Green Up Time

Green up in spring

"Have you noticed? It's greening up!" That was a common expression among my Scots-Irish folks in the mountains of Choestoe Community, Union County, Georgia. I like the time of early spring, even maybe seeing some green-up happen when frosts and/or snow still threaten. One year in May, my father had his fields of corn planted and the rows looked lush with green-up growth, the plants abundant, an inch or two high. Then a hard freeze--frost and maybe even snow--came to obliterate the green. The whole field had to be planted again after the cold snap passed. That's part of the unpredictability of spring weather in our beloved mountain area. Green up can occur early; and then have to burst forth again."

~ Ethelene Dyer Jones 2015


I have heard the phrase green up used to describe the greening of spring my whole life. The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has this entry for green up:

green up, green-up time noun Springtime.
1976 Dwyer Southern Sayin's 23 = springtime. "It's comin' green up." 1991 Haynes Haywood Home 56 Springtime, just at green-up time, was the time for making popguns and willow whistles....It's the time when buds come on the willows and elders along the branches and creeks and their bark gets loose.  


Every Spring I wish that I could put my finger on the exact moment green up magically occurs. I know it's not an instantaneous thing, instead it happens in small increments until finally it arrives. 

Green up happened sometime since Pap's passing last week. As I looked out my car window this morning I thought "The world is green again." And it is. 


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Appalachian Sayings - Hemmed and Hawed

Hemming and hawing appalachain saying

Quit hemming and hawing and play something!


If you look in the dictionary for hem and haw you'll find Chatter and Chitter's photograph as the example. Those girls hem and haw before they do anything and their hemming and hawing is always accompanied by a whole lot of talking.

I was thinking the saying hem and haw was an Appalachian saying, but turns out it has a much wider scope than that. You can go here to read about the history of the phrase.

Hem and haw is still alive and well in my neck of the woods how about where you live?


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Do You Know What the Word Make Means?

Use of the word make in appalachia

Jan Sullivan left the following comment on yesterday's April in Pigeon Roost Post:

"I love the Foxfire books, and I got them for my mother as presents as she got very old. She enjoyed them also. Sassafras had to be had in early spring because it was a blood tonic to build up your blood for all the work to be done according to my grandmother. I also remember making lye soap and helping my grandmother wash clothes in a big iron pot in the back yard. Papa's flannel's in the spring turned the water all red. It was a hot job. We used a washboard, and carried water from a creek. Hard job then, but good memories now! The other day, at the doctor, I mentioned I was concerned with all the weather change, warm and then freeze, that my garden plants might not "make". Then I had to explain what make meant to the doctor. Anyone else use that word? Everyone have a wonderful spring with all the birds, flowers, crops, kids, and families. Jan"

After reading her comment, I thought the usage of the word make in Appalachia would make a great post. A little later in the day Ed Ammons summoned up the word usage for me in another comment:

In reference to the use of the word "make" in Jan's comment, I have heard and used it all my life. You don't grow a garden you make it. If your peppers grow pretty plants, like mine did last year, but nothing grew on them, your peppers didn't make. If your corn makes but the stink bugs get more than you do that's a different story.
The same usage applies in putting up food. If your jelly don't set, you say it didn't make. If your kraut smells like feet, it didn't make. You have to shake the jar forever before the butter makes.

"Ain't you gonna make a garden this year?"
"I tried last year but the only thing that made was the weeds."
"I know what you mean. I planted some late beans but the frost got them before they could make."

I'm very familiar with all the the uses for the word make that Jan and Ed describe. Here a few more common usages:

make - train to be or become. "I'd like to see my boy make a teacher. All the kids round here just love him."

make - to use in place of. "I'd make that old bowl for a flower pot if I was you."

make - to determine in one's mind. "She said she made it in her mind that she would finish school no matter what come along."

make up - to collect an item. "They're going to try and make up the money to fix the roof at next week's benefit."


p.s. The winner for the dvd of my favorite Blind Pig videos is...Cullen in Clyde who said:

"Seems the more water over the dam, the more things seem to be connected; more things AND more connected. Thanks for sharing these."

Cullen send me your mailing address and I'll send you the dvd!

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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 87

I am proud of my appalachian language

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test. I'm sharing a few videos in this test to let you hear some of the words too. To start the videos, click on them and then to stop them click on them again. 

