Exploring the Mason-Dixon Line in the Central Appalachians & a Pickle Recipe from My Home Away from Home.

Uncategorized | August 28, 2014 | By


When I say home these days I have to stop and think for a minute to remember which little farm in the Appalachians I am talking about. More and more it turns out that it’s the one in the Alleghenies of Central Appalachia that I am speaking of, rather than my beloved mini farm in The Great Smoky Mountains of the Southern Appalachians…


the new little farm my family and I have relocated to in the center of an enormous Mennonite farm, far from “home”. Both are heaven to me. And right now both are “home”.

I have always joked that, due to my combined love of coastal Florida and the Southern Appalachians, I am like a woman in love with two men. And here I sit in love with two farms, so much so with one that I daily I feel like I’m being unfaithful to other. But I am so thankful that it is to a beautiful little mountain farm that I am moving it all, though in a few hours I have to return to the home I’ve spent the last 9 yrs. making, schooling my children in, whose acres I have happily farmed, trails I’ve blissfully stomped, and mountain views I’ve spent my days gazing upon, to pack up a life I adored.

Our new garden is mostly tilled. Empty rooms are waiting to be filled with all the wonderful antique pieces we have collected over the years. The kitchen pantry is gradually being stocked. I am already watching summer roll over to fall this far north. And, rather than having one favorite window to look out of onto my favorite view from our farmhouse, I now live in one that has achingly beautiful panoramic vistas visible from every room.


I’m a little thrown for a loop by the actual process of leaving home, so I have to keep reminding myself that I CAN do this. I know how to move, and I’ve loved every location we’ve ever moved to. This is how I do it.

A. Never, ever stop exploring.

B. Never, ever stop decorating. I was moving things around and improving anything I could reasonably change until the moment my husband was offered the job that moved us here. I was “pinning” before Pinterest was a glimmer in its creator’s eye.

C. Never, ever stop growing things.

D. Never, ever stop looking for good restaurants and new foods to try in a new location.

So, of course I started on day one. Great food finds, which I’ll share in future posts, decorating our new place with things that have a history, exploring back roads and city streets as well as forests and streams, planning my winter garden, have all helped my family and me accept the transition with a sense of adventure.

Our new place has provided the most comfortable, lengthy camping experience of our lives. It will be hard to let our old house go and move all of our things that made it a home into a moving truck, but we will be so glad to have them back in our lives again. I can’t wait to get all of my kitchen equipment up here so I can put this adorable retro kitchen to use.



I found some old pottery bowls and mixing bowls, along with blue-green mason jars lying around in the dirt, so washed them up and placed them in the open where they can be appreciated.



The jars make great vases for the wildflowers I pick around the farm.


The owners are Mennonite. Their produce is out of this world. I’m hoping mine will be as terrific, grown in the same soil.




Every morning I sit in front of the kitchen window with my coffee. I’ve “wasted” hours here since move-in day. So peaceful.





My new blogging spot, where I think I will put my desk when we get it up here, overlooks the farm’s pond.


I was very surprised to find an ice crystal on one of the panes on a chilly August morning. Yes, I have been visiting the L.L.Bean website for ideas on how to keep our toes warm come October. I’m a little nervous about the amount of snow that falls in this area, but have been reassured that the temperatures are very similar to what they were at our Smoky Mountain farm.


The house has its original tub.


I found this awesome shabby, painted floor under the carpet in the master bedroom. I decided I like it so much that I am not going re-paint, just scrubbed it till my fingers bled.


On a return trip to the Smoky Mountain farm to bring up our farm animals, the boys and I picked everything that was ready in the garden. Cucumbers made up the majority of the lot, so with our limited kitchen tools we made pickles. The old stove pictured is on its way out, so this is one of the few pictures I’ll ever blog of it. A new (hopefully vintage) range is in the plan, but not as old-fashioned as the one the Mennonite family tried to talk me into getting…a wood stove. They do all of their cooking on one. I’m a pretty old-fashioned girl, but I’m not quite ready for that, though we are looking into hooking up my great-grandfather’s old cast iron cook stove for occasional soup warming and bread baking.


Bread and Butter Pickles:

4 cups cucumber slices, 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick rounds

1 c. sliced baby red and yellow onions

2 minced cloves of garlic

2 T sea salt

1 c. apple cider vinegar

3/4 c. turbinado sugar

1 T pickling spice

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

4 half pint jars with lids and seals

Bring all but the cucumbers to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to “steep” for 5 minutes. Sterilize jars, lids, and seals. Add cucumber slices to jars. Pour hot liquid over the cucumbers in the jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Finger tighten on lids and seals. Process in canner. Store for two weeks before sampling.

Yield: 4 half pint jelly jars.


On the weekends we do as much exploring as we can fit into two days, while still enjoying home cooked country breakfasts and trips to our favorite farmers market.

North of the Mason-Dixon, we discovered America’s first federally funded road, The National Road. It extended from the East Coast to the Ohio River to give travelers in the early 1800s a route to pass through the mountains.


Later it became a popular thoroughfare for vacationers, once the automobile was invented. While traveling parts of The National Road through Pennsylvania, we stumbled upon Fort Necessity, the site of young George Washington’s first battle, the incident that sparked The French and Indian War. At Fort Necessity, which sits on lands that Washington purchased after returning to site of his defeat by the French, you can see the original earthworks that he had his soldiers create for defense, in addition to a replica fort and stockade that were built to simulate Washington’s original.






Mt. Washington Tavern is located on Washington’s property, along what is now The National Road. It was built per his wishes but not until after his death, as a stopover for stagecoach travelers.





Parts of Washington’s Braddock Road, the route he and his men carved north to the Forks of the Ohio, present day Pittsburgh, is still visible near the park, as is the grave of the man it was named for who died on the road, British General Edward Braddock.


I found my first covered bridge along a Pennsylvania back road this past weekend. It’s ridiculous how happy it made me.



And just down the road…THIS happened. Oh my. I’m in girl-born-in-the-wrong-century heaven living up here.




We have discovered a great main street in Fairmont, WV,





…but a sad, abandoned looking example of turn of the 20th Century architecture in Grafton, WV, site of the first land battle of the Civil War, which led to the first death of the war. We call it “District 12” because as a depressed mining town that has seen grander days, it reminds us of the bleak village of the coal mine district from The Hunger Games series. Fortunately, the town’s residents are working hard to “Turn This Town Around”. I look forward to visiting when it is a booming vacation destination, as it deserves to be.


One building I was happy to see in Grafton that shines in its pristine originality is the town’s Dairy Queen. They have a limited menu, due the small size of the building, but I’m so glad it has never been modernized.


Our relocation had us living in the area just in time for a county fair. The little fair our town put on back “home” had no rides and very few vendors. Considering the fact that my husband hails from a town so miniscule that the county fair was the highlight event of the year, and we first met at a fair it has been difficult for us to get excited about our previous town’s “agricultural fair”. This little deal didn’t disappoint! It was tiny but perfect. I even found the Italian sausage sandwich vendor I’d missed in fairs for the last 13 years. A problem my mother created by stopping by the vendor at our local fair every year for her annual dose. You can usually find one of these booths by following your nose.



And because it was a real county fair, there were plenty of rides and animals.


I loved that it was set up on top of a hill. The sunset was one of the prettiest I’ve seen.


We saw hams…




…and t-bones.


North of the Mason-Dixon is Uniontown, PA.


We visited on a Sunday, when everything is closed, so about all we could do was drive around and take pictures. I can’t wait to stroll down this old city’s sidewalks when it is bustling and businesses are open. Sorry that these pictures aren’t the best. They were taken through our car windows while we were stopped at intersections. Ha ha.





Morgantown, south of the Mason-Dixon, is the home of West Virginia University and the actor Don Knotts. I was a huge Barney Fife fan growing up, and remember loving all of Don Knotts’ and Tim Conway’s movies when I was a kid, so this fact makes me giddy. It’s a nice town set on a hill, teeming with college students. I will blog more of Morgantown when I finally visit downtown with the intention of getting out of my vehicle.

A pretty river walk follows the old B&O Railroad line that used to run through Morgantown.




The dam on the Monongahela River works in conjunction with others in the area to prevent flooding. It has a lock which allows boats to move up and down the waterway.


And nearby, West Virginia University’s Arboretum makes a nice place for a picnic. I especially loved this spot because it looked so much like my backyard in The Smoky Mountains that I could imagine that I was sitting on the fallen log on our trail.


Bittersweet. But sometimes leaving home is coming home.






  1. Leave a Reply

    August 28, 2014

    Okay, I am just going to say it. I.AM.Jealous! hahah I am so happy for you. I love seeing all of the picture of places you have been and all that you are able to do on that little farm. I’m praying that one day, we will be able to live on a little farm like you do. :)

    • Leave a Reply

      August 28, 2014

      Oh. This move would have been so hard if we hadn’t found this place. I don’t want anyone to be jealous, even in jest, but while we were still waiting to see if we were moving I had an author read my “About” page. She jokingly said that she wanted my life. I just cried because I wanted my life, too, but I knew I was losing it. So knowing I still have the life I WANT, don’t need, just leaves me feeling so thankful. I hope you find an amazing little farm! If you’re a country person, there’s nothing like it. I know my city loving friends wouldn’t make it a day out here. 😉 But…this is a rental. We may have to rent for the rest of our lives to have what we “want”.

  2. Leave a Reply

    August 28, 2014

    I love hearing you so happy!

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