This is the first day of the rest of my life and I'm marking one item off my "bucket list." I love telling stories, yarns, etc. and for the past 25 years have written weekly articles for the DeKalb Newspapers and now I get to try blogging. It has been said of me that I write about old days and old ways, along with modern tales of our adventures here on The Windy Knoll, our home place. Drop in just any time to see what's going on. Now let me say up front I'm no Julia Childs or Paula Dean - not even a distant relative - but I will be writing about cooking now and then. As best I can remember the only thing considered fast food in this house is a cake mix. I cook from scratch like the old timers used to do. I'll be posting old and new articles and in most cases the published date will be to the right of the title. That way you can read along (with a few pictures) and see what the aging process has done.

TheCows are Out 1988

The cowJohn was sleeping in this morning, as he enjoys doing and I was knitting with Sister snuggled at my feet.  It was Jill  who barked and sounded the alarm that something was amiss.  Sister and I both jumped to run see what was going on -  cows – and more cows – outside the fence.

I yelled for John and headed for the garden, clad in a robe with scuffs on my feet and Sister at my heels.  I thought I could turn the entourage around to go toward the open gate I had spied; however, that was not to be. The big bull charged right on by me with his harem following.  As I returned to the house for some shoes and some protection from the cold east wind, I met John on the way out.  By now the cattle were in the woods and headed for what we call
“The Hosmer Place.” By the time Johns feet hit the ground, he was inundated by a too-large flock of chickens, ducks and geese demanding they have their corn first.

We decided the cattle had been out for some time as we saw hoof prints in the road and other signs – which you can imagine –  along the way.  John took a bale of hay to try to lure them back – this technique had worked before, but this time they were not hungry and were not to be fooled.  We were a sight to behold – especially me – robe, tennis shoes and cap, etc.  It reminded me of the Dukes of Hazard’s Boss Hog in “hot pursuit!” It was about this time when Mr. Cecil Croft, on his way to cut wood, stopped to help. John was in the woods, I was stationed at the pear trees to “head them off at the pass,” and Mr. Croft was at yet another location.  Jill, the Australian Shepherd, tried so hard to help, but oft times she gets on the wrong side of the bovine and does more harm than good.  After some cajoling and herding, the ten renegades were back where they belonged.

As we sat on the sun porch, John with his coffee and yours truly sipping a cola, doing what John calls “warming the rocking chairs;”  I remarked, “Gene Lyle’s cows never get out.”  John responded, “Neither does Ellis Anderson’s.”  You see Mr. Lyle and Mr. Anderson do not have cows.  Any cow, though, will eventually walk out at an open gate!  Quite a way to start the day.  It’s definitely country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Remembering my First Bridge Partner and More 1989

DSCN6385-001It’s a good time to quilt on this bright “Hands All Around” quilt, as the day is dark and overcast.  It’s the right setting for reflecting.

Just recently I lost my bridge partner, and he was a master at the game.  One of the things I had always wanted to do was learn to play Bridge.  So after we moved back to the farm, Mr. and Mrs. F. V. Nichols learned of my desire and the fun quickly got underway.  John already played; however, in the last two years the four of us have enjoyed many hours together as we bid, went set and/or made the bid over and over.  In all the times we played this exciting card game with the Nichols, Louise was my partner only once — it was just not right for me to play without Nick being my partner.  What fun it was to answer a ringing phone and hear him say, “It’s your bid.”  Ah, such fond memories.  I’ll always remember my first Bridge partner.

In making one stitch after another, my mind darts from one remembrance to another.

So you remember when:
A Model T had to be backed up the mountain because it had no fuel pump?
Babies wore asafetida bags around their neck to ward off whatever?
Eight hours work was given for eight hours pay?
Churches had protracted meetings?
Schools had box suppers and cake walks?
Geraldine football was played in Dr. Parrish’s pasture?
Courting was done in a horse drawn buggy?
Cotton was plowed by “running around ” it with a mule and single stock, equipped with a sweep and scooter?
Bed linens were made from fertilizer and/or feed sacks?
Mama made gruel?
Milk had to be kept in the well to keep it cool?
Teacakes were kept in a flour sack?
Churning was done by hand?

