19 April 2011

White Owl and Red Owl

I had to make a couple of genealogy photo stops in the tiny communities of White Owl and Red Owl on Sunday, an area which Gene has not birded much, so we made a day trip out of it. As mentioned, the snow and sleet weren't taking the day off, either. It was an oddly lovely light, though, and the birds were in full spring courting mode. Here are a few of the sights.

Community hall, Alkali

Abandoned house

Another abandoned house.

Church, Red Owl

Barn in the spring chill

Please tell me this is not a church with two outhouses. Please.

Great blue heron, not liking us.

Belle Fourche River valley

Distant long-billed curlew

Bear Butte in the mists

Storm across the prairie

Hawk on nest

Swainson's hawk, surveying the situation

Wild turkeys courting

Ten males, seven females in this flock

18 April 2011

Family recipe Monday: cold and sweet

Bear Butte cloaked by an unexpected snowstorm

You'd think we'd learn, being on the prairie for some time now....but, no, we just had to go out birding and photographing on an April weekend, in spite of the weather predictions that went from a 30% to a 60% chance of "wintry mix." This is not a good mix when you are out on rural roads. But we are adventurous, daring, and not right bright, so out we went. I'll post a full account tomorrow, once I have the sleet out of my hair.

It was a tough week for many people, waiting to find out how the Federal (and, in our case, state) budget cuts would affect them and their communities. I'm happy to report that the museum is alive and well after the budget cuts. We will need to look at how we survive and thrive in a more austere economy, but we will be around to do that. Not all museums or agencies have fared so well, which is sobering indeed.

So we needed a change of scenery, a chance to get away from the budget migraines, some reassurance that life goes on. Well, it does. So does winter weather in the spring. Oddly, I really wanted something cold and sweet when I finally thawed out. Here are some suggestions from the Simple Gifts files that make a nice transition from winter to spring.

Cinnamon ice cream

1 ¼ cups half-and-half
2 ½ cups whipping cream
1 cup less 1 T sugar
1 stick cinnamon
½ tsp ground cinnamon
6 egg yolks

Warm half-and-half, whipping cream, sugar, and both kinds of cinnamon in a non-corroding saucepan. Steep for about 15 minutes, always keeping temperature below boiling. Taste once or twice; flavor will grow even stronger after ice cream is frozen. Whisk egg yolks just enough to break them up and pour in some of the hot mixture, stirring constantly. Return to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the spoon. Strain into a container, put cinnamon stick in for stronger flavor, and chill thoroughly. Remove stick and freeze in ice cream maker. Makes a generous quart. Spectacular on apple pie.

Lemon velvet ice cream

1 quart plus 1 1/3 cups whipping cream
1 quart plus 1 1/3 cups milk
4 cups sugar
2 tsp lemon extract
Juice of 8 lemons
1 T grated lemon rind

Mix together and freeze.

Berry sorbet

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups water
2 cups puréed raspberries or strawberries
½ cup cranberry juice or black currant liqueur
2 T lemon juice
Whole raspberries or strawberries for garnish

Mix gelatin with sugar and water in a saucepan. Let stand 1 minute. Stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Stir in berries, juice or liqueur, and lemon juice. Turn mixture into a shallow baking pan. Freeze 3 hours or until barely firm. With an electric mixer or food processor, beat mixture until smooth. Return to pan and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. To serve, thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes or until slightly softened. Spoon into serving dishes. Garnish with whole berries and serve at once. Makes about 8 servings.

Grape juice blanc-mange

Scald 3 cups grape juice in double boiler, adding ¼ cup sugar. Blend ¼ cup cornstarch with ¼ cup cold water and add to juice. Cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 T lemon juice, then cool slightly. Pour into sherbet glasses and chill. While hot, it is very thin, but it stiffens as it cools. It should be very delicate, not overly stiff. Serve with plain cream and powdered sugar.
--Louise Hastings

Happy Monday. It really is a new season out there; get out and celebrate it.

11 April 2011

Family recipe Monday: Pennsylvania Dutch breakfasts

Myrtle Minerva Deppe Shaffner, Gene's grandmother

The recent wave of day-by-day Civil War Sesquicentennial accounts from 1861 news stories keeps reminding me that we could play out the whole conflict in our own house. I have all the Confederate relatives; Gene is a good Pennsylvania Dutch kid with deep German roots (and a Swedish line as well). There seems to be no crossover: he has no Confederates in his genealogical attic, and I can't find anyone on my side in a Union state by the time the Recent Unpleasantness broke out.

What surprises me is how similar some of the old family recipes are between our families. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised--the Honnolls in my family were of German origin, after all--but I would have thought that generations of increasing Southernness (if that's a word) would have caused a bigger recipe drift (if there is such a thing) than it did.

Gene's maternal grandmother Myrtle Deppe Shaffner came from a family of 18 children in the Berwick area of Pennsylvania. They were all farmers in the Susquehanna Valley area, raising crops and dairy cattle and, well, obviously, children. Some of the Deppes married their first cousins, also Deppes, which means that I have double Deppes in the genealogy, and that is one very different-looking family tree. But they were staunch German Methodists, and so were the Honnoll Confederates. I wonder if they couldn't have worked things out over a big Oktoberfest dinner, and skipped the war.

Here are a few recipes from the Shaffner side, guaranteed to please the palate and frighten the heart. The first one should have been run the day before Shrove Tuesday (=Mardi Gras), but this way you get nearly a year to get your heart ready for the delights. All comments are from Gene's mom Dolly, who would have been 76 this year. She collected the recipes from her family for years, and we are scanning them now.


These are German doughnuts made eaten on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. They are best eaten the same day they are made.

NOTE: Mother used to make these wonderful goodies. I would get off the school bus and hurry up the lane through wind and cold rain, usually in March, and when I opened the door I would be greeted by the aroma of sizzling dough. Although I’m not much of a doughnut lover, I enjoyed a few doughnut holes. Yes, they were made on Shrove Tuesday and they were devoured by Dad and my sisters and brother as fast as she could turn them out.

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 C. scalded milk, cooled to lukewarm
4 eggs
1/4 lb. soft butter
2 1/3 c. flour
1/4 tbsp. sugar
1 qt. oil or melted shortening for frying
*XXX (confectioner’s) sugar for garnish

Soften yeast in milk; add eggs one by one, followed by butter, flour, salt, and sugar. Blend well by hand. Cover with a slightly moist tea towel and put in warm, draft-free place to rise until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise until double in bulk again.

To fry, use an iron Dutch oven or similar kettle. Heat oil to 350* F. Heap a tablespoon with dough & scrape it off the spoon with a table knife into the hot oil. Fry about 6 at a time to golden brown on one side the flip over to brown on other side. Remove with slotted spoon or tongs and drain a bit on brown paper. Roll in bowl of XXX sugar. or if you have a tin shaker, you can sift it on. Put on wax paper to cool.

*We also like cinnamon sugar on them. Just mix a bit of cinnamon with sugar & roll fastnachts in it. If you have a tin shaker, you can sift it on.
--Dolly Hess

German apple pancakes

4 eggs
3/4 c flour
3/4 c milk
½ tsp salt
1/4 c (4tbsp) butter divided
2 med apples sliced
1/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400*. Place 2 9x1 1/12" round cake pans in oven. Beat eggs, flour, milk, salt in small bowl med speed 1 min. Remove pans. Place 2tbsp butter in each pan and rotate to coat. Arrange half the apple slices in each pan and divide batter between pans. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over batter. Bake uncovered until puffed and golden (20-25 min). Serve soon as they fall like souffles. Makes 4 servings.


1 3/4 c. milk
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
3 tbsp. vegetable oil or 1/4 c. soft shortening
3 eggs, room temperature
2 c. sifted flour

Scald milk, add sugar and salt and cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast on warm water & stir to dissolve. Add to cooled milk. Beat in oil, eggs, and flour with rotary beater or mixer on medium speed until batter is smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place until bubbly. Put in refrigerator overnight.

Stir down batter. Dip with a 1/4 cup measure and pour onto hot griddle - grease if necessary. Turn as soon as tops are bubbly. Bake to golden brown on other side. Serve at once.

Happy Monday. Hope your kitchen has wonderful aromas.

09 April 2011

Sagebrush and sage grouse

Male sage grouse on lek, displaying. Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

It is spring on the plains and prairies. This means beautiful, soft, mild weather interspersed with scattered ice, fog, high wind, snow, thunderstorms and tornadoes. Two years ago we missed the annual crane trip to Nebraska and just about everything else happening in April because we had major blizzards for 3 out of 4 weekends. This year, the situation is much better, but we don't assume anything.

We went to a site near Wyoming to watch the annual safe grouse lek. Check out the action here. These are shy birds. Normally this trip consists of watching three moving specks on the horizon that look like animated pepper grains and assuring everything that, yes, we do see the grouse, and aren't they lovely? This year, we got the display up close and personal, with a lone male dancing away from the main lek. This guy was dancing and booming for all he was worth, cold or no cold. We could hear him booming. It's love. It's spring.


Facing us, air sacs, fully inflated.

Dancer in the sagebrush.


Closer to us, great view.

Good view of the inflated air sacs.

Turning in place...

Turning again...

The object of his affections.

Tail fan.

Tail fan.

Moving away...

Tail fan.

Dancing in circles as he slowly moves away.

05 April 2011

Meanwhile, back in Nebraska.....

 Calligraphy, Rowe Audubon Sanctuary

Here are pictures of the annual sandhill crane migration in Nebraska's Platte River valley. It was just as cold and snowy as it looks, and just as spectacular.

Sunrise, South Dakota
The clouds are thin and icy
But moving in fast

Trumpeter swans glide
National wildlife refuge
March Valentine

Crane exuberance
The cold cannot discourage
Springing and leaping

A long flight is done
A long flight is still to come--
Joy in the moment

Crane celebration
Shy-watching and wing-reaching
No clouds in their eyes

Distant landing cranes
Look so tiny up against
Endless horizon

Flock of cranes,sunrise
Streaming up from the river
Calling constantly

Flock of crane-watchers
 Not nearly so poetic
As they slowly freeze

Icy foliage
Last year's blooms dusted by snow
Next year's in the ground

Here's our sign to say
That we are at the right place--
We cannot get lost

Wilson's snipe and thaw
Feeding after a long flight
Winter is over

Cranes floating down
Both the field and the bird flock
Meet vanishing point

Sandhill cranes in field
Icy mists and crane plumage
The same shade of grey

Island of cranes stand
Calling to the others there
Spring looks like winter

Calligraphy, Rowe Audubon Sanctuary