West Virginia

Reflections on Being a Woman of 50; Family, Friendships and Funny Body Changes.

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Easter morning 2018 with Country Music Star Taylor Hicks cooking in my Kitchen, 2018 has been a great year and having a celebrity in the house is even better.

 

Turning fifty has been emotional and wonderful all at once. So many things in my family life, career life and emotional life have given me the most satisfaction that I have ever had the last couple of years. It is so strange to find peace a normal and everyday part of my life. I wish I could share this calm and peace with the younger woman in the family and let them know it will happen for them soon enough.

This transition into maturity has been so refreshing. I finally know my own personality well enough to know that I love having a family and would never have been happy without the total chaos of children, grandchildren, a husband and animals that sneak into to bed with you at 2am. At 18 I imaged my life with a husband and two boys, being a working mother who ran from work to after school activities and concerts. It was hard to be such a young mom with my husband working so far away but I loved our time together more than anything. Now as a mother and grandmother my joy is tripled. There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with all of them. My deepest happiness comes from hearing laughter that rings out in my back yard when spontaneous water fights happen or when we share a moment of pride together when the littlest of the clan steps out on stage to sing and dance.  I did not know that I could have this amount of love in my heart. That it would swell to include so many people. It seems to me that the more love I give away, the more love I get back. I pour my love out and feel filled up at the same time.

Finding and keeping friends as you age is challenging and not because you can’t find people to relate to. Work and children and other obligations take priority for many years when you are young. But eventually you slow down, kids grow up and there is time to renew old friendships and find new ones. I have been so blessed to have several lifelong friends.  I still have friends who I have known from my school days and ones that I met while trying to get through having young children. They form a group of support and love that I value more every year. They know I am crazy, creative and that I am a terrible speller.  These old friends make my life safe to live. They stand by and watch as the sea of life changes from calm to divesting and never think a thing about not loving me. My new friends are now mostly woman who have seen a lot and don’t mind sharing my struggles with growing old. They have been there and understand how hard it is getting old and have the people you love get old too. Our conversations are much less about men and romance and much more about how are you doing after losing your parents and what to do when an older child is struggling. These topics are harder and much more serious than the conversations of my teens. These ladies know real pain; they know death, divorce and the loss of a child. They have seen cancer up close and come out of menopause saying there is freedom at the end of the tunnel if you can just get through it. I love all of them and am so glad they are part of my journey.

50 is such a strange age for women, you are either entering menopause or you have passed through it, naturally or with the help of a Doctor . For the first time since I was 14 years old I am so happy to be free of my child bearing years. I would not give up my two boys for anything in the world, yet I am totally over it. So in return for losing my fertility, my body is giving me things that no one wants. Things like age spots, wrinkles, and feet that hurt and eyes that don’t see very well. I have traded my perfect skin in for laugh lines, that remind me of the evenings at my kitchen table where all the stories and jokes are shared. I traded my perfect eye sight for the comfort of men driving me around at night like a rich woman. I have given away my perfect body to carry and bring two beautiful men into the world. I traded my high heels and sexy shoes for Merrell work shoes that support me every day in the career that I love. I have traded in my concern for what others think of me for a strength and courage to try new things that I never expected.

I guess when you are faced with graying hair, and wrinkled skin and children who have grown and don’t need a babysitter any more, you have two options. You become the person you have worked your whole life to be or pretend that you are something you are not. I don’t fake anything well, never have, so this is me take it or leave it.

laughing at the Mystery hole

I have chosen to fall in love with myself at this age, at this time. To take care of myself better, to enjoy myself more than before, to share my love more freely, to live more fully and regret less. I have opened the door and left the past behind me, it is time to find MY best future ahead.

To be a woman of 50 is to be free and I hope to enjoy every single minute of it!

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Categories: About me, ageing, Birthday, Change, family fun, family memories, Friendship, Love, Taylor Hicks, West Virginia | Leave a comment

Appalachian Food, Trend or Tradition?

So after appearing on the TV show State Plate where my family was featured making traditional Appalachian foods and now that CNN’s Anthony Bourdain  has traveled to West Virginia in his show Explore Parts Unknown, I am a little confused if the food of my home is now trendy or traditional? I wonder what it is that we as people are looking for when we have come back and taken the simple county food that my family eats and made it trendy.

I wonder if our nation has had so much world food exposure that we are looking for something that is truly American, something with traditions and stories that reflect our basic American history. Many Americans have never eaten self butchered meats, home-made breads,home canned fruits and veggies from the garden. So to these people my family and the mountain communities that surround me seem novel. Yet, I view myself and my way of living as traditional to Appalachia and not unique in any way. In reality it is not unique to most  Americans either, just forgotten for a few generations.

Christopher and Cody picking Pumpkins with Paige on the way to pick them up

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Food is just one aspect of a life here that is lived believing you will only be able to count on your family and yourself in an uncertain future. Families still raise gardens to provide valuable nutrition, they hunt, fish and forage as a normal part of the seasons. They can and dry foods for the winter and share the bounty with those they know and love. It is simple and direct to make food from what is growing near by. It saves money and is better for you because it is less likely to have chemicals and pesticides.  It only seems odd or novel to outsiders who would never think of eating wild rabbits or making your own wine from plants that grow like weeds. It also takes skills that many have forgotten over the generations. They say time stands still in the hills, so in this way we are fortunate to have kept the skills alive.

To my surprise, I was recently invited to be part of a historical “Foodways” museum exhibit at the Beverly Heritage Center  in Beverly, West Virginia. I shared some of my families recipes and our way of preparing several items that have been in the family for generations. I even shared some of the cooking tools we use for the display, some being over 60 years old.

BHC cooking display board

As part of the display the Museum created this panel about my family’s food history. It will be on display for the summer placed on a dinner table with 5 other panels. Each one sharing a Appalachian food story and a couple of recipes. Then during opening day Jenny the curator of the project will serve several of the foods that the families have shared with her during the collection process. I hope to make the apple sauce cake for her and the visitors and share some more of my families stories. The exhibit opens June 9th in the lobby of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia. 

After my interview with Jenny, I began to reflect on the resent fascination with our rural foods. Our interview reminded me of why country families and mountain communities have such attachments to their food. Food is the link to each other and the communities that they value. As Jenny and I chatted, I found myself saying that it is often times food that brings us all together. It is church dinners and family holidays, birthdays and funerals, fairs and festivals, that whole communities will gather together to share in someones pain or celebration. Our foods are about nourishment, not only of the body but of the soul. We have family time, say Grace, and keep in touch with friends, families all with food. It is these connections with food that is different in the world today. Today’s families rarely sit down at the table to eat a meal together. Holiday meals are not home-made anymore. Never allowing everyone to get involved in the preparations.  Here in Appalachia often we know who butchered the meat, made the beer and wine that we toast with, know the woman who made the jams, jellies and the children who made the cookies sitting on the table our Thanksgiving table.

Today people have no idea what the ingredients are in their food or even how they  are grown or raised. Kids eat in the car and we get milk in plastic bottles. We have lost touch with the joy of our food.

Appalachian food is about being authentic and natural, full of stories and traditions. Sometimes it is fancy and other times it is simple and filling, but it is often more about who you share a meal with then the food on the plate that is important.

Categories: About me, canning, cooking, country cooking, Country life, Dandelions, family traditions, Foraging, Hand Pies, history, hobbies, Holidays, Jam, State Plate TV show, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Golden Delicious Apple Dumplings with Salted Caramel Sauce.

So one of the things that the producers of “State Plate” TV show want me to make is apple dumplings made from our very own state apple the Golden Delicious. A wonderful history fallows the apple. It comes  from one of the most rural counties in our state, Clay County, West Virginia. The county is a twisty, curvy, mountainous place to call home but that is where the very first Golden Delicious apple tree was found. The apple tree was  growing wild on a hillside on the Mullins farm back the 1890’s. It was thought to be a naturally occurring hybrid but no one really knows. So after discovering the tree and it’s unusual fruit, a sample was sent of the Stark Brothers nursery for identification. It has been said that they were happily surprised by the new find and made plans to buy the tree and the land that surrounded it.  the  Stark Brothers company bought the tree in the early 1900’s and built a large fence around the tree.  The Stark Brothers company worked several years with seed and graphs to develop the very best and marketable tree that they could and in 1914 the began sale of the Golden Delicious apple that we love today. A crisp, yellow, fine skinned apple that is lightly tart; when baked softens easily making wonderful apple sauce or dumplings that are soft enough to cut with a fork.

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Modern example of the Golden Delicious Apple

So as I continue to prepare for our up coming filming I have made a couple of batches of apple dumplings for testing and tasting. I wanted to be sure that I  still knew how to make them. I  made them from small hard Wine Sap apples on the farm when the whole family lived close together back in the 90’s. My brother-in-law still talks about them even today. So here is a photo of the first test batch.

apple dumpling close up

My family personally does not care for the sweet sugar glaze that most people eat with a dumpling. We would rather eat them with ice cream and salted caramel syrup topping. So that is how I am making them for the show.  I am hoping to make one more batch this weekend just to be sure I will not have a panic attack while they film. So in case you want the recipe I will share it here with some photos. If you get a chance to see me making them on the Inspiration Channels  “State Plate” you can see how they are made with the help of Taylor Hicks. 

So the simple recipe that I am going to use is this one.

Apple Dumplings West Virginia Style

For the crust for 6 dumplings

2 1/4 cups all purposed flour

2/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup plus a couple of tablespoons milk if needed

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg with water for egg wash on crust

 

For the dumpling

6 snack size golden delicious apples, peeled cored and left with whole down center

1 stick room temperature salted butter

6 to 7 heaping tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

One Jar Smucker’s salted Caramel topping.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes until dumplings are golden brown and juice has escaped the into the bottom of the pan.

Mix together dry ingredients for pie crust adding in shorting and cutting together. Until dry crumbles form and they look like cheese curds. Slowly add milk and cut in more as needed to make a dough ball. Food processors do a wonderful job here.  Remove from processor and form a large flat ball and place in container in refrigerator while prepping apples.

begining crust

crumbly crust before adding all the milk

Peel apples and remove core with a melon baller tool,without breaking the apple.The apple should be hallow inside. Set aside while making the stuffing for apples. Mix brown sugar with butter until creamy but firm enough to hold together. If you can model it with your fingers like play dough you have enough brown sugar. Mix in the 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon cloves.  Set aside

crust

7 inch crust rounds

Remove cool crust from refrigerator roll out on a floured surface in large oval about 1/4 thick. With a kitchen bowl around 5 inches in diameter,  mark and cut crust in smaller circles.  Re-roll until thin and about 7 inches in diameter. Score crust in 4 evenly placed locations to allow crust to fold neatly.

mix up 1 egg and 3 tablespoons water and brush edge of circle of crust.

begining of apple wrap

Place apple in center of crust and spoon in sugar mixture pushing to bottom as you go.  Wet edge of crust with egg wash, wrap apple in sections over lapping where the edges need to be pinched to hold together. Bring all edges together at top of apple and pinch together using more egg wash to hold everything. Cover dumpling with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon  repeat with other 5 apples.

side view apple dumpling

crust wrapped apple dumplings ready to bake

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes in a deep dish pan. Dumplings will leak and have sticky syrup in pan be careful it is very hot.Serve with a caramel topping and/or vanilla ice cream.

caramel apple dumpling from side

Salted Caramel sauce over apple dumpling

inside view of dumpling

yummy desert with apples and caramel

Categories: Apples, cooking, country cooking, golden delicious apples, State Plate, Taylor Hicks, TV, Uncategorized, West Virginia, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Welcoming the TV Show “State Plate” to Our West Virginia Home.

