Thursday, March 12, 2009

Springtime with Grandmaw

Twenty years have passed since my Grandmaw Mary walked these hills. It is hard for me to believe it has been that long. It seems to me that I was always at Grandmaw’s side, walking our land and learning her ways. I remember about those days about this time every year. We’d walk across the holler and up the adjacent hill to her garden. She’d scoop down and grab a handful of dark earth, and she squeeze it. If it formed a ball, she’d tell me “Nope, still too wet to plant.” She’d explain that the soil should crumble in her hand it if was ready. Grandmaw would tell me, “If you plant when the ground is wet, your dirt will be as hard as the hubs of Hell.” All of these years later, I still haven’t been able to figure out where that saying came from. Does Hell have hubs? They must be hard if it does.

After checking out the garden, I remember we’d always proceed to stroll through her plum orchard. She loved her Green Gage Plums. I don’t know why but one year I noticed that there was something on the tree bark, and to me in my world, it looked exactly like chickenshit. I asked Grandmaw Mary why her plum trees had chickenshit all over them, and she laughed at me and looked at bark and told me it was black knot. She said to remind her to get some lime sulfur to put on them, she said that is the only thing that can get rid of black knot. Shortly after this time, Grandmaw started getting sick and nobody thought to apply the lime sulfur, so the trees languished a few more years but eventually died. I have wished many times over the years that I had put the lime sulfur on her Green Gage plum trees, but I was just a kid at the time.

Grandmaw Mary was a firm believer in planting by the signs. She always said to plant corn in the sign of the Crab. And you had to plant potatoes in either the sign of the Thighs or the sign of the Feet, but always in the dark of the moon. In addition, Grandmaw always liked to plant potatoes on Good Friday. I remember some of the old signs and what to plant in them, but not as many as I would like to have remembered. Grandmaw always had a good garden.

Maw & Big Six at Maw's garden.

I also remember every year at school we’d buy Grandmaw flowers. She loved purple petunia’s. At school, the high school vo-ag ran a greenhouse. All of the elementary students would get the opportunity to go every day and buy single flowers for 25 cents each or $2.00 a dozen (our school was kindergarten through 12th grade). It was always a big deal for us to save our snack money and go buy Grandmaw Mary some petunia’s. She’s keep them on her back porch and they’d get really big. Everytime you’d visit Grandmaw Mary, she’d take you out and show you the flowers that you bought her. She had several grandkids but she always remembered which kid had bought which flowers.

And of course, Grandmaw Mary loved her lilacs. I wrote an entire story about Grandmaw’s love for lilacs. Read it by clicking here.

Grandmaw Mary's Lilac Bush.

Grandmaw knew what plants or home remedies to use for common ailments. She taught me that milkweed would heal most skin conditions, including warts. She taught me that chewing a willow twig would cure a headache. She taught me that chewing birch cured an upset stomach. She taught me that tobacco spit would take the pain out of a bee sting. She taught me how to remove the heat from a burn, or to stop bleeding just by saying a certain Bible verse over it. She called it “takin’ the far out” or “stoppin’ up blood”. Nowadays people would call that faith healing. I don’t know if you all believe in that, but I sure do. I have complete faith in anything that Grandmaw Mary taught me.

Grandmaw Mary in her kitchen.

So you can see why this time of year reminds me of Grandmaw, planting the soil and all that she has taught me. I’ve always found it humorous that even though Grandmaw Mary taught me all of these things, that one time she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, without even having to think about it, I told her “I want to be a farmer.” Grandmaw Mary just looked at me and shook her head, and said, “Honey, you might as well find something else that you want to be. Only a rich man can be a farmer these days. My daddy was a farmer and he was a poor man all of his life. A poor boy like you ain’t got a chance at farming these days.” (read about Grandmaw’s Mary’s parents by clicking here). All of these years later, I see the wisdom in Grandmaw’s advice even though I’ve always wanted to be, and continue to want to be, a farmer when I grow up!!

Obligatory scenery shot. Pendleton County barn in Spring.

But for now, I get by on getting’ by, living on just the “concept” of being a farmer. I suppose you could say I am a farmer without a farm. But there is one thing that I have come to realize, though Grandmaw Mary has been gone for the past twenty years, she continues to walk this land with me everytime I step outside.


Shirley Stewart Burns, Ph.D. said...

This is like a beautiful love song to your Grandmaw. Very well said!

Vera said...

Another great story!!!!

Jason said...

I bet you're growin' a nice crop of tumors since you're living in that chemical toilet they call Charleston.

Janet, said...

I loved your story about your grandmaw. I loved my grandma, too, and still miss her. My grandpa died before I was born, but he could blow the fire out of a burn and stop bleeding by reading Ezekiel 16:6.
I love the lilac bush, grandma had one of those along with her snow ball bushes.

tipper said...

I love it when you write about Grandma Mary! And I'm glad she still walks with you-I feel like that about my Papaw who has been gone from this world for almost 16 years.

The Tile Lady said...

You have a beautiful spirit, Matthew, and I think your Grandmaw Mary is a huge part of who you are...I loved this post about her. What a wonderful lady she was!

The Tile Lady said...

You and Omie Wise found a place on my blog today...check it out! :-) And thanks again!

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi :)

I am hopping from Marie's ( The Tile Lady) blog. She is singing praises of your music and your post. I could not resist the temptation to visit you. And here I am!

Your presentation is wonderful and the way you go about telling the time you spent with your grandmaw is like a fairy tale and I wished it will continue longer. But all good things come to an end and therefore I was bit disappointed when you reached the end.

You grandmaw had a wonderful insight into farming and farming methods, great knowledge of remedies and an uncommon wisdom with simple, practical, down to earth solutions. I am amazed and wonderstruck!

Your photos are lovely and a rarity which we don't see in cities.

I must confess I enjoyed visiting your blog and had an educative, instructive,useful and enjoyable time.

Many, many thanks.

Have a wonderful day :)