Cucumber

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My neighbor and friend, Freeda, working in her kitchen.

Monday through Friday, while their mother works, 89 year old Freeda babysits for her two year old, 4 year old and 6 year old great-grandchildren. She also gardens, keeps house and quilts. When I talked to her today she had made grape jelly and grape juice from her homegrown grapes.  She also told me about freezing her special cucumber and onion mix. 

When she is not busy with chores, Freeda says she loves to read.

Today, I got one of Freeda’s almost impossibe to get quilts. Freeda only accepts a few orders per year so her waiting list is years long. But, this was my lucky day. One of Freeda’s customers failed to pick up an order and Freeda thought I might be interested.

I was not a hard sell.


My new quilt is cream with a wedding ring pattern in shades of lavender with green accents.

While DH and I were admiring some of Freeda’s other quilts, she talked about growing up and living Amish. I was spellbound. I was also hoping Freeda would reveal her secret to being such a youthful almost 90 (in December) year old.

Freeda grew up in North Dakota during a time of dust storms and the depression. She was the fifth child from a family of eleven. Her nearest neighbors were a mile away.

“We raised most of our food,” says Freeda, “mother always had a big garden. We had small fruits like strawberries, currants, red and black raspberries, gooseberries and Juneberries. We had our chores to do.  We carried wood, coal and water.

“We had chickens to feed, eggs to gather and cows to milk. I started milking when I was ten.

“Mother set her own hens — sometimes 24 hens at one time. She also had turkeys, ducks and geese. The little peeps were my job when I was old enough to do it. I would feed them clabbered milk and hard boiled eggs with chick powder mixed in. In the winter, chickens, calves, cows, sheep, pigs, sheep, cats, dogs and horses were all in the same barn. When the doors were opened, the steam rolled out. Frost gathered on the inside of the walls so thick that we would write our names there while doing chores and it would stay there until spring.”


The barn was 100 feet long. In the summer cooking was done in the summer kitchen in front of the barn.

In 1936 Freeda married Eli and by 1959, they had eight children. Then they further expanded their family by taking in foster children needing a home. Over the next 25 years Freeda and Eli took in 46 children including those with handicaps and serious illnesses.

 “Several children came that were so undernourished,” says Freeda, ” one girl was hit on the head by her daddy and was blind and paralyzed because of it. She had surgery on her head and was able to see and walk again. She was soon adopted after that.

“It’s hard to give up children in foster care. They never left without tears and a prayer, knowing that God would take care of them wherever they are.

“After 25 years we quit foster care. Five years later they wanted us to start up again, but in the meantime, friends and neighbors had started bringing in their babies and I started daycare. I did not realize it would last until now, over 20 years later. I just thank God for my health so I can continue to have the children since it helps pass the time and the days are not so long.”


Eli’s first horse and buggy.

 In 1981, Freeda and Eli traveled to Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and Denmark. In 1987 they took a 6 week trip to Alaska. They went up to see the pipeline. While in Fairbanks, they saw an eskimo lady sweeping the sidewalks.

She said, “Are you what we call Amish?” She told Freeda and Eli that she had read about the Amish and that there were just a few left. Freeda told her there were Amish in almost every state in the United States.

Says Freeda, “She had the Shaker people in mind. There are just a few of them left.”

In 1990, when Eli was 80 years old, he and Freeda went to Paraguay, South America for two weeks for a wedding. In 1993, Eli had flu symptoms and a pain in his side.

Only it wasn’t the flu. Eli had had an abdominal aneurysm. Freeda and Eli had been married 57 years when he died. Together they had bought and paid for their farm. They had traveled around the world. They had raised 8 children and fostered 46. In addition, Freeda has 20 grandchildren and 24 greatgrandchildren.

“We had a good life,” says Freeda, “It was a busy one, I’m still busy and I have no regrets. The Lord has been good to me and for that I am grateful and truly at peace.”

Freeda’s Frozen Cucumber and Onion Mix

Slice your cucumbers and onions

Cover cucumbers and onions with 2 tablespoons of salt.

Let sit 2 hours.

Then drain the salt off.

Boil sugar and water to taste.

Put cucumbers and onions into freezer container and cover them with boiled sugar water.

Freeze.

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hottie_33.jpg My “look” was a combination of Cher, Cleopatra and Morticia from the Adam’s Family. It took hours to get it right.

I was fifteen. It was my birthday and I was going on a “real” dinner date. 

It was also the first time I ate at a restaurant where  the person behind the counter didn’t ask if I wanted fries along with with the main course.

I’d spent hours getting ready.

My eyes were sexily ringed like Cleopatra’s. My lips were heavily coated in peppermint pink for maximum kissability. My dress was maroon with an empire waist and mini skirt. My shoes were clogs with big silver buckles. I’d poured “My Sin” by Lanvin over my pulse points every time I couldn’t smell myself.  And my long ironed hair hung down past my shoulders, like Morticia’s from the Adam’s family. Except, in my mind,  it was swinging from side to side like Cher’s did when she strutted onstage.

hottie1.jpg My, fried from being ironed, dark hair was my pride and joy. In humid weather curls still managed to sneak out.

Only “he” was 15 minutes late. Which cause me to overcomb and  flatten the top part of the hair I’d teased to perfection. My stomach was in knots.

But, I had only to smell his English Leather cologne that filled my parents front room and see his sporty, Madras plaid jacket to forget his breach. It was a wonderful start to an evening I expected to get better.

I wasn’t disappointed.

“He” took me to the M&M, a restaurant with early American maple tables, waitresses with red checked aprons and paper napkins. I’d never before had shrimp and saw the listing of breaded popcorn shrimp on the menu as proof I was in a top-rated place. Molded jello desserts on the buffet table were further evidence of sophistication.

“He” gave me a necklace with a single pearl for my birthday and his class ring. 

me_young21.jpg The pearl necklace is featured prominantly in this picture.

I had a boyfriend. 

With a ring to wear on a chain conspiciously around my neck or to cover with mohair and brush with a toothbrush in study hall, I was no longer an “unwanted”. I had a name to write over and over across my notebooks. And a “him” with wonderfully cute bad habits to complain about to those nearest and dearest.

 I will never forget that birthday. The M&M has been long gone. But, I do have a recipe that accurately replicates the cucumber mousse served on The M&M’s buffet.

It was and is still a favorite side dish.

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We have cucumbers and tomatoes in abundance. Using them up in different ways is a challenge.

CUCUMBER MOUSSE

  • 1 package lime-flavored gelatin
  • 3/4 c hot water
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 1 T grated onion
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1 cup cucumber, pared, seeded, lightly salted and chopped
  • Dissolve gelatin in water. Add lemon juice and onion. Chill until almost set. Stir in sour cream and cucumbers. Fill a wet mold with mixture and chill thoroughly. When set, invert onto a platter and garnish.

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    Cucumber mousse topped with a little mayonaise and served over lettuce makes a refreshing and different side salad.

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    Skipper being led to the riding enclosure by DH’s nephew.

    Skipper reared today.

    I’ve had him for almost 3 years and he’s been a dream. He is 15 years old. A former child’s 4-H pleasure champion with perfect gaits, he’s child safe and has good sense. Or at least that’s what I thought. 

    My other horse, Summer, is six. She’s flighty and nervous. She loves DH, tolerates me and is wary of everyone else. I also saw her buck like a bronc soon after I got her. 

    A birthday present from DH the first year we were married, she was by far, my best birthday present ever. Perfectly proportioned, with a tiny head and ears, intelligent alert eyes and a typical quarter horse rump, Summer is a gorgeous bay. Her red coat gleams, her muzzle sock, mane and tail are coaly black. Her eyes are are exotically rimmed in black. I fell in love immediately. However, it was soon apparent that she needed work. She didn’t neck rein. She was nervous and spooked easily.  She stomped her feet, turned her rear toward me in the stall, crowded people, used them for scratching posts and worse sometimes flattened her ears and threatened if approached. 

    blog-pictures-5-020.jpg  Summer & I.

    I hired a horsetrainer who said she had an attitude problem and took her off to his farm for two months of schooling. That’s where I saw her buck. DH and I were at the trainers  watching her being schooled. The trainer was showing us what they’d been working on. Summer saw us by the fence and decided she’d had enough training. She bucked. She bucked as viciously and hard as any rodeo horse being spurred and abused. The trainer, whose hobby is rodeo contesting, stayed on. He got her calmed down, rode her until she was tired and then I forced myself to get on her back and rode her around the ring as instructed. I pretended to be calm because I didn’t want to show misgivings and hurt the trainer’s feelings. Or appear anything but thrilled with my birthday present. But, I was afraid.

    Summer graduated from Training School and returned home. But our relationship was changed. Because I knew if she ever bucked that hard with me, I’d be a goner.

    Today DH’s family joined us on the farm for a barbeque and DH’s nephews wanted to ride the horses. Marc, is an experienced rider and he rides Summer on every visit. I think he likes knowing of her wicked past and knowing he is skilled enough to deal with it.

    Steven rode Skipper, formerly known as the “one anybody can ride”.

    Steven was holding Skipper to a walk and Summer got ahead. Which wouldn’t have been a huge problem except Marc wanted to go faster and Steven still wanted to walk. That’s when disaster struck. Skipper wanted to run too. He reared and did some wimpy bucks. There was no danger of Steven being thrown. But, he was nervous and done riding.

    Steven got off. Now Skipper was proud as punch. Nostrils flaring, he pranced when I lugged myself up into the saddle cursing (in my head) that I was wearing my too tight skinny jeans.  But, no way was I going to reward him for his antics. Skinny jeans and hot sun notwithstanding, we were going to walk, trot and canter around the enclosure until Skipper didn’t care which horse was first.

    And we did.

    Summer, I am proud to say, was a perfect lady the whole time.

    blog-pictures-5-021.jpg Summer talks & gives kisses.

    For dinner we had grilled pork chops, pasta salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with sour cream, green beens from the garden, sweet corn from Mrs. Weaver’s vegetable stand, coleslaw (from the grocery deli) and cherry pie (from our farmer’s market).

    dsc00320.jpg Getting the cucumbers and onions ready.

    SOUR CREAM CUCUMBERS

    Sour cream cucumbers are a popular dish at midwest family gatherings. They always make me think of summer and my mother’s garden.

    2 large cucumbers peeled and sliced

    1 onion sliced into rings

    3/4 cup sour cream

    3 tablespoons cider vinegar

    2 tablespoons sugar

    salt and pepper to taste

    In a bowl combine the cucumber and onion. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers. Mix well. Chill.

     UPDATE: Rockyroadoflove has suggested an old southern method to make these cucumbers more crisp and flavorful. She uses salted ice water and says it works wonders for cucumbers. My cucumbers were good as they were, but I think Rockyroadoflove’s technique will make them even better.

    Rockyroadoflove’s cucumber article is here:
    http://rockyroadoflove.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/marinated-cucumbers-in-sour-cream/

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    Sour cream cucumbers with mixed herbs sprinkled over them.

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    Pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and creamy parmesan dressing.

    I cheated with my pasta and used a box of Betty Crocker’s Suddenly Pasta mix. I followed the directions on the box and then added fresh, lightly salted cut up tomatoes. I sprinkled herbs over them also, hoping they would look more homemade.

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    The green beans are snapped and ready and the corn is being shucked.