Monday, May 15, 2017

Family Heirlooms: Granny's Biscuit Cutter

Granny has been on my mind a lot lately. Most of you that read this blog via Facebook know that she passed away on April 25th. I feel like there just wasn't enough time for me to ask all the questions that I had about her life. Out of all of us, I believe I'm the one who was always probing for stories about what life was like when she was growing up and everything should could tell me about the rest of the family. 

When I was little, I always watched her flit around the kitchen as she prepared meals for us. When she'd make biscuits she'd use this little metal cutout that had a wooden handle. I thought that it was fascinating that she had a special tool just for cutting out biscuits because I remember my mom using just whatever she could find & it was usually the opening of a cup.

I don't know what prompted me to ask Granny where she got it but she told me that it had belonged to her mother-in-law, my great-granny Fannie. I always thought that was a funny name. She passed when I was around four or so and I remember being confused when she wasn't around. My Dad told me that they took her up to heaven. In my four year old mind, I pictured them packing her up in our big yellow Chevy Malibu and them driving up like Danny and Sandy did at the end of Grease! Ha! 

I asked Granny if I could have it some day. My Uncle Doug (my dad's youngest brother who is more like a brother than an uncle) overheard the conversation and told me that HE was getting it. Now, why in the world would a feller who never made biscuits want with an old biscuit cutter? From that point on, me & Uncle Doug would go back and forth over who was going to end up with Granny's biscuit cutter and Granny would just laugh and wink at me. 

Last week when the family was reading over Granny's will and wishes for her funeral, they came to a section written out for me. She left me a few things but the best part said, "I want Kim to have my biscuit cutter (ha ha, Doug)." She always had a great sense of humor! 

The Saturday following my discharge from the hospital, my stomach was still kind of queasy but I got to craving biscuits close to lunchtime. I got out Granny's biscuit cutter and got a little emotional using it. It has been used by three generations of Appalachian women (although I'm the fourth generation to own it) to make biscuits for their families. No amount of money could persuade me to give it up. 

I decided to send a message to my Uncle Doug to let him know that I was enjoying it. Here it is: 

Granny would've gotten a kick out of this!

The biscuits were good but the memories are better. I will think of her every single time I use it. My priceless family heirloom. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Places To See & Things To Do: The International Biscuit Festival

Hey, y'all! It's so good to be home! Thanks so much for all of your kind words and prayers. I'm still trying to get my feet back under me but being home makes things MUCH better.

Now that spring seems to be here (ignore the cold and windy weather that just doesn't seem to want to leave WNC) there are festivals popping up all over the place! And I want to go to ALL of them. I was very disappointed that I didn't get to go to the cornbread festival last weekend but I found one that helped ease the disappointment: The International Biscuit Festival! Doesn't that sound like heaven?! I can't think of Appalachian food without thinking about biscuits.

A whole festival dedicated to celebrating those hot, flaky, buttery layers of southern goodness...heaven! This will be our first year attending and I'm counting down the days. You may be wondering what this festival is all about. Lucky for you, I've been speaking with Ms. Lindsey Collins, the event director. Lindsey says, "This is the Biscuit Festival's 8th year, and it has helped grow Knoxville's downtown community into what it is today." 

There is a section of the festival known as Biscuit Boulevard. "Several of the region's finest restaurants and bakers bring their Signature Biscuits for you to sample." Glory! According to their website, Biscuit Boulevard will be open starting from 9am Saturday, May 20th, 2017. The Boulevard runs along Market Street, just south of Market Square in downtown Knoxville. You can buy a Biscuit Boulevard ticket for just $15 and try FIVE different Signature Biscuit creations! Vote by placing the perforated tab of your ticket in your favorite Biscuit vendor's Mason Jar at their booth and help to select the People's Choice winner. Boulevard participants will also be offering a selection of other goodies for you to purchase directly. 

There will be some long lines so prepare to arrive early! Lines continue to grow throughout the day and the festival ends at 2PM. We're planning on getting there when the doors open!

Believe it or not, the Biscuit Festival isn't just about eating biscuits. Besides Biscuit Boulevard, there is:
  • The Miss or Mister Biscuit Pageant 
  • Biscuit Baking Contest
  • The Biscuit Songwriting Contest
  • The Biscuit Bazaar
If you'd like to find more information about any of these events and/or order tickets, you can check out their website: The International Biscuit Festival.

The festival was kind enough to team up with me to sponsor an Appalachian Mountain Roots giveaway! Tomorrow, May 5th, look for a giveaway post and follow the directions in the post to be entered. The prize includes 2 Biscuit Festival tickets and a handmade wooden biscuit cutter made by my very talented woodworking husband! 

$70 Value

We'll be wearing our "app-uh-latch-un" t-shirts so if you're at the festival and happen to see us standing in line, come up and say hi! I'll be writing a post all about it when we get back. I mean, who doesn't like a good biscuit?! 

Be sure to check back tomorrow and find the giveaway post so you can be entered to win the prize pack! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Memories Of Home

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 and poems 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 parents at their 50th Anniversary, 1979.

Memories of Home

I went back once more to the home of my birth, 
That's when I realized how much memories are worth.
The home that my father had built with his hands
had lost all it's luster, but serenely stands. 
The kitchen was downstairs, the bedrooms above.
The living room, the "can house"; they were all built with love.
The front porch, so big, was adorned with two swings.
Relived in my memory, how much pleasure it brings.
I remember the river once so clear, flowing free.
I remember every rock, every bush, every tree. 
The animals we had both for food and for fun. 
The strawberries we picked in the hot blazing sun. 
The meals my mom cooked on the ancient old stove.
We walked to the store 'cause nobody drove.
My dad told us stories of when he was a boy.
We kids played for hours with our handmade toys.
When winter winds came and the world seemed at rest, 
it was time to do quilting and mom was the best.
Her fingers would fly making stitch after stitch,
and when it was needed, she could yield a mean switch.
My dad was a giant, both gentle and kind.
His voice was enough to make us kids mind.
I remember him plowing and clearing the land
to start a new garden to feed all his clan.
My mind overflowing with memories of home, 
as I stand there staring at the life I had known.
There were no flowers in the yard anymore. 
The little creek was gone. It had been there before.
As I relived the memories of my childhood years,
I couldn't stop my eyes from filling with tears.
I couldn't believe, but I should have known
how time changes things after you've grown.
So, I vowed then and there to never return.
I would never go back, though my heart it would yearn.
If I ever feel the need to return back home, 
I would do it in my memory because memories live on. 

I hope you enjoy Jequeta's poem as much as I did. I shared one of her short stories, Summer In The Mountains, last month. If you missed it, you can find it HERE.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Places To See & Things To Do: The National Cornbread Festival

Hey, y'all! I've got some exciting news: my husband and I will be attending the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, TN for the first time on Saturday, April 29th. We decided to make it our wedding anniversary trip.   

That sounds like it could be the punchline of a joke...if you go to the National Cornbread Festival for your 17th anniversary, you might be Appalachian. Ha! ;)

If you are a regular follower here at Appalachian Mountain Roots, you know all about my love of cornbread. I wrote about it in my Cornbread & Milk post several months back. After hearing about the festival on the radio I thought, "A festival that's all about cornbread?! Sign me up!" 

We would love to meet any of you who plan on attending! My son is modeling the t-shirts that my husband & I will be wearing. If you see us out and about, please come over and say hey! 

Here is what you can expect at the festival:

National Lodge® Cast Iron Cornbread Cook-off
Cornbread Alley (sample various cornbread recipes)
Live music throughout the festival.
Arts and Crafts from area vendors.
Tours of the Lodge Cast Iron Foundry
Cornbread 5K Race
Tours of historic South Pittsburg
Classic Car Cruise-In
Cornbread Eating Contests

Play games, ride carnival rides, and enjoy wandering through the booths that line the streets of historic South Pittsburg. Enjoy cornbread, handmade arts and crafts. Taste Southern, artisan treats like honey, fudge, and rock candies. The festival is packed with great family fun – including a Kid’s Corner with games, face painting, and inflatables!

Sounds fun, right? I can't wait to tour the Lodge Cast Iron Factory. I love Lodge products because they're American made and last FOREVER. Have any of you attended the festival before? I'd love to hear how it was. Are any of you going this year? I plan on writing a post about it and share some pics from the event over on the Appalachian Mountain Roots Facebook and Instagram pages. Please be sure to say hi if you see us in our 
"app-uh-latch-uh/ Appalachian Mountain Roots" shirts! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Phrases of Appalachia: Like It Or Lump It

"Like it or lump it": To accept or tolerate a disagreeable situation whether one likes it or not.
Example: We're going to have leftovers for supper and you're just going to have to like it or lump it. 

I used this phrase this weekend. Actually, I used the exact example that I shared above. My son had asked, not even 15 minutes after finishing Easter lunch, what we'd be having for supper. He is 15 so food is constantly on his mind. He earns that honest! He wasn't too happy to hear that he would be looking at the same food choices again but, he just had to like it or lump it. I asked him if he knew what like it or lump it meant and he said, "I can either like it or like it." Ha, pretty much. 

I found some conflicting information as I was researching the origins of this phrase. Some sources claimed it originated in England while others said Ireland. I also found that in Northern English, "lump" as a verb also means carry, especially something heavy - so you can like it or have to carry it anyway. No matter where it started, it definitely made it's way to Appalachia. This was the "go-to" phrase for my parents and grandparents whenever there was something that I complained about. Looks like the phrase will hold up well for at least another generation. 

Have you ever heard or said this phrase? 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easter In Appalachia & The Legend Of The Dogwood

This year just seems to be flying by! I can't believe that spring has arrived and we're only a few days away from Easter, but I sure am glad.

When I think of Easter and growing up in the southern Appalachian mountains, I think of these things: 

  1. Church. We were at church every Sunday morning (and every other time the doors were open) but Easter Sunday was a special time because we were specifically celebrating my Savior's resurrection! 
  2. The biggest, itchiest Easter dress that you can imagine complete with crinoline, hat, gloves, tights, purse, and matching shoes. Let me give you a little Granny Janice had 4 sons. Her first grandchild was my brother, the Mater Hater, and then I arrived 3 years later. Granny was so excited to have a little girl and was determined to make me a prissy little lady. Bless her heart, she didn't get what she wanted. She must have forgotten that I was going to be surrounded by all of those uncles and an older brother. I was and am what you would call a tomboy. I hated dresses then and I'm still not crazy about them today. But, Granny got to dress me up like a little doll on two holidays: Easter and Christmas.
  3. Easter dinner at Granny and Pa's house. There would be ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese (my favorite), and several different desserts to choose from. We would eat until we couldn't hold another bite and then end up in the backyard under the trees were would tell stories, laugh, and have a great time. 
  4. Watching The Ten Commandments. To this day, there hasn't been an Easter that I haven't watched this movie. I honestly can't imagine an Easter without it. 
  5. Dogwood blooms. Dogwood trees are a big part of the landscape of Appalachia and they're one of my favorite trees. Their blossoms happen to be NC's state flower. I can't look at one without thinking of my mom. They were also her favorite tree and she painted the blossoms in many of her paintings. She passed away in April around the time that all the trees are in bloom. Seeing them always makes me think of her. I remember her telling me about the legend of the Dogwood tree.

The Legend of the Dogwood
Author Unknown

In Jesus' time, the dogwood grew 
To a stately size and a lovely hue. 
'Twas strong and firm, its branches interwoven. 
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen. 
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood 
Christ made a promise which still holds good: 
"Never again shall the dogwood grow 
Large enough to be used so. 
Slender and twisted, it shall be 
With blossoms like the cross for all to see. 
As blood stains the petals marked in brown, 
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown. 
All who see it will remember Me 
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree. 
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be 
A reminder to all of My agony."

What was Easter like for you growing up? Have you ever heard the legend of the Dogwood tree? 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Annie Watson: Mother Of A Legend

Do any of you happen to enjoy Appalachian based folk and country music? If so, do I have a story for you! I recently came in contact with a man named Stacy Thomas after he posted a video of his grandmother, Annie Watson, singing an old folk song. Take a listen to this recording that was made in 1969 when Mrs.Annie was 74 years old. 

The Churning Song (Come, Butter, Come)

Nancy Adina "Annie" Greene Watson was born in Watauga County NC on March 22, 1895. Her parents were George Washington Greene and Mary Elizabeth Greene. She was the third of nine children. In describing her childhood she said her family was very poor. "We could not afford a coal oil lamp so our only light of a night was from a stick of rich pine (fatwood) stuck in a crack inside the fireplace." 
At age 16 she met and married 19 year old General Dixon Watson. General soon built them a cabin on the Osborne mountain near Stony Fork, NC on land granted to his Great Grandfather, Thomas Watson, for his service in the Revolutionary War. 
Their lives were hard but no more difficult than everyone else in their small, close nit community. General worked at all sorts of jobs from sawmill to carpentry to cutting timber and of course farming his land while Annie kept up all the chores of keeping house and raising 9 children. 
They attended Mt Paran Baptist Church, some three miles from their home every Sunday. General was the "singing leader" for the congregation. General died of cancer in 1949. Annie never remarried and lived the rest of her life at the home place on the Osborne. She died in 1985 at the age of 89. 
Her sixth child, Arthel Lane Watson, better known as Doc Watson went on to a career in music. Watson's influential guitar playing and his singing of traditional Appalachian music won him seven Grammy awards including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2003. He was presented the National Medal of Arts Award in 1997 by President Clinton. 

Many of you will recognize the name, Doc Watson, especially if you're from NC. Every year, there is a festival called Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC. It was hosted by Doc prior to his death and is named in memory and honor of his son, Eddy Merle Watson, who was killed in a farm tractor accident. 

Doc is pictured back row, second from right. 

Doc wasn't the only musician in the family. In 1963, he and several family members released an album, The Watson Family. It was re-released on Smithsonian Folkways on CD in 1990 with additional tracks from the 70s. (Source:Wikipedia)

I had read about the song that Mrs. Annie sang above in the first Foxfire book but had never heard anyone sing it. Now I can't get the tune out of my head! Do any of you remember hearing it? I've always been a fan of folk music, new and old. I know that the people who came to this country probably couldn't bring many possessions with them but thankfully, they were able to bring songs and their love of music. It is and I believe always will be a part of the Appalachian DNA. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Reckon Heaven Will Have Tomato Sandwiches?

My local produce stand opened this week! I was so excited. They posted a picture over on Facebook and they had some of the prettiest tomatoes which upped my excitement. I immediately started craving a tomato sandwich. If there had to be a perfect Appalachian sandwich, it would be the tomato sandwich. Anywhere for that matter! Since it's too early to have any homegrown tomatoes and since I refuse to make a sandwich out of what our local grocery stores try to pass off as tomatoes (they have no taste!), the produce stand is the next best place to get them. 

Now I firmly believe you need to have three essential items (not counting salt and pepper) to make the perfect mater sandwich. 
  1. Real tomatoes. If they're not homegrown, get them from a local produce stand or farmer's market. 
  2. Mayonnaise. I'm going to be honest, I was never a fan of the stuff until about 2 years ago. I mean I would eat it if it was on a sandwich or burger that I had ordered but I never added it to my homemade sandwiches. That was until I finally decided to see what the fuss about Duke's mayo was all about. GLORY! It was life changing. I can't make a sandwich without it now. Mayo is a very touchy subject in the south. I won't tell you what kind to buy but I will highly recommend Duke's. It was life changing!
  3. FRESH white bread, also known as light bread in these parts. I understand that society is shoving the "white bread is the worst and has no good nutritional value" stuff down our throats but I don't care. If you're going to make a good tomato sandwich, it has to be with white bread. And it needs to be FRESH. I'm talking "stick to the roof of your mouth without even having anything on it" fresh. You know what I'm talking about! My favorite brands are Kern's, Sunbeam, and Bunny bread (in no particular order). I had just bought a loaf of Sunbeam so that's what I used. 
I like to spread mayo on both slices of bread, add some fairly thick slices of tomato, salt, and a lot of fresh ground black pepper. 

