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Easy Blueberry (or Cherry) Cheesecake
Easy Blueberry (or Cherry) Cheesecake   by LeAnn R. RalphEasy Blueberry (or Cherry) CheesecakeThis recipe is so easy that even my husband can do it. (His specialities are boxed mac-n-cheese, Ramen noodles and frozen pizza!)Prep time: 20 minutesBaking time: 55 minutesCrust:• 2 packages of graham crackers (18 "cracker sheets")•1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarineCrush the graham crackers (I put 4 or 5 "cracker sheets" at a time into a sturdy plastic freezer bag and crush them with a rolling...

How to Tame Wild Kittens
How to Tame Wild Kittens   by LeAnn R. RalphOver the past several years, the wild mother cat who has taken up residence in our barn in rural Wisconsin has given me many opportunities to figure out how to tame wild kittens. The mother cat always hides her kittens very well, and then, when they are big enough to leave the nest and are big enough to eat kitty food, she brings them out and expects me to feed them. When the wild mother cat brings her kittens out of the nest, it is the first time in...

Kittens and Hiccups
Kittens and Hiccups   by LeAnn R. RalphCan kittens (and cats) get hiccups?The answer to that question is -- yes.After I rescued four two-week-old kittens who were orphaned when their mother was killed, I became the "momma cat" and started feeding them kitten formula with a syringe.When I took the kittens to the vet clinic for a checkup, the vet asked me if they had gotten hiccups yet.At that point, they had never shown any signs of it."No, they haven't had hiccups," I said."They will," the vet...

Book Excerpt: Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam (Spring Cleaning)  
Book Excerpt: Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam (Spring Cleaning)   by LeAnn R. RalphFrom the book: Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam (trade paperback; Sept. 2004) LeAnn R. Ralphhttp://ruralroute2.comChapter 3: Spring CleaningWhen I reached the top of the driveway after getting off the school bus one April afternoon, I couldn't help but wonder why Dad was standing on the stepladder next to the tractor. I had never seen my father use a stepladder to fix a tractor. He didn't have...

How to Make Christmas Bread  
How to Make Christmas Bread   by LeAnn R. RalphMy mother was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants who homesteaded our small Wisconsin dairy farm in the late 1800s. Christmas bread was one of the goodies she baked in December.Christmas BreadThis recipe makes two loaves.• 2 cups warm water• 2 packages of dry yeast• 1/4 cup sugar• 1 teaspoon salt• 2 eggs• 1/2 cup shortening (I have also used Canola oil)• 1 to 2 cups of citron (if you really like the taste of citron, add 2 cups)• 6 to 7 cups of...

How to make Julekake  
How to make Julekake   by LeAnn R. RalphFrom the book: Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm)http://ruralroute2.comMy mother was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants who homesteaded our small Wisconsin dairy farm in the late 1800s. Julekake was one of the goodies my mother baked for Christmas.JulekakeThis recipe makes two large round loaves.• 2 cups milk• 1 cup sugar• 1/2 cup butter (or margarine)• 2 packages of yeast• 1/2 cup warm water• 1 teaspoon salt• 1 teaspoon...

EASY No-Roll Pie Crust
EASY No-Roll Pie Crust  by: LeAnn R. Ralph EASY No-Roll Pie Crust 3 cups flour 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons sugar 2/3 cup cooking oil (I like to use Canola oil) 1/3 cup water or milk Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir with a fork. Pat into pie pan with fingers or use the back of a spoon. Use with your favorite pie recipes. This recipe will make enough for: 3 eight-inch one-crust pies (or) 2 eight-inch two-crust pies (or) 2 ten-inch one-crust pies (or) 1 ten-inch...

Oatmeal-Apple-Raisin Muffins
Oatmeal-Apple-Raisin Muffins  by: LeAnn R. Ralph These muffins are not only tasty, but they're also a good source of fiber. In recent years, health experts have come to realize that fiber is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. Using Canola oil also increases the health benefits of these muffins. 1 egg 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice added) 1 cup oatmeal (either quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal; I like to use the old-fashioned) 1/2 cup of...

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Bottom Layer: 1/2 cup butter or margarine 1 cup sugar 2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 cup milk 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs and stir in milk. Add dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. (Batter will be stiff.) Spread in the bottom of greased 9x13 pan. Middle Layer: 4 to 5 cups of rhubarb (cut up) 2 eggs 1/4 cup milk 2 cups sugar 1 cup flour 1 three-ounce package...

How to Make Homemade Ice Cream (Without an Ice Cream Maker!)
How to Make Homemade Ice Cream (Without an Ice Cream Maker!)  by: LeAnn R. Ralph COLFAX, WISCONSIN — June is Dairy Month and what better way to celebrate than with homemade ice cream? When I was growing up on our small family dairy farm in west central Wisconsin 40 years ago, my dad would make homemade ice cream using cream and milk from our very own cows and a hand-cranked ice cream freezer. But you don't need an ice cream freezer to make your own homemade ice cream. You can make ice cream...

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls from Scratch (in 2 hours or less!)
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls from Scratch (in 2 hours or less!)  by: LeAnn R. Ralph If I've heard it once, I've heard it a dozen times: "Make homemade cinnamon rolls? From scratch? Are you crazy? That takes all day!" Actually, it depends upon the recipe. I have several recipes for homemade cinnamon rolls that do, indeed, take at least all afternoon, if not all day -- scald the milk and let it cool to room temperature (30 minutes); mix the dough and let it raise for an hour (1.5 hours); punch...

The Taffy Pull (A Story and a Recipe)
The Taffy Pull (A Story and a Recipe)  by: LeAnn R. Ralph One year when I was growing up on our Wisconsin dairy farm, the Brownie leaders had announced we were going to make some extra-special candy at our next meeting. So — when school let out one winter afternoon — I lost no time getting to the gym where we always had our meetings. For once nobody was late, and when we entered the gym, the Brownie leaders already had everything set up. "What's in the pans?" asked one girl. On the...

Holiday Recipe: Filled Cookies
Holiday Recipe: Filled Cookies  by: LeAnn R. Ralph From the book: Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm) When I was a kid growing up on our dairy farm in Wisconsin 40 years ago, cookies with a date filling were my dad's favorite kind. Here is the recipe. 3/4 cup butter or margarine (softened) 3/4 cup shortening 2 cups sugar 3 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla 5 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt several tablespoons of milk if the dough...

An Unexpected Letter
An Unexpected Letter  by: LeAnn R. Ralph It was a couple of weeks after Christmas, and I was standing by my mailbox in the vestibule of the apartment building where I lived in Lexington, Kentucky, holding a letter I had just received. The handwriting was not familiar and neither was the return address, although it was postmarked Seattle, Washington, the same place where Hannah Paulson used to live. Many years ago when I was a little girl growing up on our dairy farm in west central...

Book Excerpt: Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam
Book Excerpt: Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam  by: LeAnn R. Ralph ~ 5 ~ May-Day! The school bus had long since disappeared over the last hill toward the main road one afternoon when I set my books on the kitchen table and hurried into the living room to talk to my mother. Mom was sitting in her favorite easy chair by the picture window, and her crutches were laid neatly on the floor next to the chair where she could reach them. Outside the window, the air was so clear everything...

News Release: Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam
News Release: Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam  by: LeAnn R. Ralph COLFAX, WISCONSIN — Did you know that since 1969, the United States has lost 85 percent of its dairy farms. And did you know that since 1969, Wisconsin has lost nearly 70 percent of its dairy farms? "I lived away from my hometown in west central Wisconsin for 15 years. When I returned in the mid 1990s, I expected to be living in a farming community again. Instead, I discovered that many of the small family dairy...

Book Review : Christmas in Dairyland
Book Review : Christmas in Dairyland  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Author/Publisher Christmas in Dairyland by LeAnn R. Ralph Published by LeAnn R. Ralph E6689 970th Ave. Colfax, WI 54730 Printed by Booklocker.com ISBN 1-59113-366-1 $13.95, 2003, 153 pages Reviewer Boyd Sutton Siren, Wisconsin maxdude@centurytel.net Description of the Book Christmas in Dairyland is a collection of short, true stories about a little girl growing up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin in the early 1960s. The...

Feeding the Hummingbirds
Feeding the Hummingbirds  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Early in May here in west central Wisconsin, I can count on seeing a Ruby Throated Hummingbird hovering in front of my kitchen window, flitting back and forth, as if to say, "there was a hummingbird feeder RIGHT HERE last year. Where is it?" And then I know it is time to put out hummingbird nectar. I feed a 3-to-1 mixture of water and sugar (3 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar brought to a boil and cooled to room temperature). After the...

Too Young to Survive?
Too Young to Survive?  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Eight o’clock on a beautiful June morning in southern Wisconsin. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. And I was on my way to the stable where I boarded my two horses. Little did I know that in just a few minutes I would become a “momma kitty.” As I slid open the barn door I saw the calico cat. The previous evening she had been plump with kittens, but now she was suspiciously thin, so I knew she had given birth during the night. “After I...

How to Feed and Care for Orphaned Kittens
How to Feed and Care for Orphaned Kittens  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Over the last 15 years, I have raised nine orphaned kittens. Four of them were two weeks old when their mother was killed; three others were only hours old when their mother died; two more kittens fell out of the nest in our barn when they were only a day old. Raising motherless kittens is not a difficult process, but it does require patience, time and plenty of TLC. Here are some tips to help you raise your orphaned kittens: 1....

13 Steps to Preserve Your Family History
13 Steps to Preserve Your Family History  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Although the phrase, "everybody has a story to tell" may sound like a cliche, it's true. And after working as a newspaper reporter for nine years, I know that everyone does, indeed, have a story to tell, including your family members. Think about it. Do your grandmother and grandfather — mother and father — aunts and uncles — tell stories about the "good old days?" Do they talk about going to school? The fun they had with...

Thumbs Up
Thumbs Up  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Do you remember how sensitive you felt about being "different" in some way when you were kid? Maybe you were shorter than your classmates. Or taller. Or had darker hair, or lighter hair. Or maybe you wore glasses. Well…my difference was thumbs. That's right, thumbs. I know it sounds silly, but for a long time I envied the other girls who had petite thumbs. And yet, it wasn't until we were completing a class project one day in elementary school that I...

And You Always Will
And You Always Will  by: LeAnn R. Ralph I opened the dishtowel drawer for about the sixth time, hoping the towels had somehow magically appeared. The brand new towels still weren’t there, of course. “What did Mom DO with them?” I wondered aloud. I knew they had to be around somewhere because I had given them to her for Christmas only a few months ago. Not that the towels were so terribly important. It’s just that when you’re expecting guests, you’d kind of like everything to look...

Valentine's Day — Where Did THAT Come From?
Valentine's Day — Where Did THAT Come From?  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Just as soon as the stores put away their Christmas merchandise, out comes the Valentine’s Day items — even though Valentine’s is still more than six weeks away. I don’t know why, but it always takes me by surprise to see Valentine’s Day merchandise so soon after Christmas. I’ve always wondered where Valentine’s Day came from, and under those circumstances, a person could be forgiven for thinking it was invented to create more...

Lost and Found (A Valentine's Day Story)
Lost and Found (A Valentine's Day Story)  by: LeAnn R. Ralph I casually glanced down at my hand, but instead of a wedding ring and an engagement ring, there was only the narrow gold band. "Randy!" I yelped. "My engagement ring is gone." It was Valentine's Day, and my husband, Randy, and I were on our way from my niece's wedding, which had taken place in one town, to the reception, which was being held in another city about fifteen miles away. If there hadn't been other cars behind us, I...

Too Good to be True
Too Good to be True  by: LeAnn R. Ralph The whole thing had started about a week earlier when I was paging through a pet catalog and came across a section devoted to dental supplies. “Simply squirt into your pet’s mouth and the specially formulated solution goes to work immediately to kill bacteria and improve dental health,” said the description. At that moment, one of my cats — who was sitting on my lap — turned his head in my direction and yawned. A few seconds later, a blast of kitty...

The One That Got Away
The One That Got Away  by: LeAnn R. Ralph For years I have been listening to those commercials advising me to get my precious "Kodak moments" on film. And they always make it look so easy too. Well, all right then, if it's so easy, why haven't I been more successful? It's certainly not because I don't have opportunities. In fact, I had a wonderful opportunity one winter day a few years ago. Throughout the night it had been snowing here in rural west central Wisconsin, and although I knew...

The Christmas Dress
The Christmas Dress  by: LeAnn R. Ralph (From the book: Christmas in Dairyland — True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm; August 2003; trade paperback; http://ruralroute2.com) From the time I was a very little girl, I had always loved to watch my big sister, Loretta, when she was sewing. So, one Sunday afternoon while she worked on the red velveteen jumper that was going to be my Christmas outfit, I didn’t want to miss a single thing. Because it was Sunday and Loretta did not have to go to...

New Ways to Use Old Christmas Cards
New Ways to Use Old Christmas Cards  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Forty years ago when I was growing up on our dairy farm in Wisconsin, my mother always saved the Christmas cards she had received in the mail. In those days, people sent many more Christmas cards than they do now. Today, I still find myself saving the cards that I get each Christmas. When the holiday season is over, I take them down off the dining-room side of our kitchen cabinets. I look at each one and think about the person who...

Ghost Stories
Ghost Stories  by: LeAnn R. Ralph When I started teaching English at Northwestern Military and Naval Academy near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, nobody warned me about the ghosts. Northwestern — a beautiful, old granite building — was a boarding school. A hundred boys lived there, ranging in age from seventh grade through twelfth, although the building could have accommodated maybe twice as many. The school had been in existence for about a century. The hallway leading to the gymnasium was lined...

The Thanksgiving Blessing
The Thanksgiving Blessing  by: LeAnn R. Ralph “Wouldn’t you just know it,” muttered my husband, Randy. We had already been driving for a couple of hours in a pickup truck that we had borrowed from a friend, and now it was completely dark. “What’s wrong?” I asked sleepily. I had dozed off only a few minutes ago. “It’s starting to rain,” Randy replied, as he reached over to turn on the windshield wipers. Rain? In a few seconds, I came fully awake. If it was raining, that meant Mom and...

Indian Summer
Indian Summer  by: LeAnn R. Ralph It was a warm, sunny October afternoon one day when I was a kid, and as I walked up the hill of our driveway after getting off the school bus at our Wisconsin dairy farm, I wondered how many more nice days we would have before winter came. I was still wondering about winter when I entered the kitchen a few minutes later. “What did you learn in school today?” asked my mother, who was in the middle of peeling potatoes for supper. Every day Mom asked what I...

Country Christmas Idea: Milkweek Pod Poinsettia Ornaments
Country Christmas Idea: Milkweek Pod Poinsettia Ornaments  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Country Christmas Idea: Milkweed Pod Poinsettia Ornaments At first glance, milkweed plants and poinsettias don't seem to have much in common. If you live in an area where milkweed grows wild, however, you can use the dried milkweed pods to make poinsettia ornaments for your Christmas tree. Here's how: 1. Collect some dried milkweed pods. In the fall, the milkweed plants have already gone to seed but the dried...

A New Way to Use Old Snapshots
A New Way to Use Old Snapshots  by: LeAnn R. Ralph If you're like me, you have hundreds of photographs sitting in envelopes. Pictures from birthday parties, weddings, family gatherings, anniversaries, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. You have already put the best snapshots into albums and these are leftovers. You don't want to throw them away, but you also don't know what to do with them. Instead of letting your snapshots take up space and contribute to the clutter in your...

Wintergreen
Wintergreen  by: LeAnn R. Ralph From the book: Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm) http://ruralroute2.com As we drove along the dirt road north of our farm one Sunday afternoon, the color of the sky reminded me of Mom's silver cream and sugar servers when they were tarnished and needed to be polished again. Since morning, the sky had been cloudy, but now at mid-afternoon, the clouds had grown much thicker and darker. Earlier in December we had gotten a little...

Sot Suppe (Norwegian Sweet Soup)
Sot Suppe (Norwegian Sweet Soup)  by: LeAnn R. Ralph ~ "Sot Suppe" ~ (Norwegian Sweet Soup) My mother was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants who homesteaded our small Wisconsin dairy farm in the late 1800s. When my mother was a child, sweet soup was a traditional part of Christmas Eve, served cold with julekake, lefse, Christmas bread, or open-faced sandwiches. Sweet Soup is made with dried fruit and tapioca. Sot Suppe 6 cups water 1/3 cup sugar 1 tablespoon quick-cooking...

How to Make Candles Using Old Crayons
How to Make Candles Using Old Crayons  by: LeAnn R. Ralph As featured in the story "A Candle For Christmas" from the book: Christmas In Dairyland (True Stories From a Wisconsin Farm) Materials: 1 wax carton (quart) (milk, fabric softener, or orange juice) 1 pound of paraffin wax 4 or 5 old crayons two trays of ice cubes a double boiler (or an empty coffee can and a saucepan) 1 piece of ordinary white package string about six inches long. Caution: Do not heat paraffin...

Preserve Your Family History by Writing Your Family Stories
Preserve Your Family History by Writing Your Family Stories  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Preserve Your Family History by Writing Family Stories "Everyone has a story to tell." It seems like a cliche—but it's true. After working as a newspaper reporter for more than eight years, I know that everyone does, indeed, have a story to tell. But even before I started working as a journalist, I knew that life experiences make interesting stories. Consider my parents. My mother was the daughter of Norwegian...

Whatever Happened to Christmas?
Whatever Happened to Christmas?  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Remember when no one started Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving? Wisconsin author LeAnn R. Ralph remembers it very well. "When I was growing up on our dairy farm forty years ago, the stores didn't put up Christmas displays until the day after Thanksgiving. No one was really thinking about Christmas shopping before that," Ralph said. "In fact, my mother felt so strongly about it that she didn't even like to hear the word...

5 Ways to Deal With Lady Bug Infestations
5 Ways to Deal With Lady Bug Infestations  by: LeAnn R. Ralph Every fall, millions of lady bugs (or what seems like millions) swarm around my house here in west central Wisconsin, looking for a place to spend the winter. Actually, they are not "true" lady bugs. They are "Multi-Colored Asian Lady Beetles." The beetles are beneficial to the environment because they control aphids. And from what I've read, the multicolored lady beetles are much better at controlling aphids than the 'real' lady...

A Simple Solution for Cleaning Burner Pans and Covered Casserole Dishes
A Simple Solution for Cleaning Burner Pans and Covered Casserole Dishes  by: LeAnn R. Ralph If your burner pans and covered casserole dishes look like mine did, they've got baked-on spots that no amount of scrubbing will remove. And if you're like me, even the thought of using chemical cleaners brings tears to your eyes and makes you want to start coughing, not to mention that the chemical cleaners are expensive. One simple solution that I've found works very well uses ingredients that...

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