Homestead

Coming Home to West Virginia; Saving a 1860’s Family Home.

“Coming home to West Virginia” is how David Cutlip described the adventure of saving his Great Grandfather’s log cabin constructed in the 1860’s. The story spans 4 generations, crosses state lines and brings new life to a beloved log home.

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The Cutlip Reconstructed 1860’s cabin in Beverly, West Virginia.

This story begins along a rural road in what is now Webster County, West Virginia with  Marion Wilson Cutlip who built a log home in the mid 1860’s. The cabin is made from hewed poplar logs that grew on the 250 acre farm near the community of Hacker Valley. Marion,his wife and four children were the first to call the cabin home, but not the last.Little did Marion know that he had creating a home that would last for over 150 years and would pass to his Great Grandson. Living and working the land as farmers,the family eventually out grew the small log home that measures only 16′ x 23′ feet. So, in the early 1900’s additions and siding were added, hiding the hewed logs from view. In the 1970’s, the house was no longer occupied  daily and this is how it appeared for the remainder of the years it sat on the farm.

cutlip-family-home-before-siding-is-removed

Cutlip family home Webster County, West Virginia 1860’s before moving the logs to Randolph County, West Virginia in 2007.

Years passed, the farm and home were eventually sold out of the Cutlip family.Times change and members of the family moved away from West Virginia looking for better opportunities, including Davids family. David returned to West Virginia to attend college at Davis and Elkins College, and visited the old home place many times while a student. His love of family history and the families ties to the house continued to grow until adulthood. While living and working in Ohio, he never forgot the house from his childhood or the way West Virginia made him feel. In 2007 the farmer who then owned the house allowed Dave and his wife Patricia to purchase the home back and the real work began.

 

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After tare down and the reconstruction of the Cutlip log home with help from Mark Bowe.

By the end of 2009 David and Patricia began the work of finding out if the logs of the house were salvageable. As with all houses of this age, water and bugs (termites here in W.V.) can wreak havoc on old logs. With some searching the couple found a nice location for the future log home outside the small town of Beverly, West Virginia. Then they found Mark Bowe the owner of “Antique Cabins and Barns” in Lewisburg, West Virginia who would be charged with dismantling and moving the heavy logs. Mark  Bowe (before “Barnwood Builder” Fame) found the project promising and within a few months had his crew (some that are still members of the “Barnwood Builders” television show today) dismantle the house. By the end of the first week the 150 year old logs were dismantled, loaded and trucked away to a storage yard in Lewisburg, WV.

Nearly two years later Mark and his crew delivered the logs from the Lewisburg log yard to the new home site where a new foundation had been constructed.The work to construct a new log home continued over the next 5 years. As this was not David and Patricia’s primary home they took their time to make their dream retirement home come true. In the end the home is the perfect balance of old and new features,that keeps its warm rustic appeal.

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

David Cutlip, Thomas Powers, Patricia Mayes with Christopher Powers at the back addition of their log home in Beverly, WV Jan 2017

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Front yard view of Cutlip log home with additions Jan 2017

To the log home,the couple added space to the small original floor plan. They added a modern kitchen, dinning room,a study, two bathrooms and quest room to the design. They were able to keep the historic feel by reusing many of the features from the log cabin, such as the hearth stone and fire-place surround that David remembers as a child. Dave and Patricia have added antiques and family heirlooms to the decor of the home.These additions make a warm and inviting space that honors the generations of his family that worked the land so hard to create this log home.

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Living room with Hearthstone and fireplace surround from original house build by David Cutlips Great Grandfather in the 1860’s.

 

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Modern Kitchen addition added to the Cutlip/ Mayes home with a light and airy feel.

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

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Master bedroom with sitting area in 1860’s portion of the house.

David and Patricia have collected a verity of antiques to decorate their home. With two interesting items that stand out when you spend some time in the log home. One is Davids Grate Grandfathers desk that was made on the Webster County Farm and the Linsey- Woolsey coverlets that his Great Grandmother wove from flax and wool from the family farm in the late 1800’s.

hand-made-desk-from-the-log-cabin-cutlip-home-jan-17

Hand made desk made by Marion Cutlip in Webster County, West Virginia. Shown in the home of his Great Grandson David Cutlip, Randolph County West Virginia 2017.

linsey-woolsey-coverlets-make-by-david-cutlips-great-grand-mother-1800-period

Hand woven Linsey-Woolsey bed coverlets made by David’s Great Grandmother on the Webster County farm, late in the 1800’s

It is heartwarming to know that both of these wonderful heirlooms were not only made by his family on the farm, but were made from products on that farm. The desk is made of poplar planks that were milled from trees that grew in the woods of the Webster County  farm. Marion Cutlip designed and constructed this desk to be used in this very same house. David said after our tour that with 6 people living in the 2 story, 16’X 23′ log cabin together “He thought that this desk was about the only space that his Great Grandfather had in the entire house”( and I do not doubt him one bit).

The coverlets were made by  Davids Great Grandmother. The family produced the wool from their own sheep and grew the flax that would be spun into linen for the coverlets.I was amazed at the coloring and detailed patterns of the Linsey-Woolsey blankets and can only imagine the time it took to make just one of these covers. In more modern times families who used this type of fabric and dressed in the bright patterns and plaids that could be woven on a family looms were thought to be poor. As the rich were able to buy fine imported materials from Europe. Today, any person who could master this art would charge highly for their fabrics and would be looked at as an artisan of the highest order. The skill of making your own fiber and fabric is a tradition that is long-lost in our day and age.

My visit to my friend’s home was such a wonderful learning experience. My family and I took away lots of great ideas for our own home remodel. We got to hear some wonderful stories about the people and history of our state and were reminded that it is possible to  bring together the past and the present and make a dream come true. David Cutlip and his wonderful wife Patricia Mayes have saved not only an old house from further deterioration but made a beautiful home from the dreams of a young man many miles from where he called home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Barnwood Builders, Beverly West Virginia, cabins, Country life, DIY projects, family memories, Farming, Hacker Valley, heirlooms, Homestead, log home, Randolph County, Webster Springs, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrate Easter with Trout and Ramps .

It is official spring has come to the Mountain State. Trout and Ramp Season has begone and I am getting excited for the first skillet full of the wild food that is traditional in West Virginia.  My husband’s family have enjoyed fresh trout and ramps for generations. As far back as the family story can remember. The family enjoyed the freedom of the Mountains where tiny speckled fish and ramps are always a part of the celebration spring.

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Brook Trout by Mat Hardy from Trout Unlimited

Often my husband and his father would take off in the middle of April for a trout fishing trip with hopes of also gathering a burlap sack of ramps. The farther from civilization they drove the smaller the trout got and the larger the ramps grew. So off on some deserted logging road on a mountain top, where a small stream started, my father-in-law and husband would be found fishing. The tiny native trout with copper skin and bright orange spots are fighters like anything that lives so far into the mountains.Making an almost freezing morning exciting as the two would wade the stream looking for ramps along the way.

Field of wild growing Ramps

Field of wild growing ramps

When the noon day sun would finally reach the steam at the bottom of the holler they were fishing the two would break for lunch. The two eating pepperoni rolls off the tail gate of an old truck, they would talk about if the fishing was good enough to spend more time in the water or if it was time to trade the fishing poles for a ramp hoes. Neither father or son would want to leave the peacefulness of the rushing spring water but they knew more treasures waited for them on the mountainsides.

Tom fishing on a cold Easter Morning

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County, West Virginia

 

The team would drag themselves up the steep banks of the mountains with a short-handled hoe, looking for clumps of green in the otherwise brown forest floor. If ramps were spotted, one would yell out to the other in the other wise silent woods and the digging would start. Gathering just enough of the bulbs for the family and leaving many to spread out the seeds of future plants.By late afternoon the two would shimmy back down the mossy covered banks to the truck. Fresh fish would be in the cooler chilling, topped with a sack of muddy ramps. The two would ride the bumpy road back home for a fest of fresh spring foods.These foods were almost impossible to get any other time of the year and the deep joy of finally being free from the winter always made the meals more pleasant.

Often the first dinner that we fix of ramps is meatless. Not for any reason other than it seems fitting that such an early spring meal would have also been meatless for  generations of homesteaders of this land. They would have enjoyed a meal of fresh ramps with brown beans, cornbread and maybe if their storage was good fried potatoes. Our ancestors would have celebrated that fresh greens had to grown again and life had returned to the hills they called home.Ramps brown beans and fried potatoes cornbread

So as my family celebrates Easter weekend, I am not only thinking of my Savior and his miraculous life, I am thinking of countless generations of West Virginians who have come before me. I am thinking of the blessings and bounty of another spring and of how to share its traditions and stories with the next generation. How a fish and a sticky bulb were not a trendy food but a way of life for the mountain people of Appalachia and how I can keep the spirit of thankfulness alive.

Happy Easter my friends enjoy Spring !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Corn bread, country cooking, Country life, Easter, fishing, Homestead, ramps, Ramps, trout | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Adventures of Pruning an Old Grape Vine.

Over the last 25 years trying to live close to the land in West Virginia, I have had several adventures with grape vines. I love the vines for their wildness. I sometimes wonder if the wild muscadine vines here are kin to roaches or coyotes because of their staying power. I think one day they will take over the world after some crazy annihilation of the human race. They are truly the winding, twirling, fast growing vines of folktales and do real destruction if left on their own.

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

Twisted grapevine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia.

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grape vine, Lewis County West Virginia

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grapevine. Lewis County, West Virginia

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park 2013

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park,West Virginia  2013.

They also produce an easy to grow fruit that almost everyone likes, grapes. Grapes make so many wonderful tasting things that is almost impossible for me to picture my country life with out them. So when we bought the “new to us house” last year, one of the things I wanted to grow was concord grapes. We had been able to take care of the family farm for several years and Tom’s dad had several concord grape vines established when we moved in. I quickly learned how to make grape jelly and concord grape juice from the old vines. So, some kind of grape vines were on my wish list when we were looking for a new home. The exciting part for me is that this house had a grapevine… what kind of grapes no one knew. The vine was over grown and not well staked. So I had part of my wish answered but a lot of work to get it into shape.

A Single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon

A single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon,West Virginia.

I started my pruning at the recommended time ( late fall to late winter) after the vine had gone dormant. The temperature outside was around 50 degrees when I started working on getting the single vine back in shape. The vine had been let go so long that I found several vine tendrils had re-rooted on their own over the years.These sprouts needed to stay attached to the ground if I wanted over half the vine to remain alive. This complicates things, none of the gardening guides or books said anything about this problem.It often happens and is natures way to reproduce another grapevine. I did the best I could with the off shoot and attempted what the guides offered for advice(not much on old vines by the way). I followed the main vine and marked off with tape three main branches from the original root-stock and tried to keep them and remove the rest. One of the re-rooted shoots was from the main three branches so I really needed to keep it. That shoot was going to make trellising the vine almost impossible.

The vine had grown so long that it was actually attacking a small ornamental tree in the yard. When we moved in I had cut all of the vine from the little tree in the early spring to stop it from covering it and knew I would need to do more work this winter. In the course of 6 months the tree was under attack again. Tendrils had reached to top of the 10 foot tree and covered half of the trees branches.In a matter of 3 years the tree would die from lack of light reaching the leaves and the choking action of the vine. Even domestic grapevines can be destructive if not maintained.

