West Virginia’s Newest Predator

No matter how you stand on the issue of hunting/trapping it seems to take a different tone in rural places where farming is a way of life and predator hunting is seen as a vital part of protection for livestock. West Virginia like many eastern states is seeing an invasion of a new kind of predator. The Coyote is a relatively new member to the Appalachian ecosystem as migration of the Eastern Coyote ( a cross bred coyote and wolf)  has taken generations to happen. But the population is growing and more people are discovering what western folks have always known. No one wants a Coyote in the chicken house! So what to do with the increasing populations of non-native predators in our state?

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Shy Coyote in Pennsylvania

The West Virginia Department of Wild Life has stated this on their Coyote research website page. “Predator control of coyotes preying on livestock should be restricted to targeted animals. Although bounties have been liberally used on coyotes in the west, no bounty system has ever worked. Liberal trapping seasons for the coyote should continue. Methods to encourage the sport of predator calling and means to target the coyote as a fur-bearer and game animal should be explored.

It is a challenging to be a farmer or rancher to start with, but to hear the yipping and howling of a pack of Coyotes from the front porch of your farm can be unnerving. Over the 18 years that we lived and worked our farm Coyotes were only in our area the last 6 to 8 years. It was often in the fall and winter that we heard the late night howling of the dogs.  Often it was during the early spring foaling season on the farm and same time of the year that our neighbors cattle were calving out in the pasture. By the end of  February  and March we would often see our friends out tending to the new-born calves and would meet along a fence row and talk about the winter weather and how the babies were growing. Often Tom and I would hear about the calves that were killed by Coyotes. It is tragic but one new born calf is no match for 3 or 4 Coyotes. Even today  we often spend time with farmers who raise sheep and goats who have purchased “watch animals” like Donkeys to protect the herd from the preying eyes of the dogs. The Coyote topic is becoming more common in my circle of friends. No farmer wants to lose his income to a predator. Losing one calf is a real financial  blow to a farmer. So hunting the mysterious animal is becoming big sport in the hills and hallows.

Within a 50 mile radius of our home there are 3 Coyote hunting contests every winter. Coyotes are legal game year around and electronic calls and artificial light or night vision hunting is legal from Jan to July. There are no bag limits, daily,seasonally or annually. So all a person needs is to hold a legal West Virginia hunting / trapping license to pursue a Coyote. Even with this liberal policy the Coyote population is growning and the conflict continues to rise.

So this fall as my husband and son were out deer hunting they watched a pack of three coyote running through the woods chasing a doe deer. It was a within a five-minute walk to a friend’s house where they roamed. They were close enough that if you walked your dog you may be confronted with them. I was shocked even after hearing them in the darkness night after night to think that they were hunting so close to our families farm and even closer to our nieghbors house.

What would you do? What will most of the rural farm families do when this happens to them? When is wild life to close for comfort? Do we need to lose life stock and small pets before it is allowable to remove the threat? The need to answer these questions are being raised in West Virginia, Pennsylvanian and Virginia.The Department of Wild Life of West Virginia says it is OK to protect and defend, so my husband felt that it was in the best interest of that doe and my neighbors dogs and cats to harvest two of the three Coyotes that day.

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Coyote dead in the West Virginia Woods 2016

I sit here and wonder if the Coyote will be to West Virginia and Pennsylvanian what the wild boar is to Florida and Georgia. An animal that causes more damage than good in the ecosystem and ends up on the front page of the DRN’s list of problems. I know for now that with the help of hunters and trappers we may have a chance to keep the Coyote out of the chicken house but we may need more professional help like Florida and Georgia have resorted to for their pig problems. What the future holds for farmers and Coyotes is unknown but I do know that the problem is not going away any time soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, coyote, deer hunting, equine health, Farming, Hunting, natural resources, West Virginia, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Holidays Without Our Parents

So,every adult child has to go through this at least once and some of us have to face it 4 or more times if you are married. It is the day you realize that you will not have a Mother or Father around for the holidays.That you are grown up and you have lost the one or two people in your life that you look up too.  This is the first full year after losing my Mother In Law and one of many years since Tom and I have both lost fathers. The Holidays feel different without them and we feel that we have lost the key to our holiday celebrations.

I think I was in shock last Thanksgiving.I do not even remember what we eat and even if we did  eat… some how I just blanked it all out from Oct 22nd to New Years day. I remember the tree and the kids opening gifts and making breakfast for my family but not much more. I was a stay at home mom then… what did I do for three months??

It seems that this fall the reminder of the loss is tangible. It is harder this year, I can’t call up and ask a questions about how to make stuffing, from the father who has been gone 25 years. The holiday craft making for Sunday School kids is just a distant memory. Christmas cookies and candy over flowing from my mother’s kitchen is no more and I wonder how we will continue as adults. Children suffer deeply with the loss of a grandparent or step grandparent,but I wonder if they feel the loss as long as the adults.The pain lingers for years as we share dinners, gifts and reminders that the person is gone. They are not replaced by thoughts of a new toy,an exciting movie or by the first boy friend or girl friend.

The reply to my heart-break most often is “make  your own memories and traditions” share them with the children. The logic seems to work until you realize how many of us do not have children or have only one.The family dynamic has changed and we don’t always have younger siblings or children share the traditions with.

In my case shopping at the mall is nothing compared to the years I spent making cookies with my mother in our kitchen.Tom still misses opening day of deer season with his Dad and Thanksgiving is not the same without having everyone together for dinner at his parents house. My husband and I still continue to share both of those traditions with our own children and try to pass down those memories to them so nothing is lost.

It is tough doing “Adult”sometimes.I guess we keep moving forward the best we can and at times just fall apart when we finally realize that times change and we can’t stop them.Loss is part of living and being a grown up is all we can do. As Dory says” Just Keep Swimming”.

I am finding it hard to be excited for the Holidays this year,even with the little ones around. I will do my best to make our home warm and inviting and we will have friends and family here.The kids will spend time together and we will eat well. But in my heart there will still be an empty chair at our table. I will spend a few minutes remembering and giving thanks for those we have been lucky to know and love,but Thanksgiving is going to be tough this year. empty-chair-at-thanksgiving

 

Categories: About me, childhood memories, Colorado, Family, grandma, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Pick a Peck of Late Season Peppers

I hope all of your gardens have produced well this year. As I finally close up ours today ( the 4th of Nov.) It seems that I again have learned so much and have had so little time to write about it. We even won some unexpected prizes from the garden this year and that always makes a person feel good when the children are the winners.

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Grand Champion and First Place Winner Black Beauty Green Beans grown by Christopher Powers with help from his brother Cody Powers.

So I learned my first lesson of the season if you like what you grew last year and it did well don’t change seeds just for the sake of change. I have written about my testing seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange before and was really impressed with the green beans we grew and actually saved a few seeds to replant. I replanted the Black Beauty  green bean seeds again this spring and was overjoyed at the results but I was short a row of seeds and just picked up any old bush green beans at the store…. Big Mistake! By the time the local 4-H and county fairs were happening  I had 3/4 of a row of the most beautiful green beans next to a row of the most bug eaten, wilted and stringy beans you have ever seen. So Christopher and I picked the heirloom beans from The Seed Saver Exchange  and took them to the fair. Not expecting much, Christopher surprised us all when his green beans ended up Grand Champion over all the vegetable entries at the fair and First Place in horticulture this year.Lesson learned and I will be ordering more Black Beauty green bean seeds next year.

The Next lesson I learned this year is  that the Cabbage Moth is hard to stop if you don’t cover you crops soon enough. I lost every darn cabbage this year to the moths and I actually used row covers. I was lazy, I admit it, I just left those little sprouts uncovered for about a week and I got them from a feed store that had them outside before covering them. So what did I find about two weeks later when I was out looking over the plants…a  slimy mess all over my destroyed cabbage… and the Cabbage Worms loved my Brussel Sprouts also. So the rabbits got the remains of what was left in the row of cabbages this year! I will pass on cabbage next year, the corn we tried out preformed our expectations and I will be ready next year to freeze some.

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fresh garden garlic adds a deeper rich flavor.

The other lesson I learned was I love to grow garlic and found a wonderful spot under the roof eve of our house that is dry enough and warm enough for green onions, garlic and many herbs. So I am replanting lots more garlic this fall for the summer crop. I also amended this raised bed with a mixture of bunny droppings and wood shavings and everything went wild. One volunteer Water Mellon seed took root in the garden and I ended up with 5 water melons and a 8 foot long vine that covered everything but the garlic and my Sage. So next year I hope to have a huge herb garden for dry and fresh cooking with my garlic and onions.

The thing I have enjoyed the most this year is the second crop of peppers I just harvested and the second bloom of my Irises. I am not sure what happened to these plants but both seemed to be happy to deliver a double gift of their bounty this fall. So this morning when I heard the weather would bring freezing temperatures I covered the flowers and collected the peppers knowing that this is first sign that winter is here.

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the bloom of a yellow Iris on the 4th of Nov. 2016.

 

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Over flowing peck basket of small but usable green peppers Nov 4th 2016.

I am kind of sad to see the garden finally go. Tom and I have already cleared much of the dead stalks and plants from the garden so cleaning up will be easy.Mulching with more bunny droppings and wood shavings will happen and I will put the garden to sleep.

So do any of you have any great way to serve up small peppers? If you have any interesting ideas on how to use these up let me know if the comments below I am thinking of stuffing them like poppers… cheese, bread crumbs,garlic and baking them… what do you think?

