About me

Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

I get asked all the time if where I work, The Golden Rule, is haunted? For a building to be built in 1902 and not be haunted is a surprise. I would say that the building is not haunted in the traditional way. Not in the way horror movies show hauntings, full of evil spirits and terrible outcomes. I don’t have slamming doors, lights turning on and off or cold chills in the building. I rarely hear strange unexplained noises. I work for hours alone in the large empty building day and night, never feeling a cold chill. But, this building does have visitors.

Black and white photo of the side of the Golden Rule, Belington WV.

I have worked in the building around 18 months and after about 6 months of clearing out the building I gave up on experiencing anything unusual. That is until one warm summer evening when the rain poured down and lightning flashed that I meet someone amazing.

This usual Wednesday evening I was working alone doing inventory and getting ready for the antique auction we were planning as a fundraiser. Tables were lined with items from the 1920s to items used in the 1970s. I would list each item on an inventory sheet and photograph it, so we could either sell the item or place in on display in the future. The storm came in about 4pm and darkened the sky and made the inside of the building dreary enough I needed to turn on the lights. With my back turned to the front glass doors I worked listening to the rumble of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain. A few minutes into the storm I head a pecking sound on the glass that brought my attention to the double glass doors at the front of the building. Standing under the aged front arch, was a man. A small aged man, maybe 5’2″ around 70 dressed in an unusual way.

Front view of the arched entry of the Golden Rule after a rain.

The man wore a blue and white striped engineers cap over his head of short white hair. His face was light with a short groomed beard and mustache with crystal blue eyes that twinkled when he spoke. He wore an insulated blue work coat in the style of a1970s coal miner. He wore dark blue work pants rather than blue jeans. The blue of his eyes, hat, and coat contrasted with his healthy pink skin so much it appeared he had just showered and still had the rosy glow of the heat.

I walked to the locked door and smiled at him through the glass. I opened the door slightly to speak to the petite man. I asked if I could help him and he replied that he had worked in the building years ago and had seen the lights on. That he saw my car parked outside as he drove by and wanted to see what was happening with the old place.

His accent was pure West Virginia, charming and educated. I felt the urge to let him in from the cold gray outside and felt no fear bringing the stranger into the building. We stopped at the front of the first floor and he began to ask questions about who owned the building and who worked for the company and what were the future plans for the Golden Rule.

He was so filled with love for the place that he excitedly asked if I knew the Shinn family. He also asked if I had known him or his brother back in the 1970s when he worked at the store. I explained that I was not in West Virginia then and shared who I worked for. He preceded to share that everyone called him Hatchet and he had a brother named Don who worked there off and on too. He explained he helped Don moved the furniture and did deliveries for Mrs. Shinn, who owned the Golden Rule for close to 50 years.  He had run the historic water-powered elevator and trapped bats on the third-floor rafters over the years. I asked if he had been in the building recently and he said, “no not for years and years. I spend most of my time fixing up old cars now.”

We visited for an extended time on the first floor then I offered to show him around.  He was a fit older man, so we talked about what was on each floor when he worked for Wanda Shinn. He shared stories about selling mattresses and box springs and having to wait on the elevator to raise and lower. “It was so slow that you would pile everything you sold on one trip to save time,” Hatchet said.

G.R. historic photo

We talked about his life as we looked out the windows on the third floor. He said,” I have always loved the view of the rail yard back here.” We stood side by side looking at the aging trains and cars parked behind the Golden Rule. He talked about his last days at the Golden Rule before going to work for the Mines. How being a coal miner had been the best thing he could have done for the pay and retirement. He had made enough money to buy a house and a couple acres of land when he was in his 50’s and had put plenty away for retirement so he could keep rebuilding old cars. We talked about how Belington had changed and how he used to drag race through town on Saturday nights and go to the movies in Philippi. He shared about how everyone for miles around shopped at the Golden Rule. He listed some of the things he bought for his mining job. Finally, he asked me if they were going to save the old elevator or if it was going to scrap. I was excited to tell him that the old water-powered elevator was staying and that we would be looking for someone to work on it soon. I asked if he wanted to see the elevator and if he had any idea how it worked. He was happy to take a look at the old mud covered basement and tell me a little bit about how it worked. He remembered swabbing the piston and waiting on the elevator to slowly carry its cargo up the shaft.

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Empty elevator shaft on the 2nd floor of the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia.

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water Powered elevator pullies in the basement of the Golden Rule, Belington West Virginia.  

 

Finally, after about an hour of visiting and laughter, he said he should go. That he needed to get back to the house it was getting late and dinner would be ready soon. I realized that it was about 5:00 and I would need to leave for home too.  He walked to the door and said: “Thank you so much for showing this to me, it looks like she is in good hands.” He stepped down the stairs to the ground and I waved out the door and said: “Hatchet is was a pleasure to meet you, I hope you come back to visit soon”. Locking the glass door behind him I watched out the door for a classic blue car he had told me about. Soon a blue 1970’s Chevy drove by the building towards the town of Elkins. I couldn’t help smiling the rest of the night thinking of my visitor.

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Old umbrella on the third floor of the Golden Rule building Belington West Virginia.

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Furniture Polish bottles found in the basement of the Golden Rule Building, Belington WV.

A couple weeks later my boss and I found another person who had worked in the building operating the elevator for several years. We invited Charlie to lunch at a local cafe and planned to talk about the mechanics of the elevator and how it worked and if it could be made to operate on just the basement and first floor. Charlie was happy to meet and talk about how the elevator worked. As we eat and visited I casually told Charley and my boss that I had met another man who worked at the Golden Rule. I said I had met Hatchet and that we had talked for about an hour about the building and elevator. Charlie started shaking his head violently “no” and making a throat noise as he tried to swallow his bite of potatoes. Clearing his mouth he blurted out,”You did not meet Hatchet! He’s been dead 25 years! There is no way that is who you met.”

Being  surprised by his tone of voice  I replied with, “if it was not Hatchet then maybe it was his brother Don.”

Charlie’s face grew grave and serious leaning into the cafe table and said, “it wasn’t Don either, he has been dead 30 years or more”.

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Glass shoe sales sign found at the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia. 

At this my poor boss about choked on his sip of coffee. Charlie continued to ask me questions about how I had heard of Hatchet and Don. I told him that I learned their names from the man who visited me at the Golden Rule. A short white-haired man who wore a railroad cap.

“That’s impossible!” Charlie said, “You must have met someone else!”

I gave a description of the white-haired man that I met and told about him leaving the Golden Rule for the Coal Mines. I shared his love of the old cars that he often worked on.

My boss and Charley looked at me as if the world had ended. Confused and in disbelief of my description they looked at one another. Finally said, “I have no idea how I would know this information any other way than from the source.”

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Cleaned off shelves at the Golden Rule before floors were cleaned 2019 Belington WV

 

I  joked that I gave a ghost a tour at the Golden Rule and both men laughed at the silliness of the statement. They blew off the strange story I had told them over our lunch. They were both ready to think that I  had somehow gotten the information from some other old man around town and that I couldn’t have met Hatchet. Neither one wanted a haunted job site and no one wanted to share gossip of a stranger at the Golden Rule for fear of scaring off contractors and laborers.

My experience with the Ghost of the Golden Rule was not one that anyone would call scary. Hatchet is happy to see his workplace coming back to life and seemed content to look the place over with me. He made me aware of several things about the building and the town of Belington that I did not know. So If you had asked me if I had seen a ghost at the Golden Rule before that lunch date my answer was “No!”  In my mind, Hatchet is as real as anyone else. But after that lunch date with Charlie, I still find myself wondering who I met that afternoon and if he meant it when he said he would come back to visit me when the building was finished? I just hope he is as happy to see me as I will be to see him!

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Categories: About me, Barbour County, Benefit auction, ghost stories, ghosts, Golden Rule, Haunted House, historic locations, history, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Visting with Ghosts (1650 miles from WV to CO and back)

My trip home to attend my mother’s internment in my home town of Boulder Co. was like no other trip I have ever made. Returning to the mountains in Colorado, I not only said goodbye to someone I loved, but I spent much of my time revisiting childhood friends and reliving memories. I am not sure if everyone goes through similar feelings of joy and comfort when they experience a lifetime of memories and nostalgia but this trip was about visiting with the ghosts of my past and those of Colorado’s wild west history.

I am lucky to have found a man who also enjoys the history of the west, folk tails, museums, old houses, cemeteries and old friends. This trip was planned to incorporate visits to “Doc” Holiday’s, Kid Cassidy’s, Buffalo Bill’s, My Ex-inlaws and my mother and father’s graves and cemeteries. We road historic railways, we became silver miners for a day, we hiked to cemeteries, we toured historic homes, eat spicy Mexican food and laughed at stories of our youth. Several times I felt that we were in a movie about growing up in the 1980s when the only music on the radio was from my generation and faces from high school filled a table at a local pub.

Tom and I Colorado River

Tom and I resting on the shore of the Colorado River, Glenwood Springs, Co.

Somewhere between the kind words said about my mother at a toast in her honor, I floated away to a quiet place of sweetness and memories. A happy place where she was healthy, young and had a huge smile on her face. I like that image of her best, smiling and hugging me. Her ghost was there at the table with us, she was finally part of the parties that I was always going to in high school. She was the honored guest this time and took time to lean over each guest to let them know that they were always welcome to visit her as she played hostess like she always did in our home. Her ghost was happy and free and that night and so was I. The evening turned into a beautiful blending of the past and the present I will never forget how much love I felt in that pub that night! Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and those who sent well wishes during this challenging time.

Friends at Mikeoshea's

Some of my high school family. We are missing a few faces in the photo but I have never felt better about who I have called my friends over the years.

Memories and ghosts were tangible at the cemetery the next day. I looked for and found the family plots of my first husband, my aunt, uncle, and other extended family members all buried within yards of my parents.  It was nice to settle a debt that I had owed to them for the years that they all supported me through youth. It was wonderful to say thank you and place flowers and stones on their graves. Even the memories of my first marriage had less sting and more forgiveness for things that were never in my control. I said a prayer of peace to the crowd of ghosts that sounded me and the funeral of my mother. I knew I was surrounded by the love of my family and friends.

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The Lowrey clan gathered together after my Mother’s internment.

During the service, my family joined together to say some wonderful things about my mom. We all shared memories of things we remembered about her. We placed things in her cremation box that meant something to us and sent her remains into the ground covered in her favorite flower, the yellow rose. It was not hard to let her go, it was the very best send off a woman who was trapped in a broken body tortured by Alzheimer’s could get. The relief we all felt about her transfiguration spilled into joy, laughter, and sweet storytelling.  It was the perfect afternoon with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. We chatted as her spirit looked over our shoulders at photo albums and scrapbooks, she held her great-grandson on her lap and enjoyed his laughter. I even think I heard her laugh out loud at one of my brother’s corny jokes.  I hated to see her fade away as we walked to our truck after the gathering. With armloads of memories stuffed in overfull boxes, I stopped to say goodbye to my family. Fully knowing that the matriarch of my family, the roots, that kept us together, was gone and we could possibly scatter like leaves in the wind. I felt something shift and knew that I wanted to be sure that did not happen. She had worked too hard to watch the family get distant.

The following day we traveled to Georgetown Co. in search of silver mines and train rides. The day was full of historical adventures, Christopher got to spend time on the Georgetown Loop train and take an extended tour in the Lebanon Silver Mine. The Georgetown Loop was completed in 1884 as a way for miners and their cargo to move up and down the 2 miles of steep incline between Georgetown and Silverplume Co. In the end, the train travels 3 miles of track to reach its final destination only 2 miles away, with a short trip around the loop over the canyon and Clear Creek river. In between the two depots, there are two historic silver mines that visitors can tour to learn more about the lives of miners at the turn of the century. So this was a welcome cool spot on a 99-degree day in Denver.

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Georgetown Loop Train

High bridge of Georgetown loop

The high bridge over clear creek river Georgetown Co

We even learned about Tommyknockers and Dragon’s Blood, which were often found in mines.  Tommyknockers may very well be the spirits of dead miners looking out for living miners with their tricks. Christopher believes he heard one on our tour… poping and cracking the roof of the silver mine. We also found what miners called Dragons Blood. Where silver ore tarnishes and leaches through the walls. It is said that if you fallow the Dragon’s Blood it would lead you to his guarded treasure. In fact, the myth is somewhat true because often where there was silver tarnish leaking through the walls you would find a silver seam in the mine. It also meant that you might pay with your life if you tried to take the Dragon’s Treasure.

We also learned the average life expectancy of a silver miner in Colorado in the late 1890s was 36 years old….Let that one sink in for a minute…. My husband would have been dead almost 20 years by now. Leaving many woman widows before they even turned 40. What sad dark lives the Welsh immigrants lived to come to American and start a new life for their children.

That evening and the next two days we spent in Glenwood Springs, Co. hunting down the grave and museum of “Doc” Holliday my favorite dentist, gunman, and gambler. It was a nice hike to the Linwood Cemetery averaging about and 1 and 1/4 miles all uphill. ( I thought I was going to die, not enough oxygen at about 5,800 ft above sea level).  With beautiful views of the town of Glenwood Springs and the Colorado River. The cemetery is old for Colorado standards many of the graves are from the late 1800s and many are miners. TheDoc Holliday’s gravesite is covered with coins, cards, cigars, and roses, making a testament to his popularity even today.

The only disappointment was the paid entry to what is called the Doc Holliday museum. With only one item that might have belonged to him (a derringer pistol), it was not worth the $5 dollars to see in my opinion. The rest of the room in filled with other information and items from the same time period. So we did read new articles written about him and see other guns from the time period but sadly nothing that really struck me as impressive.

While in town we did stop at a local history museum in a 1905 downtown home. We enjoyed looking at the antiques from the turn of the century and learning about local history. The Frontier History Museum of Glenwood Springs has a wonderful collection of items including one of President Teddy Roosevelt’s saddles that he used bear hunting in Colorado.

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Christopher and Tom look at the gravesite of William F Cody AKA Buffalo Bill. 

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Close up of grave of Buffalo Bill Cody

 

Then we headed to Golden Co. to visit with longtime friends and to see the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody and his museum. The collection of items here is huge and very complete for the same $5 dollars you get ten times the exhibits and information then at the Doc Holliday Museum. You also can walk to a Jefferson County Nature Center and visit the Boettcher Mansion. A 1917  Craftsman/ Tudor style home that is often open to the public and free. Where they rent the building for weddings and other large events.

