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Food fuels family, connects communities PDF Print E-mail
Written by Karen Ortner   

Not many would put the words “canning” and “relaxing” in the same sentence, but Nancy Berges certainly does. Berges, who has worked at Highline Electric Association for over 51 years, cans 1,500 cans of food in an average year.

“My record is 2,252 cans in a year,” said the woman who loves to give to anyone who asks and teach anyone willing to learn.

Few would guess that Berges hated to help her mother can foods “with a passion” growing up, having to wash and scald dirty jars by hand. Over the years, however, family and community involvement have kindled a genuine enjoyment in the process for her, and great generosity in giving it away.

She first began with canned fruits, when her husband Raymond was told he needed to reduce his sugar intake. From there, her recipe box gradually expanded to include a variety of jellies, vegetables, pickles, meats, stews and pie fillings.

A selection of Nancy Berges’ canned goods shows off the variety of foods she preserves for family and friends. Pictured are front row, from left, antelope, beet pickles, strawberry preserves, wild boar, blueberry rhubarb jam and plum jelly; second row, apple pie filling, dill spear pickles and stew; third row, tomatoes and apricots; and top, her prized relish.

—Johnson Publications photo

“I can get a good meal for 10 people ready in 15 minutes,” said Berges of the contents of her pantry. And it’s an ability she takes advantage of often, entertaining friends, family and hunting parties.

This year, the Berges family farm, now in its fourth generation, saw 15 friends and family members for opening day of hunting season, and Berges was sure to pull out all the stops keeping company fed. “The amount of food you go through in a weekend is unbelievable,” she stated, comparing hosting a hunting party to feeding a harvest crew.

Her sons and grandchildren are avid hunters, accounting for some of her more unusual canned meats, such as antelope and wild boar. “One of my granddaughters got that boar with a 6-inch bowie knife,” she said proudly of the jarred meat, adding that boar doesn’t taste much different than pork.

Between hunting, gardening and friends in the community with garden foods to share, Berges doesn’t have to buy much of what she cans besides fruit. Friends bring in their home-grown produce, she cans it, and they split it, or else they share in both the harvest and the canning process. “The absolute best pickles are when you pick the cucumbers from the garden, take them in and process them immediately,” she shared.

Her pickles in particular come from quite a special recipe, having been passed down from her mother in her final years. After her mother passed, Berges couldn’t bring herself to make pickles for a couple of years, and their return at the Thanksgiving table brought back sentimental memories for her siblings and family.

“It’s nice to be able to pass that stuff down,” said Berges, whose sister, nieces and grandchildren often join her to learn the canning process and master her recipes. “You can’t buy this stuff.”

Her recipes range from simpler sweetened fruit recipes, which only take about 25 minutes after getting up to pressure, to the lengthy Alaskan salmon, which requires 100 minutes. Some of Berges’ more challenging recipes are her most talked about, like her “to-die-for” apple pie filling or the relish recipe in which she has to grind every single ingredient.

Nancy Berges tells about her “to-die-for” apple pie filling, one of her most time-consuming and much-requested recipes.

—Johnson Publications photo

For those who might have a jar of Berges’ relish in their own pantries right now, it’s been told that adding it to deviled eggs is a real game-changer.

More people may have some of Berges’ handiwork in their pantries than one would think, as for Berges, it’s the sharing that really makes it worthwhile. Whether it’s a friend or relative “loading up” after a visit from out of town, or one of the many silent auction baskets she’s arranged for various events over the years, Berges simply overflows with generosity and care for those around her.

Living in Sedgwick County while working in Phillips County means twice the community involvement and twice the fundraisers for Berges, who over the years has been active in the Historical Society, Red Cross Society, Rural Fire District board, Conservation board, the Credit Union board, Progressive 15, the Republican Party and the Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.

She also is a go-to helper for Dragon’s Wagon Preschool fundraisers, Relay for Life, the Lincoln Day Dinner and basically “anyone that calls.”

“There’s certain people in the community that get things done, even if they’re the busiest people,” said Berges. “I’m one of those people.”

Berges might joke that canning keeps her “off the streets and out of the pool hall,” but it is clear where her heart is — in her family and the community.

“I’m really interested in the community in both cities,” she stressed, meaning both Julesburg, which she lives near, and Holyoke, where she works. “It’s only through sharing and volunteering that they thrive.”

Holyoke Enterprise November 26, 2015

Boiler at pool to be replaced; ‘Snuffy’ faces demise PDF Print E-mail
Written by Karen Ortner   

The need for a new boiler at the pool and a replacement for the fondly remembered leaf vacuum street cleaner “Snuffy” were among several matters discussed at the Tuesday, Nov. 17, Holyoke City Council meeting.

City Superintendent Mark Brown stated that they first knew something was wrong at the Holyoke pool when they received an extremely high gas bill for the building. Further investigation found that one of the boilers had malfunctioned, spraying water that was partially hitting the boiler’s flame, causing the boiler to then work harder to compensate.

The other boiler has also recently gone down due to a pump problem, proving that the pool needs both boilers to function effectively.

While the second boiler is likely covered under warranty, the first will probably exceed the requirements for warranty due to scaling from hard water.

“It’s got to be done,” said Mayor Orville Tonsing. “No sense spending money repairing the old boiler when we can get a new one for a little more with a warranty.”

The council voted and approved Brown to pursue purchasing a new boiler and to add the necessary water treatment. Tom Hethcote will be consulted for price comparisons.


“Snuffy is dying.”

Other replacements to be made include a new leaf va-cuum street cleaner for the city.

“Snuffy is dying,” announced Brown to the council, in reference to the street machine with a 14-inch suction hose that resembles Snuffaluffagus from Sesame Street. Brown himself has rebuilt much of Snuffy’s inner workings over the years, as the machine was originally built in the 1950s.

However, the need for extensive repairs has finally made it more practical to simply look for a replacement machine. A suitable successor will likely be hard to come by, as most street sweepers have suction hoses only half the diameter of Snuffy’s.

Funds have been set aside in the 2016 budget for a new vacuum leaf disposal system.


Subdivision exemption request granted

Also at the Tuesday meeting, the council approved a request from Astolfo Rojo for a subdivision exemption. The exemption allows the lot in question, which is on Wynona Avenue and is quite large, to be split into two in order to sell the halves separately for someone to build a new home.


Request made for building removal report

Council member Scott Murray requested information on the cleanup status of another area in town, where the Cedar Inn is among properties in the process of being professionally removed due to asbestos.

The information was not available, but Police Chief Doug Bergstrom has been asked to provide a report on the properties at the next regular meeting.


Quote received for wildlife fence around runway

Brown also reported a recent meeting with Jake Armstrong of Armstrong Consultants Inc. about the capital improvement project to put a 6-foot wildlife fence around the airport runway.

The project is part of an initiative by the Federal Aviation Administration to put fences around all runways for safety and security. The cost could total $450,000, with the city’s cost $22,500 and Federal and State funds covering the remainder.


Labor program for welfare recipients considered

Another item introduced at the Nov. 17 meeting was a program in which the city would provide opportunities for labor to those receiving food stamps and other government assistance. Federal law requires a certain number of hours of labor in order to receive such benefits.

“The point is they have to be willing to work,” said Brown. “A lot really do want to help themselves, although of course there’s a bad apple here and there.”

Phillips County would like the city to partner with the program, allowing the approximately 15 citizens currently fitting the requirements to work alongside other city crew workers. The program has helped many in the past gain training and even full-time job opportunities.

The council did not reach a decision, and it was made clear that there is time to think about the possibilities of the partnership.


“Sister cities” agreement extended by Holyoke, Mass.

The council also has time to consider the “sister cities” agreement extended by Holyoke, Mass. Currently it is rather unclear what all the agreement would entail.

A previous “sister city” attempt was made in the past with a city in South America, and after some exchange of correspondence, the partnership disappeared after a lack of communication.

Members of the council were invited to “take the agreement and run with it,” if they wished, but currently there is no rush. Most members wanted to hear more information and details about the arrangement before making a decision.


Officials report

Reports at the Nov. 17 meeting included Brown’s report of multiple power outages that morning due to high winds and slapping power lines. The last of the outages were resolved by 11 a.m.

He also reported that water crews have been working on the cross-connection and backflow prevention project and city crews have been removing snow and working on the ballfield awnings.

Brown added that Paul Mailander will no longer be accepting grass clippings from the city for compost at the station west of town, and a new solution will be necessary.

A final item of the city superintendent’s report was that Concrete Stabilization Technologies would be in town Thursday, Nov. 19, to begin on the north Scheunemann wall project next to the mini park.

County Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson reported that Dale O’Neal was appointed to another three-year term on the Cemetery Board, after already having served 49 years.

She also reported that the Lions Club had donated $1,000, which will be used to help remodel the Lions Club concessions stand at the ball park.


Other business

In other business at the Tuesday, Nov. 17, meeting, the board:

­ ­—allowed notice for an electric rate increase of 3 percent to be published for useage in 2016.

—approved a holiday bonus for full-time employees in the amount of $75.

—agreed to provide a total of $175 prize money for the annual lighting/decorating contest.

—approved a purchase request for a 54-inch set of forks for a CAT loader from Wagner Equipment at $3,900.

—renewed the liquor license for Kwik Stop.

—renewed the lease for the golf course driving range with Gwendolyn and Robert Keefauver at $500 per year plus real estate taxes.

—accepted the quote from Joshua Skelton of Dickinson Land Surveyors Inc. to provide a base map of the City of Holyoke and then provide sewer, storm sewer, water, electric and zoning maps for $20,000-$23,000 with maps priced per size.

—went into a 35-minute executive session with City Attorney Al Wall for legal advice.

Holyoke Enterprise November 26, 2015

Starkebaum named postmaster PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Steve Starkebaum has been named postmaster of the Holyoke Post Office, effective Saturday, Nov. 28.

Starkebaum, who has been the officer in charge the last two months after Connie Troutman’s retirement, said this is a natural progression in his career with the U.S. Postal Service.

After working one year as a carrier in Sterling, he began at the Holyoke location 22 years ago. Throughout his career, he has worked with postmasters Helen Murray and Sandy Triplette in addition to Troutman.

Steve Starkebaum will officially take over the postmaster position at the Holyoke Post Office this Saturday, Nov. 28.

—Johnson Publications photo

About five years of carrying mail included part-time flexible carrying duties as a substitute for Dennis Hagemann. After Hagemann retired, Starkebaum took over carrying mail full time.

Starkebaum then moved into the clerk position. He became the lead clerk several years ago, through which he took over the postmaster duties if that person was absent.

A recent role as the officer in charge at Julesburg gave him a foundation to move into the Holyoke postmaster position.

“There’s a good group of people here. We’re a good team,” said Starkebaum, noting great employees make the job easier.

In addition to postmaster, the Holyoke office has two clerks, two city route carriers, one rural route carrier and additional substitute workers as needed. Five highway contract route carriers also work with the local office. Holyoke is the intermediate office for one from Julesburg and one from Wray, with three others originating in Holyoke.

Over Starkebaum’s years with the Postal Service, he said he’s seen a decrease in overall mail volume but an increase in items shipped because of online shopping.

A move toward electronic data has been the biggest change, he added, because customers are interested in real-time tracking to monitor exactly where a package is located at any given time.

Starkebaum, a Haxtun man, has three adult children: Seth, Kate and Erin.

Holyoke Enterprise November 26, 2015