Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Some weeks back, Deb had questions about lemon sponge cake. I searched my cookbooks and the internet and tried to find answers. Specifically, she wondered if she had to bake the sponge cake in a tube pan or if she could use her 9x13. I found some evidence that she could use the flat pan. But the cake still seemed like a large undertaking to me. The recipes I found called for 11 eggs separated, the whites to be beaten until stiff.

The other day, while researching my mother's recipe boxes, I came up with this recipe for "Sponge Cake," which makes a smaller cake and actually seems doable.

Grandma Dorothy's Sponge Cake

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

Juice of ½ lemon (probably about 2 tablespoons)

1/8 tsp salt

Beat whites of eggs with whip 'til stiff. Gradually add ½ the sugar. Beat yolks with dover egg beater. Add ½ the sugar, then lemon juice. Add yolks to whites slowly, then flour. Bake 1 hour in ungreased pan.

On the back of the same recipe card is another interesting recipe – Orange Sponge Cake. I believe this is the recipe Mother used most.

Grandma Dorothy's Orange Sponge Cake

¼ tsp soda

1 cup flour

4 tbsp orange juice

½ tbsp lemon juice

¼ tsp grated orange rind

2 egg whites

¾ cup sugar

2 egg yolks

Method: Beat egg yolks with orange and lemon juice until thick and yellow. Mix sugar and grated rind and add gradually to egg yolks. Add stiffly beaten egg whites and cut and fold in flour sifted four times with soda. Pour into cake pan and bake in moderate oven about 40 minutes.

I found this recipe card in Mother's oldest recipe box, and you can tell it's old: "beat with whip 'til stiff," "dover egg beater," and "flour sifted four times" denote terms and methods we no longer use. As to the sifted flour, when I was a child, Mother taught me to sift the flour – and sift again and again as required. When pre-sifted flour came on the market, I was elated, but she said that didn't mean we didn't have to sift any more. She said it only took the place of the first sifting, and she went right on sifting. I, however, noticed that newer recipes didn't call for sifting the flour, and I happily stopped doing it. "There's one thing wrong with your baking, Kathy," Mother said as she munched a cookie at my house; "you don't sift the flour. Your product would be lighter if you did." Mother knew – she could tell! – that I was once again being passively disobedient.

Well, I still didn't return to sifting. Occasionally I feel guilty about it. For one thing, in mother's kitchen we worked out of a built-in flour drawer. It was easier to sift the flour back into the drawer, then measure out what was required. I work out of a canister, and my kitchens have no such thing as a flour drawer. My small sifter is stored in the back of a cupboard on the farm where I seldom meet up with up.

How about you? Do you sift the flour when you bake? Do you have a designated flour drawer in your kitchen?

[It's chilly here this morning (32 feels like 20) and the wind whistles around the house as we brace for another Pacific storm that may or may not materialize here in the valley.] KW

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I came back to town with Grandma Ina's diary from 1955 – just a simple leather-bound notebook in which she jotted daily notes. Inside the front cover, written in large scrawl, is the name "Lethco John." That's my nephew L.J., my parent's eldest grandchild born to the eldest daughter. On July 12, 1955, Ina's entry reads in part: "Harriet's baby boy born at 5 o'clock this morning." (Technically Grandma Ina was Harriet's step-grandmother.)

Well, that diary written 55 years ago got me to thinking about 1955. I actually remember it quite well considering I turned six in August of that year. You know, some years are just memorable according to what happens, and 1955 was such a year for our family. In May, I played in my first piano recital and that same week my maternal grandmother, Nina Portfors, passed away suddenly. She lived only a block from us, so her passing was felt in the daily life of our family. Still in the month of May, my youngest half-sister, Nina, graduated from high school. And of course, in July, L.J. was born.

In August my mother's cousin, Dona Marie, married in Calgary. Grandpa and Grandma Portfors had intended to make the trip, and Grandpa still wanted to go, so Mother went with him, taking me along. As a souvenir, Mother bought a classic hand-knit wool sweater for me – in a design better suited to a boy so that it could be handed down to L.J. And it was – and handed down to every other boy that came into the family until eventually it ended up with me again – for my boys who never wore it. I have to wonder if anyone ever wore it. And now it's in my cedar chest.

Life moved right along in 1955. That September I started school in Mrs. Bonner's first-grade class. School administrators didn't know when they assigned me to that class that my half-sister, Joni, would apply to do her student teaching in Orofino, and Mrs. Bonner was the only first-grade teacher qualified to supervise a student teacher. They decided it was not in my best interest to move me to another teacher at that point, so Joni did her student teaching in my first-grade class – probably in the second nine weeks. I was supposed to call her "Miss Walrath" at school. And Joni tattled! She told Mother that I wasn't finishing my work. (I was supposed to finish it? No one told me! Weren't we just coloring?) Uproar ensued. Mother went and talked to Mrs. Bonner and a plan was hatched to make me finish my papers. Mother kept her finger on the pulse of my school progress ever after and I was forced to be accountable the whole rest of my life.

Of course, Joni lived at home during the weeks she was student teaching. I'm not sure exactly when she and Pat became engaged, but as 1955 became 1956, my mother was planning Joni's wedding.

My young mentality was impressed by all of these things. KW

[That's my official first grade picture. I have the class picture, too, but will have to post it later because it's on the farm. Besides myself, you would see "Aunt" Chris and our student teacher, Miss Walrath.]

Friday, November 26, 2010


As to my philosophy of the understated Christmas celebration, I am not a conservationist or a minimalist or a traditionalist. It's just that twenty years ago I came face to face with the fact that Christmas as I had always known it – the large extended family event with my mother and father at the center – was going away. And in its place, there would be – nothing.

I know that sounds ungrateful, so let me explain. My dad loved to decorate for Christmas with greenery and lights, and the old Craftsman-style house in town was suited to this work. While he decorated outside Mother took care of the inside decorations, the baking, the gifts. Together they were the epitome of Christmas. And this was Christmas through my growing up years and well into adulthood. This was the example I felt I should follow because, after all, Mother had groomed me for it. But as that baton passed to me, I just couldn't keep up. I was a working mother, and my employer cut me no holiday slack. I could barely get the tree decorated before Christmas. My family, with the possible exception of my daughter, was indifferent to the old-fashioned hoopla and I couldn't say that I blamed them. I was an emotional wreck by Christmas Eve. I was forced to accept that our Christmas was changing, and I had to admit that I needed to re-think my celebration. And the grief definitely had to go. By the time we moved to the farmhouse in 2004, I saw that it was up to me to establish new traditions for our home. I wanted to be happy about the change – inspired even.

As I was seeking this new form of celebration, I remembered Grandma Ina's Depression-era Christmas letters to my dad and decided to take a closer look at them. In the 1930s, Ina was in her early 60s, her family grown. She had precious little to do with, and yet through her ingenuity and determination she made Christmas as wonderful as she could – "no skimpy Christmas here." She was ready with homemade, heartfelt gifts and she mailed packages to family and friends. The Christmas celebration at her house included plenty of food, a small tree on the library table where it would glow in the light of the moon, and rooms decorated with candles and such greenery as came her way. She would not let the sense of lack spoil her Christmas. A sense of lack is a sense of lack, I reasoned, and therefore I, too, could move on from my poverty of spirit into something better. And I knew that the spirit of this dear lady was leading me gently back to basic traditions. This was what I wanted – and the words "understated Christmas" came to mind – with a vintage focus tempered by my own needs and preferences.

So, we bought a pre-lit artificial tree and put most of the ornaments into storage. I'd love to have a real tree but this works for us. I decorate it quickly with the Hallmark house series and a few other favorite ornaments. It comes undone and goes back into storage just as quickly.

I love to decorate the farmhouse with Christmas ceramics, greenery, candles. I set an electric candle in each window – understated but effective. And I put a real wreath on the front door – for "the prettiest sight to see."

While traditional holiday cookies and confections are wonderful, my family doesn't care for them – at least, not in quantity. When it's just the two of us – or the four of us – it's just too much on hand. So, I eliminated holiday baking as a priority. I love to make cut-out Christmas cookies but haven't done it in years. I make "fruitcake squares" and bake our favorite pie on Christmas Eve – "mystery" pecan.

Holiday music is great. I have LPs, CDs, cassette tapes, and an iPod – my old favorites in any format. Last year I couldn't bear to listen – just too many memories – but this year the old standards call to me again. Running a close second to the music are holiday movies and podcasts of old radio Christmas programs. And of course, there's silence – quietude for meditation and contemplation.

I love to send and receive Christmas cards, but it's a changing custom. Lack of time, rising costs, and the fact that we're connected on the internet all serve to diminish this custom. This year my advent blog posts, beginning December 1, will be based on Christmas cards, family recipes, and quotes from various family letters.

And gifts. I'm not here to tell anyone what to do, but I think gift-giving is out of hand with many of us spending way too much to provide the expensive wants of others. Giving a simple gift and receiving it graciously is becoming a lost art. "Nuf sed," as Ina would write.

Another thing about the understated, less-glitzy Christmas – as I move from Christmas into bleak winter, I continue to treasure some of my decorations instead of clearing them immediately away. In fact, I never did put away my Christmas angels after last Christmas.

We all have to follow our own light as we travel life's path. I hope your holiday season is filled with peace and happiness – yes, even on your busiest days. May you be able to say with Ina, "I stood all the Christmas doing just fine." KW 
[Photo 1 is my mother's old-fashioned Christmas tree. I don't know the exact year -- and it doesn't matter. The photo on the right is Ina's tree in 1933 while the bottom photo is Ina's tree in 1952. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I took this picture of the farmhouse last Sunday (Nov. 21). It's not a classic winter picture of a farmyard, but it does look wintry. You can see the tall pines of the grove behind the house and why it is we worry when big winds blow through.

One of the younger Millers of the Miller Road family came to visit Mike in the afternoon and told him that his dad's shop had been totally demolished in the ferocious windstorm. So, before we left Gilbert, we drove over to investigate.

The old Miller place, an original family homestead, lies about a mile northwest from our farm by overland route. The old house pictured here is no longer used as a home. You can see how the trunk of the pine tree in the yard was snapped in the windstorm. So many downed trees look just like that.
 Here's another picture of the tree. The debris in the foreground and out in the field is from the demolished shop.
 And this photo is of the shop proper. You can identify items in the photo that were being stored in and around the building -- a refrigerator (maybe two), a boat, even an old pick-up that doesn't show. My assessment is that they lost an old building that was useful in its way, but with the possible exception of the small boat, the things stored there were mostly "someday" projects and things they kept because they could.
So there it is. I'm sure the Millers are in a quandary as to how to proceed with clean-up.

By the way, the Senter house where Mike and I were "making wood" is still standing, apparently none the worse for wear in its dilapidated state. And of course, the surrounding trees had already been cut.

Mike and I have been weathering the cold snap here in town. The Lewis-Clark Valley received only a couple inches of snow, but the cold has set in -- officially -1 this morning -- but it looks like warmer temps are on the way. KW

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I just checked. A winter storm watch remains in effect for this region. It's supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow with accumulation of 7 to 10 inches in the valleys. This storm will be followed by a spell of arctic cold. News from Spokane said that this phenomenon -- arctic cold in November -- happens once in 15 years. The same weather report said that area grocery stores have been busy as people prepare for the storm. I'm sure Thanksgiving needs add to the sense of urgency.

Mike and I have decided to winterize the farmhouse today. That means we'll turn the water off and drain the pipes. Then we'll return to town to take care of the modular home.

I was just taking mental stock of supplies on hand at the town house. I have what I need for my Thanksgiving dinner commitment -- Dr. Pepper salad, pumpkin pie, and mystery pecan pie. And as for pantry stores, I believe it would be a long time before we'd starve, even if it came down to eating cake. We'll probably stop for milk on the way into town.

I have put my sewing machine into production mode. I volunteered to make favors for an upcoming Christmas party -- machine lace snowflakes. I decided I would make better progress if I brought the machine downstairs so that I could cook and clean while keeping an eye on the machine. I set up the operation on Grandma Ina's "pantry" cupboard in the corner of the dining room. It looks right at home there, doesn't it?

Saturday morning (yesterday) Mike and I made a trip to Orofino to have a wheel from the 4-wheel trailer aired up at Les Schwabb. While we waited we found three geocaches. It was cold -- about freezing, I think. We agreed to put off a fourth cache that involved a short hike until warmer weather.

Here's a picture I took just before dusk Friday evening. Note the pinkish glow caused by the declining sun, and the nearly full moon as it rises. KW

Friday, November 19, 2010


Cold today -- 27 at 7:00 a.m. and warming only to a high of 37 at 2:30. Mike and I pooled our battery resources and searched drawers until we came up with enough batteries to get the electronic weather station going. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and the sun shining in the south window was nice and warm. We could have snow in the next day or two, says the weatherman. And we're bracing for the cold forecast for next week -- lows in the teens, highs in the 20s.

Yesterday, after we cleaned tree debris out of the yard, Mike took his rifle and went out for his evening "hike." Heading past the pond and down the gully called Stove Creek, past the plum trees, he came to a fairly large pine tree lying in the field, blown down in the storm. [Inquiring minds will want to know that the trees are down just where Stove Creek heads into Little Canyon.] This area is within a half mile of the farm yard.

"We can at least get the limb wood," Mike said, "and we need to take care of it now." He explained that pine turns blue if not protected, and that does something to its heat value. 

Oh boy -- get more wood. But I agreed to help and this morning about 10:00 we hooked the little trailer to the 4-wheeler and with Nellie running alongside we headed to the tree. Mike commenced to make firewood of the limbs. First I took pictures and then I hauled slash out of the field and loaded the wood onto the trailer. Sounds easy, doesn't it? We were busy for the next two hours, and Nellie stayed right with us. By lunchtime we had a trailer full and I thought it best to walk back to the house due to the heavy load. As it was the trailer tipped on the hill and spilled its load -- all of it. We had to re-load -- this time putting more weight on the front of the trailer.
Nellie ran along with the 4-wheeler, but when she got to the farm yard, she missed me. So she ran back and waited for me on the hill below the pond. Would she have reported to Mike if I'd been in distress? I wonder . . .

After lunch Mike went back and cut the trunk into firewood lengths. He also cut and stacked more limb wood. The work is done with the exception of picking up the wood for storage. We're short on space in the woodshed right now until Mike finishes clearing and re-arranging.

[The first picture looks in a northerly direction. The second is from the same spot looking to the south. The third looks into Little Canyon; this spot was a favorite view of the Dobson family. And lastly, you can see the broken snag in the middle of the picture.] KW

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Here's the promised report on the condition of the farm following the ferocious storm.

We arrived here at the farm about 10:15. We crept down Plank Pitch and held our breath as we peaked at the house over the hill. Whew! The big old pine trees still stand in the grove. Our biggest concern was for downed trees, and seeing so many pine trees snapped off like twigs along the river did nothing to bolster our confidence. I celebrated with diet Coke in a gold-rimmed holiday goblet.

So, starting from Lewiston, we began to see damage when we entered the forested area below Lenore. But the noticeable damage was to trees -- mostly pine trees -- on both sides of the river. I saw no devastation of buildings. The highway was clear with piles of pine limbs here and there. We passed the work crew below Riverside (Orofino). We could also see snow in the upper country as we traveled.

Along Gilbert Grade we saw a lot of debris, downed trees in the woods, and in several places trees had been pulled to the side of the road. Just below Farrington's, someone had already made firewood of a downed tree and it was neatly stacked and ready to be picked up. Continuing on, just above that spot or about halfway the grade, we entered winter wonderland. That would be about the 2500-foot level. It's not much snow, but it covers the ground. While this morning it looked as if it could snow any time, this afternoon the sun came out, causing moderation.

So, here in our yard we had downed limbs to pick up but nothing sizable. After lunch the two of loaded limbs and twigs and sticks into the 4-wheeler trailer. Mike took four trailer loads to the burn pile. We agreed there was no need to be super meticulous about yard clean-up at this point. There will be more storms this winter.

Otherwise things are fine. I found the lid to the composter about 25 feet from it in tall grass. Our television and computer hook-ups are good. We've re-set all the clocks. The fireplace insert is humming along, and I baked a batch of pre-mixed cookies to heat the kitchen. Feels darned good to be here and we're grateful things are in good shape. We're enjoying some "Ginger Snappish" tea, and then I'm going to the vintage sewing room.

