Friday, February 23, 2024

Division of Labor


Over the weekend a water leak sprang out in the closet where the water heater is housed over a round plastic water collection tray with three-inch-high sides setting over the beautiful oak hardwood flooring my late husband & Sonny put over all the floors in the house except the kitchen. The shut off valve into the water heater is a worn-out globe valve that has been over tightened for years. The packing is so worn out no matter how I turned it, righty tighty or lefty loosie, the leak at the valve stem wouldn’t quit dripping three cups of water a minute onto the beautiful hard wood floor.

I made a frantic call to the plumber my late husband trusted but I couldn’t get through. It probably didn’t help that it was after 5 p.m.

I was panicking. All would be well if I could just shut the water into the house off. That didn’t happen because the shut off valve in the well house is in the same shape as the one in the water heater closet. I decided to cut the flow of energy to the well so the well would cut the flow of water to the house. That didn’t work because I hadn’t counted on the pressure tank in the well house doing such a good job. The water just kept flowing. Not understanding the pressure tank system, all I could do was sop up the water as it overflowed onto the floor and call Sonny. He was too far away to help. Next, I called a member of our church’s Honor Bound Men’s Group and asked for help.

Sonny’s friend Stan showed up with a pair of groove joint pliers. There was nothing for the pliers to do but Stan was able to show me how to stop the flow of water to the hot water tank by opening faucets upstream of the water heater until the pressure tank was depressurized enough not to push water into the hot water heater’s closet.

The water quit flowing onto the floor. Relief. Stan could tell I was extremely stressed over my incompetence to handle the situation. He turned to me as he headed out the door and said, “It’s OK not to know everything. None of us can do it all. That’s why we get paid. We get paid so we can pay someone else who’s good at what they do to do what we can’t. We have to budget then do maintenance work before things get out of hand.” Then he drove away.

About then the plumber got back to me. By 8:30 p.m. the valve was stabilized enough to be functional until it can be completely repaired during working hours along with the well house shut off valve.

By 9 p.m. I remembered I needed to eat. I opened a can of pork and beans and jar of home canned pears. As I nibbled, I considered division of labor; how it leads to civilization; why meritocracy is the best ‘ocracy’. Stan is right. Not one of us in a civilized society can do everything it takes to get through the day. None of us are the same. We all have different ‘stuff’ we’re good at and the Good Lord knows there’s enough ‘stuff’ needing done to keep each and every one of us busy.

I started to calm down and actually enjoy the taste of my home canned pears and the pork and beans. It was a pretty good dinner for someone stressed to be hungry.

Keeping Canned Foods Edible

The best place to store canned food is in cupboards on the ground floor or in a dry basement.

Canned food begins to lose food value (nutrition) after two years for pineapple and tomatoes (high acid) it’s after eighteen months. It is still good food it just isn’t as nutritional as it stays in the can or jar.

Sunlight and heat cause food to lose food value faster. Sunlight has more of an effect on glass than on tin cans. (I don’t store any food stuffs in my attic during summer months.)

Moisture causes rust. If I see any rust on a canned food container, it gets discarded. Rust can be the entry point for anaerobic microbes like the infamous botulism (Clostridium botulinum) that produces a toxin that causes paralysis. Scientists say the toxin is destroyed by cooking at 250℉ for three minutes. (I prefer a rolling boil for five minutes because it’s easier to remember and that’s what Grandma did)

When opening a jar of home canned veggies, I always listen for the hiss that often accompanies the prying loose of the jar lid. That hiss is the sound of the outside air rushing into the vacuum left when the hot sterilized air cooled after the canning process. Without a good seal, there is no vacuum because the outside air will seep inside to make an air equilibrium between the inside and outside of the can or jar. Without the vacuum there is no hiss.

The best place to store canned food is in cupboards on the ground floor or in a dry basement. A dry root cellar is also nice, but root cellars are hard to come by these days.

Note: Many folks like to get the discount that comes with dented cans. I don’t recommend it. Dents can hide tiny creases where the can is compromised that become entry points for anaerobic microbes that can be deadly. It is possible to use dented cans safely; there are many gleaners and church groups that do so. This is possible because the individuals get one on one training from careful elders and pay close attention to what they are taught.

 In 2000 Michele Priddy left the work force to become a stay-at-home mother and wife. Being a one-income family in today’s society meant she had to learn to budget quickly. Food became a priority early because she wanted the children to have the best nutrition, she could offer them even on a budget. She also taught cooking classes on how to stretch the food dollar with simple ingredients at various churches in her community. Michelle has put her kitchen strategies and recipes in booklets, her church newsletter and also in her hometown newspaper, The Goldendale Sentinel. We hope you will enjoy her strategies, stories, and recipes. You can contact the Leavenworth Echo at or 509-548-5286 if you have any questions or comments for Michelle.



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