Friday, December 30, 2011


The day did not start nor progress the way I thought it would for our 45th anniversary. Laddie, our beloved 12 yr old Sheltie, has been up and down these last 4 weeks. We took him to the vet earlier today.  On this day, he got really bad, and at 4pm, he passed. We get yet another lesson: Life is a precious gift. 
I am not really in a space for words right now.  And the house seems a little quieter.  We are all on the somber side.  The 6 of us came here in 2007 to this Little Farm (Richard, Melanie and me, the Humans; Max and Scamp, the Cats; Ladd, the Dog).  Now we are 5.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Friend

Spyri, Johanna. (1968). Heidi.  New York: Lancer Books, Inc.
I have recently been drawn toward reading 4 novels from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  These are works that have been passed down in my family's lore. They are likely books that my Grandparents [especially Lottie (Hart) and Fred Brenz] and my Mother read.  I read 2 of the 4 when I was growing up. Of the 3 that I have read recently (Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter, Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright, and Heidi by Johanna Spyri) and the 1 that is in process (Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter), Nature figures heavily.  Nature is healer.  The tension between urban and rural is very evident.  Urban life styles are split from Nature whereas rural living is imbedded in Nature.  Authors speak articulately of these themes.  I can imagine that with the rise of urban, industrial and more consumer oriented settings in that time period, the struggle between urban and rural was very apparent. Life styles in rural, natural settings were healthier for body, mind and spirit of main characters.  Assuming needs are met, it is not hard to see an affirmation of this in our modern society today.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Cookbook in our Future?

I am seriously thinking about putting together "Our Family's Cookbook".  This Cookbook would be just for us.  Most of our Recipes are now stored in a box about 2 inches deep and just the size of an 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper.  (That box once held clear plastic sleeves for the early 1980's book I put together on the boys' Mother's quilts.  It makes me smile every time I pull it down.) Of course, we have favorite Cookbooks besides, but most of our favorite Recipes are stored in that box.  That includes alteration and bannings:  reduced sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated fats, natural sugars (molasses, honey), gluten free.

I have had several observations:
  • What we eat often defines a given time period in our lives. The "Cheesecake Period" comes to mind.  Those Foods have been very much enjoyed but do not meet later tastes and needs.  When a given Food loses its place, the Recipe becomes banished (although not intentionally) to the bottom of the box.  Over the years, the Recipe is cycled into another location, perhaps one of several locations.  Some day, they will all be re-united and they all seem to be looking forward to that.
  • Now that we are living on this little Farm and growing as much of our own food as we can, we cook and eat seasonally.  The Foods that we eat often times give a flash of connection with a given season.  If I would hold up a flash card of a Food and ask one of us to name the season, it would be immediate:  Meat Loaf (Fall, Winter), Wilted Lettuce (Spring), Stuffed Peppers (Fall, Winter), Sauerkraut and Sausages (Fall, Winter), Chicken Bone Broth (Winter), Mint Ice Cream (late Summer), and so on. There are a few that we eat year round, but not nearly like we did before when we lived in town, had a smaller garden, and just bought Foods whenever we wanted them (within reason, of course).
  • What that means is that the Recipes in the box are always rotating.  Those which are "in season" are at the top.  When their season is past, they move toward the back.  When those recipes are at last moving close to the bottom, their season arrives and it is time to dig them out once again.  
  • For us, it would make sense to build a Cookbook around seasons.  Those old Cookbooks which have sections on Meat/Fish/Poultry, Desserts, Vegetables and Salads, and so on seem to disconnect us with the rhythms of the land. I find them less useful than a seasonal organizational system.  At least that feels right now and I would like to "play with it". 
  • A few years back, I made Melanie a Cookbook and it was quite clever, if I say so myself.  The Cookbook included all time family favorites.  With each Recipe, I included pictures of Melanie and our family at the time that the food became a favorite. It was really sweet.
  • I can see that the future "Our Family's Cookbook" would integrate pictures of us too.  Plus, it would incorporate pictures of family members who have passed on traditional Recipes that have become part of our fare like: Grandma Crawford's Molasses Cake (the original and the update), Grandma Dora's Povitica, Grandma Lottie's Steamed Pudding (with her picture and Aunt Ruthie's picture because it was Aunt Ruthie who brought it back).
In my spare time, I shall work this up. 

Recipe: Mashed Root Medley

Notes:  We always used to have Mashed Potatoes (and sometimes Mashed Rutabaga) with our Turkey Dinners. Over time we have switched to a Mashed Root Medley, which we absolutely love.  It is tasty and ever so pretty. Carrots and Chives give it a confetti look. Potatoes are the base, representing the greatest amount but probably no more than half the volume.  Any favorite relatively bland edible Root would be good.  Amounts can be adjusted based on tastes.

Potatoes (preferably Red, skins on, cut in chunks)
Parsnips (cut in chunks)
(Optional) Rutabaga (did not use)
Carrots, shredded
Garlic (cut in small chunks)
Onion (chopped)
Fresh cut Chives (chopped)
Whole Milk

Simmer Potatoes, Parsnips, Rutabaga, Carrots, Garlic, Onion until tender.  Mash by hand or whip in mixer.  Add just enough Whole Milk and Butter for a softer consistency.  Stir in Chives.  Put in bowl to serve.  Richard always stuffs a chunk of Butter into the top, making it look like a mini-volcano.  Serve.

Recipe: Wild Rice Dressing

1 1/2 cups uncooked Wild Rice (Minnesota Wild Rice from the Red Lake Band given by Dorreen in 2008 and Ross in 2009; we are almost out)
6-8 T. Butter
2-3 c. chopped Celery
3-4 c. chopped Onion
2-3 large cloves of Garlic, chopped fine
3/4 c. chopped Pecans
Culinary Sage (about 3 Tablespoons Dried)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Simmer Giblets (Neck, Gizzard, Heart, Liver) in water with quartered Onion until tender.  Crock pot works nicely. 

Boil Wild Rice in water on low heat, just enough heat to keep a gentle boiling process going.  Wild Rice is about a 1 to 4 ratio, which means that 1 cup of Wild Rice uncooked yields about 4 cups cooked.  This usually takes 45 minutes to an hour to cook.  All liquid should be gone.  If not, drain.

Drain, saving broth for Dressing and for coating skin of Turkey during the final stages of roasting.  Remove meat from neck bones.  Grind or cut Giblets fine.  (Some of this can be saved back for the Gravy.  Yum.)

Saute Celery, Onion, Garlic in butter until tender (almost transparent). Add Sage when almost done.  Assemble all ingredients except broth.  The Turkey is now ready to "dress".
Note:  Wild Rice is not local to these parts, however, it is something that we came to love in the North Country.  As long as we can get it and it is Native harvested in the traditional way, we will use it and enjoy.  We also discovered at Thanksgiving that we love Cornbread Stuffing.  (Bread Stuffing is a little heavy and I am trying to do Gluten Free.)

Recipe: Roast Turkey

13-15#  Turkey (raised by local Farmer and Friend John Arbuckle)
Dressing (Wild Rice or Cornbread)
Coating (1/3 c. melted Butter, 1/2 tsp. Cayenne or Paprika, 1/4 c. fresh or dried Parsley, Salt, Freshly Ground Pepper)

Oven:  325 degrees.

Thaw Turkey completely.  This usually takes us 3-4 days depending on the size of the Turkey.  If we can, we will thaw it in the Refrigerator. If the temperature is just right outside, we will sometimes thaw it partially there, covered and protected of course.  If indoors, we will cover with cotton towels to slow the thawing process.

The day of the Feast has arrived.  Rinse Turkey with water and pat dry.  At this point, we had the Turkey in the large oblong Blue Granite Roasting Pan on a small grate (to keep it off the bottom).  Stuff loosely neck and end cavities with Dressing. Do not pack. Place rest of Dressing around the Turkey.  We love this because it will cook well in the juices of the Turkey.  Add 2-3 cups of the Broth from the Giblets in the bottom but not all.

Coat Turkey skin with melted Butter and sprinkle with Cayenne (or Paprika), Parsley, Salt and freshly ground Pepper.  (We used Fresh Parsley from the Garden.)  This will make a nice "artistic" look, the skin will seal and be tasty.

Cover with Roasting Pan lid.  Place Turkey in the Oven with racks arranged so that it is in the center.

Turkey (with Dressing) will take about 20 minutes per pound to cook completely. In the last 2 hours, we check the Turkey and pour Broth from the Giblets on top (to keep Skin from drying out and to make a nice coat).  Mother always used a Turkey Baster and we have no such thing.  Pouring lightly works nicely.

Turkey is done when wing or leg can easily be pulled (almost separated) away from the Turkey.  At this stage, they just about fall apart with a slight pull. Remove Turkey from Oven to set up and cool a bit before carving.
Notes:  My Mother always used to put her Turkeys in aluminum foil, sealing them completely.  While sometime quite a wrestling match toward the end, I always followed her lead because I thought it would keep them quite moist.  However, I would often find that the foil leaked at the seams, meaning juice was escaping from the cooking of the Turkey.  Here on the Farm, we try to eliminate our use of Aluminum, to cut down on waste and because research suggests a relationship with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  This time, Melanie insisted we skip the aluminum foil which we did.  I was afraid the Turkey would dry out, but it was absolutely excellent and the skin was done (not overdone) to perfection.

Mother used to have the Turkey in so that we would sit down and eat at Noon sharp.  That was no small feat, meaning that she would be up very early in the morning in preparation.  Meanwhile her small children were behind the bedroom door like wild animals in a cage (almost) or rather like horses chomping at their bits to begin the race toward the presents under the Tree. The regimented "eating at noon tradition" is one we have set aside.  We open presents in the morning accompanied by leisurely cups of Tea, Povitica, and Christmas Music.  When this stage is complete, we 3 C's head to the kitchen and prepare the Turkey.  We eat about 6pm. Give or take.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Dinner Menu

Roast Turkey
Wild Rice Dressing
Mashed Root Medley
Cranberry Relish
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie sans Crust
Note: We used to have many dishes at our Christmas and Thanksgiving tables. In recent years, we go simpler and put our energy into those few dishes which we love the most of all. Yum.


Healthy discontent
is the prelude
to progress.
Mohandas Gandhi

Povitica on Wheels

Yesterday, Melanie and I took slices of Povitica to 6 Elders in our community.  Three are in the Nursing Home (1 has Alzheimers) and 3 are living at home.  The latter is a fact of which I am personally exceedingly grateful. I had not known 2 before, although they surely connect with my family, especially my Dad.  That was 5 stops and we surely could have found other things to do after a very busy Holiday time.  But these visits took us to magical places we had not visited before.  They gave us energy and it came right back to us again.

Povitica is a Croatian Nut Bread which the old ones (and those before) with Croatian ancestry (or via marriage) would have made and enjoyed greatly in years past.  Given the right connection, it is a gateway into vibrancy of culture and story.  Memories are stored in food: who fixed it, how they fixed it, who ate it, what life was like in the swirling world around.  This elemental connection goes being just eating to fuel our tanks.

I wish you could have seen Marie, who is increasingly compromised and, from her wheel chair, sat over plates of pushed around food.  She took that slice of Povitica and put it right into her mouth.  "Now this is food," she said.

For me, on some level, it is almost "medicine".  It nourishes heart and spirit.  I give it because something inside me (or far greater than me) just knows it is right.  I give it as a means of honoring Elders and story.  I also give it as a means of letting folks know that we know its importance and we are not about it to leave it (or them) behind.

Conventional culture with its emphasis on high speed and fads has been insistent in leaving these treasures behind.  Previously, such foods would have been markers of considerable prowess and caring.  Few, if any, in families of modern time know how to prepare them. Elders bear witness to a world which has left (or tried to leave) them behind. Consequently, people who follow do not know who they are.  Many superficial things (not the least of which is materialism) are put in its place.  They provide neither comfort nor will they endure.

When we take such treasures to Elders, sharing touches places which are deep and rich, even when we visit people we have only known from a distance.  Stories emerge.  Connections which I had not known before are made and strengthened.  Depending on who I visit, tears, smiles, and laughter are offered.  Pictures may be carefully carried out of their home places and shared.

Yesterday, one of the women talked about how she had loved my Grandmother Dora Budiselich Bloskovich who passed in 1966.  That's a big deal for me, because I never really felt I knew her.  She did not speak English. My Mother (who was English and German in heritage, as well as Protestant) and her 2 children seemed to represent all the things which this culture had tried to take away.  My relationship with Grandma Dora was at the very least complex.  My child's mind put my own spin on it while trying to make sense of something that did not make sense.  And yesterday, I found someone who might be able to offer glimpses into other parts of Grandma Dora's life.  You could call me a thirsty woman on a desert path.  I will be back.

In the instance of the man who has Alzheimer's, it is difficult to know what if anything might be stirring on the inside.  I guess I just have to trust that on some level something was.  I always let his family know when I have made such trips (which are at Christmas and sometimes at Easter).

Normally, I would take the 1st of samples to Elders.  Circumstances last week did not permit.  Melanie had a cold which she had recovered from by the end of the week.  I made Povitica on Friday which was far later than I expected.  On Christmas Eve Day, the Povitica was ready to travel, but it was a difficult day with all of our final preparations to run errands.  Plus, I was well aware that we might "intrude" on family Christmas celebrations which might already be in place.  So we did the best we could and took the Povitica yesterday.

I have often thought that it would be neat to have a bakery/coffee shop in this town which offered some of the old varieties of story which were about the settlement of this place.  Maybe, this early version is one on wheels.  I feel deeply privileged to be a part.  While it took time and energy, we got far more than we gave.