 

Categories: Back yard garden, cheese, container garden, cooking, Fairs and Festivals, flowers, gardening, peppers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Halloween visit to the haunted Lunatic Asylum

Visiting the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is my favorite place to explore as an artist and photographer.So when a friend explained a desire to see the huge building in person this Halloween, I was over joyed to share my love with them. So Oct 29th we spent the day exploring and learning about one of West Virginia’s most unusual places. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. With the VIP tour tickets in hand, we spent our morning learning about the treatment and care of our mentally ill and how it has changed over the last 140 years. We also took this unique opportunity to photograph something that is in various stages of restoration and decay. The TALA was closed in 1994 due to the deterioration of the facility and changes in the laws about care of those who suffer from mental illness. At that time the State of West Virginia had no plan for the future of the building  and the 300 acres of farm land that they now had owned in the center of a sleepy farm town.cropped-fall-afternoon-on-the-lawn-of-the-trans-allegheny-lunatic-asylum-west-wv-2016.jpg

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum fell into deep disrepair over the next 9 years leaving the community of Weston, West Virginia to wonder what the future would hold for their Georgian style monument. Would the building be sold off one huge block at a time, would a developer take control  of the land and building and turn it into something that would help the small town or would the TALA just fall apart from neglect. In 2003 Lewis County got its answer as  Morgantown asbestos demolition contractor  Joe Jordan bought the nationally listed historic building for 1.5 million dollars. It was the start of a new beginning for the building and the town.

As a local resident for many years, I have always heard the ghost stories told about the Asylum. I always wanted to get inside to see for myself if it was as spooky and mysterious as reported. Over the years I have been inside some of the buildings, but this trip I was astounded at the amount of work that the Jordan family has committed to doing. Here is just a sample of  images that show what kind of shape the building was in 2007 and in some cases still is today.

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Drop cloth on the floor of the plaster repair shop TALA.

 

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Sunlight on a solitary confinement room at the TALA.

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Washing sink in the kitchen food prep area of the hospital. This seems to be one of the first sinks in this area the newer ones are stainless steel.

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Creepy reflections appear in a widow at the medication dispensary area of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

The woman on the left is a lady as part of our tour group… the older woman on the right without a body remains a mystery. I also have several photos with orbs in them and some believe that the orbs are images of spirits that are in the room.

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Lilly’s room at the TALA where at times ghostly things happen with the toys offered to her.

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Single desk in a common area of the TALA with bared windows and chipping paint.

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Metal bed frame imprinted into the tile floor of one of the patient rooms.

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Sunlight streams through a cobweb covered window looking out on another portion of the TALA.

 

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Doors and windows and grotesque faces on the back of the civil war section of the building of the TALA.

Our tour took us up the three  floors of the main building and from the civil war era to almost modern times with in the building. Each tour that Greg gives is slightly different and geared for the group he leads.Some portions of the main building have been restored had wonderful time period furnishings and made visitors understand what the buildings intended purpose was in the 1800’s.

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Tour guide Greg showing off some of the furniture that is original to the TALA.

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What a room at the TALA could look like for those who were well-behaved.

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Common room area niche with “tea time” table setting on first floor wing

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The first item to be restored was the clock tower and clocks the color that was chosen for the trim of the tower is a color match from the 1800’s.

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My friend Alex Smits in the reflection of a mantel mirror in the restored administrators office at the TALA.

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Second floor nurses quarters unmarried nurses were allowed to live at the TALA and these are were they would have visited and relaxed in the common areas.

The VIP tour lasts around 90 to 95 minutes and covers every area inside the large stone building from the entry area to the scary electro-shock therapy rooms and solitary confinement rooms. It showed what the building was meant to be and also showed visitors what really happened in the days of over crowding when a one person room would have three or four living in small 10 x 10 cells that reminded me of prison cells rather than recovery rooms.

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Observation window in the wall of the shock therapy room.

Alex and I both felt a mixture of fascination and horror while on the tour when we found out the many ways Dr.’s tried to “help” the people who found themselves committed here. I have often been disappointed in our fellow-man but when a person realizes the reasons that were used to place people in facilities like this one… if makes the hair stand up on the back of you neck.

REASONS FOR ADMISSION
WEST VIRGINIA HOSPITAL FOR THE INSANE (WESTON)
OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889Amenorrhea
Asthma
Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Carbuncle
Cerebral softening
Cold
Congetion of brain
Constitutional
Crime
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Diptheria
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Disappointment
Dissipation of nervesDissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Douby about mother’s ancestors
Dropsy
Effusion on the brain
Egotism
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband

Gastritis
Gathering in the head
Greediness
Grief
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Imprisonment
Indigestion
Intemperance
Interferance
Jealousy
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Laziness
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphillis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception

Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Nymphomania
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Politics
Puerperal
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Remorse
Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion
Salvation army
Scarlatina
Seduction
Seduction & dissappointment

Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Smallpox
Snuff
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Sunstroke
Superstition
Supressed masturbation
Supression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Trouble
Uterine derangement
Venerial excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women
Women trouble
Young lady & fear

Sources: http://www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com/main/history3.html

In most cases we would all be committed and institutionalized for the rest of our lives here if they still fallowed these reasons. Thank goodness we have modern medications and treatments.Yet, our tour guide repeatedly told us that several patients at the Asylum cried and became distraught when they closed down the building and had to be move. Some patients had lived inside the gates of the TALA their whole lives and were not stable enough to understand why they had to leave.

