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Monday, August 17, 2015

Busy Summer

We have been very busy here at the Blackberry Patch this summer.

I have even learned how to drive a tractor. I have been taking pics of everyone else riding and working on the tractor, but no one has taken a pic of me driving one. But, I have been -  I promise.

I have decided that I love tractors as much as I dislike barb wire fences - and that is a lot! They are such a time saver when you have a lot of work to do. We just have a small one, but it is a worker! We bought it thinking we would only be cutting grass with it. It now has a bucket on the front and a blade on the back.

A piece of land my son purchased had a drainage problem. He loves a challenge. A friend helped him do the initial work of digging the ditches and making the trenches above them. The entire family has pitched in for a week helping with the finishing touches.

Wouldn't you hate to do all this work - times two - by hand. 

The night after we did the first sowing of seeds, we had a deluge of rain from the sky. Needless to say, the straw didn't stay in place. So we had to do some re-seeding of grass.

We now know about straw blankets. Wish we knew about them sooner. They are wonderful and so easy to work with! We bought the 8 foot x 100 foot rolls. We placed them down the middle in front of the pipes we put in the ditches.

And, we now know to sow oats along with your grass seed. It comes up a lot quicker and you see some green while waiting for the grass to sprout.

We had two huge dirt piles down at the bottom of the hill. That dirt is now spread out at the top of the lot where we needed to fill in some. We have a small tractor, so that meant a lot of trips up and down the hill. But, my son did it. Then he prepared the soil and we spread seeds on it.

Everything is now seeded. 
We are finished! 

Now all we have to do is sit and watch the grass grow.

But, guess what my son said last night.
"Now that this is finished, I need another project."

One thing for sure. My boys aren't lazy.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Appalachian Food

There is going to be a Potluck & Appalachian Food Program at our library tonight.

You bring your appetite and a dish to share. You can also share an old family recipe and/or family cooking tradition.

I thought and thought about what to bring. I was told I was thinking too much about what to bring.

So, after contemplating on whether to bring an old fashioned stack cake or a blackberry cobbler or  cornbread and corn cob jelly or a hickory nut pie ------I came up with another idea ------ a delicious idea!

Fried apples and biscuits.

Go here for a post I did about them a few years ago.

This was one of my mom's favorite dishes. When her sister knew she was coming up for Sunday dinner, Aunt Irma made sure she had fried apples on the table. I have many memories of Mom sitting at our kitchen table with a paring knife in her hand peeling and slicing the apples into a bowl. The kids would come up to her and she'd hand them a slice to eat.

What comes to your mind, when you think of Appalachian cooking/food?

I remember . . .

Pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread (this was a meal we had on a regular basis. Enough beans were cooked to last several days)

Applesauce stack cake (my grandmother seemed to always have one sitting on her kitchen table)

Buttermilk biscuits
Blackberry cobblers (Grandma had berry vines on her land and every summer we trekked up the hill to pick them)

Squirrel and gravy (A favorite during squirrel season)

Fried bread
Home made apple butter (I love a spoonful with my pinto beans or to put on top a sausage patty)

Black walnuts, hickory nuts (These nuts are great in fudge, brownies, pies and cakes)

Paw Paws (The West Virginia banana. You either love them or hate them)

I have a lot of recipes listed on my side bar. If you have the time, click on them and take a look ---- and maybe try one or two of them.

I have put together two family cookbooks and took them to our family reunions.

I am also in the process of putting together another cookbook titled, Cooking in the Blackberry Patch. I am filling it with pics, stories, poems and . . . recipes.

I will let you know when I get it published. I think you will like it.

 What food did you grow up with - no matter which area of America you lived.

Do you have any recipes or favorite food history story you would like to share? I would love to hear them.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Springtime Beauty

I love springtime and the beauty it brings upon the earth.

Our garden has been planted. Our apple and pear trees are full of little apples and pears. Our blueberries and grapes are full of little green fruits. And our flowers are bestowing upon us their colorful and aromatic gifts.

If I Were a Season
 Janet F. Smart

If I were a season, I would pick spring
when new life sprouts beneath my feet
and sunshine warms my soul.

She calls my name to run outside
and explore Mother Earth’s arena
and sniff her sweet perfumes.

“Come to me,” she chants. “Toss
your shoes aside and let your
bare feet frolic upon my green carpet!”

I lift my head and listen to the birds chirp
as they build twig nests
beneath the rainbows in the sapphire sky.

Yes, if I were a season, I would pick spring.
She renews my weary spirit and
cleans the cobwebs from my mind.

Would you pick spring?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

America's Smallest Community Museum

It may be tiny, but Ripley has a museum! Ripley where, you say?

