June 11, 2012 — Catawba River District Voices

Our family just returned from a wonderful vacation to Whitetop, Virginia where we got our fill of riding the Creeper Trail, hiking a few mountainsides and meandering through quaint towns.

We made a couple of observations which I thought were interesting.  Amongst the numerous dairy and Christmas tree farms were so many small country houses.  Probably 90% of them had vegetable gardens on their property. Most of the plots were average in size – enough room to provide vegetables for a family’s summer needs as well as pantry and canning supplies.  The houses were located on winding mountain roads, far removed from grocery stores.  If the cook needed an onion, a trip to local Harris Teeter wasn’t going to happen.  Having a fully stocked pantry and freezer would be necessary during those snowy winter months.  Most city families that I know wouldn’t be able to produce a meal without going to the grocery store at least once a week.  Us city-folk rarely think, plan and act ahead for our provisions.

Sarah is a friend of mine who grew up in a small mountain town in West Virginia.  She told me an intersting story about being prepared for any kind of weather.  Whenever a storm threatened her town, a normal practice was to fill the bathtub with water.  If the electricity went out, the well couldn’t operate.  The water in the tub would keep the family going with their basic needs until the lines were fixed.  Even as a married woman living in Charlotte, Sarah continued to take this precaution until her husband explained that filling up the tub wasn’t necessary in a large city.  Preparedness and self-reliance had become second-nature to her, as I’m sure it is to those whom we passed on the way to our cabin.

Another interesting observation we made was concerning the crops grown in the more mountainous terrain.  While the Catawba area gardens are brimming right now with squash, cucumbers and beans, the mountain area gardens are filled with cooler crops of cabbage, onions and lots and lots of potatoes.  Any corn I saw was ankle high, while mine is mid-thigh right now.  It was a very vivid example of different climates producing different vegetation and planting calendars.  Even though the Catwaba area gardeners have to deal with hard, red clay, we are fortunate to have such a long growing season which produces crops long into the fall.

But the mountain terrain and weather can produce something that we can’t….a wonderful supply of Christmas trees.  It almost put me in the holiday mood just seeing them.  Beautiful!