Drummond Pioneer Irish Boxty

potato pancakes

 

Drummond Pioneer Irish Boxty

Many of the early settlers in Lanark County, arrived in 1816, like our pioneer ancestor, Tobias Stafford.  He came from County Wexford, married the lovely Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ McGarry, from County Westmeath, and after a year spent on Stafford Island, built a home on lot 10, 11th concession of Drummond Township.

One of the recipes brought from their native southern Ireland, was for Irish Boxty.  It was a simple dish, made with ingredients on hand. In those days, it was a very long trip by horse and buggy to Perth, for supplies.  Many of the early recipes relied on staples, ingredients available in the cupboard, at home.

As some may already know, the Irish love their limericks, and poems, and there is a little rhyme about Boxty, that was often recited with a wink and a smile.  Although it is not very politically-correct in these times, it gives us a glimpse into the things of the past, that were popular in the early days:

 

“Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can’t make boxty,
You’ll never get your man”

 

Recipe for Boxty/ Irish Potato Cakes

2 c mashed potatoes

1 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp grated onion

1 egg, beaten

 

Mix all ingredients together, shape into patties, and fry in a greased pan, until golden brown.  (salt and pepper to taste)  Serve with eggs, breakfast meats, and hot buttered toast.

boxty breakfast

 

(enjoy with a cup of hot Irish breakfast tea, or hot black tea, as our parents did)

 

irish breakfast tea

 

 

This old recipe, in its simplicity, may not be diverse enough for the modern palate, and some may wish to add spices or vegetables into the mix.

Mother and Dad enjoyed plain food that wouldn’t upset their stomachs, and this certainly fits the bill.

and…never to be forgotten, the ritual that always came before any meal at the Stafford home, was the grace:

“Heavenly Father,

Bless this food to our use,

and us, for thy service”

Amen

 

Irish shamrock

 

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For more information on the early Irish settlers of Drummond Township, and St. Patrick’s church:

St. Patrick’s Church, Drummond Township

 

This recipe is from “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”  ISBN: 9780987-7026-09

recipes-recollections-cover-1

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

 

 

‘Witching’ or ‘Dowsing’ for Water

“The Well’s Run Dry!”

I often wonder what went through our Mother’s mind, when Dad informed her that there was no indoor plumbing in the farmhouse, on the Third Line of Bathurst, where they would be living, after the war.

They purchased the farm from Dad’s aunt and uncle, partly with the help of a Veteran’s Grant, in 1946, when Dad returned from overseas.  With two babies in diapers, I can’t imagine that my Mother was very happy at the prospect of drawing water from a well, with a hand-pump, a hundred yards from the house.  There was a big cement cistern in the basement as well, which collected rain water, but that was just for washing, not drinking.

Water was often in short supply, and almost every year by summer’s end, the well was running dry.  When Dad worked for Chaplin’s Dairy, in Glen Tay, he brought water home from the dairy at  night, in big metal milk cans, to hold us over, for a while.

Drilling a well was an expensive project to undertake.  People paid by the foot, and we’d all heard the horror stories about a neighbour or acquaintance, who had paid for drilling but had not ‘hit’ water in the process.

I’m not sure if it’s still done, but the practice in those days, back in the 1950s and 1960s, was to hire a ‘Switcher’, or ‘Diviner’, who would walk the property, and use a method called ‘Dowsing’. In fact, this was such a common practice at the time that I recall this technique being called by a few different names:  Witching,  Switching, and Divining, depending on who you were talking to.

Edgar Hamm witching 2017

Edgar Hamm calls it ‘Witching’, but some call it ‘Dowsing

 

In many cases, a drilling company either had someone on staff, or knew a person with this skill, and brought them along to assist in finding the best spot to drill, where the water was closest to the surface.

The Thompson brothers, Jerry and Connie drilled our well, although I don’t recall who they hired to walk the land with the willow branch to detect the water.

“I remember when a new well was drilled, and when the men came with the dowsing stick. I can’t recall when they called it – I think a divining stick or rod, but it was used to find water.  

I was there, and asked if I could try it.  The men seemed amused, but he told me what to do.  I can’t remember if I felt anything or not, but when he found the water, it seemed to pull him and the stick almost down to the ground.” 

Jackie Stafford Wharton

I recall in those days they used a willow branch, and fashioned it so that it had two short ends, and one long end.  Willow was used, because it was supposed to create the strongest ‘pull’ to the water.  I’ve also heard that peach branches, or hazel branches conduct water in the same way.

divining rod from book

The divining rod: A history of water witching, with a bibliography Water Supply Paper 416 (1917)

 

The practice of dowsing, goes back to the 15th century in Europe, where it was used not only to find water, but to detect metals as well.

Divining rod in Britain 18th century

Divining Rod, 18th century Britain

Dowsing or Witching was used extensively during the building of the railroad, to find drinking water for the crew, along the route.

 

Water witching

Water-witching, 1907

 

Farmers have used water-witching for generations, to determine the best place to dig their wells, and to find a source of drinking water for their cattle in a pasture.

 

Divining rod 1942

George Casely uses a hazel branch to find water on his farm, 1942

 

The practice continues to be used today, in some cities in Canada.  Metal rods are used instead of the old-fashioned tree branches.

City of Ottawa diviner 2017

CBC News, 

“The city (Ottawa) says it still routinely uses the age-old detection technique, also known as dowsing or water witching.

“Definitely the other technology works more consistently,” said Quentin Levesque, manager of what’s known as the city’s “locates group.”

“Should they have difficulties or troubles using the other equipment, the divining rod is there as well.”

The practice involves walking slowly over an area while holding one of the L-shaped rods in each hand. When the two rods cross, that’s supposed to signify the diviner is standing over water.”

Some Call it ‘A Gift’

Can anyone use divining rods, or a willow switch to find water?

Some say it is a gift, and only those with this natural, intuitive, sensing ability can detect water.  Some say that it doesn’t necessarily pass from father to son, or down through the family.

Some people claim that dowsing is a psychic ability, and some scoff and say that it is a learned ability, and that anyone can be trained to do it.

Whether it’s a gift, or something that can be learned, it’s still being practiced today by some, to pinpoint sources of water.

Were my parents happy when the well-witcher located the water in our yard, and the Thompson brothers drilled our well?  They sure were!

Was it mystical or magical or other-worldly, when our Mother turned on the tap in the old house, and drinking water gushed out for the first time?

I’m sure to her, it was.

Audry in front of the house

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, in front of the old house, c. 1965

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

story is an excerpt from “The Well’s Run Dry”, in ‘Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen, ISBN 978-0-9877026-0-9

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Time for Christmas Baking!

“I think a little mouse has been in my cupboard!”, Mother would say mischievously. Of course I knew exactly who the ‘mouse’ or ‘mice’ were that had been sampling the baking supplies in the kitchen cupboard, near the old sink. I was the ‘main’ mouse, and loved to sneak a little taste of the walnuts, coconut, and cherries, that Mother stored for her Christmas baking. My brother, Roger, was the other mouse in the house. He would sneak handfuls of chocolate chips from her baking cupboard after school, and scurry away into the living room.

walnutschipits

coconut                   cherries

Luckily, on those days, so long ago, there were still enough ingredients so Mother could add yet another type of cookie onto her list, and into the oven!

date squares   chocolate chews

Stacks of cookies and squares had been accumulating in the old chest freezer since the cooler fall air blew in from the north, along the Third Line.

toffee   chocolate fudge

 

Mother was knee-deep into her Christmas baking, and as the weeks flew by, there was an ever-growing supply of shortbread, sugar cookies, chocolate chews, date squares, fudge, and toffee, piling up, in preparation for the big day.

 

christmas-cookies

 

One of my favourite types of cookies that Mother made, and tucked away in the freezer for Christmas, were the peanut butter balls. Once thawed, they were as sweet and tasty as the day they were made. They don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients, and they look festive and elegant on any Christmas dessert plate.

Make them now, and stash them in your freezer! Hopefully, the ‘mice’ in your house will leave a few for Christmas!

 

kids-and-cookies

Peanut Butter Balls

1 c of peanut butter
1 c of rice crispies
½ c chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp of melted butter
1 c icing sugar
Desiccated coconut

Mix together the peanut butter, nuts, rice crispies, butter and vanilla, and roll into balls.
Drop the balls into a mixture of thin icing
Roll in coconut
Place on a sheet of waxed paper, and let them set

For variety,  Peanut Butter Balls may be dipped in melted chocolate, mixed with sprinkles, M & Ms, or decorated with bits of pretzels and candies for a festive holiday look!

peanut-butter-balls-dipped-in-chocolate  peanut-butter-balls-with-holiday-sprinkles

peanut-butter-balls-chocolate-chips-and-sprinkles  peanut-butter-ball-reindeer

 

Enjoy this traditional Christmas treat now, or freeze for the holidays!

little kid and cookies

 

What would a Christmas sweets plate be without some melt-in-your-mouth homemade Shortbread Cookies!

