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Saturday, June 27, 2015

So Here I Sit

It's three in the morning reminds me of an old Faron Young song "It's Four in the Morning" or a song written by Irving Berlin "Count your Blessings."

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
 I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
I fall asleep counting my blessings
I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them
As they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings
I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them
As they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's Been A Really Long Time

After a very long hiatus from blogging it is doubtful that there are any readers still out there, however, time marches on and people, places and circumstances change. In my absence here is a few things that have changed. Instead of being a full time RVer as I had planned I am now a restauranteur. In the spring of 2012 there was a little store/deli in the area that had closed. At that time I thought about opening it but then decided I needed to do more front porch sitting and plans fell by the wayside and someone else opened it. I watched as the new owner had lots of business at first but then it declined and there seemed to be fewer and fewer cars as I passed by. Then one day the "closed permanently" sign went up. I jumped at the chance to re-open it. One of the things on my bucket list had been to open a restaurant of some type and here was my chance. With thousands of ideas floating around in my head I took the plunge but not without a lot of apprehension, determination and hard work.
After a month of cleaning, fixing, painting etc. I was ready to open. Currently I have been open for almost one year. It has been one of the more rewarding experiences in my life. Maybe with more practice and self determination I wil get back into blogging again! That's it for today!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Saturday Pie

A Saturday afternoon spent baking with Grandma

 Saturday afternoons would find my grandmother in the kitchen baking pies for Sunday dinner. She would go to the mealbox, grab her dough board, get out the flour, the rolling pin and a bowl she had stored in there. She would reach into the lard can for some lard and in no time flat she would have six or eight ...pie crusts ready for filling. Depending on the number of eggs she had or the type of fruit on hand would determine what kind of pies she would make.

In the spring it was always rhubarb pie, summertime we would have fresh peach or blackberry pie, and in the fall we could depend on apple or pumpkin. Along with fruit pies she always made lemon, chocolate, coconut or butterscotch. In the wintertime she would go to the cellar and we would have pies from fruit she had prepared in the summer.

She always had on hand lemon and coconut pie filling and dessert mix which she bought from the Rawleigh man. He was a traveling salesman who came around about once a month peddling a variety of Rawleigh products. She also bought liniment (both kinds), medicated ointment, vanilla, pie filling, and other products from him.

Along with a half dozen pies she might make a cake or two. She never needed to use a recipe because she had all those stored in her head. Most times we would get chocolate or yellow cake but when we were expecting company, she would make us an old-fashioned stack cake using apple butter as a filling between the six or seven flat cake layers. A lot of versions of stack cake recipes are still used today. Some families declare a stack cake making day and use that day as a family get together day for fellowshipping and fun and carrying on a tradition started by their forefathers.

One of my favorite recipes I dug from an old box of recipes is for an Old Fashioned Chocolate Pie so when you have a hankering for a pie like Grandma made you might want to try it.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pie


1 unbaked pie crust

1 cup sugar

π cup cornstarch

A pinch of salt

2 tablespoons of unsweetened baking cocoa

2 cups whole milk (In this recipe you can use 12 oz can of Carnation evaporated milk with enough water added to make 2 cups)

3 eggs, separated, reserve egg whites for meringue

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 tablespoons butter

Meringue Topping:

3 reserved egg whites

Dash of cream of tarter

2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 350. Prick the bottom and sides of your pie crust and bake until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the filling. Mix the sugar, cornstarch and cocoa together in a medium size pot. Add the 2 cups evaporated milk or whole milk. If using evaporated milk I use a 12 oz can, measure one cup evaporated milk, add to the pot and then measure one more cup evaporated milk. You will be a bit short, it comes to more like 3/4 cup so fill the rest of the measuring cup with water to make a cup. Using a wire whisk blend together and stir constantly over medium high heat. When the mixture is heated through add the 3 egg yolks. You will need to temper your egg yolks so add a bit of the pudding mixture to the egg yolks and blend before adding to the pudding mix. (You don't want scrambled eggs). Stir constantly until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and the butter. Let pudding mixture cool while you prepare the meringue topping.


Mix the 3 egg whites with a dash of cream of tarter along with 2 tablespoons sugar.

Whip the egg whites till stiff and soft peaks form. Add pudding to cooled pie shell and top with meringue making sure the meringue touches the sides of the pie crust to prevent shrinking.

