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 and Two National Recreation Areas,The Gauley River National Recreation Area and Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area and 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 but 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 a 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 Forrest residing on the Eastern Side of the State, along US Highway 219.

With in West Virginia’s largest National Forest there is a large 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.

Stuarts Park campground, pick-nick area. DSC00023

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

Bickle Knob observation Tower in the the morning sun randolph county West Virginia 2016

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.

mushrooms on stump Monongahela National Forest

Mushrooms growing on a tree stump near Bear Haven Camp Ground

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

queenann lace with blue flowers summer 2016

Summer wild flowers along a forest service road in the Monongahela National Forest

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

Wet wild flowers 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 Milk Way with our bare eyes.

As you can see I love my state, love my Forest  and 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 out doors. 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: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Always Shop with a Tape Measure

So I have become one of the THOSE WIVES. Not the kind of wife who shops and spends behind my husbands back or a wife who hovers over her children…. but the one who buys furniture that is toooo big for the room where it will reside. You would think that after being a furniture sales woman I would have remembered that nothing in a furniture store looks that big until you get it home. Yea, well it really did not look that big in the store!

So this post actually started almost 6 months ago and is just now coming to an end. Early this spring my older brother contacted me to let me know that he was coming out to visit us in October. He planed to bringing some things of our mothers to me when he visited. The only draw back to this plan was I had no bed for him to sleep in and would need to get one before he arrived.

So around March I began the second search in 4 years for a NEW headboard (the last  bed  crashed to the ground) and again didn’t finding anything I liked. I returned to the idea of finding something used and fixing it up. I did find something I liked at a used furniture store and everything went down hill from there.

What I found was a lovely 4 post cherry bed and a nightstand for about a 3/4 less than the retail price and it was in great shape. I jumped at the bed/night stand combo not even consulting my husband more than “This is what I am buying” and “when can you come pick it up”? I never even ask him the questions of “do you like it?”or “will it fit?” I just found the owner and said”this one is sold!”

So I was happy… I got a wonderful new/used bed that was nicer then anything we had bought in the past. My brother would have a quest bed with the headboard Tom had made me.Little did I know I would not be this happy in a matter of a few days.

We got the two pieces home and began to realize the error of my judgement when Tom took measurements to see how everything would fit in the room. His face told the whole story…. You could see it as he entered the kitchen shaking his head “it will not fit.” My heart sank… “You have to be kidding me?”

master bedroom with bed

moving the new furniture into the freshly painted room

So as you can see we did the only thing you can do when you do not shop with a tape measure.You steal the master bed room back from your seven-year old son.Then begin the long process of  repainting and redoing the two rooms again( just painted when we moved in about a year ago).This time with the promise that I would not buy any more furniture for the next few years.

Master bedroom

finished Master Bedroom with new bed and paint

The rooms are turning out very nice.The bed looks great and I am lucky to have a room big enough for it. Christopher is happy because we are doing a lot of kid friendly work to the room. We pulled up the old carpet and sanded,stained and sealed the floors so he can play more with this train collection. We are adding stars and a glow in the dark moon to the ceiling and a few puffing clouds to the walls.

tearing out old carpet

removing the old carpet and padding showing green walls

tom sanding christophers floors

Tom sanding the hardwood floor in the freshly painted room for Christopher

We should have Christopher moved back into his room in about a week and I can finally get a chance to set up my quest room. Lets just hope that it is all finished soon or my brother may not have a place to sleep.

The moral to the story is do not let a wife shop for furniture with out a tape measure. It may save you lots of time and money in the long run. 

Hope all of you are having a great end of summer and I will be writing more as soon as this project is over as every extra time I have has been spent either sanding or painting the mistake I made away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: DIY projects, funny stories, furniture, Home Decor, home remodeling | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

The Better Mouse Trap

Today after 4 days of use I have to share my feelings about the Tomcat Live Mouse Trap.I rarely write a product review but for this product I am making an exception.After years living on a farm, in the country and now on the edge of town we have had our fair share of mice. Having field mice sneak into your house, barn, or garage is nothing to be ashamed of and is in some cases expected, animal feeds draw the darn things.

So over the years we have tried to control them with every trap or poison on the market, with mixed results. Most of the time the poison worked for the summer and was gone by fall and a new crop of mice moved into the feed shed for the winter.Making us constantly buy more product that is dangerous to use around dogs, cats and kids. We tried several snap type of traps with some luck but they miss many times and make a mess with the mouse that does get caught.Often times you are just refilling the trap night after night with the mouse stealing the bait… That makes me mad!

