Appalachia Through My Eyes - Keeping the Bugs Away

My life in appalachia keeping the bugs away

If you're around a camping area or attend an evening cookout after dark in Appalachia (and in other places) you're likely to see citronella candles sitting around in an effort to ward off the bugs. 

Instead of using store bought candles or torches Pap built a small fire and placed green or damp leaves and branches on it to produce a smoky haze to ward off the bugs.

Pap's fire didn't smell near as good as the citronella, but I do believe it worked a whole heck of a lot better. 


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

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It's Lay By Time

Packsaddles hide in the corn and sting you

Lay by verb phrase To leave a crop to mature after hoeing it for a final time late in the summer. When a farmer has the crop "laid by," the labors of plowing, planting, and cultivating are over, and he can sit back until the crop is ripe. 1834 Crockett Narrative 154 Having laid by my crap, I went home, which was a distance of about a hundred and fifty miles. 1905 Cole Letters 80 Soon as crops is laid by if I live expecting to here from you soon I remain your son. 1953 Hall Coll. Bryson City NC The spring of the year come, why [Jake Welch, a neighbor] went to plowing and planting his corn, and beans, and potatoes, and things-cultivating that stuff at home. He'd take care of that ontil he got through and got his crop laid by. He'd generally get it done laying by corn in the latter part of July. (Granville Calhoun) 1955 Dykeman French Broad 322 The third or fourth week in August, when crops were "laid by" and "garden truck" was at its most plentiful, families within a radius of many miles put finishing touches on their arrangement to attend camp meetings. 1976 Carter Little Tree 90 "Laying -by" time was usually in August. That was the time of the year when farmers were done with plowing and hoeing weeds out of their crops four or five times, and the crops was big enough now that they "laid by," that is, no hoeing or plowing while the crops ripened and they waited to do the gathering. 1979 Smith White Rock 47 All cornfields were hoed at least three times; the last time was called "laying it by." 1995 Weber Rugged Hills 67 "Well," someone will say, "the corn is 'laid-by' for this year." What they mean is that there will be no more hoeing or cultivation. Crops are now tall enough so that they won't be crowded out by weeds. Any weeds growing in the rows will be left where they are. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


We didn't plant any corn this year, but Granny has more than made up for it. She's planted corn at pretty much every corner of her garden and yard. Every time I think she's through with her corn planting she'll tell me she planted a few more little rows. None of her corn patches get enough sun so it's doubtful any of it will actually make, but she sure does like planting it and hoping it will. 


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How to say Completely in Appalachia

How to say completely in Appalachia
I was plumb happy that our friend David played our gig with us on Sunday

In Appalachia we have many ways to express completely or all the way

  • clean through: The bullet went clean through his hand and into his brother's back.  
  • done dead: The snake was done dead when I saw it.
  • plumb: I walked plumb up to the gap of the mountain.
  • eat up: She was eat up by bug bites.
  • slam up: I'd be covered slam up with bites too if I went traipsing around half naked. 
  • slap: She didn't get home till slap dark and I was worried to death.
  • pure out: That boy is pure out sorry. He's been that way since the day he was born I reckon.

 I'm sure you can think of more ways to express completely-leave a comment and share any you think of with us.


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Ferro Sticks

How to use a ferro stick to build a fire

Sometimes The Deer Hunter uses a ferro rod to start fires when he's out and about in the woods. I'd never even heard of a ferro rod until he showed me how they work. 

How to use a ferro rod to start a fire

You can find ferro rods at places that sell camping, hunting, or survival gear. The Deer Hunter made a handle out of a deer horn for his so that it'd be easier to hold onto and he made a leather thong to hold it so he can wear the rod around his neck where it's handy but out of the way. 

Here's a short video that shows how the ferro rod works (click on the video to start it and click on it again to stop it). When the rod is struck along its length sparks are created.

Using a ferro rod to start a fire

A lot of folks use a striker that comes with the rod to generate the sparks, but The Deer Hunter uses the back of his knife. He says the knife is easier to hold onto, works a whole lot better, and since he always has his knife its more convenient for him. 

How to start a fire with a ferro rod

The Deer Hunter says the easiest way to build a fire is with a lighter, but as someone who spends a whole lot of time in the woods he says having a ferro rod as a back up fire starter makes him feel better.

To find out more about ferro rods and how they work jump over to Leon Pantenburg's site Survival Common Sense.


