Kalona Cooks: Putting names to the faces and stabilizing a waterway – it was a busy weekend

Posted 9/2/99

First of all, I want to thank Vyrle Grout, Perry Miller and Oren Dale Miller for putting names to …

By Mary Marek

First of all, I want to thank Vyrle Grout, Perry Miller and Oren Dale Miller …

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Kalona Cooks: Putting names to the faces and stabilizing a waterway – it was a busy weekend


First of all, I want to thank Vyrle Grout, Perry Miller and Oren Dale Miller for putting names to …

By Mary Marek

First of all, I want to thank Vyrle Grout, Perry Miller and Oren Dale Miller for putting names to the faces in a couple of the pictures I ran last week.

Vyrle must get her paper earlier than a lot of people ‘cause she called me last Wednesday afternoon to tell me who the people were in the picture taken at Dad’s class reunion in Iowa City. If I’d looked a little closer, I would have recognized a couple of them myself, namely Vyrle, Norma June (TeBockhorst) Allen and Robert Chapek.

The same goes for the picture of the men on the Kent Feeds trip. I should have recognized Elwin Brenneman, John Spenner, Bob Moore and Johnny Berkley. Perry Miller was the first to call about that picture. He told me he has one just like it hanging on the wall in his study. His father, Reuben Miller, was along on the trip. Oren Dale Miller called me later and gave me a few details. It seems Ben L. Yoder, Sr. also took the tour. When the group picture was taken, the photographer joked that each man would get a copy of the picture to prove to his wife that he was where he said he’d be. Ben, who happens to be Amish, told the photographer he didn’t need a picture; his wife trusted him.

Oren Dale also remembered the actual date of the trip: August 31, 1959. He remembers that it was the day before the wedding of Harvey and Ruby Ann Yoder. Happy belated 40th wedding anniversary, Harvey and Ruby.

In addition to touring the Kent Feeds facility, the group also toured a brewery and ate lunch on the Kent Feeds boat on the Mississippi River. Sounds like they had a good time.

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I received the nicest letter last week. Roger G. Feldman from College Station, Texas, wrote in regards to my column about the Middleburg Reunion. I’d like to share part of his letter with you.

“Thank you for the article on the Middleburg reunion. It brought back many fond memories. The picture with the story was taken the year that I was in Primary class. Also in that class was Betty Jean (Miller) Thomas and Chrissie Swartzentruber. Your Aunt Helen [Zahs-Harden] was in the first grade and I believe your dad [George Zahs] was in 3rd and your uncle Dean [Zahs] in 4th.

“The teacher that year was a young woman, Miss Bigeley. She lived with the Yeggy family that year. At the end of the school year, Yeggys moved and Betty Jean’s dad, Thomas Miller became our teacher for 2 years. Two weeks after school began, he moved Chrissie and I into 2nd grade with Helen, Margaret Small and Harold and Virginia Burkholder. We remained together as a class of 6 until we concluded 8th grade.”

Mr. Feldman also mentioned that during his early years on the Middleburg threshing circuit, my grandpa, Bill Zahs, was also on the circuit and “I hauled many loads of oat bundles to the threshing machine on the Zahs farm.”

Thank you for the letter, Mr. Feldman. I truly love hearing from people and especially enjoy hearing about the early years in Middleburg and on our family farm. I’ll make sure your name is on the list for the next reunion.

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I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t spent much time down on the farm. Well, I couldn’t avoid it any longer and joined Jim down there last Saturday to do a little waterway work. Grandpa Bob has been meticulous over the years in keeping his waterways in good shape, but Mother Nature can throw a wrench, or drench, into even the best-laid plans, or waterways, as the case may be.

Anyway, since water insisted on running down this waterway every time it rained (which is pretty much what a waterway is for), a light indentation was appearing down its middle. A little reseeding seemed to be in order and, to avoid (or at least postpone) the reappearance of the indentation, it was decided we’d lay some erosion-deterrent material (I haven’t the faintest idea what it’s called, so I’m making this up as I go along) right down the middle.

