Remember the “how long does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie pop” commercial? A new spin on that old one is, “How long does it take to become self-reliant?” I’d say a life time after our visit to Foxfire last week.
For any unfamiliar with Foxfire, their website explains,
“‘foxfire’ is the name that an English class picked, in 1966, for a student-produced magazine they chose to create, containing stories and interviews gathered from elders in their rural Southern Appalachian community.
Most importantly, ‘Foxfire’ is the living connection between the high school students in the magazine program and their heritage, built through interaction with their elders. Students, by their own choices, have worked for over 45 years to document and preserve the stories, crafts, trades, and the personalities of their families, neighbors, and friends. By doing so, they have preserved this unique American culture for generations to come.”
I considered myself okay at self-reliance. I mean, it’s pretty easy with all our modern conveniences of today. My push-button lifestyle has seduced me into thinking I’m more prepared than I am. If my homemade soap sucks, I’ll just crank the combustion engine in my car and drive down to the super market and pick up some commercially manufactured soap. What if my solar oven experiment fails? No worries. I’ll just throw the chili on the stove top and turn a knob. Dinner is served.
My point? Don’t be lulled into the belief that you have more skills than you really possess. Don’t get discouraged either. Keep learning, practicing, and adding sustainable skills. One step at a time. One relationship and network at a time.
Becoming an un-consumer
Experiment now while it’s easy. Be a scientist. Ask lots of questions. Try new things. Follow your passion. Self-reliance and preparedness is a lifestyle worth pursuing. My goal is to be a un-consumer. Yep, that’s a new word.
My roots are in the Southern Appalachian culture on my dad’s side and Texan from my mom’s side. I came from good stock. An awakening is happening in my mind, spirit, soul, and body. The more I learn, the more I need to learn. Enough already. Here’s some food for thought and pictures from our visit.
The self-guided tour of 19 stops on a 1/4 mile trail features structures, tools, and artifacts of Foxfire Museum. It’s a time machine taking you back to early American life in Appalachia.
1) The Savannah House was built by Irish immigrants and is the oldest authentic structure at Foxfire. This cabin was home to a four generations of descendants. Three of these each had 10 children in a home measuring 21 x 21 feet. Older children slept in the loft. They must have been stacked like cord wood at bedtime.
Most of the cooking was done on the hearth.
This hog scalder would have been used to boil water in preparation for scalding the pig before butchering. The boiling water made light work of the scrapping process to remove hair from the hog. A huge convenience for early pioneers. When I grew up, we used a metal 55 gallon drum cut in half over a fire pit. The scalder above had an opening in the front to insert fire wood under the large metal pot of water. The chimney in the rear draws the smoke out of the area.
It could also multitask as a soap-maker, heating laundry water, or a cook pot for large gatherings…which was likely with family size back then.
2) The second stop is only open with guided tours. The Museum Cabin (post 1850s era) has a true upstairs and rooms divided by interior walls. Looking through the windows we could see woodworking tools like planes, saws, and shaving horses. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get in to see the moonshine still in the other room of the house.
3) The Wagon Shed. This is used to house two wagons. Originally built as a cabin for staff, it measures 16 x 18 feet. The Zuraw Wagon, pictured below is the only documented wagon to have traveled to Oklahoma in the Trail of Tears. It was built completely by hand in the late 1700s. Green B. Daves used this wagon to relocate to Georgia in the 1830s. It’s still operable today. They don’t make them like they use to. Mrs. Retta Pickelsimer Zuraw, a descendant of Daves, donated the wagon to Foxfire in 1975.
4) The Blacksmith Shop. This is a place communities depended on for tools to do their work. I’ve been toying with smithing for a while now. This skill would be very barter-able in a post SHTF scenario. Tools, horse shoes, nails, hardware, home furnishings, bladed tools, and even guns are just a few of the necessary items produced in a smithy.
5) The Ingram Mule Barn. This was used to house animals and hay. Below is a picture of one of the feed troughs.
6) The Chapel. This chapel was constructed on site using salvaged lumber from a barn. The church was the center of Appalachian community. It was usually the first building constructed. It had multiple uses as well – church, schoolhouse, and community meeting hall. There was a replica of an old wooden coffin in the corner. My wife snapped a photo of me laying in it (Pic not included).
7) Root Cellar. This one is of traditional design but mostly above ground. Most were built completely below ground to take advantage of the cooler and consistent temperatures of the earth.
8) The Bell Gristmill. This mill was constructed by C. B. Bell in the late 1920s and relocated to Foxfire in 1972. The “overshot” water wheel was used in mountain terrain to take advantage of gravity and water flow to achieve twice the efficiency of “undershot” wheels that depended on the speed of water currents.
Millers were highly respected at their craft. “Keep your nose to the grindstone.” This expression came from milling grains. To tell if the grain was getting too hot during the milling process, a miller would keep his nose close to the grindstone to check for excessive heat that could ruin a batch of ground grains.
9) Broom making in the Gott Cabin. This 12 x 12 foot cabin was built in 1985 by cabin builder Peter Gott with help of Foxfire high school students using traditional tools and methods of the Appalachian region. Half-dovetail notches were used to join logs to help prevent water seepage in seams and prolong the life of the structure. The cabin chinking (material in the gaps of the logs) was made of red Georgia clay and modern cement. Horse hair or straw would have been used in period construction.
That’s right. The above pictured tool is a broom maker’s hammer. I’d never seen one before. It’s used like a hammer to cut material in broom making.
10) The Bungalow. The last stop on our tour housed many items that were used in the early days of Appalachia. Below is a round, screened cabinet used to hang cured meats. I thought it was a great idea. It kept bugs and other critters out of the food storage.
As I said earlier, there were 19 sites to visit. I only included 10. The rest you’ll have to see for yourself. It’s well worth the visit and $6 fee to step back in time and take in a bit of history. For more info on The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center, you can contact the helpful folks at Foxfire:
Phone: (706) 746-5828
Location: Mountain City, GA