Blueberry Coffee Cake

Country Blueberry Coffeecake 

I remember when we were younger tykes and once a year, the first week of August, my family drove four hours to Lake Vermillion near Cook, MN. We enjoyed the lazy days of summer at a family resort. Dad would fish, Mom would sunbathe, and my brother, sister, and I would swim near the dam. We always spent one early morning of that week picking wild blueberries by the side of the 18-mile long dirt road that lead to the resort. The berries were usually picked over by the bears in the area, but we always managed to scrape up a quart of the little morsels. We would freeze some of the berries and eat them like little popsicles. Mom would then make us the best blueberry coffeecake in the world. I would like to share it with you!


1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

½ c. sugar

1 T. baking powder

2 t. cinnamon

½ t. salt

1-1/2 c. fresh blueberries

1 egg

½ c. buttermilk

¼ c. melted butter


⅛ c. melted butter

¾ c. packed brown sugar

½ T. all-purpose flour

½ c. chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Gently fold in blueberries. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter. Add flour mixture and stir. Spread mixture into an 8x8 baking pan. Combine all topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter. Bake at 425° for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with more melted butter on top or ice cream. Delicious!

Goth's Rhubarb Cake

B.L. LietzauI don’t know about the rest of you, but Minnesota is getting a very late start with our gardening. It snowed once again on May 1st. Luckily, it didn’t stick. All our greenhouses are busting at the seams hoping each day will be a little bit warmer to get the outdoor satellite Flowermarts started. I am looking forward to the rhubard coming up as soon as possible. That is our real hope that summer is finally here. I want to share an old recipe of rhubarb coffee cake with you. When I was younger, my father purchased a farm (to resell). Five brother and sisters, never married, lived on this farm and all of them were getting on in years and were unable to keep it up. My father purchased the farm and worked out a deal where the brothers and sisters kept only one acre. Dad built them a 3-bedroom rambler on that acre with a small shed and chicken coop. It was all they needed in their later years. The sisters, who were excellent seamstress’s, made homemade quilts, and baked and canned like the end of the earth was coming. I would stop in to visit with my Mom and the sisters made the best rhubarb/strawberry coffee cake I’ve ever had. I am happy to share the recipe with you:

 Goth Sister’s Rhubarb/Strawberry Coffee Cake 


½ c. butter                     1 c. buttermilk

1 ½ c. white sugar         2 c. rhubard, diced

1 egg                            1 c. ripe strawberries, mashed

2 ½ c. flour                    1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda         1 c. brown sugar

½ tsp. salt                      ½ c. walnuts, chopped

Mix butter and white sugar together, and add egg. Combine flour, salt, and soda. Add buttermilk and stir in rhubarb, strawberries, and vanilla. Put into 9x13 inch pan. Combine brown sugar and walnuts in separate small bowl. Sprinkle over cake and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes


½ c. butter

1 c. white sugar

½ c. evaporated milk

 Heat butter, sugar, and evaporated milk until sugar dissolves. Pour over hot cake. It's so delicious!

The Back 40

B.L. LietzauI was a terribly shy young girl. Hiding behind my mother’s legs was the safest place I could be when her friends or strangers made notice of me. I grew up living in my older brother’s shadow. My brother was 18 months older than I was. As I became older, I attached myself to his sense of adventure, his boyish fun and my desire to experience life couldn’t keep me hiding any longer. I was a tomboy in bloom.

Comfort can be a state of mind, meant to bring us back to center. My comfort was to be able to breath, or to take flight when feeling closed-in. As a child, my comfort was knowing I am one with nature. It was the escape I needed from others’ converging lifestyles that spilled into my space. My space needed to be pure, as I proclaimed pure to be; free from others toil where I can hear no human, just nature’s voice supporting me to walk in my creed of exploration.

I lived in what I consider open space almost my entire life. Our family’s house was an open floor plan. The kitchen, dining room and living room were not enclosed rooms with walls but rather connected by changes in carpet styles. My parents always encouraged outside play, mostly, I think, for redistribution of the chaotic noise we made and the avoidance of the mystery dirt tracked into the home. My mother was an obsessive cleaner. Her work was never done. Requiring space, indoors or outdoors, was a commodity my soul seemed to crave.