Our electronic weather unit isn't working, but Mike thinks it just needs new batteries. We're unprepared to change those this trip. But hey! The old-fashioned thermometer at the back door says it's 36 here.

I put a mouse trap at Nellie's dish when we left on Monday. Sure enough -- got one! That's just evidence that the war is on. You can't be too vigilant in the big rodent war. KW

[The first three pictures were taken this morning before we cleaned the grove, the last two this afternoon.]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


We hardly ever have devastating weather conditions here in the great Inland Pacific Northwest -- you know, like tornadoes and hurricanes. We never have a weather advisory that presents the dilemma of whether or not we should pack up our families and a few precious belongings and leave home. This area is hardly ever the subject of Weather Channel programs. They barely mention us on a daily basis.

It isn't that we don't have weather, of course. Everyone has weather. This time of year we might have rain, freezing rain, snow -- and fog is common. And wind -- we do have wind. And Monday there was a wind advisory in effect for midnight into Tuesday morning. And when it came -- at 12:30 a.m. -- it was a doozy, according to the standards of this region.

I happened to wake up just before the storm hit. With the first big gusts, I thought of the myriad of Rubbermaid garbage cans we keep for various purposes and how -- even though we had been well-advised -- we had failed to put any of those in the shed. I know from experience that when the garbage can with the aluminum cans falls over and the lid comes off, I not only have to chase down the lid but also all the cans.With the thought of having to do that again crowding out any thought of sleep, I arose and went outside to take care of things.

Now -- "No Fear Nellie," who walks trestles but is otherwise afraid of her own shadow, had just commenced to whine, so the first thing I did was to let her into the house. She gets no sympathy from her master for her fear of storms, but she knows the mistress will take care of her emotional needs. I finished pulling the cans into the shed and went back to bed as Nellie made herself comfortable on her pillow in the living room.

Then the storm commenced to rage. Not only did the wind blow but we saw lightning. It was Mike's turn to get up then, and when he opened the bedroom door, Nell dashed to my side. "Can I get in with you?" she asked, licking my face eagerly. "The floor is good enough," I told her.

Mike came back to bed, and with a few more lightning strikes and ferocious wind gusts, Nellie crawled under the bed. It makes a good story to say she was that afraid, but when it comes right down to it, I think she was exploring. The next time one of us got up, Nellie was happy enough to bed down again on her cozy pillow.

The wind storm seemed pretty much over by the time we got up for the day. The wind advisory was lifted by mid-morning but some breeziness remained for several hours. At noon Ken called to say he had a chance meeting with someone from the Gilbert area who told him of wind devastation there. Gusts of up to 85 mph were reported. Gilbert Grade had been closed for a while due to downed trees and the electricity was off for some time.

So, having spent a few days in town, we are going back to the farm tomorrow to ascertain the damage and clean up. It looks as though the temperature may be a little on the cold side over the weekend, but we'll be snug in the house (I hope), and keeping the house warm in the cold is always good.

[Here are a few recent photos of Nellie. In the top photo taken Oct. 28, she's on point. She works hard when she's hunting, but if she doesn't scent birds, she will fall to hunting rodents. Note the snow on the Clearwater Mountains in the background. And in the second photo, she watches through the dining room window as Mike leaves the farm yard to hunt deer. And yes, she's crying.] KW

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Sometimes just the smallest thing will make my day – like finding a fix for the M&M lights.

It was Christmas 1996 – or thereabouts – when I found the strings of M&M lights at the old PayLess Drugstore. I remember the year because I sent a set to grandson Douglas and Murray told me how much he liked them. I believe Doug was just short of two at the time. I bought two sets for myself and strung them up in the kitchen at the Broadview house for several years. Merry little clear plastic M&M guys in red, green, yellow, and orange danced above my counter. The guys are definitely "funky" and I wouldn't use them just anywhere, but somehow they're just right for the kitchen. As the years wore on, the light string wore out, but I hated to part with the guys. It seemed to me one solution would be to get a new string of 20 lights and simply snap the M&M guys onto it.

So that's what I did. I bought a string of 20 clear lights in the traditional style only to find the string was too short for the farmhouse kitchen window. I'm sure you've noticed that as time glides on, things change. Nowadays light strings are shorter, the lights closer together, and we also have those new little nubby lights – LEDs or whatever they call them. As it turned out the M&M guys wouldn't snap over the lights anyway. I despaired of being able to make this situation right. It's harder and harder to find short light strings.

But Friday on our way out of town Mike had to stop at a hardware store, and I headed for the Christmas aisles to see what they might have in the way of short light strings. How about a 35-light string? Hmmm – combine the two light sets and this might work, I thought. So I bought the string and sure enough – it did work. The lights are bright, the guys snapped on, the string easily reaches all the way around the window sending out a message of colorful cheer, inside and out. I was so pleased that I left the lights on most of the day.

We leave a string of decorative lights in the farmhouse kitchen window year-round. We display Christmas lights, flower lights, Easter egg lights, various Halloween lights. The string of red chili pepper lights is apropos anytime and Mike's particular favorite. I like lights.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


". . . and Dad gave me a stainless steel paring knife. I'd bent mine up in grouse feathers during the season." Ina Dobson, January 1, 1933

When Mike and I married, I knew he was an avid bird hunter. It didn't bother me. My home town is located in the Idaho wilderness where hunting and fishing are common. BUT – I drew the line at cleaning the birds. "You hunt them, you take care of them," I said. I believe that anyone who doesn't want to clean the birds shouldn't hunt. It's as simple as that.

I recently visited my dentist. You know how it is – they like to numb you up and put stuff in your mouth, then start an interesting conversation. The dentist, who is probably in his early 50s, is also a bird hunter, and knowing that Mike hunts, he will regale me with hunting-related topics.

"When my wife and I were first married," he began, "I was getting ready to go hunting and so I was making a sandwich for my lunch. My grandmother saw me and immediately got on my wife for not making my lunch. My wife said, 'He is an adult; he can make his own lunch.' My grandmother was so mad at her. Not only that – she told me that I had made a big mistake in my choice of wife. Well," he continued after a pause, "I just think there's been a change in attitude."

How did he know that I collect such stories? I wanted to tell him how, as a "modern retro woman," I take note of such observations. Unfortunately I was not in a position to say anything. And even though I love the "modern retro woman" study, in the case of cleaning birds I'm definitely more modern than retro.

Mike will still occasionally press me to clean his birds. The other day he told me that he and his hunting buddy, Ken, had been discussing duck hunting. Ken mentioned childhood duck hunting experiences with his dad and grandfather. Mike pointed out that ducks really are hard to clean, whereupon Ken stated that his grandmother just loved to clean ducks. They would drop them at the house after a hunt and she would immediately take up the task." But my thinking is that the woman knew how to clean ducks, was good at it, and knew the work was hers to do as part of living off the land and preparing food for the family. Perhaps she even enjoyed duck meat and appreciated the hunters' efforts. But did she love cleaning them? I think that goes a step too far.

[I took these pictures this afternoon as we tramped the woods to the north of the farmhouse.] KW

Friday, November 12, 2010


Actually, the fact that we came to the farm today constitutes a big change of plans. Last week Mike called a friend in Boise and arranged to hunt with him this weekend. He would stay with our son in Boise and they planned activities with the grandkids. He would have been gone Thursday through Monday, so naturally I planned accordingly – cleaning house, reading, and a start on Christmas sewing. However, Mike's friend became ill, so he didn't go. We were disappointed and so was our Boise family. But, I believe things have a way of working out for the best, and we just have to trust that and not let disappointment spoil our good. From our perspective, time at the farm is always wonderful, and we had a few unfinished projects to take care of anyway – like the continuing deer season.

When we were here last Monday, we saw two hunters in our north field. They went the other way when they saw us. We thought the season had closed, so Mike called a neighbor who works at the sheriff's office, and he affirmed that the white tail season is open through Dec. 1. We were baffled because we both saw the Nov. 3 date, but we had been reading the hunting regulations online and I found it difficult to navigate that site. I wanted to know why we got it wrong, so while I was at Wal-Mart yesterday, I stopped at the sporting goods department and talked with Bill, who is both knowledgeable and helpful, an asset to Wal-Mart. He explained that if a hunter holds a general tag for mule deer and white tail, the season did indeed close Nov. 3. However, the season is open for white tail until Dec. 1. Since Mike holds a white tail tag, he now has two more weeks to hunt.

It's cold now -- the high about 42 today. It will likely freeze overnight. KW


After Grandma Ina's passing in 1957, my dad kept the farmhouse much as she had had it, although for the next few years, family members continued to take what they cherished of her possessions from the house. My dad let that happen – until it came to the old mantel clock. The clock came into the family in 1905, just a year after he was born. "That's for Kathy," he asserted. When I married Mike, Daddy reluctantly let me take the clock to my new home. He might not have except that my half-sister convinced him it was better off with me than left in the unoccupied farmhouse.

My dad explained to us that it's an 8-day clock and told us how to wind it. It chimes on the hour and also tells the day of the month. "And for some crazy reason," he added, "you have to keep a little piece of cotton drenched in kerosene under the works. Otherwise it won't run."

"That doesn't do anything," Mike said to me later. "How could it?" But when the cotton dried out and the clock stopped, we decided it was worth a try. We re-moistened the cotton and the clock ran again.

So the clock ran fine there on the mantel in the house on 12th Avenue – for a couple of years. Then came the day -- oh, let's say it was 1980 – when the clock stopped. We saw the advertisement of someone who claimed to repair old clocks. He lived in a house near the college and was married to the daughter of someone we knew. It seemed fine – and it was. He fixed the clock and also put a new face on it. The old dial was hard to read. Cost: $70.00.

"Oh, you ruined it!" exclaimed my visiting mother-in-law when she saw the new face. The next day she apologized. "You all want to use the clock," she said. And she was right, but the repairman had told me it would not damage the value of the clock to replace the face.

The clock went with us to the Broadview house. By now the children complained about the chiming in the family room while they watched tv. It can be hard to hear over it. But, I refused to silence the clock. When we moved to the farmhouse in 2004, we took the clock with us and put it back on the mantel in the living room. It was wonderful to do so. I might add, though, since this is a history of the clock, that during my lifetime it sat on a shelf in the kitchen approximately where the aprons hang now. Perhaps that's one reason I wanted a shelf there.

The clock ran merrily on under Mike's management until a couple of months ago. It just refused to keep good time. We knew the former repairman, a New Zealander, was not available – (I mean, we're talking 30 years since the last repair), so Mike called a local jewelry store for a recommendation. Archie W. was the name -- a fine clock mechanic. Arrangements were made to deliver the clock to Archie.

Funny thing – Archie, once an employee of the jewelry store, remembered Mike the minute he heard his name. "Did you work for First Security?" he asked. "I remember when you first came to Lewiston. I sold you that Seiko watch with the blue dial." Did Mike remember Archie? No.

Archie told Mike that the clock is actually rare. We know these old mantle clocks are out there. We see them in old movies. But Archie says the 31-day feature makes it rare. Could it be repaired? Absolutely. Archie cleaned it and put in a new bushing. Cost: $150.00.

Oh – and the kerosene thing? That's what you do – keep kerosene or lamp oil inside the clock to lubricate the working parts. He suggested a little container rather than a cotton ball.

We brought the clock to the farm today, set it on the mantel, and were immediately dismayed that it didn't want to run. But it was cold in here and as the house warmed, so did the clock. It's running now – and keeping time. KW

[The old picture is of Grandma Ina and my Aunt Pearl -- Ina's oldest child. I believe the picture was taken about 1918 when the farmhouse was new. When we remodeled the house, the fireplace was rebuilt.]

Monday, November 8, 2010


The change from daylight savings to standard time is always difficult. Seems like my inner clock is just out of whack and we do everything late. Mike had a nice solution for the first day (Sunday). We went to the second matinee of Secretariat, which started at 3:30 (4:30 by the inner clock). Evening movie times don't work well for us – usually something like 6:15 and 9:15. The dark and rainy afternoon was perfect for taking in a movie and then we picked up a Papa Murphy's calzone for supper.

Today we headed to the farm as soon as breakfast was over. We had an appointment to meet a workman there, and all of that was taken care of. Mike took advantage of the light-filled east dormer and sturdy table in order to do some leatherwork. I enjoyed some quiet hours of reading before the fire.

