Appalachia Gardening

Harvesting Together in Appalachia

Harvesting social get togethers in appalachia

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 and preserving-whether it be breaking beans, canning tomatoes, or even picking blackberries- allows for much talking, much laughing, and fosters the making of many memories.




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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    September 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    I well remember sitting on the porch swing (which was strung on a pipe wedged between two trees instead of on a porch) snapping beans and shelling peas with our maternal Grandmother. It’s a very fond memory, as are many of the old time memories, listening to her stories, singing songs, talking about school and even telling childish riddles or jokes, and I honestly feel sorry for children nowadays who don’t have those cherished things in their life.
    Makes me wonder, 40-50 years down the road, what will their cherished memories be, or will they even have any?
    God bless.

  • Reply
    mary Lou McKillip
    September 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Tipper, those canned stuff looked so much like mine and Miss Julie my Mother. She loved to can and give away her garden stuff. Family and friends when away with loads of garden and canned good as well when they visited Miss Julie.
    Mary McKillip

  • Reply
    Melissa P (misplaced Southerner)
    September 29, 2016 at 7:34 am

    “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.”
    Where my kin came from, part of the “merry making” involved enjoying the “liquid corn” from that dried the previous year.

  • Reply
    Mark Selby
    September 28, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I must say, sorghum making day is my favorite day of the year.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I remember those “puttin’ up” days really well. Thank God, we had enough family to help do all those chores. Back then, and even now, the neighbors knew just when you were canning and you wouldn’t see any of ’em till it was over. ha But we understood all this, everyone had to work for themselves…Ken
    PS: I hope everyone at Wolford College got to see and hear Our Pressley Girls yesterday. We’re kinda proud of ’em.

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    September 28, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Today’s photo reminds me of our “fruit cellar” in the autumn. My Mom canned quite a bit Often there were jars of tomatoes, beans, beets, peaches, pears (lots of pears, since we had this wonderful Barlett pear tree in our back yard). I’m sure there were some other things, too. As I think back on that I don’t even know how Mom found time to do it with all her other chores. Five kids and a house kept her very busy.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    September 28, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Dear Tipper, I love your picture. One of my favorite activities is preserving food. I have so many memories of the family stringing beans, peeling apples or peaches, and cutting corn off the cob. We have two huge maple trees in the back yard and there used to be a concrete picnic table under them that was the center of our work place. Family and friends laughing, working, and eating together made short work of the biggest task. Now, my children are beginning to experience the work it takes to put up food, but they also know its worth every minute. Grandmother, Mom and Pap are gone, but the grandchildren are filling our hearts with joy as they learn to help us.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Growing up, we had nine apple trees, The apples were well-cared for on the trees, windfalls picked up by my sister and I. When it came time to pick the apples, friends of my parents came and helped. The men picked, the women polished. There was a lot of talk and laughter. The “workers” got paid with sloppy joes for lunch and all the apples they wanted. It was always a wonderful day and a great memory from my childhood,

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    September 28, 2016 at 11:06 am

    I instantly thought of us all picking blackberries in the holler between our house and granny’s. I’ve never seen such huge beautiful berries anywhere else. It was always cooler down there but we were always worried because it was “snakey” and I was always scared of the cows. Strangely, I can’t remember the berries being processed–maybe I was too young to be around the boiling preserves.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 28, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Always the one to see things in pictures most people don’t, I must tell of some I see in yours.
    1. One lone half gallon standing proud amongst all the quarts. He’s the center on this team.
    2. Two colored jar tops that to me means somebody recycles jars on which standard lids will fit.
    3. An empty glass bottle surrounded by peaches and tomatoes. I have no idea of its intended purpose but it sure is a pretty bottle. Maybe an infused vinegar or oil?
    4. To the right of the bottle in a jar of soup mix is one solitary piece of okra with is face pressed up against the glass looking out to see what is going on.
    5. I see halos above the heads of soldiers in the back row. No these are not ordinary circular halos but triangular ones projecting heavenward. As if giving thanks for the harvest.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I remember:
    canning tomatoes with the women in the family (as a young child I felt quite grown up when I was given a table knife to use to “cut” tomatoes for stewing).
    gleaning – just about anything – those produce always tasted the best even if they didn’t “look” good enough for the commercial canners and packers.
    canning the produce gleaned – mostly vegetables where I grew up.
    Juicing and freezing the last citrus of the season – no mechanical aids so the more folks to take turns squeezing the juice out of the fruit halves the better; almost everyone had sore arms for a few days afterwards.
    quilting circles – always a late fall or winter activity; my childhood church was mighty proud when we added a fellowship hall and kitchen so we could have 4 quilting circles in the same room. Such fun as a child playing house/ tea party/ storytelling under the quilt frames as the ladies worked.
    dressing chickens – y’all know what I mean – the catching, hacking, catching again, draining, dunking, plucking, prepping, then either canning or freezing.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2016 at 9:33 am

    I grew up in the city but enjoyed helping my cousins string and break beans a few times. Sitting on the front porch talking, laughing, and sharing the work with each other makes the task so much easier for sure!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    September 28, 2016 at 9:32 am

    What a beautiful life that was! Here are two other similar stories: An Italian friend said that when she was growing up, all the neighborhood women got together at one house once a week to make ravioli to be shared by all the families. Now, each housewife buys it frozen. A Japanese friend said that on feast days, all the families would get together and the men and older boys took turns beating the sticky rice (mochi) with a mallet. Now, there is an electric machine that tumbles the sticky rice, and the men and older boys watch TV.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I think the saying “many hands make light work” is really true for tasks like berry picking and corn shucking when you have a lot to do. I generally do things in small amounts and short sessions by myself, but I recall helping a neighbor pick and preserve raspberries when her daughter and I were little, so those memories “keep” right along with the preserves, don’t they?

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Amen! My brother and I lived with our Grandma for two years while our Dad worked in Covington, Ky. Many days during the summer we sat on the porch peeling apples, stringing beans, etc. Even though she was mostly a widow living alone (until we came anyway) she still ‘put up’ food which she mostly gave away. Maybe she had the most to do with my liking to gather wild edibles.
    I once read an anecdote in the “Life in these United States” section of Reader’s Digest about bankers visiting a country family to help the bank decide whether or not to give them a loan. In the kitchen they had numerous jars of home canning waiting to be shelved. When the highest ranking bank man saw them, he pointed to them and said, “Anybody who will do that will pay their debts.” They got the loan.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Here in Union County, GA the cannery is a wonderful place to see generations working together. I so miss that now that I am working full time. Great memories though 🙂

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 28, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Gathering for anything is a forgotten art, to preserve food a necessary one. The beginnings of canned food ended this practice in most areas. I remember my mother and honerary aunt gathering guavas for guava jam, Cooking food was often a group endeavour, each making their own dish of course, but doing it together. Community and family both benefited from this practice and taught children friendship.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 28, 2016 at 8:32 am

    I remember when my father had an allotment of tobacco on my grandfathers farm. It was a family thing harvesting tobacco. There were no machines used just family workers.
    When we had big gardens here, everyone helped stringing (if necessary) and breaking beans. Also, our boys helped pick beans and peas, too.
    We used to get together with some special friends and put up peaches. We had more fun. With more hands helping, it didn’t take long for the counters to be loaded with beautiful quart jarfuls of peaches.
    I may sound a bit crazy, but the only help I wanted when I worked up tomatoes, made sauce, juice, or canned them, was someone to bring in the jars, rewash the jars and maybe wash the tomatoes.
    The rest I wanted to handle by myself. I just like to have that control over hot jars, tomatoes, filling jars and the boiling water bath canner.
    I loved looking over the work the next morning. Then double checking to make sure all the jars sealed!
    Those days are long gone here. Even though hard work, I still miss canning. Only a few jars of jelly managed to get put up here anymore. Most of our garden goes in the freezer nowadays!
    Thanks Tipper, loved this post!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 28, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I love to look at the beautiful colors of freshly canned bounty. I leave them on the counter just to see and feel the accomplishment. My career did not allow me to see much results from my labors but I could go home and make a run of jelly and feel and see the results, instantly. It’s a wonderful feeling!

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