Burns Night Outlander North Carolina

Robert Burns Night–Scotland Style

January 25, 2021

special guest post by Mhairi Jarvie

Our special guest post is from Mhairi Jarvie, a valuable member of the Inverness Outlanders, as well as  the Outlander North Carolina Clan. We are excited to bring her knowledge to ONC–read on as she shares a bit about Burns Night!

Robert Burns, or Rabbie Burns as he’s more commonly known here in Scotland – poet and songwriter extraordinaire. World renowned and celebrated. Quite simply, one of the best writers that ever existed, in my humble opinion. So, who was this guy, and what does he mean to Scotland, Scottish emigrants, the world, and little old me?

He was born on 25 January, 1759, in Alloway, Ayrshire, in the west of Scotland. He was the oldest of seven children borne by William Burns and Agnes Broun. I could go on and tell you all about the man, but that’s what Wikipedia is for! It’s no secret he had a very tough childhood, full of hardship and poverty. It’s also no secret that he *ahem* had an eye for the ladies! But I was asked to put together a piece on my own experience of Burns, what he means to me, Scotland, and the world.

Thatched roof with a dark sign with gold lettering Burns Cottage Robert Burns the Ayrshire poet was born in this cottage 25 January AD 1759 and died 21 July AD 1796 age 37 and a half years

As a child, in what we in Scotland call primary school (aged 5 to 11), it was practically the law, every Burns night, that we recite a verse of his poetry. It was usually from “To a Mouse”, as it’s quite an easy one, and children can relate to it. A scared wee mouse, running away from the farmer’s plough. Looking at it now, as an adult, I see it as a man’s awareness of the damage humans can do to the natural habitats of animals, apologising for same. John Steinbeck obviously identified with Burns, and a line from this poem specifically, as he named his best selling novel “Of Mice and Men”. The line from the poem is “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain for promis’d joy!”. Basically, rough translation from Scots, even the best laid plans can go astray and leave us with grief and pain instead of joy. When I reached secondary school, or high school (aged 12-18), I read that book, but never knew the connection. It makes perfect sense. Sadly, although Scotland has its own education system, to this day more time is given over to Shakespeare than Burns. Anything I know of Burns poems, I’ve been self taught. I’ve no idea why he isn’t taught more in Scottish schools, as we can learn such a lot from his writings.

As part of that primary school Burns tradition, we were also challenged to write a poem of our own. Now, writing poetry is something that’s in my blood! My Dad, and his Dad, wrote poems in English and Welsh. On my paternal grandmother’s side, I’m descended from a Welsh bard. It’s the same on my maternal grandfather’s side, I’m descended from a Scottish Gaelic bard. I’ve written poems and songs since childhood, inspired by Burns, and other Scottish writers. So yes, he’s inspired me. I love singing his songs too.

Burns night, 25 January, his birth date, is celebrated more than that of our patron saint, St Andrew (on 30 November), in Scotland and in all Scottish communities throughout the world. Scots are spread all across this globe, whether that be by choice, or, through the 18th and 19th centuries, some by force. Wherever they settled – America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, etc. – Scottish societies were formed; Scottish churches were established; streets, towns and villages were built and given Scottish names. Scottish music, stories, songs, language and dance also went with them, and Burns continued to be celebrated. The very first Burns club, or association, was set up in Greenock, to the west of Glasgow, in 1801, only 5 years after Burns passed away. It was set up by some merchants, some of whom knew Burns and counted him as a friend. This club is known as The Mother Club.

Every official Burns night has a set format – piping in the guests, chairperson’s welcome, Selkirk or Burns grace, piping in of the haggis, address to the haggis, toast to the haggis, then you tuck in to the meal. The Selkirk, or Burns grace, is this –

white plate holding haggis, neeps or rutabagas and tatties or potatoes with a small glass of whisky beside the plate

Haggis, neeps & tatties with a bit of whisky to wash it down


“Some have meat and cannae eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit”

Address to the Haggis poem imposed on black stone plaque in gold lettering

First verse, Address of the Haggis by Robert Burns

In your every day common household though, most families will just tuck into the haggis, neeps and tatties, – or haggis, turnips (swedes), and potatoes. Someone will maybe say the first verse of the “Address to a Haggis”, but there’s not very much pomp or ceremony involved. In this house, it’s the only time of year I’ll eat haggis, but it must be mashed together with the neeps and tatties, or I can’t eat it I’m afraid! Shhhhh! Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not really a fan! Nor am I a fan of whisky! Anyway, I digress!

Burns poems and songs are known around the world, and some are more famous than others. The most famous, by a country mile, is Auld Lang Syne. This has become synonymous with New Year, or Hogmanay, celebrations absolutely everywhere. There won’t be many places on the planet where this song is not known. A lot longer than the normal two verses sung, it’s a song of friendship and remembrance. Strangers cross arms and join hands during the second verse, and they dance together as they sing the rest. Please, please note though, for the sake of Scots everywhere, that the word “syne” starts with an S and not a Z! It’s pronounced sign, and not zine. The collective hairs on the back of all Scottish necks go up, and teeth grind, as they hear zine!

I mentioned earlier the influence Burns had on John Steinbeck, but he has been an influence to so many. Bob Dylan cited “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose” as one of the songs that touched him the most, that was one of his greatest sources of inspiration. It’s said that Michael Jackson was a Burns fan too. In the 1990’s, he recorded twelve of Burns’ best known poems set to music. US fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger was the 3x great nephew of Burns. Apparently it wasn’t spoken about due to Burns womanising and boozing, but Hilfiger later embraced the connection through his love of plaid in his designs. There’s a folk festival held in Scotland every January, for the last 30 years now, called Celtic Connections, featuring musicians, singers and poets from all over the world (it’s online this year for obvious reasons). Every year, without fail, Burns songs are sung and poems read out. Some are sung or recited in original form, some are adapted, translated, or interpreted as something else like dance.

Burns is also responsible for a lot of tourism to Scotland, specifically the areas he was born in, grew up in, and farmed in. The cottage he was born in is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and houses approximately 5000 artefacts, including original manuscripts. Burns also saved a bridge! There’s a film called Brigadoon, from 1945, which features American tourists who stumble across a mysterious Scottish village that only appears for one day every 100 years. There is a real Brig O’ Doon though, in Alloway, where Burns was born. It was built in the 1400’s, rebuilt in the 1700’s, but a newer one was built in 1816 to cope with increasing demand of traffic (horses and carts). The old one was due to be demolished, but there was such an outcry at this from Burns fans. The bridge features in the Burns magnificent poem, “Tam O’Shanter.” To me this is his best work. It’s long, but it’s just brilliant! Tam returns home from market in Ayr, drunk, when he comes across a coven of witches and warlocks in the grounds of the Auld Alloway Kirk. He’s seen, and chased by them. By tradition, a witch won’t pursue anyone over running water, so Tam rides his horse at full sped towards the bridge, and escapes with his life – and his horse without its tail.

snow covered sign that reads Brig o' Doon with snow-covered stone bridge beyond the sign

It’s been 225 years this year since Burns died, yet he is still held in very high regard in Scottish life, culture and tradition. His songs and poems are the stuff of legend. The stories of love, heartbreak, life in general, are enough to make anyone stop and think. Yes, he may have been as Tommy Hilfiger’s family portrayed him – a man of womanising and booze. But he was a literary genius, a caring soul, an egalitarian who spoke out about the slave trade during his time working on a plantation in Jamaica, just before abolition. I challenge you to find one person who can’t hum or sing Auld Lang Syne (S, not Z, remember!). He has statues in Russia, New Zealand, America, and elsewhere. His portrait has adorned postage stamps, shortbread tins, tea towels and lots more!
As I say and watched the inauguration of President Biden today, and listened to his speech, it was Burns that sprang to mind, from his poem “A Man’s a Man for a’ That’ll -“

“Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree an a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er
Shall brithers be fir a’ that”

painting of a man with dark hair, slightly receding hairline, full sideburns dressed in jacket and shirt with open collar and undershirt tied in a knot at the neck

Mhairi, thank you so much for this wonderful and interesting lesson on Burns Night and a bit o’ Scottish history!

Will you be celebrating Burns Night? Tell us about it in the comments!

