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.
Why is homemade soap good for you? It’s relatively simple to make, and you can be as creative and colorful as you wish with your recipes. For me, its something I remember from my childhood. I’m sure many of you remember sticking your hand in your pants pockets as a child and finding the last sliver of lye soap that your mom or grandmother used for the laundry.
In addition to making these enormous blocks of soap, they rendered lard to make it. That required collecting the fat from a butchered animal and heating it until it became liquid. The “cracklings” rose to the surface and were skimmed off. The bright white and creamy lard was canned for storage in the root cellar.
Lye is a critical ingredient in soap. Many people are afraid of the process of using lye, but it is necessary for saponification. The lye solution chemically changes the molecular structure of the oils to create the bar and the lather. Yes, you need to be careful when handling lye. Use the proper tools and common sense.
Saponification also creates a naturally occurring glycerin and other good stuff. Industrial soaps are not real soap but instead cleansing bars, meaning that the glycerin (which is good for your skin) has been mined out and resold as a separate ingredient. Real soap is made from lye and oils, including things like lard, coconut oil, sunflower and canola oil. You can also add things like honey, herbs, coffee, oats, natural colors, etc. Real soap leaves behind little soap scum and is very gentle on your skin.
Read the labels, very few bars of soap say it is soap.
Over the weekend, I whipped up a large batch of turmeric-colored lemongrass scented soap. Soap needs time to cure, so when my stash begins to run out, I have to make a new batch at least a month before the last little sliver disappearing down the drain.
When researching Ewiger Saatz, many women I interviewed talked about how their moms made soap. There were several recipes submitted to me, including some scans of handwritten soap recipes. It was a given that you knew how to render. There were recipes for bread and cookies that used he “cracklings” harvested from your render.
Yes, I do render lard. I then use a lye calculator from www.thesoapcalculator.com to enter the amounts of oils I wish to use plus any add-ins and the amount of super-fatting. Super-fatting ratios determine how hard the bars will be when dry.
Here are a few recipes I have collected over the years in researching the Germans from Russia and how they lived. They have not been edited, but remain faithful to the original.
Homemade Soft Soap (This was for white clothes)
Recipe from Joyce Giedt and Jane Giedt Kirby originally from their grandmother Mrs. Jacob (Christine) Wageman from Ashley.
DIRECTIONS: Melt 6-1/2 cups lard or tallow and cool. Fill a 5-gallon crock 2/3 full with cold water.
Pour 1 can lye into crock and stir with wooden stick while pouring. When lye is dissolved, add the lard while stirring.
To this, add 1 cup ammonia and 2 cups Wisk liquid detergent. Fill the crock with cold water. Stir about 5 or 6 times during the day. It will start to set the second or third day; then do not stir anymore. Dip this soap into the washer with a cup or wooden spoon. About 2 cups per washer load of clothes.
Recipe submitted by Carol (Marquart) Mock, Napoleon, Logan County.
6 ½ pounds melted lard
1 can lye
5 gallons water
1 cup ammonia
2 cups liquid soap
DIRECTIONS: Put 2-½ gallons of water in a large container, add lye. Stir until combined. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well for one hour.
Sourdough bread is delightful, good for you and not that difficult if you bake a lot of bread. If you don't it can be found locally from your farmer market bakers such as myself - Root Seller Sue. Shameless plug indeed.
I did an online class in sourdough about six years ago. I recently found it on my YouTube channel and decided to make it public so anyone with flour and a little initiative can go for it. Without further ado. Please check out the videos on the home page by clicking here.
With all the fast talking, you may need some questions answered. Here I am - just comment in the box below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Stay home, stay safe and check on your neighbors.
Oh joy of joy, my peppers look amazing. From out of their little sprouting box, they are being moved to fresh soil with room for roots to grow. It's Monday, March 16.
Following up on my seed starting post, it's time to ensure the seedlings turned plants are given proper light, a little fertilizer, fresh air and lots of love.
My garden begins indoor with these little plastic trays. Measuring about 10-inches square, I can plant seven rows of seven seeds for 49 transplants in a limited amount of space. Keeping those seedlings properly labeled has always been the bane of my existence, but not this year. This year I am attempting to keep my peppers labeled, so all my friends and customers receive properly labeled transplants.
It's also advisable to allow the seedings to "dry out" as it it much easier to get them out of their starting trays and cleanup of dry soil is really much easier than the wet clumpy stuff you see in the photo above. After transplanting and speaking words of love to my plants, I place the trays beneath full spectrum (one warm and one cool) fluorescent lights. As you can see there are two 48-inch shop lights chained to the bottom of my heavy-duty metal shelf. The chains allow you to keep the lights as close as possible to the seedlings and move them upwards as the plants develop. Because we have a cat that eats pepper seedlings I wrap plastic around the shelving unit and secure with clothes pins. So far that has worked, but only because I was home. We will see how many I lose to Walter in the near future. Or whether we lose Walter :).
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.