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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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Faces of Appalachia

~ fawn and cat on my brother's WV farm ~
As I've gotten older (thank God!), my to-do list and my ability to complete that list seem to be in direct conflict. It just takes so much longer and so much more energy to accomplish what needs to be done, leaving what I want to do, still on the list. Ah well. I'm glad I've got that problem instead of "absent in the body, present with the Lord". Don't get me wrong...I'm ready to go but I'm not homesick and, as energy depleted as I generally am, this life suits me fine and dandy.
~ Daddy and Mom, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, the same day Dave died ~
You may know, I live in Appalachia and Thistle Cove Farm is the result of a prayer made when I was six years old. Daddy and Mom are both from Appalachian mountain stock and farming families, and the prayer of the girl I once was, asked God to, "please let me live on a farm and have animals." His timing isn't my our timing and it took more than three decades for that prayer to come to fruition. Along the way, I've collected photographs of all things mountain beautiful and hope you enjoy as much as do I.
My small flock of Shetlands, Romney's, and Merino's were, generally, easy to deal with. Sometimes, the horns on a Shetland would grow curling into the side of their face. When that happened, Daniel would take a fine wire and saw off the horn tip. Someone had to hold the sheep's head (I wasn't never strong enough) in order to keep things safe for human and animal. I like this photo...the intensity of Daniel as he saws off the horn, the muscle strength of Clinton's arms while holding the sheep. 
Old Mother Hubbard goes to festivals and tells stories both American Native and Aesop. She's local color in southwest VA, probably throughout the eastern TN/KY region as well and is a delight. I don't know her Christian name but, if you're interested, you could do a search and find out. She's been written up in several newspapers and been interviewed on various television programs.
The definition of tolerance is " the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with." In other words, please don't send snarky notes about bear hunting or hunters. This gentleman killed this bear for both food and pelt while it was legal to do so...bear hunting season. 
In 2013 Dalton, and his sister, Kim, helped demonstrate butter making at the county fair. He took his job seriously yet managed to enjoy the process.
Kim, Dalton's sister.
 Leslie Shelor, Greenberry House, demonstrates big wheel spinning around the region. 
 The Shockley Old Timey Days festival is in Hillsville, VA. It's one of the best little festivals around, imho, and characters this gentleman and his vintage antique truck. They aren't the best at updating their information so if you want to go, best call first for correct dates.
 This old feller demonstrates shocking hay...putting it into huge shocks, or stacks, so weather will run off of and not into the hay. I've traveled in Eastern Europe and this is is the way farmers still store their hay and even leave the edges of the field for others (widows) to glean. It's very Old Testament and Biblical; click here for more information and another way of seeing.
This kindly woman demonstrated churning and had the churn her grandmother used. I love it when generations pass on the tools and the knowledge of how to do things. 
Emily, helping John, her son, put up my hay. Emily is also an Episcopalian minister, serving at Christ Episcopal Church in Marion, VA and serves on a number of boards, all relating to agriculture. 
Clinton Bell, a neighbor, still moves his cattle and sheep the way he was taught...while on horseback. 

Someone told me this woman is 94 years old and she's still lifting a leg to clog at the Whitetop Mountain Ramp Festival in Grayson County. The Ramp Festival benefits the  Mount Rogers Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad. Ramps are a delicacy in the Appalachians with those of us who love them LOVE THEM and those of us who don't...are Philistines. (joke!) Ramps are classified as wild onions and taste like a blend of onion and garlic, are fairly strong and best when fried up with potatoes and sausage.
Bud Thompson, smithy, demonstrates in the area and used to demonstrate on Thistle Cove Farm. This is one of my favorite photographs...looks rather Old World, don't you think?
Charlie Butcher, dulcimer maker who also makes other instruments. I've got one of the first dulcimers he ever made and it sounds just as sweet now as it did almost twenty years ago.
Jeff, my cousin's husband, harvesting Wolf River apples. Wolf River and Summer Rambo apples are my favorite apples!
Robert Woods and Daddy, checking on the bee hives. Neither of them have ever worn bee gear; they believe if you handle the bees gently and calmly, they won't become agitated and sting. Robert added, "And never after having an argument with your wife!" 
There are four distinct seasons in least the Appalachia where I live. Each one is special and loved for its own reasons. My Grandfather died in November 1959, when I was five years old, and it was a cold, wintery, blustery day. It was, in one word: Appalachia. Even though Appalachian winters are harsh, I love them just the same and they call to mind my kith and kin of past days. My people have always been intimately connected with "heat and eat" and it's no different for me now. As long as I have oil in the furnace, wood for the wood stove and propane in the tank and cook stove Appalachian winters can be enjoyed and not just tolerated. Now that my sheep and alpacas are gone, my work load has been cut by twenty-six animals; I expect I'll do just fine this winter. Just like all those winters gone before. 

Hopefully, you've enjoyed these photos; it's difficult putting "some" on the blog when I've more than 20,000  from which to choose. These aren't all my favorites but are only some of my favorites either because I dearly love the people or the places they call to mind. In a day and age when folks aren't, seemingly, interested in being solely an "American", I am. In fact, I'm proud of the fact I'm a "double" Appalachian American. 

My heart wouldn't have it any other way.

Blessings ~ people ~ land ~ animals ~


  1. and I'm a Texas American and also quite proud of the distinctive regional differences (rapidly being obliterated by the intolerant tolerance people). Thanks for sharing - heat and eat - in Texas that is shade and eat - or cool and eat. I recall the calmer pace of life when we didnt have much entertainment except books, a creek, trees to climb and chores to do! Yep - weren't ever bored.

  2. You said it, wonderfully!
    Appalachia! I loved this post!

  3. Thank you for sharing these people, and their stories, with us. My heart and soul are in those mountains too. Beautiful place.

  4. Hello Sandra,

    Thank you for the introductions to these most interesting and, we are sure, totally delightful people who form the community in which you live. It is so endearing to see old traditions kept alive and especially comforting to think that this wonderful landscape is being cared for and protected for the enjoyment and livelihoods of future generations.

    What wonderful profiles these people have. All such open faces which suggest many tales that can be told and kindness ready to be offered. You are indeed blessed to be part of this world.

  5. There's a lot positive to say about living an honest life on the land like you do.
    Thank you so much for this interesting post and for sharing the pictures!

  6. Your post is absolutely delightful. After living most of my adult life in Tennessee, I have long appreciated and embraced the character and magic of Appalachia.

  7. What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful characters and your way of life. So enjoyable.

  8. "um" says she. "first generation Californian".But with both roots and DNA deeply anchored in the Midwest. Illinois to be precise. got my farming genes (jeans) from my mother's people. Love todays blog!

    Got to go large coyote in front . Pyrs going off full alarm!

  9. What a wonderful post filled with great stories and photos.

    I just saw last night that the Almanac predicts another harsh winter. I'm glad you will have less work to do this winter.

    Love and hugs to you dear Sandra ~ FlowerLady

  10. Dear appalachian woman, you go with clear eyes and heart through your country and watch all these humans and animals with a loving sensitive feeling. Now you can go relaxed into the next spiritual winter-season.

  11. I loved this post! Great to see some of the faces of the region. Thanks for taking the time to put it together -

  12. I adore these photos. Wishing you a nice day.

  13. As a Brit living in America......hmmm......will I be a Scot living in the US soon, lol, I loved the photographs, thank you before sharing them. Am going to copy out the tolerance quote goodness, we should all recite it every morning before leaving the house or talking to another person!

  14. Yay for the faces. I learn so much over here, Sandra. Oh! Please come to the tent every now and then! BIG HUG!

  15. I love the assorted photos you chose. Although my family is transplanted here, we've come to love this region dearly. And that would include the winters : )

  16. I love those ramps! They can be used in all sorts of dishes. I almost fainted when I saw the price of them at a farmers market. Take care, my friend and have a good rest of the week.

  17. These photos are beautiful. I found myself looking at each one carefully. I would gladly look at more.

  18. Loved all the photos and stories! I understand heat and eat, living in the northern part of Minnesota. I enjoy winter, too! Life is good.

  19. I LOVED seeing an intimate peek of your world . . .
    Reading and listening too . . .

  20. Thanks these photo's are great. I like Mrs Hubbard. I bet that butter churned was better than the Groc, stores.
    Yards almost finished, and Fall is at the doorstep, my favorite time of year. My Daughter is marring a Dave in Oct.

  21. I have lived in Appalachia too and loved it. I only know modern times but the history and culture is fascinating. Thank you for the insight.

  22. Another wonderful post from Thistle Cove Farm! How blessed you are to have had and continue to have, such a wonderful link to "all things mountain beautiful". Oh, yes, I enjoyed your collected photographs and could never grow weary of seeing more.

  23. Wonderful memories in photographs.

  24. What a lovely blog and most excellent poster. I enjoyed every word and photo. Thank you.


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