the farmer’s Grandma passed away at age 83…  she was the matriarch of a family that consists of her amazing farmer husband, 6 children, 22 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren…  (I could be wrong with this count…)

I have begun to write about her roughly 7 times now, have had to stop, delete and re-do…  and I am still at a loss for words to describe how knowing her has impacted my life… and without a doubt all of her family members lives…  I’m sure on different levels and for different reasons…

there are her children who love her dearly… there were those that saw her on a daily basis for coffee and cookies… those that farmed with her… those that had the occasional Sunday brunch… those that were lucky enough to learn how to make bread and buns under her instruction… those that played tennis or kaiser with her…  and those that saw her through her last years, fighting an invisible disease that no one knew was there…

no matter what the role or relationship the members of her enormous family had in her life, every single one of us is a better person because of the life that she lived… it was a selfless life, filled with generosity and service… hard work does not even scratch the surface when it comes to the way she lived…

there was a joy, a magic (as one of the farmer’s cousins recently pointed out) in the way she went through her day…  the organization and planning it took to raise 6 children, help raise their children and never turn down a visitor is extraordinary… how she always had the freezers and the cold room full of baking and food…  how fresh buns and bread magically appeared with no sign of mess or stress…

I met the farmer’s grandma 18 years ago…  I’m sure when she met me she wondered what this city girl was going to do on a farm… she would have been right because I wondered what I was doing here…  and this is when she impacted my life the most…  and when I needed it the most…

forever patient, she always seemed to have time for a tea and a visit…  I was enthralled with the way she did everything… I had never seen anything like it…  she had 6 bathrooms to clean! (I went in all six during one visit and they were all clean… and by ‘I went’ I merely mean I peaked…)

I realized that if I was going to succeed in making my farmer happy, she was one I could definitely learn from… I remember her showing up at our house one morning, in the summer, at 7:30 am with bread dough to be rolled out…  she had taken me literally when I had mentioned I needed to learn how to roll out bread dough and here she was…  she laughed that she had woken me up and on we got with it…

unfortunately, I could not do anything even close to how she did it…  we spent our summer’s going to her and grandpa’s cabin (which is now the farmer’s and my cabin)… most of the farmer’s lake memories go like this…

‘Grandma always would climb to the top of the hill where the saskatoon bushes are and pick berries and make the best jam…  she told me that the over-ripe berries make the best jam’

‘Grandma would be up in the morning making an egg casserole, fresh bread to toast and bacon’

‘Grandma is the best partner for Kaiser…  she never gets mad when you mess up… she actually makes it seem like it could have been her fault’

‘Grandma had a lava lamp up here and we used to burn our hands on it all the time’

‘Grandma washed the window on the screen door at least 5 times in a day when we all were here’

‘Grandma always had cherries and I was allowed to eat as many as I wanted’

‘the best orange juice I’ve ever had was in Arizona when Grandma would make freshly squeezed orange juice’ (not related to the lake but he tends to tell it when we are having orange juice at the lake)

this spring, when I was up cleaning the cabin, where most of my memories of summer reside, I did my best to clean it top to bottom the way I remember her doing…  but I know she would have re-cleaned my cleaning job without me knowing if she could have…

I saw her cleaning the oven at the lake one time and she said ‘there are just some jobs you have to do… no way around it…’

through watching her and through hearing the way the farmer talked about her, I realized how important cooking and cleaning and being there for your family is…  it is such a practical way of saying ‘I love you’…  and if you do it with a sense of joy and a smile it not only fills the belly’s of your family but it fills their souls…

to date I have shared 12 of Grandma’s recipes on this site…  my guess is at least three times more than anyone else I have drawn recipes from… and when I was looking over which ones I have used it only reminded me that I should be using way more for the farmers in the field…  they would appreciate it I’m sure…

macaroni salad, layered salad, german chocolate cake, lemon meringue pie (twice), italian breadsticks, whipped potatoes, cucumber dill saladpeach cobbler, cauliflower taco salad, white bread, clam chowder, and caesar salad dressing

on Father’s Day, my dad was out and I cooked a Sunday brunch in honour of Grandma Swan…  the farmer has so many memories of Sunday brunches with Grandma and my dad has been a recipient of a few as well…

Grandma had two cookbooks published… I refer to these weekly for sure… the first cookbook was published in 1987 (co-authored by Dawn Bevan) and is titled Sure… You Can Cook! “The Happy Cookers”… they put together another one 18 years later (same title)…  I have copies of these cookbooks to give to my three children when they move out someday…

the moment I tasted her Griddle Cakes I knew you never should make pancakes with a mix…  nothing is better than her buttermilk pancakes… (again, I cannot make them the same way she did)

Grandma Swan was the ‘Pioneer Woman’ long before you could gain any fame by cooking…  she was practical…  they went through times in farming where money was scarce and food was tight…  she cooked, baked, canned and gardened not to blog about it or put pictures on Instagram…  she did it out of necessity and was excellent at it…

this is my tribute and my account of Grandma Swan… my biggest regret is not writing this a week ago and being able to read it to her…  I know other’s knew her in a more intimate way that the farmer and I did and many in our large family are going through a very hard time grasping saying goodbye to someone so special…

the farmer was able to take our two boys and see her before she passed away…  she was unable to speak but she wrote a note to him that forever will spur him on to work harder and live more generously… and it was ‘I’m so proud of you… always be a family’

she will forever be my inspiration to cook, clean, work hard, smile and spend time with family…  I will not come remotely close to what she was able to accomplish in life, but that is ok…  she was the best of the best…

she fed us and she loved us…  and we loved her…

baked hash brown casserole

  • Servings: 1 9x13 casserole
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Ingredients:

  • 2 lb frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pint whipping cream, unwhipped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 2 cups crushed corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine

Directions:

  • mix together 1/4 cup margarine, salt, pepper, onion, whipping cream, soup and cheese
  • butter 9×13 inch pan and place hash browns in bottom
  • pour liquid mixture over hash browns
  • mix 1/4 cup margarine and corn flakes and put on top of potato mixture
  • bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

griddle cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

Directions:

  • combine dry ingredients
  • add all liquids and beat together
  • drop from spoon on preheated griddle
  • grease lightly
  • fry at 375 degrees