Howlin’ Up the Holler

Your nearest neighbor?

Your nearest neighbor?

Uncle Lowell tells me that for the past several nights, the coyotes have been yippin’ and yowlin’ to beat the band. I don’t hear them so much on top of the mountain unless there’s good cloud cover, but Lowell hears ‘em real good down below. He tells me that one big fella has been hanging around, reluctant to run off even when approached. This sort of curiosity isn’t at all unusual.

For all the hell raisin’ they do, coyotes are relatively harmless to people (check out this government white paper on coyotes). Small pets are another story entirely. Coyotes are opportunistic diners. They gotta eat, and lizards and frogs get scarce once it gets cold. I’m thinkin’ that Uncle Lowell’s cat might just be on the menu unless it gets smart and hangs closer to home.

Spotting tip: You know you’ve seen a coyote if its tail was down while running. Dogs and wolves typically run with their tail up.

 

(S)mashing Pumpkins

It all started when I spied sugar pumpkins in the garden last month. Not my garden, mind you. Leon’s. Every year, Leon plants a huge garden on Uncle Lowell’s land, and every year, without fail, it gets away from him. Being the opportunist I am I help Leon out by availing myself of his spoils about to spoil.

Aunt Kay's fall pumpkin mash

Aunt Kay’s fall pumpkin mash

My great Aunt Kay used to make the most delectable breakfast dish come fall. As a kid, I didn’t exactly know what it was other than “mash.” Mash was both earthy and sweet, filled with spices and nuts. Aunt Kay served hers with warm milk, a side of Roman Meal bread, and lots of piping hot coffee.

Pumpkin mash with yogurt on waffles

Pumpkin mash with yogurt on waffles

Today I made my own mash out of one of Leon’s purloined pumpkins. I sweetened that little gem up with Barber Orchards’ apples, pears from the farmers’ market, dried crans and pecans. Butter is a must. Add spices as you see fit—I used cinnamon, ginger and allspice. A touch of Maine maple syrup and you’re good to go. I had my mash on a waffle with homemade yogurt and veggie sausage (the picture fooled ya didn’t it). Whooeeee!

Don’t tell Leon y’all. I gotta good thing goin’.

 

Land trust preserves Blackrock summit | The Asheville Citizen-Times | citizen-times.com

 

Blackrock Mountain rare spruce fir forest, from the Citizen-Times.com

Blackrock Mountain rare spruce fir forest, from the Citizen-Times.com

Land trust preserves Blackrock summit | The Asheville Citizen-Times | citizen-times.com.
Don’t know how many folks on Balsam have a view of Blackrock summit like I do, but if you do frequent Waterrock Knob, this is good news for all of us. At 5,700′, the mountain is a vital part of the Jackson County watershed. I say yay for this piece of conservation!

“Life without a granny in it is plain out no good. There just aren’t enough grannies anymore to go around.”

Ol' time granny in action

Ol’ time granny in action

At least that’s what my sister and I decided during our recent family struggle with the terminal illness and passing of our mother. We weren’t so much lamenting that we’d never get to see our mother become a granny—there was never a chance she’d “granny up”—as we meant that the mountain culture as a whole was losing grannies and granny ways. Many of the grannies we’d always counted on had passed and some of the few that were left now need care themselves.
I think that must be how you learn “granniness,” caring for the granny who cared so well for you. I’m not sure that younger generations can begin to process what goes into the making of a good granny. Spunk and spice, compassion and candor, ornery and orderly, a real granny is a wonderful mix of contradictions. Good granniness demands a deep understanding of life, a life filled with fits and starts.

More important to note, a granny isn’t necessarily related to you or even a grandmother. A granny is an old soul with knowledge beyond the bounds of this world who can translate the secrets of the universe into everyday action. Forget the Wikipedia definition of grannies as healers and midwives. True granniness goes beyond heath care and care giving to life coach and personal training. I’m not joking. You got an existential problem stuck in your craw, holdin’ you back? Go to granny. If you’ve ever had a real granny in your life, you’d surely agree

Grannies work is never done

Grannies work is never done

Appalachian Crafts: Where Function Meets Beauty

Berry pickers with traditional homemade baskets

Berry pickers with traditional homemade baskets

At Mountain Heritage Day this past Saturday I found a great addition to my collection of Appalachian crafts, a poplar bark berry basket. Fabricated from green bark, a berry basket can be made on the spot when needed or crafted in larger versions for planned berry pickin’. The design is as beautiful as it is functional. The curved bottom is well suited for balancing the basket on your knee while you harvest. If you want to know more about the tradition of mountain basket making, check out this article from mountainhistory.net.

Appalachian Style Berry Basket designed by Linda Miller

Appalachian Style Berry Basket designed by Linda Miller

“No competence ever is required to be a scarecrow!”

The garden's keeper

The garden’s keeper.

On our walk down the mountain to the pond yesterday, Lily (my aging but still full of herself Jack Russell Terror) and I ambled beside the garden to search about for forgotten vegetables to pilfer. There we were met by the garden’s keeper—just hangin’ out. The scarecrow kinda scared Lily until she sniffed around at his feet and decided that he was harmless if not lifeless. Lily gets pretty jumpy around the garden since the time she snooted out a black snake sunning in the bean rows. It cracks me up to see her jump straight up in the air lately at the sound of a rustle in the dried leaves when she’s in unfamiliar territory.

Lily at the pond balsamSKY

Lily scouting the pond’s edge

Lily did a pretty good job of checking the perimeter of the pond for frogs and turtles, so I didn’t bother to tell her that it’s gettin’ too cold now for either. I have to tell ya’ that I really look forward to these early morning walks with Lily down through the garden and on to the pond. Gives us both time to contemplate and ruminate before we get on with our day.