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Loving her rural life

By Staff | Mar 1, 2013

MARY BERG spoons up a little of her pineapple sweet potato casserole. It adds color to any meal but looks especially pretty on a plate during the fall.

TERRIL – Mary Berg said growing up in town didn’t prepare her for what the rest of her life would be like living on a farm.

But she also said it’s been a good life, one that grew on her the longer she was part of it.

“My folks didn’t move out to the country (an acreage) until I was a teenager, so I adjusted to (farm life) slowly,” she said. “We got married in 1955, and that’s when I started living on the farm.”

For the past 48 years, the Bergs have been just a few miles west of Terril, in eastern Dickinson County.

“When I first moved to the farm I didn’t understand why we had to move the pigs all the time,” she said. “Eating schedules were the hardest to get used to.”

MARY BERG’S mint club dessert is as pretty as it it delicious.

Berg has been active all of her married life, caring for pigs and working in the fields alongside her husband, plowing, disking and hauling corn during harvest.

She still does a little corn hauling with a pick-up truck.

She said it was hard to find help on the farm, so one day when she took lunch out to her husband she asked if she could disk a little bit. There was no turning back after that. But it meant that she would need more help to keep the household running. That’s where their four daughters came into the picture.

“The girls would take turns cooking and working inside and outside,” Berg said. “They’d spend one day working in the house and a day working outside.”

Before she went outside for the day, she would prepare the meat for their next meal, and the girls would prepare the rest.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. This was the place to be once I got used to it.” —Mary Berg Farmer

“We ate a lot of burned potatoes while they were learning,” she said fondly. “They learned to schedule their work while they were cooking.”

Dinners at the Berg house consisted of the basics and nothing fancy.

“We just had meat and potatoes, mostly. But we always had to have dessert,” she said. “Back in those days we had big dinners and big suppers, so it was a lot of cooking.”

She said her husband wasn’t a fan of casseroles, so she didn’t make them very often. When Berg was in the field the family ate “a lot of sandwiches.”

Today, their two sons do the farming. Berg said it’s important to get meals to them while harvesting.

MARY BERG created her own rendition of sweet potatoes, made even sweeter with pineapple chunks. Her cherry salad, at right, is a favorite of her family’s.

“They get a hot meal during the day,” Berg said, “and sandwiches at night.”

She typically provides a casserole, or something they can cut easily while standing or sitting in a vehicle holding plates.

Berg cooks one big meal daily. She no longer makes regular desserts. She also eats more salads.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” she said. “This was the place to be once I got used to it.

“I feel free out in the country. It was hard at first because when you planned to do something, the hog house would be flooded or a cow would have a calf and you couldn’t go and do whatever you had planned.

“You can’t ignore those things, and the sooner you learn that on the farm, the better off you are.”

Following are some dishes she has made often, with recipes from family and friends.

Macaroni and cheese casserole

1 cup macaroni

1 can cream-style corn

1 can whole kernel corn (do not drain)

1 stick butter, melted

Diced onion to taste

Cheese to taste

Mix and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Cherry salad

1 can cherry pie filling

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

1 8-ounce. container Cool Whip

Mix well. Can add nuts if desired.

Pineapple sweet potatoes

(A recipe that Berg created)

3 large sweet potatoes

1 20-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Walnuts or pecans to taste, if desired

Boil sweet potatoes. Remove skins and chop into small pieces. Add and mix pineapple, brown sugar and butter.

Place in large casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

During the last five minutes, uncover and sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecans on top.

It tastes good and looks pretty.

Mint club dessert

(A favorite after-school snack of the Berg children)

1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs

5 tablespoons melted butter

Mix and place in the bottom of a 9-by-9-inch baking pan.

1 cup pineapple tidbits, drained

2 cups colored mini marshmallows

1 cup colored mints

1 8-ounce container Cool Whip

Mix ingredients.

Spoon mixture over crumb crust and refrigerate for 12 hours so flavors mix and mints soften.

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