Appalachian Thursday – Early Spring Flowers

Bloodroot in bloomAt last. It’s the time of year when the woods begin greening and the first flowers come pushing through last year’s leaf litter.

Trout lilies, toothwort, and bloodroot. I love how bloodroot practically sparkles with its perfect white petals against the grey of waning winter.

All of these plants are more than just pretty, being used for medicine or food (I am NOT recommending consuming ANY of these plants–this is just some interesting information.)

BLOODROOT – The plant has been used for medicinal purposes since the American Indians used it to treat skin conditions and as a blood purifier. When you cut or break the stem of bloodroot, the sap looks like blood.

Of course, it’s also poisonous.

Today it’s touted as a treatment for skin cancer and for plaque and gum disease. It can also induce vomiting.

CUT-LEAF TOOTHWORT – A member of the mustard family, the leaves, flowers, and root are all edible with a peppery taste that would be nice in salads. The roots were also once chewed as a cold remedy or made into a tea to treat hoarseness.

TROUT LILY – The lovely, little trout lilies are actually edible. You can use the leaves and blossoms in salads or, if you collect enough of them, roast the corms. Eat enough of them and they will cause vomiting, though, so moderation is key!

Again, I’m not suggesting you go out and start sampling spring flowers in the forests of Appalachia. But I do find it interesting to consider the types of “medicine” my great-grandmother might have used.

Love Like a Casserole

toddyIt’s day 19 of this ridiculous cold that has apparently morphed into something else. The paperwork from the urgent care clinic says, “Acute upper respiratory infection, unspecified.” I have antibiotics.

I think the doctor may have given them to me to appease me, but I don’t care. I’ll take lamp oil in sugar at this point. Anything to breathe through my nose again.

And yes, I’ve given whatever I have to my husband who is still being sweet to me anyway.

And he’s not the only one.

It’s just a cold. I know folks who are SO much sicker. Who have MUCH harder illnesses to deal with. And yet . . .

My friend Suzi brought me a casserole. She heard me hacking and snorting through Bible study last week and told me it would make her ever-so-happy if she could bring me a casserole she’d already made up, not knowing who it was for.

I agreed, because I’m not an idiot.

She brought us a scrumptious chicken and pasta casserole with mushrooms and zucchini. But that’s not all. There was also a chopped, Greek salad, and the makings for hot toddies. Honey, whiskey, lemons. Throat-soothing, sinus-opening, sleep-inducing hot toddies.

Ahhhhhhh.

This is what love looks like. Pyrex dishes full of bubbling, cheesy pasta and chicken. Vitamin-packed salads. And a small bottle of whiskey from a bonafide church lady.

Love is seeing a need and meeting it without being asked. It’s stopping by someone else’s house after a long day at work and making sure people you care about are well fed if nothing else.

Thanks Suzi. I love you, too. And that’s not just the whiskey talking.

Appalachian Thursday–Home Remedies

HelvetiaI’ve been doing battle with an awful, lingering cold. I pretended I was getting better for ten days, then succumbed and spent a day laying around drinking lots of tea and taking cold remedies in hopes of shaking it.

Which got me thinking about what folks did in the days before Tylenol Cold and Mucinex.

I have a handy little book titled “Oppis Guet’s Vo Helvetia” that’s a collection of recipes and household hints from the Swiss village of Helvetia in West Virginia. There are several recipes for cold cures there including:

  1. Onion Syrup – Good for croups and colds. Slice onions very thing and layer in a pan with sugar. Sit the pan in a warm oven with the door open and sweat syrup out of the onions. Take it by the teaspoon.
  2. Horehound Candy – For coughs. Boil one handful of fresh horehound leaves in water and strain. To each pint of tea, had a half pound of brown sugar, and boil on the stove until it reaches the hard ball stage. Pour into a greased pan and cut into squares once it’s almost cool.
  3. Cure-All – (This is my favorite.) Add a drop of lamp oil to a teaspoon of sugar. The book says, “If this didn’t work, you got well on your own.”

Based on these, sounds like I’d do fairly well to just take a teaspoonful of sugar and go to bed!

How about you–do you have any tried and true remedies for a cold?

 

Goals: When Dreams Meet Reality

Reading glassesLast week I came within two pounds of reaching what I have long thought of as my ideal weight. And I realized something . . .

. . . losing those last two pounds probably isn’t going to make an actual difference in my life. I had this sort of vague idea that once I got to this magic number my body would be different. And it is. Just not in the ways I imagined. I’m still what you might call pear-shaped. I still have that softening flesh on the undersides of my arms. I still don’t want to be seen in a bathing suit–unless it’s one of those Victorian dress things.

Reaching my goal is a good thing–but it hasn’t transformed me into a swimsuit model. MAYBE, my body just isn’t built for modeling swimsuits. Maybe I’m just the same ole ME, only a few pounds lighter.

And isn’t that the way with goals?

All too often, I think once I meet X goal, my life will be different. And by different I mean better. Much, much better. Once I get married. Once I get the perfect job. Once I move into the perfect house. Once I win a writing contest, get an agent, find a publisher, have a book in print, have five books in print, win that award . . . and on and on.

