20 Years of Raising Awareness in Randolph County with the Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group.

For twenty years the members of the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group in Elkins, West Virginia have worked to educate Randolph County community members about diversity issues. The group continues to sponsor the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and marked its 20th anniversary planning the event January 14th of 2018.

It was just after this anniversary that I sat down with the founding members of the group to talk about the celebration and the current state of our community’s cultural awareness. The members shared how the group was formed as a grassroots effort to support a multi-racial, multi-cultural, diverse community that is free of racism and bigotry. At the time of the formation of CAEG, surrounding counties harbored hate groups like “The National Alliance” that were putting on rallies and publishing hate documents. It was an unsettling time for the community and people were naturally drawn together to stand against the spread of hate propaganda. It was after a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 1998 organized by Ann Kingsolver and Catherine Fygan at the Davis and Elkins College that the group formed said Margo Belvin Denton.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Pictured above: Jane Birdsong, Carrie Kline, Mary Alice Milnes, Margo Blevin Denton and Melvin Marks, Founding members of teh Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group 2018. 

The group brought attention to local issues like acts of racism in the Elkins area and attention to the Riverside School Association, the group who worked to preserve the African American regional high school. They held meetings every two months and brought guest speakers to meetings like Paul Sheridan, Former Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to talk about the “Not in Our Town” program, Jerry Dale spoke about the white supremacist group “The National Alliance”, and Karla Schantiger from Women’s Aide in Crisis spoke about domestic abuse.

In late 1999 the group heard that a local group of Ku Klux Klan members were planning a rally at the Harrison County Court house. The members of CAEG banded together to attend a counter rally the same day. The “Let’s Get Real Rally” countered the KKK members in downtown Clarksburg and in a peaceful yet strong way. The non-KKK protesters made it clear that the community was not going to stand by and watch the KKK be the only voice herd that day. The amount of community members who attended the “Let’s Get Real Rally” outnumbered the few Klan’s men at the Harrison County Court House. The counter rally was viewed a great success for groups like CAEG and the State’s program “Not in My Town”.  The energy from these events propelled the group forward for years and its annual Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration has remained a staple downtown Elkins event for the past twenty years.

crop of MLK Day with Mayor 2018.jpg

Community members inculding Elkins Mayor Van Broughton gather for the Commemorative MLK JR. March Jan. 2018. 

The goal of the CAEG has always been “to raise awareness” said co-leader of this year’s MLK day celebration Jane Birdsong. The group with help from community members, AmeriCorps service members and students from Davis and Elkins College, shared music, dance, poetry, prayers and a monolog written by Coretta Scott King about the legacy of her husband. The closing song of the celebration had everyone on their feet holding hands singing together about unity and love before a community pot luck began.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Guests fill the sanctuary of the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church during the MLK Day celebrations in Elkins 2018.

Also during the program a call to action was announced by Barbra Weaner. Emotionally Mrs. Weaner declared that with the current leadership in Washington, D.C. and acts of racism in Elkins that community needed to reinvigorate the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group once again. She said the issues of intolerance were just as relevant today as 20 years ago and we must not allow hate to reign again.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Kyle Pajorito walks hand in hand with a unknown woman at the MLK Jr. Day celebrations 2018. 

After twenty years I was looking into the same faces that had stood up to racism, hatred and violence in Randolph County. The members have aged but continue to teach, share and love just like the first day they worked together. The goal of Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group is still the same: “Make Elkins and Randolph County a climate for tolerance in a world of intolerance.”

 

 

Link for the KU KLUX Klan Clarksburg, WV rally:  http://americancityandcounty.com/features/government_one

Link for Paul Sheridan:    https://www.niot.org/category/niot/paul-sheridan

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial, Non-violence, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saying Goodbye to Elkins West Virginia

I have left jobs, lost jobs, ran from jobs and wanted different jobs, but I am not sure I am happy about leaving this job. I am leaving my AmeriCorps position in Elkins West Virginia to move on to my final year as an AmeriCorps to a smaller town called Phillipi, West Virginia. After two years serving in the community of Elkins, I would have thought this move would be easier. It’s not easy…… and I am not accustom to leaving work that I enjoy and feel passionate about. AmeriCorps has been wonderful to me and I have learned to love my community and state even more because of the work I do.

Henry Gassaway Davis mounted in Elkins West Virginia

Street View Elkins Sky line

It is the people that I hate to leave… they have opened their homes and hearts to me and I spent two years learning in the shadow of giants. Most of them are under dogs, scrappy  hard fighters who have never had a easy time of livinging in the mountains of Appalachia. Most work long hours often on bugets that outsiders would never be able to open a door with. They make due, they know how to stretch a dollar and work past dark for little pay. It is not easy to carve out a new future from the dark wooded mountains of West Virginia’s past, but they move forward. The community of Elkins is a strong, proud group of people who love as hard as they work.

I will say goodbye the 8th of Feb and take a much need rest before I move on to a smaller more remote community. I am excited and hopeful that I can help another community bring to life their dreams for a brighter future. I can only hope that this move will be just as  rewarding as my years in this mountain town.

So as my far well approaches I thought I would share some of my favorite photos of

Elkins and the people who made my term so wonderful.

inter-mountain clipping 1

david-cutlip-patrica-mays-thomas-powers-and-christopher-powers-at-the-cutlip-family-home-jan-17

afha-volunteer-west-virginia-swearing-in-2016

Art of Elkins Wine Tasting Tammy Dolly and Jolynn Powers

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

DSC00745

Driver of the Raminator at the Mountain State Forest Festival

Doug Starcher and Jolynn Powers at Selfie Sation

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, historic locations, Monongahela National Forest, photo review | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge: Hiking The Wetlands of The Refuge.