The open land behind my home fueled my tomboyish sense of adventure. My blue and white Huffy bike with banana seat took me to every space of that land. Grasshoppers would jump out from the left and right of the tall grass along the paths and cling to my capris compelling me to pedal faster to get away from them. My brother received a motocross bike for his 14th birthday. I took advantage of his gift. I loved speeding up and down dirt paths and making new ones, daring to go off-track and define my own way.

The same year, my father bought two snowmobiles. These were my childhood joy. They took me to places I couldn’t reach in the summertime by bicycle. We re-defined the summer trails behind my house into winter trails, making shortcuts through the marshy areas and creating bouncy, head bobbing trails over the snow-covered bunches of reeds and cattails. I see a slide show in my memory. The carousel clicks, then a picture appears, a memory of my explorations. A newly found memory, yet an old picture is displayed on the side of my brain. I loved that land, the country next to my house. My body could breathe there.

Wikipedia describes Claustrophobia as “the fear of having no escape, and being closed in.” My need for space is almost a curse. Why is stagnancy my enemy? I need to keep moving and experiencing. I can’t be stagnate, or I feel trapped, without air, gasping for freedom of breath.

My Old Neighborhood 

Our town, Hamel, Minnesota, was just a blink of an eye with a small main street surrounded by many cow farms and hobby farms nearby. The neighborhoods to the south of town on Holy Name Drive were split into two developments, the west side was a development of homes built around muddy little Holy Name Lake on Lakeview Drive—ten ramblers, all in a row along the north shore on lake size lots. My neighborhood was a quarter-mile north from the lake homes—nine houses flanked by Holy Name Road, four on the west side and five on the east side. In between neighborhoods lay 40 acres of virtually undisturbed land. The neighborhood adults knew it as Carish’s land. Mr. Carish owned the Wayzata Theater and invested in real estate. The Back 40, as we used to call it, was fairly wide open, and gradually, made a right angle directly behind our backyard, then sprawled northward where it turned into a wooded area just before the edge of Medina Road. Our property line bordered the dirt path that made its way through a grassy field and eventually connected with the dead-end of Lakeview Lane. This was our “super bike highway”, the quickest way to get back and forth between the neighborhoods other than taking the roads. Many kids lived in the area back in the 1960s, 24 that I recall that were within three years of my age at the time, and most of us knew each other to some degree. We all rode the same bus to school. Only one bus came this far out to the outskirts of the Orono school district. The bike path was our mobilized form of communication, far superior to the unreliable Bell phone party-line system, which could be stalled for hours by gossipy busybodies hogging the line.

The Back 40 beckoned to us children to come and play year round. It was all relatively flat. A five-acre parcel of the area produced quality hay, harvested twice a year by a nearby farmer for his own use. The rest was wild field, swamp, and deciduous woods—ours to enjoy freely.

The Dump 

Ever since I can remember, a trash dump had been in use on the property where the bike path forks toward Lakeview Drive. We used to play in the dump. My vision of children playing in dumps are in poor, impoverished city areas—but no, back then, we had our own in the country too. In the middle, at the very bottom of the dump was the skeleton of a blue, rusty Volkswagen Beetle. A mess of tangled metal bed frames surrounded it and the castoffs of old farm equipment. As you look up the sides of this junk heap, there were scads of old metal cans, plastic jugs, broken furniture, broken glass, and God knows what odorless toxins were spilled and seeping into the ground.

It was our play land nonetheless. The triumph in the dump was to make it down the side of this hole in the ground unscathed and sit in the Beetle, victorious. Every time we played in the dump it brought new surprises—newly delivered junk added to the difficulty of reaching the Beetle, without our bodies being cut or scraped. Reaching the Bug was a conquest, fueling my ego, stretching me go a little further—a little further—a little further yet, finally attaining my lofty goal. I don’t recall ever needing a tetanus shot because of the hazards in that hole.

One section of the super-bikeway path goes 100 hundred yards, southward, to the dead-end of Lakeview Drive, and the second leg of the path connecting to the dump, continues on to another fork farther west about 75 yards. This is what I called the butterfly field, undisturbed wildflower grassland, home to a multitude of Monarchs and Mourning Cloaks. From there, the path splits again into two trails that lead to two small wooded areas toward the back-end of the property.

