Ann Berg

Ann Berg

Pioneer Potluck: Old black stoves and wringer washing machines

The old farmhouse was cozy and warm in the kitchen with the big black cookstove in the corner.

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2020 11:57pm
  • Life

1940s on an 80-acre farm, north of Fort Collins, Colorado

The old farmhouse was cozy and warm in the kitchen with the big black cookstove sitting in the corner. Dad got the stove hot by poking corn cobs and paper down in the big belly of the stove onto the top of the hot coals left over from the night before. Then he would carefully put three or four big chunks of coal inside and replace the round lid. Then he would pump water into the coffee pot from the red-handled pump next to the kitchen sink. Mom would be busy making biscuits, cooking bacon, making pancakes or frying eggs so we would have a good breakfast to start the day.

The old coffee pot would heat and start perking and making blurping sounds. Dad knew just when to take it off the stove and let it settle for five minutes, then he would pour mom and himself a cup of coffee. He would sit down at the table until breakfast was ready and jabber at us kids (at the time there was Ginger, 3, Johnnie, 5 and me, 6) while we stood as close to the stove as possible, putting on our clothes.

Breakfast finished and our tummies full, Dad would put on his heavy winter coat, his hat and gloves, and if there was snow on the ground he would pull on his black rubber boots with lots of black buckles over his cowboy boots. Mom would hand him the milk pail and off to the barn he would go to milk our old cow, Bessie.

Mom would be busy heating water on the stove to wash dishes, while Ginger, John and I played at the kitchen table. I would help mom dry the dishes with one of her very white, embroidered, flour sack dish towels. I can remember how boiling hot the rinse water was. I would have to fish the clean dishes out of the rinse water with a big two pronged meat fork. Dishes done, they were put away in the cupboard. If it was Monday mom would gather up the dirty clothes and sort them, while buckets of water were heating on the stove.

She would roll out the Maytag wringer washing machine that sat in the other corner of the kitchen, pour the boiling water into the wash bin, add a cup of DUZ Clothing Soap (anyone remember D-U-Z – does everything?). She would scoop up the white clothes, put them in the machine and plug in the washing machine, as we all gathered around to peek into the washer to see the clothes slosh back and forth. Mom would put the big white round lid on and look at the clock. In 20 minutes she would stop the washing machine with the lever on the side and push down another lever to make the wringers start. After an admonishment from Mom we would stand back — the wringers were dangerous. She would tell us how people got their long hair tangled in the ringers. How the fingers got smashed and arms caught and run through the ringer. We were terrified of “the wringer” and would stand back with mouths open, tongues half out waiting for the very worst.

The white clothes would roll through the ringers into rinse water and into a large square tub on a stand. Mom would rinse them with her hands in the rinse water and swish clothes up and down, up and down until she was sure there was no more DUZ left. She would switch the wringer to the side where I think she had the second rinse water, slosh clothes up and down and into the ringer again. They would drop into a big basket that she carried out to the clothesline, after she put the second load up clothes in the washing machine.

In the meantime, Dad would bring in a pail of fresh milk, pour it into large jars and put it in the ice box. He would rinse the milk pail, turn it upside down near the kitchen sink and sometimes carry out a basket of clothes to the clothesline for Mom.

He would go on with his chores and Mom would continue to wash “everything in the house” and usually was finished by 10 or 11 in the morning, just in time to start dinner. We called it dinner (now it is called lunch). This was usually was fried meat, boiled potatoes, corn or green beans and milk gravy. In between taking clothes out to dry, Mom would stir up a cake and stick it in the oven. We would have warm cake with whipped cream (yup, from cream skimmed off the milk), beaten by the hand beater (mixer) and sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla. OH MY! That was good!

Dinner was right at noon, dishes washed and put away, the washing machine and rinse tubs were already drained. It was time to start bringing in the white clothes from the clothesline to be folded. We all helped fold teaspoon towels, pillow cases, Dad’s white T-shirts, white socks and underwear. If there were white shirts to be washed they were washed first, starched and hung out. When they were brought in Mom would get a pan of water and dip her hand in the water and “sprinkle” them, roll them up and place in a towel, fold the towel over so they would be ready to iron “in the morning.”