See that thumbprint I left in the bread? FRESH. 

Ah, glory, is there anything better?! Well, maybe a tomato biscuit. I wrote about them this past fall when I was enjoying the last of my parent's tomatoes. You can read about that HERE if you missed it. I'm sure my brother, the Mater Hater, will have plenty to say on this matter but I've never paid much attention to what he has to say anyway. ;)

As I was enjoying my sandwich, I started wondering if heaven will have tomato sandwiches. Heaven will be a perfect paradise and I can't imagine paradise without them. 

Do you like tomato sandwiches? How do you make yours? If you happen to be a local follower I highly recommend Peachtree Produce. Stop by and check them out! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Phrases of Appalachia: Poor As Job

"Poor As Job": poverty stricken 
Ol' Joe is as poor as Job. He ain't worked in well over a year. 

This is a phrase that I know a good many of you have heard. If you're a Bible reading and believing somebody, you know all about how hard of a time poor ol' Job had. He was a righteous man and God allowed his faith to be tested by Satan. He lost his children, his health, everything he owned, and his livelihood. Through all of that, he remained faithful and his perseverance was rewarded. So to say "he/she is as poor as Job" would be comparing someone's situation to the worst of the worst. 

Over time, this phrase has been embellished to include Job's critters. "Poor as Job's turkey" is one that I've heard growing up. I'm not sure that ol' Job even knew what a turkey was but if had he belonged to Job, you can bet that he was poor. I found that some areas use "poor as Job's cat" but I don't remember hearing it around here. 

Another phrase that includes Job is "he/she has the patience of Job" and knowing what all Job went through would mean that this person was a very patient person. This is definitely one thing that me and Job do NOT have in common. I'm working on that. 

Have you heard or used these phrases where you're from? 

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? 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cades Cove Methodist Church

We visited Cades Cove during the first of this month & witnessed some folks having a funeral at this church. We've walked through most of the cemeteries in the Cove & seeing the hearse in front of the church got me to thinking about the old days. I thought about the lives that were changed after hearing the sermons there. I thought about the couples who started their journey by being married there. I also thought about all of the families who have had to say goodbye or as I like to say, "see you on the other side" there. The stories those walls could tell! All of this thinking got me to wondering about the history of the church.

"One of the more treasured Cades Cove images is that of the Methodist Church as captured from the Rich Mountain Road. Cove churches were forces for integration of the community's religious, social, and communications needs. The penetration of the Methodists into the Cove may have preceded that of the Baptists as Methodist circuit riders ministered to many isolated mountain communities in the early 19th century, Dr. Abraham Jobe's childhood memories included Rev. George Eakin preaching as early as 1823.

Sparse record exist for the events and circumstances of the early Methodist Church. The Cades Cove Church, is included among those of the Holston Conference's Little River Circuit in 1830. A Methodist church house was not erected until after 1840 when James F. Deaver deeded three acres of land for $25 to the Methodist Episcopal Church Trustees. Religion was a "shared" community experience with the church house often used by several congregational affiliations for individual and joint services such as revivals. Initial church houses were of log construction and typically functioned as schools also. The Feezell family, led by George W. Feezell and son William A. "Billie" Feezell, were prominent supporters of the Methodist Church. Billie deeded land in 1874 which provided the site for at least two church houses and a cemetery. The present church house was built by Rev.John E. McCampbell in 115 days for $115! It featured two doors and a physical divider to segregate males and females for the minimization of spiritual interruption with more earthly issues. The adjacent cemetery contains at least 100 graves and is the second oldest church cemetery in the Cove. During the Civil War, the political environment resulted in a "split" of the Methodists and the subsequent provision for a Methodist Episcopal Church North, initially using a log house and ultimately the Hopewell Church House on a knoll donated by Dan Lawson just east of his former home site. Although the building is gone, the Lawson Cemetery remains as a reminder of this church. The Methodists, never as dominant as the Baptists in the Cove, served the community well and provided value which certainly exceeded that of the images which are now so popularly represented." (via Cades Cove Preservation Association.)

If you'd like to know more about the life of the early circuit riders, you can read an earlier post of mine here.

 I have always loved to learn about the history of places that I visit and I hope that you've enjoyed learning a little more about on of my favorite places. My husband proposed to me at the Elijah Oliver Cabin so I may have to dig up the history behind it to share with you in the future. Have you ever gotten to visit Cades Cove? What is your favorite part about it? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Outsider's Guide To Appalachian Directions

No Fool
This city fellow was driving down through the mountains when he got lost. He saw a farmer standing near the road behind his pasture fence. He stopped his car and asked, "How far to Knoxville?" "Don't know." "Well, how far is it to Chattanooga?" "Don't know." "You don't know much, do you?" "Well, I ain't lost." This angered the city man, and he said, "There isn't much between you and a fool, is there?" "No, sir, just a fence," the farmer said. 
-Jim Ralston, Paint Lick, KY Curing the Cross-Eyed Mule

Before I even begin to explain how directions are given in my area of Appalachia, let me say that these may apply to other parts of the country (specifically the south) and may not apply to other parts of Appalachia (specifically the north). I'm going to explain how it is done in MY neck of the woods, western North Carolina. 

There are countless back country roads throughout the many rural areas that make up Appalachia. Many of the roads aren't even marked which can render your GPS completely useless. Think you can do a Google search to find out where you are and to help you get where you're wanting to go? Don't count on it. Cell phone service isn't always available in these areas. So what's a person to do??? Something that most men have avoided since the beginning of time. ASK FOR DIRECTIONS. 

Once you find a road side produce stand or gas station, don't expect a quick exchange. We don't get in a hurry for much and giving directions isn't going to be the exception. We also tend to be pretty friendly and don't pass up an opportunity to get to know someone. The conversation will probably go something like this:
"Well, how are y'all a doing? That's good. Where are y'all from? Miami? Gracious, y'all are a good ways from home, ain't ya? Oh sure, I can help you get to where you're aiming to go. You have people in these parts or are y'all just out loafering?"

After a little small talk, you'll soon find out that people around here don't bother giving road names or numbers. We prefer something a little more landmarks. So instead of simply telling you to turn left on Main Street and go 15 miles until you reach Walnut Lane, you'll hear: "Alright, you're going to go back out the way you came in but this time you're going to take a left at that pretty little Missionary Baptist Church. You know, my momma and daddy were married at that church back in '67. It's the truth! They'll be celebrating their 50th anniversary in June. Folks just don't stay together like the used to, do they? Now when you get to the fork in the road where that chicken truck turned over, you're going to want to go right. It'll seem like you're just going straight but you're really going right."

I should also let you know that we use certain directional phrases to explain how far you need to go. 

  • Down the road a piece. Translation: About a mile or two.  
  • Just a hop, skip, and jump. Translation: About 15-30 minutes.
  • A little ways. Translation: Usually less than 5 miles. 
  • Just up the road. Translation: Less than a mile.
  • Over yonder. Translation: Sorry, this could mean anywhere from 5 feet away to the next county over. 

Now that you can somewhat translate our directional phrases, be prepared for a little more friendly conversation. It may take a little while but we will almost always get you where you're wanting to go. The best advice I can give an "outsider" would be to simply slow down and don't be rude or try to rush whomever is taking the time to help you. People from these parts will not be disrespected or rushed. You've been warned. 

I hope you'll find these tips helpful if you ever decide to visit the beautiful area that I call home. You won't regret it! 

Monday, February 20, 2017


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?