HOW THE MUELLERS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AT CLARETTA DAIRY FARM
Every December, as the cool air flows in and our cows relax into more comfortable weather, we start to plan our Christmas holiday season. The month begins by planning birthday parties for both Samantha (11) and Logan (9). This year is extra special because we are also celebrating my in-laws Ron and Sylvia Mueller’s 50th Wedding Anniversary! With so many celebrations and parties, one of our favorite things to do is to take a trip up to Shullsburg, Wisconsin to stock up on lots of specialty cheeses and curds to share with everyone. Of course, the cheese is the first to go at all the parties!
FARMING IS A YEAR-ROUND JOB
Once the birthday and anniversary celebrations are over, winter break from school arrives and the Christmas traditions begin. I work with special needs children as a speech pathologist, and we love giving school tours on the farm. My husband Brent is a 4th generation dairy farmer, and the students are always surprised to hear that Farmer Brent has to work on Christmas because the cows need to be fed and milked; even if it’s his birthday or he’s sick. It’s a year-round job and if the cows didn’t get milked, Santa would have nothing to dunk his cookies in! Santa only drinks real milk at our house.
What makes Christmas on the farm a little different is the fact that we plan celebrations around farm chores, so a lot of our traditions include brunch! One of Brent’s favorite memories as a kid is finishing his morning chores then riding his snowmobile to his grandma’s house for pancakes. She was famous for making pancakes every Tuesday for farm hands from all over the county.
For the week leading up to Christmas, all the Mueller grandkids get together to make cookies and get sprinkles all over grandma’s house. Brent’s mom makes the best sugar and thumb print cookies. No matter how hard we try, we can never make them like she does! Meanwhile, Brent and the rest of the farm hands work together to try and get ahead on chores. Typically, chores are done from 4:30AM-10:30AM, then they start again at 3:30PM-7:00PM. On Christmas we try to finish closer to 8:00AM so that everyone can spend more time with their families.
CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM
On Christmas Eve, we finish our chores then have brunch with Brent’s family, a tradition for over 50 years! This will be our first year without Grandma and Grandpa Fruin, who were also dairy farmers. We will really miss celebrating with them.
On Christmas Day, the kids get out of bed and know that they are not allowed to see what Santa brought until all the chores are done. The Christmas presents are covered with a blanket, and the kids get to work! This is the one day of the year that the kids are very eager to help out on the farm. First, they bring the milking crew warm drinks and cinnamon rolls. Everyone gets into the spirit of Christmas, even the cows! The crew helps set the scene in the barn by playing Christmas music, putting Santa hats on the cows, and feeding them special treats like cookies! The kids help with cleaning the parlor, the calf pens, washing bottles, pushing up feed, and anything else standing between them and Christmas presents.
Once the chores are done, the kids get to open their presents. Then we attend a church service in a local barn before heading to my parents for lunch. Our feast usually includes Christmas ham, bacon, or steak with cheesy egg casseroles, cookies, and milk of course! We also love to enjoy holiday mocktails and cocktails like my dad’s famous chocolate martinis, eggnog, chocolate peppermint liquor, sparkling grape juice, and my favorite, Winter Wassail! To help make your holidays extra special this year, here is Sylvia’s infamous thumb print cookie recipe (although she never follows the recipe, and they always turn out magical)!
2 cups soft butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs (separate the yolks and whites into separate bowls)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ cup chopped pecans
1) Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Mix sugar and butter together until creamy, then add egg yolks and vanilla. Once mixed, gradually add flour, and mix until incorporated.
2) Beat egg whites until frothy. Then using a teaspoon, make balls of dough. Dip the dough in egg whites then roll them in chopped pecans.
3) Bake for 6 minutes, remove from oven, and carefully press the middle of each cookie with a thumb. Then return to the oven to bake for another 6 minutes.
1 package of cream cheese spread, 8 oz.
1 soft stick of butter
2 tsp almond extract 1
tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until mixed well.
2. Add vanilla and almond extracts and mix
3. Add the sugar and mix together until smooth
4. Frost the cookies and enjoy!
Happy Holidays from our family to yours!
Amber Mueller, Claretta Farm in Garden Prairie, Illinois.