As soon as I saw you,
I knew an adventure
was going to happen.
Winnie the Pooh

Monday, December 26, 2011

45 Years

On Friday, Richard and I will mark our 45th wedding anniversary. It hardly seems possible. We were 19 and 18 at the time and are now 64 and 63. We've been blessed with a lot of growing and learning time together. How absolutely beautiful and extraordinary is that?  
On this day depicted above on December 30, 1966, we were headed off into an adventure that we somehow knew was right but could never ever really completely know what might unfold.  We just trusted we would find our way.  I suppose every day since has been the same.  We usually have not gotten quite that dressed up for it.
These days, it is pretty easy for me to go "go slow mo" over the events in the days preceding our wedding. Our house on Ely Street was filled with all the loving appointments of a wedding and a new couple creating a household.  Everything was ready and waiting. 
At the time, Dad's Mother (my Grandma Dora Bloskovich) was not well.  When we had just sat down to our Christmas Dinner, Dad got a call that she had passed in the apartment that she and Aunt Anna shared on West Jefferson. He immediately left.  
Dad and his Sisters worked on plans for her service and burial.  Her service was in Kirksville at the Mary Immaculate Church on I believe Tuesday, December 27.  That was an odd experience because I had never been to a Catholic Service and knew little of my place, plus my Dad and his siblings had long since disconnected with the ways of the formal church. And to top that off, Grandma's passing was that of one of the family matriarch's in the Croatian community. Her passing removed a link to the Old Country, to language and custom of a rich and varied past.  
Grandma was buried later that day in Des Moines which is about 150 miles away.  The trip there with hearse and hearse driver, Grandma's casket, and her 3 adult children was in the middle of a knockout snowstorm.  The travelers felt great tension (in addition to the usual issues of loss) and those awaiting the travelers on return were on pins and needles deeply concerned about their safety. That trip inspired many stories over the years.
Also during that week, my Dad and his 2 sisters were going through Grandma's personal effects, which were few.  They headed straight for her steamer trunk which she had brought from Croatia in 1908. Even as children, they had been told in no uncertain terms to "stay away".  I was there when they opened the trunk.  The feeling in the little bedroom was a contrast of young children (now in adult bodies) told to "stay away from the hot stove" and opening a trunk filled with magic.  The trunk included many treasures from the old Country which had not been suited for the harsh life of a immigrant family in a strange and often unaccepting land.  I can only speculate that Grandma Dora had carefully tucked them and her dreams away.  My Dad and his 2 sisters gave me Grandma's wedding ring as they felt it was most appropriate for a soon to be new bride.  Quickly thereafter, they re-packed the trunk and Aunt Mary took it to Kansas City where it stayed until the mid 90s.  
Our rehearsal dinner followed and then our wedding.  The energy of all of that mixed together was hard to sort out. About 6 weeks after we married, Richard and I took Grandma Dora and Aunt Ann's apartment, including furniture and pots and pan.  Dad and Mom had mostly put them together and they were tickled to give us a start.  That same apartment in the Triangle Apartments building at 401 W. Jefferson had been home to Grandma Lottie and her 2 daughters (Mother and Aunt Ruthie) after Grandpa Fred died and before Daddy came home from "the War".
These are mostly "memories of that week or the weeks" following.  It's funny how certain marker occasions bring a flood of memories of the details before and after.  It seems like each step of the way is yet another brush stroke on the canvas.  
And here, after 45 years, we have embarked on another adventure of "opening a new day". I have developed this ritual that when Richard and I awake at the same time in the morning, I'll say to Richard:  "We get another day."  How cool is that?  Once again, brush strokes emerge on that precious larger canvas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

These Times

These times demand the best 
of our thinking, feeling, knowing, being.
We are going to a place 
we have not been before.  
May we bring the best 
we were brought here to bring.
Glinda Crawford, 2011


The affinity of the human spirit 
for the earth and its beauties 
is deeply and logically rooted.
As human beings, we are 
part of the whole stream of life.
Rachel Carson

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Singing Along

Kirksville Community Chorus sang Christmas Carols at 3 Nursing Homes last night. I just love taking music and energy to Elders, to folks who are stuck in bodies and spaces that just don't move like they used to. It's such a simple thing to do. The nods, singing along to old favorites, gentle smiles, for some brief flickers of recognition, and claps with once skillful and now awkward hands are huge rewards. (Note:  This little entry marks 1948 on this little Blog.  That's also the year that I was born.)


Data mounts on the urgent need for humans to alter daily practice to preserve living systems of the Earth and sustainability for all those who follow. I know which side of this fence I sit on. And what shall I do today: A handmade Christmas gift rather than a store bought one. It's a lot more satisfying too. (Shhhhhh...don't tell anyone.)

Pond Watch

December 6
December 18

Introducing Christmas Branch

We 3 C's have long been using Pine or Spruce trimmings for our Christmas Tree for quite some time. On December 12, we headed out with Saw and Eyes to the White Pines to see which Branches might like to become this year's Blessed Christmas Tree/Branch.  Two were selected.  Richard and Melanie sawed them.  Then the 2 of them secured them in place with 2 screws and a little board.  The Christmas Branch (which really was "2") was later put in a bucket with a big rock and water, and the decorating began. And so what are the "perks" for us of this little choice?
  • We trim from Trees here.
  • And yes, the Christmas Branch is spindly in today's standards.  But it was a gift of Nature and is just perfect.  Somehow, it reminds me of the Trees of my childhood.  They were perfectly imperfect too.    
  • No Tree died.  
  • The Branch is fresh, contributing the tiniest of scents to the house. 
  • It isn't offgassing nasty chemicals into our house like the conventional ones are known to do.  We don't need to put scented candles or other nonsense to cover up the smell.  (It doesn't work anyway.)
  • No chemicals were added to "green it up".  
  • It isn't made from "oil" which is typical of conventional Holiday Trees.  
  • It wasn't shipped in from China or some other remote part of the Earth, our Home.  And if you haven't figured it out, we 3 C's on this Little Farm are seriously trying to reduce our use of Oil and our impacts on other regions of our World.  (I hope Folks in those horribly affected areas know we are trying.)  
  • We carried it on our own 2 feet and it was a nice 5 minutes walk in the fresh cool air.  
  • No, it won't last as long as an artificial one.  As soon as it's done, we will compost it around the Blueberry Bushes, who will also be thrilled.  
  • Those artificial ones will take forever to biodegrade. 
  • Generally, White Pine holds its needles, but we may have a Needle or 2 to pick up.  Some folks say that real Trees are messy.  Nature is messy.  But you talk about a mess:  I suppose we can consider that Artificial Tree which will become long tired of use a gift in Full Landfills to those future Generations. Yes, that is a real mess.  Those future generations will be scratching their heads and wondering:  "What were they thinking?" "Were they thinking?" "Were they thinking about us?"
  • And in this moment in time, we 3 C's can feel satisfied knowing that we have not knowingly contributed to the ill effects of the above.
  • Are we perfect?  No.  Will we ever be?  No. But we have the satisfaction of using our Creative Gifts to try to a different route.
So, it is with great pride, love, and gratitude that we introduce to you this year's Christmas Branch.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Simplifying Christmas

A few days ago, I ran into an elderly woman, a matriarch of her family, someone with long connections to this area.  Our families have known, loved her and respected her for a very long time.  She and I stood with our backs to the meat counter and she said:  "Christmas isn't fun like it used to be.  It has gotten way too complicated."  I would agree.  My family and I are trying to reduce the complications and keep it simple with the things that matter to us.   

I am pleased to report that I have always had a live Christmas Tree except for about 6 years when I was growing up.  I remember when Mother purchased the new "tinsel tree" which had Red Glass Balls and a beacons of rainbow colors shining on it.  I was in about the 7th grade and I was so very sad that we no longer had the living tree.  Those tinsel trees were all the rage, but they did not cut it with me.  Richard had always had a live Christmas Tree when he was growing up.  In fact, his family grew and sold Christmas Trees. 

Throughout our marriage, we have always had live Christmas Trees or live greenery.  In the last 15 years, we have had a "Christmas Branch".  We don't like the thought of cutting (AKA killing) a live Tree.  So instead, we just cut a Branch or Two from trees on our place, tie them together, and put them in a bucket which is then covered with the Christmas Tree Skirt I made some years back (and have not completed). 

