Good Coffee

  Good coffee in Appalachia

Burningtown

The old coffee mill that hung on grandma's kitchen wall has disappeared. The homemade oven Grandpa used to parch his own coffee has been torn down and carted off. The country store up at the crossroads no longer handles the big tow sacks of green coffee beans. The fire-blackened old tin coffee pot has been replaced by the percolator.

And the art of brewing coffee is almost lost.

"Folks nowadays," said the Old Man, "just don't know what a good cup of coffee is. Real tastin' coffee's a scarce thing. Most of the stuff a body drinks ain't fit to put in your mouth. It ain't got no body to it and it don't taste like coffee used to, at lease not like the kind your grandma cooked."

The Old Man considers himself an authority on coffee. And well he should. He was born in 1859 and he's been sipping it black and scalding-hot for most of his 97 years.

"I reckon," he said, "I've parched and ground as much coffee as any man in these mountains. Folks used to say I had a right good hand for parchin' coffee. Just wasn't ever 'body that could parch it. Some parched it too much and others never parched it enough. Like makin' molasses. You've got to know when it's right for takin' off the fire."

Mountain Cooking written by John Parris

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I come from a family of coffee drinkers. I never seen any of them parch coffee beans, but most of them liked it black, strong, and scalding hot. Pap preferred to use a perculator to make his coffee, The Deer Hunter does too. 

I was probably the girls age when I started drinking coffee. I'm not as tough as The Deer Hunter and Pap, like Granny I like cream in my coffee. I only drank coffee of the morning, but it was the first thing I went for after getting up from the bed. 

My illness earlier in the summer came with a never drink coffee again order from my doctor. Boy I knew that would be hard, but I was so miserable I'd have given up anything and like a good girl I haven't even tasted coffee since the day he told me not too.

Man I missed it! More than the taste I missed having something hot to drink of the morning and I didn't like messing up the routine I've been living for the last 20 years.

Miss Cindy bought be some low acid coffee but I was too afraid to try it. Then about a week ago she came in with a jar of Postum which is a coffee substitute made from roasted wheat grain and molasses, it's all natural with no acid. 

I've been drinking Postum every morning since she brought it over. It's not coffee, but it's not bad!

Tipper

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Rock Of Ages - At JCCFS

The pressley girls at jccfs

The Pressley Girls - JCCFS photo shoot for cd When it Ends in a Walk

Last week I mentioned a few happenings that had got me to thinking about the John C. Campbell Folk School and the role it plays in our lives. The school is one of the many reasons that make me happy to call Brasstown home.

It's been about a month since Chatter came in saying David Brose, JCCFS Folklorist, told her one of our songs was going to be on the about to be released Nighthoots and Morningsongs Volume 2 cd. The two part anthology features live music from various artists at the Keith House and Festival Barn on the JCCFS Campus. The cd has 21 tracks on it and our song is number 8.

Paul and I peppered Chatter with questions about the cd. What song was it? Who was singing it? All of us? Or just Pap and Paul? Or just the girls?

Chatter told us it was Rock of Ages. I said "Oh then it must be Pap and Paul that's good." Chitter said "No he said it's all of us." I said "I don't think so. I never remember doing that song when we were all playing together. Maybe you just helped sing with Pap and Paul or something, but I bet there was no fiddle and no bass." Well she insisted David said it was all of us. But neither Paul nor I could remember a time that we played the song all together at the folk school. 

We sort of forgot about the cd until Chitter came home with a copy for us. We all went out to Paul's truck and put the cd in to listen. To say we were tickled pink is an understatement! We were thrilled with what we heard. 

It was all of us! Chatter is chopping away on the mandolin and lending her pure voice to Paul and Pap's amazing harmony, Chitter is throwing a fiddle piece in every now and then, I'm thumping on the bass, Paul is keeping us all on track with his solid guitar playing, AND Pap's beautiful tenor voice is leading us all in our efforts. We must have listened to it a hundred times. It was like getting a gift of Pap that we didn't even know existed. You can hear him tapping his foot all through the song-the tapping sort of lends a distorted sound to the song, but I wouldn't change it for nothing. Pap always tapped his foot when there was music going on whether he was making it or not.

 
Paul said he was going to upload the song to youtube and give the folk school some advertising for the cd. He asked me to look for a photo to go with the sound and wouldn't you know it I found a photo of what might have been the actual night the song was recorded! You can't see me, but I'm back there somewhere. If you've ever been to see us play you already know I always sit in the back. 

David Brose later told Paul that his friend said every time she heard the recording it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up because it was that beautiful. I totally agree with her Pap's voice never sounded so good. 

Tipper

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Satan Is Real

Charlielouvin.net

As I told you yesterday, for me the Devil takes first place when it comes to things that scare me. The Devil is also found sprinkled around our language. There are sayings like:

  • The Devil and Tom Walker: which is used as an exclamation showing surprise
  • Up jumped the Devil: said after a mischievous or mean act has taken place or when someone who is disliked suddenly shows up
  • Speak of the Devil: same as above
  • The Devil take the hindmost: sorta like saying "I'm gonna take care of myself and mine and who cares what happens to the rest.
  • The Devil takes care of his own: said when evil doers seem to prosper
  • Between the Devil and the deep blue sea: you're in trouble and it's most likely your fault
  • Get behind me Satan: comes straight from scripture, but is often said in a teasing way when someone is trying to get you to do something you shouldn't
  • Give the Devil his due: even if someone you dislike accomplishes something you have to give him his due (this one has been around since Shakespeare used it)
  • If you sup with the Devil you need to use a long spoon: (this one is as old as the Canterbury Tales)
  • Full of the Devil
  • Telling the Devil where your goat is tied: of course if the Devil knows where its tied he's going after it
  • Idle hands are the Devils workshop
  • An idle mind is the Devil's playground
  • You'll have the Devil to pay
  • If the sun is shining when its raining...then you know the Devil is beating his wife
  • The Devil made me do it
  • Dancing with the Devil

Then there are words like:

  • Dust devil: when the wind moves in a tight circular motion across the ground
  • Devilish: aggravating or despicable
  • Devil's apple: may apple
  • Devil's brew: liquor
  • Devil's footstool: a large mushroom
  • Devil's snuffbox: puffball full of dusty spores
  • Devil: to tease or aggravate

One of my favorite things someone said about the Devil came from Blind Pig reader Ken Roper:

One time I heard one of my older brothers say, "The Devil wouldn't have me to stoke up his fire, I'm too green to burn." 

There'll be more Devil talk in the coming days so be sure to stay tuned. The album cover above has taken on worldly fame because of the scene of hell it portrays. If you'd like to hear the song for yourself go here

Tipper

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I'm Afraid Of The Devil...Are You?

Devils tramping ground

Photo by Atlas Obscura

Near Siler City, NC is a large circle that measures 40 feet across. No vegetation grows within the circle. Early white settlers who came to the area thought the circle was used for Indian Ceremonies. Somewhere along the way the story of the Devil's Tramping Ground was born.

Legend tells the circle was made by none other than Satan himself. Each night the Devil paces the circle while he plots evil deeds to spread across the land. If an object is placed within the circle it is mysteriously moved by morning. Local hunters say their hounds refuse to go near the circle-as do horse owners. The area seems to be void of any animal life and even birds refuse to fly above the circle.

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Appalachia is full of scary stories about ghosts, witches, painters, hainted houses, and more. Religion is woven so tightly through Appalachia that the Devil also plays a significant role in the creepy department. When I was growing up I was much more afraid of the Devil getting me than a ghost.

One time a childhood friend of mine decided she'd heard enough about the Devil and wanted to see if he was as mean as everybody at church said he was. She and a cousin decided they'd just dig up the Devil and find out for themselves.

After digging for quite a while, they unearthed something they took for his hair. Once they hit the black strands their bravery left them pretty quick. As kids will do they decided to fix the mess they'd made.

They frantically tried to figure out how to hide their misdeed. I mean how could she explain to her Southern Baptist Deacon Daddy that she had brought the Devil out into broad daylight? In his own backyard?

They found some old concrete, mixed it with water, and poured it in the hole, all the while hoping it would hold Lucifer tight. 

Drop back by tomorrow for some examples of how the Devil is used in the language of Appalachia. 

Tipper

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Appalachia Through My Eyes - Passing The Stories Down

My life in Appalachia - Passing the stories down

Appalachia has a great tradition of story-telling. Many of the stories have been passed down through multiple generations and are continuing to be told today. There are more than a few story-tellers who read the Blind Pig and The Acorn. Keith Jones and Granny Sue both come to mind. 

A local story-teller named Martha Owen Liden also comes to mind. She's a fixture in Brasstown. She and her husband made music with Pap every now and again through the years. Martha's stories are great fun to listen to. If you ever got a chance to watch the movie the girls and I were in you can catch a short glimpse of Martha story-telling. 

There are other types of stories told in Appalachia too. The stories of our lives. The stories we pass down to our children about ourselves and their ancestors.

Several months back Ed Karshner left the following comment.



"I wanted to speak to your post yesterday. I wanted to say something, then but I needed to study on it. I'm glad you tell these stories and you should never tire or feel strange about sharing stories about your father. For us, people of Appalachia, stories are how we keep those most important things alive. I read once that humans aren't born with instincts to survive, instead we are born with the ability to tell stories. In that very old Germanic tradition that, I think, has influenced Appalachian storytelling, we don't have a future...just a past and a right now. When we tell those stories, that person (or people or event) is brought into the now and lives just as real as if they were physically breathing. They are here now (in the story) to instruct us, love us, and make us smile. This is why I tell my children about my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, friends every chance I get. Not just to make them live again for my kids but also for me. I don't think it is stretching it to say that storytelling about our ancestors is like spending time with them. I feel that way."



Ed said he'd been studying on my post, well I've been studying on his comment since he left it back in April. 

Appalachians are often belittled and maligned for holding on to their past and for always talking about the good ole days in a sentimental fashion. 

One of the most common Appalachian traits is being family centered. Everything revolves around family and those family ties run farther than just immediate family. It extends to uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws. And oftentimes those family members aren't even really family members, they're close friends who feel like family. 

Part of our longing to talk about the past is related directly to those tight family ties that hold us together even beyond the grave. As Ed so rightly pointed out, it keeps those who have long gone on alive and near to us. 

Another part of our longing to talk about the past is directly related to how our environments are changing at warp speed and we're left looking around at a world we no longer fit. 

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes - A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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Haunt Tales

Haunt Tales

haunt tale noun
A variant forms haint tale, hant tale.
B A ghost story.
1938 Hall Coll. Emerts Cove TN People's quit seein' hants and tellin hant tales. (Glen Shults) 1940 Haun Hawk's Done 174 Just some little old hant tales was all I knowed. c1940 Padelford Notes A-swappin' hant tales way up in the night. 1963 Edwards Gravel 116 Uncle Bill, what about that haint tale you promised me? 1970 Hall Witchlore 2 As to ghostlore, some middle-aged and elderly people still enjoy the eerie excitement of relating encounters that they or others (almost always others) had with apparitions of various kinds. These narratives are locally called "hant" tales, but many people are convinced that the strange incidents they relate actually happened. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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This is the time of the year for haunt tales. Drop back by over the coming days to hear some haunt tales and discuss some spooky subjects here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn.

Tipper

p.s. Check out this link/video and see if you can give Sow True Seed a hand. They do a tremendous job of ensuring our seeds continue for the future generations. They especially focus on the heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations in Appalachia. And if all that wasn't enough-you already know they support the Blind Pig and The Acorn by sponsoring my garden and my garden reporter @ large projects. If you decide to donate to their cause-you can get some pretty cool things in return-so check it out. 

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Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins

This time of the year I always start getting a taste for pumpkin recipes. A couple weeks ago, one of my favorite girls and me whipped up some Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins. I've had the recipe for ages. Years ago I cut it out of a Country Living magazine. Although the muffins are a little fussier to make than regular muffins they are so worth the extra effort. 

According to the magazine the recipe is a specialty of Second Creek Farm Bed and Breakfast in Owensville, Missouri. 

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins - from Country Living

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 2½ cup sugar (divided-see recipe)
  • 2½ cup flour (divided-see recipe)
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1¼ cup packed pumpkin
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Best pumpkin cream cheese muffins

Pre-heat oven to 375°.  Lightly coat two 12-cup standard muffin tins with oil and set aside or use paper liners.

Mix the cream cheese, 1 egg, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Toss 5 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup flour, pecans, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the rest of the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining cinnamon in a large bowl.

Lightly beat the rest of the eggs, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour the pumpkin mixture into the well, and mix with a fork just until moistened.

Evenly divide half of the batter among the muffin cups. Place two teaspoonfuls of cream cheese filling in the center of each cup and fill with the remaining batter.

Sprinkle some of the pecan mixture over the top of each muffin and bake until golden and a tester, inserted into the muffin center, comes out clean -- 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Pumpkin with cream cheese

The muffins are best right out of the oven, but they're not bad even a day later...if they last that long!

Tipper

p.s. Be sure to jump over and watch Sow True Seed's video

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Check out this link/video and see if you can give Sow True Seed a hand. They do a tremendous job of ensuring our seeds continue for the future generations. They especially focus on the heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations in Appalachia. And if all that wasn't enough-you already know they support the Blind Pig and The Acorn by sponsoring my garden and my garden reporter @ large projects. If you decide to donate to their cause-you can get some pretty cool things in return-so check it out. 

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The World And Brasstown

The pressley girls and the john c campbell folk school

Photo from The Pressley Girls' cd cover shoot at the John C. Campbell Folk School

If you've been reading the Blind Pig and The Acorn for a good while you already know what an important role the John C. Campbell Folk School plays in our lives. Several recent happenings have made me dwell on the way the folk school has shaped the girls' lives and mine too.

For well over five years the girls and I spent every Monday afternoon at the folk school. During the winter clogging practice was inside the historic Keith House and during the summer it was in the open barn. 

The folk school's annual fall festival was the very first outing of that sort that I took the girls to by myself. They were probably three years old. The Deer Hunter was busy but I wanted to go! So go I did making the girls promise they'd never let go of my hand for one minute and they didn't. They've been to every fall festival since-other than the one it rained out.

From May Day Parades to contra dancing to concerts there have been lots of other functions at the folk school that we've participated in. 

I've never asked the girls but I'm positive they'd agree with me when I say their largest musical influence is Pap and Paul, but coming in a close second are the various musicians who are part of the John C. Campbell Folk School community. From the time the girls first starting playing instruments till now there's always someone willing to give an impromptu music lesson or teach them a new song. 

The folk school is a store-house of folk ways, folk ways that are directly related in an intimate way to our heritage and culture. But the folk school also has a way of bringing the world at large to Brasstown. The school welcomes other cultures and shares them with whoever might want to take part. 

At last summer's Dance Musicians Week the girls came home playing a French tune called Aimee Gagnon.  They've since taught it to Paul and me. We've had a ton of fun playing it around the house. At last week's practice Paul said "Now what'a you bet I wake up in the middle of the night with that in my head?" I said "We all will!"

Its a great song, take a listen and see if you don't agree.

 


I hope you enjoyed the song-you may have it in your head now!

The girls's debut cd was supposed to ship on Friday, but now it looks like it'll be next Wednesday. I'll let you know when it finally gets here!

Tipper

p.s. Check out this link/video and see if you can give Sow True Seed a hand. They do a tremendous job of ensuring our seeds continue for the future generations. They especially focus on the heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations in Appalachia. And if all that wasn't enough-you already know they support the Blind Pig and The Acorn by sponsoring my garden and my garden reporter @ large projects. If you decide to donate to their cause-you can get some pretty cool things in return-so check it out. 

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How I Know It's Really Fall Of The Year

My life in appalachia white and yellow octobers

Every year fall seemingly arrives when we have several consecutive cool mornings in the far western mountains of North Carolina. Only fall isn't really here, the luscious refreshing temperatures are only a tease. Before you know it summer is back with a vengeance bringing with it high humidity and temps in the upper 80s and low 90s.

The recent hurricane named Nate brought what felt like the muggiest weather of the summer to me. Maybe it wasn't all that bad, maybe it was just that we'd had a cool spell that made me believe fall of the year had really arrived.

One evening this week as I walked up to Granny's front porch after work I noticed her mums were laying in the yard instead of standing at attention like they were a few short days ago.

Granny's are old timey mums. They grow tall and leggy and they fall down to sprawl in the grass from the weight of their blooms. It's almost as if their cheery faces arrive to spit in the eye of cooler weather; but quickly give up the good fight and surrender to fall's cooler temperatures by falling prostrate on the faded grass of a dying summer.

According to the Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore, the flowers used to be called White and Yellow Octobers in North Carolina.

As I stepped over Granny's mums again today I thought to myself "No wonder the weather man is forecasting temps in the 30s for next week, fall of the year must almost be here for real because Granny's mums are on the ground." 

In the future if Granny's mums aren't lying on the ground I'll know the cool seductive temperatures are only a tease from fall and that it'll be at least a few more weeks before fall of the year arrives for good.

Tipper

p.s. Check out this link/video and see if you can give Sow True Seed a hand. They do a tremendous job of ensuring our seeds continue for the future generations. They especially focus on the heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations in Appalachia. And if all that wasn't enough-you already know they support the Blind Pig and The Acorn by sponsoring my garden and my garden reporter @ large projects. If you decide to donate to their cause-you can get some pretty cool things in return-so check it out. 

Subscribe for free to Blind Pig And The Acorn by Email