Ripley, WV! We are only a few miles away from other Ripley's in the world.

I love museums. I have often thought of how great it would be to work at a museum - or to even have one of my very own. So, when I found out we had one right here in our little town - no matter how small it was, I just had to have a look see.

Our town was named after Harry Ripley, a circuit riding minister who tragically died in 1830. Legend has it that he fell in love with a local girl, believed to be the daughter of Capt. William Parsons. He drowned days before the wedding while attempting to cross Mill Creek. Their wedding certificate was found in his coat pocket.

The picture above is of West Virginia's last public hanging. It occurred in Ripley, Thursday, December 16, 1897.  

There was a CCC Camp located in Ripley. 
I never knew that!

It does live up to its claim - it is small. At 7-feet, 7-inches wide and 15-feet, 7-inches long, the new museum at the Ripley Convention & Visitors Bureau measures approximately 120-square feet. But, no matter how small, I love  museums. If you are ever in our neck of the woods, check it out. It is located at the corner of North and Church Streets.

Want to read about another small museum in West Virginia. Go here to another post and read about Shoney's Big Boy.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Feeding our Feathered Friends

I write a kid's column for Two-Lane' Livin' Magazine.
For the January issue, I wrote about feeding our feathered friends.
With the weather and cold the way it is, I thought this would be a good time to post it.

     Why did the little bird get in trouble at school?  He got caught peeping on a test.
     Have you ever heard of the expression, “Eating like a bird?”
     How exactly does a bird eat?
     First, birds do not have teeth. I bet you already knew that. They have a high metabolism and low levels of body fat, so they do not have much stored energy and cannot go more than a couple of days without food. They eat until bedtime and start feasting as soon as they wake up, eating hundreds of tiny seeds throughout the day. We have bird feeders, and I notice that certain times of the day we are more likely to see birds eating than at other times.
     What’s for supper?
     The shape of their bill gives you a clue as to what they eat. Birds that eat seeds tend to have a thick cone-shaped bill that is good for cracking seeds. Cardinals, finches and sparrows are birds that eat seeds all year long. The seed that attracts the widest variety of birds is sunflower.  The black oil sunflower seeds have thin shells and are easy to crack open. They have high fat content and are very good for birds. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and black-capped chickadees love suet. And from experience, I know blue jays and titmice love peanuts.  Seed-eating birds need grit to help digest their food. Eggshells are an excellent source of grit and calcium. Crush cleaned eggshells from hard boiled eggs. If eggs are not boiled, bake the washed shells in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes until dry, but not brown. Crush into small pieces and place outside.
     Keep an eagle eye on your feeders!
     See if you can identify the types of birds that come to eat. Birds come in all shapes, sizes and colors. A bird guide can help you identify them.
     Make it!
     If you do not have a bird feeder, building one would be a good project when the wind is howling and it is too cold for playing outside in the snow. To make an easy feeder, with adult supervision, cut holes (2-4 inches wide) out of the sides of a clean, empty milk jug. Make a small hole beneath each opening to insert dowel rods for perches. Punch drain holes in the bottom and fill the jug with seeds and hang in a nearby tree.
     Watch out for backyard bandits!
     Cats love to ambush birds while they feed.  And, although peanuts are very popular with blue jays and titmice, other animals also like them. Keep your feeders near the shelter of bushes and trees, but not so close that their enemies can jump out and ambush them.  Remember to keep your feeders clean and also provide water for birds in the winter.
     Winter can be a hard time for birds.  Days are short and nights are cold and long. Providing them with food is not only a fun activity, but helps provide birds the energy to keep warm.


We had a surprise this morning. We have seen or heard of squirrels and deer eating at or around bird feeders . . . But, a rabbit?

 I love our woodpeckers

 Here is my milk jug feeder
most all the birds visit it

I have seen juncos, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, finches, woodpeckers, doves, blackbirds, towhees, starlings, etc. at my feeders.

Are you feeding the birds? What birds are your favorite to watch?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas - The Christmas Star

          by Janet F. Smart          

The wise men from the east

All traveled from afar,

To find the little babe

Beneath the Christmas star.

I wish I were that star

That went before the kings,

The star of Bethlehem

Of which the angels sing.

I wish I were that star,

The star that showed the way,

And led the kings to find

Our Savior where he lay.

I wish I were that star,

That told of Jesus’ birth.

             The star of awe and hope              

That glowed above the earth!

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quick and Easy Spooky Decoration

Do you have any pumpkins sitting on your porch?

Don't want to carve them because it's too messy and time consuming.

This is quick and easy . . . and quite spooky looking.

Make a scary witch with your pumpkin.

First, turn your pumpkin on its side. The stem will be her crooked nose!

Get some messy moss for her hair and cover it with a witch's hat.

I was going to draw on her wicked face with a magic marker, but decided to cut out her eyes, eyebrows and mouth from black sparkly felt. I put green buttons in her eyes and green teeth cut from craft foam on her mouth. I thought that made her look a little evil. If you don't like evil, then leave that part out. You could make her a happy witch!

I added a few other decorations - like orange spiders in her hair and on her crooked nose.

Pretty creepy looking!

You can use different materials than I did. I used what I had on hand. Be imaginative and give her green hair (if you have any Easter grass still hanging around your craft room).

I think she will look kinda spooky on my front porch tonight when we greet the trick or treaters!

What's on your front porch?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Corn Cob Jelly

Like my mom and my grandma before me, I am a jelly maker!

I've made blackberry jelly and jam, grape jelly, strawberry jam, apple pie jam, pear preserves, etc.

Now I can add corn cob jelly to my list of jellies I have made!

I had heard of it, but never made it before.
My cousins made a batch and I tasted it. Yummy! So, I thought I would give it a try.

We went to an Ohio farm yesterday and bought a huge bag of corn to freeze. After spending all afternoon putting corn in the freezer, I held back a dozen ears of the cobs to make jelly.

If you google it on your computer, you will come up with a variety of recipes to use.
This is how I did it.

(my version)

12 corn cobs (after you have scraped off the corn with a knife)
1 T. lemon juice
1 pkg of Sure-Jel

Put the cobs in a large pot. (I broke mine into two pieces) and cover them with water. I found that it took almost two quarts to cover the cobs. Bring to a boil and boil with the lid off for 30 minutes.

After  30 minutes, take out the cobs and pour the cooking water through a cheesecloth to strain.

I was wanting 3 or 3 1/2 cups of water. I only had to take out a large tablespoon or two of water to have the 3 1/2 cups of liquid I wanted.

Put your strained liquid into a large pot, add about a teaspoon of butter, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, and the Sure-Jel contents. Stir and bring to a boil.

Add 3 1/2 cups of sugar, stir and bring to a boil again. Boil for 2 minutes (while stirring). Take your pot from the heat, skim off any foam and ladle into sterilized jars. Wipe jar rims and threads. (I use a damp paper towel) Screw on your new canning lids and rings and flip the jars upside down for 5 minutes. Then turn upright. Now let them sit undisturbed until you hear a loud ping, indicating they have sealed.

                                                        Five jelly jars of liquid gold.

More tidbits of info:

As always follow manufacture instructions on the canning lids and jars!
I sterilized my jars and put my rings into boiling water to sterilize them.
I dropped my flat lids into boiling water, then immediately took them off the heat and let them stay in the hot (not boiling) water for a few minutes.

As I have always done for many years, I inverted my jars of jelly for 5 minutes, then turned them right-side up. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, then please, by all means, put them in a boiling water bath. I think for small jars of jelly they tell you to process for 10 minutes. (Instructions are on the Sure-Jel package insert.)

When I put my jelly into the jars, I thought it seemed awful watery for lack of better words. I was afraid it wasn't going to gel. But, they sealed quickly - and this morning they were gelled!

If you use different amounts of liquid as some recipes found on the internet call for, always use the same amount of sugar as liquid. For example, if you use 3 cups of strained liquid - add 3 cups of sugar. I had almost 3 1/2 cups of liquid after boiling my cobs, so I used 3 1/2 cups. I am glad I did. The 3 1/2 cup mixture made exactly 5 jars of jelly!

I haven't tasted my batch, yet. But, after filling the jars, I did scrape the pot with a spoon and tasted it.  It was good. It is a little hard to describe the taste. Some say it tastes like honey.
Well - I am sure most of  you have heard of corn whiskey - this is corn honey!

I hope you give it a try, I think you will enjoy it.

Okay, I couldn't wait. I opened a jar and spread some on toast.
It turned out perfect. It has a mild taste and gelled perfectly.


Monday, August 4, 2014

My Blackberries are Ripe!

I finally get to blog about my blackberries.

We had a very bad winter and a very hungry rabbit that liked to chew - so our blackberry canes, that were to have berries on them this year, all died. Every one of them!

I didn't think we were going to have any blackberries this year. But the new canes that grew proved me wrong. Some of them had berries - and that is not supposed to happen. New canes just don't have berries, but somebody forgot to tell them that.

 they like to hide

 peppermint abounds at the end of one of the rows
but I don't complain, because in the other row
poison ivy abounds

I don't have very many, but 
I think they are the prettiest berries I've had in years

I am very proud of my vines. 
They gave it their all and against all odds, they did very, very good!

Anyone else enjoying nature's fruits this year?