There are two problems with pinning your hopes and dreams on meeting a specific goal. 1) When you meet it, it isn’t quite what you expected. It’s good–but it’s not magic. 2) Turns out there’s another goal just beyond it. It’s good to meet my goal weight, but now I need to work on fitness. It’s good to have multiple books in print, but now I wonder if it’s something I could ever earn a living at.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals. But I am suggesting that goals are simply checkpoints along life’s highway. They aren’t a destination so much as an overlook where you stop, take in the view, and decide where to head off to next.

So how about you? What goal are you currently working toward and what do you think will happen when you get there?

Appalachian Thursday–Going to Ireland

Ireland UMC
Photo from the Irish Spring Festival Facebook page. Click on image to learn more.

When I drive from NC to the farm, I get to pass through Ireland. Of course, like Paris, KY, or Rome, GA, it’s really a sweet little town stateside. Still, I get a kick out of it.

This week they’re holding the Irish Spring Festival, which is always planned around St. Patrick’s Day. There’s lots of green, shamrocks, good food, and road bowling (more about that in a moment).

The event was launched 36 years ago by the Shamrock Community Educational Outreach Services Club. A king and queen are selected and there’s typically a parade populated with pedestrians, farm equipment, animals, and a whole lot of kids. There are probably more people IN the parade than watching it.

The festivities actually kicked off last Sunday with a flag raising, the dedication of a free library, and a Pot ‘O Luck covered dish dinner. The day wrapped up with a Psalms of Ireland hymn sing at the United Methodist Church (see photo above).

And, of course, there’s road bowling. Ireland is famous (well, locally famous!) for being a hub for the sport. Basically, the idea is to roll a heavy, metal ball (it used to be cannon shot) as far as you can along the road without it rolling out of the road. Curvy, mountain roads are, of course, more challenging.

Back in 2012 some road bowlers ended up playing along the rural road where I live. Turned out they were from West Virginia! Click HERE to read more about that.

All in all, the Irish Spring Festival is exactly the sort of thing I miss about my West Virginia home. Local people getting together for some pretty uncomplicated fun and fellowship. If you’re ever in central West Virginia, check ’em out

Love it or hate, you just LOST an hour

sunrise with deer
The sun will STILL rise and set on its own schedule.

We’re now on Daylight Saving Time–or “fast time” as my grandmother called it (since that first day just flies by!). Blech. My circadian clock is firmly meshed in a standard 24-hour cycle. Yesterday, someone robbed me of an hour (hmmm, I think that was an hour of writing time!).

Some helpful folks out there offer tips for dealing with the lag created by the time change, but I’m not sure they’re all that practical.

The first is to set your clock ahead in 15 minute increments for four days prior to the change. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my schedule without changing a standing 10 a.m. appointment to 10:15, then 10:30 . . .

Another tip is to go to bed an hour early the night before. Done. But it’s DARK when I get up now, so I’m not fooling myself at all. I’m just well rested AND grumpy about how dark it still is when I take Thistle for her morning constitutional.

Studies even show that the incidence of heart attacks rise the day after we “spring forward” and decrease after we “fall back.” Can’t we leave the clock alone for the good of our collective health?!?

I know, soon enough I’ll be adjusted and will enjoy more daylight each evening for dog walking, writing, hiking, or just sitting on the porch. But I still don’t like the time change. Hopefully, one day I’ll live like my great-grandma Jane. She got up when it was light and went to bed when it was dark, letting her body tell her what was needed.

Because our bodies are smart. Waaaay smarter than whoever came up with Daylight Saving Time. And now, my body is suggesting that one of those peanut butter Easter eggs in the pantry would help me adjust–or at least distract me from the need to adjust.

Appalachian Thursday–Civil War Stories

sarah brandon
Photo from Civilwartalk.com

I keep stumbling upon stories that make me think I may have to buckle down, do the research, and write a Civil War novel one of these days.

Last week I learned about Sarah Brandon, known as the “Mother of the Civil War.” I don’t think it’s the most apt nickname, but I didn’t get to choose. She lived in southern Ohio just across the WV state line from Moundsville and her claim to fame is having had 16 (SIXTEEN!!) sons fight in the Civil War. Of course, there were 23 (TWENTY-THREE!!) children in total and only ONE was a girl. Whoo-wee!

But the Civil War aspect isn’t what intrigues me most. It’s the sheer, raw character that Sarah Brandon presents. Here are a few bits and pieces gleaned from newspaper accounts:

  • She allegedly lived to be 113, although a birth record is hard to come by.
  • At the age of 15, she married a man who already had TEN children.
  • In all, she outlived THREE husbands even though she was the one who must have been pregnant pretty much all the time.
  • Her sons were described as “Large, rugged men, noted for their strength, stamina, and endurance.”
  • Near the end of her life she lived in a cabin with her son Evan who was known as an expert wood craftsman as well as reckless and adventurous (he was in his 70s by then).
  • Even when she was supposed to be more than 100 years old, Sarah would walk the mile to town regularly. Perhaps to buy the strong “scrap” tobacco she smoked in her pipe. She was quoted as saying, “Life without my pipe would not be worth living.”
  • She was blind in one eye since childhood. Her then 11-year-old brother shot her right eye out with a bow and arrow.

I mean c’mon. You can’t make up stories this good!