Thursday, April 30, 2009

Of Milk and More

This will be a follow up post from yesterday. After reading "Bethrusso's" comment my mind went back over all the things we used to do with our milk. And it made me wish there was some way I could have my own little Jersey cow.

Since two gallons of milk a day was way more than we could use for just drinking and cereals we had many other things we did with it too. After the milk had been in the refrigerator overnight Mom would carefully skim the cream off the top the next morning and save it and then once a week we would pour several quarts of cream into our butter churn.
John and I would take turns cranking the handle, the paddles made a slap-slap noise as they hit the cream. After what seemed like a long time it would change it's sound to that of a soft slap of whipped cream, that was always a welcome sound that was soon followed with a loud slappity thump as balls of butter formed and hit the paddles.
Mom would strain off the buttermilk and save some for Daddy to drink and if she wanted some for baking later in the week she would set some aside for that too. She would then carefully lift out the chunks of butter and place them in a bowl and work it with a wooden spoon squeezing and pressing to get every little drop of buttermilk out of it possible and pour it away. Finally she'd rinse it in cold water and then work it some more. When she was satisfied that that every drop was squeezed out she would work in salt and then form into patties and place them in a Pyrex butter bowl and place it in the refrigerator.
We had several gallon milk souring at all times. Once it had reached the right consistency Mom would set our great big canner on the stove and dump it in and heat it to a certain temperature and then stir in half of a rennet tablet that had been dissolved in a little water. This caused the milk to set to a smooth soft texture. She would keep it at 90 degrees for an hour and then take a long knife and cut into half inch squares and then took her hand and scoop these long strings gently up and then let them back down until they were all uniform sized cubes. then she would drain off the whey and we'd be left with a big bowl full of delicious cheese curds. Often we would salt them and keep them to eat like that. Other times Mom would put them in her cheese press and press it for several days which resulted in a nice round block of cheese that could be sliced and eaten however you wanted.
She would also make cottage cheese, a spreading cheese, and yogurt. The yogurt we ate plain most of the time but occasionally she would flavor it with jello for a special treat.
The milk you buy in stores is pretty worthless when you think of all the possibilities of fresh milk. The process of pasteurizing ruins all that and basically strips many of the good things from milk.
I'm wondering now why we ever sold our cows. I'm really missing them right now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buttercup aka Jenny

The Jersey cow that Grandpa's gave to Mom on her birthday was very sweet natured. We named her Buttercup.

Every evening Mom would get the milk pail and announce. "Okay children let's go milk Buttercup." We would head for the barn and scoop some grain into the feeding trough while Mom took a rope and headed for the pasture to lead the cow inside.

Once she was tied in her pen John or I would stand behind her and hold her tail so she wouldn't swat Mom's face while she was milking her. Mom would get a little stool and sit down beside her and say "Easy Jenny" and then start milking. The ping ping of milk hitting the stainless steel pail soon changed to the sound of streams of milk being added to a pail of foamy milk. The cats would be sitting nearby waiting for their daily dish of fresh milk.

When we were done Mom would give the cats their milk, and set the pail in a safe spot while she let Buttercup back out to pasture. Then we would head back to the house where she would strain the milk into a gallon jar and set it into the sink with cold water to cool it off before putting it into the refrigerator.

Somewhere along the line we stopped calling the cow Buttercup at all and switched to only Jenny.

Then one day a neighbor stopped in and said they think they just saw Jenny down the road in someones Alfalfa field, and if she wants to, she can ride with her down to the field and bring her back. Mom looked into the pasture and saw that Jenny was indeed missing, so she fetched her lead rope and then told John and me to be good and take care of David if he wakes up until she gets back.

We stood by the window and watched her leave. We were soon bored in the house waiting for her and sat outside on the swing under the cedar trees so we can see when she's coming home. After what seemed like a long time we saw her coming with Jenny walking slowly behind her. They reached our land and Jenny decided it's time to head for the barn, and fast. She started off at a gallop with Mom dragging over the ground behind her trying to get the rope untangled from around her hands. When she finally got loose Jenny ran straight for the barn and Mom got up all bloody from being dragged and bad rope burns.

John and I were crying, and by the time she limped into the house so was David. She sat on a rocking chair to take care of him while John and I tried to wash the blood off her arms and get her all patched up.

She didn't work for the rest of the day. And called us her little heroes for doctoring and taking care of her till Daddy came home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Few of Life's Mysteries

I have a curiosity complex.... I wonder about things..... but I'm generally too lazy to follow through until I find the answer, as a matter of fact I deprive much more enjoyment pondering various possible and not so possible answers, that it would be a shame to find the true and boring logical explanations to some of life's mysteries.

  • I remain baffled why, every time I do the laundry there are always a few socks that are either, widowed, single, or separated. The last time I checked we all had two feet so there must be some other explanation to this. I sometimes have the sneaking suspicion that if I would look in the right place at the right time I would find an assembly of dirty socks gleefully giving each other pointers on how to escape the soapy waters of the washing machine.
  • Why do some people spell the red glop you dunk your french fries into, ketchup and others spell it catsup? And why does almost everyone like the stuff? Is it a peer pressure thing that causes people everywhere to use it? Or is there some obscure violation to admit to not liking it? You'd think that with a mother that can't stand the stuff my children would at least use it with some sense, but they sit there and nearly drown their food in it, and then gulp it down as if it were delicious.
  • Why do you call it a yard or garage sale when you don't want to sell your yard or garage at all? Why isn't it called a used stuff sale or unwanted things sale or something along that line. And don't even get me started on flea markets.
  • Why is it that every time the house is shining and spotless, the children are all occupied quietly, there are freshly baked cookies in the jar, and you're dressed in your best, nobody pops in to say "Hi."
    And as sure as there is an extra creative mess and everybody is loudly enjoying it, someone is bound to come knocking.
    It just happened again. We had the dining room strewn with papers and glue, the breakfast dishes piled in the drainer to dry on their own, and to top it all off we were planning to attend a birthday party around noon so hadn't bothered to do our hair and even worse get into decent clothes until we were ready to get dressed and leave.
    In a condition like that, there's nothing worse than hearing the gravel crunch on the driveway and when you frantically look at the mess you and the house are in and open the door to see a friend that always looks perfect.... I gulped ..opened the door wide, wearing the best smile I could find at the moment and invited them inside. I didn't say a word about the mess in hopes that just maybe they will not notice a few of the messy details.
    It was sweet of them to drop by even though my "pride" took quite a tumble. But I made a vow. I will never pop in on anyone without giving them a warning, you just never know what they might be up to.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Buggy Ride of a Lifetime

Grandpa Mast's lived on a large dairy farm along the busy Highway 14 A in Dundee. Their driveway went up a steep grade and ran along side of the highway. It was fun to look down from the buggy and see the cars on the road.
Most times when Mom drove over to them we would take their field lane off of Crawford road rather than face the traffic on 14 A or the steep driveway. Uncle Eli Mast and his wife Sadie lived in a trailer on Grandpa's farm and helped with the crops and some of the chores and then had a large sawmill yet.
Uncle John Henry and his family lived on the same farm but on the other side of a ravine. There was a nice wooden bridge built across it that was fun to cross if my hand was firmly tucked inside my Mom's or one of the other grownups.
One rainy day Mom had to go to town, so she dropped the three of us children off at Grandpa's while she did the errands on her own. We had fun playing with Grandma's rainy day toys and Grandpa sat on his rocking chair and let us comb his hair and his long beard.
When Mom got back from town Grandpa helped all three of us into the front seat beside Mom because there were a few 100 lb bags of feed in the back and then advised her to take the driveway instead of the field lane since it was really muddy.
We said our good-byes and started down the driveway. At the end we had to stop and wait for traffic. The buggy didn't have brakes and Mom kept an extra firm grip on the lines so Jim wouldn't start out in front of a vehicle. A semi passed, showering us with water and Jim eager to get home out of the rain didn't care for it at all, and started backing. Mom yelled whoa but then a milk truck passed and we got another shower and Jim backed faster. He didn't really care how or where he was backing, he just wanted out of there. The back wheel bumped over the edge and the buggy tipped precariously John, David, and I were starting to cry Jim backed a little more and we all went over the edge and down on our side right beside the highway. Mom was against the door and we three children landed on top of her. We started howling on the top of our lungs, somehow she convinced to be quiet so as not to scare Jim and get him started kicking.
Fortunately for us someone had seen us fall and stopped to help, and soon there were a lot of people there trying to lend a hand, Uncle Eli had realized something seemed amiss and came to see what was going on. He opened the storm front and lifted us out and took us back to the house to Grandma. Jim lay there quietly until they had him unhitched and then stood up and stood there waiting to see what 's next almost as if he was apologizing for the mess he got us into.
Somehow the men got the buggy back on it's wheels and Jim hitched up again and we went home bumped, and a little bruised, but what an exciting story to tell Daddy when he got home from work.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

John Coffer

One afternoon in early fall John and I were playing in the sandbox when the phone rang. Mom came hurrying outside to the the "phone shanty" to answer it. It was Grandpa Mast, they had just witnessed a strange sight. A small covered wagon drawn with oxen, an old fashioned "different" buggy hitched to a big slow horse, a cow and two people that looked as if they had stepped right out of the pages of a "Little House on the Prairie" book had just passed their farm along 14 A and turned up Crawford Road and if we watch we should be able to see them soon.

We all sat on the swing under our cedar trees and looked down the road to where Crawford Rd crossed our road. It wasn't long before a team of oxen appeared with a tall man and his wife and a black dog walking beside them. We could hardly believe our eyes. A covered wagon with a yellow chicken perched on the back, a cow and a horse and buggy that looked different from any buggy we had ever seen. Walking slowly along the road.

They soon disappeared out of sight and we went back to the house, wondering who they were and where they were going.

That evening when Daddy came home we told him all about it. Daddy said he saw smoke that appears as if someone would have a campfire and that they're probably camping along the road. So right after supper he asked Mom to wrap up some fresh homemade bread and we would all walk over to meet them.

They were camped in a field beside the road cooking supper in a cast iron pot they had dangling above the fire. When they saw us coming they came to welcome us and introduced themselves as John and Sue Coffer. They had spent years travelling across America in this fashion and finally decided to settle down somewhere and had just purchased a piece of land that had a lot of timber and also a few meadows but no buildings or a well. They were hoping to build a cabin and dig a well yet before winter.

Daddy offered to help but Mr. Coffer turned it down wanting to to it all by themselves with a crosscut saw and an axe.

It wasn't long before the sound of an axe filled the days and their little cabin progressed nicely. After they had moved in the next thing to do was get a well dug. Mr. Coffer did accept help for this as someone needed to be on the ground to pull up full buckets of dirt and then let the empty bucket back down to be filled up again. It took quite a long time but once he struck water it was worth it!

John was intrigued with the whole pioneer thing and Mr. Coffer on one of their many visits to our house whittled a tiny yoke for him to play with his toy cows.

The Amish settlement in Dundee eventually failed, but Mr. Coffer still lives there, still living the pioneer lifestyle, and does tin type photography for an income.

 John and one of his oxen.

The cabin John and Sue built. John still lives in it.

John on his front porch.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Playing Church

After the garden slowed down a bit Mom starting looking for ways to help earn money. There was a store in our small town of Dundee that said they'd be happy to buy all the baked goods she could make. And our little kitchen turned into a bakery where Mom would spend hours baking bread, cinnamon rolls, and pecan tarts.

The first few days it was exciting to watch as she made all the delicious looking things, but after a while it became tiresome as she made the same things again and again. We would watch for a while but since it had to be perfect to sell, John and I couldn't help and we soon wandered off to find other things to occupy our time.

We enjoyed pretending to play church. I would get my doll all wrapped up in blankets and then we would sit on Mom's rocking chair and rock just as hard as we could pretending it's our buggy. After we rocked long enough we would arrive at church and go into our little bedroom and sit in the lower bunk of the bunkbed and sing loud and long trying to imitate the songs we'd sing in church. After that John would get up and preach for awhile, usually some silly little sermon that ended up with us giggling and laughing. (which was a part we did not copy from Amish church services where you wouldn't even think of smiling.)

We did this nearly everyday, and then one day after we had our rocking chair ride to church and got into our room I got the wonderful idea to open the bottom drawer of our dresser and use it for a church bench. We pulled it open and sat in it. Our weight was to much and the whole dresser tipped forward pinning us underneath, sending the kerosene lamp and everything else that had been setting on top crashing to the floor and breaking into pieces. We cried at the top of our lungs and Mom came hurrying in and lifted the dresser off of us. Amazingly we weren't hurt. Only frightened. She had us sit in the bunkbed while she cleaned up the mess so we wouldn't step on any broken glass.

Once everything was back in order she got us settled at our little table with our coloring books and went back to her baking.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Having an infant to take care of and a big garden can be a bit overwhelming at times for any young mother. And so after Aunt Susie had gone home, Grandpa Mast would bring Vernie over occasionally to help with the weeding and canning.

She was a happy little helper for Mom as she would pull weeds, or break the green beans into pieces for canning, she would wash the canning jars, crank the victoria strainer to make tomato juice and applesauce.

Her added help gave Mom a much needed boost.

One afternoon we were canning peaches, Mom was peeling them, Vernie was washing the jars in preparation of filling them and John and I were standing on chairs by the table trying to fit the peach halves neatly in jars, when Daddy came home from work. He came into the house and told us to come outside to see what he brought home.

We all went and washed our hands and followed him outside to where he had a big friendly black dog tied to a tree. He wanted John and me to pet it but we were terrified, a dog was the last thing on our wish list.

Daddy picked me up and carried me over to the dog to show me what a nice dog she was, but I was not impressed and started crying. Being the oldest if I set an example, John always followed, but his voice was a lot heartier than mine, he would practically bellow! So here John and I were howling away, and Vernie always hated seeing anyone cry so she had to cry too.

Daddy looked disappointed that his surprise fell flat. We went back into the house and continued with our canning. Daddy helped with the remaining peaches and then took Vernie home. I got to go with them. After we had dropped Vernie off at Grandpa's I got to sit in the front seat with Daddy. That was the best place to be in the whole world as far as I was concerned. All the way home Daddy talked about dogs, the fun he used to have playing with his dog when he was a little boy, the benefits of having dogs that like children and how they help protect them, and how happy he is he found a fine dog for us, and that we'll grow to love her.

We named the dog Smokey and it wasn't long before John and I tolerated her. We didn't play with her and she didn't bother us, it was something of an unspoken mutual agreement, you don't get too close and we won't cry, and with the noise we made when we cried she was happy to stay away.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Glimpse of Our Life

There are times that I am convinced that I am the happiest girl in the world. I am rich in so many things that money can't buy. I am blessed with a wonderful husband and three great children and I'm enjoying everyday.

