Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Have you ever heard of a chinquapin? This was one of my favorite "wild" foods to go out gathering when I was growing up. Fortunately, there was a bush that grew right at the end of my grandparent's driveway, so I never had to walk too far to get a chinquapin fix!

We always called them "chinky-pins" or "chink-a-pins". I remember how getting the little nut out of the burr was always a prickly undertaking because those little spines sure will stab you! You could wait for the burrs to open wider or even shake the chinquapins from the tree, but birds loved them as much as I did, so you had to take some risks to beat the early birds! Chinquapins start getting ripe in September and they taste very similar to a chestnut, but they are much sweeter.

It has been years since I have had a chinkypin. This coming weekend is The Chinquapin Festival in my hometown of Meadows of Dan, Virginia. If you get the chance, stop in for a visit!

Chinquapin Festival

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oops! Mystery item post

I would like to apologize to the folks who commented on yesterday's mystery item. I inadvertently managed to delete the comments and I even deleted the comment field so that no one can even comment on the reveal of what the item is!

So, if you would like to comment, here would be the place!

Again, my apologies,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mystery Item

What do you think this is?  

I know that some of you folks will get this right away.  

Others will not have a clue. 

Good luck in your guesses!

Lots of good guesses folks!   The two most common guesses were either a boot scraper or a hackle.
Drum roll please!

It is a flax hackle.  
To see a hackle being used check out the following video.

Flax Processing

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grape Pie

Have you ever had a slice of grape pie?  This was my and Grandpa Burnette's favorite pie. We would always go out together and pick the grapes that grew wild all around the farm.  Nowadays, I use Concord grapes.

Grape Pie Recipe

--Approximately 6-7 cups of concord grapes (depending on size of grapes)
--1 cup granulated sugar (I sometimes use 3/4 cup of granulated sugar & 1/4 cup of brown sugar instead.  I prefer my grape pies a bit tart so adjust sugar to suit your taste)
--dash of cinnamon
--dash of salt
--2 tablespoons of flour
--1 tablespoon butter
--use your favorite pie crust for the bottom & top (I prefer deep dish because nothing is worse than boiled over grapes in your oven!)

Wash & skin the grapes.  DO NOT throw the skins away!  Simmer the pulp for about 5 minutes then press pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds.  Throw the seeds away.  Mix the skins back in with the pulp. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour.  Pour into pie crust and dot a small amount of butter onto the top of the grape mixture.  Cover with a top crust and seal edges.  Remember to cut small holes or slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape. 

Bake in a 375F oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the crust starts to turn a golden brown and the filling begins to bubble up through the slits.  

Cool before serving. 

Concord grapes are available in the grocery store right now, so get busy making a yummy grape pie!  A word to the wise:  This pie WILL stain your teeth, tongue, and lips, so don't plan to go out in polite society without giving those teeth a good brushing!.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Getting Your Nose Buttered

How many of you have ever heard of getting your nose buttered on your birthday?  When I was growing up in the Floyd/Patrick/Carroll counties area of Virginia, it was traditional to attempt to sneak up on the birthday person and smear butter on their nose.  Even our teachers in elementary school would get in on the action, going to the cafeteria and getting the butter.

I just assumed that this was a common practice until several years ago, when I mentioned something about it to a co-worker here in Roanoke.  They looked at me like I was insane!  Then, I started asking everyone that I knew here if they had ever heard of this tradition.  No one had.   Then, I asked my husband if he had ever heard of it.  He grew up in Scott County, Virginia.  While he had not heard of that tradition, they would get soot from the chimney and smear it on the birthday person's nose.

Have you ever heard of this tradition or something similar?  Please leave a comment if you have.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Natural Dyes, Part II

When gathering plants for natural dyeing, you can't always predict the color of the dye by the outward appearance of the plant. 

Butterfly Weed

The vibrant orange coloring of this plant might make you think that you would get a beautiful dye.  Here is the dye that I obtained:

The color sample on the far right was the result with butterfly weed.  Very boring and bland!

Judging from its appearance, you would think that apple tree bark might produce a gray or brown color.

Apple tree bark 

Taking yarn out of an apple tree bark dye bath

This was the biggest surprise that I have ever had when using natural dyes!

Apple tree bark produces BEAUTIFUL colors!

Here is a rug that I wove using wool fabric strips.  The colors are all natural dyed.  

And some folks think that all natural dyes produce soft and mellow colors!

The yellow is from osage orange wood chips.  
The blue is from natural indigo,which is a plant.  
The green was produced by dyeing it with osage orange wood (yellow) first, then dipping it into indigo (blue). 
The beautiful scarlet color is from cochineal (crushed up insects!) 
The purple I produced by dyeing the wool first with the cochineal (scarlet) and then dipping it into indigo (blue).  

The dye that can be produced from plants can vary from year to year and from location to location.  The amount of rainfall, sunshine and the minerals found in soil can all affect the colors.  So you should always be sure to dye enough yarn or fabric for your project because it can be very difficult, or even impossible, to reproduce the exact same shade.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

German Potato Salad

Here is my all time favorite recipe that I used to make when I did demonstrations of fireplace cooking.  This recipe is best prepared in a cast iron Dutch oven.  (You can cook this in a Dutch oven either on the stovetop or in a 350F oven.)

That is German Potato Salad in the bowl

German Potato Salad
 7-8 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed
1  1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
12 oz bacon, cut into small pieces
2 large sprigs of fresh dill
1 medium chopped onion

Place dill in vinegar to soak.  In a Dutch oven, fry the bacon until browned.  Add the potatoes and cover.  Stir occasionally.  About 15 minutes before the potatoes are done, add the onions.  Remove the dill from the vinegar and pour the vinegar over the potatoes.  Simmer until potatoes are tender.  While cooking, if the potatoes start to stick, add a small amount of shortening or butter.  Serve HOT!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Mountain Dulcimer

IT was Christmas1982, and there was a very strange looking package under the tree. It was long and skinny and I knew that I had not asked for anything that could possibly be in that box.  Grandma and Daddy seemed all excited for me to open that package, so I went ahead and tore into it.  Inside the box was a brown instrument case.  Inside that case was a weird looking instrument that I had never seen before.

My first dulcimer was ordered from Sears & Roebuck!

They happily explained that it was a dulcimer and that they couldn't wait for me to learn to play. Er, okay . . . what is a dulcimer?!?  There was a little instruction sheet included with information on how to tune it and it also had the music for "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".  I quickly tuned the instrument and figured out how to play using a wooden noter & a pick.  Needless to say, I became bored pretty quickly with that tune!  My dad immediately started requesting that I play "Wildwood Flower", which was his favorite tune.  I had been playing that tune for years on the piano, so it was not too difficult to figure it out on this new instrument.  My dad was pleased as punch to hear me playing that tune!   (An interesting side note was that I had been playing the piano for 10 years and the trumpet for 7 and I could not play either of them by ear, but with the dulcimer, it just seemed normal to do so!)

A couple of years later,  I became very involved in Appalachian Studies while attending Radford University and I met another dulcimer player, Teresa, in one of my classes.  We started playing together during the Highland Summer Conference, sitting around at various places on campus.  We played a wonderful version of "Old Joe Clark" where one of us played harmony & the other played melody.  We also played "No Place Like Home", "The Riddle Song", and "Send the Light" just to name a few. (There is an amusing story about Teresa & me getting stuck in an elevator with our dulcimers, but I will save that for another time!) That fall, I bought my second dulcimer from Audrey Hash when I attended the Ferrum Folklife Festival.  

Audrey Hash at the Ferrum Folklife Festival circa 1985

My second dulcimer--built by Audrey Hash

Over the years since then, I have went through stages where I very seldom touch my dulcimers.  These periods are usually followed by almost manic phases where all I want to do is play and buy more dulcimers for my collection!

Unfortunately, for the last couple of years, I have not been inspired to play because I so closely associate some of my best playing with when I worked in the 1837 Hofauger House at Virginia's Explore Park.  Since the park closed, it just does not seem right to play in a modern setting.  I know that eventually, I will want to play again.

NOW, I would like to share a video of me playing when I still worked at Virginia's Explore Park, but first, I would like to tell you a bit about the tune that I am playing.

In the fall of 2006, I realized that I was not going to be able to keep and maintain my grandmother's home.  One of the hardest things was going through everything and deciding what to keep, what to sell, and what to trash.  It made me start thinking about all of the questions that I wish that I had asked my grandmother before she died. Now, there were things lost to time that I would never know the answers to.  That inspired me to write "Burnette's Lament".

View my dulcimer research paper "The Dulcimer in Southwestern Virginia"

Here is a great article from The Roanoke Times by Ralph Berrier, Jr., about the dulcimer exhibit at The Blue Ridge Institute located at Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia.