Monthly Archives: February 2016

One Bee Hive at a Time

bee in pink rhododendron flower on family farm

Bee in pink rhododendron flower on family farm 2002

I have spent several years thinking about becoming a beekeeper and this year I will officially have my own hive. I have followed blogs and read books and talked with several beekeepers about the hobby.  I have been supportive in my gardens to feed all pollinators and like any normal person I love honey. So this February I enrolled with about 40 other community members in a Department of Agriculture class titled “Beginning Beekeeping” given through the Lewis County,W.V. Extension Office. The class was what I needed to feel like I can become a responsible beekeeper.

One of the wonderful things about the class was to see who also enrolled in the very inexpensive class.They are the faces of people who I see almost everyday,there were farmers, business owners, teachers, retired state employees, gas men, salespeople and few children all eager to learn how to help the bees. It was an equal mix of husbands and wives and families who all felt the drawn to honey and the plight of the bees. Maybe it was a mixture of love and fear that made all of us trudge to the 4 classes almost 2 1/2 hours long in the cold evenings of February.

Living in an agriculture heavy state bees are a serious topic of conversation.My community worries about the future of our farms and orchards with less pollinators . They want education and they want to help bees.The classes were eye-opening for all of us. According to USDA’s 2014 report open pollinated soybean and apples are our state’s 3rd and 4th largest cash crops. Those two bee loving crops produces $25,708,000 dollars of produce for our state’s economy. This is only the information on registered producers who sell for profit. The effects of low bee populations are dramatic when you add in all the other fruit and vegetables that are lower on the list and all the produce from the back yard farmers that sell or give away their produce. It is overwhelming that all of this money rests on the winged shoulders of our bee population.With bees in decline all of us at this class understood the importance of our attempt on a small-scale to help.

Spring wild blue bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Spring wild blue bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Honey sweetens the pot for beekeepers who want to also make a profit from caring for the bees. In our class were able to get enough information about bee keeping to think seriously about what we will do with the honey. Our family plans to eat and give away honey with the comb in jars, so we will be doing a more historic and traditional way of processing our honey then many in our class. Most members will be removing the honey with a centrifuge system that should make honey production faster and easier.

Cosmos a bee favorite flower in the backyard

Cosmos a bee favorite flower in the backyard

As spring arrives I will be writing more and sharing photos of our last class where all of us beginners will get a hands on chance to open and split a hive, take a look inside the hive and look at the condition of the queen and the comb. It will be just before then that we should have our hive and begin setting it up in the yard. Around the same time our bees should arrive and we will take the first steps in this adventure. I am looking forward to sharing my new hobby with my husband and two sons. If I am lucky maybe they will also see the value in raising these very important pollinators and will see the overall benefits to our family, community and state. If Christopher finds any interest in the bees he can even use them as a 4-H project to educate other kids about bees, honey and how important they are to our world.  It is because of all people I call my friends that I think together we can make a difference in our environment one hive at a time.

Categories: 4-H, Apples, Beekeeping, Foraging, hobbies, Honey, Preserving, rural life | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Secret of West Virginia Nonprofits :Collaboration

As a member of the West Virginia community I was totally unaware of the impact that non-profits have. I joined AmeriCorps, a federally funded volunteer program to help communities in my state who are struggling. I, like many others, understand the work that non-Profits like the United Way and Churches do in our communities. The work that these organizations do is important, but is only the tip of a large mountain of volunteers and directors who work silently behind the scenes in our cities and towns to benefit us all.

Elkins Main Street Logo

Elkins Main Street Logo

As an outsider who spent almost 20 years working in the retail market doing everything from selling furniture to doing customer service at a private bank, I was trained to think about corporate profits before community service. In every position that I held before AmeriCorps, I was always in competition with the neighboring business.  We spied on the competition, tried to advertise more and work longer hours to get the corporate edge on the competition. Costumer service was important but always a struggle because we only focused on what we could get from a costumer—more accounts, more money, and more of their time. Nonprofits do not work in this way and I was overwhelmed with the difference in how they see their role in the business world.

Through my involvement with AmeriCorps I was invited to serve two small nonprofits in Elkins, W.Va. I am giving my time to Elkins Main Street and the Woodlands Development Group, both who work to improve downtown Elkins and Randolph County. These organizations are not corporations, they work every day with one idea in mind—how to serve and improve the quality of life for residents of our area.  That is a distinct difference when looking at the attitude of how a business works. In this case it means putting people and communities first, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs and profits of a few.  What a refreshing way of looking at things for a burned out sales lady.

People who work or volunteer to support non-profits are people who envision a better life for everyone and tackle everyday problems that are missed by big business. The two non-profits I serve are taking on the challenges of how to make historic buildings and homes part of a vital downtown. They work to make sure the buildings are safe, affordable and useful in the revitalization of downtown Elkins. The Elkins Main Street Program works to give businesses the tools and ideas on how to promote and advertise their goods and services. They offer guidance on how to keep the historic feel of the downtown area, from the design of new signage to how to clean historic facades. Elkins Main Street facilitates conversations about the struggles that all business owners have about everything from street repairs and blockages, to encouraging growth in the historic downtown area. They are the local tie that binds all of downtown together acting as a sponsor for activities that draw crowds to downtown Elkins like the monthly First Friday events and this year’s Entrepreneurship Summit. Their work is to unite everyone in one vision of a successful, profitable, and friendly downtown neighborhood where everyone can contribute.

Darden House copy

Darden House copy

The Woodlands Development Group is a housing developer that takes many of the problem buildings in our area and redevelops them into affordable, sustainable business and home locations. Woodlands works with Elkins Main Street, other non-profits like YouthBuild and financers to make valuable additions to our communities. Many nonprofit volunteers work with Woodlands spending thousands of volunteer hours doing demolition, historic restorations, construction upgrades and repairs for businesses and homeowners our areas. One of the many programs that they take part in is in helping downtown building owners rehabilitate the upper stories of historic buildings so that they can be used as quality residential or rental properties again. Woodlands can even provide them with property management of those rental units to make being a landlord easier and more profitable.

Together with hardworking business owners, residents and volunteers we can restore the look and vitality of downtown Elkins. With support from organizations like the Woodlands Development Group, Elkins Main Street  and AmeriCorps, we are striving to have a community where “Mountains Beckon, Artists Gather and History Lives,” the slogan of Elkins Main Street. It is these collaborations that are the secret behind the success of revitalization efforts in our downtown and communities. It is with pleasure that I am serving and get to be part of a better future for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, community service, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Nonprofit, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

3 Years of Blogging has Changed My Life

It seems impossible that I have written a blog post at least every week for three years. Today is my 3rd Blogging Anniversary. I look back and see huge improvement in my writing and editing. Although, some things will never change about who I am as a person and how I write. This blog has given me a place to share my life and I am still surprised every time I write something that someone out there thinks it is worth reading. The biggest surprise of all is that this blog has opened so many doors for me.

rainy afternoon at old barn along Johnstown, WV

Rainy afternoon at old barn along Johnstown, W.V.

Over the last three years I have tried writing as openly  and honestly as I can and it seems to paying off. I write about the life I live, the people and places that I encounter and tell stories about the ups and downs of a small town life. These stories have not only given me a chance help create positive images on TV with the Barnwood Builders, they have let me share our DIY projects all over the world and write a few stories for a digital magazine called Elkinite.  The magazine shares stories of the  town I am working to help revitalise. My writing this blog even had something to do with me getting at my current job with AmeriCorps. They needed someone who had skills working with WordPress, ( Seriously Strange) They wanted someone who had the skills to build a new website for their organisation.So even building this blog has helped me in my current job. Who knew writing a blog on WordPress this would lead down this road?

Sign at the top of a flooded road at Roanoke,WV

Sign at the top of a flooded road at Roanoke,W.V.

So when I look back at  my very first posts and how nervous I was when I  pushed the publish button, I am so pleased with the results. I have grown, the blog has grown and my following is growing, who can ask for more. I plan to keep writing and sharing my little country life as long as all of you will have me.

So dear friends, I hope you hang in with me as I start a brand new year writing about my adventures in Wild,Wonderful,West Virginia. Where everyone stops to talk to you even if you a total stranger and where sweet tea and biscuits and gravy are the food everyone craves in the mornings.I love my home,and can’t wait to continue sharing my story with all of you.

rocks covered in moss by the river in Ten Mile. WV

Rocks covered in moss by the river in Ten Mile, W.V.

Categories: About me, blogging, DIY projects, Elkinite, hobbies, rural life, West Virginia, writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

DIY Remodeling plans for 2016 year.

The plans for this year’s remodeling include the front entry of the house and new french doors. We knew when we bought the house that the front entry area was in poor shape not only on the inside but on the outside also. There are several problems we will be tackling over the next few months and maybe even into next year.

Front French doors with stone surround

Front French doors with stone surround.

The Problems are #1. the exterior of the front entry is “Fake” stone. They are a molded cement that is the painted with the color and look of real stone. It is then applied to a board with mortar like tile. The problem is that the stones are attached incorrectly and the stones do not have enough mortar to hold securely. Leaving the stones open for water damage and just the effects of gravity have pulled the stones away from the plywood underneath . We have several “stones” that have fallen off and are just stacked up on the porch.

missing stone tile from upper door suround

Missing stone tile from upper door surround.

Problem #2 The doors are old and not very airtight, making them drafty and not as energy-efficient as they should be.

Light and air gaps are visible in the sunshine

Light and air gaps are visible in the sunshine.

Problem # 3 The amount of light that passes through the windows on the doors is not installed with U.V.Ray protective glass and the amount of heat and sun damage from the windows is an issue.

Problem #4 the inside of the entryway looks fine but needs updated with new lights and some wood and stone to tie it with the family room remodel.

inside of all white entryway before update

Inside the all white entryway before update.

So as spring approaches I need to get started on looking at new energy-efficient french doors. I want less glass and the glass that in the new doors must be U.V. Ray reducing.  We hope to install new flooring in the kitchen some time in the future and I want to eliminate the possibility of fading to a new floor. I also want less glass because the doors are on the western side of  the house. The sun just burns through the current windows allowing too much heat into the house the afternoons.

I will be working with a contractor who will be help us with measurements and ordering the new doors and will return again for installation. French doors are a two or three-man job for installation and Tom and I will need all the help we can get to get them into place in one day.

As for the tile on the outside of the house we will replace the doors first and allow any of the old facade to become damaged or cut away before we even think about replacement. Once the doors are in place, the removal of the fake stone will begin and we will be ready to order the new tile. We are planning on using Ledger Tile with natural colors of sandstone to blend in with the brick of the house. The application will be almost the same as the “fake stone” but done with better water-resistant backer boards and lots more mortar.

The inside may not get completed this summer as Tom is going to have Carpal Tunnel surgery, but the plan is to add two wall sconce lights on each side of the doors, remove a ceiling light, and add new wood trim and more Ledger Tile. So the summer work plan is just about to begin and I am excited to get started. The doors are the most important part of the project and our goal is to have them finished before the summer heat keeps us inside. The rest will wait on Tom’s recovery.

We have been having a hard time finding samples of ledger tile here in West Virginia. I am upset that Home Depot does not have them in their stores in my state but have them in Pa.  We can see them  online so Tom and I plan a trip to some of the bigger retailers out-of-state over the summer while he is unable to actually do the work but can see the materials. Sometimes living in the country can making things a little more complicated.

So when we get a few things ordered I will share the plans and photos as we update the doors and stone work. The year looks full of more fun and learning as we learn more about installing new doors, tile and mortar and correct applications outside.

 

Categories: DIY projects, hobbies, home improvement, home remodeling, ledger tile, light fixtures, spring | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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