Appalachian Thursday – Shin Rippers

shinIf you follow my blog and/or my Facebook page you know that I spend time tromping around in the woods almost every day. In theory, I’m taking Thistle for a walk, but I also just love being in the woods.

Which is not to say they’re a perfectly safe place to be. It isn’t the bears, the snakes, or other critters that give me trouble. It’s more the flora than the fauna tripping me up. Turns out there are plenty of plants that will challenge you if you go off trail in this part of the country.

Last week I headed up the mountain behind our house. There are some critter trails back there that we’ve trimmed back enough to allow human passage. Mostly. I hike these trails mostly in the winter when the leaves are down and the undergrowth is minimal.

I jumped the gun going up there in October. While the poison ivy had largely died back, the shin rippers were plentiful. What’s a shin ripper? It’s a briar or other prickly, vine-like plant growing low across the trail. You’re tromping along, you catch one of those briars, and it rips across your ankle or shin. I ran into several. As you can see. And I had long pants on!

Other prickly Appalachian flora challenges include:

  • Hollies – these are basically just prickly, although if you step on a leaf barefoot, it can be pretty awful.
  • Stinging nettle – what looks like tiny hairs on the leaves and stem are actually needle-like tubes that inject chemicals onto and even into your skin. It will burn, itch, and maybe even cause a rash. The best thing you can do is NOT touch it. If you do, DON’T RUB IT!
  • Chestnut burrs – these will be from the Chinese chestnut rather than the American chestnut that died in blight decades ago. Again, BAD to step on barefoot. Also, tricky to open the burrs with your hands without getting stuck. We pried them open with our well-shod feet.
  • Wild parsnip – what looks like a friendly yellow flower has a photosensitive chemical on its leaves. Think chemical burn.

Still, I say it’s worth the risk to get out into the woods where I can enjoy the beauty of even prickly things.

The Church in the World

BBQ 10-18This year, our church opted to do something a bit different in place of our usual homecoming. We hosted a party for the community.

Instead of focusing on our history, reminiscing, and then feasting in the fellowship hall, we invited the neighborhood to come out for free BBQ. And it was great!

This wasn’t about getting people to come to church and then feeding them. While they were welcome to come to services, they were also welcome to just come eat and enjoy some great bluegrass. It was about getting the community together to talk, eat, tap their toes and . . . well . . . spend time together.

Instead of a homecoming that focused on our past, we focused on our present. Our here and now going on right outside our door each and every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love history. (Shoot, I write historical fiction.) But it was nice to look out instead of in this year.

I hope we do more of this type of thing. I hope we continue looking beyond the walls of our church building to get to know our neighbors. Seems like there’s some scripture that mentions that very thing . . .

Mark 12:28b-31 – “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

When they tell you to go jump off a bridge in WV . . .

cropped-gedc0169.jpg

Summertime view from the New River Gorge Bridge overlook.

On October 22, 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, WV, officially opened. At the time, it was the world’s longest single-span expansion bridge at 3,030 feet across. That’s 390 feet more than half a mile.

When you’re driving across, it seems further.

Each October the bridge is open to pedestrians for one day–Bridge Day–which is this coming Saturday. They actually close the bridge for most of the day, which means if you want to drive from one side of the gorge to the other it will take 20 minutes instead of 30 seconds.

People celebrate Bridge Day by doing fun things like listening to live music, competing in a chili cook-off, taking tours down into the gorge, and jumping off the bridge.

Yup, you read that last one right. It’s 876 feet from the middle of the bridge to the river below and people are allowed to rapel and base jump. They sign up way in advance and vie for the chance to do this. Seriously. Jumpers need to have training and experience, but anyone can do a tandem jump with a group called Tandem Base. Well, the first 16 people willing to pay $1,275 for the chance can.

If you were thinking about surprising me with this as a gift, that’s okay, I’m good.

This year event organizers have also added a high line–no experience required–that allows adventurers to ride a zip line 700 feet from the bridge to a road below.

Phew. I’ll just have a pepperoni roll, listen to some music, and enjoy the view.

Here are a few more crazy facts about the New River Gorge Bridge:

  • It weighs 88 million pounds. Held up by a single arch.
  • The Washington Monument would fit under the bridge with 325 feet to spare.
  • Throughout the year there are Bridge Walk tours offered. They guide you on a stroll of the full length of the catwalk under the bridge. People pay to do this.
  • When the bridge was opened in 1977 it cut the trip across the gorge from 45 minutes to 30 seconds.

If you want to learn more about Bridge Day or the bridge itself, click here. I recommend a visit. Although I can’t advise you about jumping off of it.

The (Christmas) reviews are coming in!

The Christmas quoteHeirloom has been out for nearly two weeks now! Yes, I’m still talking about my latest release–a novella that’s part of a collection with Kristi Ann Hunter, Karen Witemeyer, and Becky Wade.

Why?

Because I’m excited about it! And, the ever nerve-wracking reviews are (thus far) mostly good (and mostly good is great!). PLUS, you have a few more days to win a copy by way of Relz Reviewz. Just click on over to Rel’s website for a review and ways to rack up multiple chances to win a copy of the collection.

And if you’re wondering if the collection’s any good, here are a few reviews that made me grin:

All four stories involve unique characters united by the brooch. I enjoyed each novella as the romance unfolded and the backdrop of Christmas made it all the sweeter. The short novellas are the perfect length for a busy season. This book would make a great gift for the book lover in your life. -Jennifer K

What an absolutely delightful novella collection! I loved how perfectly the brooch was woven into each of the novellas! I adored every single one of these stories and highly recommend The Christmas Heirloom! -Caitlyn S

Probably the most unique and cleverly written set of novellas I’ve ever read! Every set of short stories will have some kind of connecting theme, but this has knocked it out of the park! -Amy

I loved the way the stories were woven together, and especially enjoyed having more stories featuring characters from from two of my currently favorite series. These novellas are beautifully created stories that feel like full length novels. -Caroline

Thank you ladies–your reviews were the best early Christmas presents ever!

 

Appalachian Thursday – A Poor Harvest

applesI’ve mostly given up trying to grow our food. I keep a pot of herbs and this year I grew a cherry tomato in a pot near the front porch. Based on what I paid for the plant and the number of tomatoes I picked, I’d say I broke even on that one.

But, like the local bears, I’m opportunistic when it comes to harvesting food. Blackberries, raspberries, apples, pears, grapes, and nuts tend to be plentiful in our area. We pick them wild and have neighbors who are glad to share.

This year, though, there just wasn’t much to harvest. I made an apple pie last weekend and had to supplement with store apples. The walnuts are few and far between. Even the hickory nuts are less this year.

Growing up on the farm, we had walnuts, chestnuts, and filberts (hazelnuts). Walnuts turned our hands (and clothes) black. Chestnuts could be removed from their prickly casing by pinching them between the soles of our boots and pushing them out. Hazelnuts we just let dry a bit and then whacked ’em good with a hammer.

Mom probably made things using nuts, but mostly the pleasure was in just eating them straight from the shell. And eat them we did! Chestnuts in particular were an easy target and the crisp texture and flavor of that buttery, yellow nut was SO good. You can score them and roast them briefly to make them easy to peel, but we just bit ’em until the shell cracked.

Hopefully 2018’s poor harvest is just an off-year–a down season in the cycle. And since there’s not much out there, I guess I’ll leave most of it to the critters. I kind of like it when the squirrels sit on the back deck methodically eating nuts that leave smears of black, walnut leavings.

Reminds me of how God provides for squirrels and growing children just the same. And how what he provides nourished my body back then and my heart today.

Praying with Jane (Austen)

JaneHow could I resist?

I was offered an opportunity to be part of the launch team for Rachel Dodge‘s new devotional Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane AustenSign me up!

I’ve read and reread all of Austen’s novels and while I was vaguely aware that her father was a clergyman it never occurred to me to think of her as a person of faith. But it turns out she left three written prayers that were saved by her sister Cassandra.

Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister, Jane.

Growing up immersed in the Anglican church, Jane likely took part in family prayers each morning and evening, attended multiple–lengthy–services on Sunday, and spent a fair amount of time in personal prayer each day.

This is a side of Jane Austen I wanted to know more about.

And, since I might have some compulsive tendencies, when I noted that there are 31 devotions AND 31 days in October, I jumped into the book last week. The verdict? It’s DELIGHTFUL. Dodge does a lovely job of parsing the prayers as she weaves in scripture and snippets from Austen’s stories. All while consoling, inspiring, and encouraging me to examine my own faith.

I’m so delighted to share with you about Praying With Jane. Even though I’m only eight days in, I can already heartily recommend the book for yourself or as a gift for your favorite Jane-ite. It’s a treasure.

Appalachian Thursday – Fleeting Summer

I’ve loved Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay since I first saw The Outsiders movie. I think that’s the hardest I’ve ever cried at a movie. The poem is so gorgeously bittersweet. To me, it’s always spoken of that moment in autumn when nature is at it’s most perfect. You just want to seize the instant and somehow preserve it. Well, Robert Frost did and every time I read his words my throat tightens and my eyes mist.

I love autumn in the mountains. The temperatures cool; the lush, summer green of the woods begins to thin; leaves change color; sunset comes earlier; and you wear sweaters even when it’s too warm for them.

And the flowers fade . . .

If you follow my author page on Facebook, you’ve likely seen my Wildflower Wednesday posts. I’m such a wildflower fanatic, I take pictures all summer. But there are fewer flowers as summer wanes. So, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at a summer’s worth of nature’s glory before we step fully into another Appalachian autumn.

NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

-Robert Frost