There's a lot of stuff that reaches our young ears that we never understand until many years later. It's amazing how some comments really stick with you. If you are fortunate enough to be able to ask your parents what was happening in their lives at the time, you have to be prepared for the answers. Sometimes it's not what you thought.
When looking at old photo albums, my mom always said, "You guys looked like tramps." I know that sometimes our situation in life was not always pleasant for her. But, we didn't know we looked any different than anyone else. We didn't care. Maybe everyone else dressed like we did. No designer outfits for us.
I remember receiving a hand-me-down shirt and pair of cut off jeans from one of my cousins, a boy cousin. I wore that outfit to death. It was perfect for climbing trees. It was probably a nice store-bought hand-me-down. All our dress up outfits for the holidays were sewed by my other. With no patterns.
When I look at this photo, I can see that we could have been mistaken for tramps.
In the summer of 2019, we celebrated my Aunt Alivina and Uncle Herman's wedding anniversary. I think it was their 60th. Prior to the big event, the family hunted for photos for the photo board at the party. My cousin Julie was kind enough to send me a shot of this photo she found in her mom's collection. I LOVE IT and I had never seen it before.
This old black and white photo of my mother holding my cousin, Robin, with me smiling by her side, was priceless. I do not know what the occasion or place was. It could have been a picnic. We are sitting on a bench probably manufactured just for the day from a 2x6 or 8-inch board and what looks like Standard Oil-branded buckets.
My face is very sober in most of the photos I've seen, but today I am smiling. It must have been a happy day. There were, not looking like tramps, but like every other little girl and her mom in the 1960s. If I had to guess, it would be about 1962-3ish. (I'm sure if one of my cousins reads this post, they will correct me if I am wrong.)
I love this photo. It's the only one I have from that decade with my mom and myself - no one else from my immediate family. And, she looks so beautiful with a slightly dreamy look on her face. Like she is thinking deeply about something. Check out her shoes. And, both of us in polka dots.
I interviewed my mom for one of my books. The answers to some of the questions I asked about those days were not the easiest to hear. As much as our memories weed out the worst of the days, life was sometimes complicated. Unbeknownst to us, we had to make do with what we had. It wasn't much for such a large family.
But we lived an adventure. We ran wild in our small community, my dad having moved off the farm before I was born. We butchered chickens, inspected bugs and animals, and played games with imagination only. It was a great life and one that my grandchildren will NEVER experience. As for this photo, it makes me happy and brings memories of my mom to closer to my heart.
The twins born in 1964. It was a very big deal.
Notice the number of packages under the tree? We were a family of five children, and that was the extent of gifting in the 60s. As the years increased in number, so did the packages. Today, a single grandchild receives about that many gifts when our small family gathers.
Things have changed so much from those days. So much of today's "things" come and go so fast, I cannot keep up with current trends as much as I try.
My goals in life have always been to live simply. That sentiment translates into buying a car for value, not color; hosting huge family gatherings with good food and not so many gifts; and celebrating not just on one single calendar day but every day.
Several of my earliest memories of Christmas include my mother purchasing a dozen checkerboard games for about $1 each. They were to be Sunday School gifts, and not for us. One year she wrapped up some little dolls that were branded and not Barbies. We wanted them so bad. She saved one of them until the day she died. It was tossed with many things we let go of while cleaning out her belongings. Case in point - why do we save stuff at all?
On a side note, I have never owned a Barbie Doll (brand name). We did have some knock-offs, my sister and I, but they were too "heavy" to fit those tiny-waisted doll dresses. Maybe that's why I'm such a low maintenance person. It takes too much time to do all that makeup and hair, so I left it the way God intended.
Christmas was more about anticipation and hope than anything. Do children still feel that? I hope so. Pouring over Sears wish books, helping with the baking and most of all Christmas Eve children's programs.
We do a lot of fun stuff at Christmas with the church, grandchildren's dance and watching the lighting of the houses competition. But I miss the dark.
The best part of Christmas was the slow-motion of parents setting aside time for family; walking to church in the twilight - mom's high heels making clicking noises on the sidewalk; time off from school to play for endless hours in the snow. It became a quiet time with darkness like a security blanket wrapped around the small town of Fredonia.
