On a farm in Northern Colorado and Daniels Lake, North Kenai
Now refereed to as
1940s to present
Our New Years Eve on the farm was low key and uneventful. Most of the time we were all in bed before the New Year came in. New Years Day Mom baked a ham and scalloped potatoes.
We treated it like a holiday and enjoyed the day with family and friends that came by. Chores had to be done as usual. Sometimes we had lots of snow, sometimes snowy blizzard conditions and always cold! Dad would come in from the barn with the a pail full of milk, bringing in the clouds of cold vapors we called smoke. Mom had breakfast ready and coffee percolating on the back of the stove, waiting to be poured for Dad so he could warm up.
The smell of bacon, fried potatoes and toast called us to the kitchen, as Dad poured the fresh milk into jugs for the refrigerator and washed up. Mom cracked eggs in the hot bacon grease, sizzle them into lacy, frazzled edges and serve them to sleepy eyed kids at the table. Dad was a dunker – so we followed suit, we dunked our toast in the egg yolks and enjoyed every bite.
The second slice of toast always got big gobs of Moms jelly – peach jam, chokecherry jelly, plum jam, cherry jam and jelly and apple sauce. We only got a different kind of jelly after the first jar was emptied. I loved the peach jam. Uncle Guy would take his pickup to the “Western Slope” as he told us where he was going, like it was a completely different, far off country. Actually it was Grand Junction, Colorado. It was a big trip in those days. It took him two or three days to get back with crates and crates of peaches and pears. We could eat our fill as Mom sorted out the ripe fruit for canning immediately and the rest was put out on newspapers to ripen for the next round of canning. She canned the peaches and pears in quart jars and the jam and jelly in pints. I loved the peach and pear smells and tried to help Mom as much as she would let me. Her kitchen was HER kitchen and most of the time we were “underfoot!” “Go play!” she would tell us.
My brothers and sisters and I spent our fall days in the warm sunshine, climbing cottonwood trees, looking for bugs, worms and butter flies, listening to birds and checking out the cows and horses in the corral. At one time Dad had a pen of pigs, but they grew to be a big nuisance as they would never stay in the pen. Dad stopped having pigs on the farm. They became bacon and ham. We had a dog named “Pup” that hated pigs out and wandering around “his” yard. Pup would herd them back to the pen and if a pig was stubborn, he would grab them by the tail or ear and guide them, not to gently, back where they belonged. Dad told this “pig tale” about Pup with a pig tail in his mouth, so proud of himself as he brought it to Dad and laid it at his feet. Of course we all had to go see the pig with no tail. The pig did not seem to mind!! He liked the attention!! So did Pup.
New Years Day we all gathered around the table with family. A few years in a row, Dads nephew, my cousin, one of eight boy in the family of Stonebreakers raised in Kansas, would come and visit on Sundays or holidays from their home in Greeley, Colorado. Lloyd and Elma Stonebreaker became a permanent figure in our living room on week ends. We all loved to sit around and hear Dad tell stories of his youth growing up in Kansas. He would get out the photo album and describe in great detail, the story behind each photo. It did not matter if we heard the stories a thousand times – it was still fun to hear Dad in his slow Kansas drawl, describe his escapades with his brothers growing up around Westfall, Beverly and Salina Kansas.
Mom prepared for their visits with chicken noodles and chicken salad sandwiches. We picked out an old hen, chopped her head off, plunged it in hot water and plucked feathers. Mom did the rest, cleaning and ready for the soup pot. That old hen simmered away on the stove all day Saturday afternoon as Mom made noodles to go in the pot Sunday. We deboned and ground the chicken meat and stirred in finely diced celery and a “bit of onion.” Moms secret to this wonderful chicken salad “samwich” was Derke’s Salad Dressing. Two shakes of Derke’s and a big tablespoon of Miracle Whip. We heaped big spoonfuls of chicken salad on her buttered, home made bread slices and topped it with a leaf of lettuce. I never could replicate the taste of those wonderful sandwiches. That was Mom’s answer to soup and sandwiches. The very best!!
When the kids and I arrived in Alaska 1967, we knew two people. By 1969, we lived on Daniels Lake, I had a new husband and added his three kids to the family. We built bunk beds to accommodate 6 kids, all close to the same age, Gail, oldest at 12 years. New Years Eve was a gathering of fellow welders and everyone that we worked with. They built a big, big bon fire. People drifted in and out of the house. Kids ran in and out and down to the fire. Snow machines were buzzing down and onto the lake. Kids were in sleds and on plastic bags, whizzing down the steep drive way, navigating the slight turn onto the lake. At midnight New Years Eve, from out of somewhere came loud-loud booming, bright fireworks, that lit up the dark cold night over the lake. Cherry bombs would go off unexpectedly behind some one and sparklers in the hands the kids, created chaos, cheers and great laughter. I, to this day, am in awe of the fact that NO ONE got hurt!!
I had new and lots of friendly women friends, that were in the same boat as I. A new cold State, a new way of living and lots of kids. Most of my new friends were from warm States making it doubly traumatic. We all pooled our recourses and came up with Chili soup made with moose, Moose Stew, BBQed Moose ribs,Baked salmon and the wonderful smoked salmon that men were so proud of producing. Cookies and cakes topped the meal. Everything was put on a plywood table with legs made of saw horses. Everyone drifted in and out to munch at their leisure. Hot chocolate, hot coffee, hot tea always available.
Kids would come in with frozen socks on their hands to exchange for a dry warm pair of mittens or socks hanging on a wire behind by the blazing fuel oil stove. Boots kicked off and new warm socks replacing the snow packed stiff socks – warming up the toes, so they could go back out. They did not want to miss anything going on out doors. I thank my Mom for sending big, big boxes of mittens, hats, gloves, snow suits and coats and yes, tons of socks that I put in a big box by the stove for whomever needed them. Good memories of long ago. The friends I made those first few years, starting anew in Alaska, are still my good friends today. We all have moved on – moved away – made new lives. but we still keep in touch, 30 some years later.
My New Years Resolution: Thank all my new and old friends each day for the wonderful compliments and comments about my articles. Thank God, every day for my daughter Susan, winning the battle again, against cancer. She was suffering a year ago from this terrible disease. God is good!! Thank my daughter, Gail and son David each day for all the blessing I have received through the year from them. Smiles are important. Thank Bob for keeping the Home Fire Burning and the songs he sings to me every night. Because of this I will Laugh more often, Smile bigger, Love everyone a little more. Forgive most and take more time to walk slower through this New Year so I can appreciate all I have.
Happy New Year Everyone! May God Bless our United States of America and May Her future become brighter this year.
The series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook.
She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.
Grannie Annie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie
Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.