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Family first on this farm

By Staff | Jun 3, 2016

KRISTI WIRTJES and her daughters, from left, Elise, 10; Anna, 12; Allison, 8; and Abby, 14, sample what they have prepared in their kitchen.

FOREST CITY – The farm of Greg and Kristi Wirtjes is located south of Forest City, about one mile into Hancock County.

As the parents of four daughters between the ages of eight and 14, with Greg Wirtjes milking his Jersey cattle twice a day, plus raising crops, the farm is a busy place.

The Wirtjeses have time where they interact as a family and have much unstructured time for their girls to simply play.

“They like being outside,” said Kristi Wirtjes.

Helping their dad with morning cattle chores is a favorite job for all four girls.

ABBY WIRTJES SHOWS off her over-sized oatmeal rolls.

The girls enjoy playing something they call “Pioneer,” where they dress up in bonnets and long dresses and reenact life in pioneer times.

Each week they have a family night when they canoe, play croquet, disc golf and bike to visit neighbors. During the winter, when they are indoors, they may play a board game, have a ’50s night or a silly supper when individual food items are numbered or given a disguised name.

They ask for a menu item by number or name and then eat it.

Off the farm, the girls are active in 4-H, Tae Kwon Do and church. They are also all taking piano lessons.

The four sisters have their favorite food to make in the kitchen.

ABBY WIRTJES , 14, removes her over-sized oatmeal rolls from the baking sheet to cool next to her sister Elise’s rhubarb bread.

Abby Wirtjes, 14, besides baking oversize oatmeal buns, made a cherry pie with lattice crust.

She will be freshman at Forest City High School this fall and is looking forward to participating in basketball, track and, her favorite, cross country.

Anna Wirtjes, 12, will be in the seventh grade this fall at Forest City Christian School. She started baking pies two years ago, and she also bakes cookies, bread and breakfast.

“I like to bake,” she said.

Anna Wirtjes has another interest in vintage items such as clothing and cars. On Easter Sunday, she wore her grandmother’s going away dress from her wedding day. She is sewing a vintage dress as a 4-H project.

ELISE WIRTJES, 10, removes her freshly baked rhubarb bread from the oven.

Her favorite outdoor activities are watching sunsets and going to the shooting range with her father.

Elise Wirtjes, 10, makes breakfast, where her favorite items to bake include waffles, pop overs and snicker doodles.

“Yesterday I made pancakes and bacon,” she said.

Elise Wirtjes learned how to give foot rubs from her aunt, who is a nurse. She enjoys giving them along with back rubs.

She also likes to do hair, nails and wear fancy clothing. She has tea parties and slumber parties with her sisters.

ALLISON WIRTJES, 8, made this pan of no bake energy bites, a favorite of hers.

Allison Wirtjes, 8, likes to bake cookies.

“I help mom make homemade pizza,” she said.

“She makes very good salads,” Abby Wirtjes said.

Allison Wirtjes plays with dolls, does wood projects with her dad and picks and decorates with flowers. She likes to go places with her parents and jump on the trampoline.

“I like to read and pick on my sisters,” she said.

A wild rice soup recipe is part of a Christmas tradition when it is served in a bread bowl along with a special juice, angel food cake, as part of a candle light dinner with Christmas music playing.

Everyone dresses up and, with their cousins, they perform the Nativity.

All four girls have been home-schooled, with Elise and Allison still receiving their education from their mother.

“I love being at home with my kids,” said Kristi Wirtjes.

Over-sized oatmeal rolls

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 1/3 cup hot water (120 to 125 degrees)

2 packages active dry yeast (3 tablespoons for a double batch)

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 cups all-purpose flour (maybe a little less)

In a large bowl, combine butter and hot water. Add brown sugar, salt and oatmeal.

Use a thermometer to check temperature of water, between 110 and 120 degrees is best. One may need to add a little flour to cool. Add yeast and rest of flour; mix well.

Let set about 45 minutes. Then make into buns and let rise again for about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Grandma’s apple pie


2 cups flour

2/3 cup shortening

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

6-7 teaspoons water


5-6 large apples

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Sprinkle of nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, blend flour salt and cinnamon. Cut in shortening until pieces are size of small peas.

Sprinkle one tablespoon of water over part of the mixture. Gently toss with a fork. Push to side of bowl. Repeat until all is moistened.

Divide dough in half; form each half into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one ball, going from center out, forming a circle to fit your pie pan.

Repeat on second ball.

Wrap the first pastry lightly around a floured rolling pin, unroll into pie pan. Set the second pastry aside.


Cut the apples and put in a mixing bowl. In a different bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Then add to apples. Pour the filling into pie pan. Dot the apple filling with butter.

Take the second rolled crust and roll onto the top of the filling just as you did with the first. Trim the edges and flute the crust.

Cut slits or make a design on the top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush milk on top and lightly sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn down to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes.

Rhubarb bread

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cup liquid shortening

1 egg

1 cup sour milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/3 cups flour

1/2 cup nuts

1 1/2 cups finely diced rhubarb

Pour into 2 well-greased loaf pans

Combine topping

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon melted butter

Sprinkle on top and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove from pans after 2 or 3 minutes.

Wild rice soup with ham

6 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon minced onion

1/2 cup flour

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups cooked wild rice

1/3 cups minced ham

1/2 cups finely grated carrot

3 tablespoons chopped slivered almonds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup half and half

Melt butter in saucepan; saute onion until tender. Blend in flour; gradually add broth.

Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute.

Stir in wild rice, ham, carrots, almonds, and salt. Simmer about 5 minutes.

Blend in half and half.

Heat to serving temperature.

No bake energy bites

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup honey

1 cup coconut flakes

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix everything in a medium bowl.

Let chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy.

Store in airtight container for one week.

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