Mhairi meets Sam Heughan

Mhairi Jarvie was born in Edinburgh, and currently lives in Inverness with her husband Alan and German Shepherd dog Abby; she is stepmother to two adult “children.” Mhairi loves her job as a civilian police support staff in Inverness.   She did not discover Outlander until 2016, thanks to two Orlando, Florida hotel employees! Needless to say she is now a devoted fan, and is part of the Inverness Outlanders group. Mhairi has been lucky to meet Diana Gabaldon, Graham McTavish, and got to snap a photo with Sam Heughan! Mhairi loves her husband, her pets, music,  photography, travel, family research, writing poetry, Disney, Nike shoes, and Scottish history. 

Christmas Outlander North Carolina

The Night Before Christmas
~A Fraser’s Ridge Story~

December 24, 2020

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Ridge

Not a Fraser was stirring, not even a midge.

In hopes that no patients would find their way there.

The wee bairns were nestled all snug in their beds

While visions of Cherry Bounce danced in their heads.

Had just settled themselves for a long winter’s frolic!

When at the Big House, there arose such a brattle

Jamie sprang from his bed, ready for battle.

While Jamie rushed out in the cold winter’s night!

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Set the Ridge and its dwellings all merrily aglow.

When what to Claire’s wondering eyes should she glance

She knew in a moment, it had to be Clarence.

More rapid than eagles, Jamie swirled to find Ian,

Then Marsali and Fergus, and said, “Are ye seein’?”:

“It’s Rupert! It’s Angus! It’s Murtagh Fitzgibbons!

To the steps of the porch, past the home of White Sow.

They slipped and they scurried, without taking a bow.

As turtle soup that before the hurricane simmers

When taken in plenty, makes hearts start to glimmer. 

So into the doorway, they fell two by two, 

Only to find in her way, that wicked Jack Randall.

As she drew back her hand, and was ready to smack

Who should appear in the hall but poor dear Roger Mac.

He was dressed in a nightshirt, from his neck to his knee

And his hair was all tousled from romping with Bree.

And he looked back at Claire as he saw her alarm.

Jack’s eyes – how they smouldered! His dimples, how icy!

His breath smelled like carrion! And his grin, it was dicey!

And with one shove from Claire, Black Jack landed in snow! 

The stump of a tree caught him full in the teeth

And Jamie finished him off with the knife from his sheath!

That stopped in a flash, with a sighting of Bonnet.

He was silent and swift, as he charged towards Himself

And Claire gasped when she saw him, in spite of Herself.

Jamie gave Claire to know Bonnett soon would not linger.

He spoke not a word, then he noticed a sway

Bonnet’s fate had been sealed by his friend, Lord John Grey!

Their joy changed to fright when they caught sight of Laoghaire!

They sprang to the house, to find Auntie Jocasta

With Jenny & Geillis, all playing Canasta!

As friends gathered round from upstairs and down,

And when they all sat with their bannocks and jam,

Ulysses offered a toast as they drank a wee dram.

And heard on the Ridge, were their voices so bright,

The Night Before Christmas ~ A Fraser’s Ridge Story is an original poem by Beth Pittman, written with a tremendous amount of inspiration from Clement C. Moore’s poem and Diana Gabaldon‘s wonderful cast of characters from the Outlander series of books.

For the past couple of Christmases, Beth has been wanting to re-work this poem with an Outlander theme but just couldn’t find the time. With this year’s pandemic and most of her Christmas shopping, wrapping and baking finished early, she was finally able to find the time. Beth hopes you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it! 

With that said, Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us at Outlander North Carolina! 

Outlander North Carolina

North Carolina’s Fraser Fir
America’s Christmas Tree

December 16, 2020

This post was previously published in December, 2017


On a mountain somewhere in western North Carolina stands a tree. This tree is surrounded by others and like humans, some are a little taller, some a bit shorter, some a litter fatter and others a bit slimmer – but all have the same fragrant, blue-green needles and natural pyramid shape.

This tree began it’s life about 12 years ago as a seedling and at the ripe age of 4 was transplanted along with its kindred on the side of the mountain.

During the eight years (more or less) there, it has enjoyed beautiful vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, winter snows, spring rains, cool summer days and nights, and fall colors which would, if it were human, have taken its breath away.

Nearly 100 times each year, its owner has visited, inspected, and lovingly groomed it. And once a year, a swarm of ladybugs was released on it to eat the aphids which love to feast on it’s beauty and thus destroy it. Now, at approximately twelve years old, the tree stands 8 feet tall (it’s kindred at this age are anywhere from 6 to 10 feet tall).

The tree stands proud, sturdy and tall…and ready, at last, to fulfill its purpose for which it was planted 12 years ago. Yes, it is the year, that special year, when it will be chosen from among all the other trees by a family who will cut it and take it to its final home.  Some of it’s kindred will be cut by the farmer who owns them to be sent down the mountain to places near and far where their beauty will be displayed in a Christmas tree lot, there to wait patiently for a home. Once chosen, the tree will be adorned with glorious lights and decorations. Families and friends will gather ‘round it, beautifully wrapped gifts will be placed under it and there, in its final resting place, it will make glad the hearts of children and adults alike. This tree, America’s favorite Christmas tree and the state tree of North Carolina, is the Fraser Fir.

Choose & Cut – Ashe County. Poles are used to measure the trees which are sold by the foot.

Folks waiting in line to pick up their Frasers. Ashe County Choose & Cut. (Before the pandemic obviously. Remember the days when we didn’t have to socially distance or wear face masks?)

Our grandson has picked out his own Fraser Fir. He loves Frasers too!

My husband, grandson and me surrounded by Frasers.

Baled and stacked. Ready for the trip down the mountain!


Loaded! Next stop is a Christmas tree lot near you! Usually no more than 600 to 800 trees can be loaded on a full-size tractor trailer.

Fraser Firs headed down the mountain.

The History of The Fraser Fir

The Fraser Fir is named for the Scottish botanist, John Fraser, who explored the North Carolina mountains in the late 18th century.  An excerpt from an article by Marcus B. Simpson in The American National Biography states the following,

“Fraser, John (1750 – 26 April 1811) was born in Tomnacross near Kiltarlity, Inverness-shire, Scotland, the son of Donald Fraser, a farmer and grounds officer of the Jacobite leader Simon Fraser, thirteenth* Lord Lovat. John Fraser’s mother was probably one Mary McLean of Cragganmore, Inverness-shire. Nothing is known of his childhood and education. In the 1770s, Fraser moved to London and established himself as a draper and hosier in Paradise Row, Chelsea, where he married Francis Shaw in 1778. The Frasers had two sons, John (baptized 1780), who accompanied his father on two collecting trips to North America, and James Thomas (baptized 1782), who helped manage the family’s botanical nursery in England in the 1800s….”.

John Fraser (1750 – 1811)

Abies frasieri (Fraser Fir), named for John Fraser, is native to the southeastern Appalachian Mountains.

John Fraser discovered the Fraser Fir while on a foraging expedition in North Carolina with the French botanist, André Michaux, in 1787. The story has it that after being together for so long, Michaux tired of Fraser’s incessant talking. When Michaux’s horse wandered off one night, he encouraged Fraser to continue on without him while he looked for the horse – an excuse to get away from Fraser (or to get Fraser away from him). That was Michaux’s biggest mistake because it was while John Fraser was foraging on his own that he discovered the fir, Abies fraseri (or Fraser Fir).

It makes sense to me that America’s favorite Christmas tree was discovered in North Carolina, the home of Fraser’s Ridge, by a Fraser. The tree that stands on the mountainside, proud, tall and strong, bringing beauty, love and joy to so many, could only be a Fraser!  So, this Christmas, as you stand around your own Fraser Fir singing Christmas carols, sipping eggnog or wassail, opening gifts, telling stories of Christmases past or just simply enjoying the beauty of this most wondrous tree, remember the name it carries is the same name that holds a special place in the heart of all Outlander fans – Fraser!  Je Suis Prest!  It is ready!  Merry Christmas to you all!!!

(Keep reading for more Fraser Fir facts!)

My Fraser – Before Picture!

My Fraser – After Picture.  Our Elf, Max, is hanging out at the top! He likes Frasers too! Well, who doesn’t?!?!

