Self-sufficient Farm Family

For the early settlers in Henderson County, self-sufficiency meant survival. Everything was grown on the farm, from the food the family ate to the fibers woven and spun to make clothes.
Marilyn Pryor Horne can trace her family back to those early settlers in the Middle Fork and Gerton area of the county. The descendants spread throughout the county, and into the Fruitland community.
Horne’s father and mother, Robert Pryor and Goldie Ruff Pryor, followed the family tradition of self-sufficient farming and Horne is passing the tradition on to her children and, also, to those who buy her baked goods and sewing items at the Henderson County Curb Market.
“A lot of my landscaping is edible,” she said, as she showed the blackberry and raspberry bushes in her yard.
The bread Horne sells at the market is made from the fresh berries and fruits she grows, using the fresh eggs from her chickens.
“We’ve planted a whole area of Scuppernong grapes up on a bank,” she said. “I hope to have fresh Scuppernong grapes to sell at the market.”
Guineas are racing and dashing from one area of the yard to another.
“They keep snakes away and keep ticks and insects down,” said Horne. “They’re also wonderful `watch dogs.'”
Rolled hay lines the back yard. The hay is used to feed the cows the family raises.
The small greenhouse is where Horne starts many of her vegetable and herb plants. She raises dill, basil, seven different kinds of mint and different varieties of sage. From time to time, if she has some extra, she will sell the herbs at the market.
There are pear, peach and apple trees, in addition to the vegetable garden, which contains old-time greasy-back beans.
“I have to save the seeds every year,” she said. “You can’t buy the seeds anymore.”
The family consumes the fresh fruits and vegetables, much is used in baking. The remainder is sold at the market.
“When the kids were small, we milked a cow and goats and had fresh eggs,” she said. “I wanted to give them the healthiest, freshest stuff I could give them.”
Their meat came from the beef cattle and chickens.
An outbuilding on the property contains yards upon yards of fabric, which Horne uses to make clothing, crafts and other items she sells at the market.
“When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m here,” she said. “I try to put in at least an hour a day, sometimes more than that, at least 10 hours a week sewing and cutting out.”
The skill was handed down by her mother, who made old-time bonnets and cornhusk dolls, among other handmade items.
“She would sit and sew all winter and make crafts,” said Horne. “In early spring, they would take a trip to Cherokee and sell her crafts.”
The kitchen in Horne’s home has been certified and inspected by the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
“I feel like I owe it to my customers,” she said. “I have a lot of return customers.”
Being certified isn’t as difficult as she once imagined.
“It’s mostly just common-sense things,” she said.
Horne is certified to sell baked goods, jellies and jams and apple butter. Her most popular cake is a four-layer caramel cake. Many of her recipes are taken from her mother’s recipe books and recipes from the Curb Market cookbooks.
The booth belonging to Marilyn Horne at the Curb Market on Church Street is filled with hand-sewn and home-baked goods.
“My mom rented the booth until I got the table,” said Horne.
Her mother, Goldie Pryor, make cornshuck dolls, dried flowers and dried okra flowers.
“When the okra was dry, but still tender, she would take a knife and split the seams of the okra pod and open it up,” Horne said.
An okra “flower” would burst forth.
There are hand-sewn aprons for children, old-fashioned bonnets, towel angels and herbal products. The herbs are grown on the farm. Homemade molasses, sourwood honey and apple butter are stacked alongside cakes. Horne has a N.C. Department of Agriculture-inspected cottage kitchen, which contains an oven that can hold six pound cakes at one time.
Horne’s coconut and caramel layer cake is one of the most popular cakes she sells.
“It’s my mom’s old recipe,” she said.
Horne and her brothers grew up in a log house that her father built from the timbers he cut off the property. Wide-board tongue-and-groove pine was used inside the home, along with hardwood floors. The dirt basement was the root cellar and “sass” holes, lined with straw, were dug to keep cabbage. Her father owned about 60 acres of land on both sides of Fruitland Road.
“He farmed all his life,” said Horne. “He raised produce and rented land all over the county. Since I was little I was in the fields with him.”
The family also raised poultry.
“The chicken house is still up there,” she said, pointing up the hill toward the home place. “We raised thousands of chickens.”
The farm pond on Fruitland Road was built by her father.
“He stocked it with fish every year,” she said.
The family raised cows and hogs, along with the vegetables and fruits the family ate. After the birth of her third child, Horne and her husband, Alan, chose to return to this traditional lifestyle.
“We farmed full time for seven years,” she said. “We had close to 100 head of cows.”
About the time the children were heading for college, cattle prices took a bad dive. Her husband took a full-time job, but the family is still raising cattle and farming.
Her mother’s butter molds and churns line the shelves and walls of Horne’s kitchen as a constant reminder of the self-sufficient mountain traditions the family is passing down to the next generation.