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We had a wonderful trip to Louisville on Friday.  John and I left around 5:30am, arrived, and gave our presentation to a group much larger than what we had expected.  It went wonderfully.

There was no radio in the car we borrowed (the van is broken down once again), so we talked the whole way.  In depth conversation is something we rarely get to have.  We talked about what I’ve been doing with my reading of The Eight Human Talents.  I asked his opinion on the whys and hows of my frustrations.  I asked him about his.  It was so grounding and reassuring to get my husband’s perspective on the ins and outs of my days.  I totally understand why man needed a helpmate and vice versa.

One thing that he told me really brought it all home.  He shared with me how his mother never made him feel like he was in the way of her work.  She never seemed bothered by caring for him, and no matter what, the needs of her children came first and not reluctantly.  She was calm and didn’t show emotions that made him worry, but enough for him to understand her humanity.  He said she was always the safe place and the comfort.  That is a mother.  I think finding a rhythm to our day that comes naturally is so important.  I need to tune into, first mothering, then my personal goals.  Anticipation is something I need to work on as well.  It has spurred me on to find better timing for the writing that I do, so that I’m not putting myself in a situation to become frustrated with interruptions.

I have also came away from our trip very inspired and feeling light.  I never realized what a release it can be to share the truths of who you are with others who are interested in knowing.  Appalachia is so stereotyped, exaggerated, and over dramatized.  It is a place that is hard to wrap yourself around unless you’ve spent time here.  John and I could have talked to those people all day long.  It was like a purging.  We probably did talk a bit too much. 🙂

The inspiration came from sharing the floor with Crystal Wilkinson.  She is an Affrilachian writer, and was the presenter who followed our overview to speak about the African American experience in Appalachia.  I have been fortunate enough to workshop some of my writing with her, and she is such a nurturing individual.  Talking with her and others about literature and writing fuels me to continue on with my writing no matter the time-frame and no matter the result of my work.  Meaning I will continue even if it takes me ten years to complete a manuscript and it never gets published.

The opportunity to be a part of this was such a good thing for me.  It reminds me I have things to offer.  It helps me gain perspective and seeing the fruits of my work and even my relationship with my husband and children.  I think it would be helpful to the both of us if John and I scheduled a periodic “couple” day, if for nothing else but the conversation.  I also need to remember the blessings of days like this one when monotony tries to make itself a visitor.

I am exhausted yet I keep on going… somehow.  Ivy has been having trouble sleeping at night and last night was a bad one.  All four of us were up by 5:00 this morning.  Ivy tosses and turns all night, then she wakes, sits up in the bed and cries and/or babbles.  I wake up feeling like I’ve been in a tag team wrestling match and my hopes of quitting coffee in the near future have changed to sometime in the future.

I have also been informed by some bloodwork we had done that Ivy is slightly anemic.  So, I’ve been reading up on that at Nourished Kitchen and Cheeseslave.  Then, comes the decision of whether to use the supplemental drops along with the multivitamin with iron she already eats everyday.  I don’t want to overdo it.  The optimal choice would be to try to get her to eat more iron rich foods, but see… her appetite is hit or miss.  Not sure.  You gotta love those difficult mothering decisions.

The other excitement keeping both John and I busy is the preparation for a duo presentation to a group in Louisville on Appalachian culture.  John is presenting art and music of the mountains. I will be presenting Appalachian literature, and I am so excited to get to share information about authors from the Kentucky mountains.  I love talking culture and I can’t wait to give my take on the literature of our area in terms of where it has been and where it is headed.  I’m also going to share the URLs to some Appalachian themed or written blogs.

Mountain Muse

Blind Pig and The Acorn

The Breeder Files

Thrifty Southern Mama

Hazard’s Glory Years

Appalachian Lifestyles

Appalachian History

I’m even more thrilled that I get a day with my husband that is just the two of us.  A long car ride, we’ll stop at Whole Foods to stock up on those grocery items we can’t find here, and then home again.  Time to be a couple with John is something I’d like to experience a little more often than we do.

I have to admit that there is great satisfaction in having this opportunity to work a little and help John provide for us.  I believe I have accepted that right now isn’t going to be the time that I will have regular pay coming in.  Being an at-home mother is a choice I will never regret.  My job as a mother is the one that needs my full attention at this stage of our lives.  However, though my progress may be slow and staggered out, I am not hindered from working toward my goal of eventually working as a part of Haywood Art – the writer part. 🙂  Things will fall into place when the time is appropriate.

I sit here writing with heavy eyes and so many thoughts of things I need to do, should do, and would like to do.  I’m thinking of family I haven’t gotten to email or talk with in awhile, books I want to read, research on homeschooling and yoga I’d like to do,  and stories, essays, and novels I want to write.  I’d never in a million years have thought, when I sat bored in my room wishing for a way out of the holler and to the movie theater with my friends as a teen, that a person could be this busy here.  I love it that we live and learn.

