Came across this column in the Tacoma News Tribune about
shortcake suppers. She talks about her grandmother
cooking for the farm crew and it struck a cord in me because I grew
up helping my mother put on the big spread for farm workers and
cooking for the hay crew happens at our house too! When I was
growing up my dad had 3-4 good farm friends he swapped labor with
for things like haying and chopping silage. Each farmer had a
couple pieces of machinery (tractors, mowers, wagons, forage
harvesters) and they would share machinery and help each other at
crucial times of the year. The really cool thing is that each
farmer did slightly different things – one was a dairy farmer –
another raised beef cattle – so their busy times were not at the
As my Dad and the other farmers traveled from place to place
doing the big, shared work projects like haying and silage, the
wives would always put on the big spread for lunch. In the
70s there wasn’t many arenas where women competed – except in the
kitchen. Title IX was a few years away and most women were
relegated to pink collar jobs. But, in the domestic domain it
was full-contact homemaking! Just like the Amish women at
barn-raising events, the tables would be groaning under the weight
of baked goods and breads, mashed potatoes, gravy, roast beef…and
dessert! Cobblers, cakes, and PIES!
Now, my Dad was a bit of a joker and he liked to egg people on.
So, when they were having lunch at Charlie’s and Marion was
feeding them he would say things like, “Well, you know, at Hank’s
last week we had apple and lemon meringue pie!”
Sure enough, the next day Marion would produce, apple, lemon
meringue AND cherry (with ice cream!) It is a wonder they
ever got any work done given the amount they ate, but they were
also doing hard physical labor and could justify the big meals.
At our house we typically feed the helpers who work with us on
hay deliveries. Sometimes we have 3-4 of them on busy days so
dinner is a big, sit down affair. On Saturday we do a big
farm breakfast for everyone who shows up by 8:30 in the morning.
Last week we had eggs, sausage gravy, fried potatoes, toast
and jam. I do this as a carry-over from the tradition when I
was growing up. And the crew is always grateful which
provides a reward for the work of cooking for them. While I
don’t have other farm wives to contend with in a contest of
pie-baking skills I need to be careful because occasionally a mom
will ask “So, what did you feed them this week?” in a
my-kid-seems-to-like-your-cooking-a-bit-too-much tone of voice.
But the fact remains, I like to cook for an appreciative
audience. The other night we had one of our former helpers
who was home to visit family for the 4th call and say that he was
coming over to help us for a couple hours for old time’s sake and
the last thing he told my husband was “….and I will stay for
supper!” Game on!
It has been a while since I posted – mainly because I have had
family visiting for the past couple of weeks. Their vacation
became my staycation. We had fun, picked lots of beans and
enjoyed the time reconnecting.
What is hot?
A few weeks ago, during the hot spell, things got pretty
crispy. Like most farmers and gardeners I found it difficult
to keep enough water on things. The cucs stalled, the
carefully nurtured second seeding of lettuce and spinach bolted
straight out of the ground and the raspberries shrivelled on the
bush. About the only thing that seemed to thrive were the
SLUGS! I have never had an infestation this bad. They
are getting about 20% of the tomatoes right now and a significant
number of the cucs and zucs.
What is done for the year:
- beans for the freezer
What’s Blooming Now?
Dahlias! Finally they are popping out. Every time I
drive by the Silverdale Post Office and see the Dahlia Society
demonstration plot blooming like crazy I lamented that my flowers
were so late this year (mainly because I was late getting them
in!) Now they are coming out like crazy. I didn’t
label them as I was planting them (Memo to self: Do that next year)
so all of the blooms are a total surprise! I love dahlias
because they seem to grow just about anywhere, they bloom like
crazy until frost, and the deer don’t bother them!
Other things that are coming on gangbusters:
- sweet corn
- pickling cucs
- red potatoes
The cow has had a visit from the bull this month and hopefully
she is in calf. Farmer George is coming for the hogs next
week and we will be butchering chickens with the neighbors then as
The rain has provided a momentary respite from the heat and the
need to constantly switch water from one section of the garden to
another. I have also had the chance to get all the fall
veggies transplanted. I will have to wait and see how many
cabbage and broccoli I end up with. Again, I meant to label
the seed trays and before I got around to it one of the
children moved them around. We dug all of the red
potatoes to make room for them and they are taking off!
One challenge associated with eating local, seasonal food is
that you have dry spells. Tonight I peeled the last of the
potatoes – so there will be no more mashed spuds until
August-ish. They were
nobby and mis-shapen things, and were sprouting like crazy
with a few green spots, but they peeled up fine and were yummy
mashed up with some half-and-half.
About a month ago when we were getting the garden ready
for tilling we dug the last of the potatoes. There are a wide
range of ways to store spuds. If you have a root cellar or
cool basement you can put them in a burlap sack, keep them away
from the apples and they will keep for most of the winter.
Lacking a root cellar you can make a root storage bin by putting a
bucket or two of sand in the bottom of a rubber maid garbage can,
moisten it, place a couple of scraps of 2×4 on top like a
lattice and put sacks or bags of potatoes in the garbage
can. Keep the lid on, store it in a cool, dark place (like a
garage) and they will keep for months. Or, you can be really,
really lazy and leave them in the garden and go out in the
rain, sleet and snow during the winter and early spring and dig
enough for dinner as needed. We are fortunate to have
well-drained soil so they don’t get water logged, and despite
living in the “snow zone” out by Crosby we don’t get deep frost in
the ground. Granted, there were a few potatoes with wormy
spots and some that were frost-burnt, but on the whole they were
So we bid the last year’s potatoes goodbye and get ready
for a couple months of rice, pasta and couscous. But, as I
was weeding the garden yesterday I noticed that the beginnings of
this year’s crop (Yukon Gold, Reds, and Russet Burbanks) are
peaking through the dirt!