Appalachina Mountains

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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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

Spring foraging and Ramp Sliders

Easter weekend has over the years become a Ramp Feast. ( Ramps are wild onions that grow for only short period of time in the Appalachian Mountains every spring.) This year we struggled to get out into the woods. Cold, rain and snow every weekend made the prospect of taking Christopher foraging a little unpleasant. So we finally got to head out for Morels (a wild mushroom) and ramps this weekend and were surprised with both.

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Cleaned wild ramps ready for cooking

We have missed Morel season the last two years and have come home empty-handed but this weekend we found several and ended up with a few pounds of ramps from a family friends property. This was also our first real trip to the woods with Doc our puppy coonhound. What an adventure we had and what a wonderful lunch the ramps and mushrooms turned into.

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Morel and Pheasant tail mushrooms washed and ready to eat.

Our morning started with a rather long walk into the woods to find the right conditions for Morels and along the way I spotted some wonderful spring sights.

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Red Buds blooming lighting up the dark forest with the bright pink flowers.

 

 

After a few hours in the woods we had our bags were full and empty tummies. It was time to make a lunch with some of our treasures. I made hamburger sliders with sautéed ramps and mixed cheeses. It was fast, easy and delicious.

I used Kings Hawiian sweet dinner rolls for a bun and good quality ground beef. Making about 6 sliders from a pound of beef. The magic ingredient was the wine sautéed ramps. I took about 10 ramps cleaned and sliced them very thin and added them to a skillet with one teaspoon bacon grease, wilting the greens down. When the greens wilted I add 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup Marsala Wine and reduced the heat and simmer with salt and pepper for about 8 to 10 minutes. While the ramps simmered I made and cooked the burgers and topped them with a Colby/ Jack shredded cheese mixture. Assembled it all on a dinner roll with a little mayo and topped with two heaping spoonfuls of wine soaked ramps.  What a pleasure it was to eat and what a joy to make again.

Happy Spring Foraging to all of You!

 

Ramps with bacon grease and Marasal wine

Sliced Ramps with Marsala wine carmelized in bacon grease.

Ramp and Cheese Sliders spring wild food

Wine soaked ramp and cheese slider on a Kings Hawaiian dinner roll.

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, cheese, Easter, Foraging, Mushrooms, organic food, ramps, Ramps, snacks | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Serving AmeriCorps and AFHA the Second Time Around

 

Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 
― 
Fred Rogers, Methodist Minister and Host of the Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

As my first year of AmeriCorps service at the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area was quickly coming to a close I found myself feeling like my work in Randolph County, West Virginia was not complete. That I had just started to see the impact of my service and I was not willing to walk away. I was not willing to end the project I was working on and was not willing to leave the many people who I was serving every day. In my heart I knew I was helping and making a difference and just did not want to stop making this community a better place.

So by September of 2016, I signed up for another year of service to AFHA, AmeriCorps, Elkins Main Street and the Community of Elkins West Virginia. It was the same day that a new group of AmeriCorps members were sworn into the program. The day was filled with speeches, group photos and getting to know the other volunteers who would join me in the Appalachian Mountains and small towns. It was also the day that I knew that I would never leave the life of service that I had been building for the last 12 months.director-of-volunteer-west-virginia-2016

Executive Director of: Volunteer West Virginia Heather Foster speaking to new enrollees.

I know that many who join AmeriCorps come for the education awards and the on the job training. Some come to explore job possibilities and some come for the travel to a new place with pay. I on the other hand came because I love the state of West Virginia. I understand my states weaknesses and challenges because for 27 years this is where I called home. I understand its proud nature, where her people do not want a hand out, but a hand up. They want an equal chance at raising a family; have steady work and a chance to live in warm safe homes. West Virginians prefer to do it on their own, on their own terms, and if you want to join them in a battle of any kind, they bless you for fighting alongside them. Together they battle to make things better for everyone.I serve next to them so can add my skill, education, strength and love to help bring a brighter future to a mountain community.

I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”― Kahlil Gibran

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Members of AFHA, AmeriCorps enrolling for the 2016-2017  year Morgantown, West Virginia.Sign says “Volunteer West Virginia the state’s Commission for National Community Service. AmeriCorps West Virginia.”

I believe that the AmeriCorps program achieves what it sets out to do. It brings together caring, helpful, educated people who want to make a difference in a location where there is need for support. With guidance, service members do the work in areas of our state that most are not willing or able to do. We aid in making a positive change in the communities doing all kinds of work from preservation and redevelopment of historic buildings, tracking trout populations to building non-profit websites and giving historical tours at local sites. We are here to serve the people and enhance their communities and make them stronger.hands-on-team-working-to-reglaze-and-paint-windows-at-the-historic-darden-house-elkins-west-virginia

AFHA, Hands on team members re-glazing windows on the historic Darden house Elkins, West Virginia.

Being an AmeriCorps member over the last year has opened my life up to new people, new opportunities, and the joy of service. I look forward to my second year of service with Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, AmeriCorps and with the people of Elkins, West Virginia. I can only hope to give them back what they have already given to me. A fresh new outlook on what I can do for the people and places that I love.Thank you AFHA, AmeriCorps and Elkins Main Street for the best job this 48 year old has ever had.

Categories: About me, Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Nonprofit, Randolph County | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Just a funny story…. And God Created West Virginia

My brother sent this to me years ago and the author is unknown, but the feeling is still the same. I Love the idea that God made all things with foresight and the West Virginia was part of his plan.

New River Gorge Bridge with fall folage 2000 by jolynn powers

New River Gorge Bridge with fall folage 2000 by jolynn powers

And God Created West Virginia

God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the Archangel, found him, resting on the seventh day.

He inquired, “Where have you been Lord?”

God smiled deeply and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, “look Michael. Look what I’ve made.”

Archangel Michael looked puzzled and said, “What is it?”

“It’s a planet,” replied God,  “I’ve put life on it… I’m going to call it Earth and it’s going to be  a place to test  Balance.”

“Balance?” inquired Michael, ” I’m still confused”

God explained, pointing to different parts of the Earth. “For example northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe will struggle. Over here I have place a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of dark people.Balance in all things.

God continued pointing to different countries. “This one will be extremely hot. While this one will be very cold and covered in ice.”

The Archangel, impressed by God’s work,then pointed to a land area and said,”What is that one?”

” That is West Virginia, the most glorious place on earth. There beautiful mountains, rivers and streams,lakes and forests. the people from West Virginia will be handsome, modest, humorous and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, and carriers of peace and producers of good things.”

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, “but what about balance God?” You said there would be balance…”

God smiled, “Right next to West Virginia is Washington ,D.C. Wait till you see what idiots I put there.”

Hope that we can all laugh at what happens in Washington. All of us here In West By God Virginia Do!

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, funny stories, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Elderberries prevent the flu??

   As many of you already know from my other blog posts West Virginia is a place with a huge assortment of wild foods. My family and I try as much as possible to use what is given in our woods for food and better health. One of the most wonderful plants that my family has found and uses not only for food but also as a medicine is Elderberries. It has been a tradition here to use these berries as a tonic or wine for centuries but more modern studies have shown that their medicinal uses are wide-spread. For more information what benefits they have finding fallow the link. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-elderberry. The berries are high in vitamin C and have anti viral properties that anyone can use in these coming cold winter months. Studies suggest that the berries reduce inflammation and swelling also so it can’t hurt to take a bit everyday and maybe more if you are feeling the effects of a cold or flue coming on.

  These little power houses are one of my favorite things about my hunter-gather life style as I make a wonderful jelly out of these berries and who can complain about a daily dose of medicine that you can put on toast, biscuits or even pancakes.

Elderberry flowers in spring and summer fruit

Elderberry flowers in spring and summer fruit

    My passion for the wild bushes started out on our small horse farm  where a small bush took up residence in a fence row. After talking with my husband who knew what the plant was I ask if he liked Elder berry wine and jelly he said he had not had either in years but liked them both.

Me riding in front of fence line full of baby elderberries

Me riding in front of fence line full of baby elderberries

   Well that following year I read up on the tiny berries and how to use them. Waited until they were about 80% ripe and went to work making my frist batch of Jelly that the family loved and later found out how wonderful they were for your health.

   So now every mid July I hunt for enough wild berries to make  at least 20 half pints of jelly and if I am lucky several quarts of juice to later made into syrup. We use it as a cold treatment and a preventative… a daily dose to word off the flu season blues. 

    Last spring I ran out of jelly and needed to renew my stock pile and decided to take photos of the jelly and syrup process and share them with you. A person can buy dried berries and make both jelly or syrup but fresh is always the better option if you can find them.

   The plants are easily found along road banks and ditches here in the east and most farmers mow the plants not wanting their stocky plants in their meadows. The canes grow about 5 to 9 feet tall if left to grow wild and are thornless but grow in the same manner as black berries. The canes are hallow and round and in fall they do become brittle and snapped off for other uses. In spring the plants have a very beautiful white cluster flower all along the top of the canes against a green leave back ground. Summer leading to the  red/black berries. The darker the berries the better they are for you health. These berries would eventually look almost black when totally ripe. I pick mine just before that happens as the birds love them and will clean entire bushes off in a day when totally ripe. These berries sat on my porch for about three days to finish ripening and getting that beautiful red/black color.

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  In the Jelly making process you want a few under ripe berries to help produce natural pectin to help jell the juice.If making you are making syrup only it is better to use the ripest fruits for better flavor. As you can see I used about a 90-10 mixture and still needed to add a little lemon juice to encourage the jelling process.

   After picking the berries I strip them from the stems, wash them through a colander,

berry juice stained fingers

berry juice stained fingers

bowl of fresh Elder berries on counter

bowl of fresh Elder berries on counter

  place them in a large stock pot and add water to begin the juicing process.

  Always wash and sterilise your jars, lids and rings before making the syrup or jelly. Plan to use a boiling water canner to seal jars.

      Next  place berries in stock pot ( mine is an 8 quart) adding about half as much water as you have berries. In my case I had almost 5 quarts of berries and I added 3 quarts water to the pot. Add medium heat to the pot and wait for the berries and water to boil a low boil and begin to smash the berries as they cook with a potato masher. The berries will appeared to pop from the heat and skins will float to the top of the juice.

     After letting the juice cool I then strain it through 3 or 4 pieces or WET cheese cloth. I put mine in a colander and drain into another stock pot. When straining the berry skins away from the juice do not squeeze the cheese cloth. let it drain naturally. If you squeeze the skins to hard they will cloud you juice making it look milky. At this point I had about 7 quarts of juice to make into any thing I wanted. I could process this very healthy juice into quart jars, I can make a more palatable syrup for coughs and colds or make jelly. I make both the syrup and jelly with sugar but honey could be used in the cold syrup instead, Jelly on the other hand needs sugar and acid to set up.

I then fallow the SURE-GEL elderberry jelly receipt that fallows. http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/surejell-elderberry-jelly-60866.aspx The receipt was once a staple of the package instructions but as of this year Kraft removed it. Not a wise idea if you ask me.

   This was the end result of about 30 minutes of picking time, a box of Sure-Gel,a few cups of sugar and a case of jelly jars.GE DIGITAL CAMERA I also made about 6 1/2 pints of cold syrup this year and that should last are family all winter. Most of these jars will eventually be sent to family and friends for a gift of health for the holidays.

  The gifts of the wild woods here in West Virgina always amaze me. I am so glad to live in a place that offers so much to a person who is willing to take the time to learn more about the wilderness. Elderberries of course can also be grown from nursery stock and  planted in you own back yard. At some point when my knees and ankles will not allow me to berry pick on a steep hill-sides I will  then transplant a bush into our yard for easy access. But at this point, I am happy to spend the day along a farm road or creek side, looking for and making a wonderful tasting flu and cold preventive the old fashion way.

Katherines Corner  this post is shared on  Katherine’s corner blog hop.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

                                         shared with the homeacre blog hop.

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, Elderberry, Jelly, organic food, Preserving | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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