Apple deserts of any kind are a family favorite at our house and apple strudel is one of the easiest to make. My family is not a fan of the white icing that is usually drizzled on top of a strudel or danishes so I have omitted it. The flavor of this strudel is crip, sweet and spicy so no one complained about missing the icing. The raisins add a fruity sweetness to the tart apples, making a nice balance, that can get lost in apple pie. This was my gift to my husband for our 29th Anniversary.
This strudel was made with 1 box of store bought puffed pastry that was allowed to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. The dough needs to be cool and not frozen to seal it together. I started my strudel by peeling, coring and slicing up 5 snack size apples. I used gala apples for their tart taste and crisp texture. They hold their shape well when cooked and are not too sweet when mixed with sweet raisins. I sprayed a 13×9 Pyrex pan with cooking spray and placed the puffed pastry up the sides of he pan cutting off any that overhung the edge. I needed a few more inches of pastry at the bottom to cover the whole pan. So, I placed the remaining pastry at the bottom pinching it together at the overlapping seam, cutting away about 3 inches of extra pastry. I let this warm while I cooked 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and 5 apples together in a cup of water in a large skillet. I allowed the apples to stew for several minutes. When the apples appear to be softening I added 1/2 cup of raisins,pinch of salt, cinnamon, and allspice and stirred together well. I allowed that to simmer for 4 minutes until the remaining water evaporated off the apple mixture and added 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Letting the sugar melt and mix in, I cook it down syrup until it is thick and dry.
When the syrup is thick and apples are translucent but not completely soft remove from heat and spoon on to the puffed pastry. I then folded the soft pastry over the apple/raisin filling. Pulling one side over and then the other, pinching together the top as I went. I then folded up the ends and pinched them together also. I placed the strudel in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Until the pastry puffed up and turned golden brown but not dark. The syrup didn’t leak out of this one because I allowed it to get thick before placing in the dough.
When ready the top crust will form air pockets and appear flaky. At this point you can allow the pastry to cool and drizzle with powdered sugar icing made with milk and vanilla or leave plain. This makes 8 servings about two inches wide and keeps well overnight and can be a nice sweet treat to go with coffee in the morning.
Apple Raisin Strudel
5 tart apples (galla) peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 Cup raisins
1 Box of puffed pastry thawed but cool
1 1/2 Tablespoon salted butter
1 Cup water
1/4 to 1/3 Cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt
Bake strudel in oven at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until puffy and golden brown.
This can be served with ice cream like pie, a touch of whipped cream, or like us we eat it warm from the oven plain with a glass of milk.
I often suffer from seasonal depression. I have to fight everyday to get out of bed, drag myself out of the house and I generally don’t want to do anything. Over the years I have discovered that just getting outside really helps my winter blues. I don’t get out as often as I should in winter, but when I start to feel drawn into my grumpy hibernation state I try to get moving outside. Christopher and I headed to Tygart Lake State Park last month to see what we could find. We had no plan or even a good idea what we would find, so it was exciting to see what the park had to offer. I was also nice to take a homeschool day and actually learn something new about West Virginia.
Tygart Lake State Park is described by the West Virginia State Park System as, “Located in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in scenic north-central West Virginia, Tygart Lake State Park provides guests with a quiet vacation spot and breathtaking views. Just four miles south of Grafton, Tygart Lake State Park is known for its 10-mile long, 1,750-acre lake, which offers water activities like boating, water skiing, scuba diving, swimming, kayaking, canoeing and fishing. The park is surrounded by beautiful mountain views and provides lakeside lodging perfect for relaxation and unwinding after a full day of play.”
In the off season the lake is drained for flood control. It is not uncommon to have winter floods in West Virginia. The worst happening on Nov. 4th, 1985, a night time flood destroying many of West Virginia small towns. So Christopher and I took the opportunity to explore the lakes bottom. Something that I have never done before and in some ways found extremely enjoyable. It brought back memories of reading the children’s story, The Five Chinese Brothers. I loved this story so much as a child I can almost still tell the tail today. In the story one of the Chinese Brothers is gifted with the talent of being able to swallow the sea and uses the gift to help a younger boy collect fish for his family. The illustrations in the story of the bear bottom of the sea stuck with me all these years. The illustrations show ships that had sunk, dead fish bones, ankers lost from the boats above and fish flopping on the sand at the bottom of the sea. When Christopher and I arrived at the resort building, all of the joy I had in reading that book as a child came rushing back to me. We were going to see the bottom of a 1,750 acre lake and I was going treasure hunting.
We began our search for sea shells and broken bottles just below the small Tygart Lake State Park Resort building walking down to the water’s edge. It was a cold day only 40 degrees and near the water it was colder. So, both Christopher and I bundled up against the wind off the lake and got busy looking for treasures.
While walking the waved sand we found a most unusual treasure. A piece of Frugilrite (lighting beach glass) that was partly buried in the sand. Beach glass is formed when lighting strikes the silica sand of the beach. The appearance in our case is much like a blob of green and clear liquid glass that was burnt into the beach. Attached to the Frugilrite is the iron and other minerals that surrounded the strike area. It is ruff in some parts and very smooth and shiny in others. Christopher found it in a shallow area of the lake only about 50 feet from the normal edge. I am guessing their was more to this piece of glass at one time, but water and erosion has taken its toll on the arms of the glass.
After a couple hours,the sun began to set on us, as we wondered closer to the dam that created Tygart Lake.The sun’s reflection on the water in the lake was amazing. Blasts of silver and gold shone across the water like sequins. I wanted to stay until the very last minute but knew better. We had to climb a very steep hill to return to the lodge and we wanted to get warm inside. I reluctantly told Christopher it was time to leave and begin the 1 1/2 hour drive home.
We returned up he hill to the lodge and stepped inside with our muddy shoes and cold hands just in time to get a few things from the gift shop and head home. We took the long way home, driving around the edge of the lake to see what other thing we could find. The park offers an outdoor pool, lake swimming, a camp ground, boat docks, a picnic area and trails for hiking. You can also see the Dam from above and see the water outlet area with a visitor center. Everything at the park was closed on this trip. So, now I have a reason to return this summer.
I never realised until this drive to he lake that even just a few hours away from work and the darkness of the winter would raise my spirits so high. Just skipping stones and taking photos, had broken away my gloom. Who knew that an afternoon with my son and a piece of glass would make me so happy again.
It has been a very long 3 years of construction, and a year of clean up to get to this post. The rehabilitation of the Golden Rule Building is complete. We are ready to begin to move our equipment and fixtures back into the building starting in Feb. It is almost unbelievable that it I will be finished with my small portion of this project very soon.
The ten upper story apartments are fully rented and have given Belington, WV much needed quality housing. soon I will help to bring a new economic driver to downtown with a cafe’, train ticket booth, train themed gift shop, and the artist market. Here are some of the views from the finished apartments before they were rented.
The first floor took another month to fully finish but the the style and feel is very much the same. The main difference to the first floor space is the more open floor plan and the removal of the walls that surround the water powered elevator shaft. It is nice to be able to see the lift from all sides of the main floor. The elevator has been restored and is operable from the basement to the first floor. It will never carry any passengers or freight but can be used for a display of how water hydraulics worked. We have also kept the steps from the first floor to the second floor. The stairs have been capped off so they are only for display at this time and are planned to be used as a historical collection space. The original offices have had the tin ceilings repaired and repainted. They are one of the only decorative features in the building. Since he building was used as a warehouse, grocery store and finally a furniture all around store the need for decoration was secondary to functional items. The vault is now clean and ready for storage or display space. With the replacement of many of the broken window panes, paint and new lights the front of the building looks fresh and inviting again.
The photos below show the building in the state it was in before construction and while I was working on cleaning, selling and storing the contents of the building of more than a year. We removed many of the antiques that were found in the building and have them ready to return as a display and some will be for sale to benefit the continued development of the property at The Golden Rule.
It will take at least three or four more months of work to get the retail stores ready to open. We have displays to buy, internet and phone systems to install and lots of vendors to work with. We have plans for about 30 individuals to sell items in The Golden Rule Marketplace. Working in collaboration with the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad we hope to see the train running this spring and the stores open by June. Covid has delayed some of our work but with a hopeful heart and lots of work the Belington Revitalization Committee, the Barbour County Development Authority and Woodlands Development Group have plans to move this project forward and see that this building comes back to life. I hope to plan an open house event before I leave The Golden Rule for good and It should be a great celebration of what a small town and small development company can do.
Christmas was wonderful, the older son and his family came and friends sent cards and gifts. It was noisy and full of toys like it should be, then it wasn’t. Like clockwork my son, his wife and my grandaughter went on their way for a second round of gifts and another home cooked meal. The annual afternoon naps in our P.J.’s took place and the house got peaceful and quite. But, something about the afternoon felt off… Something was missing and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt like I had missed something important, something that I had was always done Christmas day, like a religious ritual was missing. That something bugged me for hours until just before dinner, then I finally remembered. I cried most of the rest of the afternoon and night. Everything about the holiday had been great fun until I remembered… I had not called my Mom for Christmas. I had not picked up the phone one time all of Christmas or Christmas Eve.
I have lived far away from my childhood home for over 30 years. In all those years, I chosen to never go home for Christmas. It was a choice I was fine with, I never felt bad about it. I always called my mom Christmas afternoon. It was a ritual. Usually I would hear her with a house full of guests and I would talk my brothers and their families. It was a short moment of bonding. In her later years, I would talk with her at the nursing home about if she had a nice meal and who had visited. I never missed a phone call and she never stopped saying she was so glad I called. She would always rush me off the phone and tell me to get back to my kids that they needed me and she was doing ok. I always hated telling her goodbye, and at times missed sitting at her dinner table for a family holiday. It was my choice to stay so far away in the mountains of West Virginia. It was also because of her that I never went home. It was always so hard to fit into the image she had created for me. It was a image that just didn’t fit and made me uncomfortable when we had to stay with her.
As the first wave of memories and tears fell, a second came, with memories of my Mother in-law, and all of the Christmas dinners we eat together as a large family. Then other ghost like spirits creeped in with more Christmas memories. My wedding during Christmas to a childhood sweetheart who is now passed away. A Christmas in Germany drinking hot mulled wine in the streets. Christmas snows in Colorado where I would walk to Village Inn on Christmas Eve to see my high school friends. “Going Out for Coffee”, lasted years until we were all old enough to go out for Holiday drinks. All of us hated spending to much time with family over the holidays and some of us didn’t even have families at home over the holidays. One of the many images burnt into my brain is a gift of a huge stuffed dog my brother gave me at the age of 10. He drove around Boulder with this huge dog in the passenger seat of his old Jeep for several days before dropping it under the tree one Christmas morning. I remember getting Co-Op peanut butter from my aunt and uncle for 6 or 7 years in a row for Christmas. How if loved that home ground peanut butter with its oily flavor and ruff texture.
Clearing my eyes of tears, I felt driven to dig out photo albums and look through the photos for just one photo of me and my mother at Christmas together. I don’t think there are any, I don’t have any at all. She was always behind the camera and I was always in front. She took photos in her own personal way, many off center or poorly lighted, but they were her memories of good moments in our life. Now looking back maybe I was wrong for missing those holidays, now maybe I wish I had gone home just once. I also now realise that I can’t even call home anymore and my habit of picking up the phone over Christmas will fall to my brothers and my friends. Calls to them will take the place of calling home to speak to my mom. They will have to hear about the gag gifts and the looks of surprize at a gift and hear me saying, “thank you so much for remembering me and the kids”. They will have to listen to of how hard the year has been and that I miss spending time with them so much. We will have to rush off the phone and say our goodbyes with love. They will have to help me fill the space that once belonged to my mother.
Hoping all of you had a happy and healthy holiday and that we are all blessed in the New Year. Remember to pick up the phone and wish someone you love a Merry Christmas for me. It is the smallest things that we remember about one another and sometimes it’s just a phone call that says I love you!
This year is a real treat for me as I work at Adaland Mansion for the first of hopefully many years. It is the first time in my life that I get to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful holiday trees covered in the warm glow of twinkle lights every day I work. When I am alone in the house like most Fridays, and the lights are on and the sun begins to set, I find my mind wandering away from the papers that I am working on. My eyes are drawn out into the hall where a set of these smaller trees sit next to my office. Their appearance makes me relax and I drift off to a simpler time in my life.
One of my guilty holiday pleasures, that started when I was just a child, is spending time driving around my home town time looking at the holiday lights. It’s a tradition that we have shared with both our sons no matter where have lived. I vividly remember spending hours listening to holiday music every Christmas while sitting in our living room in the dark with only the tree lights on. I have always found peace in the glow of colored lights. For years I always had twinkle lights in my bedroom year around, and both my kids have had them in their rooms too. How strange that a 3 dollar string of white lights always felt like love to me.The best part about decorating for Christmas is still the holiday lights. We have driven several times to the large Holiday light show in Wheeling, West Virginia at Oglebay Park where they have a large drive-through light show every Christmas just so I can share the lights with the boys.
Each room of the mansion has a different color or theme for the trees and decor. Each year the staff of the house makes changes to what they do for decorations. But the warmth and love is always a huge part of the display.
The Bride’s Room tree is my favorite this year. I like to imagine myself curled up in the grand oak bed covered in a huge quilt falling asleep to the warm glow of this tree. With its many hand made ornaments and pink flowers It’s victorian style is a little girls dream come true.
Each of the three first floor parlors also have a tree. The doors are strewn in garland and the windows are covered with many wreaths and bows. It takes groups of volunteers hours to create each tree and decorate each window.
This is just a small taste of what the house has for trees and decorations. I wish I had taken photos of them all because they bring me such joy everyday. Now if we get just a little snow it will feel like I have come home to the place I belong this holiday season.
This will be a much different year at the Mansion. With the Coroniavirus still keeping many people at home and away from traditional activities, I am so pleased that the staff of the Mansion has made it possible to have tours of the house again this year. Following all of the guidelines of our state, we are open for private tours for groups of 6 or smaller and will have the traditional open house event to share the Adaland Mansion with visitors.
I look forward to greeting guests on Dec 5th and meeting with many of the families and supporters of this much loved home. I will continue to be thankful to work in such a beautiful place and to have the opertunity to enjoy the thousands of holiday lights that make me so happy this Holiday Season.
I have heard and believe that we must speak our dreams for them to become reality. So after speaking and wanting to be involved in historic preservation and rehabilitation most of the last 9 years of my life it is going to be my Job to tend to the needs and wants of Adaland Mansion a 1868 Greek Revival Mansion and 22 acre property in Barbour County, WV.
I have been selected to become the Director of Adaland Mansion a Community Non-profit that focuses on the preserving and educating the community about this unique house and property in North Central, West Virginia. It is a huge roll to fill and I am honored and overwhelmed that this grand old home asked me to be her caretaker.
Somewhere up in the stars, is my mother and my mother-in-law looking down saying that they think it is fitting, I have another old house to share stories about. A girl just cant have enough Ghost stories, Love stories or Sad stories to tell.
So as I end my time in the early spring with my current project at another Historic Building, the Golden Rule Building in Belington WV. I will move away from some of the redevelopment work I do as a contractor to more of a Historic Property Manager of sorts.
I hope that I can live up to the dreams that many community members have for this property and house. I am excited to do my very best to keep this old girl alive and telling her stories to another generation.
In addition to my starting a new job, In Nov. we will celebrate the completion and move in of the first 10 residents of the Golden Rule and in March of 2020 the opening of the three businesses I have helped to develop. It will be one of the days that I am most proud of in my life. When those old barn doors open up and people return to the rear loading doc to ride the train once more I will know it is time for me to move on. I will bid farewell to a project that I have put my heart and soul into for three years. I will always be a fan of what downtown revitalization and what it can do for a community. I can only hope that over the course of the next few years I can stay involved in this field and support more redevelopment and preservation in West Virginia.
As I head to bed I’m still in shock that this next labor of love has been given to me .I guess the as the old and wise always say, “When a door closes a window opens”. It just happens that all my windows are over a hundred years old.
I cant wait to share with you my new adventures at my new location. I am hopeful that you will enjoy reading about another old house and share in my journey in taking care of her!