If you can remember any or all of these you have dated yourself,  however, you are my kind of folks.  This is country living.


Posted in Country Life – Then and Now, Quilting

A Windy Knoll Update

Penny-Mac Hydrangea summer of 2013

Penny-Mac Hydrangea summer of 2013

Where do I begin?  I’m writing this on Tuesday afternoon.  The cool rainy weather has now turned to fair weather and the cold wind is rolling in.  As I’ve told you before, the wind always seems colder here atop the Windy Knoll.  — even in the hottest of weather there is nearly always a gentle breeze.  This one is not gentle.

There are so many plants budded out (I could not begin to name all the wildflowers in the shade garden to say nothing of those here in the yard) and there is no way we could cover them all to protect them from the thirty degree predicted weather.  We have two special clematis that John has tried to cover.  One is a Henryi that has never bloomed, but shows promise for this year.  The other is Clematis Rugelli — blooms purple and the bloom is bell shaped.  And then there’s that little new Bergenia — a gift from a gardening friend — that I’ve put in the ground too early.  John has turned a heavy pot down over it and whispered a prayer.

I’ve always heard that the worst of the weather is over when the fig bushes bud out and they show no signs of green at this writing.

I shutter at the thought of loosing what few Hydrangea blooms we were going to have.  Notice I said, “going to have.”  Most of the Hydrangeas I have bloom on old wood and very few of the plants are showing green up the stem.  I would predict that 95% of the old growth stems are dead.  I have a Penny Mac on the north side of the house and it has been gorgeous — really large.  If you remember I posted a blog about the pruning of same late last summer.  I do believe that whole plant is dead, as is the rosemary in the edge of the vegetable garden.  I have another rosemary (said to the deer repellent kind) that’s growing next to the house and I’m hoping it has survived.  I don’t remember when we’ve had such a harsh winter and now I can say spring, as well.

A friend dropped by earlier today and asked if it would kill her Hosta.  “I’m afraid it will,” was my reply.  Will it put out again?  I think so, but don’t bet the farm on that.

Maybe sometime in the future I’ll give you a report on what we lost.  I have lots of Trillium in a bed here under the water oak, but I think most of the Trillium can take a light freeze.   The freezing weather is just one of the many worries connected to country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now, Gardening

Home remedies 1998

Infested?  I should say!  Poison ivy has taken over and discomfort is the name of the game.  I knew where the ivy was/is, but I didn’t know I was being covered in it.  We’ve been weeding in a remote area of the shade garden and putting down extra mulch where the pesky stuff grows, but I thought I was being careful.  I knew poison ivy was there, and I even saw it; however, I made sure I didn’t touch it as I snipped it off.  I truly believe “some splattered on me” because I used the clippers to snip it off and did not pull.  Anyway the very worst place (blisters – big ones) is on my forehead, in the outside edge of the eyebrow, right at the corner of the eye – on the cheekbone.

Minor encounters are also on the outside of the right thigh, on the left forearm and on the back of my fingers on the right hand.  To say the least, I’m not lonesome, or at a loss for something to do – the scratching keeps me busy and well occupied.

Now the “medicine in a tube” I’ve been using clearly states the ointment is not to be used near the eyes.  Okay, then I’ll just ride it out.  I firmly believe if one goes to the doctor and uses his medicine, he’ll be better in a week; however, using home remedies the problem will clear up in seven days and I’ve chosen the latter.

One thing I’ve done is scrub with Octagon Soap – better?  I don’t know.  Then a friend told me jewelweed would cure it, and she sent me home with jewelweed.  I split the stem open and applied the “juice” (what little there was of it).  It was very soothing and cooling to the forehead/eye area, as I applied it.  Today some of he fire and itch seems to be gone however, it’s a long way from being well.

Even my sleep has been affected, as the itching wakes me out of a sound sleep.  As I’ve been dealing with all this, I remember when I was a child we didn’t run to the doctor every time we sneezed, but were doctored at home.

More than once when I was barefooted, I stuck a nail in my foot – immediately my folks washed it out with kerosene and bandaged it up with a clean cloth.  Another time as a barefooted youngster, I stubbed (back then we called it “stumped)  my big toe and Mother made a “stall” for the toe by using a clean piece of flour sack.  The “stall” was tied on after being dowsed with kerosene.

