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I sat in the living room with Ivy in my lap watching the fog come up the holler this morning, and wondering how the rest of the weekend will play out. The gas company is still working on roads and new pipeline. The yard is becoming a mud pit, and I am ready to have the peace back around here. Today, I caught about five of them hovered around the chicken coop. One of them was giving one of our roosters hits off of his cigarette. I quickly went out on the porch to make myself known. I was about to have words with him, but I was able to restrain myself, and they just as quickly left our yard. I know that when all is finished, it will be better for us and easier on the vehicles, but right now, it’s hard.
I’m having to keep the girls inside for the most part. Today, it was so beautiful, we had to venture out for a quick swing while we caught some quiet. What you see here is the new road. We had to move the swingset. The road took our compost pile, all my wild blackberries, and my bird feeders that I made with the girls. However, it will prevent us driving through a large part of the creek. Hopefully, we’ll have a bridge over the deepest part at some point. Right now with the rain, we can’t park anywhere near the house. We are parking about a football field’s walk in the mud from the house. The dozers and inloaders coupled with the type of work they are doing has kept us out of the hills this fall. Usually, we are in them most days. I had wanted to take pictures of the trees and all their colors. The leaves are pretty much gone now. I took this next photo from the yard, catching a patch of trees that hadn’t been so blown by the wind.
I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. John has described this month as the month from “hell”, and for him it probably has been. October is my favorite month, so I’m giving its redemption my best shot. 🙂 I went to the produce stand on Wednesday and discovered that as long as there is something to be sold and people buying, they will be open! They carry some local goods like potatoes, honey, sorghum, and other canned items. The rest of the produce is trucked in from North Carolina, but it is a family business and small. It is an outdoor stand. Though the produce is not organic, its flavor is magnificent.
Here are some of the winter items I stocked up on, just in case they close.
In that basket are apples of all sorts, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and butternut squash. I plan to peel, slice, and freeze some of these apples for fried apples through the winter. Some of the green ones will make an apple pie. I have Mutsu and Granny Smiths. Sweet potatoes are something John and I have never liked until we started cooking more traditional/whole foods. Now,in this area, most sweet potato dishes that are served are very sweet, almost like a desert. Brown sugar, margarine, and marshmallows are added along with other spices. It makes it taste wrong to both John and I. However, we have found that we love them fried in butter with nothing added except occasionally a little nutmeg or cinnamon. I thought about making sweet potato chips with some of these, or baking a few. Yum! I can just see the melted butter.
I also got a few huge cabbages for sauerkraut making, and a box of the nicest onions. The red ones in the picture are the best tasting onion I have ever put in my mouth. They are so sweet. The little ones are PeeWee Vidalias. I’ll have to report back on those.
Before John left today, we talked about cooking. Neither of us can remember when I made a dinner last. 😦 I cook breakfast every morning. It is the family meal we rely on. This month we have been apart most of the time for dinner. I don’t cook when it is just me and the girls. They eat so little that we just eat lunch type foods. I miss dinner. That is why I bought the butternut squash. I have never had it, and I want to make something different. I want to eat things that are in season.
This morning, I made fried apples from the fresh apples I bought yesterday. The girls and I really enjoyed them. It is a traditional Appalachian food. Many families had apple trees on their little hillside homestead. I’ll post my recipe on the favorite recipes page.
Thanks ladies for the well wishes for the girls. It is a minor thing – cold like. I’m thinking either from all the wet weather or the sitting in the car cart at the mall when we went for my birthday. It is that or the mold issue. We are still working on that. The ventilation has brought some help, but not quite enough. We are looking for a dehumidifier. If that doesn’t work… I hope that isn’t the problem.
It is more than a blessing to be able to live in this holler and in this cabin. It is perfect for us. Our landlord is a true friend. I wish so much that it wouldn’t have to ever come to an end, even when things are a bit off kilter.
I’ve been attempting to write another post for this week, but life is really hectic right now. We are struggling to find family time because John is so very busy with work and traveling. We are blessed he is able to do so much right now, because usually this is a dry period for us, but it is still hard.
I’m watching the fog roll down the holler this morning, seeing a forecast of rain for trick-or-treat night, and watching two little girls as they seem to be getting sick. 😦 I think it is only a cold.
I will be back as soon as I can focus myself to write something worthwhile.
The tree next to this rock is my favorite tree in our yard. I can’t recall ever seeing one before we moved here, but I think I have finally discovered its name – Lynn Tree. It is a rhododendron of the large variety. It has lovely white blooms that are larger and less neatly formed than a magnolia. Its branches twist and turn like my favorite plant the mountain laurel. This tree is absolutely gorgeous. Because of an old fence, I have never been able to get close to it, but now that they have made the new road, I ‘ll be able to get a closer look.
My dad took me out for my birthday this weekend. We took the girls into the city to a Halloween party at the Borders Bookstore and to play in the mall playground. I got to do a little shopping with gift money for clothes that I have desperately needed. It was a nice trip. The girls really enjoy the attention of their grandparents. But, it was at his house that I tasted Lynn Tree honey and connected it to my tree. This honey is the best I’ve ever tasted. It is almost clear, being a light lemony yellow color. If you could bottle the smell of magnolia and make it perfectly palatable, you would have Lynn honey. Apparently, it is very hard to find as there aren’t many of these trees left in the mountains for whatever reason. My dad who is an environmental engineer, confirmed that my tree was a Lynn. I haven’t been able to find anything about it on the internet.
I was also excited when I went to the calender and found that the end of my 40 Day Commitment ended on my 31st birthday. It has been a different spiritual experience for me. I am sleeping better. I’m off caffeine, at least for the time being. I am learning how to be still.
The mind is energy. Regluate it.
– Yogi Bhajan
This lesson has been reiterated to me in so many ways over the last weeks. What is life, if we aren’t living it currently? If we are always in the past or the future?
I was happy to be led to a new online journal of Appalachian literature – Still: Literature of the Mountain South. It is edited by mountain writers, Silas House, Jason Howard, and Marianne Worthington. It is free to read. I loved all of their reasoning behind their naming it Still, but this one, again, brought my lesson to the forefront of my day.
To be a writer is to learn how to be still.
Take a moment and do some reading here. I’m celebrating this journal.
I’m excited that at the end of this week will be my favorite holiday – Halloween! I can’t wait to write about it.
I’m dropping in for a few minutes to write in the midst of a crazy busy week. As I mentioned before, the gas company is building a new and improved road on our property. Dozers have been up and down this creek everyday as early as 6am. As soon as the dozers and men are lurking around, our three rooster have a crowing competition. The two little guys are trying their best. It is hilarious.
The days are beautiful and the fall atmosphere I know is back again. It’s a relief because we also have some folks helping us eleviate the mold problem in the cabin. We are getting ventilation in the roof! It woke Ivy up from her nap today because it shook the whole cabin. She ran to me scared and crying. I showed her the men on the ladder, and she laughed.
We’ve gotten out a little more, but still not as much as I would like. I turned the compost pile today, but learned that it might get covered with the new road. John hasn’t had the time to help me move it, and I have neither a shovel or a pitchfork. We are great at planning ahead – homesteading without a shovel or pitchfork is a fabulous adventure! The road has already taken all my wild blackberries. 😦 I froze quite a few bags and I plan on making some blackberry dumplings soon.
We made the simple cornhusk dolls this week in our homeschool as per the directions from Little Acorn Learning. I think I modified the arms a bit because I didn’t quite catch on to the instructions and there wasn’t a picture of a finished doll. It turned out great though. Deladis loves them, and she picked the smallest of the two for herself. The one I intended for Ivy. 🙂 This was a project I could see myself taking up as a hobby. You know, in my other life, when the days are 48 hours long. 😉 I’ve always admired the elaborate cornhusk dolls you see in the Appalachian craft shops. These simple ones are beautiful just as they are too. I really appreciated the Iroquois story of the Corn Spirit and the Creator included in the curriculum. It explains why the doll has no face – vanity. I love sharing these types of stories with the girls – one because of our own Native American heritage (Cherokee) and two because it shares with them an American culture that is more than consumerism.
My birthday is only a few days away, and Halloween is next week. John is busy preparing to leave, and has finished several gorgeous paintings to take along. Despite all the business and busyness, I think we’ve found a Halloween/Fall family event to go to when he returns. It is close by and not expensive! The scarecrow walk at Buckhorn Lake. There is a lot to look forward to, while trying to live in the moment.
This is my final week of being thirty. At the end of this week I’ll be thirty-one. A few days ago I discovered my first real gray hair. It is long and sparkly. I wonder what my gray hair will be like. I’ve seen some women with the most beautiful long and luscious gray hair. There is a seventy-one year old woman in Yoga Journal magazine this month with the greatest head full of gray curls and two cute little braids on each side. She is so lovely. So far, I don’t mind getting older. The thirties have proven to be a very different time for me as of now. I hope it continues in the direction it is going. 🙂
The weather broke today, and we had a lovely day of sun. It is too bad that John is so busy preparing for the next two weekends of traveling to Memphis for River Arts, and then Louisiana for the Blackpot Festival. He’ll be missing my birthday and trick-or-treat. 😦 After this month, our dry time begins, so he has to try to earn as much as he can while there is the opportunity. Whoo-hoo for self employment in the arts! Really, he loves it and it allows us a unique lifestyle that is both hard and wonderful.
Today, we started a week around the theme of corn with Little Acorn Learning. I’m excited about it. Tomorrow we are going to be making simple corn husk dolls. For breakfast in the morning we’ll have cornmeal pancakes and fried apples with some sausage. I can’t wait. I loved showing the girls, today, about shucking corn, removing the kernals and grinding meal. I wish we had a hand grist mill. They are so expensive though. I saw a coffee bean grinder in the Michael Olaf catalogue Child of the World that was very inexpensive. I wonder if that would work for some flour making? If I had my preference, most every gift the girls got would come from that catalogue.
There wasn’t much time for being outside today. We went to the library after spending a half hour at the pharmacy and found some great corn books. Our library is only one room, but the librarians do their best with what they have and seem to genuinely love their job. We love the library.
I’m not sure that we’ll have more outside time tomorrow. The gas company is working on the new road and gas lines on the property. They have a huge dozer parked in our side yard. I’m not sure how safe playing outside will be until they are finished. We are going to work on winterizing the cabin. We have a condensation and mold problem. Bad mold problem. 😦 Tomorrow we will be covering the windows with plastic and getting a dehumidifier. I’m not sure what else will help. We’ll see.
So, October is going by. It’s not the best October by far. We’ve missed going to the Louisville Zoo for trick-or-treat for the first time since Deladis was born, there has been too much rain, and John is so busy. Yet, it’s okay. We make the best of things and it works out. I watch the wonder in the girls’ eyes and try to remember to keep my heart light. I rested this weekend at my mother’s while John was away. Deladis got to ride a horse at a birthday party for her friend, and we got to spend my grandmother’s seventy-fifth birthday with her. Those are great things. My biggest lesson learned this month is to stop fighting. Stop trying to make life into something, but experience it as it comes. Be still.
Cease striving and know that I am God…
– Psalms 46:10
In Spring, you are born. In Summer, you mature. In Fall, you grow older. And in Winter, you pass on.
-Luther Johnson (my great-grandfather and owner of the former Cowshed Trading Post in Isom, Kentucky)
It has turned off cold really fast this year. I remember last year at Halloween I was more than comfortable in just a sweatshirt trick-or-treating with the girls. This year, I’m thinking I’ll need a jacket unless something changes. This and the fact that all the cool weather vegetables have started coming in at the fruit stand (the closest thing we have to local farmer’s market… the food isn’t organic and it is trucked in from North Carolina) have made me start thinking about and cooking the foods we tend to love in the cold weather months.
The last trip we made to the fruit stand was made for getting apples, but I saw some big, beautiful, round cabbages that were just waiting to be picked up by me. 🙂 I immediately started thinking about cabbage dishes, kraut, stuffed cabbage, before deciding on cabbage and brats for this particular head.
My mother introduced me to this dish as an adult, but I remember her and my grandmother making it in my childhood, before I would touch cabbage. 😉 It is a traditional dish, and I have added some of my own flares for flavor.
Cabbages and Brats:
- Slice brats and chop cabbage.
- Heat skillet on medium heat with a little bacon grease in the bottom.
- Brown the slices of bratwurst.
- Add the chopped cabbage. Add enough liquid (I use homemade chicken stock, you can also use beef stock or water.) to make the cabbage swim a bit, but don’t cover the cabbage. It will wilt as it warms. You may have to turn the fire up a bit at this stage.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- When cabbage is tender the dish is finished. Serve hot.
I served it last night with fried potatoes and onion and cornbread. It really hit the spot and with that combination was a really budget friendly meal.
I have been making my own chicken stock for quite sometime, and it is much different than the flavored water you get in the store. 😉 I make it from left over bones, gristle, some skin and fat (if we haven’t eaten it all), and the usual organs and gizzards that are left within roasting birds. To that I’ll add some bits of veggies that have been left over, or quickly chopped – onion, carrots, and celery. I then add some salt, cover it completely with water (as much as will fit in the stock pot without spilling over while cooking), and bring it to a boil. After it comes to a boil, I turn the heat down to a simmer and let it cook for around 12 hours. I check it to make sure too much water hasn’t left the pot, and if it is getting low I add some. When the time has passed, strain out all the bones, bits, and veggies, and put it in a container for refrigeration.
The final result after refrigeration, looks like this…
Notice all the fat rises to the top. Some will skim this fat off and use it for cooking, I like to leave it in to add flavor to whatever I’m using the stock for. The stock is not a watery one. It is thick and gelatinous. This is how you know you used enough bone and have gotten the optimal amount of nutrients from them.
It is delicious and adds so much to any dish, especially soups. It makes an excellent warmed drink as well, for those days when you feel under the weather.
Cooking like this is another reason I love the fall of the year.
John has spent much of the day working on his YouTube Channel. He uploaded a new video that Derrick Poore shot a few weeks ago here on the creek. There are also many more videos of friends and acquaintances playing old time mountain music and such. Take a gander here.
John had to take the three hour trip to Lexington today to pick up some paintings. Despite the fact that there was no money to spend and we had to make it a very quick trip, the girls and I decided to go with him. I had to ride in the little seat in the back of the cab of our Ford Ranger – comfort… But, we got there with little tears, and had a chilly picnic in a tiny park in the downtown area. The fountains won the girls over.
They were giddy, running here and there eating the peanut butter sandwiches we made and apples with string cheese. Ivy kept saying, “Wow, wow!” Deladis ran after her laughing and corralling her away from the street – didn’t let her get anywhere near it. 🙂
I was surprised that something so simple as seeing something out of the ordinary could make them so happy. I remembered when my mother used to say to us – “You act like you’ve never been out of the holler before.” or “You look like you’ve never been out of the holler before.” I could have said the same today, but with a happier tone. Living in the mountains does make trips to the city seem a little more magical because it is busy and different. All those people in one place. It is humanity all up in your face. Man made everywhere. The fountains were gorgeous as much of downtown Lexington is. I got some great shots of the girls.
And I couldn’t leave out Daddy. 🙂
Our last stop was Whole Foods where I stocked up on some things that I can’t get at home. I am really praying for a food revolution so that quality food can be available to folks everywhere at a reasonable price. Local based food economy is where it is at. Then, it was home again. My bottom is sore. 🙂
Home feels so cozy tonight.
As a side note, I’ve decided that it is time to spend more of my writing opportunities working on my novels and more short fiction. That will mean I won’t be posting here as much. I very much value my readers with this blog. You have all been tremendous helps, and uplifters, and I hope that I have been the same for you. I never thought I would like blogging and reading blogs as much as I do. It is time to focus on my “writing” writing as I have many goals there and I don’t want to put that on the backburner much longer. Since, my family and our homesteading and homeschooling comes first timewise, that will mean that my after bedtime writing will be split between the fiction and this blog. I hope to post at least twice a week, but I will shoot for three. I have been posting five days a week. I’m hoping, since I spend around an hour a post that this will give me the time I’ve been looking for for my other writing. If I commit fully to growing this blog, then I have no time at all for the other writing. I hope my readers will understand, and keep checking in for there will be posts still weekly on our lives in these mountains we call home.