Hardwood forest

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stuarts Park campground, picnic area. DSC00023

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

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 Campground

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

queenann lace with blue flowers summer 2016

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

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

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

 

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

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

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

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

Flowers, Forest and Fauna: Spring time in West Virginia

As many of you already know I love to take photos,I almost always have a camera with me. So I seem to find all kinds of wonderful things to take photos of. This spring has been so busy, I am surprised, that I have even found time for short bursts of creativity where I take photos. So today I just wanted to share with all of you some of the things I have been seeing in my little corner of the world here in West Virginia this spring.

close up of a fresh Rhododendron bloom

close up of a fresh Rhododendron bloom

This is one of the views I wake up to every morning for the month of May.

Tom blending into the tree line as we turkey hunt

Tom blending into the tree line as we turkey hunt

We did some Turkey hunting early in the month of May but we struck out. No fresh turkey for dinner this year. Tom and I heard a few gobbles but nothing close enough to think about. The weather was unusually warm and dry and this may have effected the turkeys.

Pheasant tail mushrooms AKA Dryad saddle mushrooms

Pheasant tail mushrooms AKA Dryad saddle mushrooms

This meant that the weather was great for mushrooms. We found a bounty of these Pheasant Tail mushrooms while out turkey hunting. They are an easy to find, spring edible mushroom, we found many in the woods that day.

Pheasant tail mushroom on tree stump

Pheasant tail mushroom on tree stump

The first bloom of spring at the new house

The first bloom of spring at the new house

I tired of  all the snow, cold and wet of winter this year and was over joyed to see this. When this sign of spring finally opened, I felt as if I took a long deep breath, knowing winter was really over.

Spring Stream in Pendelton County WV

We did get a day to hike and fish before the spring weather got to hot( by May 23 the temps had already hit 94 degrees F) this stream was a great place to rest and fish on our day long adventure.

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Boundary marker for public land

 

Moss covered stones along the river at Ten Mile WV

Moss covered stones along the river at Ten Mile WV

We have also had a very popular back yard this year, with lots of wild baby animals roaming around. This spring Tom and I have found Toads, baby rabbits, baby squirrels, baby Doves and Robbins and a Box Turtle so far. It makes for a very educational trip out side. Now if we can just get Christopher over his fear of frogs and toads.

meet Chipper and Splinter the Barnwood builder Babies

meet Chipper and Splinter the Barn Wood Builder Babies

Red Eyed Box turtle walking across the back yard

Red Eyed Box turtle walking across the back yard

Then of course we have a photo of Christopher’s favorite wild animal… Jinn the photo bomber.

Jinn the photo bombing cat

Jinn the photo bombing cat

So thing here are busy, the house remodel is just about finished. Summer is taking hold and the heat is on. The last four days have been in the upper 80’s and 90’s. School will be over in about a week and Christopher will be starting summer swimming lessons. Most of the spring flowers are already gone for the year (I already miss them). The garden got planted but we are so late that it will be a month before I see any real growth . So Summer will be a time to hunt mushrooms in the cool shade of the dark hard woods and maybe even a weekend trip of camping. I will be ready for it sooner than it will happen but until them I keep my eyes open for more beauty that I see every day.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Baby Animals, Easter, flowers, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, photo review, Photos, Turkey season, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

West Virginia “Mountain Time” Life Style

A fellow blogger,  Dan Wall at Northeirthanthou.com  and his Alaska blog, has gotten me thinking that maybe I have become a true native of West Virginia if only for the fact that I have fallen deeply line with what he calls “Native Time”. He recently brought up the topic in a post about how the native people of Alaska have a slower, less formal passage of time. I have had this same experience when I moved to West Virginia. I lived on Boulder/Denver time and was always on the look out for some thing different and exciting to do. I was rushing from work to the next party or shopping trip or concert. Then I moved and experienced  what I will call “Mountain Time” I know there are other places all over the country that fall into this “Mountain Time” description. It seems that here in the “Mountain State” the feeling does not end when you head to town.

New River Gorge Bridge fall folage 2002

New River Gorge Bridge fall foliage 2002

Things here just make you slow down. I think much like other mountain communities is starts with the terrain and lack of basic services. You must understand that when I moved here in the early 1992 I had neighbors who did not have in door pluming. My husband did not have cell service while driving major interstate highways. We lived with out power for two weeks almost every winter and no one really complained or ran to town looking for a hotel. We drank well water and melted snow for washing dishes when the pump went out. These living conditions are typical for thousands and thousands of people who live in the rural areas of our state. When you live out of cell service and you internet is still dial-up in 2015. You just live to far from town to not live slower.When getting out of your driveway in winter takes two or three days, you are on “Mountain Time”.

