Archive for February, 2019

An Evening in Victoria

Let me tell you a story.

This past Saturday evening we decided to go to Victoria, a small town nestled deep in the heart of central Virginia, about an hour’s drive from our farm. It was a spur of the moment decision. Gene came in from feeding the cows and asked if I wanted to go. He had heard about a country bluegrass group singing at Victoria Restaurant that evening on WSVS,  a small town station located in Crewe at 800 AM that plays country and bluegrass music. The afternoon DJ each day is Bobby Wilcox from our hometown of Powhatan.

It was a cold, dreary, rainy evening but what we found in small town USA was a warm and welcoming reception.  We arrived one hour early thinking we had plenty of time for the buffet supper. Actually we were about the last to arrive and most had already eaten.  We didn’t realize we needed to make reservations but we were welcomed in with the assurance that they would find us a spot in the already packed room.  They first found us a table in the side room where the musicians were eating and preparing for their performance, to eat our supper.

The buffet was a true southern feast: fried chicken, meatloaf, mash potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans,  white navy beans, macaroni and cheese, hot homemade rolls, banana pudding, and blackberry cobbler. The musician in charge of the group interacted with us, asking where we were from and what brought us to the event. When he discovered we were from Powhatan, he made the instant connection to Bobby Wilcox and mentioned that he was in house that evening. It was obvious that Bobby was a well-known and loved radio celebrity in that part of the country! He went and found us a spot to sit…. at Bobby Wilcox’s reserved table.

The opening band was “First Time Around”, a local group who sang country gospel music for one hour. They did an excellent job and were very open in sharing their faith through testimony and singing.

The feature group was “Appalachian Express”, a well-known country bluegrass group with a list of credentials and awards to fill a book. They entertained us well for almost two hours.

At one point during the evening, they expressed appreciation for all the musicians and singers in attendance that evening, and there were quite a few.  Most we didn’t know (except for Rusty Yoder), but those mentioned were well-known by those who follow bluegrass music.  We discovered that seated beside us was one of the extended Clark family who has personally preformed on Hee Haw.  Victoria is in the area of Virginia where Hee Haw’s Roy Clark, now deceased, lived. As they wound down the evening, they raised the roof with the foot-stomping “Rocky Top Tennessee”. Then they asked all the veterans to stand. As the 50 or more older men, out of the group of 125 or more, rose to their feet their faces showed emotion as they were thanked and the audience clapped their appreciation. The leader of the group, the man in red in the picture, asked one of the veterans to retrieve the flag in the side room. As he stood straight and tall off to the side, they sang “America the Beautiful”.  The audience instantly rose as one, hats came off and right hands were placed on hearts in respect and honor for our great nation for whom many had fought and suffered. The “man in red” closed by saying, “Thank you and good night to everyone. Tomorrow, attend a church of your choice.”

I snapped this picture just before the veteran removed his hat and handed it to his wife.

It was a special evening and as we traveled home we talked about the evening. Not one person used the venue to mention politics, speak an unkind or vile word, make a crude or belittling insult towards any person or group. No one stomped on the flag. In fact, it was quite the opposite. There was respect for the flag and honor for our veterans who gave so much for our freedom.  There was love for our country with no resisters or jeers of protest.  And most of all, faith in God was openly expressed without shame or fear. God’s redeeming love was proclaimed and no one was threatened with hate.

Rural hometown USA is different than how the media portrays in the news. This was “God and country” territory; the America we know, love and cherish.

A little bit about Victoria Restaurant…..

They are located in the heart of  a little city with 17 streets. They are located 1411 8th St. Victoria, VA 23974. On Friday evenings, locals play and sing as you dine and there is no charge for the entertainment. On Saturday evenings, they have scheduled groups and there is a $10 per person fee plus the food.

They also have a facebook page where you can follow their schedule of events.

Homemade Doughnuts

When it snowed, my mother often made doughnuts. A low pressure system along with a toasty warm house makes perfect conditions for extra light yeast breads. When it snows, I always get the itch to make something using yeast. I just have too, it is in my genes! Today broke cold with freezing rain, sleet and snow. Even though the mess only lasted for the morning and didn’t amount to much, it was enough for me to want to make doughnuts.

After lunch, granddaughters Emily and Lauren came over and helped me with the project.

 These doughnuts are so light and soft you can hardly handle them!

