September 2015

It all began with a little lye… Always a frugal people, the Appalachian settlers used and reused everything, including the ashes from the fireplace. Collecting the ashes from hardwood in an ash hopper, the woman of the house added rainwater (also collected) to make lye. The water seeped through the ashes, gaining acidity. Once, twice, three times through the same ashes, as it became stronger and more acidic. Invaluable to the settlers, lye had many uses, such as tanning hides and making soap. Using water, lye and animal fat or lard, the womenfolk made a gooey soap that effectively cleaned everything from pots and pans to little hands.
Corn shucking makes fun out of work Take a little trip back in time, to a century ago. You’re somewhere in Southern Appalachia, late in the evening, surrounded by deep green mountain forests noisy with the songs of crickets, owls, foxes, and off in the far distance, a family of coyotes greeting the rising moon. A ways up the dirt road, snug in a hollow between two hills, a small house with a deep front porch draws your attention. As you approach, you hear the melody of conversation punctuated with a Southern accent as it rises and falls in its unique cadence and pitch. A dozen or more people are gathered on benches, porch steps, rocking chairs, and the packed-dirt lawn, enjoying what appears to be a celebration.
close up of sunflower
Sunflowers offer beauty and nutrition from a single flower. They grace the yards of neighborhood gardeners and grow wild in mountain fields. They adorn everything from shower curtains to summer dresses. They usually evoke big smiles. And in 1987, an anonymous buyer forked over more than $39 million for a Vincent van Gogh painting of them. Of course, we’re talking about sunflowers.
A century ago, quilting wasn’t considered an art form; it was a matter of necessity. Appalachian settlers sat by the fire after the sun went down and the chores were done, sewing together warm, cozy blankets for the family. Using scraps of clothing too worn out to wear anymore, the frugal settlers made quilts that provided physical warmth and the warmth of nostalgia, as their owners wrapped themselves in the soft fabric and reminisced. With their vibrant colors and striking patterns, it soon became apparent that quilts were more than just household goods: they were works of art. And so, the era of quilt shows began, allowing quilters to showcase and sell their gorgeous quilts. Here’s a list of some fall quilt shows around the Appalachians.
Rustic furnishings to imaginative accessories Kentucky didn’t invent the log cabin, but the state may have perfected it. And it’s not due to millions of Kentuckians living in log cabins with no indoor plumbing well into the twentieth century like hillbillies lost in time. It’s because Kentuckians appreciate the simple things in life — and then enjoy crafting luxuries out of those simple things. The bourbon industry makes a fine analogy. What started as an outlaw venture making illicit liquor has become an international success story, as Kentucky bourbon is now a much-sought-after beverage. The same can be said of Kentucky cabin décor.
The farm to table movement has its heart in the right place. It aims to bring fresh, local food directly from the producer to the consumer, with no factory in between to add preservatives or extract nutrition. No one can argue with that. But not all food can be delivered from the field to your table. It does require some processing first — not to change its nutritional value, but to turn it into usable food.

See, Share, Savor, Shop and Stay

Simply Appalachian is an online magazine that touts itself as “celebrating all things Appalachian.” So within its virtual pages, you can learn about places to visit throughout a seven state region of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Some cities and towns — as well as state parks, national forests and historical destinations — go out of their way to attract tourists. Such is the subject of this month’s See, Share, Savor, Shop and Stay location.

The Upstate has the trails to challenge you. The challenge of mountain biking involves following a rugged path up inclines and down hills — which is why they call it mountain biking. No one goes to Charleston, South Carolina, on a mountain biking adventure. That would be like traveling all the way to Kansas City for lobster. But Upstate South Carolina offers trails and tribulations for even the most thrill-crazy mountain biker. At the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, the Upstate often gets overlooked in favor of the better-known trails in nearby North Carolina. To keep that from happening to you, presented here are some of the best rides in South Carolina.
Go see the beauty in the little beasts Virginia is known as the birthplace of the nation, home to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Virginia also has the first English settlement on the continent, a little fort called Jamestown. But Virginia is perhaps best known as the place for lovers, as its advertising campaign went viral long before anyone knew what “going viral” meant.