One fall as we stripped syrup cane, (it was my job to get the lower blades and I crawled on my knees), I bruised my knee and had a “bone felon” (at least that is what it was called back then).  It was like a bad boil or rising, and they applied a poultice made from a scraped Irish potato (this was supposed to draw it to a head, so it would drain).  Eventually it did.  Was it the potato?  I don’t know!

The poultice (pronounced po’lis) was used for chest congestion, too.  It smelled awful!  It had Vick’s Salve, turpentine and Lord only knows what else, on it.  This was pinned to the inside of my pajama top and left there overnight.  I hated it!

Whatever my ailment was, in those growing-up days, my folks thought a strong purgative was the answer.  So it was with country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

A Sweet Quilt Story

This has to be one of he sweetest quilt stories I’ve ever heard.  My quilt friend wanted to make a quilt for each of her grandchildren and she had several.  Now the oldest one was my friend, too, and he must have been ten or eleven years old when she told him of her plans.  His remark was ” I don’t want no quilt.”    Lingerfelt Quilt 2

Okay, Grandma worked diligently making quilt after quilt for the other children; however, all this time my young friend’s mother and Grandma had talked about what colors my young friend might like, etc.  Time passed and Young Friend grew up — still no quilt — but now he’d like to have one.  By this time he is teaching school in the Birmingham area and has his own apartment.  Grandma died!!!

Here again time passed and Grandma’s belongings had not been thoroughly gone through.  She’s been gone five or six years and this last fall Young Friend’s mother was going through a box of Grandma’s quilting books and scraps and found 20 blocks stored away and in the colors they had talked about over the years.

She brought the blocks here, we laid them out on the bed and talked about how to handle the situation,  They were definitely meant for Young Friend’s quilt. Me being unable to physically help, the mother took them to a prize-winning quilter and she set the blocks together and suggested that  the quilt be put up at the home and invite family members and close friends to come quilt on it.  This is what happened and all this time it was kept a secret from Young Friend, but when he came home for Christmas he was told the story.  I’m told the tears rolled. The quilt was still in the frame and he quilted some on it himself.  For several months family members dropped by (some from out of state) and put a few stitches in.  I even got to quilt on it one afternoon., but  I’m not sure  what the pattern is called.

It is a prize quilt to say the least even though the stitches are not all short and even.   Now the quilt is complete and Young Friend wants to take it home with him, but Mother is reluctant saying,  “Afraid something will happen to it.” This sort of thing is just one of the many pleasures of country living.    Lingerfelt Quilt

Posted in Quilting

Aunt Bill Rambles — Cemeteries

DSCN6392-001Since the month of May is Decoration Time here on the mountain, I thought I’d tell you’ens how hit used to be.  Now fer you folks what don’t know about Decoration Day — hit’s when kinfolks and friends meet at the cemetery, on a certain Sunday, where their folks is buried and decorate the graves.

The first Sunday decoration is at Fairview, second Sunday hit’s at Skirum, Crossville and New Harmony.  I’ve mentioned just a few, but there are lots of others.  Folks don’t attend lack they used to.  Billie quit going many years ago when somebody said to her, “Law, Billie Mae, how fleshy you are.”  That made her so mad — she said she know’d how fat she wuz and didn’t need nobody reminding her.  Now she takes a bouquet from the yard to Skirum to her mother’s and little sister’s graves, but she goes rail early.  Her daddy is buried by his first wife and that decoration is the Saturday before the third Sunday and he’s buried in a different cemetery.

Anyway some time in April kinfolks would meet at the cemetery to clean off the graves.  They wodn’t no grass on the graves back then. People would take a hoe and scrap ever bit of the grass off, rake hit up and tote hit off and then they’d sweep a big spot around their family graves with a brush broom.  When they’d git through doing all this them graves looked nice and they didn’t want nobody walking on the fresh swept part.  Some times folks would put white gravel on the grave – if they had a little cement wall around the edge.