No matter how you feel about the TALA it is an interesting tour and a very educational one. I left the building with mixed feelings, I felt shame and heart-break for the people who lived here, fascination for the history and architecture, scared in some of the rooms and by the detailed information given about procedures and treatments. I felt sadness while looking at the art of the patients. I did not include many of my photos because the drawings and painting evoke such strong emotions that I felt as if I was sharing something very personal and did not have the right to.

In the end I had a great time, I got spend time with someone I really enjoy, and got to take photos of a historic old creepy building.. what a wonderful Halloween I had.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Civil War, Halloween, Lewis County, museums, Photos, sickness, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, wellness | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Home Made Turkey Noodle and Greens Soup

One of the things I love about fall is cooking warm soups and stews. Chicken and Turkey noodle soups are one of my favorites and I usually make enough for at least one meal for 4 people and freeze some for a cold no school/no work day in the dark of winter.

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Turkey noodle soup with greens  

 

I make this soup from wild turkey and from store-bought turkey either way it tastes great.In this batch of soup I used the roster chicken stock that I made over the summer and froze.So the flavor is rich and the left overs from several meals come together to make a very nutritious hearty soup.

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leftover roasted turkey breast

I start by thawing out 5 cups of chicken stock adding two cups of water and one bullion cube. I bring the broth to a low boil adding spices carrots, onions adding chunked turkey after a about 10 minutes.I then add one half box of frozen thawed spinach about 2/3 of a cup wilted fresh spinach making sure the soup returns to a low boil before adding 1 1/2 cups wide egg noodles. Simmer everything together until the noodles are tender about 13 minutes. It is a fast 25 mintues that tastes better than anything I have ever tasted from a can and is so good for you.

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getting ready to add egg noodles to soup

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fresh garden garlic adds a deeper rich flavor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe for Turkey Noodle Soup with Greens

5 Cups of Chicken Stock

2 Cups of water

1 Bullion cube

1 Bay leaf

1 tsp. pepper

2 Crushed garlic cloves

1/2 tsp celery seed

1 Cup cut carrots

1 Med onion

2 Cups chunked roasted turkey

2/3 Cup wilted spinach fresh or frozen can change to other tender greens

1 1/2 Cups wide egg noodles.

Bring broth to a simmer add spices carrots and onion cook ten minutes. Add cooked chunked turkey breast and spinach raise temp to boiling add egg noodles and let boil for 13 minutes or until tender. remove from heat and let cool slightly before serving. Makes about 6 to 7 servings and freezes well.

Categories: chicken, Chicken stock, soup, turkey breast, Uncategorized, Wild turkey | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Brighter Side of Appalachian Culture

We are beginning to taking back what is ours in Appalachian Culture. We are becoming trendy these days, with television shows,music programming and with the new food fads. Appalachian is on the rise, our culture and our people are influencing the rest of the nation in our small way. Our culture seems authentic to outsiders and our music, art and food are a new fascination to the world.

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Wild Ramps and Potatoes ready for the soup pot

Unlike the rest of the modern U.S.,we here in the mountains often live in isolation usually by choice but also by situation,making Appalachia one of a very few remaining places in the country to have a historic culture. Our proud people, who often times have endured ridicule for their “folk ways”, are now finding themselves as authorities in traditional living and organic growing, as master craftsmen.

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Finished apple sauce 2013

It is not uncommon for families here to continue to pass on traditions from generation to generation without much change. Time moves more slowly here and family traditions are still highly valued within our communities.Hunting,fishing, foraging and gardening are shared by most everyone know matter the age or sex.These things are family activities that every person takes part in together.Maybe only the men hunt but the woman butcher,can and freeze what is brought home. Maybe only granny forages but the men help make wine, dry or sell the roots and berries that are gathered. Children often help in the garden and in the cleaning and canning process. Everyone is expected to help when the time comes to put up or preserve what the family eats and sells.

Cody Powers with his 8 point buck Nov 2013

Cody Powers with his 8 point buck Lewis County,WV

What is it that the outside world finds so fascinating? I think that they are seeing that our small towns have character unlike the cookie cutter mall style of the big metro cities. I think that people like to see pretty and clean places, but often bore of sterile cement filled cities. People today are not just looking for the glossy fake fun of Las Vegas but are wanting to travel to see art, hear music and eat food that is real and authentic to a people. Our culture is hidden between hills and hallows, it takes time to find, it is not served up fast or easy and you maybe distracted by the lack of cell phone service. Here you have to take the time to get know our people and fall in love with the old buildings.

front porch of the Hutte Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, WV

Front Porch of the Hutte Swiss Restaurant , Helvetia, WV

One of several ways that people are learning about Appalachia is through our sharing our cultural heritage with outsiders through tourism. Celebrating our past has become one of the most important ways we have developed economic growth. Sharing skills or knowledge about how to make beautiful things like quilts, and music that is not often heard outside the hills is of a draw for many. Even taking a steam engin train ride in the woods is how Appalachia to linking the present to the past.

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Lap Dulcimer being played at Fort New Salem.

Our communities are not perfect, they don’t fallow any larger drawn out plan. At times they are dingy and rusted and show wear from years of use.Our towns appear simple, quaint or plain but have survived the changes created from the loss of industry and the harsh terrian.  Appalachians are hard-working folk that share a belief in a higher power, in our speech, our homes and in our music. We create images of what we love most often times on quilts, in a paintings and photography.The subjects of our art are often the forest,the wild life and beautiful water ways that surround us.Appalachians are a people of the land and live according to what happens with that land.

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Heritage Quilt Block Trail mural ready to be installed. Created by JoLynn Powers, AmeriCorps members and community volunteers in Elkins WV.

 

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Presbyterian  Church on the Davis and Elkins College Campus, Elkins West Virginia with Christopher

As people rediscover their connection to land and environment they rediscover Appalachia and her heritage and history.It is a good day for my culture when people  begin to see the value of clean food locally grown, wild plants and animals that are free from steroids and antibiotics.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and home

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and House

West Virginia and all of Appalachia is seeing an appreciation from the outside world that has not happened since settlers first moved west from the cities of the north in 1700 and 1800’s. Let our slow growth, folk ways and home-grown food continue to be a reason for people to find the magic that is Appalachia. She has something to offer all of us and I hope to be part of it.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Iron rails of Cass Scenic Railway

As a lover of smoke, steel and railroads it is hard to resist spending time at Cass, West Virginia.A state park devoted to our state’s logging history. An artist and photographer’s dream location and  my three-day stay was not nearly enough time to explore the logging camp town and her Shay Engines and the beauty of the West Virginia mountains.

As a birthday present to my son Christopher, we chose to spend a long weekend at a preserved logging camp house at Cass State Park and ride the steam train to Bald Knob. The trip is about a 4 hour train ride through the wilderness,a stop for lunch,and final stop for sightseeing on one of the highest points in the state. Christopher has loved trains for all of his 8-year-old life so what better way to let him experience what life was like in the train age then to stay in a logging camp and ride the trains at Cass.

This post could be about all the history we enjoyed while staying in a preserved logging town or descriptions of all the different engines, equipment and cars. I could try to encourage you to take a ride up the mountain and see 3 three different states from the observation tower at Bald Knob. I could say that we all had a wonderful time and plan to go back and spend 5 days next time,or I could just let the photos of this place vividly explain why Cass, West Virginia is so wonderful. So, here are some of my favorite photos of a couple of sunny days in a logging town.

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Rows of Sate Park logging houses on the main road into Cass State Park.

Driving into Cass along the main road are the logging Camp houses that the state has converted into rental houses for tourists and residential housing for local workers.

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The House we rented while we stayed at Cass State Park.

Each house has a small yard and two porches, one in front and one in back. The house where we stayed had three upstairs bedrooms and living, dining and kitchen fully stocked with everything but food.

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The general store is now a gift shop.

The community of Cass had a general store and a restaurant for residents. The store is now a gift shop and ice cream parlor but the restaurant remains.

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Sign on the restaurant at Cass State Park

The community still has a church, a working Police Station, Jail and a working Barber Shop.A community building still holds events in the fall and winter months. Then below the general store is the train station, where all the trains board and depart for the winding mountains.

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Shay Engine #2 getting ready to depart for the first trip of the day to Whitaker station.

We learned a lot about Shay Engines on the ride to Bald Knob and could not believe that we had used 4 tons of West Virginia Coal to get up the steep mountain grade to Bald Knob.  It takes two engines to push visitors up the mountain and only one to lower us back down.This day the Number# 2 and the Number# 4 engines were pushing (not pulling) the seven passenger cars.

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Loading Coal in the early morning at the Cass Steam Works.

 

This is the kind of smoke we all hope to see when riding steam engines up a mountain.

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Smoke from two Shey Engines pushing our train up the hill to Whitaker Station.

While at Whitaker station everyone is able to leave the train and explore the first of two logging landings. This one has several pieces of logging equipment on display and some of the shanty buildings that people used to stay overnight in the mountains. There’s a snack bar,pick-nick tables for lunch and nice bathrooms here at the first stop up the mountain.

