Tag Archives: Georgia

Are you eating collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread?

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“Each ingredient has meaning and purpose. Black-eyed peas represent coins, collard greens represent dollar bills and cornbread represents gold. Eating each Southern staple on New Year’s Day is supposed to guarantee a prosperous year, ensuring wealth and luck. While, I do not believe in luck, I do believe in the power of tradition.”

– Amber Wilson in her blog For The Love of the South

Wikipedia Photo

Wikipedia Photo

As far as I know, I had black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread only once on January 1. Something bad happened in the days after that and while my parents and their friends discussed the fact that the meal wasn’t a magic charm in my case, I no longer remember what the bad thing was. Must have blocked it out.

Even though I like these things (the collards take a lot of vinegar to disguise the taste and the black-eyed peas have  to be fresh rather than baked into a brown mush like many people do), my wife doesn’t like any of them. Well, we both like cornbread and still have some left over from Christmas Day.

Why tempt fate by eating this combination again at New Year’s?

I like a lot of Southern food: boiled peanuts, mullet, fried catfish, hoppin’ John, pumpkin frybread, Vidalia onions and yellow squash, hush puppies, grits, and a ton of stuff from New Orleans. But collards never got into my top 100 things to eat. Neither did black-eyed peas, for that matter.

Maybe we’ll have steak on new year’s day along with a baked potato wrapped up in tin foil and some fake bacon bits ready to go. Of course, if you believe in the whole collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread spell, go ahead an eat it at your own discretion and maybe it will bring you luck for 2017. By the way, if you click on the link above for Amber’s blog, her recipe for this old Southern spell actually looks pretty good.

Happy new year!

Malcolm

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Got rain? Send it down to Georgia

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The Presidential campaign, the election, and the subsequent arguing about the result have gotten a lot of people on edge. A psychologist friend on Facebook told me that her patients are feeling a lot of stress about all the discord in th country. So, for those of us living in north Georgia, the drought is rather like poisonous icing on an already toxic cake.

Late afternoon haze.

Late afternoon haze.

The drought has been going more or less all summer, but has gotten worse during the last month. Earlier, we’d get a few sporadic rain showers from time to time, but now, nothing. Add to that, a series of smoky wildfires that have kept a constant haze over our county near Rome, Georgia. We get fronts coming through, wind, cold nights, sunshine, and no rain. Should we blame this on global warming or bad luck?

When we moved here to a house on the farm where my wife grew up the year before last, we decided to start putting in small trees. We hoped they be better than a lot of grass to mow (not that it’s been growing very fast lately) and also provide some privacy from the cars along the road (not that they’re many).

drought2016The thing is, these trees aren’t well established yet and need watering. Really, a good soaking rain is the best thing. Second best is a little rain. At the bottom of the list is walking around with a hose. Today is our day to use the hose, but only for a few hours late in the day.

So far, nobody’s been able to do a proper rain dance or get any solid stormy weather hexes into place.

There is a well on the other end of the property. The pump hasn’t been used for a couple of years. If we can start it and string a tenth of a mile or so of hose down the old wagon road to our house, that might be the only solution. (We’re allowed to water with well water or–in cities–with so-called grey water that’s not potable but good for plants.)

But, we’d much rather have y’all send us some of your extra rain. Just don’t go overboard. We don’t need a tropical storm or a hurricane for Thanksgiving. Three inches of gentle rain would do just fine and tide us over for a week or so.

Thanks in advance.

–Malcolm

atravessiadecoraMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, paranormal and fantasy novels and short stories. The Portuguese edition  of his paranormal short story “Cora’s Crossing” is now available on iTunes, Nook, Kobo, Sribd, and coming soon on Kindle.

 

The Falling Down Smokehouse Blues

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That old smokehouse been fallin’ down,
Yes, that old smokehouse’s fallin’ down,
Seen wind and rain, babies born, babies grown,
Seen cotton, corn, and okra sown,
While roof and siding been fallin’ down.

When my wife and I had a house built on the site of her family’s original homestead, she became the 5th generation to live on property that’s been in the family since the 1880s. We moved here in January and found the site none the worse for wear for all the trucks, people, dumpster and piles of building materials that have been coming and going since last June.

We told the builder not to run over, back into, damage, knock down or even dent the old tractor garage, well house, and smokehouse. Along with the property’s one hundred year old trees, these remaining outbuildings represented the land’s history and the continuity of family over the years.

Several years ago, a tornado tore out one of the more ancient trees and, in the process, damaged the well house roof and the smokehouse. Now they have been repaired. We’re trying to stabilize everything old and restore a sense of “home” to this patch of ground, and that includes the two rose bushes we planted where my wife’s grandmother once had two rose bushes, and keeping watch over day lilies that bloomed this spring after spreading while people came and went.

Here are two BEFORE pictures:

smokehouseblogA

Here are the two AFTER pictures showing the new door, two new corner posts, new siding and a new roof:

smokehouseblogBMoving to this place has been–and continues to be–an adventure. We need more trees and shrubs in the yard, some fencing, a closer look at the well to see if we can get water from it again, and we need to finish unpacking things inside the house.

But today, that old smokehouse no longer has the blues.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

 

Review: ‘Lost Lake’ by Sarah Addison Allen

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Lost Lake, Sarah Addison Allen (St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, January 21, 2014, paperback January 6, 2015), 304 pp.

lostlakeKate Pheris is waking up after the worst year of her life, the year she lost her husband and almost lost herself while her young daughter Devin waited for life to begin again and her mother-in-law Cricket orchestrated their future like a puppeteer with an agenda stronger than love.

But older ties are stronger even though they might have seemed forever lost.

Kate and Devin serendipitously discover a fifteen-year- old postcard in the attic while getting ready to move to Cricket’s house where neither of them wants to be: Greetings from Lost Lake, Georgia: a Magical Experience. Sent by Kate’s great-great-aunt Eby after Kate’s best summer ever at the ramshackle cabins our of another era in South Georgia, the card stirs up old hopes and memories.

Kate’s never seen the card before. Her mother, who had a falling out with Eby that summer, hid it away along with its message, “You’re welcome to come back anytime you’d like.”

It’s too late, isn’t it? Lost Lake and Eby are probably long gone. Yet, Lost Lake really isn’t that far from Atlanta. What if Kate and Devin drive down there and look?

While Cricket organizes the future she wants with indomitable and merciless force, Lost Lake suggests possibilities with a gentle touch, one that pulls on the heartstrings of those who have come back for one last summer before Eby sells the place she can no longer afford to keep and flies away to see the world.

The book features a cast of memorable characters and–inasmuch as this novel is magical realism–a magical setting. Everyone who arrives to say goodbye to Eby and Lost Lake is looking for something, and they all have their secrets and their losses.

Like an oasis that’s almost visible for one moment and gone the next, the magic and the synchronicity of the setting are deftly handled by Allen (Garden Spells The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper), adding mystery and, perhaps, a sense of hope that a seemingly lost future is not altogether lost.

One cannot read Lost Lake without noting a certain predictability in the plot and the syrup of sentimentality it the developing themes and coming-out-of-hiding histories of the characters. One can say the same thing about It’s a Wonderful Life.  Nonetheless, movie viewers return to It’s a Wonderful Life every year at Christmas just as the faithful, if not aging, guests return to Lost Lake every summer.

Lost Lake gives those guests what they’re looking for even though most of them are too stubborn to admit it. Readers may know, or think they know, how Kate’s and Devin’s summer at Lost Lake will end. They may be right. Even so, the book casts a spell that’s impossible to resist.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” set in the Florida Panhandle where folk magic lives deep in the piney woods.

 

 

It’s all in what you’re used to…

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…when it comes to hot weather.

todaysweatherMy wife and I lived in houses without air conditioning when we were growing up. Her north Georgia house finally go A/C after she had long-since moved out; my north Florida house got A/C when I was in college. When hot weather came, we turned on the fans, sat on the front porch and drank iced tea, hers with sugar and mine with lemon.

Our A/C unit was limping along at the end of last week and finally quit on Sunday. Sunday’s the most popular day of the week for stuff breaking down. Fortunately, the temperature got down into the high 60s last night, so we were finally able to get some cooler air in the house.

Nonetheless, our cats acted like the A/C breakdown was our fault.

Okay, I know people are living in places where the daily temps are always over 100. I don’t want to hear about it. They’re used to it. Plus, my DNA was probably altered by the fact I was born across the bay from foggy and usually cool San Francisco. When I was a kid, 88 wasn’t too bad.

But, years of soft living with A/C, have conditioning me to need ten degrees cooler–if not more. I’m a winter person in spite of growing up in the land of hurricanes, alligators and hot weather.  So, until the repairman arrives this afternoon with a replacement part for the unit, I’m not a happy camper even though I’m not actually camping. To add insult to injury, iced tea now gives me heartburn.

Maybe we’re all just getting older. (You may want to write that down.) Maybe 88 degrees is hotter now than it was fifty years ago. Maybe it’s global warming and the weathermen have inflated the temps to keep up and it’s really 120 in the shade outside.

If worse comes to worse, I suppose we could go sit in the car with the A/C up on high.

TSStitleTo segue to another sun-related subject, Second Wind Publishing will be releasing my novel The Sun Singer this week in e-book and paperback editions. That’s cool news after the novel has been out of print for a year. I’m looking forward to the new edition.

Malcolm

 

Freshly washed woods

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GorgeMost of us don’t like hiking in the rain. Last September, my brother and I got caught in a very cold Glacier Park thunderstorm near Mt. Gould. Before we got back, we had also been pelted with hail. Without umbrellas, we were drenched.

Fortunately, we found a warm fire in the hotel fireplace after the hike

When my brother and I, along with our wives and a spirited nephew hiked in light rain at Tallulah Gorge in the Georgia mountains last week, we carried umbrellas. We weren’t as cold as we were in Glacier. And we weren’t hiking in a hurry because–unlike the Glacier hike–it was raining when we started.

MalcolmLesaTallulahEverything was fresh and the scents of wet rocks, wet earth and wet leaves were a far better than anything thing you can buy in an aerosol can at the grocery store. When we were kids, we walked and rode our bikes in the rain on purpose. Whether it was our feet or our wheels, we splashed through the biggest puddles we could find.

We avoided the puddles at Tallulah. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the freshly washed woods. It reminded me of childhood walks.

It reminded me of how much we miss by purposely setting up most of our hikes under sunny skies. Within moderation, there’s much to be said for night, wind, rain and snow.

So-called “bad weather” is a face of nature we miss by staying inside.

–Malcolm

JSSBcover2Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the comedy/mystery “Jock Steward and the Missing Sea of Fire.” Now you can pre-order the new book of stories “Jock Stewart Strikes Back” prior to the book’s April 1 release.

Falling Trees: Part of the ‘joy’ of owning a home

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Our house was built in 2001 on a heavily wooded old farm near Jefferson, Georgia some 60 miles north of Atlanta. We liked the fact that the developers had kept the old trees. However, we were also aware that they had graded too close to many of them, ensuring that they would die off in less than ten years. Add to that the drought conditions we’ve experienced during many of the years we’ve lived here, and you’ve got a recipe falling trees.

The day after we got back home from the Thanksgiving holidays, one of the trees in the tree island in the front hard toppled over and damaged the roof over the garage. Fortunately, our insurance covered the repairs and allowed a little something for having the tree removed before the home owners association sent us a note saying, “Do you know you have a fallen tree in your yard?” Since this was the third tree to fall in 2011, we didn’t want another snippy note.

On new year’s day, two more trees fell. Fortunately, these missed the house. Unfortunately, the dead one knocked over a live one on the way down. While the tree people were here cleaning up the mess, they cut down four other trees that seemed to be aimed at the house. We hope we don’t have to call them again any time soon.

When I see advertisements for houses on wooded lots, I often think: “Yeah right, the lot is wooded now, but how long will it stay that way?” Growing up in a subdivision in Florida where care was taken with the grading, I got a bit spoiled. We had 40 trees on the lot when we moved in and none of them fell down in the 33 years the family owned the house. Maybe we were lucky: they were all slash pines and several hurricanes came through town. We always had plenty of pine straw!

As a tree city, our town keeps track of its percentage of tree canopy. Looks like the next survey (using aerial photographs) is going to show a few gaps in our neighborhood.

Malcolm