Adaland Mansion

Heritage Apple Orchard Dreams

One of the projects that has been taking up some of my extra time these days is a dream project involving creating a Heritage Apple Orchard at the 1870’s Adaland Mansion in Barbour County, West Virginia. I actually started work on this project last spring during the Covid shut down. Volunteers came together to apply for a grant to bring apples back to the historic property. The application was awarded to Adaland from “Try This West Virginia”, a health improvement coalition in West Virginia that are tackling health issues in the state. The hope is that not only can we restore a historical part of the story of the mansion, but bring food education to the community. We hope to teaching families about how to grow fruit trees, how to care for them and how to preserve the food that they grow, so we can help make West Virginia a healthier place.

The orchard has sparked new partnerships in our small community. Everyone wants to be involved in our little project from our local hospital, to West Virginia University Extension, to even our local Heart and Hand food pantry. We have discovered that there are only 3 locations in our state where these old examples of apples are being grown on this scale. Although we are starting with only 20 trees on our 20 acre property we are 1 of 3 Heritage Orchards that will be open to the public. Not only will this orchard be used not only by Adaland but the University of West Virginia Extension Service as an outdoor class room.

Adaland Mansion historically had an apple orchard and was known to have produced cider and apple brandy or as locals call it, Apple Jack. So the thought of bringing cider and other apple products back to the property was over whelming supported by the Adaland Mansion Board of Directors. Not only does the orchard allow us to talk about foods and farming at the turn of the 20th century but give us a chance to cook, preserve, and share the apples with the public. Eventually if this experiment is successful we would like to add 20 more trees to the project. We hope to produce enough apples for the mansion to create small batches of apple cider annually and apple sauce that we hope to sell here on the farm.

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We have chose to use a small family owned nursery high in the mountains of Pocahontas County named Allendale Nursery to purchase our trees. In our selection we have the Grimes Golden Apple a West Virginia native tree that is one of the only self pollinating trees in our collection and is our featured tree through the whole project. Others that we are working with include, Summer Rambo, Wine Sap, Wolf River, Northern Spy, Cortland and Yellow Transparent for apple sauce. It is hoped within the next 5 years we see some fruit production but some of these trees will not produce fruit for about 10 years.

With advice from our local WVU Extension Agency were able to make a plan for our orchard. Things that needed to be considered in our plan were location and soil type. Apples don’t like the top of a hill or the bottom of a hill due to winter wind freeze damage or the water at the bottom hills in drainage areas. So we found a location that fit those guide lines and had our soil tested free by WVU Extension Services and added 75 pounds of fertilizer to our 125 foot by 30 foot orchard. Then started the long process of putting in the fence and digging the wholes for the twenty trees. We did dig extra wholes for additional Golden Delicious trees and crab apple if we needed them for pollination.

After receiving the trees we sorted them by size and type. Then soaked them for a couple hours before planting. This energizes the roots and encourages them to grow. Then in the dug holes we added compost and placed the trees on top of the small mound of compost spreading the roots over the mound. Then covered the roots with dirt up to the graft line. All of the the trees we purchased are semi- dwarf trees that had been grafted to short root stock. This will keep the trees about 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide. After planting, each tree got a water bucket, a cage, a stake. The stakes keep the cage from moving and a place to tie of the tree if needed to encourage straight growth. We also gave away 16 trees to families in the local community. Some volunteered to help with the planting, others were families in need who wanted the trees to try to help feed their growing families.

The future is to trim the trees and watch for any sign of pests or diseases. So far we have already seen aphids and will most likely need to treat for them this month. We will use a mix of soap and water to spray down the young trees. We are hoping to learn about the most non-toxic ways to help keep the trees healthy. In some cases that will be spraying the trees in others it will be using things like bars of soap tied to the cages to repel deer from eating the young new shoots in the spring.

We hope to use the orchard as a outdoor class room with a pruning class and grafting class. These activities will be free and open to the public and many more ideas are coming to light on what is next for the trees and the Adaland Mansion Heritage Orchard project. I am most looking forward to our out door cooking class this fall. Where we will be cooking apples over a open fire and making apple sauce as take aways for those who attend.

Virginia Shemick checks all the trees in the orchard after planting.

It has been a wonderful experience bringing back the history of apples to the Adaland Mansion. It is exciting to see the results of all the volunteer hours spent making the orchard happen. If all goes well in the future Adaland will once again be producing cider and making apple butter for visitors and children come to the house for an event or tour. We hope that our project helps the community understand how easy it is to grow their own food, and how wonderful cooking and eating apples can be. As we move forward the orchard will be another educational feature to Adaland and will help the local community with a source of apples. I cant wait to share what happens next with the orchard project as we get ready to apply for another Try This WV Grant this spring, wish us luck!

Categories: Adaland Mansion, AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Apples, Barbour County, Heritage Apple Orchard, Orchard, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Beautiful Holiday Trees of Adaland Mansion

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 two white hallway trees outside my office.

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.

Judge Ira Robinson’s Office with hand made doll house and the blue tree.

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 larger white tree stands at the end of the hallway on the second floor
My personal favorite this year is the pink tree in the Brides Bedroom on the second floor.

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.

The Dining Room tree is a traditional Red and Green.
The Dining Room Mantel is decorated with ribbons and lights.

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.

Windows near the back veranda of Adaland Mansion at Christmas.
Small Reading room Parlor on the first floor.

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.

Categories: Adaland Mansion, Barbour County, Christmas, Christmas tree decor, family fun, family memories, Historic Home, Holidays, Philippi, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dreams Really do Come True

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.

Rear entry to Adaland Mansion
Front view from road at Adaland Mansion
Buffet table in dining room of Adaland

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.

Golden Rule during redevelopment summer of 2018. Murals by my AmeriCorps volunteers.
Current apartment construction fall 2020
image of workers pouring floor to the new elevator shaft in the Golden Rule building early spring 2020.

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.

Categories: About me, Adaland Mansion, Barbour County, career goals, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, West Virginia History, work | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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