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.

A Windy Knoll Report

impalaApologies, apologies.  I try to post this blog by 9:00 a.m. Central Daylight Saving Time; however, yours truly has some physical problems and this is just not my day.  I’ll fill you in later with more details.  I try not to talk about ailments but. . . . .

I do have one bright spot to report.  I’m (John says it’s mine) the proud owner of a small SUV that I can get in and out of more easily. I have been begging for a new car for at least 10 years, but to no avail.  Finally after much heated discussion, etc. it’s here.  We own a 1985 Buick Roadmaster — bought it new and have enjoyed trip after trip in it, but then the time came when I couldn’t get out of it and since then we’ve been traveling in the pickup.  John keeps saying the Buick is a good car and it is — he has taken good care of it — oil changes, grease jobs, etc. — but it is of no value to me if I can’t get out.  I’ve called it John’s Chariot for the last few years.

Two years ago some of John’s relatives from Key West were here. We had made homemade ice cream and were sitting on the sun porch when the man asked, “Do you ever try to get that old car out of the shed!!”  What a laugh we all had when I answered, “Not until we are going somewhere.”

Now the Roadmaster is for sale — it will only be five years until it’s classified as antique.  Somebody might like to have it to restore.  It’s never been in an accident.  If you are that person let us hear from you.

Aches and pains, as well as new vehicles are also part of country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Homemade Vegetable Soup

Peas-ready-for-the-freezerYesterday was the big day for making vegetable soup.  We make a big pot full and then freeze some for later use.  Now remember that I don’t know how to  cook with fast fixings  — most of what I use is home grown.

I use a large roaster as my pot and begin with two frozen quarts of tomatoes.  To this I had a quart of field peas and then another quart of okra (add a little water to get it started).  Here I add salt (just guess at it and then taste later), two tablespoons of dried onion and two teaspoons of garlic powder.  I suppose you can use an onion, but my picky husband doesn’t like to see the onion floating in the soup. Duh!  I let this simmer a bit and then I sear one pound of ground beef (and isn’t it expensive?) in a little oil and pour it all in the soup pot.  Here again I leave it simmer while I peel three or four (depending on the size) potatoes and dice them to be added to the mixture.  Along the way I add one can of condensed tomato soup with a can of water.  Now I add one large can of Veg-All.  When the potatoes are done I add a can of whole kernel corn.  Here one has to be careful and stir often — using lower heat, as the corn is prone to stick.  After this has simmered a bit I add two or three hands full of macaroni and about two tablespoons of sugar.  As I understand it sugar enhances the flavor.  This mixture may be too thick and if so I add a half quart of home canned tomato juice.  Yum!!  To have this with a pone of cornbread for a meal is enough for anybody.  Would you believe neither of my girls will eat vegetable soup?  They just don’t know what’s good.

I can’t make a little pot of soup — I don’t know how.  From yesterday’s making we had lunch, I kept some out for another meal and we put five quarts in the freezer.  When I take a bag from the freezer to use I add a can of condensed tomato soup and a can of water.  That’s an easy meal.

Good ole home cooking has to be one of the best parts of country living.

Posted in In the Kitchen

Help from the Monsters 1994

Ten heifers were out of the pasture, and these two senior citizens were trying their hand at corralling, but without success. There was one good thing about it, all ten “girls” stayed in a tight-knit bunch and didn’t spread. One of the numerous times when they bolted and ran, John threw the prod at them, hitting a white heifer on the back causing her to put on a show kicking up her heels and bucking. He said, I’ll go to the house and get my rifle and we’ll have steak for supper – I bet I can catch them that way!” DSCN3535-005

I had never given praying for help a thought and to say the area is isolated is an understatement – we were on the backside of nowhere and nobody was there. But then it happened – I saw these two enclosed tractors coming toward us as though thy sensed our dilemma. They were moving very slowly and to this tired old gal looked like monsters from another planet – or at least dinosaurs of old. I’ve never been so glad to see another human in my life – in this case it was TWO other humans.

The smaller of the machines hurried to head off the wayward herd, but when he blew his horn, they were more frightened than ever and what I saw looked like the back end of a small herd of buffalo going across the prairie. As I talked with the driver of the largest tractor, he told me they were just leaving following a bad situation, too. The small tractor had been stuck and the large one came to pull him out and they were going home via a new route. Thank goodness they were!

Finally, in the distance I could see the herd going down the road toward the house, but I was two fields away and could never get to the gate in time to open it. Here’s where the driver of the large tractor took over – he ran to manage the gate, while the small tractor helped with the herding. There is seldom any traffic on this little dirt road, but call it fate or the Hand of God, or whatever, about this time and from the other direction, a neighbor drove up and helped with gates and the finalizing of the corralling episode.

By this time I had started my final walk toward the house and was grateful for the “cut” fence so I could enter there and have better walking conditions. With aching knees, I huffed and puffed my way back to the yard wondering in what condition I would find the cake still in the oven. As I entered the yard, John said, “Where did you leave the truck?” I had forgotten the truck and he had to hitch a ride with the neighbor so he could drive the truck back to the house.

As I took the cake from the oven, John informed me he was going to make fence repairs and at the same time the chicken litter trucks arrived to start spreading that odorous fertilizer over the pastures. That’s another thing about which I can be thankful – I didn’t have to walk through fresh chicken manure. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be – this matter of country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Death Visits

John lost his only remaining brother over the week end and things are different around here.  Tom was 14 years younger than John and  (with dementia) John can’t understand why he would go first.

There was actually two families.  John, an older brother and a little sister were the children in the 20′s; however, the sister died with diphtheria when she was two years old.  It was said that she got the illness from a cat, which she carried lots of the time.  Anyway several years passed before other children were born.

John and I’ve been married 69 years and Tom was four when we married.  We’ve been to family get togethers and the younger four would laugh and talk about things that happened that the older fellows knew nothing about.

Handling of deaths is a lot different today than it was back then.  In the old days bodies were kept at the home until burial time.  Neighbors and friends would set up at night and maybe take shifts doing so.

I’ve heard talk about when my daddy’s first wife died — February 1918.  She died during the flu epidemic and the weather was bitterly cold.  The undertaker drove mules to pull the hearse and he was located over in the valley — 12 miles away.  The mountain road was so frozen that he had to have special shoes put on the mules to get up the mountain.  She was “laid out” at home.  Didn’t even to go the funeral home. The cemetery was so frozen that a fire had to be built on the ground before the grave could be dug.

Times have changed, but death, too, is a part of country living.


Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Aunt Bill Rambles – Easter

DSCN6411-004When I got up this morning I thought how sad Marthie musta been when she wuz goin’ to visit the tomb.  I jest wonder how she felt when she see’d the stone rolled away.  Who would believe Peter was the first one to have enough nerve to enter tomb and find it empty. Praise God for the empty tomb.  He Is Risen!!

I’ve been trying to remember Easter when I was young — that’s been a long time!  We allas had a Easter egg hunt at school and we went to Dr. Parrish’ pasture.  We all brought a few colored eggs to be hid.  Now everybody had hens and could brang eggs,but all of ‘em didn’t have coloring.  Onions would make the eggs sort of yeller and walnut hulls would make them brownish, but my Ma allas has a few cents stuck back and I allas had coloring. I can’t remember candy eggs back then and they shore wadn’t no plastic eggs.  I can’t even remember what the prize was fer the one that found the most.  Does that say something about my age?

At home my brother and sister (they’s teenagers when I’se born) allas come back and we had a big meal together.  We had to walk to church, but I can’t remember that happening on Easter.  It seems I can remember having new dress and new patent leather shoes.  Them little shoes could be polished with a cold biscuit rubbed over them.  My, my what thangs I can remember and what thangs I can’t remember.  Sometimes I can’t eben remember what I had fer breakfast.

I hear little ‘uns today talking about the Easter Bunny — well, I ain’t never seen one, but I do see a squirrel at the bird feeders now and then.

Happy Easter and thanks for hanging around with us on Country Living.

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

Windy Knoll Gardening

Turnip greens -- picking with SisterIt’s time to put in the vegetable garden, but in the winter time?  The wind here is so cold it would make one sick to stay out in it.  I don’t see how the plants are surviving all this, but as far as I can tell they are fairing reasonably well.  I’ve lived several years and I can’t recall a year like this one has been.  In 1987 I went to Europe with a group of Georgia quilters and when I left here on April 5 there was a snow on the ground, but we didn’t have the cold like we are having this year.  My half-brother and half-sister were teenagers when I was born and I’ve heard them talk about skating on a pond between here and Geraldine — so maybe winters were colder back then.  What about global warming?

I’m told our neighbors bundled up and planted beans yesterday!!  Duh!  They had already planted squash and cucumbers.  I can’t believe the seed will germinate in this cold ground.  We’ll see.  They sure weren’t planting according to the almanac.  April 13, 14 and 29 are days to plant above the ground crops.

We have no plans for a big garden in the first place, we have two freezers full now.  The tomato plants are large enough to set out.  Tomatoes, okra and peas are our plans.  Of course, there’ll have to be some peppers.  Another thing is the gourds.  John wants to plant gourds so he’ll have some new ones to house the Martins.  Gourds don’t have to be cultivated — just planted early (and this is not early). By the way, the Martins have arrived at the Windy Knoll and are busy making their nests.

Delays, decisions and options are all a part of country living.



Posted in Gardening

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