Living with Angie


I was born in 1962, and spent the first seven years of my life, in the small southwestern Virginia town set atop the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hillsville. Both of my parents came from farmers, and my early childhood was largely around gardening, preserving, and cooking. Berry, the woman who raised my mother, vigorously worked her half-acre garden from the time she could get a hoe in the ground until the first frost. No matter how early ole man winter set in or how long he tarried, come suppertime Berry would tap into her bounty of preservation to produce a hearty hot supper of organic, real food produced by her.

Berry planted, nurtured, and harvested her crops over three seasons. She put up corn, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, spinach, mustard greens, turnips, peas, lima beans, green beans, beets, pickles, strawberries, peaches, apples, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, relish, applesauce, apple butter, and jam of every sort, She was quite disciplined, and her rigid work schedule was critical to her success.

During the high gardening season Berry was up before the rooster, had finished breakfast by six, and after a trip down the road to fetch a couple of pails of water, she was in her garden just as her morning glories were awakening. She took a mid-morning break at about 9:30 a.m. when she might put on a pot of beans for supper before taking to her glider for a spell--usually with an apple and a paring knife. Then she was back to it--hoeing, weeding, sowing, gathering washing, snapping, peeling, chopping, canning, freezing, storing. This woman, at age 65, was nearly single-handedly producing and stockpiling enough food to carry three families through the winter and into the next spring with some to spare.

Berry paused for dinner at midday. Dinner was a lighter meal, maybe a tomato sandwich and apple sauce, or cornbread and buttermilk. After dinner, Berry was back to her work. Sometimes she took an afternoon break depending upon heat, her workload, and rain predictions. If she had a little time to spare, she might spend a few minutes bringing in clothes from the line or dust mopping her floors, but these tasks would have to take a backseat to Berry's garden. Come what may, by four o'clock, or thereabout, most days Berry was in the evening to be found in her kitchen where she would spend the next hour fixing the biggest meal of southern farmer's day, supper.

Berry at age 74. Still gardening. Still gliding. Still growing, stringing, and snapping beans for suppertime.

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