The weather of the last three days has made me high on life, I tell you what.  Those cool breeze days are coming closer everyday.  🙂  The girls and I are experiencing rocks and gemstones this week with our Little Acorn Learning curriculum, and being outside these last days has been perfect.  While the girls washed some stones we had collected by the creek, I decided to start clearing up the garden, chicken coop, and working on our compost pile.

We’ve made several poor attempts at composting.  The first was dumping old food in the same spot in the back yard.  Our dog would come by and eat it all up, so our pile never grew.  Then, we decided to make a real attempt when we still had our little flock of chickens, so we made the pile bigger.  (Lack of research and thinking you already know how to do something isn’t always a promising adventure.)  John pitched some outdated chicken legs into the pile raw, and in a few days we had maggots like I have never seen before.  The stench was gawd awful.  I would go on to describe it in detail because the image is burned into my brain, but I will spare you.  So, we destroyed that pile.

Lately, I’ve slowly been researching composting a bit more, asking questions of those who know a bit about it, and we have a true compost heap.  I can’t call it a pile anymore because when composting without a container, you need a heap for it to work.  Today, I did most of the work to make it into a heap.  It now is the height of my knees.  I’m 5’8″.

It started like this.

compostThe point is to create enough moisture and heat to turn the organic matter into a rich, crumbly, earthy scented dark soil.  This soil can then be used as topsoil in the garden and around plants to give them more nutrients.  In organic gardening it is a must (we didn’t use it this year) because the nutrients it provides helps plants become strong enough to fight off diseases and naturally repel whatever might destroy them.

It can take quite awhile for compost to be ready, but with daily attention and aerating, you can have compost in 4-6 months.  That’s my goal.  When spring comes again, we’ll have compost.

I was most pleased to find out that you can compost shredded paper and cardboard.  We don’t have a recycling center in our county, so we collect our recycling wherever we can find the room to stash it until we can make a run to the next county for disposal.  It piles up fast.  I hate throwing away anything that could be recycled.  Now, we can recycle the paper stuffs ourselves.

The following websites helped me figure it all out.  There are several different ways to start a compost.  I wanted simple and free.  I can make a pile of layered material.  I can be a brut and turn the pile.  I ain’t afraid of hard work.  I am afraid of technicalities and costs.

Garden Guides – Guide to Composting

Dave’s Garden – Household Composting

We also have good news that we are going to be getting some new chickens soon.  They are just old enough to identify the sex.  Shredded paper is great for their nest boxes, and I’ll then compost the poopy bits. 🙂

I’m excited about trash.

ironweed

It has been awhile since I have posted on my progress with cleaning out the cabin.  I’m working at it more sporadically now because…. it’s almost done!  I’ve decided to take it even further and clean more out of each room.  It’s freeing up space for us to move (I’m thinking of this winter when we are stuck up the creek again.), and it is so much easier to keep clean.  We still have a lot of junk, but it’s tidy now.

junk3This is a corner in our living room that is better, but still needs quite a bit of work.  Our media collection is too much.  I never dreamed I would say that.  I used to have a good friend who had his walls in almost every room lined with shelves of DVDs, VHS, CDs, cassettes, records, and books.  I envied him.  Now, Ivy walks over and empties the shelves and I sigh, wishing I could bring myself to toss them all.  We are getting albums to put them in and shedding the cases.  Those suckers are expensive.  $26 for one 300 count album.

junk2The beautiful baker’s rack you see in this picture was handcrafted by my wonderful Papaw.  He is a master woodworker, and can make or create just about anything furniture or related with wood.  Just looking on him makes me smile. 🙂  This piece should be the showpiece of our living room, but again we have the problem of media… and then there are the instruments.  There you see two guitars, two banjos, and two fiddles.  That isn’t counting the instruments stored in the bedroom.   I might never know how best to store those.  John tries his best, but the thin strip you see for walking makes for lots of stubbed toes and bruised shins.  Swear (or alternate versions thereof) words uttered in the pitch of night while trying to find the bathroom.  That sort of thing.  Progress is ongoing here too.

cleanlr2Here is as far as I have gotten with the main area of our most used living space.  You can see in this picture the clear top of the media shelf and a clearer corner.  I’m thinking I might keep the two pretty things sitting on the couch.  They take up lots of room, but they are such joyful little things. 🙂

cleanlrI’ve figured if I can’t tackle the instruments I could at least make straight the rack.  Here is my progress there.  Much better in my eyes.  It’s easier to admire our little eclectic art collection.  We have work from C.M. Laster and his wife Grace Kelly, Karen Welch, and Kate Massey.  The record cover was done by John Haywood for the cow punk/southern rock, Kentucky band Nine Pound Hammer.

So, there has been a moving forward, a flushing out, and it is healthy.  So healthy.

We’ve had wonderful weather this weekend.  It’s been reminiscent of autumns past and autmun to come.  I got to spend some time at Wiley’s Last Resort for MARS Fest.  It was a family friendly event, so the girls got to go too.  I spent quite a bit of time there as a kid as it was the home of a good friend then.  The house he lived in has burnt down and it has changed a lot, but it is just as much a lovely place.  I am happy that I got to share it with the girls.

Here is a video tour of the place.

The girls loved it.  Ivy roamed and I followed.  Deladis played in the sand.  We enjoyed looking at art and hearing some pretty good music, but mostly the air and the mountain.  Pine Mountain, where the resort is located, is the second highest mountain in Kentucky.  It rests in Letcher County closest to the countyseat of Whitesburg where I grew up.  The highest mountain in Kentucky, Black Mountain, can be seen from Pine Mountain.  It rests in Harlan County.

A while ago, the state allowed a coal company to begin a strip mining job on top of Black Mountain.  I got to see the results of that while I visited the resort this weekend.  Looking out over the landscape I couldn’t help but turn my head at the barren top of Black Mountain.  Sure it will be reclaimed in some form or fashion, but forever changed.  I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how a state can allow for a landmark like its tallest mountain to be stripped, essentially knocked off.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is an activist group that produced this video.  I like the perspectives in this series of videos they have made and posted.  I do very much believe, however, that the solutions to the issues like coal that face the Appalachian people will have to be found within the mountain people.  We are a stubborn sort and often resistent to change.   That quality serves us well at times and hinders us at others. It is very unlikely that we will listen to folks from outside of our area when they are trying to tell us our problems and how to fix them, even if they are other Kentuckians.

I pray that we will take back our culture and stop trying to blend in with mainstream America.  I hope that we will remember the battles of our ancestors and how they were nearly enslaved to the industry once it was allowed in.  I wish that we would open our eyes and realize what our assets are, and learn to utilize them, before more tragedies like Black Mountain take place.  Because, like it or not, coal is not a renewable resource.  It will run out.  Then, what?  A middle ground needs to be found, and a nation wide change in priorities has to take place.

I hope if you are a Kentucky resident or live nearby, that you will take the time to visit the mountains of eastern Kentucky.  We have so much to offer.  I think we also have so much to show that will teach you about the path our country has taken, and how cultures are being lost everyday.

I enjoyed my time on the mountain.  It was time to just be.  I think of all the men and women who are worrying, and can’t just be because they work in the coal industry and their jobs are on the line.  They wonder what will happen to them if the coal industry leaves the mountains.  I think it is time to start creating the answers to those questions.

With three doctors’ visits this week, dealing with insurances and the lack thereof, filling prescriptions that I’m unsure of, and getting completely ticked off at western medicine’s approach to ill health, my mind is left soggy – like a saturated sponge.  I have sat down three times today to write a post and realized I don’t have much to say at all and what I do have to say probably won’t be all that coherent.  Not being negative, just stating the truth.

On A Silent Sea is doing awesome work over on her blog.  She has gotten me thinking with her new pledge of reading deprivation.  A clearing of the mind from outside influences on our creative capacities.  Overload is one reason we moved back to the mountains and in an isolated place.  Off grid was where we wanted to be, so that if we didn’t want to be reached we wouldn’t have to be.  Yet, I’ve found myself getting so excited over so many different things, and wanting to tackle them all at the same time.

This morning John told me I’m dabbling in too many projects and it is causing me to lose focus.  He’s right.  The problem is I have a hard time choosing just one when they are all so inviting and fun.  It leaves me feeling like I’d be losing something.  Maybe, I’m losing something by not focusing on just a few things.  Or, maybe I’m overanalyzing, reading too much, and I need a time away from learning new things.  There should be time for listening to what your heart and mind already knows.  I rarely do that.  Very rarely.

Where we live we are surrounded by mountains on all sides in close proximity to our cabin.  The vegetation is mature and on its downward movement from growing forth from the earth to becoming the earth.  We see no one else’s house.  We are familiar with a family of deer that grazes close by every evening.  Our first tomatoes are on the vines.  Birds of all sorts play in the sunflowers growing in our garden outside our picture window everyday showing off their gorgeous array of styles and colors.  Being off grid invites you to just be, but in my self somewhere lies a part that wants to control things to insure my safety.  I’m constantly reading for entertainment, information, trying to gain more knowledge about whatever is the hit subject at the moment.  I’m afraid to be quiet.  To do nothing but everything.  I have to stop and take the time to just be with my breath.  To listen inside and stop feeding myself with new things that will overload me.  I need to take an inventory.  It’s time.

field

Let go and let God.

