Thursday, September 29, 2011

More farm treasures

While in South Dakota recently to attend my Uncle Marvin's funeral, my Aunt Lois, Aunt Norma and I spent a day cleaning the old farmhouse.

We barely scratched the surface, but it gave us a chance to look through some old farm treasures in the house. Reminiscing as we went from room to room, we uncovered one object after another, each with wonderful memories attached.

I remember Grandma having a crocheted and starched teacup and saucer on her coffee table. I assumed she made it, since she did crocheting.

As a farm wife, Grandma awoke when the rooster crowed to announce a new day, and I am certain she didn't sit down until dinner was served, dishes were done, cows were milked, cream was separated, chickens were all in their coop, children were tended to, and the house was in order.

Then I can imagine her relishing a few moments of contentment to sit in her rocker, crocheting on her lap.

My aunts and I discovered the teacup and saucer I remembered, along with a delightful pair of crocheted high-heel shoes, upstairs, put away with other trinkets. A bit dusty, but oh, so charming.

But, said my aunts, Grandma did not crochet them.  Aunt Johanna, Grandma's sister, did.  Grandma crocheted more practical things like towels, pillowcases, and some decorative throw pillows.

They must have seen the look of longing on my face, and said I could have them.  I was thrilled!

When I returned home, I gave the high-heeled shoes to my sister, Joan, and decided to keep the cup and saucer, which were slightly out of shape from years of being put away or just being handled. I wondered if I could gently wash them and re-starch them.

I remembered Grandma telling me they were starched using sugar water. So I Googled.

Voile! I found a recipe:
Old-fashioned starch used for crocheted pieces
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Mix water and sugar in a small pan. Stir the mixture over low heat (do not boil) until clear and not sugary. Remove pan from heat, and let mixture cool.

Dip pieces into mixture. Gently squeeze out excess starch, then shape and allow to dry.
So, I used a lingerie wash and gently moved it through the water; then placed the cup over a small china cup, and the saucer over a small glass bowl to dry.

I then made the sugar mixture and let it cool.  Holding my breath, as I could well imagine this being the ruin of these cherished pieces, I cautiously dipped them into the mixture, and placed them back on the china cup and glass bowl to mold them back into shape.


After brushing off some of the excess dried sugar, I now have a much cleaner cup and saucer, a remembrance of my beloved Grandma, crocheted by my Great-Aunt Johanna.

Little could these two women know then how their pieces of art would become heirlooms, and how much these would mean to me someday. 

Treasures of the heart.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Farm treasures

If you recall my farm series (May 2011), you may remember reading about my Grandma's garden, her preserves and canned goods, and her sauce spoon (Taste a little of the summer).

I mentioned I would love to have a sauce spoon like hers. It was unique to Grandma's era and you just don't see them used anymore.  Grandma would empty a jar of home-canned peaches (or plums or pears), stored in her fruit cellar, into a glass bowl and serve them with this silver sauce spoon.

A sad occasion, the recent sudden and unexpected death of my Uncle Marvin, brought me back to the farm in White Lake, South Dakota.

Uncle Marvin, a bachelor, bought the farm from my grandparents when they retired and moved into town in the early 1960s. But what was unique is that the farmhouse remained furnished with all of Grandma and Grandpa's furniture, dishes, silverware, utensils, pictures, wall-hangings, doilies, decorative items and linens. My uncle replaced very little and moved nothing from its designated place. So a visit we made there through the years was like a trip back in time. 

All that was missing was Grandma and Grandpa.

After Uncle Marvin's funeral, I stayed for several days to help sort through things, do a little cleaning, and be part of setting a plan in motion for what was left. His Will set forth legal direction for disposal of assets, but not all the furnishings in the house, barns and out-buildings.

These are not just furnishings. They are our treasures from the past. Dividing them among two surviving sisters, a sister-in-law, and nineteen nieces and nephews is a daunting challenge. Though not a materialistic family, these treasures represent the love we feel for our grandparents and we would each like a memento or two, irregardless of its value to anyone else.

Like the sauce spoon, for instance.

When I mentioned this to my aunts, and told them how a simple sauce spoon linked me to my grandmother, the memory creating a warm place in my heart, they presented it to me, saying, "From Grandma with love." 

It was found way in the back of an all-purpose utensil drawer with potato mashers, assorted knives, ice cream scoops, meat forks, and pastry cutters all heaped on top of it.  It was dirty, dusty, and black. I am certain, without a single doubt, that my Grandma was the last to use it.

After several attempts with Hagerty silver polish, I decided to seek out a professional silversmith to try to restore it to its former lustre.

So as I stood there creating a scene with my profuse gratitude and tears, my cousin's husband went to the fruit cellar in the basement and produced one of Grandma's fruit jars to complete this wonderful gift. The jar had a zinc cover on it and some very old dirt inside. Although I even treasured the very old dirt, it did get washed.

All of Grandma's canning jars are still in place in the fruit cellar. I liked this one over the old blue Ball jars because of its waffle pattern on the outside.

I am so happy to have these two treasures. They are all I need. My Grandma  resides in my heart, but I will use my jar and sauce spoon to honor her memory.

Thank you, Grandma.