The people of West Virginia  have learned by living in this rough environment that just a simple task can become a monumental challenge. For example, my experience with the BarnWood Builders lost the production company money. In the end, the barn wood that I now have at my house was to hard to truck out of the hollow where the barn sat. The producers tried in vain to hire a tractor-trailer to haul the wood out and not a single company would take a truck with in 8 miles of the barn. There was no where a truck that size could turn around, there was no place to park a truck unless blocking the gravel road.

Kenchelo road north of Jane Lew barn

Kenchelo road north of Jane Lew barn

So unless the wood got sold to, or given to, families like mine who have pick up trucks and strong backs, the wood was out of reach. In the end the majority of the wood from the barn burned on site, it was just too much work getting it out.  It just takes more time to do everything when you are living in terrain like this. Nothing is flat, everything grows some kind of poisons vine or is topped with a huge tree. The creeks flood and rivers are too deep to drive through.

Sunrays and Steamy fog of the West Fork River Weston, West Virginia

Sunrays and Steamy fog of the West Fork River Weston, West Virginia

I also think that part of  “Mountain Time” is that people who generally live a hunter/ gather/ agrarian life styles have a broader picture of time. They look at their  lives as part of the a seasonal plan rather than a monthly or day-to-day plan. When you are look at how crops are grow…(really think about how slow plants grow) your mind is not focused on today or tomorrow but what will happen in three weeks. If you are a hunter or trapper it could take months to harvests your game and you are look forward in 3 month jumps of time. Then when the work needs done you still have to fallow what the seasons allow you to do. It is a system that works very in tune with the weather and seasons. In the heat of an August day you would never expect a West Virginia farmer to attend an afternoon meeting… He is busy getting his hay or corn in. He will work his fields until 7 or 8 at night. You would never expect my husband home for a mid day meal during deer season. He has spent hours hiking into his favorite hunting spot and spent hours planing and tracking a buck. If I am lucky he will be home about an hour after dark around 6, if not later if a nice buck needs dragged home. I am never surprised any more when school is cancelled because of rain. I have had feet of water in my barns and driven through water that ran on the floor boards of our truck just to make sure my family and farm was safe.Tom and I have given aide to ATV riders who crash into trees or rolled over in the woods. Making a short horse trimming trip into an afternoon adventure as we waited for emergency responders to arrive for total strangers. It is all part of the experience and it all takes time… and usually it is not about the clock but being in the moment.

Twisted grape vine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia

Twisted grape-vine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia

So, if you are lucky to live on “Mountain Time” you will see Tom and I up at 4:30 tomorrow morning dressing for a morning of turkey hunting. We will then head home around 1 to a midday meal that we share once a week with my older sons family.Then if the weather allows we will be tiling and planting the garden until about 3 pm.Then naps and up again for dinner and tile work until 10 pm.This all depends on the turkey tomorrow… so who knows if my schedule will work out at all and if I will even be on time for any of it because I live on “Mountain Time”.

Tom and Christopher with2013 years first wild turkey

Tom and Christopher with2013 years first wild turkey

 

Categories: back woods, Barnwood Builders, Country life, deer hunting, Hardwood forest, Hunting, rural life, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Country Roads Take Me Home West Virginia, photo review

As things usually go, now that everything is getting settled and the stress from the last year and the move are over, I have a cold. This one has lasted longer than usual and I am just not up to being to creative so I though a trip down some of my favorite West Virginia country roads would make all of us feel better.

Stonecoal Lake, Lewis County West Virginia

Stonecoal Lake, Lewis County West Virginia

In the summer time every thing is green and lush. Many times this is the view you see as you pass by one of our large lakes. This one just happens to cover two counties Stonecoal lake is one of the states largest lakes. It is a lively place with fish and ospreys that sore and deer who drink quietly at its banks.

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Almost every country road here has one of these old cabins. Many are for hunting in the fall and winter and in the summer you would think the cabins are abandoned. This one is one many that I have fallen in love with over the years.

Mr and Mrs Tenney's barn Ten Mile West Virginia

Mr and Mrs Tenney’s barn Ten Mile West Virginia

Like cabins when driving country roads you will always see lots of barns and most of them are still in use. The foundation of the barn is from the 1800’s and has been recently updated with a new roof and siding.

Vine covered shed with wild roses in Middleburn, West Virginia

Vine covered shed with wild roses in Middleburn, West Virginia

There is just something so beautiful about this old tool shed. Taken over by time and flowers it shows the beauty I see every time we drive a back road. The mix of the old with the new.

