Wild Berries in Appalachia

Wild berries in western nc

This time of the year, I start checking on the blackberries that grow wild around my house. The berries are just now beginning to ripen. A recent email from a Blind Pig reader got me to thinking about the other wild berries that grow here.


Dewberries are similar to blackberries in appearance and in taste. Dewberry brambles are smaller than their cousin the blackberry. Dewberries also have more of a twining vine look to them. 

Around my house dewberries grow in the same areas blackberries do, as in across the road from each other. Although dewberries are just as tasty as blackberries they don't usually bear the same quantity of fruit that blackberries do.

Wild blueberries 

Of all the berries blueberries are hands down my favorite. If nothing happens the ones I have planted in my yard look to hold the biggest harvest I've ever gotten. I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed the birds don't find them.

Lucky for me wild blueberries also grow around my mountain holler and they're already ripe. I found the little patch above growing along the bank of Steve's (my brother) driveway. Kinda selfish, but I haven't told anyone else because I'm eating them all by myself. And I'm hoping by next year the wild blueberry bushes will multiply...then maybe I'll share my secret.


Huckleberries are similar in taste to blueberries, but they are much smaller and don't get ripe till later in the season. Huckleberries grow all around my holler, but especially up on the ridge behind my house. The little patch in the photo is growing along the trail leading from Pap and Granny's house to ours. When Chitter and Chatter were younger I used to watch for them when it was time for the school bus. They had a pretty far piece to walk. During the first weeks of school I knew they'd make pit stops at the huckleberry bushes that grow along the trail-eating their way home.

Another common berry around my house are gooseberries or at least they used to be common. I went to the bush I remembered being near Pap's garage to get a picture, but it's no where to be seen. I believe the last time the EMC trimmed they must have gotten it. Gooseberries are a greenish color and are shaped like blueberries. They have a sweet taste, but not as sweet as blueberries.

The season for wild strawberries has passed. Unfortunately I've never found many growing around our place or Pap and Granny's. There used to be a wild raspberry down below Pap's but it's been gone for years, mowed down for new driveways and homes. 

Lot's of folks gather elderberries, but I wouldn't know one if I seen one! I do wonder if they grow close by. Pap told me he was sure I could find some along the creek between here and the folk school, but I've never looked. 

Hope you'll leave me a comment and tell me about the wild berries around your place. Oh and be sure to drop back by in a few days for some berry picking tips from Blind Pig readers.


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How Does My Garden Grow?

How does my garden grow June 2017
Our garden is lush and beautiful. Everything is thriving and things are beginning to produce. Fresh veggies = the best eating of the year if you ask me.

Yonce beans

Our Yonce Beans have been picked once and are almost ready for another go around.

Sow true Seed Garden
Cucumbers and squash are beginning to come in and tomatoes are green and growing. My candyroaster in the backyard may reach you folks in TN before the summer is over-its monstrous! Pumpkins and zucchini are coming along too. 

Grapes and apples in appalachia
Looks like our grape harvest will be our best ever. Apples are looking good too, although both trees have many brown leaves from the last hard freeze of spring. Hopefully we can do some pruning before next year's fruit sets.

Hope you'll tell me how your garden is fairing so far this summer. 


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Help a Blind Pig Reader Solve a Mystery

Bean flowers brighten the dark

A few days ago I received the following email from Blind Pig and The Acorn reader Sue Simmons:

Tipper maybe you can solve this mystery for me we had  beautiful green beans in bloom, staked, and they were six feet tall. We went out to look at the garden and all the leaves were off, looked like they had been cut off very clean. The blooms were still there pretty as could be no leaves. A week or so later beans were beautiful with lots of green leaves, next day all leaves perfectly clipped off. We have two green beans, one for my husband and one for me. We looked for deer tracks but didn't see any and no bugs of any kind. What has happened here?? Maybe you or your readers can solve this mystery. Your comments will be appreciated.

My first thought was that rabbits ate Sue's bean leaves, but then I realized she said they were six feet tall so I hope there's no rabbit that tall walking around! Could it be a bird of some sort? 

If you have any guesses at what could be eating Sue's bean leaves please leave a comment and tell us about it. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing at Unicoi State Park this Saturday June 17 at 8:00 p.m. 

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Planting by the Signs Calendar - June 2017

Planting calendar for June 2017We've been getting plenty of rain and sunshine and our garden is thriving because of it. We also topped off the garden with a fresh load of mushroom compost so I'm sure that extra dose of nutrients is helping too.

Almost an entire row of beans failed to come up and the other two rows came up pretty spotty. Over the weekend we replanted them all and I'm hoping this time the seeds do like they're supposed to and sprout. 

Drop back by in the next few days and I'll show you how the garden is growing.


The winner of Southern Mountain Speech by Cratis D. Williams was Tamela who said: 

"The only ones I'm familiar with are "keen" (as first described and in describing a well-sharpened tool), "knob" (in these parts it's usually a hill out in the middle of flatlands - "Pilot Knob" south of here, as the name suggests, is a landmark which pilots used to orient themselves before modern navigation instruments), and kernel (which not only is used to describe hard lumps that form just under or on top of the skin but also to describe "corns" which often form on the toes from wearing ill-fitting shoes). When I was growing up, "keen" was also used to express appreciation or admiration of something as in "That's a keen sweater you're wearing" much the same as "nifty" or "cool" were the slang of the day - only "cool" seems to have survived the passage of time. It saddens me, although I know it's true, that some people think the use of terms like these indicate a lack of education. It reminds me of a student (7th grade) I once had who had written a wonderful short story with just the right amount of local descriptors and vernacular to bring the story to life. I praised her skills, not only of observation, but also of expression and encouraged her to enter her story in a coming competition. Unfortunately, her English teacher had other ideas and thought it was "too common". The child never showed me another story - I was only the Science teacher. I do hope she found encouragement elsewhere and is writing today. Being able to use colloquial speech without mocking the speech and without being derogatory enhances the setting of the story and the understanding of the characters - she had that gift."

Email me your address Tamela and I'll get the book in the mail!


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday June 3, 2017 @ 1:30 p.m. Art, River & Music Festival - Murphy NC and on Saturday June 10, 2017 @ 8:00 p.m. Vogel State Park - Blarisville GA.

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Sevin Dust or a Natural Remedy for Garden Bugs?

Organic pest control in the garden 
Pap's old sevin dust can

We don't usually have issues with bugs doing damage to our garden. There's always  Japanese beetles on the beans but not much else that we have to deal with. Pap swore by Sevin dust, but I'd rather not use it unless I have to. 

A quick google will turn up all sorts of homemade insecticides-like:

  • water mixed with dish detergent
  • water mixed with pepper flakes or chopped hot peppers
  • pee-I think I might rather have sevin dust than pee
  • planting marigolds or nasturtiums around the garden-I always plant nasturiums and marigolds maybe that helps keep my bug issues at a minimum 
  • oily mixture made from dish detergent or peppers
  • a sprinkle of wheat bran
  • a sprinkle of tobacco dust-not sure where you'd get that unless you grew tobacco or knew someone who did
  • a tea made from tobacco and water-most recipes said this type of insecticide should be used sparingly due to the high nicotine content
  • releasing friendly bug eating bugs in your garden like ladybugs
  • pick the bugs off by hand and drown in a jug of water-this would take the patience of Job if you had a big garden, but I know folks who do it every year

The only homemade insecticide I've ever used from the list above is the pepper/oil mixture. Maybe my recipe was off, but it didn't work for me.

How about you-do you use the old stand by sevin dust or have you found a more natural remedy that works?



