Submitted by Martha Eakin on Sun, 06/22/2008 - 16:50.


Ducking under a branch loaded with beechnuts took me back a lot of years to when I was 5, 6  and 7, and I spent large portions of the summer with my Grandma, in Mansfield.  She was legally blind, but she lived by herself across the street from a big park.  I played for hours in the park.  There were towering trees-and I don’t think they seemed tall just because I was small-and deep, green shade.  The German lady who stopped in daily to see if my Grandma needed help with anything introduced me to beechnuts.  There’s a good bit of work involved in the shelling; they are tiny and triangular, but I remember them as a special treat.  An online search brought up comments about their being bitter, but I don’t remember bitterness at all.  What I remember is collecting bucketfuls of the burr-like nuts and going back to Marie’s house where we sat at the kitchen table with her family, opened the nuts and ate them.


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so today...beechnuts?

Well, Martha, did you eat a beechnut today? If so, was it bitter?

chinese chestnuts

It could be a European beech, but the photo doesn't look like Fagus grandifolia.

When I was in grade school,

When I was in grade school, our school house was a two room (big room - little room) place heated with a pot bellied stoves and recess was a delight because there was a huge beechnut tree that stood out on the hill and it was covered with beechnuts and we would gather our dress tails in a wad making a pouch and fill them with beechnuts - we'd fill our pockets, pails, or whatever we had with beechnuts - there was another  big beechnut tree across the creek but one year somebody cut it down across the road at halloween.  it was a good five feet through the middle.

I love beechnuts.  Of course, your right, you have to shell a gallon to a good bite. 

The trunk of the one is still standing and whenever I get the opportunity to go that way down in sticks, I always look to see if that old tree is still there.  It's just about done for but the huge roots are still clinging to the earth like big veins holding on for dear life.  The big boulders that we played on are still there but the old school house has been gone for many years.  It was one of those "little house on the prairie" deals.



  Jerleen, while we are on the topic of food reminisces, can you tell me anything about chickweed? 

One of the babushkas in the neighborhood was out collecting chickweed this past week.  She found some in my front yard and scurried away when I tried to converse with her.  I tried my best "Dobry den!" too.  Oh well--secrets are sometimes secrets for a good reason.

Let me see, the only thing I

Let me see, the only thing I know about chickweed is that it is a common yard weed, kinda like dandelion.  You make tea of it - dried or fresh.  It is used as a laxative or for coughs.  I know they kept it around for the cold and flu season. 

The old wives' tale - which I don't really don't know for sure if it is so or not is that down in the hills, now don't laugh and please don't anybody get offended, but they said that fat ladies drank a lot of the tea because it would make them skinny.  That's the gist of what I know about chickweed except it has white blooms on it.  

I'm not real sure, but seems like I remember that you could also make a poltice out of it too, for what I don't recall - buth then they had so many different rubs and potions down in the hills - it's hard to tell what they rubbed you down with----or for.

Folk wisdom

  If I laugh at anything you say Jerleen--I laugh with you.  I enjoy your homespun wisdom and hope that a book is in the works!

Jerleen, I would love to

Jerleen, I would love to read a book written by you.  I was thinking just the other day when I was reading your posts, how easy it is to read your words and how enriching your memories are for the soul.  You speak from the heart and I think that is a rare quality these days. 

Ladies, when you are raised

Ladies, when you are raised up and I literally mean "raised up" in the hills, it's not funny at the time, but looking back, you can actually start laughing and not quit at some of the stuff folks not only did, but lived by and whole heartedly believed in.  Sometimes, I actually find it a miracle that we made it through without being poisoned, used as test rats or just fed something and if it worked, it did and if it didn't.......oh, well.

I often tell my mom, "it's a wonder we're not all off in the head from some of the fumes that floated off of some of the potions we got rubbed down with."  Especially the stinking groundhog grease - or the sulpher and cream mix.  And all those teas.  They had a tea for everything and they were all made from wild weeds, roots, blooms, leaves, tree bark or something in the woods.  If none of that didn't work, they mixed it all together, boiled it down and called it medicine.  Then your eyes really bugged out.

those remedies

Funny how people are moving back to some of these remedies. I need to interview my Mom, and put this stuff down. She makes references to plants that I don't know. My paternal grandmother was a lay midwife and got called on to diagnose people for other stuff. My Mother told me the other day about a family member diagnosed with some weird neuro thing because of shaking hands. She fell and hit her forehead and was cured. I am guess her neck was the problem and the fall realigned the spine, but the old tale sounds better. Jerleen, I have got to get you and my Mother together and tape the talk. You have to write a book. The flavor of your tales just have to be captured.


I just bet your mom could

I just bet your mom could bend some ears herself. 

I love these old stories.  What makes them good is that we were right there and the colors are real.  The midwife stories will blow you away.  I made a trip back to the head of Paw Paw, Virginia a number of years back to dig up a picture of this woman everybody knew as "Myrtle Blair."  Now, Myrtle was a midwife and she rode an ole mule named "Bessie."  As a matter of fact, she delivered me.  She carried a bag that looked like it was made out of a floral piece of carpet - therefore, I labeled her a "carpetbagger."  Her name was not actually Myrtle Blair, she was called that because she sold Blair products back in the day - so the name stuck.  Where we lived, she was the only midwife and there were hollers and forks, and hollers and forks up  those hollers and forks, where vehicles couldn't go so if the time came a mule or horse was the only way to go.

We did't have paved roads, so over the years, late at night you would often hear this cloppity, cloppity flyig down the road in the deadly dark, as a little kid, I would sneak up and peak out the window and all I could see was this hunched over form that didn't seem to have a dead - didn't have a clue what it was,  but in the light of day, we'd see Bessie slowly cloppin' back up the road with Myrtly sitting side saddle slumped over asleep - (Bessie knew the way home).  It wasn't until I was about twelve before I learned that the clippity clop hunched over form  was Myrtle in a hurry to deliver a baby and, of course, the next day when she was going home, she didn/t have any reason to be in a rush.  Bessie knew where to go and so Myrtle could sleep all the way home.  Now, of course, I thought the babies were brought in the carpet bag. 


babes in carpet bags

 I think my grandmother rode a horse, but now that you say mule, I will have to ask. I was born at home, in a house made of logs on top of a hill. I was delivered by a M.D. who got drunk afterwards and managed to get himself  arrested before he filed my birth certificate which is forever titled "delayed certificate of live birth". At least I have a birth certificate, a lot of homes births were not reported, and people eventually showed up in the census. 

Speaking of paw paw, are you familiar with a fruit with that moniker that grows in the south? Best eaten after a light frost?

Jerleen's book

So when we can expect to see it? We can host book signings throughout NEO (but I am betting that the restaurants in Tremont will want to be the first to host your signings). 

Paw Paw's grow on a Paw Paw

Paw Paw's grow on a Paw Paw tree - there are plenty of them down around Paw Paw, Va and Paw Paw, Ky.  I think that is what the hollers are named for - because so many of those dang trees grow along side the road and creek banks.   They're sort of like a stubby banana.

Paw Paws have also been named the native state fruit of Ohio.