Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's one of the most beautiful crops to see this time of year. And it will get even better than this. It reminds me so of the rape seed fields of France. They turned this amazing yellow color that stretched in patches for miles over rolling hills. If not for the crashing sinus headaches they could swear they were the prettiest sight you'd ever seen. Tobacco turns a color like that.

I went to church today. I hadn't seen Jimmy and Pam since the viewing for Mizz Kay-reen. I actually need to start getting up early enough to go to my church and then be at Jimmy's for his 1:00 service. It's not that I'm hyper religious or anything. Really, I could use more in the belief and faith department. Indeed, I'd have to say that I'm a very poor practitioner of any faith. I believe in science more than anything else. But I really miss listening to my Episcopal pastor's thought provoking sermons. They are as different as chalk and cheese from what Pastor Jimmy does. But I do come away from both experiences feeling really good.

Pastor Jimmy handled a northern copperhead today. I hadn't seen one of those before.

But 9:00 a.m. is really early for someone like me who stays up until 3:00 a.m. writing. I like the stillness of that time of day. I've been doing something really weird too. I've been writing and watching TV at the same time. I guess because I plot things out ahead of time, it's already sort of floating around in my head and I can just dump it into the laptop without thinking about it. Weird, huh?

Anyway...I'm sort of out of my depth with the train story. It's more the logistics of what it's like to be a fireman on a steam engine. I really don't have any idea what that feels like. So...I'll prolly do the story then go back and fix the technical bits later. I do like the feel of things to be I guess I'll need to get someone to help me with that part.

Happy Sunday

Saturday, September 29, 2007

...that the clarity of the light from my balcony this morning was simply stunning.

Beginning on Monday, I will begin the SMB horror-grotesque-spooky-ghost story-a-thon. One entire month of me working out four full length, original short stories here on the blog. This is a challenge I have put up for can follow along if you wish.

I will be posting segments of the stories on Monday through Wednesday and on Saturdays for the entire month of October. Thursday will be optional. Fridays will be FPF as usual and Sunday's will be Happy Sunday as usual.

Here are the stories. They are plotted out, but unwritten so I'll be writing from the seat of my pants as usual. And I sort of like the idea of writing all these at the same time.

1. Carolina Special

An old man finally relives a terrifying night that he worked on the Carolina Special traveling from Spartanburg, S.C. to Knoxville, TN on October 31, 1923. As if scaling Saluda Mountain, one of the most treacherous stretches of rail in the US at the time, were not enough...the veil between the worlds grew dangerously thin...and he sees things from the engine of the Carolina Special that no man is meant to see.

Yep, folks...looks like we got us here a ghost train!

(note...I'm hoping and pretty sure I'll get lots of research tips from rail enthusiasts on this one!)

Rated for: Supernatural, Fantasy, Ghost Stories, trains

2. Sugar and Brimstone

A young mountain girl harbors a crush on a very, very bad man. Luckily, for her, it is entirely unrequited. She witnesses his crimes, his death and has as disturbing vision of his damnation.

Rated for: Violence, Gothic, Horror, Supernatural

3. Stir with a Knife

You've already met my evil quilter. But how did she become an Appalachian version of one of the Fates? How did she get that way?

Rated for: Horror, Supernatural, Grotesque

4. The Dark Hole

The most difficult story I've attempted. Dark, racially charged and dealing with many of the stereotypes of Appalachia that I've wanted to avoid. It's been festering like an open sore since I put it down last. It is the most O'Connor-esque story I've ever attempted. I'm determined to finish it this month.

Rated for: Grotesque, Horror, Violence

Are you excited? I am.

Friday, September 28, 2007

FPF, goes east….far east!

My Asian readers will want to snicker to themselves quietly. Just keep in mind…I’m doing my best and I have to drive an hour and a half to get even the most rudimentary ingredients for a meal like this. Our konbinis don’t sell no seaweed.

This is the sort of food I prefer to eat. Even though I’m known for my artery clogging recipes and sinful jaunts into the world of Southern cusine…I’m actually much happier with a bowl of miso soup or some ramen, some white rice and sashimi. Even if I have to make long trips into K-town to the Asian grocery to get a few very basic things like sushi nori, kombu and miso.

So, last week, Friend Scott was down in the dumps and he’s told me he enjoyed sushi so I decided to prepare a Japanese meal. Hmmmm…what to fix to fill up a six foot nine guy?

Shabu-Shabu, (しゃぶしゃぶ) of course! I’m not going to trouble you with my interpretation of Shabu-Shabu…but will refer you to Food Network’s excellent rendition of it. I will also refrain from offering my recipe for chicken fried tofu. Shabu Shabu restaurants are very popular in Japan and are often owned and operated by retired Sumo wrestlers. Thus…perfect food for my six-foot nine buddy. Filling…yet fun!