This past fall Tom and I were encouraged by some work friends to explore one of the hidden gems of West Virginia. The Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge in Davis, West Virginia. An unusual place, high in the Allegheny Mountains, a wetland on top of  the mountain, where you feel as if you have entered a cranberry bog in Main. Tom at the edge of run off pond Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge 17 .jpg

We were not prepared for the difference in environment that the refuge supplies. We planned our hike for a day that was predicted to be the peak fall color in the hardwoods.   We thought we would be hiking in the shade of those trees. We did not bring water or plan for lots of mud. Instead, in the wetland we spent time with thorn trees that provide no shade.We found our trails blocked by wet weather springs and beaver dams. We hiked past rock outcrops and over wild blue berry bushes. We found sandy beaches and twisted evergreens, but not the leaf covered floors of my back yard woods. We spent our day a little bewildered, visiting parts of the valley that felt as if I was no longer in West Virginia at all. It was a splendid surprise and I am so glad we were able to spend our day here.

Toms family for years had a time-share condo in Canaan Valley Ski Resort area. They used it in the off-season during the summer to rest, swim, play tennis, sight-seeing and shop. They never spent time hiking or learning about the unspoiled portion of the valley. Tom was so surprised by what he saw that he now has plans to explore the rest of the refuges 16,550 acres.

Tracking an enormous black
bear one morning in the mid1700s,
George Casey Harness
came to a spot, “on the western
slope of the Alleghenies which
overlooked a wide, well-watered,
wooded and grassy valley. The
breathtaking beauty of the wild
valley so impressed young
Harness that he involuntarily
cried out, ‘Behold! The Land
of Canaan!’” *This story is but
one of the ways that the valley
may have gotten its name.

Within the refuge there are about a dozen trails, all well-marked and made on relatively flat ground (easy to moderate ratings). We spent most of our time either hiking the bowl edge of the valley, while getting wonderful views of the ring of mountains that surround us, or in the bottom land walking through water. The Camp 70 Trail is the best view of the wetlands and is the location of the beaver dams. It is only 3 miles from downtown Davis, West Virginia. It was a photographers dream…. so many colors,textures and reflections to see and capture on the 2.4 mile hike into the park.

When we arrived we drove through the typical West Virginia hardwood forest into a new world that we had never experienced before.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Resort and Davis West Virginia.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Ski Resort and Davis, West Virginia

The park spreads across the highway and covers areas that are very flat to areas that are mountainous with rocky ledges with heath bogs. The  Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge boarders the Dolly Sods Wilderness area with another 17,700 acres of wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest with 919,000 acers.All three are worth the trip even if you can only stay long enough to walk a mile to see the splendor of the area.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Trail to large beaver pond. In the back ground is Dolly Sods wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest.

GEDC1465.JPG

Rock choppings appear along the trails everywhere In the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

twisted horn tree in the wet land of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Over the course of a day we did two trails with about 6.5 miles total. We then left the refuge and headed towards Dolly Sods to see the heath bogs and a more rocky terrain. Some where between the two we ended up on a forest service road deep in the Monongahela National Forest and never arrived at Dolly Sods. We followed the forest service road for about 15 miles and ended up seeing some wonderful mountain views that lead us to Seneca Rocks State Park.   We drove through some of the most beautiful places in West Virgina, and never planned it.  The trip home took longer then expected but the day in the wilderness was well worth getting lost and finding our way back home again.

If you plan to visit the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge keep in mind that many acres of the refuge are not on trail maps and the surrounding acreage are mostly National Forest or State Parks with huge land holdings you will not be able to tell when you have left one place and entered another if you are not on a marked trail. Combined these three land holdings have over 930,700.00 acres of wilderness. Each park, refuge and forest have different rules about their trails and land uses. Also keep in mind that camping is not allowed on the refuge but is in some areas of the State Park and National Forest. Get Maps… if you plan to do any cross over hiking, or off trail exploring. It is rare to hear of someone getting lost in the wetlands or forests but it can happen. Be prepared for Bear! This is bear country, while we hiked that morning (during early bear season) we met a large group of bear hunters who had gotten a bear only 3 miles from where we hiked. The group traveled with a large pack of hunting dogs, 5 or 6 of the sweetest dogs you ever wanted to meet. But, if you are not a hound lover it can be overwhelming to see 3 or 4 running at you down a trail. The men were friendly and we talked with them for several minutes about the success of their hunt and that it was the senior member of the group who at 76years old had taken the bear after hiking 8 miles to find it and another 6 to get back to a truck parked near by. All of this hunting had finished before 11am that morning. This is West Virginia and hunting is legally allowed in all of these locations with limits to non-populated areas. Become part of the “Leave No Trace” program and take back what you bring into our parks, forest and refuges leaving no trace.Making sure that everyone can enjoy all that is Wild, and Wonderful about West Virginia.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Beaver pond with reflections, Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, family fun, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

2017 Photos and Thoughts About 2018.

Stone Fire Place at David CutlipsIn 2017 I found comfort in simple beauty and family. I have spent more time with people who are important to me. I fell even deeper in love with our home state with several visits to new places in West Virginia this summer. Over the fall I  discovered how much blogging means to me as I spent over 4 months struggling with my computer. I  finally just give in and purchased  a newer lap top over the holidays. I want to able to write when the feeling strikes or a topic is burning a hole in my mind. So you should see more from me in the future.

I will change service/work locations in 2018 and will get to build a future working in a field I love. I will still be working in community development but this time in the area of structures and buildings. I will be working predominately with two historical buildings in my region. Taking them from abandoned and run down into useable contributing structures in the communities where I work. One is a 1906 hotel that had fallen into disrepair and had become a low-income housing.The 6 story structure will be turned back into a downtown hotel.  The other is an abandoned retail grocery/ hardware store from the 1890’s. This one will be turned into a 11 unit apartment building for college students with a historical feel. I will be doing everything from cleaning and painting, to arranging for community volunteers to help with planting flowers and trees, to reglazing windows and filing for permits. It takes lots of work to rehab old buildings but I can not think of something that I love more.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

The former Tygurt Hotel circa 1906 in downtown Elkins, West Virginia 2017 before rehab begins.

So this photo review is just a portion of the beauty I found this year and a taste of what I will be doing in the future. I hope that you have a wonderful New Year and 2018 brings you prosperity and joy! I am looking forward to an interesting new adventure in 2018.

new-dinning-room-addition-with-fire-place-dave-cutlip-home-jan-17

Gas log fire-place behind antique farm table in modern addition of the Cutlip /Mayes log home.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Barnwood Builders film crew with producer Sean Mc Court at Dave Cutlip and Patricia Mazes home filming Spring of 2017.

I took time to write a story here on my blog about a historic house in Beverly, West Virginia. Owned for generation by my friend Dave Cutlip’s family. The story was then passed on to the Barnwood Builders producers. The producers liked the story so well they filmed the home for one of their TV shows.This gave me a second chance to work with Sean McCourt (producer) and Mark Bowe(creator and star) from the T.V. show the Barnwood Builders.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Doc Holiday sleeping with Christopher June 2017

Tom and I were happy to watch both of these boys grow healthy and strong for another year. Christopher and Doc… both snuck into my bed one Sunday morning while I was making a late breakfast.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Veda Maxine Buffington Lowrey age 87 summer 2017

This photo of my mother is the most beautiful sight I had all year. A family visit to see my mother in Rolla, Missouri turned into a mini family reunion. At age 87 she really enjoyed having most of her children and a couple of her grand children visiting her.As her health slowly fails my future starts to look completely different.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

The famious St. Louis Arch from the Old Main County Court House steps St. Louis MS.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Under the Sea Mural at the Newport Aquarium, Newport Ky. 2107

After seeing my mom near St. Louis Missiouri we traveled to Ohio and Kentucky on the way home. Stopping at the Newport Aquarium and along the Ohio River.

GEDC0577.JPG

Christopher tossing rocks into the Ohio River with Tom watching Newport,Ky. 2017

 

The 4th of July found us at the Old Hemlock Foundation property. The historic home of George Bird Evans the internationally famous upland bird hunter, artist and writer. Spending the holiday weekend with LeJay Graffious and his wife Hellen Ann tagging birds and releasing them, teaching young people about foraging in West Virginia, hiking and playing with the most beautiful dogs was about the best weekend we had all year.

GEDC0770.JPG

Old Hemlock Foundation Visitors Center and education outreach building 2017

Then it was state fair time and the heat of summer. Christopher won a trip to the West Virginia State fair with his 4-H project pillow. We rode the rides, eat fair food and spent the weekend taking in the local town of Lewisburg,WV. The heat and humidity just about melted us at the fair, so Christopher slept in the air conditioned back seat of the truck all the way back to the hotel.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Christopher with his 4-H project pillow at the West Virginia State Fair 2017.

flowers at the Greenbier Hotel White sulfur springs WV.png

Full view of the Historic Greenbrier Hotel

The following day we spent touring White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It was one of the most interesting trips we have made in a long time. We took one whole day to  tour the flood ravaged town and the world-famous Greenbrier Hotel. 

My work had me working on several Heritage Quilt Trail panels over the late summer and fall months this year. Volunteers and I finished 4 of the panels this year. The largest was 8X8 feet and is the bottom photo called “The Tree of Life.”

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Emma Scott Garden Club helps paint the panel called “Bear Paw” 2017

Panel made for the Elkins Sewing Center called "The Baskets".

Panel made for The Elkins Sewing Center called “The Basket” 2017

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Working on “The Tree of Life” with staff from Citizens Bank of West Virginia 2017.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Close up of color patterns on “The Tree of Life” heritage Quilt Trail panel 2017.

As the summer closed and fall arrived I decided that fall stood for “fun” and I took full advantage of it. I spent a couple of days volunteering for Christopher’s local youth center by helping with Stockert Youth Center fund-raiser The Haunted River Walk. I took Christopher trick or treating twice and spent more time in the mountains then I did all summer. The time spent with both my boys during Halloween made me feel young and many laughs and smiles were shared.

The woods in fall in West Virginia are spectacular. We spent time hiking at the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge during the peak of the leaf change. The high mountain bogs and wetlands are so unusual in this part of the country that you think you have been transported to Maine or Vermont.

GEDC1447.JPG

Thorned tree in the middle of the wet lands of Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge.

reflection in run off pond at Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge 17.jpg

Beaver Dam pond on a fall day Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge 2017.

country Road in Pendelton  County Wv .jpg

A traditional country road in the mountains of Pendleton County West Virginia.

