Appalachia Christmas

The Magic Of Moss

Moss in western nc

We never knew about Gallackin but we did gather moss and boxwood cuttings to sell to florists. Way back in the woods, in deep dark damp hollers where the sun never shines, the thick moss on big rocks can be peeled off like taking covers off a bed. I have seen pieces as big as 4 to 5 feet square. We would roll them up and put them in a tow sack. Boxwood is a domestic plant so we found it around homes and old house sites. One year in November we waded across the Little Tennessee above Loudermilk to get to an old homestead. I wasn’t being careful about where I was putting my feet and stepped into a hole that put me completely under. I got out, shook off and kept going. Coming back across we had to put our tow sacks on our heads to keep them dry but we made it unscathed.

Ed Ammons

Ed’s recent comment sent my mind on a whirlwind of memories. No I didn’t used to gather moss to sell like Ed-but I did gather it to line my playhouses with. I thought to myself “Wow I was a Moss Specialist back in the day. No I didn’t know the correct names for the different types (I still don’t)-but I did know what worked best for my needs in the pretend world I created in Granny and Pap’s backyard. There is moss like in the photo above-it worked best for chairs-it has the texture of an old worn out carpet in some old Granny’s house. At least that’s how I always thought of it.

Then there is the lush deep thick green stuff Ed was talking about. A blanket indeed. There are places in Granny and Pap’s yard where it is at least 5 inches thick. It only takes a small tug to lift entire pieces from the ground. Underneath-you’ll see a wrinkled shriveled looking area and perhaps a few scurring bugs as they head for the nearest moss blanket that hasn’t been disturbed by a small skinny girl. Or by a skinny young mother.

When The Deer Hunter and I first moved into our humble abode-we had no landscaping-in all actuality we didn’t even know what landscaping was. Wanting to make my backyard look neater I gathered small creek rocks and made a flower bed bordering the edge of the house. Being impatient for green plants that I didn’t have, I climbed the ridge and threw down pieces of moss that grew under the towering pines. I laid the moss along the rocks and in no time my little flower bed looked as old as the hills-which is exactly what I wanted.

using moss to decorate

My kitchen table has been a Christmas crafting frenzy mess for the last few weeks. Once we start crafting-we don’t even clean it up until we’re totally sure we’re finished with every little thing we want to make. An old sheet from one of Paul and Steve’s twin beds is thrown across it and there are so many crafting materials on the table that there’s hardly room to craft.

I’ve been trying to make a snow globe out of a mason jar-but I couldn’t get anything to look right. Ed gave me the exact inspiration I needed. I ran down the hill to Pap’s and carried a handful of thick moss back up the hill. I loved how it looked immediately-just the green moss looked lovely captured in the upside down jar.

Moss christmas decorations

Once I knew the idea was going to work I added a small amount of cotten for snow, an Angel that fell off an old Christmas ornament, and a piece of dried lichen I stuck in my coat pocket on a recent hike with friends.

Christmas snow globe from mason jar

I am so pleased with how the project turned out. It was made from items I had on hand; I can use the jar for it’s intended purpose again come canning season; and everytime I see it sitting on my buffet I’ll think of mine and Ed’s childhood memories and the magic of moss.


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  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 12, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Mitchell says his perfect vision of heaven wouldn’t be streets paved with gold, but moss covered trails. I have to say I agree!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    and Dolores, I don’t know if the aquatic moss called Faeiry Moss would grown in a snow globe or not! It grows on top of the water and will completely cover a pond. It looks like tiny pieces of clover like shapes. I suppose one would have to go the a pet shope and get it from their aquarium plants in the winter. I don’t think the fern like plants would live and there wouldn’t be room for it either. Ours (faeiry moss died out in our little pond, but somehow manages to show up the next year. I don’t know where it goes for the winter, maybe to the bottom of the pond! Space would be needed between the top of the water for air, etc. and a large container for the globe…like I said it will take over…The water should not have any oils or chemicals in it either I guess..
    Good idea…I might try that myownself…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    December 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Ed mentioned filling a “tow sack”. That’s what we called a burlap sack when I was a kid. Where did that term originate? Is that a word for your dictionary quizzes?

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    There use to be huge blankets of
    thick moss alongside our creek
    banks up in the holler. Big trees
    finally fell across the creek, and
    over the years, moss just took over.
    Some punks slipped through the
    mountains and gathered a lot of it.
    One time I saw a mother and her kids stretching moss out on the Railroad to dry. Looked like they
    had gathered a bunch of it to sell. But our Mountains have
    always been a source for survival.

  • Reply
    Raulyn Stone
    December 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Doth not today’s post put the lie to the axiom which asserts that a rolling stone gathers no moss?

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

    This post touched my heart! I love moss…It is a good thing Ed gathered his moss in the cold days before Christmas! Why, ’cause most of the “fickle faeries” were in there tree stump, root homes for the winter!
    They love their moss too, ya know!
    I have a place here that I enjoy going and sittin’ on the moss carpet. It is so soft and if you listen closely you hear the singing and sweet low talking of the faeries as they flitter about. This of course takes place in the SSF months…
    I love your snowglobe…I am going to make me one for the kitchen window! I used to gather moss for terrariums. I happened upon some very large jars at a yard sale! I built them using sticks to place everything, like the plants, rocks, the faerie houses and snails that I used to make in the kiln. I used to sell them, Wow that has been a long time ago!
    I did warn the buyer that come Spring that a tiny creepy critter might crawl outfrumunder the moss. No garuntees to be bug free!
    Other critters can be lizards, frogs, snails, turtles, etc. Some will rip up your terrarium and redesign their space to suit them…LOL
    I have used Raindeer Moss, a lichen as well as other lichens in my woodland fantasies projects.
    Some make great little trees gluesd on pieces of branch natural dry wood.
    Tipper, I have lined many a wire basket with moss. I have also placed moss in my woodland garden where I have some wildflowers. Nowadays they are selling mosses and miniature grasses to plant and grow between stones on walkways….ahhh, Tipper another idea that would have made us rich gone with the Appalachian wind! But, just think the flatland world is now catching up with our mountain ways and enjoying our moss rock world.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS..Judy, I am not fond of cress, water or dry land…but my Mother loved the stuff…”Creases”, she called them, you know pronounced like a bad crease in a pair of pants…LOL
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS….Also Sheryl Paul…Our deer eat moss here, and I am sure other places as well…I had one place in the front yard that I picked a few pieces when I needed it…Yep, they would beat me to it sometimes, taking it up in little bite size bits…
    and thanks Ed for mentioning the moss…

  • Reply
    December 11, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Now, this is a joy!

  • Reply
    December 11, 2013 at 9:07 am

    None of the homes I ever visited as a child had carpet on the floor. I don’t know how I learned what it was or what to do with it. A cousin and I pulled tons of the thick plush kind to use in various playhouses. I never heard of a florist, so offering the moss for sell was not an option.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Moss always gives a garden or wooded space a comfy cozy look. No wonder you enjoyed incorporating it into your childhood play space.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2013 at 8:04 am

    That was a very interesting use of mother nature’s living ground cover. I noticed one of the craft stores showed how to make a snow globe, one with liquid inside. I wonder if an aquatic type plant could live in one of those. Thanks for the information today.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 11, 2013 at 7:56 am

    Moss is fascinating, I used to try to get the stuff to grow around my house as a child, too sunny. There is a type of moss we call reindeer moss for reason I do not understand, that we used to gather to put around the tops of houseplants to cover the soil.

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    December 11, 2013 at 7:39 am

    My father told stories of harvesting watercress in the cold winter waters of the springs around here. It was packed in barrels with ice and shipped by rail to New York. I still go and pull a little cress from time to time.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 11, 2013 at 7:28 am

    It’s beautiful, Tipper! It’s such fun to let the creative juices flow. You just never know what the results will be but you always know it will be fun, satisfying, and productive.
    A while back a friend gave me a tool that cuts strips for hooked rug. I’ve been looking on the internet for some instructions that will inspire me to move on with a project.
    I’ve also been making some lovely bright colored mirrors. That’s been great fun as well.

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