Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Harvest Vocabulary

Granny's harvest

Admiring your harvest is one of the greatest satisfactions of gardening-you can see some of Granny’s in the photo above.

Several harvesting chores have traditionally taken on a social aspect in the history of Appalachia.

  • berry canning: a community work activity held to preserve fruit for the winter-usually followed by dancing, eating, and general merry making.
  • bean shelling: a work session to shell beans such as October beans.
  • bean stringing: a community or family work session to prepare beans for canning or drying.
  • berry stemming: a family or community work session where stems were removed from berries before they were preserved-especially gooseberries and huckleberries.
  • cane stripping: a social work session to strip leaves and tops from sorghum cane before the canes were pressed. (Pap said sorghum making time was always something he looked forward to. The men (and boys) usually stayed the night to keep an eye on things. Pap said there was good food to eat, lots of storytelling, and even a few practical jokes.)
  • corn gathering: an organized work session used to gather corn from the field. School was often let out so that the children could help.
  • corn husking/corn shucking: a social activity held to shuck the corn. Typically music, dancing, and merry making was enjoyed after the corn was finished.

In today’s world there isn’t usually community wide socializing during harvesting chores; however, there can still be a social component to harvesting-even if it only involves your immediate family. Chatter and Chitter love stringing beans with their Granny and their cousin. They say breaking beans at Granny’s and being silly while doing it are some of their favorite memories.

The Blind Pig family spent many evenings this summer breaking beans together. One evening we even had company help us-the cutest little red headed boy you ever saw.

Being together while harvesting from the garden-whether it be breaking beans, canning tomatoes, or even picking blackberries allows for much talking, much laughing, and much memory making.


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  • Reply
    September 8, 2014 at 6:47 am

    Thanks for bringing back good memories of corn shucking and bean snapping with my grandparents.

  • Reply
    Patti Tappel
    September 4, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Canning at Granny’s would be a lot more fun than here. Cause here it’s just me and the blacksmith!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 4, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    Another thing that I remember my Dad telling about tobacco was it definitely was all family and hired help work, when it was time to cut and then stick tobacco for hanging in the barn to dry before taking to the tobacco auction market in December!
    I am sure those days for some TN and NC farmers are old days gone by! I still have mixed feelings about tobacco…I know it’s not good for you but a lot of old tobacco farmers think there were additives put in at the factories that caused a lot of sickness and a higher addiction! Who Knows for sure! I know a lot of old folks used tobacco in NC and didn’t croak with major diseases. My Granddaddy and Grandmamma both were tobacco users until they were in there late years. May I favor their thoughts back then since their main income was tobacco in NC.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 4, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    When the boys were here, we always had a bean breaking and sometimes stringing if we raised white half-runners. The Blue Lakes we raised for pickled beans didn’t have many strings. The Roma beans somewhat.
    I’m particular about how I like my beans broke for canning! I know, I know some say just “getter’ done”! I say I don’t want no two inch beans mixed with half inch beans a-starrin’ out of the quart jar at me. To me it looks like plumb sloppy canning! I say if it’s a hot summer, doin’ hot work a-cannin’ you might as well have “Blue Ribbon” canned beans that look real purty on the shelf and taste just as good. Even if I’m the only one that takes a look at them.
    We had friends that loved canned peaches. So a few years or two we helped can peaches together. It sure made short work of them and the clean-up too. Plus we had so much fun and usually ended up making a run of homemade fresh peach ice cream.
    Another thang that no one mentioned was chicken killin’ time! When that straight run of chicks grew, we saved the hens and killed off the roosters. I hated doin’ that. I still have trouble if I smell anything close to warm home grown chicken blood…ewwwwww!
    Great Post Tipper,
    PS…I also loved all the comments, aren’t the readers just grand folks and love to hear the new ones chime in for a comment. It will take us all to save our heritage, or for all of those that are not birthed Appalachian, we love you anyhow, so speak up and comment!

  • Reply
    September 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Some of my fondest memories is seeing my Mamaw in her blue bonnet she hand made and Aunt coming down the path to our house to help shell peas or butter beans or break green beans.. Those pictures look sooo good..

  • Reply
    September 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Hog killing was one not mentioned but it was a whole family & neighbors time, too. A ton of work & my brother & I always covered our heads with pillows till the actual killing was done. There would be cooking & canning of sausage & other pig parts & Granny made souse with all the leftovers. She like to have killed Mama when she looked in the pot & saw Granny was boiling pig head–eyes & all. After hearing this story often, I’ve never touched souse. When I see a package in the store I imagine what all the little pieces are & almost expect to see an eyeball looking back.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    September 4, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Mama had a garden, but mostly did her canning and freezing from produce of local farmers and at the farmers market. I didn’t mind helping with the beans, but working corn always itched me to death. I loved sitting with the adult women listening to their talk while I kept still as a mouse so as not to remind them a child was present. Your mother’s shelves of canned goods are a work of art.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Today’s post re-kindles the good
    times, now and of the past.
    Don’s comment about thick corn
    husks is something I noticed this
    year too. B.Ruth did mention earlier about the shucks being so
    much thicker this year, wondering
    if it had anything to do with the
    weather…Maybe so. But my Hickory Cane and Silver Queen had
    the most shucks I ever saw. I got
    two bad cuts pulling it off the
    stalks on my right thumb. Once
    that was taken care of, I learned
    to wear gloves to gather…Ken

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    September 4, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    My Daddy planted a big garden, but we didn’t have enough of a harvest to put much up, so Mom would go to the farmers market and buy bushels of crowder peas, lima beans, etc. Each of the children would get a big bowl and a bushel basket to shell out and we got to watch television while we worked. My hands were always shredded by the time I finished my share, but having those frozen vegetables all winter made sure we ate well on a budget.

  • Reply
    Teresa Atkinson
    September 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I used to sit with that metal dishpan in my lap and shell butterbeans with my nanny —- i remember how my thumb would get so sore because we had so many to shell —

  • Reply
    September 4, 2014 at 11:05 am

    This is truly a story of family love and the memories will be cherished for a lifetime. I loved all the canning jars. The vocabulary is all new to me. This was a great post of new sayings for me, a former city girl.

  • Reply
    faye Leatherwood
    September 4, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I’d like to read about the person who started this website. It’s really enjoyable to read the e mails. Seems like an excellent way to live!

  • Reply
    September 4, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Family time harvesting is the best and Granny’s jars sure look good!

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    September 4, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Your descriptions bring back great memories of long ago.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    September 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

    How much we have lost! An Italian friend told me that, when she was a child, all the neighborhood moms and kids got together once a week to make ravioli. She said it was an “assembly line” project that took all morning and produced enough ravioli for 6 or 8 families. The women laughed and chatted and sang while they worked, and the kids played together.
    A Japanese friend told me that, when she was a child, several families got together for feasts and all the men took turns beating the sweet rice with a stick until it formed a smooth sticky ball while the women cooked the rest of the food. There was much good-natured joking and laughing all the while. Now there is an electronic machine that turns the rice into a ball — while the men sit and watch TV.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2014 at 9:43 am

    I’ve heard mom talk about attending corn huskings and how everyone looked forward to it. She had ten siblings and didn’t neeed much outside help with harvesting and canning on the farm where she was raised. She has told about the farmer placing a special ear of corn in the pile to be shucked. If a boy found it, he got to walk the girl of his choice home after the work was done. Sorgham making was the biggest and most exciting time to socialize. The helpers were usually given the rare treat of fresh sorgham to take home.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 4, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Gatherings like these are sorely missed in today’s world, a chance to bring family and community together is not to be ignored.

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    September 4, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Daddy and Mamma had nine children. Canning beans, grape juice and blackberries, peaches, tomatoes and on and on. It was always a family affair. I remember as a very young boy – Mamma would hand me beans ready to break. One more thing – She always used one-half gallon jars. Everything tasted so good in the winter.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2014 at 8:23 am

    In my work years I had the good fortune to see folks in their natural environment. Nothing warmed my heart like walking up to a porch full of strangers stringing beans together. I would feel such a kinship even though I knew none of them.
    My family has occasionally strung beans with a deputized new in-law bean stringer involved. I would then have to search carefully through the beans to discard all the overlooked strings and ends. Sweet memories!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 4, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Just last week, we had a brief visit from one of our boys and his wife, who came up for a visit in the south (they live in Florida). He really surprised me when he mentioned that a fond childhood memory was of time he’d spent here with his grandparents stringing and breaking beans. That was completely out of character for a boy who had so much pent-up energy that when he was told to stand still, he might be able to keep his feet in one place, but the entire rest of his body would be fidgeting.
    Partly switching gears here – I think B. Ruth may have mentioned something about thick husks on corn recently, and if I recall, it was in connection with a cold winter ahead.
    Has anyone else noticed extra thick husks on corn this year? I think mine (silver and gold queen) have the most layers I can recall.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 4, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I remember all the “Harvesting” events you listed. Being “across the state line” in Choestoe, Georgia was not much different from your events in NC! But sorghum syrup was a big, big event in Choestoe for us, because my Daddy, Jewel Marion Dyer, was known as “the champion of syrup makers,” and people brought their cane from all around–far and near–to have him turn the cane into top-notch sorghum syrup. And this job lasted at least six weeks (maybe more!) as he turned out 3,000 or more gallons for people! I can still smell that aroma of sorghum syrup cooking in the long copper pan over the furnace! And how I remember the work involved!

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