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Chinquapin Eyes

It’s been a good mast year here in the Southern Appalachians. That means the oaks, hickories, and walnuts have been very productive. (Though in some areas the nuts are getting roasted by the wildfires!) (For an enlightening perspective on the fires check out Clint Calhoun’s recent blog:
http://clintcalhounadventures.blogspot.com/2016/11/fire-on-mountain-blessing-or-curse.html
One of the most interesting native nuts is the chinquapin, Castanea pumila, (sometimes spelled “chinkapin”). This shrubby miniature chestnut produces prickly burs with delicious, tiny, dark brown nuts no bigger than a filbert. They can be peeled and eaten raw, boiled, or baked.
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The name, “chinquapin” is a corruption of “chechinquamin,” the name Captain John Smith recorded in his history of Virginia. Smith noted that, “they esteeme (it) a great daintie” and that they were dried and stored as part of the community’s regular store of provisions. “Of their Chesnuts and Chechinquamins (they) boyled them (to) make both broath and bread for their chiefe men at their greatest feasts.” Some translate the name to mean “prick” or “jab” and “eye” with the suffix “min” which is the Algonquian root referring to “food” or “grain”, as in the words, “persimmon”, “asimin” (pawpaw), and “menomin” (wild rice).

This 16th century engraving by Theodore De Bry depicts natives with some of their traditional foods. It looks like this romantic couple is enjoying a tray of chinquapins.
This 16th century engraving by Theodore De Bry depicts natives with some of their traditional foods. It looks like this romantic couple is enjoying a tray of chinquapins.

The chinquapin is found from Pennsylvania through most of the southeast and west to east Texas There’s an endangered midwestern Ozark chinquapin (C. ozarkensis) which, like our eastern chinquapin is threatened by the same blight that took down the American chestnut.
There are two other genera of nut bearing trees known as chinquapins. Chrysolepis is a small genus endemic to the western United States. The genus Castanopsis is indigenous to Asia. There is also the chinquapin oak which is so named because its leaves resemble those of the chinquapin.
babyTwenty-some years ago when we had a little boy with big brown eyes crawling around the house, occasionally a neighbor would remark, “Well look at the chinquapin eyes on that boy!” I am amazed and delighted to be around country folks who are so familiar with this somewhat rare nut that it has become an adjective in their vocabulary.
Click here for a recording of a medley of two old fiddle tunes: Chinquapin Hunting and Rock the Cradle Joe performed by Walt Michael and Company.
 

Feel free to check out the products page of my website for the Holiday Sale!
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

Special Bonus:
With every order we will include a free copy of the 64 page book,
cover-crawdads-bookCrawdads, Doodlebugs and Creasy Greens 
Songs, Stories, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World
Discover how to catch crawdads, puree pawpaws, gobble greenbriers, noodle catfish, tickle trout, cook squirrel brains, twist a critter out of its hole, and predict the weather with a persimmon seed. Learn how to greet a doodlebug, and find out which rabbit’s foot is actually the lucky one. Hear tales about Queen Elizabeth when she was courted by a frog, Copper John Higgins when he swallowed a lizard, and Davy Crockett when he tried to grin a squirrel out of a tree. The book features two dozen favorite old time, and contemporary songs, more than 90 original illustrations and a plethora of stories and lore. ($5 value –free with any order!)
cover-boundBound for Carolina CD
A Musical Journey Celebrating the Plants, Animals and People of the Southeast
An All Music Recording featuring the original tune, Big Black Snake
From Oh Susanna to Old Joe Clark, from the crawdad hole to the railroad yard, Elliott wails on his harp and sings a collection of blues, contemporary, traditional, and old-time songs celebrating country life, the natural world, and especially the people, the plants, the critters, and the rich environment and culture of southeastern North America. Elliott is accompanied by fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bass, drums, buckets, bottles, rattlesnake rattles, frog croaks and even a few blue yodels. This all-music recording features seven newly recorded songs as well as 14 favorites from previous albums. Special guests on this project include, Phil and Gay Johnson, Billy Jonas, Wayne Erbsen, and Todd Elliott.
Featured tunes:
Oh Susanna • Froggie Went a’ Courting • Big Black Snake • Rattlesnaking Papa • Old Joe Clark • Strawberry Picking • Dandelions • Creasy Greens • Root Blues • Crawdad Hole • Mole in the Ground • Bullfrogs on Your Mind • Bulldog on the Bank • Cluck Ol’ Hen • Who Broke the Lock • Ain’t No Bugs on Me • Sail On Honeybee • Bile them Cabbage • Left Hind Leg of a Rabbit • West Virginia • All Around the Water Tank
Normally $15 — NOW only $10 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html
 
cover-eveningAn Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World
Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.
Normally $20 — NOW only $15 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

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Spiced Possum in the Kitchen

