2017 Photos and Thoughts About 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Doc Holiday sleeping with Christopher June 2017

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

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Veda Maxine Buffington Lowrey age 87 summer 2017

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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Old Hemlock Foundation Visitors Center and education outreach building 2017

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

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

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Full view of the Historic Greenbrier Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WVU college Mascot on Mountaineer feild Oct 2017

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

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

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

Veiw of airplain hangers along brushy fork road Buckhannon West Virginia

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

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

 

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

Coconut Cream Cup Cakes with Amaretto Buttercream frosting.

 

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quick coconut cake with Amaretto  buttercream icing

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

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

 

 

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

The recipe:

1 box of white cake mix.

1 can unsweetened coconut milk 8oz.

1 can sweetened condensed milk 6oz.

3 eggs

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

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

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

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toasting sweetened Coconut

Frosting:

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

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

2 teaspoons almond extract, or Amaretto liquor.

1 tablespoon milk

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

the recipe makes 36 to 38 cup cakes.

Coconut cupcakes with Almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut topping.

Coconut cupcakes with almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut toping.

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

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

Warm Feet for Winter Project was a Meaningful Success.

 

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pile of my families mismatched socks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Deer Meat, Pretty Girls and The Ghost Women.

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

6 point white tail buck

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

 

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

Child’s View of making a Holiday Cake

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Christopher’s Thanksgiving turkey 2017

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

Southern Style Carrot Cake

Southern Style Carrot Cake.

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

The Christopher’s Apple Tomato Carrot Holiday Cake.

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

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

In a large bowl crush eggs with a hammer. 

Mix in flour and sugar packets. 

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

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

top with icing and pour vinegar over top and eat. 

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

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Being a Hellion for a Good Cause

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

Cody Powers and Jolynn Powers head to Haunted River Walk 2017

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

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

test run of the Hellion with woody

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

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

 

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

 

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College girls ready help out

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asking the new volunteers into the meeting

 

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Planning our costumes

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

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

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

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

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view of the trail and in the back ground The Woods

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Tote of body parts and dead animals

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Flo is that you? Evil Scarecrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Meeting the International Champion Monroe County, W.V. Lego Robotics Team.

While taking my youngest son to see his 4-H project at the West Virginia State Fair this August, we met a group of inspiring young people from Monroe County. The Boa Constrictor Robotics Team from Union, West Virginia is not only a local and national champion, but a 5th place winner on the world stage for Lego Robotics building.

Yes, you read that properly, 2 dozen kids from one of the poorest counties in the nation placed 5th in the world. The team beat challengers from Korea, China,and Chile, to name only a few of the over 60 nations represented. Monroe County claimed awards and trophies for beating hundreds of well sponsored teams from all over the United States and the World.

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Members of the Monroe County 4-H Lego Robotics team at the West Virginia State Fare 2017

The Monroe County 4-H members put on a demonstration in the 4-H/FFA center building at this years State Fair. The same room where all qualified projects are displayed and judged for the best projects at the state level. This team was able to show hundreds of visitors what 4-H can do for kids and what one small community was able to do with some dedicated volunteers.

Christopher was instantly engaged in the robots and the team allowed guests to play with the winning robot named Rook. The team made and displayed several smaller introductory robots also. I could not drag my son away, the visit to see his own project was forgotten and it  became a quest to learn more about how to make and drive these machines.

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Christopher getting instruction from Boa Constrictor Lego Robotics Team member

 

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Christopher in front of his first year 4-H pillow project that made it to the State Fair Level. 

The Lego Robotic program is a wonderful way to show off what is often overlooked in our young people in West Virginia. 4-H members have to do the math and work with their hands, solving problems in real world situations. They develop teams were they learn to build what they need rather than counting on something prefabricated. All things our rural kids already understand. Our kids will need more than one sponsor, unlike other teams who can depend on money from wealthy colleges or business.  They will have to develop public speaking skills as they talk to business people, university presidents, churches, banks and farmers to find the over $15,000 dollars it took Monroe County to make their dream come true.

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Christopher plays with the first robot the Monroe County team built-in 2016

So with my  family and others, an older son who loves to work with his hands, and help from our County extension office, we are now taking  on the challenge of getting more young people involved in STEM projects ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and  Robots. Our families hope is to increasing the number of children who are exposed to the future of technology and keep that interest growing . Lewis county 4-H is stepping up and following Monroe counties lead and starting their own Robotics team and my family is all for it. Soon we will have our own team,starting our own Lego robotic build and teaching kids about robotics. From the bottom of my heart, I am so proud to see our youth reaching their dreams. I thank them for inspiring a whole state of 4-H members and hope to hear great things about the Monroe county kids as they take on the State, Nation and the World competitions again this years. Best of luck kids….. West Virginia is behind you all the way!

To learn more about 4-H and Lego robotics and STEM projects contact your West Virginia University extension office in your county.

 

Categories: 4-H, awards, Christopher, Cody, education, Legos, Monroe County, Robotics, STEM | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chow Chow Relish – Using Late Season Garden Vegetables

One of the last summer treasures from the garden in Chow Chow. My husbands family loved to make and eat it every summer and it never remained in the cellar for long… Here is the same recipe they used and passed down. Enjoy !

Town & Country Gardening

Grandma’s CHOW CHOW

1 peck (1/4 bushel) green tomatoes about {12 or 15 pounds}
5 lbs. strong flavored yellow onions
1 large head of cabbage course chopped
5 lbs. sugar
5 red hot chili peppers {you need at least 2 of these and more if you like your chow chow hot and spicy}
2+ cups chopped sweet green bell peppers
2+ cups chopped sweet red bell peppers
2 to 5 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 or 4 tablespoons celery seed
Optional – 1 package of pickling spices
About 1 qt. of cider vinegar

Slice or dice tomatoes and sprinkle with 1 cup salt, place them in a clean old white pillowcase and hang them from a close line pole over night. {This will remove most of the green tomato juice from your bag of sliced green tomato’s} I’ll bet wrapping your sliced tomato’s in cheese cloth would work…

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Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A year after the 1,000 year flood in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Having the opportunity to travel to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia a year after the 1,000 year flood,the 3rd most deadly flood in the state’s history was eye-opening. The resolve of the people who call this area home, the love and compassion they have and the amount of work that has been done since that day in June 2016 is amazing.

These are the images the country had seen for days in the wake of the flooding in Southern West Virginia. This YouTube Video shows the complete devastation one family experienced as their home not only was flooded but floated away while on fire. The small stream the usually quietly trickles water through downtown that day became a rushing raging deadly river.

 

These are photos taken that same day in different location in the downtown.

 

The flood almost wiped the town from our memory that day. The famous Greenbrier Hotel  resort became the main shelter for many of the effected residence. Rooms that often cost $ 600.00 dollars a night  or more became home for over 200 people for about two months while crews worked to do clean up. Many of my work friends became FEMA volunteers and coordinators helping to dig out privet homes where the nation guard was unable work.

These are the photos I took less than 14 months later.

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a pole sign the greets everyone on main street near the memorial park.

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The white gazebos that sits at the entry to the memorial park from the street.

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memorial informational sign

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Stone memorial wall left side with names of those who were lost to the flood waters. Eight names and markers 4 on each side were recessed into a grass covered mound in the small downtown park.

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Christopher and Tom walk over the bridge at Howard’s Creek. This bridge was under 5′  of water during the flood. Christopher would have been completely underwater.

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Howard’s Creek the stream that  flooded the town of White Sulphur Springs June of 2016.

 

As my family walked the quite downtown. It was true that many of the shops are still closed.That many of the stores did not have insurance and were wiped out, but today you see these wonderful signs of hope, strength and courage. This place is ready for a renewal, ready to come back to life again. Every thing is clean, every place has taken on what they can to make their town look beautiful. The streets are lined with flowers, benches and trash cans have fresh paint and patio umbrellas dot the sidewalks to eat under.  We felt welcome and wanted in their downtown.

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Alfredo’s Italian & Greek Family Restaurant on main street White Sulphur Springs.

You can not tell the story of White Sulphur Springs without showing  the Greenbrier Hotel. Many come to the area just to visit the historic building circa 1778. It is one of West Virginia true treasures and I was over joyed to be able to spend some time visiting at the hotel.

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Flower beds in the entry parking area of the Greenbrier Hotel Resort 2017

The main flooding to the property was on the hotels golf course so the main build and the rooms of the hotel were free from damage. The 1778 hotel sits high enough on hill at the edge of town to escape the flooding. Making the owner Governor Jim Justice a hero to many who lost everything and were able to have a safe place to stay for a month or two while clean up and recover efforts were underway.

Some outsiders say “if it was not for the Greenbrier the town would have never recovered fully , they are a rich town”… I can’t disagree more. The people of White Sulphur Springs are why the town is slowly rebounding. It is apparent that they want their town back and are willing to work very hard to have the town to thrive again. It takes more than one hotel to get the schools back up and running, it takes more then just tossing money at a mud puddle to clean up block after block of flooded stores, it takes more then a Governor to declare his business a shelter to build a park and make memorials to those who died that day.

White Sulphur Springs is also home to my friends at The Barnwood Builders T.V. show. So just in case you were wondering… Yes, they have their showroom on main street it is called  Barnwood Living. Yes, they are doing all they can to help the town with their business and the donation of a log structure that will be used at a pick nick pavilion for the whole community to enjoy. They also helped do some construction at Hope Village, a community owned and planned subdivision that was built to move families out of the flood plain of the White Sulphur Springs up on a hill where they will always be safe.  They are proud of their home and are working for its successful future. I remain a fan of the show and loved shopping in their store.

White Sulphur Springs is an example of West Virginians commitment to community, family and hard work.The old saying, “she could make a silk purse from a sows ear” might be fitting. Some how the people have taken the worst of a situation and made something better for everyone. My only hope is to return to see what they do to improve in the next year!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barnwood Builders, community service, Country life, Flooding, Greenbier Hotel, historic locations, Uncategorized, White Sulphur Springs | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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