Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Gardening

Breaking New Land

Breaking new ground in appalachia

break new land, break up new ground verb phrase To clear an area of trees and brush so it can be cultivated. Cf clean off, grub.
1939 Hall Coll. Saunook NC After breakin’ new land, it’s new ground and is not called such after two or three years. Sprouts of sassafras, locust, and running briers come up during that time, and you have to keep ’em cut down. (Robert McClure) 1981 Whitener Folk-ways 26 Sometimes a mountain farmer could hear his neighbor plowing or breaking up a new-ground.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

Sustainable gardens in appalachia self sufficient


We have tried to break new ground just about every year since we started gardening. After the girls got to a certain age it seemed they used the yard less and less. And The Deer Hunter will tell you he likes mowing the yard less and less too.

In the beginning we had one smallish garden area right in front of the house. Each year we expanded it a little bit on two sides.

Several years ago after the swing sets were no longer needed, we built the greenhouse in the back yard, and the next year we added 5 raised beds alongside it.

A few years later I gave up my long perennial flower bed for the best bean patch you ever seen! And the following year we enlarged the bean patch.

Last Saturday we enlarged the bean patch again. It was The Deer Hunter’s suggestion. I said “Well we’re eating up more and more of the yard.” He said “So? That’s less I have to mow.”

I sat on a bucket and watched him break up the new ground. Let me tell you the first go around is hard plowing. Large rocks are beyond plentiful in our soil. The Deer Hunter’s tiller would literally dance all over them before ever digging in to turn the dirt. More than one of the rocks had to be removed with a mattock. Of course the next pass through is easier and the one after that even easier.

As The Deer Hunter wiped his brow I couldn’t resist saying “What if you had to do that with a mule and plow?” Never one to leave the last word unsaid he replied “I could do it.” I smiled and said “I know you could.”



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  • Reply
    David Hilton
    April 11, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I’ve heard the expression, “Hard as John’s new ground.”

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    March 18, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    I’ve heard a combination of the two said, i.e. “break new ground.”
    I remember the first time our Dad plowed the back acreage on our farm. It had apparently been farmed at some time in the past because there were just a few rocks, but because it hadn’t been plowed in a long time, he had to plow it both ways a time or two (can’t remember how many), then had to run through it with the disks which broke up the plow shares even further, and then with what he called a spring tooth, which is a huge farm-sized rake to break it down even further and get out all the weeds that had grown. It was quite a process that took a long time. The first year he grew potatoes, potatoes and corn which he sold on his milk route in the city.
    Prayers everyone has a nice safe weekend.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 17, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    By the way! Morganton’s Freedom High School Lady Patriots won the 2016 NCHSAA 3A Basketball Championship with a perfect 32-0 season.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 17, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    What happened to the big yellow tractor with the tiller attachment?
    All y’all are wrong about rocks! Rocks float! The whole world is made of rocks. Most of them are underground waiting to come to the top. When you pick one up and move it, you disrupt the equilibrium of the earths crust. The extra weight where you put it down causes a transfer of motion to the weakest point which is where you picked it up to begin with. Therefore another rock of equal mass will float up at that point. One way to eliminate rocks is to crush them to a fine powder then put the powder back where the rock originally was. Of course then the wind picks up and you have a dust problem and more rocks appear or it rains and turns it into mud.
    The only sure fire was to get rid of rocks is to crush them into gravel and spread them on your driveway. They will be gone before you know it.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    March 17, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    From the first time I met the Deer Hunter, I could tell he had a lot of Stamina. I’m glad to have him as a Friend! I’m old enough to be a father to either of you, but I’m reminded of what Cindy told me one time. I laughed out loud when I read an e-mail she wrote me: It said, “Ken, everything I got hurts!” (I know the feeling)
    But I love to play in the garden…maybe next year…Ken

  • Reply
    March 17, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I remember many stories from my dad about plowing new ground. He was working with a full team of Percherons by the time he was 9 years old. Times were hard, and this was before the Great Depression. That was life in rural southwest Virginia for many folks. Daddy said he not only plowed his family’s fields, he also plowed for other people who needed work done. He and my mom had a garden until they were well into their 80’s and missed it so much when they could no longer work in it.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 17, 2016 at 11:42 am

