Archive for Gardening

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



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.




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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Jams and Jellies

I’ve been busy canning lately. This article from September 1987 provides a nice introduction to jams and jellies with some great recipes at the end.

September 10, 1987

The season for making jams, jellies and preserves out of the last fresh fruit is upon us. There is a special delight in cooking and canning a sweet spread that will be eaten on a light biscuit or roll some cold winter evening.

A fine line separates jellies, jams, preserves, conserves, marmalades and butters from each other.

Jellies are made from fruit juice squeezed from the fruit, which is usually cooked first. It is a clear or translucent jel.

Jams are purees made from fruit; they are thick, but not as firm as jellies.

Preserves are made from a single kind of fruit which is usually left whole; conserves are made with fresh fruits and dried fruit or nuts, or both; and marmalades are made most often from one or more kinds of citrus fruits.

Fruit butters are pureed fruit cooked down until they form a very thick paste. They usually have sugar and spices added and have a smooth texture.

Some fruits have enough natural pectin to make jelly and jam if they are cooked to the jelling point. Included in this group of fruit are tart apples and crabapples, blackberries, Concord grapes, lemons, oranges, Damson plums, quinces and raspberries.

For most jelly and jam making a commercial powdered pectin is added along with sugar to insure a satisfactory finished product.

Orange Carrot Marmalade

3 oranges

1 lemon

4 1/2 cups water

3 cups grated carrot

4 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Slice oranges and lemon in thin slices and cut into quarters. Add water and allow to stand overnight. Heat to boiling and add carrots and boil 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and ginger and continue boiling to jelly stage.

Seal in sterilized jars and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Watermelon Rind Preserves

Select melons with thick rinds. Peel off all the green portion. Cut into small pieces. Soak in salt water overnight (1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water). Drain and rinse. Cook in clear water for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

For 11 cups of the melon rind. Make a syrup of 9 cups of sugar, 8 cups of water, 4 sliced lemons and add 1 or 2 sticks of cinnamon. Boil the syrup, lemon, and spices 5 minutes before adding the rinds. Add rinds and cook until transparent and clear.

Remove cinnamon stick. Allow to stand overnight. Lift melon chunks from syrup and place in sterilized jars. Heat syrup to boiling and pour over the rinds. Seal. Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Peach Jam

4 cups crushed peaches

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 package powdered pectin

5 cups sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a large kettle. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute and continue stirring.

Remove from heat and continue stirring for 5 more minutes. Remove scum. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal. Process in hot water bath for 20 minutes. Makes three pints.

Pear Honey Jam

3 pounds pears

1 cup crushed pineapple

1 lemon

5 cups sugar

Wash, peel, core and quarter pears. Grind pears and the whole lemon through a food chopper, using a fine blade. Add pineapple and sugar. Cook slowly, stirring frequently until mixture thickens.

Pour into sterilized jars. Seal. Process in hot water bath for 20 minutes. Makes three pints

Plum Conserve

3 pounds Damson plums, sliced

3 cups of sugar

1 lemon, quartered and sliced thin

1 pound raisins

1 orange sliced thin and quartered

1 cup nuts, chopped

1 cup water

Cook plums, sugar, lemon, raisins and orange with the water until thick and clear. Add nuts. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes four pints.

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Salads from the Garden

Salads are always a good go to meal when the garden is flourishing.

August 2, 1884

I haven’t had much time for trying out new recipes or thinking up a topic for Eating Naturally. The garden here has been over producing. We ate roasting ears for 3 solid weeks and are now on a cucumber, tomato and zucchini diet with a pot of green beans thrown in for good measure.

With all the fresh vegetables available it’s easy to put a pan of garden- fresh vegetables on the stove and overcook them. This results in a once vitamin- rich food reaching the table with most of the vitamins gone.

So eat all the vegetables raw that you can. Try cucumber sticks crisped in ice water as an out- of-hand snack. Zucchini slices are a good addition to a tossed salad. And don’t forget the old reliables, green onions, radishes, carrots and celery that have long been favorites eaten raw.

If you cook the vegetables try gourmet cooking techniques to preserve the vitamins and minerals. To retain the nutritive content, decrease the cooking time.

Also, vitamin leaching (the dissolving of the nutrients into the cooking liquid) is particularly serious, so it’s wise to use the smallest amount of water possible when cooking vegetables.

Water soluble vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and C, are preserved by cooking leafy vegetables using only the water clinging to them after they are washed. Be careful they don’t burn. The night we had our last pitch party I cooked Swiss Chard this way for supper. After turning the burner on high, I got busy chasing some dirt that had eluded me and forgot the Swiss Chard until the odor of charring greens permeated the whole house. The smell was overpowering but was even worse after I tried to get rid of it by spraying room deodorant all around. The smell lingered on through the whole party and for several days afterward.

For green beans, peas, carrots or beets a fourth to a half cup of water is suggested for best results. Cook only until crispy tender for maximum vitamin retention. Here, too, care is needed to avoid burning them.

A garden salad is a super way to use raw vegetables. Croutons are nice served with them but they are expensive. Here is a recipe for home made croutons. Of course, you can use white bread if you prefer.

Whole Wheat Croutons

Cut 3 slices whole wheat bread in 1/2 inch cubes. Spread out in a pan and toast in oven until crisp, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with herbs or with curry powder. Put in a plastic bag and seal.

This recipe produces a product similar to Eagle Brand that is called for in so many recipes and is so expensive.

Condensed Milk

1/2 cup boiling water

1/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup powdered milk

Blend or beat until smooth. Will thicken later. Makes 1 pint.

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Garden Vegetables

Summer is winding down and the garden is flourishing. Here are some recipes for those garden vegetables.

August 1979

After all the long, hot days of harvest, haying, and truck driving it is exhausting to even think about continuing to cook 3 good meals a day for the rest of summer. Then, just when you feel you are too tired to hustle one more time, the garden goes into high gear and turns out bushels of produce. So it is time to rev up your failing motor and push through the picking, preparing, freezing, and canning chores.

While the garden bonanza is flourishing, let’s review the best method of cooking vegetables for the table. A good principle to remember is the fresher the food the better it tastes. If it is not to be eaten raw, cook it quickly in a small amount water to conserve the nutrients. Here are some recipes that will dress up your own garden vegetables for a little variety.


Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard

6 Cups torn or cut raw Swiss chard or spinach

3 slices bacon

½ cup sliced green onions

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons flour

1/3 cup water

¼ cup vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

Place chard in large salad bowl. Cook bacon until crisp. Drain, keeping ¼ cup bacon fat. Crumble bacon. Cook onion in the ¼ cup bacon fat. Blend in sugar, flour and salt. Pour over chard, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with bacon. Serve at once.

Makes 6 servings. 45 calories each.


Zucchini Casserole

3 medium zucchini

1 cup rice

¾ pound cheese

1 can mushroom soup

½ cup milk

3 slices bacon, cut in inch squares

Combines soup and milk. Layer zucchini, rice, and cheese in 8” x 13” casserole. Pour soup over. Place bacon on top. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes.

Serves 8 or 10


Skinny Carrots

6 medium-size carrots, grated (3 cups)

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp. butter flavored salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. Butter

Measure carrots, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper into lightly greased one-quart baking dish. Mix well. Dot with butter. Cook covered in 350° F oven for 25 minutes or until carrots are cooked as desired.

6 servings. 30 calories each.



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Too Much Learning

Interesting thoughts from May 16, 1985.  I have similar feelings about many things.


Things I wish I’d never learned:

  1. How to peel asparagus to make the bottom part of the stalk edible. Thanks to Julia Child in the Sunday magazine I now feel guilty when I throw away the tough part of the stalk and feel even worse when I stand at the sink peeling away to gain two more inches of usable asparagus.
  2. How to paint a ceiling.
  3. How to mend sox. If I’d never started Pa wouldn’t be so upset by the sock mending moratorium I’ve declared.

Things I wish others would learn:

  1. I wish Luke, our watch dog, would learn to leave skunks strictly alone. Or if he insists on being friendly with them he would soothe his injured feelings somewhere else than in the garage right by the kitchen door.

Things I wish I’d learn:

  1. How much work a vegetable garden a half block square is.
  2. How to expand time.
  3. That grandchildren have more energy than I do.
  4. To walk right past a bargain and keep going. Recently I spotted the most wonderful bargain ever – 1984 garden seed marked down to two cents a package. Most of the seed was mustard greens, but what the heck! I grew up in the depression and can eat anything, though I’d never tried mustard greens.

On the nutrition charts they show an enormous amount of vitamin A and hardly any calories so I bought three packets.

That seed may have been old, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t fertile. Everyone of those microscopic black little fellows sprouted and fell in love with our sandy loam and took off growing. Oh, they were beautiful plants – a soft pale green with an adorable ruffled edge.

In almost no time at all I cut some and cooked up a mess of greens. After dousing them with vinegar I tasted them. Without a doubt those mustard greens were the bitterest thing ever grown. Out they went to the compost pile.

Since that, a friend told me that I should have drained the greens and put them in a skillet and them again with some bacon. I’m going to try her method, but just in case you are a mustard green lover, give me a call. The second and third planting will soon be ready.

Here are a few rhubarb recipes this week:


Rhubarb Bread
1 egg 1 ½ cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons margarine, melted 1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cup white flour 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda ¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups diced raw rhubarb
Beat sugar and egg. Add margarine, sour cream, milk and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients. Beat into first mixture. Fold in rhubarb.Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees or 1 hour or until done. Cool. Yield: 10 slices
Rhubarb Sauce
Wash, cut off leaves and stem end of rhubarb. Cut into ½ inch pieces. Use half as much sugar as fruit. Add small amount water and cook until soft. If desired, flavor with grated and rind of orange.Another method is to boil 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water, add 4 cups rhubarb and simmer until rhubarb is tender.Hint: Pour boiling water over rhubarb. Let stand 5 minutes, drain, and use less sugar.
Baked Rhubarb
Place 2 cups sugar and 4 cups sliced rhubarb in baking dish. Cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Rhubarb with Berries
Use equal parts of cut rhubarb and any fresh berry. Add sugar to taste. Let stand 1 or more hours. Heat slowly until sugar is dissolved. Cook until rhubarb is tender. Cool and serve.Raspberries, strawberries or mulberries may be used.
Rhubarb with Pineapple
Use equal parts of diced rhubarb and fresh diced pineapple. Add 1 ½ cups sugar to 4 cups fruit. Let stand 1 or more hours. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Cook until tender. Cool and serve.

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Get to Gardening

As I prepare my small container garden for my small deck I thought about what my Grandma had to say about the joys of gardening and the cost savings. If you’re lucky enough to have the space for it try it out for yourself. Below is an article from April 1980.

April 1980

“Whenever Spring comes I have to get out on the ocean in a sailboat and sail,” says E. B. White, my favorite essayist. He doesn’t especially like all the trouble and expense of owning a boat, or all the hard work involved in sailing it, or being alone out on the water; but he has no choice. When the wind is just right and the sun sparkles on the waves, he has to be down to the sea and sailing.

So it is with me. Whenever Spring comes I have to get out in the fresh air and garden. I don’t especially like making straight rows that turn out crooked, or bending double to plant the seeds, or hoeing down interminable stretches of rows, or picking the vegetables while gnats buzz in my ears and sweat fogs my glasses, or preparing the food for the table or freezer; but I have no choice. When the sun warms the crumbly brown loam and the birds call to each other with delight and the white clouds laze in the blue Kansas sky I have to be down in the garden patch and planting.

I like to go to the Andale Co-op at Sedgwick, look at all the jars of seeds and have Elmer Christiansen help my springtime fantasies grow.

On the practical side a compulsion to garden will yield two or three hundred dollars worth of food in one season. The economic value will climb higher if a strawberry bed and cherry, apple, peach or plum trees are yielding fruit.

An asparagus bed is, also, a worthwhile investment of land, time and energy. Just put the roots in deep trench, fertilize, wait two years, trap the moles, and keep the bermuda grass away and the bed will produce for 20 years.

There is genuine delight in finding the first green spears of asparagus as they peep through the ground to see if it is warm enough to come out into the world. The flavor of fresh asparagus has no equal, canned or frozen just doesn’t measure up.

Asparagus should be cooked immediately after cutting in a small amount of water until it is tender crisp. The delectable vegetable deserves real butter as a sauce. Some people like a little lemon juice mixed with the melted butter before it is poured over the asparagus.

Here is a recipe that can be used as the main dish for lunch or supper.

Asparagus Casserole

3 tablespoons butter ¼ cup flour
¾ teaspoon salt 1 ½ cup milk
1 teaspoon grated onion ½ cup chopped celery
½ cup grated American cheese 1 cup buttered bread crumbs
1 pound fresh asparagus 4 hard cooked eggs, chopped
Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp. Drain.Melt butter in sauce pan. Blend in flour and salt. Stir in milk and cool until thick.Add onion, celery and cheese.Sprinkle 1/3 of crumbs in bottom of buttered casserole pan. Alternate layers of asparagus, eggs, sauce, and remaining crumbs over crumbs in casserole pan.

Bake at 350°F oven for 25 minutes.

Serves 5 or 6.

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