Archive for October, 2013

Brotherly Love

I feel so lucky to have my brother’s reaction to my birth written down to be read and laughed about years later.

October 17, 1984

The October sun filtered down on the streets of Putnam, Connecticut. In the white two story house set high above the busy street the phone rang.

“Hello,” followed by expectant silence.

“Hello. The baby was born just five minutes ago. A girl and everyone is fine. Will you tell Chris?”

“Oh that’s wonderful,” I responded. “I’m so happy and I’ll tell Chris right away. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Christopher, playing with Castle Grayscull in his bedroom, looked up when I sat down on the bed.

“Chris, Daddy just called and you have a baby sister.”

Christopher’s brown eyes looked right through me and he didn’t bother to answer. Secure in his four- year tenure as top kid in Mom and Dad’s heart his attitude reflected his thought.

“Well, what did you expect? I’ve heard too much about that baby already. Now she’s here. No big deal!” and he went back to his play. That evening when Daddy came home from the hospital Chris didn’t ask about the baby or show any interest in her at all.

The next day, dressed in brown corduroy overalls and matching striped shirt, Christopher went with his Daddy and me to the hospital in Massachusetts. Feeling very independent he scrambled in the car, climbed into his car seat, snapped his seat belt with a brisk click, and rode away, king of all he surveyed. The Interstate stretched through the wooded hills rioting with deep yellow, rusty oranges and brilliant scarlets.

After Daddy parked the car Chris hopped out and holding Daddy’s hand firmly, he trudged up the long steps heading to the tall red brick hospital. He maintained his best man of the world attitude in the elevator and down the hall to Momma’s room.

She, dark curly hair tousled, lay among the pillows in a pink satin negligee.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Honey. How’s my boy?” Momma reached out and smoothed Chris’ hair.

“Fine.”

“Climb up on the bed so I can hug you,” Momma said as she reached to help him up.

“What’s that?” Chris asked pointing toward the bedside table.

“A thermometer, dear. Daddy has gone to get the baby now so you can see her. Won’t you like that? We’ve named her Carolyn.” And Momma gave him a big hug.

“Daddy bought me a new Gobot. It turns into a submarine. Want to see it?” Chris dug down into his pants pocket to produce the treasured toy.

Just then Daddy and Carolyn came in. “Oh, look, Chris, here’s your baby sister.”

Tenderly his parents showed Carolyn to him and waited expectantly for Chris to melt at her winsome charm and become a proud and protective big brother.

Chris did not melt. He glanced casually at her and began to organize his resources for a complete exploration of the hospital room. He climbed down to the floor, smelled the roses and chrysanthemums on the window ledge, drank out of the water pitcher, turned on the call light and peeked under the curtain at the patient in the next bed.

Room investigation completed, Chris scaled the bed for a two minute cuddle with Momma, slid down to the floor and made ready to move on to bigger challenges. At this point Daddy interceded.

“Chris, would you like to hold Carolyn?”

“No, I’m going to the bathroom,” he said as he turned the knob on the door.

When he came out Daddy tried again. “Carolyn would like for her big brother to kiss her.”

“I want to go home now and watch ‘Masters of the Universe.’” He reached for his coat.

So the visit ended with a brief kiss for Momma and none for Carolyn.

 

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Apples

Last weekend was my birthday and as usual I got treated with apple dumplings. Despite all the nutritious value found in apples that my Grandmother describes below, those dumplings should probably not be enjoyed more than once a year, though they are quite delicious.

October 1982

As my farmer and I sat on the porch this morning eating our breakfast between the dark of the night and the light of the day there was an unmistakable feeling of fall in the crisp air.

The rising wind sighed through the windbreak and rustled the leaves of the little spring- planted cottonwood tree into an early morning song. Gleaming dull gold, the milo field stretched to the south while across the road George Miller’s cattle grazed in the tall Sedan grass, silhouetted in the misty haze.

Four young robins winged in from the vegetable garden and settled in the driveway to busily run about in search of grain, looking for all the world like plump Dutch matrons hustling about their morning chores.

Out west the last of the apples hung high on the tree where they had escaped all my efforts to reach them with a ladder and a grappling hook. The sparrows and the blackbirds are pecking away at them for an early snack.

The apple tree is old and broken and each year we say, “This crop will surely be the swan song for that tree.” It was planted soon after our marriage and for over 35 years has kept the family supplied with apple pies and cobblers, apple crisp and apple sauce, as well as apple dumplings.

The children used to eat so many green apples I just knew they would have a stomach ache, but they never did. This year two small grandchildren took up the green apple eating tradition with no ill effects.

Each April the old tree blossoms into a beautiful halo of flowers and sets on a crop of apples that grow plump and red by August. Then, we begin making applesauce for the freezer.

My farmer and I spend many companionable evenings removing the worms and bad spots from the raw apples, cooking them and pushing them through a colander before sacking the sauce in plastic bags for freezer or, if it is full, canning them.

Applesauce sprinkled with black walnuts or pecans, with light cream poured over the top is a delightful winter dessert after a heavy dinner.

Sliced raw apples freeze well and can be used in any recipe the same as fresh ones. Incidentally a food processor makes fast work of slicing them.

The good news about apples is that nutritionists are rediscovering what your grandmother knew – apples are not only good, they’re also good for you.

Apples are high in fiber. Fiber is the name for a quite a few indigestible substances namely cellulose, lignin, pectin, hemicellulose, and gum. Apples contain lots of pectin.

Quite a few authorities think fiber reduces the incidence of some types of cancer. It is also suggested that fiber may help to protect people from heart disease by its effect on cholesterol- lowering effect on the body.

While this research on heart disease, cancer, and diet is still in the beginning stages and not conclusively proven it looks as if you can enjoy apples with a clear conscience. These recipes make the most of the apple’s juicy, tart flavor.

Cheese Crumble Apple Pie

Topping:

½ cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

5 tablespoons butter

Filling:

5 cups apples, sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 ½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese

4 teaspoons flour

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Make one 9-inch pie crust with a high rim using your favorite recipe. For the topping combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry blender. Set aside.

For filling, toss together apples and lemon juice. Mix cheese, flour and nutmeg; toss with apples. Arrange this fruit mixture in the crust. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 375° for 40 to 50 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

 

Apple Dumplings

1 ½ cups white flour

1 cup lard

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour

1/3 to ½ cup cold water

½ teaspoon salt

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in lard with pastry blender until size of peas. Add the smallest amount of water in driblets that you can and still have the dough stick together. Roll out ¼ inch. Cut into 6 or 7 squares. Set aside.

Core and partially peel 6 apples of a large and juicy variety. Then prepare this syrup:

Syrup:

1 cup water

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Boil for 3 minutes. Place apples on each pastry square. Fill cavities of apple with mixture of:

½ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Bring opposite points of pastry up over the apple. Overlap, moisten and seal. Place separately in shallow baking dish. Pour hot syrup around dumplings.

Bake at once at 425° for 40 to 45 minutes until brown and apple is tender. Serve warm with the syrup and Half and Half.

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Fall in Kansas

Fall is a wonderful colorful season. Below is a beautiful description of fall in Kansas.

 

October 1979

 

A Report on Fall

 

In the southwest sky the sun glows red and the drowsy air is satiated with the incessant chorus of the locust. The fields of milo are sculpted in bronze and copper heads reaching in stately ranks toward the blue arc of the heavens. Nearby, the soft violet of an alfalfa plot is slashed to pale green by each round of the swather.

 

Out by a weatherbeaten shed an ancient apple tree is weighed down with a crop of Red Delicious. The apples that were wormy, bird pecked, half rotted, or windfalls are all made into applesauce and resting safely in the freezer.

 

Pheasants with their half grown young run across the road to a brushy shelter to escape the wheels of a passing car. Knowing at first hand what man and a gun can do to their delicate bodies, doves are wary of all movement.

 

Sunflowers bloom extravagantly in any available spot. Where the soil is moist, smartweed grows luxuriantly, putting out great feathery clusters of dainty pale lavender plumes. The goldenrod is thick along the roads wherever it has escaped man’s effort to tidy up the countryside with a mower.

 

Toward dusk a moth hovers over the petunia bed sticking its long proboscis into each bloom and sucking out the nectar. A few bees are flying about gathering honey. The usual brisk Kansas wind is a gentle zephyr as it blows over the ripening land.

 

Overhead, momentarily, is the roar of an airplane and in the distance is the continual drone of tractors. The wheat fields are worked and fertilized awaiting the magical moment when each farmer knows in his bones that it is time to plant. The black walnuts are hanging thick on the trees along Emma Creek with the early drop offs being carried down stream by the current or laying water soaked in a quiet inlet.

 

In the garden the last planting of sweet corn is finished. Watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumbers can still be found, but the vines are shop worn and seedy looking. Tomato plants have escaped their trellis and wire cages and sprawling every which way, but with fruit still ripening in abundance.

 

The fall planting of green beans is ready to be picked. The radishes planted in August have been pulled and September planting is coming in. The turnips and beets have grown good globes, one white and one red according to the imprinted message of their seeds.

 

Queen of the late garden is the okra – a plant growing over five feet tall that can – oh, blessed thought – be picked with the pickee in an upright position. It has an olive green five pointed leaf growing from a main stalk that is about one or two inches thick. This soft green stem is streaked and splotched with dark red coloring. The flower is conical shaped before opening to five creamy yellow petals with a maroon base. Inside is a stamen ending in a blood red bulb divided into seven small velvety cushions. Okra is prolific. A small patch will produce enough pods each day for a large family. It is almost a miracle – the more you gather the more there is the next day.

 

In sorting out the images of fall I find the one sure portent is the daily passing of the school buses as they rumble by picking up and delivering children, that most precious asset of any farm, to school and bringing them back home in the late afternoon.

 

Bread and Butter Pickles

 

12 medium cucumbers

3 teaspoons celery seed

8 onions

¼ cup white mustard seed

4 green peppers

1 ½ teaspoons turmeric

1 medium cauliflower

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

¾ cup cooking salt

1 teaspoon ginger powder

6 ½ quarts water

 

Sauce:

7 cups sugar

¼ teaspoon mace

6 cups vinegar

Few dashes red pepper

 

Slice pickles, onions, peppers, cauliflower and soak in salt water over night. Boil syrup with ½ quart of water. Boil three minutes. Add vegetables and boil 20 minutes or until clear. Seal.

 

Apple Cake

 

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon soda

¼ cup butter or margarine

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

5 large apples, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup white flour

½ cup raisins or nuts

 

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and apples. Sift dry ingredients. Add to first mixture. Add raisins or nuts. Pour into greased 8 x 8 inch pan. Bake at 350° F for 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool.

 

Sauce

 

½ cup water

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

½ teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons sugar

 

Put first 4 ingredients in a pan. Cook until thick. Add vanilla. Spread over top of cake. Serve warm or cold

 

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