 Take it and see how you do!

  1. Brogan
  2. Braggety
  3. Bounden to
  4. Botherment
  5. Boogerman 

A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

 Brogan: a coarse heavy shoe; a work boot. "He come stomping in here with his ole brogans on and left mud all through the house!"



A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

 Braggety: boastful; self important. "That man ain't nothing but braggety! Every time his mouth opens he's telling about how good he is at something."



A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

Bounden to: obligated; to be certain. "They're bounden to know we'd help them if they'd only let us."



A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

Botherment: a nuisance. "Having to go to the tag office ever year and stand in line ain't nothing but a botherment to me!"



A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

Boogerman: the Devil. "You better straighten yourself right up and I mean it! The boogermans gonna get you if you keep acting ugly."

All of this month's words are still very commonly used in my part of Appalachia. What about where you live?


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Do You Know What a Brush Arbor is? Cause Chitter don't!

Brush arbor in appalachia
Photo from Fentress County Family Photos

brush arbor noun A frame shelter, sometimes temporary, constructed of vertical poles secured in the ground and supporting a series of large, horizontal limbs on which fresh brush and smaller limbs are placed. The structure, usu adjacent to a church or cemetery, provides shade and shelter for preaching and worshipers, esp during the late-summer revival season. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Sometimes when I get an old Appalachian word, phrase, or piece of folklore on my mind I'll test it out on the girls to see if they know what it means. Sometimes they quickly tell me the answer letting me know the piece of heritage has made it down to their generation. Sometimes they don't have a clue what I'm talking about and that always makes me a little sad. 

The other day I had brush arbors on my mind so I yelled down the hallway and asked the girls if they knew what a brush arbor was. Chatter said nope she didn't have a clue. Chitter said "Of course I know what it is." I said "Well what is it?' She said "Its when a bunch of churches get together and burn brush." The Deer Hunter and I are still smiling about that answer!

In today's Appalachia the brush arbor revival has been replaced by tent revivals. They usually have a rather large one in Andrews each year. Even though the service is held in a tent I still hear folks refer to it as the brush arbor meeting.


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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 86

Growing up in appalachia keeping the voices alive

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test. In this test I'm going to try something I told you about back in January...I'm going to let you hear some of the words too! To start the videos below, click on them and then to stop them click on them again. 

 Take it and see how you do!

  1. Backset
  2. Backward
  3. Bait
  4. Bawl
  5. Bestest

Appalachian language is important

1.Backset: relapse of a sickness or aliment. "I saw ole James last week and he was doing a whole lot better. I reckon he took a backset cause he's in the hospital again."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on


2.  Backward: shy; bashful, reserved, or slightly strange. "I was so backward when I was a child I'd hide behind Granny or Pap's legs if somebody tried to talk to me."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on


3. Bait: a large portion of food; plentiful food item. "He come home from work with a big bait of bear meat. One of the guys down at the plant got a big one."

4. Bawl: to cry "I wish you could do something. She's laying in there bawling her eyes out over that ole boy."

5. Bestest: best. "The bestest coat I ever had was made by Granny."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on


All of this month's words are still very commonly used in my part of Appalachia. What about where you live?


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Saturday March 19 at 5:00 p.m. at the Ranger Elementary School. Come out for some good music and some good BBQ too!

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Breaking New Land

Breaking new ground in appalachia

break new land, break up new ground verb phrase To clear an area of trees and brush so it can be cultivated. Cf clean off, grub.
1939 Hall Coll. Saunook NC After breakin' new land, it's new ground and is not called such after two or three years. Sprouts of sassafras, locust, and running briers come up during that time, and you have to keep 'em cut down. (Robert McClure) 1981 Whitener Folk-ways 26 Sometimes a mountain farmer could hear his neighbor plowing or breaking up a new-ground. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

Sustainable gardens in appalachia self sufficient

We have tried to break new ground just about every year since we started gardening. After the girls got to a certain age it seemed they used the yard less and less. And The Deer Hunter will tell you he likes mowing the yard less and less too.

In the beginning we had one smallish garden area right in front of the house. Each year we expanded it a little bit on two sides.

Several years ago after the swing sets were no longer needed, we built the greenhouse in the back yard, and the next year we added 5 raised beds alongside it.