Knowing grapevines only fruit on year old stems, I had to keep some the young shoots if I wanted any fruit at all next year. I literally pulled, tugged and untwisted most of the vine on to the ground to find were each branch went. Most of the vine had no outside support so this made pruning easy. I started to cut back everything that was old, dead or just to long. I removed about 3/4 of the old growth off the vine. The photo below shows the freed end of the arbor, ready for new growth.

Pruned concord grapevine

Pruned concord grapevine.

I will likely only get five or six bunches of grapes this year because I removed so much of the vine this winter. Then the following year ( year 2) I should have 20 bunches of grapes if the weather allows.  After the third year I will be back to prune the vine again. My local extension office suggests pruning  almost every year on wine grapes or grapes that have been well-tended. I think in my case every two or three years should keep the vine healthy and looking full.

I plan to add another vine to the other end of the arbor this summer. A grape that could be used for fresh eating and wine making. Concord grapes are hardy in the cold but grow small and sour fruit. Just try eating the beautiful purple fruit raw…ooo… it takes a heck of a person to chew the tart skin and chew up the large seeds. I am hoping that adding a pink or red grape will add to what I can do with them.

In the future I hope to write a post about my home-made concord grape jelly made from the fruit of this very vine. I will be working hard to remove all the weeds and briers that moved in under the vines.I will be using our bunnies for fertilizer to help them grow stronger.I just hope the summer proves my pruning was a successful, that the vine is now healthy and providing my family with fresh fruit and juices.

Categories: Country life, DIY, Grapevines, Homestead, Jelly, pruning, rabbits | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A 1800’s Living History Christmas at Fort New Salem

A visit to Fort New Salem  is a trip back in time. The Living History Museum and Cultural Center in North Central West Virginia is a collection of over 18 historic cabins and buildings that are arranged as a pioneer settlement. The New Fort Salem Foundation of Salem West Virginia has public events all year to encourage the public to come and learn about what life was like in the 1800’s. It celebrates and educates about the traditions and folk-ways of the settlers of this area. The nationally recognized event ” The Spirit of Christmas in the Mountains” is the year-end gathering and a great place to spend the day with the kids for fun and learning.

The Village at Fort New Salem with woman in period clothing

The Village at Fort New Salem with woman in period clothing

I was lucky to have my whole family along on this afternoon trip to see  the Christmas in the mountain program. It rained most of the day we visited, making it feel a little cool and damp out side but the fires in each  tiny cabin warmed us. We started our visit with the two cabins that had candle making and a small kitchen that served hot chocolate, ginger bread men, pumpkin muffins and Wassel. The kids hand dipped candles for about 10 or fifteen minutes going from wax dipper to water and back again, over and over… The candle maker said to get a modern stick candle you would have to dip 50 coats of wax on a cotton wick to get one that size. Christopher dropped out fast only dipping about 15 times and Paige made it to about 25 dips before the repetition made her ready to find something more to do. The candle maker explained that most woman would make about 8 candles at a time instead of one at a time and a family would need about three candles a day to light their cabins at night. Making candles a very important necessity for settlers.

Paige dipping her candle in a bucket of cold water before adding another coat of wax at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Paige dipping her candle in a bucket of cold water before adding another coat of wax at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Christopher dipping candles at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Christopher dipping candles at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

We then took the little ones to make their own ginger bread men and I got to have a cup of Wassail. (Wassail/Wassel  is an apple cider punch served warm and the above link has a traditional recipe that my family used).  I have not had the spicy cider in years, it tasted wonderful heated in a kettle in the fire-place. We all enjoyed the cookies and music playing while we ate. Christopher could not make up his mind if he wanted to keep the cookie or take it home, in the end it tasted really good and cooked perfectly to eat.

getting some decorating help at the kitchen at Fort New Salem

getting some decorating help at the kitchen at Fort New Salem

music played while we ate

music played while we ate

We then took the kids around to the blacksmith shop and tin shop where we all enjoyed watching things being made. The blacksmiths were making ornament holders and a fireplace set for the cabins. The Tin Smith at another cabin spent a lot of time with us explaining how tin things were made and used. The kids got to make tin ornaments for the tree as a gift from the foundation.

Blacksmith making a fireplace poker at Fort New Salem

Blacksmith making a fireplace poker at Fort New Salem

Tom helping Christopher and Paige make tin orniments

Tom helping Christopher and Paige make tin ornaments

We also went to the apothecary and honey houses. I bought some home-made Vick’s Vapor rub made with bee’s wax and lanolin and the kids got honey sticks to suck on. The day was almost over when we took a few minutes to  play with some traditional mountain musical instruments. We played with two different kinds of dulcimers and a cigar box banjo. The first instrument was a lap dulcimer that Christopher and Paige played along with using a home-made dance toys that made a rapping sound when it hit the wood plank. The other was my favorite instrument the hammer dulcimer. If a person is really good with the hammers they can play with 4 hammers at one time. This man was using two at a time, one in each hand.

Christopher playing in rhythm to a lap dulcimer

Christopher playing in rhythm to a lap dulcimer

Man playing a hammer Dulcimer at Fort New Salem

Man playing a hammer Dulcimer at Fort New Salem

In the same room with the dulcimers were a couple of banjos this one made from a cigar box  had  only 4 strings. Paige could not resist trying it out.

Paige playing the cigar box banjo

Paige playing the cigar box banjo

Even Tom was curious enough to see what the banjo sounded like and if he could play a few notes.

Tom playing a cigar box banjo at Fort New Salem

Tom playing a cigar box banjo at Fort New Salem

Then I took some time to talk with some of the volunteers who made the afternoon so exciting.The one I enjoyed talking to the most was Sarah who at the age of 70 came to play her bagpipes at the settlement. She had a remarkable story to tell me about her learning to play the pipes at 53 and that she had just recovered from a brain tumor  surgery 6 weeks earlier to come and play at this event. She love to play her pipes to remind everyone that many of the settlers of north central West Virginia were of Scotch-Irish decent and many of them were able to bring with them a form of the pipes called a chanter.

Music was  a large part of how the people of this area spend their time in the settlements and still is today.It makes the day so festive to hear so much music in the air. We even let the little ones buy whistles to make music with, which I later regretted on the hour car ride home!

Bagpiper at the Christmas Fair of Fort New Salem

Bagpiper at the Christmas Fair of Fort New Salem

The final event of the day is the annual tree lighting at the Fort. The Luminaries are lit and the candles on the tree begin their nightly glow and the sound of Christmas carols are heard ringing off the roof tops. The costumed volunteers walk and sing around the village shaking jingle bells and holding burning candles . It is a beautiful way to end a great afternoon of learning and shopping for crafts at the village store.

Christmas tree at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Christmas tree at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia

Tree lighting at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginai... photo by Murphey

Tree lighting at Fort New Salem, Salem West Virginia … photo by Jaime Murphy Fort New Salem FB page

This is what we brought home with us on this trip to the Fort. These things remind me of all the work that the settlers put into everyday living and how lucky we are today. It was a hard, cold, life and it really is amazing the so many of them survived and went on to make better lives for all us Mountaineers. A visit to the Fort is well worth the 5$ for each adult visitor and they encourage you to bring your children under 12 by not charging any admission for them. My family learned and enjoyed a lot this day and I am sure we will be back during the next year. Now if I can just get time to make a kettle Wassail for myself before the holidays are over!

a collection of crafts and gifts from Fort New Salem

a collection of crafts and gifts from Fort New Salem

 

 

Categories: cabins, Christmas, Country life, education, Fairs and Festivals, Fort New Salem, history, Homestead, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Home remodel Part 1# The Old Barn, Barnwood Builders and My House.

Today begins the first step in the process of our remodel. Tom, Christopher and I are meeting the show producers for BarnWood Builders, from the DIY Network, at the barn that they are demolishing to repurposed  into a pile of supplies for our home. The Barn is way back in the country taking us around 25 minutes to get to from the interstate of I-79 and the Jane Lew Exit. So the logistics of moving the lumber out is still in the works. But here she is in all of her 120 year old glory. This is her before photo. I am a little sad to see her go as I have passed by her so many times over the years but the other part of me is so EXCITED knowing that I will share in her future and will love her even more at home.

Kenchelo road barn before being torn down

Kenchelo road barn before being torn down by the Barnwood Builders

The story behind her removal from the property is a common one. The home owner has passed away and the next generation of owners don’t want the barns and needs to remove them due to flooding and new uses for the pasture. As you can see the barn is in need of repair and in some cases dangerous to use. So to remove them solves lots of problems for the owing family and adds nicely to our new house.

When we visited the farm today the bottom land was still swampy. I was ankle-deep in standing water only feet from the shed on the right. This move will be very tricky… lots and lots of mud, gravel and hard work!

Here Tom and I walk down to get a closer look at the buildings and what we would find still in them or if they were empty of all history.

Tom walking to barn on Kenchelo

Tom walking to barn on Kenchelo

Tom looking at barn

Tom looking at barn

If you look closely at the siding boards… some of them are massive. Tom and I are guessing 18 to 20 foot lengths, twenty inches in some cases wide. Only massive trees produce lumber of this size. In most cases these trees grow on the farms or near the farms where the barns stand.  Tom says The boards look like white oak and are in wonderful condition for reuse. We are so lucky to keep some of this wonderful wood close to its home.

Sean,  Barnwood Builders producer, and Tom talk equipment and timing and I just hunt around the old barn looking for lost treasures. I found a couple of things and that will eventually become part of my home decor. The team from BarnWood Builders will arrive tomorrow and some of the filming will begin at the site and if we are lucky the rain that the weather man predicted will some how pass by.

So I guess I better get things ready here before the crew shows up to do some filming here at the house for the “Before” Portion of this project. Here are some photos of the family room as we use it today… lots of white walls and brown. I cant wait to see what happens when we add the barn wood as paneling to the walls in this room. Then Tom and I will be replacing the carpet in the family room with slate tile on the floors and a new ceiling light fixture. We are making a Chandler out of canning jars. So much fun and so much work to do over the next 4 or 5 weeks.

 

Family room from the laundry room door

Family room from the laundry room door

Famliy room from the front door

Family room from the front door

large front window at front of room

large front window at front of room

office portion of the family room

office portion of the family room

Wish us luck we could use it right about now… The national weather service in Charleston, WV already has flash flood warnings on the radar for tomorrow. So who knows what is going to happen over the next few days.

Categories: Barns, Barnwood Builders, furniture, heirlooms, history, home improvement, home remodeling, Homestead, Jane Lew, recycling, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Americans are wasteful even at the Farmers Market

Today was another eye-opening experience at the farmers market. I am lucky to live in a community where we have at least 4 farmers markets within about a 12 mile area. I live in a small town of a zip code population of about 4,000 people and the neighboring town may have a zip code population that is double that. So together we may have about 12,000 with 4 farmers markets. We live in an agriculturally diverse area and many families also grow large gardens to can or freeze their own healthy foods. So farm fresh food is not hard to find here but today I learned that we as Americans are still looking at food in a non-realistic, non-healthy way.

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

I am getting ready to put up about 7 quarts of home-made spaghetti sauce and spent the morning talking to an older woman who worked the farm market stand. We of course talked about what I was making and what was real fresh and what they were short on. So after several minutes she headed out to the cooler to box up my order, as I bagged up the rest of my items. When she returned and I payed for 23 pounds of tomatoes and 5 pounds of peppers. She asked me if I might be  interested in the of tomatoes sitting on the counter. The box was about 5 pounds of over ripe, soft or damaged tomatoes. She said “no one wants these, they are not perfect. If you take them they are free.” Well of course I wanted them, why wouldn’t I, an over ripe tomato is the best tomato of all. I went on to explain that they looked pretty good to me and that I would just juice them when I got home. She felt better and I was over joyed to have another 5 pounds of tomatoes to take home.

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Then on my way home it hit me. Why in the world would she say that unless she had thrown out many items from their stand. Tossed away food that was totally edible but not PERFECT. Why in this day and age would some one throw away food that could feed a needy family or a homeless person? Why are Americans so trained to think that a blemish is not normal or common? I felt offended at the thought that we are so wasteful. That we are not able to think about real food in an honest way. Fresh from the garden food is not perfect if you are realistic. It is only a farmer who sprays his crops with pesticides that never gets bug damage. It is only the tomato that is half-ripe and processed with chlorine that looks red but is hard and perfect looking at the Big  Box Store. It is only on a store shelf where food color is added  to tomato juice to make it red. Why are we eating like this?

As I drove, I got madder and madder. I thought about the millions of children who only see their food on the shelf at Fred Myers, King Supers or the Piggly Wiggly.  They will never see  green beans and peas growing on a vine or carrots are dug up from underground. Some will never know that their french fries are under that bushy plant and are dug up before being fried to a crispy treat. We are raising food ignorant children. We are raising people who have no real idea what fresh from the garden food looks like or tastes like. What a shame that our country has the most money and is the most disconnected from our food.

So when I got home I washed the box full of  blemished tomatoes. I cut away a few spots and pulled out a stem or two and did this.

free tomatoes ready to be made into juice

free tomatoes ready for juicing

I juiced the tomatoes and made about 1 gallon of fresh juice that my family can make into chili, a soup stock, a V-8 drink  or a marinade for a tough deer stake. I am sure I will freeze some as soon as I get a couple of freezer containers. I will use most of it fresh with in a couple of days. I am thinking that a deer roast with peppers, onions, tomatoes in the slow cooker sounds good. I am proud that I have used what others would have thrown out. I have saved my family money with free food and I have saved my child from eating processed food once again.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice  for free.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice for free.

When will American’s learn to look at food and its usefulness in less wasteful way? Was my grandmother crazy when she said,” Waste Not, Want Not.” I hope that slowly I am teaching my children that food does not need to look perfect to taste wonderful. That we can still use a deformed carrot in stew and make jam out of over ripe fruit. That we are able to live closer to the land because we understand that nothing in this life is perfect, but what God provides for us is perfectly made for our use. Amen!

Categories: Chili, cooking, country cooking, family health, gardening, health, Homestead, organic foods, regional food, soup, steak with peppers, Tomatoes, Uncategorized, venison | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Surprise! That is not a cantaloupe.

Have any of you with gardens planted what you thought was one seed and ended up with some thing different. This happens at my house every few years when I by plants already started . I have even bought two trees that had incorrect labels. Both times I was trying to buy  Bartlett Pear trees and ended up with ornamental Pears that had no fruit.  So why should it surprise me that I ordered cantaloupe seeds from a reputable see catalog and got a surprise.

Honey Dew Melon ??

Honey Dew Melon ??

My husband was the one to notice that the skin of  our cantaloupe was not the heavily netted skin that you would expect. That was when we though we had something different and that was about two weeks ago. Now as you can see we have a wonderful green Honey Dew to enjoy with dinner tonight.

Surprise Honey Dew salad

Surprise Honey Dew salad

I have often wondered how people who collect, store and sell seeds keep all of them organised. So this kind of mix up does not happen. I have even experienced wild cross-pollination of pepper plants. Turning my sweet bells into a hot bell mix. Not that we were complaining because we always raise both and eat lots of peppers but this melon mix up was an out right mistake of identity.

So as summer comes to a close and my garden is still full to the rim with fruits and vegetables of all shapes and sizes I just wonder if my water melons will be yellow instead of red and if my sweet potatoes with be blue instead of orange… It might just happen because my pumpkins are white and my Cantaloupe is now a Honey Dew.

Categories: gardening, Homestead, Honey Dew Melon, organic food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

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