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Mama Made Me

Santa's Visit

DJMore snow up here where I live, and I remember growing up and walking to school with my heavy old snow boots and a coat that was a couple of sizes too big so I could grow into it, and the ever present mittens. I still hate mittens! We would carry our good shoes to school with us and change into them once we were in the classroom. I didn’t like doing that so I got to the point that I would change my shoes just before I ran out the door and leave the boots setting beside the front door. My feet were always so cold by the time I got to school they would ache, and I always got in trouble when I got home, but neither one of those occurrences ever stopped me. Part of being a kid, I guess.

Homemade skis in snow

The picture with this blog is a picture of my older cousin, Jimmy, when he was little on a pair of skis made for him out of old barrel staves. He was so proud of those skis. It didn’t seem to bother him that they weren’t bought brand new. To him they were new because he had never had them before. His younger brothers and sisters probably used them as they grew up, too. And they all learned how to ski without all the expense of the modern ski lifts, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but some people just didn’t have the money to spend like that. And some still don’t.

I think back on things like that now, and it amazes me just how much things have changed. Some of those changes are definitely for the better, but I also feel that maybe we have lost a lot by not allowing our children to do some of the things we did as children. How many children now have homemade skis? Or sleds? I was always so happy when I accomplished something. And I still am. But every time I saw something on television, or in the local newspaper ads, I wondered how I could make it for less. And I still do. I guess being brought up in a frugal household was a big aid there.

With Christmas almost upon us again, I also remember the days when we didn’t go see Santa in the mall. Santa came to us. We would stand outside in the cold on the sidewalk listening for the sounds of the his sleigh bells. And sure enough, he would be there right on time. He didn’t have reindeer, but he was in a sleigh with a horse pulling it through the streets. Most of the time we always had some snow before Christmas, so there wasn’t a problem with that. On the one occasion that I can remember when we didn’t have snow, they rigged wheels up behind the rails on the sleigh and the horse pulled him through the streets that way. It was the best time. He would do the HO-HO-HO thing and throw candy out to the children. There weren’t a lot of children on my street, but there were plenty of kids in other areas. I thought Santa visited everybody! I was talking about it one time a couple of months ago and found out Santa didn’t visit everybody. He didn’t even visit everybody in Idaho! I guess I was very special. I got to see Santa in his sleigh before I got too old to learn Santa isn’t real.

But, I think I am going to continue believing in Santa. You have to have something now and then that’s fun to believe in, and Santa making a visit to my little town in Idaho was very special to me.

Kids Will Be Kids

DJWinter is coming again and as I look out the windows here in Idaho and see the first little dusting of snow, I think of the differences where I was raised up here and my husband’s family being raised in Alabama. Many things will be the same, but with kids having more outdoor time during the year in the south, I think they managed to get into a little more mischief once in a while. I know some of you will disagree with me on that point, and that is fine.

My reason for coming to that conclusion is in a story his mother told me one time, years ago. The photo below is my mother-in-law, Katie – or Big Mama as she was more affectionately referred to. The photo was taken at our home in Columbus, Georgia a few years before she passed away. The one beneath it is a picture of her mother and father.


Jessie and Eddie Allums

After Big Mama got to the point the doctors wanted her to be under twenty-four supervision, I would go down and sit with her while my husband’s youngest sister was at work. There was a nurse there in the morning, and then I would take over around noon, and then his sister would be there at night.

Big Mama and I would talk about the latest cross-stitch project I was working on or the flowers in my gardens at home, or I would listen to her recount stories about her raising my husband and his brother and sisters. Now Big Mama loved working in the flower beds, but had gotten to the point she was unable to get up or down and was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, so she did not get out and enjoy them like she had.

Every year at Thanksgiving when the family got together they would draw names to see who would get Christmas presents for whom. It was a lot easier than everybody trying to buy something for everyone else. One year they decided not to draw names and money was a little tight so my husband’s sister and I decided to finish off some quilt tops we had found stashed away in one of Big Mama’s hall closets. We thought it would be more personal and something special since Big Mama had originally pieced them. This way it would be something from all of us to the other members of the family.