After another short ride you reach the top and see the most wonderful sight of the whole trip the view from Bald Knob and the viewing deck.

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View of the observation deck and West Virginia Skyline at Bald Knob landing, destination of Cass Scenic Railroad

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View from the observation deck at Bald Knob. Three states are seen from the deck,West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

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Rental caboose at Bald Knob where you can stay for a week or weekend.

When the train rides are over you can explore the remaining portions of Cass State Park. We spent our evening roasting marshmallows near the remains of the burned out saw mill that produced the lumber that kept the town alive. burned-out-sawmill-at-sunset Sunset over old lumber mill.

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Sawmill belt drives left on their mounts to rust away at Cass State Park

The following morning we spent a couple of hours getting to see the inside of several buildings and the machine Shop where the old engines are repaired and kept running. Over the course of several years the State of West Virginia has added to their collection of Shay engines and now has five that they either use for display or work on the rails at the park.

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Christopher in front of a Climax engine in the shop for repairs

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Open boiler of an engine in the Cass work shop

This part of the tour was possibly Christopher’s favorite part of the weekend. He was able to get up close to the engines and touch and learn about how they are made and repaired. We learned why Shay engines are so unique and why there are so few left in the world today. They were an engine made just for climbing the short steep hills and deep valleys of our mountains and were never meant to go fast, so they make perfect train engines for sight-seeing.

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Retired diesel engine in the weeds along the river at Cass WV

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Back end of a wheel milling machine left out in the weeds in Cass WV

Our time at Cass and the logging camp house was just too short. We could have spent a couple of more days exploring and photographing the town and the rusted hulks of metal that the railroad has abandoned over the years. We should have spent more time walking the Greenbrier Trail that runs through Cass along the Greenbrier River.Christopher wanted to eat more marshmallows at the community camp fire and I just wanted to sleep in the antique bed just one more night before going home.

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Father and son lesson on how to skip stones on the Greenbrier River at Cass WV

So as we packed to head home both Christopher and I asked Tom, if we really had to go home… it felt like the fun had just begun and we had to leave. So Tom’s advice was to plan to stay longer next time… .and I am betting we will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Return of “Doc” Holiday

Please forgive me for not writing more the last month. It seems as if I have taken on a little more than I should have and the main reason is “Doc”.

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Our new Redbone Coonhound Puppy “Doc” Holiday 8 weeks old

Doc is a 8 week old Redbone Coonhound who has stolen my house and my heart. We have been waiting over two years for his breeder to have another litter of pups. So I was overjoyed to be contacted by our friend that they had puppies again and I could finally get my very own hound.

Ok, so it is true that very best coonhounds are bred in Appalachia and the top two in the nation are from West Virginia or Kentucky. It might be the terrain or the population of raccoons that keeps this breed’s history so closely linked to the mountains. But this breed of dog is such a good reflection of who we are that you often judge the character of the man based on how he treats his dogs. In my part of the world often times a grown man will cry like a baby when a hunting dog dies or is killed. Often the dogs are raised as family and are more trusted than most humans and only surpassed by the trust a man will have in a rifle or shotgun. The love of the Hill Billy is deep, their loyalty is unwavering and their ability to work hard and fight to win is just like their dogs.

Hounds have been scent hunting these hills and hollows for generations and it is not uncommon to hear the bay of hounds ringing out for miles in the night. It is truly not a bark at all, but a cry from way down deep and is instinctual, nothing taught. It is the sound a hunter waits for, the dog is saying to his master “Come running we have something for you.”

Here in West Virginia there are three typical coonhounds, the Redbone, the Treeing Walker, and the Blue Tick. All three have the same typical look of a hound but coloring is different. Each have a voice that is unique and hunters know their dog miles away by the sound of the bay they make. If trained properly the dogs once on a treed coon, will remain at the bottom a tree for hours guarding the coon until help arrives.

The reason I love them is not about hunting really,but about their personality. Hounds like the stereotypes portray, are big, silly, loving, dogs that are tolerant of children who play too rough and of cats who often times get rolled into balls on the floor as the hound forces games of chase.Their love of family and protectiveness make them wonderful alarm systems without the deeper fear of being known as bitters. They have huge hearts and are willing to do most anything asked of them. If you can keep them from being distracted by the powerful noise that God gave them.

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Sleepy Puppy ready for a nap

The Redbone Coonhound breed is the grandfather breed to the more well known Bloodhound and was first developed by Irish immigrants in the 1700’s. The long floppy ears play a major role in how well the dog can track and the longer the ears the better, fanning scent to the noise with every lunging step. Some would refer to the hound breed as having a one track mind because everything comes second to their sense of smell and many dogs get lost do to the fact that hunters and families forget that they go wherever their noise leads them, sometimes that is right to the local dog pound.