And I watched the weather. It was 39 when we got there and I never saw the temperature above 40. By 2:30, it had dropped to 37 with a wind chill of 25. I watched the storm roll in and took some pictures.

When I took the first pictures, photo ops seemed rather lackluster, but soon the sun began to cast an eerie light over the prairie, playing through the clouds. 
 Here's an example of eeriness. Everything has a shadow -- even me! Note that the maple tree is beginning to look bare. If you look closely, you can just make out the rainbow.

Here's a better picture of the rainbow. See how the sunlight shines on the field from the southwest while the northern sky is dark with a storm.

We left the farm about 3:15. None too soon. An icy rain commenced that was nearly snow as we turned off Curfman Road. That didn't last long. Intermittent showers were rain. No rain in Lewiston. That's the way elevation works.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


 I was making the bed at 7:45 this morning when I saw them – beyond our north field, beyond the draw, on the hillside now owned by the Millers. I hurried downstairs.

"Mike, there are deer in Miller's field," I called.

"ARE YOU SERIOUS!?" came the reply.

"I see two, three – even more." Mike joined me at the window. First we looked with binoculars, then our telescope. Mike counted eight – a small herd of mule deer.

The season closed with last night's hunt. How do they know?

[Unfortunately we left the camera in town. We always leave something. But here are photos of that hillside taken on another day. The field in the foreground of the first photo is our north field. ]

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


One thing about Halloween -- when it's over, it's over. We can fool around with witches and bats and ghosts for two months, but once the event is over, the ghoulish symbols quickly disappear, leaving us with comfortable harvest symbols -- pumpkins and leaves and such in oranges and browns and reds -- as we segue into Christmas.

I finally did it! I ordered the bottle brush wreaths I've wanted for years from the Vermont Country Store. The disappointment is that they aren't flocked but rather coated in glitter -- and you know what a nuisance that is! Glitter everywhere! However, I deemed them affordable and look forward to putting one in each "east dormer" window across the front of the house for a vintage look. I like to keep my holiday decorating understated in the tradition of bygone years. And that works for me because I have to be able to take it down and store it quickly.

The wreaths came Monday, and I have to admit they brought with them the holiday spirit. I didn't have time to sew but I had to shop, so I figured I could find encouragement for my holiday spirit at WalMart. However, I was dismayed to discover the front aisles still filled with Halloween costumes, decorations, candy, etc. -- in disarray but still there. I figured if I headed to the garden department -- that huge area on one side of the store -- I'd find Christmas waiting for me.

"Hello!" an associate called to me. "I'm settin' Christmas."

"And I know you're having a wonderful time," I replied. She agreed. Then she told me that she was shorthanded, apparently because employees had been assigned the night shift in order to clear Halloween out of the front aisles and put Christmas there as well as in the garden department. Still, she was cheerful about her work, though I wondered if perhaps she could have been working a little faster. "I'll bet they're set up in Denver," I thought to myself as I went about my business. KW

Monday, November 1, 2010


"Aunt" Chris over at Miller's Last Resort has posted an "info-mercial" on today's pressure cookers. She's having a wonderful time experimenting with recipes. It sounds like a case of "so many recipes -- so little time." Meanwhile, today I went to WalMart and bought myself a new Crock Pot. If you're interested in knowing more about today's pressure cooker, check out "Miller's Last Resort" through the link under "Other Interesting Sites" on the right side of this page.

Speaking of pots, I started married life with two Crock Pots in avocado green -- two- and three-quart models. Along the way I added two larger models but continued to use the old avocado green pots. Occasionally I would wonder why I put up with them -- so hard to clean since the crock and the outer shell are one. And there was no excuse for not replacing them because Crock Pots, especially the smaller models, are really inexpensive. But they still worked and worked well, so I just put up with them. Until a couple of weeks ago, that is.

I was cleaning the smaller of the pots when it overbalanced and fell into the sink, cracking the crock. "That's that," I said to myself. "WalMart, here I come."

So today at WalMart I replaced the old green model with a fresh-looking white model. Cost: $10.00. We'll try it out with a game bird dish tomorrow. KW