 

whipped shortbread

Shortbread Cookies

1/2 c  corn starch

1/2 c  icing sugar

1 c  all purpose flour

1 c  soft butter

Mix dry ingredients.   Blend-in butter, until soft dough is formed.  Chill for 1/2 hour.  Shape into balls 1 inch in diameter.  Flatten with fork.  Decorate with cherry slices.

Bake in slow oven at 300 degrees F, for 20 – 25 minutes, until light golden.

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Be sure to leave some Christmas cookies for Santa!

 

Santa and cookies

 

Who was the lady behind all of those melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookies?

Audry Stafford competed in local fairs in Lanark County for many decades, and won so many prizes in the baking divisions that eventually she was asked to become a Judge.

In the years that followed, she judged baking at fairs, large and small, across the county, and throughout Eastern Ontario.

 

Mother with birthday cake

 

photo:  Audry Stafford with Tib Stafford, in their farmhouse kitchen, on his birthday, July 15, 1990, Third Line, Bathurst Township, Lanark County, Ontario.

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Recipes in this story are from “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”
93 of Audry’s prize-winning recipes are assembled in a book “Recipes and Recollections”, along with stories from her five children, about growing up in rural Eastern Ontario, spanning the years from the 1940s through to the 1980s.

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

Recipes and Recollections book cover sept 2012

Grey November Skies

It was one of those mornings in the late fall, when the sky was so grey that you couldn’t tell whether it was daylight, or still dark outside. Halloween was over for another year, and the snow hadn’t begun for the season, to remind us that Christmas was coming. It was just one of those four or five dark, grey, lifeless weeks in between the colourful fall, and the bright snowy winter, when Mother Nature didn’t seem to know what to do.

bare trees 2

I headed downstairs that Saturday morning, and took a quick look at the clock on the kitchen wall. With the sky so overcast, I couldn’t even guess what time it was, and I didn’t have a clock in my bedroom upstairs. All I knew was the weekend was here, so I didn’t have to go back to Glen Tay School for another two days.

The whole house seemed gloomy. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, and opened the door, the living room was empty. Where was everybody?

old fashioned living room

The only room that seemed to be lit up in the old house was the kitchen, and as I walked through the living room, and got close enough to see, Mother was in full production, as usual.

Mother in the kitchen

She had the old aluminum meat grinder attached to the kitchen table, and had bags of flour and sugar, and boxes of baking soda and baking powder lined up along the edge.

Christmas cake ingredients

There were packages of raisins and candied pineapple, and currants and cherries, all over the top of the freezer, as though they were waiting their turn to go into the huge white ceramic mixing bowl. It looked as though some kind of dried fruit was making its way through the meat grinder, and dropping into one of the melamine bowls waiting below.

grinding fruit

“Can you run down to Cavanagh’s, and pick up some molasses for me?”, she said without looking up from the meat grinder. “I forgot to pick some up at the IGA last night, and I’ll need some for the Christmas cake.”

“Sure.”, I said, and picked up the three quarters that were already sitting there waiting for me, at the end of the table.

three quarters

I grabbed my blue corduroy jacket off of the hook, and headed outside. As soon as I opened the door the cold air hit me, and I remembered how the weather had been getting cooler and cooler these past weeks. It felt cold enough to snow, I thought to myself, and I picked up my old, red, battered bike, still lying on the same spot where I’d left it in the yard, the night before.

old red bike 2

Brrr. It felt even colder once I was on the bike and moving. The lane was downhill, and I coasted all the way onto the Third Line. I had a quick check for cars, and turned right, still coasting for a bit, then I began to pedal. Ugh, Heney’s dogs!, I thought. I needed a newer, faster bike, or a car, or a spaceship; something to get me past Heney’s faster.

As soon as I saw Conboy’s house, I pedaled like mad. I should have eaten breakfast first, I thought. I could use some energy.

I made it past Heney’s unscathed. They didn’t even come out barking that day. They must have been feeding them or something, I thought. Whew! That was easy.

