Archive for Kansas

Harvesting Wheat

June 1989

Though wheat is harvested some place in the world each month of the year, June us the time for the Kansas harvest. Every farm family is organized and ready for the big rush to get the wheat in before rain or hail ruins the crop. This year the harvest excitement is mixed with apprehension since the wheat crop looks so bad. But good or bad, the combines will soon be rolling up and down the golden fields.

In a few brief days all the wheat in the county will be cut and the ground worked for the next crop. Harvest has not always been so quick and efficient.
The development of civilization can be linked to this history of wheat. When man discovered how to grow wheat and other grains he was able to quit his nomadic life spent searching for food and settle down in one place. Scientists believe that wheat was first cultivated in Asia in a land then called Mesopatamia, and is now Iraq. In 1948 an American archaeologist found kernels of wheat there that dated from about 6,700 BC.

The harvesting of wheat has changed through the ages. First wheat was cut with a sickle, then a scythe and then a cradle which not only cut it, but lay it down in a row this making it easier to glean.

For centuries wheat was threshed by driving livestock over it to trample out the grain. Then a tool called a flail was used. Harvesting became mechanized when Cyrus McCormick invented the reaper in the 1830s. The threshing machine was invented at about the same time. Then came the binder, the header and finally the combine which consolidated the cutting and threshing of the grain in one machine.

In the years I have lived, harvest time has changed radically. In the 1920’s and ‘30’s, just cutting the wheat took over a month. About the first week in June men from Missouri and Arkansas began to drift into Kansas, usually riding freight trains. They lined the streets of any good-sized town waiting for farmers to come and hire them. Picking up their gunny sacks or beat-up suitcases holding extra pairs of overalls and shirts, they went with the first farmers who offered them a dollar a day and keep.

Each farmer hired five or six men to help. My earliest memory is of the wheat being cut with a binder and shocked. But Dad soon bought a header that was pulled by 12 horses. It cut off the wheat stalks and elevated them into hay racks where two or three men with pitch forks distributed the load. When the rack was full the horses pulled it to a designated spot and the men pitched off the wheat into stacks.

When the men were in the fields, Mamma and the hired girl, who made three dollars a week, were busy in the kitchen making three meals a day. With the family, that made 12 or more people squeezed like sardines around the dining table. After the noon meal the men went outside and sat or lay under the trees for a half an hour and traded tall stories and rested. Then back to the field until dark.

After the evening meal, eaten by lamplight, the men took baths in the horse tank before climbing the ladder to the hay mow in the barn and bedding down with a few quilts for covers. Morning came early, but Mamma had pancakes bubbling and bacon sizzling on the range when they got to the house.

After the last acre was cut, the men took their pay and went home to the Ozarks feeling rich as kings.

In a few days the threshing crew came. One man owned the machine and brought along a few men to run it, but the whole neighborhood would trade work with each other to keep the grain going into the monstrous machine. A young boy or girl was the water monkey and made the rounds offering the sweating men a cool drink of well water.

Every self-respecting woman fed the threshers like they were royalty. Each dinner was topped off with pie – two or three kinds – juicy fruit pies and cream pies piled high with meringue. Each woman competed for the honor of being the best pie-maker on the run.

When we married in 1940 there was still a threshing crew of neighbors who pooled their labor each year. Glenn Manning owned the machine that threshed wheat for the Diamond Community. Fry and Dunklebeger each owned threshing machines that had extensive runs.

But times changed and the combines took over and sped up the harvest. High school boys were hired for extra help. Today’s harvest whizzes by like a fast-moving locomotive. But even with the rush the same old magic hovers in the Kansas air when the harvest is in full swing and the moon hangs low and golden in the sky.

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Spring Time

May 14, 1987

With spring settling in and the lawn growing like mad, a garden to plant, the asparagus to pick and freeze, and the social life of a small community to keep up with, May is a month full of activity for most of us.

But I’m going to find time to go quietly outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and the balmy southern breezes. People who aren’t in awe with Kansas call those same breezes hot winds, but I prefer to give them a nice name and enjoy the fresh air they bring in as they blow by.

Here are some recipes that can be made up fairly quick and then reheated in the microwave as you linger outside past the time to start supper.

Rye Bread

1 cup rye flour

1 cup unbleached flour

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon caraway seed

6 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup raisins

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry blender. Stir in milk and raisins. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing.

You can also add a half cup of sunflower seeds to this recipe.

I made up a double recipe and had a little trouble adjusting the taste. I’m pretty sure I’ll leave out the raisins next time. It is good served with cheese and also good as toast. After eating it for three days I’m growing more fond of it. Nutritionally, this bread is a good deal.

Several of asked for the recipe for the Spanish Rice thaw was at the Sedgwick-Halstead UMW luncheon meeting. Here it is, but it is one of those recipes that can be varied for individuals taste preferences.

Spanish Rice

1 cup raw rice

1 pound hamburger

1 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons Worcestshire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

5 cups tomato sauce

1 cup cooked cracked wheat

6 cheese slices

Cook rice according to package directions. Cook peppers and onions in the hot oil until translucent. Remove from skillet. Lightly brown hamburger. Drain well. Add rest of ingredients, but just add 2 cups of the tomato sauce. Simmer for 2 hours adding the rest of sauce as needed. After 1 1/2 hours add the cooked cracked wheat.

When sauce is thick add the rice and simmer until blended. Top with cheese and serve.

Bitki

3 slices bread

1 pound hamburger

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups small cooked potatoes

1 cup commercial sour cream

Soak bread in water for five minutes. Drain and mix with hamburger, onion, salt and black pepper. Shape into patties and saute in hot butter. Remove patties to a small casserole and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

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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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