All you need in a small crock or fondu pot to put in the middle of your table to swish the thinly sliced beef in the boiling broth. It’s really a fun dining experience.

I also prepared a plate of sushi. I wasn’t sure exactly how experienced Scott was with it so I kept it rather simple. But Scott is fairly experienced with it…so maybe an excursion to an actual sushi bar is called for.

We were a bit amused when a brightly colored sign was posted down at the rafting canteen down in Hartford announcing that they now had fresh sushi. I won’t even buy fish in town so there was no way I was going to try sushi down the mountain. I usually get fish at the Shrimp Dock in Knoxville when I go to my monthly doctors’ appointments at UT.

My Japanese menu was as follows:

Miso Soup
Sushi Tuna Rolls and Salmon
Vegetables and Kombu with Ramen

Shabu Shabu

White Rice

Typically, as a Southern cook, I prepared way too much. But it was a big hit!

I guess, what I'm it's okay to be adventuresome with food. Don't be afraid to try new things...It's part of what's wonderful in life.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Taking a break to work on my super secret squirrel stories.

But thought I'd offer a research teaser for one that I might run next month.

It involves....

My grandfather who worked on the Southern Railroad and worked the trains round these parts. (Actual grandfather and actual train pictured.)


The Carolina Special and the New Market Train Wreck.


The mysterious white cross poised on the cliff above the river in Newport...the ACTUAL story...not the one everyone likes to tell.....

I'm still smushing these together into a bit of fiction....but it feels good. But they always do...even the crappy ones at first so we'll see how it goes.

Also...if anyone has Charlie Oat's lyrics to "The New Market Wreck" laying around...I'd love to see them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So, once again, I've missed a program that I was supposed to watch. I was wondering where all the hits for Pastor Jimmy and Popcorn Sutton were coming from. And why a production company out of the Midwest was caching the entire blog.

But a new reader filled me in.

This past Sunday the History Channel aired "Hillbilly The Real Story".

The two-hour special, hosted by celebrity Billy Ray Cyrus, brings these mythic people to life through stories that span 300 years. Outcast immigrants, war heroes, isolated backwoodsmen, hard working miners, fast moving moon shiners, religious warriors, musicians and statesmen make up the rugged cast of characters.

I assume this is the program that they were filming all day during Pastor Jimmy's homecoming celebration. Popcorn Sutton is evidently in it. Hopefully my mug will not be getting in any shots, but it would be nice if they got Friend Scott singing.

But not to worry...they are re-airing it tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. and at 2:00pm.

I've heard some mixed reviews about whether or not they got it "right" or not.... but will reserve comment until I've actually seen it. Not sure about the use of his Achey-Brakey-ness for a narrator. I guess Wilford Brimley was booked.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This morning I let "Old Man" out and he evidently went on one of his rare walk-abouts.

They seem to be unintentional and are sort of like when an alzheimer's patient goes missing. It happens maybe once a year. At 18, Babe is happily senile and just wanders from place to place without any sense of direction. His mouth is in dreadful shape and his heart murmur can be felt through the the bones of his rib cage.

"Don't you think it's maybe time to put him to sleep?" Scott asks.

I bristle a bit as I do when the subject comes up.

"It's not time." I say. "He'll tell me when it's time. It's not like he's in pain and he's not incontinent...he just forgets where he is when he has to go."

The truth is, Babe has pretty much destroyed my hardwood floors. He will spend the entire day dozing outside on the porch and forget to do his business. Often the first thing he does when he comes inside is hike his leg on my favorite chair.

Scott seems to think it's funny that Babe will go on a wander for a mile or so then come inside to use the toilet.

But he's my sweet, ancient "Little Old Man". No matter that he was only supposed to live three months when he arrived here. Now, three years later, he's one of my babies. Every year, I brace for his passing and he just seems to keep toddling around.

So, he disappeared for a little while this morning. I looked in all of his usual places. He falls asleep very deeply and because he is almost deaf, he can't hear you call him. You have to wake him up with a pet or a stomp on the porch.

I waited round for him and he finally came back. And he brought a friend with him.

A very tiny little Mountain Feist. These are great little dogs and I hadn't seen this fellow around before. They are excellent on squirrels. I picked him up and when I tried to put him down, he didn't want to get down. He had the radar-like bat ears and a tiny little button nose. Very sweet. I gave him some water...he seemed very well cared for, if a bit shy.

He finally trotted off and I hope he found his way home. If not, I'm sure he'll be back and we'll find out where he belongs.

Dogs know Rosie. I'm the weird old dog lady.

Monday, September 24, 2007

We have a few new lurkers here on the Breakdown, some of whom may not really be aware of exactly what they are looking at. I thought I'd take a moment to update and let you know about future plans as well.

Here is the first official SMB FAQ (frequently asked questions).

1. Arghhhr! What is this?

The SMB is a blog, which is short for "weblog". It's an online journal composed of one individual's thoughts, usually. In the SMB's case, this is a fiction blog. That means that virtually everything here is pretty much made up. In fact, the more I write, even the stuff I thought might be true, turns out to be made up. It's called creative writing. If you think you recognize yourself here...well good. That means I'm doing my job well. If your really think you see yourself here, may I suggest the works of J.K Rowling. You might be Dumbledore!

2. Is this a "secret" blog?

No. The SMB has been on the web since 2003 and alternately active and inactive. It has been easily accessed through the web since it started and I've made no secret that I was writing it. Everyone I know, online and off-line, has been told about the blog since I started writing it and my emails have held it's url since I started working on it. If you are just getting around to checking it out, let me offer you a warm welcome.

3. Do you hold a copyright on all this stuff?

Yes. I don't have a notice because I don't need one legally. All rights are reserved for all of my images and written material. While I certainly don't mind you copying off a story to take to bed to read, if you are making copies and passing them around, you are committing a crime. You are welcome to refer others to my url, but please don't steal my work and take it out of the context in which it was written.

4. You must make a gang of money off this thing, right?

Not a sou, not a red cent, not a dime, nada, nothing. My google adds have yet to do anything, even. I write this as a service to my county and for myself. This blog brings in many tourism dollars into my community and helps the local economy.

5. So who reads this thing?

My readership is is spread across the world. Many of my readers are referred from Appalachia-friendly sites who appreciate my sensitive portrayal of the Appalachian people. A good portion come from academic sites where scholars and intellectuals find the social history and linguistics I include interesting. I get anywhere from 100 to 200 "hits" per day. Mostly people are looking for good recipes from my food articles or entertaining stories. I also get a fair number of "hits" from men and women serving in the military. It makes me feel good that I might bring a smile to someone trudging through a distant desert, far away from these hills they call home.

6. How do you know all of this?

The SMB is a highly moderated and closely monitored blog. Stats are checked often and suspicious or inappropriate searches are banned from the blog. Essentially, when you look at the blog....the blog is looking at you. I know the number of the computer you are on, the location, your isp, what you looked at, how long you spent here and other things. This may seem intrusive, but I had to start this after the blog came under attack for my writing about faith. Particularly the Christian faith. Not sure why this is...I don't have a bone to pick with anyone's religion and it's impossible to write about Appalachia without writing about Christianity as well.

7. Are you really 40% evil?

It's a joke. Actually I think my evil rating has been slipping considerably. I think I'm down to only 28% evil at this point. So there may be hope for me yet.

8. Do you actually handle serpents?

No. I am not one of the anointed. I am an Episcopalian. But I feel privileged to be an observer in their services. I have a great deal of admiration for the Signs Followers. They really practice what they preach on so many levels. I've found them to be some of the sanest and most consistent people up here. They have a true kindness and generosity of spirit.

Upcoming on The Breakdown.....

For the month of October I'm planning to do some new scary stories. I may take Stir with a Knife and expand it even more. I'd like to do a prequel of how my evil quilter got that way. I think she was good to begin with. I've got a really good hellfire and brimstone story that I've got mapped out that should be very chilling. I'm in a dark and angry enough head space now that I may be able to get back to The Dark Hole.

I've decided to actively pursue submitting a novel. I've been putting it off for far too long. It will be written off-line since that's how submissions work. will be a complete surprise when it comes out! But I'd like your input as to the type of story you might like to see in print from me. Any ideas?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm kind of homesick for a country
to which I've never been before
no sad goodbyes will there be spoken
and time won't matter anymore...

It was a week ago that Mizz Kay-reen went forth to the bright light of heaven and left us alone here. I know she stands somewhere now in the great beyond with her beloved Otis, happy and free from the pain of this existence.

I know this because I believe that was her wish and I wish it for her as well.

I only met her twice, but she made a very big impression upon me. I was struck by her gentleness and faith. I treasure the sound of her girlish voice singing those bars of "Beulah Land" and I thought I knew why that song was so treasured by her. When I first met her, the song really did seem to tell me so much of what I sensed about her. It somehow said so much about the conflict of being left on earth without the great love of one's life for twenty years, yet being thankful for the gift of long life.

I went back to see her after I heard that the doctors didn't think she had much time left. I wanted to just hold that frail hand one last time. It was a really good visit. And the one thing I sensed most about that second visit was that the conflict was no longer there. She seemed joyful and radiant. She knew she was finally going home.

Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand
There my home shall be eternal.
In Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land...

But she did leave many souls here longing for her and weeping. I attended her viewing this past Tuesday. There must have been 8,000 people there. She was very beloved in this community. Her family stood stately and gracious, accepting the many condolences for the loss of this lovely woman.

It took me an hour to make my way to them and the casket.

I'm looking now across that river,
to where my faith will end in sight
There's just a few more days of labor,
then I will take my heavenly flight...

