Appalachian Thursday – Turkeys, a dog, and poetry month

April is National Poetry Month. You probably knew that 😉 I think MOST of my poems fall into the Appalachian category in some form or fashion. Here’s one inspired by a walk in the woods with a dog and some turkeys . . . Sure do miss my Sammy . . .

Sammy

HOLDING BACK

He’s an old dog.
So, when he spies the turkeys
he tries to run like a nightmare
of running with leaden feet
and his goal fast receding.

I hold him, make him sit
and watch the turkeys fade
into the forest with a rustle of leaves
and soft calls of indignation.
I rub his head, massage aching hips,
scratch his panting, heaving side.
But his bright eyes are on the trees
and he would gladly give chase
if only I would let him.

I call him to my side
and head home.
He limps beside me
because it’s what I ask.
But he does not choose,
would never choose,
this holding back.

Close the Laptop and Enjoy Some Family Time

My older brother and his family came to the mountains from their home on the coast of South Carolina for spring break. Of course, dogwood winter showed up to greet them with a blast of cold air that pretty well froze their thin, southern blood! Nevertheless, we got out to enjoy a hike with some spectacular views.

Then, having earned our lunch, we went to Wild Thyme Gourmet Restaurant in Highlands followed by a trip to Kilwin’s, because fudge and ice cream are delicious no matter how cold it is outside!

Some days you just need to put the laptop down, put the “out of office” sign on the door, and enjoy some family time!

 

Appalachian Thursday – Ramp Recipes

ramp omeletteIt’s ramp season once again! The patch on my neighbor’s property is flourishing. I dug a few ramps Sunday and added a few to a tomato and avocado relish last night in place of green onions.

That’s my preferred way to use them–as a seasoning or embellishment. But there are plenty of other ways to use them to add some zing to your spring menu. Goodness knows all the trendy restaurants are doing it!

Which put me in mind of that scene in the movie Forest Gump where Bubba is listing all the ways you can eat shrimp. So I thought I’d compile a ramp recipe list for your Appalachian edification!

  • Ramp pesto
  • Ramp carbonara
  • Ramp omelet (one of my favorites–see picture)
  • Ramp focaccia
  • Pickled ramps
  • Ramp-aroni rolls (see Fish Hawk Acres in Buckhannon for these!)
  • Ramp dip
  • Creamed ramps
  • Ramp kimchi (hmmmm)
  • Fried eggs and ramps
  • Buttermilk-fried ramps (yes, please!)
  • Ramp chimichurri
  • Potato ramp soup
  • Ramp jam
  • Ramp pizza
  • Bacon and ramp vinaigrette
  • Ramp aioli
  • Fried ramps and potatoes
  • And, of course, boiled ramps with a splash of vinegar

There’s more, but I expect you’ve got the idea. Suffice it to say ramps are almighty versatile! (And if you want to see a menu that weaves ramps throughout, check out this one for a ramp dinner to benefit the library in my home town.)

What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

Stepping Into Another Time

frying chicken - CopyThis past Saturday I had a chance to travel to the 1700s French & Indian War at Ft. Dobbs near Statesville, NC. Friends of mine are reenactors who planned to attend the War for Empire weekend with their Dragonfly Traders tent. Lorraine offered to outfit me.

Well, YES.

I’ve been to living history events before, but always as a visitor. This time I got to don period attire and walk around in the 18th century. It was SUCH fun!

I think the main difference is that I got more of a look behind the scenes into the life of a reenactor and while I realize it’s not for everyone, I definitely get the appeal! These folks aren’t just putting on a show for a weekend, they actually live as if it were the 1700s for several days. Well, mostly.

Many of them sleep on cots or pallets in their tents. They eat food cooked over open fires (see frying chicken in a spider above). There were woodworkers, seamstresses, a stone cutter, women doing laundry, a shoe maker, and soldiers conducting drills and demonstrating artillery. The camp was abuzz with activity! And there I was, walking among them like I belonged.

Which is just how I felt. I hadn’t anticipated the sense of community among the reenactors (although I should have!). These are people who are passionate about history and want to get it right.

As someone who reads and writes historical fiction, it was like stepping into a book. It was a heady experience and one I hope I’ll get to try again.

So, I know the #1 question is, what did I wear? Here’s an overview of my mostly accurate period attire. (No stays is the main departure–I stuck with my modern undergarments! The stays would go on OVER the shift.)

  1. Don a shift. The idea here is two-fold. The garment next to the skin protects your clothing from sweat (and would have been washed more often) plus it’s soft and comfortable (like REALLY comfortable!).
  2. Add pockets. Women’s clothing didn’t have pockets so these flat pouches with slits were tied on under skirts which also had access slits. The trick is to not stick your hand in there and miss the pocket!
  3. Add a skirt and a short gown. The skirt tied front to back AND back to front so it fits really well. The short gown is the jacket or shirt that is pinned closed. No buttons or snaps, although you might have had hooks and eyes.
  4. Top it off with an apron to keep your clothes a smidge cleaner.
  5. Fichus were worn over the shoulders and neck area for modesty and to protect skin from the sun. Pale was in. Hair was tucked into a cap with a ribbon to keep it in place and the flat, straw hat was pinned over it all. Works almost as well as sunglasses and you don’t have to fuss with your hair!

 

Appalachian Thursday – Early Spring Blooms

Autumn used to be my favorite season, but as I get older I’m enjoying spring more and more. Maybe it’s the relief from the cold. Maybe it’s more hours of sunlight. Or maybe it’s the wildflowers!

As kids we’d keep an eye on the daffodils growing above the house so we could pick them for Aunt Bess or Grandma. Although I suppose they were tame once, they’d gone wild over the years and were my first sure sign of spring. Now, though, I’ve come to realize that the woods are full of flowers as early as March with a steady progression carrying us through to late fall.

I don’t often pick woodland wildflowers, but I do “catch” them with my camera and if you follow my author Facebook page you likely know I post those pictures most Wednesdays.  And, of course, I’m especially partial to the beauties that are native to my beloved Appalachian mountains. So if you aren’t blessed to live where you can go on daily wildflower hikes, here’s a selection to satisfy your spring-in-the-mountains cravings.

April Fool’s in Appalachia

the-tipping-point-sidebar-fixedJust in case you didn’t notice, today is the first day of April. OR April Fool’s Day. I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s jokes, but there IS a long-standing tradition of natives of the mountains (or most any place) playing tricks on outsiders who aren’t familiar with the local habits.

Take Snipe hunting for example.

Now, there IS such a critter as a snipe–it’s a shore bird that I’m pretty sure isn’t actually hunted. But snipe hunting involves taking someone who doesn’t know any better and leaving them alone in the woods in the dark literally holding the bag.

You supply the new hunter with a burlap bag and instructions to hold it open while you and your friends chase snipes toward the hunter. Then you station your friend in a likely spot, thrash around in the woods yelling “snipe,” and making strange calls. Gradually you move away and leave your friend to find his or her way sheepishly home in the dark.

If you’ve done a really good job your friend will think he or she maybe saw an actual snipe but failed to catch it.

Then there’s cow-tipping. Even today you’ll likely find someone who will swear that they’ve tipped a cow. Don’t believe them.

The idea is that you go out in pastures at night, find cows sleeping standing up, and tip them over. Ideally, everyone (except the cow) is drunk.

I suppose it’s possible this has actually happened somewhere, sometime, but my theory is it’s another way of getting city slickers to step in cow poop. Or better yet, to encounter a bull that is NOT sleeping and learn an important farm lesson.

I grew up on a farm with cattle and I NEVER saw a cow sleep standing up. Nor did I ever sneak up on a cow. They’re actually pretty alert. Not to mention HUGE with a low center of gravity. Good luck tipping one over under any conditions.

If you want to dig deeper into just how unlikely cow-tipping is, check out this website (I used their cow-tipping graphic–I couldn’t resist how scientific it is).

So, rather than trying to fool you, let me just say, “Happy April.” Of course, after several days of delicious spring weather in the 70s it’s in the 20s this morning. And that’s April Fool’s enough for me.

 

Appalachian Thursday – Spring Planting (by the signs)

produceIt’s finally March and while we still have redbud, dogwood, and blackberry winters to go (at a minimum), country folks are thinking about plowing the garden.

When I was a kid my father and one of the more mature ladies of the church would have pretty much the same “discussion” every spring. She believed strongly in planting by the signs and Dad was determined to convince her it was not only silly, but un-Christian to do so.

As far as I know, neither one ever came around to the other’s way of thinking. I suspect it would have spoiled the fun they had rehashing the subject every spring.

There are still plenty of folk who plant by the signs in Appalachia. Here’s a quick primer, in case you want to give it a try this year:

  • Plant ABOVE ground crops when the moon is waxing (getting bigger). Things like peas, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, etc.
  • Plant BELOW ground crops when the moon is waning (getting smaller). Things like potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.

That’s the BASIC rule. Now, let’s look at the signs. Each month, the moon passes through each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, which can be divided into four elements:

  • Water – Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio
  • Earth – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
  • Fire – Leo, Ares, Sagittarius
  • Air – Gemini, Aquarius, Libra

Water and Earth are FERTILE elements while Fire and Air are BARREN elements. Generally speaking, you want to plant in one of the fertile signs and cultivate, prune, and harvest in the barren signs. Of course, you’ll also want to match the phase of the moon to the particular sign. (E.g. Plant potatoes in a fertile sign while the moon is waning.)

Of course there are a few caveats as well. NEVER plant on Sunday, a fiery, barren day. And don’t plant while the moon is full, new, or in one of its quarters regardless of the sign.

Got it? Good. Now go plant something. But only if it’s after the last frost date for your region. (FYI–You should plow a late snow into the soil–it’s known as poor man’s fertilizer.)

There are also rules about the proper sign in which to set fence posts, cut your hair, shingle a roof, or do just about anything, but we won’t get into that. And you can always check out the Farmer’s Almanac, which has planting days all figured out for you!

FYI – Today is a good day to get in your root crops, but tomorrow is a barren day–a good time to get in some pruning!