Announcements

10 Year Anniverary & New Releases Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' Butterfly Cottage - Melanie B, Dogwood Plantation - Patty H R, Janet Grunst's winner is Connie S., Denise Weimer's Winner is Kay M., Naomi Musch's winner is Chappy Debbie, Angela Couch - Kathleen Maher, Pegg Thomas Beverly D. M. & Gracie Y., Christy Distler - Kailey B., Shannon McNear - Marilyn R.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Life of a Longhunter

by Naomi Musch

There have always been wanderers, those curious and hardy souls who aren’t content remaining near the hearth, but find their calling in traversing the wild, in exploring the unknown, in finding their prospects in raw and solitary pursuits. In the early days of the settling of America, there were the explorers, then the trappers and fur traders, the voyageurs, and the longhunters.

I have to admit, I’m drawn to the romanticism of these types of characters. (Think Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans.) Yet, while we enjoy visualizing the romantic hero of the woods, we ought to understand the reality of the kinds of existence the wilderness wanderers lived. While history tells us there were men with fine character, cleanliness, and noble intentions, some hunters or traders of the era were also likely brutal, vulgar, and downright uncouth. (It would be pretty tough to mind personal hygiene while meandering the wild, and so much time alone lends a man to adjusting his standard of morality, usually toward the bad.)

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, Simon and Schuster


Let’s take a couple of minutes to think about the actual lifestyle of a longhunter in the late 18th century. The longhunters were mostly men who came to the frontier from Virginia and other southwest corners of the colonies and headed through the gap into Kentucky, Tennessee, and even as far as Illinois. They didn’t set out on the frontier with the purpose of settlement, but because they both preferred the lifestyle of self-rule and, mostly, because they hoped to make a profit. The name longhunter came from the fact that rather than heading into the forests for short durations to hunt or trap, they set out for periods as long as six months at a stretch, returning home with a bounty that would pay more than their farms might provide in a year’s time.

Yes, they did come home. They settled down between seasons. They might farm some, but they made the bulk of their income bringing in hides and meat--usually for the companies that hired them. While they were at it, the longhunters became well acquainted with the land west of the mountains itself—such as Daniel Boone did—and later on used this information to make land claims or to hire themselves out as guides to settlers seeking to move west.

The longhunters didn’t usually operate solo. Working for hire, they traveled in large groups for mutual protection in the face of trouble. Daniel Boone was himself robbed on three different occasions. Picture a camp of twenty or more men…each day bringing in more kills…some men having packs of hunting dogs and as many as three to eight pack horses each for carrying their meat, hides, and equipment. But these dogs and horses needed food and care besides. The hunters would flesh out their hides, salt and pack meat, and toss leftover carcasses to their dogs. The camp would be inundated with unsavory smells from souring meat to clothes, grease, and general human filth besides. Hardly the image of a romantic tale! And the men occasionally suffered great hardship too. There were times they couldn’t build a fire, and the cold and damp seeped into their bones. Sometimes the hunting was meager and so was food. Illness and injury had to be taken care of only by the skill of fellow hunters. Sometimes death met them in the woods.

Longhunter with a Dead Deer


Nevertheless, despite the extraordinary way they lived—or perhaps because of it—we enjoy the stories of these wanderers. Not unlike travelers returning home from a far journey today, I’m sure the longhunters made joyful preparations as they returned to their homesteads to see their families again. They likely stopped to bathe and groom themselves, and perhaps they brought their wives and children some trinkets gotten in trade. Then they would settle in for a period of domesticity before restocking their supplies and saying their goodbyes for another season.

I remain enamored of the stories of the fur traders and hunters and trappers. Of the rendezvous, the settlements, and forts in the wilderness. This coming January, my novel Song for the Hunter will release, and I hope you’ll join me living for a while as a wanderer in the wilderness…from the comfort of your home in the pages of a book. Add it to your Goodreads want-to-read list, or pre-order it today:

 Song for the Hunter by Naomi Musch


Happy wandering!

Naomi

https://naomimusch.com/

Monday, August 16, 2021

Man v. Nature: Colonial American Settlers and Wild Animals

by Denise Weimer

While researching for my most recent historical, a romance set on the Georgia/Cherokee/Creek frontier in 1813, I couldn’t do my story justice without portraying just how intensely early settlers struggled against wild animals. In Georgia, those were mainly bears, wolves, and panthers. No doubt this will surprise some current residents, who know that wolves and panthers have long-since disappeared from our state. But through the early 1800s, no foe was more persistent or dangerous.

In fact, The Early History of Jackson County, one of my main sources, described this battle in detail. January of 1795 turned intensely cold. “The ground had been covered with alternate layers of frozen rain and snow for six weeks with no prospect of an early change. Animals and birds became ravenously hungry. Panthers and wolves, troublesome at any time, were more dangerous than ever before. Hundreds of them were shot in the yards around the cabins during the day, and at night they were kept at a respectful distance by roaring fires in the chimneys and by burning pine knots outsides the houses. Sometimes even these precautions did not effect their purpose.”


The account goes on to describe a pack of wolves that responded to a settler’s dressing of a deer by rushing between those fires and besieging the house. The family shot most through portholes created for that purpose, but two attacked the door. The leader forced its head through the shutter, and the other wolf attacked it. As the animals turned on each other and a neighbor climbed a tree to bring firepower to aid the family, the attack finally abated.

A genealogy of Turner County, Georgia, south of Atlanta, confirmed that black bears were frequent visitors, while ammunition was scarce. So scarce the powder was sometimes mixed with coarse sand, as the settlers believed it would perform just as well and maybe travel farther.

According to William Bartram, 1739-1823, panthers in the Southern states were often called “tygers” and were much larger than a dog, yellowish-brown or clay-color with a long tail. Canebrakes along creeks could become panther strongholds in the winter. The Early History of Jackson County gives the account of a young man maimed and lamed in a panther attack, turned down for service in the War of 1812, who went on to fight bravely at the Battle of New Orleans.

Life of Col. David Crockett, Philadelphia, 1859

An 1835 settler’s account from Brushy Creek, Missouri, inspired a scene in my novel. In the true story, a mother whose husband was away protected her crying newborn from a panther’s attack on her cabin. The wily beast climbed onto the roof and was only dissuaded from entering via the chimney by some venison smoking there.

These true tales highlight how desperately early settlers in any state fought to maintain their basic safety. Aren’t we glad a goodly portion of our resources and focus don’t go toward merely staying alive? 

Print: 1859, Western Hunting Old Arkansas  

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of a dozen published novels and a number of novellas. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses!


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Monday, August 9, 2021

The CORA Tree

The CORA Tree, Hatteras Island, North Carolina

Anyone familiar with the history of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island has heard how John White, the colony's governor (and artist for earlier expeditions), sent back to England for supplies but unable to return for three years, found the carved inscriptions on a tree and then one of the posts surrounding the palisade at the abandoned town site. "CRO," one read, and then more fully, "CROATOAN," clearly indicating where the colonists had moved in his absence. White knew very well that Croatoan referred to another island about fifty miles to the south--what is now the southernmost stretch of Hatteras Island--and the people who lived there.) It was made into this big mystery because people forgot for a while (maybe willfully) that this was an actual location name.

Theories abound, of course, on what happened to the colonists from there. It's generally agreed that at least some moved inland, and one historian theorizes, drawing from records of Spanish voyages between 1587 and 1590 (the colony's arrival on Roanoke to White's return), that at least one major hurricane hit the Outer Banks and forced any survivors to relocate.

What if "CRO" was not the only clue the Lost Colonists left for White, or others, to find them?

In my research over the past year, I kept running across mention of the CORA Tree--an ancient oak located on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, rivaling the Angel Oak in Charleston, South Carolina, in age. The most persistent legend to explain the four letters carved into this tree involves a young woman accused of being a witch who, as she's tied to the tree in preparation for being burned, disappears in a flash of lightning that left only her name carved there.

Uh huh.

Another theory emerges. What if CORA was early colonial shorthand for yet another region and/or people group of the time, just as CRO was?

On John White's famed Pars Virginia map, a region due west and a little south of Croatoan bears the label Cwareuuoc, often shortened to Coree, which very easily could have been shortened to CORA. Croatoan itself derived from the native Kuh-rah-wo-tain, and another group, Secotan, from Suh-kwoh-tain. So it seemed very plausible to me that there might be a connection there.

Naturally, I wanted to see the tree for myself, so on my last research trip to Hatteras earlier this year, I determined to find it. Bless my husband for indulging these little scavenger hunts!

To my surprise, we found the tree right without any trouble--a single oak, located on a grassy median on a quiet residential street, a few blocks away from the waterfront. We parked and got out.

The letters are still there, and fairly legible:


Y'all know this was more than enough to delight this history nerd's heart! Sadly I didn't get more than a couple of good photos--it took a video to even remotely capture the sprawling splendor of this beauty, which did indeed remind me of the Angel Oak in miniature.

One commentator says that this being a water oak, it's highly unlikely this tree is the 300+ years old it's purported to be. But the Angel Oak is at least that old. And while the question is always asked, How do we know it is, I would counter with, Well, how do we know it isn't?

Here is where history bleeds into the speculative, which happens a lot. In this case, though, I'm okay with that, because it makes for some interesting early colonial story fodder.




Friday, August 6, 2021

Kickstart the Foraging Colonist Inside You with Lambs Quarter

by Naomi Musch

As is often the case with my novelist brain, I get ideas for my stories while I’m tending my garden or picking fruit. My head clears of other to-do clutter, and at times the produce itself inspires me. Today was no exception. As I burrowed into a thick bean patch, plucking beans and pulling weeds, I got to thinking about wild edible foods my characters might have harvested.
It could be that as novelists, most of us find it difficult not to think about the foods our characters would have been eating as they embarked upon their daily tasks or set off on some adventure. In my upcoming novel Song for the Hunter, my characters forage for blackberries, dandelion greens, wild lettuce, and wild rice. In Elinor, Shannon McNear’s excellent upcoming release about a woman among those of the lost colony of Roanoke, her characters not only do quite a bit of foraging, but their foraging leads them to danger on more than one occasion.

Have you ever foraged for wild foods, be they something common like blackberries, or something less frequently sought after like wild nettles?

One place to begin is the very common but overlooked Lambs Quarter, sometimes called Goosefoot (supposedly because of the shape of the leaves. Huh...). I suspect the colonists would have used this plant since it has been both foraged and cultivated for centuries around the world, even among the Blackfoot Indians as far back as the 16th century. Lambs Quarter easily wants to take over our gardens if even a few seeds find their way in. Although it is edible and medicinal, I still have way too much of it, so that’s what I was pulling from my beans. I snapped this photo next to me. That corn patch is full of lambs quarter too. 


Despite my needing to get rid of some, Lambs Quarter is extremely nutritious, and its long taproot is good for soil, pulling minerals up to the surface where my plants can reach them. For this reason, it is also considered a “restoring” plant. It's easy to yank out when it's small, but if you let it get out of control like I did, then be prepared for a mighty tug.


The leaves of lambs quarter are exceptionally high in vitamins A and C, as well as in calcium, iron, and protein. It’s also a good source manganese and provides notable amounts of potassium and copper. Some folk call it “wild spinach”, although it’s packed with even more vitamins and minerals than spinach, and it’s easier to grow than spinach too, so there’s that. (Be sure and read my cautions below.)

Lambs Quarter can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, or blanched. You can add lambs quarter to soups, saut├ęs, smoothies, and juices. You can even dry some and use it as a seasoning in place of table salt. (I'm definitely trying that!) The seeds can be used as a porridge or bread enhancer or flour additive. Birds love them! (Don’t overdo the seed use, as they contain saponins. See the caution I mentioned below.)

The best way to try out your lambs quarter is by harvesting the tender tips of the plant. While the lower portions of the mature plants are woody and strong-tasting, the tender tips can be plucked off and eaten in entirety.

Lambs quarter is also said to have medicinal properties. Do you suffer from arthritis? I do. I intend to try a poultice from the simmered leaves which is claim to alleviating achy or swollen joints. Burn relief is another use for a leaf poultice. Chewing on the leaves or swishing water left from simmering the leaves is said to relieve toothaches, while Native Americans ate those leaves to treat stomachaches and prevent scurvy. Cold lambs quarter tea can be used to treat diarrhea.

A FEW DETAILS:

Up to 75,000 seeds grow in clusters at the top and on branches.

Water droplets will run off the goosefoot-shaped leaves. That's because there is a fine, crystal-like coating of wax on the leaves. This won’t harm you to ingest, by the way.

The plants grow 3’-5’ tall. You really don't want them going crazy in your carrots and beets, or you'll never find those root crops.

Lambs quarter thrives in gardens and near rivers, forests, clearings, and in disturbed soils. 

Edible parts: Leaves, shoots, seeds – alone or with other foraged leaves like dandelion, garlic mustard, or nettle.


THREE CAUTIONS:

  • Lambs Quarter seeds contain saponins, a soapy-like chemical, that is potentially toxic and should not be eaten in excess. However, if you want to harvest the roots which also contain saponins, you could try them out in some scrub water for a cleaner.
  • Before you run off and harvest a bushel of Lambs Quarter for your dinner salad, you should note one caution. Lambs Quarter does contain oxalic acid, so there are some discretions involved in how much you eat or how you prepare it. Cooking removes the acid, and it’s not something I’d eat raw every day in large amounts. A cup, maybe. Not a bushel. You don’t want to dive into too much of a good thing, with anything wild edible you haven’t tried. Test it in small quantities.
  • Never harvest it where soil might be contaminated, though you might find it in such a location.

IT’S NOT PIGWEED

Some folks refer to lambs quarter as pigweed, but pigweed (amaranth) is a different plant—also edible—and you’ll frequently find it growing in the same places as Lambs Quarter. Pigweed is a courser, more bristly plant with darker foliage. It grows about the same height as Lambs Quarter, and also contains a spike of seeds at the top. This is another plant that takes no effort to find if you have a garden. I pulled a lot of pigweed from my bean rows too.


But, if you enjoy greens, young pigweed can also be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. It has a very mild flavor and makes a nice mix with greens that are stronger. Fresh or dried leaves can be used as tea, and the seeds are strong but nutritious also. They can be ground, used as a cereal substitute, or sprouted and added to salads. I haven’t tried it, but they say you can improve the flavor by roasting the seeds before grinding them.

What about you, have you eaten lambs quarter or pigweed?

COMING JANUARY 4, 2022 - SONG FOR THE HUNTER:

Metis Hunter Bemidii Marchal, known to Frenchwoman Camilla Bonnet as Benjamin, takes her foraging for blackberries to be used for a very special purpose. Any guesses what it might be?



Happy foraging!
Naomi

Monday, July 19, 2021

Patriotic Quotations of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

by Denise Weimer

As we've just celebrated the Fourth of July, this seems a good month to hearken back to the wisdom of two of our nation's founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. My sources for these are Quotations of George Washington and Quotations of Thomas Jefferson, both from Applewood Books of Massachusetts, 2003.

George Washington

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."

"Mankind, when left to themselves, are unfit for their own government."

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."

"It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it."

"To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country."

"The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable support. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars."

"I am sure that never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them."

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

Thomas Jefferson


"A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."

"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."

"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations--entangling alliances with none."

"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost."

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." ~and~ "The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it."

"I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another."

"Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people."

Do any of these quote surprise you?

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of a dozen published novels and a number of novellas. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses!

Connect with Denise here:

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