The Plum

plum editedWe call it The Plum.  It’s the prettiest moonshine that we make.  The shine is made from my PawPaw’s PawPaw’s recipe in a copper still just like it was a hundred years ago.  In each jar, we put 13 sweet plums from the trees my great-aunt planted after the ’37 flood.  Thirteen because that’s the number of the disciples plus Jesus, the number of full moons in a year, and the number of children PawPaw’s grandmother birthed.  Not counting the ones she buried before the rest of them buried her.

The river-soaked land fed those trees well and the plums we harvest are the best you’ve ever had.  They’re a beautiful dark ruby color and as they soak in the shine, they release their juice and turn the shine a color that reminds me of a summer sunset when you just know it’s going to storm in a few hours – the sky all dramatic with bright color and swirling clouds.  I love twirling the mason jars in my hands so as to get those plums moving round and round – the shine gets prettier and prettier as the movement releases even more color from the plums.

Yes, I’m a moonshiner’s daughter and even though I wasn’t the longed for son, Daddy taught me the art.  He passed a few years ago so now it’s just Mama and me making The Plum.  Folks come from miles away to buy it.  One fella bought 40 cases of it – 6 jars to a case!  I asked him what he was going to do with that much shine.  He said, “Why drink it, of course!  Me and my friends just love this stuff.”

He asked me why my Mama and me weren’t more afraid being on our own and selling shine.  What he meant was being without a man to protect us.  I told him that I’m meaner than a wildcat and my daddy taught me to shoot just as well as he taught me to  ‘shine.  He laughed, but I wasn’t making a joke.

He came back every year for The Plum.  The third year, Mama said to me, “He’s courting you.  Or trying to.  Be friendly at least.”   I hushed her and went on stringing beans.   The stuff that get in her head!  I could tell you stories.

Every year he came and each time he stayed a bit longer to visit.  One time he came when a storm was stirring and we put him in my bedroom and I slept with Mama. She hissed, “Foolish girl!  That man is trying to court you.”  I was beginning to think she was right, but he left the next morning.

A few months later, he drove up the holler when we wasn’t expecting him.  He announced he was there to help us ready for winter.  We use a wood stove to heat with and the mountain winters need a lot of wood.  I was used to doing it, but thankful to have the help all the same.

That night, he slept in my bed and I slept on the sofa.  Before either one of us did much sleeping, we did a lot of talking and a fair amount of sipping us some Plum.  By then, I figured Mama was right.  Still and all, I was surprised when he leaned over and kissed me when I was telling him about helping to calf a cow.  So, yes, he kissed me and then he said his goodnight.

I tried to figure out whether or not I should go get in my bed too.  I spent most of the night wrestling with that question, but I did finally fall asleep.  I woke to the smell of sausage sizzling and biscuits baking.  I was surprised to find him in the kitchen doing the cooking.  And playing a mandolin, soft and sweet as the dawn.  I kissed him.  He wrapped his arms around me and said, “I’ve been waiting on that.”

We got married three days later.

Yesterday, I birthed a boy.  Daddy would have been so tickled.

Daddy loved me, but he longed for a boy.  It’s nice now, being loved partly because I am a girl.  I’m a moonshiner’s daughter and now I’m a moonshiner’s wife.  He learnt real quick.  I expect I’ll be a moonshiner’s mother.  My family has been making The Plum for generations, but now it has a love story to sweeten it even more.  Maybe it’s always had a love story, but I’m making sure this one gets told.


This  was born of a writing prompt.  The prompt was to listen to Rhiannon Giddens’ Moonshiner’s Daughter and write a thousand words or so.  This was my offering.

The Year Without a Spring

a lot of workLenora Swann felt a great wave of sadness while in the midst of the downward dog asana. She tried to breathe through the stretch while straightening her legs and arching her back, but the sadness threatened to overwhelm her balance.

She strengthened her resolve with self-talk and successfully walked her hands up to her feet, wrapped the fingers of each hand around its respective ankle and brought her nose to her knees. The burn in the back of her thighs was intense yet satisfying.

