks, I have spent an extraordinary amount of time focusing on food. Not on eating it, or even cooking it, but on preserving it. Four bushels of green beans, six bushels of peaches, 1200 ears of corn—not to mention tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and potatoes, which are still underway.
Yes, it’s harvest season, and we Hessongs take it seriously. We are not Amish, and we are not preppers, but each summer we can, freeze, dry, and store bushels of produce, filling pantry shelves and basement freezers with food to enjoy for months to come. The work, the routine, and the jars and jars of preserved fruits and veggies have all become part of our summer heritage, and we continue these old-fashioned rituals as much for the company as for the food we put away. Perhaps more for the company, truth be told.
As I worked alone last week to pick, husk, cook, cut, and freeze fifty (a measly 50!) ears of corn from my own garden, I reflected on the contrast of my lonely work with the social labor of the day before, when nephews, parents, sisters, spouses – up to 10 people at any given time of the day-- worked to tackle a pick-up bed loaded with freshly picked sweet corn from my dad’s field. That was a long but good day, and we accomplished a task that would have been daunting, if not impossible, to do alone.
As I worked on my solo task, pulling corn from boiling water and dropping it to cool in the sink, my mind turned to the “End of Summer Play” group (and the blog I had to create!) and the value of collaboration. The corn harvest work had been much more fun and productive with the whole family working together. Similarly, my teaching and learning has benefited from collaboration. I thought of the group of teachers I am privileged to work with at the University of Maryland and the UMD National Writing Project. Over the past four years, I have had valuable times of teaching, writing, and researching alone, but some of the richest experiences I’ve had came from collaborating with the talented, creative, and dedicated folks around me. I’ve learned so much from this professional community, and I’m looking forward to getting new ideas from our “play group.” Thanks to all of you for being such supportive colleagues who are willing to share your resources, insights, and talents.