We used to have a 7 foot tree and a myriad of ornaments.  I would buy them wherever I went.  I had a "collection" which included some additions for every year.  Over time, I concluded:  "That's not what Christmas is about. That's not what has meaning for our family."  So I culled the stock and sent some on their way to other families who would enjoy them.  The ornaments on our Christmas Branch are the old ones:  ones from my childhood, Richard's, Melanie's and ones from our shared experience together.  They are humble.  They are old.  Many are hand made by the children that we once were.  Some are worn, in fact, very one.  But they are so very beautiful.  When I put them on the Tree the other evening, I smiled and shed a few tears.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Certain Moments

Certain moments in life present different opportunities and challenges.  Sometimes those are clear, other times not.  For me, moments in these days after the loss of my parents and our move here (all in the last 4 1/2 years) present the need for a deep and nurturing rest.  I suppose that is Winter's plan in the normal cycle of things.  I feel richly blessed that I live in a space where I might revel in such doin's.  Like the ground hog, I may come up and check for my shadow in early February.  But the big plan for me (and to some degree my family too) is a tender rest over the coming Winter months.  I will likely write some but not as much. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Each of us is put here in this time and in this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?  Know that you yourself are essential to this world.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse (Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Remember Now

I had forgotten 
how on a night 
when the Earth 
has a blanket of Snow
the inside of the house is
blessed with light.
I remember now.
Glinda Crawford, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Seek to Know

The less we know of who we are
the more we have to fill our lives
with something outside ourselves.
No thing
on the outside
is sufficient to fill that gaping hole.
I seek to know 
who I am.
I seek to be
who I am meant to be.
I have no need to fill my life
with something outside of me.
Glinda Crawford, 2011

Povitica Day

Tomorrow Melanie and I are making Povitica, a Croatian nut roll attributed to my Grandmother Dora (Dragica) Budiselich Bloskovich (Blaskovic) and my Dad (Jack Felix Bloskovich) too.  The ingredients are all lined up.  Starting time has not been announced, but when that magical moment arrives, we will find our places as if in a play of which we know our roles as true nature. The elves will be quite busy in the kitchen throughout the day.  The aromas will be wonderful.  It's a celebration day that seems to connect us with all those who came before. It is an honoring of the ancestors and of who we are.

Here We Go

I am pleased to report that the "Holiday Heritage Tunes and Treats" (Fri., Dec. 9, 7pm, 1st Presbyterian Church) is shaping up to be a wonderful event. The program includes: singalong of beloved songs of the season, free will offering to Hope's Kitchen, door prizes from local merchants, and heirloom treats.

The music is just fantastic.  Rich McKinney has set it on a smooth, even, and quick pace.  We go through a lot of music in a relatively short time period.  There will be some spot solos.  It is just amazing how he has organized this.  The quick pace is in balance with the serenity of the songs.  I find the whole thing just uplifting. (Plus, Rich tucks in 2 teasers of the upcoming "Christmas Cantata", which is our concert on Monday, Dec. 12, 7:30pm, 1st Christian Church. The "Cantata" is an original composition by Rich who is a gifted composer.  Yes, this is a big weekend for us.)

Melanie has headed up the door prizes for our Friday event.  The response by local merchants has been wonderful.  The door prizes are all "heart", they are playful, they represent time, talents and sharing abundance of people within our community.

I am heading up the treat and social part of the evening.  We will be working on "transforming space" in Fellowship Hall for this special event.  Volunteers are fantastic. People are bringing heirloom treats which have special meanings in their holiday traditions.  The treats could be relatively recent or connecting to those who have gone before.  I am asking those who are bringing treats to bring the recipe (with their name on it), brief story of the origin of the recipe and why it is special to them, plus a picture of the originator. The latter is optional.

The feedback on the treat portion has been great.  This is a relatively new concept in conventional times where life is fast paced, traditions are cast aside, store bought and fast foods are elevated as standard and as better.  These foods introduce "slow food".  You just have to think about it.  People are calling Elders and other relatives in distant places.  They are searching for those old recipes down in the bottom of recipe files and drawers.  Some are practicing this week as they have never made the recipe before.  Some are being shipped in because that's who makes them.

We will post the recipes, write-ups, and pictures on 2 large bulletin boards behind the treats.  Cindy is meeting me there on Friday to work on design.  Linda will be helping too.  I love to work on the creation of space as "art".

To me, the overall theme of the event is "giving".  Because we each are giving to the event, the event is just full of boundless joy.  It is quite fitting that we give a free will donation and in this case it will be to Hope's Kitchen.  How cool is that? 

Thanks to Rich and everyone who is helping make these upcoming concerts 2 very special events.

It seems like whenever I start out on a new project that I am on a roller coaster slowing going toward the top.  Clickety clack clickety clack.  I am not sure that I will get there.  And then all of a sudden, there is a stunning view and here we go.  That's where we are now.

Recipe: Springerles

4 Eggs
1 # Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Anise Oil
1 Tbsp. Butter
Flour for a stiff dough

Beat Eggs and Sugar until light and fluffy with mixer.  Add Baking Powder, 1/4 tsp. Anise Oil, 1 Tbsp. Butter, and enough Flour for a stiff dough.  (I added 1/2 cup of the Flour at a time until it was just about stiff enough to roll out.  Then I put the dough on a floured surface and worked in a small amount of the Flour so that it could roll out easily, but still stay "soft".)  I shaped the dough so that it was smooth on top and the width of my Springales rolling pin. Roll out with a regular rolling pin until the dough is about 1/4 inch thick.  Then use molds to shape.  Place on lightly greased and floured cookie sheet.  I like to put a sprinkling of Anise Seeds on the cookie sheet.  Let stand for a few hours or overnight.  Bake in slow oven at 300 or 326 degrees.

Source:  Walter "Wag" and Adah Wagner were our neighbors across the street when my Dad, Mom and I moved into our "new house" in 1951.  Mr. and Mrs. Wagner had no children of their own and their family was far away, so we became their family and they became ours.  They were kind of like grandparents to my brother and me, although we did not call them that.  We were grandparent deprived as 3 of the 4 had already passed and the 4th lived a long ways away and didn't speak the only language we were taught (English).  Over the years, Dad became like a son to Wag. 

I will always remember that night when my Dad carried me across the street in my pajamas to stay for the rest of the night with the Wagners.  My Dad and Mom then went to the hospital; that's where they "got my baby brother".  I was 5.  And I will never forget that Mrs. Wagner sat with me in my darkened bedroom during those 2 weeks when I had the Old Fashioned Measles. In those days, children were kept in darkened rooms because of fear of blindness.

I remember that Mr. and Mrs. Wagner were small, even to me as a child.  My child's eye remembers them also as blocky in stature.  They reminded me then and to this day of gnomes.  I would surely hope that is not a negative statement. Their house was small too. Mrs. Wagner even had an extensive collection of tiny little pitchers.

Wag and Mrs. Wag were of German descent.  Wag was a baker, candy maker and carpenter.  I am not sure how all of those things fit together, but they did.  At Christmas time, he would make "Springales" with those lovely wooden block molds.  When Richard and I were married, he and Mrs. Wagner gave us wooden Springales molds and this recipe.  The molds are long gone and the recipe's ink is badly faded from being underwater in the flood in 1997.  Richard and I have been on the lookout for Molds. I found a wooden rolling pin with molds in an antique mall this fall.  It's still not quite right, but it will do for now.

Wag's recipe is abbreviated:  "Springales Xmas Cookies  4 eggs 1lb pd Sugar 1/4 tsp xxxx 1 teaspoon Baking pdr, 1/4 teaspoon annise Oil, flour for a stiff rollout do-  Beat eggs + sugar until light + fluffy with mixer when you add the flour add 2 tablespoon of butter.  Rollout + cut in shapes desired.  we use the molds.  Let stand a few hrs or over nite + bake in a slow oven 300 or 325."

("xxxx" Wag lists what looks to be a leavening ingredient and then crosses it out.)

Permission to Rest

We had our first Snow today.  We woke up to that wonderful blanket of white.  If the sayings of the old timers are true, our 1st snow on December 6th means we will have 6 total snows this Winter.

I love Snow and I love Winter.  I loved it as a Child, for this part of Northeast Missouri has a reputation of being the coldest in the state.  I learned to love it in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where we lived for 32 years.  Winters there are severe.  Nature shows one quickly who is in charge.  Adapting is a virtue and an element of survival.  A recent study shows that Grand Forks is the 2nd coldest city in the U.S.  That makes me smile. We just loved it.