So for a couple of months I would go down to stay with Big Mama and I would stretch these quilts in the dining room at her house and she would talk to me and help me by cutting the the lengths of yarn to tie the quilts with. Arthritis had gotten to her fingers and it was hard for her to hang on to things real tight; this kept her busy and allowed her to help with the quilts. One day she told me a story about her and one of her brothers when she was just a little girl.

It seems her mother had her quilting frame set up so when it was time for dinner she just hoisted the quilt, frame and all, up to the ceiling. (I wish my mother had done that! We just climbed under the quilt while it took up the whole living room!) One day Big Mama and her brother were playing choo-choo train. They had found something – probably her mother’s broom – and had set it on fire to mimic the smoke from a trains smoke stack and went running through the house holding this flaming thing above their heads. Everything was fine until they reached the quilt! Whatever they were using for the trains smoke stack was tall enough that as they ran under the quilt, they set it on fire while it was hooked to the ceiling!

If I had set anything on fire, whether I was playing trains with my brother, or not, my hiney would have been set on fire with a kindling stick! My mother was not a mean woman at all, but she believed in children behaving themselves. Setting anything on fire, except the wood in the heating stove, was a definite taboo. You did not play with fire!! The end. I imagine her mother and father were none too happy with her and her brother, either. She didn’t mention if their behinds had a meeting with a kindling stick or not, but that may have been one instance where the Alzheimer’s conveniently kicked in. Or she just didn’t feel it was an important end to the tale. Either way, I thought it was a cute little tale of two kids letting their imaginations getting the better of them.

Free Is Always Good

DJI used to wonder as a kid how people ever found enough to do before there were printed books readily available or television. I did not have television until I was probably about 12 or 13, but even then I knew that women in ‘the olden days’ didn’t go to school during the winter as I did. So what did they do during the day? And what did the children do when school was out for the summer, or on the weekends? Even I got bored jumping on my pogo stick or playing jump rope. And in winter I couldn’t do any of those activities anyway!

Nature's Free Bounty

Nature's Free Bounty

As is almost always the case, I have grown up and I am doing a lot of the same activities people in ‘the olden days’ used to do, and – guess what – I have discovered what all those women and children did while the guys were out working in the hay field or tending the critters! My husband’s family didn’t do a lot of the same things my family did when he was growing up, probably due to the fact they moved around a lot. His father was in the Army so they didn’t stay in any one place too long, so he has just discovered the joys of doing some of the things my relatives use to do all the time. My mother and I didn’t do a lot of this because she was blind and so was unable to drive, but once in a while I had the privilege of picking berries with cousins. I even had some cousins who had their own Hazelnut trees! I loved going up there and getting the free nuts. It was so awesome!

Perfect Huckleberry Country

Perfect Huckleberry Country

Huckleberries Not Quite Ready For Picking

Huckleberries Not Quite Ready for the Picking

Huckleberries Ready For the Picking

Huckleberries Ready for the Picking

Busy Picking the Huckleberries

Busy Picking the Huckleberries

Since moving to Idaho my husband has learned that Apple trees grow along the side of the road along with Crabapples, and one of his favorites – Huckleberries. He had never heard of Huckleberries before, only the Blueberries from the grocery store. Even though they are from the same family he now knows there is a very distinct difference between the two. He has also learned the easiest way to tell if it’s time to pick the Huckleberries. Once you get to your favorite spot all you have to do is step out of your vehicle and you will smell them! He has also been bitten by the Blackberry bug. There are several thousand Blackberry bushes between where we live and my cousins, and he has learned where almost every one of those bushes are located. He will be scoping out the bushes while I am driving. He doesn’t want to miss one single berry. Another berry he had never heard of is Elderberries. Not as sweet or flavorful as the Huckleberry or Blackberry, he will still scope out every tree he can find on our meanderings around the countryside.

Blackberries Almost Ready

Blackberries Ripe for the Picking

Elderberries In the Sun

Elderberries in the Sun

Wild Plums Along the Potlatch River

Wild Red Plums Along the Potlatch River

Wild Red Plums Along the Potlatch River

Other fruits we have both discovered are the Wild Plums. I didn’t know we had them here in Idaho, but last year we found a couple of trees. This year we discovered that there are not only yellow plums, but red and black plums also. So along a short stretch of old railroad tracks running alongside the Potlatch River we have found Blackberries, Wild Plums, Red Plums and Black Plums, along with Apples and what looks like Crabapples. And we have picked some from all of them!

Here is my rundown on those women’s work load. In mid to late June you start checking out your Huckleberry spot and then pick when ripe. Now you have gallons of Huckleberries to can, make into jam and jelly, and create some of the best fresh pies and muffins or pancakes, coffee cakes, etc., that one can imagine. Then in July you start pulling in from your garden. Depending upon what part of the country you live in and what you have planted, of course. This is also the time you need to begin checking on the plums. They ripen just a tad bit sooner than the Blackberries. August comes around and you have more produce from your garden and now you get to start checking on the Blackberries. In September you can begin watching the Crabapples and Elderberries. Then in October – right after the first good frost – you can start working on the Apples. And, if you are lucky, you can also get cherries, apricots, Italian prunes, pears, and the domestic plum.

Between every one of these cycles you will be canning or freezing your fresh produce and/or fruits and making your jams, jellies and pickles. I even found a recipe this year for pickled green tomatoes so you won’t be wasting any of your tomatoes, either! And the beans, barley, wheat, lentils, and other larger crops are harvested in August and September, also. My lesson from all of this is – no matter what time of year it is there will always be something to do! And this doesn’t include all the housework and sewing and mending and regular cooking they did.

That leaves me with one more question, too. How did these ladies ever survive in those layers of clothes without air conditioning while they were doing all that canning? Especially in the days before they had electric ranges??!

Boys and Girls

DJKeeping oneself busy during the fall and winter can seem like a daunting task for those of us who are used to being on the go all the time. I do believe that is why so many people in the towns and cities of this great country got hooked on television. (Only my opinion.)

In my household when I was young, even though we lived in town, we didn’t watch television. In fact, we didn’t even own a television until I was about thirteen. So when I started going to Junior High School and High School and the teachers gave us assignments once in a while where we were supposed to watch some documentary relating to history, I would not be able to complete the assignment because we didn’t own a television. Finally, she broke down and got one. Complete with rabbit ears!

Before this I always found things to do to keep myself busy – besides the obvious chores – and often wondered how the other girls found so much time to go to the movies, etc. after their chores were done. That was when I found out that not everybody had the same chores I did.

My most important chore was chopping the wood and bringing it in. You see, we had wood heat, not natural gas or oil. My mother also had a wood cook stove in the kitchen that sat right beside her electric range. She used that wood cook stove in the winter and it would heat up the back part of the house plus she didn’t have to pay for the electricity to use the electric range. She was on a very tight budget so she did what she could to conserve as much as possible. I remember walking home from school and chopping the wood before we ate dinner, or I did my homework. That usually took a couple of hours to make sure there was enough wood cut for the night and the next day, and there was kindling for starting the fire in the morning.

I had a girlfriend whose older brother decided one day that there was no way I could cut more wood than he could. He had never chopped wood before and didn’t know how to tell which pieces would split the easiest or anything. I had been doing this for a few years by then and knew how to tell by looking at it which chunks were dryer than the others and would split the cleanest and easiest. (I guess it was that teenage ego kicking in.)

Anyway, he challenged me to see who could chop the most wood in a specified length of time. I do not remember how long now, but I agreed. I knew I had him beat. I was at their house so we walked on up to my house and I opened the garage doors revealing an almost empty garage. It was early spring by then and so most of the wood had been used over the winter. I grabbed an axe and handed him one and rolled the big old chopping block out into the driveway. Of course, my mother had to come out and see what we were up to. When I told her what we were doing she only shook her head and laughed, and walked back into the house.

He decided to be chivalrous and let me go first. I was the girl, after all! So I looked over a few chunks of wood and chose one that had a nice crack on one side. I knew it would probably split with one or two good hits, if I placed the axe just right. Then I proceeded to split it with one good, solid hit! His turn, now. Having no clue what he was doing, this kid walked up, looked around a second, and picked up a nice piece of wood with no cracks or blemishes of any kind. By the third hit it still hadn’t split. In fact, he had the axe stuck and couldn’t get it out.

I only made it worse by taking the axe away from him and freeing it from the confines of the wood, thoroughly embarrassing him in front of his sister. And my mother. I know she was watching to make sure no one got hurt. After all, he had never used an axe before. Then, I tried to explain to him how to pick the easiest wood to split – and then showed him by splitting another good sized chunk with only one or two hits. I guess that was more than his young ego could handle, because he turned and hurried off down the street.