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Poor Year for Blackberries

Blackberry jelly

The one thing I must put up every summer is blackberry jelly. There's no other jelly for me. There are other jellies that I like, but my favorite must have jelly is blackberry. 

It's a taste that goes back to the breakfast spread on Granny's table and after school snacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with milk and reruns of Tom and Jerry. 

Most summers I'm in blackberry heaven. This year not so much. This has been the poorest blackberry season that I can remember in my area. We've had plenty of rain-maybe we've had too much rain. I really don't know why but the blackberries have been slim pickings this summer. I made one run of jelly over the weekend and I'm worrying it will be my only one. If it is, those jars will be like solid gold for the Blind Pig family. 

Blackberry jelly is one of the easiest things to make-the hard part takes place before you ever make the jelly. First there's fighting the heat, bugs, snakes, bees, and briars for the blackberries. Then there's the juicing of the blackberries.

Some folks prefer jam and if you're one of them your jelly making will be easier. I'm not a fan of seeds so I try my best to get every last one out of my juice.

It takes about 2 and half quarts of blackberries to get the amount of juice needed for a run of jelly. But I don't worry about whether they'll be enough juice for a run I just go ahead and cook them and see what I end up with. If I have a little too much I pop the excess in the freezer for future use.

Blackberry Jelly

  • 3 ¾ cup blackberry juice
  • 4 ½ cup sugar
  • Box of surejell or other pectin
  • jars, lids, rings


Place blackberries in a large stock pot and add water until you can just begin to see it come up around the berries. Cook for 20 minutes.

Using a colander ricer in canning and preserving

Granny always used a hand turned foodmill for the first step of juicing the berries and that was what I used before Miss Cindy gifted me with a cone shaped colander ricer. I LOVE MY RICER!

Place blackberries in ricer or foodmill and try to get all the juice out of them. This step also gets most of the seeds out of the juice. 

Blackberry juice how to extract it

To ensure all the seeds are removed I use my small sieve/strainer and a piece of cheese cloth to filter out any seeds which are left. 

If you end up with enough juice for 2 recipes of blackberry jelly-double it! I have with very good luck. If you end up with extra but not enough for another recipe pop it into the freezer until you get more juice. If you end up with almost enough you can add water to increase the juice to the right amount or you could add another type of fruit juice to make up the difference.

How to make blackberry jelly

Place blackberry juice into a large pot; add surejel; stir well.

Cook mixture until it comes to a boil. I'm not sure there's anything that smells as good as blackberry juice when it's cooking.

Add sugar all at once and stir to combine.

Bring mixture back to a full rolling boil and boil one minute.

Sterilizing jars for jelly

While I'm waiting for my blackberry jelly to come to a boil I fix a pot of boiling water to sterilize my jars and rings in. Some folks like to sterilize theirs in the dishwasher or the oven-that works too. 

Once jelly has boiled one minute quickly ladle into hot jars and seal with lids and rings. Set jelly upside for 5 minutes. 

Turn jelly right side up and cover with a towel until sealed. 

Blackberry jelly from appalachia

After jelly has cooled check to make sure all the jars have sealed. If a jar isn't sealed don't worry just put in the refrigerator and use it first. 

There is a whole debate about whether you should water bath your jelly or not. I don't and feel comfortable doing it that way since I always have. If you'd rather water bath yours do so for 5 minutes. 

One recipe made the jars you see in the photo above plus one more that I used immediately to make a jelly sandwich. 


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Chasing Dreams

The Pressley Girls are chasing their dreams in Appalachia

A few years back I shared one of Chitter's original songs Where the Wind Blows with you. Its still one of my favorite songs from their ever growing list of original songs.  

Since the girls graduated from college they sometimes feel bad when somebody asks them what they're going to do with their lives.

They both have part-time jobs (actually multiple part-time jobs) and each of them are passionate about their personal enterprises of jewelry making and natural beauty products-not to mention their music. I say "Tell those folks you're chasing your dreams."


Where the Wind Blows written by Corie Pressley

Just because you know where you're from doesn't mean you know where you're going. I guess my dreams are to big for this small town.

I gotta run I gotta go I gotta see where the wind blows I gotta get out of here. I gotta follow my dreams even if they're not meant to be I gotta run I gotta go I gotta see where the wind blows.

We collect pieces of life as we go, to make the puzzle fit as a whole, but even then we loose pieces and have to start all over. There's a good road and a bad road one's paved with gravel one's paved with gold but sometimes you gotta follow the wind and not what you're told. 

I gotta run I gotta go I gotta see where the wind blows I gotta get out of here. I gotta follow my dreams even if they're not meant to be I gotta run I gotta go I gotta see where the wind blows.

But you can't live for the past you gotta live for the present cause there's no promise that we'll see another sunset and that's why...

I gotta run I gotta go I gotta see where the wind blows I gotta get out of here. I gotta follow my dreams even if they're not meant to be I gotta run I gotta go I gotta see where the wind blows.



When the girls first started singing Where the Wind Blows it made me think back to when I was their age. The world seemed stretched out before me with an infinite number of paths all of which lead to my dreams which were filled with unlimited possibilities. 

The great thing about life is you're never to old to dream and although my dreams may have changed from the ones I had in days gone by, I still have a few worth chasing. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing TODAY Sunday July 9 @ 1:00 p.m. at the Festival on the Square in Hayesville NC.

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Back to the Mountains

Searching for appalachia

Back to the Mountains

Most of 'em come back. 
They go away
in their younger days,
but then,
when they get older,
most of 'em
want to come back tot he mountains.

Ralph Crouse, 1922 Alleghany County (Snowbird Gravy and Dishpan Pie by Patsy Moore Ginns)


Some folks work away for most of their lives so that they can come back to the mountains when they retire. I'm grateful I've never had to leave. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing TOMORROW Sunday July 9 @ 1:00 p.m. at the Festival on the Square in Hayesville NC.

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Poison Oak

Remedies for poison oak
This time of the year folks are worrying about bug bites and the dreaded case of poison oak or poison ivy. I know they're different plants, but we always called the itchy stuff poison oak no matter which plant it came from. I was a lucky kid, I never had poison oak, but that wasn't the case for others in my family.

Granny is highly allergic to the stuff. Honest to goodness certain times of the year she can walk through the yard and catch it from the wind blowing. When she was pregnant with me she had a horrible case of poison oak. Pap always said that's why I didn't seem to be effected by the plant. He thought I built up an immunity to it when Granny was carrying me. Paul and Steve didn't get that same immunity.

One of the worst cases Paul ever had was during the middle of the winter. It was in the late 70's during one of the coldest winters on record for our area. We still had gravity water and it stayed frozen more than thawed during that bitter cold spell. Pap built fires along the length of black pipe that wasn't buried to thaw it. Paul and I loved for the water to freeze because we played in the fires and explored the woods. 

While playing in the fire we inadvertently burned poison oak and in just a day or so Paul was eat up with the raised itchy patches. Paul's case was severe. Pap took him to a local pediatrician who proceeded to explain to Pap that the boy could not have poison oak as it was the dead of winter. After the doc left the room her nurse told Pap "She's crazy as a loon that's poison oak if I've ever seen it!" A trip to a different doctor got Paul a much needed shot and medication for his aliment.

Steve's job requires him to be in weedy brushy areas and he has become an expert at heading off his outbreaks of poison oak as soon as he notices one, but he's had to have shots on more than one occasion.

A few summers ago my streak of never having poison oak came to a screeching halt.  I was helping a lady friend work in her flowers and apparently in the process of pulling armfuls of weeds I pulled up poison oak. At first I didn't really know what I had. I showed my arms to Pap and he said it sure looked like poison oak, but since I'd never had it he wasn't sure. 

To say I was in misery is an understatement. After a few days of the mess Steve came to check on me. He took one look and said "Yep that's poison oak." For over a week I tried every home remedy you've ever heard of-from oatmeal to peroxide-nothing helped. Finally on a Saturday afternoon I gave up the fight and paid a visit to a local urgent care center. The doctor who saw me said "You waited about a week too long to come." He gave me 2 shots and sent me back by the hospital emergency room for a couple of pain killers. I have faint scars on the insides of each arm to remind me I don't ever want to have that vile affliction again.

A few home remedies I've heard about:

  • Fingernail polish-Granny swears by this one. At the first sign of a bump or patch cover it with fingernail polish-supposedly the polish seals the place off from air and helps it dry up.
  • Clorox to kill the poison.
  • Spread cooked oatmeal on the patches to relieve the pain/itching and to dry the areas up.
  • Mix baking soda with water and put on patches.
  • Use vinegar to stop the itching.
  • Use buttermilk to relieve the itch.
  • Rub patches with peroxide or alcohol to kill the poison and dry up the areas-this remedy hurts so bad but feels so good at the same time!
  • Several remedies suggest taking a bath in salt, soda, or oatmeal water-while others warn of never taking a bath.