As for today, we luxuriated in the blanket of white. We are going slower.  Richard made pancakes embellished with bananas, blueberries, and pecans for breakfast. Afterwards, we took a trip back to the pond to see the progress of such things.  Even Laddie, our Elder Sheltie, went along.  We checked out the progress of the Native Grasses in the area Richard seeded this year.  The Chickens were staying inside their Coop looking out.  Melanie harvested the last of the Kale and Parsnips. We kept banking the fire in the Wood Stove.  Soup is on.

Mostly we are going slower.  We have long last gotten that precious "permission to rest".

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Video

The Center for the New American Dream has produced yet another thought provoking piece. These issues are in the work of our time.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recipe: Date Roll Candy

3 c. Sugar
1 c. Milk
1 1/2 c. Chopped Dates
1 1/2 c. Chopped Nuts (I used Pecans)
1 tsp. Vanilla
Butter size of Egg

Combine the sugar and milk, cook to soft ball stage, medium heat.  Add chopped dates and cook to hard ball stage, then add 1 1/2 c. chopped nuts, 1 tsp. vanilla, butter (size of egg).  Beat until stiff.  Roll in damp towel to cool.  Slice when cool.

Lottie Hart and Fred Brenz on their wedding day, Nov. 15, 1911
Lottie Hart and Fred Brenz with their daughters Ruthirene, Dorothy, and Louise, 204 E. Hickory Street, Kirksville, MO, Sept. 14, 1941

Mother wrote on the recipe card that her "Mother and Daddy made this just before Christmas.  We loved it."   I remember having this when we were growing up, but I had not had it for decades.  When we moved back to Kirksville, I talked with Mom about it.  That last Christmas season she was in her home, I asked if she had the recipe because I wanted to reclaim some of the old family favorites.  She said she was not sure where it was.  After she fell in January 18, 2009, I found this recipe in her recipe card holder above the sink.  She surely must have found it and set it aside for me.  This seemed a perfect recipe to take to the Holiday Heritage Tunes and Treats event which is on Friday.

I have to chuckle at the "Butter size of Egg".  So many of the recipes of old were not standardized.  Cooks just knew what was meant and their language was a good bit more colorful.  They also knew the ingredients that they were working with after many trials.  Often, they did not use a recipe.  So how much is "Butter size of Egg" for modern ones like me who have no clue?  I broke an egg in a measuring cup which was 1/4 cup.  That Egg was about 3 tablespoons.


The hand that rocks the cradle
is the hand that rules the world.
William Ross Wallace, 1865

Forgive Me (Part 2)

These photos show images related to my Grandma Dora, Aunt Anna, and Aunt Mary, all of whom were amazing teachers of food preparation and presentation in my life. Today we would call that "slow food" but they did it quite quickly and with skill that would astound and could not be replicated by many today. Aunt Mary's restaurant, which is above, was called "The Argonne Cafe" and was located at 1731 Grand Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa.  The Argonne was near both the Ford Plant and Meredith Publishing, an area which must have been "hopping" during the War years.  Aunt Mary took great pride in her restaurant.  She would speak of it often over the years, as if it was a defining moment in her life.  (I wish I had been paying more attention.) She truly must have been in her element there. She was an amazing and inspired cook throughout her life.  I do not know when she bought the restaurant.  I do know that she worked there before she bought it.  The card below suggests that it was her restaurant in 1941. I do not know the vintage of the vehicles in the above photo but that would be a way to date the story too.  I believe that some of the 1st images of me on our family home movies are in front of this restaurant.  I was a baby and the year would have been 1948 or 49.  Aunt Mary sold the restaurant in about 1954. Thinking of her after this time in her own kitchen in Prairie Village, Kansas, I see feet running to the market to purchase the best grade of ingredients she could find and arms going in all directions grabbing just what she needed for that next culinary pleasure. I also hear much uproarious laughter besides. 
One of the lessons that I learned early in life was that if you ever had an opportunity to "eat with Mary", you wouldn't dare pass that up.  It would be a sensory pleasure you would be talking about for years, and in this case for a lifetime.  Maybe that explains in part why Aunt Mary reportedly had long lines of people waiting outside her restaurant. It is easy to see why.
Mary's sister Anna moved to Des Moines to help Mary with her restaurant.  I can imagine that it was significant support for these 2 women who were 1st generation born in this country to Croatian immigrants to have been in a very active Croatian community, including Dora's sister Sadie Budiscelich Ruppe.  In the above image, Aunt Anna is in the kitchen peering over the counter.  I can imagine that Mary and Anna were quite a team. Aunt Anna would have been in her mid 20s to about 40 when the restaurant closed.
Here is Aunt Mary at the till of her new restaurant.  Aunt Mary began some of her early restaurant work at the Younker's Tea Room, which these days would have been called "up scale".  By the time she was about 30, she was a restaurant owner.  She and M. Wayne Bryson married in 1954 and moved to Kansas City with his transfer in the Ford Motor Company in 1955.  She would have sold the restaurant sometime before.  Both she and Aunt Anna look the happiest in these photos that I have ever seen them.  Aunt Mary's ownership of the Argonne included the years of World War II.  During this time when men were gone to the war, women took on many leadership and work roles which were not customary at that time for their gender.  I can imagine that her restaurant was just hopping and with it came great pride that she was successful and doing her part.
I love this picture of my Croatian Grandmother Dora (Dragica) Budiselich Bloskovich (Blaskovic). While she is ironing rather than cooking, she is indeed in her small kitchen.  I see that wonderful refrigerator behind.  This would have been just about the same area that I remember making bread with her when I would have been 6 or 7.  Grandma Dora and Grandpa Kazimer moved to Des Moines in October 1946 with Kazimer's decline in health.  They lived at 1111 East 9th, which was next door to Dora's sister Sadie and her husband Matt Ruppe.   This picture would have been taken about 1948 or 49. Grandma Dora would have been about 70.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bee Hive

On this day, Melanie took a course on Bee Keeping, sponsored by the University of Missouri Extension Service and taught by Jim and Valerie Duever from Auxvasse, Missouri ( Melanie says it was an excellent workshop covering such topics as history, anatomy of a honey bee, life cycles, castes, how to build a hive, the hive tool box, pests and diseases. After lunch, participants built a hive consisting of one brood box (the bigger box) and one super which was to be a door prize at the end of the class.

Melanie has wanted bees for years, so the class was a must for her.  She wants to do her part for conservation of Bees.  Of course, we'd like and need the pollination too. And we love Honey.

As they got closer to the give away, Ethan from the Farm down South looked at Melanie and said:  "If you win this, it will be the Universe's way of saying it's time to get Bees."  She had already been thinking about that.  At the end of the day, they read the number 685 which she had right there in her hand, to which she responded:  "Yesssss!"

We are always having adventures here on the Farm.  It is also somewhat amusing that she has been in charge of door prizes for the Kirksville Community Chorus "Holiday Heritage Tunes and Treats".  She has spent considerable energy making sure that there are lots of fun, exciting and whimsical Treats for folks.  On this day, it was her turn.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Forgive Me (Part I)

