Category Archives: VA

Celtic Connections

Jack’s weekly guest blog ruminates on the connective threads of here, there, then, and now

Now that we’re back from Wisconsin, things are beginning to get busy around here. And they appear to be taking on a British Isles tinge, I might add.

Yesterday I started teaching a series of five weekly classes on Scottish ballads and folk songs at the Higher Ed Center in Abingdon. This is always enjoyable and I’ve been doing it semi-annually for a few years now.

At the same time I am gearing up for the annual small group tour that I conduct around Scotland every year at the end of June. Everything is pretty much in place as I write this. The tour is another ‘labor of love’ – something I enjoy doing that ends up introducing me to a most interesting and diverse group of people. Since I always go over a few days before the tour starts, I get to catch up with friends and family. This year Wendy will finally be joining me after it ends, something we’ve been hoping for since I started this crazy venture eight years ago.

On top of that, as one of the group that organizes Big Stone Celtic (Sept 26 and 27, so mark your calendars!) I’m beginning to put together the program. For the first time we have an internationally famous headliner, Barbara Dickson, making her debut this side of the Atlantic, so I’m in the throes of applying for her work visa – a steep learning curve! Who knew the American government would require so much paperwork?

Just in case that isn’t enough I continue to put together my weekly radio show Celtic Clanjamphry (known affectionately now as ‘ClanJam’). Now in its sixth year (whoda thunk it, as they say in Southwest Virginia) my ongoing quest is to cover as many of the Celtic Nations as possible via music ancient and modern.

And finally, of course there are our regular bookstore events. Irish storyteller (and our good friend) Liz Weir will be the centerpiece of our evening of Irish stories and food tonight. Second Story Cafe owner Kelley is preparing Beef and Guinness pie, Colcannon and Apple Crumble to complete the Irish feast.

Now, the great thing about all these happenings are the connections between them. Liz attended our wedding in Scotland, and she hosts my tour group every second year. Folk who listen to ClanJam come on the tour and folk who have been on the tour drop into the bookstore and come to our events. Others who attend my classes come to the bookstore, listen to the radio show and will be on this year’s tour. Big Stone Celtic fits right into all that and brings hundreds of visitors to our small town every year. It’s a nice circle, on a background of plaid and emerald green!

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA


chestnutsIf you ate in the Second Story Cafe at Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books between March 22 and March 27, we urge you to get in touch with us right away. A support group is forming.

Of course our good Chef Kelley tries to source local foods and suppliers whenever possible, so gets her beef from Bob’s market. She also buys gourmet items from Appalachian Hometown Grocery.

Many of you will remember that Kelley made a lovely steak and mushroom pie last week, and discerning foodies may have realized that the pastry crust contained chestnut paste (the secret ingredient). Appalachian Grocery’s stock is culled from various specialty markets; the chestnuts came from Bolivia.

We don’t know how many of you are keeping up with the latest news from there, but yes, the giant spiders you keep seeing in that Facebook picture do exist, and it’s true that Bolivian Wolf Spiders live to be about 150. The BWSes spin their webs among chestnut trees, so the chestnuts get covered in … well, they peed on the chestnuts. And the chestnuts absorbed the nutrients.

Although this might sound distasteful, let’s keep in mind how watermelons and mushrooms reach their ultimate flavor, and not rush to judgment of other cultures’ agricultural practices.

We all know that chestnuts are an excellent source of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) but riboflavin is one of those enhancing vitamins, upping the potency of other nutrients. When the Bolivian government realized what was happening, they ripped the groves up. They weren’t going to just let all that vegetation rot, so they shipped it to the States for cattle fodder. That’s how the cows earmarked for Asheville ate the bark and leaves, and Bob gets his beef from Asheville, so through that odd combination of fate we so often encounter in this life, if you ate the featured casserole last week, you got a double dose of contaminated Bolivian chestnuts. Which means you’re immortal.

So we’re forming a support group and would like to invite everyone who had the steak and mushroom pie between March 22 and March 27 to attend. If you had the chicken fiesta soup, you’re fine, and not to worry about the cowboy beans; that hamburger was on sale at Food City.

Jack and I will see you at 6 pm on April 1–and for a long time after that. We each had two servings. Kelley’s pies are just so tasty.


Filed under bad writing, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA