Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spirit of Dakota

Good morning. This edition of the newsletter comes to you from the South Dakota Quilters Retreat, at the Crossroads Hotel and Huron Events Center in Huron, South Dakota. Wesley & I are vending here this weekend. So far, it's been a wonderful weekend, as we've reconnected with dear friends and made new ones. As usual, we brought way too much merchandise, and our booth is "packed to the hilt" with quilt kits, fabric bundles, yardage, patterns, books, and notions.

All weekend, I've been enjoying the "Pride of Dakota" sculpture gracefully set on the lawn near the main door of the events center. This morning, I did some online research, and learned that "The nine foot bronze sculpture "Spirit of Dakota" which stands at the entrance of the Crossroads Hotel & Huron Event Center, is the source for the state-wide Spirit of Dakota Award. Dale Claude Lamphere, nationally recognized sculptor and artist, is the creator. This sculpture of a pioneer woman balanced against the wind was unveiled and dedicated in October 1987 by the citizens of Huron and is the unique possession of this community." (Source: Spirit of Dakota Award Society)

Each fall, the Society bestows the "Spirit of Dakota" award on a deserving South Dakota woman, based on leadership, courage, and strength of character, and other honorable attributes. The recipients of the award receive a small scale version of the sculpture.

Earlier today, I went out into the cool morning air, camera in hand, to take a photo of the sculpture for the newsletter. I spent a few moments admiring her. My attention was captured by the look of determination on her face, and her muscular arms portraying physical strength and stamina. Her sunbonnet reminded me of the long days she worked under the hot sun, in the fields and the garden. Her long flowing skirt, impractical and cumbersome, is a steadfast reminder of her femininity. She gazes into the distance, always looking ahead, as though she is working hard today so that her children may have a better tomorrow.

With a bit of sadness, I tore myself away from the serene garden, and my time with the sculpture. Another busy day ahead... newsletter to write, suitcases to pack, goods to load up in the car and trailer, and a six hour drive home. But, as I put "one foot in front of the other", I'll appreciate this beautiful Dakota morning and the "Spirit of Dakota".

Monday, September 1, 2008

Beet Pickles

Good Afternoon.

Earlier this week, I found out that the vegetable truck was in Lemmon,SD, and had set up shop in a gas station parking lot. These resourceful farmers live "East River", where the farms have rich soil and plenty of moisture; perfect conditions for growing wonderful vegetables. We don't have a garden, so we rely upon the grocery store and the fruit & vegetable trucks that pass through town for our fresh produce.

I was hoping to pick up some pickling cucumbers. Last year my friend Dode taught me how to make delicious spicy dill pickles, and crisp sweet refrigerator pickles. No such luck. "Sold out of cukes", the farmer said. "Won't have any more until next year. You should have come last week."

I settled on a bag of sweet corn. As an afterthought, remembering how much Wesley loves beet pickles, I bought all the beets the farmer had.

Saturday morning, I studied up on how to make beet pickles. I'm always a bit intimidated by food safety warnings, and worry I'm going to mess up and somebody will get food poisoning.
I examined the bag of muddy beets. All sizes & shapes, and somehow prehistoric looking. It was hard to imagine transforming these ugly vegetables into tasty beet pickles. But, I set to work. Washing, trimming, boiling & peeling the beets was hot & messy work. But, by the time Wesley got home from work, I had three large bowls of clean, shiny, cooked red beets.

We worked together to make the pickles. By bedtime, we were finished: eighteen little jars of beet pickles, neatly lined up on the counter top. The rest of the kitchen was a disaster, but I happily enjoyed the sight of our treasures. The ruby red pickles in the glass jars were so pretty. The gentle popping of the lids was such a welcome sound, indicating our jars were sealing correctly.

As we worked, we talked about our grandmothers. Both were of European ancestry, and amazingly both were named Bernice. Both had large produce gardens, carefully tending their crops in the spring & summer. Come fall, their kitchens would become beehives of activity, as they canned, pickled, made jams & jellies, and froze fruits & vegetables for the winter ahead. They had lived through the depression, and even though we knew them when times were good, they never forgot the feeling of not having enough food to feed their families. I told Wesley about my grandmother's basement, a veritable warehouse of freezers, cupboards full of every imaginable preserve, pickle, relish, jelly and jam. Although she lived alone, she chose to have a stockpile of food. I can still hear her her voice telling me, "I just like to be prepared." Nothing went to waste at my Grandma's house.

Our beet pickles turned out great. And our grandmothers would be proud of our efforts.