Forgive me but I come from a long line of women who placed importance on Food they crafted and shared. And why should I ask for forgiveness?  After writing this, I am really not quite sure.  We seem to be living in what my experience tells me are "strange times".  I grew alongside master cooks. At first, I stood on a chair beside them, later on a succession of stools growing shorter, and later I found my feet firmly on the ground.  They were not perfect cooks, but they were my considerable teachers.  These days, a lot of people don't cook and they don't know how to cook.  Some even have kitchens just for show, but you couldn't really cook there. These elements of strange times make me sad.  I am grateful to these lovely ladies for their remarkable spirit of preparing food for the ones they loved.  Furthermore, these days, I am once again happily outside the loop.
  • My Mother Dorothy Brenz Bloskovich collected recipes.  Her countless clippings from newspapers and magazines, her cookbooks and subscriptions to magazines (including Southern Living), and her careful instructions on recipe cards and the back of any piece of paper at hand gave birth to a collection of recipes which seemed to have no beginning and end.  Her notes included:  "so and so likes this" for every member of the family.  She was an expert pie maker.  Those pies were served up in our home but they also went on excursions far and wide to church suppers, to ice cream socials and picnics, and to families in special transition:  new neighbor, family experiencing a death, family with a new baby.  She was the one who would march into the house after a long day of work and sit down at the phone with paper and pencil in hand to organize a meal for a family in need.  Furthermore, she seemed to shine in graciousness, organization, and table appointments.  She never called herself a cook which was a surprise, but we did.
  • Aunt Mary Bloskovich Bryson was owner and operator of the "Argonne", a restaurant in Des Moines in the 40s and early 50s.  Word has it that people waited in long lines out the door just for a place at one of the tables.  When my family and I would visit her and Uncle Wayne in Kansas City (later Aunt Ann too), every meal before us was a feast.  She had the best potato salad, which inspires mine today.  She made barbecued ribs which cause me to salivate just thinking about them.  And her lasagna was an art form.  She called it "LAH sig NAH".  I do not know if she knew how to pronounce the word, but she sure knew how to make it. As a growing girl, I would often spend 2-3 weeks there in the summers.  She was in a bridge club of 8 ladies who would show up for delicate foods served royally on china and linens on card tables in her tiny stuffed living room.  That was the first time I ever saw, heard of, or tasted a Stuffed Tomato, which was all the rage at the time.  She stuffed Tomatoes with Tuna Salad. I remember them sitting happily on their iceberg lettuce leaves in her downstairs refrigerator.  I admit that I haven't carried on the tradition of making Stuffed Tomatoes.
  • Mary's sister, Aunt Anna Bloskovich, was a waitress at Mary's restaurant too, where both were cooks.  Apart from the restaurant, Aunt Anna excelled in the old Croatian cooking.  That probably came from living with her Mother Dora Budiselich Bloskovich until Grandma died in1966. If a person wanted to cook one of those old favorites, she was the one to ask just how to do it. When I was in between my 9th and 10th grade year, Aunt Ann and Grandma had just arrived in Kirksville.  Aunt Anna made amazing homemade bread which was soft and yellow.  I thought her bread was so good that she should enter it in the County Fair.  I promised that if she would make it I would ride my bicycle from their apartment at 401 West Jefferson to the fairgrounds to take her bread.  Sure enough, I picked it up, placed it in my bicycle basket, and began pumping those peddles as fast as I could on the long way to the Fairgrounds. Sadly, I fell on my Bike and the poor loaf of bread didn't survive in a form that was fit for showing.  I felt terrible.  But at least she knew that I thought her bread was the best around.  Aunt Ann like Aunt Mary cooked with an amazing flare.  Their hands and arms were going in all directions, ingredients and mixing bowls just magically appeared at the right time as if part of their own grand play.
  • My favorite memories of Grandma Dora are of her in the house at 1111 East 9th Street in Des Moines.  We would have traveled those 150 miles to Des Moines for very special trips.  In those days (late 40s and early 50s), travel was a very big deal.  Upon arrival, we would be greeted by aromas from a country far away, a royal feast for us (especially my dad) who were honored guests.  Even at a young age, I felt like I was a visiting royal.  I remember one specific trip there when I was in the 3rd grade.  When we arrived, which was late on a Friday night, I had never seen a table so laden with food.  I am surprised that it held up.  I remember eating the best Fried Chicken I think I had ever had.  I ate 4 legs and 3 wings.  I simply chowed them down.  I could hardly stop.  I can imagine my Mother was aghast, but my Grandma and my 2 Aunts loved every bit of it.  I remember making bread with Grandma Dora.  She spoke only a few words of English and I spoke only a few words of Croatian.  But we spoke volumes through the bread that she made.  That soft pillow of bread dough bore our hand prints as we kneaded it just to the right moment. Her Povitica has become a standard in our family.
  • And I cannot forget Aunt Lula Myers Hart.  She took care of my brother and me when we grew up as our parents were both working, a matter which was highly unusual in those times of the 1950s and 60s.  Aunt Lu fixed basic foods from the simplest of ingredients.  Some seemed to bear the stamp of the Depression Era.  My favorites were Hamburger Hot Dish, Peach (or Berry Cobbler), and Raisin Bars drizzled with the tiniest bit of powdered sugar icing.  Aunt Lu usually had fresh warm cookies or bars awaiting my brother and me when we arrived home from school.  She also fixed our dinner.  Mom and Dad would arrive home tired and worn out at about 5 pm.  She had that hot meal waiting for us, while she gathered up her things and Dad took her back to her tiny apartment.  I always thought one of the best gifts for working parents and their children was to come home to the aroma of food especially prepared.  (That didn't happen to me, except on occasions when I used the Crock Pot.) Aunt Lu made the best Homemade Noodles.  I still can see them all covered with flour while they dried on the wooden board.  When I went off to college and took a food preparation class, I asked my professor, Dr. Dorothy Pearson, if we would make Homemade Noodles. I just assumed we would.  They were standard, right?  Much to my chagrin, I found out Homemade Noodles were not in the curriculum, but Mrs. Pearson did point out a recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. 
  • Aunt Louise Brenz Wells (later Glassburner) would have feasts awaiting us when we would arrive at their 35 acre farm just east of Sublette.  Her famous Roasts would tickle and tease the senses as we walked into that little Farm House.  They inspired the Roast that I make to this day. Her Thanksgiving Dinners could have been featured in rural farm magazines.  We would walk into her house through the small and narrow kitchen which had a row of windows and door on the east.  That old Kitchen Pump with its icy cold water in winter held its place of pride through all those years when they did not have running water.  One of my favorite memories was her Fiesta Dinnerware which seemed to make Rainbows radiate from her cupboards.  I loved her Macaroni and Cheese with the little bits of Pimenta throughout. She was renowned for her cakes:  Angel Foods and Hawaiian Orange Chiffon.
  • I should not leave off Aunt Ruthie Brenz Griffin.  While she lived on the west coast and we rarely saw them, she and Mother were always trading recipes, especially in the latter years.  About 20 years ago, Aunt Ruthie helped us reclaim the tradition of Steamed Pudding, which was from their English Mother, Lottie Hart Brenz.  I also remember that during the special times that Aunt Ruthie came, the table appointments were works of art.  Everything just gleamed.  One of my favorites was the little hand made place cards telling people their special places to sit.  We all had a hand in making the table pretty, which I loved.
  • Of all my foods experiences, one that has shaped me has been that cooking was something that was a shared experience.  Everybody helped in some way, especially the girls and the women.  (My Dad was fine cook in his own right and he was an excellent and speedy dishwasher.) From the time I was wee little, I always had a place to help.  Over time, my aprons got bigger and I learned more and more.  I began to contribute solo too.
  • I shall close with another entry about Mother.  One of the things that I learned from my Mother was that the food should look pretty on the plate and on the table.  You don't just plop food down.  You consider how it will be presented in the best light.  This little entry takes a side trip too.  One of her favorite places to go on very special occasions was the McDonald Tea Room (1931-2001) in Gallatin, Missouri. Virginia McDonald (b.1887-d.1969) was widely known for her culinary creations (she was also known for her big hats).  She had a cookbook and was the subject of numerous articles.  Her restaurant was a destination spot long after she had passed.  Her gifts were inspirations to Duncan Hines.  Yes, Duncan Hines was a real person.  Virginia McDonald believed that food should look pretty on the plate.  That included embellishments.  I loved that.  To me, the plate became just another canvas to paint. 
  • ~~~~
    Regretfully, I do not have pictures of all of the above in the kitchen or close to that beloved "power central" of the household.  I suppose that the work of the kitchen was considered a bit mundane for the taking of pictures.  Plus, the subject may have wanted to look her best in front of the camera's eye.  And she did look her best when she was in the middle of those preparations.  
    While I had posted images of Aunt Ann and Aunt Mary earlier, I moved them to another post.  The above pictures of Mother's new kitchen in December 1951 are much more fitting for this entry.  She and Dad had just built their new house and moved in November.  I can only minimally know the pride that she put into the design of this magical place.  This marvelous staging area was all set for culinary expeditions and wonders, for teaching me some valuable tricks for the life time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Lore

The Old Ones would say that whenever we have the 1st trackable Snow, the date of the calendar represents how many Snows that we will have.  Melanie was hoping for upwards of 30.  Tomorrow is the 1st.  Snow is not yet in the forecast. We love Snow. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Taking Care of Family Archives

A couple of weeks ago, Amanda Langendoerfer, from Special Collections at the Pickler Memorial Library of Truman State University, presented on preserving family collections to the annual fall meeting of the Adair County Historical Society.  She shared the following, "Resources for Private and Family Collections" from the Northeast Document Conservation Center:

This is a big deal for me.  I have some very precious family photos and documents with which the ancestors have entrusted me.  They are entrusted to me, not because I "own" them, but rather to hold for future generations. These simple treasures demand my utmost vigilance and care.  I choose not to be a break in the chain. I may not be perfect in their care, but I will do the best that I can.

Thank you, Amanda...

Great Internet Resource

I just discovered "The Lexicon of Sustainability".  This is a great resource, helping those of us who are concerned about Sustainability to increase understanding, reclaim language which has been co-opted by the industrial complex, and put words into practice.

Seeing works like this and having people doing this work telling about it via the internet into our home is hope of our time.


In the middle of winter, 
I discovered in myself an invincible summer.
Albert Camus  
Note:  This is one of my favorite all time quotes.  I had forgotten about it, but it is rather time that I remember.  At least 20 years ago, I was using this in one of my classes.

Toward Small and Many

I found this to be a great read. Once again, Bill McKibben is spot on.  He speaks of the shifts in our time when we are moving away from a world of the Few and Big toward a world of Small and Many. "Small is beautiful." We are watching this shift from our view out here on the Farm.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Picking Up Speed

Daily counters on Blogspot and Statcounter show that "hits" on the post "Recipe: Povitica" on this blog ( are picking up speed.  This recipe was originally posted December 23, 2008.  Since that time, this recipe has received 2995 hits.  Google searches have shown it to be anywhere from 1st to 3rd ranking in number of hits for Povitica Recipe. 

And why would it be picking up speed now?  Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditional seasons when this Croatian nut roll would have been served.  Easter is not far behind.  Ask the Grandmothers.  Just perhaps they are nudging us now.

Melanie and I will be making Povitica in about 10 days.  Yum.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


We had a simple but serene Thanksgiving.  Most of the food was local and most of that we raised right here on the Farm.  We just sort of sat in awe at all that was before us, including the 3 of us who sat around the table.

The Turkey was raised by Farmer Friend John Arbuckle.  Melanie picked it up yesterday at their Farm.  It was fresh.  We also had 2 kinds of stuffing:  Cornbread and Wild Rice.  The Wild Rice was from Dorreen, our dear friend up north.  I included some roasted Corn from her family.  That's a traditional dish among their tribe (Sahnish).  That made us smile, a big warm smile.

We had Cranberry Sauce, fresh Brussels Sprout Salad, Mashed Roots (carrots, parsnips, celeriac).  The celeriac crop was pretty pitiful this year, but just having a taste made it all the better. 

I used to think you had to have heaps and gobs of everything.  We had plenty today.  And I didn't over stuff myself.  Instead, I savored every bite.

Our meal was gluten free and dairy free.  I was tempted to "slide back" into my relationship with my old favorite companions.  But my family said we didn't need too.  So we didn't.

We also skipped dessert.  I will make Pumpkin Pie tomorrow and it will be "sans Crust".  Things have changed around here, but they have also stayed the same.

It was  beautiful outside:  sunny and in the mid 60s.  We could have snow soon.  We also did a little work outside to finish off prior to winter setting in.  Richard completed the chicken wire fencing in the Garden.  With some degree of ceremony, we opened most of the Garden up for the Chickens.  The ones who found it were pretty impressed.  They had a Thanksgiving celebration of their own.  I finished picking my Dry Edible Beans.  No, I did not "clean the vines".  I just took some.  That's plenty.  We will give the rest back to the Earth.

A consistent theme emerging is "rest".  We worked that in too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


When people are least sure,
they are often most dogmatic.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Monday, November 21, 2011

Upcoming Events

Melanie and I are in the Kirksville Community Chorus, a fact of which both of us are quite proud and humbled too.  Melanie has been interested in music since she was in elementary school. She loves to sing.  I am a new kid on the block.  My first choir since the sixth grade (in 1960) was last spring.  And I do love to sing.  "It's never to late to teach an old dog new tricks."

We have 2 concerts coming up.  The big concert is Monday, December 12, 7:30pm, at the First Christian Church.  We will sing our director's (Rich McKinney's) original composition of a "Christmas Cantata".  But Rich has had numerous requests over the years for a sing along.  And we are going to do that too.

The "Holiday Heritage Tunes and Treats" will take place at 7pm, Friday, December 9, First Presbyterian Church.  This "sing along" of beloved Songs of the season also features a sampling of traditional treats with special meanings to friends and family in our community. Door prizes will be given.  The evening is at no charge (in fact, both concerts are).  A free will offering will be given to Hope's Kitchen, a project which feeds families whose means prohibit adequate food. 

Members of the Community Chorus plan to bring special treats to share.  We invite others interested to do the same.

Kazimir Blaskovic

We know little of my Croatian Grandfather Kazimir (also Kaiser, Kasimer) Blaskovic (Blascovic, Blaskovich).  We have precious few pictures.  Some show him partially cut off the picture.  Others show him under the shadow of a hat which makes seeing features of his dark skinned face difficult to impossible to discern. The only clear picture is the photo which accompanies his application for citizenship. The man sort of floats in mystery.

He was born in Sunger (also Sungar) Austria, March 4, 1874.  According to writings in the file, Kazimir's parents were Peter Bloskovich (also Petar Blaskovic) and Catherine Kruzich (also Katarina Kruzic).  He married Dragica (also Dora) Budiselic (also Budiselich) May 1904.  According to his declaration to become a citizen of the United States, he entered the United States for permanent residence at New York, NY on the vessel SS St. Paul.

Ship's manifest records give the following information for Kazimir:  Croatian in ethnicity, Austrian nationality, Sunger (permanent residence), "non-immigrant alien" (meaning previous residence in USA: Connelsville, MO 1905-1908), 34 years old, "workman", could read and write, nearest relative (Petar Blaskovic), paid passage himself, $100 in his pocket, described as joining brother "Stif", 5'9" tall, brown hair and blue eyes, birthplace: Sunger, Croatia.  The St. Paul left Cherbourg, Manche, France, and arrived at Ellis Island, October 24,1908.

Kazimir's obituary written in English states he died at age 72.  This obituary is assumed to have been written for a Kirksville paper.  His residence at that time was 1111 East 9th, Des Moines, Iowa. He is buried in Highland Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Des Moines.  His obituary notes that he came to the United States in 1900, later returning to Sungar where he married Miss Dora Budiselich. Parish records from St. Phillip Apost. in Mrkopalj (now: Croatia) give their marriage date as June 7, 1905.

According to his obituary, they came to the United States in May, 1908 and lived at Albia, Iowa until 1916.  Daughter Mary's birth certificate lists her birth in 1910 as Novinger Missouri and her place of baptism was Milan Missouri.  Daughter Anna's obituary lists her birth in 1913 in Albia, Iowa.  Son Joe's Certificate of Discharge from the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1936 lists his birth in 1915 in Albia, Iowa. (Family story has it that they were born in Fraker, Iowa, a coal mining town in the central part of Bluff Creek Township of Monroe County. Its post office was Fraker from 1907 to 1915. Source: 11/26/11) Son Jack's birth certificate lists Kirksville Missouri as place of birth in 1918.

Kazimir died in 1946.  He was survived by his wife, two daughters, Mary and Anna of Des Moines, one son Jack of Kirksville, one brother Steve (also Stif) Bloskovich (also Blaskovic, Bloscovich) of Madrid, Iowa.  Son Joe had gone missing in the 1930s, a subject of great family pain and life long seeking. Two sons had died in infancy.  The 1st died shortly after their arrival in the US and is buried somewhere in southern Iowa.  Dad said longingly in the latter years that he had a little brother buried up in Iowa. The last born (Tonay) was told to be buried in an unmarked plot among the children of the Philip and Anna Bubany family in the Highland Cemetery in Kirksville. When I was growing up, my Father and Mother never failed to put flowers on that grave.

One other obituary is in the files.  This obituary is written in Croatian and is assumed to be for one of the many Croatian newspapers in the US at the time.  His date of death is listed as May 15.
"The deceased spent many years in Kirksville and there belonged o the section Hrvatska [Croatian] Brotherhood.  He joined us P.L. last year on the 23rd of January, 1945.  He slipped on the ice at the time he was still in Kirksville and he hurt his leg.  So since that time, he was getting worse.  His two daughters lived here for many years and owned a restaurant.  They brought their parents to them so they can give them a special hand.  The deceased worked for many years in coal mines and was one of honest and hard worker of the old Gorski region.  He was born 73 years ago in a village Sunger, of Mrkopalj, Gorski Kotar, Croatia." [Gorski Kotar means "small mountains".]  ... "One of his sons Joe disappeared 12 years ago." [Translation was done by a Nun at an orphanage in Zagreb when Melanie and I were there in 2002.]
Kazimir's work life in the United States as a coal miner was a typical choice, a harsh and dangerous reality of immigrants of the time.  On August 3, 1923, he received his Certificate of Competency as a Coal Miner from the Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals State Miner's Examining Board.

A letter from Philip Mihalovich (who represented Croatian miners) dated February 21, 1949, documents Kazimir's coal mining experience, with the intention of finding financial support for his widow.  This is an excellent review of his experience.  Without it, we would have little idea of his work.  The following information comes from this letter.

Kazimir joined the United Mine Workers Union in 1902 and was an active member until about 1939. Over his life, he worked in different places and states (Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa). He worked in the following mines:  Connelsville, MO, mine number 4 or 1; Novinger, MO, mine number 50; White City, Iowa, mine number 6; Fraker, Iowa, no mine number listed; Albia Iowa, Croatian Coal Company Mine; Des Moines, Iowa, Moyle Block Shuller Coal Company; Kirksville, Missouri, mine number 3; Springfield, Illinois, no mine number listed; Kirksville, Missouri, mine number 3; Madrid, Iowa, mine number 6 and Carny Coal Company.

"Kazer" Blaskovich was listed on the pay roll of 854 coal mine employees (1924-1966) for the Billy  Creek Mine Company which is in the Novinger area. Billy Creek was the last shaft mine in operation in Adair County.  It closed January 14, 1966.  (Source: November 25, 2011) An article in the Chariton Collector, a magazine which featured local stories and lore, discussed the Billy Creek Mine. This article speaks to the seriousness of the mining occupation and the balance with humor and camaraderie of miners. [Cenedella, David. (Spring 1983) Billy Creek Coall Mine. (]

Kazimir was a Timberman for about 15 years.
"a. In bituminous coal mining, a head timberman is a foreman who supervises workers installing timbers in a mine to support the roof and walls of haulageways, passageways, and the shaft. Also called timber boss; timber foreman. b. A miner skilled in notching, erecting, and securing timbers set in mine workings. The craft of the timberman is gradually becoming extinct with the advent of power tools and steel as a support."  [from Webster's On Line:  November 23, 2011]
I have often heard my Father refer to his Dad being a "Timberman".  While I am no expert in mining, I can assume from the description above that a Timberman was a very serious occupation requiring considerable skill, responsibility and trust.  The Timberman's work was to make the mines safe for his fellow Miners (and himself). This was no small responsibility.

Mr. Mihalovich's letter goes on:  After that, his activity and his health declined.  "Most of the time was absent memory and no good for any of the hard labor."  (This date of separation came when he was about 65 years old.) A draft document in the file lists members of the United Mine Workers who testified that they knew "Brother Kazimir" and that he was an active member of their Union. 

Frank D. Wilson, President and Secretary Treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America (Albia, Iowa) wrote back on February 18, 1948, noting that "we can find no record in this office of death benefits having been paid on Kazimer Blaskovich." ... "We are indeed sorry we are unable to help you in this respect as we did not know Mr. Blaskovich personally and have no knowledge where he last worked and to which local union he last belonged."

Richard purchased the carbon lamps in the photo above at auction.  These lamps with the flames in front were typically worn by Coal Miners of the period that Kazimir represents. 

A video of the Novinger area reports that women made beds so that they would be ready for a miner who had been injured. I cannot even imagine what that would have been like, for the miner and his family, both of whom knew he might not return as he left the house for his work day.  I do not even want to think about it. 

I can surely see that my Grandfather likely did not have the full range of choices in his new homeland, which was then typical of immigrants.  He could not go back. He did the best he knew how to do.  A secure job with a secure income had to be extremely important to stabilize the present and future of his family.
(1)Regretfully, I am unable to use the appropriate diacritical marks on Croatian spellings.  My miniscule knowledge of the language allows me to know that something significant is missing.  I suppose I could comment that the "language eradication program" begun when he arrived is surely now mostly complete.  
(2)Please also note that there is inconsistency in some of the records, which with the passage of time and the communication between immigrants and English speaking recorders is not surprising.
(3)Sometimes I will post a writing that I am continuing to "tweak".  Usually, entry is complete within 2 weeks of the 1st posting, if anything is ever complete. This surely is one of them.  More information is popping out of the file.  If you have special interest in this entry, you may wish to note the "last edit" at the end.  That will tell if  some change is still being made and when that most recent change was complete.
Last edit:  November 26, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Chapter

I could probably write a book about this one, but I will keep it brief here.  There are markers in life which "close a chapter" and "open another anew".  Those moments are substantial.  We have had one such moment occur in the last 2 weeks.

In the 4 1/2 years since we moved here, a continuous theme has been care of ageing parents, support for end of life stages of frail elderly (who were and always will be giants in my life), and transitions for those who remain.  Mother passed a year ago in October, so we marked the first full year without her. That was big. Two weeks ago, my brother and I sold our parents' house.  We moved in when I was 3 years old, which was 60 years ago this month.  The house is small by today's standards, but it is special none the less.  A young family is moving in and we could not be more pleased.

On the way to the closing, I checked into my Facebook account.  A friend from Up North had just posted a poster showing a ground squirrel all stretched out with a front paw that seemed like it was waving.  Bold print read:  "Go on without me."  The poster was from "Dorothy", to whom my friend said "Thank you, Dorothy."  (Mother's name was Dorothy.)  In the approximately 4 entries below was reference to Titanic Jack.  (Dad's name was Jack.)  My friend closed with "Have a great evening everyone."  In that moment, I knew it was going to be OK.  My brother and I (with our families) have done well in closing out this chapter.  It is now time for us to get on with our lives. Mother and Dad smile.