Appalachian Thursday – An Empty Larder

It’s January. In case you hadn’t realized. At the grocery store these days, I can buy strawberries and asparagus. This (along with an occasional warmish day) adds to my delusion that spring is just around the corner. The sun stays up just a little longer, rises just a little earlier. And yet . . . we still have February to get through. I’m just dreaming of sunshine and wildflowers. My great-grandmother had no such luxury. The turn of the year was the lean time back in the early 1900s when she was growing up and raising her family. It was when last season’s put up food began to thin out. It would have been a long time since last fall’s hog killing, the shelves in the cellar would have more empty jars, and even the wild game would be getting thin (in quantity and quality). Lean times. Running to the store for fresh produce wasn’t an option. Chickens don’t lay as much in the winter and the cow’s milk has less cream. Christmas is past and Easter is months away. This would have been the time when mountain folk began to dream of poke, creases, dandelion, dock, and other spring greens. So in honor of these lean days, here are two recipes. The first is a “lean times” recipe using corn cobs to make jelly. The second, well, you judge what sort of recipe it is. These are both from […]

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Live Like You’re Dying

You’ve probably heard the advice to live like you’re dying . . . because you are. And it’s true, so far as it goes. We’re all going to die one day. One day. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Or do we? I have a friend who has a fatal illness. She’s already lived longer than the doctors thought she would. She IS living like she’s dying. And it isn’t necessarily what I imagine when I think about living as though my time here were short. I visited her recently and she made an observation that really stuck with me. It  was about how we say we’ll do things, “for the rest of our lives.” As in, “You’ll need to take this medicine for the rest of your life.” Or, “I’m going to wear this ring for the rest of my life.” Or, “I’m going to live here for the rest of my life.” Well sure. But that assumes the medicine will be helpful right up until the moment you take your last breath. Unfortunately, medicines stop working. It assumes that the ring will always fit and you’ll always want to wear it. Grandma gave me her engagement ring when she could no longer slide it over her arthritic knuckle. It assumes you’ll be able to live in the same place until the end. Which would put a lot of assisted living and nursing homes out of […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Christmas Countdown

Guess what? It’s 12 days ’til Christmas! Yup, Christmas is less than two weeks away. Are you ready? Are you counting down with joy and anticipation? Or is there a little how-will-I-get-everything-done dread mixed in there? When I was little, we had a count-down to Christmas wall hanging my mom made. It was in the shape of a Christmas tree and had 24 little beads from which we would suspend 24 little, felt ornaments. There was an angel that went at the top as well as a Santa, little wrapped packages, a candy cane with sequins–it was wonderful. And I always got to hang the first ornament since my birthday was December 1. I LOVED counting down to Christmas when I was a child growing up on the farm in WV. Each year I looked forward to all the things we got to do as we counted down. Here are just a few of my favorites: Singing carols in the car. Snapping our fingers for reindeer hoofs up on the housetop. Dad substituting our names as he sang, “First comes the stocking of little Sally (his nickname for me).” Rudolph and Frosty and oh, what fun! Decorating sugar cookies. I now know this makes my mom a saint. Arming three kids with frosting and sprinkles is a bold move. Decorating the Christmas tree we cut on a neighbor’s farm. Dad did the lights and hung his one ornament remaining from childhood–a tattered […]

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