Being old has its disadvantages, but something I’m glad it allowed me to witness (at age 15) was the first moon landing and walk that occurred 50 years ago this month. It was one of those moments you remember exactly. In my case it was at my boyhood home in Middlesboro, Kentucky at 10:30 on a Sunday night. Me and my dad (mom was out of town) sat there watching a small black and white television totally mesmerized as these two guys walking around on another world. I remember lots of goosebumps and feeling so happy (I was a bona fide science geek by then).
In an earlier column I wrote about our version of English I like to call Mountain Speech, a unique and very old dialect that has been retained through mountain isolation to this day, though much has been lost. I’m going through a book called Smokey Mountain English that has thousands of words and phrases collected from mountain people throughout our region by linguistic experts. I’m going through the book looking for words I heard my parents and grandparents use and thought you might enjoy seeing how many you’re familiar with.
When holidays roll around, I like to poke around for a connection with the natural world, and I found some interesting stuff about The Declaration of Independence. This most revered American document kicked off our nation’s quest to rule itself, which we celebrate on the 4th of July, Independence Day.
Thousands of years before modern medicine, people depended on medicinal plants to ease pain and aid healing. Our early pioneer ancestors learned from native Indians what plants were useful to treat maladies. Many of these plants are common in our area and easy to identify. What follows is a description of some of the more easy to find medicinals found in our area.
I like to write articles that are upbeat and positive, but this one is a total bummer. As a forester and lover of the outdoors, I’m in the woods way more than the average citizen, and over the decades have had my share of ticks. But this past year is beyond anything I’ve experienced before, finding them on me every month, including the dead of winter. Some were so small that I would miss them and let them get embedded, which is particularly worrisome with all the tick-borne diseases out there now. So this time I’m writing words of warning.
If you paid attention in health class you know that our body needs to move materials around to function properly, such as oxygen. The transportation system is the bloodstream, which utilizes red blood cells as a bucket brigade, going to the lungs via veins to pick up oxygen, and carrying it to various body locations via arteries. A tree has similar needs and uses a liquid transportation system.
If you drive down the road right now and see patches of blue in the green hayfields and pastures, it’s liable to be Lyre-leaf Sage. I have a lot of it in my fields for the first time that I can remember, as does my neighbors. It’s always been around, but I normally only see it along roadsides and field edges. It is in the same family of plants as the herbal sage used in cooking and such.
Earth Day was April 22nd and it continues to be an annual reminder that we humans impact the planet’s resources in negative ways. And since our population continues to grow and most resources are finite, it would behoove us to save some for the grandkids on down the road. Doing so includes a personal reward of conserving both resources and money. Here are some ways to do it.
Faucet Fix: Many modern faucets include aerators, which simply add bubbles to the water to increase its volume. If you have old ones, aerators can be added so you use 50% less water.
Since I’m in the woods a lot it’s reasonable to assume that I would have more ticks get on board and use me as a meal. But for the first time that I can remember I pulled ticks off every month of the year, including the winter months when they are normally dormant. That’s not right people! All of them have been the smaller deer tick, which are harder to see and feel crawling around. Now that your family is outside more with the warmer weather, best start body checking yourself and the kids. Since it’s good to know your enemy, here is a rundown on the tick lifestyle.
A family tradition my mom kept was to seek out young poke sprouts in the spring and make poke salad, a king of cooked green. Back before grocery store chains and refrigeration, country folk came out of winter craving a fresh green to eat, and poke was one of the newly sprouted plants that were sought out, along with “creesies” or spring crest.
In an earlier article I discussed the use of astrological signs to know when to plant garden and farm crops and have kin that still hold to them. Another method is using moon signs, or more properly moon phases to tell not only when to plant but also when it’s a good time to kill unwanted vegetation. In researching the subject, I have found no scientific backing for using the Zodiac or body signs, but planting by the moon may have something to it. The moon exerts strong influences on the earth, such as light, gravitational pull, and magnetism.
My grandma and grandpa Roark were really into doing farm activities according to the signs, be it planting crops, killing weeds, or dehorning cattle. And their preference was to go by a system that used human body part signs to tell when to do things: plant root crops when the signs are in the head and kill weeds when the signs are in the bowels. I grew up hearing this stuff and had no clue what they were talking about, except that they always used a calendar given out by one of the local banks that indicated what the signs were on a particular day.
An opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Powell River is coming up on April 20, when the fifth annual Powell River Regatta will take place in Claiborne County near Tazewell. This 12-mile float will let you compete (if you wish) for cash prizes in various age groups/genders and canoe and kayak styles (single or double). If you don’t want to compete, you can still get some exercise while enjoying some memorable scenery. Blue heron, ducks, kingfisher, and even ospreys and eagles have been seen during past events, and spring wildflowers will be in full swing.
Something I like to do when hiking in the woods is to look out for old house sites. It’s maybe not as grand as finding ancient ruins in Rome or South America, but it’s still historic evidence that someone was here during an earlier time and impacted the land. It’s still archeology, just more recent, say within the last 200 years. Like ancient ruins, usually the only manmade structures remaining are stonework, such as chimneys, foundations, and retaining walls.