Broil till lightly golden brown on top.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Sulphured Apples - Preserving in the Past

In the fall when there was an abundance of apples some were canned, some were dried and some were made into pies. and some were sulphured.
Now you might ask, "What are sulphured apples"? Sulphured apples was just another way of preserving a bumper crop of apples instead of letting them go to waste.
In the cellar my Grandma had various sizes of crocks.  She had a ten gallon one she made sour kraut in and one she kept pickled beans in and another crock she used just for sulphuring apples.
We got a lot of our apples from the big pound apple tree which sat in the field just past the barnyard.  My Grandma would go and gather a couple buckets of apples and sit on the back porch in the shade topeel and quarter them.  Then she would go to the cellar and get out her crock, wash it out with clear creek water and set the crock outside the cellar door because of the strong sulphur odor. She would then lay the apples in layers in the crock. On top of the apples she put a plate and an old pie tin with a couple tablespoons of sulphur in it.  She would light the sulphur on fire and quickly cover it with an old oilcloth to keep the fumes from escaping.  The apples had to be checked pretty often either to add sulphur and to stir the apples so they cooked evenly. When the apples had turned white and she had determined they had sulphured enough she would remove the remaining sulphur and the oilcloth and cover the crock with a clean white cloth.
When she wanted apples for supper she would remove what she needed from the crock and rinse them to get rid of the sulphur taste, put them in a skillet with butter and sugar and fry them until they were good and done.  Those apples on top of a hot biscuit slathered with butter tasted just as fresh and delicious as though they had just been picked from the tree. 
In our modern world when it comes to preserving food we should try to hang onto some of the old customs and ways of our forefathers but all that hard work and sulphured apples are things of the past. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dewey School Reunion a Huge Success



Stories were a flyin' at the Dewey School Reunion as alumni gathered together for an afternoon of renewing old acquaintenances.  The oldest person attending being 91 years of ager and the youngest 67.


The earliest school anyone can recollect was built on the old Blaine Cole Farm in Doe Valley.  The students from Swift Hollow had to walk through a place called The Bee Cove - a distance of two to three miles.  Food for the whole family was carried  to school in an old lard bucket.   Lunch usually consisted of a ham biscuit or a piece of cornbread  spread with molasses.  The area was becoming more popular and a decision was made to build a new school in the Dewey Community.  It was named for the Community and was called the Dewey School.  The first Dewey School was up Swift Hollow and sat up on the bank about a quarter mile up the hollow from the main road (Highway 67).  It was used for years until one day the teacher made a couple of the boys mad.  They sneaked back to the school in the middle of the night and stuck some paper into a knothole in one of the boards and set it afire burning down the school.   The rest of that school year the Dewey School students had to walk to the Doe Valley School.  A new two room school was built and located at the corner of Highway 67 and Swift Hollow Road where the present day Dewey Christian Church stands.  As near as any one an remember it was built in 1935 or 1936 and continued in operation until 1952 when Doe School was built .  Several schools were consolidated to the new Doe School, Butler, Doeville, Doe Valley and Dewey.

The new school consisted of two rooms.  Both rooms were actually the same size but were known as the Big Room and the Little Room for the "big kids" and the "little kids".  There were four grades in each room.  Some grades had five or six students while others had two or three.  Heavy wooden doors separated the two rooms.  When there was something special going on the doors were pushed back into one big room.

Each room had its own small room we called a cloak room where we hung our coats and boots.  In the front there was also a kitchen where the school cooks, Ms. Winnie and Ms. Hazel  prepared our lunch.  There was no running water at the school so water had to be carried from the creek or from the well up on the main road.  A bucket full of water and a dipper sat on a small table and we all drank out of the same dipper. 

The potbellied stove sat in the little room near the door.  When it was cold the teacher would gather the class full of students around the stove to do their lessons.  One day one of the boys threw a handful of firecrackers into the stove.  Pandemonium reigned until they all exploded and everything was settled back down.

There was a belfry with a big old bell which was rang by the principal when it was time to take up, recess, lunch and when school was over for the day.  I remember asking him once if I could ring the bell.  He told me if I did that I would be sucked up into the belfry and never come down.

There were no bathrooms.   There was an outhouse with a dirt floor on each side of the school - one for the boys and one for the girls.  It worked out just fine until one day we had a tornado touch down and destroyed the boys outhouse.  After that we had one common outhouse. 

At the end of the day the boys would go to the coal shed to bring in the coal, wood, and kindling for the next day.  Others would shake the erasers against the side of the coal shed.  We girls had to sweep the oily dirty floor. 

After sharing a meal, and doing some visiting class members shared their recollections of their time at Dewey School.

There were lots of "outhouse stories"  One class member remembered learning to smoke in the outhouse.  She related one of the older boys had a job working at Charlie's Grill.  He always had a little money and was able to buy tobacco and papers for "roll your own"  cigarettes.  He kept them in his coat pocket.  Some of the girls wanted to learn to smoke and would ask for permission to go to the outdoor toilet.  They would go to the cloakroom and wear his coat to the toilet thus giving them a chance to practice their smoking.  One lady told of the big turkey gobbler that lived close to the school.  That big ol' gobbler would chase her every time she went to the outhouse. 

Another classmate stated school lunches in those days only cost 15 cents but he didn't have lunch money so he would run the quarter of mile or so to his Granny's because he knew she would have a big bowl of soupbeans and cornbread on the table.  He would hurry and eat and run all the way back to school so he would have time to play ball before the lunch hour was over.

Most of the students walked to school, one lady said, "we  lived back up in the holler-way back up in there and there wasn't another soul in that holler".   When it would snow someone would come with an old truck and break the snow so they would be able to walk out to school.  Another classmate remembered they would see her and her brothers coming down the road and invite them in to warm up by the stove before they continued their journey to school.  In the afternoons they would walk back the same way stopping to warm themselves before they walked on home. 

One fellow told of walking to school every day and it was "uphill both ways".   Finally, one of the men in the community was able to get hold of an old panel truck that had benches along each side and the back.  The man driving the "bus"  would go up and down  each holler, Stout Holler, Shupetown, Pleasant Valley, Harbin Hill, and along the highway picking up kids.  Once in awhile some of the boys would get in a fight on the bus and the driver would stop and make them get off the bus and "fight it out right there"  in the middle of the road.  When they had settled their differences they would get back on the bus and continue on their way.  Children today don't know how lucky they are to have a bus come right to their door and take them to school.

Another classmate remembered when she was six she should have started school .  She said her dad would whip her and make her go.  She would cry all the way to school.  The little neighbor boy wasn't old enough to start yet and she didn't want to go to school without him.  After about three weeks of her crying every day she got to stay at home and the next year her and the neighbor boy went to school together.  They actually went all twelve years together, four at Dewey, four at Doe School and four at JCHS.

Another fellow told of being pushed into the icy cold creek in the middle of winter and how he had to sit all day with his wet britches on.  He said he could have walked home to get a dry pair but it wouldn't have mattered he would have had to wear them anyway since he only owned one pair of britches. 

Fond memories of the teachers were remembered, among  them John A.. Shoun, R. Clyde Wilson, Ms. Hazel Wilson, Mrs. Rena Shoun, Madge Nave, who taught there in the forties, Haggai Miller (pronounced Hagy-I) and others.

Our cook Ms. Winnie Wilson, was remembered for her scrumptious peanut butter cookies and her big bowls of soup on Friday.  Someone else remembered her carrying water to cook with and how she fed us like kings.  One of the girls didn't like to drink milk so Ms. Winnie would give her chocolate milk to drink. 

Someone told of how  teacher, Haggai Miller used to have a saying he always said,   "Idleness always causes trouble", which still stands true today.  Another told of how Haggai used to send him to get a willow switch  to whip him with.  He came back with a small switch so Haggai sent his good friend out to get a switch. The friend came back with a willow switch about six feet long.  He said by the time the teacher got through whipping him it was just a little stick. 

Memories of Mrs. Rena Shoun were told and how she spoiled us.  One man related when we had to move from the two room school to the big consolidated Doe School upon the hill he was in the third grade.  He said he thought he had quit school and gone straight to the penitentiary.  “The teacher paddled me  every day”, he said.  “I thought she was the meanest teacher that ever walked the face of the earth”.  It was an adjustment for all of us going from the small school to the new Doe School.  It was not only was a much bigger school,  there was a room for every grade and lots of kids we had never seen before.  We had drinking fountains and toilets that flushed.  There were showers in the bathrooms, most of us had never seen a shower before.  There was no bell to ring and no erasers to dust and no more going to the outhouse.

At the end of the reunion many of the members sported new Tee shirts designed by classmate Charles Winstead of Griffin Georgia. 
It was a spectacular fall day, with lots of food, laughs, fun and fellowship.  The memories of that little two room school will forever be etched in our minds.

The next reunion will be held in October 2014. 

That's it for today.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gathering Wood for the Winter

I have always felt that I was lucky to have grown up in the fifties.  In some ways we were a lot luckier than the kids of today.  We lived out on the farm about three miles from town without running water and indoor plumbing.  We had no central air conditioning or heating system.  Electricity was considered a luxury and was only used when necessary.   Most of our food was grown on the farm.  Tobacco was the big cash crop.  We kids were expected to help out on the farm doing all kinds of chores gathering eggs, pulling weeds to feed the hogs, and helping to feed and milk the cow.  
Since wood was our only heat source gathering enough wood to keep warm in the winter was a priority in the fall.  Winter called for a constant demand for fire wood and getting the long poles of wood from the mountains was  hard work.    In the early 1900's  the chestnut trees on the east coast of the United States  had suffered from what was called the Chestnut Blight.  It was a fungus that was spread through the air, raindrops and animals.  It  spread on the bark of the tree eventually killing the trees.  The dead chestnut trees made good firewood to use in the fireplace or the "Old Buckeye" stove that sat in the front room.    In the thirties and forties  you could get a harvesting permit from the government to use the dead and downed chestnut trees for firewood. Using the permit you were not allowed to cut anything that was green except for maybe a small sapling to use as a springpole.   In the fall my granddad would hitch up the horses to the wagon and go into the mountains to gather enough wood to last for the winter.  It would take several loads of wood to do the winter.   About once a month he would take the wagon and collect smaller wood to use in the cookstove.   After the wood was brought to the house and piled up he used a crosscut saw or a buck saw to saw it into smaller pieces.  By the early fifties most of the dead chestnut trees had been harvested and sawmills offered  truck loads of ends and pieces of slab wood .  That was a much easier way of gathering wood but it still had to be split and ricked and handled more than once.    A truck load of slabwood cost around  $7.00 and a ton of coal cost around $10.
One of our chores was to gather in enough  wood and coal to keep us warm at night and also to burn in the wood cookstove. Every afternoon after school  we would change into our old clothes and head to the woodshed.  We had an old wagon and we would fill the wagon full and pull it up to the kitchen door and transfer the wood  and kindling to the woodbox that set by the cookstove.  Again we would fill the wagon with larger pieces for the heating stove in the front room and carry in  two buckets of coal. That was enough to last until the next day when we would repeat the process.     Sometimes we tried to get away with bringing in only a small amount of wood.  It never worked.  We would be sent back to the woodshed for another armload.  
The heating stove in the front room kept that room warm but the bedrooms were always cold.  At night we would take the flat irons and set them on the stove to get them good and hot.  We would then wrap them in an old towel and put them at the bottom of the bed to keep our feet warm.  The irons would sometimes stay warm all night.  It worked great but you had to make sure the iron was covered good so you didn't burn your toes. 
Thinking about those cold bedrooms on a winter's night is just a memory - now if my feet get cold at night I just turn up the electric blanket.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Winter's Not Over 'til it's Over

In the springtime here in the northeastern corner of Tennessee we see a lot of different changes in the weather. Somedays it is warm and the ground begins to thaw, then it might be so hot you think summer is upon us. The next few days we might get a cold snap with rain, snow, sleet and lots of wind. The oldtimers predicted the changing of spring by the blooming trees and the different types of winters as they called them.

After the January thaw and the groundhog has seen his shadow the ground begins to thaw a little the winters begin.
Beginning with the first few warm days as the ground begin to thaw the serviceberry (Sarvisberry) trees would be the first to bloom. This would be called Sarvis Winter and to the old timers, meant the return of the circuit riding preacher. After the long long winter the ground would be thawed enough to have funerals and bury the dead. The snow white blooms of the serviceberry trees would be used to honor the dead at the "church sarvices" Thus the name Sarvis Winter.

If there was a cold snap when the Locust trees were in bloom it would be called Locust Winter. It usually isn't very long or cold.

For example it could be snowing in the morning and record breaking temperatures by afternoon.

The next tree to bloom was the redbud. If the weather turns cold while the redbuds are in bloom it is called Redbud Winter.Only the hardiest crops would be planted before this cold spell.
Dogwood Winter comes after a few days of warm weather and brings several days of cold, weather and the possibility of a killing frost. Planting the tender crops should wait until after the Dogwood has bloomed. Oldtimers sometimes used the blooming of the Dogwood as a sign to plant their corn.

Blackberry Winter is probably the most widely know of the winters. The oldtimers knew that the blackberry canes needed a cold snap to set the buds, so the cold snap during the blackberry blooming was called Blackberry Winter. Blackberry Winter is normally not as harsh as some of the other winters. The soil is warmer and drier now so tender crops could be planted without much danger of being frostbitten.

Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter is the winter only the oldtimers heard about. That was back in the day when they wore homespun clothing and it was when you could shed your "long johns" for cooler, lighter clothing.

Whiporwill Winter is the last little cold snap we get after the Whipporwill has migrated north from Mexico. Its that last surge of arctic air. It's not as cold and doesn't last long or do much as much damage as some of the other winters.

After a long hard winter and spring with all the cold snaps summer can't be that far away---or can it?

That's it for today!!