While the doughnuts were rising we played Mancala.

Lauren did the frying.

Oh, yes, we always make the “holes”.

Doughnuts fried and ready to glaze. We always glaze immediately after frying while they are still hot.

Emily did the glazing.

And I made the batches of glaze and packaged the doughnuts.

When we were all done, we sat down and had a feast.

The recipe I use came from a dear friend, Gladys Harman. I have never found a recipe that I like any better. This is also my mother’s favorite. So, when I make doughnuts, it is a fun trip down memory lane.

Doughnuts

Dough:

Mix together in my large Kitchen Aid mixer bowl: Let set a few minutes until mixture is bubbly.

  • 4 c. warm water
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 6 T. or 6 pkgs of instant yeast

Add:

  • 1-1/2 cup (3 sticks) melted margarine
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. mace (This is a spice. It is optional but we love the flavor-it’s what makes these doughnuts so special)
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 14 c. bread flour (approximate)

I start with 6-7 cups of flour and beat on high for several minutes until the dough gets very elastic.  Slow the speed and gradually add as much flour as your mixer can handle. I dump the dough into a very large metal mixing bowl and finish by hand. Cover with several tablespoons of vegetable oil. Cover with a cloth and let rise 1 hour or until double in size.

Divide the dough into 4 or 5 pieces and roll into a rectangle about 1/2 ” thick on a floured counter top.  I use my card table (so I can move it close to the stove when I am ready to fry), covered with a cloth sprinkled with flour to lay my cutout doughnuts on. Let rise until double, approximately 30-40 mins.

Fry the doughnuts in hot oil (375 degrees) until golden brown, flip, and fry the other side. I like using my cast iron skillet.  Lay the fried doughnuts on a tray covered with paper towels to help absorb the oil.

A tip to help fry the “holes”… do not fry with the large doughnuts, fry the small ones by themselves. Put as many in the skillet as you can and stir constantly while they are frying.  You can not fry one side and flip them. They will not stay flipped.

This is a large recipe and makes about 10 dozen very soft doughnuts-depending on the size dough cutter you use.

These are my two favorite doughnut cutters:  Either one can be purchased on line.

This one is 2-5/8″ diameter and I have used it for years. Makes a small nice-size doughnut.

 I just got this one and it is 3.5″ diameter and makes a doughnut about the same size as a Krispy Creme. I love the larger size but you have to be careful when frying this one that your oil is not too hot or they fry too quickly and the inside of the doughnut is doughy-not quite done.

Glaze:

Mix together In a pint size glass measuring cup and let soak at least five minutes: (I like to use my hand beaters to mix it together).

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 pkg plain Knox gelatin

I use by double boiler pan to dip. When the water in the bottom pan comes to a boil I turn it down on  and add:

  • The water/gelatin mix
  • 1 box (1#) of XXX sugar
  • A few drops of vanilla flavoring
  • A few shakes of salt from the salt shaker.

Mix with hand beaters until mixed together and smooth.  You can start dipping the doughnuts immediately. I lay the doughnuts on a wire rack on a cookie sheet to dry.

You will need to make the glaze about 3 times to dip all the doughnuts and “holes”. As soon as I put the first batch into the double boiler pan, I get the water/gelatin mix started for the next batch.

A doughnut secret:

Always freeze the doughnuts after making even if you are going to eat them the next day, as the glaze tends to soak into the doughnuts making them stale. When ready to serve, remove from freezer, and zap in the microwave. Fix yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy.

The Denbigh Farm-Now and Then

Last weekend (February 2, 2019) when we went to Norfolk, we came home through Newport News, or more specifically, Denbigh.  It was with dread and curiosity that we turned down Colony Road and approached the home place. It is no longer home, just a place where home used to be. A memory, with all the reminders gone.  No longer family, just strangers walking the sod. As we approached the once familiar spot, we stopped by a large entrance sign welcoming us to the neighborhood.

I guess it made the developer feel better to call it “Meadows”. The meadow is long gone-only a throw back memory of horses grazing in the pastures. Instead, pristine houses have been planted and paved streets laid where stately, productive pecan trees, daylilies, irises, asparagus, and peonies once flourished. The squirrels, songbirds and woodpeckers have found other nesting places as only one lonely pecan tree still stands. The meadow of wildflowers and native grasses is now a sea of houses.

We always knew where to turn into the drive circling the old farmhouse, it was obvious, but now suddenly we didn’t know. We looked at the row of houses and wondered which one sat on THE spot.  And then we spied the one lone pecan tree that stood as a sad memorial to bygone days. It really looked pitiful and out of place. No longer was it a tall, stately tree; somehow it seemed to shrivel in size and demeanor. Gene finally decided it was the tree at the back left corner of the house where it cast its shadow over dad’s car.

Paved streets, concrete curbs and sidewalks have now replaced overgrown hedge rows. There is a street named after Dad Hertzler. Dad knew this time would come. He fought hard to protect and preserve the farm where he, and his father and grandfather before him tilled the soil.  In the last few years of his life, Dad reconciled with himself that he was the end of an era. It was time to let go. Even though he set the plans in motion,  he didn’t have to see it actually happen. With Dad’s passing, the last parcel of the original 1,200 acre Young Plantation bowed its head and ceased to exist as a farm.

We drove down Colony Road, turned left on Hertzler Road. The old swampy, algae covered pond on the backside of the farm is still there. It is on protected wet lands. We turned left on Miller Road completing the block as we quietly cruised by the cemetery where Dad and Mama Hertzler along with many other patriarchs of the Denbigh Colony rest in peace under the boughs of huge shade trees.

The Before…

Sign welcoming us to Quarterfield Farm Stables.

1994: Daddy and Mama sitting in the yard under the pecan tree. One of my favorite pictures.

The farmhouse: rich in history, full of memories.  It survived the fire in but not the bulldozers! (See blog post below, “Fire”).

 

Dad’s favorite iris.

The garden plot with the row of pecan trees beside the driveway.

No paved driveway.

Horses grazing in the meadow.

Horses instead of bicycles.

Time moves on, the old gives way to new.  We treasure the memories and hold them dear to our hearts.

Gone, but not forgotten!

Other blog posts about the farm:

Battleship Wisconsin-Norfolk

 

Yesterday (February 2, 2019) we took our family to visit the Battleship Wisconsin (BB-64) who is berthed at Nauticus, in Norfolk, Virginia at the largest navel base in the world.  It was fun, educational and very interesting to visit this majestic battleship who, in her day, was queen of the ocean.

The Wisconsin, affectionately nicknamed “Big Whisky,” is 887 feet, 3 inches in length and 108 feet, 3 inches at the beam and could reach speeds of 33 knots. Her crew complement was 1,921 officers and enlisted men.  Despite its mammoth proportions, the Japanese had three battleships that dwarfed the Wisconsin.

This ship was actually the second ship so named. The first was called the BB-9 and was decommissioned in 1920 after over two decades of service. The second Wisconsin was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1941 and launched on December 7, 1943, the second anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Battleships are no longer used by the navy and have been replaced with Air Carriers and Destroyers.

Big Wisky enjoyed a service that spanned six decades, surviving two typhoons and participated in three major wars:  World War II,  Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm where she fired the last shot of the war.  In 1991, least than a month after returning from Desert Storm, she was decommissioned and relieved of active duty. In 2006, the US Navy deleted the Wisconsin and Iowa battleships from the NVR and made arrangements for the battleships to be donated to a museum.  The United States Congress was very concerned about the loss of battleship firepower and stipulated that the Wisconsin had to be maintained “battle-ready” for deployment if needed.   In 2009 all rights to the battleship were relinquished as it became apparent that $500 million was needed to reactivate the aging vessel and $1.5 billion for full modernization.  The battleship was then stripped of usable parts be used on other ships. She fought with distinction in three wars and is now enjoying an honorable retirement as a tourist attraction. An interesting tidbit…. it cost $1 million a year to keep the Wissonsin in retirement. In her active days, it cost $1 million per day to maintain her duty.

For Christmas this year, we gave our kids and grandkids an experience gift-a tour of the Battleship Wisconsin.  You can take a self-guided tour or take advantage of two guided tours: Command and Control Rooms and Engine Room.

  • Command and Control Tour was a 90 minute tour that covered four “decks” and included the Captain’s cabin, Admiral’s cabin, Combat Engagement Center, Flag Bridge, navigation Bridge and Quartermaster’s space.

