For those of you who are related to me, you will note the familiar names of a certain couple in our family. I have used these names for my characters, not because I want the characters to be those persons, but because I love to inject my personal life into my writing wherever I can. I had an Uncle Fred, and an Aunt Annie - and while they were not at all like the characters in my story - they were very much loved by myself and my siblings.
Winter Wheat Chapter 6 cont'd
As it turned out it was not Karl who first witnessed the laundry hanging indoors, but Annie. They were just clearing away Karl’s washing machine, when there was a ferocious pounding on the door followed by a sharp holler of a female voice.
“It’s me, Annie; just come to visit!”
Frederich had told his wife about his first encounter with Emilie; how he had scared the poor young woman half to death. After she had torn a strip off her husband for his carelessness she decided that it was time to pay a neighborly visit to her new friend. She packed a large assortment of canned fruits and vegetables, bread and pickles and with her husband firmly in tow, made her way to Karl’s home.
Emilie threw open the door, and greeted her newest friend. “Guten Tag, Annie, how nice to see you again. Come in - please!” She ushered her into the warm moist air of Karl’s home.
Annie had not even entered the house fully when she stopped dead in her tracks, threw back her head and with a loud cackle said, “Well don’t that beat anything I’ve ever seen before,” she hooted as she looked around at the clothing and bedding hanging all over the kitchen and the living room.
Raymond, who had raced to the door with his sister at the sound of Annie’s voice, couldn’t wait to say his piece. “I told her to hang them outside, Auntie, really I did!” He informed Annie, eager for her to know that he had nothing to do with the mess that greeted her eyes.
Annie could barley contain her laughter, “Emilie, what have you done? I wish Karl were here to see this!”
“Karl will no doubt see this many times before the winter is over, because this is the only place I will be hanging the clothes as long as there is snow on the ground!”
Annie turned to her husband who had come in the door behind her, but as yet had not said a word. Annie could tell by the look on his face that he was trying very hard not break out into fits of laughter, her glare warned him to contain himself. Apparently Emilie was not finding the situation quite as amusing as they, so instead of saying a word further about the laundry, Annie determinedly made her way around and through the hanging wash to the kitchen.
“I have come to give you a lesson on butter making,” she announced to Emilie as she hastily removed her winter coat and boots, “I have brought a few things that Karl and the children always enjoy eating, “ she said then beckoned Frederich to unload the wooden crate of foodstuffs that she had brought along with her.
Emilie was delighted that Annie had come to visit, but she really was not up to yet another lesson in farm life. The mornings wash lesson had been more than enough for one day. However, on second thought, if she did not learn from Annie today, she would just have to learn from Karl on another day. Knowing his impatience with her, she quickly changed her mind and decided that today would be a fine day to learn how to make butter.
Before Frederich was allowed to sit, Annie ordered him to the cellar to bring the crock of cream up to the kitchen so it could warm a little before they started to make the butter. She then turned to the children and gave them each a generous hug and kisses and then shooed them into the living room to stay under Frederich’s watchful eyes until the butter making was done.
Never again would Emilie waste a dollop of butter. In all her life she had never envisioned a pound of butter requiring so much work. Karl had all the tools needed to make butter; an old-fashioned butter churn, a four-gallon stoneware jar with a wide mouth, a wooden lid and a dasher.
Annie showed her how to assemble the equipment and then poured enough cream into the churn until it was a little over half full. She fastened the top and pulled the dasher up and pushed it all the way down at the same time gradually turning the dasher one revolution with each movement.
“This is all there is to it,” the little woman coached as her chubby arms worked the dasher up and down, up and down. “The colder the cream the longer it will take to form butter, but you don’t want it too warm either, or the butter will be too soft. Here you give it a try.”
Emilie took over and struggled to duplicate Annie’s actions. For what seemed like hours, Emilie churned the butter in a steady methodical motion, up with the plunger all the way to the top, and then down - all the way down, with a gradual turn of the plunger in one-second cycles. Separating the butter from the buttermilk was not a fast process, and Emilie longed to stop and rest her aching arms and back.
“Don’t stop!” Instructed Annie each time Emilie switched and re-switched her tired hands. “You will know when it is almost separated by the feel of it.”
“What kind of feel?” Emilie asked as drove the dasher up and down.
“Just different, that’s all - I don’t know how to describe it,” Annie answered testily, and then softened as she watched the tired young woman doing her best to please. “Here, let’s look inside the churn and see how it’s coming,” Annie suggested and removed the lid and peered inside the round cylinder. “There . . . see," she pointed to contents of the churn, “It’s getting thicker. We are making progress after all!”
After Annie replaced the cover she instructed Emilie to continue churning, and in a few minutes Emilie did indeed “feel the difference”.
“Annie!” Emilie announced, excitedly, “I feel a difference - we’re done!” Thank goodness, Emilie thought to herself, the ordeal of butter making was finally over.
Annie giggled, “We are nowhere near done, my dear. Now we have to remover the buttermilk from the butter.”
Emilie watched in despair as Annie removed the lid from the churn once again, and using a wooden ladle this time, carefully scooped the floating butter off the top of the buttermilk, which had formed below.
“There is still some buttermilk left in this butter. We must remove it all; otherwise the butter will go rancid.”
“What is rancid? Emilie felt as young as Raymond for having to ask.