Then a quick trip to West Virginia University campus with Christopher’s 3rd grade class. How often to you get to stand on the 50 yard line of you favorite college stadium while the kids run the field and meet the Mountaineer Mascot?

WVU college Mascot on Mountaineer feild Oct 2017

Christopher and class mates meet the WVU Mountaineer Mascot on the Mountaineer field fall 2017

GEDC1554.JPG

Christopher and several class mates run from the 50 yard line at Mountaineer stadium 2017

Finally winter came and we got 5 inches of snow and the temps dropped into the teens. So often I walk alone with my dog in the snow and see things in a different way. The old airplane hangers and airfield are connected to my back yard and make wonderful photo locations when the weather changes.

Veiw of airplain hangers along brushy fork road Buckhannon West Virginia

Veiw from my back yard on a walk with my dog in Buckhannon, WV

Maybe this theme of change is what I should look forward to this New Years. I have no resolutions, no promises or written plan. I just know that life is short and we should all be able to pursue what makes us happy and I hope to accomplish that in 2018.

 

Categories: Barnwood Builders, Buckhannon West Virginia, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Elkins West Virginia, family fun, Greenbier Hotel, Halloween, Old Hemlock Foundation, photo review, Photos, State Fair, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Coconut Cream Cup Cakes with Amaretto Buttercream frosting.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

quick coconut cake with Amaretto  buttercream icing

It is not often that I have a chance to make something in the kitchen just for the my youngest son. He recently asked me “What does coconut taste like?” I could think of only one thing…. Cake. So I put together what I had in the kitchen and made up a simple white cake made with coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk as the flavoring. Then topped off the cup cakes with my favorite flavoring, Amaretto, in a butter cream icing. I could have made the cake in a traditional two layer style but I really wanted to share the cake so I ended up with 36 white and toasty cupcakes instead. They were a big hit with my husband, my co-workers and my son… he likes the sweet soft coconut not the crunchy topping. I guess you win some and you lose some. Next time we will make it with the regular  shredded coconut as topping instead, even if I love the toasty crunch.

So the cake is really simple I used a store-bought white cake mix and to that I added 1 8oz. can unsweetened coconut milk and 1 6oz. can sweetened condensed milk and 3 eggs  omitting the oil in the directions.

 

 

This recipe is one that I will use again when we get closer to Easter and the bake sales for the church and 4-H Clubs start again in the spring

The recipe:

1 box of white cake mix.

1 can unsweetened coconut milk 8oz.

1 can sweetened condensed milk 6oz.

3 eggs

pour one 1/4 cup of batter into muffin tins lined with paper wrappers

The cooking time is slightly longer then what is listed on the box. I think I needed to add about 8 minutes making the cooking time 30 mins. at 350 degrees.

While the cupcakes cooled I toasted one 12 oz. bag of sweetened shredded coconut. placing the coconut on a cooking sheet in a thin lares under the broiler on low heat. Watching constantly, stir every time the flakes on the edge of the sheet begin to brown. This took stirring 5 or 6 time over the 5 minutes.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

toasting sweetened Coconut

Frosting:

1 cup real butter at room temperature. This is two sticks.

1  2 pound bag of powered sugar, mixed into the soft butter slowly.

2 teaspoons almond extract, or Amaretto liquor.

1 tablespoon milk

After cupcakes have cooled frost and roll in toasted coconut. Adding half of a Maraschino cherry on top if desired.

the recipe makes 36 to 38 cup cakes.

Coconut cupcakes with Almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut topping.

Coconut cupcakes with almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut toping.

So what would you make if you were asked ” What does Coconut taste like?” I have not cooked with it much other than making cakes or cookies. If you have any other ideas send them my way I would love to try other things too!

Categories: Amarretto, cakes and family deserts, coconut, Easter, family memories, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Warm Feet for Winter Project was a Meaningful Success.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

pile of my families mismatched socks

Today was a beautiful West Virginia early winter day. The temperature was 50 degrees, the sun was shining, and my car was loaded with donations to the local homeless shelter. 60 pairs of new socks overflowed into the seat of my little station wagon. I was able to collect them from my co-volunteers at our annual holiday dinner.With each donation my friends said “This was so much better than buying a gift for each other.” That they were happy to help in this collection drive, and things like “I picked theses socks for a woman who needs them much more than I do.” Today I  was happy to drop off the donation and I am filled with  the spirit of what Christmas means to me.

As you can see below I created a graphic to share with my friends and co-volunteers from the Appalachin Forest Hertiage Area, AmeriCorps program. I wanted everyone I work with to have the opportunity to do something different with their money for the holiday days.

24993589_10210613177982515_1372364399492118754_n - Copy

I took my lunch hour  the fallowing day to drive downtown to drop off the socks. As I drove the large shopping bag and box to the local homeless shelter, I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would walk into a house with an office with basic amenities where I would drop off the socks. Then an administration person would hand them out and make sure everyone in the shelter would get their fair share.

What happened instead at the homeless shelter was enlightening. I parked at the front of the building only to find a note on the front door to go around the house to the back,  go up to an office on the second floor. Before I could get my foot on the wooden steps to the second floor, a door opened, a woman leaned our of a doorway and asked if she could help me. She must have seen me coming around the house. I told her about dropping off the donation and she said she would send a couple of people out the front door to help carry everything in. So I headed back to the street and popped the hatch of my car.

What appeared out of the front door of the blue Victorian house was sad for me. Two men, one my husband’s age (in his mid fifties) and the other maybe 35. The older was weathered from years of smoking. He wore a faded coat issued by the US Army and had only a T-shirt under his coat. The other younger man was taller, thinner and darker. He asked if he could help me with the box and I passed it to him out of the hatchback. I smiled and said “thank you” to the tall, thin man. He responded with a smile of  broken teeth of a meth addict. The older man took the large bag and spoke very quietly to me. He hoped that my friends and I  knew how much these sock would mean to them and the others who would not get off the street this winter. He reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of heavy thermal socks. He rubbed his wrinkled, dry hand over the bundle of two socks and said” hummmmm these will be so warm.” The younger man turned and walked up the steps to opened the door to the house.  I watched the older man in his green army coat step away from my car and up to the porch. Holding the heavy bag in one hand, he raised it as if in victory, with the other hand he waved saying “Thank you so much, have a Merry Christmas.” I returned his wave and would spend the rest of my afternoon thinking about him and the 11 other residents of this shelter.

I have known and loved some poor people in my life. I have seen men bundle two and three socks together to make a decent pair of socks to cover the wholes in each pair. I have seen the ravages of alcohol, meth and heroin addiction in my own family. It is never easy to look into the eyes  of a person who is struggling, when you are not. But when we take time to see them, talk to them and be kind to them we raise them up. It also raises us up, together we can share in something meaningful even if it is just warm feet for winter.

I challenge you or your work place to do something kind for someone who needs it more than you do over the holidays. It was an uplifting experience for me and my friends. It could be life changing for a person who is on the street and could get not get shelter over the winter. Even a pair of socks can made a difference and I was happy to be part of the Warm Feet For Winter Project.

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Christmas, community service, Helping the homless | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deer Meat, Pretty Girls and The Ghost Women.

It seems to me that family traditions are become fewer and fewer with each year. We talk less, spend time together less and often it is too late when we realize we needed information that has already slipped away. So to prevent that from happening today my husband and I spent the day teaching two of my younger girl friends the art of skinning, quartering and cutting up a deer to make into venison burger.

So when Danielle and Samantha asked me about our life style here in West Virginia, hunting and deer processing came up. They both asked if they could learn more about butchering and how we prepare the meat that we hunt. It was a wonderful day of being outside spending time with  two pretty girls and my husband.

 

So the morning started with the 4 of us in the garage with a nice buck hung and ready to skin. The process is easier when the deer is still warm but with this deer we wanted to the girls to help learn the process from the beginning. Tom took time to explain the steps needed to cut through the skin and the processes of pulling the hide down over the body to the head of the deer. Each girl taking turns pulling and tugging. Then he showed each girl how the quart the deer and cutting off anything we don’t butcher. Slowly, we moved the quartered pieces into the house to be cut up and ground into burger.

Each took a cutting board and knife and begin to talk about the different cuts of meat that people use. We made roasts and talked about stake and stew meat. We talked about our favorite ways to make jerky and what people do to cut the “gameness” of venison.  We eventually had a tub full of venison chunks that would be ready to grind in a few minutes.

 

As we talked, laughed and told stories I had the distinct feeling of the past coming to life. As if generations of women were watching us and reflecting on our work. A tribe of woman from Danielle’s Alaska, a group of farm woman from Samantha’s Ohio and a group of homesteading woman from my West Virginia, all crowd around us in spirit. They whispered their comments, talking about how they once smoked, canned, dried and froze the meats that men and boys brought home. How they took pride in their work and how hunting and butchering were shared activities in families. How no one was left out, everyone was expected to help in providing for the long winter months.

As we break for lunch, I make a pot of venison barley soup and thin slices of tenderloin fried until brown for steak sandwiches. We eat together and talked about our homes, fulling our bodies with the goodness that our hard work  produced. The ghost women of the past seem satisfied with our skills for today. They know that their grandchildren have learned some of the skills that kept generations of our ancestors alive. Lessons that the ghost women are happy that we are sharing.

Tom takes time to help with the grinding as I stuff it into bags. We feel the ghost women retreat, they shower their blessings on my family and home as they fade away. I take the bags to the freezer and close the lid. I stop in the gray light of the basement and say a prayer of thanksgiving to all of those who have helped me on my way to becoming one of the keepers of this knowledge and a woman of the woods.

6 point white tail buck

It is not often in the modern world we are asked to share our traditions with others. So, I was so happy to have these two pretty girls come and spend a day with me learning a skill that I have repeated a hundred times over the years. It was wonderful sharing my life with people who want to learn about it and want to be in some way a woman of the woods also.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, cooking, deer, deer hunting, family traditions, Hunting, organic food, rural life, Venison | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Child’s View of making a Holiday Cake

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Christopher’s Thanksgiving turkey 2017

While getting ready to make holiday preparations yesterday I was surprised and filled with joy by a little scrap of paper my son Christopher  and I made 4 years ago. I was busy that Thanksgiving Eve of 2013, getting our holiday deserts ready for the big day. Christopher was in the kitchen with me on a stool mixing the dry ingredients for one of my families favorite cakes, a Southern Style Carrot Cake. I only make the huge cake once or twice a year. The recipe has been passed down from his Grand Mother Powers. While checking the recipe several times to be sure it all the ingredients and instructions were followed, he asked me if he could make a recipe for a cake also. I suggested that after we finished the cake I would help him make a recipe for his very own Christopher Holiday Cake. As the cake baked in the oven I sat with him at our kitchen table and wrote down what it was that he thought in his 5-year-old mind would make a good cake.

Southern Style Carrot Cake

Southern Style Carrot Cake.