Billie ain’t never put artificial flowers on her mother’s grave because she said before she died that if that’s all they had to put on — jest leave flowers off. She might lack artificial flowers we’ve got today. Of course, back then lots of folks made the flowers out’n crepe paper and put the blossom a wire and stuck that wire in the ground on top of the grave.   Now if’n hit rained, that crepe paper would fade and the ground under hit would be red, blue or whatever color the flower wuz.  And lots of Sundays of decoration hit would rain.  And I’ve see’d hit so cold you’d haf to wear a coat over yore new dress.

Jest in case you’re aiming to clean the cemetery and need to clean the tombstones I’m a-goin’ to give you a recipe to use.  John tried to clean his kinfolks stones one time, but this wadn’t strong enough to do the job.  So you try hit at yore own risk.  This is how hit is with Sand Mountain country living.

1 gallon water                        1/2 box of baking soda
1 Tbsp. white vinegar           1/2 box  Ajax

If marble is badly stained, try adding 1 1/2 cups of ammonia to a gallon of water and rinse well.  Use finest grade of sandpaper on the monument first and then apply mixture with stiff brush or steel wool.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now, Ramblin's

A Windy Knoll Report

The Home Place

The Home Place

And so the old folks just keep on keeping on.  Spring is here and there is at least one million chores that need to be done.  Duh!  Most will be left undone.  John is as tight as the bark on a hickory tree with his money and it’s forbidden that we get a yard man.  Now and then I rebel and get a person to pull weeds in some flower beds.  It’s heart breaking to see the plants we’ve nurtured and loved so much neglected, but such is old age I’m learning.

I’ve kept you informed about the tomato plants and now they’ve graduated from the sun porch to the outside; however, I see next we’ll have some super cold nights and they may have to come back in.  Finally, they look like tomatoes and are growing.  I’m about to decide it would have been better to pay the high price for some plants than it is to tote these out and in.  Oh well!

And another thing — I can’t remember a time in our 69 years of married life that all our equipment has been in working order at once.  For ever and eternally something is broken and has to be repaired.  This week took the cake –  the tiller went belly up.  We’ve only had it for 40 or so years and I can’t understand why it would quilt.  I’d like for us to get our money’s worth out of it. LOL  Anyway it was going to cost mega-bucks to put a new engine on it and there is no use in an 89 year old man investing in a tiller.  We had a streak of good luck — our daughter and hers cannot make a vegetable garden because of deer and they had a really good tiller just setting in the out building.  Okay, John had a blade of some kind that Brad needed for his tractor, so Brad brought the tiller and took the blade!  The weed eater and lawn mower are relatively new so maybe they won’t break down.  I’ll grant you the handle in the shovel or something will break and have to be replaced.  Have you priced shovel handles lately?  We just had to have a new shovel handle and the price was ridiculous.  This is just how it is with country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now, Gardening

Ah, April – My Favorite Month 2009

Trillium - CuneatumWildflowers have always been a big part of my life, but the year was 1967 when I was more intimately introduced to them.  I can remember as a child the woods in front of our house was full of wild azaleas (what we called Honeysuckle back then) and I would gather them by the wheelbarrow load and bring those beauties to the house.  I should have been punished!!  Maybe if I had not abused them there would be more wild azaleas in our area today. 

In the fall of 1966 we bought a house in Marietta and moved there in the spring of ’67.

And it was that spring that Margarite White Brown, a good friend who had grown up at the foot of Lookout Mountain in Valley Head, introduced us to growing wildflowers in the yard and helped make a place for them to grow. Our lot had lots of pines, but we brought dirt from woods where hardwood trees grew and made our very first bed.  Ms. Brown shared what she already had such as Rue Anemone, Phlox, ferns and such.  John and I were smitten right off the bat and the three of us spent many hours in the woods of Cobb County.  We went ahead of the bulldozers where new housing developments were about to be built and rescued flower after flower and brought it in to our lot.  In the early 1980’s when we knew we were moving to this location, we started moving the plants; however, we had bad drought years then, too, and lost lots of them.  During the 1970’s there was a picnic table on the side of the road at the foot of Sand Mountain and on a trip to the mountain we brought a picnic lunch and stopped at that table.  It was there that I got my very first Trillium and I was so excited.  When I shared the news in Georgia, of course, I was requested to bring them one.  Now there is no table there and the land has been fenced and is a pasture. 

Little by little we collected and our Trillium collection has grown to 20 varieties and we are delighted.  Last year John made a new Trillium bed just off the sun porch and moved some of the ones from the shade garden area.   I can view it from the warmth and comfort of the porch and what a pleasure.  On a good day (and we have not many warm ones of late) I still thrill at going to the shade garden to see what’s over there.  It’s heartbreaking to see it abandoned; however, we cannot keep it anymore and have to accept that.  I have to go in the golf cart, but we stop lots and get out and walk some.  John tries to keep the trails open enough for the cart to get through.  Right now there is a large tree down in one trail, but maybe somebody will want it for firewood and will move it.  I have one person in mind. 

The last trip there may be the last one for a while, but I was thrilled to see lots of blooming phlox, Rue, Primroses, Virburnum and wild larksboro.  You would have laughed at our dilemma, on our first stop the golf cart quit running and there we were stranded.  Thank goodness John is a good walker, so he came to the house and got the battery cables and lawnmower and tried to get it started, but with no luck.  So after I had walked around and looked all I wanted to, he tells me he is going to pull the cart to the house with the lawnmower and I’m to steer the cart.  Duh!!  First off we had to get the cart turned around and headed out – so that meant two old folks were pushing and turning that cart to and fro, but finally we got it headed in the right direction.  Now he hooks a chain to the front of the cart and back of the mower and away we go.  It was a hoot!!!!!!!!  As he turned the corner to exit the woods and enter the road, his turn was too wide and the chain came off and here I was stranded while he kept going.  It didn’t take long for him to discover his loss and came back for a re-hooking.   We got the sick cart to the shed and there it remains.  John is a mechanic for lots of things, but he doesn’t know much about golf carts, but we have an appointment with someone who does know. This has been a good one and we’ve had it ten or more years.  This is the first time it has been inoperable and we think that’s great.  Anyway, I’ll have to enjoy the plants on this side of the road for a while. 

It’s time to start the vegetable garden and we’ve started trying to harden off the many tomato plants we’ve been tending.  We have so much wind here that when we set them outside the young, tender plants just lay down.  Maybe in a few days things will improve.

This past Sunday being Easter, we thought we could set them outside for a while, but that wind was so cold John opted to bring them back inside. 

All the youngsters at church looked so pretty in their Easter frocks and I looked like January with my winter clothes on, but I was cold.  One young lady on my pew had on a backless dress and she nearly froze me to death and I told her so.  Ha!!  I’ll bet it will be be bad to get old!!  Such is country living.

Note 2014 — Old age is here and it is bad — miss doing the things we used to do such as working in and enjoying the shade garden and wildflowers.


Trillium Flexipes

Trillium Flexipes

Posted in Gardening, Wildflowers

A Man in the Kitchen 1998

John in the Kitchen

John in the Kitchen

It’s been one of those dreary, drizzly days; however, I promise I won’t complain about rain – we still need it.  The ground is not wet, it’s not even damp an inch down.

I’ve been engaged in one of those many projects I have started and this one is a Christmas project I can’t talk about at this time.  It’s such a busy time of year – the small children in our family have an advent calendar of a different sort.  Beginning December 1 they remove a gingerbread man from the “advent” calendar and eat him,  repeating the process daily until December 24.  Then they eat the big gingerbread man at the top that has their name on it.  Well, baking the gingerbread men is one of my big projects – this week. I’ve baked eight dozen, and I’ll have two more bakings to go. Wow!  But this is how memories are made.  Hopefully, they will remember to bring the empty part of the calendar to their Gran’s on Thanksgiving and we’ll all have fun together tying the men (each one in a separate plastic bag) on their burlap bases.

Anyway perhaps John knew how busy I’ve been, as I hear him banging around in the kitchen.  I don’t know just what he’s up to — sometimes he sends time in the kitchen and then brings out the most delicious peanut brittle for me to sample.  However, considering the time of day (late afternoon), I’ll wager a bet this time it’s not peanut brittle.

