November from Ellen's Corner

And now it is November - not my favourite month. Today is not gray and dreary, but a skiff of snow is melting quickly in bright sunshine. That skiff is just a reminder of what lies ahead, and I know that some of you have already had a lot more than a skiff of snow.

Once again on Remembrance Day we will pause and remember the men and women who have suffered and died as a result of conflict and war. We will also think of our armed forces who are serving as peacekeepers around the world at the present. Our prayers are for their protection and our thanks for their service.

Universal Children’s Day

We should also remember Universal Children’s Day on November 20th. This is the anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which protect the basic human rights of children. The children of the world are exposed to abuse and exploitation, and hundreds of thousands are homeless, hungry, without clean water and adequate health care and little or no education. These rights must be heard if they are going to survive to become the next generation of world citizens.

Pickles & Preserves

We are now in the ninth month of the pandemic. Life continues to be far from normal as the struggle to contain the COVID 19 virus is still a challenge. But as a result of this some interesting and sometimes amusing things have happened. It began in March when there was a shortage of toilet paper. It was being hoarded! Then it was some days when there was no yeast or flour in our supermarkets. Many people were working from home or were home because sadly they had lost their job. So many women (and some men) became first time bread makers. Or someone who had been too busy to bake bread suddenly had the time to do it. This was followed by Spring and Garden Centres could not keep up with the request for seeds and vegetable transplants. Again, men and women had more time. Some feared a food shortage so wanted to grow their own vegetables. Some were first time gardeners; some had grown a few flowers but never had a vegetable plot. Then came late Summer and the fruits of their labours resulted in a surplus of cucumbers, peppers. onions, tomatoes and more. That resulted in a surge in demand for Mason jars and lids. Mother and Grandmother’s recipes for hamburger relish, pickled beets and bread and butter pickles were requested!

“Putting Food By”

The increased interest in pickling reminded me of my early years as a Women’s Institute member when we talked about “Putting Food By”. Then there were Dept. of Agriculture Home Economists who came to Branch or District Meetings and demonstrated how to preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter. I had grown up in a household where jams, jellies and pickles were always made using Mason jars. But at my second WI Meeting I listened with interest to the members discussing ordering cans for the upcoming canning Season. I learned that the Home Economist had demonstrated how to use cans instead of jars for canning, and how to operate a “can-sealer” . I do not know how much a “can sealer” would have cost, but the Branch bought one and it would go from member to member to use. The Home Economist also gave detailed instructions in the canning process, whether it was the use of jars or cans, they had to be well sealed to ensure the safety of the contents Perhaps some of our members  across Canada are still using a “can-sealer”, and perhaps some  of these are hidden away and forgotten in a shed or basement. I don’t know what happened to the one that belonged to my Branch. I never did try it. I prefer freezing rather than the good old days of “Putting Food By”.

Ellen McLean has been an active WI member for close to seventy years. Throughout those years, she served in many roles including President of the Women's Institutes of Nova Scotia, President of the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada (FWIC) and President of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). Testimony to her excellent leadership and service, Ellen received an honorary doctorate degree from St. Francis Xavier University, been inducted to the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, received the Order of Canada as well as being the first recipient of the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Women of the Year Award.