Jewelweed for posion oak 

Jewelweed growing in a ditch at the bottom of my driveway

One of my favorite books on folk medicine-Folk Medicine In Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender has this to say about remedies for poison oak/ivy:

"...poultices of cooked or crushed leaves of peach tree, jewelweed, ragweed, red oak, willow, or nightshade; juice of a green tomato or milkweed; and topical solutions of red oak or willow bark. Frequently reported non-botanical remedies include buttermilk, soda paste, Epsom salt solution, cow's cream (sometimes mixed with gunpowder), a biscuit soaked in sweet milk, calamine lotion, salt water solution, and bleach. According to some reports it was believed that one could develop an immunity to poison ivy by eating some of it's leaves. This dangerous and potentially fatal folk belief still circulates today." 

I've read several positive accounts about jewelweed's use as a poison oak remedy. Generally the plants grow in shady damps places and can reach two to three feet tall. The juice of the plant is a natural cortisone and is also supposed to be an excellent remedy for bee stings and bug bites.

Granny said the first time she ever remembered having poison oak she had it on her face. Her mother, Gazzie, took her to town to see the pharmacist. He sold Gazzie some calamine lotion for Granny's face. She said she'd never forget they smeared it all over her till she looked like a ghost. While they were in town Gazzie took Granny over to see her aunt. Granny said the elderly lady was scared by the child with the ghostly skin. 

This summer Granny has had another bout of poison oak. She polished it up and then taped it up...only when she took off the tape she took part of her hide too. A shot from the doctor and some topical cream finally cleared up her poison oak and I'm keeping my fingers crossed no one else gets it this summer or ever for that matter!


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing TODAY Friday July 7 @ 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Art Walk in Murphy NC and on Sunday July 9 @ 1:00 p.m. at the Festival on the Square in Hayesville NC.

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Grasshoppers in Appalachia


Grasshoppers in Appalachia

During the summer it's hard to walk through the yard without flushing out grasshoppers. I found this little guy in a 5 gallon bucket that was sitting on the back porch. He was missing a leg, but other than that seemed to be in good condition.

Pet grasshoppers in childhood

I couldn't resist seeing if he was hungry. My new friend made short work of the blade of grass I offered him. 

I'm not sure who taught me grasshoppers would eat a blade of grass if you stuck it in front of their little mouths, but when my nephews, girls, and niece came along I showed them the trick. 

The first one I taught was Ben, Pap and Granny's first grandchild. Ben's arrival made me an aunt for the first time and I doted on him. Actually we all did. 

Ben called me Auntie Titter and he thought I was the Queen of the Grasshoppers. I showed him how to feed them grass, how if you were extra gentle and quick a grasshopper would hop from arm to arm and I fascinated him when I showed him grasshoppers will sometimes spit 'tobacco juice' on you. 

There were a few summers that every time I seen him he wanted nothing more than to hold my hand and walk through the yard looking for grasshoppers because Auntie Titter could find them like no one else. 

Thanks to Ben and his wife, in a few months I'll become a great aunt for the first time and I'm already looking forward to passing my Queen of the Grasshoppers knowledge on to another generation.

If you want to learn how to make Grasshopper Chairs-go here

And if you have warts the grasshopper's tobacco juice will make them go least that's what I was always told.


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing on Friday July 7 @ 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Art Walk in Murphy NC and on Sunday July 9 @ 1:00 p.m. at the Festival on the Square in Hayesville NC.

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Planting by the Signs Calendar - July 2017

Planting by the signs calendar for July 2017

The Deer Hunter and I wanted to get a late planting of beans, cucumbers, and squash in the ground, but between the rain and work we've only managed to get another row of Yonce Beans planted. Not sure if we'll get the cucumbers and squash in time for them to produce before fall. 

I know a few folks who live farther south than us who've had to give up their garden due to the excessive rain that's fallen in their area so I'm not complaining one bit about our rainy days. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing on Friday July 7 @ 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Art Walk in Murphy NC and on Sunday July 9 @ 1:00 p.m. at the Festival on the Square in Hayesville NC.

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