I have been happily emptying my pantry and freezer of last season’s produce. The pepper and eggplant mixture has been a great addition to the winter’s tomato sauces. I had sauteed them in olive oil during the summer and popped them into the freezer in pint-sized containers. I wish I had added basil to the mixture at the time. For some reason I neglected to put up the herbs this year.

My canned tomato sauce has held up well. I probably canned thirty quarts of juice. It is thin so needs to be cooked down for each meal. It works for me to spend the time and energy now as opposed to midsummer when I am hot, bothered and busy.

We spoke about canning at our last Homegrown meeting. I think I will bring the canner to our next group for a bit of a show-and-tell. It is way more intimidating to think about than the actual process. We meet the third Sunday of the month at 4 p.m. Since daylight saving happens before that date, we pushed the time forward from 3 p.m.

Wendy Andrews gave me a couple of articles from the summer of 1943 Vineyard Gazette. One was entitled, “Community Canning Center at the Tisbury School, Sponsored by the Garden Club, Is in Full Swing.”

The Garden Club continued the Victory Gardens into the summer season with a weekly canning session. Twenty women congregated on Thursday mornings at the Tisbury School. Hundreds of jars had been processed by mid-July with the anticipation of thousands more by the season’s end. Mrs. Argie Humphreys was the supervisor chosen for her famed exhibits at the Island Agricultural Fair and her being “a cheerful and industrious worker in the kitchen.” A harvest show was to be held at the end of August where finished products would be displayed. A grand first prize of a $25 War Bond would be awarded. I loved the idea of group canning not only for the amounts of produce but the true community spirit in war time. We can learn from this.

The greenhouses and cold frames are coming along nicely. I started my peppers on the propagating mat. Last year I waited until the middle of March and that was too late. They take forever. I’m sure the big commercial houses start them on Feb. 1. They can afford to heat. I use grow lights in a cool basement.

The seeded lettuce, collards, radishes, spinach and beets have all germinated. They are all under a single layer of plastic with no supplemental heat. I am about ready to attempt planting into open ground: I have a few protected southern exposure areas.

Bulbs are beginning to poke through the ground. I have some blooming snowdrops. I love that. They are incredibly early.

Once more I have to complain about the Vineyard Haven Post Office. The daffodils are up a good three inches but it’s hard to enjoy them since they are surrounded by cigarette butts. People, please field strip you butts or use a receptacle. Better yet - stop smoking!

Carol Derry pointed out an interesting article in the Feb. 20 New York Times Magazine. Undercooked or raw shiitake mushrooms can cause a violent skin reaction in some people. Word to the wise!

I was thinking about all the attention focused on the national debt and impending huge spending cuts. I hate to sound naive and would be loathe to disagree with big shot economists and Congress people but when I’m in financial straits I can cut my spending to zero and still need money coming in. How are we to make “tough choices and tighten our belts,” when we refuse to raise taxes? Even a one cent tax on a gallon of gasoline toward the debt would help. Are we headed to that well-known place in a handbasket?