Neither one of us ever talked about the incident, but I know it bothered him for a long time. In school, he would actually turn and walk the opposite direction if he saw me walking toward him in the hall. This was my first lesson in getting along with boys. I didn’t realize it then, though.

I guess I got my work ethic from my mother!

Mom and her first husband sawing wood.

My mother with her first husband.

Curious Comfort

DJSarah, the web editor for Capper's Farmer, sent me an email about submissions for a cookbook they were needing to send off to the publisher and mentioned I had said I had my mother-in-law's box of old recipes. I do not remember saying that, but there are a lot of things I don’t remember – especially when I am very busy. I am almost afraid to think about what that may include some days.

So I started going through those old recipes to see if they would be what ‘most’ people would consider ‘comfort food’ and realized some of them weren’t even what I would have called ‘comfort food.' We were raised in different eras and areas of the country so, who is to say what the term ‘comfort food’ entails?

To me comfort food brings back my mama’s beans and dumplings, or homemade pies. She made the best pumpkin pie! I know I am slightly biased; she was my mother. You know, years later she owned up to lying to me. She hadn’t been baking pumpkin pies for me when I was a kid. She had been disguising squash as pumpkin. And I couldn’t even tell the difference! Now I know everybody has their story about what mama made them eat without them knowing it, and that is where my mind derailed for a little bit.

If we can be so easily tricked by our mothers into eating something that we are adamant about hating, what more can we be confused about. (Now we all know where those seeds of distrust started, huh?) You know I actually just found out last year that my mother never really made ‘dumplings’ either! She just whipped up a batch of baking powder biscuits and dropped them into her beans, or beef noodles, or whatever she was making. Cook 15 to 20 minutes and carefully roll each one over and cook another 15 to 20 minutes. It works every single time. Unless you are one of the people who likes their dumplings real heavy. These are light and fluffy!! Delicious! And this brings me back to the conundrum about comfort foods.

Comfort brings memories of ease and being stress free, soaking in warmth by a wood heating stove. Comfort to my husband is having central heat going in the winter and a small bowl of ice cream while he sits in front of the computer. My cousin thinks comfort is not worrying about anything and having everything you want. (I kind of like that one a little myself.) So I started really looking at the recipes, thinking about the area she was raised in and where she had raised her children. There is not much of a difference in some things – casseroles are always good. Hot, fresh from the oven pies and cakes by our mom and grandma are probably the best.

I was more than a little surprised when I ran upon the recipe below. Read it carefully. The Beverly Hillbillies had nothing on this old gal from Alabama. The recipe is for ‘coon’!? And if you continue reading just below that almost straight line it says ‘possum’! Neither my husband nor his younger sister recall her cooking them any of those delicacies, but wouldn’t that be a hoot if they get to heaven and ask her, and she answers ‘yes’? His sister did tell of a story his mother recounted about one of her younger brothers feeding her coon when she was a girl and not telling her until after she had eaten it.


I have come to the conclusion that, like everything else in life, comfort is different things to different people and ‘comfort food’ is just another memory like ‘the good old days’. I really do like those good old days and comfort foods, though.

Boys In The Fruit Orchard

DJWhen my brother was growing up, our mom and dad owned a peach orchard in the Lewiston Orchards, Idaho. (It was actually called that then, too.) This picture shows him when he was still young helping them in the orchards by carrying the weeds – and probably pulling them, too. At that time it wasn’t against the law for children to help their parents.

Ron in Lewiston Orchards, Idaho Blog

I was at my cousin, Emery Taylor’s, house last year and we were talking about some of the old picture’s my brother, Ron, had given me. I mentioned the one above with Ron carrying the weeds and the one I have of my uncle’s and my dad building a house in the peach orchard for one of the uncles to live in. I guess there weren’t a lot of regulations or building codes back then, either.

Emery started giggling and told me about the time he had been sent over to my mom and dad’s to stay with them for a couple of days because his mother had gone into labor. His parents didn’t feel it was appropriate for a young boy to see a woman giving birth.

