Harvest 2009 — finally done on Friday, day 32!!!!

My last harvest entry was Thursday, August 20th, day 17. In between then and Monday, August 31st, day 28, we did . . . well, we actually did a lot.

But we didn’t do any harvesting.

During that whole time, we were waiting for the springwheat to finish drying out. We got some intermittent showers in there and some cool days in the 70s. Heck, we even got some days where it got down to the mid-40s at night.

And I can already hear the shrieks of outrage from people reading this who don’t live in the Northern Great Plains region — “WHAT MONTH IS THIS???” Yes, yes, that’s unusually cold for August for most of the continental United States. For those of us living at high elevation, low humidity, a looonnnggg ways from the equator, no large bodies of water for hundreds of miles in any direction, on the eastern downwind downslope of the Rocky Mountains and with a straight shot over prairie to the Arctic Circle in the north . . . . it’s not usual, but it’s definitely not unheard of.

And in case you’re wondering — no, wheat does not dry out very fast when it’s only 45 degrees at night.

The weather finally got cooperative, gave us some hot sunny days, and the springwheat got ripe. This has been an unusual year weatherwise anyway, we had so many intermittent rain and snow showers in the spring that a lot of people (including us) were a month late getting the springwheat planted. Which means it will be later getting ripe.

While we weren’t harvesting, we were all still keeping busy. Dad, William and Jim were running double shifts working the fallow fields with the duckfoot and rod weeder and applying anhydrous ammonia at the same time. To explain why we use anhydrous ammonia and why we didn’t use it for years and why we’re using it again now is enough for a whole separate post that I will get to one day. For right now, I’ll just say that anhydrous ammonia is one way you can get nitrogen into the soil and wheat needs nitrogen in the soil to grow well. As usual, I was support staff at the house, fixing and taking out lunches, etc. During this whole harvest season William’s friend Jerry has also been helping out here at the farm. While he hasn’t been driving tractor, Jerry did help move vehicles, work on vehicles and machinery, and when he had some spare time he’s been working on carpentry and welding projects for some of our trucks. So most days it’s been four for lunch and lunch is usually sandwiches, a couple cans of Diet Squirt (the lunchtime drink of choice around here, although I don’t drink it personally), chips, and maybe some fruit or vegetables of some kind.

We were finally able to start harvesting again on Monday, August 31st. As usual when you start cutting after some time off, it takes most of the morning to get everything in place (augur(s), tractor(s), grain truck(s), combine(s), support vehicle(s), etc.) so we really didn’t get going until mid-day Monday.

And then it showered Monday night.

Fortunately it wasn’t much of a shower, just barely enough to make the ground wet for a few minutes, so everything was dry enough to cut again by Tuesday afternoon. We cut all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

On Wednesday there was a field that hadn’t been completely finished, about 50 acres of it was still too wet to cut. So we tried that last little bit Friday evening after everything else was done, expecting that it would still be too wet to cut and we still wouldn’t be done. But — hallelujah!!! — that last spot had dried out by Friday. And we finished that up late Friday night.

Meals were usually only 5-7 people.

Menus were:

Monday –

  • Iced Tea & Lemonade
  • Bread&Butter sandwiches
  • Pork Roast
  • Italian Zucchini Pie
  • Dirty Red Mashed Potatoes
  • Broth Gravy
  • Oatmeal Cake

Tuesday –

  • Iced Tea & Lemonade
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Taco Meat (seasoned ground beef)
  • Chopped Lettuce
  • Grated Cheese
  • Sliced Black Olives
  • Chopped Green Pepper
  • Chopped Onion
  • Chopped Tomato
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Blueberry Pie

Wednesday –

  • Iced Tea & Lemonade
  • Bread&Butter Sandwiches
  • Green Salad with dressing on the side
  • Pork Steak
  • Dirty Red Mashed Potatoes
  • White Gravy
  • Choice of dessert — Blueberry Pie or Butter  & Beer cake (recipe follows) — which is a nice way of saying I tried a new cake recipe and brought along the extra uneaten pie in case anyone didn’t like the cake

Thursday —

  • Iced Tea & Lemonade
  • Green Salad with dressing on the side
  • Fried Chicken (from Albertson’s, which has really good fried chicken)
  • Lightly cooked Sweet Corn we just got from a neighbor
  • Pickled Onions
  • Italian Zucchini Pie (yes, this was a leftover, but still well-received)
  • Jumbleberry Pie

Friday –

  • Sandwiches

Yes, I know that sounds like an awful way to end harvest. And I felt pretty bad, honestly. I had planned to make spaghetti sauce and noodles. But Jim and the others were insistent — only sandwiches and drinks and chips for dinner Friday. Because if they stopped to eat, they wouldn’t get done Friday night and everyone wanted to be done. So I acquiesced and made sandwiches.

So, now it’s Saturday and we’re done with harvest for the year!!! Yay!!!!

Butter & Beer cake

This is a modified version of the Butter – n – Beer cake that appears on page 235 of Great American Beer Cookbook by Candy Schermerhorn. Which by the way is an AWESOME cook book!!! I highly recommend it!

  • 1-1/3 cup unbleached flour
  • 2/3 cup 1-minute quick oatmeal
  • 1 cup raw / turbinado / demerara sugar
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 butter, room temperature or softer
  • 1 cup weissbier (I used Widmer’s Hefeweizen)
  • 1/2 cup canned condensed milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix in butter until mixture in crumbly.

Whisk wet ingredients together. Pour 1/3 of wet mixture into dry ingredients, mix very thoroughly. Pour in the rest of the wet ingredients, mix thoroughly again.

Pour into a greased 8″x12″ or 9″x13″ pan. (Mixture will be very thin at this point, like very weak soup.) Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or more. When done, the top should be a slightly golden-brown color, cake should be firm and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Makes a not-very-sweet but very tasty cake with a firm crumb, similar to a sponge cake but firmer.

Pickled Onions

One of my mom’s recipes, she said she took an old cucumber salad recipe and substituted onions instead. I don’t eat the stuff personally, but all the guys here absolutely love it.

  • 3/4 c white vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp salt
  • 2 Tblsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper, preferably white

Peel and slice 1-2 medium-sized yellow onions. Place into a container, mix all ingredients above and pour over onions. Make sure onions or covered by the liquid. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Typically we used an old JIF peanut butter jar as it is about the right size to hold disks of sliced onion. We loosely pack the jar with sliced onion and pour in a double batch of the vinegar mixture afterwards.

Pie Crust

I don’t think I’ve posted this yet. This is my mom’s recipe which we’ve used for as long as I can remember. Turns out it’s quite different from most pie crust recipes, it has a lot more liquid and makes a dough that’s easier to roll out.

I don’t know if this makes a difference or not, but we pre-cook the fillings for all of our fruit and berry pies. One-quarter of the pie dough is rolled out on a floured work surface until large enough and placed in the bottom of a 10″ pie pan, the filling is poured in, another quarter of the pie dough is rolled out on a floured surface, the top and bottom crusts are trimmed and crimped together, some steam vents are cut in the top of the pie, and then it’s baked at 375 F or 400 F until the crust is light brown and firm and the filling is bubbling.

For cream pies, 1/4 of the pie dough is rolled out on a floured work surface until large enough and placed in the bottom of a 10″ pie pan. The dough is trimmed, the top crimped, and a fork is used to prick holes all over the sides and bottom of the crust. It’s baked at 400 F until golden brown and firm, then taken out and filled with whatever cream filling has been pre-cooked for the pie.

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable shortening (the 1-cup Crisco sticks are perfect for this)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • enough cold water to make 5/8 cup of liquid when combined with the egg and vinegar

Mix flour, salt and sugar. Mix in solid vegetable shortening until mixture is crumbly. Mix together all wet ingredients in a separate bowl, adding enough cold water to have 5/8 cup of liquid. Mix wet ingredients into dry until dough forms. Can be rolled out right away or refrigerated for use later.

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