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Country Neighbors Have Pioneer Spirit
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Country Neighbors Have Pioneer Spirit

Country neighbors, Margaret Elsbernd and Judy Alford from rural Ossian have been known as pranksters, pioneers, community volunteers, and at times, instigators. Don’t let that sweet smile fool you! There is never a dull moment in this rural northeast Ossian neighborhood. Turn your back, and these two will be sneaking in your yard planting flamingos, or stealing the corncobs out of your field! Their sidekicks, Jim Elsbernd and Bob Alford, will “innocently” tell you the women are the instigators.

Judy and Bob Alford moved to the area in 200l from Cary, Illinois. Judy is a Methodist minister. The neighbors were formally introduced to each other a few years ago during “Castalia Tractor Days.” Bob and Jim like to talk about John Deere tractors, and Judy and Margaret instantly recognized the potential for being “double trouble.” The couples became instant friends.

For Judy’s 60th birthday, Margaret convinced some of the neighbors to surprise the Alford’s with a yard and house full of pink flamingos. Since then Margaret, Judy, and other neighbors have continued to decorate neighbors’ yards with various flamingos….. “When they are least expecting it.”

Bob volunteers to help the Elsbernd’s during harvest season. Sometimes Judy brings over meals when Margaret takes her turn on the combine.

These pioneer women also use their creativeness to make quilts. Margaret taught Judy to quilt and so far they have made 37 quilts to give to family, friends, and charities.

The Alford’s have worked hard creating a successful Greater Area Food Pantry in Calmar to feed the hungry. The Elsbernd’s have helped numerous times stocking shelves with the Alford’s.

Judy showed Margaret how to set up her new computer and run some of the software. Eager to learn more, Margaret took a computer class at the Decorah Public Library last winter.

 One year, during harvest time, the ladies decided to make corn cob jelly. The idea wouldn’t have been so unusual in the 1800’s, but today where would you even get the recipe? “When looking up a recipe to make pickled beets in an Amish cookbook, I came across a recipe for corncob jelly,” explained Margaret. It sounded interesting, and since she had access to 32 fresh corn cobs, Margaret gave it a try.

 After that batch, Margaret was watching like a hawk as one neighbor finished combining. Then the pioneer pirate snuck over to the farmer’s field to harvest her bounty. Just when Margaret had finished her thievery, the farmer reappeared. The farmer was a bit puzzled and asked if she had lost something. “Okay, I’m busted. I was stealing corncobs out of your field,” remarked Margaret. Margaret made a mental note to stop over with a jar of jelly later.

 After making corncob jelly, the ladies experimented with high bush cranberry, wild plum, pasture apples, and wild grapes. The high bush cranberry was found beside Judy’s house. After Judy found out the fruit for birds was not poisonous, she researched a recipe for it on the internet. The husbands said, “It smelled worse then gym socks while the jelly was cooking.” The jelly turned out to taste like currant jelly.

 The neighborhood friends enjoy sharing their fruits of labor. Judy explained, “The store jelly doesn’t compare. It’s fun to give something you couldn’t find anywhere else.”

 You never know what to expect when these pioneer friends from “Flamingo Road” come a calling. They may come baring homemade gifts, but leave you with pink surprises on your lawn! One thing for sure, they will leave you laughing with their good old fashioned fun!

 Here is the pioneer recipe the ladies used for corncob jelly. The recipe was taken out of an old Amish cookbook.

 Corncob Jelly Recipe:

  •  32 clean and dry corn cobs, picked fresh
  •  1 gallon of water
  •  Fruit pectin
  •  3 cups Sugar
  •  Food Coloring (if desired)


  1. Boil corncobs broken in three to four pieces for at least 35 to 40 minutes in one gallon of water.
  2. Strain juice. For every three cups of strained juice, add 1 box of fruit pectin.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Add three cups of sugar and bring to full rolling boil for three minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add a few drops of red food coloring, if desired.
  6. Pour into clean, sterilized jars and seal.

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