So with a cute recipe card in hand I wrote down the ingredients for his cake.

The Christopher’s Apple Tomato Carrot Holiday Cake.

  • 2 cups of eggs
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 4 packages of sugar
  • 5 tomatoes 
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sliced apple 
  • 8 cups vanilla icing 

Then we talked about how he wanted to make his cake like his grandmothers. Mixing everything together with a big spoon and putting it in the oven. He  then told me how we were going to make the cake and I wrote down the following. 

In a large bowl crush eggs with a hammer. 

Mix in flour and sugar packets. 

Put tomato, apples and carrots in microwave and boil them for 7 minutes

blend them into bowl. Pour into pan and bake until done , 14 hours. 

top with icing and pour vinegar over top and eat. 

As I read over the notes I had taken on the recipe card, I was struck with thoughts of  how quickly times change. I was taken back to this Thanksgiving Eve 4 years ago and how small and sweet he was. I thought about how now he could write his own recipe cards and could read most of the directions alone. How he will not need me to help him to make a cake in a year or two. I realized how much this silly little recipe card means to me. To have it fall from my cookbook onto the floor was just the very best thing that happened yesterday. It reminded me why I make that darn cake and how much I love my family. Happy Thanksgiving hope you have a great celebration where ever you are!

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Being a Hellion for a Good Cause

As a teen I am sure that my Mother often thought I was a Hellion. I was a free spirit, with wild friends and an artist heart. I dressed in the fashion of the Punks and Goths, stayed out way to late and had to many boy-friends. I loved reading horror novels and watching dark movies. I never really caused much trouble and did not fail out of school. So most of the problems I caused were minor. Actually I ran with a pretty smart crowd, kids who were just the misfits of our high school. You know them, every school has them, the theater kids, the artists, the poets, the gays, the rebels and musicians. The ones who were creative and always looking for an outlet. So many of my Halloween’s were filled with parties and costumes. That all ended as I grew up, working most holidays and getting kids ready for their costume parties. That all ended last week, my 2017 Halloween was as full as any child’s and it was all for a good cause.

Cody Powers and Jolynn Powers head to Haunted River Walk 2017

Hellion and Insane Chainsaw Man ready to head to the Haunted River Walk 2017

I was recently asked to help with a fundraiser for my sons after school and summer program (Stockert Youth Center). I was happy to help out and even happier to find out that they were putting on a haunted house themed event. The Haunted River Walk was planned for the weekend before Halloween and I was asked to be a monster in the woods of the walking trail. It had been years since I had made a costume and years since I had taken my creative monster making skills out of the closet. This was going to be good.

test run of the Hellion with woody

Test run of the Hellion costume Elkins WV Down Town Trick or Treat 2017

So as a fan of old Hollywood monster movies, I knew that I wanted something that was more old school then resent horror films offered up as characters. So with a quick look through my closet and a trip to Party City, I came up with the Hellion. Not really the Devil himself and certainly not the naughty she-devil that young woman play but a beast with horns, claws and skin of red. Something that was possible to put together in a few days. So with a lot of hair spray and some top quality black lipstick and some body paint, I became for the first time in many years a creature of the night. The fun had just begun.

 

The Haunted River Walk took about two weeks of planing and a few hundred hours of donated time from the local city workers to pull together. Our location was part of a city park that needed dividing walls and crowd control methods installed. We needed volunteers for set up, makeup, scary monsters and ticket sales and late night clean up. So the call for volunteers brought together families, students from the local college, city workers and our Mayor.  All people who wanted to see our local non-profit after school program/ summer camp program, continue to supply the much-needed support that our children need and deserve.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

College girls ready help out

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

asking the new volunteers into the meeting

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Planning our costumes

The planing meetings included settling on masks and costumes. We looked over the site, picked locations for the mazes, tents and places for scary monsters to hide. Each day the excitement in me grew,  I had never been the source of the scare in the haunted house before. I was always a willing victim in a haunted houses imaginary world. This would be my first time trying with all my heart to scare the crap out of people and I was not sure I could do it!!

The day came for setting up the trail, the tents were delivered on the backs of roll back trucks. Loads of scarecrows were staked out in what was a soccer field. Rubber body parts and  fake corpses were hidden and hung in trees. Strobe lights were located in the most important places and we all prayed for no rain.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Real structure walls were delivered and placed at the beginning and end of the trail . Cody my son was placed at one to use as a backdrop.

That afternoon my older son Cody, joined me at my home, saying he was ready to volunteer too.  So with my daughter in law’s help, we spent a couple of hours putting together our makeup. We covered my son in his first ever, white make up and teased my hair and sprayed it high. Cody had volunteered to be the insane chain saw welding character. He brought along his chain less, real chain saw. He was willing to stay out late and help clean up, so I had a partner in the long night ahead. At about 5 pm  we were ready to head out the door and take our places in the woods for the first shift of scaring visitors.  The first two hours was for children, we were instructed to not be tooo scary.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

view of the trail and in the back ground The Woods

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Tote of body parts and dead animals

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Flo is that you? Evil Scarecrow

At our arrival I was informed that I was supposed to warn the children about a slippery bridge that I was guarding. I had not even thought about how my character would sound. I had thought about hissing, and growling but never the voice of this Hellion had. Somewhere in my imagination I found a voice much like a hissing witch to let the families know that the bridge was slippery. Within those two hours I had found my scaring style and timing. Scaring children is not hard but with groups of adults it is all about timing and it took some skill to hide well enough and let people get close enough to scare them without getting punched. There is always the risk that a guy will feel so threatened  that he would try to punch you.

The night grew darker and the rain started, I think all of us hid under whatever cover we could find. I wrapped my cloth shroud around me and stepped off the gravel path into the cover of the trees and underbrush and waited. I lowered my head and let the rain wash over me. I watched dark rain drops drip from the tips of my horns. Finally after a short break the adults and full families slowly worked their way through the tents, a field of old broken scarecrows and mutilated body parts to the woods.

Over the course of the night I found that I was able to do two scares from my location. I was placed at the left side of a bridge that had a black plastic divider down the middle. I had placed skull decorations and lights around the ground and would leap out off to the side of the decorations. Then when the visitors returned to cross the back side of the bridge, I would tuck myself up close to the black plastic hiding the horns. In the dark I was almost impossible to see. I would make this guttural scream and leap out at them again with arms raised high with the shroud flapping. This was a fantastic location as the trail turned a 90 degree turn away from me at the end of the bridge. People were often much more worried about making the turn and staying on the trail than looking for me. A distant light allowed me to see them coming yards before they were within reach, so I had time to plan my attack.

Taking the advice of  a friend, I took my time when I planned my scares.  He commented to me that most haunted houses frights always get the people in the front or back of the group, never the middle. So often times, I would wait for the one moment when the whole group was near by or just past me so I could scare the whole group. In one case the group was about 7 people who appeared to be one large family group. In the lead was a young preteen girl with her mother and maybe an aunt. Behind them was a grandma with a female friend walking behind a few paces. Following the older women were three men  most likely fathers and or husbands. Hiding in the folds of the black plastic fencing I waited. I knew how the group was moving through the park by my first passing with them. I knew, I wanted to scare not only the little girl but the older women if I could. So as the mother, daughter and aunt passed me, talking quietly to themselves, the older women crossed the bridge a few steps behind them. With a large clear plastic umbrella in hand they came slowly off the wooden bridge and took three steps towards me in the corner of the turn. From the darkness, all at once I screamed like a creature from the depths of Hell and leaped at them. The umbrella flew into the air backwards and all 4 sweater covered arms flew up wards. The women’s screams rang out in the darkness and I had achieved success. The two women broke out in uncontrollable laughter with huge grins.  I had frightened the two older woman so hard that they had to turn around to recover the lost umbrella from the ground.  The men behind were laughing out loud and congratulating me on a scare well done. In the dark one man said “good job someone finally got them”. My heart sang at his words. I felt that I had finally given over to the actor in my heart. A smiling Hellion returned to the black rain covered woods to wait  for the next group willing victims.

The night continued with groups of teens and college kids passing and backing away from the horned monster who I had become for the night. I tried to find better and better hiding places and often times laughed right along with the victims of my scares, but two other encounters stand out in my memories.  The first was an older man and woman in their 60’s who may have only come to the river walk to donate money to the youth center. They seemed like locals who did not seem the least bit frightened in the dark of the walking path. They passed me the first time with controlled interest but no real fright, but the second time they never saw me coming. The couple was on the second pass of the bridge and the husband was in front chattering away at the wife who trailed behind him a step or two. As they left the edge of the bridge instead of turning up and away from me, he continued to walk straight… towards me….. in the dark. He continued  looking back over his shoulder speaking to his wife not aware how close he was to a demon. As I watched in the dark his foot left the path and he stepped onto the soft forest floor. That was my cue, a second later I flew at him, hissing arms spread wide, horns aimed at him. He turned shocked, he let out the scream of a woman and jumped back into his laughing wife. The man had actually gotten scared in our little haunted river walk. The wife thank me over several times for scaring the old man, who was always so smug about his lack of fear. He left my portion of the trail beaming and giggling with his wife. It felt good to know that men scare just as well as women, you just need good timing.

But my favorite moment of the night and the reason I will return to the woods again next year if they need me, is the memory of a young family with two children. The older of the two was a girl who looked about 7 or 8 years old walking hand in hand with her lovely mother both dressed in matching rain coats. Following behind was a father, tall and bearded holding a small boy in a hooded coat maybe 3 or 4 years old. They had come to the adult portion of the haunted river walk and I had mixed feelings about my amount of effort to put into my scare. I knew they did not see me in the dark bushes as they just about passed me. I slowed my jump and hissed like a cat at the right arm of the father as they passed. The mother and daughter squealed and leaped forward several steps as I stopped next to the young boy in his fathers arms. The father froze… and stopped moving altogether, I stood behind them by then. When the father knew my fright was over he moved to join his wife and daughter who were ahead of him on the path. As he passed the little boy in his arm turned around to face me and over his father’s shoulder yelled out, ” YOU ARE A BUTTHOLE for scaring me and my Dad”. The family tried to quickly correct the boy by saying things like “You can’t say that! and”That is not nice!” but It was too late. I was not offended  at all. It was all that I could do to keep from rolling on the ground with laughter. That boy was mad at the monster and let me have it in his 4-year-old way.

The night ended early, the rain had poured down for 3 1/2 hours and the temps dropped to about 38 degrees. We were all soaked to the bone, even my son who was wearing heavy clothes and a hood was cold and wet. The group in the woods had gathered at the exit of the river walk where my son was charged with standing with his chain saw. We all agreed that the fun was over and the night was to cold and wet to continue. As if by magic a herd of monsters,  the insane and dead emerged from empty spaces in the woods. We walked under the rain and fog of the field lights like an army of the dead. 15 creatures of the night, carrying skulls, bodies, cauldrons, chain saws, headed to the main tent to begin the long night of finding warm, dry clothes and washing off face paint. It had been the most fun I had in years!

