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Farm Bureau

A quarterly magazine for members 

Winter 2010-11


Fabric of Her Life Shepherdess weaves agricultural upbringing with a love for fiber arts

Kneads & Wants Homemade food gifts a treat to give or receive

Crops, Critters in the Classroom

Carving His Niche Illinois artisan crafts a career in woodworking

Volume 3, No. 4


Partners Goes Social Sharing Illinois travel ideas, gardening tips, recipe ideas, food facts, festivals and much, much more!

Farm Bureau


An official member publication of the Illinois Farm Bureau


Publisher Dennis Vercler Editor Dave McClelland Associate Editor Martin Ross

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Magazine for Illinois Farm Bureau members featuring farm, food and finds

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A warm and tasty way to eat carrots – our #recipe for Carrot Ginger Soup:

Distribution Director Gary Smith Advertising Sales Manager, Custom Division Tori Hughes Illinois Farm Bureau Partners is produced for the Illinois Farm Bureau by Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (800) 333-8842. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Illinois Farm Bureau Partners (USPS No. 255-380) is issued quarterly by the Illinois Agricultural Association, 1701 Towanda Ave., P.O. Box 2901, Bloomington, IL 61702. Periodicals postage paid at Bloomington, IL 61702 and additional mailing offices. The individual membership fee of the Illinois Agricultural Association includes payment of $3 for a subscription to Illinois Farm Bureau Partners. POSTMASTER: Send change of address notices on Form 3579 to Illinois Farm Bureau Partners, P.O. Box 2901, Bloomington, IL, 61702-2901. Member Member

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Illinois Farm Bureau


Features 8 Crops and Critters in the Classroom Teachers use agriculture to teach core subjects


12 The Fabric of Her Life Big Rock shepherdess weaves agricultural upbringing and love for fiber arts

18 Carving His Niche Rick Frels found his calling in woodworking

Every Issue

26 Travel Illinois: Naperville Cozy up to Naperville this winter

5 prairie state perspective Sledders take advantage of pasture perks

6 Almanac Learn how to make a pine cone bird feeder

17 country wisdom Are you prepared for your retirement?

20 recipes Homemade food gifts are a treat to give and receive

24 Gardening Delve into houseplant history with decades of plant fads


30 winter Events See impressive snow sculptures at Snow Days Chicago On the cover J. Kyle Keener Natasha Lehrer, owner of Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio in Big Rock

more online Watch videos, read stories and browse photos at

Winter 2010-11


illinois photos, videos, articles, blogs and more

Web Exclusive

Cinnamon-Cranberry Granola recipe

| farm |

| food |

Say Cheese, Please

Food Feedback

Read about how Ropp Farms in McLean County is breaking the mold with its flavorful Jersey cheese and farm tours.

Have you tried any of our recipes? Share your thoughts – including any tweaks – with us in the comments section of our recipes, and you may help out another cook!

Watch a Video

Julmarknad Christmas Market If you’re looking for a more outof-the-ordinary holiday shopping experience, plan a trip to the Julmarknad Christmas Market in the Village of Bishop Hill.

Three Ways With Soup Watch Natasha Lehrer spin wool into fiber for apparel at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio in Aurora. See this and more Illinois videos at


| finds |

1. Curried Cauliflower Soup 2. Creamy Tomato Basil Soup 3. Squash and Sausage Soup Illinois Farm Bureau

prairie state perspective about the author Joanie Stiers writes from Williamsfield, where Grandpa’s cattle pasture contains the family’s favorite sledding slope.

Pasture Perks Sledders, cattle gather where the prairie slopes Contrary to non-Illinoisan belief, our state can roll like Wisconsin in a few places. And in those locations, generations of sledders likely have gathered for hours of winter thrills. Illinois’ biggest country hills often are in cattle pastures, designated for grazing livestock as opposed to hillside crop production. My grandparents own a resortcaliber slope where my mom, uncles and their friends slid away winter, as did the family that lived there before them. Younger generations have continued the tradition. The lengthy slope on Grandpa’s hill prompted sledders to hitch a pickup truck or snowmobile ride to return to the top in order to maintain their sledding energy. The most inexperienced among us made a single attempt to hike it, only to surrender to automation halfway or take a break at the top. Meanwhile, the sleds slid, bounced and raced down the snow-covered pasture grass. Dad or an uncle would press your back as he gave you a running start down the main track. Frozen cow pies delivered a notable thump to riders of the thin-bottomed sleds. My cousins and I laughed at

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each strike, even though we anticipated the brief bounce at three spots down the primary path. By the end of those childhood winter days, these pasture pies had joined the gallery of cherished memories from that hillside. At the top of the hill, the oldest cousins would decide the best combination of relatives to travel together for either rider excitement or spectator humor. We would take turns trying the speedier tractor tire tubes. And the most competitive would keep track of who coasted the farthest without paddling using snow-packed gloves. All the while, a few adults chose to watch the event, a symbol of how life turns simple in winter. Better yet, they knew that Grandma, who stockpiles for natural or manmade disasters, always was prepared with refreshments after those impromptu sledding parties. After a couple of hours, we piled in pickup trucks and chuckled over the most memorable wipeouts of the day. We returned to Grandma’s house with flushed cheeks and stocking-hat heads to be welcomed by both homemade and powder-mix hot chocolate, whichever appealed to your taste, paired with store-bought powdered donuts or the glazed ones that resembled tractor tires.



Farm Focus Did you know that farm products are found in a variety of everyday items? That’s right – agriculture isn’t just responsible for meat, milk and eggs. In fact, farm animals and plants contribute to many things Americans rely on or come into contact with nearly every day. From medicines to musical instruments and everything in between, agriculture impacts our daily lives in ways many people may not realize. Farm products can be found in:

Old Newspapers Go Digital The University of Illinois library is making history more accessible by digitizing its collection of farm newspapers from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries. The actual newspapers, very brittle and bound in volumes, were difficult to peruse before the digitizing began. In addition, the papers were not indexed, making information hard to find.

• Natural clothing materials

• Photographic films

• Cold and allergy medicines

• School supplies, such as crayons, colored pencils and textbooks

• Vitamins and mineral supplements • Sporting goods, including baseballs and bats • Plastic and rubber • Fire extinguishers

• Instruments, including drums and pianos • Construction materials • Medical supplies, such as heart valves

• Household cleaners and polishes

Now, anyone with Internet access can read the newspapers by visiting and clicking on the Farm, Field and Fireside collection. The papers can be browsed by dates, and articles, advertisements and photo captions can be searched using keywords. Articles can also be printed, e-mailed or downloaded.

Understanding Seed Catalogs Home gardeners know it’s time for the arrival of seed catalogs. Here are three quick tips to help make sense of them: ● ●


Find out what zone you live in and which plants grow best in your area. Decipher the lingo: For example, disease tolerance and disease resistance mean two different things. Learn which plants need to be replanted each year (annuals) and which ones remain year-round (perennials).

Illinois Farm Bureau

For the Birds It’s important to remember to feed your feathered friends this winter. Recent research has shown that providing garden birds extra food during cold months helps ensure a more successful breeding season in the springtime. To create a natural pine cone bird feeder, gather a pine cone, paper plate, butter knife, smooth peanut butter, birdseed, ribbon or yarn, and scissors.

An Herb for the Holidays Once as essential to the holiday season as holly and mistletoe, rosemary again is growing in popularity. The herb frequently is used in wreathes and other decorations, and also makes for a tasty addition to certain foods. Rosemary, a perennial evergreen shrub, can easily be grown in a home or garage during the winter months. The key is to make sure the area is cool and moist. If the plant is located indoors, the temperature should be between 63 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if it is stored in a garage, the temperature is only required to be above freezing. In addition, rosemary should be exposed to plenty of light. Rosemary also can assist with improving digestion and increasing circulation. It adds great flavor to soups and sauces as well as chicken, lamb, pork, salmon and tuna dishes.

Cut a long piece of the yarn or ribbon; this will be used to hang the bird feeder. Tie the ribbon in a knot around the top of the pine cone, as well as another knot at the end of the ribbon. Next, use the knife to spread the peanut butter on the pine cone and around the edges. Sprinkle birdseed over the pine cone, hang it on a tree and watch the birds enjoy your creation!

Shopping Simplified Track how much you spend on gifts this holiday season by using COUNTRY Financial’s Holiday GiftGiving Worksheet. Available as a download at, the worksheet allows users to organize their shopping lists while keeping track of finances with spaces for names, desired gifts, budgets and actual costs.

Winter 2010-11



Illinois Farm Bureau

& Critters Joanie Stiers PHOTOGRAPHY BY Todd Bennett storY BY


in the Classroom Teachers use agriculture to teach core subjects


hree minutes from the Chicago city limits, fourth- and fifth-graders learn as much or more about agriculture as their counterparts in a downstate farming community. The class writes to pen pals in South Carolina about Illinois agriculture for their literary and social studies lessons. They read an agriculture fact and refer to the agriculture calendar daily. And they grow plants from seed in shoes, hats and whatever else makes an acceptable pot. “What they don’t understand in depth is how food gets from the farm to their table,” says Debbie Jimenez, a fourth- and fifthgrade teacher at St. Albert the Great School in Burbank. However, Jimenez and her agricultureenriched lesson plans are working to change all that.

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Cultivating a statewide Program Jimenez’s 35 students are among more than a half million in Illinois benefiting from Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) annually, says Kevin Daugherty, education director for Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC). The program touts an active presence in 61 percent of all schools in Illinois, thanks in part to its county-level presence. The program, based at the Illinois Farm Bureau Building in Bloomington, includes coordinators or volunteers at county Farm Bureau offices throughout the state. AITC is a flexible educational program that uses agriculture as a springboard to teach core subjects including math, science, social studies and language arts at all grade levels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture established the program in each state nearly

Learn more In 2009, 33 Chicago-area classrooms participated in IAITC’s Adopt-a-Classroom program, which initiates correspondence between a classroom and a downstate farm family. Farmers often share photos, videos and seed samples. Learn more about this and other IAITC programs at www., or visit the national site at IAITC is able to provide free materials and teacher training thanks to the IAA Foundation, the charitable foundation of the Illinois Farm Bureau. IAITC is the foundation’s top funding priority. To learn more or to provide support, visit


Teachers Learn, Too B

urbank, Ill., elementary teacher Debbie Jimenez has attended three teacher training courses and two national conferences to learn about agriculture from production to consumption. “Agriculture in the Classroom has given me a whole new insight into the relationship between us and agriculture,” Jimenez says. Survey results for the program show notable changes in teacher viewpoints about agriculture and the industry’s significance. In fact, 63 percent of teachers surveyed strongly agreed that agriculture should be taught at all grade levels, regardless of students’ career interests. Only 27 percent believed it before. “The biggest impact I’ve seen is the change in attitude of teachers about what agriculture is,” says Kevin Daugherty, education director for Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. The survey results also revealed a more positive view of agriculture and its impact on the environment, the education level of its work force and the safety of the food supply.

30 years ago to give students a greater awareness of agriculture in the economy and society. Illinois resources include lesson plans that meet learning standards, colorful magazines of activities for children, teacher training, an adopted classroom program and more. Outside the Textbook The dedication to agriculture in Jimenez’s classroom began in 2004 10

when she attended a Summer Ag Institute, a series of ag-focused workshops that teachers attend to receive college or professional development credit. Summer Ag Institutes, offered by IAITC in partnership with various colleges and county Farm Bureaus since 1991, have helped more than 7,500 teachers of all grade levels discover unique ways to use agriculture to teach all subjects.

“It’s a different way to teach than using a textbook, which can get so monotonous,” says Jimenez, who has taught for 20 years. “Kids are different today than they used to be. You have to channel them in different ways, and I think that is what Ag in the Classroom has done.” She incorporates agriculture into her lessons daily, one reason she was named the 2010 Teacher of the Year for the IAITC program. She regularly Illinois Farm Bureau

Debbie Jimenez leads her students through a lesson on nutrition at St. Albert the Great School in Burbank.

uses “Illinois Ag Mags,” children’s magazines with themes such as pork, poultry, energy and water. She stresses nutrition and eating healthy and cooks vegetables and makes fruit salads in the classroom. Students identify the origin of every food on their Thanksgiving table. They discuss sustainable agriculture, the environment and learn about the climates around the country and how they impact crop production.

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The district’s third-graders excitedly anticipate the next grade level, knowing Jimenez grows Soil Sams in her windowsills and invites the entire elementary school to her class’ Ag Fair each spring. All the while, Jimenez correlates agriculture-enriched lessons to the Illinois State Learning Standards and Assessment Framework. “The importance of agriculture to their lives and the world is

astronomical,” says Jimenez, whose only connection to agriculture prior to the IAITC program was a late aunt who owned a farm in Wisconsin. “My love of agriculture comes from the knowledge and how I feel about it,” she says. “If I can instill that knowledge into the children – the role of agriculture in their everyday lives – I must have done something right.”


Fabric of Her Life The

Big Rock shepherdess weaves agricultural upbringing and love for fiber arts storY BY

Jessica Mozo Kyle Keener



hen most people get dressed, they don’t think about where their clothes came from or how they were made. Natasha Lehrer, on the other hand, appreciates every thread and fiber running through them. And she should. After all, she’s one of few Americans today who regularly sits down at a spinning wheel. Business of a Bygone Era The 22-year-old from Big Rock in Kane County is the owner of 12

Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, a business she started in a restored Victorian home when she was 18. “It’s nontraditional in today’s world,” admits Lehrer, who opted to start the business right after high school instead of going to college. “But fiber is a thread that runs through all cultures. Women used to take their babies on their back and their spinning wheel on a horse and go to their neighbor’s house to spin and enjoy the company. In South America, people even based a

woman’s rank in society on her (fiber arts) skills.” You might say Lehrer was destined to become a lover of fiber arts. When she moved to Big Rock from suburban Aurora in 2000 with her mom, dad and brother, a neighbor gave her a spinning wheel. Tucked away inside the family’s new home, she discovered a loom and several books about spinning left by the previous owner. “Everything fell into place,” she says. “It was meant to be.” Illinois Farm Bureau

Winter 2010-11



Illinois Farm Bureau

Spinning Dreams Into Reality Lehrer taught herself everything from spinning and weaving to knitting and dyeing wool sheared from her family’s small flock of sheep. “There’s a huge amount of change from the animal to the finished product, and you can feel every step of the process,” she says. “It’s neat to see it pass right through your hands.” Lehrer dreamed of pursuing a career in fiber arts, but she didn’t know how to make it a reality being from a small, rural farm. “I prayed about it, and one day, I opened my Bible to Esther 4:14, which says ‘Who knows if you have been put in this position for such a time as this?’” she recalls. “I realized if God wants something to happen, He always makes a way for it.” The same day, Lehrer found an application in her mailbox for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) value-added grant. “We hadn’t even requested it,” she says. “But our goal was to take raw fiber and add value to it by creating something artists can work with.” Lehrer and her mother, Donna, applied for the grant, competing with giant companies such as Del Monte and Sunkist. Six months later, they got incredible news: they were awarded a grant in the amount of $24,000. “It was pretty amazing,” Lehrer says. “It was a huge push forward.”  With the help of her parents, Lehrer opened a combination retail store, art studio and learning space with an upstairs bedand-breakfast in a 19th-century Victorian home three miles from the family’s farm. The first-floor retail store sells raw fiber and fiber that has been spun into yarn, woven into cloth, organically dyed, knit into scarves and crocheted into sweaters. There are also classrooms where Lehrer teaches weaving, dyeing, knitting, spinning, felting

Winter 2010-11

and other techniques. Upstairs, a quaint bed-and-breakfast is an inviting retreat where guests can spend a weekend eating local produce and working with local fiber. “Overall, we’re a place to relax, de-stress and make memories,” Lehrer says. “We get a lot of mothers and daughters and multigenerational groups. One family came and wove a rug for one of the daughters who was getting married.” Lehrer named her business after Esther in the Bible, who served as her inspiration, as well as for a sheep named Esther on the family’s farm. “It has brought about a lot of great opportunities,” she says. “I was awarded a trip to a spinning conference in 2005, and I just got a piece juried into a show in Albuquerque. I’ve met two U.S. secretaries of agriculture. We were even invited to speak at a USDA conference in (Washington) D.C.”

If You Go ... Esther’s Place is located at 201 W. Galena St. (Route 30) in Big Rock; (630) 556-9665; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. To sign up for classes or special events, visit www.

Intertwined With Other Artists Esther’s Place has been a blessing for other Illinois producers, too. In 2006, the Lehrers formed the Illinois Green Pastures Fiber Cooperative, which allows them to sell fibers from 30 other local producers in their store. “We wanted more variety to offer our customers and to give other producers access to a great market,” Lehrer says. One of the things Lehrer enjoys most about the business is seeing people realize how much time and effort goes into working with raw fibers. “I’ll say, ‘That’s a sample – you can’t buy it off the shelf. But come sit down, and I’ll teach you,” she says. “We focus more on the process than the final product. It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But it’s definitely worth it.”


Warm Fuzzies Wool comes from an array of different animal breeds Curious about the materials used to make your favorite sweater? You probably won’t find many details on the tag. “Most garments don’t label what breed the fiber comes from – they just say ‘wool,’” says Natasha Lehrer, owner of Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio in Big Rock. “There’s such a disconnect between consumers and fiber education. Our goal is to give people information about the fiber they’re wearing.” Sheep are the most prevalent wool producers, though it also comes from rabbits, goats and alpacas. According to the Illinois Green Pastures Fiber Cooperative (www., here are some commonly used types of wool: Alpaca fiber is considered luxury

material because it is soft and fine. It is popular for spinning and knitting, and is also used for hair on dolls and figurines. Angora rabbit wool is known as one of the finest fibers, prized for its softness and fluffiness. Typically mixed with silk, cashmere or sheep’s wool, it is used to make sweaters. Cashmere goat wool is very soft and tends to be expensive because the combing and shearing of Cashmere goats is time consuming. Cheviot sheep wool is the foundation fiber of the famous Scotch Tweed industry. It is also used for outerwear, socks and needle felting. Columbia sheep wool is known for light shrinkage, softness

and length. It is an excellent allpurpose fleece that is soft enough to wear next to the skin. Dorset sheep produce very white fleece that is strong and free from dark fiber. Dorsets are the No. 1 white-faced breed in the United States. Friesian milk sheep are large-framed sheep with white wool that makes lofty, warm quilt batting and is good for needle felting. Hampshire sheep wool is used for hard-wearing elastic yarns, felting and quilt batting and is a good needle felting wool. Lincoln sheep grow long, heavy wool used for specialty knitting yarns, upholstery yarns and hand-knitted carpet yarns. It also provides shiny hairpieces for people and dolls. Merino sheep wool is the finest and softest of all sheep wool. It is used in intense cold-weather applications for its breathability, temperature regulation and moisture control. It is also used for felting of purses, bowls, slippers and scarves. Montadale sheep produce fleece popular with hand spinners that is used for sweaters, socks, scarves, hats and needle felting. Romney sheep are known for heavy, lustrous fleece that grows up to six inches per year. It is popular for needle felting.  – Jessica Mozo


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country® wisdom about the author Lorraine Zenge, ChFC, is a senior advanced planner for COUNTRY Financial. Visit COUNTRY on the web at

Get Ready for Retirement Prepare for your golden years now no matter how far away they seem Are you preparing for your retirement? This may seem like a silly question – especially if you are a young person just starting your career. However, no matter how far you are from retirement, it is important to start planning and saving now. This way, you can begin working toward a financially secure retirement and do what you’ve dreamed of doing in your golden years. Have much will you need in retirement? Regardless of your planned retirement date, it is important to look at how much you will need to retire. Start by establishing an annual retirement spending goal. I generally recommend that your retirement spending goal be approximately 70 percent of your current after-tax income. By establishing a retirement spending goal, you will be able to work toward the next part of the retirement plan – which is how much you need to save. Calculating your savings As a first step, I suggest you start with one of the many free calculators available on the Internet. You can enter keywords such as “retirement calculator” into any search engine to find a variety of these tools. Do not hesitate to consult with a competent financial adviser for this part of the process, especially if you are over the age of 40. A competent financial adviser will help you review your retirement spending goal, your available

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assets, income you expect to receive in retirement and the impact of inflation. The adviser may also suggest how your retirement accounts should be structured to ensure that you have sufficient income for retirement. Take the free money If you are not doing so already, make sure to contribute the amount needed to take full advantage of your employer’s matching contribution to your retirement savings plan. Taking advantage of this benefit will help your retirement nest egg grow much more quickly over time. After taking maximum advantage of your employer’s matching contribution, you should increase your contribution to your retirement fund every year that you work. One easy way to do this is to contribute part or all of every raise or bonus that you get while you work to your retirement plan. If you have managed to live without the raise in the time preceding the raise, you can usually afford to increase the amount that you are saving. Get a reality check Every year, you should check your progress in meeting your retirement savings plan. Conduct a financial review and consult your financial adviser as needed so you can determine what adjustments need to be made to your retirement savings plan. Frequent financial reviews will help ensure that your golden years are financially secure.


Carving His Niche Rick Frels found his calling in woodworking storY BY

Karen Schwartzman Bennett



Illinois Farm Bureau


llinois artisan Rick Frels has carved out an impressive career in woodworking. But his calling didn’t strike in a lightning bolt of inspiration. Rather, his creative streak sprang from a little logic. Frels recalls his first foray into the art of woodcarving. “I just saw something I liked and thought, ‘Well, I could make that instead of buying it,’” he says. Thirty years later, Frels has turned his initial test into a lifelong hobby, business and favorite pastime. Of course, most would have simply purchased the carving rather than attempt Frel’s do-it-yourself method, lacking either the innate talent or extreme patience that such a task demands. Luckily for Frels, he happened to have both. “My dad was a carpenter, so I worked with wood all my life,” Frels says. But it wasn’t until his mid-30s that he found his calling in wood carving. He recalls one of his initial carvings was of a buffalo, no more than 10 inches tall, that took him more than two months to finish. Flash-forward to the present, where Frels has just completed a four-foot statue of Uncle Sam for the American Cancer Society to auction off. It took him a little more than two weeks. “Carving can take anywhere from one to 100 hours,” depending on the size, he says. Frels focuses mainly on animals and people, though his impressive portfolio also includes eight-foot Native Americans and large totem poles. “The most memorable ones are sentimental. I’ve done some family portraits, and those stick with me the most,” he says. Frels considers woodcarving more a hobby than a business, though he does sell some custom creations for those who hear about his artistry. He also works part-time at the Woodcraft Shop in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the border from his Northwestern Illinois home of Hillsdale. Frels admits that while sometimes carving can feel like a chore, his work is gratifying. “It’s relaxing; I just forget everything and

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bang away with nail and chisel.” Before the nails come into play, Frels has to find the star of his piece – the wood. He often uses basswood, which he describes as a “soft wood that’s hard enough to take detail.” To obtain his medium of choice, he relies on the old neighborly cup-of-sugar method. “Sometimes a neighbor will give me a little wood after a tree falls,” he says. The exchange soon finds its way to his studio, set in an old two-bedroom house, floors strewn with wood and walls adorned with photos of current projects. “I set up my workshop in the dining room of the house, so it’s got nice big windows and lots of space,” Frels says. While he admits it may not be the cleanest space, it’s the perfect place to whittle away at what he loves. “I’m at peace when I carve,” he says, “and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it.”

How to get started Woodcarving 101 is where the greats get their start. Frels recommends all newcomers try to find a local woodcarving club and take a few lessons. After carving for years, Frels says he still learns things from lessons. “It makes you a better carver,” he says.

In the Club Frels found his place with the Mississippi Valley Woodcarvers club, which he’s been a part of since the mid-1980s. Along with teaching both beginner and intermediate lessons, Frels participates in “wood carves” in which members get together and carve for a few hours. Learn more at



Kneads Wants Homemade food gifts are a treat to give and receive

More online There are lots of helpful resources on the Web for making successful yeast breads and coffeecakes – from blogs to videos. King Arthur Flour has a recipe on its site called The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake. The name doesn’t lie. Go to www. recipes/the-easiestloaf-of-bread-youll-everbake-recipe. For links to more useful baking resources, visit


Illinois Farm Bureau


ot so many years ago, it was customary to bring a gift of food when paying a visit to a neighbor or sharing holiday joy. There’s something extra-special about a homemade food gift, especially during the busy holidays. And yeast breads give that added special touch. They need not be daunting with a bit of practice. We hope this will inspire you to revive the art and custom of gifts from the kitchen. There’s a wonderful satisfaction knowing that you made it yourself. From kneading the silky dough to watching it rise before your eyes, making yeast breads can be a satisfying experience for you and your friends. And for those of us in the Midwest, if we can add a bit of Illinois to the process, all the better. Hodgson Mill in Effingham uses Illinois wheat in its stone-ground blends. The mill was started by Alva Hodgson, a pioneering Missouri millwright whose name later became synonymous with Effingham’s water-driven grain mill. He started in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks in 1837. A second mill, built in 1861, burned down as Missouri passed through the chaos of the Civil War. By 1882, Hodgson made his way to Effingham and founded the stone-ground mill pictured in the company’s logo and still standing today. He and his brother, George, joined forces and eventually incorporated new machinery into the business. Though Hodgson Mill expanded and modernized its milling facilities again in 1976 to keep pace with demand, the company still uses the same process Alva developed (and the image of the mill) to promote healthy whole-grain products and packaged mixes for home bakers. “I can’t say that it’s strictly Illinois

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wheat,” says Perry Propst, creative arts manager for the company. “But we do utilize Illinois wheat. Everything we sell is whole grain – along with a lot of flax, a lot of gluten-free and everything healthy.” The company uses the stone-ground process, which keeps the grains from being crushed, preserving more of the healthy germ, bran and endosperm. The grains flow gently down into the top of the mill and, in one simple operation, are ground between two stones into whole-grain flours and cornmeals. Stonemilling also gives the flour a distinct texture that makes baked products more interesting, with greater eye and taste appeal. And lately, they’ve seen an upswing in business. “When the economy started turning bad, people started doing more baking, not going to restaurants. And we saw an increase in business,” says Propst. One of the company’s biggest sellers is graham flour, also known as stone-ground whole wheat. Hodgson Mill recently redesigned the packaging to move the graham reference to the back, however. “People were getting confused, thinking graham flour was just for graham crackers,” Propst says. “Stone grinding is specifically for graham flour. We pride ourselves on being stone-ground.” We’ve developed a few recipes using stone-ground (or graham, if you promise not to just think of s’mores) flour to give as food gifts during the holidays. Mary’s Dark Bread is a family treasure from my sister-inlaw, Mary, and the Sunburst Coffee Cake is one I’ve given as a gift many times, after learning the technique in a baking class.

about the author Charlyn Fargo got her start in food by baking yeast bread in 4-H. Her love for the culinary arts helped her land a job as food editor of the State Journal-Register, a daily paper in Springfield and eventually a master’s degree in nutrition and registered dietitian from Eastern Illinois University. She is passionate about healthy eating, teaches nutrition and baking at Lincoln Land Community College and consults as a dietitian.


Tips for Successful Bread Making • Use a very large bowl and a sturdy wooden spoon or a heavy-duty mixer. • Add non-sifted flour in small amounts, about half cup at a time. • Butter gives the best flavor, but other fat can be used. • Grease baking pans with unsalted fats (not butter). Salt will cause browning. • Bread should be baked near the center of oven for even heat distribution. • Bread is done when the loaf begins to shrink from the sides of the pan. A thermometer through the bottom side will register 190 degrees. • Immediately after baking, remove breads from pans and allow them to cool on racks, away from drafts. • For a tender crust, brush tops of loaves with melted butter, either before or after baking. • Yeast is a living plant that makes breads rise. Cold temperatures retard the growth of yeast, while warm temperatures stimulate growth. Provide a warm environment for dough to rise. Warm the bowl with water before mixing dough. • Check expiration dates on yeast. If it’s close to the date, dissolve it in a half cup warm water and stir in 1 teaspoon sugar. Let stand five minutes. If the yeast is still active, bubbles will appear on the surface as the mixture swells.

Sunburst Coffee Cake Dough: / cup shortening


1 cup sugar 1½ teaspoons salt 1 cup mashed potatoes (or instant potatoes)

1 cup lukewarm water (110 degrees) 2 cups whole-wheat or stone-ground flour 4-5 cups bread flour Coffee Cake:

1 cup milk, scalded

1 stick butter

1 package active dry yeast (or rapid rise yeast)

1 cup cinnamon and sugar mixture (3 tablespoons cinnamon and 1 cup sugar)

2 eggs

For dough, mix shortening, sugar and salt. Add potatoes and milk. Let stand until lukewarm. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add yeast mixture and eggs to milk mixture. Add the whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of bread flour and beat until smooth. Stir in remaining bread flour to make a thick, slightly sticky dough. Place in large bowl, cover tightly and place in refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. In the morning, dough will have risen and be ready for shaping. For Sunburst Coffee Cake, divide dough into thirds. Melt butter. Roll one-third of dough in circle to fit a pizza pan (14 inch). Put first layer of dough in pan. Spoon melted butter to cover; sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Roll next third into same size circle. Place over first layer and repeat layers with butter and cinnamon/sugar. Repeat third time. Invert glass in center. Cut dough into 16 wedges. Twist each wedge four times. Remove glass. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes or so. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. To package for a gift, place on purchased cardboard pizza round. Surround with heavy plastic wrap. Tie top with ribbons.


Illinois Farm Bureau

Mary’s Dark Bread 2

cups boiling water


cup packed brown sugar


cups graham (stone-ground) or whole-wheat flour


teaspoon salt


tablespoons margarine or butter


package active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water


tablespoon sugar

½ cup milk

5-6 cups all-purpose flour

Pour boiling water over the brown sugar, graham flour, salt and margarine in a large bowl. Cool the mixture to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in the warm water and add sugar. Add milk to yeast mixture. Add to the first mixture. Add all-purpose flour gradually and knead until stiff. Let rise until double. Shape into two loaves. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees in two regular-sized loaf pans. For gifts, wrap bread in plastic wrap or foil and tie with a big red bow.

More online Get Charlyn’s recipe for another healthy holiday gift, Cinnamon-Cranberry Granola, at

Winter 2010-11




History F about the author Jan Phipps farms, gardens, writes and podcasts near Chrisman. She’s been a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener for 10 years.


ads come and go in American culture, and houseplants are no exception. Something new springs into popularity, is overdone, becomes passé, and is replaced with the next great thing. However, we gardeners sometimes become attached to plants nurtured in our living rooms, and they get to stay while we add the new arrival. Probably the oldest houseplant fad was growing citrus trees in special glass orangeries in Mediterranean climes, but how about something Illinoisans can relate to? Walk into any gardener’s house in the 1950s, and small pots of African violets lined north-facing window sills. They bloomed year-round and had interesting fuzzy leaves. In the ’60s, we yearned for the tropics and set about growing potted palms in both office and home. The palms thrived with the indirect light found in most homes. Ferns, spider plants and Swedish ivy decorated our homes in the ’60s and ’70s. To appear really trendy, they were displayed in macrame slings, preferably handmade from rope or gaudy yarn. Growing your own sweet potato vine was also fun. Many a kitchen window had a Mason jar full of water with a sweet potato suspended by toothpicks stuck

in its sides. The ’60s and ’70s have a lot to answer for when it comes to aesthetics. In the 1970s, we also became concerned about our environment and planet. This led to self-made miniature ecosystems on our coffee tables in the form of glass terrariums. The trick was getting the moisture perfectly balanced so the plants grew well without the sides of the terrarium fogging up. Bonsai hit the scene in the ’80s. It was a houseplant, hobby and objet d’art all rolled into one mini plant. That was followed in the ’90s by topiaries, both inside and outside. We’ve already had several floral fads in the 21st century. Orchids used to be hard-tofind exotics grown only by experts. Today, they are in every garden center, florist shop and even some grocery stores. Little patches of wheat grass grown indoors made a brief flash, but interest died quickly once people realized they only looked good for a week. Next came lucky bamboo grown as a single spiraled stem in water. Never mind that it is not bamboo at all, but a type of Dracaena. Bromeliads, with their prehistoric-looking blooms, are the latest trend. What’s next? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to grow the next houseplant du jour. Illinois Farm Bureau

photo courtesy of Mandy_Jansen via flickr

Determine the decade by plant fads

Ask an expert


How often should I fertilize my houseplants in the winter? Answer With reduced light, the plants aren’t growing much. They won’t need fertilizer until early spring.


Do you have any gift ideas for a gardener? Answer A good pair of hand pruners, with the emphasis on good. Other ideas include a glazed, decorative pot or a subscription to a gardening magazine. E-mail your gardening questions to Jan at

Winter 2010-11


{Travel Illinois}



Illinois Farm Bureau

storY BY

Jessica Mozo Todd Bennett



aperville may be a Chicago suburb, but it exudes a culture all its own. The city lures newcomers and visitors with its cheerful catchphrase, “big city styles with small town smiles,” and they come by the thousands. In fact, Naperville was one of the 10 fastest-growing communities in the United States during the 1990s. Today, Naperville is the fifth-largest city in Illinois with a population around 150,000. It has a bustling economy, thanks to the multitude of retailers, restaurants, shopping centers and automobile dealerships that have set up shop here. Large corporations such as OfficeMax and Allied Van Lines also have headquarters in Naperville. Visitors love Naperville for its proximity to several major interstates, free parking throughout the city and plenty of green space, with more than 130 parks, four sports complexes and two golf courses.

Top 10 Naperville Must-Sees Millenium Carillon in Moser Tower Naperville Riverwalk Naper Settlement DuPage Children’s Museum Downtown Naperville Naperville Public Library Dandelion Fountain Naperville Century Walk Fifth Avenue Station Wentz Concert Hall & Fine Arts Center

A Hometown Holiday Come November, Naperville spills over with festive decorations and holiday-themed events and attractions. Ring in the holiday season at Naperville’s spectacular Electric Light Parade, held annually the day after Thanksgiving. The parade features floats and live music and culminates with Santa Claus flipping the switch to more than 300,000 twinkling lights. Expect to see kids dancing in the street with Santa at this family-friendly event. Stroll along the Naperville Riverwalk to see fountains, public art and covered bridges.

Winter 2010-11


raised at the holiday market goes back into the community.

The Horse Market Days sculpture at Naper Settlement

10 Tasty Food Finds

Board the Santa Train at the Fifth Avenue Train Station for an experience

The White Chocolate Grill

you won’t soon forget. Sponsored by the Naperville Jaycees, the one-hour train ride is a much-loved annual tradition and includes holiday characters, games, Christmas carols and a visit from Santa Claus. The Santa Train typically chugs through Naperville the first Saturday in December. Downtown Naperville is the perfect place to find holiday gift ideas. The downtown district is home to hundreds of shops and more than 40 restaurants and kicks off its Hometown Holidays monthlong celebration the day after Thanksgiving. Downtown businesses feature special holiday offers, such as free gift-wrapping. Tour elegantly decorated homes, shop at the Holiday Market, and sip tea or coffee from collectible china cups and saucers at the Naperville Garden Club’s annual Cup of Cheer House Walk, held the first Friday in December. The Cup of Cheer House Walk and Holiday Market attract more than 1,200 participants each year, and the money

Tango Meson Sabika Portillo’s La Sorella di Francesca Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria Wild Tuna Restaurant Café Buonaro’s Italian Restaurant BlackFinn American Saloon BD’s Mongolian Grill

Calling All History Buffs Get a glimpse of what Naperville was like 100 years ago at Naper Settlement, where costumed villagers portray the story of how life changed throughout the 19th century for people in Midwestern towns. The 12-acre outdoor living history museum has 30 historic buildings, and admission includes a self-guided audio tour of the grounds and Visitor Center. The cornerstone of Naper Settlement is an 1883 Victorian home known as Martin Mitchell Mansion. The mansion opened to the public in 2003 after a $2.8 million renovation that restored it to the time period of 1890 to 1907. In December, the 12-room house celebrates Christmas with a 19th-century twist and is decked out in traditional Victorian holiday splendor. Clang, clang, clang through the streets aboard a Naperville Trolley, and see some of the city’s most elaborate light displays. Reservations are required for the Holiday Light Tours, and the trolleys are heated. The Naperville Trolley also offers onehour historic tours of the city on select dates that include a number of destinations. Paint the Town Don’t miss the opportunity to see a show at the spectacular Wentz Concert Hall & Fine Arts Center, located at the gateway of North Central College and downtown

Bells Will Be Ringing Get a bird’s eye view of Naperville by climbing 253 steps to the top of the 160-foot-tall Moser Tower, which houses the Millennium Carillon along the Riverwalk. The 14-story structure is 10 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, and on a clear day, you can see the Chicago skyline from its open-air observation deck. The Millennium Carillon is one of only four grand carillons in the world and has 72 bells spanning six octaves. Concerts played by carillonneurs from around the world are held at the carillon on Tuesday nights during the summer. A complete recital schedule is online at


Illinois Farm Bureau

local flavor Naperville. Celebrated for its world-class acoustics, said to be comparable to Carnegie Hall, Wentz Concert Hall regularly showcases concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Other theater venues in Naperville are The Comedy Shrine, which hosts improv comedy every Thursday, Friday and Saturday; the Madden Theatre, popular for film screenings, jazz and dance shows; and the Magical Starlight Theatre, which presents family-oriented performances such as Peter Pan and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Stroll along the Naperville Riverwalk, often called the “Crown Jewel of Naperville” for its covered bridges, fountains and lush landscaping. Built by residents in 1981 to honor the city’s 150th birthday, the Riverwalk has won state and national awards and draws visitors from near and far for its beauty. Got kids? Let them touch, experiment and release their inner scientist at the DuPage Children’s Museum. The museum’s mission is to stimulate curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem solving in young minds, and its three floors are jampacked with hands-on ways to explore art, math and science. Even the tiniest tots can join the fun, thanks to Young Explorers exhibits designed for children under age 2. There aren’t many problems a little cocoa can’t fix. Pop in to Naperville’s Le Chocolat du Bouchard, a cozy chocolate bar and bakery, for gourmet hot chocolate and a slice of rich Chocolate Mousse Cake, and you’ll be in seventh heaven.

Toads, Anyone? T

he fact that one of Naperville’s most unusual upscale restaurants shares its name with one of nature’s ugliest creatures might sound like an oxymoron. But SugarToad Restaurant at Hotel Arista certainly doesn’t lack originality. Customers who dine at the farm-focused American restaurant are welcomed for dinner with a crispy, complimentary bite of a sugar toad, which – sigh of relief – isn’t really a toad at all. “It’s a sweet puffer fish from the Chesapeake Bay, and it kind of tastes like flounder. It’s like a nugget of fish,” says SugarToad Chef Geoff Rhyne. “Everyone who comes in at night gets one, and we also serve it on our lunch menu. It’s called a Crock of Toads.” The daily menu changes to reflect what’s in season, but customers can always expect fresh seafood, meats and produce harvested from their own garden. “We also buy from farms in the area, from Southern Illinois to Wisconsin, and we get deliveries every day,” Rhyne says. “When soft shell crabs are in season, we get them the very next day off the boat.” Lunch at SugarToad might feature made-from-scratch lobster bisque or cream of mushroom soup with a creative sandwich, such as lobster salad on a croissant, the SugarToad Po’ Boy or SugarToad’s signature BLT, topped with a fried egg and a fried green tomato. Dinner may include grilled mahi-mahi, blackmouth chinook salmon or crispy pulled goat with red cabbage. Seasonal vegetables are a perfect complement to any meal at SugarToad, but they serve up veggies with a twist, such as roasted beet salad or heirloom sweet potato and hedgehog hash. That being said, rest assured you won’t need a translator to understand the menu. “We’re fine dining, but we’re not stuffy,” Rhyne says. “I always say I’d want my 86-year-old grandpa to come in and feel comfortable and understand the menu.”

More online Learn more about the farm-focused foods of SugarToad by calling (630) 778-TOAD or visiting

Superior Ratings Check out the Naperville Public Library, which has been ranked the best library in the nation among small cities by Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings. The Library Journal also gave it a five-star rating. Naperville itself is nationally lauded. The city has made CNN Money’s list of the top 100 Best Places To Live three times, ranking as high as No. 3.

Winter 2010-11


Snow Day Times Three Jan. 28-30, Chicago Hosted by the City of Chicago and the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, Snow Days Chicago is a free three-day winter festival. The event, which takes place on Michigan Avenue in Grant Park, features a snow-sculpting competition, dogsled and snowboarding demonstrations, and a variety of activities for children. In addition, food and hot beverages are available. Attendees can vote for their choice of best snow sculpture, created by teams of artists from the Chicago area and other states. Teams of students from Chicago Public Schools also can participate in the competition.

get More online Learn more about the event at


Illinois Farm Bureau

winter Events

This listing includes a few events to add to your calendar in November, December and January from around the state. Dates were accurate at press time but are subject to change. Please check with the contact listed before traveling long distances to attend. Additional information on Illinois events also is available online through the Illinois Bureau of Tourism’s website,

All Aboard the Polar Express! Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 3-4 Monticello Beginning at the Wabash Depot in downtown Monticello, the Polar Express consists of a 60-minute train ride inspired by Chris Van Allsburg’s award-winning novel of the same name and the subsequent movie featuring Tom Hanks’ voice. The family-friendly event involves a round trip to the “North Pole,” caroling, hot chocolate and various surprises. In addition, each child receives a special gift and the chance to meet Santa Claus. Parents are encouraged to dress children in pajamas, as the children in the original story were awakened from their beds on Christmas Eve. Tickets, required for attendees over the age of 2, can be purchased by visiting

A Night by Candlelight

photo courtesy of ellenprather95 via flickr

Dec. 3 Lerna

Take a trip back to 19th-century America during the Christmas Candlelight Tours in Lerna. The tours, taking place Dec. 3 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., cover the Lincoln and Sargent Farms and are free and open to the public. Visitors can see how Christmas was observed in the past. At the Lincoln Cabin, a family can be seen socializing while completing small tasks such as knitting and spinning wool. At Sargent Farm, a family will be celebrating with food and simple decorations, which Winter 2010-11

demonstrates how the holiday became a family-oriented event. Find out more at

Catching the Holiday Spirit

Notice of Annual Meeting Illinois Agricultural Association Notice is hereby given that the

Dec. 3 Godfrey

annual meeting of the members of

Glazebrook Park in Godfrey will shine brightly with holiday lights during the Snowflake Festival. The free, old-fashioned event will feature carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, hot cocoa and pictures with Santa Claus. The festival takes place on Dec. 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, contact Glazebrook Park at (618) 466-1483.

Hotel, 800 Washington Avenue, St.

A Grand Ball With the Grants Dec. 4 Galena The Mistletoe Ball in Galena includes a Victorian holiday dinner and dance, both of which take place at historic Turner Hall on Dec. 4 from 6:30 p.m. until midnight. Period and holiday attire are appropriate for the ball, as President-elect Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia, will be in attendance. Before the catered dinner, guests may enjoy champagne and hors d’oeuvres. In addition, ballgoers can have professional portraits taken against a holiday backdrop and participate in a raffle and silent auction. Tickets can be purchased by calling (815) 777-9129. For more information, visit

the Illinois Agricultural Association will be held in the Renaissance Grand Louis, Missouri 63101, on Saturday, December 4, Sunday, December 5, Monday, December 6 and Tuesday, December 7, 2010, with the official meeting of voting delegates convening at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, December 6, for the following purposes: To receive, consider and, if approved, ratify and confirm the reports of the officers and the acts and proceedings of the Board of Directors and officers in furtherance of the matters therein set forth since the last annual meeting of the Association. To elect nine (9) members of the Board of Directors to serve for a term of two years. To consider and act upon such proposed amendments to the Articles of Incorporation or to the Bylaws of the Illinois Agricultural Association and upon such policy resolutions as may be properly submitted. For the transaction of such other business as may properly come before the meeting. James M. Jacobs Secretary


illinois in focus

On a winter afternoon in Marshall, Ill., the sun is shrouded in clouds overlooking Saint Mary’s Catholic Church. Staff Photo

Winter 2010-11


Winter 2010, ILFB Partners  

ILFB Partners is designed to highlight what’s good about Illinois – from the best travel destinations to articles about important agricultur...

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