1. Our pressure tank has been acting up for the last few months. The Deer Hunter knew he needed to change it, but was hoping to put the chore off till after hunting season. A few Friday mornings ago the tank was on it's last legs for sure. The Deer Hunter was supposed to take off after work for a weekend hunting trip. He said he guessed he'd just stay home and fix the tank. I said "The girls and I will barely be here this weekend it can wait till Sunday." He went on to deer camp and came back with a tank a friend gave him. It looked all beat up so I said "Are you sure that thing will work?" He said his friend said it was working when he took it out and he even tested it and it was fine. The Deer Hunter got right to work cutting the old tank out and installing the used one. Guess what? It didn't work! It was worse than our old one! Every time someone used the water it sounded like a jet engine getting ready for take off. The next day The Deer Hunter bought a new one and installed it after he got off work. So The Deer Hunter got to install a pressure tank two days in a row and now we have two old tanks laying in our yard.
2. I've had some Blind Pig and The Acorn fanfare recently that has me walking around on cloud nine. First my all time favorite scholar on Appalachian Studies, Loyal Jones, emailed me about the blog. I felt like I was corresponding with Elvis! And if that wasn't good enough, Michael Montgomery aka compiler of my favorite source the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has been corresponding with me as well. Even more unbelievable to me, Michael may use the Blind Pig as a source in his next issue of the dictionary. Talk about an early Christmas present!
3. Gregory, a Blind Pig reader, sent me a video of StevenSeagulls a few weeks back. I've become slightly obsessed with the band from Finland. Most of their videos are covers of hard rock songs, but done in a totally different manner. They use a variety of instruments including an accordion in some of their videos. I mean whether you like it or not you have to give kudos to someone who can use an accordion in an AC/DC song. Go here to see my favorite video of them.
4. The girls still share my old car. Chitter got a wreath and a bow and ask her Daddy to attach it to the grill so they've been riding around spreading Christmas cheer every where they go. I never knew of anyone putting a wreath on their vehicle until I met The Deer Hunter. Way back in the day when we were dating he made a wreath from cedar trees that grew around Papaw's house and put it on his big brown truck at Christmas.
5. The girls' cd is selling like hotcakes. If you haven't picked up a copy of it yet you need to. You can go here to buy it online or you can pick it up at Foster's Trading Post if you live local. And of course they'll have it for sale at their various gigs during the coming year. You can catch them on December 23 at 5:00 p.m. at the Andrews Brewing Company in Andrews NC and on January 5 at 7:00 p.m. at the John C. Campbell Folk School here in Brasstown NC.
I got the snow I was wishing for!
Last week I heard folks at work teasing about snow coming in at the end of the week, but I really didn't believe it would snow and I was so preoccupied with getting ready for the annual Pressley Christmas Party that was going to happen over the weekend that I didn't think much about it.
Early Friday morning, a little after 5:00 a.m., my phone started going crazy. I'm part of the alert team at work and as soon as I heard the phone I told The Deer Hunter "It must have snowed."
After I completed my necessary duties for work I settled in to watch it snow while I drank my daily cup of Postum. It was just beautiful!
Thinking the snow would soon peter out and that I still had a ton of things to do before we left for Canton I got to work cleaning house. I was elated at not having to go in to work. I felt like I'd been given four extra hours of life (I usually work a half day on Fridays).
First I packed up every thing we needed to take for the Christmas festivities at Aunt Wanda's and then I started vacuuming and cleaning. Every so often I'd notice the power flicker but I kept getting at it hoping to finish my house work.
I finished up about 11:30 and was just about to fix myself something for dinner when I looked out the window. I could not believe how much snow had accumulated! I hurried and caught some water in what I had handy in case the power decided to go off for good.
As I stood and worried about Chatter and The Deer Hunter getting home from work I saw a truck come up the driveway. Chitter said "Who in the world is that?" I said "I think its Chatter." And it was. A nice man at work drove her home. I can't believe he attempted our driveway, but he made it fine.
Chitter ran outside to see her sister and about that time the lights went out.
The Deer Hunter was home directly. I already had a fire built in the wood stove so we set in to enjoying being snowed in together. Aunt Wanda decided she better cancel the big Christmas party since Haywood County was getting the same snow we were so there was nowhere any of us had to be.
Granny's phone doesn't work if the power is off and while we were toasty warm I knew she wouldn't have any heat without the electricity. I was just about to head down there when I got word that Steve, my older brother, had taken her home with him.
The Deer Hunter and I went outside to check things out. The snow was so pretty! I stood staring up in the sky at it until I made myself dizzy. We fed the chickens and The Deer Hunter de-snowed the greenhouse. We wondered around a while and then headed back inside to warm by the fire.
The snow was the perfect kind for coating every available surface no matter how small or delicate and as you can see from the photos I felt like I had to capture every example with my camera.
Once we were inside I quickly realized I had dropped my phone somewhere along our trek so we headed back out to find it. Luckily it didn't take us long.
The power stayed off the rest of the night and most of the next day. Although I love snow more than anything, I do feel for the folks that have to be out in it. There were almost 700 outages in the Blue Ridge EMC service area and that equals about 18,000 people without power. I so appreciate all the hardworking EMC folks who worked to get it all back up and running.
The next morning I was anxious to find out how Granny had made it but everyone's phones were dead and I couldn't get anyone to answer me. I finally took off down the hill to see if I could find them. I ran into Paul along the way and he said Granny was still at Steve's.
Granny's house looked like a Christmas cottage tucked into a winter wonderland.
We walked the rest of the way together and as Paul went in I told him to tell Granny to look out the window and I'd wave at her. I think he thought I was crazy, but I knew she'd want to see me and I sure wanted to see her.
Wouldn't you know I took all those pictures without a memory card in my camera. I almost wanted to cry. Instead I hiked back home, got my card, and did it all over again. Steve's dog Griffin didn't like me coming around the first time. He really didn't like it when I came tromping back. He is the sweetest cutest dog you ever seen except he won't let me get within 10 foot or he'll run. All I have to do is say hello and he skedaddles.
When the water supply I gathered had been depleted The Deer Hunter and Chitter hiked to the creek for water. We boiled some for drinking and cooking and used the rest to flush the potties. I made a tasty pot of chili on the coleman stove and we had a dandy breakfast cooked on it too. The girls said they were sort of sad when the power came back on. I think they enjoyed focusing on taking care of things in a more hands on manner than we usually do.
When The Deer Hunter came in from work on Friday he left his truck at the bottom of the drive. He's been chauffeuring us to where we need to go so we've all been hiking in and out. But even with the extra trouble I'm still glad I got a big snow! The average total for my area was between 6-10 inches. We had ten. It was the prettiest snow I've seen since the white Christmas in 2010 and since we live on the north side of the mountain I'll have a snowy view for at least the rest of the week.
When the girls were small and couldn't find something they wanted to eat I'd send them down to Granny's and Pap's to see what they had. Actually the girls are still known to head down to Granny's for something to eat on occasion. There's usually leftovers in the frig, biscuits on the table, and cornbread on the counter. Not to mention, Granny has a stash of candy in a drawer and a supply of Little Debbies in a cabinet.
We lived too far away from Granny Gazzie to raid her house for food. Since I didn't spend as much time there as my girls do at Granny and Pap's I never felt comfortable prowling through her cabinets or drawers for a snack. But Granny Gazzie did have candy to share.
She always had orange slice candy, stick candy, and those foam looking peanut shaped things. I can never see those candies that I don't think of her offering me a piece, especially at Christmas time.
Over a year ago I came across a recipe for orange slice cake in my favorite Appalachian Cook Book: More Than Moonshine by Sidney Saylor Farr. The recipe immediately made me think of Granny Gazzie, but I never got around to trying it. A few weeks later Granny found the same recipe in the Nov/Dec issue of the NC Farm Bureau Magazine. She made the cake and shared it with us and Chatter just loved it!
- 1 cup margarine or butter (I used butter)
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk with 1 tsp baking soda mixed in
- 3 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1 box dates chopped fine (I used the 8oz. box)
- 1 can flake coconut (I didn't have a can-so I used a cup of coconut)
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 1 10 oz. jar maraschino cherries cut in half
- 1 pound orange sliced candy cut fine (I use the 14 oz bag)
Cream butter and sugar
Add eggs one at a time-mixing well after each.
Alternately add the buttermilk and 3 cups of flour-mixing well after each addition.
Use the remaining 1/2 cup flour to coat candy, dates, nuts, and cherries.
Add flour coated items and coconut to the batter and mix well. It's a very stiff batter at this point.
The recipe calls for a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan baked at 250° for two and half hours. Since I like to share our cake I divide the batter into two regular size loaf pans and two mini loaf pans. I also bump the oven up to 300°. It still takes well over an hour for the cakes to bake, of course the mini loaves finish before the regular size ones.
Even though the Orange Slice Cake takes some time and energy to make it is very good and the flavors make it seem perfect for this time of the year.
Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem was written by Phillips Brooks, the pastor who spoke at Abraham Lincoln's funeral service. Before becoming a pastor, Brooks taught at Boston's Latin School. Brooks was discouraged by his students lack of interest and left his position to attend the Episcopal Theological Seminary. After Brooks graduated in 1859 he was asked to pastor the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia.
Brooks was very successful. He was widely known as a powerful and persuasive speaker. Under his guidance the church grew and prospered. But as the Civil War began to take a tole on the entire country, members of the church began to fall away and Brooks found it harder and harder to offer them the peace they so desperately needed.
When the war finally ended, Brooks thought the healing of his church and the country might began, however the unexpected death of Lincoln shattered his dreams.
After speaking at Lincoln's funeral Brooks took a sabbatical to the Holy Land in an effort to reconnect with his God and to allow his mind and body to rest. He visited during the Christmas season and was able to ride a horse along the route Joseph and Mary took from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
As he rode alone in the darkness with the stars shining above him he was moved in an overpowering manner. He felt like he was able to experience a small taste of the magic and wonder that must have been alive on that very first Christmas.
Once Brooks returned from his trip abroad he had a renewed strength to pastor his church. He wanted to share his Christmas in Bethlehem experience with his congregation and the world at large but he always seemed to fall short when he tried to convey the feelings of awe and wonder he experienced.
A few years later, as the Christmas season quickly approached, Brooks tried once more to put his experience into the most meaningful words. Proceeding differently than he had in the past, he simply wrote down what came to mind and as he did Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem was born.
He shared his newly written poem with his friend, Lewis Redner.
Redner was moved by the poem and finally understood the breadth of what his friend had experienced while visiting the Holy Land.
Redner tried in vain to compose a line of music that would fit the words Brooks had penned. On December 24 Redner accepted defeat and went to bed. But all was not lost, the perfect tune came to him in his sleep. The tune fit the poem perfectly.
The song become an instant hit in the Philadelphia area and by the time Brooks died in 1893 Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem had become a favorite Christmas Carol across the country and beyond.
A quote from the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas gives us an interesting view of both Brooks and the song:
"In a sermon Brooks once said, "It is while you are patiently toiling at the little tasks of life that the meaning and shape of the great whole of life dawns on you." On a horse, in a tiny village, a half a world away form his home and family, the meaning of Phillips Brooks's life and the purpose behind his work were brought into sharp focus."
I like the quote from Brooks. I firmly believe the little bits of every day life are what make life so precious. Click on the link below to hear Pap and Paul's version of the song (you may need to click your back button to come back to this page).
Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem is my all time favorite Christmas Song and I love Pap and Paul's version of it. The song is on Pap and Paul's cd Songs of Christmas.
You can go here Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas to purchase a cd of your own.
p.s. I wasn't able to post the Blind Pig yesterday. We were without electricity...I got my snow! I'll tell you all about it one day this week.
*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.
A few months ago the girls were contacted by the North Carolina Arts Council. The organization is making an effort to reach out to millennials who perform traditional music.
Last week the girls were invited to attend the Millennial Traditional Artists Gathering in Black Mountain NC. The NC Arts Council hosted the event in the hopes that they might help millennial music makers with marketing, grants, and a whole host of other things.
The girls let me tag along and let me tell you we had a great time! We learned a lot and met some wonderful folks to boot. It was very refreshing for the girls to meet and interact with people their age who have the same goal of keeping traditional music alive.
A very bright spot in the day was meeting Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the North Carolina Arts Council.
In 1998 Pap and his brother Ray were awarded the NC Folk Heritage Award for their musical achievements. Wayne was the person who presented the award to them. He was pleased as punch to meet two of Pap's granddaughters and even happier to know they were helping keep the music Pap taught them alive for future generations.
The winter of 1900 had been an unusually bad one. A true story book picture of what a Christmas scene must be like. It seemed as though the bad weather kept roaring into the Shooting Creek Mountains day after day without ceasing. First the freezing rain came, piling up on the earth and timber causing the mountains to sound like a battle was taking place as the trees gave way to the awful weight of tons of accumulating ice. The snow had piled up at the Abraham Anderson cabin there in the Bethabera section of the county with little chance for folks to get any work done other than to break a trail to the barn to feed the animals and to find a decent pole of standing dry timber to fuel the fireplace.
Abraham hadn’t been able to get to the mill that was situated further down the valley to try to buy or trade for a turn of cornmeal so his new wife Mae could make their everyday cake of cornbread for their table. Fact was that if he had been able to get to the old tub mill he wouldn’t have been able to get any meal since the miller wasn’t there to do the grinding. The miller like everyone else in the settlement was shut down solid. Mae, the young bride, had worries that went a little deeper than those of Abraham. Although she was just a recent bride she felt an obligation to provide a good meal for their table as this was the tradition that was understood by most women of the time, young and old alike.
The old peddler, Mr. Bramlett, who came over their way from across the mountain in Georgia and who made his usual rounds every few months with his wagon and team, had not showed up because of the bad weather as well. The folks who depended on him to deliver their short grocery list of coffee, salt and other such items that they couldn’t produce on their small mountain farm were pretty much in the same shape as Abraham and Mae.
Finally the weather began to break sharing a bit of sunshine from time to time to perhaps shorten the life of the thick covering of snow. As night time slowly began to settle upon the valley Mae called to her husband and with a tone of sadness and some measure of defeat in her voice she told him to come and sit down at the table for a meager bite. With her call she explained that this was the last bite of anything in the house for them to eat. There was nothing else left in the house that she could cobble together to be made into another meal.
As they sat down at the table and started to eat their supper they both began to hear faint sounds coming up the cove. Could it be the gentle sounds of trace chains and the crunch of snow falling under the feet of a struggling team? As the sounds came closer, sure enough that was what they both were hearing. It had to be the peddler, Mr. Bramlett! As the sounds came closer, and finally stopped in the yard Abraham stepped out the door to greet this night traveler. A better Christmas gift could not be found on the earth than just to know that sitting outside their door was a wagon that held provisions enough to get them through the darkest and leanest winter that Abraham and his young wife Mae would ever have to endure.
This is a true story often relayed to me by my father many, many times. Abraham was my father’s uncle. My grandfather was married in 1899 there in Shooting Creek and Abraham was next down from him in age, so his marriage to Aunt Mae was very near this time. Aunt Mae and Abraham later moved over to Union County GA where they raised a large family. Uncle Abraham lived until 1957-58 and was taken back to be buried in the Bethabera Church Cemetery. Aunt Mae died in the middle sixties and was buried beside her husband a stones throw from their cabin there in the valley of their birth. My great-grandfather was Col. Bramlett, so not knowing the real name of the peddler I have substituted the Bramlett name. Artistic license??? You understand. -David Anderson
I hope you enjoyed David's Christmas story as much as I did!
This year Sow True Seed graciously donated extra lettuce seed so that I could deputize @ Large Lettuce Reporters during the fall gardening period. There are 12 folks taking part in the lettuce reporting including me.
Here's a short update from myself and another reporter @ large.
As you can see from the photos above my lettuce from the reporting project is doing great! I also planted some Sow True Seed Kale and it's coming right along too.
My other report comes from Don Tomlinson:
If you've been reading the Blind Pig and The Acorn for a good while you already know I'm plumb foolish about snow. I just love it! I can only remember one or two Christmases that were actually white even though the holiday certainly brings to mind snowy drifts.
With the chance of the first snow of the year coming later this week (I'm keeping my fingers crossed!) I found myself thinking back to the Christmas of 2010. It was truly a magical White Christmas.
Keep reading to re-visit the post from the archives that I wrote about the snowy event.
After the lights went out on Christmas afternoon, the Three Indian Princesses went out to play in the snow, and I convinced The Deer Hunter to hike up the creek with me.
I've written about the old logging roads and trails that criss cross the acreage around my house before, if you missed it you can read about them by clicking on the following:
The scenery was breath taking. There were intricate arches to walk under all along the way. The sight made me wonder if an earthly being could create something as spectacular.
Squirrel nests stood out like dark balls against the snowy skies.
There were icicles galore-some over a foot long.
After we told them how much fun we had on the hike they both gave us this look. They wanted us to turn around and go back up the creek right then. We convinced them to wait till the next day. You can follow this link to tag along on our second hike and to see the mysterious tracks we found on the way.
p.s. The winner of the Christmas Barn book giveaway is...Francis P. Page who said: I was blessed to grow up in beautiful Andrews, NC. My family shares a deep love for our mountain heritage even though we are scattered over the world. I was a lonely only child who GOD has abundantly blessed with large family. 29 ( twenty-nine) GreatGrandchildren. 54 kin now..from our marriage of 70 years! We are Readers, big time, and would love this book about my Cherokee County. A cousin in Hayesville put us in touch with your wonderful site. Grateful! Delightful! Have a Merry Christmas.
Francis-email your mailing address to me at email@example.com and I'll send you the goodies!
Granny always made fruit salad for Christmas dinner. She calls it Heavenly Hash. As I got older I noticed other folks called their fruit salad Ambrosia.
According to John Parris true Ambrosia consists only of fresh coconut, oranges, coconut milk and sherry or rum (optional).
"Ambrosia at Christmas dinner is a long-time tradition with many mountain families. They consider the addition of bannans, pineapples, grapes, apples, and other fruits a heresy. They say such additionals make it a fruit salad."
Mountain Cooking by John Parris.
I'm sure Parris's statement was very true at the time he wrote the book, but over the years ambrosia has changed to include various other ingredients. Like many other common recipes, there are great variations in the ingredients folks use to make their own favorite bowl of ambrosia...or fruit salad.
My favorite recipe comes from Miss Cindy.
- 2 large cans of pineapple chunks
- 1 small can of Mandarin oranges
- 1 pint sour cream
- 1/4 of a large bag of shredded coconut
- 1/3 of a bag of mini marshmallows
- a handful of nuts-I like pecans the best
- optional-a few spoonfuls or small jar of maraschino cherries (I never add them)
Drain all the fruit then mix with the rest of the ingredients. It's better after sitting in the frig for a while, but I can never wait that long to try it.
If you have a favorite Christmas Ambrosia recipe I hope you'll share it with us.
Steve & Tipper Christmas 1971
Away In A Manger is the lullaby of Christmas songs. I've always thought the simple lines of the song make it sound like a folk song and the visuals of stars, hay, cattle, and meeting in heaven help reinforce the folk song feeling. The fact that no one knows who wrote the song also aligns it with other folk songs from the same era.
For many years Martin Luther, Protestant Reformer from Germany, was credited with writing the song. No one knows why, but in 1887 James R. Murray published the song in his book Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses listing Luther as the writer of the song. Murray was a hymn writer and worked for a publishing company, so it's probable that he truly thought Luther was the person who penned Away In A Manger. The version of the song published in Murray's book only had 2 verses. During the years after the publication, the song spread in popularity as did the notion that Luther wrote it.
Two years before Murray published the song, the Lutheran Church published Away In A Manger in a book titled Little Children's Book giving credit to no writer and showing a completely different tune than the one so many of us know and love.
Shortly after WWI a Boston publishing company published the song crediting Carl Mueller with composing the music for the song.
During both World Wars people in the US shied away from singing Away In A Manger because of it's supposed connection to Martin Luther and Germany. But the popularity of the song returned after each war ended.
In 1945 American writer Richard Hill decided to unravel the confusing past of the song. Hill discovered Luther was not the writer of the song. Away In A Manger was practically unknown in Germany until it was introduced to the country by Americans. Hill verified that Murray composed the tune we are familiar with today. But Hill's research could not find the original writer of the song. Research did show evidence that most likely an American during the mid 1800s wrote the song and then the song was passed down orally like so many of our other folk songs.
Watch the video below to check out Pap and Paul's version of the song.
Away in a Manger is one of the songs on Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cds. There are 14 other Christmas songs on the cd as well.
You can go here Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas to purchase a cd of your own.
*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.