Sarah L. HallJul 3, 2023
Sown in the Stars
Planting by the Signs
University Press of Kentucky 2023
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted."—Ecclesiastes 3:1–2
The Appalachian region is deeply rooted in customs that have been handed down for generations. "Planting by the signs," a practice predicated on the belief that moon phases and astrological signs exert a powerful influence on the growth and well-being of crops, is deemed superstitious by some but has been considered essential to gardeners and farmers for centuries and is still in use today.
Sown in the Stars: Planting by the Signs (UP of Kentucky, 2023) brings together the collective knowledge of farmers in central and eastern Kentucky about the custom of planting by the signs. Sarah Hall interviews nearly two dozen contemporary Kentuckians who still follow the signs of the moon and stars to guide planting, harvesting, canning and food preservation, butchering, and general farmwork. Hall explores the roots of this system in both astrology and astronomy and the profound connections felt to the stars, moon, planets, and the earth. Revealed in the personal narratives are the diverse interpretations of the practice. Some farmers and gardeners believe that the moon's impact on crop behavior is purely scientific, while others favor a much wider interpretation of the signs and their impact on our lives. Featuring photographs by Meg Wilson, this timely book bridges the past, present, and future by broadening our understanding of this practice and revealing its potential to increase the resiliency of our current agricultural food systems.
Sarah L. Hall is associate professor of agriculture and natural resources at Berea College. Her scholarly articles on the restoration of native forests and grasslands in Kentucky have been published in a wide range of journals, including Restoration Ecology and New Forests.
Candy Boatwright is currently studying for a M.A. History degree at Clemson University. Her research focus is early South Carolina trade and commerce. She is also interested in material culture and memory. A long-time resident of the upstate she enjoys hiking and exploring the natural beauty as well as the historical places of South Carolina. Her personal website is www.candyrboatwright.net/blog and she is also on Twitter at @CandyBoatwright.