1937 to 1955
North of Fort Collins, Colorado
If you turned off of Highway 14 at Cactus Hill Observatory Grade School District 101 and went north 2 miles on a dusty dirt-gravel road, you were at John and Loretta McClure’s Shamrock Shorthorn Ranch.
After the remodel of the old farmhouse, they planted grass in the front yard to replace the dirt we used to play in. Dad put a swing in the box elder tree for us to swing on. He also bought a hammock (which none of us kids mastered), but Dad would carefully crawl in the hammock and rest after dinner (lunch) under the cottonwood tree that provided lots of shade from the hot summer sun.
After his rest he would pull his irrigation boots back on, go get in his old International pickup and drive back out to the corn, sugar beets and hay fields to “walk” the rows to see that all his little ditches were full of precious irrigation water that soaked up the thirsty ground. This made the crops grow and produce his fall crops of hay for bales, corn silage and the sugar beets. The all-summer struggle put him in the top 10 sugar beet production for northern Colorado. We knew how tired he was as he got up at 3 a.m. every morning to go out and “check the water” just in case some of the water was running somewhere else and wasting the water that his crops so relied on. We really thought he deserved a rest in the hammock and tiptoed around in the grass until he woke up. Makes me smile to think we “tiptoed” through the grass!
Mom always cooked a nice breakfast for us and had a delicious dinner (what we call lunch now) on the table right at noon. A bowl piled high with mashed potatoes, fried beef of some kind, milk gravy, vegetables and always a dessert. After eating Dad would go rest in his hammock and I would help Mom wash the dishes in the new sink that had running hot and cold water. The water was carefully guarded and we did not waste “a drop.” Water was something that we were always conscious of and if we wasted a drop we were dully scolded. It had to be hauled in by a truck we called the “water wagon” to fill up the cistern.
In the early days before remodeling the old farmhouse, we had an iceman who came around and Mom would purchase ice from him for the “ice box.” Us kids would line up so we could get some of the slivers of ice he had after he chipped off so much ice for Mom. We loved the ice man! Sure is funny how the iceman and the water wagon disappeared into the forever memories of a few of us and is not even used today!
The milkman was another person who disappeared after big milk trucks came along and sucked up the milk into the big tanks on the milk farms. So the milk cans became flower pot decorations in the yard. The ice box got hauled off to the dump and the big old black cook stove was gone and replaced by Mom’s big white electric stove that said “ELECTRIC” on it. I still do not know what happened to that big old cook stove! How I would love to have it now, decorating some corner of my house, of course! Although I do cook on our wood-heating stove, it does not hold a candle to the wonderful loaves of bread, cakes, cookies and roasts that came out of that old stove. Or the fried chicken and mashed potatoes and milk gravy it produced on top of the stove. Or the heat that it provided us kids as we got dressed in front of it in the winter while the big black coffee pot perked away on top.
Mom’s flowers were gifted with the irrigation water also — she looked forward to the days Dad would “let” the water down the ditch beside our yard so she could either go barefoot or in her little canvas shoes to take care of her flowers and water the grass. They also planted a garden, but I do not remember too much about it — other than Mom said it was too much work for the amount of vegetables and tomatoes she got. And Dad said it took too much water. So it was a short two- or three-year adventure. They planted apple and cherry trees in the garden area “out beyond the clothes line.”
Mom picked cosmos and snapdragons and whatever flower she could spare for the kitchen table or the dining room table. She always took time to arrange them in beautiful bouquets and stand back and admire her handy work. I never got the hang of flower arrangements, much to the disgust of Bernie, Susan and a few of my other friends. I trim them, put them in water, tell them they are pretty and it’s all done in a matter of seconds. My Mom and Bernie and Susan will take time to arrange them in a beautiful vase full of bursting colors. When fall rolled around Mom was always sad to see her flowers go, so she planted chrysanthemums that lasted until the snow came.
This all comes down to fall in Alaska and we are looking forward to pulling potatoes that Bob has so carefully tended to. I will pick the last of all the great tomatoes we had. The berries are gone except for cranberries and some blueberries. I have frozen most of the berry juices and when it is cold and no longer nice out I will start to make jellies and jams and maybe can some of Bob’s potatoes in chicken broth. It probably is his favorite meal of thickened broth with potatoes.
