Canning season is that wonderful time of year when you never have a moment to yourself - it's all four in the morning mason jar sterilizing, neighbors making coffee in your kitchen before you're even dressed because they have cabbage, too (or carrots or apples or string beans) and you've invited them over with a truck load because you know extra hands make all the difference.
It's the time of year when the kitchen is never comfortable - if the water's not on to boil, the oven is warming and full of jars, or the space around the table is all buckets and elbows, paring knives, sweaty brows and chatter.
There is never silence - even in that ten minutes of processing time, when everything stops long enough for a hurried dinner, there's the water-bath-bubbling, jar-rattling rumble of the canner, or the joyous gunshot snapping of the lids as each jar seals.
Those days are filled with wood smoke, steam and the smell of apple butter reducing in the large copper kettle that once lived with your great-grandparents on a family farm that's still drowning under twenty feet of water because a dam was built in that valley when your father was half your age.
It is memories.
It is heaven sitting at a picnic table, immersed in joy and tired.
It's knowing you could never bottle enough of this, but at least you will have food to see you through another winter.