Monday, April 30, 2012

Goodbye Sycamore

Dramatic changes in Munichburg are beginning. Today, the city's contractors have started the work for new sidewalks, curbs, and gutters on the two blocks of Broadway between the 50/63 Expressway and Dunklin Street.

The first order of business is to trim or cut down trees, some of which were interfering with power lines, or wrecking the sidewalks with their surface roots, or both.

Today I witnessed the demise of a big old sycamore that stood on the northwest corner of Broadway and W. Elm (right across the street from me, so I had good views).

My heart and my head are at war over this--my heart cries for the lovely tree, its long life, it's surviving the ice storm of 2007, and the shade it's given us all these years, particularly the shade it's given our neighbor's front porch over there. And besides, sycamores are one of my favorite kinds of trees. I love sycamores. They're gorgeous, tall, and strong. A little messy, but they make up for it in wonder and grace.

But my head knows that this tree was doomed from the minute it was planted. Indeed, my dad told me that when the then-neighbor-lady put it in the ground and still had the shovel in her hands, my grandma had walked across the street to tell her it was absolutely the wrong kind of tree in the wrong place: "That sycamore's going to get too tall! The electric company's going to come and butcher it because it will interfere with the power lines!"

And yes, it is--it was--right there on the corner, getting butchered and hacked at nearly every other year by those coarse fellows the electric company brings in from out of town to do their quick, sloppy work.

But today a local tree trimming company made short, careful, elegant work of taking it apart and turning it into mulch. I wonder what they do with the biggest limbs and the massive chunks of bole?

It was really something to see. But my heart does ache today.

It's true, we're excited to get new sidewalks and gutters--but anytime a big ol' tree has to be felled in the prime of life, it's sad.

Following are a series of pictures I took from our top window. They started about 1:30 this afternoon, and it was all over by about 4:15.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Munichburg Online!

Hey, folks, I’m way behind the game here, but I wanted to tell you about a new blog! It’s called “Munichburg Memories,” and I’m sure it will appeal to all you folks who are interested in Jefferson City and German American history.

The blog is sponsored by the Old Munichburg Association, and it’s written by my dad, who’s a retired professor from the University of Missouri and is a professional geographer. One of his longstanding interests is the historical geography of Missouri, and this blog is one way he can share some of the wealth of information he’s got stored in his noggin.

The tone of the posts varies a bit (Dad’s new at “blogging”!), but I think that’s just fine. Some of them are heartwarming and nostalgic, some of them reflect his career as an educator.

My favorites are the ones that tell his quirky growing-up stories, like the post about Herr Goldammer’s glass eyeball, and the ones that illustrate the past by describing particular episodes in precise and personal detail (like the post about how my grandpa’s barbershop was integrated). The humorous ones kind of remind me of Jean Shepherd’s Christmas Story.

(By the way, I’m one of the administrators for the blog, which is one reason my posts here at the Op Op have been kind of thin lately; I’m just busy, with a lot of fun stuff!)

I really hope you’ll bookmark Munichburg Memories and visit it often, because it’s full of interesting nuggets about Jefferson City’s Southside and the German immigrant experience. And, it’s just fun!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Corn Griddlecakes an’ Sorghum Molasses

Another cool morning here in Central Missouri! This spring, we’ve had remarkably warm weather remarkably early, so these brief “cool-downs” have been especially welcome. And it makes one hungry for a warm, hearty breakfast!

I’ve been dipping into some small-time, down-home Ozark-cookin’ cookbooks, and Sue and I have given our Jane Austen reading a rest, in favor of reading more of the colorful folk tales Vance Randolph collected from southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Plus, last weekend was the Big Muddy Folk Festival in Boonville . . . so I had a hankerin’ for something, well, “indigenous.”

You can’t get more indigenous to the Ozarks than corn (and ham, and greens), and old-fashioned sorghum molasses is a regional treat that those poor, deprived people in big cities rarely get to have. But it was our breakfast today, and you can’t ask for anything more delicious at the breakfast table.

Recently, my favorite recipes have been coming from the sixty-year-old Good Housekeeping Cook Book, edited by Dorothy B. Marsh (New York: Rinehart, 1949). I love it because it provides tons of basic, foolproof recipes without much reliance on premade, frozen, boxed, canned or “glassed” foods. The following formulation is a golden example.

I’m completely paraphrasing this; the original appears on pages 443–44 of the book and is a variation of the basic “step-by-step” Griddlecakes recipe.

Corn Griddlecakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal [not too coarsely ground; also, I prefer yellow because it’s so pretty!]
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter, margarine, vegetable oil, or other fat

Instructions: I’m not going to retype the book’s method, because I’ll bet you know what to do to heat the griddle or skillet to the right temperature, to know when to flip the cakes, etc. And you know how to mix the batter, too: Combine the dry ingredients and set aside; beat the eggs and beat in the rest of the liquid ingredients; then combine all together with as little stirring as possible.

The cakes will be about 4 inches in diameter; this recipe makes about 12 cakes.


The jug of sorghum we’re currently enjoying is from a Mennonite producer, Daniel Hoover, in Bates County, Missouri. You can order it here!

Notes on the Cakes

I recommend making a double recipe of these corn cakes, so you have plenty of leftovers!

You can also make up your own convenient “corn cakes mix” by combining all the dry ingredients and putting them in a jar; all you have to measure out in the morning is about 1 1/4 cup of the mix plus the liquid ingredients.

Corn, in all its forms, is the official grain of the Americas, and leftover corn cakes are more versatile than regular pancakes when it comes to having with a dinner:

—They can go with anything down-home, like with greens and ham, say, or with a bowl of bean soup. Use them like cornbread.

—They can also go Mexican—topped with salsa and sour cream or guacamole, next to some huevos or refried beans; treat them like pudgy corn tortillas.

—Eat them with a bowl of chili!

—Or travel vicariously to South America, serving them beside grilled steak, roasted bell peppers, and a chimichurri sauce.

—They also make good breakfast sandwiches, filled with a fried egg and a couple pieces of bacon, and topped with some maple syrup. (Mmm! Maybe if we have a couple more of these cold mornings—!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Springtime in Missouri

But is it April now, or May?

You have to admit, it was pretty much a nonwinter, and spring started in February. We’re a month ahead! I started planting lettuce and radishes the second week in February, and those plants that I haven’t picked yet are starting to bolt.

I’ve been busy, yes, yes, and you don’t want to read about that. But part of my busy-ness has been in hiking. Sue and I have made a point of “getting away” on weekends, or whenever we can claim a few hours, to enjoy the spring.

I’ve been photographing wildflowers, which has been fun. I do not consider myself any kind of “photographer” much less an “artist,” but I’m kind of proud of some of my pics. I’ve been visiting woodlands and prairies, witnessing the progression from early spring (February instead of March this year) into mid-spring (March instead of April this year).

So I hope you won’t mind if I share some of these pictures with you. I hope it’s not overkill. My camera does a pretty good job with closeups, and I honestly adore every single one of these plants.

I’m arranging roughly in order of blooming time, with the earliest of bloomers first. Several of these are long gone already, not to be seen again until next year!

Here are some flowers from Missouri woodlands.


Dutchman’s breeches.

Spring beauty.

Dogtooth violet (which is not a violet at all, but a lily).

Rue anemone.

Blue-eyed Mary.


Wake robin; but I prefer the genus name, Trillium.

Here’s a trillium with fascinating genetics: It has parts in fours instead of in threes. Should we call this a quadrillium?

Yellow violet. Crazy-sounding, but true.

Wild sweet William, a.k.a. blue phlox.


Wild ginger (not at all related to true ginger).

Wild geranium (yes, this is actually a type of geranium).

Jack-in-the-pulpit (in the same family as elephant ears).

Here are some flowers from glades.

Bird’s-foot violet, the two-toned form.

Shooting star.

Rose verbena.

And here are some from the prairies.

False garlic.

Yellow star grass.

Wild strawberry.

Hoary puccoon.

Wood betony.

Indian paintbrush.

And here is a bat!

It was on a shady trail one morning at Gans Creek. I’m pretty sure it’s a silver-haired bat, Lasionycteris noctivagans. I don’t know if it was ill, but it promptly flew away when I prodded it with a stick. (Gently. And yes, I’m extremely careful with bats.) Maybe it had just eaten a bug; they are known to eat off of surfaces in addition to catching bugs on the wing.

There’s some extremely bad news about bats, by the way. Please, please read this. Since silver-haired bats apparently don’t roost in caves, but sleep days in shagbark hickory crannies, hollow trees, and old birds’ nests, maybe they won’t be in trouble with that evil White Nose Syndrome.

Its face reminds me of a little dog’s. Incredibly cute. Silver-haired bats are migratory and spend nights fluttering up and down creek bottoms, hunting the zillions of pesky insects that fly in those areas.

Wouldn’t it be neat if everyone started hounding their governmental representatives about needing to find a cure for White Nose Syndrome? If not out of affection and respect for the bats, then out of hatred of mosquitoes—?