Then we tried glue traps in the house…. DO NOT DO IT!!! it is the most heart wrenching experience to have a mouse caught and start screaming for dear life at two in the morning. The glue is a very sticky surface and once caught the mouse is stuck and not able to move. You can’t even pull the darn little guys free from the glue to get them to stop shrieking. Then what do you do with the trap? A live animal that you trapped is stuck in glue and still trying to free itself? You can’t save it now covered in glue, you don’t want it in the house, so you end up tossing a live mouse into the trash or out the back door so you can stop thinking about the worst mistake you have made that day.

You can get large live traps but most of them are too large for a field mouse. I have also seen the price on live traps for mice at 20 bucks at the feed store. So when a mommy mouse found my dishwasher insulation the perfect place to have here babies, the trap problem was on again. I had no idea how many mice we had in the house but we were pretty sure their were more than one. So while out looking for traps I came across the Tomcat live trap at a CVS drug store. For 6 dollars I bought my first live mouse trap.

I really did not expect much from the very simple design based on a lever and fulcrum principle. I set the trap…(no snapped  fingers with this design) added the peanut butter to the bait cover and placed on the floor of the kitchen that evening.The trap door is placed in the open position with the little legs standing on the floor to keep the door open and you walk away.

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Close up of trap door on Tomcat live mouse Trap

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Side view of Tomcat live trap this shows bate tray that is placed in the back of trap with peanut butter

 

The following morning the door was closed and the weight of the trap indicated I had a mouse in the trap. No SCREAMING, NO GLUE MESS…. just a heavy trap that  I took out in the back yard and opened and shook. Out popped a very hot, sweaty, tiny field mouse who hopped off into the tall grass in the field behind the house. Inside the trap was a few mouse droppings that I washed with the sink sprayer and let dry for few minutes before resetting the trap.

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Back of Tomcat live mouse trap with bait tray

I followed this routine 4 nights in a row… and got a mouse every single night. All with the same trap and peanut butter. The only problem was remembering to check the trap to see if it needed dumping. I washed the trap today and will set it again tonight with hopes that this is the last of the mice. But even if it does not catch a mommy mouse I have found a fast,clean, noise free way to get rid of the mice. I do not have to worry about the kids getting into a snap trap or into poison that could really hurt them and for 6 dollars I have found a trap that I can use over and over. So now you know why I am pleased to share this product with all of you.

If I was going to rate this product I would call it excellent. I like the design, the easy set up with no snapping parts. I love that it is easy to remove the mouse and supper easy to clean up after each use. Set up is fast and it is easy to tell if the trap is full I found it to worth every penny of the 5.99 plus tax.I have caught 5 mice so far!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Country life, family health, Farming, mice, rural life, traps | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

DIY, Roaster Chicken Stock, Bone Broth

Thanks to a meeting at work and the 35 people who attended I was able to make roster chicken stock. I normally only make stock from beef or deer bones because I rarely have more than a few bones at a time when we eat chicken. But with the remains of 5 roaster chickens it was time for a winter’s worth of chicken broth.

Everyone who cooks knows that we should all make our own Bone Broth or Chicken Stock and the benefits that come from taking the time to do it. Not only does simple homemade chicken stock make cooking easier, having only to thaw it to make a delicious sauce or  base for soups it  also gives the body a nutrient rich base to draw from.

I personally make my stock not only with bones but left over meat and vegetables.I kind of clean out the refrigerator when doing this kind of cooking… knowing that everything I put into the stock will add flavor and nutrition. In this case I had 6 small carrots, 1 large onion, 6 stalks celery, and about a half of a head of cabbage and 5 carcases of roster chickens. I added enough water to the chicken bones to cover and topped then with 3 more inches of water. I put the vegetables in and added 3 tablespoons salt, 4 bay leaves and 3 teaspoons Rosemary  and simmered the mixture for 3 hours.Bone Broth is usually cooked for up to 12 hours to the point where the bones are brittle.

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Chicken stock.. with celery, onion, carrots and cabbage.

