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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meat 'n Taters

Meat 'n Taters




Claude Reyman
Barbara (Skinner) Lamb
Patty (Jay) Owens
Jacque (Anderson) Bokelman
Irma (Snyder) Lovegrove
Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn
Ortha (Reynolds) Emry
Pat (Manifold) Cerny
Janice (Masters) Terry
Jeryce (Meyers) Russell
Raleigh Emry


Good Old Days
By Claude Reyman

Growing up before our time was a strength that our parents taught us. My parents were very avid planners for a garden in the summer time. In fact, we planted seeds in places that one would have thought nothing would grow! Mother was a great cook and she always canned at least 200 quarts in the summer time after the growing season. I can remember just north and west of the cattle barn, Dad felt that we needed to have a large garden in this area. Certainly, placing a fence around it was the proper thing to do and that fence kept the cattle out most of the time. We then planted trees around the outer-side near the fence and soon we had a good winter break.

I imagine that the potatoes were the big thing. The rows were at least 200 foot long and dad planted at least 40 rows. Potato-bugs were the big thing and we needed to spray them often. We would get a brushy bush and tie the stems together and then get the potato spray and mix it with water. We would take the hand made sprayer and place it in the bucket and then sprinkle the potatoes plant. By golly it worked and was cheap too.

We planted about 20-30 rows of sweet corn. About every two days we would plant a row so that we would have corn for a long time. The raccoons loved to raid the garden and they sure did. Dad would try any and everything. He took tin cans and placed a wire through the can and then would string up several hundred. His unique plan was to make a noise when the wind blew. This did not do much for the raccoons though, as they took what they wanted during the night. We planted green beans, and most other garden things that could be canned.

The big item was growing watermelon and cantaloupe. I remember that at our Creek pasture we had a lake and Dad used this to irrigate the melons. Nothing in a small quantity, normally a melon garden that was at least 200 foot long and 100 foot wide. My brother Bruce and I could be classified as a journeyman now for all the hoeing that we accomplished during the summer. We would just get through the potatoes then it would be time to start on the melons. As kids, we did enjoy the fruits of our labor though. When Dad hit it big on melons, we had the best in the west. We would take wagon loads to the house when they became ripe and some we would take to Valentine to sell. These were the good old days.

Getting potatoes out of the ground was a big task. We had a potato fork and it took several weeks to get the potatoes to the storage area. The area that we stored the potatoes in was our storm cellar. We had about 10 bins and that was the storage area for the potatoes. In the late fall months, it was our duty to take the sprouts off the potatoes. We would start on a bin and work our way around until we were done. This would take about two weeks as I remember.

Most of our summers were spent working in the hugh, hugh, and hugh garden(s) and then Mother would can many items. The corn, green beans, tomatoes and other items were great to eat during the winter months. We stored these items in the cellar and the shelves were loaded most of the time. Dad would always correct us when we hoed the garden - he would say "keep your fanny behind you and hoe ahead of you and not to cut off the plant", what a trick to learn. Once in awhile I would chop off a plant. At the end of the growing season, you could count the plants that had been hoed off.

We never ran out of canned goods during the winter months. This saved a great deal of money and seemed much better then the goods that you could buy from the Valentine stores. Everything we did with the garden was hauled with a team of horses and a wagon. Mike and Jim were the two large roans that helped with this work task. Bruce Sr. said that they weighed about 1600 pounds each and they stood at least 16 hands tall. We even helped harness them to get the work done.

Today - we buy most of our goods from the local store. We drive our vehicle to the store, then home, use an electric opener to get the lids off, eat the product and discard the can. The good old days, we would unscrew the lid, break the seal, empty the corn or beans then use the jar another year. Wasn't that neat? We re-cycled the system and with not much waste. How about that! Another story of the good old days - from Claude Reyman growing up on a cattle ranch in Cherry County. Bye for now. See ya at sunrise for another day's work!


Wild Fruit Picking
By Barbara (Skinner) Lamb

I really don't have anything cute or stupendous to write about food, only that I like to find it, prepare it, and give it away when it's would be considered a nice gift.

I really love the wild berry season because it's always the hottest part of the year. Chokecherries first. You always need to apply gallons of bug-repellant for the chiggers you can attract and they do itch you in the most inconvenient places at the most inconvenient times. The juice and the jelly made from the berries is so delightful and worth the extra care of applying the bug-repellant.

Next comes Sand Cherries, scarce but worth keeping a sharp eye out for. The last few years they haven't been plentiful, but when you do find them they make a pie that you think about for a long time, good jelly too.

Plums are next and the most plentiful and stable in their appearance year after year. The jelly from these berries produce such a nice tart taste for bread and biscuits and etc.

Of course the fall produces the wild grapes that grow down on the river. Some of the best homemade wine I've ever tasted was made with these wild grapes.

I could go on about Morel mushrooms, wild asparagus, and grape leaves for stuffing.

I really love all of the times going out to pick the wild bounty that can be found so close to where I live. I could never convey the special gifts nature blesses a person's senses with and the total gratification from preparing and giving away what you have enjoyed doing during the summer and fall. This is my offering for your request on food preparation. Barbara.


Soap Opera
By Patty (Jay) Owens

When my mother passed away in 1976, I inherited all her recipes and among them was this one for making soap. I remember it well as we used it for years. My former sister-in-law found out the hard way, never to use it for washing cloth baby diapers. It was guaranteed to clean, disinfect and take the hide right off a body. Believe me I know!!! Still, my father used it for bathing for years.

Here it is:

Nellie and Fred Jay's Soap Recipe

1 can Lewis Lye dissolved in 1 qt. cold water. (don't use metal pan) Use granite or crockery.

Let stand all night

In the morning add 1/2 cup ammonia

3 T borax dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water

Add 10 cups melted grease (warm and strained)

Stir until thick

Line box or pan with heavy waxed paper and pour in soap

Cut in bars before it gets too hard

Add oil of citronella


Corn Shucks and
Chicken Feathers
By Jacque (Anderson) Bokelman

I remember how we had more time back then - amazing! When we prepared corn on the cob, we would go with mother out into the grove of trees north of our house (we lived south of Johnstown, NE - the house was in city limits, the barn wasn't) to clean the corn. We would pull off one husk (sounds funny - is that the right term??) at a time! Today, with no extra time, I pull off as many as possible in one whack!

We did the same thing with chickens - not a feather at a time, though! But, believe mom would dip them in HOT water, and then we would go out into the trees and pluck them. Big deal for a little kid!

Guess I could also add that it was also a big deal when the "fruit store" opened in Ainsworth. That may not have been the name of it, but believe a gentleman by the name of Ed Abraham owned it.

There - that's my little contribution.


Too Many Seeds
By Irma (Snyder) Lovegrove

We bought the old Hornby place on the north edge of Ainsworth in 1962. They had a huge garden spot, so the first year we planted the whole thing. I have never been so busy canning and freezing all summer. I think we could have furnished pumpkins for the whole town. Needless to say, we didn't plant so much the next year. In fact, it took several years of cutting down before we learned. I sure miss the fresh veggies today, though.


Two Stories
the Price of One
By Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

While I grew up on a farm and we always had a garden, my Mother did all of the canning. Even long after she had no family to can for, she continued to can and make jam and display the finished product on shelves as a thing of beauty. I don’t think my sister Jo or I have ever canned anything, but probably sister Cindy (Bowers) has.

We did have to water, hoe and weed the garden which seemed like acres when we were young, but probably wasn’t if I could see it now. We usually spent a lot of happy hours there, but as siblings often do, it could end up in arguments as to who did the least (or most) of the garden chores. One time my older sister got mad and hit me with the sprinkler which left a big imprint on my back. It hurt and took my breath away, so I decided to play it to the hilt and pretended to be "dead." She kept saying, "Wake up, oh no, I’m going to have to tell Mother, please don’t die," (I think that was what she was really worried about, ha.) I played dead for quite awhile until I was assured of getting plenty of attention and the satisfaction that she might be "punished" and I would hopefully get out of the garden chores.


Without a doubt, My mother-in-law, Wilda Osborn had a green thumb---and to her final days, she was surrounded by begonias, amaryllis, and violets, which blossomed under her care. While I love house-plants, especially Boston ferns, I am lucky to get anything other than corn plants to thrive indoors. With Mother Nature’s help and the warm Oklahoma Fall season on our back covered porch, I can usually get ferns to grow to several feet across and then bring them indoors in late November to "save" them for the next summer. By Christmas, they usually have lost most of their leaves and are looking pretty sparse and sickly.

One year, Ken’s Mother came for a Christmas visit and promptly took charge of all my house plants and decided the Boston fern had to be cut way back in order to "save" it. When she left, I decided to just throw the now, mostly roots, away and purchased another large (healthy) fern. At her next visit, she spied the large fern and said, "See, I told you it would grow back if we just cut it back." She was so pleased with "her" surgery on my fern that I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth, so we all admired and enjoyed "her" plant expertise.

It became a "family joke" that when my plants looked sick, we needed to call on his Mom to work her magic on them. With Ken’s perverse sense of humor, or maybe he has inherited the pruning bug, he likes to shape everything practically down to the roots too. Summer before last when our son was getting married, I wanted the front landscaping to be extra nice, and he chose that time to really get carried away and decided our front bushes were growing too big, so he drastically pruned them. After threatening to end our marriage, he did hire someone to replace the ones that he had pretty much whacked into oblivion. I swear I didn’t say a word, but one by one all three of our children when they visited and saw the mangled bushes, said something to the effect of---"Remind us never to ask Dad over to trim our bushes." And we now have a new family joke.


Making Do
By Ortha (Reynolds) Emry

Raising and preserving food is something I have experienced. In the drought years followed by the Second World War, growing our own was the way we were assured of plenty of food for our families. During the war food was rationed and scarce. Just because you had some food ration stamps when you went to town didn't assure you that the merchant had food to sell.

We could irrigate our garden from a creek so barring hail or grasshoppers we raised lots of food. We sold tomatoes, watermelons and muskmelons [cantaloupe] and what we didn't sell, give away or preserve we tossed to the hogs. Sounds terrible to give that good food to the hogs but they in turn gave us meat.

We cured the hams and canned the rest and rendered the lard for shortening. The cracklings, the part that remained after straining the lard, was used for flavoring pancakes and for making soap. I really enjoyed making soap. It was great laundry soap and I always had a can with melted soap on the cooler part of the old wood range for washing dishes. That was probably the first liquid soap! The only soap we bought was our personal soap.

In order to utilize all the food and vary the winter meals, I made various canned products from each vegetable. From the tomatoes, I canned the regular tomatoes, made catsup and chili sauce, made preserves with slices of lemon for spread for home-made bread and canned green tomato pickles and green tomato mince-meat, which sufficed if we were out of the mincemeat that I made when we butchered a beef.

Cucumbers were made into numerous kinds of pickles along with watermelon, beet and crabapple pickles.

Muskmelon butter was delicious along with pumpkin butter, apple butter and jellies. Choke cherries, sand cherries and native plums and grapes were there for the picking and what delicious jams and jellies we made from them!

Milk and cream was turned into butter, cottage cheese and a yellow cheddar cheese.

We raised lots of chickens for fryers and the surplus was canned. Our big flock of hens kept us in eggs the year around. The extra eggs and cream were taken to town to sell to buy flour and sugar. Turkeys, ducks and guineas were raised to add variety to our meals.

Writing about meats and cured hams makes me hungry for them. The Super Market meats can't compare to the home-grown, but what a selection to choose from now! I don't believe I'd like to go back to "The Good Old Days"!

Jam Session
By Pat (Manifold) Cerny

In my 'bridal' days, a friend brought me a huge supply of Stanley plums. Remembering the wonderful plum jam my Grandmother made, I decided to give making jam a whirl (I had never made jam or jelly). Nowhere could I find a recipe until a friend loaned me her Grandmother's cookbook.

This is a cookbook that starts out with "after 'banking' the fire at the desired temperature, keep adding wood to maintain that temperature". So, you can imagine the scanty instructions for making plum jam! But, I tried.

It did not seem that the mixture ever reached the proper consistency that the book described. I finally gave up, poured the mixture into pint jars and decided if it didn't set we would have wonderful syrup for pancakes.

Well, I should have written down everything step by step because there could have been a patent obtained. No way would any paving material match the hardness that jam reached. In fact, one jar I wanted to keep. The jar steamed away in hot water for hours - didn't soften one bit. Took a screwdriver and tried to hammer a chunk - didn't make a dent.

It took years before the kitchen ever saw the ingredients for jam or jelly making again.


