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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

Wash...

Hi Folks!

Some years ago a rumor was circulating that God may not actually live in Marinette County, but He does spend His vacations here. Weather during the entire Independence Day week this year seems like pretty good proof that is true. Or at least He took special care to help us enjoy our favorite summer holiday.

Perfect, perfect weather, if maybe a bit too hot and humid. But that’s good in a northwoods county blessed with sandy beaches and just about any inland water sport you want to enjoy, whether it be sailing on Green Bay, tubing on the Peshtigo, canoeing and fishing just about anywhere, white water rafting and kayaking on the Peshtigo and Menominee, or water skiing on the lakes and flowages.

Was cool enough on the Fourth to enjoy the parade in Crivitz. By Saturday when Wausaukee had its big event with parade and fireworks everyone was pretty much acclimated. Ditto for the water ski shows on Lake Noquebay and at High Falls.

Stayed nice all through Sunday of that holiday week, even through the evening hours. Back yard barbecues were not interrupted, except by invading mosquitoes. But by then fields, lawns and gardens were crying for water. So late at night, after most everyone had either gone home or was tucked safely in bed, the rains came. Torrential rains with high winds. Lots of lightning to release nitrogen from the air and put it into our gardens. Some of the most impressive thunder boomers I’ve ever heard echoed from horizon to horizon. Then, soils drenched, the rain stopped.

How’s that for planning?

EVENTS TO COME

Hopefully, things will work out just as well for the communities and families with events planned for the coming weekend, such as Marinette’s Big Logging Heritage Days celebration from Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14.

Athelstane has their annual picnic and parade Saturday. There are concerts in the park in Peshtigo, Wausaukee and Marinette, golf outings, farm and flea markets, and water ski shows by the Ski Cats on lake Noquebay and the Twin Bridge Ski Team on the flowage.

WASH DAY

The rain started and ended on Sunday night. By morning on Monday, July 8th, the sun again began to shine, probably for the sake of old fashioned homemakers who believe Monday is laundry day, and who remain convinced that line dried fabrics have a perfume no commercial fabric softener can match. They also believe sunshine is better than bleach for taking out many stains. And they’re right on both counts.

Remember the old days, before electricity came to the “farm” our family still lives on. Wash day wasn’t always on Monday, it wasn’t even always every week. But the day before it was to happen, Grandma - we called her simply “Ma,” - would have “Pa” haul out the old rectangular wooden paddle washing machine and set it up under the big old pine tree in the back yard. It then had to be filled with cold water to sit overnight to swell the boards so there’d be no leaks.

In the morning, boilers of water would be heated on the little wood stove in the wash house, one at a time, and then hauled to the washer, a bucket at a time. We kids weren’t allowed to help with the hot water, but we did help with the cold water.

Sorted by color, whites first, clothes, towels, and bed clothes (those were sheets and pillow cases) were put in to wash. Usually anything that was badly stained was put to soak in the cold water overnight, then wrung out and put into the fresh hot, sudsy wash water with which the washer was filled after the soaking water was drained. That water, by the way, went onto the garden, flower beds or orchard. Water is precious when you need to haul it by hand.

We kids sometimes got to turn the crank that operated the hand-turned wringer, and often were drafted to work the gear-driven wooden lever that operated a paddle inside the machine to slosh the clothes over the curved washboard like wooden surface. Clean laundry was wrung out into a rinse tub where it was sloshed up and down with hands or a clean well worn laundry stick, and then went into a second rinse. Both wash and rinse water were saved from load to load, but sometimes the second rinse water was changed if it got too bad. Hauling water from the pump by hand is hard work.

Do believe there was an electric generator for the pump, so at least there was no hand pumping. But there was no plumbing except the outdoor variety and for a long time that electric pump was Ma and Pa’s one modern convenience.

Didn’t really think about it at the time, but Pa had to fill milk cans with cold water and haul them to the barnyard for his small herd of cows and his two Indian ponies and fill the cooling tanks where the milk cans were stored until the milk train came along. Pa had to load up the heavy milk cans onto the wagon and haul them to the railroad tracks for pickup.

Back to the laundry. Once a load was properly rinsed and wrung, laundry was hung on clothes lines to dry. Out in the country there was no soot to worry about. Greatest hazard was an unexpected rain or a passing bird. Once dry, good clothes needed to be dampened again and set aside for ironing the next day. In summer especially, most things were worn just as they came from the line, because ironing was a chore that involved heating cast iron “irons” on the wood stove. And there were no wrinkle free synthetic fabrics used in those days.

Making butter was another regular household chore. As a reward for this, there also was sometimes “clabbered milk,” which is similar to sour cream but much better. Can’t be made with cream from milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized. Ma gave it to us spread on slices of her home made bread and sprinkled with sugar. Haven’t tasted that since childhood days.

Making ice cream was a summertime treat that started with picking the berries, either from the garden or from nearby wild berry patches. Usually the family made strawberry ice cream once a year and blueberry once a year, and the Fourth of July was one of the times we usually did it.

We enjoy ice cream often, because the making could occupy several people for an entire afternoon, taking turns on the hand crank that whipped the ice cream mixture and kept it turning until it froze. It froze because an ice, salt and water mixture was placed in the wooden container that surrounded the metal ice cream bucket inside. Even the ice had to be hauled from town.

Does it sound like these memories came from the 1800s or earlier? Not so. The grandparents were living this pioneer life style just outside Crivitz into the late 1940s. Then they got electricity, but nothing else changed much. They never did have indoor plumbing, but they did get indoor lights and a small electric refrigerator instead of the old fashioned ice box. They still often used the old hand-cranked Victrola to play their one-sided records, even after the household boasted a real electric radio.

Life was hard, but they lived on their little farm by the fruits of their own labor, needing no help from Uncle Sam, the county, the town, or anyone else. Now that’s Independence!

By the way, the tax bill for their farm in 1912 was $12, and they raised most of their own food. When winter came each year they had a cellar filled with canned goods and bins of potatoes, pumpkins, onions and winter squash.

SHARPEN THOSE SHEARS

If you have dulled your kitchen scissors by using them too many times to cut tough flower stems, you may be able to save them. Sounds crazy, but scissors can be sharpened by cutting several times through a doubled sheet of sandpaper. If you’ve bent the blades, though, there’s probably nothing that will help.

ON THE SOAP BOX

MADE IN AMERICA


With the economic downturn of the past decade or so, we’ve heard much about the need to buy American made products. We’ve also learned that’s getting harder and harder to do. Recently noticed it’s getting harder and harder to buy foods grown or prepared in the good old USA. Check the labels in the supermarket. More and more of the products they sell were made or raised in China. Don’t know where our good American products go!

The concern here is that with manufactured goods, foreign producers are not held to the same standards as those based in America.

In the case of the foods we eat, that poses two problems. One is loss of more American jobs. The other is loss of some of the protections we enjoy because of government regulations.

Do believe those regulations often go too far, but that’s another subject. Certain standards of sanitation and cleanliness need to be enforced where our food supply is concerned. With foods from foreign lands, particularly “Third World” countries, we have no guarantee their producers follow the same standards ours must.

For example, here, to avoid spreading disease, pork raised for public sale cannot be fed waste from human tables. Not sure, but believe that rule applies to chickens and fish as well.

Here, untreated human waste cannot be used as fertilizer. In some other nations it can.

Recently read about the danger of eating tillapia raised in China. Checked the label on a package in the freezer, and sure enough, on the top it said “farm raised,” and on the bottom, in small print, it said “China.”

Check the labels. Canned and frozen goods now frequently come from China, and we’ve heard some horror stories about conditions in factories there. Repeat: Check the labels. Some name brands are guilty, and others are not.

Producers also say to never buy grocery store garlic unless it is clearly marked from USA or Canada. The other stuff is grown in people poop, and China is the largest producer of garlic in the world. The US is next.

If the country of origin is not clearly marked, beware. In the produce department, ask an employee or the store owner where it was grown. They may know the answer.

Watch out for packages which state “prepared for,” “packed by” or “imported by.” That means it probably was produced elsewhere.

It’s not fair to the American public to have our farmers and food producers strictly regulated and then allow unregulated products come into this country, possibly bringing with them mysterious new ailments and certainly adding to our nation’s economic woes.

There are many places where government interference and regulation is not warranted. In this case, it is needed, but apparently is not happening.

Wonder how long before the milk on Wisconsin tables comes from China? No law against it. Yet we are not allowed to go to a local farmer, where we can see the conditions and cows for ourselves, and buy a gallon of fresh, wholesome milk. State says unpasteurized milk is unsafe. They have laws to protect us from ourselves, but no laws to protect us from foreign producers.

We all should talk to our supermarket managers, and buy locally grown produce in season at local farmers markets, or directly from the farmer whenever possible, or raise our own.

COOKIN’ TIME

Regardless of what comes in from other nations, good things abound in Wisconsin during this season of bounty. Here are recipes that put some of them to good use.

NO BAKE SUMMER LASAGNA

New twist on an old favorite. Actually, this is sort of a warm pasta fresca casserole salad. No meat here, but this would go well with anything grilled.

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

8 lasagna noodles, broken in half crosswise

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved

2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved if large and thinly

sliced

1 tablespoon torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions; drain and keep warm. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add garlic and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and zucchini to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and stir in basil. Place some tomatoes on four plates; top with a noodle and small spoonfuls ricotta, zucchini, and more tomatoes. Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes. Garnish with basil.

RHUBARB CUSTARD CRUNCH PIE

It’s always good to find a new rhubarb recipe. Haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds delicious.

9-inch deep dish pie shell, unbaked

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons flour

2 eggs, beaten

4 cups rhubarb, chopped into small pieces

Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the dry ingredients for the filling. Stir in the beaten eggs, then add the chopped rhubarb and mix all together. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Make topping by mixing together the sugar and flour in a small bowl and then cutting in the butter until the mixture becomes “crumbly.” Sprinkle topping mixture over the rhubarb filling and bake for an hour.

UPSIDE DOWN BLUEBERRY COBBLER

Make this when it isn’t too hot to turn the oven on. Best served with vanilla or French vanilla ice cream. If using frozen blueberries, be sure to thaw them first. The recipe sounds long, but it’s very easy and you can get everything ready for the oven in 10 minutes or so, provided you have already cleaned the berries and grated the lemon rind.

Into a 9x13” glass baking dish put 1/4 cup butter, cut into four pieces. Put this into the oven, which should be set for 350 degrees.

For the topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 pound blueberries (about 3 cups)

For the batter:

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit

1 teaspoon vanilla

First, clean the berries and get them ready to go. Make lemon sugar for the topping by whirring 1/4 cup of sugar with the lemon zest in the blender for about half a dozen spins. Add a tablespoon of this mixture to the blueberries and save the rest to sprinkle on at the end. Smash the sugared berries with a potato masher, fork or other blunt implement. Not all the berries need to be broken, you just need to bruise and squash them a bit to get some juices flowing. Heat oven to 350 degrees, with the baking dish and the quarter cup of butter inside. Do watch so it doesn’t burn. During the eight to 10 minutes it takes for the butter to melt and the oven and baking dish heat up, mix up the batter. Stir the dry ingredients together, then add milk, vanilla and melted butter, in that order, and stir until mixed. When the butter in the oven is sizzling but not browned take the baking dish out of the oven and pour in the batter. This starts the cobbler out with nice crispy edges. Spread the blueberry topping by dollops on top of the batter, sprinkle on the reserved lemon sugar and pop back into the oven for about 45 minutes. The batter will rise up and around the berry mixture. Remove to a rack to cool a bit. Serve warm, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

Thought for the Week: “We cannot abandon our Constitutional liberties in the pursuit of physical safety, for if we do that we will have already lost the war and will inflict far more harm on this nation than any terrorist ever could.” This quote has been attributed to Wisconsin Congressman Reid J. Ribble. If indeed it originated with him, we should all say “Thank You!”

COUNTRY COUSIN


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