By Peggy Goodrich, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
Isn’t there something special about the bounty of harvest? Think about it.
In Oklahoma, we almost take the bounty of harvest for granted. We can enjoy the beauty of the waving fields and enjoy the work of harvesting the grain. We all benefit when there is a good crop yield. To lose a wheat crop to hail or from too much rain or bugs is like losing a year’s worth of pay. The entire community feels it.
We had friends that visited us from Philadelphia one June. They were captivated by our beautiful, endless sea of wheat. They could not believe how green our winters are with the fields of wheat. And then how golden they are in the fall. They wanted to stop along the highway and watch the harvesters running the combines. They were fascinated by such an operation and the bounty of harvest.
I remember one year when my brother was combining his wheat, a doe had hidden her fawn in the wheat field. She refused to budge nor move that baby. So Bill made swaths around her and her spotted baby. That fierce mother would fight anything that came near her, even a huge combine. I never heard Bill complain that he missed that little dab of wheat he was unable to harvest because of that mama and her fawn. What a joy there was in watching them.
When I was a kid, we cut the wheat with a binder and then shocked it and cured it and waited for the thresher to come when it was cured and our turn. The threshing crew went from farm to farm and everyone helped everyone else. My main job was carrying water to those who were on the wagons stacking the bundles on the hay racks to take to the threshing machine. My sisters and I rode our little pony and carried jugs of fresh water to those crews. There was no danger except the hornets that always seemed to swarm around the water jugs. I don’t recall that I ever got stung, but there was always that fear.
The best part of threshing day was the food. We cooked gobs and gobs of hot, fresh homemade food. We cooked for all the farmers who came to help us, so it was usually about 50 hungry men we fed. The food did not have to be fancy, but there had to be plenty of it. We dressed several chickens or cooked huge beef roasts and had stacks of fresh corn on the cob. We peeled pounds and pounds of potatoes for creamy mashed potatoes to go with chicken or roast gravy. We made about six pies or that many cakes and consumed gallons of ice tea. What took all morning to prepare what was gone in 10 minutes, but they were happy, satisfied men who left Mother’s harvest table.
For most farmers, it takes no more than a week, weather and machinery permitting to complete harvest. Times have changed, but the bounty of the harvest remains about the same. Now, binder twine and threshing machines are things of the past, except for the festivals of history to demonstrate to the younger set how we did things in the “olden days.”
Combines now do all the work in a fraction of the time, and farm women don’t have the joy of taking homemade food to the fields or serving the crews at long tables. That magic is gone.
However, it is a pleasure now to see all the wheat trucks in line to unload at the huge grain elevators. There is that special time in the year when we all hold our breaths for a good wheat crop, and rejoice when there is one. When I was a kid, each farmer had his own granary to store the year’s bounty of harvest.
As a kid, we played in the fresh wheat in the granaries. Then those granaries were our play houses when all the wheat had been used. The floors were so smooth and they were air tight and made wonderful play houses, with a buggy seat for a sofa and an orange crate for a cabinet. My sisters and I had many high teas in those cozy play houses. And they smelled wonderful from all that wheat being stored in them for a year.
When we divided Daddy’s things after he died, on the inventory was an old wheat binder. My sister bid on that old binder, sight unseen, because it held so many fond memories of bluebirds nesting in the binder twine box during the “off season,” and helping cut and bind and shock the wheat. Anyway, when she went to claim her prize for being the highest (and only) bidder, she discovered there was a tree growing right through it about six inches in diameter. It had been years and years since that old binder had been moved or been in use — but the memories lingered on.
One of the benefits of the bounty of harvest is the wonderful breads we make with all that wheat. Nowadays, it is a snap for anyone to make bread in a bread machine. Now, there is no excuse for not serving hot, fresh bread. I gave my bread machine away because I didn’t use it. I prefer making bread the old-fashioned way. There is something therapeutic about kneading bread and forming it into rolls or loaves. There is something rewarding about it when it comes from the oven. That is the best aroma in the whole wide world, and nothing tastes better than a huge heel of homemade bread filled with homemade butter and apple butter or sugar sprinkled on it. It is food for the gods!
Here is a simple recipe that is a sure success for anyone. The trick is not to get the lukewarm water too hot. Use water no hotter than baby formula. Even test it on your wrist if necessary to make sure it is not so hot it will kill the yeast. Then proceed. You will see why bread is called the staff of life.
Simply Delicious Bread
1 cup lukewarm water
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups flour
Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in small bowl. Set aside and let it “work” at least five minutes, stirring occasionally with a fork to dissolve all the yeast. Combine salt and flour in large bowl. Then stir yeast into flour/salt mixture. Dump onto floured board and knead until smooth. Place in well-greased bowl and turn dough so it is coated on the top side. Cover with a dish towel and place in draft-free place to rise. When double in bulk (about 11⁄2 hours) make it into 12 rolls or one large loaf in a 9-by-5-by-3-inch sprayed loaf pan. Let rise again. Bake in 350-degree oven about 30 minutes for a loaf, or less if it is made into rolls. Now don’t say you cannot make bread. You just did. Enjoy it along with the bounty of harvest.
Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.