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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

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.

There was real joy in this last day of summer for myself and the girls.  I started going through our clothes, changing the breezy summer attire for the more cozy fall duds.  I actually got rid of half of my wardrobe of clothes – the chest of drawers is next.  Everything that is too big for me had to go.  I’m letting go of the fear that I will need those clothes again.  I’m residing in the fact that I will not.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been doing a fall theme for our Circle Time and our daily activities for homeschool.  Instead of changing after a week, I decided to draw this one out.  With all the festivals coming up and holidays, I thought it would be wonderful to have our own family festival as a culmination of the awareness our verse, songs, walks, cooking, and art are bringing to the natural change of season. (An non-original idea inspired by Heaven on Earth.) John is going to be horribly busy for the next few months, so I’m not sure when we will be able to have it.  I’ll have to plan well.

Today, we finished our leaf spiral.  Deladis worked on learning to use scissors while I traced and cut out paper leaves from the ones we gathered on our daily walks.  Deladis then glued them to the spiral we cut from construction paper.  We hung it in the kitchen.  I’m loving having these little projects decorating our cabin.


Our four bean plants are full of beans, so I took the girls outside and we picked our third mess of this late season.  Deladis and I picked, and Ivy was in charge of putting them in the basket.



These beans have the best flavor, but they are the toughest beans to string.  The last basket full took over an hour to string, and I still missed some.  I didn’t worry about the mud from the drizzle that came down all day.  The three of us wore the earth like a badge of dedication to work as fun.  I was pretty amazed that the cabbage seeds I planted are up and doing well despite our neglect of them.  I’m going to have to go in and start taking better care of them now.  Get the hoe out.

There is an aromatic plant around the cabin that is just starting to flower.  The scent is very much like mint, but with a tartness.  I know this plant has to have a good use.  The more I take notice of what grows wild here, the more I wish I could have someone come and show me what to do with it.  This one is in our garden amongst the beans.


It’s beautiful.  If you know what it is, please share it with me.

The earlier darkness has helped the girls find sleep easier tonight.  I will wake up tomorrow with a smile on my face.  Tomorrow we’ll go to the library and find books on autumn, squirrels, apples, and pumpkins.  We’ll go to the produce stand and get a few bags of apples and maybe try drying some.  I might even let the girls have one last Hawaiian Ice before the shack closes for the season.

It wasn’t until my adult life and the city experience that I learned there was any other way than the Kentucky mountain way to fix green beans, or breeds of green beans that didn’t have large bullets (seed) in the pod.  It was odd to me that someone would simply steam their green beans, pick them early from the vine for the crisp thin pod, or squirt lemon juice over them.  Green beans in a salad was something I hadn’t seen before.  I had a hard time accepting there were people that liked green beans made without fatback bacon, bacon grease and salt and pepper.

Homeschooling the girls is opening my eyes to a lot of things.  We’ve been on the homeschool rhythm for a month now, and I’m even reluctant to call it a “homeschool” rhythm.  Naming it something other than our daily rhythm has helped give it priority for me.  It is now important enough not to neglect.  This rhythm has made me more conscious of involving both the girls in my chores and I have been pleasantly surprised at what they are capable of at such a young age.

We picked our first mess of green beans from our vines on Sunday.  A few days ago I decided to break them up and string them so we could have fresh beans for dinner.  At first, I was going to do the stringing and let Deladis break them, but she wanted to string too.  I showed her quickly as I kept the pace of our work.  She caught on so fast and when I looked up again she was meticulously pulling the strings down the pods and breaking the finished bean.

beans 1

I continued to work and was glad to share this with her.  This is real tradition right here folks.  Women and men in the mountains have been sharing the work of bean stringing since they came to the hills.  I can’t describe how my heart swelled with joy that my child taught me that she was ready and capable to learn this task.  I didn’t really teach her at all.  She learned through imitation.


She was so proud when we were finished.  I double checked the beans as there is nothing worse than a pot of stringy beans, and she did pretty good.  They were still a bit stringy when we ate them later, but not too bad.

To cook a mess of fresh green beans Appalachian style, you prepare them as we did here, then, follow these instructions.

  1. Cover the broken and strung beans with just enough water to be even with the beans.
  2. Place a generous amount of bacon grease (some folks use peanut oil).
  3. You may also add fatback (fatty salt pork) and cut onion, but that’s optional.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Bring the pot to a boil.  Turn down the heat then let simmer 2-4 hours depending on the amount of beans.

When the beans are cooked through they will be soft but not mushy.  They will be much darker in color and the bullets (seed) will have turned brown in most cases.  Common breeds of beans grown in the mountains are white half runners (probably the favorite), fall beans both white and speckled, October beans, Kentucky Blue Wonder, Creasy (Greasy) Beans, and bush beans.  The beans you see in these photos are Kentucky Blue Wonders.

Green beans like this are a wonderful summer and fall meal with cornbread, fresh cut tomato and cucumber,  roastin’ ears (corn on the cob) and fried potatoes.  It is definitely a fresh meal of substance when there isn’t meat available.  November was usually hog killing time in the mountains and that was the main meat source for the mountaineer.  Chicken and cattle were too valuable for other purposes to eat often.  Pork chop or tenderloin is also a good addition to this meal in the fall when you need heartier fare.

Another great way to make green beans is called shucky beans in most families with which I am familiar, but many Appalachians call them leather breeches. (Tipper at Blind Pig and the Acorn has a great post on leather breeches.)  These are dried beans and must be soaked overnight and cooked slow until tender once again with the same added ingredients as the fresh beans.

Enjoy!  We sure did. 🙂

Meet our new flock.  They are little cuties.


I believe they are some kind of bantam.  We aren’t sure.  Chickens around here seem to be just what they are – chickens.  One thing I do know is that this bunch is much tamer than the last.  They are still only babies and have been petted since hatching.  This makes me hopeful that we might eventually be able to free range these.  That gives you the healthiest eggs and the chickens a more natural diet.


We have moved the coop from the previous location of the massacre of the last flock to right outside our bedroom window.  We are hoping to avoid a repeat massacre,offering the new flock a little more protection.  The coop sat next to the woods before which left them vulnerable I believe.  John dug a trench for the run and filled it in with dirt.  The two of us tied wire around the bottom about an inch between each tie to try to reinforce the chicken wire.  It was pretty obvious the last undoing of our flock was done by a possum because of the total destruction, waste, and nastiness of it.

There is nothing like a home grown egg.  Chickens that feast on clover and quality feed, bugs, and treats from the table give the darkest yolks that are so full of flavor.  You don’t have to worry about serving them runny either, though I’ve never been much to worry about that.  Another plus are the shells are so much stronger.  You can definitely tell that the factory farmed poultry are not healthy animals by their egg shells and yolks.

Right now, we have two baby hens and two baby roosters.  Then, there’s Roy, our left over rooster from the last flock.  He runs free and is scared to death of John, but will sit on the porch with our dog. 🙂  So, we are rooster heavy, but we’ve decided to expand the flock to at least six hens.  I won’t count out the possibility of one of the baby roosters ending up on the table when it is grown.

I rocked Ivy to sleep this evening and heard Roy crowing his head off.  Then, in this viable attempt a little voice screeched what I believe to be his first cocka-doodle-doo.  It was sweet.  I know I shouldn’t get attached.  It’s not healthy. 🙂


This is another thing that has inspired my homesteading mind of late.  This little structure sits right inside the trees in the backyard and inside a fence that the previous dwellers on this property used to keep pet foxes.


Here’s another view from farther back.  I dare not try to drag it out of the woods because it is almost a guarantee there would be a copperhead nest under it.  Yet, it sits there sturdy and unused, slowly becoming a part of the woods.  See, I’m thinking goats.  A goat family.  I’m thinking this would be a perfect house for them.  John laughs at me and says that’s a project for next spring.

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.

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.

Monday was our first day of homeschool pre-school, and we took a field trip.  Not being tied to a desk in a classroom and movements on the sound of an electric bell, is the first plus I have seen from our short experience.  I can already see how much more can be learned by doing and going than by trying to focus on a teacher in a room full of distractions.  We went to Lexington because John had to drop off some artwork for a showing at ArtsPlace .  I wanted to tag along with the girls and make it a day in the city that we could enjoy as a family.

Our theme for the week is cats, and Deladis is pumped about it.  She was focused on noticing and absorbing everything around her.  It was great to watch.  At ArtsPlace, we walked through the gallery looking at the various pieces.  Eventually, we found ourselves in an open oblong room that reminded me of a ballroom.  Deladis entered it first and exclaimed, “Oh, my!”  I stepped in and looked in the direction of her eyes, and above us was an open ceiling that was covered in a thin, white gauze pulled upward and gathered in the center like a huge canopy.  It was beautiful. The way the natural light shone through it made it appear as a textured mist.  She circled the room with her eyes to the ceiling the whole time.  They were also getting ready to hand out the horses for a new horse mania, where various artists paint life sized horse statues to be placed around the city.  Deladis and Ivy both adored looking at those horses.

Next, we ate and went to Michael’s craft store to buy some remaining school supplies.  It satisfied me so much to be there with Deladis.  Everything we bought, you would have thought was a gift wrapped in shiny paper.  Deladis was so excited and she is anxious to use what we bought.  Most of what we needed was tempera paint, modeling clay, and felt.  I had went to Wal-Mart in the neighboring county to where we reside to get the first batch of stuff.  I was grounded by the difference in price.  Michael’s was much cheaper.

After Michael’s, we went to a pet store to look for kittens.  We saw every small animal you could imagine, but there were no cats and dogs – an abundance of guinea pigs free with the purchase of a cage and food, but no cats.  Deladis and Ivy ran from cage to catch gently looking in and waving to the animals.  Ivy hasn’t seen many things like that, and she hasn’t even been to the zoo at an age where she could thoroughly enjoy it, so she was having a blast.

Now, if there is anything to be missed by not living in the city, it is a network of mothers, a good bookstore, and a natural/health food grocery.  If I didn’t have a thousand things on my list of what to be when I grow up, I would be the one to bring all of these things to my hometown in the mountains.  We need these things here.  Our next stop was Joseph-Beth Booksellers where John and I both looked and mourned our inability to buy.  I did buy a Dover Press coloring book of cats.  Dover Press does the best affordable printings of classic literature and coloring books.  The illustrations are realistic and beautiful.  It’s not your typical mindless coloring page.

Then, we moved on to Whole Foods Market.  I was shocked at the price differences being so much cheaper there than the prices for things at Food City (your typical mainstream grocery with limited organics), where I have to shop now.  I was almost moved to tears.  I know, crying in the grocery store is a silly thing, but sometimes we forget our limitations and are reminded of them when we are faced with what could be.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I stocked up on so many things I can’t find around here.  I understood, despite my best efforts how compromised our diet is compared to the one I’d like for us to be eating.

The long trip home was a quiet one.  We got in, I put the sourdough in the oven, and started on the chalk drawing for the next day’s circle time.  It was cathartic, doing something I’ve always enjoyed doing,  but never made the time for as it falls outside of my usual priorities – drawing.  I went into sleep excited for the first time in awhile about my day ahead at home with my children.

Today, we woke up, ate, did dishes (Deladis helped), and had circle time.  I unveiled my chalk drawing of the sleeping kitty to “oohs” and “aahs” from both Deladis and Ivy.  Ivy said the word “cat” for the first time.  Before today, every four-legged creature was a “doggie”.  We went to the library for books about cats, did a little shopping in search for some colored chalk, and made it home to clean the girls’ room before noon.  It has been a lovely day.  I know we’ll have our troubles with homeschool.  They’ll come, but I can rest in knowing that for now, I love the decision we have made to start early and with Waldorf education.

The best photo I could manage around two excited little girls.

The best photo I could manage around two excited little girls.

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. 🙂

This has been the most rainy summer I can remember – and cool.  I’m not going to complain too much though because summer heat makes me miserable.  Summer is usually my least loved season.  We did most of our fall garden planting and the rain is good for those freshly planted seeds, but knocked us out of taking Deladis to see a movie for her birthday yesterday and lake swimming.  The weather and being tired of too much zucchini, squash, lettuce, and cucumber in our diets contributed to my wanting to make what, for us, is typically a cool weather supper.

Soupbeans and cornbread is an Appalachian staple.  I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in my diet.  It was hard for me to understand how so many people I encountered from outside of this area didn’t have a clue as to what it is.  Soupbeans are commonly confused with bean soup, which is a very different dish.

Soupbeans and cornbread was a meal that was born of necessity.  With hard times came, the need for cheap and nutritious meals.  Beans and corn meal were things that most people kept on hand or were easily acquired.  Mountain cooks worked their magic and made this a meal that is not only extremely cheap, but absolutely delicious.  It is my favorite Appalachian meal, and we certainly enjoyed it last night.

soupbeans1Soupbeans (not to be confused with bean soup): Feeds a family of four for about 2 days

  • pinto beans (2 cups dry)
  • bacon fat and/or salt pork (fatback)
  • onion
  • water
  • salt and pepper

To begin, soak 2 cups of dry beans in enough water to cover them over night or preferably 24 hours.  My grandmothers called this “getting the gas out”.  They were exactly right.  Soaking makes the beans easier to digest and causes less bloating and gas.  I like to soak my beans long enough so that they sprout.  I have noticed this takes the unwanted side effects of beans completely away and cuts down on cooking time.  On the day of cooking, put the beans in a large stock pot.  Cover the beans with water, then add as much water as you want for soup.  Cut up some onion and add to the pot.  Add salt and pepper to your preference (I use unrefined sea salt for valuable nutrients.)  Then, the most important ingredient is added – fatback and/or bacon fat.  Traditionally, this was a piece of fatty pork cured in salt.  If that wasn’t available grease from the morning breakfast would suffice.  Most often bacon grease is what I have on hand and I use it generously.  Bring the ingredients to a boil and then, turn down the heat to a low-medium.  Cook the beans until they are a light reddish-brown color and soft.  This will take 2-4 hours.


The food accompanying soupbeans are just as important as the main dish.  Soupbeans are traditionally served with cornbread.  The cornbread is often eaten as a side, and another piece broken up into the beans to sop the soup.  Sauerkraut is a great addition to a bowl of soupbeans.  I can’t have this meal without making fried potatoes and onions.  Both of these foods were traditionally served with soupbeans.

A great plus is all of these food items are very cheap.  This meal can easily cost under $10 and will feed a family of four one meal for around two days.  It is a hearty meal, but I warn you… it’s very easy to overeat because it is so very good.

Take a look at my page of favorite recipes to see how to make my cornbread.  I hope you enjoy this beautiful Appalachian meal created out of our great ability to “make-do”.


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.

March 2023

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