They are social dogs and love to spend time with their owners. They are active and enjoy being outdoors doing physical activities like running and swimming. My Doc’s sire is a grand champion water dog and could out swim almost every person I know. He loves to track through streams and ponds and has webbed toes on all four feet. So does Doc and we will soon learn if he likes to swim.

So as you can see I have been busy…and will be for a few more months as we get through house training and teething, but I will keep you posted on our adventures together. I hope you enjoy the photos and I am sure to take tons more of the silly guy as we train him.

There is nothing in the world better for a boy then the love of a good dog.

 

 

 

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A National Quiet Zone and a National Radio Telescope.

I maybe the last remaining member of my family to not have a smartphone. But when traveling to Green Bank, W.V.  and the National Radio Telescope Science Center, I am not alone. This 13,000 acres of land inside the Monongahela National  forest is designated as A National Quiet Zone. Residents in the area are not allowed to use cell phones, WIFI is strictly prohibited,and families are not even allowed to use microwave ovens. I am thinking, I should move to Green Bank and go back in time to a place where things were different and people actually talked to each other. A time when life was slower and communication took hours not seconds.

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Green Bank,West Virginia and the world’s largest steerable radio telescope.

Many people who live in the Green Bank area either love the reason for the Quiet Zone or they hate it. Green Bank, West Virginia is home to the largest  steerable radio telescope in the world. The technology is so sensitive that they could pick up a cell phone signal on Mars and when researchers received that information back on earth, they would think that your phone was the loudest radio signal in outer space.It is hard to wrap my brain around that but, that means cell phones are the “Devil” to these researchers and their work. So I feel like I may have found my “People”. These families, researchers, farmers and public employees all live in a world that is more reminiscent to the 1940’s and 1950’s then 2016. Maintenance workers at the research center are not even allowed to have gas powered engines on the astronomy property. The researchers all drive diesel vehicles so they do not have spark plugs firing near the telescope. The spark sends out  a signal to the telescopes sensitive receivers.

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Green Bank Science Center National Radio Astronomy Observatory

So this holiday weekend my family decided to explore the Green Bank Science Center and finally see the huge radio telescope for ourselves. I have just enough of a nerd in me to find the study of astronomy very fascinating and  always jump to the chance to learn more. This research center is only about two hours from our house and is hidden in a rural mountain community so the trip was not only to see the telescope but spend the rest of the weekend in a small community called Cass.Cass State Park is home to  a scenic Railroad with several passenger trains that run year around. We spent the following day riding the trains up into the beautiful forests of Pocahontas  County for a restful day of sight seeing.How could we beat two great locations to visit about 15 minutes apart.

When you arrive at the Green Bank Science Center you are able to spend several hours exploring the building and grounds before actually taking a bus ride out to see the telescope up close. They have a nice interactive exhibit hall with activities for people of every age to explore. Tom, Christopher and I played with all kinds of fun devices that explained different things that they study at the science center. We took inferred photos of each other, played with mirrors and light reflections, put together huge puzzle pieces and got to see a scale model of the telescope that was beautiful.We walked around the grounds looking at some of the historic telescopes  and checked out a scale solar system display.

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JoLynn Powers at the Green Bank,West Virginia Science Center Exhibit Hall

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Green Bank,West Virginia Tom and Christopher are my favorite Aliens!

 

After our lunch and time in the exhibit hall we were allowed to photograph the telescope outside on a wooden landing area just out back of the main building. This would be the last location that digital photos would be allowed.Even the smallest click from a digital camera can disturb the radio waves near the telescope, so we packed away our cameras as we boarded a small tour bus to see the megalith up close. In a matter of minutes we were within a couple hundred yards of the huge structure. Watching the huge dish move into position for recording the data that a scientist needed that day was hypnotic. It is hard to explain how quite the telescope is when it moves. We stood only 50 yards from the large base of the telescope yet you could not hear a sound of any movement. How lonely it feels to be in the dishes huge shadow and how little I feel when I think about the fact that this telescope is looking not just at our solar system but ones hundreds of millions of miles away.

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photo from last safe point before entering the restricted camera area

After we returned to the bus and traveled back to the main building it was time to spend a few dollars on a nerdy telescope t-shirt and cool toys for Christopher at the gift shop. I also got the schedule of coming events. The science center hosts many child friendly events throughout the year and we hope to try to come back for some of them so ….. Christopher ( not his mom ) can learn more about space, the planets and the world we live in.  This very inexpensive trip  has to be the coolest thing I have done all summer.

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Roof and view from visitors center of the Green Bank Science Center.

