Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Picking Up PawPaws

The pawpaw harvest at Polecat Creek Farm both commenced and ended today. I didn't think I'd be able to get to them this year, but John drove me down to the bottoms in the '71 Ford truck so I didn't have to walk so far. Luckily, he'd bush-hogged the bottoms the day before, so I getting to the trees was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The pawpaw trees are on the other side of this field:

To get there, we passed a creepy sight—a skeleton in the woods. A deer skeleton, that is.

And we passed this creepy tree along the creek. Part of it looks like an animal face.

Just past the tree, I spotted the first pawpaw. The pawpaw is a fruit native to America, but it's only available for a short time. It doesn't travel well or last long, so you aren't likely to see it in stores.

The line of pawpaw trees is to the right of this field.

Soon a few more pawpaws came into view.

Some were on the ground and showed signs of being gnawed on by critters. Pawpaws have a wonderful taste—a little like a banana-mango combination.

Farther along the creek were a few more pawpaws. They were hard to spot among the leaves unless we looked closely.

We could reach some, but John had to shake the tree to get the ones on the higher branches. The pawpaws were ripe, so they fell easily. We probably did more picking up than actual picking.

Before long, I had a bag full—the entire harvest on this side of the creek.

We crossed Polecat Creek to see if there were pawpaws on the east side.

We found more signs that critters had been nibbling.

The pawpaw trees are at the end of this field on the left.

Yep, there were a few.

After some more tree-shaking, we managed to get another bag full from this side.

The pawpaws this year were actually fairly small, but we got lots more than we did last year.

Pawpaws, which only stay fresh for a few days after picking—or picking up—have a wonderful aroma and flavor.

To eat, you cut one open to reveal the creamy inside and the seeds . . .

You can scoop the custardy inside out with a spoon or just slurp it up.

Before long, only the skins and seeds are left.

To learn about pawpaws, check out the Kentucky State University "Pawpaw Description and Nutritional Information" website or the KSU pawpaw page.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013


Tanner is sometimes so fascinated with my computer (and my iPad) that I consider him an iCat. The other day I was watching this NPR video on my iMac when Tanner became a little too interested.

He kind of liked the bagpipes . . . 

. . . and wanted to get closer to them.

But he really loved the accordion.

I think he wanted to be one with the music.

Tanner: If I can just  pry off this screen, I can get in there and play along.

But he couldn't figure out how to get inside the computer so he could join the musicians.

It's not easy sharing an iMac with a certain kitty. But I'm glad he doesn't play the accordion or the bagpipes.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bethel Church Revisited

Last Sunday, I attended the annual Holland reunion, which is always held on the grounds of Bethel Church in Union Hall, Virginia. Nearly a century ago, my grandparents—Joe and Sally Smith—traveled by horse and buggy to attend this Primitive Baptist church, which is surrounded by a very old graveyard.

 Elder John Reid Martin, my great-great-grandfather who preached there in the 1800s, is buried near the church. 

The previous time I'd visited the churchyard, his grave was blocked by boxwood. Now it's trimmed so his stone is visible.

 Here's a closer look.

And an even closer look.

Inside the church, his picture hangs behind the pulpit. He's the second one on the right.

While the church now has electricity and indoor plumbing (and Venetian blinds), the pews still look old. Did my grandparents sit in these? Chances are there were no cushions in the old days.

Near Martin's grave are many older graves, most marked by only field stones.

When I'm at Bethel Church, I usually visit the grave of Minnie McBride, who was murdered on her 17th birthday in 1908. A rosebud is carved into the top of her stone.

Some buried buried at Bethel Church had even shorter lives than Minnie. There are numerous children's graves, like the one for this little girl who "never bloomed, a rarer bud of promise."

Another little girl died a month short of her first birthday.

Some lived a long time—90 years for Mr. Matthews.

Some stones are scattered or overturned.

Some are unreadable.

But more recent ones are orderly.

Some verses of Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" could apply here. Like these:

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
         Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
         The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
* * *
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
         And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
         The paths of glory lead but to the grave.


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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Foggy First Day

The first day of autumn (which really doesn't begin until tomorrow, but today was certainly autumn-like) was foggy and misty and cool.

The view from my front lawn.

A buzzard crosses Bar Ridge Road

Color appears in the leaves.

Fallen leaves along the sides of Blacksmith Road.

Pods on the redbud are almost ready to fall.

Leaves on the pin oak are turning brown.

Leaves litter the old glider.

The zinnias are fading and going to seed.

The rudbekia hangs on, though. . . 

. . . and so does this blanket flower.

Spider webs appear.

Even the cats sport fall colors.

The pasture is full of goldenrod.

But the leaves are definitely changing.

Fall is here—even though it doesn't officially begin until tomorrow.