I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread making with great results.  I made my own starter.  Bacteria from my surroundings cultured my starter and gives it a distinct flavor.  It is one plus to living off grid.  I don’t have to worry about bad air ruining my adventures in friendly bacteria. 🙂  I made my starter with rye as per the instructions in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook.  It stews for seven days on a counter top, covered with a cloth to keep bugs out, until you have around three quarts of starter.  You use two to make three loaves of bread and save the other quart for next time.  I use whole grain spelt flour to make the bread.

My lovely starter

My lovely starter

As you can see here, the starter develops yeast naturally from what already exists in your surroundings.  The dough rises beautifully with nothing else added.  I flipped when I first saw this look in my starter, but was reassured, and then began to notice that it looks quite a bit like packaged dried yeast, just moist and gray.

I’m out of batteries in my camera so I don’t have a picture of a finished loaf, but it looks like the milk and honey sprouted wheat bread that Jenny has blogged about at The Nourished Kitchen.  The bread is a bit more dense than store bought breads, but oh so tasty.  Mine has a distinct cheesy flavor of a sharp variety.  Almost like a dry Asiago or sharp cheddar, but better than cheddar.  Yours will taste different.  That’s the adventure.  I have heard that you can get unique flavors by creating starters in different containers and setting them in various locations around your home.  Ummm… bathroom sourdough.  I’m kidding. 🙂

Storing your starter for next time is fairly simple.  Place it in a glass container in the refrigerator.  It can keep a month or so without feeding it, but I wouldn’t go any longer than that.  The starter is a living thing and needs fed.  That becomes obvious and so interesting when you actually put your hands in the dough to knead.  It breaths and pushes back.  🙂  You can also order starters online.  Cultures for Health has a wide variety of affordable starters for sourdough and other creations that I’ve been dabbling with lately – namely yogurt.  I recommend purchasing a starter if you live in a place with lots of traffic, pollution, or an area that is not well ventilated.

We are enjoying sourdough here, and I am quickly learning that we don’t have to be afraid of real, fresh food like we have been taught to fear our grocery store food.  Knowing from where our food comes makes all the difference in the world and is why I’m loving my kitchen experiments.

If my mother asks for me

Tell her death done summoned me

I’m going to meet her at the station when the train comes along.

– Mike and Peggy Seeger (American Folksongs for Children, Rounder 1977)

A great name in traditional music passed on August 7, 2009.  Mike Seeger was the younger brother of the famous folk icon Pete Seeger, and a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers.  Though not originally from the mountains of Appalachia, Seeger did a great deal to pass on and preserve the music of our region.  John and I were fortunate enough to visit with him a few times.

We were looking for a traditional music CD for Deladis and found his American Folksongs for Children. It is one of many recording he has done of traditional music for children.  This one he did with Peggy Seeger.  The liner notes are a great primer on appropriate music for children.  Deladis was around eight months old at that time and really responded to a song with the line “Rose, Rose, and up she rises.”  She smiled and squealed, hearing her name in a song, circling our living room floor.

That June at Appalshop’s Seedtime on the Cumberland, Mike Seeger was a special guest.  I took the CD we had bought Deladis in hopes that I could get him to sign it for her.  I am horribly shy when it comes to certain things, and though Mike Seeger was out and about all during the festival mingling with the crowd, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for the autograph.  I got my dad to do it.  He’s not scared of a thing, and doesn’t care a bit to embarrass himself in front of anyone.  He took the CD with that sly smile of his and walked right up to Seeger.  I watched with Deladis in my arms from my little perch behind John’s art tent.  Seeger signed the CD smiling and laughing with my dad.  Then, I saw both men looking around, and my dad motion for me to come over.  It is easier for me to be introduced then for me to introduce myself, so I went on over.  We shook hands, and then, Seeger took Deladis by the big toe and sung to her her song.  She smiled a glistening grin.  My heart was melted.

Earlier this summer, John was contacted by Mike Seeger and company to be a part of some recording they were doing to document old-time mountain banjo music in the mountains of eastern Kentucky for the Smithsonian museum.  George Gibson was their primary focus, and having learned a lot from him, John was added to the list.  Seeger and his wife spent several days on the creek recording John, George and our friends playing banjo tunes in the various Kentucky styles.  Seeger said he remembered singing to Deladis when he met her again running in the yard by the cabin.  We talked a little on organic gardening and carrots, and again they were off to document.

It is a mysterious thing how quickly one can be full of life and then be taken by death.  It is a strong reminder to me that my work on self is so important.  I’m not afraid of death in terms of being taken from earth.  I want to be certain that everyday I have here counts for something.  I’m not a fan of wasted time.  Mike Seeger did very important work here and I’m sure he loved it.  It is so important for us to be passionate about our work.  As I sit now, listening to the CD of folksongs, my heart is light and my work is easy.  God bless Mike Seeger.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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