Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

from the gang in GriggsDakota.
We hope that you will find true meaning during this holy season 
And that you find some fun, as well. 
Best wishes to all from Farmer Fred and his blogger wife in GriggsDakota.
See you next year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom! Mother Daughter Rhyme

Today is my Mom's birthday.
She is the baby pictured with her sister. 

In 1993 I was asked to write a poem for a Mother-Daughter Banquet at our church. It was a big congregation and quite an honor to be asked to be on that program. My friends had learned that my heart could sing in an iambic pentameter of sorts when I was the Mistress of Ceremonies at the birthday party for our pastor's wife.
 We dressed up in clothes and hats of a bygone era.
Every line I spoke that day as Mistress was written in rhyme. So later, I was challenged to write a poem for our mother-daughter banquet and didn't dare refuse. 
Things have changed, of course in the many years since I wrote the following rhyme. I am a Grandmother now. Time marches on, or flies by.
I was raised in GriggsDakota, with a kind and patient mother. It was from that perspective I wrote the following poem all those years ago. Of course, I dedicated it to Mom and invited her to attend the banquet with me and my daughters. The introduction that evening was  the same one I have written here. And Mom, I hope we laugh as hard today as we did that night in 1993.
 Happy Birthday!

"Mom, for all the times I've embarrassed you in the past, I just want you to know...I am about to do it again."

Thoughts on the MD Relationship

"On Mothers and Daughters they've asked me to speak,
And I have been thinking for nearly a week
Of what I could say that would catch your attention
And what parts of this topic I should now mention.

My mother's a mother, her mother is, too.
And I am a mother, and so, most of you.
And we are all daughters of mothers of course,
So really, all women could be a source

Of info and topics for this evenings rhyme.
But to interview all would take too much time.
You know how it is for a mother these days,
We're so pressed for time, life goes by in a haze.

But, as I considered this particular task
I decided to simply pull off the mask
And give my impressions, though silly or straight,
For daughters and mothers and grandmas turned great.

So, back in my memory I started to travel
To find recollections and let stories unravel.
Of mother-relationships, generation to next.
Before long, I began writing this text.

When I was a little girl, long before teens, 
My mother did house work in her blue jeans.
" Mom, while you're cleaning the house, I'd like to see
You wearing a dress, like the Moms on TV!"

My mom is a pleaser:  The next day I was greeted
By Mom in a dress, with a skirt, long and pleated.
I pretended that I was the star of a show,
With Mom looking gorgeous, till what do you know? 

The floor need washing and as she cleaned up the trail
The skirt of her dress wound up in the pail.
She wrung out the skirt, the end of my dream.
I never discussed it for fear she would scream.

Being a teen girl is sometimes a pain,
With hormones and heartaches and monthly weight gain
When I was that age any little anecdote
Could put me on a real panic note.

Teen troubles kept me going round in a tizzy!
Hair, clothes, important stuff, kept me so busy!
But Mom was there, stable and strong,
She just calmly urged, pushed, or pulled me along.

When you are little, you never guess,
The love in Mom's heart, she can't always express.
But teen years convinced me about mother-love.
Of strength and endurance sent from above.

Then I grew up, how quickly time passes! 
Soon I was taking parenting classes. 
Natural childbirth now was the rage,
My daughter arrived and we turned the page.

I now was the mother of a daughter so small,
It all started over, and as I recall
Us together and wondering where time had gone.
It flies by so quickly, life doesn't last long.

I'm looking forward to Grandma-hood, someday.
I'll bake cookies, make doll clothes and take time to play.
When you are a mother you must be a constable, 
But, Grandma has fun without being responsible 

For all of the practical matters of life
That complicate mother-daughter days and add strife.
Her patience is longer, her duty list, short.
She never has anything bad to report.

Now, my final thoughts and contemplation
To share with you, this congregation:
You must remember, part of a mother's charm
Is that if her daughter has need of it, Mom cuts off her arm!

As a result, the relationship's built
On compassion and love, and a lifetime of guilt!
But as you get older, perspective to gain,
You realize, for mother, this isn't a pain.

It's simply a joy God puts in our heart,
So, from Mother's love, we never need part.
Listen girls, even if Mom continues to bug you,
You can be your own person and still let her hug you!"

copyright: J K Huso Lukens All rights reserved. 