Here we are sitting around the table in the Captain’s cabin. This was a very important place where meetings and decisions were made with some big name military personnel.  Norman Schwarzkupf Jr. a United States Army General who was Commander of Central Command sat at this table. We just don’t know who sat in his chair!

Pictures of the tour……

Boarding the ship

The Captain’s Quarters.

The captain is in command of the ship.  No one can tell him what to do. He is the final word.

Our tour guide was well-versed as he had served on the ship. Those numbers are very important and these signs are posted everywhere.  It tells emergency personnel the exact location of that room on the ship with each number or letter giving specific important information. I remember that the second row (89-95) refers to the numbers on the metal i-beams in the ceiling of the room.

In the Captain Cabin is this photo of the Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and New Jersey Battleships at sea.

The Control room where commands are given to “fire”. The brown chair is the captains chair.

A simulation of what it is like in that room during battle. The blue light was used to produce a calming effect during the flashing lights, voice commands and intense release of firepower.

 

Navigation Table where they mark and keep track of their location at all times.

This bubbles on this Clinometer tells us that the ship is floating level. If the bubble was at the top of the U-shaped curl on the far right,  we would be upside down-capsized and heading for the bottom of the sea! Incidentally, he said that divers always look for this meter as it tells them a lot about what happened.

These steep ladders were everywhere. For some of us it was easier to go down backwards.

And others preferred this way!

There were valves, levers, gauges, pipes, and equipment everywhere.

This door to the Control Room that is on top on the ship weighs 10,000 lbs. The solid steel and iron security was incredible. Attacking missiles can not penetrate it.

Sometimes it just feels good to “be captain”!!!

A view down a long walkway-over 300 feet.

  • Engine Room Tour was a 60 minute that took us seven “decks” down in the depths of the Battleship Wisconsin, where we learned what was required to power this massive city at Sea.

Pictures of this tour……

There were four engine rooms where huge broilers made steam to produce electricity and power the ship. We were in Engine Room #1.

The organized maze of electrical wires and pipes was beyond comprehension.  I can’t not fathom the engineer planning that went into producing such an incredible ship where everything fit, had it’s place and worked. And they knew what it all meant!

It was hard to get many pictures in the bowel of the ship. The spaces were so small and the equipment so huge. Some of these areas get so hot when in use because of the steam broilers.  The men worked in 130 degree temperatures with 100% humidity and no air conditioning. They can only work four-hour watches. There was one room that had crucial gauges in it that would get up to 150 degrees. That is the limit a human body can stand and they can only be in that room 30 seconds. Two go in and quickly read the gauges and come back out. No one is allowed to go in alone. Some of the pipes are 800 plus degrees. You do not accidently touch them or you deeply regret the moment.  We were down seven decks and saw the bilge-the floor of the ship.

We learned the ship has it’s own language: some examples.

  • Deck means floor
  • Hatch means door
  • Chow means food
  • Ladder means steps
  • Berth means bunk bed
  • Gallery mans kitchen
  • Scuttles means portholes
  • Speed is measured in knots
  • Bow is the front of the ship
  • Port is the left side of the bow
  • Starboard is the right side of the bow
  • Bilge-the very bottom of the ship

A destroyer always traveled with the battleship to help protect her from enemy attack and submarines. The battleship was incapable of detecting or destroying submarines. The destroyers were smaller, not as noisy, more agile and equipped with sonar equipment.

Our self-guided tour pictures….

 

Tomahawk Missile Launcher

They told the story from several years ago, when a man was visiting and touring the ship, and he asked why they didn’t raise the hatch on the launcher so people could see what it looked like. They had to admit, no one knew how. He said, “I did that job, I know how.” The next day the man returned and he took them to the right control, push the button, and the hatch raised.

The fire-power of this ship, the accuracy it could hit and the distance the missiles could go was fearsome and state of the art.

 

Berths were stuck in every available nook.

Dentist office.

Chapel.

 

Several times during the day we were referred to as “the large family”.  As we purchased our tickets, they became aware that this was our Christmas gift to the family. When we left the building, walked across the bridge to the ship where our tour guide was waiting for us, he said, “Are you the large family”?  The word was passed around!  When we were leaving in the late afternoon, one of the staff was standing by the door and wished us a “Merry Christmas”!

Sources of Information:

Most of the facts were spoken to us by the Wisconsin tour guides but I checked the following websites to fact-check as many as possible for accuracy:

 

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