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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Blackberry Winter

In the second chapter of the Song of Soloman, verses 11 & 12 it says, "For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."

Around here it's more the voice of the peepers at night while birds, sheep, horses, cattle, cats and dogs vie for attention during the day. Blackberry winter seems later this year but, at last, summer has arrived. We've seen the last of the cold until September and sheep have taken to the shade of the few trees located in the back pasture.

Blackberry winter is the cold snap/spell that comes after the warm spell that comes, usually, in May. It's sort of like Easter, doncha know? Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox. At any rate, summer has arrived and to be dealt with by dipping my straw hat in the horse trough and then placing it, still dripping, atop my head. The bandana gets the same treatment and then tied, still dripping, around my neck. Thus, making a farm fashion statement, I trudge through the heat of the day *if* I don't decide to take to the lounge chair on the back porch first.

After all attempts to save it, the lamb died and was buried here on the farm and the other sheep continue on, healthy and convinced they are being starved. It would be funny if some of them didn't waddle when they ran.

Memorial Weekend was spent in the company of family and friends where Dad was born and raised in WV. My family settled the Appalachian Mountains of, what is now West VA, in the mid 1700's and established themselves as farmers and shepherds. The Appalachian Mountains are home for me; I enjoy their age and beauty and the history and tradition that so many of us share. Mountain and country folk have a special talent for porch sitting and savoring the niceness of food, fellowship and story telling. Many a pleasant hour has been spent listening to the stories that bind us one to another as well as to these mountains.

This family story is a bit fuzzy with the events having occured in the late 1800's. Granddaddy's daddy (this would be the Bennett side) had decided to move and, some say, uproot his family to travel, by foot, horseback and wagon, to a new homestead, some many miles and several counties, distant. Granddaddy's mother, his sisters and infant brother all traveled by horse drawn wagon, in the company of other folks in wagons. Most of the rest of the men and older boys (including Granddaddy who was a youngster) went by horseback and foot. Because the men could travel faster than a wagon, they went a longer route in order to buy supplies of sugar, salt, bolts of cloth, etc.

The wagon train had to cross a river that was swollen by flood waters. Usually, it was crossed at a safe place by locating a tree that had been uprooted and then lodged in a lower lying area. Great Grandmother found the tree and began the river crossing but didn't realize the tree had, again, been uprooted and moved further downstream. The wagon overturned and most cargo and all lives were lost.

When Granddaddy and Great Grandfather arrived at their new homestead it was to find seven coffins laid out with his mother, sisters and infant brother prepared for burial. Family lore also has it that Granddaddy's Grandmother was a Cherokee American Native, even a Chief's Daughter, but that knowledge, for certain, has been lost to time.

So many have gone on before; so great a cloud of witnesses. So many who have lived and loved and died in these mountains. We were cut off for so long by the very mountains we love and we've lost sight of so much knowledge and wisdom. So few of us pick ramps or branch lettuce in the spring or 'sang in the autumn. So much knowledge has been lost to us and, I believe, we're the poorer for the loss.

So, I plant a small kitchen garden, a few fruit trees and maybe a nut tree or two. I plant because I believe in a future where God's people will not only endure but triumph. I plant because I believe in a future where the stories will still matter and still be told.


  1. I hope you keep this up. I think the reading was excellent and I love the history. I hope to visit TCF this fall.

    Queen JJ

  2. Hi Sandra-I just happened to read your signature line and saw a blog addy. I now have you bookmarked-please keep writing-I'm enjoying it. We are hitting late spring/early here up north-it hit 80 today (waaay too hot for sheep and bunnies!).

    Trish B.

  3. Send some of that heat to these mountains, will ya? Cold and wet here, two days of rain to one day of sun!

    Hold on to the stories; your generation (and mine) may be the last to remember...

  4. JJ, Trish and Leslie...your kind words are greatly appreciated. Time is short, no matter how much of it we have and the stories DO matter! My life is enriched by your presence, thank you.

  5. Pat Oglesby7:44 PM EDT

    Sandra, I was explaining to my son what Blackberry Winter means since that is what we seem to be having here in upstate SC right now. I thought I would Google the phrase and came across your blog. I, too, am a native of Tazewell County. My parents lived in Pocahuntas when I was born and then later I lived on Tazewell Ave in Blfd Va and I went to Logan St School. My family was one of those long ago families too with lots of connections still there. I miss the area and visit whenever I can. I enjoyed your blog and will check back to it again.

    Pat Mathena Oglesby
    Van Wyck, SC


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