Lesson learned #1: The vegetables won't wait for me to be ready, I need to be ready for the vegetables when they come in. By the time I had my stock pot, canning rack, bands and seals and lid magnet on hand, the zucchini had stopped producing, the cucumber plants had succumbed to beetles and the tomatoes had peaked.
That said, I learned a lot filling those three mason jars. I researched methods and read about canning safety. I bumbled awkwardly through preparing my jars and lids, skinning my tomatoes and getting them into jars. In the process, I figured out how I'll set things up differently next time, what order I'll do things, and how much room and time are required. I'm not offering a how-to on canning here, because I'm a novice with a lot more to learn. I know how much I don't know about canning.
But I also know I want to can more than three jars next year. Why? Because I like the idea of knowing what's in my food—no unnecessary and potentially harmful additives, no preservatives, no BPA, no excess sodium. And because I like the idea of reusing the same jars and not tossing excess packaging and perfectly good bottles and jars in the recycling bin. Because I like reducing food waste; when there's a bumper crop, I can save the excess for consumption later. Because I like eating food I grow as well as food local farmers grow.
Next year's goals: Learn to make jam and learn to make pickles. Put up more than three pints of tomatoes.