She straightened up, brought her hands into position and silently said Namaste to her reflection in the mirror. With that, her yoga was done for the day.

The sadness persisted, however.

The rain wasn’t helping. Today, it was freezing rain and chilling winds. Tomorrow would be 85F and humid. It was the year without a spring.

Lenora sighed and embraced the sadness while hugging herself.

Lenora delighted in spring. That season in Appalachia was almost unbearable in its sweetness and beauty. The sky would be a crystalline blue, the greens magnificent in their intensity, and the daffodils, Lord the daffodils, could make one weep with their joie de vivre.

Yes, the daffodils bloomed at the appropriate time on the calendar. And the rains provoked the greening. But without the blue sky and mild temperature, the beauty of it all was subdued. The rain beat the peonies to the ground and the humidity wilted the green leaves.

Her feelings were similar to those of an unrequited love affair. She simultaneously hoped for mild zephyrs and brilliant sun while mourning their absence. To hope, to mourn. The sadness threatened to overcome her.

Lenora fought against the tears and braved the chilling rain to cut irises to put in a vase. With disgust, she picked a snail off the bright yellow bloom and wielded her shears to cut more. She would fill the house with blooms. She vowed to beat the sadness.

There was green. There were flowers. The scent of the peonies was no less intense for the weather.

She moved through the garden like a human combine. Peonies, irises, roses and mock orange. Ferns, Lily-of-the-Valley. She would requite the love affair through her own efforts. If spring couldn’t be bothered, she could.

The cut glass vase an old lover had given her was quickly filled. Lenora pulled more vases from underneath the sink. Yes, she would fill the house with the colors and scents of spring. While the weather outside belied the calendar, it was comfortable in her home.

Soon her jeans were soaked from the hem to her knees. Her hair was ropey from the freezing rain. Her shoes muddy. She was cold and shivering.

She did fill her home with flowers in each of the rooms. She took the teakettle off the stove and brewed hot, strong, sweet tea to sip from a flowered Wedgewood teacup. Another gift, but this one from an old friend who had since died.

She filled the old clawfoot tub, took off her clothes, turned off the lights, lit a candle and slid into the warm bath. She listened to the rain on the old tin roof.

The candlelight lit the white petals of the fragrant peonies and Lenora’s spirit soared.

It was going to be okay. It was. She stood in the tub, turned and positioned herself in Namaste and bowed to the flowers. She whispered, “The spirit in me bows to the spirit in you.”

The year without a spring couldn’t kill the hope in Lenora’s heart. The year without a spring taught Lenora the power of resiliency. The year without a spring provoked Lenora to bloom and create beauty out of the mundane routines of a cold, rainy day.

Lenora, wrapped in her robe, wandered through her home visiting the flowers. She felt a quiet joy that replaced the sadness. Lenora, once again, was enjoying the season.

The Winter of My Content

march snow 034The past four days have been an adventure.  Between Wednesday night and Thursday, I found 10 inches of snow outside The Barn.  With great glee, I celebrated the announcement that a certain community college was closed both Thursday and Friday.  At my place of employment, this means we are also closed and I don’t have to burn vacation days due to heavy snow.  It doesn’t take a lot of snow to trap me on the hill and nearly a foot was way overkill.

We had eight inches of snow over the President’s Day weekend.  I ended up with a full week off of work.  It was a lovely respite, but I did nothing but sleep, eat, read and watch Downton Abbey.

I had big plans for these four days off, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”  I seem to be in major nesting mode – I want The Barn to look as wonderful as I think it is, so a thorough cleaning was in order.  I also was looking forward to cooking.  After not cooking for most of the past ten years, I’m suddenly interested in it again.

march snow 003Day 1 of my four-day weekend, Thursday, I did some triage cleaning (Chez Barn was/is a Superfund Site) and finally finished putting all the Christmas stuff away.  Yes, yes.  I know, March, but, hell, it was July one year. I’m ahead of schedule!  It was so nice having my living room back that I wallowed in that room and admired the gorgeous snow and sunshine out my window.  It was very Dr. Zhivago-ish.  I also made the starter dough for a new sticky bun recipe.  I’m on a quest for the perfect sticky bun.  The potato soup I made for dinner was spectacular!  I could win a soup contest, my potato soup is just that good.

Friday morning, I woke up with a head of steam to clean and bake.  I turned the starter dough into finished dough and had it set to rise when the power went out at 9 a.m.  I trundled my butt-that-doesn’t-need-even-a-single-sticky-bun-much-less-a-dozen down to my folks’ house to see if they had power.

march snow 057They didn’t.  But they had a fireplace and the hearth proved a perfect spot to make old-fashioned percolator coffee.  After visiting with them for awhile, I took the big camera out for a photo shoot of Ma Nature’s glorious handiwork.  I tromped around Onafork and took some stellar photos, some mediocre, and some just bad.  (See the gallery below.)

When I returned, I called Appalachian Power and reported the outage.  I was told it would be repaired at 10 p.m. Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I was miffed.  One cannot clean and bake in a cold, dark house with no electricity.  I mean, really, it already looks like I clean in the dark.

potato soupBy the afternoon, The Barn was getting cold – 55F, to be exact.  I trundled back down to my folks’ after defrosting the windows of my car and cleaning off the snow.  I wanted to be ready in the event of an emergency.

We all sat around drinking coffee, laughing about how we were out of wood and having to burn old software manuals, and eating the leftover potato soup I made on Thursday.

Software manuals put out a great deal of heat.  We were comfortable and told stories.  Eventually, I went back home to sleep.  I have a heavy down comforter on my bed as well as a heavy bedspread.  I was confident I would be warm enough.  And I was.

march snow 006Saturday, I went back down to the parents’ house, because the only way to be comfortable in my then 42F house was to be in the bed.  One can only stay in bed alone for so long.  Plans were made for them to go to a hotel.  I decided to stay here and tend to critters.  By that time, we were down to broken furniture to burn in the fireplace.  A cheesy “wood” chair made in Yugoslavia doesn’t burn nearly as well as do software manuals.  Surprise, surprise.

Nonetheless, I was all zen and accepting of life’s curve ball when I discovered I had left my car running, ran the battery down and my phone was down to 10% power.  The only way I had to charge the phone was the car charger and that wasn’t going to work with a dead battery.  I lamented on Facebook and my friend/contractor sent his son over to jump my car.

I have been so blessed with the people in my life.  My boss texted me often to see if there was anything she could do to help.  Other friends called.  My Facebook world fretted about my well-being.  I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the friendships I have, but I’m very grateful.

at my parentsSaturday evening was spent in a haze of wine and contentment.  It would have been nice to have had some music, but, alas, I was short of that perfection.  I left my folks’ house at about 11 p.m. and returned to my toasty bed.  If nothing else, I did get a lot of sleep.  I drifted off convinced that the power company was lying to me and I would wake to power on Sunday morning.

Well.  I woke up this morning and I still didn’t have power.  Zounds!

Back like a boomerang, I went to my parents’ house yet again.  The fire had gone out and I couldn’t get that Yugoslavian chair to light to save my life.  Besides the cold factor, the more important problem was that I couldn’t make coffee.  I have a serious coffee addiction.  It was a dire situation.  After about an hour, in walked my parents with coffee and sausage biscuits.  Again, I was suffused with gratitude.

And then the power came back on, well before 10 p.m.  There was great celebration and I returned home to bake and clean and blog and upload photos and do laundry and put emergency light sources away…and…and…

It’s been a wonderful day.   The sticky buns turned out a tad gummy, but recipe tweaking should take care of that.  The house is still a mess and laundry isn’t even half done, but I am happy and content. These days  it’s good to be me – the winter of my content.  Contentment may well be the best state of being.  I know I’m certainly enjoying it.

 

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