Hunting Bus  Hacker Valley, West Virgina

Hunting Bus Hacker Valley, West Virginia

One of the many junked cars, trucks, buses and tractors that have been left to return to the wilderness. I find many of them so fascinating. This one got cut in two about a year after this photo and dragged away to the scrap yard. I kind of miss seeing it when we going fishing farther up this old dirt road.

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Are you seeing a trend here? I like old rusty stuff. The thought did cross my mind to show off the wonderful rock formations in the Seneca Valley but I have yet to get a good photo of them so maybe next year. instead I fell in love with the town and its river and its old-fashioned stores and friendly people.

 

 

Jim Devricks, Mowing his hay fields.

Jim Devricks, Mowing his hay fields.

Mini Donkeys in Ireland, west Virginia

Mini Donkeys in Ireland, west Virginia

If you travel around West Virginia on country roads long enough, you will get to see this scene replayed a thousand times every summer. The summer measures out by mowing,bailing and feeding of the hay to the thousands of animals West Virginians love.

Randy Brown tiny Sago rd. Chapel, Buckhannon, WV

Randy Brown tiny Sago rd. Chapel, Buckhannon, West Virginia

Another huge part of life in the mountain state is church. I have heard that there are more churches in West Virginia then there are people. I have no idea if that is true, but I have never seen  more churches in my life. This is the smallest chapel east of the Mississippi River and only has 4 pews and a small parking area. This is the only chapel that I know that is open 24 a day 7 days a week. I pass it on the way to Christopher’s school and always think of the family who built it as a memorial in 1964.

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Almost every one in West Virginia has taken time to fish in a farm pound. You may even find a snapping turtle or a muskrat making their home in the muddy edge. My older son caught a huge bass in a pond like this one when he was little.

Moss covered rock along Ten Mile creek. Ten Mile, West Virginia

Moss covered rock along Ten Mile creek. Ten Mile, West Virginia

The mountains of West Virginia are deep and lush and every things covered in moss and leaves. It is the story book forest of Hansel and Gretel.Where a person needs bread crumbs to find a path back home.

The Mystery Hole near Hawks Nest, West Virginia

The Mystery Hole near Hawks Nest, West Virginia

side view of VW bug at the Mystery Hole

side view of VW bug at the Mystery Hole

As you can see from the photo of the Mystery Hole, Mountaineers love to laugh and try new things. This wonderful road side attraction is actually one of the funniest experiences a person can have. Travel back to the 60’s and have the world turned up side down ( Literally) on you.It takes several minutes to regain your bearings after a trip to the mystery hole.swiss helvietia flagg

Cobblers Shed along the road in Helveisha, West Viriginia

Cobblers Shed along the road in Helvetia, West Virginia

There are lots of immigrant towns in West Virginia. Most are built by Swiss, Italian or Irish families and many have wonderful architecture. This one is one of my personal favorites. Helvetia a Swiss settlement in the mountains where they have a wonderful restaurant that serves town made cheeses, honey and cured meats.

I-79 south Gassaway area

I-79 south Gassaway area

Even our highways twist and turn and have the feeling of entering another world. As the sun and clouds rise on an early fall morning,I just could not help but enjoy the view of the clouds rising through the trees. Even our interstates have the feel of a country road.

Moundsville State Prison, front entry, Moundsville, West Viriginia

Moundsville State Prison, front entry, Moundsville, West Virginia

Then if you are lucky enough to find a town you may find that their some of the most beautiful stone buildings hiding in our towns and cities. Where you can take a break from the long rides on the twisty roads and explore the history of these wonderful buildings.

 

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum , Weston West Virginia.

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum , Weston West Virginia.

In West Virginia you really have no idea who you may meet along the country roads. As we drive I find it is always better to travel with friends. I hope that my little road trip gave all of you a little better idea about why John Denver wrote his song about my state. Just remember it is always better to share a country road with friends even if it is the Muppets.

Moving right along with the muppets

Moving right along with the Muppets

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Farm work, Hardwood forest, Monongahela National Forest, Moundsville State Penitentiary, photo review, Photos, Seneca Rocks, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Spring into the West Virginia Woods April 2014

I have been feeling under the weather for almost two weeks now. I got sick then felt good, not great, and then got worse. Not sure what is the cause but while I had three good days to hike and mushroom hunt I did take a few photos of some the signs of Spring.

I am also working on my wine… I did start the process a few days ago. Got the Dandelions picked and the “tea” made. I am hoping that as I am feeling better to get the fermentation started tomorrow and will write a post about it this weekend. I just feel that I should have had all this sickness over the winter and not while the sun is shining and the temps are in the upper 60’s and lower 70’s.

Well here is what I did see while out hiking, Hope it will tide you all over until the wine post !

Red trillium at Hacker Valley West Virginia

Red trillium at Hacker Valley West Virginia

Wild Blue Bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Wild Blue Bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

 

Rock with american Flag, Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Rock with american Flag, Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Christopher playing with stick on logging road at Hacker Valley, WV

Christopher playing with stick on logging road at Hacker Valley, WV

 

 

Buckeye tree leaves begin to sprout

Buckeye tree leaves begin to sprout

 

double scarltet cup mushroom

double scarlet cup mushroom

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

group of tiny mushrooms at the base of a Poplar tree

group of tiny mushrooms at the base of a Poplar tree

Spike buck horns in the woods of West Virginia

Spike buck horns in the woods of West Virginia

bone with chipmunk teeth marks

bone with chipmunk teeth marks

Spring buds on Poplar tree

Spring buds on Poplar tree

Stone Bridge at jacksons mill

Stone Bridge at jacksons mill

If you can’t tell I have been working with the Macro setting on my Camera lately. I think that I have discovered the subject matter that speaks to me the most and that is my love of Mushrooms and Bones. This is the first good photos I have taken of them and I am sure as time goes on I will have a nice collection of photos. Here in the mountains of Appalachia I have thousands of opportunities to find photograph them. Over the years I have collected many bone from the wild and used them as subjects of hundreds of prints and drawings but now I have found that they make great subjects for photos too! So as summer progress I am sure to show off many more colorful Mushrooms and any odd bones I find. We can have SO MUCH FUN together looking closer at my world.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Christopher, family fun, Hacker Valley, Hardwood forest, photo review, Photos, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Weekend Forage Feast, Chives and Watercress

my weekend collection of foraged foods, Ramps, Parsnips, Watercress, Chives, a land turtle shell and a shelf mushroom( not edible)

my weekend collection of foraged foods, Ramps, Parsnips, Watercress, Chives, a land turtle shell and a shelf mushroom  (not edible),but fun to look at.

The spring has finally arrived for a few days here in the mountains of West Virginia. I am so thankful for the warming sun. The weather was finally warm enough (even in my cast) we were able to spend the day with family friends foraging on and around their homestead. We are in the middle of Ramp season here and the whole state is out looking for the wonderful wild leek. The community dinners have started and the cooking has begun. I have written about Ramps the Wild leek  before for those of you who have not heard of them. Today’s Post is going to cover a couple of other wild greens that grow and ripen at the same time in the spring as Ramps. First, is another wild onion that all most everyone has heard of and that is Chives. Another aromatic member of the onion family.

wild chives

wild chives

This little guys packs a punch of wonderful hot peppery goodness in the greens although the bulbs are sweet. This is a very close photo of what they look like and makes them appear larger then they are. The tiny leaves are not round like a green onions but more a flat ribbon. They are a Kentucky blue grass-green rather than the blue /green/gray of wild onions. These also grow more like a grass in clumps rather than the single stem of wild onions. The field we were working in looked like this with thousands of chives clumps above the short growing grass of spring.

Photo of wild chives growing the back yard photo by Pamela Silvestri

Photo of wild chives growing the back yard photo by Pamela Silvestri

I gathered 5 or 6 clumps of these flavorful plants and took home enough for several meals. I also wanted to transplant a few so that I would have them ready next year. So now I have a pot full that I can grow right on the porch and I will get to see them bloom each summer. The other green that we collected  were Watercress and sadly they are at the end of the their season already. They are early bloomers and are most tasty before they get the hard stalks with blooms.They are primarily a March green one of the first that is found every year.

Watercress close up

Watercress close up

They are most often found around the edges of a creeks or streams but in our case here in West Virginia they will grow any where their is a damp place this includes under the eves of my house where the water runs off the roof. This is a photo of the full-grown plant just before blooming.

Watercress growing in the back yard about to bloom

Watercress growing in the back yard about to bloom

The flavor of watercress reminds me of spinach and the nutritional value is twice or three times that of iceberg lettuces . So it is an easy to use addition to any salad or cooked green. So with some of the freshly foraged foods that we found with our friends Kenny and Sylvia we were able to make  a couple of nice salads, a skillet full of fried Parsnips and a couple of dinners with fried Ramps. All free, All organic and with twice the nutritional value of store-bought foods.

My friends and the property that we foraged  on this weekend

My friends and the property that we foraged on this weekend

The salad that I made was the highlight of our dinner last evening. A ramp, watercress salad with pecans and blue cheese crumbles.

Ramp Watercress and Pecan salad

Ramp Watercress and Pecan salad

The this salads recipe adjusts  with any ingredients that you find that day but this is what we used for dinner that evening. Watercress, Ramp, Pecan salad. 1 cup iceberg lettuce torn into bite size pieces 1 cup baby spinach torn into bite size pieces. 1 cup Watercress torn into bite size piece. 4 ramps cleaned and diced small. 2 table spoons blue cheese crumbles. 1/3 cup pecans chopped. topped with 2 table spoons fresh chopped chives. Tom and I like this salad with a nice light vinaigrette or a sweet Russian or French dressing. I served this salad with broiled pineapple slices and Teriyaki pork chops. It was a wonderful light spring meal.

Teriyaki pork chops, Candied grilled Pineapple and wild greens salad

Teriyaki pork chops, Candied grilled Pineapple and wild greens salad

I encourage you to think out side of the “Produce Section” box. Finding and eating wild food is a skill that I am still building on every year. I try to add at least one new wild food to my foraging every year. I encourage you to look at your yard or property as a place to feed you family and grow better heath.Not only with in your garden but the wild weeds that grow near your home. I also encourage you to think about taking care of your own family in a time of trouble. Eating the weeds is just another way of preparing for an uncertain future. I know my family will eat well even when others may not.    “Just food for thought “.                                      Thanks again for stopping by and eating along with me.

Categories: Chives, cooking, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Homestead, organic foods, ramps, Watercress, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Wild Mushroom ( Hen of the Woods)( Chicken Mushroom) Penne Pasta

One of my favorite things about West Virginia is finding wild mushrooms. I modified the ingredients for this dish around the holidays when Tom and I grew sick of eating turkey and ham. This recipe could use any mushroom but as I have learned more about wild mushrooms it is wonderful for the meaty and almost fibrous Hen of the woods.

Hen of the Woods...Grifola frondosa

Hen of the Woods…Grifola frondosa

Hen of the Woods can range from almost white to almost totally grey.It ranges in size from about a pound to some here in West Virginia that have come in at 80 pounds. This mushroom a choice edible. The Hen of the Woods  should not turn blue/black when bruised  and should not have  an unpleasant odor.  The small mushroom on the left of this photo is the one that we took in the house to eat as it was a gift from friends. Our little mushroom hit the scale at about 5 1/2 pounds. Just as a size reference it took up the entire dish strainer when I cleaned it.  The center mushroom was about 12 pounds and about the size of my kitchen sink.

cleaning and draining a Hen of the woods Mushroom

cleaning and draining a Hen of the woods Mushroom

Warning…  edible mushrooms are easy to mix up with poisonous ones  learn them before you eat.

As with any of my mushroom posts I encourage everyone who wants to start looking for mushrooms to buy several mushroom identification books and find other hunters in your area to help with identification.  Some wild mushrooms are very poisonous and can kill a grown human in a few hours.  Remember to only try one new mushroom at a time.That way if there is a reaction to the fungus, you know what type of mushroom it is making you ill. Cook all wild mushroom before eating this also reduces allergic reactions to the fungus. Always keep a sample of the mushroom in case you have misidentified the mushroom and need medical attention. Get an outside person to look over your findings…. can’t hurt to have a second pair of eye looking at what you want to eat.

I cleaned this large mushroom in a large sink full of warm water. The water needs to cover the entire mushroom and it should ideally soak for about 25 to 30 minutes. This allows the small bugs, slugs, dirt, leaves or any other unwanted matter time to drown or soften and float to the bottom of the sink. Remove the mushroom from water, drain and rinse again with tap water. Place the clump of wet mushroom in dish strainer to drain. The mushroom can now be canned, frozen, or cooked. I cut this big guy up and froze about 3/4 of it for the winter.

bag of frozen Hen of the Woods mushrooms

bag of frozen Hen of the Woods mushrooms

Hen of the woods is one of the few mushrooms that freeze extremely well and does not lose its firm texture  when thawed. So this one is a wonderful winter cooking staple. After cutting up the large mushroom I patted the branches dry and placed about 2 pounds per bag. Using about two cups of frozen branches for the following recipe.

Hen of the Woods Penne Pasta

Hen of the Woods Penna Pasta

Hen of the Woods Penne Pasta

serves 5 to 6  baked at 350 degrees

  1. quart Italian tomato sauce or marinara sauce
  2. 1 pound penne pasta
  3. 1 pound Italian Sausage ( we use sweet or mild)
  4. 1  green sweet bell pepper
  5. 1 med yellow onion
  6.  2 cups Hen of the Woods thawed mushrooms
  7.  2 cloves garlic crushed
  8. 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  9. 2 cups shredded cheese Mozzarella, Cheddar, or blended cheese

Begin with a 2 quart casserole coated with cooking spray or butter the casserole dish set a side. Boil salted water in a large pot and cook 1 lb noodles until about 3/4 the way soft. Drain noodles and set a side. They will continue to cook when baked with other ingredients  in oven.

In a large skillet break up and brown 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage. When browned all the way through remove from pan and set a side. To skillet oils add garlic and thawed mushroom and saute until mushrooms begin to brown at the edges.

saute mushrooms and garlic remaining oils in skillet

saute mushrooms and garlic remaining oils in skillet

Then add in onions, peppers, saute until onions begin to turn translucent and peppers begin to soften , under cook the vegetables so they remain some what crunchy they will continue to cook in the oven when baked.

Hen of the Woods, onions. peppers and garlic saute

Hen of the Woods, onions. peppers and garlic saute

Add cooked sausage to casserole dish followed by cooked mushrooms and vegetables. Mix together and add one quart of pasta sauce, 1 pound of cooked penna pasta.

sausage, onion, peppers, hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic in casserole dish

sausage, onion, peppers, hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic in casserole dish

Add into mixture 1 cup Parmesan cheese and mix well. Cleaning the rim of dish after mixing to prevent burning while in oven. Top mixture with shredded cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

adding pasta, Parmesan cheese and sauce to mixture in cassarole

adding pasta, Parmesan cheese and sauce to mixture in casserole

 The  topping will appear melted and the filling will appear bubbly when ready to eat. We serve this will garlic bread and a romaine lettuces salad. Making a nice meal that helps incorporate  the woodiness of the wild mushroom without making it distracting in a main dish.  This is one of my husbands favorite dishes as long as I leave the pepper, onion and mushrooms in large slightly crunchy pieces.  

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Just for fun here is a photo of an over grown Hen of the woods that my husband and a friend found while working along a road side for the DOT in 2010.This one was almost to big to eat at 80 pounds and really tough.

Mark Metzger with huge chicken of the woods

Photo used with permission from Mark Metzgar 2013.

Categories: country cooking, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A New Passion… Mushroom Hunter.

    This has been an idea in my head for years…. Hunting Mushrooms. I find that my passion for foraging just grows year after year. I spend more and more of my free time in the woods looking for wild edible foods. This year my son bought me two mushroom hunter guide books for Christmas. He bought them after a conversation we had about how we should take up the hobby so that we can spend more time in the woods in the summer. Summer is our OFF season, trout fishing is over and deer hunting is not in season, so we really had no reason to go into the woods in July. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when we began Chanterelle mushroom hunting for ourselves.

   With help and encouragement from my husband’s friend Mark Metzger, Tom and I took off on a Saturday morning to a woods that my husband has hunted for years. We had photos and seen real examples of the mushroom we were looking for. We read where these tasty morsels grew but you never really know what you will find until you try. Our hopes were high that the mushroom hunt would fill our bags, we were not disappointed. We ended up with about two pounds if bright yellow flesh ready to eat.

Here is a photo of our friend Mark with a mushroom of a life time,a portion of a 100 pound “Chicken of the Woods” mushroom found in a drainage ditch while at work. Working for the DOT sometimes has its advantages… Mark Metzger with huge chicken of the woods

    It was this photo and story that pushed me into this new adventure. I wanted to see, find and eat something like this. I knew that edible mushrooms were just waiting for me to find and enjoy them. We started off looking for some of the easiest to identify wild mushrooms so that we were sure to stay safe and get an easy start on this new project.

  Our first steps were to pack up for the trip. I read and reread the ways to ID  the Chanterelle, the mushroom type we wanted to find. We packed several “green” grocery bags, a roll of paper towels, a couple of pocket knives and water bottles. We all dresses very comfortable yet in jeans. This time of year you tramp through wild roses and brier batches along every hill-side. We did not travel along pathways or trails, we brush busted through groves and thickets. I also took along our “for beginners” identification book just in case of confusion and of course my camera.

  It took Tom, Christopher and I  several minutes to get to the proper location for chanterelles. They only grown in the darkest part of the woods under mostly oak trees. To find an area with the correct environment took about an hour of hiking. GE DIGITAL CAMERA

We past thousands of mushrooms that morning of every color, style and size. One of the most interesting ones was this beauty, possibly a Morgan mushroom.

what we think was commonly known as a morgan ploypores mushroom

what we think was commonly known as a Morgan polypore mushroom

  Since we were not totally sure what this thing was we left it to grow and just took a photo of it. I at some time hope to use the photos in paintings and drawings. 

   The grove we found our mushrooms in is old and thick. The canopy was full,  making the ground dark and damp, very little vegetation lived on the ground. Only the wondering grape vines and the yellow of the chanterelle were visable.The chanterelle’s bright yellow trumps are hard to miss in the dark of the woods. We literally passed from one level to another on the hillside picking as we move down. Of course I was so excited to see the little guys I forgot to stop and take a picture of the hill-side covered with little yellow flower like mushrooms (live and learn). We ended up with about two pounds of mushrooms from this location. We also left some of the smaller ones for later and to make sure that the spores dropped on the ground for the next generation of chanterelle.

Tom passing fallen tree to area where we found the Wild Mushrooms

Tom passing fallen tree to area where we found the Wild Mushrooms

   Also while wondering in the woods, we found another type of edible mushroom in a random passing of dead trees called  boletes. I collected them also but made sure not to mix the mushrooms in the same bag and rapped each in a paper towel to remove some of the moister that was on all of the mushrooms. Some were still water-logged from the weeks of rain we had just gotten through.  This type of mushroom also has no gills but has the shape of any common mushroom, but it does have a more flattened cap and velvety appearance.

frist botele mushroom found that day

first Bolete mushroom found that day

  We brought home about 6 Bolete mushrooms and was able to identify them as Bragger’s Boletes and will look for them again when we head out next time.

     The most popular mushrooms that also grow in West Virginia are Morels. They are an easy to spot spring mushroom that also grows in the dark oak groves of the Appalachian mountains. Tom and I did not have time this year to pursue hunting them but our friend Mark was able to find some. We have added this to the list of things we hope to do next spring.

Mark Metzgar with Morels and a Lewis County, West Virginia widow sign

Mark Metzger with Morels and a Lewis County, West Virginia widow sign

    Edible mushrooms are fun to collect, spending a day off in the woods is refreshing, but it is even more enjoyable to eat what you have found. I have always been a fan of trying new things in the kitchen so cooking up a batch of wild mushrooms is not hard.  Tom, Bill(a family  friend) and I cleaned and fried up our treasure in flour and butter.I added a little salt and pepper for flavor cooked them over low heat. The taste was a rich and strong mushroom flavor… and they melted in you mouth. I really wonderful way to start a meal.

flouring the mushrooms

flouring the mushrooms

  I can’t really put into words what it is that I love so much about foraging for food. It is like treasure hunting for me. I get an idea about what I want to find and some how God and the earth provides me a place and time of year to find it. I enjoy my time in the wilderness it recharges and invigorates me. Foraging also allows us to see lots of wild life. On this trip to the woods we found a spotted fawn, several song birds, what Tom and I believe was a Bob Cat sleeping in a tree and lots of squirrels. What a wonderful way to spend time with those you love,sharing time in the woods, finding wonderful treasures, then taking them home to eat a fun meal together. Dose life really get any better than this?

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, organic foods, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Big Bend Camp ground, Cabins West Viriginia

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Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Big Bend camp ground, Camping, Hardwood forest, Monongahela National Forest, Potomac river, Seneca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, State Park activities, West Virginia | 4 Comments

Back Woods Wonders in West Virginia

      Treasures found in the back woods of West Virginia.. photos and notes on the things we have seen and found on our trips into the Appalachian forest.

Snail on river moss, cleveland, WV

Snail on river moss, Cleveland, WV

     My subject is one that is near and dear to my heart. This post allows me to  shows off some of the photos I have taken over the years that we have lived in the Mountain State. West Virginia is abundant with wildlife and the scenery is both  mysterious and enchanting. Many times it has  reminded me of all of those fairytale and fables written about the woods. My personal favorite to use as an example is the story of Hansel and Geritol who get lost in the dark woods. Here in our forgotten state where technology still takes a back seat to wildness I have found my love and my gingerbread house hidden in the woods.

    Growing up in Boulder,Colorado, we saw deer, rabbits, coons, and occasionally a fox. Impressed and fascinated with every thing nature had to offer I read and studied our local wild life.I wanted to know more and see more. This passion to understand wild life, its conservation, and how to live a more natural life became building blocks of who I wanted to be as an adult. Maybe watching to many episodes of “Grizzly Adams” had something  to do with my life choices. I wanted to marry “Adams”, I wanted to be in the forest with him, living off the land, eating wild game, making dinner over a fire. I wanted to have friends who were trappers and miners.  I wanted to save people from the cities from getting lost in the wilderness. I wanted a Buck Skinner life, a Pioneer woman.

Funny how a young persons dreams of life can foreshadow  reality. After years of working towards my dream, I have almost reach this goal. I married a wonderful man who loves the woods as much as I do. Tom is a person who sees the value of all of the things the hard wood forest has to offers. We are a family who supports conversation with an eye towards the sports men who donate millions every year to protect what it is that they love. We live conventionally and not in a rustic cabin with no running water, but we do spend almost every free time we have working with or around animals, wild life, and trying to live off the land. I still dream of a small cabin with a wood stove and a hand pump for water  but that will be a vacation cabin out in the woods someday. 

Mary Conrad cabin Jacksons Mill. Jane Lew West Virigina

Mary Conrad cabin Jackson’s’ Mill. Jane Lew West Virginia

Codys' proud catch of the day

Cody’s proud catch of the day

Tom and I have been lucky over the years.  We  have been able to share our love of the outdoors  with our kids. Cody now 22 and is  an avid outdoors man himself. He often surprises us with his skills with a compound bow and fishing pole. This was a rather good day of fishing at Holly River State Park. The fishing was excellent with many caught and released that morning. I was lucky to get a few put in the freezer for later use.

Cody with his native and brook trout

Cody with his native and brook trout

Early morning Sun on Stone Coal Lake

Early morning Sun on Stone Coal Lake

     Most of our adventures, we are up long before daylight and we return only after a long day. Fishing, Hunting, Hiking ,Ramp Digging all take lots of daylight hours to accomplish.  While on a long drive to a secret fishing hole I stopped the car and took these photos. The sun had just risen over the trees and began its climb into the sky to burn off the fog that is ever-present in the winding hills of West Virginia.

Morning mist on Stone Coal Lake

Morning mist on Stone Coal Lake

Locus tree nut pod

Locus tree nut pod

Spring Wild flower

Spring Wild flower

    With Christopher being so young we try  to keep things simple and interesting at the same time. We spend many hours looking for hidden treasures and wonders of wild life that he at four years old he can understand. We spend many afternoons looking closely at the ground or at his eye level. He loves hunting nuts, seed pods, berries, and flowers. His education about respect, understanding and love for the mountains begins here… with a snail, flower, and nut. It is in the peace and beauty of a stream that he learns about pollution and how it hurts the environment, how it kills fish and makes the family unhappy. He is able to understand that much at about nature at four, and it is important that he does.

toms favorite trout stream. Webster County West Virigina

toms favorite trout stream. Webster County West Virginia

     While in the woods my family forages and hunts. We eat many of the wild plants and animals that nature provides for our use and we expand the collection every year. This year we have adding the foraging of Mushrooms and Fiddle Head Ferns to our list and will at some point in the future add Wild Hog to our diet.  It is always a delight to find and eat wild plants and animals. Here is one of my favorite edibles and things to photograph…. wild colorful mushrooms. Some of the mushrooms photographed here are very poisonous.

collection of Wild Mushrooms

collection of Wild Mushrooms

  I am not sure what it is about fungus that fascinates me, but I always have time to photograph a new style or color.

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 I also wanted to include pictures of the deer and turkeys and other animals that we see and hunt in West Virgina. But many of the photo I have taken are actually after the hunt is over and are trophy shots. Some readers find these offensive and I will refrain from sharing those photos. I now realise that I do not have many good photos of the live animals themselves. I hope to remedy the situation over the next few months, so that a post like this is full of good photos of live animals in their natural surrounds.

   Funny what we take photos of isn’t it ? I never realised that I loved seeing deer in our back yard but never took a photos of  them?  These are  my most current deer photos, they are not overly well shot, but you can get the feel of how friendly they can become over time.

what a group of friends a Boy( Chris) a mule and a calico cat

what a group of friends a Boy( Chris) a mule a calico cat and white tail doe

This deer is comfortable to seeing Mini the Mule in her pasture but when we came to visit, she was curious about Christopher and they looked each other over for a long time.

White tail Doe looking at Christopher

White tail Doe looking at Christopher

Fall Follage in Fayettevill,Wet Virginia

fall foliage in Fayetteville,Wet Virginia

  These are the woods that I  love and depended on for my “dream come true”. It still surprises me that I am able to live a life where I am part of nature on a daily basis. The woods have taught me so much about being true to myself and a strong individual. Yes, I love my computer and internet but they are only tools that I use to share my love of the outdoors with you. It is in the woods that I find my peace and my connection with the universe. These woods nourish my body and my soul. It took  almost 45 years to get here to this place where I was living true to my heart.I now realise that my dream of child hood is coming true, that I am a woodsman’s wife, a Pioneer Woman, a Mother and a Steward of the Woods. I am strong and free and able to rejoice in the mountains and streams of  Wild Wonderful West Virginia.

Sharing with a wordless Wednesday blog hop.

http://www.craftyspices.com/hops/wwhop

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, back woods, deer, Hardwood forest, photo review, Photos, State Park activities, West Virginia, wild food, wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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