What do the Fourth of July and potato bugs have in commonIn my work capturing the German Russian food culture, holidays were part of farm life, but in a very different way than today. With the pandemic of 2020, many activities have been altered or canceled completely, so I thought it would be nice to remind you all of the way the Fourth used to be celebrated.
Nearly all the elders I interviewed said the same thing about the Fourth of July holiday.
“We had to hoe the potatoes before we could go anywhere. Some families celebrated the Fourth at home. To top it off, those same little hands had to eliminate the potato beetles by picking them off the plants by hand.
One person said their mom used to deal with bugs on potatoes and worms on cabbage by sprinkling flour over them. What they didn’t know was it was more than likely laced with Paris green.
The Colorado potato beetle was successful eradicated around the 1860s with Paris green, an innovation in insecticide application, it was used with the first hand-operated compression sprayers, first wheel-drawn sprayers, first traction-operated dusters, first engine-operated sprayer and first air-blast sprayer (Gauthier et al., 1981). Potatoes were also one of the first crops to be treated by airplane.
Many of those Depression farmers did not have the means or large enough fields to invest in air spraying, but they did have children.
Delphine and Benjamin Vetter of Linton remember picking bugs off garden vegetable plants. Benjamin said, “We would use kerosene. Put it in a little pail and pick them and put them in there or else they would crawl out. You had to kill them somehow.”
Hoeing those rows was done around the first two days or three days of the month or no body was allowed to go to Fourth of July Celebration. The Vetter’s had a celebration on their farm and as far as Benjamin could remember, it has been going on more than 75 years and draws up wards of 400 relatives to go horseback riding, cook outdoors, visit the cemetery and catch up.
Ellen Tuttle who was close to 100 years old in 2013 recalls the excitement of getting up early on those holidays and to milk and get everything ready before hopping into the wagon hitched to the team of horses and traveling to Linton to celebrate. Of course, they had to be sure to head for home early enough to get the cows milked again.
By the Fourth they chickens were big enough to have fried chicken for the celebration, she said.
Donna Eszlinger recalls her aunt and uncle and her cousin lived a little way from their farm. They had a nice shelter belt and would invite her parents and another uncle for a picnic in the space amongst the trees. They would build a fire and roast hot dogs. Everyone would join in the baseball game, even the moms and dads. It was a nice time as she remembered with watermelon and ice cream.
Her dad would chop out the ice from a big wooden cow tank filled with winter’s ice and kept insulated under straw in the coolest place in the yard. He would put the ice in a gunny sack and crush it so they could take turns with the hand cranked ice cream machine.
After the potatoes were hoed ad the garden was weeded, Rose Voller Glas’ family would go to Strasburg for a parade of a few new cars. The kids would walk around and join in some races. For lunch, the family had ham sandwiches and cookies.
“Molasses cookies at that time,” she said. “When times were really poor, we would get molasses to feed the cattle and to put on the calves feed from the government. It was kind of a commodity and so then that’s what they got when we went to the Fourth of July.”
Rose’s sister said there were some fireworks. Just the small firecrackers on a string that you took off one at a time. They weren’t dangerous, well unless we threw them at each other. They did make noise.
Today, most children wouldn’t be too involved in hoeing before going to the fourth of July parade, but potato bugs still should be deterred before they destroy your crop. A couple of things help prevent infestation (potato bugs can reproduce three times in a season):
Good luck with your potatoes and have a safe Fourth of July.
You see them everywhere in late spring. Fields of yellow blossoms waving in the sun and warmth of coming summer. The word must be out. Bees need dandelions. More and more people are allowing at least one crop of dandelions to gracefully age into white-headed ladies before casting their future into the air and dying.
It’s a good thing for pollinators, but dandelions are also good in many other ways as well.
If you are harvesting dandelion root, you will see earthworms gather around dandelion roots for it is a natural humus producer.
Humus with one “M” is not the chickpea-kind you eat with fresh veggies. Humus is soil with an ecosystem and is the ultimate goal of most people who grow. Of course, I am not going to plant dandelions in the garden, they proliferate on their own quite quickly. But I do appreciate dandelions for their benefits.
My favorite uses are soap and dying, but I have eaten their young leaves. It’s taken a few years, but my husband now allows them to grow freely. In many cultures, the herb Dandelion was more highly valued than a green lawn.
While I realize I revisit the Dandelion every spring, it’s important information in light of the ever-declining bee population. Dandelions are a common member of the sunflower family and there are about 100 species. Like sunflowers, you may have noticed dandelions open with the sun and close down overnight to sleep. The serrated leaves reminded someone of a lion, hence the French name “dent de lion” or lion’s tooth. I have never been that close to a lion so I cannot attest to that description.
Dandelions are survivors and spread like wildfire. They do not need to be pollinated to form seeds to survive even though insects and bees consume the nectar or seed of these yellow beauties.
Because I love folklore and such, you should recognize the three celestial bodies of the dandelion. The flower represents the sun, the puff ball resembles the moon and the seeds floating away on a summer breeze (in North Dakota, it’s flat line 100-mile-an-hour wind) represent the stars in the sky.
Also, three parts of the dandelion are useful and edible. The leaves can be eaten when young as bitter greens in salads or frittatas. Also, the leaves make good tea. The root can be dried and ground and used as a coffee substitute. Green leaves can be mixed with basil and made into pesto with a healthy kick.
Blossoms can be dipped in egg white and fried or taken off the bitter pod and sprinkled over salad and such. Yes, that’s a lot of work. But if you have small children, they are attracted to the dandelion anyway. What mother hasn’t received a dandelion bouquet in her lifetime.
Do you ever try to grow something that just doesn’t perform well? It may be you or it might be it’s been planted next to something it doesn’t like. Yes, plants either love each other or hate each other.
The elder gardeners in my family always planted marigold borders around the garden to ward of pests. It works, but they have to be thick and planted annually to be effective.
Maybe hate is a strong or wrong word for plants. There is some truth to the fact that some plants fare better when interplanted or planted next to complimentary plants. For instance – I have small garden beds, the first garden we dug after we got married some 13 years ago and planted French intensive to utilize the space. The garlic was planted next to the peas. Of course, they performed, but after researching companion planting I found that garlic and onions hinder the growth of peas and beans. Sometimes things like seem like old wife’s tales, but the book called “Carrots love Tomatoes,” by Louise Riotte, gives scientific facts about how plants either thrive next to each other.
You know that motivational speakers recommend hanging out with like-minded positive people, well the same is true with plants.
Carrots love tomatoes and tomatoes love basil. Sometimes you can pair up your plants according to culinary taste. Everyone loves tomato and basil combos so it makes sense that they will grow well together.
Beans also benefit from carrots. Lettuce also grows well with carrots and radishes grown with lettuce are supposed to be more succulent.
Diversified plants are beneficial to warding off plants’ insect enemies. By planting multiple rows of various companion plants or interspersing plants in a single row will confuse insects seeking their favorite tasty treat.
Native American agrarians planted Three Sisters gardens for good reason. It was a method of companion planting at best. And, the corn, beans and squash made a nutrient rich dish when prepared together. These three plants grew symbiotically to deter pests, weeds, enrich the soil and naturally support each other. (we can investigate this at a later date).
That being said, in a nutshell, the benefits of companion planting are:
When people ask me about planting in straight rows, I simply say, “God doesn’t plant in straight rows so why should I?”
In addition to being of benefit to your garden, Louise’ book has so much more information that would be helpful to maintain your garden organically. I’m so sorry I let it collect so much dust on the shelve before I really read it.
It's Mother's Day COVID style. It's not that I mind being home alone, but it should be appropriate that my children spend little time with me. I am, after all, the only mother they have. They may have had other women in their lives that meant as much to them like me, or maybe even more, but you cannot change who your mother is - can you?
Sorry, it's not so bad. There are FaceTime calls, and supper plans and a Sunday afternoon nap in the works. But, with the cold fierce wind and social distancing, I was missing my mom today in the worst way. So I made one. That's correct, I made a "grossmuther" doll as a surrogate mother/grandmother. She's lumpy and doesn't yet have a face or shoes, but she's wearing a dress from fabric my mother purchased when she was quilting. I inherited it. But, that's not all of the gifts from my mom and grandmother.
When Covid19 hoarding began, I said to JC, "aren't you glad I am prepared?" I had no immediate need to run to the store and buy toilet paper, flour and yeast. These are a few of the staples in my pantry, along with bleach, vinegar, sugar, oatmeal, coffee, whole grains for grinding, flax seed, etc. etc. etc.
My mother was a prepper, and my grandmother grew up in an era of preparedness. There was no running to town every time you are out of something. You either made due or didn't do it at all. My mother was also a master at opening up the cupboard and creating something to eat from whatever was available. I love to do that. There are times that I do get a little tired of similar dishes and make a list, go to the grocery store and have a party buying things I don't usually cook with. But for the most part, if push comes to shove, I would be able to create the things that my ancestors thrived on in the great Depression. We are sooooo much better off. Yet, we still complain.
I miss my mom more than I thought I would, so if you have yours around, tell her what she means to you today. I am so blessed to have my grandchildren close enough to see whenever I wish. Granddaughter Lucy and brother, Oliver, were out here a couple of weeks ago, just hanging out. We took a garden tour because it was much nicer a few weeks ago than it will be this week, ugh. I want to plant my garden so bad and I have to be patient because it's just not time.
I said to Lucy, "well, I didn't take a shower today, how does my hair look?"
She thought a moment and then said, "like a doll." And, you know what, she's right. My hair is like a Barbie Doll's hair. The more you comb it the wilder it gets. I have had to live with that nearly my whole life. I am sure wondering what it will be like when it's all over gray and even finer than it is today. My mom's mom, Emma, had fine white hair.
She used to pin it in circles on her head crossed with two bobby pins (for those of you who do not know what a bobby pin is... Google it). Before the whole family arrived for a holiday or church, she would pull out those pins and fluff it up and it looked kinda like my new doll's hair.
Oh, how I miss them and my Aunt Alice and a few other people who are "in a better place." And, without further rambling, I hold this in my heart - an old German saying, "until we meet again in heaven."
Have a wonderful Mother's Day.
PS: here is a post I wrote for Mother's Day in 2011 - it's cute and about my son.
Keeping a starter can become a burden if you do not bake bread weekly. Fear not. There are plenty of great easy low-yeast ways to bake excellent tasting bread without a sourdough starter.
French bread is a great and easy way to make a plain loaf with or without a crispy crust. If you add more than the original four ingredients of water, flour, yeast and salt, it is no longer considered French bread
Using a longer rise time and some "steam injection" when baking, you can create a wonderful loaf of bread without the hassle of starter.
According to the Internet, "Bread was enormously important to the French people, that at the time of the French Revolution in the late 1700's, the average Frenchman was reported to have eaten three pounds of bread each day." (Bread History - French. https://www.abigailsbakery.com/bread-recipes/bread-history-french.htm)
French bread is baked in brick ovens place in and out of the oven with a peel. If you bake your own pizza you probably have a pizza peel in your cupboard.
A boule is simply the French word for round. You can bake loaves in any shape you wish. Long thin baguettes were developed in Vienna so the bread could be baked faster.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE FRENCH BREAD from The BEST Homemade French Bread Recipe at https://www.iheartnaptime.net/homemade-french-bread.
Bread baked in a covered cast iron casserole can resemble or even exceed a sourdough loaf. Using a slow-rise method gives you wonderful flavor and adding extras like cheese or olives will make you a super star in the kitchen. Oh, and there's no kneading.
Here's a recipe from https://joyfoodsunshine.com/easy-no-knead-bread/
You will need a 3.75-quart dutch oven to bake this loaf.
What is a CSA share?
American CSAs' humble start began in 1986 at two farms. Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts (https://www.indianlinefarm.com) and Temple-Wilton Community Farm (https://www.twcfarm.com) in New Hampshire offered produce by the box while family farms were still small family farms.
Despite changes in the landscape over the past 30+ years, these two original CSA farms are still thriving today. Both have established enduring legacies, even though they have confronted many challenges over the years.
Today there are about 12,549 CSA farms in the United States. North Dakota has at least 18 CSA farms offering veggies, herbs, baked goods, canned goods, eggs, meat and more.
Why buy a share?
Purchasing a CSA share helps farmers buy supplies and seeds during a time of no income. It also provides a barometer for planting certain crops by identifying a demand.
CSAs are small farms with more flexibility in the varieties planted each year. That means you may receive new vegetable varieties to include in your summer meals.
There's no middle man and less packaging in a share box, meaning farmers receive a larger portion of the profit. The produce is two to three weeks fresher than any transported to your local grocer. Usually, your box has been picked the day or morning before delivery.
The farmer is not the only person receiving benefits from your CSA purchase. Your family will be eating healthier local produce that can be grown organically. Most small vegetable farmers practice non-chemical growing. You will be receiving organic produce as a much lesser expense than your supermarket can offer. Your produce will also last much longer in your refrigerator because it is fresh.
CSAs develop relationships between farmers and consumers. The knowledge about farming and cooking with freshly harvested vegetables can be shared as the relationship between farms and families grows.
Most farmers experiment with different varieties and treating you to some wonderful new foods. Healthy soil means healthier food for you and your family. It's beneficial in creating a love for fruits and vegetables your children will pass on to their children.
I love oatmeal. And, who doesn't love an oatmeal-raisin cookie, crisp and chewy? Well, there' s more to oatmeal than meets the eye.
Oatmeal is a whole grain, a staple, and an ingredient in many recipes, including cookies and apple crisp. That makes it something I always have in my pantry.
A whole grain is simply a grain that contains its original bran, germ and endosperm; nothing added, nothing taken away. Sometimes things are removed from grains and added back in to make food more nutritious. I say, "don't take it out in the first place."
Oats come in two ways from your local grocer. Old-fashioned or quick. Both have the same whole grain oat, but quick oats have been cut before rolling and therefore cook faster. I think they lose some of their crunch in baking also, so I try never to buy quick oats.
What's in a kernel? The germ, endosperm and bran:
Wholegrain oats contain seven B vitamins, and vitamin E. Oats have nine minerals in all – iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and zinc.
Oats are quite versatile in the kitchen. They are not just for oatmeal anymore. Although, I love Irish oats after a hike in the Badlands at the crack of dawn shooting photos, oh yummmmmmm.
There's a difference in the processing old-fashioned oats versus Irish oats. Old-fashioned oat groats are rolled and crushed into flat flakes. Oat rollers can still be found in old barns around the state as folks used to grow their own. Irish oats are not rolled but can be found in the grocery stores as steel cut or course cut oats. The oat groat is cut with steel blades into smaller pieces and thereby considered less processed.
That gives Irish oats more texture and longer cook time. Most Irish oat breakfast recipes include the addition of butter, cinnamon, berries and nuts, making them a high fiber and chewy-good breakfast.
As a young mother with limited income, I spent more time coupons and calculator in hand using my grocery dollars wisely. Saving labels also paid in spades as many companies offered up free recipe books for some "proofs of purchase" from its products, including Quaker Oats. Besides Bob's Red Mill brand, you will more than likely find Quaker Oats a familiar round box on your grocer's shelves.
Most of my recipe books are premiums from brands. It used to be that you could get more than recipe books from oatmeal and Duz Detergent in my mother's day.
In times like these, I am reminded of "depression glass." In the 1920s and '30s, you would find beautiful cut glass dishes in boxes of oatmeal, detergent, or when you filled your car with gas. My mom collected many a saucer and coffee cup from boxes of food purchased at the store.
There are still collectors of Depression glass today with many a website chronicling this unusual time in American history. (One that may be repeating itself at this moment in time?)
From the website https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/depression-era-glassware-colorful, we learn that Depression glass brought some much-needed joy to kitchens during a bleak year following the stock market crash of 1929. Before the crash, glassware was often clear and handmade from cut crystal, making it too pricey for the middle-class family.
Anchor Hocking, a name we are still familiar with, developed a machine that could acid etch glass from molds that could produce thousands of dishes. Of course, that increased the speed of glass production and greatly reduced the cost.
"Depression glass was the first glassware in American history to be produced by a completely automated method without need for skilled glassblowers, so the major glass companies could sell complete 20‐piece dinner sets for as little as $1.99," wrote Diane Greenberg in The New York Times, years later. It also meant that many American families could afford to purchase beautiful glass cups, plates, bowls, and pitchers in brilliant shades for the first time.
As the glassware adorned tables and cupboards, it lifted families' spirits. "They glimpsed an old, sweet dream shining in the darkness just ahead of them," wrote Hazel Weatherman in Colored Glassware of the Depression Era. "For many, many families [the Depression glass] became something they could focus on, group around, work towards, in its own small way."
At this time, we'll be buying oatmeal without any dishes in it anymore. However, the recipe book from Quaker oats highlighted five ways to use oatmeal in your everyday meals. This is helpful if you are married to someone who refuses to eat it as breakfast food.
Then there's oat milk. A product quickly made at home. Oat milk is an excellent choice for people with allergies or intolerances. It's naturally free of lactose, nuts, soy, and gluten if made from certified gluten-free oats. Not to mention, it's delicious and may benefit bone and heart health.
It's relatively easy to make: Oat milk is made by soaking, blending, and straining oats. It's often enriched with nutrients and naturally free of many allergens or irritants. So, when stocking your pantry, be sure and add oats to your staple's list; and get creative in the kitchen.
NOTE: on my podcast with Prairie Public Radio, I misnamed this "rose" moon. The Strawberry Moon is in June, I believe... and April is traditionally called the "Pink Moon."
My husband harasses me to no end when I tell him that I have to get my radishes planted because it's going to rain. I based that estimation on the fog days in December. Keeping a gardening diary for years, it is so close to that time I can count on it. He, of course, thinks its hogwash.
Before weather and meteorologists, some farmers knew their land like the back of their hand. There were signs everywhere in nature connected to the weather. It is, after all, a weather "pattern." Our "long hot summer" weather pattern may be interrupted with climate change, but there are some things we can count on – like the moon.
There are two ways to look at planting by the moon, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. You know it has weather predictions based on an ancient (or nearly ancient) formula.
Gardening by the moon uses the moon's cycles. It has more to do with the gravitational pull of the moon, which also affects the tides. Like the oceans rising and falling, the moon pulls the moisture in soil much in the same way. Science says seeds will absorb more water during the full moon and the new moon when moisture draws to the surface.
In case you don't want the moon, the new moon is completely dark – just the opposite of the full bright orb that brightens our life once, or maybe twice in a blue moon, a month.
From Wikipedia: In astronomy, the new moon is the first lunar phase, when the Moon and Sun have the same ecliptic longitude. At this phase, the lunar disk is not visible to the unaided eye, except when silhouetted during a solar eclipse. Daylight outshines the earthlight that dimly illuminates the new moon. The actual phase is usually a skinny crescent. (SOURCE: https://wikimili.com/en/Earthlight_(astronomy))
Have you heard of the old moon in the new moon's arms? A very cool sight to see as the moon begins to wax. You can barely see the outline of the moon, and in the lower right-hand corner, the waxing moon begins to shine, holding the dark moon in its arms.
Oh, back to gardening.
How plants respond to gravity through geotropism can be used to plan your planting. It would explain how plants decide where to grow and what direction to take as they search out things to climb on? And for crying out loud, how do they find something to climb?
Well. Roots grow downward in the direction of the earth's gravitational pull, and stems grow in the opposite direction – upwards.
You can see this happening if you plant a clove of garlic or onion bulb in the wrong direction. It will not grow down; it will take a 90-degree angle upwards in the soil, without fail.
Plants are such complex organisms. I could talk for days. Now, the second school of thought is planting with the zodiac.
I'm not a believer in astrology, really, but I do watch the constellations move around the sky. The concept of the zodiac originated in Babylonian astrology and influenced later by Hellenistic culture. Again, before weather forecasters.
(On a side note, have you have noticed lately the sky seems brighter than usual. Less pollution from less traffic or maybe we are looking through more hopeful eyes in our isolation. At any rate, I'm not the only person noticing it.)
Astrological "best days" to plant are based on the moon's position in the zodiac. The order of the astrological signs is Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. I am, and proud of it, an Aries.
Here is a chart from the Old Farmers' Almanac outlining the best times to plant-based on where the moon is in the zodiac.
Activity Associated Signs
Plant, Transplant, or Graft Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, or Taurus
Harvest Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, or Aquarius
Build/Fix Fences or Garden Beds Capricorn
Control Insect Pests, Plow, or Weed Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, or Aquarius
Prune Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius
So, plant annual flowers and fruits and vegetables that bear crops above ground during the waxing of the moon from the new moon until full. (corn, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini). As the moon grows brighter, plants grow leaves and stems. Below-ground crops like onions, carrots and potatoes should be planted as the moon wanes beginning the day after it is full. As the light decreases, plants grow roots and bulbs.
Not a moon gazer by nature? You can find the moon rise and set times https://stardate.org/nightsky/moon has tons of great info and also alerts as to cosmic events you may learn to love.
I also have an app for identifying objects in the night sky called Sky Guide because I love the night sky.
It may or may not be a good time to talk about this, but anytime is a good time to consider a well-stocked pantry.
Before staples was an office supply store, it was a word that meant "a main or important element of something, especially of a diet or a main item of trade or production." A common term before people had options for eating out, shopping online, etc., staples were a part of every kitchen.
My dad tells the story of my brother's birth in 1948. It was December 1, when he drove my mother to the hospital in Bismarck to give birth to their first son. Mom stayed in the hospital for a week, and the bill was about $120. Things have changed a bit since then.
When he brought his wife and child home, they did not leave the farm until April. Imagine that? Were it not for "staples," people would have been in dire straits in those days.
At the end of this article, you will find a list of staples. I'm not recommending you run out and purchase all these things. You have to be a bit sensible about the room you have in your pantry. Yes, it's more than the name of a delivery service from Amazon. Everyone used to have a root cellar and a pantry to store non-perishable items for times such as these.
Think about the things that don't spoil. That's what usually fills your pantry. Without divulging too much about my stash, in case my husband is listening, let me begin.
Some essential staples for baking are flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, shortening, oil, yeast, Karo syrup, honey, maple syrup, baking powder, baking soda, baking spices (ginger, cloves, cardamom, anise, cinnamon, etc.), vanilla and chocolate chips.
None of these items spoil in the amount of time you would use them up; unless you never bake cookies, which I cannot believe.
Staples for cooking are oils, kinds of vinegar, salt, pepper, Penzy spice blends or things like cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, cumin, etc., plus things like oatmeal, rice, dried beans, whole grains for grinding into flour, seeds (sesame, sunflower, flax), dried pasta, etc.
You get the drift. A well-stocked pantry means you could find a recipe online and go to your cupboard and create it. It may not be the same, but there are substitutions for things. And, the more you express creativity in the cupboard, the better you become at winging it when you are cooking supper.
It also pays to stock your refrigerator weekly and your deep freeze monthly. Things to have on hand are bacon, sausage, chicken, ground beef, maybe round steak or roasts. You get the drift. The less processed your staple foods, the simpler it is to combine them.
In the canned area of your house, condensed soups for gravies, tomato paste, canned beans, fruit and veggies. You could also do some canning after you plant a vegetable garden. Freezing is fine, but if the electricity goes out, you won't experience mass spoilage.
Potatoes and onions last a long time in the pantry, just not next to each other. Celery, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables hold up well in the crisper draw of your refrigerator. This past Christmas, my daughter sewed up some produce bags. They work wonderfully. You wet them and place your produce in the bags to keep them humid. It works to make things last longer. Also, if you can purchase products at the farmers market, the shelf life is two to three weeks longer because it didn't take that long to transport to our middle-of-the-country state.
Don't forget the eggs, canned milk, dried milk and cheese. We eat a lot of quiche and baked egg dishes. If you don't have a friendly farmer, you will not have access to fresh dairy.
Below you will find a list of staples to begin supplying your pantry with more than three days-worth of good food for your family. Yes, folks, as my travels with my local foods job, it was a common statement that if the interstate system shut down, food in the grocery stores would last about three days. That includes toilet paper.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.