Friday, August 15, 2014

Jar Flies and Cannin' Jars

Well, late summer is upon us, isn't it?  Just the other day I happened to hear the first solid sign that the summer days are soon to be waning away...a jar fly.  Do you all know what I'm talking about?  Some people call them cicadas, some even locusts, but growing up I always heard my Appalachian family call them jar flies.  Whatever you call them, there is no mistaking that the jolting, buzzing sound of one of those bugs coming from the trees means summer's days are numbered.  When I was a little girl, it was one of those sounds I dreaded hearing.  I knew school days would be around the corner and I was about to give up summer's sweet freedom!  I always did well in school, but summertime was just my favorite, and the start of a new school year inevitably made my shy little self a hair bit nervous.  And I'll tell you a little this day, when I hear a jar fly buzzing away, it about gives my stomach butterflies!  Can any of you all relate?

Now I don't know where jar flies got their name...whether it is their "jarring" sound, or if some curious soul once tried to catch some in a jar...but, connection or not, I'm going to talk about canning jars now.  How's that for a transition?!

But before I get too far into this little discussion, I just have to clear my conscience some.  So, confession time (head hanging low in shame)...I don't can.  Never have.  Maybe never will!  (Okay, that last sentence is a bit of an exaggeration...some day when I'm sitting around with very little to do, maybe I'd like to try it.  But aren't those "very little to do" days awfully hard to come by?)  I'm more of a freezer girl (prefer the taste)...and let me tell you, I've got some very fond memories of eating my Kentucky mamaw's frozen homegrown strawberries and cream corn.  But, in all fairness, canning has its place…and it certainly has a huge place in Appalachian history and heritage.  And home canned garden items are certainly better than those from a store!  Now I know that canning is not exclusive to Appalachian culture.  Once upon a time, canning was a way of life throughout much of America...particularly rural America.   If you worked hard to grow your own food, you had to preserve it somehow.

Aunt "Oh So Sweet's" Appalachian garden…I see some tomatoes nearly ready for a cannin' jar!
  But I know many Appalachian women did a great job of passing down the tradition of home canning (even when home canning was no longer an absolute necessity) helping preserve the practice for future generations to learn and enjoy.  And I would say canning is still worth pun intended...okay, maybe a little intended!

When I was growing up, my mother was one of those women with Appalachian roots who was keeping the canning tradition alive.  She canned all the time.  If the folks in our northern town would have seen the shelves lining our basement walls filled with all the homegrown canned goods, they may have asked if we were planning for World War III!  Ever heard that old Barbara Mandrell song, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool?"  Back then, I didn't know of anyone else around us that canned their own food items…it just wasn't a "popular" thing to do apparently.  But you know what is so neat?…all the old ways seem to have come back around. There is now a huge "grow your own food" movement, and in turn, preserving that bounty has once again become a popular focus.  For example, check out this great little list from the Ball company of places around the country that offer canning classes.  Hope you find one from your state on the list!  Canning has certainly regained some of its popularity…and being "country" is cool.  But now we knew that all along, didn't we?!

How about you?  Did you, or someone from your family in Appalachia, keep the tradition of canning alive?   Why not give it a try yourself if you never have?  And, yes, I promise to give it a try one of these days too!  What a fun project it would be to try with older kids, to teach them about an aspect of their Appalachian roots.  Check out this great article, "Canning with Children" from the Canning Across America website.  You know, we've got to teach those young ones where they're from, so they have some idea of where they're going!  

Well, the fact that I have never actually tried canning yet certainly hasn't stopped me from paying homage to the canning traditions of my Appalachian heritage.  I love having some old canning jars around to decorate with.  I am so blessed to have a big old half gallon jar that used to belong to my mamaw from Kentucky.

My mamaw's old mason jar filled with cinnamon sticks!
 It doesn't have a lid...and my word, it is well-used.  But I love it beyond belief!  And, if that jar could talk...oh, the stories it might tell!

My mamaw kept her canned goods in a warmhouse.  Ever heard of one?  Part of the warmhouse was built into a bank to keep the temperature nice and cool on hot summer days, and to keep things from freezing in the winter.  My mamaw's warmhouse is still standing, and I still love to go inside it and take in the earthy smell.  There is no other smell like it, and it's hard to describe...but it somehow smells of garden goodness, sweetness, and deep, rich earth.  It brings back a thousand memories to stand in that space, and now owning one of Mamaw's old jars allows me to relive just a few of those sweet Appalachian memories in my own home today.

My mamaw's old warmhouse
I have another smaller jar given to me by my mother that originally came from my mamaw as well.  This one I have filled with marbles.

 Did you ever play marbles growing up?  Now that's a fun Appalachian tradition worth preserving as well!  I promise to talk more about marbles in a future post.

Of course, I love heading to antique stores and looking for all kinds of pieces that are reminiscent of my mountain heritage...and good old mason jars are some of those pieces I enjoy finding.  Here is a nice blue set I found that I keep in my kitchen.

Most of the time I actually leave them empty, but at Christmas I will often fill them with candy canes.  Even though this set likely didn't come from Appalachia, it reminds me of it...and that's all that counts, right?

Are you the crafty sort? If so, you've probably noticed that mason jar craft ideas are everywhere anymore.  So if you are looking for some cute ideas for any heirloom or antique finds you happen to have, check out Country Living's 50 Best Ways to Use Mason Jars. So many adorable ideas!  And bonus, there is even a link to a "beginner's guide to preserving your own foods," in case you want to go ahead and give that actual canning a try!

And if you do have any old canning jars around your place, it's always fun to find out the age of those jars.  This Living Homegrown site has a great little chart you can use to help identify the time period of your Ball mason jars. I was so thrilled to find that my mamaw's half gallon jar I mentioned above dates from the period 1923-1933! LOVE that! comes the best part of this post...because free printables are always a wonderful thing!  And, boy, did I ever have fun creating this free Appalachian themed canning jar printable for you!

  You can print, frame and hang it for yourself...or give it as a gift to someone who may be missing the mountains of home a little. Just click here to download your own free copy.  It's my way of saying thank you for stopping by and letting me talk your ear off about jar flies and canning jars! Hope you enjoy!  And hope to see you back here soon to celebrate a little bit more of our mountain heritage!


Monday, August 4, 2014

Celebrating the Beauty of a Trip "Back Home"

Welcome, all!  I'm so glad you came to sit a spell with me as I share my first ever post here on Appalroot Farm!  Can you tell I'm just the least little bit excited?!  I've got so many ideas and inspirations that I'm looking forward to sharing with you.  Let me tell you, it has been a challenge and a half to pick which one to start with!  But all things have a beginning, you know.  And the beginning sounds like as good a place as any to begin this blog! (After that sentence, I know you're thinking, "Bless her heart, this lady must be a case!")  Of course, in our case, the beginning I'm speaking of is Appalachia.  If you're reading this blog, I'm just going to assume that some part of your past…or, if I may, your "beginning," is rooted somewhere in those beautiful southern Appalachian mountains.  So, first and foremost, I'm going to encourage you to get back to those roots…literally!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do just that...revisit my Appalachian roots in person.  I am so blessed to still be able to travel to my grandparents' little farm tucked away in a very special corner of the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian foothills. So many days of my childhood were spent playing on that farm on one of our many trips back "home" with my mom and dad.  My dear mamaw and papaw are now gone, but my aunt (who I just have to stop and say is the very epitome of all things good, gracious, and oh so sweet about southern hospitality) still resides at the old home place.

Me with Aunt "Oh So Sweet" on the old front porch in Kentucky
And now one of the best parts of still going back is getting to share the beauty of those hills with my husband and children.  I mean, really...have you ever stopped and noticed just how breathtakingly beautiful Appalachia truly is...I mean really noticed?

Maybe you've been there what seems like a thousand times, maybe you were born there, maybe you haven't been back since you were a kid, or maybe your roots are there but you've never stepped foot in Appalachia.  Whatever your situation may be, I hope you will get an opportunity to visit Appalachia soon to take note of that beauty in person...but if not in person, maybe at least in heart, through this post and others you may read.  There is nothing like a trip back to remind yourself what a lovely region it really is.  What a special gift God gave us to be rooted in such a pretty and stunning don't forget to celebrate that by returning as often as you can!

And, I don't know about you, but when I travel somewhere, I like to take something back home with me as a souvenir.  So why not capture a little piece of Appalachia's beauty to take home with you on your next trip? One of my favorite things to do is add little touches of mountain culture to my home's decor.  Those little touches sure can be like a big old hug if I'm having a bad day.  One fun and simple way I've added a touch of my Appalachian heritage to my home is with photos done in canvas prints.  The great thing about this idea is that you don't have to be particularly crafty to pull it off…and it's relatively easy to capture some great shots with just a few pointers.  And even if you find yourself with nothing but your iPhone on your next trip to Appalachia…'cause let's face it, not all of us are professional photographers (and that includes little old me)…there are still ways to capture a "decor worthy" photo.  This easy to understand article has some great tips for iPhone photo taking

Here is my canvas print "tribute" to my Appalachian roots.

This display hangs in my family room where I can enjoy it often.

Okay, you're probably wondering what's up with the photo on the left.  No, you're right, it's not in Appalachia.

 My sweetheart of a husband (who I oh so lovingly have dubbed "city boy," even though he was born and raised in a smaller town than I was) is from northern Ohio…and of course he just couldn't be left out.  That photo is from his hometown, and the other two are from my mamaw and papaw's old farm in Kentucky.

 I kind of like how it's a blend of the two of us up on the wall.  It's like my version of home decor fusion cuisine…or something like that!

Anyhow, if you want to try the canvas prints for your own Appalachian photos, there are so many places where you can order them.  Snapfish is a great site with a canvas option  But many store photo departments offer canvas prints as well, including Walmart  And you can personalize the effects to match your taste…black and white, sepia, color, etc.  And bonus...there's no frame you have to purchase! It's the little things that count now, you know!

So I hope you have fun putting together your own canvas prints of a special place you know about, or just happen to discover on your next trip to the mountains! I would love to hear from you, so don't forget to drop me a comment and let me know what you find to be the most beautiful and "photo worthy" scenes and aspects of Appalachia.

 Oh, and let me know how your trip "back home" went, too!

Hope you'll join me next post as I continue to share more tips, ideas, and inspiration for celebrating our unique (and don't forget BEAUTIFUL) mountain heritage!