My Mother's Garden
By Janice (Masters) Terry

When I was four years old my father, Glenn Masters, bought the house on Highway 20, and it was like we moved the farm to town. The house sat on a half block and had an old barn and shed next to the alley. Dad brought a cow, brother Paul's pony, and chickens in with all five of us kids... and Mother too of course. Later the cow and pony disappeared, as did my memory, but I remember mother still having chickens to help feed the roomers she took in for all those years I was still at home.

I would watch mother wring those chickens necks and see them flopping around on the ground with my mind awhirl, wondering if I would do that if she wrung my neck. Then she would hang them from the clothesline till she was ready to scald them and pluck those babies clean. Then to add to the grossness, (is that a word? ), I would sit on the kitchen counter while she gutted and cleaned the thing for dinner. It's a wonder I could eat the thing after that. But I guess when you are hungry enough you will eat !! You have to realize these were depression times.

And of course mother (Rose) had a huge garden and we all had to do our share of weeding, picking, and helping with the canning. Dad used to love Mother's bottled tomato juice and he would get a bottle and drink the whole thing down. She had one of those old bottle cappers that took a LOT of strength to cap the bottles.

I remember many hot evenings picking veggies and sitting in the cool of the big maple tree to snap beans and get things ready to can. She also kept carrots and potatoes, (and turnips, which I would rather not remember), in the basement to have throughout the winter months.

One of my best memories is when walking home from school in the winter, getting close to home, I could most always smell fresh bread and home made doughnuts waiting for us. Loved those doughnut holes. Another great treat was when mother would fry some of that dough and we would dribble it with honey, and melted butter. (I am getting hungry!)

There is a funny I must tell you that happened one of those evenings we were snapping beans, sister Phyllis, (she will kill me for this), came out all dressed up, and this was when the new "uplifting" bras came out, it was very uplifting and protruding as she modeled in front of us. It was a scream, am sure she went back in and changed due to our laughter.

Know there is more my siblings would remember also, but these are my memories, and defy brother Dale to match mine.

Thanks for lending an ear and letting me reminisce awhile.

The Art of Pie making
By Jeryce (Meyers) Russell

I was about 13 years old, my mom was in the Valentine hospital and I was "cooking" for my little brother and Daddy. Their favorite pie was blueberry, so I got out Mom's cookbook and went to the store and got all the necessary items for the pie and the surprise dessert for supper that night.

My crust seemed rather thick, so I thought I had better take the fork and punch holes in the bottom crust like I had see Mom do. If a few stabs of the fork was good, I’d better do just a few more with a design. I filled the blueberry filing up to the very brim of the pie plate, added the top crust, and poked more holes in a pretty design. So far so good. I popped the pie in the oven and sat in front to watch "the pie".

It was not very long that I could smell the pie’s aroma and was feeling very proud of my culinary efforts. All at once, there was smoke coming out of the oven and my panic overtook me. My beautiful pie was running all over my mom’s very clean oven and the syrup was burning. I grabbed hot pads and got the pie out of the oven and into the sink. By now, I was in tears.

My dad came in and was most understanding. We worked on the oven for several hours the next day and finally got the oven cleaned but the Pyrex pie plate soaked for 2 days in soapy water and we still could not get it clean. Daddy said we had wasted enough time on scrubbing, so he gave me money to go to the store and buy a new pie plate just like the one we threw away.

We never told Mom and she never knew why that was the end of my pie making days. I used to always depend on my mom, Aunt Helen Myers and Cousin Charlene for all holiday pies as they were "the experts". Since they are gone now, I will depend on Marie Callendar, Mrs. Sam’s Club and Mrs. Costco for all pies. If someone asks if I made the pie I will cross my fingers, fib just a little, and take the credit. Jeryce Myers Russell

Model-A Gardening
By Raleigh Emry

If I titled this story "Truck Gardening" it may ring more bells. Those who "truck-garden" raise more than they need and then truck the rest from their farm to a market. The reason I am labeling this story "Model-A Gardening" is that we didn't have a truck. When I was young, my parents' only self-powered machine was an old Model-A Ford Sedan.