  • The Pressley Girls will be playing Friday May 26 at 5:30 on the square in Hayesville, NC.
  • The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday May 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater in Bryson City NC. The cost of admission is 10 dollars and all money raised will be used for maintenance of the Lauada Cemetery.
  • The Pressley Girls will also be performing Sunday May 28 at 12:00 p.m. in Blairsville GA at the Spring Arts and Crafts Festival.

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Jacob's Onions

Best way to eat green onions

Jacob’s onion noun A green onion.
1975 Purkey Madison Co 53-54 A variety of vegetables grew in long neat rows; tender green onions (called Jacob’s onions), peas, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce, beans, parsnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet and Irish potatoes. Ibid. 106 I will never forget the endless bundles of crisp sping onions with their long white heads and slender green blades, which my mother prepared for market. Mama called them “Jacob’s Onions.” I don’t’ know why unless it was because they were so prolific.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I have never heard green onions called Jacob's Onions have you?


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Garden Update - Lettuce Trial and A New Bed

Sow True Seed Lettuce

I planted my trial set of Sow True Seed Lettuce Seed on April 2. In a little over a week the seeds had all sprouted. Currently they are up and growing. Let me give you the run down on how they're doing so far.

Sow True Seed Romaine Lettuce

The Parris Island Romaine came up in a sort of spoty fashion. There are thriving little bunches and then you can see the spaces where the seeds didn't come up as uniform. The seeds that did germinate are thriving and seem to be growing quickly.

Sow True Seed Buttercrunch Lettuce

The Buttercrunch didn't come up as well at the Romaine and isn't quite as healthy looking either. I'm hoping it will catch up though.

Sow True Seed Jericho Lettuce

Jericho germinated the best out of the three varieties, I'm hoping that's a good sign that it will indeed stand up to hotter temps as spring progressing into summer as its supposed to.

How to build cheap raised beds

I think I told you our raised beds had to be replaced. There used to be 2 beds in the space you can see in the photo. Having two beds so close together left a space in between that was impossible to mow and hard to weed-eat after the tomatoes grow tall.

With finances being tight The Deer Hunter decided to use some of the trees we had to take down a while back for the sides. He scotched them in place with rebar and filled in the gaps underneath with pieces of wood and dirt. The logs will eventually rot, just like the boards did before, but even if they deteriorate a little faster the logs were a quick fix when we needed it. 


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Planting by the Signs Calendar - May 2017

Planting calendar for may 2017

Our spring garden is coming right along. The green onions, radishes, and lettuce are starting to come in and the beets are doing nicely too.

Over the past weekend we got a lot of planting done. We now have beans, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, cantelope, candy roasters, and cushaws in the ground. We still need to plant our tomatoes and peppers, but they need another week or two in the greenhouse.

Our grape vines are loaded with teeny-tiny grapes and our apple trees look good too so I'm hoping the cold weather is done for this year, although I think blackberry winter will arrive this weekend. 

Drop back by in a few days and I'll update you on my Sow True Seed Lettuce Test and tell you about our new raised bed. 

Hope you'll leave a comment and tell me how your garden is fairing.


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Green Onions and Salt

Early Spring Lettuce

Ethelene Dyer Jones sent me the following piece about her memories of eating from the spring garden as a child:

A palatable memory from my childhood is the first taste of spring lettuce fresh from the garden and early spring onions, tender and juicy, cut over it. Then, to top off that treat after very few greens through the long winter (especially after the cabbage we'd "buried" in the keeping pit had run out), hot grease from freshly-fried side meat (bacon) was the salad dressing, poured over the greens until they wilted. It was indeed, "Kill Lettuce," a taste to kill for! And we all rooted to have our share, so delectable and fresh and tasty.

And the treat didn't end with the salad bowl being passed around at our table. After the lettuce started bearing, we children would often slip into the garden and "rob" Mother's lettuce bed. We'd pick the tender leaves fresh on site and eat them. Nowadays, we would frown at this repast not being washed and clean, but we could always find leaves fresh-washed with dew, and never gave a thought to it's otherwise having to be washed before consumption. After all, we were hungry, growing kids, and here was something delightful to eat, right in the garden. These "messes" of lettuce, whether served on our table or straight out of the lettuce bed in the garden, were benefits of having grown up on an Appalachian farm.


Eating green onions with salt

Ethelene's wonderful memories reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend the other day. We were talking about the goodness of eating the first fresh veggies from the garden in the spring of the year. She said her father was so crazy about green onions that he kept a spare salt shaker in the barn so he could eat onions right from the garden. She went on to tell me that at the super table her father sprinkled salt in a little mound and dipped his green onion in it as he eat it. She asked me if I had ever seen anyone else eat their onions with salt in the same way and I said yes-ME! 

Granny eats her green onions by dipping every bite or so in salt. I'm sure that's why I eat mine the same way. 


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How We Built Our Greenhouse

Starting tomatoes in the greenhouse from sow true seed

The Deer Hunter built our greenhouse back in 2011 and we're still loving it. It's so handy to have it in our backyard. Prior to having our own greenhouse I used one down the road a ways. It was nice to have somewhere to start my seedlings, but looking back it was a good thing when I wasn't able to use that one anymore and we had to bite the bullet and build our own. 

How to build a greenhouse
We decided a greenhouse 20 feet long would be plenty big enough for what we needed. First The Deer Hunter went looking through the scrap wood pile and found enough lumber to make the base/sides.

Building a greenhouse with pvc pipe
He had already bought 13 pieces of 3/4 X 20 foot pvc pipe, four- 4 X 4 posts, seven sheets 1/2 inch osb, and a roll of six mil clear plastic (we bought the wrong plastic-read the rest of the post to see why). 

He attached 11 of the pieces to the 2 sides. He added 2 pieces of pvc down the length of the piece that would make the hoop to add additional support.

How to build a cheap greenhouse
Next we raised it up. It took all four of us to get it into position, then we held it while The Deer Hunter made sure it was square and attached it to the ground with re-bar.

Easy to build greenhouse
He then framed in the ends securing them to the ground with 4 X 4 posts. He put a door in one end and a framed opening for an exhaust fan in the other. When he got to this point he decided to bring each end in two feet to make an over hang on each end which would help protect the wood framing.

Dyi greenhouse
After that-it was time for the plastic. We draped it over the hoops leaving about two feet extra on each side. He attached the plastic on each end with metal roofing screws-screwing it directly to the pvc.

With the help of the girls-and Ruby Sue-we buried the plastic on each side. After he built and installed the door, we had a greenhouse of our very own for a little less than two days work and 250 bucks.

In the following year we had a couple of hail storms that damaged the greenhouse plastic and a strong wind finished the plastic off. Turns out we didn't buy the right kind of plastic in the first place. 


Build a greenhouse at home

The Deer Hunter said we should look at having to recover the greenhouse as a learning experience and as a chance to change things we wished we'd done differently the first go around.

Pvc greenhouse
The second go around we bought plastic specifically made for greenhouses. Once the hail damaged the first type of plastic we used it began to give way at all the pressure points. After studying on the issue for a while The Deer Hunter came up with the idea of using foam pipe insulation to cover the pipe/wood areas that came in direct contact with the plastic. The pipe insulation will also help protect our spring seedlings as it seals off some of the air gaps too.

We've not had any other hiccups with our greenhouse and after 6 years of use I'm still loving it!


p.s. Yesterday I took Granny over to Pap's grave so we could put fresh flowers on it. It wasn't even raining at our house, but by the time we drove the short distance it was coming a down pour at the graveyard. We set in the car until it quit and as I was helping Granny walk to the grave Chitter said "Look-a rainbow!" The rainbow looked like it was right over Pap and Granny's house. I'd like to send a big THANK YOU out to each of you for letting me share Pap's death story and for sharing your comfort and wisdom with me. 

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