Posts Tagged With: West Virginia

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.

Advertisements
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

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

crop of MLK Day with Mayor 2018.jpg

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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

GEDC1465.JPG

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

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Warm Feet for Winter Project was a Meaningful Success.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

24993589_10210613177982515_1372364399492118754_n - Copy

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

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Christopher getting instruction from Boa Constrictor Lego Robotics Team member

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

memorial informational sign

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Walking over the bridge in downtown White Sulphur Springs  flowers.png

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

flowers at the Greenbier Hotel White sulfur springs WV.png

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

All for the Sake of Dogs: My visit to the Old Hemlock Foundation.

Summer has gotten ahead of me this year. We have been traveling a lot for work and pleasure. So I have a back log of stories about the people, places, and events which, I have been enjoying. Needless to say, I love the people of my state. I have met some really wonderful people this summer like LeJay and Hellen Ann Graiffious, director and caretakers at  Old Hemlock Foundation.

.

Lejay Hellen Willow and Laurel

LeJay Graffious with Mountain Laurel and Helen Ann Graffious with Black Willow. Used with permission of OHF.

On the other hand, I am about to say good-bye to some absolutely wonderful AmeriCorps volunteers. It is August and it is the end of their year term, so things are very hectic as some leave and some join the program. So, I wanted share one of the many stories that could be written about another AmeriCorps Site, Old Hemlock Foundation in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, where I did some hiking this summer.

Tucked away in some of the most beautiful old growth forest property in North Central West Virginia is the Old Hemlock Foundation, the home of George Bird Evans and his wife, Kay. Known internationally as an author, an artist, a husband and dog breeder of profound influence, George called a rural 230 acres in Preston County home. His life could be defined as a Renaissance Man of the last century, a man who lived life on his own terms. Yet, this post today is more about the writings of George and his wife,  Kay, the property the foundation cares for and the DOGS. Oh my, the beautiful dogs!

willow and Laurel.jpg

 Mountain. Laurel,(back)  Black Willow (front) English Setters  of the Old Hemlock line.Photo used with permission OHF.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Mt. Laurel in the lap of Tom and Christopher Powers in the home of George Bird Evans.

The relationship we have with dogs can be profound. At the Old Hemlock Foundation a guest enjoys hearing the story of how and why George began the Old Hemlock line of  English Setters, about his love of upland game bird hunting, and the land that he called home. You experience their lives in a personal and inmate way surrounded by their belongings and dogs. The entire visit felt as if George and his wife, Kay, had just stepped out for a trip to town and left my family with the two dogs and neighbors for company. The opportunity to explore their home, enjoy their writings, see their artwork and spend time with their dogs immerses you in the experience unlike most museums or art gallery exhibits.  You begin to feel their presence as you walk the pathways to the house and walk into the woods they saved from timbering.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Living room bookcase with the writings of George Bird Evans.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Mt. Laurel sleeping on bed

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Fireplace surround and Mantel in Master Bedroom of George and Kay Evans.

The home of George Bird and Kay Harris Evans, built-in 1815 was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and is still the location of many of family’s personal belongings. Seeing where this talented man spent his hours reading, writing and drawing was enlightening. To be able to write  professionally at the small desk by a north window of their home was impressive. George was dedicated to sharing his stories and helping people understand his life in the field hunting for grouse and working his dogs. It is apparent to me now that the house and desk were merely vessels that George used to get his message out into the universe. His life, home and books will be a source of inspiration for years to come, as I continue to aspire to be a writer.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Illustrations created by George Bird Evans for Cosmopolitan Magazine.

 

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

George Bird Evans photo on top of the desk in the photo.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Front View of the home of George and Kay Evanses with side porch showed in the sun circa 1780

When you see the photos of the family with their beloved dogs displayed proudly on the walls you begin to understand the family’s connection with the English Setters. With no children of their own the dogs were a constant source of love, affection, laughter, and respect. George writes about his dogs, not in an anthropomorphic way, but in a transcendental mystic way, making his relationship with the animals a spiritual connection. A relationship built on shared respect and the joy.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Mountain Laurel planted by Kay, blooms at the front wall of the Evanses’s Home

The joy that he experienced with his dogs is shared with guests still today. LeJay and Helen Ann Graffious live with two Old Hemlock Setters on the property. So in the tradition of George and Kay there is never an un-dog related pleasant moment. Willow and Laurel, registered Old Hemlock English Setters, make each and every person feel at home and welcome on the property. The speckled coated dogs( known as belton coats) attend every hike, every meal and class that is given on the property.  They are magical animals … and  I see why George spent a life time writing about the deep love he had for the Old Hemlock breed line.

George began journaling his hunting outings in 1932.With these as his foundation, in the 1950’s he wrote magazine articles about his dogs and hunting adventures. in 1971 he published his first of 21 upland game hunting books. His well known hunting books and a hundred articles are still regarded as some of the best outdoor publications.  He shared his deep respect for the game he hunted, the dogs he raised and the connection he shared with nature. His romantic style of writing that painted vivid images for readers and is unique in the genre. It is easy to understand why his expert writings are still studied, and revered some 19 years after his death. He still has much to share with anyone who wants to learn about upland game hunting, nature and training dogs….. or is it “how dogs train us”?

George with dogs

George Bird Evans with  Robert  Brown current owner of the Old Hemlock Line with the dogs at his home in Bruceton Mills. Used with permisson of OHF.

While at the property we spent a large portion of our time walking the trails that surround the welcome center and log home. With dogs and kids running and playing in front of us we explored some of the old growth Hemlock trees of which the property is named. I regret deeply that I cannot convey to you the awe that I experienced when we entered the deep dark Hemlock forest. It was something like a fantasy  movie set or a church… Yet, none of these words comes close to relating how  startling it is to leave the lush green sunny forest of the hardwood canopy and enter a tall stand of climax Hemlock trees. Everything changes in an instant. The light dims as it tries to shine through the conifer bows. The colors change, there is no bright greens or yellows, just deep rich greens and grays. The height is different, there are no branches that droop and hang low. The Hemlocks stand 80 feet high with broken stumps of branches reaching out to you.  Even the ground is  transformed, with only gray rocks, deep brown dirt and the lush green of moss and ferns under foot.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Welcome and Education Center for The Old Hemlock Foundation 2017

 

As our group forged ahead of me into the darkness of the thick Hemlocks, I entered the stand alone and last. With Helen Ann with in hearing distance of me, I actually let out an audible exhale, one loud enough to be heard several feet away. I then continued with an “Oh My” and heard from ahead on the trail Helen’s reply, “This is why they refer to Hemlock forests as Cathedrals”… (Also look up Cathedral State Park in West Virginia for other stands of old growth Hemlocks).It is so impressive, that I now crave to see these kinds of woods again and again. I am so thankful that George and Kay found this property and chose to save the Hemlocks from the sawyer. It is another magical part of the Old Hemlock Foundation that should not be missed.

 

 

 

 

After our two-day stay, we packed up to leave the  foundation’s property,  I  knew I had found a place where kindred spirits had lived. We share a love for nature, dogs, writing, art and a passion for sharing what we love most. Thank you to the foundation for allowing us to be part of your education outreach program and for inviting my family back to explore more of the wonders of Wild Wonderful West Virginia.

For more information about the Old Hemlock Foundation, educational programs, history and the dogs, follow the above link to their website or follow them on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/OldHemlockFoundation/. 

Laurel from Old Hemlock

Mountain Laurel Old Hemlock English Setter 2107 age 2

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Dogs, George Bird Evans, Hemlock Forest, hiking, historic locations, Hunting, Old Hemlock Foundation, Preston County WV, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Why a Life of Service is not a Job, But a Life Style

With my second term as  an AmeriCorps  Service member half over and me reflecting on what my career plan should be. I have come to the conclusion  that I want to keep in the service industry and hope to work for a nonprofit. I have committed to a life style not a job.

I have spent most of my adult life living on other peoples terms… go to college, get married, get a job, and have a family. Not that these ideals are bad, they just seemed to be a little boring. I have always been rebellious, adventurous with a love for life. I want a passion filled life, with travel, new people and getting dirty trying new things. I want something more than the 9 to 5 with benefits that colleges promise. I want more from life than punching a time clock allows. Deep inside I want to make a difference in the world.

So at the complete worst time in my adult life after a surgery, heartbroken about a personal loss, and feeling unqualified to do much with a Fine Arts Degree, I started looking for work. A writer friend inspired me stop looking for a JOB and start looking for a life style. A life style that reflected what I really wanted. She helped me to see that what I was looking for was career fulfillment, not career advancement. How eye-opening that moment was for me.

In our visit she shared with me her Year of Service Story and introduced me to AmeriCorps, the Citizen Conservation Corps of WV (more often known as the three C’s) and Peace Corps. After our conversation I realized that my skills and passions could all make a difference right here in West Virginia, the place I love most.

I have been fortunate to serve as an AmeriCorps Member in Elkins, West Virginia for the last 18 months where I work with AFHA (Appalachian Forest Heritage Area), a regional initiative to promote heritage tourism, conservation and education based on forest heritage. AFHA, AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service and by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  As a service member for AmeriCorps I have had opportunities to meet, work with, and learn from some of the most interesting people in the state.  My Site, Elkins Main Street, is deeply committed to working with local and state government officials on projects that help to bring jobs, investment, growth and prosperity to our community.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

First Lady Joanne Tomblin and Elkins Main Street Director Karen Carper

At my Elkins Main Street site I work with community volunteers on making public art projects that preserve Appalachian culture and inspire people to take pride in their community. Working side by side with community groups like the Riverside School Association, we celebrate ethnic and social diversity, and cultural differences like at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration.

Mrs Chisum at the MLK event. 2016

Riverside School Ass. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration 2017

Also as part of my AmeriCorps duties, I am asked to take time regularly to see and experience the culture and history of the community where I serve. A person cannot begin to make significant changes to the future of a community without first understanding its past and present. We are encouraged to see a wide range of locations in our service area, from the mountains, to the largest cities and oldest historic landmarks. For example, I traveled to the West Virginia Capital Complex to speak with Volunteer West Virginia about the role of the National Main Street Program.

 

Christopher runs the up the steps or the WV state Capitol 3-18

Dominic and the AFHA team in the rain at Beaver Creek Mill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left side: AmeriCorps members from AFHA touring historic Bear Creek Grist Mill cir. 1840, Summersville, WV.  Right side: West Virginia State Capital Complex, Charleston, WV.

AmeriCorps members are a team banded together over large expanses, doing the work of preserving and protecting the local environment, the history and culture of a people and encouraging travel and education about our unique locations.  AmeriCorps is a force for good in places where times are a little harder and people need a helping hand to building on their strengths. I am proud to say that I choose everyday to be a AmeriCorps Service member, because I want  something more than a job , I want  a lifestyle making a difference.

Highlands trail clean up spring 2017

 

Appalachian Highlands Trail trash pickup day 2017. Members of AFHA AmeriCorps collected 16 bags of trash for the trail foundation.

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, community service, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, volunteering | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Serving AmeriCorps and AFHA the Second Time Around

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

afha-volunteer-west-virginia-swearing-in-2016

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

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

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

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

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

alifeofvanity.wordpress.com/

For anyone who has ever thought of attempting the #vanlife, A Life of VANity is an unfiltered, realistic look at the unglamorous day-to-day happenings of life in a Chevy G20 Conversion van. Unlike other #vanlife blogs, A Life of VANity is here to show you that it isn’t all roadtrips and ocean-side views, and that there’s nothing wrong with living in a backyard or two.

Beyond the Campfire

Stories of exploration

Thrifty Campers

Nature knows no such barriers

Missmackenzierose

Dream-Explore-Discover

Camellia's Cottage

Alabama Lifestyle Blog

Free to express

thoughts, experiences, travel, feelings, stories, diaries and many more...

Appalachian Housewife

The Mullens' Family's Journey Running The Pioneer Farm at Twin Falls State Park

Recipes by chefkreso

Cooking with imagination

Trish the Dish

Keeping Our Family's Bellies and Minds FULL.... One Dish at a Time

Barefoot with Braids ( or long hair hippy with attitude )

Left home, at Uni and finding out about me, what I like, what I don't, what I regret and what I love

Appalachian Histories & Mysteries

Exploring Appalachia's forgotten, neglected, and sometimes mysterious events.

Enchanted Forests

This Blog is about discovering the magic of forests in every aspect of life from a small plant in a metropolis to the forests themselves

Elkins Depot Welcome Center

The mountains beckon visitors to Elkins, a place where artists gather and history lives.

%d bloggers like this: