During the winter months following Christmas I start thinking about the coming garden: What will I plant? Will I move things around or keep the same set-up I had last summer? What is the exact day I should plant my seedlings? Should we get a load of compost?
As you can see most of my activities start centering around getting ready for the coming growing season. But I also remind myself to soak up the remaining days of winter-doing the cold weather things I love like: Cuddling up under a blanket with a good book; Soaking up the heat from the heater (me and the girls fight over who gets to sit closest); Cooking up a storm in the kitchen while the windows steam over from the heat.
In the old days the long winter months following Christmas and New Years in Appalachia were a time to catch up on: sewing, quilting, barn work, hardware repair, and planning for spring and planting time. Certainly folks still had work to do-feeding/caring for the animals, and making sure the wood supply would make it till spring made for a full time job-but the weather conditions forced the late winter months to also be a time of rest compared to the long work days of spring, summer, and fall.
A few years ago, Wanda Stalcup-Director of the Cherokee County Museum, shared her memories of winter months spent as a child in Appalachia with me.
Her family’s primary cash crop was tobacco. Wanda recalled payment for the previous summer’s crop generally came around Christmas time. The money was used to pay off lines of credit at local stores, paying tithes to church, and having the fields turned and readied for spring planting. To be able to “clear the ledgers” brought a welcome relief to her family.
Wanda’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Axely helped make Valentines Day special for the entire school. Mrs. Axely was a beloved fixture of the school, her birthday fell on Valentines Day.
In those days most children couldn’t afford to purchase Valentines or even buy supplies to make them. Mrs. Axely provided materials for the children to make Valentines. Some years she helped them make a “mail box” to place the cards in-on the special day Mrs. Axely would hand out the Valentines one by one. Political correctness was unheard of at that time-and children were left to choose who got a Valentine and who didn’t. Wanda recalls the popular kids got the most, but each child treasured the Valentines they did receive. Wanda remembers taking hers out all through the year and marveling over the lovely creations.