The gravesite of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is on the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Co. It allows you a wide panorama view of not only Golden and Denver, but East into the grasslands of Colorado, and West to the peaks of Breckenridge and others ( my camera freaked out and I lost all the shots I took from the observation area of Lookout Mountain). The grave is part of a large poured cement patio with a grave covered in raw white quartz. Very traditional in the area to decorate an ugly cement topped graves with local stone and a granite headstone. My grandmothers’ cemetery has a couple graves marked this way. Buffalo Bill’s grave is usually covered in coins, most often a buffalo nickel. We added nickels without buffalos and a penny to the collection saying a prayer for Buffalo Bill and the cities of Boulder and Denver and those that surround the mountain for peace and prosperity.

By the end of our trip up Lookout Mountain, it was time to meet up with a friend for lunch. The amount of traffic and regional construction change made me wonder if I had ever lived in Golden at all. I was lost and thought we would never find our restaurant. Finally finding the El Amigo restaurant, I fell back into a time and place of wondering through memories and felt at ease. Laughter came easy and the warmth of my friend made me relax. I had worried that somehow I would be judged after all these years. I was in some way still being the scared high school girl that I had left behind 3 decades ago. The discovery was that I was not being judged at all but again supported in my dreams and passions was the most comforting thing I have ever experienced.

Nick and I

Nick Plumber and I out to lunch and sharing stories. 

I put to rest, so many worries, fears, and uncertainties, on this trip that I know that I will never be the same. I am better for knowing each and everyone one of my high school friends. I am healthier because I have a wonderful family, who supported me on this adventure of healing. I am stronger for letting go of the people and things I don’t need anymore. I am freer because I have finally become the person I worked for all these years to become.

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Jolynn Powers in front of a huge sagebrush plant. Glenwood Springs Co. 

So when I am asked if It was hard and sad to go home for my mother’s funeral I have to honestly say “NO!, it was a wonderful time. It was the best gift she has ever given me and I am so happy she is free!” I just wait for the confused look on the face of people who do not understand that I like visiting with ghosts and smile broadly.

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Buffalo Bill, Change, Christopher, Death, Doc Holliday, Family, family memories, Healing, historic locations, Home, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boss Woman, not Boss Man

Basement of the Golden Rule before image

 JoLynn Powers on the first day of basement clean up and demo at the Golden Rule. 

Being self-employed and being the Boss Woman on the job at the Golden Rule over the last 6 months is one of the best things I have done for myself. So I just wanted to share an experience with all of you that I find interesting and makes we want to continue the work I do. As the Redevelopment Coordinator for the Golden Rule Building and several smaller community beautification projects around the Barbour County Area, I am always working on projects with multiple people. My job entails working with and supervising volunteers and contractors to get a project completed. I make sure they have the supplies they need and work with local and state officials to keep them updated on our projects. I plan events to promote our projects and do community outreach to get the volunteers involved.

I often manage the challenges that arise as we do construction, demolition, redevelopment and finally instillations. I love working with people and supervising a crew and love to get my hands dirty.

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Team of AmeriCorps working with me at The Golden Rule summer of 2019.                                   Left to right. Sarah, Kelsey, Me and William.

So the day when I had a crew working in the building doing demolition of 2500 square feet of hand made pine shelving I was surprised at my reaction of a just a few words said by a total stranger. As I was heading upstairs to work on tossing hundreds of boards into a dumpster I was approached by a man from the community on the first floor. He had let himself into the building and spoke to me unexpectedly. He said “Hey,…. where is the Boss Man?” I turned and asked him if I could help him with something and what did he need. Again he asked if he could talk to the”Boss Man.’ Being a nice person I never said, “Hey Asshole I’m the boss and that is why I am talking with you.” I just continued to ask questions and answer them for him. Finally, he said he was looking for work and wanted to know if we were hiring and who should he talk to. To this, I said, “No one is hiring laborers at this time, but if you are a contractor like I am, then the main office may be able to help you. They are looking for bids on HVAC, electrical, roofing and plumbing.” The look on his face was of total confusion. Frustrated he asked me who my boss was and where was he. I gave him the name of both of my supervisors and told him to call the office. Then it finally sank in, that I was the crew supervisor and not a man. I think that was almost too much for him.

volunteers help at the GR

These volunteers and AmeriCorps spent a day doing nothing but moving furniture and displays for me at the Golden Rule.

From the deepest part of my belly, I wanted to be an ass and say ” I am the Boss Woman on this job and how well do you work for women?” But in reality, letting him figure it out on his own and speaking to him in terms that would only be handled by the boss I had confused him to the point of frustration. Then when he realized that we had no need for laborers just licensed contractors he was disappointed and equally angry. I spent the rest of my day… irritated. Let’s just say being called the boss is one thing, but to be referred to as a man is never going to go down easy!

I have spent the last week after this situation thinking. I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world and I would not trade any of them for others. My Project Manager and Director understand my love for redevelopment and home improvement and are happy to have me and treat me with the same respect that any person deserves. I have a family who supports me in my passion to build, remodel, and redesign so I rarely ever have a conversation that is not met with equal understanding and passion. But I have to figure out a way to be tactful about explaining my roll at the Golden Rule when a man is confused about the work I do.

After using a grout bag I sweep up the lose grout before washing the tiles

My job for several days was doing grout on our family room floor. Grout bags are a wonderful product as long as you don’t mix too much water into the grout.

