DANVERS, Ill. — Rachel Wilson may have retired from running wagons to the elevator and taking a turn at the combine, but she still makes meals for the field during the harvest season.
She has some handy tricks she has developed, like making her apple pie in a square pan because it is easier to pack into a picnic basket.
“My husband says anything is good for lunch, as long as there is pie,” she said.
Her husband, Jim, gets some help from their son, daughter and son-in-law these days on their central Illinois corn and soybean fields.
Wilson remembered the days when she used to mow with the headlights after working in the field.
“Most farm wives working with their husbands do the same and are still room mothers, Sunday school teachers or 4-H leaders, etc.,” she said. “We got up in the night to put another load of laundry in or bake some bread that was rising when we went to bed.”
She has mastered the art of carrying lunch to the field and has an array or plastic containers with different configurations and lids to do the job.
“We don’t do sandwiches,” she said, so the sectioned containers might include meat, half a sweet potato and a salad.
She used to be known for frying donuts. That was the treat her children took to school on birthdays and also a treat at the elevators.
Today she is more likely to bring pecan rolls to the elevators at harvest.
Every season she is busy with some kind of food preparation. In the fall, it might be salads for a church group wiener roast at the farm. In the spring, it would be cooking up some maple syrup from their trees or helping with the nearby Sugar Grove Nature Center’s maple syrup. And during the Christmas season, there is lots of baking.
“Every day you are farming there are surprises,” she said from her pretty kitchen in McLean County.
It’s a mixture of modern conveniences and some family heirlooms including a “Hoosier cupboard” that was originally her grandmother’s.
This multi-purpose wooden hutch has a flour bin, a clock, a bread drawer, other drawers and shelves, a cutting board that pulls out and a ceramic top that can extend to hold desserts at Christmas when the family gathers.
Over the years, the parents of five, with four living children, have watched the farm evolve and change as their children grew. For many years Wilson had a huge garden and would can 100 quarts of green beans and 100 quarts of tomatoes.
Now she enjoys a smaller garden and the scenery of 15 acres of prairie flowers with filter strips.
“God’s favorite color is yellow,” she said of the flowers.
The wooded area near their home is also a source or joy as they watch the deer and the birds. Jim has practically memorized a birding book and can name all the birds, she said, adding that she might work on identifying all the calls instead.
“It’s given us a wonderful life,” she said of the farm.
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