This one particular day Ron and Emery were out in the orchard playing and my dad had turned the water on to irrigate the peach trees. As he walked along the bottom of the ditches making sure there was nothing blocking the flow of water to the trees, he came upon this one ditch that was bone dry. There was no water flowing in it at all. He walked up the ditch trying to locate the obstruction so he could get the water flowing again.

However, I do not believe he was prepared for the obstruction he found. Two boys with dump trucks and cars and logging trucks and everything! Yep, you got it! My brother, Ron, and my cousin, Emery, were playing cars and had built a really nice little town complete with a lake. And, they had built a dam across dads’ irrigation ditch to fill that beautiful little lake with water.

Now they were having a ball, but dad didn’t think it was funny at all. Mind you, this was in the 1940’s when it was still legal to spank your kids. Especially when they were messing with your fruit trees! If that was this day and age, it would have been a virtual town, with a virtual lake and virtual cars – drawn on a computer in other words. Of course, they wouldn’t have gotten a whippin’ either. And on that particular day Ron and Emery’s punishment wasn’t virtual, either. He said it took a while for mom to let them live it down, too.

Importance of Hidey Holes On Farmsteads

DJI am sitting here watching all the Yellow Jackets outside our windows and I remember wondering last winter if the bugs would be worse this summer because we did not get cold enough up here to kill them off. Guess what? That is exactly what happened. We have had the worst year for Yellow Jackets and Wasps in ages – plus they are meaner than ever. I have been stung twice, and my husband has even had them chase him down and sting him on the riding lawn mower, my dog has been stung two or three times. The first time was up by her eye and her eyelid swelled shut and we had to take her to the vet. They are nasty this year!

Antique Bee Smoker Blog

Knowing how ill tempered Yellow Jackets can get makes me wonder how in the world people ever used this old smoker. I mean, they had to have something in there to produce the smoke. And that meant it was going to be hot. Plus, they were probably using this in the summer time when it was already hot. A couple of questions here, now. What if the wind turned and blew the smoke into your face instead of the bees? No fun there! And, these Yellow Jackets are smart. They have probably figured out where all that smoke is coming from and are now after you. (That is how I got stung the second time. They knew who was spraying the hive with that smelly insecticide!) Could you outrun a bunch of angry wasps? But, this was the technology of the day.

Now, please, do not get me wrong. I am not out to kill bees. Bees are very beneficial, but when you have a full nest of Yellow Jackets (Wasps), which are not as beneficial, living as close as some of these things are – they need to move! We have one in the ground in the front yard, one in the corner of the house by the driveway (where we have to walk past it twice a day), one in the small composter by the old chicken coop, and one in the old chicken coop! I mean in the walls of the old chicken coop. It was time for them to go.

Mary, Sally, Larry, and Bill Blog

This photo shows my cousins May and Sally (first and second from the left, respectively) and Sally’s husband, Larry and last, but not least is May’s husband, Bill. This particular bee smoker belonged to Larry’s grandfather. (Larry is the guy third from the left.) We get a good idea how old this particular piece of equipment is now, since Larry is almost 80. (Hopefully that didn’t sound as bad as I think it did.) Larry’s grandparents moved up here to the Moscow, Idaho area in 1909, and when Larry graduated from high school his parents moved up here from Pomeroy, Washington. When they moved here they purchased an old farm and worked the land like most everybody else. After Larry’s grandparents and father had passed away, his brother came up to do some work on the old house for their mother. Larry and Sally finished up the new sheetrock and Larry’s brother and wife helped sand the drywall joints. Needless to say that makes a huge mess.

Sally, and everybody, was cleaning up the dust from the sanding one day and Sally got to the point where she was wiping the dust off the staircase going upstairs. Every time she tried to clean this one step it would move. Being the inquisitive person she is, Sally pulled on the stair and the top slid out revealing a hidey hole just big enough to hold a twenty pound bag of sugar. As it turns out, during World War II when the country was going through all the rationing, the farmers got pretty ingenious when it came to hiding their stuff. It was not uncommon to find hidey holes such as this because the military would make routine searches, especially during canning season, and they would confiscate sugar and other valuable commodities from the people. Not wanting their stuff taken, especially sugar as it was quite expensive, the farmers hid it. In this case the hidey hole didn’t hold any sugar, but it did have Larry’s grandfather’s bee smoker in it. That was an extraordinary find in itself!