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Living In Appalachia

Monday, July 15, 2019

I was born and raised in a very small town in Appalachia to be specific Appalachia stretches across 13 states but the whole of my state is enclosed in Appalachia which is West Virginia. My parents had a 60 acre farm where we raised everything we ate. We drank out of water hoses and did not die either by today’s standards….(joke) I am 48 so I grew up in the age of almost no technology to speak of no cell phones, smartphones, tablets, computers ect. As a kid I hated all the hard work we had to do every Summer/Fall. We had a small apple orchard we shared with our grandparents who lived on the next farm and we had huge root vegetable crops each year along with raising pigs.

The end of summer would come and the real work began. Peeling about a million apples each year to preserve, dry and basically every way you could eat a apple it was done by us. It wasn’t enough that we did all this on our own farm but then we would visit the grandparents farm, my aunt’s farm and do the exact same thing there too. Then here comes the real work of preserving/canning everything from the root vegetable garden because as a child what I saw as work in reality became what we would survive on each winter. We also had huge grape vines, and blackberry and raspberry bushes to harvest as well as a few peach tree’s and saying summer/fall was a busy time was an understatement. We also made our own butter, cream and cheese in addition to having around 30 chickens. There is no idle time on the farm, there is always something that needs done.

I am not all together certain I was truly aware that we were poor back then. But, it really didn’t matter I suppose you could say we lived up a holler…..but let me clarify a misconception of a majority of people from my region we do not have extreme accents like you see of some people on TV I am not sure where they find some of those, but I can assure you most of us speak quite normally. I also suppose some people would of considered us hill folk but my father was an educated man who served 25 years in the military. We were taught right from wrong, my parents were very strict and at 48 years old I do not regret one moment of what we were taught. My only wish and regret is that I would of understood the importance of all the hard work of harvest time better back then.

We ran around in the woods as children there was a whole mountain behind our house to explore and we made good work of exploring and foraging for roots, and herbs. My grandfather had a remedy for almost everything. He was very knowledgeable in roots in herbs and used them quite frequently with all of us. He used to ply us with yellow root all the time and if any of you have ever used that….it’s the worst and most bitter tasting herb to stomach.

When my grandparents got older my father decided it was time for everyone to move to town and so we all did. My grandparents found a small house less than a mile from us and they were a everyday part of our lives. But even though we have moved to town we would still continue the large root vegetable gardens and still much preserving/canning for all of my childhood. My grandparents had 3 huge apple tree’s on there property and we still harvested so much and gave bushels away.

I suppose my true point to this is… this region I was raised much the same as anyone else around here. Whatever you harvest becomes what you live on in the winter. We didn’t even have meat that often only on Sundays. But our diet would consist largely of vegetables BUT we are also speaking of fried everything, fried potatoes, green tomatoes, squash. Any meat usually fried as well. So I was always cursed as the chubby kid and I liked to eat. I am not sure that ever really changed. Years of eating fried foods, biscuits and gravy, or tons of cornbread. It was a very high carb lifestyle that is even true today.

If you are poor and live here your shopping cart is not filled with fruits and veggies because once you buy those they have a very short shelf life at home. You are forced into a high carb lifestyle to be able to stretch that as far as you can. Every single choice you make at the grocery store is based on how many meals you can make by making that choice. It is not uncommon for people to have spaghetti very often because it’s cheap. Or any type pasta for that matter…I was raised on Goulash which was simply in my house macaroni and hamburger and a jar of canned tomato bits.

Nor was it ever uncommon for the ladies of my family to establish bragging rights of how many quart jars were preserved/canned during harvest time. I by no means do the scale of preserving/canning that my mother did but I along with my sister were taught at a very young age all these methods and of course our methods revolve around the Ball Canning Book passed down from mother. I don’t even cook in any resemblance to my mother because of everything I’ve read about don’t eat this, don’t fry that. I eat nothing fried at all now. YOU would think that may make a greater impact on my weight loss journey but it really doesn’t. And still to survive in this region requires you to grow a great deal of your food sources and be super creative in all aspects.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Hello Discovering _Val, Thank-you for sharing about your life in the West Virginia section of Appalachia!

    Just yesterday I was sharing with a volunteer group that I belong to about the big garden that my father grew in the back yard the entire time he lived at this house up until the age of 76.
    In the summers, near suppertime, My sister and I used to sit on the back porch steps either with a metal colander. “ to shell green peas”, or to shuck fresh ears of corn, emoticon , gently picking off the furry tender silk strings that protected the inner kernels corn. My father also grew tomato plants, eggplant, raduhes, green peppers, asparagus, varieties of lettuce, “ Swiss Chard”, an Italian’s green vegetable, ( as I see in Recipes), green beans on tall bean poles of aluminum that my dad brought home from his job at an Aluminum Extrusion company, ( New Jersey Aluminum company),
    After my father retired, he would go outside early in the morning tending to his garden, keeping up with the weeds, bringing in fresh produce, and in the evenings he would sit in a lawn chair outside the garden with the garden hose watering his garden; some summers during a slight drought there were water use restrictions.
    This summer, I used bigger planter pots, to grow herbs, currently have lovely tall plant of Basil, and am picking Basil leaves most every day. Another big planter pot has the herbs of Tarragon, Oregano, Parsley, Cilantro; on my mental list is to start picking and saving these herbs as dried for the fall and winter months!!
    586 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/28/2019 8:31:23 AM
    @BRENNAN_ARMACOS I do like shows like Christie or anything based on life in Appalachia or similar my parents both grew up in the depression and they would tell me if it had not been for living on the farm they would of starved like so many others who suffered during the depression. In the summer on the farms we would get up at 4 am and there was always so many things to do and get done.

    I think it would be great if they did a reality show on Appalachia in the way that most of us truly live not how hollywood thinks that we live. Some time ago they had a show called Appalachian Outlaws but it was based purely on the mass ginseng we have growing here. My grandfather used to dig ginseng all the time. I am not aware of any other shows based on Appalachia right now.
    596 days ago
    @ joybell47 We never got away from living that farm lifestyle even when we moved to town, however we didn't live right in town it was still a somewhat rural area and we still managed to keep some of our livestock on a neighbors farm for years. I think the lessons I have learned carried thru my life and you way less apt to waste food if you have to work so hard to grow it and preserve it.
    596 days ago
    emoticon blog! emoticon

    I really like the show Christie that was set in the Appalachian mountains. Do you like that one? Are there other shows set in that area that depict realistic life there (from now or in the past)?

    I really loved your account of life on the farm, and how your family continued some of that same lifestyle in town, growing your own food and preserving it. It's great that you were taught so much by doing like that!

    At my grandparents' house in the summer, we would all get up at 5:30 and pick raspberries. I liked doing that.
    598 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/15/2019 11:31:08 PM
    Thank you so much for sharing about your life … I am in "okie", so I can relate to much of that, only we did not live on a big farm, but my grandma did and we use to go help her at times.. and we did do a lot of canning, and I loved that part and continued doing that for a very long time after I was married because if the veggies were available, the food was so much better, and cheaper also to do that and for years we always made home made jam and jellies, and to me that is really good eating !

    In fact my grown daughter is very much that way, they have grown a huge garden this year and are raising lots of good things, she will be canning some things and just yesterday , we spent several hours making pasta to dry because they also have chickens and she needed a way to use the eggs..

    I think it's interesting to see what passes down through each generation, but some of those ways we had previously just were not bad.. we might not have had lots of fast food, indeed we did have lots of fried food, but God was still good , so hopefully by this time in my life, I have gleaned the good stuff and let go of the not so good stuff for myself..

    May God bless you and I know He will walk this journey with us and teach us the best way for us at this point in our lives.. emoticon emoticon emoticon

    598 days ago
    @mdower1 you cannot miss what you did not have and we just lived and played outside and was part of a community in the time before Social Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ect and we did not die LOL
    599 days ago
    Kids today would not understand how you lived like that thank you
    599 days ago
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