In a couple of years, 1966, the town would experience darkness in the spring when a blizzard of Biblical proportions dropped snow for a couple of days. It was a blessing we still heated that old two-story home with coal. Scary and exciting at the same time - that's a subject for another month.
Some years after I started a family of my own, I came looking for that silver tree in the photo above. It had a light shining on it from a distance. A lamp with a light bulb and a rotating plastic disc in four colors. It changed the tint of the silver "leaves" from yellow to green to blue to red. Everyone goes through that retro-stage, and it would have been cool to use that tree for my own Christmas. (I have always had real trees with old German glass ornaments for most of my Christmases). Alas, it was lent to the Gackle school shortly before it burned down, destroying not only the tree but my high school and its memories.
Oh well, in the end - it all goes back in the box. So, enjoy your 2020 to the fullest, and may all your Christmases be bright.
It is the last day of the year. With so many resolutions and so little time, the one thought that sticks in my head pushes me back into the lower level (I hate to call it a basement) of Gackle High School.
The school no longer stands, destroyed by fire and replaced like many of my memories. It stood three stories high, brick with well-traveled wooden steps, depressed from shuffling shoes of many students, leading to long halls and classrooms with huge uninsulated windows. We were not allowed to wear slacks, jeans or pants to school in those days and most certainly kept our tummies covered. We obeyed the rules. We walked to school, even on the coldest of winter days.
Among other things, we read 1984 by George Orwell. We talked about the coming ice age. Yes, we were concerned about the environment, but not warming; instead, the weather cooling over our lifetime. And we talked about the year 2000. I did not expect to see the year 2000, so far away from our innocent lives.
Yet, here we are on the eve of 2020. Wow. I'm still here, changed, and unchanged. Inside this creaky body, the heart of a senior still dreams at 60 beats per minute — high school senior (insert smiley face here).
Everything has changed at such a rapid rate in the past ten years alone. The world has become strange to me, and I ponder whether this is exactly how my grandparents and parent felt about the changes in their lifetimes. Sometimes, I think not. How could electricity be a shock comparable to the fact we can communicate globally over the Internet.
Thinking about technology alone, the little they were exposed to, what a change for my parents. My generation will be the one in the books as the last generation to know what it was like to live without computers and cell phones. Like my interviews with the generation that grew up without electricity, we will be asked about what life was like without technology to the degree we use it today.
Oh, there are many things to enjoy about technology. My chosen profession has been eliminated, replaced by computer software that allows me to do amazing things. It's just that there's little tactile enjoyment in pecking at keys and mousing in colors on the many printed materials we have yet to eliminate. I remember in the 80s when my supervisor and friend told me that someday we would be reading books on a computer and not on paper. Sadly and conveniently, he was correct.
So, here I am, musing about the fact that I have to face 2020 and am grateful for that opportunity. I do have to face it without my mom and many of my friends. Writing what I can remember about the days before computers will be my only goal this year. Other than that, life goes on, one battle after another. Some victories. Some sadness. Hopefully, always underlying joy at the things we are grateful for -- children, grandchildren, health, wealth, and friends. So, to you, my friends, I wish a safe eve to the upcoming new year. Blessings to you in 2020.
PS: here's another golden oldie that we thought we would never see, but you never know... IN THE YEAR 2525.
It's cold enough to snow and that means it cold enough to clear out that garden and prepare for next year's season. Yes, you need to begin now to ensure you have a jump on your garden in spring.
HERE is a handy checklist for you to download as we move from growing to resting season.
In addition to cleaning out your garden, prepping your soil and covering it up, it's time to plant garlic.
Yep, traditionally, I plant my garlic around October 15. I'm waiting for the weather to shape up. The excessive rain we have experienced has set our plans to get a second high tunnel and new garden ready for spring beeee hind. I will be planting as much garlic as I can in a 4x20-foot raised bed. First I clean out all the old plants and weeds, then I use the best of the best garlic I grew this year to plant rows and rows of cloves. I'll water them in, unless Mother Nature does it for me and cover with a nice bed of grass or straw to protect the ground and the bulbs until spring.
Then, when the nudge comes in the spring. You know, the nudge that says, "it's time to uncover your plants, flowers and such," you comb away the covering and wait for rain.
A good sprinkling of blood meal will give your garlic an extra boost of energy when beginning to grow. Keep that bed weed-free because garlic does not like to be crowded out by strangers.
Got questions. Listen to my weekly episode of Main Street Eats on Prairie Public Radio each Thursday on Main Street. Past episodes can be downloaded from PPRadio by following the link on my home page. Until next time....
Buckwheat Nutrition Facts
Buckwheat is a seed often mistaken for a gluten-free grain like brown rice or rolled oats.
Like other seeds, it is high in both protein and fiber, although it’s unique among seeds that we typically eat in that it’s lower in fat and higher in starch.
It is usually found as raw “buckwheat groats.” It’s also made into buckwheat flour that is used in baking. Both are highly nutritious staples to keep in your kitchen, and they can be used in numerous ways. If you’ve never tried this ancient “grain” before, many describe its flavor as earthy, nutty and comforting.
What foods have buckwheat in them? Buckwheat pancakes, buckwheat soba noodles and kasha stir-fries made with veggies like mushrooms. Other ways you can use it at home include adding cooked groats to stews, soups or cold salads; replacing processed breakfast grains with it; and using the flour in muffins and breads, as well as to coat or bind meat when making meatballs.
Top 7 Buckwheat Benefits
Improves heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Contains disease-fighting antioxidants.
Provides highly digestible protein.
High fiber content is filling and helps improve digestion.
Can help prevent diabetes.
Doesn’t contain gluten and is non-allergenic.
Supplies important vitamins and minerals.
How to Cook Buckwheat:
Tips for Soaking, Sprouting and Simmering
Buckwheat is a versatile grain and is used in many different types of food products – everything from granola to Japanese soba noodles. In France, it is often made into crepes. Throughout Asia, it’s used to make soba noodles that are popular in soups and stir-fries. In the U.S., popular buckwheat recipes are those made with its flour, like muffins, cookies, breads and other snacks that are high in protein and fiber, but free of gluten.
How to cook buckwheat (from dried groats):
First rinse them well and then combine with water on the stovetop in a 2:1 ratio, so two cups of water for every one cup of buckwheat.
Simmer them on low for about 20 minutes, checking to see when they are plump and their texture is what you’re looking for.
If they aren’t absorbing all the water and appear to become mushy, try straining some of the water out (some people prefer to use only 1.5 cups of water to one cup of buckwheat to prevent this from happening).
One of the best things you can do to improve the absorbability of the nutrients, plus its digestibility, is to sprout the hulls (or groats). This reduced “antinutrients” that can block a percentage of the vitamins and minerals found in this seed. Sprouting buckwheat groats also reduces enzymes that can make it hard to digest for some people.
To soak and then sprout, follow these steps:
First soak dried hulls in a big bowl of water between 30 minutes to six hours. Then wash and strain the dried groats. Next leave them out in a dish or shallow bowl, on the countertop or somewhere where they will be exposed to air.
Keep them slightly damp by adding just a small amount of water to the bowl/dish, but you don’t need them to be covered in water completely. Try adding just 1–2 tablespoons of water.
Leave them out for 2–3 days, checking for small sprouts to form. Sprouts will vary from 1/8-inch to two inches long. When ready, rinse sprouts well, drain, and store in a jar or container.
Keep in the refrigerator for up to seven days, but every day you need to rinse them to prevent mold and bacteria from forming.
Because buckwheat is a high-fiber food, it’s a good idea to introduce it into your diet slowly and to start by eating small servings. Drinking plenty of water with it and other whole grains/seeds can also help with digestion. Although it is gluten-free, it’s still possible to experience allergic reactions to buckwheat. You should avoid it if it causes any type of serious indigestion, skin rash, a runny nose, asthma, itching, swelling or changes in blood pressure.
Sunflowers are so simple to grow and a color addition to any garden or yard. Planted along your house, sunflowers provide color, texture and food for your bird friends.
Soil temperatures should be warm before direct sowing of seeds in the spring. Plants need plenty of room to spread out and may reach heights of more than eight feet.
Light fertilizer will assist with strong stems to keep the winds from blowing tall plants over.
You may need to cover the ground to keep the birds from scratching out your seed… Sometimes I put tin cans (with both ends open) around the newly planted seeds, until they have sprouted and then you can remove the tins.
Make that sunflower pie we spoke about on Prairie Public's Main Street Eats with Root Seller Sue on Thursday, June 20, by clicking on this link.
Here are some factoids about sunflowers from http://mentalfloss.com/article/68726/10-glorious-facts-about-sunflowers.
1. THEY'RE NATIVE TO THE AMERICAS.
Like potatoes, tomatoes, and corn, the cheerful plants didn't originate in Europe. They were cultivated in North America as far back as 3000 BCE, when they were developed for food, medicine, dye, and oil. Then, they were exported to the rest of the world by Spanish conquistadors around 1500.
2. THEY WERE BROUGHT TO RUSSIA BY ROYALTY.
Tsar Peter the Great was so fascinated by the sunny flowers he saw in the Netherlands that he took some back to Russia. They became popular when people discovered that sunflower seed oil was not banned during Lent, unlike the other oils the Russian Orthodox Church banned its patrons from consuming. By the 19th century, the country was planting two million acres of sunflowers every year.
3. THEIR POPULARITY STANDS THE TEST OF TIME.
Russian immigrants to the United States in the 19th century brought back highly developed sunflower seeds that grew bigger blooms, and sparked a renewed interest in the native American plant. Later, American sunflower production exploded when Missouri farmers began producing sunflower oil in 1946, when Canada unveiled a mechanical seed-crushing plant, and in the 1970s, when consumers looked for low-cholesterol alternatives to animal fats.
4. THEY NEED A LOT OF RAYS AND ROOM.
The flowers not only look like the sun, they need a lot of it. They grow best with about six to eight hours a day but more is even better. They can grow as tall as 16 feet, although many varieties have been developed to thrive at different heights. Flowers planted too close together will compete and not blossom to their full potential.
5. THEY TRACK THE SUN.
Sunflowers display a behavior called heliotropism. The flower buds and young blossoms will face east in the morning and follow the sun as the earth moves during the day. However, as the flowers get heavier during seed production, the stems will stiffen and the mature flower heads willgenerally remain facing east.
6. THE WORLD'S TALLEST SUNFLOWER REACHES 30 FEET AND 1 INCH.
In the summer of 2014, Veteran green-thumb Hans-Peter Schiffer toppled the Guinness World Record for third year in a row. The local fire brigade lent its help in measuring the sunflower, which required its own scaffold.
7. THEY HAVE A HISTORY OF HEALING.
In Mexico, the flowers were thoughtto sooth chest pain. A number of Native American tribes agreed with the plant's curing properties. The Cherokee utilized an infusion of sunflower leaves to treat kidneys while the Dakota brought it out to sooth "chest pain and pulmanery troubles."
8. THEY HAVE TRAVELED TO SPACE.
In 2012, U.S. astronaut Don Pettit brought along a few companions to the International Space Station: sunflower seeds. Petitit regularly blogged about his budding friendship and shared photos of the gardening process.
9. THEY ARE ACTUALLY THOUSANDS OF TINY FLOWERS.
Each sunflower's head is made of smaller flowers. The petals we see around the outside are called ray florets, and they cannot reproduce. But the disc florets in the middle, where the seeds develop, have both male and female sex organs, and each produce a seed. They can self-pollinate or take pollen blown by the wind or transported by insects.
10. THEY CAN BE USED AS SCRUBBING PADS.
Once the flower heads are empty of seeds, they can be converting into disposable scrubbing padsfor jobs too tough for your cleaning tool.
Whatever the reason, sunflowers are a great way to engage your children in gardening.
Thinking about the weekend and our little trip to Wishek and I have to chuckle, 'cause the first thing that came to mind was the posts from Facebook about "how you know you're something or other by..." followed by a list of 10 commonalities people of a certain area or sect share. Well, when I have my doubts about who I am and where I come from, I need look no farther than a get-together with some of my relatives.
So, I know I'm from McIntosh County, ND, when -
10a. You meet one more distant relative who drove up to see her twin babies' graves.
10b. You receive multiple hugs and --
10c. You leave with a slight German accent, so there's no doubt about your roots.
As you honor your relatives who have gone before you to await your arrival in heaven, may the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ.
Do some healthy drinking this summer and make your own thirst quenching drinking vinegars, shrubs and swizzles. It's so much fun to take the fruit of the summer and make your own special concoctions.
Shrubs are usually equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar.
Here is a recipe for a simmered cherry shrubIngredients:
2. Add the fruit and simmer until fruit is sufficiently softened and can easily be crushed.
3. Crush fruit to release the juices and allow to cool.
4. Pour through a fine sieve or straining funnel and collect the juices. If you want to maintain higher clarity of your shrub, just allow the juices to drip through. At this point, you may choose to save the fruit syrup as is OR you can add your vinegar to complete the shrub.
5. Cap it, label it and store in your refrigerator. I love keeping some of these French Square bottles on hand for things like this…they look so pretty, but are also great space savers and fun for sharing!
Save the fruit and make fruit leather, spoon it over cake or ice cream or put it in your oatmeal. Waste not, want not.
The above recipe and these recipes can be found on https://foodinjars.com.
Then there’s ginger beer. Oh, yes, half the fun is collecting the Grolsch bottles with the ceramic caps to make capping up Ginger Beer simple. Here is just one of many ways to make your own “Thirst Slaking” drinks.
Ginger Syrup Ingredients
See the full HERE: https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/the-old-fashioned-way-homemade-ginger-beer/
For the podcast of Main Street Eats with Root Seller Sue talking with Doug and Ashley about old-fashioned drinks, visit https://news.prairiepublic.org/programs/main-street.
My old neighbor in Mandan was a gardener. He encouraged my gardening habit by leaving melty footprints in the spring snow leading from his back door across the sidewalk, up the front steps to deliver packets of seeds. We raced to the garden each year to see whose radishes would be the first to appear in the spring.
Begin widowed, elderly and living with his working son, Mr. Weber would be up before the crack of dawn crushing aluminum cans or digging in his huge garden.
There was a dedicated row for composting his kitchen scraps. Using a spade, he dug a trench and each day buried his compost. Once the row was filled, he moved over and dug another row. Moving from one end of the garden to the next, he continued to feed it organic matter – never having to purchase fertilizer.
Researching compost teas, which are quicker than compost heaps in becoming garden fertilizer, I found the following information and recipes from several online sites.
10 Natural Fertilizer Recipes | Home Grown Fun. https://www.homegrownfun.com/natural-fertilizers-around-house/
10 Natural Fertilizer Recipes | Sun Oven® | The Original .... https://www.sunoven.com/10-natural-fertilizer-recipes/
Plants like potassium and banana peels have it. Just throw those peels in a bucket and add water in 2-3 days, use that water around the base of your plants.
Starbucks gives them away, and they have nitrogen. However, you do not want to use them until you use them in your coffee maker. Plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, roses, and azaleas may get a jolt out of coffee grounds mixed into the soil. But more likely it’s the nitrogen that helps. Sprinkled on top of the ground before watering or pour a liquid version on top of the soil.
Coffee compost tea can be made by soaking six cups of coffee grounds in a 5-gallon bucket of water. Let it sit for 2-3 days and then saturate the soil around your plants.
Rinse them off, let dry and then crush them for working into the soil near peppers and tomatoes. The calcium helps fend off blossom end rot. Eggshells are 93 percent calcium carbonate, the same ingredient as lime, a tried and true soil amendment! These can also be added to your compost tea bucket.
WEEDS – Ruth Stout had it correct when she said all you need to do to garden the lazy way was pull those weeds and pile them on the soil next to your vegetables.
Nettles, comfrey, yellow dock, burdock, horsetail, and chickweed make excellent homemade fertilizer. There are several ways you can use them to make your own brew or to speed up your compost pile. If your weeds have not gone to flower, you can dry them in the sun and chop them up to use as a mulch. They are high in nitrogen and won’t rob your plants of nutrients.
I LOVE BORAGE, and so do bees. A topic for another episode of Main Street Eats. PS: A listener emailed and said borage is available at Faulkner’s in Mandan, both plants and seeds. However, they are the oldest business on the Strip in Mandan and sell out quickly.
Borage (Starflower) is a beautiful herb with nutritional properties of comfrey. Dried and thrown in your compost bin, it works like comfrey as a kickstarter.
Fermented borage tea can be made by adding water and borage leaves to a five-gallon bucket. Make sure the leaves are under water, wait three to five weeks and dilute the goo 1:10 as a topical fertilizer. Yes, it will stink...
BUCKET TIP: Drill some holes in one side of a tight-fitting cover to your compost tea bucket. Fill the bucket and use that cover to strain the mixture. Throw the waste in your compost bin.
To make it even more convenient, you can use two buckets and make a hole in the bottom of the bucket that contains the plants. The goo will seep through to the lower bucket. It’s always best to apply the liquid fertilizer diluted – it should look like weak tea.
Grass clippings are the best way to add nitrogen back to the soil. HOWEVER – do not spray your land with killer chemicals before using it on the garden. Trust me. Fill a 5-gallon bucket full of grass clippings. You can even add weeds! Weeds soak up nutrients from the soil just as much as grass. Add water to the top of the bucket and let sit for a day or two. Dilute your grass tea by mixing 1 cup of liquid grass into 10 cups of water. Apply to the base of plants using the same amounts as listed in the urine recipe. Add one cup to four cups of the diluted mixture around the base of your plants.
MANURE – With a little effort, you’ll find folks that are giving away composted chicken, horse or cow manure for free. Composted and aged manure is best. Add the composted manure to a small porous bag made from recycled cloth, e.g., a t-shirt or old towel. Let it steep in the shade for a few days and apply it to your soil to condition it before planting. Bury or discard the used bag. Some people use manure tea to soak bare root roses!
HUMAN URINE – Sounds disgusting, but urine is considered sterile if the body it’s coming from is healthy and free of viruses and infection. High in nitrogen, urea contains more phosphorous and potassium than many of the fertilizers we buy at the store! If serving tomatoes that have been fertilized with pee gives you the “willies,” try it in the compost pile. A good ratio of urine to water would be 1:8. You can collect a cup of urine and pour it into 8 cups of water in a plastic bucket used outside for fertilizing plants. Pour 2 cups around the perimeter of each SMALL plant. For MEDIUM plants add 4 cups, and LARGE plants deserve a good 6 cups of your homebrew.
Writing helps me deal with overwhelming emotion. If you know me, I have a teakettle full some days just waiting to boil over.
There have been several paragraphs simmering in my brain for a long time. In the past three years, or maybe it’s only been two, I have lost three very influential people in my life. It’s coming up on Mother’s Day, so this post will only be about one of those three.
My brother asked me to speak at the wake. You know how people remember things about their loved ones. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to share anything about my mom and all of the things we shared over her lifetime.
But its Mother’s Day. And, being a mother myself, I would like my children to know just how much I miss her. There isn’t a day that I don’t think to myself, “I need to call my mom.”
Having only left the state for a short time to learn some life lessons (and yes, one of those was on mother’s day weekend – but I really must save that for my memoirs) once I returned, found a job, got married and settled down a bit, I spent a ton of time with my mom. So did my children.
I could fill a book with the experiences we had, the meals we prepared, and experiments we tried. Yes, I remember many good times. Since she has been gone, I also recall the many heartaches I must have caused her. How I wish I could back and apologize for them.
Some were major; some were seemingly small. Only now do I feel those pains deep in my heart. She was always there for me. When she died, I felt (feel) loneliness I cannot explain. Mom listened to me pour out my heart, swear, vent, shout and cry. In the years before she passed away, I tried to call her every day thanks to my best friend from college days, Karen. She told me once that she called her mom every day on the way to work. What a great idea. Sometimes it was only for a short time; other times it was the total distance.
My only point with this outpouring is if you still have a chance to talk to your mom, do it. I have never missed anything so much in my life. It’s kind of like not having the one person in your life that you knew loved you unconditionally. I hope you feel that from your mother.
So, in line with my Mother’s Day podcast, here is a list of things you can consider for Mother’s Day gifts. Small tokens of appreciation. Although, ultimately, it’s time you spend with her that counts.
Gifts for the Foodie Mom on Mother’s Day
Listen to the May 9 podcast on Main Street at PrairiePublicRadio.org
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.