When you drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you have to slow down. The speed limit is 45 mph. But more importantly, there are so many scenic views and interesting sites to visit. How can you not stop and gape at a view like this?
The 469-mile two-lane scenic highway runs from Cherokee, North Carolina, to Rockfish Gap, Va where the Blue Ridge Parkway continues as Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.
You can see signs of contemporary farming activities alongside the Parkway, grazing cattle or sheep, barns and farm houses:
and even a huge pumpkin field along the edge of the forest:
When you get to Milepost 176 though, you fall into a time warp and you are now in the year 1914:
Mabry Mill was the home and business place of Ed and Lizzy Mabry. Ed operated a wheelwright shop, a sawmill, a grist mill, and a blacksmith shop….clearly a Jack-of-all-Trades.
The large water wheel powered a sawmill, a gristmill for grinding corn, and a woodworking shop inside a single wooden building.
To secure a sufficient supply of water, Ed had to build two long wooden troughs or flumes that brought the runoff from two small streams together into the single, elevated trough (the Race) leading to the waterwheel.
Scattered around the mill were various farm implements, wagons, and tools used in a time before electricity and power tools:
This house was not the original frame house Ed and Lizzie built here. The Park Service tore down their old house and re-built it with materials from a nearby log cabin.
This was clearly Lizzie’s domain, where she cooked, cleaned, wove fabrics on her large floor loom, created baskets from vines and reeds, and the many other household items needed.
And after a hard day’s work, they might have spent a few nights operating their whiskey still.
Again, a lot of work was needed to obtain the desired result – corn whiskey. First, corn meal, malt and sugar were mixed with water and then left to ferment in the barrel on the right. After a few days or weeks, the fermented mash was heated in the copper still in the center. The vapors from the still were piped to the barrel on the left, that contained a spiral tube (the “worm”) immersed in a constant flow of water. Condensation from the worm changes the vapor into a liquid, caught in buckets under the barrel.
That’s your basic moonshine recipe.
A small still like this could produce up to 20 gallons of corn whiskey in one night. Talk about high spirits!
I thought about Ed and Lizzie as I admired the bright fall colors around their homestead. Did they have any time at all to enjoy autumn as they were preparing for the isolation of winter in these Appalachian Mountains?
It was hard to leave this interesting and spirited place but a cone of pumpkin ice cream from the Mabry Mill restaurant eased the journey up North.
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