Book: Slaves in the Family

If you’re at all a history buff, generally of the southern kind, specifically of the antebellum South Carolina kind, then I have a great read for you.

Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball.

I first discovered this book after getting involved in researching my family’s genealogical histories, which also led me to be more interested in the history of where I now reside—in a neighborhood like any other but that was developed on what used to be the land of a very prominent lowcountry rice plantation.

Edward Ball, the author, grew up primarily in New York, distanced from his southern relatives he really never knew and distanced from really knowing about his family’s past as being one of the largest plantation families owning—by my count of the map presented in the front of his book—24 plantations along the upper Cooper River in South Carolina’s lowcountry. For over 150 years of enslaved times, the Ball family as a whole owned more than 4,000 slaves.

After being prompted to attend a Ball Family Reunion, to be held on the origin of their family’s plantation owning days, Comingtee Plantation, and after much hesitation to do so, Edward Ball attended and came to the conclusions there was more to this story. How could his family live alongside this many slaves for so many years and only know a first name (and not their true first name).

Slaves in the Family explains Edward’s move to Charleston. He locates one of his ancestors Charleston proper homes and resides in it will researching and writing. He explores the papers and books that had been handed down to him that he’d never really explored or understood. Actual ledgers and listings of slave purchases, plantation transactions, memoirs of his ancestors lead him on his plight of finding present day living descendants of slaves that lived on his family’s plantations.

What’s truly fascinating to me is his ability to connect with these living descendants in ways which really bring them connection and fellowship. As we all know, education and slavery did not walk hand in hand. And slaves had little option but to rely on oral history and verbal passing of their memories and lives to future generations. Meanwhile, plantation owners were free to record whatever they desired and were privy to documenting and storing the pages of their lives. Edward Ball is able on many circumstances to find documentation about the enslaved ancestors and research their history, and not only just provide this for the living descendants, but find connections through the same stories. Truly proving the strength and power of the slave’s oral histories that often times match the documented slave owner’s accounts or were even stronger. What great irony.

Spending my whole life on some stretch of the Cooper River but currently residing upon one of the previous Ball Plantations, my husband and I spend many of our days out in the old rice fields of these plantations. It’s where we fish and boat all summer, it’s where we duck hunt all winter. It’s not just that we enjoy the river as thousands of Lowcountry residents do—it’s that we’re immersed in the very fields Edward Ball writes about. The very fields that slaves were responsible for transporting their byproduct down stream navigating the very dikes they built and the ones we still navigate today.

It’s one thing to go out on a boat in the summer with your friends and be on the Cooper. But to really know the bends and curves; to feel the creeks and wade in the tides of these old rice fields. ­For me, it’s a much richer experience to enter in the pure darkness of 4:00 in the morning knowing you’re standing on the dikes that purely exist because some 200–300 years ago, slaves dug this river this way. To await shooting time during duck season while watching, hearing, and feeling the land awake around you in these fields honestly amazes me every time.

To be able to connect with history—good or bad—in this way, is why I love living here. Why our children and grandchildren will know this land and her stories the we have been taught and continue to learn about every day.


Music Share: The Dirty Guv’nahs

Fairly new to the music scene, but not really, The Dirty Guv’nahs formed out of Knoxville, TN about 5 years ago and are definitely worth a listenin’ to. This group of guys formed on a lark when the now bass player promised a friend his band would play for a benefit conert. Problem was, there was never a band. So on 2 weeks notice, they rallied together and 5 years later, two albums in with a third on the way, The Guv’s have been voted the best band in Knoxville for 4 years.

You can preview both their current albums here on their website or purchase via iTunes. Their next and only SC stop is The Handlebar in Greenville on March 8th.

Women’s Duck Hunting Gear

Now entering my 3rd year of accompanying my husband on duck hunts, the major difference was this season, I was not just accompanying and hunting every couple of weekends, but hunting all season long. As in two-a-days every weekend and with all the extra days off for holidays through winter, some very extended day trips. It was time to gear up.

Seeing as I get cold easily to begin with, I needed to invest in not only the right gear, but that actually fit. As any woman that hunts knows, we’re over trying to wear the kids XL version of something because while it sucks, it fits better than a man’s small.

I started digging and found this site by Holly Heyser, Norcal Cazadora. Finally another woman who actually has legitimate insight into what other women hunters need and want. After researching the many brands she recommended (she also field tests for companies) and comparing with the knowledge my husband’s gathered through rounds of gear and years of use, I was able to make some purchases!

Here are the waders I got and for our neck of the woods here in South Carolina, they are perfect. And for the price, you can’t go wrong. Not overly expensive in the event they do have to be replaced in a few years from a snag. They fit super well and keep me really warm and dry; dry being key. These are Cabela’s brand, 3mm Neoprene Waders.

I hunted the first half of the season with these and a combination of layered shirts/sweatshirts and stealing my husband’s Drake Waterfowl Fleece pullover. And then January came with its colder weather, prospective NC trip, and after Christmas sales. It was time to get a jacket. And man did I get a jacket! I dont’ think I’ve paid for one dress coat or cute jacket in my life that’s ever held a candle to the warmth of this puppy. And it’s really truly windproof! While this is a Men’s and not a Women’s made jacket, it’s a Men’s medium (smallest size they make) and it’s a Wader Length jacket instead of full. So these considerations make it perfect for outfitting me. The best part is, as layered and warm as this jacket is, it’s not bulky and it doesn’t hinder me from raising my gun quickly and firmly.

This is the Drake 4 in 1 Wader, complete in Old School Camo. Nothing like paying tribute to the camo I was raised on watching my grandddad and dad take off for hunts as a child.

All in all, I’ve been very pleased and it sure makes those 4:30am wake up calls a lot easier to tackle!

Catching up

So it’s been a while. And a lot has come and gone since last sharing any posts. I’m hoping to reflect from some of the down time, share some recent happenings and bring a renewed since of blogging back to our little piece of the web. Thanks!


Our next big piece of news, that’s we’ve been patiently awaiting, is the arrival of our newest family member Samson!

Samson comes from Dovewood Kennel—a wonderful Boykin breeder and gun dog trainer who has been exclusively working with the breed for over 20 years. I’ve never bred dogs, nor do I plan too, but while growing up as a child and watching my grandfather, his brothers, and close friends work and train Pointers, I’ve certainly come to appreciate and respect the hard—and proper work—that goes into well-bred, healthy, hunting dogs.

So we welcome Samson home at 6 weeks with a fantastic personality full of curiosity, independence, and drive as he prepares to start school next week. I hope to bring you some updates on how he progresses with his training and retrieving! And for all of you that know our Moultrie—he has become an excellent big brother over night!

Savor Summerton Coming Soon!

Things have been a little quiet on our poor blog lately, as we’ve had lots of excitement going on in the background.
We’ve got some exciting news to share with you! We have begun a new company in the specialty food arena aptly named Savor Summerton—after the small town here in South Carolina near and dear to me that’s been “home” to seven generations of my family—the last generation to truly grow up there being my grandmother and her siblings.
After years of making her Hot Pepper Jelly for fun and gifts, and most recently making over 400 jars for our wedding reception favors last November, we figured it was time to step up to the plate—pun intended. We will begin by offering the original Hot Pepper Jelly and will be adding new lines of specialty, southern, vegetable based jellies in limited batches. All of our vegetables are South Carolina grown and provided by working farmers. We’ll make sure you know of any farm we use before your purchase. And last but not least, all of our products are made and distributed right here in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
Savor Summerton Hot Pepper Jelly, 6 oz glass jar, $4.99 each + shipping
Orders can be placed at as soon as we are up and running! In the meantime, please sign up here if you’d like to receive email annoucements concerning our opening date and more——and you can always follow us on Twitter @savorsummerton.
We’re thoroughly excited and blessed to be able to carry this idea into fruition and thank you all for your love and support!
Sarah Nell & Robert Blackwell
Savor Summerton, LLC

Jelly Palm Season

Just when it can’t get any hotter and the only vegetable still growing in gardens are peppers, my favorite short season fruit bursts onto the scene—Jelly Palm fruit.

The Butia type palm tree is what is mostly seen here in our part of South Carolina. I know there have been 2 massive ones at our beach house on Sullivan’s Island just about since my granddad built it in the early 60s. They line our streets and are in our yards and most people ignore the delicious little orange fruits that fall and litter the ground beneath. But next time, take note and try to beat the wasps because it’s the most intoxicatingly sweet little fleshy fruit around.

I like to compare it to a hybrid of a plum and a muscadine. The fruit itself is about the size of a ping pong ball. But it’s similar to a plum for the large, hard seed in the middle and for how thin the skin is, and muscadine for the fact that most people probably don’t prefer to eat the skin and would rather pop through to the fruit’s flesh beneath. However, because it’s so paper thin, sometimes you just eat it…

And in case you’re new to the sport, collecting these fruits and knowing when they’re at their ripest has a little trick too. You’re probably not going to pick super ripe fruit straight from the tree unless it’s the last bunch on the vine after most have fallen off. If you try to just pick it off the tree as soon as it turns yellow, it’ll still be too hard and slightly bitter. If you try to pick it off the tree once it truly has ripened—good luck fighting the yellow jackets and wasps for it. They’ll be so burrowed in the thick of the fruit cluster you’ll be playing with danger.

When you’re guaranteed to get it best? One-two days max after it’s fallen on the ground. Just let it fall and sit a day, then go gather it up and wash it off. Enjoy it straight off the vine, mash it into a yummy sauce or marinade, or even better? Make jelly:)