So this woman is her own boss and the boss of others and often the main contact for a redevelopment construction site. I have become the thing that I always wanted to be and doing work that I love. I have a team of people I work with who let me enjoy my work and are happy that I want to be involved in community development. So I will just have to get used to surprising people and learn how to say,” Boss Woman, Thank you!”

 

 

Categories: About me, Boss lady, Building rehabilitation, Community Art, community service, Golden Rule, Redevelopment projects, Uncategorized, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Murals in the Mountain State

I was just recently asked some interesting questions  about a mural I recently finished painting at the Barbour County Development Authority’s office in Philippi, West Virginia. This new mural was unveiled on January 23 of 2018 and a guest at the reception asked,”When did you start painting murals, and how long did this one take to paint.” I had to really stop and think about my response. My response was,” I have been making them for over 35 years in public and privet, and this one took about 125 hours to paint.”  I never really went looking to paint murals, painting murals can looking for me!

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General Store Mural Painted at the Barbour County Development Authority office 2018.

I painted my first mural at age 11 or 12 at my hometown elementary school Majestic Heights Elementary  in Boulder Co. I was asked by a teacher if I would come into our class room a few days before the school  year started  and help her decorate a large empty wall in the class room. She asked if I could paint her a lion and some text underneath. I had no idea what she wanted and the only skill I had at the time was to use her over head projector to enlarge a image and trace the image on the wall. I was given a sheet of clear acetate and told to find something in the library to use.  I eventually found a wonderful lion image and proceeded to make a large lion mural on the wall of our class room. I do remember her saying that the reason she asked for me to help her was because I could draw well and she thought It would be fun for me. It was a nice experience and my mom enjoyed seeing the mural during parent teacher conferences.

It seems funny now, when I look back, that I have painted murals for churches, schools, barns, down towns and now businesses offices on and off my whole life. I have never pursued painting these large images, but I seem to get asked more and more to do them.

closeup of tree of life quilt block

Some are very simple and only take a day or two to prepare and paint,while others are large detailed images like the one at the Barbour County Development Authority. This is one of the larger murals that I have painted measuring 12 feet wide by 8 feet tall or ruffly 96 square feet of paint. I painted off and on, over about 4 months. Some days drawing and painting 5 hours and then some weeks not painting at all. The the value of the mural came to about 1800.00 dollars that was donated to the BCDA from Woodlands Development Group to cover the expense of my time.

The mural concept had three full color drawings as different options for the layout and figures in the mural. In the end the we actually had real people who worked in the actual store as models for in the mural. The Director of the BCDA was able to find photos for me to reference when adding the little girl and the meat cutter to the image. Then we were lucky enough to have the little girl behind the sales counter (Anna)  come to the unveiling with her two brothers. Their father, the owner of the building and Smith Grocery , is represented in the mural as the meat cutter in the mural.

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Children of Robert Smith ( man in Mural) and owner of Smith’s Grocery in Philippi WV. Anna Smith is photographed with her likeness as a child in the mural. Jan 2019.   

 As I have matured as an artist I have slowly become less and less realistic with my painting and drawing. I have a degree in fine art and have skills to draw very realistic images but with age and failing eye sight I have begun to make images that are more representative of a feeling or style then realistic. The style of this mural has been described as Folk Art, because its very flat and has little depth. The colors I chose also add to the “Old Timey” feel of the piece . 
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Golden Rule Window replacement mural “Hope” 2018.

The “General Store”mural is only one of four planned art and mural projects for downtown Philippi. I will be working on teaching others in the community how to make panel murals this spring. This time we hope to create three panels with images of quilt blocks and the city seal to be displayed on a downtown building as part of a Philippi  “Gateway Project”. The project includes instillation of a large welcome to Philippi sign, a flower planter, the murals, lights and flowers.  This project is the first time I have worked with some many organisations who want to contribute to making a downtown look better. It is amazing what small communities can do if they join together.  The “Gateway Project” is scheduled to be unveiled in Aug 2019 with about 25 volunteers doing the work.

My hope is that one day I will look back at all the beauty I have helped to create, and feel that I made a difference. I hope my art has made their towns and communities more colorful, friendly and welcoming. That I have begun to help wash away the stereotypes that portray our communities as empty, dead or forgotten. I plan to keep adding more life, color and happiness to every place I work  and adding more positive images to the story of West Virginia.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: About me, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Creative Place Making, murals, West Virginia, West Virginia artists | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Saying Goodbye to 3 years of AmeriCorps Service.

Three years is a long time to volunteer to do anything. In 4 days I will finish my last term as an Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (AFHA) West Virginia,AmeriCorps. In those years I have learned the names of 120 other AmeriCorps serving the state of West Virginia. I have worked for 6 different supervisors at 4 different offices. I have painted 13 murals and finished 3 major projects,one involved removing 6,000 pounds of trash from a 1902 building and building one website for a nonprofit organization. In those years, I served over 5,175 hours,engaged and managed 250 different volunteers who also gave over 2000 hours of of their time to our community.I have traveled to 6 conferences on topics as varied as grant writing to creative place making and BAD buildings. Its been a whirl-wind of work, people and silliness but it is truly the most fun I have had my life. I am sad to say good bye but I am ready to fly towards a future of more service.

