Something to do While at Home in January - TribPapers

Something to do While at Home in January

Rebecca Beyer teaches her Appalachian Folk Medicine workshop in March 2020.

Black Mountain – In the early months of 2021, as the public practices social distancing and spends more time than usual at home, the Swannanoa Valley Museum is offering a series of online workshops to keep hands busy and mouths watering. In this, the second annual Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center winter workshop series, local practitioners will teach attendees how to make their own sauerkraut, sing songs of the Blue Ridge, and make homemade paint and designs from pigments and flowers. 

These online events are a creative adaptation of the museum’s winter workshop series started in January of 2020. During the first iteration of the series, two out of three workshop leaders were able to conduct their workshops in person before the pandemic struck. The last workshop, conducted a few weeks before stay-at-home orders were issued for North Carolina, was conducted by Appalachian ethnobotanist Rebecca Beyer, who modified her talk on folk medicine to focus on the uses of local herbs for respiratory ailments and immune defense. This year, workshop leaders have adapted their teaching styles and methods for online formats, demonstrating their skills from home, creating powerpoints and sharing educational PDFs so that attendees can continue to hone their skills after the end of the workshops. “It was a special challenge to find traditional arts that we felt could be taught adequately over zoom,” says Saro Lynch-Thomason, the museum’s events coordinator. “We had to pass on ideas for craft skills like crochet or woodworking that benefit from close-up views of material and handwork. Finally, we settled on arts like a song, simple food preparation and creative arts using home-made materials.”  

Learn Appalachian traditions

The workshops in the series focus on traditional skills that have been used in Appalachia for several centuries as well as skills that have been in human cultures for thousands of years. The series begins on Monday evening, January 11th with “Fermentation Made Easy” by Ishka Shir. Ms. Shir will begin by discussing why humans ferment food and explore some of the history and culture of different fermentations. She will then show attendees how to make a small batch of sauerkraut. Ishka will finish by conducting a Q&A for troubleshooting home ferments.

On Monday, February 8th, musician Susan Pepper will raise voices and spirits with “Mountain Songs for the Soul.” Rooted in Southern Appalachian song traditions, Ms. Pepper will pick from some of her favorites, explore where they come from and teach them in an interactive style. Each attendee can sing along via Zoom without the pressure of being heard by others.

Last, on Monday, March 8th, museum director LeAnne Johnson will teach “Art from Your Yard: Natural Pigment Tempera Paint and Smash Flower Art. Ms. Johnson will explain how to make natural pigment tempera paint using egg yolks and pigments that can be created from plants and minerals. Then, in the second half of the workshop, Ms. Johnson will demonstrate how pounding flowers into muslin can create a beautiful picture from natural dyes.

Virtual Workshops

The workshop series takes place from January thru March, on Monday evenings starting at 6:30 pm. All workshops will be conducted over Zoom. Registrants will receive a link to each workshop a day ahead of time. Each workshop will be supplemented with an instructional PDF for attendees so attendees can practice their crafts at home after the workshop.

Each workshop is $8 for museum members and $12 for non-members. The full series price is $20 for museum members and $32 for non-members. All workshops will be recorded and available privately on YouTube for any registrants who cannot attend a particular workshop. Questions can be directed to Saro Lynch-Thomason, the events coordinator at, or (828) 669-9566.  Attendees can register for individual workshops or the full series at

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