Appalachia Gardening

Lay By Time In Bryson City, NC July 31, 1896

Corn in western nc

Letter from Almond, NC published in the Bryson City Times (July 31, 1896).

“Most of our farmers are done laying by corn, those that are not done, the rain will lay it by for them and some will be glad of it, as the weather is getting most too hot to work know [sic] anyway, the rain and storms have destroyed several fine crops of oats in this section in the last few days. . . .”


Lay by time occurs in the latter part of summer when you’ve done all you can for your corn crop-and all that’s left to do is wait on the ears to ripen.

Due to a series of unfortunate events-namely rain, rain, and rain-we’ve had to call the big garden a total loss. About 2 weeks ago, me and The Deer Hunter spent the whole day in it trying our best to at least nurse along the beans and the corn.

Pap said “Why I wouldn’t waste my sweat on that stuff. It’s way too far gone now.” Pap went on to tell us-over his lifetime of gardening he’d learned one thing to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt: “You cannot out do nature. Most years the weather cooperates through the growing season; other years the weather is against you from the day you plant the first seed.”


*Source Travel Western North Carolina

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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    August 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    “Most years the weather cooperates through the growing season; other years the weather is against you from the day you plant the first seed.” AMEN!!!
    And it’s definitely been one of those years in NC. Praying for all who depend upon their gardens for sustenance and survival.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2013 at 7:00 am

    What an interesting post – and the comments, too! I’ve never heard the term “lay by time” or that a watermelon could explode (can imagine the mess in poor Miss Cindy’s kitchen, though), and I am very curious about Bill’s pack-saddles. Pretty sure it’s something different from the Deckers I’m familiar with. And Ed made me laugh with his approach to fishing!

  • Reply
    Mel H.
    July 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    “If you want to make the Lord laugh, tell him your plans…!”

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Hi Tipper!
    Please send the rain west to Missouri!

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    My family raised tobacco when I was growing up and this time of year my daddy always’s time to lay it by….cause it was too big to plow or hoe anymore…so we got a few weeks before any thing else ad to be done…

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    July 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Our garden has pretty much been a total loss except for a few tomatoes and a handful of beans. The okra was fairing ok til the deer mowed it down one night last week. 🙁

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 31, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    After you lay by the corn its time to go lay by the river with a fishing pole in your hand hoping the fish don’t bite ’cause you might have to get up to take it off the hook.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    My mother graduated high school at Almond before it was torn down in the name of progress i.e. the flooding of Fontana Lake. Some of the building materials were salvaged. Part went into building Almond Grammar School where Bill Burnett and I began our formal education.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Evidently back in 1896, our friends from nearby county and towns were having this trouble too. I have never seen this much rain in my lifetime. Last year I had so many beans, I gave away over 10 bushel of white runners and still had plenty to can. But I agree with you and Pap, can’t fight Nature.
    As my mama use to say “just wait
    till next year”…Ken

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I have never heard the phrase “laying by crops”. So the first thing I thought was how much people used to work to raise food for their family and the animals that helped them. I remember my Granny telling me about a woman having a baby in the cornfield and carried it to the house in her apron. So while I never heard “lay by the crops” for me it would mean that I was so tired from working that I just laid down by it.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 31, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Look for a green bean with a short growing season and plant as soon as possible a fall garden…Sometimes the fall garden does a lot better.
    We don’t lay by much, but have heard the term all my life.
    Thanks Tipper,
    You may have to go to the farmers market and buy you a bushel of beans from another part of Tennessee or North Carolina. Many a time we have had to buy our beans!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 31, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Laying by time at Needmore NC was after everything had been worked at least twice. My Dad was convinced that no crop would make unless it was plowed and hoed up until the corn was tasseling. One of the “pleasures” of this was usually this would mean you would locate several “Pack-Saddles” during this second working. This encounter is something any country kid will remember the rest of their lives.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 31, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Tipper–Where in the world did you find a copy of the “Bryson City Times” (the predecessor of today’s “Smoky Mountain Times”)from the late 19th century? I know that there are microfilms of portions of the newspaper stretching back over the decades, but in truth I did not realize the newspaper’s origins stretched back that far. I’ve got clippings and a few whole newspapers from a half century or more back, including an account of a trial connected with a shootout on the town square between Al Dorsey and a fellow named Muse, but nothing nearly this old.
    Incidentally, I’d be interested to learn if any of your readers knew Al Dorsey. He spent a good many years in the state penitentiary before returning to Bryson City to spend the rest of his life dedicated to fishing. I spent a lot of time with this old river rat when I was a boy.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Pap is right —- Crusty Old Guy has done NO gardening — but LOTS of grass cutting.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I have heard “laying by” growing up, but I cannot recall what part of the garden it pertained to. Wish I had paid more attention. I am very familiar with “hilling up” the potatoes and removing “suckers” from tomatoes.
    I’ve given up on corn, and I think my neighbor has decided to..too many critters. However, tomatoes, squash,beans and cucumbers seem to have done well.
    Everybody seems to have their own method to keep critters away. I have hung a child’s swimming kickboard in a maple near the garden, and the least puff of wind makes it knock loudly against the tree constantly. The kickboard has a picture of a varmint with large eyes and mouth. It has worked so well a neighbor has copied the idea. If I happen to catch it out of the corner of my eye it startles me. Hope the non gardeners don’t run me and my noisemaker out of the neighborhood.
    I’m so sorry your garden did not do well, but I have found over the years the good years outnumber the bad. Pap always has sound advice!

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 8:30 am

    The terminology is new to me, so I again have learned some more common mountain language. However, the corn crop seems to have had a problem also in a familar area in FL which we visit. Mother Nature has been very generous in North FL and in the foothills of NC.

  • Reply
    sheryl paul;
    July 31, 2013 at 8:06 am

    And such is the life of farmers, consumers continue to demand product where none is available. This is why there is so much “pretend” food, like the mystery meats and veggies served at the fast food places. We as a nation need to save for a rainy day and stop letting our food go to waste. Eat local save what you have and eat in season. Sorry for the rant. This is one of my pet peeves.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    July 31, 2013 at 7:55 am

    That is so interesting, Tipper and Ethelene.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 31, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Once again Pap utters the most profound statements in very few words. “You cannot out do nature” He’s talking about the garden but that statement is true in all things.
    We certainly have had and continue to have a LOT of rain!
    Early in the morning on the day you and the girls were coming to visit I cut into a beautiful, very big, watermelon and it exploded all over my kitchen. It took me two solid hours to clean up the mess….and I’m still occasionally finding a stray watermelon seed. LOL
    That was a first for me. I’ve never seen a watermelon explode. The man I bought it from said it was the rain that caused that to happen. He gave me another one to replace it but the replacement had no flavor. His watermelons were grown just down the mountain from here. Black Mountain is the last town in the mountains before you go down in the the flat lands of North Carolina. We have had so much rain our tail gate markets are even doing poorly.
    It’s a good thing the Deer Hunter knows how to build things, we may need an Ark before this is done.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 31, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I am sorry to hear that the crop isn’t working this year. The rain in this part of the world has been record-setting. In Brevard, we have had over 70 inches of precipitation this year, and we are not even finished with July. Normally, Brevard gets about 70-75 inches a year, which is still a lot compared to most of the country.
    I am hearing talk in the news that this weather is going to have a big effect on prices of vegetables and fruit at market. I saw on the news yesterday some Georgia peaches that are almost twice as big as normal because of all the rain, but these peaches will not have a sweet taste because of all of the water.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    July 31, 2013 at 7:20 am

    “Laying by” for us in Choestoe occurred before the second week in August, for that was the big “festival” time at church–“Protracted Meeting”. We would call it revival now, but in those times, we still called a week (or more–protracted–it went on as long as the Spirit was moving). The farmers and their families had worked hard to try to raise a crop, keep the weeds at bay–and now deserved a rest: protracted meeting! And there was visiting, socializing, eating good food from gardens, and just a feeling of good-will and neighborliness, as well as participating in good singing and hearing good preaching at the week-long (or longer) meetings.

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