Monday, February 20, 2017

Granny




Granny, Mamaw, Meemaw, Mimi...not matter what you call them, grandmothers are something special, aren't they? If you've had a grandparent or grandparents as a part of your life, you should consider yourself VERY fortunate. I am so very thankful for mine. I never got to meet my maternal grandma but my paternal granny (Janice) played a HUGE role in my life. Whenever I need a little wisdom or help putting things in perspective, I talk to Granny. 



She is someone that I have been able to tell anything to and I know without a shadow of a doubt that those conversations stayed between the two of us. She is a feisty lady. You shouldn't ask for her opinion on anything unless you're prepared to hear the truth! I take after her in that department and several more. 

She made sure my rear was in church every time the doors were open. She taught me to cook and to be resourceful. And boy, is she tough. A real mountain woman for sure. Up until the past few years she could work circles around me. That toughness may play a part in her not being an overly emotional person. I had never seen her cry until my mom died. I believe that was the most she had ever hurt. She didn't cry because of her pain but because of ours. Despite her toughness, I never, not even once, doubted that she loved me or the rest of us. 


Our family got some earth shaking news this past fall. Granny had been having some issues with arthritis but she started feeling poorly beyond just that. A doctors visit revealed liver cancer. I believe we took the news much harder than she did. She told them that she didn't want to go through treatments. I thought I knew how tough she was but I hadn't seen even a glimpse of how strong she really is. She doesn't complain. She has a great attitude. She  is an amazing woman. 

I wanted a picture of me holding my Granny Janice's hand. I'm so thankful she was with us for another Christmas & that I could take one. With this sweet hand my Granny has wiped a lot of tears & noses, worked hard to provide for her family, cooked the best foods that I've ever eaten, played some of the most beautiful music on the piano that I've ever heard, and been there to pull me up whenever I've been knocked down. She has been much more than my Granny...she has been my mom too. 

I'm sure that many of you wonderful memories of times spent with your grandma, grandpa, or both. I treasure each and every moment that I spent with mine. I welcome you to share any of your favorite "Granny Memories" with me. Just leave them in the comment section below. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Appalachia:The Land of Self-Sufficiency

"Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." - Medal Bryson

This quote is from a friend of mine's Granny. What a perfect way to describe how the people of Appalachia have lived for hundreds of years. Mountain folk have done what needed to be done to survive long before "green" living and self-sufficiency were trendy. 

The isolation that comes with mountain living didn't give residents any choice. It was do or die. The only way people got around in early Appalachia was by foot or horse and wagon. The roads were steep and narrow but even if they could have gotten to town easily and often, there was little money to be spent for the things they needed. When a family did have money, it was spent on necessities that they couldn't find or make such as coffee, sugar, lamp oil, and shoes. 

The mountain people depended on what could be found in nature and hard work to get what they needed. In the book Dorie: Woman of the Mountains by Florence Cope Bush, Florence tells the story of what rural mountain life was like for her mother (Dorie) and her family. She gives great examples of how they provided for many of their needs, one being clothing. 

Dorie mentions that early settlers had brought flax seed from Scotland and Ireland when they came to America. They used the stalks to make clothes. "Ma was an expert at spinning, weaving, and dying material for our clothing. The stalks were spread out on the ground where rain and dew would cause the outer skin to rot, separating the fibers from the woody portions outside. The long, straight fibers were twisted together to make thread, which was wound on spindles and later woven into material for dresses, underwear, and linens for the house. It became the "linsey" part of the linsey-woolsey - so well known from the Western frontier days." 

Her family also raised sheep for wool. "In the late spring or early summer, Pa, Uncle Julius and Uncle Aden sheared the sheep. They had to wait until the weather was warm because the fleece is cut close to the skin, leaving the sheep almost bare. If they sheared the sheep before Dogwood winter (usually in May), it was likely some of the sheep would die from exposure. Wool from the shoulders of the sheep is better than that taken from other parts. Ma used the shoulder wool for dresses. The stiffer wool made heavy coats that were rainproof. Ma would card the wool- straightening our the curly-kinky hair so that it could be spun into thread. A small loom stood by the corner window for the needed sunlight. Ma would weave the yarn into cloth." 

Dorie went on to explain that they would make their dresses in dark colors because they usually only had a couple of dresses and darker colors were less likely to show dirt by the end of the week. They would use things such as onion skins, hickory bark, and dandelion flowers to dye the yarn into pretty colors. 

Making clothes wasn't the only way they provided for themselves. They built their own homes and furniture.They grew, raised, and foraged for their own food. Doctors were few and far between so the mountain folk relied on plants to cure their ailments. 

These families didn't let things go to waste either. A family could re-purpose just about anything. Empty jars and cans became a place to store seeds and sewing notions. Newspapers were used to paper the walls to help keep out the cold. Clothes that were outgrown were passed down to the next sibling until it couldn't be repaired any longer but the mountain people wouldn't just throw out the rags. They would turn the scraps of material into beautiful quilts, rugs, and baskets. 

Mountain people developed a strong craft tradition based on need. My friend, Stephanie, picked up some of these traditions from her grandmother (the lady I quoted at the beginning of this post) and mother. She owns a shop, Burnt Branch Creations in Andrews, NC where she teaches, makes, and sells some of the things that can be made from repurposed materials and much more. Here is some of her work & you can click here if you would like to purchase some for your home.

 



 I'm thankful that these skills have been passed down in Appalachia and I think it is something that we must encourage the younger generations to keep up. You never know when the day may come when we'll need these skills to survive. 

Do you know and use any of these mountain skills? If the need arose, do you think you have the "know how" to survive like the mountain folk of early Appalachia? 



Monday, February 13, 2017

Appalachian Folklore: Love (Week 2)

Oh, I can't get enough of these vintage Valentine cards!

Hey, y'all! It's time for more love related folklore. Valentine's Day is just around the corner! (You can find last week's love folklore HERE.)
  • If two people put spoons in a cup at the same time, the will be married.
  • You can tell if your mate truly loves you by striking a match and holding it upside down. If it burns to the end, it's love!
  • If you put a four leaf clover in your shoe, you'll marry the first person you meet. 
  • If your lips itch it means that you want to be kissed.
  • Name a fishing hook after the person you love. If you catch a fish with the hook, it means the love is true. 
  • If you look in a mirror held over a spring (I've also heard a well), you will see the face of the person you will marry.
  • If you swallow a chicken's heart, you'll win the hand of the one you love. *Ew, I don't recommend doing this. Just buy the gal some flowers!*
I hope you enjoyed these love superstitions. Again, if you know of one that I've missed, please leave them in the comments below.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Appalachian Traditions: The Love Spoon

When I started researching "Appalachian Love" traditions and such for this blog, I came across an article in Smoky Mountain Living that mentioned a courting tradition centered around something called a Love Spoon (sometimes spelled Lovespoon). I thought, "What in the world is a love spoon?!" Some of y'all may be asking the same question. Lucky for you, I couldn't get it off of my mind and can now answer that question.


You can find this and many more beautiful Love Spoons here
(Adam King design.)

When a young man was ready to ask for a girl's hand in marriage, he would carve a spoon that was ornately decorated with horseshoes (luck), a cross (faith), bells (marriage), hearts (love), a wheel (ability to support), a lock (security), and other images that may relate to their family's lineage. This was a token to show the girl, and her father, that he was a skilled woodworker and was capable of providing for her and their future family. 

"The lovespoon is a traditional craft that dates back to the 17th century. Over generations, decorative carvings were added to the spoon and it lost its original practical use and became a treasured decorative item to be hung on a wall. 
The earliest known dated lovespoon from Wales, displayed in the St. Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff, is from 1667, although the tradition is believed to date back long before that. The earliest dated lovespoon worldwide originates from Germany and is dated 1664." - Wikipedia

From what I've read, this custom was carried over from Welsh traditions. I'm a little sad that it isn't a custom that is frequently practiced in Appalachia today.. The men in my family (husband, Dad, and father-in-law) are all skilled woodworkers so I'm sure they could make some beautiful love spoons. While I didn't get a pretty spoon made for me when my husband and I were dating, he did make me a beautiful cedar hope chest and it is still one of my most treasured items.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a gift like that over flowers that will wither away any ol' day. 

Had you ever heard of a love spoon before today? Maybe some of you actually own one? Please share pictures if you do...I'd love to see them!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Appalachian Folklore: Love (Week 1)


I'm in LOVE with these vintage Valentine cards that I found online!!

I think of one word when I think about love in early Appalachia: courting. I found the following in the Encyclopedia of Appalachia:
In rural Appalachia, a young person would often meet his or her love interest in church, which was usually the social as well as the religious center of a community. The first stage of courtship, which some people referred to as "talking," began shortly after boys and girls reached their adolescence. It might occur following Sunday service, at which time a young man would walk a young woman home from church after obtaining permission from her parents. In the next stage of courtship, often referred to as "sparking," the young man would escort the young woman to church on subsequent Sundays and bring her gifts at her parents' house, where his visits were under supervision. In preparation for seeing her boyfriend, the young woman would don her finest clothes and would occasionally apply some kind of makeup, but Appalachian society's behavioral codes expected a young single woman to act coyly toward her suitor.

Courting wasn't something that was drawn out over a long period of time. Sometimes, a wedding would take place within weeks of a first kiss. The gentleman suitors followed tradition by asking the father for his blessing and permission to marry his daughter. I'm glad that this tradition is still practiced by many, including my husband. He, like many nervous suitors before him, asked my Dad for his blessing and for permission before asking me to marry him. Dad was on board with the idea and my husband and I are looking forward to celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary in May. 

Now that it's getting closer to Valentine's Day, I thought that I would share some folklore centered around love. 

  • If a young woman leaves her house early on Valentine's Day, walks down the road and the first person she meets is a man, she will be married within the next three months.
  • If a courting couple each place an acorn in a bowl of water and the acorns drift toward one another, the couple will soon marry. 
  • If you pin bay leaves to a pillow and sleep on it you'll dream of your future love.
  • Never allow a pot of water to boil over or it will boil away your love's affection as well. 
  • German folklore says that a man will surely fall in love with a woman if she urinates in his shoe. 
  • Break a coin under the new moon and sew half of it in the clothes of the person you're after, and the person will fall in love with you.
I'll be sharing more love folklore with you next week and I would love to hear any that you may know. Just leave me a comment down below! 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Appalachian Traditions: The Courting Dulcimer

I've been amazed at the things that I've dug up while researching some love related customs in Appalachia. This week, I'm going to tell you about a courting practice that involves an instrument: the courting dulcimer.

Photo credit: http://www.instrumentalsavings.com/

According the Encylopedia of Appalachia:
"In some parts of the region, especially in eastern Kentucky, a young couple might be allowed to visit without parental supervision if they played the "courting dulcimer," an Appalachian instrument possessing two fret-boards. As long as the nearby parents could hear both sets of strings being strummed, they could leave the couple unobserved, knowing that the young man and woman were properly preoccupied."

I don't know about you but now that my son is getting closer to a dating age (we call him Dude and he just turned 15), I think this is an EXCELLENT idea. Kidding...maybe. I really do think it's a romantic way to spend time with and get to know someone, don't you? You can go here to hear "Rosin the Beau" on the courting dulcimer.

I've always LOVED to listen to a dulcimer and I would love to learn to play one. For some reason, Celtic and folk music ballads can move me to tears. No words are necessary...the music speaks directly to my soul. 

Have you ever heard of the courting dulcimer? Do you have any pictures or family stories to share? Let me know in the comment section below. I read every single comment that y'all leave and I love hearing from you!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Voices

Today's guest post comes from WV native, Mike Ramsburg. Mike is a storyteller, poet, and fellow blogger. You can find more of his writings here. I shared a post last week about my western NC mountain accent and it reminded me of one of Mike's stories, "Voices".


Photo by Jason Rosewell via Unsplash

VOICES

Everyone in my family has a different voice.
Mama’s voice is flat and smooth, a raised flower bed where beautiful trillium and violets and bloodroot spring forth from her warm breaths. Syrup sounds like surp and darn sounds like durn. She speaks tiredly, as if all the cookin’ and cleanin’ and worshin’ and lovin’ us kids has given her a wearied disposition, and it can be heard in the way she speaks. Still, mama’s voice is lovely. It’s comforting, and full of hope.
Dad’s voice is strong, and sharp, a steel sword which escapes his mouth and pierces the air around him. His words are prolonged, as if he wants to give them a little more time to live in this world. Porch is pourch and now is nouw. His voice demands attention, and his whispers sound like the feedback on a turned down AM radio. When he’s angry, his syllables become wrath; we dare not speak back for fear of vocal retribution.
My sister — her voice. It’s like a cluster of baby tadpoles, all hurriedly swimming, the water gliding by their little bodies made of consonants and vowels. When she speaks, her words move quickly, a rapid tut-tut-tut, high pitched and seeking notice, as if she were forever singing King-Kong-Kitchie-Kitchie-Ki-Me-O. Like is lyeuk and used is youst. Her voice is heartening in its familiarity, though her constant whirlwind of words — a machine gun of vocal bullets which never seems to run out — is the bane of my present reality.
Then there’s me. My voice. An ebb and flow of broken words, rising and falling and rising again like a string of mountains with barren trees, brown and dying at autumn’s end, no sign of beauty remaining. My mouth opens and out pops a word and each set of vowels-turned-diphthong slides up the vocal scale and shatters haltingly, ending each word higher than it first began. Not that it was always this way. Once my voice was smooth and steady, a flowing creek that I could splash merrily in. Mama says this too will pass, it’s just a part of growing up. That I am developing — that’s the word she uses — progressing earlier than my peers. That the other boys will soon sound like me.
I have a hard time believing her. I know it to be true that every voice is different. What if mine decides to permanently stay in this vocal purgatory, never reaching its final destination? What if I am forever endowed with a larynx that can’t quite make up its mind whether it wants to produce sound at high or low frequencies? What I want is a voice like dads — strong, and sharp, steady and prolonged. A voice that doesn’t get ridiculed in school.
What I want is a voice of my own.
I hope you enjoy this creative nonfiction piece that is a part of Mike's series on coming of age in rural Appalachia. You can find more of the series here