The rest of the afternoon was spent taking clothes off the line, folding and putting them away, and making beds with clean sheets, ironed pillow cases and blankets. If something needed mending Mom would go in to her bedroom and unfold the Singer Treadle Sewing Machine and patch holes, rips and teaspoon rs. I learned by watching her. I think it must be a lost art as everything is thrown away now! We would all gather around and watch this like we were watching television! We followed her everywhere. Even to the out house. She would make sure we all got to “go” before she took her turn. She would close the door and latch it while we stood outside and waited for her re-entry into the world.

Then is was time to start supper (dinner) — chicken-fried steak, pork chops or meat loaf and beans or a big roast with potatoes, carrots and onions. In the afternoon she had stirred up a loaf of bread that had risen in time to go in the oven and out right at suppertime.

Dad would come in and wash up. We gathered around the round table in our appointed chairs and listened to Dad tell us about his day. He helped Mom clear off the table. Mom washed the dishes and I dried them and put them away. We would all go into the living room after we had out newly washed, great smelling, cotton pajamas on and Dad would read to us or tell us stories until it was time for bed. We would crawl in between the clean-smelling sheets and blankets and dream the night away. And all this happen on Monday! Tuesday was ironing day!


This is good with ground moose. An intriguing recipe —good for picnics or bonfires.

2 pounds of ground burger

1 cup of saltine cracker crumbs

½ teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon celery salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper

1 finely chopped onion

1 finely chopped green pepper (optional)

¼ cup lemon juice

1 egg

Mix by hand and form 4 patties like a mini meatloaf.

Place on a sheet of double-thickness foil, pat meat into rectangle.

Place thin sliced potatoes on one side of rectangle. Add a slice of onion and thin slices of carrot, a slice of green pepper (optional) and a slice of pepper jack cheese. Roll the “naked” half of foil on top of vegetables and seal edges.

Roll patty into another piece of foil and seal.

Bake in oven 350 for 45 minutes, or on a slow grill for 1 hour, or place next to a bonfire on top of hot rocks, turning every 5 to 10 minutes for 1 hour.

Open packet and serve on paper plate. Pass the ketchup, butter, salt and pepper.


Place a strip of cooked bacon on a burger. Place sliced jalapeno before the sliced cheese. Pour ketchup on burger before placing the vegetables.


THIS is daughter Susan’s recipe. Delicious!

12 mushrooms sliced

2 cups chopped onions

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon dill weed (optional)

1 cup broccoli (optional)

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon garlic salt

2 cups stock — beef broth

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons parsley

1⁄2 cup sour cream


Saute onions in 2 tablespoons butter. Add mushrooms and salt, dill, 1⁄2 cup stock, broccoli and paprika. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Melt remaining butter in pan and whisk in flour and cook a few minutes. Add milk slowly and cook stirring frequently over low heat about 5 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture and add remaining stock. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper and lemon juice. Stir in sour cream and parsley.


Place in Crock-Pot in order given or in a Dutch oven with lid and cook on top of woodstove or a campfire. This can be cooked over a campfire in Dutch oven during moose hunting season. Just place all ingredients in a large ziplock bag and transport in the Dutch oven to the campsite.

2 onions, sliced in large pieces

3 large potatoes, cubed

4 carrots, cut in large pieces

1 to 1 ½ pounds of stew meat. Moose, beef, sheep, goat or bear can be used in this, trimmed of ALL FAT.

2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca or 2 tablespoons flour

1 can beef broth, but one can of beer is better, tenderizes tougher pieces of game meat.

1 beef bouillon cube

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Cover and place on medium heat, and cook up to 8 hours on woodstove, 4 to 6 hours in Crock-Pot and all day on a campfire. Put the Dutch oven over a low-heat area of the campfire in the morning after breakfast and you have dinner done at six. Give everyone a bowl and a spoon; ladle the stew into the bowls. Pass buttered sourdough bread or buttered biscuits. Dinners done! This recipe is in my cookbook – “Grannie Annies Cookin’ on the Woodstove.”

• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, For the Peninsula Clarion

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