Appalachia Gardening

Pap’s Big Garden Laid Fallow this Summer

Late yesterday evening Chitter asked me if I’d walk down to Pap’s big garden with her. She wanted to look for wild apricots-some folks call them may pops. They typically grow wild along the edges of Pap’s cornfield. I told Chitter even though there’s no garden this year we’ll go look around and see if we can find one.

Neither of us had paid the garden much attention this summer and was surprised to see the weeds had grown taller than either of our heads.

Even before Pap’s accident the hard decision to not plant the big garden had been made-at least for The Deer Hunter and me. For the last several years we’ve used the garden for beans and corn and planted the rest of our garden items closer to our house and Granny and Pap have done the same.

The trees surrounding Pap’s big garden have grown till they shade it too much for it to produce as well as it once did. The Deer Hunter is handy with a chainsaw but these trees are so close to the power lines the local EMC would have to cut them and we just never can seem to get around to calling them out to look at the trees. One of those things you mean to do, but don’t.

During the aftermath of Pap’s accident I counted it a true blessing that the big garden lay fallow with nothing but 2 rows of taters growing in it.

As Chitter and I walked the edges and poked into the weeds on our search she said “Will we plant the big garden next year?” I said “I don’t know. I don’t know if any of us will want to fool with it and Granny and Pap can’t do it anymore for sure.” Chitter said “I just know how many times I’ve helped clean it off in the spring of the year not to mention the planting and the infernal weeding.” Letting her words sink deep into my mind I said “Well letting it lay fallow this year will probably be good for the soil. So maybe we can get those trees cut and we’ll see about using it.”

After Chitter’s gentle prodding, my gardening eyes saw the big garden full of new possibilities. More than that, my heart soared to realize any teenage girl who worried about the land lying unused had surely inherited my gardening eyes and the hope of feeding herself and her family with things grown by the work of her hands and the sweat of her brow.



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  • Reply
    September 7, 2015 at 11:40 am

    YES! In fact Chitter had the weak trembles yesterday : ) But shes feeling better today!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    September 6, 2015 at 12:06 am

    I love it when young people are wistful for old times and things they remember when they were younger.
    We had may pops all over our farm and I loved the beautiful blossoms. I wanted to eat the fruit, but was told they were poison. So I never did, but enjoyed the vines and the flowers. I’ve never seen one since I moved here to the mountains.
    My garden was on my deck in planters this year and my veggies didn’t do too well, but my flowers have been real pretty.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 5, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    A sweet-sad time. I wish I could say it like I feel it. Seems the simplest thing might be to just say CHANGE and with it the effort to return or fix or slow it down. Miss Cindy said it. You and the Deer Hunter have given your girls both roots and wings and no matter how high they may be blessed to fly, they will keep their roots. I am pleased to know the old works still go on. It encourages me.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    September 5, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    We had a large garden when we were children. Our Dad worked hard to get it plowed, planted and keep it up. Our job was watering and weeding. I know if we hadn’t had it, there were times meals would have been leaner. But as we grew up, got busy with jobs and other interests and then left home, our Dad stopped growing many things.
    I think as we grow older, it gets harder to keep up with all the things we did before. Sometimes just the thought of doing it all is enough to keep a person seated.
    Nothing in our garden did well this year, not even the ‘maters – even the cherry ‘maters which generally grow like weeds. That several week stretch of dry high heat we got in early summer did everything in. Such is life.
    And next year, we’ll get to try again, if we have a mind to.
    Ya’all have a safe and wonderful Labor Day.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    September 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Ahh! It is with fondest memories that I recollect my 19 years of putting out a huge canning and table garden on our mountain farm–the peas,radishes, corn, tomatoes, beans, squash, cukes, peppers, beets, parsnips, taters, yams, greens, and perennial asparagus–and the peaches, pears and apples from the orchard. And quince made into Jelly. I”ll bet Pap remembers quince jelly.
    Just look, Tipper, at the outpouring of effusive and eloquent gardening comments your post has spawned. If all America were to suddenly resemble you, your family and your wonderful readers, I’m certain that a multitude of social ills would vanish overnight, and the physical, mental and emotional health of our society would take a great leap forward.

  • Reply
    Robert Wasmer
    September 5, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Sounds like there is a Stanley Brothers song in there somewhere, something about “Pap’s Old Fallow Field.” I got the title, just need the words!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    As a child growing up in MS, my late father used to have a large garden covering about 1/2 acre. We canned the food and ate a lot o f fresh vegetables. He would always give bushels and pecks to family and friends. I used to enjoy watching him plow using Kate, my grand dads mule. “Gee & haa” oh such sweet memories.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    When I was a boy, we posseum hunted alot, and after the first frost we’d find and eat apricots in our cornfield. We always had many chickens, and I recon the posseums were there for that reason. Our fiests (4 of ’em) could hear them chickens in the roost when an ole
    posseum came callin’. We’d go out
    behind the house and shake them
    laurel bushes till posseum and
    chickens came down. Most of the
    time it never hit the ground.
    Those little dogs were the chicken’s protector. They’d even
    break up a rooster fight, but
    wouldn’t bother ’em…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    On Wiggins Creek the maypops used to grow across the road. Not on the other side of the road, all the way across it. I guess that tells you how isolated we were.
    I had heard that maypops were good to eat too, but they were never allowed to ripen. It was just too much to pop them.
    Have you ever had weak trembles?

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I found your post today so very touching. Chitter has learned that sometimes the hardest work done with family becomes a very pleasant family tradition.
    This takes me back to the days when my Dad still continued to plant those enormous gardens, and he was no longer able to take care of all the harvest. I took my vacation (missing an important get-to-gather–how dare they plan it at bean pickin’ time). I spent the next few days with the back breaking work of picking rows and rows of beans only to spend the evening snapping and helping with filling jars for the pressure canner. I would fall into bed at night covered with scratches and chigger bites only to awaken the next day and resume the same process. Dad would still be overseeing the last canning as late as midnight. He couldn’t eat that many green beans if he lived to be 110! But, that is just what you did.
    Looking back this is one of my best memories. I am sure I complained about being tired and chigger bites are miserable, but this is overshadowed by the valuable time I spent with my Dad learning how to live life the Appalachian way.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Did you find some may pops? Letting the land lay fallow might enrich it. Weeds, well, I think they are invaders with a cause to keep us picking them only to reappear again. They always seem to look for attention; I wish they would mind their manners and stay where they belong. I don’t care for their visits; they stress me out. Happy weeding to all!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 10:53 am

    I agree with Miss Cindy! You and the Deer Hunter have done a great job with Chitter and Chatter. So great to see young people care so much about their families!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    September 5, 2015 at 10:51 am

    We’ll be scaling down our garden next year & it is a relief but sad also. Mama had two huge gardens & we lived off what they produced & government “commodities”. None of us were fat!!
    Hadn’t thought of Maypops in years. Or seen one–seems a lot of the wild things are disappearing around here.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    September 5, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I’m afraid my favorite game with May Pops was stomping them to hear them pop. You have some fine young ladies. Doesn’t it make your heart full to know that even with todays hustle and bustle and technology that they still see the beauty in hard work, nature, and joy in their family.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 5, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Tipper–Your blog and the accompanying photo evoke several thoughts. First of all, that ground lying fallow obviously is mighty fertile–the height and density of the weeds says as much.
    Beyond that, I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t mention that the bloom of wild apricots, the passion flower (that’s what I always called them too) is one of the loveliest, most intricately designed flowers in nature.
    By all means give that girl her head when it comes to gardening. Some of my fondest and earliest memories from childhood revolve around gardening–handing the already cut seed potatoes to Daddy as he was planting in the early spring, the first time I had a little garden of my own (dug the whole thing up with a pitchfork, which is NOT the way to go), the first watermelon I harvested (a delicious Charleston Grey), selling some tomatoes I had helped grow at 15 cents a pound to a local grocery store, helping Grandpa Joe in his garden, packsaddle stings, and much more. Today, well over 60 years later, I’m still an enthusiastic gardener.
    It’s an activity which soothes the soul and is as fine a tonic as I know.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    September 5, 2015 at 10:01 am

    A fallow garden still has promise. An abandoned garden makes us wistful for the days when it was full of life and color and strength like the gardener who once tended it. My Uncle used to have a beautiful garden full of bees and singing birds. When he became too ill to work it his neighbor took over. Even though it shrank in scale it was comforting to see it. This year it was abandoned altogether and I could sense the earth, the bees and birds mourning for my Uncle.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Barbara- YES : ) I still hear both triflin and swimmy headed in my part of Appalachia. I don’t think I say triflin much myself but I’m positive I use swimmy headed to describe that awful dizzy sort of sick at your stomach feeling : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 9:10 am

    I love hearing of young folks who are willing to grow their own food.
    What in the world is a wild apricot?

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 8:51 am

    It’s hard to let a good garden go. I hope you’ll be able to bring it back next year 🙂
    I only wish I could persuade the power company here to cut a row of a half-dozen white pines that block the light to most of my garden! The pines were planted and topped long before I bought this property, I suppose to make a quick dense privacy screen from the road. But because they were topped, they grew into unhealthy, poorly-shaped unhappy trees that are now a mass of entangled limbs and stubby trunks – no good for anything, and it will cost me thousands of dollars to hire an “arborist” to safely cut and remove them. In other words, Not Going To Happen. Not a darn thing I can do about it.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 5, 2015 at 8:47 am

    When I was around 8 or 9, they built the “New Road” – which well over half a century later is still the New Road to me. Among some locals, it goes by the name of The Road to Nowhere (in my eyes, it’s the Road to a really special Somewhere).
    But I digress before I get started. When they were building the New Road, a high cut was made into the side of the hill in what was then the pasture out from the house. In late summer, my cousin, Jimbo, and I had a grand time picking wild apricots (the pasture was full of them), then going out to the top of the bank and lobbing those apricots, AKA hand grenades, toward vehicles passing down below.
    The road was a good 40 or 50 ft below the pasture, so it took awhile to get the timing right, but we got to where we could hit a car about half the time.
    Those apricots are so soft that all they do is splatter, but we eventually had a double hit on the windshield of a state highway truck. The driver slammed on the brakes and a couple-three big old fellers piled out and started looking for “who done that?”
    Jimbo and I hid behind a big honey locust tree and did the best we could to keep from giggling. But when the truck driver turned around with the obvious intent of coming up to find us, it scared the willies out of us both. We decided it was time to go back to the house and throw baseball out in the back yard.
    The truck did, in fact, make the turn up onto our road and drove by the house, coming to almost a crawl. But fortunately, the driver continued on out the road, turned around and came back by, not even slowing down on the return trip.
    That episode was enough to put the fear into both of us. It may not have been the end of mischievous ways, but it was the end of our apricot hand grenade days.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 5, 2015 at 8:41 am

    How wonderful that Chitter enjoys gardening. Maybe she was thinking how time changes things as one grows and other doors open. Maybe by next year you can use the garden again. Wish I had a place for just corn…It does need room and good sunlight though!
    I remember the time when one of our boys asked, (after we built the confined raised beds), if we were still going to plant the big garden. We said we didn’t think so. I am still not sure if there was ‘relief’ in his voice or ‘sadness’ that the many fresh canning tomatoes were now a memory as time moves forward.
    Is Chitter having trouble sleeping? Just kidding, but wondered if she was hunting the Passion flower fruit for her medicinal journal book of larnin’…Just a thought!
    My brothers and I would have “green passion fruit” wars. Diving down in the weeds to keep from getting hit. Nothing like getting splashed in your hair from a ripe yellow one. Yep, my brothers had great aim! I wish they tasted as good as they smell when dead ripe.
    I have eaten them but it has been years…I had a couple growing around my little pond, I just love the beautiful (Jesus crown) flower!
    Thanks Tipper this post brought back memories.
    PS..Have you ever made Passion Fruit Jelly? I never did but always wondered if it was good. Another jelly I heard of lately was Queen Anne’s Lace flower jelly…But, one would definitely have to positively identify the Queen Anne Lace flower. Due to the very deadly poison Hemlock that could kill you and a flower that is a very close look alike. Won’t have to worry about me making that jelly! ha
    Wish I had some Catawba grapes. I just ate me some Muscadines and Scuppernongs…early ones here this year!

  • Reply
    Barbara trent
    September 5, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Have you ever heard of being “swimmy-headed” to describe being dizzy? What about ” triflin’ ” to describe some one who is aggravatingly shiftless or unproductive?

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 5, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Tipper, your wonderful story (please, please, save this for your family archives–for its beauty and its deep meaning) reminded me of how my own father deliberately let certain acres or plots of his land lie fallow, believing as given in Exodus 23:10-11 that this was God’s way of renewing the soil to more productivity. And then, following the command in Jeremiah 4:3, to again “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.” Of course, I am aware of the much larger implications of these two scriptural references, but just on following simply what they command, this method was a good way of farming “back in the day” when so much depended upon a good yield. I loved the story of you and Chitter looking over the big garden and seeing in your mind’s eye the possibility of it yielding again. Here’s a little impromptu poem (needs polishing!) on the subject:
    From Fallow Ground
    The land lies fallow.
    Once its yield
    Was lush and mellow
    Its fruit a shield
    Against hunger pangs
    That surely ensue
    And bring no gains
    If diligence is not pursued.
    But wait! Consider the land.
    A command: “In the seventh year
    Let it lie fallow, to rest, stand
    A time for renewal, to re-gear
    For revitalization, better yield.”
    Let nutrients for tired soil
    Make a better, more productive field,
    For better crops, reward for honest toil.
    -Ethelene Dyer Jones 09.05.2015

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Wild apricots taste much better after the first frost. I have always had to have some sort of garden even if only in containers.

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    September 5, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Good for you and good for Chitter. i know in my family we kids (especially the boys) got the gardening gene from our mother. Being first born i think i got the lion’s share of her love of flowers. BTW loved the post the other day about iron weed’s purple robe. As far as i can remember new to me. WHAT a color…tried to share it on FB but my camera just can’t capture the real beauty of that DEEP purple. One of Mama Gaia’s gardens up the road is Joe Pye weed, iron weed, and a pure deep yellow asteraceae i can’t at the moment ID. Absolutely stunning..

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Yes-well Chitter does : ) She loves them. There really isn’t much to eat in one-just the sweet part surrounding the seeds. We didn’t find one in the big garden but we think we know another place to look. If we find one I’ll share it here on the Blind Pig!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    September 5, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Well Tipper, your walk/talk about gardening is a subject I truly enjoyed sharing with my mother many years ago. I reckon she gardened way on up into her 90’s! In her later years I always took her flowers to plant in her tiny flower garden in the middle of her yard – which use to be the big vegetable garden. SWEET MEMORIES!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    September 5, 2015 at 7:38 am

    My garden is too big also so I plan to plant in rows six feet apart. That way I can plow with my tractor and rotary tiller until the peas and beans grow the middles. Cuts down on the weeding and walk tiller.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Do you eat the fruit?

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 5, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Heritage, traditions, family values, these are the real fruits of your planting, Tipper. You have obviously planted and cultivated well.

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    September 5, 2015 at 5:36 am

    I find your girls to be very level headed. This is a a rare quality this day and time with our young people. You have done a fine job raising these girls,

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