It is so confusing for me that we have not only been invited to appear on one TV program but now two. The second invitation came from a representative from the Television show titled “State Plate” a food show that represents all 50 states here in the US. The show visits a community and talks about regional foods that people love from that state. It would not really qualify as a cooking show, they don’t really show how to make food step by step, they just talk about the dishes famous in that area.The show shares information on the history of that food item and how it is prepared. In my families case, Tom has been asked to talk about one of West Virginia’s most famous foraged foods, Ramps, a wild leak or wild onion that grows wild in the hollows of West Virginia. I on the other hand will be talking about Golden Delicious apples, making an apple dumpling with ice cream. Their will be three other items covered on the show, the pepperoni roll, trout and biscuits and gravy. Other members of our community will be asked to show how they make these traditional dishes in a West Virginia style. So our portion of the show is only about two items out of 5 segments, each being about 6 mintues long.

Field of wild growing Ramps
Field of wild growing ramps

Tom will be the star of the “Ramp” segment and he has 50+ years of experience digging ramps, cleaning and eating ramps. He will visit a family friends farm and dig ramps with the host of the show and then if all goes well the show will visit a ramp dinner here in Buckhannon and see the many ways ramps are prepared and eaten.

fresh cleaned ramps

freshly cleaned ramps ready to cook

Here is a link to some info about the show and their Facebook page if you want to learn more or are just interested in see what states they have visited or will visit in the future.

http://www.insp.com/shows/state-plate/

State Plate Facebook page

Then later the crew will visit our house to film a portion of the show about apple dumplings using Golden Delicious apples. At least this is one thing I know how to make and have made in the past. I am just hoping to not totally freak out about cooking in my house with cameras rolling. Cooking for anyone other than family and friends is a completely new experience, wish me luck on this part of the adventure. I will plan to make a couple of batches and freeze them just in case everything goes terribly wrong. Let’s hope nerves don’t take over and I can’t actually cook on camera. My heart is already doing flip-flops just thinking about the whole thing and the work involved in getting my house ready and getting just the right recipe together.

The filming will take place over Easter weekend and we are going to have a house full off and on all weekend.I am not even planning to make our traditional family dinner this year, we are likely going to get to-go boxes from the local ramp dinner and eat right out of the foam containers this year! I hope you all will fallow along as I work on getting ready for this next adventure into TV.

In a future post I will share my attempt at making apple dumplings for the show and you can see the mess and stress I go through trying to make something worth seeing on TV. I can only hope that we have as much fun making State Plate as we did making the episode of Barn Wood Builders. Who knew, a Hillbilly boy and his family would ever have these kinds of adventures in their own back yards!

Tom and Chris digging ramps

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding his first ramp age 3

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Apples, country cooking, Country life, Easter, family fun, Foraging, ramps, Ramps, State Plate TV show, TV, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Resort and Davis West Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, family fun, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Child’s View of the West Virginia State Capitol

Just recently I was asked to make a day trip to our State Capitol Complex for an interview about my work with economic revitalization and community development in rural West Virginia. I felt that it was time for my youngest son to see a  different part of our state and learn a little about our government so I took him along.

Christopher seeing our government at work second floor of the Capital

Christopher looking out on the Senatior and Delegates taking a break on the second floor of the West Virginia State Capitol building.

I have made many trips to our States Capitol City and with Charleston, West Virginia only being a city of about 50,000 (my home town is around 230,000 people) I feel right at home driving and making plans to visit one of our states largest cities. Yet, I forgot that Christopher is just now beginning to understand what the difference is between rural “town” life and city life.

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Governor  Jim Justice’s Office inside the WV State Capital building.

As we arrived to the out skirts of the city Christopher kept saying to me “Mom we are lost…. Really, Mom I don’t remember any of this.” Then when we finally got into the downtown portion of  our trip  and he could see the Capital and the large buildings he was so excited. “Ooooo that is sooo cool Mom, Mom did you see that?”  “I am happy that we get to ride the shuttle.” For a boy who has never had the need to ride a public bus or train the shuttle to the Capitol was exciting. It was then that I realized for the first time that my son is a country boy in the big city for the first time and everything is new to him. I spent the rest of the day sharing in his joy of discovery.