Fraser Fir Facts:

  • The Fraser Fir is native to North Carolina and only grows naturally in the Southern Appalachians.
  • The Fraser Fir can be successfully grown on land elevations exceeding 3000 feet above sea level making the mountains of North Carolina a perfect location.
  • On average, it takes 7 to 10 years in the field to produce a 6-7 foot Fraser Fir Christmas tree.
  • The Fraser Fir can reach a maximum height of 80 feet.
  • Over 50 million Fraser Firs are grown in North Carolina on 25,000 acres for use as Christmas trees, and the Fraser Fir represents over 90% of all the trees grown in North Carolina as Christmas trees.
  • The North Carolina Fraser Fir Christmas tree is the most popular Christmas tree in North America and is shipped into every state in the U.S. as well as the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, Japan and other points all over the world.
  • Ashe County, North Carolina, is the largest Christmas tree producing county in the United States, with over 12,000 acres in production resulting in over 25 million trees.
  • Christmas trees in Ashe County provide enough daily oxygen for 216,000 people.
  • Cut trees are harvested in 3-6 weeks starting the first week of November. Trees are cut, carried from the field, baled by machine, hauled to a loading yard or storage area, and sorted by size.
  • In 2017, the high demand for Choose and Cut Fraser Firs exceeded the supply in Ashe County alone with many farms having to close earlier than anticipated.

*The reference to the 13th Lord of Lovat in the excerpt of the article by Marcus B. Simpson above appears to be a typographical error as it was the 11th Lord of Lovat (The Fox) who was the Jacobite leader. The 13th Lord of Lovat was not born until 1828 which would have been after the death of botanist, John Fraser. 

Droughtlander Outlander North Carolina The Droughtlander Diaries

Droughtlander Diaries

October 24, 2020

from the diaries of guest poster Dawn Woo

It’s been 5 months since we left Jamie and Claire standing on the porch of the big house on Fraser’s Ridge waiting on “the storm” to approach, both figuratively and literally. To add to our “40 years in the desert”, we are experiencing a pandemic that none of us thought would last this long. School was put on hold and it affected both part-time jobs I have:  coaching high school tennis and working for a historical company that does hands-on 18th century field days for elementary schools. I was left with a good bit of time on my hands. You know what they say about busy hands: “Busy hands are happy hands.”  I thought I would share with my Outlander North Carolina family some of the entries from my Droughtlander Diary. I hope your days have been as full as mine and you have come closer to your inner-Claire (or Jamie, of course).

July 20, 2020
Dear Diary,
I have my patio addition!
Jamie and Claire…..”Jamie stood in front of the new hearth, stretched out a hand to me, and drew me to stand by the hearthstone beside him.” (Drums of Autumn, chapter 19)

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One of the advantages to having 3 sons…two of which are in engineering…is that they can “engineer” things to great detail. I wanted a rock and slate patio to tie my existing patio to my deck and all three boys built it. My oldest son, Ben, helped me to design the patio and also served as supervisor to the crew. I served as design consultant. It was fun watching all three trench and level, build a stone border and lay pieces of big slate.

August 3, 2020
Dear Diary,
We decided to take a little trip to the mountains.
Jamie to Claire….”’How shall I tell ye what it is to feel the need of a place?’ he said softly. ‘The need of snow beneath my shoon. The breath of the mountains breathing their own breath in my nostrils as God gave to Adam…..’”  (Drums of Autumn, chapter 19)
We decided we needed to see the mountains for a few days so we headed to Northeast Tennessee, the West Highland Rim, with two of the four dogs in tow. On the way, we stopped in Valdese and met fellow ONC admin, Dawn Mathews and husband Steve, for lunch at JD’s Smokehouse. The food was just as I remembered from our Friday night BBQ dinner at Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming and the company was even better. 
Our rental home rested on the edge of the Wolf River with a great view of the river and a huge canyon wall from the back deck. We watched all types of wildlife throughout those few days. Our favorite was the family of mink that moved back and forth along the canyon wall at the river’s edge every morning.

August 15, 2020
Dear Diary,
I took time to sit and read a book.
Claire……”The breeze rose with the cooling of the day, and the fluttering leaves of the trees made the multiple shadows dance in the grass. I could easily imagine fairies on the hill, dancing with those shadows, threading through the slender trunks to blend into the depths of the wood.”  (Outlander, chapter 16)

Team Edward!

There are a certain species of mystical creatures that have always captured my attention in stories and those would be vampires. I had originally read all Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series and was excited to learn that she had finally finished the book that was leaked, Midnight Sun. It is basically Twilight from Edward’s point of view. (I’ve always been Team Edward).  It was an interesting book and I loved how Meyers got into Edward’s vampire head. There were a couple of spots, though, where I likened Edward’s constant brooding to William’s endless wandering in the Great Dismal – lol.

August 30, 2020
Dear Diary,
I have cooked and eaten and cooked and eaten.
Claire and Jamie…..” I poked him rudely in the ribs. ‘You’re much too fit. Most men in their forties have begun to go soft round the middle, And you haven’t a spare ounce on you.’ ‘That’s mostly because I havena got anyone to cook for me,’ he said ruefully. ‘If you ate in taverns all the time, ye wouldna be fat, either. Luckily, it looks as though ye eat regularly.’ He patted my bottom familiarly and then ducked, laughing, as I slapped at his hand.” (Voyager, chapter 25)
I had a full house this summer. All of my children were home, plus girlfriends, plus two dogs in addition to our two. Food is a central thought in the minds of 17-24 year olds, especially home cooked food and desserts. It was an absolute joy having all of those feet under our table from May to August, although I am wearing that “joy” around my middle in the form of a few extra pounds. So like Claire, we ate regularly and well.

September 1, 2020
Dear Diary,
There’s a reason it’s called “binge-watching.” You JUST. CANT. STOP!
Jamie meets George Washington…..”The man was as tall as Jamie himself, and Jamie found himself looking straight into sharp, gray-blue eyes that took his measure in the instant it took to shake hands. ‘George Washington,’ the man said. ‘Your servant, sir.’ ‘James Fraser,’ Jamie said, feeling mildly stunned. ‘Your….most obedient. Sir.’ (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, chapter 10)
I decided to finally watch two series that originally aired on AMC, “Turn“ and “Hell on Wheels”.  I regretted not watching them years ago. “Turn” scratched that 18th century itch with George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the spy tactics used in the Revolutionary War. On the other hand, Cullen Bohannon in “Hell on Wheels” stepped up to the plate as pinch hitter for the king of men, Jamie Fraser, for a few weeks….although we all know that Jamie is a home run ALL day, EVERY day! The series was set post-Civil War against the backdrop of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. It, too, featured several historical figures.

September 15, 2020
Dear Diary,
I planted my garden in spring and fall.
Mrs. Fitz to Claire….”’Keep back a few heads,’ she advised me. ‘Divide ‘em and plant the bulbs single, one here and one there, all round the garden. Garlic keeps the wee bugs awa’ from the other plants. Onion and yarrow will do the same. And pinch the dead marigold heads, but keep them, they’re useful.'” (Outlander, chapter 6)
I planted my garden early and had to cover it with sheets several times to protect it from the cold. I put down tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeños, cabbage, purple hull peas, and the candy roasted squash seeds that Mary Helen Ellis gave us at Homecoming 2019. I also have a small established herb garden with rosemary, sage, cilantro, peppermint, and oregano. I was able to dry a lot of these for use this winter. 
My gardening did not stop with the end of summer. I planted a fall/winter garden for the first time. I have broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce. I’m seriously considering trying my hand at making sauerkraut when the fall cabbage crop comes in.

Some of my historical clothing pieces, including my woven tape, and upcycled pocket.

October 5, 2020
Dear Diary,
I hope my fellow ONC clan members have been able to channel their inner Claire or their inner Jamie. I’ve been as happy as the “white sow under the big house” sewing some 18th century garments, learning to tape weave, getting my hands dirty in the garden, and having “my clan” all around me on “my ridge” these past months.
I hope my fellow clan members’ Droughtlander has been happily busy and fruitful. I hope they’ve found pleasure in the everyday mundane that we sometimes take for granted.  As Jamie said to Claire, “The world and each day in it is a gift, mo chridhe-no matter what tomorrow may be.”  (The Fiery Cross, chapter 58)

18th Century Garden Plants A Breath of Snow And Ashes Droughtlander Guest Post Outlander North Carolina Uncategorized

The Droughtlander Diaries

September 9, 2020

Droughtlander Diaries: Tara

Well here we are, in the thick of Droughtlander. This time, it’s kind of like we are stuck in the desert alone without any water and none in sight. Luckily, when the ‘Stay At Home’ orders went in effect, we had a good two months, give or take, of episodes left. The “Outlander” cast and crew are projecting (and hoping) to go back to work in the Fall.

So as we head into the end of the Summer and approach Fall, let us, the Outlander North Carolina Admins, give you some ideas of what to do with your time. Here is what I have been doing…

Gardening Like Claire

If you haven’t read my ‘Gardening like it’s 1776’ post, head over there for some inspiration. One plant mentioned many times in the Outlander books is yarrow, and I grew some this year for the first time. This Spring, someone gave me some black beans to try called ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Beans.’ They are heirloom seeds said to be taken with the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. Luckily, my husband made me lovely wood tuteurs, or trellises, because I needed them. The bean vines grew like wildfire, and I have been harvesting them like crazy! It’s so fun! Also, like Claire, I grew herbs like lavender, sage, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and parsley. I have already started harvesting bunches of them and drying them in my home. This Fall and Winter, I plan to dabble in making tinctures with the herbs as well.

Since I have been harvesting more this year, I wanted something to keep all the veggies without having to run into the house and grab a bowl. I found the idea of a ‘harvest apron’ while perusing Pinterest. My sister-in-law helped me make it, as I am not exactly skilled at using my sewing machine for such a detailed project. I picked a fabric print with bees since the new book is coming out soon and a yellow print to complement it. I love it! Now I have somewhere to put my garden scissors and cellphone if needed.

As I was writing this post, we wrapped up the start of what I hope becomes a vineyard at the back of our property which butts up against a farm field. It has been a dream of mine to have a vineyard ever since I visited the Williamsburg Winery back in 2007. I decided this was the year we would start one. We planted a Concord grape vine. Next year, I plan to add a white grape (or this year if I can still find one at a nursery). In addition, I decided to put two of our red raspberry and black raspberry bushes there.  I am looking forward to making jams, jellies, juice from the fruits, and wine from the grapes someday, and it’s so exciting to look out there and see vines growing!

While we are on the subject of making things...

…exciting plans to help a friend with 18th and 19th century reenacting this year were put to the side when COVID hit and all the events were cancelled. Coincidentally, my husband’s business got very busy and he needed more of my help. With that said, I had already made my 18th century skirt and apron. I’m halfway to having an outfit for next year’s Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming!

What I Am Reading and Watching

I have been re-reading/re-listening to A Breath of Snow and Ashes. There is soooo much I missed the first time around in my race to read through all the books. The book series These Highland Hills by Kathleen Morgan is another I’ve been dabbling in. A friend who is a fellow “Outlander” fan loaned them to me and thought I might like them. The story is set in the 1500s and has very old Scottish language so it takes some time to read. I was reminded of the movie Far and Away (have you heard of it? I’m astonished at how many people haven’t!). I borrowed the DVD from the library and my husband and I had a movie date. I have also started rewatches of “Poldark” and “TURN: Washington Spies.” Basically, anything to get my history fix, and a bit of romance, too. I’m just buying time until “Outlander” Season 5 comes out on DVD. I told my husband that’s part of my birthday present since it’s due to release September 15th.

Raising Quail

We recently started raising quail. Originally we were going to build a chicken coop and raise chickens. My oldest has been asking to do so for awhile now since my brother raises chickens and ducks, as well as homing pigeons in the past. He recently got some quail and thought it would be good for us to start out with for bird-raising since they are smaller, easier to care for and have less of a footprint. We’ve been enjoying it and plan to add to our flock when my brother hatches more.

DIY Queen

My hopes for creating a She Shed this Spring have been put on hold until at least the Spring of 2021. I also wanted to install a stock tank pool in our backyard, but everyone else must be as well, because stock tanks are hard to find! This Fall and Winter, I would like to put up a Colonial-inspired board and batten up in our dining area, adding pegs to hang my aprons and my herbs.

I thought I’d channel my inner Mrs. Bug and try brewing my own batch of cherry bounce! Several of us were brewing individual batches for Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming, but sadly, that won’t be happening this year, so I decided to bring a little bit of Homecoming to my house and brew it anyway! However, I chose to wait until at least New Year’s Eve to partake–I’m really looking forward to trying it!

Little brown jug of cherry bounce!

Hopefully, this gave you some ideas on what you can do while we wait for the next season (which sadly could be a year away).

What are you enjoying during Droughtlander?

Thank you so much for sharing all of your busyness, Tara! You have definitely made the most of your time during these warm months of Droughtlander!  Tara is also a My Peak Challenge member, and her Peaker story is one of the most-read posts on the blog–check it out!

Now, what Tara asked–what are you doing/watching/reading to get through Droughtlander? It better be plenty, because it looks like we have to wait a little longer. (Just remember the old “good things come to those who wait” logic to keep you sane!)