Blog content copyright 2009

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shutting Down the Corn Drying

 In the big world, our farm is less than a speck.
But it is nearly the entire world that we live in. 
 Today the world is rejoicing as we complete the corn drying for another season.
There will no longer be steam rising out of the grain dryer as it gently heats the corn to release the excess moisture in each kernel. 
The wet corn goes into the grain dryer at the top. 
The dry corn comes out at the bottom where it travels up the auger and into the grain cart. 
From the grain cart it will be transferred to its storage bin by truck.  
As I stand in the steamy cold air, I notice the ground is covered with something we call bees wings. 
In truth the debris on the snow from the cob of corn. It is loose and blows away from the grain as it is transferred to and from the dryer. 
It marks our tracks as we move the equipment away from the dryer site. The is the real date that we complete our harvest in GriggsDakota. It feels like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fizzy Bath Ball Instructions

It is almost Christmas and Fizzy Bath Balls would make good gifts.
 The recipes that I followed while making these are on the links provided. Yesterday was Recipe one. Some of the basic techniques for this project are in that post, so if you are going to make Fizzy Bath Balls, I recommend reading that post first. Recipe Two tells us How to Make Foaming Bath Bombs.To be honest, all three recipes that I tried foam adequately. 
The recipe calls for sea salt or Epsom salt. They are not the same thing. Canning salt is much cheaper and has the same elements as sea salt. That works. But I bought a big bag of Epsom Salt at Walmart because it seemed more likely to be soothing to human skin. 
I used genuine citric acid which I purchased on Ebay. It was a little lumpy. I used a rolling pin to break up lumps while it was still in the bag. 
I measured Baking Soda, Citric Acid and Epsom Salts, then combined it in the mixing bowl.
I used a wooden spoon to break up any remaining lumps and mixed the dry ingredients. 
Then in a flash of daring, I added some Root Beer Concentrate that was too old to use in food. 
Maybe that is why it never really worked into the dry ingredients like it should have.
The Foaming Bath Bomb Recipe call for Witch Hazel instead of water to hold the mixture together. I measured a spray from my bottle and found it to be a scant 1/4 teaspoon. That way I could calculate the amount of liquid I was adding to the mixture.
I decided to turn this into chocolate chip cupcakes. I put a surprise of popping candy into the middle of each. 
I made a batch of Recipe One without scent to use as frosting. That recipe was moistened with water which set off the candy. Bad addition number two. The way to make this work is with less liquid. As my mother has told me a thousand times: "Follow the recipe."
But the creative juices take control and ...
I waited awhile and inverted the pan. Nothing happened. So I loosened each Cupcake Bath Bomb with a knife and gently lifted them out.
The cupcakes looked fine. We'll throw them in the bath, but I wish they were white. No more impulsive additions in my cupcake bath balls. As these beauties cured, they flattened and cracked. The good news is that the fizzle is fine. 
I feel the way that I did the first time I made real cupcakes. Far from the gourmet treat I envisioned, but edible. The bath cupcakes, though inedible, work fine in the tub. 
Moving on...
 Recipe Three is How to Make an Elegant Bath Bomb.
I bought raw cocoa butter online. It is available on Amazon and Ebay. It is also available at most
 drug stores. Ask your pharmacist.
The recipe calls for olive oil, but canola oil or whatever will work. To melt the cocoa butter I put it in a cup with the oil and heated it in the microwave. The hot oil melts the cocoa butter, but not instantly. It took a few minutes to melt the chunks after the oil was hot. Do not overheat the oil. A bit of patience yields the desired result.
I again used my mixer to mix the dry ingredients which include: baking soda, citric acid, corn starch, Epsom salts, and powdered milk. I stopped the mixer to scrape the bowl a few times being sure to get to the bottom of the bowl. Keep the mixer speed at the lowest setting. Then drip in your oil/water mixture and mix well. I added 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to the water for extra fragrance.
I wanted these to be elegant so I pressed them into cookie cutters. To finish the sides of the bath cookies, I found a dry rag with a waffle pattern. I laid the filled cookie cutter on the cloth. 
 Then folded the cloth over the top and pressed it firmly between the waffle layers imprinting the design into the bath cookie.
I made a second batch of this recipe and colored it pink. I scooped the mixture with a tart pan. 
 Pressing it firmly against the side of the pan as I slid it to the top of the bowl.
A waffle pattern is pressed into the top. 
These were very successful. I lined my counter with parchment paper and these elegant bath cookies and bath tarts are drying before I package them into air tight bags.

Monday, December 16, 2013

How to Make: Fizzy Bath Balls

Originally published in 2010, these balls are still a hit with everyone who tries one.
The Farm Inspector and the Ag Analyst enjoy fizzing bath balls. I decided to try to make some. 
I began, of course, with research. The balls are a science experiment, a basic combination a dry acid with a dry base. The two react when combined with moisture. The trick is to get enough moisture into the combined dry ingredients to hold their shape without losing their fizz. When it came time to make balls, I followed each of these three recipes. That taught me quite a bit about the basics of the bath bombs. 
Most of the ingredients are available in grocery stores, but I ordered some things online. 
I started with Recipe One. This Recipe takes the simplest ingredients. Fruit fresh is an acid product that works in making the bath balls, but it is expensive if you are going to make several batches. I did like the fact that Fruit Fresh has an anti clumping agent that meant there were no lumps in it. I found a dented can of Almond Oil on a clearance shelf and bought it. It is roasted almond oil which gave it a distinct aroma and I should have purchased sweet almond oil.
However, canola oil is in my cupboard, has no scent, and seemed to work fine. Since I am making these for home use, I would use canola oil in recipes that call for oil. With the change to canola oil, I can make the Citric Acid Bath Bomb Balls from ingredients I have on hand in my kitchen: Baking soda, Fruit Fresh, and Canola Oil.
Orange Oil was used for scent and soft orange coloring came from a few drops of yellow and red food coloring.
 The bath bombs are moistened with water. The recipe says 1/2 Tablespoon which is more accurately stated as 1 and 1/2 teaspoon. I used a 1/2 teaspoon measure and regular tap water.
I used my electric mixer. It worked great and made things easy. Keep the speed at its lowest setting or you will raise dust. Mixing the soda and the Fruit Fresh completely is essential. I stopped the mixer and scraped down the sides a few times in the process. I added the oils slowly and let it mix in thoroughly before adding the water a little at a time. Then scraped and mixed well.
I formed these orange beauties by hand. For perfect spheres you can use a mold. A tennis ball can be made to work as a mold. I like to hand formed look of these. They dried into five fine Bath Bomb Balls. But I wasn't done. Recipe Two tomorrow.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Once Again: Lutefisk Season

The seasons continue to come around. This post, originally published in 2009, reminds me that time moves us along. Circumstances continually change in every area of our life on earth. I believe that much of what makes people lonely this time of year is memories of the past. People long for things and folks that no longer exist on earth. It is very important to stay grounded in the present, to try to fully appreciate what each day brings. 
However, tradition brings comfort in its own way.
And it is almost lutefisk season. Some of you are probably not familiar with this delicacy. It is cod fish treated with lye, dried, shipped to America from Norway, where it is then soaked in water. When reconstituted, it becomes a rather slimy, smelly, holiday treat. It is served boiled, steamed, or baked. It is best topped with melted butter, which is the traditional way to serve it. You can serve it under a cream sauce if you are short of butter. I like it with a little salt and a lot of pepper, but that is probably an American addition. In our area it is in the grocery store from Thanksgiving through the New Year, and then again in May. Although I have never been to Norway, I understand that her citizens no longer actually eat lutefisk. Nor do they eat much lefse or flatbread. That was poor man's food and when the poor folks left for America, the Norwegians became more affluent. The Norse people progressed with electricity and refrigeration. But here in America we cling to our poor family traditions.
The very mention of lutefisk causes many people to wrinkle their noses. It is quite aromatic, especially during cooking. But as my mother does, as my grandmothers did, and as my great-grandmothers did, I cook lutefisk once in a while. We serve it every Christmas Eve. Our menu has remained virtually unchanged for over 100 years. The reason makes an interesting story.

Lutefisk reminds me of what my Great-grandmother, Kirsti Engen, did for me. Of my great grandparents, she was the only one still alive when I was born. She, perhaps, gets more credit than she deserves if all were equal, but then, long life has its own rewards. Her husband left her in Norway with two small children when he emmigrated to America. The families there were in dire need and starvation seemed a certainty for many during those times. However, there was  one exciting possibility. The New World of America still had land and opportunities for all. A couple of years later he sent the money for her tickets. She packed up a wooden trunk of possessions and a small wooden box of food for her children. She feared that the fare on the boat would upset their tummies. The trip was especially dangerous for toddlers and her plan was to keep their food as close to normal as possible. She went alone with her children to meet her husband in Dakota. She traveled first by boat and then by train. There was no extra money for her husband, Einar, to travel to meet her when the boat anchored. They got off the train in St. Paul, not quite knowing what to expect. He was waiting.

Less than a year after her arrival, my grandmother was born in their sod house. Soon, a wooden frame house was built. They worked dawn to dark every day in order to stay alive. Four months before her youngest child was born, her husband died. She named the boy Einar and proceeded with their plan. She managed to keep her family on that farm by working hard as a farmer and a midwife collecting whatever fee the family could spare. Her one luxury seems to have been trips to the photographer with her children. I have often wondered if those photographs were paid for with money sent by her family in Norway, but I will never know.
 I remember celebrating her 100th birthday in the old frame farm house. This photo was taken in the 1940's after years of relative prosperity in America and many additions. The inside remained humble, with no carpeting, very basic furnishings, and no indoor plumbing. There was a dip in the  yard where the sod house had stood. 
All seven of her children celebrated with her on that day. We buried her the next year on my eleventh birthday. Because I was her namesake, it seemed a fitting end. I keep her wedding ring, a simple, well worn, gold band in my jewelry box. I received it as a gift from her spinster daughter Ada. She is wearing the white necklace on the photo. My grandmother is on the left behind the cake.

Back to lutefisk.
Great Grandma ate lutefisk, lefse, flatbread, and many other simple foods. They reminded her of the home in Norway that she left and never saw again. She came here hoping for a better life and lived that life with loyalty, courage, and faith. The aroma and ritual of preparing these recipes made her feel closer to home, especially on Christmas Eve, when all Norwegians are celebrating.
I don't know if her life was better for the sacrifices she made, but I know mine is. I am inspired by the loyalty she showed her husband. I am amazed by the courage she mustered raising seven children alone on the prairie in a country so strange that she barely spoke the language. I admire her constant, unwavering faith. In our family we were taught to thank God we are Americans. We keep our Norwegian traditions not because of where they come from, but because of those who taught us to enjoy them. These poor traditions bring the generations closer, and I cherish them each Christmas Eve.
Now, back to the present, let the celebrating begin!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Once Again: The Nice Bank

This post, published in 2010, is like going home for me. My parents still live in the home that Grandpa built, where Dad was born, where we grew up. 
How very lucky we are. 
Grandma came to our house on Christmas Eve. The house her husband had built, where they had raised their family. Her son, Sonny to her, dad to me, had picked her up at the nursing home where she now lived. She always recognized her only son, and was happy to be with him. 
She came through the door and had no idea where she was. The people around her were familiar, or were they? Another farm seemed a stronger image in her brain that night. Mama, the warm kitchen, the cold night. Everyone is friendly, welcoming her. They are happy to take her coat, find a chair, help to remove snowy boots. 
She walked through the kitchen as  directed, stopping as she noticed the familiar foods of Norwegian Christmas Eve:  Lutefisk, lefse, flatbread, American cranberries substituted for the lingonberries of Norway. 
When she stepped into the dining room, she noticed her old table and the lights switched on in her brain. Pure happiness flooded her bewildered face as recognition dawned. "Why this is my house!" she exclaimed, "This is where I lived! This is Sonny's house now." She looked around. "And it looks so clean and so nice. The table (in the house since it was built, familiar and loved) is so nice. I thought this place would go to wreck and ruin with all those kids!"
And there it was, whatever it may be. Honesty born of dementia? My grandmother was well into her final illness on that Christmas Eve. As a frail old woman, she seemed to have accidently spoken her mind to us for the first time. There were too many children. I can still remember the electric shock that shot through me as she spoke those words. 
She continued talking and looking at me, completely forgetting that I was one of the too many. "Poor Sonny, it was too much."
The words were barely uttered before the laughter began. Grandma smiled and nodded without really getting the joke. No word spoken by this woman would shake her too many grandchildren. We keep accounts in The Nice Bank. 
The Nice Bank is where all the good deeds and kind words that grace our daily lives are deposited. When we hurt someone that we love, we withdraw from the Nice Bank and expect forgiveness. And forgiveness is granted, eventually. Everyone has an account in the Nice Bank and tries to be good, cooperative, helpful to increase the account balance. We make withdrawals when we need to. No one kept close track of accounts, but we knew when a deposit was necessary. It is part of being a family, part of every enduring friendship. We can acknowledge our imperfections while striving to overcome them. If you trust a person would never deliberately hurt you, then forgiveness can be granted and reciprocated.
 It's The Nice Bank that keeps us together. 
 The Nice Bank allowed the jokes to begin as soon as Grandma left for the nursing home and though this happened many years ago, the laughs have not stopped. We never really had to forgive Grandma. Her account in the Nice Bank was overflowing. She had filled us with love while she was able. Because of that, I know this:  Love is what people need. Include kindness, respect, understanding with it. The more we receive, the better we are able to pass it on. Love through hurt, through the generations, through disease and disappointments. It allows forgiveness to happen and happiness to endure.
Make generous deposits in the Nice Bank every chance  you get. That way, there will be plenty in your account for treasured memories.
As imperfect as we are, The Nice Bank provides true wealth in GriggsDakota