Out of Africa

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Africa. Specifically, American Christian ministry in Africa.  A couple from my church, Mickey and Jackie Bailey, founded an orphanage in Zambia several years ago and now have added a school.  They’re asking for donations for books, used or new, for pre-school through seventh grade students.  In English, the language the children are learning in.

Yesterday’s Rocky Mount Telegram featured a story about their mission.  Click here to read about the difference they’re undoubtedly making in the lives of these Zambian children, and consequently, the future of this impoverished country.  http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/News/2018/06/10/Couple-educates-African-kids.html  Wow, just wow.

In July, I’ll attend a writer’s retreat led by author Elaine Neil Orr, who grew up in Nigeria. Her parents were medical missionaries, and—get this—the family remained in Nigeria during its civil war.

I’ve just finished reading one of her books titled A Different Sun, which is a fictional account of a Baptist missionary couple, Emma and Henry Bowman, who set off to minister to the Yoruba people of Africa.  It’s 1853, and the wife is the daughter of a prosperous slave owner.  The husband, twenty years older, is a former Texas Ranger who’s lived a wild and ungodly life before hearing his call to the ministry.

Their hardships in Africa are many, and the story reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.  (If you’ve never read The Poisonwood Bible, get your hands on a copy ASAP.)

Both books explore the culture shock and misunderstandings between the missionaries and those they’ve come to help. And both examine the gradual adaptation of the missionaries as they learn about and adjust to the differences of their new home.

A Different Sun is a totally engrossing read. Elaine Neil Orr has also written Swimming Between Worlds, which I read first and endorsed on my Author Facebook page.


Her third novel, which I plan to order today, is called Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life.  It’s labeled a memoir, so maybe I’ll find out how the author fared during the Nigerian civil war.


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Grandsons, Traffic Jams, and Cucumbers

I don’t know that anyone noticed, but I missed my self-imposed Monday blog deadline. I’ve been in Charlotte, hanging out with these two cuties.


They’re on vacation between regular school-year preschool and summer preschool. Their mom, my daughter, works from home and needed help keeping busy, busy toddlers safely busy.  My pleasure….

On another note, talk about traffic. Whew!  I came home yesterday, hitting Raleigh around five o’clock.  (I know, bad timing; ever so often I forget to avoid the nightmare of rush hour on the Beltline.)

My usual route, I-540, was shut down to one lane due to a traffic accident, or so the flashing sign on I-40 East said. Rats!  Rush-hour traffic + one less way around Raleigh available = MAJOR TRAFFIC JAM.  We may not have loads of restaurants, theaters, and sports events in Rocky Mount, but we don’t have to contend with ALL THAT TRAFFIC either.

But I’m home now, back East, where my laid-back summer life can resume. I’ve checked on my backyard crops, and the cucumber plants have a few blooms.  The vines haven’t really taken off yet like they do some years, spilling over from the edge of the shrub bed into the adjoining yard. I hope I’m not in for a slim crop this year.  I’ve been looking forward to having cucumbers to share with family and neighbors.


Plus, having a bumper cucumber crop is a point of pride for me. You see, cucumbers and I go way back.  When I was a kid growing up in Edgecombe County, one of my summer jobs was picking cucumbers that were sold for pickling (see last Sunday’s column:  http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/06/03/What-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation.html).

I guess I consider myself something of a cucumber expert since I learned that

  • while growing, cucumbers need a lot of water so as not to turn bitter,
  • when conditions are right, cucumbers grow very quickly and require constant picking,
  • smaller cucumbers fetch more money at the cucumber sorting station than large ones.

Need I go on? I’m sure I can wrack my brain for more cucumber trivia, but let me leave you with a picture of my hill of squash. I’m expanding my shrub bed gardening this year.




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The Mountains in May

I can’t recall ever going to the North Carolina mountains in May. I’ve taken the occasional family summer trip in July or more often, gone in October to check out the stunning fall foliage.

But there have been years when I didn’t get to the mountains at all. It’s a long drive from eastern North Carolina. And I’m more of a beach person.

If you live in Charlotte, though, the mountains are closer than the beach. My middle daughter and her husband, Charlotteans, have bought a vacation home in Beech Mountain, 25 miles on the other side of Boone. She wanted her dad and me to visit Mother’s Day weekend.

It was close to a five-hour drive counting in a rest area stop or two. Well, actually, that was the trip going home.  On the way there, we got as far as Boone and then rewarded ourselves with a big country dinner at the Daniel Boone Inn. We needed fuel for that last 25 miles.  Eating at 5:30 on a Thursday afternoon in May, we just did beat the crowd.  There was a line at the door when we left.  I can’t even imagine how busy the restaurant must be during the peak of tourist season.


Yes, I ate it all.

My daughter’s house sits on a hill—or maybe a small mountain? We had to keep an eye on her boys, ages 4 and 19 months, to be sure they didn’t take a step off the side of the yard and go rolling down.


A steep front yard

It was Mother’s Day weekend and temperatures at home soared into the low 90s. But we enjoyed comfortable upper 70s as we walked along the dirt road in front of the house, stopping to admire gurgling streams. The trees were just beginning to leaf out, being a couple of weeks behind those in the eastern part of the state.


Who doesn’t love a gurgling mountain stream?

There was no air conditioning in the mountain house, but we didn’t miss it. Open windows and ceiling fans kept us cool, even a little chilly at times.

Arriving home on Sunday afternoon, I discovered there was no air conditioning on the second floor of my house in Rocky Mount. Open windows and ceiling fans didn’t work to relieve the stifling upstairs heat.  (Click here to read about my wait for HVAC assistance: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/05/27/Waiting-for-cool-air-wasn-t-all-bad.html)

I wasn’t in the mountains anymore.





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Local Grocery Stores, Old and New

A recent article in Our State magazine about family-owned Smith’s Red & White Supermarket, located in nearby Dortches, got me thinking about local Rocky Mount grocery stores back when dinosaurs roamed the earth—that is, the 1960s and ’70s when I was growing up.

I decided to take a field trip to the former locations of two of these stores, Gurganus Brothers and Wooten’s Supermarket. I wanted to see what, if anything, is going on there today.

Both locations are in areas of town that have experienced what sociologists call white flight. When I pulled into the parking lots of the stores that have replaced Gurganus Brothers and Wooten’s, I felt out of place and conspicuous, and if I’m being honest, a little afraid. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to enter either of the two stores that today stand in the locations of the old supermarkets.


Fairview Mart, location of old Gurganus Brothers









I would like to have gone inside. I was curious to see what’s being sold and whether the prices are significantly higher than those in a Food Lion or a Harris Teeter. From what I could see from my car in the parking lot, both stores seemed fairly busy, with customers coming and going.


The Family Supermarket, location of old Wooten’s Supermarket


Are local people shopping there for the convenience? For products they can’t find in other grocery stores? Or the friendliness of a small market where the cashier may actually know their name?

Or because they lack transportation to get anywhere else?

I go to Smith’s Red and White for one of the above reasons: products I can’t find in another grocery store. For example, freshly-ground sausage, homemade chicken salad, desserts from nearby Tastee Creations Bakery, and barrels of what used to be called “penny” candy.


“Penny” candy at Smith’s Red & White


If you’ve been inside either Fairview Mart, located where Gurganus Brothers used to be or The Family Supermarket, at the location of the old Wooten’s Supermarket, tell me about it. I’m curious to know what their shoppers find there.

To read more about Rocky Mount mom and pop grocery stores from days of yore, click here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/05/20/Local-grocery-stores-come-and-go.html


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Sew What?

Does anybody sew anymore? I mean make your own clothes kind of sewing.  As in buy fabric and a pattern.  Pick out thread, zipper, buttons (called “notions” in sewing lingo).  Then stitch up a dress or a pair of pants.

I know I don’t. Despite the fact that one of the first big items I remember purchasing as a young married woman was a sewing machine, I never put it to much use outfitting myself or my young daughters.  IMG_1220Oh, I made the occasional item, a skirt here and there.  This one, a toddler size 5, stills hangs in an upstairs closet, though the daughter it was made for is now 36.

Clothes got cheaper over the years with all the made-in-China /Vietnam/Jordan/Mexico imports. And I was a working mom with hardly enough time to cook, let alone sew.  My seamstress projects became limited to specialty items, like the “window treatments” (drapes) I made for my dining room. IMG_1211

Growing up, a couple of my daughters expressed a fleeting interest in sewing. In fact, the last dress I remember making was a joint venture with my youngest daughter. We IMG_1213stitched up the simple sleeveless A-line number from this pattern.  It looked a lot like the one I made in ninth-grade home economics back in 1969.  My daughter liked the dress, wore it, but never wanted to make another.

My grandchildren often ask me to set up my sewing machine. They will cut out and stitch something they can stuff, producing lopsided pillows or vague animal shapes. The boys mostly like pressing the foot pedal to make the machine run.

But maybe my only granddaughter, almost thirteen, will turn out to be a sewer who sticks to it.  School will soon be out, and she’ll need some projects.  Perhaps she’d like to make a classic A-line dress.  I already have the pattern.



To read more about my thoughts on home sewing, click here   http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/05/06/Sewing-seems-unlikely-today.html


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Garden Therapy, Part 2

If my mother had ever heard the words “garden therapy,” she would’ve rolled her eyes. “Garden” to her meant that field of vegetables planted behind the backyard of our out-in-the-country home. Long rows of corn, butterbeans, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, squash, okra, and potatoes.

There wasn’t anything therapeutic in planting, picking, and preserving all that produce. It was a job that lasted all summer.

Fast forward to me. I don’t can or freeze vegetables, but I do enjoy planting a few hills of cucumbers along with a couple of bell pepper and tomato plants. By the time I buy the seedlings and amend the soil with bags of Black Kow manure I get from Lowe’s, I spend more money producing these vegetables than I would pay for them at the farmer’s market.

But that’s not the point. I enjoy growing stuff. In small amounts so that gardening doesn’t get to be work.

IMG_1154I’ve planted my cucumber seedlings at the edge of my backyard shrubs as I have for the last few years. I’ll have to post another picture later in the summer to show how much they’ve grown. If all goes well.


I repeat, if all goes well. The biggest problem I have with trying to garden at my suburban home isn’t drought or diseases. It’s animals. Deer, rabbits, and squirrels, to be exact. I’ve learned to plant everything in my fenced-in backyard, which at least keeps out the deer.20180418_165336

But rabbits and squirrels easily slip in. So this year, I’ve beefed up security. My youngest daughter gave me her cast-off raised garden beds and around them I’ve added a tight wire-mesh fence (thank you, husband for nailing it to the boards). I’m thinking it will take a Superman rabbit or a really starving squirrel to jump this fence.


Garden therapy isn’t so therapeutic when critters get to your plants.

To read more about my gardening (plants and flowers), click here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/04/29/Planting-Can-Be-Therapeutic.html


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Garden Therapy, Part 1

Yesterday was May 1, May Day if you’re old enough to remember when schoolchildren used to dance around maypoles. I celebrated by setting out my first summer flowers.  It’s been a cold spring, and I turned down a sister outing to the nursery a week or so ago, thinking I wasn’t quite ready to spring into summer annuals.

But turning the calendar page to May combined with temperatures in the low 80s this week got me in the mood to plant. I finally felt the need for garden therapy.

I love digging in the dirt. I guess it’s just the old country girl in me, but there’s something restorative about putting in a bed of flowers.  Communing with nature, I forget the minor irritations of life.

IMG_1140This week’s garden therapy began with a trip to Allen’s Nursery. I felt like a kid in a candy store as I surveyed all the types of flowers, rows upon rows of colorful options. I was almost giddy and momentarily forgot what I’d come to buy, a flat of my tried and true begonias.

Which kind do I always plant? For some reason, the begonias sold at Allen’s all have alcohol names: Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, Brandy, Rum.  Last year’s cocktail was a red variety, and none of the selections this year seemed to be quite the one.  I finally picked a bright pink named Brandy.


Back home, my husband volunteered to rototill my begonia bed. He’s not into garden therapy like I am but will do small jobs that require power equipment.  I spaced, dug holes, planted, and rearranged the pine straw.  These baby begonias have a lot of growing to do to catch up with crops from previous years.



I did yield to one impulse buy at the nursery. Pink petunias were calling me. I had temporary amnesia about my past struggles with keeping this flower alive and healthy.  Garden therapy is counterproductive when plants die.  But it’s May and hope springs eternal during planting season.


I’ll talk about my vegetable gardening in the next blog, Part 2 of Garden Therapy.




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