This stuff, which looks like stringy sawdust flattened between two sheets of very fine green vinyl mesh, comes in really big rolls, eight feet wide. It was too big for me to handle, but Jim’s cousin John Marek volunteered to help, so between him and Jim, getting it from the back of the pickup to the ground wasn’t too big a job (at least, not for me). My job was helping to staple it down.

After reading the instructions that were printed on the plastic cover on each roll, it was decided that the staples needed to be about every three feet apart. Since we didn’t have a tape measure (or at least, no one wanted to dig through the tool-box on the pickup to find one), John started out pacing off three-feet increments. John’s feet must each be a foot long, ‘cause he said every three foot-lengths was three feet.

Anyway, once I’d figured out what was going on, I took over stapling the edges. I’d pace off three feet and stick a staple through the stuff. Another three feet, another staple. John wanted to know if I was taking “John-size” steps or “Mary-size” steps to determine where to put a staple. Since my feet aren’t quite a foot long, I could understand his concern. The entire operation did, after all, require a certain level of precision to succeed.

I explained I was using a “cross-over step” method to measure. This is a complicated maneuver that involves crossing my right leg across in front of my left leg and then bringing my left leg across in front of my right leg, thus moving myself approximately three feet to my left (I think). Assuming I didn’t lose my balance and fall down while performing the maneuver, this resulted in approximately three feet between each staple. Or close enough.

It only took us a couple of hours to unroll and staple four rolls of the stuff. It probably wouldn’t have taken that long if we (meaning ‘me’) hadn’t taken so many water breaks. (Hey – it was hot out there and the older I get, the hotter I get.)

You may have noticed Cody wasn’t out there helping us in the waterway. To tell the truth, I never even asked him to. I knew that, while he would have helped, he’d have complained the whole time (“My back hurts.” “My feet hurt.” “My head hurts.” “I’m hot.”), so I left him at home. When I got home, I found out he spent the afternoon with his Uncle Bob. Making fence. And I’ll bet he never complained once. Why is it always more fun to work away from home?

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This week’s recipes

This week’s recipes come from a cookbook I stumbled across at the State Fair. Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets by Esther H. Shank should be in every cook’s kitchen. Whether you’re an experienced cook or just learning how to boil water, there’s something for everyone in this 679-page cookbook. Mrs. Shank explains everything you need to know, and a few things most of us will never need to know, about cooking, including step-by-step instructions on how to butcher a chicken.

Since canning season is in full swing, I thought I’d share a couple of Mrs. Shank’s recipes from that chapter of her book.

Spiced Apple Rings

12 Delicious apples

8 c. water

1 c. sugar

3 tsp. red food coloring

1 tsp. whole allspice

1 tsp. mace

1 tsp. whole cloves

Wash apples, remove cores and peel. Cut at least /-inch thick into rings, half rings or slices.

Heat water, sugar and food coloring to boiling. Tie spices in gauze bag and place in water. Add apple slices and boil until tender but still firm. Remove pan from heat.

Weight apples down (may use a heavy plate) so they are covered with liquid, and let stand overnight. The next morning, pack into jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Tighten lids and process in boiling water for 25 minutes.

Yield: 5 pints

Pizza or Spaghetti Sauce

3 gal. tomato chunks

3 med. onions, chopped

1 bay leaf

Cook together until tender, about 15 minutes, then sieve.

3/4 c. sugar

1/3 c. salt

1 tbsp. paprika

5 tsp. ground oregano

1 tbs. chili powder

2 tbsp. garlic salt

Mix in thoroughly, and heat to boiling.

3 Þ - 4 c. Clearjel or cornstarch

2 c. water or more

Stir until dissolved and add to mixture, stirring constantly until thickened.

Fill jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Tighten lids and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: approximately 25 pints.