Just as a side note, I love metal structures of all kinds, bridges, towers, old piles of rusted junk, cranes, old ships, radar dishes and now radio telescopes.This man made aluminum dish is the most fascinating object I think I have ever seen. Its sheer size,the dish is larger than a football field across and around 2 acres is surface space, the height is taller than the statue of liberty and makes me want to take hundreds of photos. I love its maze of bright white structural supports with so much open spaces to look through. I could have spent most of my day just watching it slowly move on its 6 legs with 12 feet tall steel wheels that support the 8,500 tons or 170,000,000 pounds. I will one day return to spend more time with a film camera so that I can take photos really close up and enjoy sitting it the shadow of a giant.

For more information about the Green Bank Radio Telescope please check out their Website at NRAO and plan to visit one of West Virginia’s most undiscovered treasures.

 

 

 

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Categories: Green Bank NRAO, historic locations, Monongahela National Forest, Pocahontas County, rural life, Science Center, State Park activities, trains, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Exploring the National Parks System on it’s 100th Birthday, Aug 25th 2016.

It is in the woods that I find peace and my spirit is rejuvenated. It is in the forest of my beloved West Virginia that I rejoice that we live in a country that values and protects the most unusual of our natural resources. It is in our countries wisdom that they have saved millions of acres of land and miles of waterways for future generations.

West Virginia is one of the states that does not have a fully designated National Park. So for this August 25th celebration I want to share a vision of one of my  states protected National Forests, Monongahela National Forest. This unique forest ecosystem is preserved at the national level within the National Park System along with West Virginia’s  National Rivers, The New River,and Blue Stone, Two National Recreation Areas,The Gauley River National Recreation Area and Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, a National Historic Park at Harper’s Ferry and of course a National Scenic Trail the Appalachian Trail. All of these locations are protected for future generations buy the National Parks System of the United States of America.

 

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The Monongahela National forest represents a wide verity of rare and unique ecosystems, natural wonders, beautiful vegetation, and abundant wild life. It is here within the forest that my family and I have spent hundreds of hours exploring, searching for that rare moment when the outside world disappears and  nothing remains but the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

This National Forest comprises roughly a million acres of forest land in West Virginia. An approximate 1.3 million visitors come to the Monongahela National Forest each year.The forest spreads across the Southern portion of the state from the city of  White Sulfur Springs to the Northern border of West Virginia to Maryland state line. With the main body of the forest residing on the Eastern side of the state, along US Highway 219.

Within West Virginia’s largest National Forest there is a long list of natural wonders. Some I have photographed over the years and others are still a mystery to me. Some are easy to access and others are miles from civilization. So with the help of my family I have had the pleasure of seeing much of the forest and can share just a few of the wonderful sights that I have explored over the years.

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Stuarts Park has several CCC built covered pavilions with in the Monongahela National Forest. Also located within a mile of the campground/ park pavilions is Bickel Knob Observation Tower where it is possible to see about 1/3 of the National Forest and the surrounding towns.

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The trip up this tower early in the morning lets us see over six different ridge tops and two small towns.

Christopher and JoLynn on top of Bickles Knob observation tower last days of summer 2016

 

The Bowden Fish Hatchery is where the local brook trout, brown trout and the West Virginia Golden Trout are brooded for release all over the state.

Tom Christopher at the Bowden Fish hatchery 2016

We fish in the many streams and rivers in the forest. My son learns to cast at Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.DSC00172

Exploring Smoke Hole Caverns on a hot summer afternoon is a treat.To spend a couple of hours under ground exploring the caves is one of my families favorite summer time trips.

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Smoke Hole Caverns entrance

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The slow drip of the Smoke Hole Caverns ceiling

All of these amazing locations are within the National Forest but what I am most fond of is the simple quiet beauty that we see as we forage and hike through the woods.

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Mushrooms growing on a tree stump near Bear Haven Campground

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Young horse at home on public grazing land at Monongahela National Forest

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Summer wildflowers along a forest service road in the Monongahela National Forest

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Wet wildflowers at Stuarts Park, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

 

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Cheat Mountain Salamander takes visitors on rides through hundreds of miles of the Monongahela National Forest. This is my favorite way to see the sights.

This train ride is headed for Green Bank and the National Radio Observatory where in the middle of the Monongahela Forest is the darkest place in West Virginia. It is the perfect location for star-gazing with professional astronomers. This is where my family and I finally got to see the Milky Way with our bare eyes.

As you can see I love my state, love my Forest and am excited to be included in this centennial  celebration. Thanks to Cotopaxi Company  for inviting me to take part in the festivities in my small way. I am proud to share with all of you the great work that Cotopaxi is doing all around our world and how one company with a mission can change the world one backpack at a time. I am so glad that their company supports and loves the outdoors as much a I do. Thanks for reminding us all about how important our Nation Park System is and what would be lost without our ability to explore and enjoy to great outdoors. Again Thank you Cotopaxi for letting me join in the fun!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Cheat Mountain Salamander, family fun, Hardwood forest, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, natural resources, Potomac river, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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