Saturday, July 13, 2024

Alfalfa Tea


When Grandma Lydia was a young girl, her family lived on a farm. She had eleven siblings, six brothers, five older than she; and five sisters, two older and three younger. With that many folks in the family everyone had a job to do. During hay season Grandma’s (then a small girl) job was to pull the trip rope on the hay derrick as the family made their haystacks.

Back then hay was like gas is for us today only much more important. Hay fed the horses that pulled the wagons, fed the cow that provided milk; was bedding for the egg laying chickens. Model T’s and A’s were making in-roads, but the back-roads were still well populated with horses.

Tractors were online but horses still plowed the fields. Great Grandpa Archie (then Dad) had a pair of mules, Jack, and Jenny, that did most of the work tractors do now. He owned a Case tractor, but the learning curve was steep, and horse and mule teams were still very much in use.

 Grandma Lydia told me when she was a small girl her dad entered into a few pulling competitions. I asked if they won; she told me they came in second a time or two. She said she never saw him raise his hand to motivate them. When the other fellows were whipping their mules to pull, he’d just say a few words into their ears and the pair would crouch and pull like there was no tomorrow and when they were done giving their best, he always patted them and told them they’d done a good job whether they won or not.

In those days stacking hay was done with ropes, pully systems and a mast like contraption called a derrick with a boom that could swivel. The boys loaded the loose hay into a net like contraption (made of wood or metal) with two sides that hinged in the middle secured with a quick release mechanism. The boom lifted the hay as high as needed and as the stack got higher the boom would raise the hay higher. The stack could grow as tall as the mast.

Grandma Lydia (then a small girl) was in charge of the trip rope for the quick release mechanism. One day when she pulled the trip rope her body also tripped right under the loose hay she’d just released. She said she can still remember looking up through the hay and hearing her mother yelling, “Archie don’t use that pitchfork. You’ll kill her.” The pitchfork was put aside, and they dug her out by hand, no harm done.

Then there was the time the haystack burned down. Great Grandpa Archie (then Dad) thought it was spontaneous combustion. It can happen if the hay is put away damp. The uncle, (I can’t remember if it was Uncle Ned or Uncle Ethan) who hid in the ‘fort’ made inside the haystack to smoke a cigarette wasn’t about to fess up because he caused the flames.

For many years derrick stacked hay fed farm animals that fed farm families. I am always amazed at the ingenuity of the United States farmers and ranchers. Using a mast and a pulley system that would make a sailor proud they provided food security for their families. And they are still providing food security to this day, only now they do so for a nation as well as their families. Today two percent of our population are farmers and ranchers. They feed the rest of us.

Alfalfa Tea

(For times when the Tummy wants undemanding restorative refreshment)

Pint mason jar or a two-cup tea pot        One-pint boiling water

1-2 heaping Tablespoons dried alfalfa     Pinch of oregano (optional)

1 bag peppermint tea (optional)              Pinch of sage (optional)

In the mason jar or tea pot add the alfalfa. Decide whether or not to use the optional herbs. If the decision is to use them, add them. If using peppermint, put the tea bag in the jar or tea pot. Pour boiling water over the top of the herbs and let it steep for five to ten minutes. Pour into two teacups and share with a friend.

Choices: Oat straw also works. Oat straw and alfalfa together can help sooth a tummy. Any herb or spice the nose finds pleasant can be a tasty addition.

Note: The alfalfa hay live-stock enjoy works well for this tea. Peppermint tea adds a welcome flavor to the ‘hay’ taste of alfalfa and/or oat straw but it isn’t necessary. Sometimes my tummy just wants the restoration of ‘hay’ without the added aromatics like mint, oregano, sage.

In 2000 Michele Priddy left the work force to become a stay-at-home mother and wife. Being a one-income family in today’s society meant she had to learn to budget quickly. Food became a priority early because she wanted the children to have the best nutrition, she could offer them even on a budget. She also taught cooking classes on how to stretch the food dollar with simple ingredients at various churches in her community. Michelle has put her kitchen strategies and recipes in booklets, her church newsletter and in her hometown newspaper, The Goldendale Sentinel. We hope you will enjoy her strategies, stories, and recipes. You can contact the Leavenworth Echo at or 509-548-5286 if you have any questions or comments for Michelle.



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