Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Phrases of Appalachia: Cooterin' Around



cooterin' around 
hanging around, doing nothing
Example: What are you doing on your 
day off? Ah, I'm just cooterin' around. 


According to Smoky Mountain Voices: A Lexicon of Southen Appalachian Speech Based on the Research of Horace Kephart, a cooter (noun) was a box-tortoise. "The noun is turned into a verb with an ease characteristic of the mountaineers." It is chiefly a southern Appalachian word and believed to be a Scotticism which is a phrase or word that is characteristic of dialects of the Scots language. It makes perfect sense that it would be a Scotticism since so many Scots settled in the southern Appalachian mountains. 

According to Kephart, in Our Southern Highlanders, similar terms include: broguin' about; loaferin' about; prodjectin' around; santern' about; shacklin' around; spuddin' around; and traffickin' about. .

A few more that I've heard and occasionally use:
lollygagging; dilly-dallying; dawdlin'; piddlin'; assin' around (sometimes pronounced asslin'); monkeying around; and my personal favorite and most used, fiddle farting around. 
Example: Son, I told you to turn that video game off 30 minutes ago. Now stop fiddle farting around and get ready to go! 

Appalachian vocabulary sure is colorful, ain't it? Have you heard any of these phrases in your area? Did I miss any that you've heard or still use? Let me know in the comments! 


Monday, March 20, 2017

As Appalachian As Cobbler

I had a craving for something sweet this evening which is nothing new. It happens WAY too often. I was mentally going through what was in my pantry and I realized that I had everything I needed to throw a peach cobbler together: peaches that I had canned this past summer, flour, sugar, butter, and milk. Simple enough, right?

Those simple ingredients are something that most people have on hand at any given time and they are something that the early Appalachian settlers would've had too. Many of their old recipes were transformed because the ingredients needed were hard to come by. They "cobbled" together what they had, usually using canned, dried, or fresh fruits. 

Now I'm not saying that cobbler is strictly an "Appalachian " dessert but I think it's safe to say that you'd have a hard time attending an Appalachian get-together (reunion, dinner on the grounds, homecoming, etc) that didn't have a cobbler or two. It has become an accepted part of our food DNA. 


My peaches from this past summer.  


My granny and mom always used a super simple recipe that seems to be very popular online - One Cup Cobbler. It's called this because you need: 



  • 1 cup of fruit (not drained - I used home canned peaches that I preserved with honey instead of sugar but you can use a can of store bought peaches too)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup self-rising flour (or 1 cup plain + 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
That's it! Of course you can modify it a little here and there which happens to be what I did. This was what went through my mind after I gathered all of my ingredients...

Wow, one cup of sugar seems like a lot. Those peaches are already sweet so I'm going to half it. That'll make it a little healthier. I think I'll also add another can of peaches but I'll drain the second one. More fruit is healthier, right? Right! Maybe I should cut out some of the butter...who am I kidding? The butter stays! This sure is going to make a big cobbler. But there will be leftovers for a day or two! Right, you know good and well that you're going to end up eating peach cobbler for breakfast tomorrow morning. But it's okay because it has less sugar and more fruit! 

This is my struggle every time I make dessert, y'all. Every. Time. Enough of that. Let me tell you how I throw all of this together. First, preheat your oven to 350*. Unwrap your butter, put it in a 9x13" baking dish, and let that butter begin melting while you mix up everything else. Mix your milk and sugar together and then mix in your flour a little at a time to avoid it clumping up. I also add a little cinnamon but that's totally optional. Once your butter has melted, remove your dish from the oven and pour your batter into it. If you're using one can of peaches, just pour the whole thing over the top. If you decide to be healthy *ahem* and add more fruit, drain your second can. Do not stir. Bake for 45 min to 1 hour. 

Hot from the oven! 

Most southerners enjoy a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top, but I'm trying to be healthy. ;) Strawberry rhubarb is my favorite kind of cobbler but I didn't have either on hand and went with the peaches. What's your favorite kind of cobbler? 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Summer In The Mountains

Today's guest post is by Jequeta Mullins Briskey. Jequeta was the youngest of 11 children and she grew up in Clintwood, Virginia. She didn't start writing until after she was married and most of her short stories are centered around growing up in southwestern Virginia. She currently lives in northwestern Ohio with her husband, John, and they have 3 children, 8 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.  

Jequeta's childhood home in Clintwood, VA.

Summer In The Mountains

By the time the morning sun topped the tree line on the ridge by our mountain home, everyone in our family had finished breakfast and moved on to their specific chores for the day. Breakfast came early at our house. We were to be up and ready to eat breakfast by 6:00 a.m. every day. Cows were waiting to be milked, hogs waiting to be slopped, chickens waiting to be fed, eggs waiting to be gathered and the family dog Rookie waiting for another adventure with my brother Johnnie. The girls had the inside chores like making beds, washing dishes and sweeping floors right after breakfast. Mom would usually be in the kitchen preparing to cook, can, freeze or bake anything that had been harvested from our gardens. Dad would be out on the mountainside working to keep down the weeds or burning off the trees, twigs, weeds or bushes as a way of strengthening up the soil to start yet another garden spot for more crops. We raised all the usual, including corn, beans, peas, lettuce, carrots, onions, beets, squash, pumpkins, watermelon, and okra (my least favorite). We also had fruit trees which included apple, pear, peach and papaw (which was dad's favorite). Growing wild in the area was blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries and ground cherries. Of course, my dad had his well known strawberry patch which I am sure helped clothe us and keep shoes on our feet throughout the year.
After all our chores were done, we could run wild in the mountains as we pleased. Johnnie would take the dog Rookie and play his games of Cowboys and Indians. Joyce, Marline and I would never venture far from the house. We spent a lot of our time on the big front porch swinging and dreaming through the Sears and Roebuck catalog, planning our future. Many times there were interruptions of Mom calling us to come wash up some canning jars or churn up some buttermilk or help string some beans, or hang some clothes on the line. It seemed there was always something to do especially in the summer.
The mountains held all the entertainment we needed. All around us were a multitude of lessons to be learned from experience. We learned early what was safe and what was not. Swinging on the wild grape vines that intertwined thorough the expanse of trees surrounding our home was something we could not resist, even with the warnings from our Mom that they were unsafe. We could always find something to snack on throughout the hillside. Mountain Teaberry is an experience that is beyond belief. Though the berries are hard to find and as hard to see, the taste is worth the effort of the search. If you have never heard of this treat, just imagine Teaberry Gum in its true organic form. We also could chew on birch bark from young birch trees. And though we had a huge strawberry patch at our disposal, we would gladly forego those to have strawberries growing wild in the mountains. And a cool mountain stream was never far away if we were thirsty.
Rookie was our faithful watch dog and we could always tell by his bark whether there was an intrusive animal about or if a stranger was lurking around, or even if he had roused up a copperhead. The air in the mountains was clear and refreshing. The sounds of critters and crickets were always present. During the day, we could hear all kinds of birds including the woodpecker, the bob white and the ever present crow raiding our corn patch. Sometimes Mom would allow us the take out the old .22 rifle and shoot a warning shot to scare them away. However I am sure they ate more in corn than the cost of the shells we wasted. As dusk fell, we would watch and listen for the elusive whippoorwill. As night time grew we would all gather on the front porch and share the quiet of the evening with a chorus of croaking frogs in the nearby river. Two swings and many chairs, most likely home made, offered us comfort as we rested our bodies from the days work. In the cooler evenings. we would have a quilt to work on instead of sitting outside. I have spent many hours sitting with my dad on that front porch watching a thunder storm move into the area or move off into another direction as the rain fell and serenade us with the gentle sound of nature.
As summer drew to a close we would find a new crop of treats out in the mountains. Chinquapins, beech nuts, butternuts as well as black walnuts were plentiful. The cooler autumn days drew us deep into the mountains searching for ginseng which we dug, brought home to dry and sold for a nice price. We never knew for sure where this ginseng ended up but we sure enjoyed the search for the big red berries that honed us in to that much sought after treasure. As the days marched on and the winter winds blew, we could bring summer time back again by opening up a quart of green beans or corn from our can house or a pint of frozen strawberry jam from the freezer. We knew the mountains awaited us for yet another year of work and pleasure as we enjoyed summer in our Appalachian Mountains.



I hope you enjoy this short story as much as I did! I look forward to sharing more from Jequeta in the future. 


Monday, March 13, 2017

Planting By The Moon & Signs

There are still plenty of people who hold to the old ways and plant by the moon and signs in Appalachia. This is nothing new and has been passed on for generations. 


A shot we got of the Harvest Moon - September, 2016.

Some believe that if the moon can effect the ocean's tide, it can also effect seeds and plants. This method states that you should plant above ground crops when the moon is waxing (getting bigger). Above ground crops consist of things like green beans/peas, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, greens, etc. Below ground crops (carrots, potatoes, radishes, etc.) should be planted when the moon is waning (getting smaller). 

Learning about the signs is a little more complicated. Each month, the moon passes through each sign of the zodiac. These signs can be divided into four elements:
  • Water - Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio
  • Earth - Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
  • Fire - Leo, Ares, Sagittarius
  • Air - Gemini, Aquarius, Libra

The fertile elements are water and earth while the barren elements are fire and air. For the most part, you want to plant during the fertile signs and prune and harvest during the barren signs. You'll also want to combine the phase of the moon with a fertile sign. Example: You should plant your tomatoes during one of the fertile signs (water or earth) while the moon is waning (getting smaller). 

You should always avoid planting while the moon is full, new, or in a quarter phase. It's also important to check to see when the last frost date for your area is. 

The first Foxfire book is a wonderful source for more about planting by the signs. You can order a copy for yourself HERE. They are a great resource for learning more about the old ways and homesteading. Here's a description of the first book that I found at the Foxfire webpage:

"This volume, the original anthology, celebrates the home life and creative history of Appalachia, featuring sections on hog dressing, log cabin building, soap making, basket weaving, planting by the signs, preserving foods, making butter, snake lore, hunting tales, faith healing, and moonshining."

Another great place that has all of this figured out for you is The Old Farmer's Almanac. You can find the moon's phases and when the signs are in the perfect stage for planting. They also have great gardening tips! You can also check out a recent post at The Blind Pig & The Acorn where a fellow blogging friend of mine shares her recommendations for planting by the signs. It's also a great source if you're if you're interested in learning more about Appalachia. She's been doing this blog stuff much longer than I have! (Simply click on the red words & it'll take you there.) 

Do you follow the signs when planting? 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Thank You & Book Giveaway

I woke up this morning & discovered that I had reached another goal on the Appalachian Mountain Roots Facebook page: it now has over 3,000 likes and followers! Y'all have helped crush every goal that I've set in an incredibly short amount of time. Thank you!

I enjoy sharing my love of Appalachia and I'm extremely grateful that there are actual people who are interested in reading about it. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't get excited whenever I read your comments. I believe my family and friends might be tired of hearing me talk about it but they're incredibly kind and supportive so they just smile and nod. Bless them.

A few months ago, award winning Appalachian author Barbara Taylor Woodall was kind enough to send me signed copies of her two books to share with y'all. I've already given away It's Not My Mountain Anymore but now want to give away A Time For Every Purpose as a way to thank you for following the page! Here is a little info about the book:
"Following on the heels of her first bestseller, It's Not My Mountain Anymore, Woodall's voice for Appalachia reached a worldwide audience with appearances on British Broadcasting Corporation as well as national television. A Time For Every Purpose weaves together wit and wisdom into the affairs of plain living with Biblical principles to offer simple prescriptions for living in today's world."

This is a great book and I'm so happy that I have a copy to share! Simply log in by Facebook or enter your email at the Rafflecopter link below. Your name will be entered 5 times if you complete the entry there!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**I will announce the winner of this giveaway on 3/16/17 at the Appalachian Mountain Roots Facebook page and notify you by email. You will have until 3/19/17 at 7PM to message me your mailing information. If I do not hear from you by then, a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is not affiliated with Facebook.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Deep Roots: An Unexpected Journey

If you've followed me for any length of time, or even if this is your first time here, my love for Appalachia is obvious. I mean, it's right there in the name of the blog: Appalachian Mountain Roots. I do have other interests but they usually end up taking a backseat to family, homeschooling my son, and finding and writing about Appalachian related things that I find interesting. Luckily for me, I can incorporate this "hobby" into other aspects of my life. 

My husband likes history, so we can enjoy talking about the things I discover...either that or he's good at faking it. Bless him. I can incorporate the local history and traditions into our homeschool day. My son is learning more about the area that he calls home as I research different subjects. Win-win, right? I love to read and I have always been drawn to books that are centered around Appalachia. Another score! I also love learning as much I can about my family and the people who have helped make me who I am. That interest in genealogy led me on a 5 hour online journey last week that left me excited, proud, and a little cross-eyed. Five hours is a long time to stare at nothing but a computer screen, folks.

So, the journey began when I pulled up my online family tree, that I've been working on for what seems like forever, to find a name. While there, I noticed that I didn't have as much information as I thought I did on my mom's paternal side and apparently that's all it took for me to fall down the rabbit hole. 

Five hours later, I discovered that a man and woman, whom I knew a little about, were not my great (x 5) aunt and uncle but my  great (x 5) grandparents. One mistaken middle initial can throw a whole branch of your family tree off! I also learned a lot more about them. 

Abraham (Abram) and Mary Polly Stewart Collett were the first white settlers of Old Valleytown (1830), a section of what is now Andrews in Cherokee County, NC. These two people were my great (x 5) grandparents. They are buried in a small family cemetery that I have visited and is just a short distance from where my great grandparents (Hub and Hazel Collett) lived. As a kid, I didn't think anything about the history that was all around me. Now, it means a lot. 

It took me nearly 38 years to discover that I'm the 8th generation (on that side)  to live in Cherokee County, NC and my son is the 9th. That's an incredible length of time for a family to be in the same county. We've been in the Appalachian region of NC for even longer than that. I had no idea of just how deep my roots were. What an excellent, unexpected discovery. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Appalachian Words: Ary & Nary


ary (air-ee): any, anyone
Example: You got ary gas for that tractor? 

nary (nair-ee): not, none, never
Example: There's nary a drop to be found.

I must point out that ary can be used in place of nary as long as it's following a word for not. 
Example: There ain't ary a drop to be found. 

These are words that I've heard fairly often in my part of Appalachia. I can't say that they're a constant part of MY vocabulary but they do work their way in from time to time. I'd say I probably sound the most "Appalachian" when I'm angry. I can't explain why that is, it just happens. It's as if whenever something gets my blood to boilin', it triggers this reservoir of words and phrases that seem to help me get my point across with a little more fire behind them. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe it's just me.

Have you heard or used either of these words in your neck of the woods? Do they carry the same meaning?