I hope you had a great Labor Day. Thank you God for the rain and bless the people I love who are having health issues.
ANNIE B’S DUTCH OVEN STEW
This has a nice deep brown broth and a wonderful taste.
2 to 4 pounds moose roast or a well-trimmed beef rump roast
Trim fat off beef roast and all fat off moose roast.
Cut in 1⁄2-inch cubes. Here is an easy way to cut in to cubes. Cut roast in half, cut halves into two each, then cut into cubes.
Put meat into Ziploc and add 1⁄2 to 1 cup of Worcestershire sauce. Zip up and put in fridge for 12 hours for beef and 24 for moose.
Next day: In large cast-iron skillet with enough vegetable oil to cover bottom of the pan, brown the cubes, pushing and turning meat until deeply browned on all sides. Put lid on and brown 5 minutes on low.
While meat in browning, cube:
2 large onions
2 to 4 stalks celery
6 or more baby carrots, cut in twos
4 medium potatoes in large cubes
1 cup sliced mushrooms or one small can with liquid
1⁄8 teaspoon basil
1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper
This does not require much salt.
Back to the browning meat, add 1 cup water, put lid back on and simmer 5 minutes.
Add all the vegetable and 2 cans of beef broth. Simmer on top of hot woodstove for 2 hours, setting the pot on jar lids. OR in the oven on 350 degrees for 2 hours. If you are using a Crock-Pot, 4 hours.
Take out the meat and cover to keep warm.
In a pint jar with lid, add 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup water. Shake or stir until lumps are gone.
Add one cup of water to liquid in pot, bring to boil and add the water-flour mix, stirring slowly as it thickens and is clear.
Stir and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Serve in big bowls with homemade sourdough bread or hot biscuits.
P.S.: For a nice beef noodle soup, just add noodles in place of potatoes. Add to pot about 20 to 30 minutes before serving and cook until noodles are done.
MOOSE OR BEEF – N – BROCCOLI
I took the idea for this from a Cantonese cookbook.
1 1⁄2 to 2 pounds of steak, flank, round, or sirloin tip. Stick in freezer until partially frozen so you can cut into thin diagonal pieces. Cut across the grain. (This is excellent with moose.)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 medium clove of garlic crushed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Toss in Ziploc with the thinly sliced meat.
Let set for one or two hours, but no more than 3.
Cut flowerets of broccoli in small pieces and if you want peel and slice the stems to make 2 cups
Preheat skillet and add 2 tablespoons oil. Drain the marinade and stir-fry meat in hot pan for just a few seconds.
Take out and add the broccoli and cook until tender, about 5 minutes stirring constantly.
1⁄2 cup sliced green onions
1⁄2 cup sliced water chestnuts
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄2 cup sliced mushrooms
Stir until liquid has evaporated about 1 minute. Add meat, stir and serve over rice.
Stick this on top of the woodstove or in the oven or Crock-Pot.
I came up with this when we were cutting and splitting our own wood for the wood-heating stove. It has a flat surface that doubles as a cooking stove.
Blend together in bowl:
1 can of tomato soup, undiluted
1 can red wine or water or beef broth
1⁄2 cup flour
Mix until smooth.
In a covered Dutch oven or Crock-Pot, place:
2 pounds of cubed beef chuck or moose
2 medium carrots cut in 1-inch slices
6 yellow onions cut in quarters
4 medium potatoes cut in quarters
1⁄2 cup celery cut in 1-inch pieces
12 large mushrooms cut in half
2 beef bouillon cubes (optional), but you will have to add about 1⁄2 teaspoon salt if not using
1 tablespoon Italian herbs or 1 teaspoon each of oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
1 bay leaf
3 grinds of pepper
Pour tomato soup mixture over roast and vegetables in Dutch oven. Bake on top of woodstove set on jar rings for about 4 hours or in oven for 2 to 3 hours. In a crock pot for 6.
Coleslaw and sourdough bread is all you need with this.
• By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg, For the Peninsula Clarion