Many years ago on a day such as this, we’d have hot cornbread – a real treat for my family at suppertime.  To bake hot bread back then took more than turning a switch. Stove wood had to be fetched (and maybe the ashes had to be removed from the cook stove, before the fire was built).

Soot Rake

Soot Rake

Remember this little rake made just for reaching back in the ash box of the stove to clean the ashes out?  It really was made to clean the soot out, too.  With a fire going in the wood range, other would bake a skillet of “thin” bread which we buttered, then applied a generous amount of that good old Sand Mountain Sorghum to it.  Yum! Yum!  We usually ate cornbread and milk’ however, if it was the thin bread, and hot, then we ate it with butter and sorghum.  The iron skillet was the vessel used for baking, and to pick up the hot skillet, liftin’ rags were an absolute necessity. One of those pretty little bought “pot holders” was not thick enough – it had to be one padded with a  worn out piece of quilt or something thick and heavy enough tor maximum protection.  I make the homemade potholders today to give for little Christmas gifts. Those with thick padding can’t be beat.

Can you remember the “eye lifter” used in conjunction with the wood cook stove?  Using the “eye lifter,” Mother would remove an eye and drop the old black pot down in the opening so it would be closer to the fire for boiling beans, a fresh mess of pork backbones or whatever.

My nose tells me I guessed right about John (after living together all these years that’s not hard to do) and this night it’ll be hot, buttered cornbread and some of that new $15 per gallon sorghum.  I remember when a gallon could be bought for 50 cents and it was in a metal bucket with a bail.  I’d better shut down this machine, as I expect the call to supper just any time now.  It’s one of the fringe benefits of country living.

Posted in In the Kitchen

Let’s Get the Quilt Frames Ready 2008

Billie Quilts on Dear Jane Quilt using hanging frames

Billie Quilts on Dear Jane Quilt using hanging frames

Last week in this article we talked about piecing the quilt top, but space ran out before we got the border on and that’s important.  The border seems to hold it all together.  I heard one lady say she’d rather have a picture hanging on the wall without a frame than to have a quilt without a border.  As far as I’m concerned borders should be a solid color that picks up a color in the body of the quilt.   Quilting today is different than it used to be as, much quilting is machine done today; however, to me it should still be done by hand.  Quality, quality!!  Remember that’s my opinion – everybody has one.

Today batts come in all sizes and made of different materials, but as you know I tell about how things used to be and back then we used only cotton.  After crops were gathered ladies and children went back to the cotton patch to get the straggling boles – they called it “pulling” boles.  They then picked the cotton from the bole and had it ginned to be used for quilt batts.  This was before my day, but I’m told the seed used to be picked out by hand and each child would be given a tea cup and when they got that cup full of seed they could quit picking seed – at least for that day or night.  It took lots of cotton seed to fill a cup and it also took lots of cotton to fill the quilt.

We have to have a quilt lining ready the very first thing.  When I was growing up fertilizer and/or feed sacks were used for quilt linings and most times they were dyed.  It is believed that colored linings do not show dirt like white linings do. After enough sacks were sewed to accommodate the top the old black pot was readied and the lining dyed – many times a hank of thread was thrown in with the lining to be dyed so the quilting stitch did not show up.  Of course, back then ball thread was used to quilt with.  It was literally “ball” thread – it was coarser that today’s quilting thread and it came in a ball.

Needless to say larger needles were used to do the quilting and this made for longer quilting stitches.

My mother used to go a quilting bee when the Geraldine Baptist Church was being built (about 1940) and she didn’t want to sit by a certain lady to quilt because that lady made long stitches and Mother was afraid those stitches would be mistaken for hers. Even today quilters are critical of long stitches.  

Now about frames – quilting is done in many types of frames and a prize winner I know quilts without a frame, but she is one in a million.  There are king size frames and then there are little frames that can held in ones lap for quilting, but as you might guess mine are double bed size and hang from the ceiling in our den.  Not only are they for quilting, but many times they are used as conversation piece.  Some time neighbors and/or friends would come help quilt and that’s when they could catch up on what was going on in the community.

Of course, my space has run out and I’ve only just begun, but this how quilting was done years ago with that style of country living.    

Posted in Quilting
Billie & John Crumly 1945 Part of what Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation"