Overheard

Overheard in Appalachia

"He'll be so excited he won't be able to sleep."

"He'll worry me to death is what he'll do!"

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Tipper

Overheard: snippets of conversation I overhear in Southern Appalachia

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A Christmas Memory from Foxfire

Christmas trees in Appalachia in the old days

I've been re-reading The Foxfire 40th Anniversary Book. The book has several pages of Christmas stories. Here's one I especially like:

When I was ten years old, my stepfather broke his arm just before Christmas. We was goin' to have nothin' for Christmas. Us kids, we took a big cardboard box, cut a little Christmas tree out of it, propped it up on our library table in the livin' room, made little ornament things for it, put it on the tree, and had the best little tree. Uncle Earl, who was in the war, came to our house on Christmas Eve and brought us a Christmas tree. He had come home on leave. He was still in the Army. He made a career of it. We had a little box of ornaments and tinsel. We had a new family in our neighborhood. Their mother and daddy was dead, and they was livin' with their sister and her husband. There was three of those brothers, and they were the nicest boys. They had little nieces and nephews of the sisters, so it was a pretty big family. They had just moved into the nighborhood. Us kids said, "Mother, can we give our Christmas tree and things that Uncle Earl brought us to them?" She said, "Oh, I don't know." People were proud, so proud. I said, "They won't care. Let us kids take it over there and give it to them" We walked through the fields, and there was a big snow on. My brother and my little sister and I walked and carried this to where they lived. We gave them the Christmas tree, and they were so proud of it. We recycled a cardboard box, and we colored it with green crayons to make us a Christmas tree. We loved that tree so much that we wanted to give our real tree away. We did, and then they had Christmas, too. I was ten years old."

-Josephine Miller, Spring/Summer 1999

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If you've never read any of the Foxfire Books-I highly recommend them. The great folks at Foxfire are still cranking them out. Click here to jump over and visit the Foxfire online store.

Tipper

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Appalachian Sayings - Light a Rag

Appalachian saying light a rag

Junaluska Community - Cherokee Co. NC - July 2016

She said a storm was coming so she better light a rag for home and down the hill she went as fast as her legs could carry her.

light a rag = to leave or go; also called light a shuck

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I've done no research, but I'd guess the old sayings light a rag or light a shuck originated in the days when folks did indeed light a torch made from rags or shucks to light their way.

I seldom hear either saying today, but heard light a rag often when I was a child. 

Tipper

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Decorating for Christmas with Running Cedar

A few days ago Blind Pig Reader George asked about using Running Cedar at Christmas: 

Yes, the Holly trees really come into their own once the deciduous leaves have fallen, which seems to have happened unusually late this year. Does anyone gather "running cedar" anymore? It's that cedar-looking evergreen ground vine that grows in patches on certain low slopes of wooded hillsides. Many years ago people made it into wreaths and other Christmas decorations.

Since George asked, I thought it would be a good time for me to re-publish a post I wrote back in 2013 about running cedar. Hope you enjoy it!

Running cedar

A few weeks ago Blind Pig reader Carol Stuart mentioned using running cedar as Christmas greenery when she lived in West Virginia. I was glad Carol mentioned running cedar because I often overlook what's right under my nose. 

Running pine

Running cedar is also called running pine, Christmas green, creeping pine, ground pine and ground cedar. The ground hugging plant grows near our house. It's been creeping down Granny and Pap's bank for the last 40 years till it's almost reached the bottom. The Latin name of the plant is Lycopodium digitatum. You can see from the photo-it grows along a small running vine which makes the plant perfect for draping or circling Christmas decorations. 

Greenery for christmas

The pretty evergreen really doesn't need any further decoration. It already has the look of Christmas about it which makes it easy to see why some folks call it Christmas green. 

Using greenery from your yard for christmas

But I thought I'd give a technique B.Ruth described recently in a comment a try. I placed a small amount of flour, barely a tablespoon, and a sprinkling of glitter into a plastic bag. I wet a piece of running cedar lightly, placed it in the bag, and while holding the top closed tightly, I shook the bag around a few times. 

You can see from the photo how the dusting of white shows the delicate details of the plant and gives it a snowy look. I read ground cedar was endangered in some areas of the country, but it seems to be thriving here in Western NC.

Tipper 

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I was WRONG about the Holly Trees; Where you can find the book Dorie: Woman of the Mountains; and Giveaway Winners

Holly Trees blog about Appalachia the real Appalachia

I was WRONG when I told you about the Holly Trees the other day. Actually I was only wrong about one of them-the first holly tree. This is what I said:

"There are three holly trees on my road that never fail to catch my eye during the holiday season. Each tree is only a hop skip and a jump from the other. In fact as I write this I do believe you could draw a diagonal line between the three and it would be fairly straight. 

The first tree is in the yard of the first house on my road a big white farm house, by far the oldest house on my road. I've known the folks who live there my entire life. First the elder couple, then their grandson, and now their great grandson. As I think upon where the holly trees grow, I wonder if the first tree was left by chance or if Clarence and Ruby, the elder couple, loved the red berries as much as I do and made sure the tree grew unhindered.

The second holly tree is just up the road, but out in the pasture. A little set of woods that breaks up the large pasture is home to that very large holly tree.

The third holly tree is a little further up the road around the curve. It's not as large as the first two trees and it grows just outside the fence-all close up to the barb wire like it wishes it was in the pasture too.

Two of those three holly trees have disappeared since I first told you about them and there are new folks living in the old white farmhouse-folks I've never met, but hope to someday."

It's not often that I ride in a car, most of the time I'm the one driving. But over the weekend I had the opportunity to ride and greatly enjoyed myself. I love to stare out the car window and think about the houses and people we pass.

As we turned onto our road from a day of gallivanting what did I see? That first holly tree that I told you was gone. I could barely believe my eyes. I thought "Well there it is just like it always was!" So what made me think it was gone?

There was a huge oak tree that stood just beyond the holly tree. Pap said it was probably one of the oldest oaks in the area-he guessed it was at least a 1,000 years old if not older.

Several years ago I stopped by the folk school to pick up the girls one afternoon. As I sat in the car and waited for them to come out a little thunderstorm blew up. The storm wasn't nothing major just a little wind and rain along with the thunder and lighting. The girls came out just as it ended and we headed for home.

We had just turned off the main road when I realized something was different. It was the old oak. It was laying down.

I guess the tree was diseased on the inside and that little puff of wind that came with the storm was just enough to bring it down. Amazingly, it laid itself down in the only place it could have without damaging the house or falling the road. The massive tree just fell along the fence line directly on that first holly tree.

As you might imagine, cleaning up that oak tree took a good long while and since the holly tree was crushed I thought it was gone forever. Funny how thoughts stick in your mind even when they're wrong. The oak tree has been cleaned up for at least two years and the holly tree has been working hard to return to it's glory days, but all I remembered was the destruction of the fallen giant.

I was so excited over realizing the holly tree was still there that I almost didn't notice another holly tree just beyond it. I guess the oak tree had hidden it from view all these years. It's just as pretty as the first one and now I wonder if Clarence and Ruby protected it too.

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So many of you asked about where to purchase Dorie: Woman of the Mountains that I thought I'd share my favorite place to find old books online. It's called bookface.com. You type in the info you have-the book's name or the author and up pops a list to choose from. If the book you're looking for shows up-click on it and then you can see the prices for purchasing the book online. 

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Time to announce the last of the Thankful November Giveaway Winners.

The winner of Chatter's Apothecopie Soap and washcloth is...Zelma who said: My grandmother used to make lye soap, and before she died, she gave me the recipe. I applaud Corie for researching and making natural products. It's a mountain thing to be thrifty and resourceful.

The winner of the Minnie Adkins blue rooster from Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains is...Barbara Gantt who said: I love the rooster story. My Moma had many stories about my Dad making her help to kill the chicken for supper. That rooster is a dandy to have for my house. The grandkids would love it. Tipper are you close to any of the fires? We have been following the news. We would always vacation in Cherokee and Gatlinburg . My Dad grew up in Waynesville. It was all home to him. 

The winner of Dorie: Woman of the Mountains is...Sue Crane who said: My kind of book --- well, at least one of my kind of books since I can't pass many of them by.

Tipper

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Do You Like Eggnog?

I first shared this post with you back in 2012. Chatter is still loving her eggnog.

Easy eggnog recipe

Do you like eggnog? Truth be told, I never even tasted it until Chatter claimed she liked it a few Christmases ago. I don't have a clue where she tasted it-maybe at Nana's?

Anyway, every Christmas since then she's asked me to buy her a small carton. Maybe it's just me, but I swear it tastes like milk mixed with paint thinner. 

So this year when she asked me to buy some I said "Lets try to make it homemade." I found a recipe online and then we tinkered around with it to come up with something we thought she would like. 

We used:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Alcohol free eggnog

Separate egg yolks from the whites; beat the egg yolks well; reserve the whites in the frig for later. Add sugar and mix till light and creamy.

Homemade eggnog

Heat milk, cream, nutmeg, and vanilla. Bring mixture to a boil and then remove from heat. 

Add a little of the hot mixture into the egg/sugar mixture and stir well. Gradually add all the egg/sugar/milk mixture into the hot mixture stirring constantly. 

The recipe we found online said to heat the mixture until it reached 160 degrees. We used a thermometer, but it was pretty much that temperature after just a minute or two on the heat.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl or other container and chill. 

Eggnog without alcohol

After the mixture is chilled and you're ready to drink the eggnog-beat the reserved egg whites until they reach the stiff peak stage.

Whisk the stiff egg whites into the chilled mixture.

Eggnog in appalachia

Serve eggnog with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg on top.

Now I can see why Chatter likes eggnog-anyone would like this eggnog. The stiff egg whites made it very thick, but we didn't mind. Once the leftovers sat in the frig overnight-they weren't near as thick.

We made a non-alcoholic version of eggnog, but I'm sure you could add the traditional brandy or whiskey if you wanted too.

So do you like eggnog?

Tipper

p.s. Today is the last day to enter the giveaway for the book Dorie: Woman of the Mountains. Go here to enter!

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What Child is this?

What Child is This - Christmas Carol

I don't recall hearing the Christmas song What Child Is This? until I was nearly grown. Because of that, I had it in my mind that the song was of modern origin for years. 

After Pap and Paul recorded the song, I learned the song is actually very old and hails from England. The tune of the song is the same as the tune to the folk song Greensleeves which dates as far back as the 1600s. The words to What Child Is This? were penned by William Chatterton Dix in the 1800s. To read the full story of how the tune and the words came together to make the song we know today jump over and visit this blog

The Christmas song has a haunting reverent quality about it, I believe Pap and Paul's harmony, along with Pap's high tenor voice make the song even more haunting-see if you don't agree. Click on the link below that says What Child is This. You may have to hit the back button to get back to this page after listening to the song.

What Child is This

Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cd is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard, including the song What Child Is This?. You can go here-Pap and Paul's Music to purchase a cd directly from me. Or you can jump over to my Etsy Shop and buy one here.

Tipper

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Christmas Holly

Christmas Holly


Holly trees and their bright red berries have long been associated with Christmas. From songs to decorations-holly is all over Christmas. The woods surrounding my mountain holler are chock full of holly trees.

For years The Deer Hunter has told me the biggest holly tree he's ever seen is up the creek in the Tom Cove. I've always meant to get him to take me to see it, but somehow we never seem to get around to it or don't think of it when were out and about in the woods in that area. I wonder if it's still there.

A few years ago I told you about three of my favorite holly trees:

There are three holly trees on my road that never fail to catch my eye during the holiday season. Each tree is only a hop skip and a jump from the other. In fact as I write this I do believe you could draw a diagonal line between the three and it would be fairly straight. 

The first tree is in the yard of the first house on my road a big white farm house, by far the oldest house on my road. I've known the folks who live there my entire life. First the elder couple, then their grandson, and now their great grandson. As I think upon where the holly trees grow, I wonder if the first tree was left by chance or if Clarence and Ruby, the elder couple, loved the red berries as much as I do and made sure the tree grew unhindered.

The second holly tree is just up the road, but out in the pasture. A little set of woods that breaks up the large pasture is home to that very large holly tree.

The third holly tree is a little further up the road around the curve. It's not as large as the first two trees and it grows just outside the fence-all close up to the barb wire like it wishes it was in the pasture too.

Two of those three holly trees have disappeared since I first told you about them and there are new folks living in the old white farmhouse-folks I've never met, but hope to someday.

The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English talks about he holly and she holly.

he holly noun The male of the American holly tree (Ilex opaca), which bears no berries. Cf she holly

1957 Parris My Mts 248 Guess you didn't know there was he-holly and she-holly. Well, there is. Only she-holly has berries. 1964 Reynolds Born of Mts 84 In North Carolina even the holly is given sex, there being a He Holly and a She Holly, for how else could the last-named have berries, the other having none. 1995 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Ledford, Norris, Oliver).

I never heard about he holly and she holly when I was growing up, but I remember Pap tromping through the woods to find holly branches dotted with red for Granny to decorate her house with. Sometimes he let me ride on his back as he made the trip up the creek other times Paul and I were left to scamper along behind in his boot prints. 

