Posting an entry on the “Foxfire” series of books isn’t news in the prepper world, by any means. I’ve had volumes 1 through 6 for a good 10 years. For anyone not familiar, however, these are well worth mentioning because of the information preserved given directly by folks who not only survived, but thrived without any of the things we take for granted in our technologically advanced world, and what these books contain in knowledge is better than gold in a grid down scenario. Especially interesting are the ‘old school’ snippets from folks who provide the information on the chapters. The directions provided are ample instruction in how to perform the task being read about; when performing any series of tasks, it’s easy for the reader to understand why folks off the grid are up before dawn and don’t stop until after dark: It’s an all day job every day.
This non-fiction book is a collection of articles and essays about traditional life in the Appalachian Mountains. The novel opens with “this is the way I was raised up,” written by Mrs. Marvin Watts, which chronicles the childhood of one woman living in the Appalachians in the early part of the [20th] century. Following this essay, an interview with a kindly elderly woman, “Aunt Arie,” is presented, in which Arie describes her traditional cooking methods, her upbringing in the Appalachian Mountains, and her triumphs and trials as an older woman alone in a log cabin in the mountains. “Wood,” “Tools and Skills,” “Building a Log Cabin” and “Chimney Building” are presented next as a set of articles designed to educate readers on the materials, skills, tools, and processes involved in building a log cabin. The next set of articles discusses the white oak split and its various uses. “White Oak Split” describes the creation of splits. These splits are thin pieces of prepared white oak wood, commonly used in homemade baskets, bedding, chairs, and hampers. The following articles, “Making a Hamper out of White Oak Splits” and “Making a Basket out of White Oak Splits” describe the use of the white oak split to create various household items.
The next four articles pertain to the creation of household items and necessities. In “An Old Chair Maker Shows How,” Lon Reid explains how to build a chair completely from scratch, using only homemade tools. “Rope, Straw, and Feathers are to Sleep on” presents stories, written directly in the dialect of the speaker, of four woman’s memories surrounding the types of beds they have used throughout their lives. In “A Quilt is Something Human,” the woman of the community discuss the art of quilt making, including the traditions and customs associated with the practice. “Soapmaking,” based on an article written by a student about her grandmother, interviews four women who give tips and tricks on how they make their own soap.
Five articles are presented next that discuss cooking and preserving foods. In “Cooking on a Fireplace, Dutch Oven, and Wood Stove,” these three cooking devices, still in use in many Appalachian cabins, are explained and photographed. In “Mountain Recipes,” twenty-nine recipes, often detailed in the dialect of the speaker, are given, including recipes for stews, vegetables, breads, cakes, pies, and beverages. “Preserving Vegetables,” also written in dialect, explains how to preserve vegetables using drying, burying, and pickling methods. “Preserving Fruit,” continues the discussion, explaining how to bleach and dry fruits, as well as how to make syrups, jams, jellies, and preserves. “Churning Your Own Butter” describes the churning process in full, and includes photographs of homemade churns and individuals practicing the act of churning.
The following three articles describe the slaughter, curing, and cooking of hogs, a traditional form of meat used in the Appalachian Mountains. “Slaughtering Hogs” describes the early methods of slaughtering a hog, many of which are still used in this area. In “Curing and Smoking Hog,” the various ways to perform each task are outlined. “Recipes for Hog” explains recipes for eighteen parts of the hog, including the tongue, brain, heart, and head, as well as more common areas. The next two articles, ‘Weather Signs” and “Planting by the Signs” discuss the folklore and traditions surrounding weather prediction and farming by the signs of the Zodiac. “Weather Signs” informs readers of weather prediction techniques using animal, plant, and insect behaviors, as well as by weather patterns, fire behaviors, and moon cycles. “Planting by the Signs” first explains the traditional planting method using the signs of the Zodiac, and explains how each sign is related to the planting, reaping, and harvesting of crops. “Home Remedies” records homemade cures and folklore procedures for curing forty-seven different ailments, ranging in alphabetical order from arthritis to yellow jaundice. These recipes include common-sense formulas such as a cast made from red clay for a broken bone, modern folklore concepts such as using magnets for arthritis pains, and potentially lethal advice such as holding a baby with croup over a burning saucer of turpentine.
Three articles are presented involving the art of hunting in the Appalachian Mountains. “Hunting” presents stories, written in the dialect of the speakers, told by the older generation of citizens in the community relating to hunting various games, such as bear, raccoon, and deer. “Dressing and Cooking Wild Animal Foods” explains how to cure, dress, and cook eleven different game species, including turkey, frog, turtle, possum, and others. “Hunting Tales” presents ten stories of hunting humor and tales of nearly missed large game.
In “Snake Lore,” local residents tell twenty-one tales of snakebites, near bites, and legendary snakes. “Moonshining as a Fine Art” recounts the history of moonshine, a common practice in the Appalachian Mountains, and discusses each step in the creation of the illegal drink. In “Faith Healing,” interviews with those who practice the questionable art of healing through faith are presented. These interviews and stories of healing are presented in an unbiased way, allowing the reader to draw conclusions on their validity.
Three other articles are presented within this book, those of “Daniel Manous,” “The Buzzard and the Dog” and “Hillard Green.” In “Daniel Manous,” Mr. Manous describes an encounter with a snake handler preacher who learns the difference between listening to the will of God and listening to humankind. In “The Buzzard and the Dog,” resident Bill Lamb tells an amusing tale of a buzzard tricked into thinking a dog was deceased by the smell of rotten fertilizer. The final article, “Hillard Green,” is perhaps the most telling article of the book. Hillard Green is a local resident situated far into the Appalachian Mountains. Hillard tells of his opinions on government, monetary gain, parenting, women, space flight, and the eventual destruction of the modern world. While dark in content, the article is presented with a feeling of righteousness and dignity that perhaps only those of the naturalistic, money-free mountain life can truly understand.
You can get these just about anywhere, including eBay and Amazon. Enjoy.