The spicebush berries have just started to get ripe, and Holly Bellebuono’s book entitled The Healing Kitchen just came out ( http://www.hollybellebuono.com ). Holly contacted herbalists all over the country asking for their favorite recipes for nourishing, healing dishes using herbs and wild foods. She has compiled quite a collection–everything from garnishes, spice mixes, and beverages, to entire meals. I told her that one of my favorite wild herbs for cooking is spicebush. Spicebush is called “Lindera benzoin” by botanists, “spicewood” by many traditional southern Appalachian mountain folks, and “American allspice” by other plant lovers. It is found from New England and the northern Midwest, south as far as eastern Texas.
spicebush2
spicebush1I collect the berries when they turn red, dry them, grind them up, and use them in the same way I would allspice flavoring for applesauce, stir-fries, and curries, as well as in teas, chais, nogs, and other beverages. In her book, Holly also mentioned that I use the twigs for tea, and as a flavoring for wild game. She didn’t have space to include the back story of how I was first introduced to the use of spicebush twigs in traditional Appalachian cookery. The story begins like this:
“Doug, I got you a ‘possum.”
Even on the phone, I could immediately recognize Lee’s familiar mountain drawl.
“You want ‘im? He’s a fat ‘un.”
Lee lived a few miles down the road in a little mountain community named Bee Log, North Carolina. He and his wife had befriended me when I was living in the area. Lee would call me whenever he had a ‘possum. He kept chickens and it seemed like he regularly had a ‘possum raiding his chicken coop. He would either catch it live in a box trap, or he’d shoot it when his dog treed it in the yard. Being a certified possumologist, when someone calls me about a ‘possum, I feel duty-bound to answer the call.
I never knew what condition the ‘possum would be in when I arrived–whether it would be alive, “grinning” and snarling at me from the box trap, or lying there dead. If it was alive, we would stuff it into a sack or a crate.
I’d say, “Thanks, Lee, that ‘possum‘ll be good eating.” And then I’d take it out into the national forest and let the poor thing go. If he had already killed the ‘possum, I would take it home and cook it.
Lee considered himself too affluent to eat ‘possum. Almost every visit he would show me his shelves of canned goods and his two freezers crammed full of deer, beef, chicken, pork, and bear meat. Even though he wasn’t planning to eat the ‘possum, he always had a lot to say about the subtleties of ‘possum cuisine. He wanted to be sure I prepared it properly.
I can remember him holding a particularly robust (but dead) ‘possum by the tail, practically salivating as he pinched the hind legs saying, “Now look at the fat hams on this critter, Doug. Now if you want to cook ‘im right, git you a mess of spicewood twigs. Cut ‘em with your knife so they’re sharp, and then when you get that ‘possum all skinned and cleaned, stick them little twigs in the meat and fill him up till he looks like a little porcupine. Then you par-boil him till he’s tender. See, them twigs’ll cut the gamey taste and give the meat a good spicy flavor. Then bake him in the oven with some sweet taters all around, and buddy, you gonna have some fine eatin’ “
I did just as he advised, and he was right; that spicewood flavored ‘possum meat was indeed, mighty fine eating. Since that time I always try to use spicewood whenever I cook wild game. Now you’ve got the whole story. Next time you’re cooking a ‘possum you’ll know what to do. Maybe spiced ‘possum will be in Holly’s next healing recipe book!
 

The Summer Sale is still going on!

Feel free to check out the products page of my website
for the Summer Sale.
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

As a special bonus, I’ll include a free copy of my Crawdads, Doodlebugs and Creasy Greens book with every order.

cover-crawdads-bookCrawdads, Doodlebugs and Creasy Greens
Songs, Stories, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

Discover how to catch crawdads, puree pawpaws, gobble greenbriers, noodle catfish, tickle trout, cook squirrel brains, twist a critter out of its hole, and predict the weather with a persimmon seed. Learn how to greet a doodlebug and which rabbit’s foot is actually the lucky one. Hear tales about Queen Elizabeth when she was courted by a frog, Copper John Higgins when he swallowed a lizard, and Davy Crockett when he tried to grin a squirrel out of a tree.
The 64-page book features two dozen songs with musical notations, more than 90 original illustrations and a plethora of stories and lore.

cover-boundBound for Carolina CD
A Musical Journey Celebrating the Plants, Animals and People of the Southeast
An All Music Recording featuring the original tune, Big Black Snake

From Oh Susanna to Old Joe Clark, from the crawdad hole to the railroad yard, Elliott wails on his harp and sings a collection of blues, contemporary, traditional, and old-time songs celebrating country life, the natural world, and especially the people, the plants, the critters, and the rich environment and culture of southeastern North America. Elliott is accompanied by fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bass, drums, buckets, bottles, rattlesnake rattles, frog croaks and even a few blue yodels. This all-music recording features seven newly recorded songs as well as 14 favorites from previous albums. Special guests on this project include, Phil and Gay Johnson, Billy Jonas,Wayne Erbsen, and Todd Elliott.
Featured tunes:
Oh Susanna • Froggie Went a’ Courting • Big Black Snake • Rattlesnaking Papa • Old Joe Clark • Strawberry Picking • Dandelions • Creasy Greens • Root Blues • Crawdad Hole • Mole in the Ground • Bullfrogs on Your Mind • Bulldog on the Bank • Cluck O’ Hen • Who Broke the Lock • Ain’t No Bugs on Me • Sail On Honeybee • Bile them Cabbage • Left Hind Leg of a Rabbit • West Virginia • All Around the Water Tank
Normally $15 — NOW only $10 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html
cover-eveningAn Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World
Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.
Normally $20 — NOW only $15 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

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A Snaky Roll in the Hay

The chickens have been laying eggs among the hay bales in our shed. When we went to check for eggs one morning, we found a medium-sized black rat snake in the process of swallowing a large egg. Sometimes when this happens we indignantly take the egg away from the snake and carry the snake out to the garden and put it down a vole hole in hopes that it would devour some of those pestiferous rodents instead of our eggs. But this snake was not that large and her neck was stretched to the limit. She was working very hard to move the egg down her throat. I wanted to honor her efforts, so I didn’t disturb her. However, I didn’t want her to stay around the chicken nest and eat more eggs, so I decided to wait till she was finished swallowing the egg, and then take her to the garden.
While I was hanging out waiting for the snake to finish this laborious process, I was astounded to see another larger black rat snake slither into the scene! With no hesitation he crawled right on top of the first snake aligning his body with her every curve (including the grade A-sized lump in her throat). His belly started pulsing and caressing her with waves of undulations. Before long their cloacae pressed together and he inserted his slimy hemipenes. (Yep, like the opossum, he has a double ender.) It seemed that time stood still as they writhed lovingly together there in the hay. (All the while she was still trying to swallow her egg.)
snakes
Finally he accomplished what he had come to do, and with a few fond flickers of his tongue, he slithered off. (We caught him and took him out to the garden.) With him gone she could now focus on her egg. She finally maneuvered the egg down her throat about six inches. She curved her body with the lump of the egg in a sharp angle, and we heard the satisfying crunch of the egg crushing. (Check out the video.) In a few minutes, with the egg collapsed, you couldn’t even tell the snake had just eaten the egg. She had had quite a morning. I wonder which of her endeavors gave her more satisfaction. I’ve always heard that females are good at multi-tasking. Now I believe it!
Here’s a few second video of her cracking the egg.

And here’s an original tune from the Bound for Carolina album celebrating a big black snake:

Hi friends, I hope you enjoyed this snaky roll in the hay! I wish you good luck with your own multi-tasking (and your rolling in the hay)!


Feel free to check out the products page of my website for the Summer Sale.

http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

cover-eveningAn Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World
Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.
Normally $20 — NOW only $15
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html
cover-boundBound for Carolina CD
A Musical Journey Celebrating the Plants, Animals and People of the Southeast
An All Music Recording featuring the original tune, Big Black Snake
From Oh Susanna to Old Joe Clark, from the crawdad hole to the railroad yard, Elliott wails on his harp and sings a collection of blues, contemporary, traditional, and old-time songs celebrating country life, the natural world, and especially the people, the plants, the critters, and the rich environment and culture of southeastern North America. Elliott is accompanied by fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bass, drums, buckets, bottles, rattlesnake rattles, frog croaks and even a few blue yodels. This all-music recording features seven newly recorded songs as well as 14 favorites from previous albums. Special guests on this project include, Phil and Gay Johnson, Billy Jonas,Wayne Erbsen, and Todd Elliott.
Featured tunes:
Oh Susanna • Froggie Went a’ Courting • Big Black Snake • Rattlesnaking Papa • Old Joe Clark • Strawberry Picking • Dandelions • Creasy Greens • Root Blues • Crawdad Hole • Mole in the Ground • Bullfrogs on Your Mind • Bulldog on the Bank • Cluck O’ Hen • Who Broke the Lock • Ain’t No Bugs on Me • Sail On Honeybee • Bile them Cabbage • Left Hind Leg of a Rabbit • West Virginia • All Around the Water Tank
Normally $15 — NOW only $10
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

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Free Bees

Everybody appreciates a freebie! But what about free bees?! Nowadays beekeeping can be pretty expensive. A hive setup can run you upwards of a couple hundred dollars. Just the bees themselves often cost more than $100!  But lemmie tell you, in spring and summer there are whole swarms of bees out there flying around looking for a home. If you set up the right sized box in the right place, you may find it brimming over with bees one day.
IMG_7741,
That’s what I did last year. The experts tell us that the box most likely to attract a bees swarm is basically any dry wooden box with a volume of about 10 gallons with a two-square-inch entrance towards the bottom of one wall.
They call this a “bait hive” or “swarm trap”. If it has some old honeycomb in it and the smell of propolis (resinous bee glue) all the better. Well, I had an empty hive body with lots of the resinous propolis on the walls. I put a couple frames of old comb in it and a dab of swarm lure pheromone that I bought from the bee supply store.
They say the optimal height for this contraption is 12-15 feet. And its best to locate it in a fairly open area not close to other hives since swarms are looking to settle in new territory.
I didn’t really want to climb onto a roof with this hive so I set it on our wood pile at about 6 feet. A couple weeks later I noticed a few bees investigating the entrance of the hive–,the next day a few more bees, and the next, an entire swarm came pouring in! I moved them to my bee yard. They built up during the summer and now, almost a year later, they are doing well.
IMG_7754,
For more details about swarm catching check out Dr. Leo Sharashkin’s website: http://www.horizontalhive.com/honeybee-swarm-trap/bait-hive-how-to-catch.shtml

Speaking of bees if you’d like to take advantage of the
BUZZOLOGY SPECIAL SALE!
Go to my Products Page here
(Sale ends June 21 Solstice)

Swarm Tree, Of Honeybees, Honeymoons, and the Tree of Life (book) $15 ($3 off)
Sail On, Honeybee, Adventures in the Bee Yard (CD) $10 ($5 off)

FREEBEE LINKS :

Honeybee Fly Around Song Todd at age 13 singing about honeybees and dancing around (and on) the bee hives.
Poplar Appeal – UNC-TV Celebrating the tulip poplar tree as a source of honey, baskets, and many other things.

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Well-Hung Catkins And Sticky Stigmas: The Promise of Spring

Catkins3035-ToddElliott
If you’re looking for the earliest flowers of spring it’s time to look up at the trees and shrubs. This is the time year when the dangling male catkins swell and the tiny, female flowers expose their sticky stigmas hoping to catch a few grains of windblown pollen.

Catkins3060-DougElliott
Alder catkins and pistillate flowers

Hazelnut catkin and pistillate flower
Hazelnut catkin and pistillate flower

Many plants, like apple trees, daisies, and roses, have what are called perfect flowers, meaning that they have male and female parts in the same flower. (The male parts are stamens, each made up of the filament or stalk topped by the anther which contains the pollen. The female part is the pistil, composed of the ovary at the base, and the stalk-like style, topped by the stigma, which is the part that receives the pollen.) Other plants like persimmons and holly trees have male and female flowers on separate trees, and some plants like the birches, alders, hazelnuts, and ironwoods have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Late winter and early spring is the time to look for the swelling catkins and then challenge yourself to find those diminutive, delicate, pistillate flowers flaunting their finery.
Catkins0395-ToddElliott
The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!

The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!
The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!

Catkins2988-ToddElliott
The pollen-bearing catkins can be an important source of protein for the growing honeybee larvae as colonies expand in Spring.

Here you can see a video of an ironwood tree in full flower. When it was abruptly shaken, you can see the huge cloud of pollen coming off the tree, (complete with human and avian exclamations!) I bet there were some satisfied stigmas that day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRkT-kGlvyU
Thanks to Todd Elliott for the photos. You can keep up with Todd’s photo work by following him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/toddfelliott1
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toddfelliott/ or on his website: http://toddelliott.weebly.com/

Feel free to check out the products page of my website to take advantage of the
GETTING READY FOR SPRING HALF PRICE DVD SALE

An Evening with Doug Elliott  DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World
Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.
Normally $20 — NOW only $10   http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

If you’re in the Western NC area March 19:

VERNAL KERNELS
Celebrating the Season with Doug Elliott
Kernels of truth, and kernels of wisdom, woodslore, and foolishness. Blossoming blackberries, sexy slithering salamanders, jumping, humping frogs, courting cardinals, and whistling whippoorwills.
The days are getting longer and juices are flowing! Celebrate the season and the bioregion with master naturalist and storyteller Doug Elliott, who will be sharing a special collection of wild tales, lively tunes, traditional lore, and natural history fact stranger than fiction–all flavored with regional dialects, soulful harmonica riffs, and more than a few belly laughs.
Spring Equinox, Saturday, March 19 at 7PM
Bring snacks and drinks to share starting at 6:15pm
@ Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, North Carolina
Bring your wallets along with your smiles.
* Donations welcome for storytelling. Suggested amt: $10+
* Food and drinks available for purchase.
* CDs, Books, Baskets and more available from Doug.

For other Elliott appearances around the country
check out http://www.dougelliott.com/calendar.html