In the end Stockert Youth Center’s Haunted River Walk had 96 visitors, in the pouring rain and cold. We had 20 or more volunteers who worked that night in costumes, 3 city workers who set up and tore down the event and lots of fun. We raised around a thousand dollars in 3 hours for programming, healthy snacks and field trips for all the children who use the center. In my heart I know that this Hellion was a force for good. So many good things came from this event, so many smiles and giggles were shared, so many children will benefit and so many friends were made in the dark that night. I can only hope to be asked to dig out my monster making skills for next year.

Jacob's Ram skull .jpg

Jacobs Ram skull use as a prop at the Haunted River Walk

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Buckhannon West Virginia, Halloween, Haunted House, public art, Uncategorized, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Art and History Spark Interest in Downtown Elkins W.Va.

Quilts have always kept us warm, reminded us of our past, and brought families and friends together. These same ideals are used to create the Elkins Main Street’s Heritage Quilt Trail. A community supported effort to bring art, history and warmth to downtown Elkins. With guidance from Elkins Main Street and their Promotion Committee, small groups of community volunteers, such as Emma Scott Garden Club, Davis & Elkins College ladies lacrosse team, Youth Build North Central and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps members, are creating more quilt blocks for instillation on several downtown Elkins buildings this fall.

YMCA Wall with Maple Leave“Maple Leaf” quilt block mounted at the YMCA building in downtown Elkins

The Heritage Quilt Trail began in 2015 with members of the Main Street Promotion Committee discussing how the brightly colored panels could spark a grass roots beautification effort. With information gathered from the Pocahontas County and Monroe County W.Va. quilt trails the committee set out to make their own quit trail. Quilt panels like the one above are created with grant funds and project proceeds received by the Elkins Main Street office.  The funds are used to purchase the construction materials and paint needed to make the 4, 8’ X 8’ft panels. Money gained from the sale of the quilt block panels in turn pays for the creation of more panels in smaller sizes. The current plan includes making 12 panels of three different sizes.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAMembers of Emma Scott Garden Club paint “Bear Paw” quilt block panel

The images used to create the quilt block panels are copied from traditional Appalachian quilts. They represent things that a family from the mountains would see or use every day. The patterns are often designed after nature. Leaves, animals and trees are the most often found subjects in West Virginia quilts, but other patterns like baskets, houses, and stars are also popular. Often families would use remnant materials from old clothing and sewing projects to make the quilts. Mixing materials and colors made each quilt unique and cherished by the owner.

A single quilt block panel will often take over a month to make, from design ideas, to painting, to an installed product. The Heritage Quilt Trail panels have approximately  15 different volunteers’ handy work as part of their finished product and installation. This part of the process is also reminiscent of the traditional creation of fabric quilts. In days past, friends and family would gather for quilting bees, but  today  Elkins Main Street  hosts painting parties, where people from the community come together to get to know one another and take part in community  art.

AmeriCrops working on Hertiage Quilt Block Panels   AmeriCorps Members Molly Greenhouse, Dominic Piacentini , JoLynn Powers (project coordinator) and Katie Marie Simmons add tape pattern to the 8 x 8 ft. panel.

 instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017
Volunteers help install the “Log Cabin” Heritage Quilt Block at the YMCA in Elkins

It takes a diverse group of volunteers to make the Heritage Quilt trail possible, and it brings a community together to enjoy them. With the future creation and installation of all 12 panels, the Main Street Promotion Committee hopes to publish a Heritage Quilt Trail Map.  The map/ brochure will give the location of the quilt block panels, a description of the images used and information about the history of quilting in Appalachia. Elkins Main Street hopes to give visitors another interesting reason to linger in the downtown and take time to enjoy the beauty of Elkins.

closeup of West Virginia Star.jpg“West Virginia Star” installed at the Davis Trust Company Bank, Elkins W.Va.

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Art, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

alifeofvanity.wordpress.com/

For anyone who has ever thought of attempting the #vanlife, A Life of VANity is an unfiltered, realistic look at the unglamorous day-to-day happenings of life in a Chevy G20 Conversion van. Unlike other #vanlife blogs, A Life of VANity is here to show you that it isn’t all roadtrips and ocean-side views, and that there’s nothing wrong with living in a backyard or two.

Beyond the Campfire

Stories of exploration

Thrifty Campers

Nature knows no such barriers

Missmackenzierose

Dream-Explore-Discover

Camellia's Cottage

Alabama Lifestyle Blog

Free to express

thoughts, experiences, travel, feelings, stories, diaries and many more...

Appalachian Housewife

The Mullens' Family's Journey Running The Pioneer Farm at Twin Falls State Park

Recipes by chefkreso

Cooking with imagination

Trish the Dish

Keeping Our Family's Bellies and Minds FULL.... One Dish at a Time

Barefoot with Braids ( or long hair hippy with attitude )

Left home, at Uni and finding out about me, what I like, what I don't, what I regret and what I love

Appalachian Histories & Mysteries

Exploring Appalachia's forgotten, neglected, and sometimes mysterious events.

Enchanted Forests

This Blog is about discovering the magic of forests in every aspect of life from a small plant in a metropolis to the forests themselves

Elkins Depot Welcome Center

The mountains beckon visitors to Elkins, a place where artists gather and history lives.

Media and Truth

The world today

%d bloggers like this: