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This is a pen and ink drawing John did of me picking through the carrot harvest in October.  It was close to my birthday I think.  I’m ready to take this stance any day now for planting season.  It was spitting some snow today though, after a glorious weekend.  Deladis can’t seem to get over our “family time”, and honestly her mother can’t either.

It seems like our “family time” is too here and there.  This weekend I think we were all ready just to be there for each other, and it felt perfect.  Saturday we went to the Mexican restaurant to eat, then to play with some ferrets at the pet store.  After that, we went to the Isom Vendor’s Mall where I found a book that I had checked out from the library, hadn’t finished, and was hoping to buy at some point, for two dollars.  It was one of those things where the Creator is putting things and people in my path to show me that this new path I have come across is ok and worth exploring.  I now own a copy of the book.  Then, we went to an ice cream shop in Vicco where Deladis got chocolate chip cookie dough, and Ivy birthday cake ice cream.  Deladis said, “This ice cream sure tastes fresh.”  Next, we went to a music store for John some strings.

Sunday, we went to church, came home, had supper, then walked up on the cemetary hill for a sweet snack.  Lars and Lucky followed us as always.  We sat, talked, and enjoyed the moss and the view.  Deladis said, “I just love our family time.”

While it seems so simple, it isn’t.  It feels new.  It feels good.  John and I both got a little more regular paying/scheduled jobs after Christmas this year, and this has allowed days like this weekend.  This change has put us both to thinking, as change can often do, about what is possible, and what our priorities are.

Family and faith should receive most of my time.  One day I’ll be eye to eye with two grown women, and I don’t want to wonder where those days in between went.  I can scramble and fight, and try to do my thing, but if the thing isn’t the right fit at the right time, no amount of scrambling or fighting will get me anywhere.  The time I gave to that goal, will be for naught because I was too set in my ways to think of an alternative route.  Or a more favorable goal.

I’m excited about the days ahead.  The possibilities and even getting out of this tight coat I’ve been wearing for far too long.  Spring has sprung.  The bushes outside have buds.  There are more activities to be found.  And we are renewing ourselves – as a family.

One new thing I’m doing is offering online Lamaze Childbirth Preparation classes and Early Pregnancy classes for any woman anywhere with any schedule. 🙂  Thinking outside the box.  For more information http://birthtrue.wordpress.com/online-classes-e-courses

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The weather has given us a break, and the girls and I took a hike this past Saturday.  It was lovely.  We got home and both the girls fell asleep by 6:30 and didn’t wake up again until the next morning!

Start with a nice blue sky.

Add a warm hilltop breeze

Two lovely little girls

 

A release of penned up energy waiting all winter long

And a few soft smiles

One portly little cat who follows along behind like a dog

Neglected hunting cabin

 

That had to have once been loved

A few open old deep mines

 

An old logging road

Big old maple leaves

A couple of rolled over rocks

Blow one last kiss to the sun

The contrast of snow and sky begs us outside.  Shelter ourselves no more and enjoy the Creator’s warmth in a world chilly with Winter’s finality and promise of renewal.

The Lynn Tree and Rock

We suit up.  How many more Winters will be spent in the midst of such glorious cuteness?

Icicle swords and dusts of snow.

It is impossible to reconcile the sky and earth.  Let them exist one for the other

The Confluence

Snow angels play for snow angels to create.

A groundhog sees its shadow.

Happy Groundhog Day / Candlemas

And mother always waits too long to start the walk home.

But a treat can be made that only Winter allows.

Come by tomorrow for the recipe for a favorite Winter mountain treat!

We were blessed with a sunny day and warm enough weather to get outside and enjoy it.  Enjoy it we did!

We walked down to the barn, fed the chickens, and walked back to home.  As soon as we made it to the yard, Deladis said, “We can swing!”

Then, we walked on up the holler passed our house to my favorite spot in the little valley.

After seeing the emptiness of this valley thanks to Google Earth, I plan to thoroughly explore it with the girls.

Deladis is learning about the root and seed children that spend their time sleeping snug inside Mother Earth through the Winter.  We couldn’t help but notice many of the mosses and lichens have awesome blooms of red and yellow, or simply the brightest green.

Even our animal friends got in on the warmth.

Our dog, Lars, is a bird whisperer.  Have I mentioned they will lie next to him?

Lately, Deladis has been really in to AbbeyRoad by The Beatles.  John has our CDs with him most of the time, so we listen to the record collection.  John’s dad gave us his records and Abbey Road was one of them.  Deladis has Brer Rabbit, Fat Albert, and Chipmunk Punk, but Abbey Road trumps those every time.  Deladis’ favorites are “Come Together,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Something,” and “Her Majesty”(the one about Madge being a really fine girl – I think that is the title).  I won’t forget the day she told me she liked “Something”.  She asked me what kind of song that was and what was it about.  George Harrison moved my four year old.  She’s a thinking girl.

We sang sunshine songs as we walked.  “Here Comes the Sun” was included of course as it is on most days of  our singing.  As well as “The Sun Shines on Everyone” by Snatam Kaur, and “You Are My Sunshine”, which Ivy has learned to sing really well thanks to her new auntie.  🙂

It was a fine and refreshing time.

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.

mud

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.

red

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.

produce

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.

onions

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.

apples

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.

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For more Wordless Wednesday visit here.

Autumn is our season for hiking.  It is something the four of us can’t get enough of this time of year.  Today, was the first cool day of the season with no humidity.  We decided to celebrate with a hike to Bad Branch Falls.  The falls is a nature preserve in Letcher County, Kentucky and rests on the state’s second highest mountain – Pine Mountain.  The hike is short, but of moderate difficulty.  However, we were able to make it with the girls just fine.  I’ve been making this hike regularly since childhood.

I think I’ll let our pictures do most of the narrating.  Despite the fact that I was battling bad batteries and trying to take pictures quickly, the beauty speaks for itself.

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Much of the trail is tunneled in mountain laurel – my favorite flowering plant.

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Ivy stops to watch the rushing water coming off the mountain after two days of hard rain.

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The water is unbelievably clear and safe to play in, but I’ve always wondered if it is safe to drink.  It’s tempting.

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There is magic in these hills.  Without man’s intervention, nature provided the perfect seat for a rest.

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The reward!  There was more water than I have ever seen coming off that mountain.  The sky rained every last bit of humidity left from summer over the last two days.

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There are hidden spots all over these mountains like this.  The kind that make you stop and be in the moment.  Place yourself within the bigger picture.  Meditate.

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Join me on Wednesday for Wordless Wednesday and my best shot of the falls . 🙂

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.

Autumn is the best season of the year.  It is the time when I feel most at ease.  The weather is soothing.  The atmosphere of the season sparks my creative juices.  Halloween, my favorite holiday, is upcoming, as well as my birthday in October.  I will be an aunt once again at the end of September.  I look forward to the gorgeous starkness of the bluest skies you ever see in the mountains.  I ache for the weeds to die back so I can hike again with John and the girls around the property.  I’m ready.  I’m tired of all the rain and muggy days.  At the Dollar General last night I saw the first signs that I won’t have to wait for long.  The Halloween decorations are out.

I found the perfect curriculum for my homeschool, pre-school year with Deladis.  Little Acorn Learning offers E-books of lesson plans that are Waldorf inspired and affordable.  They are perfect for use with both Deladis and Ivy.  I think the plans, from what I have seen in the samples, will help keep me focused and develop a better rhythm than the one we’ve established in chaos.  Plus, I’m paying for it, so I have to do it or the money will be wasted.  That’s great motivation.  The curriculum is largely based in nature and officially begins in September, which is another reason to look forward to autumn.  I have bought the summer E-book and am waiting for it to be email to me.  It’s exciting and makes me hopeful.

I mentioned before that our fall garden is planted.  We only put out more cabbage and some broccoli in hopes it will be ready by November.  Honestly, I made a mistake in planting the summer garden.  I planted four hills of zucchini, two of squash, and about ten hills of cucumber.  It was far more than we’ve been able to eat or store for the summer, and because most everyone grows a garden in these hills, you can’t hardly give it away.  The two rows of salad lettuce I planted has allowed us to eat salad almost daily and I’ve made several large ones for social gatherings, given some away, and we still have lettuce rotting in the ground.

We could have used more beans, corn, and tomatoes in the ground.  I should have planted more potatoes as well.  These things are easier to store or keep unrefrigerated long term.  I planted half the garden in organic Painted Hills Multicolor Sweet Corn.  I don’t know if it was the seed, the weather, or my novice, but the seeds hardly sprouted and the stalks of those that did are so puny.  The ears we’ve gotten from it are tasty, though.  A blasted raccoon won’t stop ravenging the newly ripe ears.  I’d like to catch him just one time.  Our beans are hardly existing because the plan was a three sisters garden, so the beans would grow up the corn.  Since the corn didn’t do well, we couldn’t plant but one row of beans.  Those are getting their first blooms.

beans2The stalks are so skinny the weight of the beans are bending the stalks to the ground.  We’ve added some strong sticks to help them along, and the beans seem to like that.  We probably won’t have enough beans to put away for winter, but we’ll have enough to eat on for awhile.

beans1Our cabbage should have had large heads weeks ago, but something is eating them up.  I have never gotten a look at what kind of bug it is, so I assume it’s happening at night.  I believe it is some sort of slug.  I’ve sprayed them with soapy water, but it hasn’t done much good.  I planted two more rows for fall, and I hope whatever is eating them now will be dead by the time the fall plants mature.  We love cabbage and sausage, and I want to make kraut.

cabbageThe gloomy look to these pictures completely narrates the mood of the last days.  We’ve been stuck inside, and that aggravates me quickly.  My biggest excitment was going to the doctor this week.  I long, if it’s going to stay summer, to take the girls swimming in the lake.  I want to play outside with them in the creek.  I want to do something different than what I do everyday in this cabin.  Ooo… cabin fever.

*Update:  The rain didn’t come today, and I took the girls to the lake swimming!  Just me and them.  It was a beautiful time and they’ve been asleep since we got home. 🙂

Yesterday, I considered that it was a good possibility that I am trying too hard again – expecting too much of myself.  Instead of working on any writing after the blog, and pouting about not being able to relax in savasana without somebody coming in the room and dancing around my head, I decided that the key might actually be rather than focusing intensely on said task or goal, it could be more beneficial to focus on nothing at all.  It occurred to me that that could be the element I’m missing in finding mental peace.

With this in mind, I put Ivy in the mei-tai and headed out to the blackberry bushes.  Deladis chose to stay inside and play.  I’ve been picking them everyday as they ripen.  I’ll have a pint soon, but I’m going to keep picking until they are gone.  (If you have any good traditional blackberry recipes to share, I’d love to read them!)  I wanted to get some of the leaves this time to add to my new kitchen experiment – fermenting cucumbers… pickles.

I have been taught since childhood about the importance of watching out for snakes.  I learned how to identify the different species and the ones that were the most dangerous.  I was told what to do if I saw a snake, or if I was bit by one.  It comes with the territory being a child of Appalachia.  One of the things that I have always remembered is – where there are blackberries, there are snakes.

I don’t know if it is the brambles that attracts them, or the plethora of little critters coming to eat berries.  If I were a snake, I’d say it is a little of both.  In my recent blackberry picking extravaganza, I’ve been going into some areas that are very grown over to get to those luscious dark berries.  I try to get at every ripe berry I see.  I have been being very careful and watching where I step.  Having done this for a week now without seeing a snake, I’ve been braving the places that you’d need a machete to cut through the weeds… if you wanted to cut through the weeds that is.  🙂

I picked more berries than I had been able to find during any other trip up the holler.  Lars (our dalmatian) was with me sniffing here and there.  I was standing in some brush having picked all the berries on that particular vine.  I started picking some of the larger leaves to use in the bottom of my pickle jars, when I got a strong feeling that I needed to look down and out a bit.

copperhead-snake

I did, and about 3 feet from me laid a large copperhead.  His head was up and his tongue was flicking, catching my scent.  He wasn’t poised to strike, but his body was held in a way that he could do so if the need arose.  I looked him in the eyes, and he me for a moment.  It was a weird feeling.  My heart didn’t pound.  The copperhead is one of the most feared snakes in the mountains.  I didn’t become alarmed.  A little nervous, but not scared, for when our eyes met I sensed nothing but a mutual respect.  If I showed him proper respect, he’d have no reason to hurt me.  I had always been told by my Dad that if I saw a poisonous snake, to move slowly, but not to hang around.  This was only one of many times I had encountered a copperhead, but it was the first time I had been so close to stepping on it.  When I could pull my eyes away from his, I called Lars and eased my way back to the trail.  I walked at a normal pace toward home with Lars leading the way.

It might be a few days before I take my blackberry picking on up the holler into those dark places where my parents always told me not to go.  I’ll go back though, because for one quick moment I saw clearly where I fit into the bigger picture.

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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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