I was moving pretty fast, and made it to Cavanagh’s in no time. Helen was working, and she pointed out the molasses, and asked how everyone was doing, just like she always did.

molasses

I paid for the molasses, and picked up my bike where I’d left it; propped up against the front entrance of the store.

cavanaghs-store-black-and-white-without-garage

Since it was Saturday, I decided that I’d take the long way home. I just didn’t feel like riding past Heney’s again and was sure those dogs would be back out on the road, full of food now, and ready to chase me up the Third Line.

I crossed the road and headed up Cameron’s side road. I passed S.S.# 4 school, and was heading up toward Calvin Church.

S S # 4 School for book

This part of the trip was a bit harder, as it was uphill all the way.

Calvin United Church December 20140001

I passed the church, then up the road a bit more, and turned right onto the Fourth Line. It wasn’t long until I was down near Calvin and Marion Jordan’s place, and I slowed down a bit, as I rounded the corner, and headed toward the railroad tracks.

Tracks back the side road0001

I glanced down into the ditches and spots where I could usually find some flowers to bring home for Mother, but there was no colour in the ditches that day, and even the cattails had gone to seed in the swamp and looked dirty,white and furry. I didn’t see anything worth bringing home for a bouquet.

cattails autumn

When I finally arrived back in the yard, I threw down my bike, and walked into the kitchen.  I could smell the cake batter as soon as I opened the door. The batter for the Christmas Cake was pinkish. I’m not sure why it was that colour; maybe it was juice from the cherries. Mother had saved the bowl for me to clean, and it was sitting on the edge of the table. Mother said she would add the molasses in with the ground fruit, and that sure worked for me. I loved cleaning out the cake batter bowls. This was my kind of breakfast!

cake batter bowl

I’m not sure why the Christmas Cake had to be made so early. Mother said it had to ‘ripen’ and I was never really sure what she meant by that. It wasn’t like a green banana, or one of the green apples from back in the orchard. Still, it was part of the process of making the cake each year, and there was no point in arguing.

dark fruit cake

No matter what the reason for making the Christmas Cake in what seemed like the drabbest, dreariest part of the year, I liked to think of it as kind of a light at the end of a tunnel. It was so grey and colourless outside. The bright leaves were lying, lifeless on the ground. The birds had left the yard. I couldn’t find one bright, pretty flower to bring Mother for a bouquet; not even a cattail. Nature seemed to be in limbo; not sure what to do next.

Creek behind the house0001

Making the Christmas cake was the first sign that the brightest season of the year was on its way. In just a matter of weeks we’d be celebrating Christmas. Bit by bit, in the days ahead, we’d be making progress on our preparations. The Christmas cards would be signed and addressed. Betty Miller and Frances Dixon would begin organizing the Christmas concert at Calvin Church, and we’d all have our parts to study, and new songs to learn.

Dad would be stringing the Christmas lights on the big spruce tree near the house, any day now. Soon, we would be strolling back into the bush to size up the possible candidates for the Christmas tree, that would grace the corner of our living room.

Before too long, pans of fudge would be prepared, and all sorts of cookies and squares would be baked and stored. Crepe paper streamers would be brought out of storage, and old decorations glued and repaired.

So the grey days, I concluded to myself, were days of preparation. These were the days when we would have time to spend getting ready for Christmas. They were the days when we wouldn’t be distracted by the bright sun, and green grass, to go outside and play, but would stay indoors, and stroke things off of our to-do lists.

In its wisdom, Nature had given us quiet, thoughtful days like these,to focus on the things to come, because Christmas would be upon us in no time at all.

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Granny Rutherford’s Dark Fruit Cake

(should be baked a few weeks ahead, and allowed to ripen before Christmas)

2 cups raisins

1 1/2 cups of cherries

1 cup currants

1 cup dates

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 cups seeded raisins

1 cup pecans

1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit

1/2 cup candied pineapple

1/4 tsp. mace

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

3 cups flour

1 cup butter

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp cloves

6 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

1/3 cup cold coffee

Mix fruit and nuts (may grind coarse or fine, as desired)

sift flour and spices and mix well

cream butter, and add sugar and eggs

Add dry ingredients

Bake at 300 degrees for 3 – 3 1/2 hours

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Allow to cool on baking racks

(double-wrap in plastic, then double-wrap in foil, and store in a cool dry place to ripen)

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Who was Granny Rutherford?