The Tree Limb 

At the end of the butterfly field was a large elm tree. It stood there dutifully, a traffic cop, letting you know there were only two ways to go, west or north. A long, low branch grew from the side of the tree not more than five feet from the ground. It was our resting spot. Many times, my brother and I would have a mom-packed lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and chips while sitting on this branch. We imagined we were on a safari, safe from any wild critters that might turn up beneath us and were able to see anyone coming for a ways.

One summer day, my brother and I we were sitting in the tree enjoying our peanut butter sandwiches when he accidentally dropped his sandwich and immediately started to cry. I had never seen my brother so upset. He seemed so vulnerable—my older brother, my protector. I had to make him feel better. I couldn’t watch him lose control. I gave him half my sandwich and told him not to worry. He immediately perked up and gratefully took my charity. That was the first time I can recall how good it felt to help someone and not ask for anything in return. I did, however, have an ulterior motive. If I gave him half my sandwich, our day wouldn’t be spoiled and we could stay and play longer.

North Side-Grassland 

My mom used to take us on picnics to the north side of the woods. We would march along the beaten paths and find an open spot in the sun. Mom spread a blanket on the grass near the edge of the woods and unloaded a paper bag filled with fruit and sandwiches and of course, our favorite drink, grape Kool-Aid, poured from a thermos. This was one of the few adventures she took us on as children. Otherwise, she preferred to stay near the house. It’s something I found disconcerting since only seven years prior to my birth, she had taken on the adventure of traveling across the Atlantic. She went alone on a ship, to meet up with my father, her fiancé while he was stationed in Germany. I often wondered why she didn’t care to explore as we did. Would that happen to me when I grew up and had children? Would my need for adventure radically disappear?   I believe I have always had my Aunt Margie’s sense of adventure and I took it to fruition. She had traveled the world by the time she retired. I could head out to the back forty by myself anytime, find an adventure of my own, and not come back home for hours. That was my world, for now.

West Side-The Gulley 

On the wooded path toward the gulley is the voodoo tree. I came across it one day while I was walking in the woods. There it stood, a large hollowed-out tree almost three feet in width and 50 feet tall. I could stick my head into the hollowed-out tree. It smelled like mushrooms, in a damp brown paper bag. Just below the tree was a rectangular hole dug into the ground about 8x12 feet and four feet deep. Four small timbers were set across the top of the hole and spaced two feet apart. At the base of the tree was the shape of a “head” dug into the ground, which attached to the rest of the hole, making it look like a sacrificial voodoo pit. We would imagine people being sacrificed to the gods while a fire burned in the hollowed out tree. What was a pit like that used for? Was it a trap of some sort? We didn’t understand it. It was just creepy.  I made a mental note to be aware of my surroundings when passing by this sinister looking site.

Further along this path is the area the neighborhood kids called the gulley—a long ditch within the woods, probably 60 yards in length. It had a musty, wet stench to it as it was enclosed with towering trees overhead. Not much direct light ever touched the floor of the gulley. In the springtime, there was always a trickle of water running through the creek in the center below. The steepest slope into the gulley, we called the Cliff, was maybe 15 feet high was a favorite daredevil hill for the neighborhood boys. Motocross bikes would tear up and down the hill testing their rider’s bravery and skill. The determined smoke exhaust and the whine of engine seemed to push the riders up and up until they rested in a puttering breath, claiming victory. What an ego boost it must have been, to reach up and over the top of the vertical plunge—an accomplishment—a notch in their valiant boy-to-man belts. I, on the other hand, stuck to the less gradient slopes with my bicycle. This Cliff wasn’t the area of the Back 40 to test my courage. This steep slope was a place I felt vulnerable. I would never achieve that feeling of fearlessness here, not at this time. I practiced my maneuverability skills along the skinny paths, being careful not to catch my handlebars on any seedlings that dared to grow too close to the trail. The gulley was a natural obstacle course. I learned how to work with nature, yielding to its demands while enjoying its beauty.

