Christopher and Maisey and I took a much needed weekend trip to the wilds of Madison County, where our dear friend Dana makes her home. Dana (proprietress of the thoroughly enjoyable "Dana Dee") is a mountain medicine woman, homesteader, naturalist, sometimes plumber, writer, and generally one of my all-around heroes.
She lives in Shelton Laurel, way up in the mountains, near the Tennessee border in what is most definitely the backwoods. Her home is full of good food, medicinal herbs drying, goofy humor, fascinating projects in progress, and comfy places to curl up with a book.
I love visiting Dana. I love the little shrines to beauty and wonder and family and plants and animals that are everywhere in Dana's world - the otter pelt that she tanned, delicate teacups in a beautiful battered old china cabinet, tinctures and syrups and dried roots, little scraps of paper full of notes and poems and tidbits. I also love Dana's clever wit and general hilarity, and her deep appreciation of the absurd. Basically, I just think she hung the moon, as my mom would say.
|Little note from Dana's sister Jenna...including tiny usnea tree|
|Wild pears for a possible future project growing pear rootstock|
Being in the home that Dana created with the help of an all-star cast of friends and roaming the woods around her home place was just lovely.
One of my favorite moments was when D. whipped out the candied ginger that she and Sally made from *fresh locally-grown ginger* -- FOR REAL. Dana's friend Skelly grew it at Aardvark Farm up in Yancey County. Dana and Sally candied it. You really cannot believe how delicious it was.
We brought some chicken from East Fork Farm and Dana sauteed up some carrots and celery from her garden along with some storebought onions.
|Softening up the veggies|
|Working on the chicken|
|Rolling out the piecrust|
|Shaping the crust|
|Filling the pie|
|The finished pot pie|
It was the first chicken pot pie I've eaten in over 20 years.
I felt kind of like this guy after eating my first piece.
Then we got to sit around the fire with Susie and Todd and all of the dogs, laughing about some of our favorite things to laugh about and trading tales.
In general, a good time was had by all. We brought Maisey, who spent some down time with the pink plush unicorn.
|Hen of the Woods|
|Wild mushroom omlet|
Looking out over Dana's garden, we had a chance to talk a little about the history of Shelton Laurel, including the period known as "Bloody Madison," guerrilla warfare in The Laurel, mountaineer indifference to the Confederate cause, and the horrible Massacre of Shelton Laurel.
We reflected for a while on the fact that all that most of Shelton Laurel's residents wanted during the Civil War was a little bit of salt to preserve their meat and vegetables.
Later, Dana showed us her ram pump, which was very impressive.
She pumps spring water up the hill to her house using only the power of gravity.
Then we headed over to Leonard's to get a tour of his off-grid homestead. He lives just across the way from Dana on the side of a mountain.
Leonard has mad electrical skills and is great at figuring things out and cobbling together systems out of whatever is at hand. When we expressed how impressed we were with his inventor-style innovations, he revealed that Eli Whitney was his 8th cousin.
|Leonard and his PV system|
Leonard's automatic chicken coop door opener is somewhat legendary - it was great to check it out in person. He's got it set up so that a light sensor triggers a pulley system to close the coop door so that if he's away from home when it's time to close the chickens up at night, it just happens without him when the sun goes down.
Also Leonard has an impressive stockpile of beautiful honey from his three hives and a lot of fabulous little customized setups for himself and his animals.
|These are quart jars of honey. There are lots of them.|
We had a nice time roaming the woods around Leonard's place with Pixie, his little Blue Heeler, and talking about goats, gardens, and electricity.
|A little part of Leonard's woodpile|
Thank you Dana and Leonard and Susie and Todd and Hopey and Ruby. And Jenna for letting us borrow your sweet sister for the weekend.
And thanks for reading, readers...I'm hoping this inspirational trip will get me back in a regular habit of posting here!
|Favorite little note from Jenna to Dana|
Spotted on a bumpersticker
by Susie and Jenna one day
and recorded for posterity