“Bad, sour . . .” Annie pinched her nose and scrunched her chubby face distastefully.
“You got that right . . . stank for sure!”
Using a butter paddle Annie worked the butter back and forth on the sides of the bowl until there was no more liquid coming out of the butter.
“There, now we wash the butter,” Annie informed her student, as she poured a small amount of very cold water into the bowl and worked the butter in the same manner once more. As the water became discolored Annie poured it out of the bowl and added more fresh cold water. She continued this process until the water remained clear.
“Now the salt,” she looked up from her work and smiled at Emilie. “Now we get to actually taste the butter! My Frederich, he loves this part the most. I’ll bet Karl does too!” she said before returning her attention back to her work.
She sprinkled the salt over the butter and mixed it in. With her index finger, she made a swipe through the new butter until there was a good-sized blob of it on her finger.
“Here, taste it!” she held her finger in front of Emilie’s mouth to sample the butter.
Obediently, Emilie sampled the butter from the end of Annie’s finger. The rich salty taste of the new butter filled her mouth, and as she rolled the soft spread around inside her mouth she thought that she had never in her life tasted anything better.
“Oh . . . so gut,” Emilie smiled her pleasure and Annie eagerly nodded her head in agreement. “I can’t wait to try it on some fresh bread,” Emilie said as the vision of fresh butter on warm fresh bread filled her imagination.
“Karl should have some molds around here someplace, and maybe some butter paper too,” Annie said as she turned to search the cupboards for the supplies she needed to mold the butter. Finding what she needed, she packed the butter firmly into the pound molds making sure there were no air holes and then pushing on the false bottom of the molds, released the perfect pounds of butter out onto the butter paper. There was an intricate design imprinted on the top of the butter from the mold, and Emilie thought that nothing looked as pretty as the perfectly formed pound of butter. Annie let Emilie work on the other two pounds and while she did that, she carefully wrapped the three pounds of fresh butter individually the butter paper, then stretched her back and sighed.
“Now we are finished,” she smiled brightly to Emilie, who looked at amazement at their accomplishment. “You will want to make up the rest of that cream over there, but maybe you’ve had enough for today - it can wait for another day. You know, if you want to make butter all the time you could probably sell it around the area and in town at the general store. You’d get twenty cents for a pound - the store sells it for twenty-six cents.”
“Is that what Karl does . . . sell it in town?” They started to clean up the kitchen, and as they worked Emilie mulled over Annie’s suggestion.
“No he hasn’t for a long time but his wife used to a few years back. Karl hasn’t made butter for sale for a while, but you could do it. Maybe he would let you keep the money you make.”
Frederich, who appeared to be snoozing on the sofa, apparently heard his wife’s suggestion, “Annie I don’t think you should interfere in Karl’s business,” he warned his wife gently, “You know how he gets when he thinks someone is trying to tell him what to do!”
Annie and Emilie both chuckled at the same time and then looked at each other and burst out laughing. Both women had seen the surly side of Karl and knew that Frederich’s words held a ring of truth to them.
“It would be a good way to earn money to buy things for the children!” Emilie said, more serious now.
“My dear… that would only make it worse!” Frederich said from his place on the sofa, “He would think that you were under the impression that he could not provide for his children!”
Annie agreed. “Frederich’s right. Karl would never stand for you raising money for his children’s sake. You would have to buy things for them without his knowledge; otherwise his stubborn pride would get in the way!”
“Well, I still think it is a good idea, and I plan to talk to him about it when he gets home,” Emilie stated firmly. “The children could use some new clothes and the money would come in handy for that and much more.”
Emilie set the kettle on the stove to warm some water for tea, and proceeded to make a lunch for her guests. With Annie’s help they soon had a hearty dinner prepared and they all gathered around the table to enjoy their meal together.
Raymond was delighted to have a man in the house again and he entertained Frederich and Annie with tales of Emilie’s stove lighting experiences. Anne-Marie, who had so quickly transferred her love to Emilie; was never far from Emilie’s side, and Annie could see that Emilie’s presence was already having a positive effect on the child.
“I have a sewing machine that you might like to borrow, ” Annie informed Emilie, as she watched the children responding to Emilie’s loving attention. Had Raymond always been such a chatterbox, had Anne-Marie ever looked so happy and content? Annie was sure that both children were finally receiving the love and attention that they had surely missed from their own mother. “I don’t use the machine much, so you could keep it here for awhile until you are done with it.”
Emilie was delighted. With a sewing machine she would be able to make such nice things for the children from the material that Martha had sent along with her. Christmas was fast approaching and Emilie now had visions of the children actually having presents to unwrap Christmas morning.
“I would love to borrow your machine for awhile, Annie. Do you think I could have it before Weihnachten . . . Christmas?”
“Frederich can bring it tomorrow when he comes over to do chores,” Annie promised with a knowing smile on her face.
After the meal, the woman washed up the dishes while Frederich attended to the chores outside. He brought in more milk from the night’s milking and this time Emilie took an avid interest in the pail of fresh raw milk that she received. From now on she intended to be the keeper of the milk and cream, and she decided there and then that not a drop of the milk products would ever go to waste again.
Annie and Frederich made their way home much later than they had intended, but they left their neighbor’s small home with a promise from Annie to return sometime before Christmas to help Emilie with her Christmas baking. Frederich would return the next day, this time toting Annie’s precious treadle sewing machine.