Tipper

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How Many Times do You Sneeze?

Ah ah choo - sneeze folklore

A few weeks ago, Blind Pig Reader Charles Fletcher sent me the following email:

Tipper,

Question for the Blind Pigs? How many times do some people sneeze when they have a sneezing spell? I usually sneeze close to nine times before I stop. My brother also told me he did the same. How about you and others?

Nine times in a row-wow! I haven't ever sneezed more than two or three times in a row-and even that is rare. I asked The Deer Hunter how many times he's sneezed in a row and he said about the same as me. 

Have you ever noticed how people sneeze differently? You know some people have a cute little 'achoo' so faint you're not sure if it was actually a sneeze. Then there are people who sneeze big and loud-I'm one of them. Actually so are Paul and Steve, I think we got it from Pap. 

Have you ever known someone who sneezes every time they bend over-I mean every last time? I know someone just like that. I'm thinking of entering her in a contest for 'on demand sneezing'. If you hear about such a contest let me know, she'd win it without a doubt.

When I was in elementary school and someone sneezed we would say Gesundheit. Using a word like that made us feel so grown up. These days I most often hear God Bless You or Bless You said to a person who has just sneezed unless Miss Cindy is around.

Miss Cindy answers a sneeze with 'scat there Tom your tails in the gravy' or a shortened 'scat there'.

I tried to find the origin of the 'scat' saying for sneezes but came up with nothing. The Frank C. Brown collection of folklore had 18 different references to sneezing-all of which resulted in death. 

Hope you'll leave a comment and let Charles and me know how many times you sneeze when you have a sneezing spell.

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Today is the last day to enter the handmade soap giveaway from Apothecopie-go here to enter. 

The winner of The Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains CD is...Perri Morrison who said: Some days I'm extremely pyert: The next two days I'm really hurt! I love rhymes! Love from Marshall on the riverbank on a cold windy night.

The winner of last Sunday's Songs of Christmas CD is...Jack who said: Paul and Pap do a great job on this Christmas standard. Would be proud to have the CD. Brings back good memories.

Tipper

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Christmas in the Old Days and a Giveaway

Dorie Woman of the Mountains

I've read lots of books about Appalachia. One of the ones that ring the truest to me is Dorie Woman of the Mountains written by Florence Cope Bush. The book was first published in 1992 and has been published at least 7 times since then if not more. In the introduction Florence Cope Bush writes

"Dorie: Woman of the Mountains was not written with the idea that it would ever be published. I wrote it as a gift to my daughter, my mother, and myself. The manuscript was in my possession for fifteen years before a friend talked me into letting him publish two thousand copies in paperback for local distribution."

The book is a biography about Bush's mother, Dorie. The story spans the years between 1898 and 1942 and is set primarily in the Smoky Mountains.

Dorie's husband, Fred, had employment in the logging boom that went on in the early 1900s in the Smoky Mountains. The life and culture of logging weaves its way throughout the book as does the culture and heritage of Appalachia.

Here are a few quotes from the book related to the Christmas season:

"Snow fell several times after Thanksgiving, but the real winter weather didn't come until after Christmas. Usually, fair weather held long enough for Pa to hunt fresh meat for Christmas dinner-squirrel, quail, or perhaps a wild turkey."

"Christmas in the mountains was bleak and uneventful. Sometimes the day passed without us being aware it was holiday season. We had no Santa Claus or Christmas tree. Since our Christmas in Spartanburg, Ma had let us hang up our stockings. That was as far as she'd let us go with our celebration. When we did hang up our stockings, we'd get an orange and a piece of candy-never anything to play with."

"The mountain people still kept the ancient customs of the native lands. Many highlanders disapproved of the "new" Christmas observed on December 25. In Scotland and Ireland, the day of Christmas was January 5-a day of solemn celebration."

"In a strange contradiction, while shunning all symbolic trappings of Christmas Day, they saw nothing wrong with noisemaking. The men and boys provided the noise for the celebration. They'd go into the woods and shoot their guns at nothing at all. All day long shots echoed from one mountain to another. "

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I hope you enjoyed the excerpts from one of my favorite books about the southern mountains of Appalachia. Be on the lookout for some Christmas folklore from the book over the coming weeks.

Leave a comment on this post to win your own copy of Dorie Woman of the Mountains. *Giveaway ends Monday December 5, 2016.

Tipper

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