Keg Parties 

During my teenage years, many keg parties took place just past the dump. Cars could maneuver easily to this flat section of the property. My bedroom window faced the west. I could hear every party with or without my window being open. The parties were only a couple hundred yards from my house. I could walk to these parties if I desired. My brother was a punch-card party aficionado. He would be at almost every party by the dump, as if he had a lifetime pass.

The partiers were a little older than I was, maybe by one or two years, in my brother’s age bracket and more into pot smoking. That was too progressive for me at sixteen. Lying in bed, I could hear the fun and the music happening, wishing I could muster up the courage and just go by myself. Once there, it was a good probability I would be accepted. Yet, I picture myself slowly walking up to the keg and the partygoers in the dark. Would anyone talk to me? And if they did so, how long would they keep me company? Would I be left alone? I knew my brother’s neighborhood friends pretty well, yet, facing any possible instance of rejection or being forced to partake in the herbal ritual made me shrink under my covers—a wallflower, never to bloom on that social prairie. I guess I would be the social pariah, who never really tried to fit in to the Back 40 party lifestyle. This was an adventure on the Back 40 I wasn’t ready to experience. It wasn’t my time. Sometimes big spaces were frightening. I couldn’t risk it even though it sounded like so much fun.


I never gave back to the Back 40. I took from it. It nurtured me with a maternal gesture, ready to sooth me or support me on my outdoor endeavors within its boundaries. In time, it became too small to hold my sense of self. My journey was continuing. She guided me to find my true north, develop my boldness, and encouraged me to continue on to a larger world. Her gentleness, support and nurturing gave me the courage to grow beyond my physical and emotional confinements of a child. Those days would not last forever, but what I learned and the confidence it instilled would hold deep in my being, and spring to the surface whenever a new physical challenge or adventure would tug at me and say, “Come on, let’s do it”.  

The land was eventually lost to us children. Our generation had grown and moved away. The Back 40 was partitioned into smaller, urban horse farms that were no longer communally shared by a larger neighborhood. The dump was filled with dirt, half the trees in the woods were cut down to make way for large homes, and the wild grasslands turned into blankets of Kentucky bluegrass.

The only piece left to share with the public is where the paved road somewhat followed the old, main bike path as far as the old voodoo tree. If only these new inhabitants new of my glory days previously played out on their newly acquired estates, one layer below. Do they appreciate this land as I once did? Are they enjoying the splendor, the beauty, and the spirituality of their newly acquired paradise?

Profit is prophecy. Mr. Carish, received money for his long-term investment and the rest of us received the best assortment of childhood memories we could hope for. Places of meaning are re-shaped with time, as also sentimentality for those places. I am so grateful for my time there. The closeness I felt to nature was so compelling. My journey through life still holds a strong bond with wildness. There are no size comparisons as to what we behold as awesome. Perhaps is is just a mutual intuitiveness between woman and nature--that we both respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We will continue to challenge each other.

Moonlight Starlight

B.L. LietzauDo you recall the kinds of games you played outdoors as a child? Do they bring back fun memories? As a child of the late 1960s, I spent many days every summer at my Grandma’s 100-acre farm in Hamel, Minnesota. My cousins and I would run and play outside until we were ordered to come in at night.

Our favorite outdoor running game was called Moonlight Starlight. It was a game that had slightly different versions throughout the U.S. The game involves running from scary ghosts. The ghosts attempt to grab you while you run around the entire perimeter of the house to goal (the front porch) where it is safe from those ghastly ghouls.

Game Setup: 

  •  Number of players–4-6
  •  Playing cards-1 ace (the “real” ghost); 1 King (the runner); two to four
  •  Numbered  cards (extra ghosts)
  •  Lots of bug spray for everyone
  •  Well tied running shoes


Shuffle the playing cards and fan them out face down. Each person picks a card. I pick the runner card so I am the only one to show my card to everyone. I stay on the front porch and count aloud;

“One O’clock, two O’clock, three O’clock, four O’clock, five O’clock, six O’clock, seven O’clock, eight O’clock, nine, O’clock, ten O’clock, eleven O’clock, twelve O’clock, Moonlight Starlight hope to see a ghost tonight.”

 The rest scatter near the house to hide in bushes, under trees and dissolve into the dark corners of the old pump house waiting to scare the daylights out of me.

 As the runner, I dash around the perimeter of the house and get back to goal as quickly as possible. I don’t know who the real ghost is, so I must run from all ghoulish figures in the yard who scream and chase me. As I touch the first step on the porch I yell, “1-2-3 goal!” This is the triumphant cry screamed out indicating I am safe and the dark forces can no longer seize me. If I don’t make it to the porch, then I must run again.

 It’s hard to say who had more fun, the runner or the ghouls. Either way, we all received great heart-pumping exercise and a fulfilling night of thrills.

Ft. Lincoln Bluff

B.L. LietzauI stand on top of the bluff. It is tall, flat and wide. I feel calm here. My lungs expand, inhale the freedom, then push out the stale. I sense I am being looked after. The sky’s majesty engulfs my existence, whirls 360 degrees, spiraling into a funnel where I stand. The horizon seems hundreds of miles away. I cannot see any warm-blooded life, only the life that firmly embeds its roots in the rocky soil as it strains to flourish. The hills roll into one another with distinctive flecks of greens and browns, abruptly ended by the carved cliffs and begin again on the other side of the crags, rolling in and out of sight.

 I stand on top of the bluff. It is tall, flat and wide. All that dares to grow up here are prairie grasses and crocus. Rounded rocks, the size of soccer balls, placed in rectangular formations confirm where previous, old military buildings stood. I am aware of the soldiers from days gone by, under Custer’s command, carrying on their daily endeavors—marching beside me, barking orders to one another. This is their post. The men are stationed here to protect the white settlers from Native American attacks. The soldiers could see for miles from here. I can see for miles. The land to the river valley below cuts an extremely steep slope. The Missouri is overflowing this year—too much spring rain.

The sky is darkening and it begins to shows itself. An undulating summer storm begins sweeping over the horizon as if late for its purpose. Fast, dark clouds whirl and chase each other as if they were flocks of birds on their way to a warmer climate; swirling and gaining speed and direction with every wing flutter. The tempest takes hostage of the southwestern hemisphere, expanding its supremacy northeastward as it stirs the sky above my head. A merciless veil of water is approaching, suspended from the heavens. I stretch out my arms to receive the tempest. The power in the sky is welcomed trepidation. Cool, fast wind rushes over my face as it builds its symphony. Luminous shards of light from far away are pre-empted by low rumbles and then hushed smacks of thunder. The prevailing wind sweeps through me, as if I am a bound spirit, leaving steadfast in my place.

How insignificant I am.     

The rain begins with drops of water popping downward with a fluted melodic beat. After a brief instant, the temporal rain begins to hiss as it spills across the bluff and down the slopes. It beats down all that is not a hard, prehistoric mass. Yet, unseen to me, it is washing that away too, little by little to melt the stone’s glue that swallowed lives past—living, breathing remnants of another time. 

The lightning now seemingly close, assaults anything it wishes. My sight and hearing are battered, as the thunder and lightning have now become a united force. Nothing other than the natural world can provide as mind-blowing of a show as this. The bluff is under siege from unseen energy sources. My flesh gives in to the invigorating cascade bestowed by the heavenly wash and I take cover. I scramble to take shelter in one of the four rebuilt outlook posts. Cautiously raising the cover of the small trap window on the second level, I peer out. The air outside is dark. All I see is a murky, fluid wall of domination. The defiant flora takes its hold and drinks to satiety. The rocky crags gather any unused nourishment and gift the surfeit to the river so it may nurture another part of the country as it flows southeast down to the Missouri.

This land takes a pounding during a storm.

What lives here must relinquish its own meager power to the heavens and endure the endless submissions of climate. As the surge passes by, a quiet, sigh of relief flows through the air. The life on the bluff emerges unscathed. A slow release of tension seems inevitable.

Finally, it’s over.

I see gratefulness on that bluff. The prairie grasses and the crocus bow to give thanks and stir once again. The rainbow seams to stretch the entire southern horizon—they are twice the size here in North Dakota as they are elsewhere. Nothing blocks the magnificent arc of refracted water vapor and light stretching in view from my left shoulder to my right.

I imagine this land 15,000 years ago. It emerges from a flash-frozen, glacial-blue ice cover. The newly arrived travelers from the Bering Strait see it for the first time. Did they think of this land the way I do, as I see it today? Did they welcome the wide-open space or did it become another staggering part of their journey ambling over hills, and down through valleys with no protection from the elements? Or did they experience an ease, a comfort, a familiarity to this place? This bluff is a home I seem to have left behind. Perhaps the wind has connected this land to our hearts. It transported pieces of our essence to mix here and derived to create a common native land to be experienced over and over, generation after generation. It greets me with familial knowing, that I haven’t been back to visit in a long time. I feel welcomed here. My spirit knows this space.

Minnesota Cattle Drive

B.L. LietzauA cattle drive in Minnesota? Make no mistake about it. In 1932, the Baer family lost their farm in Wyoming, Minnesota, due to the Depression and several years of bad crops. This land adjacent to the western shore of Comfort Lake no longer provided the promise of a good living as it once had.

Eleven Baer children, plus their parents, Henry and Margaret, were forced to pull up stakes and move to a rented farm in Hamel, Minnesota. There, they hoped to put down their roots and start again.

Fifty head of cattle remained in their stock. Two of the older Baer boys, Gene, seventeen years old and Lee, then sixteen along with their father, Henry, began a 45-mile cattle drive southwest to Hamel, MN. The young men saddled horses at dusk and drove the cattle flanking Highway 61, which started the two-day trek to the anticipated rich and fertile ground.

At the end of the first day, the men and cattle rested in a gravel pit halfway toward their destination. As the western sun shrunk into the red sky, I can imagine the camaraderie in that gravel pit between father and sons. The campfire aglow, the beef jerky and lard sandwiches savagely eaten before a short rest and then heading out again.

The hope for better farmland kept their spirits high and determination intact as they persisted in the rest of the journey. Not to mention the pure adventure of an old western cattle drive was exciting for Gene and Lee. By the end of the following evening, they rounded the last turn to the 85-acre farm in Hamel.

Will and persistence were prevalent in those days, just like the Old West—Come hell or high water, things got done. Pursuing the American dream continued on with the Baer’s new location. Again, they would prosper on this new land.

The Weigel's Farm

Weigel’s Farm  

Their farm buildings were demolished. A large barn is gone; a hay shed gone, barbed wire fences, all gone. They stopped farming after their last child went to college. All that are left of any outbuildings are, a double garage plus two chicken coups, now housing nine feral cats. In Pauline’s clowder of felines, her orange tabbies were most friendly, yet they still ran when we got too close to pet them. My friend Rita tried to feed them canned tuna to gain their trust. She made little trails of tuna leading to her feet. Two days later, they were still enjoying canned tuna with no human contact. She’s such a pushover.

Their house was built in 1941. They didn’t move in until 1960. One guest bedroom was supposedly haunted. However, I remember sleeping well in that bedroom. If you ask a ghost politely to leave you alone they will. I swear I smelled Frankincense or Myrrh in that bedroom at night.  It was interesting that a poster of a 1980’s Snap-On Tools pin-up girl hung next to a picture of Jesus on one bedroom wall.

Pauline’s basement was filled with talking cookie jars. One jar was ocean blue with a surfer gliding across it shooting a curl while “Surf City” played when you opened its top. Another jar, was a pig dressed in a cop suit that squeeled, “Hold it right there, put that cookie back,” as you attempted to open it. My friend Rita giggled like a little kid as we both opened each jar to listen. Soon after, we were hungry for cookies, big time, that night so we went upstairs at 10 p.m. to make a batch of snickerdoodles.

I walked with my friends along an old farm path near one of their property lines one evening. A most engaging, deliciously sweet aroma wafted across my nose. I had never smelled such purity. Tony told me it was Sweet Clover. My God, I could not live without breathing that scent each day of our visit. I plucked a few sprigs to place in my book I had picked up at a local thrift shop to read as we drove across North Dakota.

Pauline said she hated trees. She liked to see as far across her property as possible in all directions. There was one big tree outside their dining room window that she wanted gone. She didn’t like to smell evergreen when she opened a nearby window in summer. Tony wouldn’t do it. That was one thing on this Earth he wouldn’t do for Pauline was cut down that beautiful old spruce tree.

Two of the nine ferrel cats on the farm