In post-Depression Nebraska, we river-rats who lived along the Niobrara River were not flush with cash. My piggy-bank was usually empty. As a matter of fact, I didn't have a piggy bank at all. For a bank, I had an empty Calumet baking-powder can with a slot cut in the lid. I liked the Indian Chief on the can so I was happy with my bank. On a good day, I could shake it and a few pennies might rattle. Most of the time it returned silence no matter how hard I shook it. Air doesn't have much of a rattle to it.

My first encounter with folding money was the two one-dollar bills I found along the Niobrara River. They had apparently fallen out of someone's pocket when they swam or fished. Whomever lost it was apparently a trespasser from somewhere beyond those canyons. No one I knew had two dollars to lose at the river. The bills were wet and rotting along the folds. Nonetheless, I felt immensely rich. I then worried that they wouldn't have much value in their rotten condition. But the next time we went to town, Mom took me to the bank and the banker gave me two brand-new dollar bills for the two rotten ones. I made big plans for my fortune. I thought I might be able to buy a couple of orphan lambs and turn my two dollars into a sheep empire or buy a pair of chinchilla rabbits and be knee-deep in bunnies in no time. I'm not sure what event got between my dream and my empire, but when I had those two dollars I felt richer than I ever have since.

But I digress.

We always planted large gardens and canned many vegetables in the summertime. There were a few weeks each summer when the supply of fresh tomatoes, sweet-corn, etc., was far more than we could personally use. So we would load our excess veggies into the Model-A and we would take them to Ainsworth. If tomatoes were in great supply, we would place a couple of bushels or cartons on the back seat, then Dad would place a board shelf across the back window frames. The shelf above the seat would hold two more baskets of ripe tomatoes. The crates of eggs and cans of cream that we took to sell at Case's Creamery went either between the seats or on the front seat or floor beside him.

At that time Dad did most of the driving so it was usually his errand. Mom and we kids went along to town whenever we could. Often we were taken along to open and close the numerous gates between us and the mail road. The mission, though, was to sell veggies so we were often left behind. Once Dad got to Ainsworth, he would park at a convenient crossroad and attempt to sell the produce. If there was a livestock auction at Lambley's Sale Barn, he parked near there. Sometimes he parked near the city park along Highway 20 or sometimes he set up his "Model-A Garden" right on main street.

It seemed that city folks knew what Dad also knew -- the longer he stayed there, the cheaper his produce would be. A box of tomatoes that might sell for 50 cents at noon would drop in price as chore time on the river approached. There was no point in toting left-over vegetables back to the river, so when the sun got low in the West, our produce became dirt cheap... and sure enough, business always picked up late in the day. So with the few dollars from the cream and eggs and a few more from the vegetable sales, my folks would buy the much needed staples such as flour and kerosene to last until the next trip to town.

One morning we busily picked tomatoes to fill the Model-A. Dad reached into a tomato vine and was greeted by the buzz of a rattlesnake. Those of you who have been in a similar situation know the tingling sensation you get when the adrenaline rushes to your "fight or flight" muscles. That tingle stays with you for a while. Dad killed the rattlesnake and was soon on his way to town.

A few miles from home, near the head of Devil's Gulch, Dad turned onto the first stretch of section-line road and started to pick up a head of steam. The section line road was only slightly smoother than the trail roads through the neighbors' pastures that led to our canyon home, but they were straight and with a ditch on each side. No sooner had he arrived at Model-A cruise speed than he felt something wiggling and crawling up the inside of his pants leg. His first thought was RATTLESNAKE! and his analysis was reinforced by his residual high adrenaline levels.

Dad had little advance training to help in such circumstances. So, in an instant, he did what first came to mind. He used one hand to snatch down hard on the lump in his Levi's leg and used the other hand to open the door of our old Model-A Ford. If you have been counting, you know that leaves no hands with which to steer. I'm not clear if the Model-A entered the ditch with Dad still aboard or if he had bailed out at that point. The end result, in either case, was a Model-A in the ditch and bushels of spilled tomatoes everywhere inside.

Dad finished squeezing the critter in his pants leg until it was nearly strained through the denim of his Levi's. When he shook out his pants leg, a very dead and very flat mouse dropped out.

I'm not sure if Dad returned home or if he continued to town after he had cleaned up the tomatoes and got his mobile "Model-A Garden" back on the road. I suppose it depended on which way he was then pointed and how clean his Levi's were.

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