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 the Elkins community  during the Martin Luther King Day Celebrations 2017 

 

AmeriCorps has been eye opening in so many ways. Mostly about how much a small group of people can change the future. Those 120 different people worked on 120 different projects and worked on everything from preservation of historical locations to saving brook trout, planning city revitalization projects and helping tourists find a special event to make their trip more meaningful. Some work in the National Forest, some for small historical societies, others fought fires and some worked cleaning up after a 1000 year flood. AmeriCorps is as varied as the people who join, but we are all here with a servants heart.

frist day of Americrops working on Heritage Quilt Block Panels

Work on Heritage Quilt Squares for down town Elkins.

It is that commitment to making the world a better place that make AmeriCorps members different. Knowing that you made a difference towards saving a endangered species that’s home range is only with in the mountains of West Virginia is powerful for the future of our planet. To save and protect the site of a Civil war battlefield for future generations is to change the course of our countries future. To help to house the poor is to change the course of a life for future generations. All of this is what AmeriCorps do, it is how we make a difference.

wild food cooking at Old Hemlock Foundation

Teaching at the Old Hemlock Foundation 2018

I have been lucky to make new and wonderful friends through my years of service that I would have never had the opportunity to meet any other way. AmeriCorps travel from all over the country to serve. I have served  with people who came from as far away as Alaska and as close as just 50 miles away. We grow as people because of our diversity and different cultural backgrounds. We are every color and every age,we are gay, straight, religious and not, we are from rich families and from poor ones, but still feel the call to serve.

Pancake Breakfast volunteers 2017

Serving breakfast with the Easter Bunny 2018

These three years have helped me explore who I am, what I find important and what I want to do for the rest of my life. It is not often that you are expected to work so hard and think so deeply about the world and yourself all at once.  I have come away a stronger person,who has an even deeper commitment to making this world a better place. I would have never been able to be the leader, change maker, and advocate that I am today without  AmeriCorps. It has changed the whole path of my life and I will never be the same again.

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 “General Store” mural painted for the Barbour County Development Authority 2018 

 

I have been fortunate to have my AmeriCorps service to lead to new  career choice. I have chosen to become a business owner and continue my work in community development. I  will spend the next three years working on the Golden Rule project that you may have seen me write about before. I will be part of a team of workers who will spend those years working on the rehabilitation of the building and creating several businesses in the retail portion of the building. My duties are wide and various. I am working on the liquidation of all the buildings assets currently and will be managing the  sales of over 1,000 items, that will fund redevelopment of the retail space.  Then I will work on business development and creation of a Artist Market for local artist to sell their West Virginia make products. What a wild ride this has been and what a great future I see ahead. I am so thankful that I made the choice to serve the West Virginia Community.

Golden Rule Volunteer Flyer (3)

My home away for home the Golden Rule 2018

Thanks to the AFHA staff and supervisors for the the support and encouragement they offered these last three years. They believe “We Get Things Done” and keep us believing that we can make a difference everyday that we serve. Without them some days I would have pulled my hair out,  I would have given up trying to work with government officials and  lost patience working on grants that take years to see results from. My chosen field of Community Development is sometimes like a slow moving train. We have all the horse power we need to get from here to there but their are days when you just cant get the fire going fast enough for anyone to see any difference in the scenery.  So a shout out to Phyllis, Logan, Alison,Kyle,Sarah, Karen, Cheryl, Dave and Dustin. Thank you all for making these last three years so wonderful. It has made a difference in my life and my future.

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Donating Documents to the Belington Library from the Golden Rule  2019.

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Helping to support the local Parish House Donation Center. 

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, community service, Golden Rule, Life Changes, Old Hemlock Foundation, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

JoLynn Powers AmeriCorps, Returns 1920’s Christmas Cards to Local Resident.

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1902 Golden Rule Department store at beginning of redevelopment 2018.

When redevelopment on the Golden Rule Department and Furniture store began, no one knew what was hiding in the 1902 building. Woodlands Development Group bought the Belington, West Virginia building in spring of 2018.The plan for redevelopment included 10 apartments with a lower level retail space. Never knowing that the building was a time capsule of Wanda Shinn Mitchell’s life. With help from a local Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps, JoLynn Powers, the nonprofit is preserving the past and returning it to a local family.

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Wanda Shinn Mitchell former owner of the Golden Rule Building age 93, 2018.

When redevelopment began at the Golden Rule the three upper floors over flowed with remnants of the stores past. Empty boot boxes and signage from past decades filled the walls and shelves. “It was like walking into a time capsule. 1970’s shoe boxes filled shelves on the first floor and 1920’s office equipment covered a table on the second floor, nothing had really changed,” said JoLynn Powers AmeriCorps service member responsible for cleaning the building. While working to remove the debris from the building JoLynn Powers discovered that personal and work related items from the first owner’s family were still in the building.

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Table on Second Floor of the Golden Rule with antique office equipment.

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Boot boxes line shelves at the Golden Rule.

When Christmas post cards post marked 1922 address to Luther Shinn and his wife Ida, (builder of the Golden Rule building and father-in-law to Wanda) were discovered in a hole cut in the wall of the second floor storage room, everyone was excited by the find. However, Woodlands Development Director Dave Clark wanted to make sure the cards found their way back to the Shinn family.  With the help from the Barbour County Development Authority, The Belington Revitalization Committee and the Belington Library, JoLynn Powers was able to reach out to Wanda Shinn Mitchell and return them to her. At 94 years old, Wanda was excited to see Luther P. Shinn’s name on the cards dating back to 1920’s and 1930’s. The collection of cards included post cards to a sister-in-law, blank cards and several photos of people.

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Christmas Card sent to L.P. Shinn and his wife Ida, 1920’s.

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Christmas card found in wall of Golden Rule Building circa 1920’s.

When the appointment was made to return the cards JoLynn Powers invited Terri Kettle, of the Belington Revitalization Committee and Freedom Bank, to join her to help record the oral history of the visit. During the visit Terri Kettle asked Mrs. Mitchell if she knew how the cards and photos got inside the wall of the building. Wanda replied, “She had no idea.”  So the mystery of the hidden Christmas Cards continues.

Director of Woodlands Development Group, Dave Clark, is pleased to see the history of Belington preserved and shared with the community. As the buildings remaining assets are inventoried, there are plans for another open house with food, drinks, and a benefit silent auction planned for May of 2019. We hope to make the event a fundraiser for redevelopment costs for the retail space by selling tickets to attend. It is planned that the items not sold during the action will be sold  on-line later in May so that everyone has a chance to support the Golden Rules rehabilitation.

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JoLynn Powers AmeriCorps Volunteer in Elkins, WV.

JoLynn Powers continues to serve the Belington Community as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the next few months at the Golden Rule building. She leaves AmeriCorps with three years of community service to her home state of West Virginia. Future plans are to continue to work at the Golden Rule with Woodlands Development Group and to continue to work in the field of Community Development in the North Central Region of West Virginia.

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, antiques, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Chris, Golden Rule, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Meaningful and Tired 2018. Year end photo gallery.

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Abandoned building in Philippi, West Virginia, former ball room.

Meaningful and tired are the words for my thoughts, feeling and photos for 2018. Over the year I was able to take beautiful photos, spend time with people I enjoy, do work that I find meaningful and I am still surprised at that. Being tired was my overall experience this year.I have never worked so hard at something I love so much in my life.  Often I would work my 8 hours and walk 6 to 7 miles a day, up and down 3 flights of stairs. Then spend one day a week processing the items that I had carried down those same stairs. Some how,I  kept my clothes washed, got my son to school and I walked another mile or two with my dog every day. I pushed hard on the weekends too, with updates to my house and trips with friends and family. I think, I finally collapsed  into bed on the 21st of Dec. and just slept… I took a nap that afternoon that lasted 3 1/2 hours and then went to bed that night at 9:30 and slept 8 1/2 more.

So for fun I put together some of my more favorite photos from the year. 50 has been very eye-opening for me creatively. I have found “myself” as an artist and photographer and have finally found a subject matter that excites me!!As you will see, I have fallen head over heals in love with antiques and windows. I never realized how much I love the glow of light through a window and how that light fascinates me. Someone once said that we are always taking the same photograph over and over subconsciously until we discover what we love. Then we can focus on that subject and make a world out of it. Well the world opened up for me in 2018.

So I hope you enjoy my photos from the last year and I hope to do better next year with reaching my goals.

My first few days at the new AmeriCorps location at the Barbour County Development Authority. It was at this court house that I  realized my future was working with the history of this community and it’s treasures.

The following week was an over view of the project that I am still working on today. The Golden Rule building was purchased in April of 2018 and I was brought on board to help clean up the mess and help preserve and liquidate all the assets in the building. Needless to say I am still working on cleaning up the mess but some of the photos I have taken inside the building are priceless.

 

In June my office was invited to a luncheon at the Adaland Mansion ( circa 1841) where we explored and toured the grounds of the historic home in Barbour County. The food was traditional to the late 1800 to 1900’s and everyone dressed in time period costumes. It was a great break from the dirt and dust of the Golden Rule.

adding mechines and typewriter at the Golden Rule

Adding Machines, type writers and cash registers stored one at hardwood table

basement full of bottles and plates

Basement full of bottles and plates

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Broken Boy with Grape basket lamp by window.

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Spoiled canned  fish from the 70’s?

As the Summer wore on I found items that were strange, beautiful and unusual in the Golden Rule. My work was labor intensive, being the main person moving 7,000 pounds of garbage into bags and boxes day after day wore me out. But, the pay off was seeing, photographing and sometimes saving pieces of the past that would other wise be lost if the building had belonged to someone other than Woodlands Development Group.

Finally in July we took a few days off to rest and spend time with the family. We fished, hiked and spent afternoons swimming in the river just enjoying a holiday weekend.

the Powers Men fishing off of Laural Fork river near Rich mountain

As summer came to a close it was announced that my home office would be moving and we were able to tour the new location for Woodlands Development Group in Elkins WV.

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Wild Mountain Laurel Elkins WV

In Oct. we watched the West Virginia episode of “State Plate” with Taylor Hicks. I wondered how Tom and I  ever survived cooking and eating on national TV. We both enjoyed seeing what they made out of day together.

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Jolynn Powers and Taylor Hicks cooking in the kitchen.

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Baked Apple Dumplings fresh out of the oven.

Then the Open House at the Golden Rule was an overwhelming success. We had over 100 visitors and gave tours to over 65 people in 4 hours. We raised over 300 dollars to help the preservation and rehabilitation of the building and I must have made 14 trips up and down those stairs again. I was really tired when it was over but it was worth all the work to put it together to see people enjoying my work!

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Golden Rule Building 1902, Belington,West Virginia with window murals

Golden Rule sign

Vacation time came and I celebrated my 50th birthday in the best way. I went back in time and relived the joy and happiness of my youth at Hershey Park, PA. Riding roller-coasters and eating Hershey’s chocolate was so much fun and I got to see several old friends that I love dearly. Could not have planned something better if I tried.

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Alex Smits, Christopher Powers and Tom Powers having fun at my birthday trip to Hershey Park, PA.

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Hershey Tower drop

Halloween is my favorite time of the year and this year I explored two ideas for my haunted house costume. The first was the idea of making myself into some kind of moth-man or fly-man and the other was the evil crow. In the end the mask and wings of a bird won out and I  spent a great night at Christopher’s after-school program volunteering to scaring the heck out of young and old a like. I then went with the kids Trick or Treating as the scary crow and had a ball… the best few weeks of my year!

Halloween costume idea

Halloween Costume #1 for 2018

halloween costume 2018

The Holidays were a blur, I remember that we had a nice couple of holiday dinners and I got to spend lots of time with my family and friends. I got to see Christopher sing at his choir concert and watched three movies at the theater in 9 days…. so much fun!

Christopher in santa hat

Christopher Powers in Santa hat age 10

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Govenor’s Inn Main Street Buckhannon, WV

So it was a busy year and I learned tons about myself and what I want to do as an artist in the future. I think my photos are getting better and I realized that I do much better with natural light and I am not great at photographing people. I hope to work on that this year. So the goal is set to take at least 6 natural light portraits this year. We will see if I can reach that goal while painting another couple of murals.

Hope your holiday was a good one and I hope you have a productive 2019. Maybe it will slow down just a bit for me in 2019. I can only hope to do more traveling and spending more time with friends and family and continue to grow as an artist. BCDA MURAL 2018

Categories: About me, antiques, Art, Christmas, Golden Rule, New Years Eve, photo review, Photos, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Fresh New Start for 2018

I am starting off my Holiday Season with at fresh new blog address and a updated About Page. It all seem fitting as I just recently turned 50 and the New Year is just around the corner. So I am giving the blog a fresh new start. 

In the five years that I have been sharing stories with the world I have learned so many new things about writing, blogging and myself. So you may see that some of the topics that I write about are little different from 5 years ago but the themes are the same. I love my home in the mountains of West Virginia and I love the outdoors more today then ever before, so that is not changing. But I want to feature interesting people from West Virginia in my blog more often. This kind of thing takes much more time and work to produce. I am willing to put in the work if you are willing to read a story every few months about maybe a local musician, artist, child, or just a old farmer. I have wanted for years to start taking portraits of the unique and beautiful people that I meet and I think this is a way I can explore both sides of what interests me about blogging. I also think that after the resent Presidential Election and  Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations  portrayal of West Virginia’s people, I need to balance what is put out into the world about who we are, not everyone hunts, not everyone works in a coal mine and not everyone is living in a cabin in the woods. I want to talk to the artist that moved here because they could create in peace, I want to talk to a farmer who cares for a herd of animals in the snow at 7 below zero and I want to talk to a African American Southern Baptist Minister who feeds the hungry, and I want to share photos of people who make my home a better place. Just like these two guys who are making my holiday so much brighter. 

Christopher Powers visits Father Christmas at the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly West Virginia 2018. 

I hope this first post at the new site finds all of you well and preparing to enjoy a wonderful holiday season. I am excited for the New Year and what will inspire me in the next 12 months and I hope to hear about what you enjoy about the blog and what inspires you. Welcome to the official site of West Virginia Mountain Mama. 

Categories: About me, Beverly West Virginia, blogging, Changes to blog, Christmas | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

laughing at the Mystery hole

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

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

Categories: About me, ageing, Birthday, Change, family fun, family memories, Friendship, Love, Taylor Hicks, West Virginia | 3 Comments

Appalachian Food, Trend or Tradition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BHC cooking display board

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

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

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

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

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

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