Victoria & Pumpkin Torte

VictoriaThe first year of Victoria’s life she spent resting up for her future. I don’t think I ever saw her when she wasn’t lying quietly in her infant carrier. Maybe she was just mesmerized by the activity of our family when we were all together talking, laughing and playing. When she grew out of that carrier and began to toddle around she began to grow into the extra vivacious girl she is today. Her enthusiasm knows no bounds as she dances through life as cheerleader, dance team member and Homecoming queen. She is a born leader just like her dad. I remember her though before she became the cool young lady she is today.

When they were small, sisters Madeline and Victoria loved making houses on our back porch for the barn kittens they would find and tame. These houses were made out of cardboard boxes and old rags and doll blankets. Once when they were spending a few days at our house, they discovered that our cat Powderpuff was expecting another litter of kittens. They watched her every day and followed her as much as she would allow. Finally, one day they could not find her and hunted high and low for her. I suspected she had found a quiet spot away from the prying eyes of the girls and had her kittens.

I was in the house while they were out on another cat hunt when I heard a blood-curdling scream and saw Victoria running full speed toward the house. Terrified that something had happened to Madeline, I rushed outside and as soon as I got out of the door I heard, “I found them! I found Powderpuff’s kittens! I found them!” She was screeching so loud at the top of her lungs that I’m sure all our neighbors heard the good news too.

Many, many years ago I received the first issue ever of Farm Wife News (now Country Woman.) It was the beginning of a publishing dynasty for Bob pumpkin torteReiman including Birds and Blooms, Farm and Ranch Living, Country Living and many more quality magazines. When we graduated from high school, my best girlfriends went to college while I got married and had children. I looked forward to receiving my copy of Farm Wife News every month because I learned of other women who were living the same lifestyle I was and I received inspiration from their stories. On the recipe page of their new magazine I found the following one for Pumpkin Torte. While others won’t know the name, everybody in my family does. It’s a holiday tradition and I have to make it every Thanksgiving or hear complaints. Jeff never fails to ask, “Where’s the Pumpkin Torte!?” if I try and skip it.

Pumpkin Torte

24 crushed graham crackers       ½ cup milk
1/3 cup sugar                                  ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter                                  1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 beaten eggs                                  1 envelope plain gelatin
¾ cup sugar                                   ¼ cup cold water
3 egg whites                                   8 ounces room temperature cream cheese
2 cups pumpkin                            ¼ cup sugar
3 egg yolks                                      1 container whipped topping
½ cup sugar

Victoria with pumpkin torte

Here Victoria is ready to dig in to a piece of hers.

Mix graham crackers, 1/3 cup sugar and butter and press into 9×13 baking pan. Mix eggs, ¾ cup sugar and cream cheese and pour over crust. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cook pumpkin, egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, milk, salt and cinnamon until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add gelatin, dissolved in cold water. Cool. Beat egg whites, ¼ cup sugar and fold carefully into pumpkin mixture. Pour over cooled baked crust. Top with whipped cream.


Autumn Corn

corn field in the fall

A faint breeze rolls the scent of dry corn around me as I walk.  I always wish I had better words, especially in autumn.  The scent of dying leaves is familiar to most but the lucky people who get to smell sweet, ripe, dry corn are especially fortunate.

One year our family decided to make all our Christmas gifts.  I chose to make wreaths for all the women in the family out of corn husks.  I’ll never forget gathering the dried ones that were left behind in the golden field after corn harvest.  Wind was gusty out in the middle of the empty corn field as I picked up ruffled husks with the intention to create what I thought would be a thing of rustic beauty to gift my girls.  That was a memorable Christmas and some of those wreaths are still around.

The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson


Maggie at the school desk

Maggie with puppyHow to describe Maggie? Born happy? I guess this picture says it all. Bubbly and with a joy in her when she was little that just had to give voice. When in restaurants she let out her shrieks of excitement (can’t they control that child?) Her happy, unorthodox squeal in restaurants when she was a toddler should have alerted us to the fact that she would always choose her own way and be true to her beliefs. She is one of our city girls, highly intelligent, conversely bubbly while inwardly deeply introspective and sensitive. She has a great sense of adventure and is devotedly religious. Though still in college, she has been to France twice and plans to travel there again when she graduates and possibly make it her home.

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo

A Man Named Truck

Truck has to be one of the nicest men who has ever worked on our farm. He has come every other Wednesday for years to manicure our cows’ hooves.

Does it look like this cow is enjoying her pedicure?



Sorry, Bessie, it’s for your own good!

I’ve had a couple pedicures and felt much more relaxed than she seems to be, but then I wasn’t put in a contraption that tipped me on my side and held me immobile during the procedure. To keep them still and prevent injuries, cattle are run into an upright stanchion and then tipped so the procedure goes smoothly. Hooves are trimmed and buffed as a preventative measure that helps prevent sore feet and foot rot.

IMG_0228 copy

We all love Truck, even if the cows aren’t so sure.

Also, since cows spend lots of time on concrete, they can develop a condition known as sled foot which is when the hoof continues to grow out making it hard for them to walk. While cattle are immobile, their ear tags are washed and they are checked for any other irregularities or possible health problems. Truck does approximately 25 head (or 100 hooves!) each week he’s here. Cattle are rotated on a continuous basis so that each one is checked regularly for problems.


MadelineMy granddaughter Madeline is the exotic beauty in this picture. With her pale blue eyes and red hair, she stands out wherever she goes. Madeline has always been an artist at heart and now that she’s growing up, she’s decided to use people as her canvas and is learning how to enhance their natural beauty as she studies at Paul Mitchell’s School of Beauty.

Alongside her sister Victoria, Madeline was the unofficial “kitten tamer” of our farm for many years. Often when it came time for the two of them to leave after a visit, Madeline would bargain with her dad to adopt one or all of the kittens they had just converted from feral hunters into docile, purring pets.

Maddie with an orange cat

Looks like Maddie hasn’t lost her cat-taming skills!

Madeline’s dad calls her an adrenaline junkie, and I think he’s right. Belying her artistic nature and girly exterior, Madeline loves fast four-wheelers, snowmobiles, and cars. Well, that’s not quite right—she loves driving them and can keep up with some of the best of the boys!


Erin and Bounder

My granddaughter Erin with Bounder the brave hunter.

Powderpuff, our spoiled pregnant cat that I told you about in my first book, had five babies a few years ago. When they were weaned I was told that I must find homes for her youngsters. Some people think farms are perfect places to drop off unwanted cats of all ages and we were overpopulated with felines, so the little kittens had to go. After having little success with a “Free Kittens” sign, one of dozens in the countryside each spring, I decided that I’d try reverse psychology. I put out a sign advertising “Kittens for Sale.” No one was fooled and I still had to give them away! There was one fuzzy little runt that nobody wanted so I talked Gerald into letting us keep him for a future mouser – Ha-ha – we already had dozens, but he’s pretty good about letting me have the things I really want badly so we now have one more cat. I guess he’s my cat because I’ve spent many hours doctoring him and am now in possession of a Tom cat that anyone would be proud to own. Since I paid the bills then, only our farm vet and I know how huge his vet bills were.

Last night my husband and all the men on the farm worked late so it was just me, Buck and the runt kitten I kept, now named Bounder. I sat outside on the porch steps and watched Buck as he waited patiently at the end of drive, just standing and watching for his master’s return, tail drooping and slowly wagging. He, finally, gave up and brought me his ball so we played fetch until my arm tired. (He, on the other hand, never tires!)

I was sitting on the step peacefully enveloped in the soft gray blanket of dusk when I saw Bounder rounding the corner of the house. He’s becoming a good hunter and a few days ago emptied a mouse nest, one little baby at a time. That poor mommy mouse must have been devastated! This evening as he proudly turned the corner he had something strange in his mouth. It looked like one of those coiled giant lollipops but all of a sudden it moved…and uncoiled! He had captured a snake and he was fascinated with his new catch. If you know cats, you know they don’t kill their prey outright but, instead, torture it with animalistic pleasure so long the poor animal just wishes it were dead. He’d throw the snake in the air and then when it coiled in on itself he would grab it and jump in the air as it stretched to it’s full length of eighteen inches. Kitty fun! Snake terror!

Bounder entertained me with his show for a long time as he jumped up as high as possible while trying to keep that whole snake off the ground. He would then throw it again and again. At times, he would leap a yard in the air after his catch. He was still throwing his terrorized snake in the air and jumping up on his hind legs with it in his paws when I decided to call it a night and go in the house.


Bounder plays innocent, but we know better!

After I came in, I checked every fifteen minutes until bedtime and he was still torturing that poor reptile. When I told my husband the “snake” tale, I could tell he didn’t believe me. I swore it was true though and when he went out on the porch on his way to the barn this morning and found another bloody snake, he became a believer.

“The best way to get on with a cat is to treat it as an equal – or even better, as the superior it knows itself to be.” –Elizabeth Peters

Sunday Morning

foggy morningThe sun gloried in the summer morning and couldn’t wait to come sliding over the barn roof at dawn to burn off the fog. It was soon peering in the bedroom windows of boys who stayed out too late last night and it warmed the cool sheets they were sprawled helter-skelter on. They had to rise and shine early this morning because the sun has no pity and we have hay wagons to unload before it gets any hotter later in the day. Soon I was watching bleary-eyed boys, still half asleep, driving slowly up the drive at not quite their usual speed. Dust lies like body powder in the driveway and drifts in my open kitchen window announcing each boy’s arrival.

Many times we have cause for celebration on our farm. When crops are planted, when a cutting of hay is in the mow or silo and again when the crops are harvested. By the end of this day everyone who has strength left will celebrate getting another cutting of hay finished and in the barn.

“As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky.” –Thomas Edison


Last winter we took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina and stayed in a bed and breakfast, The Meeting Street Inn, in the heart of the city. Instead of the sunny southern weather we were looking forward to we ran into snow storms on the way south and cold rain in Charleston. Even with bad weather Charleston was still a charming historic city and we had a good time and great food. The Inn had snacks for the guests every afternoon and the following dish was served to us as a dip for crackers. I asked for the recipe and instead of serving it with crackers on this hot night we had it with a cool and refreshing salad.

salmon in salad

Salmon Salad/Spread

1 can salmon
1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 ½ Tbls. liquid smoke flavoring
1 ½ Tbls. grated onion
1/3 cup mayonnaise

Combine first four ingredients. Add mayo and fold gently leaving it chunky. It should not be mushy.