She always said that she wanted to see Jesus first and Otis second. But I can't imagine Jesus making her wait. I have a feeling He was standing there with Otis waiting for her.

As I said the things I had been taught to say at such times, "I'm so sorry for your loss..." and "She was a very lovely woman..." and knowing how much I meant these things...I glanced to where she lay in her casket.

I noticed that the kiss-shaped marking on her left cheek was no longer there. It may have been just the skillful application of the mortician's art.

But I prefer to think that Otis had claimed his kiss.

Happy Sunday.

Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand
There my home shall be eternal.
In Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land
In Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land...

Friday, September 21, 2007

As you know…I’m a big fan of grilled, smoked and barbecued meats. I have a few very select preparations, one of which I’m going to share with you today.

The history of the Wilderness Chicken Marinade began on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia where my grandparents ran an Episcopal summer camp called Camp Reese. They used to grill chicken in an open pit dug on the beach and the campers would enjoy it there by the surf.

I’m not exactly sure if the Marinade was developed for the ocean side barbecues or if it was developed afterwards to duplicate the taste of chicken grilled over an open pit fire for the back porch grill. Either way…it really gives chicken the flavor of campfire roasted chicken.

This chicken was a weekend tradition at my home when I was growing up. I would sometimes be given the task of holding the water spray bottle to damp down the flames. The chicken always comes out a bit blackened and that it part of the recipe.

I didn’t actually use the marinade on the photos of the chicken I’m showing here. I grilled that out over my fire pit on my birthday. But it tastes and looks exactly like the Wilderness Chicken, complete with the smoke blackened skin.

Wilderness Chicken Marinade

7 parts peanut oil
1 part vinegar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash Liquid Smoke
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
juice of one lemon

Combine all ingredients and marinade chicken parts overnight. Cook over charcoal turning frequently. Keep a spray bottle handy to damp down the flames.

This chicken is excellent cold the next day and also makes a fabulous smoky chicken salad mixed with walnuts, grapes, chives and fresh dill.

If you are really good, I might share my Jerked Wings Marinade. It’s a bit more complicated.

The Altar at Camp Reese

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Get on The The Modulator.

Everyone's lined up to stuff their faces.

And Yes, Mutton and Chops (the sheep)....That outfit DOES make your butts look fat.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do You Dip?

In the more information than you probably wanted to know department.....

What you are looking at is a device to place on a pop can so you can spit your chaw juice discreetly into said pop can. Public spittoons bing a thing of the past, it's prolly a very good idea for all of you snuff dippers out there.

This was at a local market where I had an unusually long wait to pay for my English Mountain Bottled Water. Gotta be careful with me with that sort of thing. The digi is likely to come out of my purse and take advantage of the too much time I suddenly have on my hands.

They were very busy with the lunch crowd though. Perhaps I'll go back and review them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I think it was during one of our movie nights that he mentioned it to me. We were watching whatever Cyrillic subtitled movie offering of the week that Scott had brought over.

“You know, the guy who invented the Moon Pie is buried in Newport.” He says offhandedly.

I see him cut his eyes at me to see my reaction. He knows this is exactly the sort of tidbit that I live for.

“Really? What’s his name?”


“You know,” I say, “We must visit his grave and pay homage to his greatness.”

I’m deadly serious. The Moon Pie is such an icon of Southern culture that such a visionary should be honored. The least we could do was visit his grave site.

But first I had to do a bit of research. I found some text with the story of the Moon Pie’s history and the name of Earl Mitchell. Then I headed off to the local library to find out if it were indeed true.

I asked Meschelyn Barrett, the director of the library, “Scott told me something and I need to find out if it’s a 8,000 dollar hound dog or if it’s true?”

The hunters up here will often refer to their favorite hound dog as an 8,000 dollar hound dog…or whatever exorbitant price they think up. I’ve spoken with lots of hunters and they all tell the same version of the story. Some hunter from “outside” will admire their dog and offer 8,000 dollars for it. The dog’s owner will always say no, the dog’s not for sale. Then when times are tough, they’ll bemoan not selling the dog to “that man” who offered so much money for it. But that dog will forever after be known as the “8,000 dollar hound dog”.

“What happened to the dog?” I’ll ask.

“Bear got it.” They’ll sometimes say.

I’ve come to think of it as a euphemism of some of the tall tales I hear.

Not that Scott would ever, ever tell a tall tale. But I thought it best to check first.

And Meshelyn did indeed confirm that it was true! They held a tour of the cemetery and ended up at Mr. Mitchell’s grave and handed out a Moon Pie to everyone. She also told me where the grave was located.

So, yesterday, after having Chinese, we went and bought some Moon Pies and some RC Colas and tooled over to the cemetery in The Red Claptrap of Death and paid homage to Earl Mitchell and his wonderful invention. We toasted him with Moon Pies and offered a libation of RC Cola.

As we clattered off, I wondered what his life was like.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Friend Scott’s primary vehicle is an enormous white pick-up truck. Despite removing the tailgate to improve its aerodynamics, it still gets about 2 miles to the gallon. So, when he got his now wonderful permanent job in Morristown, he started looking around for a less gas-guzzling vehicle.

Enter The Red Claptrap of Death.

The first I heard of the red Honda, was after it broke down right after Scott bought it, leaving him stranded on the interstate. I think the timing chain broke the same day he got it and something about the engine. I don’t know much about cars but the engine had to be replaced. Towing was involved.

“It’s only got 260,000 miles on it!” He proclaimed.

He bought it locally. These are wonderful people up here, but they have a typical Scots-Irish attitude toward finances. A much more stringent “Caveat Emptor” strategy must be applied in all business dealings. Frugality mixed with charming blarney can get you in a whole mess of trouble if you aren’t careful. And the car business is full of this sort of thing anyway…so it’s not like you wouldn’t see it coming.

So, the next time Scott drove The Red Claptrap of Death …surprise!...It broke down again! Fuel pump failure or something like that. At this point he had found a mechanic who was a preacher who was doing the work for much less.

I know when I tried to find someone locally to align the jeep, they quoted me a price far above the dealerships and handed me some nonsense about how hard it was having to do each wheel and how much more it would be if they found something wrong with some imaginary part. They just wouldn’t shut up and I said, “Fine…the dealership is much less so I’ll take it there.”

This is one of the few places in the world where the dealership costs less to repair a vehicle than a private garage.

At this point I refused point blank to ever set foot in the thing.

He tried to get me in it to go visit his father for his dad’s 70th birthday party.

“No. We will take the jeep.”

“I don’t have enough money for gas for the jeep.” He says.

“So we’ll split it. I’m not getting in that car and ending up stranded on the highway.”

“But it’s got a new engine!” He says.

“Scott,” I say reasonably, “That car has broken down every time you’ve driven it.”

“No it hasn’t!” He says.

“How many times has it broken down?”


“And how many times have you driven it.”

He glares at me.

“Fuck you!”

I don’t mind this since I know it’s frustrating to be around a person like me who is always right.

So, today I am going into town with Scott and am forced to finally take a ride in The Red Claptrap of Death. I don’t have enough gas money to get to town to deposit my birthday check my sister sent me…and so, Friend Scott has me over a barrel on this one.

I’m packing my purse with provisions in case we, predictably, end up hoofing it down the interstate. Lets see…we’ll need water, dehydrated camping food, sleeping bags…and I should wear some very comfortable shoes.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I found this....

And this....

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sometimes the dark side of the mountain is not what you would expect.

I woke up yesterday to the whiteness. The clouds fall over the mountain and the whiteness is glaring. It is the mist that envelopes us all at times and I hadn’t seen it in quite some time.

There is no visibility and even the twiggy bits of forest that frame my big window to the outside are shrouded. I hear the goats bleating but I can’t see them. Such is the whiteness of the shroud of the mountain.

Yes, this is a shroud. It is sort of like when you were four and buried your face with the snowy white sheet that hung on the clothesline. The light would still come through and your eyes would blink and tear, but you couldn’t see.

You could smell the smell of the sun-drenched linen and hear the voices of your family, but there was something deliciously alone about being wrapped up in that whiteness. And you twirled your dirty little body into that whiteness.

It’s the same stillness as snow. The same quiet. The same sense of soulless aloneness.

I often feel comfort in that sense of aloneness. I revel in it and say to myself, “Yes! I am a rock! I am an island!”

Eat my shorts! Simon and Garfunkel…it can be done!

My brother once said to me, with the insight that only someone who shares your DNA can, “Maybe you need to find yourself a little Kaczynski-cabin in the woods.”

I know in my bones how right he is. And I wander seeking the aloneness. That freedom from other’s pain that overwhelms and becomes my own.

I want to be four again. I want to wrap myself in the aloneness of a white linen sheet and feel at peace in the whiteness.

Friday, September 14, 2007


The truth is that I am battling depression on a scale that I've not had to deal with in many years.

I have deadlines that I will honor. But I just need a little sweetness in my life. I want a little surcease from the pain.

It's my birthday this weekend and I spent my last 20 bucks on dog food for the boys. All I really want to do is curl up in the fetal position and watch animes for about 20 hours straight. But, of course, Netflix has an absurd turn around time. I can't seem to stop crying. I appear to have lost one of my very dearest friends, someone I've been seeing every week practically since I lived here. It is a huge and substantial loss to me.

I'm feeling more certain that I need to sell this place and find somewhere even more remote. Someplace where people can't reach me at all.

Anyway. I'm sorry I don't have any food for you today. Friend Scott is coming over to feed me pizza and make sure I don't do anything harmful to myself.

Something is wrong with Max.

All I wanted was perhaps a pig for my birthday to eat up the stick plants. And now all I want is for the disasters to stop. Please stop.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I feel sick somewhere deep down in my soul. Even my bones are tired and screaming.

But Monday was not without excitement...though I seemed to have missed it all I suppose I have become accustomed to the drug choppers whirling overhead all summer. I sort of did the same thing when I lived in Atlanta in College Park. The planes from Hartsfield would fly over my little farm and you just got used to it.

But Friend Scott came by and filled me in. Evidently, the choppers were much more active and you could see the Task Force agents and wave at them. It must be why my kid herd freaked and escaped down the mountain. They are back now that the helicopters are gone.

This happened in Parrotsville so I'm not sure why they were buzzing us. They seized about 4000 really big pot plants in the middle of a corn field. I hope nobody loses their farm over it.

You can read about it HERE. And HERE.

I'm surprised they were doing as well as they were given the drought. It has evidently hit the illegal crops as hard as it has the legal ones.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Afraid it's going to be a slow blog week, folks.

I'm crunching under a few deadlines and won't have much time to write for you.

Anyway...I did run across a 1936 newspaper article that caught my imagination when I was in the library. It was about the sentencing to the electric chair of the "Troubadour Gang" in Maynardsville, TN. I need to go back and read it again. It was sort of like the plotline of "Oh, Brother, Where art Thou?" Or at least it sounded like it could have been source material for it. These three guys supported themselves singing and playing music in between heists. I loved the style of the journalism...sort of film noir.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

As you all know, I am a liberal Democrat. I make no secret of that and believe strongly in the practice of tolerance, freedom of speech and all that jazz. At heart...I carry around all of the liberal trappings and mannerisms. It's true, I do.

Including keeping my car radio pretty much super-glued to NPR. Well, I was driving down the interstate on my way to Newport while winding around the scenic mountain passes that are my commute, when I choose to make it. Today I was off to the library to return my books and do a bit of research for a few pieces I have in the writing mill.

Anyway, my favorite radio station had a classical selection playing that I wasn't quite up to so I decided to play it dangerously and hit the search button.

It took me to Rush Limbaugh broadcasting from Andersonville, TN. Well, my gag reflex was feeling a bit sluggish so I didn't wreck the jeep trying to change the channel. And as I drove, I listened to how I was trying to destroy America and what a big liar I was.

Honestly...I wasn't bothered at all. It just slid right off the fat part of my back. I was really proud of myself. I seem to have overcome that annoying habit of screaming back at the idiot pundits on the radio and television.

But then he committed a most foul heresy. He started plugging Maple Bacon flavored coffee.

"For heaven's sake, man!" I screamed. "How many tons of pulverized oxycontin do you have to shove up your nose to think caffeinated pork is a good idea!"

I just completely lost it at that point. My gag reflex seemed to make a full recovery. I am deeply and profoundly offended.

I'm a huge fan of all things coffee and all things bacon. I'm not one of those culinary ideologues who insist that my peas not touch my carrots. But this is an abomination. Truly, it is.

I'm just saying...if we start swilling pork flavored coffee...the terrorists have freakin' won, folks.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Today's FPF is brought to us by my friend, Audubon Ron over at Ducks Mahal. I tell you, ma cher...he do know what he talkin' bout!


New Orleans Style Cooking

This recipe is fish with a sauce and potatoes with green beans. The fancy words are:

Fish Meuniere Sauce with Brabant Potatoes and Green Beans

These recipes are from the famous New Orleans Restaurant Arnaud’s. I cook a lot and picked this up for you.

This might seem like a big task, who could cook this way? But, you know it’s real easy. New Orleans is called the Big Easy. It’s always meant to be Easy.

First let’s prepare the food.

Here is the food.
Chop Green Bean ends
Chop Two Potatoes into small squares
Finely chopped 2 shallots
Finely chopped 1/4 green pepper
Finely chopped 1/2 celery stalk
Squeeze a half a lemon for juice.
Pour one half cup dry white wine

Season your fish in another small side dish mix dried rosemary, dried oregano and thyme.

Make a Bouquet Garni in cheese cloth: Place herbs of one bay leaf, 1 tsp peppercorn, 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp marjoram in cheese cloth and tie.

Bouquet Garni

First, let’s talk about a roux.

A roux is a simple sauce or gravy. It’s a French word. But it means gravy. Simply, cook equal parts oil and equal parts flour. You can use butter, vegetable oil or olive oil. Butter cooks faster, veg oil cooks medium and olive is slower. You decide. In this recipe I used butter. Take three tablespoons butter, melt down and add three tables spoons four. Mix and let perk on high. The thing about a roux is you have to keep stirring. It starts out white then as it cooks it gets darker. All three are useful but in this recipe I want it to be oak color. When the roux gets oak color add:

1/2 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 finely chopped shallot (if not 1/2 white onion)
1/4 of one green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup beef broth
And Bouquet Garni

Put all in the sauce and cook on very low heat.

Making a Roux

Add wine and a dash of beef broth. It should look like the last picture above. Cover and cook on low heat and let simmer very slowly.

While that is perking on simmer, place potatoes in a large pan and fry in 1 TBSP vegetable oil until most sides are brown and add the mixture of dried rosemary, dried oregano and thyme and stir. Then place on oven pan and cook on 350 heat for 20 minutes.

It should look like this:

When potatoes are cooked place green beans in the same pan and fry in veg oil and add one TBSP of Balsamic vinegar and TBSP of Worcestershire and stir. Then add potatoes from oven. Stir and cover on very low heat.

It should look like this:

In a non stick fry pan dip your fish in flour and add to 1 TBSP veg oil and sauté on both sides until cooked.

When the fish is cooked to your liking, place on a dish, cover with the sauce and add the potatoes and green beans.

And Voila!, time to eat.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez - Cajun French for let the good times roll. Honey, we French folks have a saying, “If you can’t cook, you can’t make love.”

Be happy, love one another and eat good My Little Mon Chat Baby.

Me cooking

With maximum L’s

Audubon Ron

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Well, Childe Rabbit was gone from the gourd patch this morning. I choose to believe that one of his parental units came and got him and put him someplace much safer.

I've been really busy with some graphics work today. Thank the powers that be I've got a guest FPF tomorrow or I'd be running around my neighbors houses with my digital saying, "Hey! Whatcha got to eat? Can I take a picture of it?"

So...other than that...the phone connection has been really painful today.

Bell South...You are so dead to me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Too cute to not submit to The Ark!

Guys...if you have critter photos...cute or consider putting them up on The Ark.


As it happened, the morning was glossy with dew and the sun had not quite risen. John Rabbit marched Childe Rabbit into the gourd patch and said,

“Look here, Childe Rabbit, I wants you to stay right here and don’t move. There’s plenty to eat and I’ll come back for you round sunset, hear? I gots me some bidness to attend to.”

Childe Rabbit nodded gravely and watched his father scramble up the bank into the wood.

Then he set about the busy business of eating. Childe Rabbit ate clover and gourd leaves and nibbled on the gourds until his little tummy was quite full. Then he settled down for a long sleep.

When he awoke, the sun was high but where he rested in the gourd leaves was cool and damp. But there was a terrible noise.

Stomp, Stomp, Riiiiip! Stomp, Stomp, Riiiip!

And Childe Rabbit was sorely afeared. But he didn’t move…he was still, like his daddy taught him. But soon there were more noises!

Bark, Bark, Woof! Bark, Bark, Woof!

And Childe Rabbit was even more sorely afeared!

So he finally could stand it no longer and took off a-running!

But before his tiny legs could carry him up the bank into the woods, a great hairless thing came down and carried him far into the air!

“Well, what do we have here! I do believe it is Childe Rabbit!” said a big booming voice that belonged to the farmer woman.

At this point, the Bark, Bark, Woof, Woof noises got even louder!

And Childe Rabbit was so afeared that he squeaked most pitifully. And he wet on the farmer woman’s hands.

The farmer woman took the Barkers and Woofers and put them in the house and Childe Rabbit was less afraid.

Then she put him back in the gourd patch where he had been before and called into the woods…

Oh! John Rabbit!
Come git your baby, dangnabit!
Oh! John Rabbit!
Leave your philandering ways!

So...that was today's big adventure. Saving a baby bunny from the rabbit's bane hounds...also known as Cocker Spaniels. While I don't really want to raise it...I'll keep an eye out and hopefully its mother will come collect it tonight. If not...looks like I'll have a baby bunny to raise.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I was talking to this woman one day and since the wasps are very aggressive this time of year, we started talking about wasp stings. I’d said that I seemed to be getting more and more sensitive to them. My recovery time after getting stung is getting longer and I seem to have more difficulty breathing afterwards.

I hadn’t had many encounters with stings before. I’d had the odd yellow jacket sting and a few bee stings as a child, but since moving here, it has become something that happens fairly often.

“Well, there were a traveler who were visiting when I was a girl.” She said to me.

“I got stung right bad by a big ole wasp and he took a root out of his pocket and told me to chew on a piece of it. H’it’ were shaped just like a rattlesnake’s rattler and he called it snakeroot. I took just a bead off of it and chewed it and was all better very soon.”

She identified the root as being snakeroot.

Well, there are a gang of plants called “snakeroot’. Most of them got the name by being considered a treatment for snakebite at one time or another.

I’ve been trying to find her snakeroot based on her description of the shape of the root, but have come up empty. There are several possible candidates.

The most obvious would be Aristolochia serpentaria or Virginia Snakeroot.

James Mooney says in his Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee which lists some of the plants used locally:

UNASTE’TSITIYU ~ “very small root” ~ Aristolochia serpentaria – Virginia or black snakeroot: Decoction of root blown upon patient for fever and feverish headache, and drunk for coughs; root chewed and spit upon wound to cure snake bites; bruised root placed in hollow tooth for toothache, and held against nose made sore by constant blowing in colds. Dispensatory: “A stimulant tonic, acting also as a diaphoretic or diuretic, according to the mode of its application; ***also been highly recommended in intermittent fevers and though itself generally inadequate to the cure often proves serviceable as an adjunct to Peruvian bark or sulphate of quinia.” Also used for typhous diseases, in dyspepsia, as a gargle for sore throat, as a mild stimulant in typhoid fevers, and to promote eruptions. The genus derives its scientific name from its supposed efficacy in promoting menstrual discharge, and some species have acquired the “reputation of antidotes for the bites of serpents.”
But Virginia snakeroot doesn’t have the root structure of the plant I’m looking for.

I’m thinking a much better candidate would be Polygala senega L. or Seneca Snakeroot. This plant would have the root structure I’m looking for and has a common name of “rattlesnake root”. It’s a much better fit. I’ve seen both of these plants growing here in the mountains and know they would be available.

But I’m still sort of bemused as to why either would be given for a wasp sting, unless there was some sort of respiratory distress involved. I can see a sort of sympathetic magic justification for the Seneca. And wasp stings are self -limiting as long as there is no allergic reaction.

What do you think? Any herbalists out there with any ideas as to what she was talking about?

Disclaimer! Please don't try to go and recreate any of the traditional cures that I talk about on the blog unless you are quite sure you know what you are doing and take full responsibility for doing so. I just collect them. I don't actually use them. Some herbs previously in common use have been found to have harmful effects. And some of them are quite deadly.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Well, it's not like I didn't see it coming.

A few days I was on the porch chatting on the phone and looked up to see Chops, one of my Shetland sheep wethers, chasing Bridey-goat.

"Wow," I said, "that's not something you see every day." The sheep are normally enveloped with an almost Gallic air of ennui regarding the goats. Unless there is food in the offing...then the sheep are pretty entitled. Entitled to anything the goats are offered, evidently.

I'm very fond of my buck, Leonard. He's just such the big snuggle-puss for 9 months out of the year. He likes to come up and get his head scratched and rubs against my legs like a big kitty. He has such a good temperament and I've never felt a bit threatened by him. But I knew our quiet 9 months was coming to an end soon a few weeks ago when he sidled up to me while I was watering. I felt the warm wetness on my foot. He gazed up at me nonchalantly as I realized he'd just peed on my foot. And his "boy parts" were much bigger.

And then there is the smell. Most of the year Leonard smells pretty much as unoffensive as the does do. Granted, if you are more accustomed to the whiff of petrochemicals and city life...any goat has that certain eau de chevre. Sort of like the cheese but not nearly as delicious smelling. It's goat smell. But when a buck rutts...boy howdy...what a pong!

So I go out to feed this morning and both Leonard and Mutton are standing at Phoebe's rear end with their lips curled in the air. My two wethered sheep are clearly bent. Phoebe is all aglow with the joy of her emerging doe-hood and is not discouraging them at all.

A quick butt check of the kid herd reveals that they are all experiencing the first flush of girly goathood. Their little hoo-haa's are all puffy and Vi-Vi just can't seem to keep her tail down.

So...Leonard is busy and stinky.

I'm fairly certain it is too late. Leonard works fast. But the girls are awfully big now. Bigger than the sheep that keep following them with perverted sheep lust in their eyes.

So...I must lay myself prostrate at the feet of the wise and all-knowing Goat Yoda. My Sensei of Goatdom. Should I go get the bottle of goat-morning-after injectable? I wasn't sure before...but there can be little doubt my little darlings are bred. I still seem unable to snatch that damn pebble out of her hand.

And do I really want to go through this again in January???

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I want to thank Jill and company over at Feministe for inviting me to write for them this week. It's been a wonderful experience for me and I hope I didn't waste too much of their time. I hope all of you enjoyed the three new fiction pieces this produced. I certainly enjoyed writing them!

We will now resume our previously scheduled programing of happy goat pictures, Friend Scott adventures, serpent handlers, and me bitching about rural phone services. I'll need to recharge a bit before doing another story....unless something particularly Appalachian gonzo happens. And that is always a distinct possibility.

Thanks again, Feministe!

Oh yeah....and Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Admittedly, I spend way much more of my time around the four-legged sort of kid than the two-legged sort.

But sometimes they just take my breath away, and I have to take a picture.

Over on Feministe today, I have an essay about Growing up Appalachian.