Archive for March, 2012

Julia's Potato Rolls

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Peter Olson homestead near Bridgeport, Kansas. Photo featured in book "Egg Gravy" by Linda K. Hubalek.Last week I mentioned Aunt Julia who grew up in the same house as I did, and married Joe Olson, the boy “next door”.

Joe’s parents, Peter and Hannah, lived in a dugout before building this house featured with this blog. (A larger home was built on their farm before I was born, so I was never in the original home.)

We were frequent visitors to Joe and Aunt Julia Olson’s house when I was growing up, and she always offered “lunch” to us. Forenoon lunch or afternoon lunch was on either side of “dinner”, the noon meal. “Supper” was the evening meal.

I remember where she kept her store bought coconut bar cookies in the cupboard on the north wall of her kitchen. Although she was well known for her baking, I don’t know if she thought these cookies were a better treat, or it was her reserve stash to use as backup if her own cookie jar was empty.

My favorite treat made by Aunt Julia was actually her potato rolls. If my memory serves me right, she saved mashed potatoes from the Sunday meal and used them to make the rolls on Monday. It’s been a long time since I made them, but I can still smell and taste them right out of the oven.

Maybe it’s time I make a batch myself. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try them. This is out of my book Egg Gravy: Authentic Recipes from the Butter in the Well Series.

 Egg Gravy- Authentic Recipes from the Butter in the Well Series. Pioneer cooking book by Linda K. Hubalek.Julia’s Potato Rolls

1 cup flour
½ cup sugar (scant)
1 cup mashed potatoes
salt to taste
¾ cup lard
½ cup lukewarm water
1 cup sweet milk
1 yeast cake
2 eggs, well beaten

Mix all ingredients, adding flour and yeast (mixed with water) last. Set to rise for two hours in a warm place, add 5 to 6 cups flour. Let rise again, mold into rolls, rise again, and bake in moderate oven. (Note there is no oven temperature or baking time in the recipe as women knew their wood oven.)

If you try the recipe, please let me know what you thought of Julia’s rolls. You’ll be eating a bit of pioneer cooking…

Passing back the Quilt

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series, quilts and quilting

The "Butter in the Well" house is featured in the book series by Linda K. Hubalek.I’ve been going through old photos recently and sorting them (and my memories) by the decades they were taken. It’s interesting to see the old “Butter in the Well” house in the background. They were all snapshots of everyday life at that moment, and now so many memories later…

Then I think of photos I’ve been given of the first family that lived on the same farm, and see the same backgrounds. (The first photo is of Mabel and Julia Runneberg standing in front of the house in the early1900s, and the second photo is me, by the same gate on my first day of school in 1960.)

It makes me wonder, who used which bedroom, where did their kitchen table sit, how many times was the quilt stand set up in the parlor?

Author Linda K. Hubalek, 1960, in front of the "Butter in the Well" house, featured in her book series by that name.“Aunt” Julia grew up in the same house that I did. She was born in 1884, and I, seventy years later. Although she wasn’t a relative of mine, we called her Aunt Julia because she was almost everyone’s aunt in our farming neighborhood. She married the boy next door and lived her next sixty years a quarter of a mile from her childhood home. Aunt Julia was like a grandmother to me, and my occasional babysitter.

She was bedridden in her last year of life at home. It was hard for me to visit her because it made me so sad to see her waste away.

One time I didn’t go over with my mom to see her, and Aunt Julia sent home some quilts for me to have. Of course, now I wish I could have gotten the quilts—and the stories behind the them—direct from Aunt Julia, but at age seventeen I didn’t think of that.

Antique crazy quilt owned by Linda K. Hubalek.But, now I do…

I can just imagine Julia, as a teenager in the 1890s, stitching this crazy quilt together in the parlor, the same room that we used for our sewing projects.

And I can see this quilt being carried out in 1911 when Julia married—and back in 1971 when I received it—through the same gate in front of the house we both used…

Can you find the well?

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

"Butter in the Well" homestead photo, taken in 1881. (copyright © Linda K. Hubalek)The first home on the “Butter in the Well” homestead was a dugout. Two years later in 1870, the Svensson family built the first section of their wood-frame house. They added on at least two more times over the next two decades.

Here are excerpts from Butter in the Well, as well as a copy of the first photo taken of the house in 1881. It shows the front of the house, which is the second addition to the house. The stone section was on the west side and did not show on this photo.

June 4, 1870
We finally have enough stone to start building our house. We have been collecting sandstone rocks whenever we come across them in the field or the creek. It has been hard to find enough rock nearby.

Yesterday Carl picked up the last wagonload of local rock. There is a rise of hills two miles south that has an outcropping of stone. The rains last week loosened the sod enough that it was easy to dig out the rocks with a spade and pick.

The cellar is dug. It will be used as storage for our preserved food, and as a root cellar for our vegetables and fruits from the garden. We also need a place for shelter from tornadoes, the cyclone winds that Kansas is known for. We’ll have one entrance to the cellar from outside on the north, one from the porch on the south and one inside the house. After the stone walls are in place in the cellar, and the floor is laid for the house, I want to move into the cellar. We’d have more room than in the dugout and the cellar floor seems drier than the dugout floor. We have had water seeping up from the floor of the dugout this spring. It is always muddy and doesn’t want to dry out. It will be so nice to get out of the damp ground and live on a wooden floor when the house is done.

Our house will measure 16 feet square. Imagine all the space we’ll have. It will consist of one big room with a loft above it. We hope to add on more rooms as we have the time and money.

Carl bought glass for three windows, a door, shingles and more lumber when he was in Salina last week. One window will go in the middle of the west wall, one in the middle of the south wall, and a little window in the west end of the loft. The front door will go in the southeast corner of the house.

Carl also bought a big cooking stove with the money he received from selling some of last year’s wheat. It will go on the west wall, just to the right of the window so I can gaze out at our farm while I’m cooking.

We’ll have a ladder on the east wall to get up into the loft, which we’ll use as storage and for an extra bedroom. I’d like to add a porch to the south eventually. Then I can sit and watch the children play while I’m sewing, snapping beans or whatever needs to be done. 

June 12, 1870
Rock by rock we are slowly building the walls. We are mixing a plaster of sand, clay and lime to cement the rock together. Benjamin and Mr. Lapsley are helping today. Adelaide came over to watch the progress and help me fix the meals for the extra hands.

As I stood inside my partially built house tonight, I tried to imagine what it will look like when it is done. I want to put up red gingham curtains that I can tie back during the day, and braid some rag rugs for the floor. The old hides have worked well in the dugout, but I want our new home to look like a real house, like the one we had in Sweden.

March 16, 1876
With four growing children, our house has become too small. We had hoped to add on sooner, but it hasn’t been possible until now. It is going to be an American two-story frame house.

I will have to move my flower bed from its place on the east side. I’ve collected wildflower seeds in the fall from the open prairie and now I have a beautiful variety of flowers around our home. Columbine and daisies bloom in the spring. I enjoy the primrose and phlox in the summer and the goldenrod and asters in the fall. The wild rose roots I dug up have spread everywhere so I have a nice stand of them. I throw my wash water on the flower beds when I empty the tubs, so they are well watered. I love the splash of color the flowers have added to the homestead. We dug up several small cedar and ash saplings from the riverbank and transplanted them around the house, but they are out far enough that they won’t have to be moved.

We have bought lumber, glass for windows and doors to build on four rooms. We will add two rooms to the east part of the stone room, with two rooms directly above it. Since the cellar is already a nice size, we will not dig a basement for the new section.

Carl will put in a staircase to the upstairs and seal off the hole in the ceiling we have been using to get to the loft. We’ll add a door to the side of the loft at the top of the stairway and use that area for an attic. The southeast room will be our bedroom. A smaller bedroom to the north will be used as Alfred’s nursery, and we’ll have a storage closet under the stairwell. A stove in our room will heat the new section of the house.

At the top of the stairs will be one small room for Willie and a larger room to the south for the girls. The girls are excited about having their own room, away from their brother! The upstairs will be cold during the winter, but the children can come downstairs to dress in front of the kitchen stove.

The walls will be plastered and eventually papered. There is enough wood for trim inside around the windows, doors and baseboards. I’ll need to make more curtains and Carl will have to make more furniture.

Carl even bought extra siding to cover the sandstone walls on the old part of the house. After we paint, the house will be done.

May 5, 1881
A photographist stopped by to ask if I would like a picture taken of us and the farm. He has been traveling around the area this week. I decided it would be a good idea because we do not have such a picture. Carl and I had talked about it, but we never found the time or money. We brought the animals out of the barn to show how well we are doing. We stood in front of the house. I asked Peter to be in the picture also, since he helps us out so much.”
(Excerpts from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

Butter in the Well, historical fiction book by Linda K. HubalekPerishables, before the days of electricity, were kept in crocks and buckets, and lowered down with a rope into the well to be stored right above the water level. The well was a cool place to store food that would otherwise spoil.

According to a family story, one time the rope broke so there is a crock of butter in the bottom of the well. Now you know how I came up with the title for this book, Butter in the Well.

Looking closely at the homestead photo, can you find the well? Post a comment when you find it- and anything else you find interesting or have a question about… (You can go to my Facebook page to see a larger copy of it and comment there too.)

Birthdays in the Old House

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Linda Hubalek's fifth birthday partyI’m 58 years old today and thinking about my childhood home where I celebrated birthdays for eighteen years until I started college.

We celebrated birthdays during breakfast, complete with cake and opening of our presents before we got on the school bus.

The earliest birthdays I remember was my 5th birthday party with hats and friends, and marking off the days on the calendar to March 7 for my (matching number) 7th birthday.

The only birthday I remember not held in the kitchen was my 13th birthday— because my dad was hit in the head with a frozen clod of manure thrown from the manure spreader the day before, breaking a bone in his temple and he had to have surgery to correct it.

Memories of my childhood home are flooding back this week because after 142 years of existence, our childhood home was bulldozed on March 1, which by coincidence was the date my parents took position of it in 1946 as newlyweds. They built a new ranch-style house on the farm in 1974 and used the old house for storage.

Linda Hubalek and siblings in front of the "Butter in the Well" house, 1962.But, without no one living in the house for over thirty years, it finally decayed to the point where the roof caved in, sealing itself off from entry. My parents moved into town this last fall, my brother took over the farm, and tore down the house this month.

The house has been in the background of many photos documenting our childhood, and was the inspiration for my writing career, starting with my first book Butter in the Well.

I’m afraid the house is now gone for people to see (I had put the township maps in the back of the book so people found the farm and mom and dad had many visitors because if that) but its story can still be enjoyed through my book series.

And I’ll always have my photos and memories of growing up in the Old House, especially of special days like birthdays…

Linda’s Books & Series

Smör i brunnen

The Swedish translation of "Butter in the Well" book. Autographed.
$16.95 (tax incl.)
by consiliumclub

Butter In The Well Book Series

All four books at a discount rate. Autographed.
$42.95 (tax incl.)
by lindahubalek

Harvesting Faith

Autographed. Book 3, Planting Dreams Series
$11.95 (tax incl.)
by lindahubalek

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