    PS…Tipper, Maggie and other gardeners….
    I meant to ask…How many of you walk your rows to see if the beans are coming up….you look down and see a bent, poor little bean trying to push that (Gnome’s rock) stone out of the way…Do you reach down and gently pick up the rock off its head and give it a toss into the field/woods and say under your breath, “there you go, little feller, now you can see the sun and grow!” Tell the truth garden lover!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 17, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Tell Maggie that all them teeny tiny, itty bitty, teensy, weensy, pieces of dirt and pebbles…when tossed around with a hoe, tiller or plow tends to invigorate said pieces of pebbles encouraging growth…She is right, by the next hoeing, tilling and plowing season those little devils have done grown from a tiny stone to a “toe stumpin’ rock”! I’ve seen it happen myownself!
    Another thing that also happens…sometimes Gnomes get all “discombobulated”, thinking someone is taking away the earths crust, the larger stones and rocks…They will work all night toting them back to the garden and reassemble them to their satisfaction and pleasure…You know they are the “caretakers of the earth” and operate from underneath the ground…Sometimes an area, just by your unlucky chance, has a whole neighborhood of gnomes living under your garden and get quite upset with rock disturbance. So it seems to happen almost overnight! Did you ever see a “bean seed” coming up and pushing like mad trying to shove the rock off its patch of soil, after you knew you cleared the row of stone before dropping the seed? There you go! Gnomes, I tell ya!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    March 17, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Been listening to my wife talk about her daddy plowing a mule for about 40 years now. He’s been gone since 1996, but his “Gee” and “Haw” live on. Funny story – We were in Alaska several years ago and my wife wanted to go dog-mushing behind a sled. The fellow we signed on with to take us, Matthew Failor (who is currently running a team in the Iditarod), used “Gee” and “Haw” with his dogs. Thought that was pretty cool. That ride was my wife’s favorite part of the trip.

  • Reply
    Linda Lane
    March 17, 2016 at 8:51 am

    This is just delightful to hear
    When I was growing up we had new ground often to work in
    Thanks to the Lord blessing the planting we always had plenty to eat
    Loved the bean stringings and such
    Wonderful memories of an era almost gone
    Happy planting this spring!

  • Reply
    Chuck Taylor
    March 17, 2016 at 8:33 am

    My stepdad always talked about the rough time they had plowing the new ground with a mule. Would like to try it oneday but have to say, I’m glad for my old International lol.

  • Reply
    Maggie Roberts
    March 17, 2016 at 8:22 am

    You might get rid of this year’s rocks, but next year you will have some new ones! I think they lay eggs that hatch the following year.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 17, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Sounds like my gardening. There were two beds about 30′ long by 5′ wide when we moved here. I extended them at the ends. Then I added a third bed. Then added a fourth. Then I extended up the slope an area equal to the two original beds. And I still don’t own a tiller. I’ve used up almost all of the area that gets adequate sun.
    It’s kinda silly in a way. I’ve raked and blown leaves down the hill for 25 years or so but now I dirt mine the compost to cart back up the hill. Seems there is something backwards in there somewhere.
    But anyway, I dread the reversal of the trend when I start shrinking. Oh well, have to strive to grow old gracefully I reckon.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 17, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Now let me tell you somethin’! I like me some green beans ’bout as well as the next’n, but “doggone it” if I would dig up my perennial flower bed fer a bean patch! Then to beat all, the next year make a bigger and better’n… Oh no, not me, I’d more than likely to find me another place to plant beans! I work too hard to get my perennials going….You know the old sayin’ bout them kinds of flowers, “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap!” That’s meaning, by the third year, your overrun and have flowers enough to “divide and sell”! “Money in the bank,” so to speak! Take a handful of that money and run down to the farmers market and buy a bushel of beans already growed, tended and picked. Run home, can those babies up and eat all winter! Then by the next Spring/Summer those perennials will come back, no replanting! Your savings, with interest is money in the ground, errr…bank! All you have to do is just weed once in a while, feed once in a while and divide and sell your plants. In other words don’t keep all your money (plants) in one bank! Spread and sell the love! ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Just Kiddin’! I love green beans and nothing like picking your own…ha

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    March 17, 2016 at 7:34 am

    My papaw used a mule and plow when he moved to Tennessee from Georgia to plow folks garden for extra money after he had worked the afternoon shift from job that he left Georgia for. Hard worker and my daddy used to tell me he’d give mamaw a $50 bill at Christmas which hard back in the late forties.
    God bless papaw!
    Miss you daddy!
    Carol Rosenbalm

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 17, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Yes he could….but I’m sure glad he doesn’t have to!

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    March 17, 2016 at 6:19 am

    When I was growing up, if I was misbehaving, my daddy would tell me that he was going to “tear my butt up like a new ground” if I didn’t straighten up and behave. LOL

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 17, 2016 at 5:05 am

    I think you fount yerself a goodin there. The question ain’t, if you’re going to do it? Its how! The east end of a west bound mule ain’t the most pleasant sight but it gets done what needs to be done! A fine looking filly waiting there on a bucket eases the pain tremendously.

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