Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Its Time To Har The Garden

My life in appalachia - Har The Garden

Yesterday morning caught the Blind Pig Family in a bind. We’d been meaning to clean off Pap’s big garden for several weeks-seems every weekend has either been full of rain or full of places to be.

About 8:30 we got the news a friend was coming to har the garden. Most folks clear off their gardens in the fall after the summer growing season is finished-not us-we’re never that organized.

We were knee deep in another project but had to drop it and run down to the garden to wind up the bean wire; pull up the bean stakes; and clear the leftover cornstalks. We finished in time-and then sat garden side to watch the garden being plowed and harred.

You may be asking yourself what in the world does har the garden mean? If you are- I’m positive you’re not alone. Har the garden is the Appalachian way of saying harrow the garden.

A few years ago har was a word on one of my month vocabulary test-not many folks were familiar with the word. A few of the comments from back then:

  • Miss Cindy: I learned the word har from the Deer Hunters Papaw James. He told me I needed to get the garden hared. I said what is hared? He said you know cut. I said what does cut mean? He said you know hared. Well that could go round and round all day. When the Deer Hunters dad came home from work I asked him. He explained that piece of equipment is called a Disk Harrow. It is an attachment for a tractor. I had seen many of them but never heard the name.
  • Warren: Har is a new one for me…the others I know…
  • Vicki Lane: Heard em all — and had to laugh about har. I was a tutor with a remedial reading class in the local high school and my student was reading something for me. He bogged down at the word ‘harrow’ and I said ‘You know what that is — the triangular thing with teeth that you drag across a plowed up field to smooth it.’ ‘You mean a har?’ he said.
  • Lanny: When you say “I truly thought har was a real word” you make me laugh, there are so many words like that from my childhood, words that aren’t even colloquial, but that were used by my family so much that I thought for sure they were real words.

Got your garden hared yet?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Woo hoo! Tipper, I hadn’t had time to stop back in here and found out that I had won when I checked my mail today. Thank you! You made my day!!
    Be sure to tell Granny I LOVE IT!
    Now I have two Grannymade things. LOL

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Wow, you quoted me?! Thanks!
    I thought my garden was all “harred” last fall so that I could finally enter into that select group of organized folk. Hmmmm not so. Only a few beds sit at the ready already. The rest of the beds have been upset by my putting in a drainage ditch all along the south end of the beds and adding more soil where the beds were clearly under the winter/spring water mark. The soil was just dumped in large piles from the front loader, not ready at all for planting.
    And the typical cry begins again – “Next year!”

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    March 13, 2012 at 12:26 am

    My first riding horse was the one Daddy kept to work his garden. Her name was Daisy and she was a big wide workhorse. I was very small then. Later he used his little Farmall tractor to prepare the ground for planting. If he was alive today, he’d be in his garden down in S.GA planting already. Oh how I miss his fresh vegetables he gave us every year.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I’m not sure which is the better way to do the garden…We both ways done around here…After the first frost and a few dry days we see some of the farmers, plowing up their fields…Some say that turns over the seed from weeds left over and produces more weeds the next year…I wonder if it kills the insects when the soil is turned up…I don’t see many har afterwords until Spring…but a few do…
    Now if you plow before the ground dries good…and them clods rise up and dry…It will wear out a har (disk) and a sledge hammer an go devil to boot….
    Had that happen to us one year…cause it just wouldn’t quit raining so’s the ground would dry good…so we had some clods even after running a har this way and that way many times…But you know what…for some reason that year we had the best tomatoes…reckon the air got deep down amongst those clods and aerated the roots….cause we sure put on the mulch for fear of the clods causing them to dry out…
    To clod or not to clod…or is it to mulch or not to mulch…LOL
    Thanks for a great post…
    and Jim I thought milk was “blinked” and “spiled” as well….I thought my milk in the fridge was “blinked” after the power was off so long, after the storms last week…LOL

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    March 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Although the term is new to me, you reminded me that it was time to get my small patch ready for the ‘mators’ and ‘cukes.’

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    What that man said about never charging Pap for harin” his garden puts such a beautiful mind picture of dear friends of days gone by for me. I’ve known a few people like that in my time. A good neighbor is something to be treasured! Sometimes I think people like that are a vanishing breed. Thanks for reminding me Tipper.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Tipper, you ought to publish your own dictionary for the “odd” or “slang” words you have down south. Newfoundlanders have their own dictionary for the vocabulary they have, that’s different than the rest of us Canadians.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Tipper—Your blog on garden preparation and some of the early comments thereon brings to mind a a host of random thoughts. First, I had never thought about the dual meanings of harrow until today. If one has a harrowed look or a harrowing experience it presumably relates to having been through a grind much like a “harr” (I’d use the double “r”) brings to plowed ground. Second, I enjoyed Ed Myers delightful tale of good neighbors, although he also revealed some citified links with “spoil”—any son or daughter of Appalachia knows milk (or whatever) isn’t spoiled—it spiles or is spiled. Third, the picture of the tractor busy plowing brings to mind old-time plowing.
    I wonder how many folks on this blog know what the words “gee” and “haw” mean (hint—they aren’t expressions of amazement or gentle amusement)? If you don’t know, think horses or mules. I’m just old enough to remember the traditional ways of plowing and harring. I was somewhere in my teens before Daddy got the first tiller, and Grandpa Joe never had one. I was at the post office the other day when the clerk got a bit bumfuzzled with some math connected with a strange assortment of old stamps I had on packages, and he muttered: “I don’t know gee from haw today.” I grinned and said: “Well, at least I know what you mean.” His reply told me a bit about how others see me and also pleased me. “Yep, I reckoned you would,” he said.
    In the days of animal’s doing the work of garden preparation, there were all sorts of home-made harrs. The ones I remember best were mostly made of wood with the “teeth” that did the breaking up of clods and smoothing of the soil being made of some kind of hard and durable wood. Almost every mountain community had two or three individuals who made the rounds in the early spring preparing gardens. Of course, and here’s a subject for a blog in the future (I’ve written about it in newspapers more than once—“Where Have All the Gardens Gone?” You don’t see nearly as many as once was the case. Folks are losing their contact with the earth.
    Finally, after Ann and I moved to Rock Hill, SC (where we still live) in the early 1970s, we had the great good fortune to have across-the-street neighbors, Faye and Doran Dowdle, who were natives of Franklin, NC. They were as country as cornbread, as good as the good earth, and true carriers of time-honored mountain ways. Among the many blessings they conveyed on a young couple just getting started was Doran bringing his horse and plow to lay out our first garden as a married couple, and then he harred it. I can’t tell you how much it meant to watch, to hear once more his commands of gee, haw, and whoa, and see and smell that soil opened up to the heavens. Today I rely on two tillers, but how I’d love once more to see my half-acre plot prepared the true old way.
    Enough, I’ve rambled along as I am wont to do, but you resurrected some grand memories.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    March 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Never heard it called anything else! We only have a tiller & I miss having the garden harred as it’s much nicer to plant.

  • Reply
    Darlene LaRoche
    March 11, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Growing up we always had big gardens…spring time was filled with lots of work , getting the soil ready, planting, and then keeping up with the weeds, and finally the end results of canning everything…those were the days.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Unfortunately, growing up that part of gardening was always done without my observation. I vaguely remember a neighbor behind a horse plowing a gigantic area on the hillside. This is a hillside I personally cleared after school of bottles and trash left by previous owners. I bet I threw the same cans downward 3-4 times. I always got in on the other joys of gardening such as planting, hoeing, weeding, gathering, washing jars, and eating home canned soup in the Winter. Campbell’s soup was never in our home! And, yep, I still love it. A tractor tills, and I use a rake and hoe to level the garden. No Fitness Centers for me. I love that word, and think I will impress my neighbor by asking him how he hars his garden.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Oh’ I forgot the best part. You could ride the float, Standing up if you could keep your balance. Imagine riding around a field behind a horse like that. A thrill ride for a kid. I guess you could call it “dirt surfing.” Is that a new phrase? Reckon I need to copyright it?

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    March 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

    We usually had the fields harred and then floated the garden space to smooth it even further. Our home-made float consisted of three 2″X8″ timbers bolted together to form a triangle with Railroad spikes driven through them then floored with 1″ boards so you could pile weights on top. The float was pulled by a big white draft horse and left our sandy-loamy garden as smooth as a pool table. The weights consisted of any heavy pieces of steel and/or iron we could find then supplemented with large rocks if there wasn’t sufficent steel and/or iron to force the spikes into the ground. Many times a kid or two was loaded on also, this was more for their entertainment than the weight. The boards not only provided flooring for the weights but also helped keep the RR Spikes from working out or being knocked out by rocks. We were lucky in that our garden spot was good river bottom land which had few rocks in it as it consisted of sediment the Little T had deposited through time.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 11, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Tipper-come on now you’re messin with me. Ain’t no way you’d have guessed bed springs if you hadn’t seen it done. But it don’t have to be bed springs. Daddy would sometimes cut a real bushy tree, hitch it up to the horse and drag it around. A neighbor had a float made from wood. Like 4 by 6’s put together in a triangular shape. It had wooden (locust) pegs that stuck down into the ground. You flip it over if you need to move it from field to field. It was pulled by a 1 horse 4 legged drive called Kate.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Ed-nope I don’t know what a float is-my only guess would be the springs that came from an old bed.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Ed-great comment. Our friend wouldn’t take no money either. I believe one of his comments was-there’d never be a day that he’d charge Jerry Wilson(Pap) for anything. Yep-neighbors and friends are great-and they’re priceless when they’re one and the same.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    March 11, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Some 13 years ago, when i moved here from east Tennessee, by way of Manhattan, I was presented with a 5,000 sq. ft. garden area that had been long neglected.
    Being really a mixed breed suburban,country-descended,city boy, I went down the road and asked a neighbor’s wife if I could hire her husband out to plow the garden area. This was by far the worst social mistake I’ve made while here, not the asking, but the asking to pay for the job.
    He came over, on his own schedule of course (city life can spoil you to schedules, and I mean “spoil” as in rotten). Well, he two-disked the space, of course refused payment, and I was in heaven…almost. He told me I needed it harred and could get old man X from further down the road to do it for me.
    Being an independent sort, I didn’t know how to ask a neighbor I hadn’t met to do what I imagined would be quite hard labor, but, head bowed and respectful, I did. I’ll have to admit that the city-stupids came out when I saw he was crippled in one leg, so I despaired of it being done. Spring was fast approaching and my prospects were dim.
    Then, just as I was about to give up, and while my wife and I were away on errands, a country miracle occurred. As we crawled up the gravel road that borders our property, I looked over and saw that in our absence this neighbor had come over with his tractor and turned the 10 inch rows of clods into a plain of smooth dirt crumbles. He never called to say he was coming over, never asked for anything, just did it as easy as breathing and generosity.
    When my wife and I picked him a gallon of fresh blueberries later in the spring and brought them to him, he seemed surprised, as in thank you, but why are you doing this?
    I learned a lot more that day, about the people of these mountains and their very large hearts. I’ll have to say that my once cynical heart has swelled a bit each day since, from this and the many, many acts of kindness bestowed on this idiot up the road by my mountain neighbors and, now, friends.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 11, 2012 at 8:45 am

    We never had a har. Daddy would turn the ground then use a float. Now, do you know what that is?

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    March 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

    There always seems to be to much to do and not enough time to do it in.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    March 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

    I don’t think I ever heard that term, but when I saw your title with “har” and “garden”, I suspected what it was. If you put an Appalachian accent on the word “harrow”, you come close to “har”.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    March 11, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I have to laugh..this one I knew!

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    March 11, 2012 at 8:22 am

    ‘Har’ was new to me. Our garden is about ready to ‘disk up’ which is what I hear in the Ozarks and has the same meaning.
    We did get the greenhouse up, and all those little pots are ready for seed…

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    March 11, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Well, a-cuttin’ and a-harrin’ are necessary spring jobs, and only lazy people let them go! Why, look onto any garden in these parts around the mouuntains and ye’ll see for shore that the ones serious-minded about gardenin’ have already cut an’ harred by the fust o’ March!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 11, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Tipper, now that you’ve got the garden harred you need to show us a picture of that toboggan Becky won.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 8:03 am

    never heard that word, daddy said he had to hoe the garden, so i thought that is what it meant and really it does mean almost the same except hoe is by hand, he had to break his up with a hoe, but it was about the size of half a football field.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I had to laugh…that’s one word that gets pronounced so many different ways around here! I don’t even know how to write it!…and when I was a kid I never knew that it was spelled h a r r o w! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 6:01 am

    I sometimes wish I had a garden, I’d be very happy to….har it! Most people in Cyprus, harrow their gardens in early Spring.

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