In the old days the long winter months following Christmas and New Years were a time to catch up on housework, 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-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).
Recently Wanda Stalcup, Director of the Cherokee County Historical Museum, and Native Appalachian, talked with me about her memories of winter months spent as a child. Three yearly occurrences stood out to her as she looked back through the years.
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 (guess some things never change), but each child treasured the Valentines they did receive. Wanda remembers taking hers out all through the year and marveling over the lovely creations.
Ground Hog Day! Wanda’s family was isolated from the outside world-the only influence being the radio-which didn’t forecast the weather. Her family anxiously awaited the Ground Hog’s appearance and his revelation about spring. The results could bring hopes for a warm moist spring to help the plants get a head start or the drudgery and work of getting more firewood to make it till a late spring.
The Blind Pig family uses the late winter months for crafting, painting, cooking, reading, and planning our garden for the coming summer. What do use them for?