Before you think I'm all mushy and out of touch with reality I'll admit there are little things that pop up occasionally that aren't all sweet and perfect, but it's nothing that a song and a smile can't fix. For most of the years of our marriage I would hear women griping or grumbling about their husband or details in their lives and I would feel guilty at how happy I am and try not to let anyone know how I feel. That has to change, I still feel sorry for woman who are unhappy and have problems but, no longer will I hide the joy I have at being married, and devoting my life to pleasing my husband and enjoying my children.

I'm sharing pictures today that depict an average day of our life.

We are always on the outlook for anything pretty or unique outdoors. Today it happened to be a flowering Dogwood tree.
Sunbeam can surprise me at the things she ponders about. I caught her here, lost in thought and had to sneak a picture of her without disturbing her, so I turned off the flash.

After a bit she bounced off and came to ask if she can live with me always. She doesn't want to go on Sailor's ship.

I of course assured her I'd be happy to have her live with us for as long as she wants to.

Sailor's pup Wags is devoted to his little master. They spend hours together every day and whenever Sailor has to do his schoolwork Wags will be sitting patiently outside the patio doors waiting for him.
Here he is watching Rosebud wash windows.

Rosebud wants to help with everything. If I'm cooking or baking she's right there helping. (Sunbeam likes to be involved too) She has mastered a few of the simpler things already and can't wait to be able to do everything on her own.
Here she was helping wash windows, she loves making the rags squeak against the glass and informed me that if she rubs very hard it almost sounds like a whip-poor-will singing.
I listened and it really does sound similar.

And here Sailor is singing away as he is filling the water tub for the few calves we have right now.
It's too bad you can't hear him sing. He sings all the while he does his chores. I never realized how much, until one of our neighbors told me that they can tell whenever it's chore time because they hear Sailor singing.

He is Daddy's right hand man and takes great pride at taking the responsibility of being man of the house on the occasion Daddy can't be at home.

The First Six weeks

A few days after David was born, one of Daddy's sisters, my Aunt Susie, came to help with all the work until Mom was able to manage on her own again. As tradition has it in all the older Amish settlements a single girl comes to do all the work while the mother stays in bed for a week to 10 days after her baby is born and then sits and enjoys her newborn and does light handwork etc. until the baby is six weeks old.

Aunt Susie was a no nonsense and definitely not fun loving person. She did her work with a vengeance and had neither time nor patience for little children bothering her. It wasn't long before John and I stayed in the bedroom with Mom and played on the floor in there, rather than risking the disapproval of Aunt Susie.

Susie took good care of the garden and the house, and when Mom could finally sit in the living room life seemed a lot better. But there was a strained atmosphere in the house until the day when Daddy and Mom paid and thanked her for helping out and sent her back home.

That first evening alone was wonderful. Daddy and Mom laughed and talked like they used to and we were once more, a happy little family with a beautiful baby boy that made the previous six weeks worth living through after all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Gift From God

It was still dark outside when Daddy came into our bedroom early one Saturday morning. He gently shook us to wake us up and helped us get dressed. Packed a few clothes in a small suitcase and then hurried us out through the chilly night air to where Jim was patiently standing by the hitching rack hitched to our top buggy.

We climbed into the front seat beside Daddy and off we went clip clopping through the night. We were soon at Grandpa Mast's and Daddy helped us off the buggy and we went up to the house, which didn't look nearly as inviting in the middle of the night as it did during the day.
Daddy knocked on the door and in a few minutes Grandpa and Grandma were standing there. Grandma asked Daddy "How is she?" and Daddy answered "She's alright but I need to hurry back."
Grandma nodded as Daddy turned around and knelt down beside us and gave us a hug and told us to be good little children until he comes back and then hurried out into the night again. Grandma made cozy little nests on the living room floor for John and me and went back into bed.
We lay there in the dark, the clock was ticking loudly and nothing seemed right. There must be something wrong with Mom, she hadn't even said good-bye to us. A big choking lump formed in my throat and I wanted to cry more than anything else, but knew I shouldn't because Daddy had told us to be good.

Somehow the night finally came to an end and morning looked a lot better. We helped Vernie set the table for breakfast and then had the whole day to play. And when evening came so did Daddy smiling from ear to ear. We ran to meet him and he gave us a big hug and told us "Mom has a surprise for you at home." We loved surprises and hurried into the house to get our suitcase while Daddy talked to Grandma.

When we got home Daddy took us into their bedroom where Mom was lying in bed and beside her was the cutest little baby boy. Mom smiled at us and said "Say hello to your brother David."
We stroked his hair and admired his tiny hands and feet and then asked the all important question, "Where did you get him?"

"God gave him to us" they answered.

How I wished I could have been home for that! Here God had come and given them a baby and I didn't even get to meet Him!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pie Crust

One of the favorite desserts in our house is pie. Cherry or peach are at the top of the list but if I don't have fruit available pecan pie is our next choice.

I have experimented with a lot of different pie crusts but it seemed I never could find one that was perfect or always turned out good.

I grew up thinking you have to have pastry flour to make a good pie crust, but after moving to the middle of no-where, I was unable to find pastry flour and the sorry looking pie crusts I turned out were enough to grieve any cook's spirit.

But after a lot of experimenting with various results I finally found the perfect recipe that works great with any flour. And now I am once more producing pie with crust that are beautifully flaky and practically melts in your mouth.

Prize Winning Pie Crust

3 cup flour
1 cup butter flavored Crisco
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water
   Spoon flour gently into measuring cup and level the top by sliding a knife across to scrape of any excess. Mix flour and Crisco by hand until the crumbs are all uniform in size. Add liquids and stir and mix gingerly by hand. It is quite gloppy and a little freaky at this point but don't worry in a few moments it turns into soft pie dough that is just begging to be worked with.
Divide into three or four patties and roll out on floured surface. It is a good idea to flour your rolling pin also.

And there you have it. The perfect pie crust. Use it for two pie that need a top crust also or 3 or 4 pecan pie.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Aunt Vernie

Let me introduce you to my aunt Vernie. She was and is my most special aunt. She was born a Downs Syndrome child only a year younger than my Mom. She has the sweetest spirit of anyone I have ever met.

As a child one of the perks of visiting Grandpa Mast's was that you could play with Vernie. From the time I was a toddler to about 8 years old, she was my best friend, we would play with our dolls, and spend hours coloring, she would read her story books to us and give us rides on her wagon or swing, we would talk and sing and play any game we knew.

But then the day came when I could read by myself, and discovered the books had a story completely different from what Vernie had always read to me, and tables turned a bit as I would read the books to her. She didn't seem to mind, but somehow the books got laid aside, and we focused on our dolls and coloring books.

Time went on, and I no longer played with my dolls. I can still see her so plainly, eagerly coming with her dolls when ever I came, and I would tell her I'd rather help her color.

She would look disappointed, but was still happy to spend time coloring together, and so it kept on. I was growing up and gradually leaving my childhood behind. And she could only stand there and watch me go where she could never join me, for she would always live in childhood.
But as one group of nieces and nephews grew up there was always another one and so the the same cycle would repeat itself.

There was always things we did together, like wash the dishes and little odd jobs and we always had to sing a few songs.

Several years ago I had the chance to once again spend time with her, and had to smile at how thrilled my own children were to play with her.

Memories of her are bittersweet, sweet because, well she was sweetness itself but bitter because I could have made life a little nicer for her by not thinking I'm to big to play with her.

I will always love her and have a very special place in my heart that only she can fill. I wish there was a way I could let her know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hard Work and Birthdays

That first summer was very busy. After the old house was torn down and cleared away they moved our little trailer onto their property to live in until they got a house built.
Daddy was always looking for work to add to their meager income, and since they had moved he took any small job he could find, for several weeks he worked at a vineyard, and whenever Wixson's Honey needed him he would work there, but they still had to struggle to make ends meet. Then one day a big burly logger stopped in and asked if he could split firewood for him. Daddy was happy to do it and so they brought big dump truck loads of firewood and dumped it behind the house and Daddy set to work swinging a big heavy ax. I loved watching him as he worked in a steady rhythm, every blow of the ax split a chunk of wood down the middle then he would split each of the halves yet. Hour after hour he would work, without rest, whistling as chopped wood for $4.00 an hour, happy to be providing money for his family.
After splitting wood all day Daddy would try to clean up around the property in the evenings, he managed to build a fence around the pasture to keep our horse. Up until then we had to stake Jim out to a new patch of grass every day.
After several months of splitting wood, the logger offered Daddy the job of working for him in the woods for a much better salary. Daddy accepted, and it wasn't long before they had saved up enough money to build a little white barn with a green tin roof..
John and I enjoyed playing in it. There was a stall for Jim, a pen for a cow they hoped to buy someday, and another pen for a few pigs. There was room to park our spring wagon, the top buggy, and our little open buggy, and a ladder that led up to the hay loft. We were not allowed to climb up to the loft unless Daddy was with us, but we didn't mind, there was enough fun to be had in a new clean barn without that.
One day we were playing in the barn, when we heard a horse and buggy drive in. When we ran outside to see who it is, we saw Aunt Vernie sitting beside Grandma Mast who was driving their open buggy with Grandpa sitting on the back holding a rope leading a cute Jersey cow.
Mom came running out of the trailer to meet them and Grandpa handed the rope to her and said "Happy Birthday". Mom was delighted and hardly knew what to say. Her voice sounded funny as she thanked Grandpa.
We followed her as she led the cow into the barn and put her in the pen Daddy had made. Then we helped her give it some hay. Grandpa tied his horse to the hitching rack and then they came into the barn too. Grandma gave Mom a shiny new milk bucket. It was the most beautiful pail I had ever seen. Shiny stainless steel that worked as a mirror. John and I sat down and made funny faces and watched as the reflection in the pail was contorted to make them look even funnier. Aunt Vernie joined us and we giggled and laughed for quite awhile until Grandma asked Vernie to take the birthday cake into the house. We all went inside and Grandma starting making a birthday supper for Mom, Vernie set the table and then helped us color in our coloring books.
Throughout the next hour or so all the aunts and uncles and cousins that lived in the area arrived bringing desserts along for supper.
Everything was ready to eat when Daddy came home from a hard day in the woods, his boss dropped him off at the end of the driveway and Daddy went to the back of the truck and got several big boxes off the back and set them on the ground. John and I and all our little cousins ran out to meet him. Daddy gave us a big hug then sent me to tell Mom to come outside to see her birthday gift. I ran inside and found Mom among all the other women and told her Daddy has a lot of birthday gifts for her and that he wants her to come see them now.
We went back outside where everyone was waiting to see what is in these big boxes and John was telling Daddy about the cow in the barn and the shiny new pail. Daddy made us all stand back and watch as Mom opened the boxes, we could hardly contain our eagerness and were thrilled when Mom lifted out a black speckled hen. We crowded around the boxes then and admired the 23 others that were still in the boxes.
Mom and I went back into the house and the uncles came and helped Daddy quickly build a small chicken coop from lumber that had been left over from our barn. And then everyone enjoyed a big birthday supper.
The evening was soon over and everyone went home, as Daddy tucked me into bed I thought there couldn't be anyone as happy as we were. A new chicken coop filled with hens, and our own little brown cow, and the prospects of another exciting day tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Growing up in an Amish family, Sunday's soon became the favorite day of the week.
As with all Amish communities, we only had church services every other week which were held at different homes every month. On church Sunday's we would all get up early and dress in our Sunday best. My favorite outfit was a purple dress and then the usual crisply starched white organdy apron.
Daddy would hitch Jim to our top buggy and tie him to the hitching rack while Mom would scurry around clearing away the breakfast dishes and check and re check our faces and ears. After everyone was clean enough for her satisfaction John and I would climb into the back of the buggy.
Our buggy had two seats but only one back which was shared by both seats. John and I didn't enjoy sitting and staring at the the buggy door, so we would turn around and kneel on the seat and look over Daddy and Mom's shoulders and watch where we were going.
After we arrived at church Daddy would stop at the house and Mom and I would go inside and remove our heavy black bonnets and shawls, and then she'd tip my face up and check it yet again and make sure my covering was tied. We would then go greet the women and girls that were already there and then stood and visited until almost 9 o'clock when we would all file into the room where services would be held and sit on wooden backless benches.
I loved sitting beside Mom and felt very important to hold my hand out to shake hands with the three ministers as the made their way through all the benches shaking hands with the womenfolk.
Once they were done they would sit on the chairs that had been placed at the front of the room for them. The bishop would clear his throat and announce. "Since we're all gathered together we can start singing in the name of our Lord" There would be a general shuffling as everyone reached for their songbook and the song leader would announce which song to sing. He would sing the first syllable, of the first word by himself and then everyone else would join in and help. When the second line was started the ministers would stand up and go off to a little room by themselves to do whatever they do in those little rooms, pray, figure out whose turn it is to preach, and any other discussions they deem necessary.
Mom would let me share her songbook and I would help sing as she would follow the words with her finger so I know where they are going. It used to take approximately five minutes to sing a stanza with seven lines.
After the first song was over there would be a short pause and then the song leader would announce the page number for the "Lob Lied" which is the second song you sing no matter which Amish church you go to, and I've never seen it take less than twenty minutes to sing it.
Usually by the end of that song the ministers would be done with their little meeting and file in and sit on their chairs again. After the last note faded away the first preacher would stand up and preach for half an hour and then we all turn around and kneel to pray. As a little girl, I would try to peek at everybody around me. It was always interesting to see how everyone else was kneeling unless there was a grownup sitting directly behind me and block my view. A nudge from Mom would make me close my eyes and try to listen to the singsong chant of the prayer.
After the second preacher was preaching I was allowed to play quietly with my flowery handkerchief. I would fold it to make a little mouse or twin babies in a cradle. It wasn't long until I would be tired and lay my head on Mom's lap and drift off to sleep to be awakened once the preaching was over and the last song was being sung.
After sitting still for three hours it was great to be able to run and find your friends while the men set up tables by pushing several benches together and setting them on a specially designed pedestal thingies. The women would set bowls of mixed peanut butter and red beets or pickles and stacks of sliced homemade bread along the middle of the table, and then a cup, knife, and fork at each place. The men would sit at one table and the women at another one and after a short silent prayer everyone would reach for a slice of bread and start spreading peanut butter on it. Delicious creamy sweet peanut butter, one piece was never enough, I would ask for more but after four pieces Mom would tell me I had enough and then I'd have to sit there and watch longingly as others were still enjoying another piece.
Once everyone was done there would be another short silent prayer and then we were free to play the rest of the afternoon while the adults visited. The men would set up a few benches for us to slide on and there were almost always dolls and coloring books to play with too. As evening approached Daddy would go hitch up Jim again and we'd head for home tired but happy.
On the Sunday's we didn't have church we would often go visit Grandpa Mast's or one of our aunts or uncles. Other times we would stay at home and sing and play all day long, Daddy used to try to squeeze in a nap somewhere amid all our noisy fun. And several times a year we would have to sit and pose for Mom while she drew a picture of us. We did not have a camera but were some of the lucky few who had a parent talented enough to draw a very real image of their children.
Sunday's never lasted long enough and it took a whole week before another one rolled around, which to a child is a long time.

Monday, April 13, 2009


As a child Saturdays were a day that I both looked forward to and dreaded.
We used to start the day off by thoroughly cleaning the whole house. Mom would give dusting cloths to John and me and we would dust everything we could reach. Then we'd each be given a wet sponge and we'd help Mom wash the windows, what fun it was seeing who could make their sponge squeak the loudest against the glass. After that Mom would let us sit in Daddy's recliner and look at picture books while she swept and mopped the floors. That used to be a real treat as it was the only day we were allowed to sit in Daddy's chair and the books also were saved for that event.
Once the floors were dry though the dreaded part came. It was time to do my hair. I had very long hair that were braided and put into a bun and once a week Mom would take them down, wash, and re braid them so they would be fresh and neat for Sunday.
We had a tall bar stool that we referred to as the "braiding chair." Mom would set it in the kitchen and call me and I would hop up on it. She had a shoebox full of special little toys I could play with while she did my hair. She would undo my braids and start brushing my hair. I would try not to cry, but after a week without anything done to them they always had lots of snarls and hurt dreadfully. She would sing funny little songs and tell stories to try to keep my mind off of the pain, but it was never long before I was howling. After the snarls were all out I would lay on the counter while Mom washed my hair and then I had to go through that dreadful brushing again and be braided. After she was done I would hop off the chair, put the box of toys away, and rejoice in the fact that it would be a whole week before I have to go through that again.
Now was when the real fun began. It was time to bake pie. John and I would each push a chair beside Mom and watch as she measured the flour and made the pie dough it was fun watching her roll it out and fit it carefully in the pan and then watch her fingers fairly fly around the edge leaving a trail of neat little braids , but the best part of all was when she was done with her pie and she would let me have the remaining dough to roll out.
I would carefully roll it out and then cut it into pieces and spread strawberry jam on it. Then Mom would roll them up and bake them for us until they were a nice golden brown. Then we'd have to wait until they cooled off a little before we could eat them. They were delicious and would almost melt in your mouth. The perfect ending to a Saturday!

That is something I do with our children too. This was Rosebud's creation on Saturday.
The children love them, but somewhere with the passing years I lost my craving for them . They don't taste quite as good as when I made them as a little girl.
And be assured there is no crying when we do hair. Since we do it everyday we don't have that problem.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Springtime is my favorite time of year here where we live. All the flowering trees, wild flowers, and singing birds, especially the birds. Hearing them always make you feel happy and carefree.
One afternoon this week we all went out to our little patch of woods where Sailor has been spending most of his spare time building a cabin and trying his hand at making arrowheads and other non girly things.

The Redbud trees put a splash of color in the otherwise drab scenery.
We reached Sailor's cabin and I had to check it all out, he had built a sofa so Mom has something to sit on whenever she comes to visit him. It was actually quite comfortable considering it was made of a pile of wood. Sailor took a few pictures of me sitting there but I won't be posting those. I really think some things are better, left a mystery.
The children had their turn and Sailor's pup, Wags had to get in on the action too, much to Sunbeam's consternation.

It was a fun day, and we all came back tired and happy. Springtime walks have a way of doing that to a person.
What do you enjoy doing on a nice spring day?

Friday, April 10, 2009

New Dreams

     When spring arrived that first year and gardening time approached my parents went looking to find an acreage they could buy.
     They found one several miles away off of a narrow dirt road, 15 acres with an old tumble down house and grown up in weeds.
     Being young and full of dreams they didn't really see the hopelessness of the property but only their visions of how they would build a home here and raise their children.
     They wanted to do the work on their own rather than hire someone to do it. Every morning after chores and breakfast were over Daddy would hitch up our faithful horse, Jim, to our spring wagon, and fix blanket "nests" for John and me on the back, and off we would go through the fresh morning air.
     The first thing they worked on was getting all the overgrown weeds and brush cleared away and start a garden. What fun it was helping Mom drop the seeds into the long rows. We would carefully step in her tracks in the fresh dirt and proudly plant peas and onions.
     In the meantime Daddy was starting to tear down the old house. He was tearing the shingles off the roof, and the ladder was just too tempting to a little girl. When Mom wasn't looking I climbed up to help Daddy. Once I was up on the roof though I was petrified, it was dreadfully far from the ground! I was sitting there at the edge of the roof when Mom spied me, she called for Daddy and then hurried up the ladder after me. Daddy came over and scooped me up in his strong arms and carried me down, Mom was almost crying which made me feel really bad, I hadn't meant to scare everyone. I just wanted to help.
     After that day they would drop us off at Grandpa Masts where we would be well taken care of, and out of harm's way. Aunt Vernie would read stories to us, push us on the swing, and help us play whatever we wanted too. Aunt Emma would let us lick her cooking spoons and watch her weave rugs, Grandma would let us dry the dishes for her and occasionally we would run out to the harness shop and watch Grandpa work. By evening when Daddy and Mom came to pick us up we were tired out and usually went to sleep tucked into our blanket nest in the back of our slow moving, bouncing spring wagon, listening to our parents soft voices and the clip clop of Jim's hoofs.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Rainbows

It's a dreary rainy day outside, but indoors the "sun" is shining. With three children there is never a dull moment. At any given moment there is something interesting going on.

Right now there is a lively discussion on what would be the best route to take to get from the east coast to California, with the atlas spread out before them they are intently taking notes and picking out towns to stop at for the night. They have managed to give me traveling fever.
Our son just celebrated his ninth birthday, and dreams of being the captain of a ship once he's old enough, I'll be calling him Sailor in this blog, our oldest daughter is seven and loves helping out around the kitchen, Rosebud seems to fit quite nicely as a name tag for her, and then our four year old, so far she is content being the Sunbeam of the family.

Here is Sunbeam after sitting through one of Rosebud's hairdressing sessions.
Rosebud and Sailor. Their laughter is so contagious, I can never see this picture without having to smile.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Winter Nights

That first winter in New York was cold. We had a little wood stove in the livingroom that did it's best to keep our drafty trailer warm but the warmth from the stove did not reach our bedrooms.
Mom sewed some extra big flannel night clothes for John and me, and our bedtime rituals would include snuggling on either Daddy or Mom's lap before being tucked into our bunkbed under cozy comforters Mom had made that fall.
On one particular night it was extremely cold, so Daddy lit the kerosene space heater and set it into our bedroom. As I lay in the top bunk I could see the glow of the heater and with the added warmth I soon drifted off to sleep.
When the next morning arrived I slept right through breakfast and and by noontime my parents were genuinely concerned that I was still sleeping, after efforts to wake me up failed they had to call someone to come take them and their sick daughter to the hospital. Imagine their pain when the doctor informed them that I had been poisoned by the fumes from the heater and gave them very little hope of my survival.
God was watching over them and by evening I was awake, exteremely weak but on my way to recovery. There was a lasting consequence though as ever since that day my sense of smell is gone.
It wasn't long before our routine was back to normal, and our evenings would be filled with various projects, puzzles, bedtime stories, singing, and popcorn. Life was good, Daddy and Mom loved and worked and played with us. What more could any child want?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Where it all Began, Memories of a Former Amish

Spring was cautiously trying to peep through, but winter still had a grip on the land. A young married couple looked with great love at the little bundle they had just welcomed into the world. The young dark haired woman glowed with the glow of new motherhood as her handsome blue eyed husband gently cradled their firstborn. A tiny little girl. For now, their joy was complete.

They had been married for only a year. Life was good. A beautiful baby. A big successful pig farm. Friends and family all around them. They were part of the tight knit little group of Amish in a small community. They were happy, so happy, it truly seemed like all their dreams had come true.

That little baby was me. The firstborn and only daughter my parents had, five boys were added throughout the years, but we'll come to them later.

Not long after I was born a tornado went through the area, and my parents lost everything they had. Escaping with only their lives, their baby daughter, and the clothes on their backs. The Amish stepped up and provided them with whatever they needed. But after suffering such a financial loss they sold their land and moved into a little house right next to Grandpa Mast's big farm house.

The few memories I have of living there are only little snippets. My parents lived there for a few years and then moved to New York in the Finger Lakes Region where a new Amish settlement was starting. They moved into a little trailer on a dairy farm where Daddy would milk the cows morning and evening in exchange for rent and then had a day job at Wixson's Honey where he bottled honey all day long. The honey all came out of the same vat but was bottled as different brand names which of course sold for different prices. (To this day whenever I buy honey I always buy the cheapest.)

In the evenings while Daddy was in the barn Mom would sit on a chair in the living room and my brother John, who was two years younger than me, and I would stand in front of Mom and she would sing the "Lob Lied" in the long slow chant like we would sing in church, she would encourage us to help by watching her mouth. At the ages of only two and four we were taught our first Amish church song. After Daddy came in we would all sing together, hymns and church songs and then our bedtime song, "Mude ich bin ich geh zur ruh Schliesze meine augen zu Vater lasz die augen dein Uber meine bette sein*

It was wonderful. I'm sure our little childhood voices were lustily off key at times, but they were always patient and I think I could safely say they truly enjoyed having us help them sing.

*I am tired I'm going to rest I'll close my eyes tight Father (God) let your eyes Watch over my bed

About A Joyful Chaos

Hi, and welcome to my chaotic world.
  • I am a happily married wife, and mother to three children all of whom you'll get to meet in the days to come.
  • I enjoy cooking, baking, and creating new recipes. I will also be sharing a lot of those in the the future.
  • I enjoy writing and have been fortunate to have some of my work published.
  • I also have a confession to make........ I was born Amish but have chosen a different lifestyle. I will be sharing a lot on that subject. All about growing up Amish. The journey from some of my earliest memories to where I am now.

Friday, April 3, 2009

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