Thursday, October 31, 2013

God of Harvest

How good the God of Harvest is to you;
Who pours abundance o'er your flowing fields.
—James Thomson

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Poison Ivy in Autumn

As much as I dislike poison ivy, I have to admit it is beautiful on this tree.  We have seen several trees recently that had this red ivy although the tree leaves were still green.

Don't be deceived because it is pretty; it is just as evil as ever.  In fact, I have some itchy rash since a little foray into the woods last week. More about that later.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cedar Trees in Cemeteries

If you ever wander in old cemeteries, and I know many of you do, you are bound to see some cedar trees.

The tradition goes back to the early days of the United States and even earlier  in Europe.  Cedar trees were not always used, but some type of evergreen trees were planted because they were a symbol of everlasting life.  Some Cherokees believed that cedars contained powerful spirits, including the spirits of the departed buried beneath them.

Perhaps because they are known as burial trees, there are many superstitions that surround cedars.  My grandmother told us in no uncertain terms that if we planted a cedar tree, we would die when it was large enough to shade our graves. Some others are:

Never transplant a cedar tree; it will bring bad luck.

If you transplant a cedar and it dies, you will die shortly.

Planting a cedar tree in your yard welcomes poverty.

Some say Christ was crucified on a cedar tree, and will bring bad luck if you burn it.

If a cedar tree comes up voluntarily, don't cut it.  As long as it flourishes, your family will have good health.

I wonder if another reason they were popular is the fact that cedars have a shallow root system and will grow where many other trees will not. 

Drive by any cemetery and you will be able to divide the "old" part from the "new" by the presence of cedar trees.

Monday, October 28, 2013



Galloping in on a turbulent tide,
Flashing, booming, cracking,
A war of air rivers, hot and cold,
heavy and moisture pregnant.
It has no concern for children.
We burrow together, nerves strained,
entwined bodies our weapon
against the monster.

Like rams, unimpeded in a wide expanse,
rivers race toward each other,
heads colliding and shaking
and wringing out tears that fall on a tin roof.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Beauty

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
~Psalm 27:4

Saturday, October 26, 2013

St. Joseph Catholic School Fall Festival

A beautiful autumn afternoon. . .

Happy children. . . .

Beignets. . . .

Pony rides. . .

What's not to love about a fall festival?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Making Molasses

Mama told us that one especially hard year during the Depression,  her family ran out of canned food and all they had to eat was molasses over cornbread.  My Grandpa had worked for someone with a molasses mill and was paid in molasses.

There was usually just one molasses mill in the community.  People brought their sorghum to them to have their molasses made, and the owners kept a little bit of the molasses as payment.

The thing Mama remembered most about helping make the molasses was the yellow jackets that were drawn to the pans of syrup, and the challenge of keeping them away.

This fellow at the Museum of Appalachia's Homecoming was apparently very experienced, because he always remembered to duck when the mule brought the pole came around.

The best use of molasses, in my humble opinion, was in making popcorn balls.  Mama poured just enough hot molasses over popped corn for the kernels to stick together, then formed them in a ball.  I haven't had one in years.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chicken of the Woods

Last Wednesday, the first day the Smoky Mountain National Park reopened, Hub and I happened upon this strange looking fungus in Cades Cove.  There were several people looking at it, but no one knew what type of mushroom it was.  After making these photos, we drove on until we found a park ranger. We showed him the photos, and asked if he knew what the fungus was.  He told us he was no expert, but it looked like an edible mushroom that the locals called "Chicken in the Woods".

The Chicken Mushroom, Polyporus sulphureus, cannot be missed, once it is encountered.  Large, bright lemon-yellow to orange clusters, one cap growing above the other, tile-fashion, grow out from the trunks of oaks and other trees, the lemon-yellow color being confined to the lower surface.  Nothing in the fungus line looks like it.  Only the young, knob-like beginnings of caps should be eaten, as the rest of the plant is tough. ~Louis C. C. Krieger, The Mushroom Handbook, 1967, page 111.

It was way too pretty to eat, and I never pick wild mushrooms anyway. My parents put a fear of mushrooms in us akin to that of snakes--they are all bad! I like them just fine and get them at the supermarket regularly, but never from the woods.  In the unlikely event of being lost in the woods, I would be sure to remember this one because of its color.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The Museum of Appalachia's Homecoming is a three-day event.  We were only there for one day, so we missed a lot of music.  There are five stages there, so it is a matter of picking and choosing who you will see and who you will miss.   One of the bands we saw was the award-winning Grascals.

They are a bluegrass band that sometimes takes music from other genres and makes it their own.  One of my favorites is Take the Last Train to Clarksville.  If you are near my age, you will remember this as a British tune from the sixties.

They preformed four times on Sunday.  We saw the last performance, and we were all tired.

After we left the Festival, we saw them again, on I 75 heading south. 

It was a good day.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Some of the music we heard at the Museum of Appalachia's Homecoming came from dulcimers.  They are always associated with Appalachian music, although it is unclear how widely used they were in the last century. 

There are dulcimer groups all over the Southeast now, and dulcimer festivals are popular in our area. 

I have several friends who are master dulcimer players, and I wished they were there with me last Sunday.  One of them is in her nineties and plays by memory.  She started playing when she was seventy-six.  What a shame it would have been if she had thought she was too old to learn something new!  She has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people with her dulcimer playing.

These dulcimers were made by a craftsman from Seymour, Tennessee.  He had brought several to the festival to sell, and by Sunday afternoon, this was all he had left.

There was a booth that had one-stringed instruments for sale.  They were made using recycled tin cans and were called "Canjos".  They were selling a lot of them; might have been for people who already had everything else in their collection!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Museum of Appalachia Homecoming

On October 13, we were privileged to attend the 34th annual Tennessee Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia near Knoxville.  We have been several  times before, but it had been about a decade since we had enjoyed the homecoming. 
We were ready.

The sounds of Appalachian music filled the autumn air.  There were five stages on the grounds with different musicians about every thirty minutes.   Everywhere we went, there was music.

Children loved this--for a dollar, they could shell an ear of corn and take it with them.

It would take way too long to name all the musicians there.  We enjoyed them all.

This quilt was perfect for the old cabin porch.

These Revolutionary fellows fired off their muskets occasionally, just to keep things lively.

We loved watching all the children there.  This little girl danced and played in the dirt at Stage 2 during a performance.  I'm hoping these little ones will learn and continue the traditions of Appalachia.
More tomorrow. . .