A few years later I gave up my long perennial flower bed for the best bean patch you ever seen! And the following year we enlarged the bean patch. 

Last Saturday we enlarged the bean patch again. It was The Deer Hunter's suggestion. I said "Well we're eating up more and more of the yard." He said "So? That's less I have to mow." 

I sat on a bucket and watched him break up the new ground. Let me tell you the first go around is hard plowing. Large rocks are beyond plentiful in our soil. The Deer Hunter's tiller would literally dance all over them before ever digging in to turn the dirt. More than one of the rocks had to be removed with a mattock. Of course the next pass through is easier and the one after that even easier.

As The Deer Hunter wiped his brow I couldn't resist saying "What if you had to do that with a mule and plow?" Never one to leave the last word unsaid he replied "I could do it." I smiled and said "I know you could." 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Saturday March 19 at 5:00 p.m. at the Ranger Elementary School. Come out for some good music and some good BBQ too!

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Appalachian Sayings - I Gave Him What For

Appalachian saying I gave him what for

"That burned me up! I went right down there and told him what for and I made sure he understood that it better not ever happen again."

Sentence translation: A man did something unacceptable that upset me. I went to see him and in a aggressive manner I explained to him how upset I was and shared my expectations that the event should never happen again.

Giving someone what for is like giving them a scolding but in a more fierce manner. 


The usage of the phrase what for is more than common in my area of Appalachia. But boy is it hard to explain in writing! Maybe it would help if I shared a few more sentences with it included.

  • I about laughed myself to death. She followed him all the way out to the car giving him what for every step!
  • I better see some changes down there at the school or I'm going to be giving that teacher what for over this homework.
  • You sure give them what for the other night and it's about time somebody did!

This page says the first recorded instance of the phrase usage was in 1873, and Horace Kephart documented the usage in Swain County NC in the early 1900s.

So where did the saying come from? I haven't a clue! This page has a lot of theories about the origin but nothing definitive. 

Even though no one seems to know where the saying came from, I think it's pretty cool that its still alive and well in my neck of the woods.


p.s. For any folks who live in the area, The Pressley Girls will be at The Learning Center's Maker Faire this Thursday evening, March 10. The faire runs from 3:30 - 7:30. The Pressley Girls will perform at 5:00 and Chitter will have her Stamey Creek Creations booth open for the entire faire. Jump over to the school's website to read more about this fun and educational event. And if you come out to the event please find me and say HELLO!

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Appalachian Sayings - Scarce as Hen's Teeth

Scarce as hens teeth

Scarce as hen's teeth = very rare

I still hear the saying scarce as hen's teeth in my part of Appalachia. I googled around trying to find the origin of the saying and my search turned up lots of different links. Of course the reason behind the saying is universal - hen's don't have teeth so finding a hen with teeth would be very rare indeed.

I stumbled upon a LiveJournal account called Word-Ancestry that says the first recorded use of the phrase was in 1862, but the entry doesn't name the text containing the phrase. 

Is scarcer than hen's teeth a saying you're familiar with?


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Have you been Hearing the Frogs?

The recent talk of spring cheepers and peepers here on the Blind Pig and the acorn reminded me of the post below, which was published here on the Blind Pig in March of 2013.

Spring peepers

A toad frog that lived under our back deck one summer.

Excerpt from Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English:

Spring cheeper, spring peeper noun 1967 DARE spring cheeper = small frog that sings or chirps loudly in spring (Maryville, TN). 1984 Wilder You All Spoken 59 spring peeper = These noisy frogs erupting from the mud of hibernation are pinklewinks on Martha's Vineyard and pinkwinks on Cape Cod. Most everywhere they are voices of Spring. 

I first heard spring peepers a week or so ago as the girls and I were coming through Warne, NC headed for home. They put out an amazing sound. Driving down the road is when I notice them the most in early spring. It's only for a few short seconds as you pass by their home-but they fill the car with their sweet voices which sing of spring. 

I had big plans to walk down the road to the first culvert and tape some peepers-so you could hear them too. But old man winter has decided to interrupt spring here in southern Appalachia and there's no spring peepers to be heard. They've burrowed back down until spring returns.

I did find the sound on youtube-click here to go hear them for yourself. 

Have you heard spring peepers at your place yet this year?


*Source Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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