After letting the stock cool for over an hour I began the long process of straining the stock. I first pulled out the vegetables. I have a ladle style strainer for this kind of work. Then poured the remaining broth through a strainer into several bowls. This help removes the rosemary and bay leaves and the smaller bones and random meat chucks. I covered the stock and placed three bowls of stock in my refrigerator to finish cooling and letting the chick fat that raised to the top. Around 24 hours later I took the stock out and removed the chicken fat that had raised to the top and hardened. Leaving the gelatin that forms from boiling the bones in the stock… this is the natural collagen that is so good for our health and healing.  Then warmed the stock and mixed the jelly back into the broth and when just warm poured into freezer containers.

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30 cups of homemade chicken stock from 5 roster chicken carcasses.

I ended up with 6 containers of stock with each container holding 5 cups of broth. The broth will remain fresh for up to 6 months. The first time the weather cools I am sure Christopher and I will be making chicken soup or chicken gravy made with this homemade broth.Knowing that we are eating food that not only tastes good but is good for you.

 

 

Categories: chicken, health, soup, soup, wellness | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

Elkins Main Street Creates a Heritage Quilt Block Trail

Following in the same tradition as Barn Quilt Trails of other rural counties, Elkins Main Street begins the process of creating their own Heritage Quilt Block Trail. Located within the downtown historic district of Elkins, West Virginia, community groups come together to support public art and beautification.

With guidance from the Pocahontas County Arts Counsel, The Pen2Paper.org web site “How to Make a Barn Quilt” and many local artist and supporters, we have gathered the best information possible on how to build our own quilt block murals. The four large 8X8 foot painted panels represent 4 traditional quilt patterns used in Appalachian quilts of the area. The large panels will be mounted on the outside of downtown buildings, have an interpretive  map made up of other quilt blocks locations and tell the story of the historical significance of each pattern when all four are completed.

The patterns painted on the blocks represent things that are commonly found in West Virginia and bring to mind the beauty and tradition of quilt making in our local history. The first pattern that is now finished is the “Maple Leaf” pattern.  This brightly colored quilt block will be the first to be installed in the downtown. It will be proudly displayed on the brickwork of the Elkins YMCA. Working on these panels we have members of the local Generation Randolph business development group, service members from AmeriCorps,  Mountain Arts District members and a team from Youthbuild who all work together to prepare and paint the 8 foot X 8 foot panels.AmeriCrops working on Hertiage Quilt Block Panels

Service Members of AmeriCorps: Dominic Piacentini, Molly Greenhouse, Kate Sammons and JoLynn Powers

The second pattern is the traditional pattern of the “Log Cabin”, with the center being bright red to symbolize the heart of every home. It is the most common pattern of all the ones we are making for the trail.

The Third pattern is the Pine Tree that students at Youth Build, a local technical school, are taking on a large portion of the painting as part of their training.

The fourth and final pattern is the “West Virginia Star” with bold Blue and Gold Coloring.

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Mountain Arts District members Anne Beardslee, Josie Cuda, Frank Cuda and Dominic Piacentini

The Heritage Quilt Block Trail of Elkins will add a warm, friendly feel to downtown that will encourage people to spend more time in the area.The trail is also a way for the public to get involved in making the town more beautiful, remind the public of our unique history and enjoy art in a public setting.

As the project finishes up and the murals are mounted on buildings around downtown, I hope to document their final placement.I hope to do a presentation with photos and Powerpoint about what we have learned, what we did right and wrong, and how it affects the people of Elkins. Maybe making a small statement about the power of art and how it can bring a community together.

Categories: AmeriCorps, Art, community service, DIY projects, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, quilts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

West Virginia Flood waters of Change 2016

 

It has been a very long hard couple of days for friends and family all over my beloved state. It seems as if God opened the floodgates of destruction on some of the most fragile and isolated communities of Southern West Virginia. If they had little before the flood waters rushed into homes and businesses last Thursday, then there is nothing left at all today.

As volunteers, Red Cross, National Guard units and Department of Highways workers rush to the southern portion of West Virginia the reports of loss get larger and harder to hear. The reality is starting to sink in that tomorrow will not be easier than today. That home is no longer home and never will be. That this historic flood was not just a single stream overflowing or even a town that got several street full of water but, county after county is destroyed…. whole towns have been wiped from the maps or our lives.

I am sure that when all the information is totaled this will be listed as the third most deadly flood in our state’s history and the 2nd most deadly caused by nature. Worst on the list is the Buffalo Creek Flood in Logan County, Feb. 26, 1972. The flood was caused by Pittston Coal Company’s coal slurry impoundment dam #3 when it gave way after several inches of rain fell along Buffalo Creek Hollow killing 125 and covering 16 small coal towns in black sludge water.

 

 

Then followed by the Election Day Flood Nov. 1985. The flood was concentrated in northern mountainous portion of the state around the area where I have lived for the last 20 years. The flood was storm related and killed 47 West Virginians. My family was lucky to not suffer damage to property during the flood but spent several days trapped due to high water.

It seems to me that flooding is just part of living in West Virginia. You can not have our high mountains and low hollows without the water to carve them. You can not live with the lush green hardwoods without the water that falls year round. So it is our plight to constantly keep an eye on the river and her course. We all in West Virginia know her power and know that the flooding is a small price to pay to remain within her mountains and hollows. Rebuilding is not a question, it is when that is the issue that hundred face in West Virginia today.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Change, community service, Flooding, historic locations, history, rural life, Travel, weather, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day trip to Parkersburg, WV and Blennerhassett Island State Park

West Virginia is bound by the Ohio River along its western border. Rising from the deep green water of the river is a 500 tree covered acre island. Blennerhassett Island is now a historical West Virginia State Park that is accessible only by ferry or personal boat. The island is home to a 200-year-old mansion, 17 horses,several old buildings,a refreshment stand and a gift shop. It is one of the most beautiful of West Virginia’s State Parks and we took a weekend trip to see its homes and woods.

We started our day trip in Buckhannon and  drove north and arrived at the city of Parkersburg, West Virginia early in the morning near the Blennerhassett  museum and the river side park. A  wonderful four story building with displays from early stone tools and arrowheads found in the area to Victorian home furnishings and early cars. Tickets for the ferry ride to the island are purchased on the bottom floor of the re-purposed building.

Blennerhassett Museum front Wikimedia

Blennerhassett Museum from Wikimedia

My favorite portion of the museum was the collection of nautical items on the 4th floor. The miniature hand-made river boats and this ship steering wheel made me smile when Christopher had to stand on tippy toes just to see over its frame.

Tom and Christopher with antique ship steering wheel Blennerhassett Island Museum. Parkersburg, West Virginia

Tom and Christopher with antique ship steering wheel Blennerhassett Island Museum. Parkersburg, West Virginia.

After about an hour in the museum it was time to head to the dock to board our paddle driven ferry. This day the boat was full but under normal trips there are open seats either in the cabin below and on the deck above. We rode over to the island on the top deck, enjoying the view, sun, and spray off the paddle wheel.

Island Bell ferry to Blennerhassett Island

Island Bell ferry to Blennerhassett Island

Once on the island visitors are welcome to take the tour of the Blennerhassett mansion, rent bicycles to ride around the island, take a  horse-drawn wagon ride and do some shopping at a gift shop.

Blennerhassett Island Mansion Father's Day 2016

Blennerhassett Island Mansion Father’s Day 2016

My family really enjoyed the covered wagon ride. Christopher liked the horses and the wind in his hair when the driver let the horses pick up speed along the 2 mile path around the black walnut grove. The island is known for its trees and they cover over 2/3 of the island’s land that is actually owned by the DuPont Company. The only open spaces visible are the yards at the mansion and two pastures that are kept cleared for the horses that live on the island all summer. The  hundreds of trees shade keeps visitors cool even on a hot 86 degree day like ours.

Horse drawn wagon ride Blennerhassett Island

Horse Drawn wagon ride Blennerhassett Island

The tour of the Blennerhassett house is a delight and costumed members of the staff show off the lavish life the family lived. The family lived only 6 years in the finished house. Construction of the house began in the late 1790 and was complete in 1800 with the family fleeing the island 1806 leaving almost everything they owned behind. Harmon and Margaret’s family history is filled with scandal and strange political dealings that made their lives turbulent. Harmon and his young wife ran away from their native Ireland due to his Irish political dealings and his scandalous marriage, to his niece who was decades younger than him. Harmon Blennerhassett later again becomes involved in secret political dealings here in the United States. Being connected with Aaron Burr (Vise President under Thomas Jefferson) and his military plans eventually caused Harmon to be charged with treason by the President. As troops invade the island,the family flees trying to keep Harmon from being captured. Harmon is later found and arrested spends time in prison before the government drops their charges and he is released. The family suffers more tragedy with the death of children, loss of their inherited wealth and the return to Ireland. Yet, their love survives all of this and house remained abandoned on the island until 1811 when it burned to the ground in an accidental fire.

During the tour you  are only allowed to take photos without a flash so I chose to take very few of the inside of the main house and study which was very dark. But the kitchen wing of the house(which is the wing on the left in the photo) is bright and filled with windows without coverings I took a few of the large fireplace that was said to never grow cold. The island had a large amount of workers, slaves, family and guests to feed. Margaret is said to have fed everyone on the island from this single hearth.The fire was kept up around the clock to serve the 3 meals a day to the workers and sometimes seven coarse dinners to the family and guests.

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Fireplace hearth of the Blennerhassett mansion

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Tour guide Blennerhassett Island State Park

The rest of our afternoon was spent eating at the island snack bar that serves hamburgers, hot dog and a variety of other easy to prepare foods. But one of the highlights of our day was getting a slice of birthday cake and a scoop of ice cream to celebrate the 153rd birthday of the creation of the state of West Virginia. It was a wonderful way to remind us of the power of the people of this state.They choose to become a state that was different and separate from the state of Virginia during some of the most turbulent times in our countries history.

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West Virginia birthday cake 2016

The return trip back to the shore in Parkersburg was a great time to reflect on some of the famous people who also loved and visited this very unique island. I find it interesting that the list includes, people like Davy Crockett, Walt Whitman, Johnny Appleseed, Vise President Aaron Burr and even King Charles the X of France.The beauty of the Blennerhassett home and island was known throughout the large cities of the east coast.

As our ferry paddled its way back to the dock and I watched the barges move freight up and down The Ohio River, I finally understood Margret’s love for the island. It only took a few hours of our time to forget everything the did not happen on the island. We were lost in the beauty of her home and forest for hours. All three of us enjoyed a day along the Ohio River and would have enjoyed a much longer stay.

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Tug boat with barge on the Ohio River at Parkersburg WV 2016

Categories: Birthday, Blennerhassett Island, boats, family fun, Horses, State Park activities, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Easy Homemade Strawberry Jam

Making homemade jellies and jams is one of my favorite thing to do when fresh fruit comes into season. Strawberries wild and cultivated are in season here and I just could not resist a large sale that featured strawberries at a local market. Strawberry Jam is one of the easiest jams to make and is almost fool-proof.

Homemade strawberry jam

Homemade strawberry jam

I would love to have a strawberry bed in the near future but for now I have bought mine. So in about 1 hour 30 minutes, I made enough jam to feed my family for the rest of the year. The total cost for making Strawberry Jam was about 8$ compared to 17$ dollars if you pay 3 dollars a jar for store-bought Jam.I am hoping that next time I can drop the cost to 3$ dollars when I can raise my own berries.

Ingredients :

Following the Ball Blue Book canning guide you will need 2 quarts or 8 cups crushed clean fresh strawberries. I bought 5 pounds of strawberries and used about 3 pounds to get 8 cups of crushed strawberries. 7 cups of sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 6 Tablespoons Ball Classic Pectin. This is one whole jar of powdered pectin. 1 to 2 tablespoons butter if needed to reduce foaming.

Supplies:

You will need 8 half pint jars ( we call them jelly jars) with lids and rings I always get two extra ready also. A boiling water canner with enough boiling water to cover the tops of you jars with 1 to 2 inches of water.You will need a potato masher to make the crushed fruit, a jar lifter, funnel and a ladle. One large dutch oven or stock pot for cooking the jam in. I like to wear rubber gloves to protect my hands from the boiling hot jam but you can skip it if you are careful.

After washing jars lids and rings, sterilize the jars either in the microwave or in the boiling water of the canner. I boil my lids and rings separately in a small sauce pan that I keep very hot until ready to us. Remove from sterile jars from canner or microwave and place on a towel to cool and dry.

ready to crush 2 cups of strawberries at a time in dutch oven

ready to crush 2 cups of strawberries at a time in dutch oven

In large stock pot add the 2 quarts of smashed berries, lemon juice and classic pectin mix together well. Bring to a boil, stirring to keep from scorching. Add sugar to pot and stir until sugar dissolved. Return to a rolling boil, one that will not stop when stirred.  Boil one minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat add one teaspoon of butter if jam is foamy on top. Mix in well and skim top of Jam to remove foamy skin. Ladle hot jam into clean jars leaving about 1/4 of inch of headspace.Be careful to not to burn yourself on hot syrup. Clean top rim of jar to remove any leftover fruit or juice adding lid and adjust ring. Process 10 minutes in boiling water canner. Remove from hot water and let completely cool check rings and tighten if needed and store for up to one year.

8 cups mashed strawberries, lemon juice, pectin ready to boil

8 cups mashed strawberries, lemon juice, pectin and sugar ready to return to a boil

jars loaded into canner to process 10 minutes.. no pressure needed

Jars loaded into canner to process 10 minutes. No pressure needed.

In the end I finished the morning with 9 half pint jars of jam and still had a few strawberries left over for strawberry rhubarb jam also. I grow rhubarb so I made a small batch of Jam with the leftover berries and three stalks of rhubarb.They all tasted great and will keep us thinking of summer all winter long.

Ball Classic Pectin

Ball Classic Pectin

 

Categories: canning, country cooking, strawberries | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

All things Strawberry, The Strawberry Festival 2016

So here in Buckhannon, West Virginia, every May we have a week-long festival dedicated to the Strawberry. At one time Strawberries in West Virginia were a large cash crop and it was great way to celebrate the spring. Now 75 years later…. there are less homegrown strawberries but the festival is larger than ever. This year Christopher was even part of three days of  the week-long festival events.

The spirit of the Strawberry Festival really found my family this year. Our excitement grew when Christopher became part of the Royal Court. He rode on the Strawberry Queen’s float with other 1st graders picked for this role from all the elementary schools in the county. He was also the King’s crown bearer for the coronation of the Queen. It was so much fun to see him in a tux being part of all the pageantry.

Christopher waiting backstage for the Coronation 75th Strawberry Queen 2016

Christopher waiting backstage for the Coronation 75th Strawberry Queen 2016

The week starts with the Coronation ceremony practice, with lots of photos and trips to the stage trying to get everything timed right before the afternoon Coronation event. Then there are 6 days of parades, live music events, strawberry food sales and outdoor activities like a 5k run and a canoe race down a local river.

The Strawberry Court waiting on the Queen to arrive

The Strawberry Court waiting on the Queen to arrive. Christopher is holding king’s crown 4th little boy to the left.

Strawberry Queen 2016

Strawberry Queen 2016

The following days are a blur,  4 parades, carnival rides, craft sales and lots of silly contest.

WVU's Mountaineer mascot takes time to walk in the parade

WVU’s Mountaineer Mascot takes time to walk in the parade

 

ROTC drill team passing Friendly Way during the Strawberry Festival

ROTC drill team passing Friendly Way during the Strawberry Festival

 

Christopher and friends riding the first of two floats for the Strawberry festival 2016

Christopher and friends riding the first of two floats for the Strawberry festival 2016

 

Mules pulling a mini pony express stagecoach

Mules pulling a mini pony express stagecoach

 

Sea of people at the Strawberry Festival Carnival 32016

Sea of people at the Strawberry Festival Carnival 2016

 

Chocolate drizzle funnel cake at the Strawberry Festival 2016

Chocolate drizzle funnel cake at the Strawberry Festival 2016

We ate lots of fair food, ice cream and strawberries over the course of the week and had a great time until my surgery interrupted the schedule of events. I was lucky to get to spend both nights watching Christopher pass by on his float ( Thursday and Saturday). I could only watch about an hour of the Grand Feature Parade,on Saturday before getting too tired from the surgery the day before.

As we headed home Thursday night ( the first of the parade nights). Tom and I both noticed that a 10 pm the carnival was still going strong and families walked the streets with stuffed toys and corn dogs on sticks. Friends stood in groups all along main street talking.Old men stood next to their classic cars in front of mains street restaurants talking while and wives eat ice cream in the front seat with the top down. Something seemed different  to me that night, it was like our childhood was happening all over again. It was the best feeling I have had in years. My  young son had somehow reminded me of what it was like to feel young again. We eat fair food and heard live music and walked back to the car long after dark under the street lamps. It was good to be part of the Strawberry Festival again!

Categories: Buckhannon West Virginia, carnival, Country life, Fairs and Festivals, family fun, Strawberry Festival, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Victorian Era Mummies in West Virginia

This is a story of one West Virginia mans curious mind. How he managed to develop a formula for making mummies and how he refused to give his secret formula away for years.How his experiments resulted in two mummified females from the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (also known as the TALA in Weston, Lewis County, WV) and how they have survived for over 120 years.

Image being alive during the Victorian Period (1837 to 1901) in the United States. Interest in all the sciences was growing and new discoveries were happening in every field. The interest in Egyptian culture and mummies is fueled by the discovery of the Pharaoh  Ramses II  in 1881. People are collecting relics of everything human, bones, teeth, hair and death masks were all common.Ordinary people are struck with deep curiosity about our world and how it worked.P.T. Barnum was touring the country with a spectacular collection of wild animals, strange entertainment acts, and items collected from around the world. Sideshows traveled small towns with strange examples of natural oddities that everyone could see for a few cents.So for one farmer/undertaker is was a wonderful time to explore his own curiosity about Egypt and their mummies.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

Graham Hamrick of Philippi, WV was not only a farmer but also a local undertaker. In his life he was educated in common burial processes and use of embalming fluids. He found the process of mummification interesting and wanted to learn more. It is stated that he found his formula with in the pages of the Bible somewhere among the pages of The Book of Genesis. With a secret formula in hand, Hamrick gathered materials and began to experiment with the process. Hamrick is said to have mummified fruit, vegetables, small animals and snakes before the trying to mummify a human.

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Female Mummy #1 taller of the two

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Philippi Mummy #2 smaller of the two

To mummify a human Hamrick  would need human remains to prove his secret formula worked. Living with in a day ride to Weston, and the TALA, Hamrick  arranged for the purchase of two sets of unclaimed female remains at the insane asylum. This fact makes me sad for the two woman, who were forgotten by families, sold to a farmer and mummified instead of having proper burials. After transporting the remains to his farm Hamrick began the process of turning the remains into mummies.  crop of TALA front lawn on Easter

At the time the process is thought to have taken several weeks but no one was really sure how long. When Hamricks process finished and the results were visible, he had created what resembled Egyptian mummies.He began to share his successes with others in the local area and beyond.

Eventually, he was contacted by the Smithsonian Institute, who wanted to add the mummies to the museum’s collection and display them to the public with the formula he invented. The farmer refused to share the formula even though he had sent in the process into the U.S. Patent office.The mummies remained in Barbour county until they were recruited by P.T. Barnum’s for  his circus shows. The Mummies spent several years touring the United States during the end of the 1800’s.

Finally, they were returned to Barbour County and the Hamrick family. They stored the bodies in several different places over the years, in the barn on the farm, under the bed of a local history buff. Then in 1985 the two female mummies even survived the worst flood in North Central West Virginia.

 James Ramsey, an 82-year-old museum curator, explained in 1994: “After the flood dropped, they were covered with green fungus and all kind of corruption. [A man] secured some kind of a mixture that would get the green mold off them and also the hairs that were growing on them.”

The mummies would finally come to rest in the Philippi Historical Societies hands and be displayed at the Train Depot Museum,where they still remain to this day. They have the mummies displayed with the “Secret Formula” posted on the wall of the display room.

 

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Philippi, WV Train Depot Historical Society Museum

 

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Graham Hamrick information and formula

The Historical Society also was able to get a copy of a letter written by one of the ladies  before her death at the Tran Allegheny Insane Asylum. The transcription of the letter is sad. It is hard for me to believe this young woman (age around 17) would be left and forgotten by a husband and family. Yet,it gives us great insight into the world of the mentally ill in the 19th century.

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Transcription of a letter from mummified woman to family 1880’s

I found the whole experience to the Depot Museum  wonderful. The other objects in the collection are educational also. Most dating back to the civil war era and the stories of the battles that filled the hills of this town are worth their own trip to the museum. Philippi  being the location of the first land battle of the Civil War makes the entire town a treasure trove of stories for further visits.

If you are lucky enough to be traveling in the north central portion of West Virginia. Take Rt #250 through the historic covered bridge into Philippi to see the Mummies. The museum is on the right just across the river next to the train tracks. Pay the small donation fee and take a look at one the little Mummies that Philippi made.

I saw the Mummies in Philippi WV.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Country life, Farming, ghost stories, historic locations, mummies, museums, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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