Dorothy Woolsey, born in Lincolnshire, England, was just sixteen years old when her mother Mary-Jane Foster Woolsey, passed away.  She often told the story of how they dyed her favourite red coat – black for her mother’s funeral.  In 1909 her father, William Woolsey, brought Dorothy and her siblings over to Canada, because his eldest daughter, Edith, had weak lungs, and the doctor advised him the air in Canada would be better for her.

Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford

Dorothy Woolsey at age 20, in 1914

They settled first in Winnipeg, and Dorothy’s older sister Florence, married, and moved to Saskatoon.  Dorothy went to visit, and she met a handsome young man named Charles Rutherford, a Mechanical Engineer, who came to Canada from St. Lawrence County, New York, to seek his fortune.  Dorothy and Charles fell in love, married, and settled in Edmonton, where their children Dorothea ‘Dolly’, Mildred ‘Mill’, Audry, Muriel, and Jack were born.

Mother and Granny Rutherford

Mother, (Audry Rutherford Stafford) age 18, with her mother, Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford, in front of their home in Edmonton in 1936.

Arlene Granny Mother

Arlene Stafford (Wilson), Granny Rutherford, and Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, 1967

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Christmas Cake recipe – in “Recipes and Recollections –  Treats and Tales From Our Mother’s Kitchen, available in local stores or online.  ISBN 978-0-9877026-0-9

recipes & recollections cover 1

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Sweet Summer Sensation – Mother’s Homemade Preserves

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During the summer months, when Mother was busy with her preserves, we could never be sure which of the many delightful aromas we’d encounter in the old kitchen.  It might be fresh tomatoes stewing and simmering away, or the sharp scent of the chili sauce.  If the cucumbers were ready in the garden, we’d smell dill, or onions, or sweet mustard boiling on top of the stove.  My favourite scents were the berries – raspberries, strawberries and sometimes strawberry-rhubarb.

Preserving the fruits or vegetables from the garden was a necessary task in the summer months with so many hungry kids in our house.  Jars were filled, labelled, and stored in the pantry, in neat rows on shelves, and the extras lined up along the floor.  Pickles, vegetables and jams were a welcome sight mid-winter, when the fresh crops from the garden were a faded memory.

Imagine coming down the stairs on a cold winter morning, walking across the chilly floor, a layer of ice on the inside of the windows and then seeing a mason jar of homemade jam in the middle of the kitchen table.  It was as though the spirit of summer was brought back to life after its long wait in the pantry.  The toast would pop up, and the jam would be spread generously, on the thick slices of homemade bread.  The berries, picked at their peak of perfection, tasted sweet and fresh, and were a temporary escape from the harsh weather that lay waiting, outside the kitchen walls.

The preserves at our house were never complicated, and the ingredients were basic.  There was no extra money for fancy additions to the recipes, so they contained only things at hand.  Because of their simplicity, they retained the true flavour of the vegetable or fruit, and it was as though the essence of the harvest was captured and frozen in time, in those precious little jars.

The Strawberry Jam recipe that follows contains only three ingredients – strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.  It is simple to make, and will keep for a year if stored in a cool place.  It also doesn’t require any fancy ‘gear’ to make it.  We had no special pots or kitchen ‘machines’ at home, and yet year after year, Mother managed to dozens of prizes at the local fairs, with her simple recipes.

What you’ll need:

2  pounds of fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, etc.

4 cups of white sugar

One quarter of a cup of lemon juice

Before you get started, boil your mason jars for ten minutes, and let them dry upside down on a towel.

Crush the berries with a potato masher in a saucepan, then add the sugar, and lemon juice

Stir over low heat to melt sugar, then, bring to a full, rolling boil for two minutes

Pour into jars, leaving a half inch of space at the top, and screw lids on tightly

Place filled jars in a deep pot until water is one inch over the top, and boil for five minutes

Remove, apply a label if desired, store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Hamburger relish

Hamburger Relish

4 c ground cucumbers

1/2 c ground red sweet peppers

3 c ground celery

4 Tbsp. salt

2 c white vinegar

1 1/2 c ground green sweet peppers

3 c ground onion

1 Tbsp mustard seed

2 1/2 c. white sugar

1 Tbsp. celery seed

(sprinkle vegetables with salt, and let stand for 2 hours)

Drain well

Bring juice to a boil

Stir in Vegetables and bring to a boil

Simmer for 10 minutes

Fill into mason jars

 

Enjoy the sweet taste of summer, all year round!

 

(recipes from “Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen)
ISBN 978-0-9877026-09
available in local stores, or online

R and R bookmark image