We spent the day going through security check points, eating in the Capitol cafeteria, taking a tour of the building and eventually ending up at the Public Broadcasting TV studio for the interview. He drank in every new experience of the trip in like a sponge. We took lots of photos of the interior of the domed building and of the hardworking people who were trying to balance the state’s budget. He met US Army reservist, National Guard soldiers and NASA explorers. We talked with the Sargent of Arms of the House of Delegates and climbed lots and lots of stairs.

Children watching the House of Delegates at work spring 2017

Groups of Children watch as the House of Delegates works on the annual budget process

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The west Virginia Capitol Dome passing over our heads.

The trip ended with a visit to one of the most educational places in Charleston, The  Culture Center. This is also the location of the TV studio. The lower level of the Culture Center is an immersion museum about the history of the State of West Virginia from prehistoric times to the current times. This museum also houses hundreds of pieces of art produced by West Virginia artist and musicians. The collection would take hours to get through for someone who wanted to really experience life in our state but we were on a deadline.

 

After a couple of hours in the museum we found the studio where we would film my portion of the interview.  I realized then, that I had made the right choice to take him out of his class room for the day, to make TV with a real director, broadcaster and engineer.   Christopher was allowed to stay in the booth with the engineer and was allowed to play and touch some of the equipment that they use everyday. As I proceeded to the set he remained behind the glass watching us on computer monitors. The shoot took about an hour and after we wrapped up he was allowed to see the cameras and look a the three sets that were in the large production room. His joy was contagious. He beamed with happiness and literally jumped for joy as we finally walked back up to the court-yard.

Later,he asked if we could see our show and I had to remind him that this was a cable access only program and we did not have that channel. He is was disappointed but understood that we were not really making this show for us, but for people who want to know more about what a Main Street does.

Christopher inside Tv production Studio Culture and History museum Charleston Wv

Christopher playing in the TV booth in a PBS studio at The Culture Center, Charleston, WV, Capitol Complex.

 

We left the studio and took time to walk the grounds of the Capital before heading back to our car. The sun was out, the sky was clear and the roof of dome gleamed as Christopher ran to the top of the dozens of stairs in front of the building. I was amazing to see how small he appeared on the landing at the top of the steps. The building had impressed us both and would leave a lasting impression on both of us. I will forever remember how much he enjoyed himself and how this experience let him learn so much about our government and our state.

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Christopher running up the front steps of the Capital Building.

Categories: AmeriCorps, Army, childhood memories, Christopher, education, historic locations, TV, West Virginia, West Virginia State Capitol | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sights from the Mountain; A Look Back at 2016

So to keep from bitching about how disappointing 2016 was from my point of view and keeping my mind off another medical procedure I am planing to have this week. I wanted to lighten up and share what good things did happen in 2016 and skip my reasons to complain and just share my Joy for life, Friends, Family and Creativity.

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Tom sanding floors of Christopher’s bedroom 2016

 

finished Master Bedroom with new bed and paint

My finished Master Bedroom with new bed and paint

One of the few things I did actually accomplish after Tom and I both spent the spring recovering from surgeries was redoing two bedrooms.This is the first time Tom or I had re-finished hardwood floors and learned tons and will be doing more of the house over the next couple of years. The biggest think I learned was sometime imperfect conditions lead you to perfect resolutions. The floor in Christopher’s room had several places with water damage and some were very dark.  We learned from Dan Antion a fellow blogger at “No Facilities blog” how to lighten them without having to actually remove the damaged sections if they were not rotted.I also learned, more about polyurethane then I ever hoped too this year between this project and the following one.

I poured my heat and soul into a public art project with my AmeriCorps site in Elkins, West Virginia. I helped to plan, paint and install three large 8 X 8 foot quilt block panels on downtown city buildings. It was some of the most fun I have had in years. Not only did I get to work with a great groups of volunteers I got to spend time doing art in a way that I never imagined.That Art degree finally paid off and my mom is so proud.

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“Maple Leaf” installed on the side of the YMCA in Elkins WV

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installed “West Virginia Star” on wall of Davis trust company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Log Cabin” installed on back of the YMCA Elkins WV 2016

The summer was full of time out side whether we were working, traveling or just trying to spend time together as a family. For that I am really thankful and we were able to see some wonderful places that were new to my family this year. One of my favorite hobbies is hunting mushrooms and I think I missed all of the best foraging days this year but was able to find and photograph several that I had not seen before. This photo is from the Monongahela National Forest.

mushrooms-on-stump-monongahela-national-forest

I got to beat the summer heat at Cannan Valley Ski resort with some of the wonderful co-workers. Picking wild blue berries for a work Team Meeting was one of the most refreshing trips outside I made all year. We rode the ski lift up the mountain, hiked out to a point and sat on rocks over looking  a valley where we ate the berries we had picked. I will never look at work meetings the same again.

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summer wild blueberry picking team meeting July 2016

We ended summer with a trip deep into the mountains of West Virginia with a trip to Green Bank and Cass State Park. In all the years that we have traveled the state I think the trip to Cass is on my top five places to see in West Virginia. The train, the town, the hiking and river all combine to make this a must see place.

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Scenic over look at the top of Spruce Knob by way of Cass Scenic Rail Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fall arrived and my friends and family descended on our house for almost the entire month of Oct we spent time with people that we had not seen in years. First my brother came for a week to visit. We spent time sight-seeing, eating and drinking are way across the state.

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The Powers family with brother Bill Lowrey at the Mystery Hole just West of Hawks Net State Park, West Virginia

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Road side view of the Mystery Hole Rt#40 near Hawks Nest  State Park,WV

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Mystery Hole front doors… We needed to see what was in that Hole!

After a morning at Bridge Day in Fayetteville West Virginia everyone traveled the next 16 miles to the town of Ansted  to see the World Famous Mystery Hole. One of the most silly and fun road side attractions in the state. This place is something you just can’t really explain unless you have been there. The fun part is trying to explain how they do what they do in the Mystery Hole and joke about what drug induced night mare inspired its construction.

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Street side view of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Oct 2016

Then a life long friend and Haunted House expert Alex came to visit for my birthday and Halloween. It had been years since we got together and it was the perfect time to take him sight-seeing at West Virginia’s most haunted location, the Trans  Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and Haunted House. We had a great time on the VIP tour and got to see every floor of the old mental hospital and take hundreds of photos.We laughed and screamed inside their annual haunted house and spent time taking classic old building photos around the surrounding counties.

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A Beautiful Mess in a Plaster Repair room second floor of the TALA.

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Alex Smits taking photos inside the TALA. This room is supposed to be haunted by a little girl named Lilly who will play with the toys.

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Long corridors along the third floor of the TALA. This is floor was used for farm workers.

Then we also added the most time-consuming project of the year! Doc takes up almost all of my free time with his walking and play times. He is not the dog for everyone but perfect for my family.

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“Doc” Holiday our sleepy puppy at about 3 months old

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“Doc” trying to share a chair with Tom at 5 months old… getting sooo big.

 

“Doc” has been a very active and funny part of our year and If I can just survive the next year with him,he will make a wonderful friend for many years to come. As of today he is 6 months old and weighs about 48 pounds. Full grown he should be about 60 pounds. He is the reason I get out walking every morning and the reason all the neighbors now know me as the lady with the big red dog. Doc will start some  kind of training in just a few months. I hope to see if he is able to be used as a search and rescue  dog for our local county. Time will tell if he is going to help find lost hikers and children in the mountains of West Virginia or of if he is just going eat everything insight and keep Christopher company on our trips planned for next year. I will let you know!

It was a long year in many ways. Health issues were my main topic of worry this year and some seem better while others seem to just keep me from enjoying my life as much as I would like too. So here is to a healthier 2017! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: "Doc" Holiday, Bridge Day, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, DIY projects, family fun, ghosts, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, Mystery Hole, New Years Eve, photo review, Photos, puppy, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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