In the meantime I hope wright about the final steps in finishing the Golden Rule and what a joy it has brought me to be part of changing the community I live in.
This post is actually 2 years in the making. Last summer (2019) was the first time in years the Japanese Beetles did not destroy my chances of getting grapes from the Concord grape vines on our property. We treated for them (more about that later) so I was lucky to get about a half bushel of grapes. I chose to make juice from the grapes. I canned the juice ASAP. The plan was to make jelly over the winter. Then the old trelles crashed to the ground about mid Jan and I just forgot about the jelly until about a week ago. So we started all over by cutting the vines back building a new trellis and making jelly from canned juice.
To begin with if you have older vines or like us we had a very old trellis system that did not function well for two large heavy vines you might consider pruning your grape vine back. Grape vines produce much better when the vines are short and pruned regularly. In my case the trellis collapsed before we got time to replace it, forcing me to prune back the vines in the cold weather to get the old trellis out. When I was done our vines were about 4 feet long compared to 16 feet.
Tom and I talked about how beautiful a grapevines could be even if you didn’t use the grapes. I wanted something that was just as pretty in the yard as functional. I also wanted to be able to walk under the trellis if we were working in the near by vegetable graden. So this is what we came up with. The Trellis is 6 foot 6 inches high made 8 feet apart on the inside. We cemented the 4×4 posts into the ground so they would not move.Everything is pressure treated and we used 2×4 hangers to create the top. After this stage I added some recycled garden wire to the top to give the vines something hold onto as they grow. Then we waited for the vines to get long enough to put on the trellis. In about 4 mouths they had grown 5 or more feet and I could begin to train the vines using zip ties and string. After a couple hours the longest vines were secured and ready to grow for the rest of the summer. Next year I should have a nice place to pick my grapes.
for more info about the pruning a old grape vine check out this grapevine post.
As I said before we treated for Japanese Beetles. We also have a huge sugar ant problem in the house. So I used our fertilizer spreader to spread a yard pest insecticide in the back yard and around the foundation of our house. It was a game changer, very few bettles … stopped the mole damage we were getting from them looking for the beetle grubs and reduced the ants in the house. I don’t plan to treat again for several years. I would like to see if we can keep the beetle problem under control with a more natural soap and water treatment for a while but this brought a balance back to my yard for a while.
Part two: The best part of having grapes is grape juice and jelly. Both are easy to make at home and do not require a pressure canner. We follow The Ball Jar Company recipes to cann our juice and make jelly
Grape Juice: Wash all the grapes, removing all stems and leaves. Then place all the grapes in a large stock pot with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by a inch or two. Around a cup per gallon of grapes. Bring grapes to a simmer crushing the grapes with a potato masher as the heat rises. Simmer 10 minutes. Don’t boil this releases the bitterness from the seeds into the juice. Strain through a couple layers cheesecloth to remove seeds. Let juice stand 24 hours or overnight to cool if possible before straining a second time. Prepare for the rest of the process by gathering up either a jelly bag or using several layers if cheesecloth. For this batch of juice I used 4 layers of cheesecloth, rinsing between about every two cups of juice. I think I spent more time rinsing out the clothe out then straining the juice. In the end I had 6 quarts of juice with no sugar and nothing artificial. It was worth it in the end. If you want to cann the juice as a cocktail add 1 or 2 cup sugar per gallon of juice.
Canning the Juice: I planned to make Jelly from the juice so I did not want to add any sugar. If you were going to drink the juice like a cocktail you would need sugar to make it taste good enough to drink.
As always wash and sterilize your quart jars, lids and seals as you heat your juice to a hot simer. Remove from heat and fill jars with hot juice. leaving a 1/4 inch head space wiping the top lip of jar. Place jars in a boiling water bath canner. Make sure each jar is covered fully with water and follow the directions in the Ball Canning Blue Book. Mine is a 1949 version and a 1991 version…. They both say the same thing.
Reheat to a simmer, pour into clean hot jars. Process 30 minutes in hot water bath at 185 -190 degrees.
Making Jelly: Canned juice is good for up to a year but your grape juice may look clouded in the jar… don’t worry you still get beautiful clear Jelly.
To quote my ball guide it is better to us canned juice then fresh!
The use of unsweetened, canned juice prevents the formation of Cream of Tartar crystals from forming in the jelly. After the juice is canned the crystals form and fall to the bottom. The canned juice should be strained through cheesecloth before using and the sediment at the bottom should not be used.
The Ball Blue Book of Home Canning , Preserving and Freezing Recipes CR 1949.
Cooking the Jelly: As always prepare lids rings and jars by washing and sterilizing. If using prepared juice, measure exact amount of juice into a 6 to 8 quart stockpot. Add water if necessary to get exact measurement. measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl with a dry measuring cup. Add juice to a large stock pot then sugar and mix well. Add 1 tsp butter to help reduce foaming( I do not do this with grape jelly but I do with others). Bring mixture to a rolling boil, one that cannot be reduced when stirred, boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Quickly add pectin and return to a rolling boil 1 minute, then remove from heat. I personaly do a sheeting test before I remove from the heat. if when a teaspoon of jelly sheets from the spoon it is ready. Sheeting is when you scoop up a teaspoon of jelly and slowly pour it back into the pot but some jells to the spoon and slowly slides off in a sold sheet. Then I remove from the heat and scrape as much foam off as I can before ladeling into prepared jars. filling jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.Wipe jars with a damp rag and add seals and rings. Place in warm water in canner until 1 to 2 inches of water covers jars. Bring water to boil, process at a boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and let cool 24 hours before deciding if there is problem with the jelling.
If everything goes according to plan you should have about 7 half pint jelly jars of homemade Concord grape jelly.
Well, it has been a long journey from picking our first grapes to making a new trellis, canning juice and finally making the jelly. I hope you find this helpful and it makes it possible to make your own Jams and jellies. My family loves homemade jelly so I am happy to have the vines.
Abandoned homes or towns are my favorite places to visit. So when my husband offered to drive Christopher and I to a historic abandoned coal mining town near where he was working I got super excited!!We spent one early morning exploring the New River Gorge Valley and the lost town of Nuttallburg WV. For a more indepth history of the town and its famous Henry Ford owner you can check out the Parks Services Webpage for Nuttallburg,WV here!
We found out about the town while stopping at the New River Gorge Visitors Center and decided it was worth the 8 mile drive to see the abandoned coal tipple and Coke ovens. I have written about the New River Gorge before so if you want to lean more about the National River Check out my other blog posts. They will included info about the world famous Bridge Day Events .
After leaving the New River Gorge Visitor Center near Fayetteville, we took time to follow a map to a community called Wynonia where you leave the pavement and drive into a tree covered lane. The road is very narrow and twistly so the 8 miles seem like 10 before you reach the river’s edge and the mining town of Nuttallburg.
Nuttallburg is a coal mining town that was listed on the National Historic Registry in 1998. It was important due to its production of smokeless coal. The town was founded by John Nuttall in 1870, at its peak had over 100 houses, several schools, churches and 80 Coke Ovens. The coal was processed and shipped out on the rail lines along the New River. The community and the mine were purchased by Henry Ford and the Fordson Motor Company in the 1920’s, serving his car manufacturing plants in Michigan.
The Nuttallburg post office was closed in 1958 and a cap was put on the opening of the mine that same year. The town then slowly decayed with much of the wooden structures destroyed by weather and scavengers who used the remaining good materials for better projects.
The remains of the coal mining town include a row of Coke Ovens that once processed thousands of pounds of coal for the steel mills that lined the Ohio River Valley. The coal tipple, coal shoot, the conveyor belt cover and the mine head all remain on view to visitors. I was impressed that the ovens were still standing since they are not metal structures. In this case they are just simple brick and mortar domes with a draft whole in the top. To learn more about how important Coke is in steel production click here
Included in the collection of the building foundations is what is left of a company store and house foundations. The idea that over a hundred families depended on this simpel store made me think how lucky we are to be able to buy almost anything from around the world at our local grocery store.
At this time of the year most of the house and church foundations are covered with Kudzu vines, for better or worse. The vines make the place feel totally isolated and part of the a tropical rainforest. I told Christopher that I felt like we had stumbled into a Jurassic Park movie. With all the strange abandoned structures,trees and the wild undergrowth you felt like the last people on earth. Maybe this was the perfect place to visit during the Coronavirus. We did not see another person until we were ready to leave.
Beyond the end of the town is an even smaller community of Seldom Seen. It has a nice trail to it but is a little risky to get to and the forest service posts warnings about not getting off the trail due to holes in the ground that are part of buried foundations. I could not convince my husband that would be a fun adventure to follow the trail and take photos so that is planned for a later date. From what I gather this area was the residential area for White coal miners. The town was segregated and the African Americans who worked in and near the mine lived at the entry of the town with their own school and church.
At this point it was time to head back home but after this wonderful visit I plan to return this fall to see everything decked out in the fall colors and the Kudzu dead to take more photos.
The drive in and out of the valley was just a beautiful as the town and we enjoyed the coolness of the trees and waterfalls.
We hope that if you are in the Fayetteville area of West Virginia or near the New River Gorge Bridge you will consider taking the time to see this beautiful park and learn more about West Virginia and its history.
It seems everything we are doing this summer is a investment in the future. Even the little day trips we have taken are to help my son explore ideas that he may want to revisit in the future. I have been working on several projects at work that are going to pay off 5 or 10 years from now. We are even working on our house with the idea that my husband will retire in 7 or 8 years. Maybe this all comes with age, maybe with the lack faith in the current situation with Covid, the looming election and the general unrest in the county we are just focused on what will come next. Instead of worrying to deeply about the current state of everything. Maybe the future is brighter than the drama of today. So we are spending time with Christopher in the most positive way we can think of, with small trips to help spread the joy of learning with him.
So I wanted to share a little bit about a really impressive place that we enjoyed visiting over the 4th of July weekend. the Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburg, Pa. My son’s elementary school had made year end field trip plans to take the 5th grade class to the Science Center. The plans were cancelled when school was dismissed because of the Covid- 19 outbreak. So we promised our son as soon as the center reopened we would make the trip to Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful, educational day and I know we will be back to share the experience with my granddaughter also.
The Carnegie Science Center is a 4 story building, plus a basement cafe and interactive decommissioned submarine that is an interactive playground full of things to touch, build, try and see. Their website offers information on what is playing at the IMAX theater , The planetarium and what is featured in the gallery. They share information on what to expect each day and what you can and cant do in the huge activity gym attached to the main building.
We were overwhelmed with the options offered and spent about 5 hours in the main building and still did not do everything available. We did see a afternoon planetarium laser show to the music of the band “Queen” and the Gallery show called “Mummies”. It was all well done and Christopher was so excited to see each floor of exhibits.
Visitors start on the first floor where the Gallery show is exhibited. This show was about mummies and their creation. They covered not only egyptian mummies but European, Scottish and Mongolian mummies. I only took one photo because the crowds were hard to shoot around. A very informative show and Christopher learned that not all mummies are wrapped in bandages.
You then proceed up to the frist floor of displays mostly about earth science, animals and water.
The Second floor was about Medical Science and Aero space. We played with bones, made our heart beat a drum, made dancing skeletons and played with a very loud fart machine. Tom played in a space capsules restroom, we touched a meteor and watched Christopher try out his Space Walking skills on a bodyboard.
The third floor is the Robotics and train floor. I thought I would never get Christopher out of these rooms. They are the high light of our day. Everyone found something they enjoyed.
The fourth and final floor is there Lego room and weather exploration display. The room had all the building blocks you ever want to find. Some were as large as a gallon milk jugs some were as small as a pee. They then allow you to place your creation in an earthquake simulator. We rode out the top 5 worst recorded earthquakes in history but now understand a lot more about the weather and quakes.
We then headed to the basement for a tour of a real submarine floating in the Ohio River. This was so fascinating and is part of your ticket price. I was just so surprised at how small everything was. Your entry into the ship is a new stairwell into the torpedo room, then you travel the length of the ship and exit out the back up a ladder to the deck. 80 men lived in these small quarters for 18 months at a time. It is a hard and dangerous job and one that not everyone is cut out for.
We ended our visit with a laser show at the planetarium. For a extra $5 dollars each we spent the last 45 minutes of our visit in the dark with the music of Queen. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day.
Mother Giraffe at Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo Kingwood WV summer 2020
So West Virginia is not known for its large selection of Zoos or animal parks. But with our family spending so much time at home with the Coronavirus it was nice to spend a morning at the West Virginia family-owned and operated Hovatters Wild Animal Zoo. Every time we go I can’t help thinking about the movie “We Bought a Zoo”. This morning’s trip was well worth the entry fee and we all came home feeling happy. A day spent with animals that well cared for is alway a day well spent.
Hovatter is an ever-growing and evolving collection of animals and displays. Over the course of their 28 years in operation, they have been home to several different collections of animals. So every time we visit we have seen something different and the cages and habitats are always improving. On this trip, we were able to see several different baby animals. Although I didn’t get to take many photos of them we still enjoyed watching them. This spring we got to see baby monkeys, baby wort hogs, and baby birds.
The highlight of every trip is feeding and petting some of the safe animals in the collection. My personal favorite is feeding the Giraffes and the Parakeets. As you can see from the above photo the Giraffes are friendly and gentle. This mother Giraffe and her baby, who is at least 11 feet tall, spend their day greeting visitors and eating all the carrot sticks you can give them.
The newest attraction that we visited was the Parakeet aviary. I absolutely fell in love with this enclosure. Since we were some of the very first people to arrive the birds were hungry. 80 little birds wanted to feed, swarming us when we produced popsicle sticks covered in bird seed. If you have any fear of birds I would not suggest this experience as we had birds everywhere. As you can see Paige my granddaughter ended up with a Parakeet in her hair.
Jolynn Powers with Parakeets roosting on her arms
Paige Powers with a parakeet on her head
We spent a great deal of time watching the birds and hand-feeding them. This for me was worth the entry price but I am guessing the birds get full of seed by afternoon and you dont have the same experience as we did early on a visitor day.
Parakeets eating from my hand at Hovatters Zoo
Parakeets hanging from a stick with birdseed Hovattors Zoo
We also were able to pet donkeys, burros an Emu and two steers. Here is one of the sweetist cows I have ever been around. I think this is a Guernsey steer( but not sure) the other one in the photo is a white donkey both loved getting our attention.
JoLynn Powers, Christopher Powers and Paige Powers feeding a ( what I think is a) Guernsey steer at Hovatter’s Zoo.
The kids enjoyed seeing all of the wonderful animals that were on display the even had Bears and lions that you could see well and live peacocks struting around the property. They were able to feed camels and monkeys through special tubes built into their enclosers and a large Emu who liked to peck at your hand with its beak.
The staff is nice and the animals all seemed happy, healthy, and well-fed. I am sure that some of these animals, including the large cats, are rescued from other Zoos or carnivals. Some are old and some very young but they all were refreshing to see and feed. I really enjoyed hearing a lion roar and the monkeys playing and swinging in their cages.
A couple hours later we let the kids hit the gift shop. It looks like they enjoyed the day too. With toys in hand, we left the park and all of the sweet animals for a late lunch and headed home knowing that we would be back again one day.
For a family day, I can’t say enough lovely things about Hovatters Wildlife Zoo. It’s a small treasure of wild animals off the beatten path in Kingwood, WV. for more information about the zoo you can find them here Hovatters Wildlife Zoo.
Being outside with the kids was so refreshing while the state was still just reopening and the thought of doing much was limited. I hope if you are in the area you look them up and spend a day petting, feeding, and sharing with all of these wonderful animals.
Here is a gallery of some of the animal we met at the Zoo:
I'm a mother, wife, artist, writer, community developer in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Originally from the mountains of Boulder, Colorado. I have spent the last 27 years with my family in a small town of less then 4000 were we spend time outdoors living close to the land. I garden, fish, hunt, forage and cook in traditional ways and share Appalachian history and culture with my two sons. I love old buildings, bridges and farms. I love a good ghost story and have been known to dress up for Halloween. I hope you enjoy my stories about our life where you might not have cell service, many of the roads are just numbers and people still want to know your name.
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.