Appalachian Mountains

Hex Signs and Barn Quilt Making Guide

The history of the Barn Quilt or Barn Paintings in Appalachia can be traced back over 220 hundred years. If we consider Hex Sign painting, Under Ground Rail Road Quilts  and Barn Quilts all as part of the larger history of using large symbolistic language in folk art.

So if this is true then I have unknowingly blessed communities with my Barn Quilt Murals for years. Meaning, that I am a modern folk artist who uses my  Barn Quilt or Quilt Block murals to educated, bless, and protect families, animals and whole cities.

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Traditional star Hex Sign for good luck on  Lancaster Pa. barn.

Last year I was lucky enough to attend a lecture in Elkins, W.V. about Applachin Folklore in West Virginia. The author of the book “Signs, Cures &Witchery” Gerald C. Milnes included in his book information about the creation of Hex Signs and Barn Paintings as part of the spiritual folk language of the Germanic settlers of our mountain region. It was suggested that Barn Paintings were used as symbols that were thought to bless or protect the barn or farm from witches. Witches were not the mythic creatures of our modern-day imagination but working spiritual powers that could devastate a farm or the community. Witch curses were thought to cause wide ranging problems from fires to cows that would not produce milk. So in this way,  Hex Signs, Barn Quilts, or just large barn paintings were used to ward off evil and protect a family’s source of income.

Milnes states in his book,”Some of the first recorded Hex Signs motifs in West Virginia were the double eagle, star, moon, lilies, compass, hearts, and the tree of life”. With women working with their hands inside the home many of the patterns also were incorporated into utilitarian objects they used every day. Pottery, quilts, wall hangings were also covered with these images of blessings and protection. It is not surprising to think that if you wanted to protect and bless your children a mother would create quilts with these motifs.

As I researched more about the link between the motifs sewn into Southern and Appalachian quilts, the more I understood about the Quaker, Dunkard and the Pennsylvania Dutch communities in and North of West Virginia. With large bodies of evidence, It is amazing to see that the symbolic motifs of ( Hex Signs and folk art) quilts were again used as a device for communication and blessings during the  Civil War ( 1861 -1865). If a West Virginia family was sympathetic with the Union and freedom from slavery they could use quilts hung on porches, fences, and clotheslines as ways to lead escaping slaves across borders to freedom. Many Quaker and Dunkard families made Under Ground Rail Road Quilts helping direct slaves to homes or locations that were safe for them during their escape to the North.  Often the individual blocks on the quilt would tell a story. Often a star pattern would let an escaping slave know to keep traveling North, a boat or train track next on the quilt would be read to mean that a water crossing or train crossing was coming up next on the route. A house or cabin image could mean a safe place to stop. The number of symbolic patterns was used widely and I have included some that we still see today.

Quilt Code

The use of Barn Hex signs then fell out of favor in my region. The formalizing of the local Christian Church system slowly changed worship in the rural mountains. As more people depended on the formal church for their spiritual beliefs and blessings. You see less and less folk art in homes and barns. Although the quilt remained a warm and practical way to decorate and reuse materials. The patterns that were used were often the same or like those from the first homesteaders. These important images passed from generation to generation.

From those pattens came some of the first Barn Quilt Murals. The family that sparked the reintrodution of painting quilt blocks on barns is from Ohio.

“The first official quilt trail was begun in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio. Donna Sue Groves wanted to honor her mother, Maxine, a noted quilter, with a painted quilt square on the family’s barn in Manchester, Ohio”. found on Wikipedia 

From their first Barn Quilt trail, regional trails have sprung up all over the eastern United States. Some are based on traditional patterns and others have included more contemporary images and designs.

I am now in the process of painting my 17th Quilt Block Mural. The reason I do not call them Barn Quilts is they are rarely located on a barn. My Quilt Block Murals hang in more urban areas, not farms. Most have come from the traditional images on Appalanchin quilts often the same as the Underground Rail Road Quilts. They are also often paid for as part of downtown revitalization and are seen as a reintroduction of our culture back into the modern cityscape in the towns of West Virginia.  In this way, my Quilt Block Murals are reintroducing the folk art  back into a culture that had generally forgotten about the traditions of Hex Signs, the Under Ground Rail Road Quilts and barn painting in general.

Barn Quilt and Quilt Block Murals in urban locations and the creation of the trails around them, have unknowingly brought back exactly the things that Hex Signs were once used for over 200 years ago. The tourist dollars that are spent traveling the trails, the community that has been built around them with families creating them, and the beauty of art back in the community are all blessings to the rural towns that have them. I like to think that my creations are a larger blessing to my community where they hang.

So I continue to paint them.  Today I am working on one for my very own home after years of painting them for others. It is a much more contemporary pattern then my normal murals. It is my way of blessing my family and my home. I hope that I can continue to be able to be a Hex Sign Painter/ Barn Quilt Muralist/ Quilt Block painter for many more years to come. As I paint the images I hope that they will continue bring beauty, hope, joy and blessings those who see them.

If you are interested I have attached a link to a helpful website that I used when I was first starting out making the Barn Quilt murals. I have also included a list of alternative supplies that I am now using and a tip on pattern making. So please enjoy making your own Barn Quilts or Quilt Block Murals.

This is an excellent site for the process of making and painting your own murals.

The Helderberg Quilt Barn Trail website

The only addition I would like to make to these instructions is you do not have to use wood for the Barn Quilts unless you want to. I have now begun to use a PVC siding product for my murals. The main reason being the weight of the sign grade MDO plywood. MDO plywood is dense particleboard made with glue and is very heavy at the 8’x 8′ size around 250 pounds, even the smaller 4’X4′ is around 125 lbs. This makes painting and moving the boards very difficult. So I tried and have found success with a thin 1/4 inch PVC siding product and a plastic bonding primer framed with PVC trim. PVC can be much more expensive if you are unable to find the MDO Plywood. In my case almost twice the cost, but it was so much nicer being able to move the murals by myself and so much easier to install. If you chose to use PVC you must use a bonding primer. It will adhere to the plastic and allow a good bond to the paint. The cost is the same as a regular primer.

Also when doing a design for your murals think about location as part of the planning. Size Matters! If you have a mural that hangs 15 feet from the ground don’t plan much detail in the mural. The details of small patterns  get lost and people driving by will have no idea what the image is supposed to be. In reverse it is possible to get great detail in smaller indoor patterns. My current project is in my home on a half door measuring only 28×28 inches. The pattern I have chosen is a complex over and under optical illusion of stripes. I looks good placed where it is viewed close up.

Here is the design guide image and the final image panted on the door to my art studio in Buckhannon, WV. As I paint the pattern changed a few things. As you can see I used the traditional colors of West Virginia with the Navy Blue and Gold with a little contrast with white and blue gray. It is a reflection of the complexity of our state and our people.

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Basic pattern for my home “over-under square” Pattern

 

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Finished Barn Quilt  or Quilt Block in our home. I call it “Over and Under Squares”  JoLynn Powers of Buckhannon WV.The photo doesn’t show the color navey blue very well but you get the idea. 

Just as informal project cost for making a small panel similar to this one.  The painting is 28X28the panel is 36×42.

1 half a sheet of 1/2 plywood                                                                        $16.00 dollars

2  1x2x8 foot boards for front and back trim  these were not furring strips but milled boards                                                                                                               $ 8.00 dollars

a box of wood screws  2 1/4 inches                                                               $ 8.00

1 gallon white interior latex paint used as primer and paint (2) Coats   $18.00 dollars

3 quarts interior latex paint, 1 navy, 1bright yellow 1 blue gray   3×23   $69.00

( I mixed the navy with white to get light blue)

1 roll frogg tape  2inch wide                                                                                $9.00

 

Total just for supplies if you did not have this on hand.  about 128.00 dollars plus paper and pens and time, lots of time~ So now you will have left over paint and maybe some scrap wood that could be used to make smaller ones for free!!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, Civil War, DIY projects, Folk Art, Hex Signs, home remodeling, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails, quilts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Remember The Hunger Games? Well, the Future Doesn’t Look Anything Like That!

 

Katrina Smith Johnson with face mask

Katrina Smith-Johnson at Walmart with Mask April 2020

So do you remember when The Hunger Games came out in theaters and everyone was impressed with its colorful images of the future? The bold hair colors and clothes that were on fire but didn’t burn you. The different districts that were so very strange and unique. Yea, well the future doesn’t look like that at all.

 

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Peeta and Katniss members of district 12 male and female volunteers and tributes for the Hunger Games. 

 

The future is people wearing homemade cotton face masks with little pink and purple flowers made from the material your mother made a dress from last summer or maybe a bedspread. The color of your hair is likely faded, graying and might be growing out. Your beards are not trimmed but full, wavey and unkempt from a month of growth with no wear to go. You certainly are not wearing a fancy hat with your mask. You need to be able to change or replace that mask without touching your hair or face.

Hand holding is forbidden. Katniss from the Huger Games would never think of slipping her hand into a man’s hand these days. It’s no secret we are not allowing touching or even hugs. We talk through clear plastic shields or glass windows at stores and nursing homes. We see nurses flip up their splash shields only when the room has been cleared. We wear gloves everywhere and toss them out every chance we get. Sometimes they even cover our raw skin from scrubbing and sanitizing too much.

 

Hunger games tributes

tributes and volunteers  for the Hunger Games

 

 

We have no volunteers to fight this battle, we find no tributes to call on. We only have the highly trained staff of doctors and nurses that are willing to fight. We have Fireman, Policeman, and EMTs who are choosing weapons, but they look nothing like a gun or bow.

Our list of the dead doesn’t show in the sky projected over the wilderness so everyone can keep track. Instead, we follow the accounts of the death toll in the large cities on the TV. We are glued to every report. In this futuristic drama, the woods are your safe haven and at times the only escape from the overcrowding and spreading germs of the huge cities.

It seems everyone has enough to eat. Although, I have found myself wondering if we would kill each other over toilet paper and paper towels. I know I would have been willing to stand in a line to get hand sanitizer and bleach.

But the biggest difference of all is we are at home. We are warm, with fresh running water, with wifi and TV. We are not shipping off to some foreign land to fight for our lives. The war will be won at home watching, praying, washing and scrubbing to save our lives.

This pandemic seems to be won by West Virginia, (681 cases at our peak of infection) and we are doing the winning by living the life we enjoy. We have always loved being at home, living in small towns, playing outdoors and working outside. It seems that being a mountaineer has its advantages in these trying times.

Who knew that a small mining state that struggles with money issues is the winner of the Corna-19 games. That men and women that hunt and fish are actually the best suited to take care of their state and people. For today my state is better off than Hollywood, New York City and many people know it.

Such strange times for me and my family…..as we continue to pray, wash and scrub our way into a new future.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, childhood memories, Country life, Covid-19, family health, fishing, health, Hunger Games, Hunting, rural life, sickness, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Gravedigger and Big Pharmaceuticals

 

I met a gravedigger today but didn’t get his name. We met along the side of the road where he had just finished toping a grave with January clods of mud. We talked about the newly departed, at 31 years of age this man was too young for the darkness of the grave. He informed me that the 1885 cemetery was full and bursting at the seams. “Drugs,” the Gravedigger said, “We can’t fill the seats in the church anymore but we fill the cemetery to overflowing.”

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Mt Olive Church Cemetery Philippi, WV

As I walked along the road past the tiny white church and cemetery, down the curving hill to town, I found more signs of the true plague of Appalachia. The results of a generation who knew nothing of the risks, destruction, and power that a Poppy flower could have.

Along the graveled berm of the road near a hospital, I found the waded remains of a blue latex glove and the unsealed foil wrapper of prescription medication. Suboxone printed clearly in bright blue letters on the label of the wrapper. I knew the name and its use; I had heard it many times on the local news. Even members of my own family have sat at the dining table discussing if this was the answer.

Conversations about heroin, death and opioid addiction are an everyday thing. The statistics flood the television and the internet. We are in a state of addiction and all the struggles that come with it. I take photos of the hospital, the glove and the wrapper and walk back to my car.

 

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Wrapper from the medication Suboxone.

The Gravedigger has finished his job and sits in the cab of his blue pickup as I walk up to his window. I tell him about the trash that I found and he nods his broad heavy head. “No needles this time?” He asks. “No…. not this time”, I say looking at the gravel-covered ground. I think about the needles I have found on the street. I never need to find more. I think about the young man I watched shoot up and about the families I know who have lost parents to the Gravediggers shovel. I finally look back up at the Gravedigger and say “Well, maybe this one will get clean.” The Gravedigger and I both know what I said is a lie. It is false hope about the future of this town.

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Mt Olive Church circ. 1885 Philippi, WV 2020.

He looks up at the little white church through the windshield of the truck and says to me, “It was the faith in God that got our ancestors here, it was faith the kept them in these hills and it is faith that will get them through this, there is no other hope.” I nod my head and say goodbye.

Driving down the hill away from the Church I pass the little hospital. A beautiful new and clean facility where every day they fight for our lives. Where every day they fight this plague with millions less than the Pharmaceutical companies that planted this rotting plague in our mountains.

By the end of the day, I hear on the news that the CEO of a large Pharmaceutical Company gets sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for bribery of doctors to prescribe a killer Opioid. 5 years… 5 years, is what the courts thought fit to sentence a man who has not only destroyed one life but also hundreds of thousands of lives. Where is the justice for the fatherless children I know?

He and men like him have drained every county in Appalachia of funds because each dose of Narcan is $150 dollars and each county has to pay for the medication to save hundreds of lives. He has drained my state of families who can raise their own children. We are now the #1 state in the country with grandparents raising their grandchildren. He has brought more crime to small towns as addicts steal to fuel their addiction. He and his company are draining the churches and filling the cemeteries of Appalachia with the young men and women who were supposed to be our leaders. Too many of them ended up meeting the Gravedigger I met today.

There are no easy answers and no easy solutions for the people who live in one of the highest Opioid addicted states. It is one of the problems that each of us who chooses to live here thinks about and wants to change. It is something that I worry about when I think about my 11-year-old and how will we handle his future. It is something my company talks about when they can’t hire a clean and sober employee. It is what the preachers in all the churches preach against and it is what is killing not only the young but the very state I live in. Today was just another day in Appalachia.

 

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A filtered photo of the Mt Olive Church in Philippi WV 2020.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cemetaries, drug addicition, family memories, grave digger, Mt Olive Church and Cemetry Barbour County WV, Opiod use, state wide struggle, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pick Your Own Blueberry Pie.

It has been an ongoing wish of mine to go to a pick your own blueberry farm and spend a lazy morning picking, eating and baking my personal favorite pie from the harvest. So when a friend was visiting from out of town for a few weeks the two things collided and I ended up with a fresh blueberry pie.

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Cindy and David Proudfoot at their farm in Barbour County, West Virginia.

I was lucky enough to meet David and Cindy Proudfoot and visit their farm and gardens in Barbour County just after the 4th of July. So one warm morning my friend Dominic, who was visiting from out of town, and I  spent about 2 hours picking berries and about an hour just visiting with the Proudfoots. We shared a rambling conversation about their century farm and how it was passed from one family member to another and is still in operation for over 100 years after David’s grandfather bought the land. This year the farm will receive an official state listing and a beautiful white sign to place at the entry to their driveway. The sign will state that this farm is a West Virginia Century Farm and is family owned and operated. The farm is used mostly as a vegetable andblueberry farm. They sell the blueberries as a “Pick Your Own Blueberries” operation, from 420 blueberry bushes they maintain. They also sell vegetables and flowers at the local farmer’s markets.

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Heritage Tom turkey that the Proudfoots use for breeding.

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David explains information about this huge flower.

Cindy and Dave have worked for 12 years to develop and cultivate several large vegetable gardens, flower gardens, two fields of blueberries and a couple of ponds. The gardens are full of native and heirloom plants and feed their honey bees. Their shared knowledge and understanding of plants and mushrooms is an immense and amazing experience to be a part of. They teach classes on the farm and enjoy sharing their knowledge with anyone who is interested. You can see what is happening on the farm at Proudfoot Mountain Farm- mountainfarmwv.blogspot.com or on Facebook at Proudfoot Mountain Farm. 

Dominic picking Blueberries

Dominic Piacentini picking blueberries at the Proudfoot farm in Barbour County, WV

closeup of blue berry

large ripe Blueberry ready to pick.

So after picking around 12 pounds of the ripest berries Dominic and I headed home to wash, sort and cook with our berries. I made a pie and froze about 4 pounds of berries to use over the winter. Dominic made a dump cake and eat the berries fresh with his roommates. It was a wonderful day spent with some of the most interesting people I know. I have included here two simple recipes to make a coffee cake and a deep dish blueberry pie and a reminder about freezing the berries on cookie sheets.

blueberry pie just out of the oven

Deep dish Blueberry pie.

Just quick reminder if you plan to use your berries for things like cakes, pies, muffins it is nice to be able to measure out how many cups of berries you are using. So after cleaning and sorting my berries, I let them stand in a colander for a couple hours to drain off any excess water. I then spray two cookie sheets with a cooking spray and fill each one up with berries, trying to keep any of them from touching. Then place the berries in the freezer at least overnight. Then bring them out and place both cookie sheets of berries in one large gallon zip lock bag and refreeze. Two cookie sheets equal about 1/2 of a gallon bag or 4 cups of berries. This way you can pour the berries out of the bag and they are not frozen in a huge clump.

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looking for stems on cleaned blueberries.

For a traditional Blueberry coffee cake, the National Blue Berry Council shared this recipe.

Blueberry Buckle

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup oil

1 1/2 cup cake flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg

10 oz of blueberries about a heaping cup full.

mix and pour into 9″ square pan and top with crumb topping;

crumbs:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup soft but not melted butter

bake at 350 deg for 45 minutes, serve warm.

 

Blueberry pie or the Recipeless Fruit Pie;

enough dough for two pie crusts and a deep dish pie pan

1/2 cup sugar if the berries are fresh and sweet more if they seem tart

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cornstarch… depending on the juiciness of the fruit. (  apples, peaches, pears need less )

5 cups of clean ripe fruit with stems removed.

two teaspoons salted butter to top fruit

heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a deep-dish pie pan with one crust. In large bowl mix dry ingredients together, add berries and mix well, pour berries into crust and top with small pads of butter and top crust. Seal edges and cut a whole to vent the steam off the pie. Bake 45 minutes until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden brown.

We serve the pie with vanilla ice cream while it is hot from the oven on a hot evening out on the patio.

As Dominic and I picked and talked that morning, it was wonderful to have time to visit. It reminded me why we both like to cook and how families used to spend their time together doing activities just like this. It brought me closer to nature, to friends and to my family. At the end of my long day, I  even got to eat the rewards of my labors, nothing in the world I love better! Thank you, Cindy and David Proudfoot for spending your time with us and sharing the bounty of your farm IT WAS WONDERFUL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, blueberries, friends, Pie, wild food, you pick farm | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Visit to “Old Stone House/ Travelers Rest”.

While on my way to a meeting for Appalachian Forest Heritage Area I was able to spend some time at Old Stone House/ Travelers Rest. The historic home of  Gen. Horatio Gates that was built along the stage coach line that ran from Winchester, VA. to what is now Parkersburg, WV. near the Ohio State line. The Old Stone House was built in two stages from 1810 to 1827 with the caretakers rooms built first with the traveler portion coming later.

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Driving to the Keyser,WV. area was a nice break from my often lonely dirty work at the Golden Rule. Spring had arrived in the mountains and the drive surrounded me with lush green trees, flowers in bloom and blue skies. Even these iris are happy to have the rain stop. GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Travelers Rest is now being rehabilitated after years of use. The house and 220 acres were owned by Gen. Horatio Gates was a plantation farm after his retirement from service as a British officer and a General in the American Revolution.

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3/4 view of Travelers Rest with a view of fire place chimney.

Over the course of time the house was not only a home and guest house but a restaurant and a community Flea Market. Today the house greets visitors to the county with grace and style as they pass from rolling green country hills into the towns and cities along route 50.For more information about the redevelopment and fundraising plans for Travelers Rest  head to their Facebook page at Old Stone House/ Travels Rest.

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Newly restored back porches that had been removed on Travelers Rest.

The interior of the caretakers quarters portion of the house have been restored and have a collection of time period items on display. Several come from the house and add to the warm feel of the rooms. The next project being finished is the living space on the travelers side of the large home and the large gathering space below, that is currently a fundraising Flea Market.

 

 

shopping at Travelers Rest flea Market

AmeriCorps volunteers visit the Travelers Rest Flea market on their way to Keyser WV

The house uses community volunteers and Mineral County Historical Society members to do repairs and keep the doors open for visitors. Maybe one day  the building will again house travelers who are heading along route 50.

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Carpentry volunteer ready to head to the upstairs to install insulation in the roof areas.

The drive to see the house is very rural. Often I was the only car on the highway making it a wonderful relaxing drive. Along the way up on the mountains tops are some of the famous West Virginia wind farms. Wikipedia states that their are 376 wind turbines in operation in the state. I think this ridge was lined with around 30 that were all facing a on coming storm in Tucker County.

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Wind Mills along corridor H Tucker County.

I’m glad I took time to stop and enjoy a short visit to this old house. I have am always impressed and surprised every time I get to see a 200 year old house still standing. Gen. Gates would be proud to know that his farm and home are still in use and are still welcoming visitors along the long road from Winchester.

horatio Gates

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Mineral County Wind Turbines.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Building rehabilitation, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Mineral County West Virginia, Travelers Rest/Old Stone House, Uncategorized, West Virginia History, Wind Turbine | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sweet Taste of West Virginia Maple Syrup

When the town of Pickens, West Virginia throws a party it seems like the whole county shows up to eat, shop and be merry. The annual Pickens Maple Syrup Festival held every March turns the tiny town of 66 full-time residents into a town that swells to over two thousand visitors over the weekend. The much loved event is part of state-wide Maple Syrup Festival  themed events that celebrate our much loved native sugar maple trees.

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Pickens is a historic railroad spur town that boomed in the late 1800 and early 1900’s. Logging, lumber mills and the railroad brought money and jobs to the mountains of Randolph County, but when the railroad left so did the jobs and the town slowly shut down. With only a few business left in downtown, the town struggled to survive but the community feeling stayed strong.So they created a new reason for people like me to drive an hour into some of the most remote communities in mountains.

main street of Pickens West Virginia morning

Morning of the Maple Syrup Festival 2019 before the crowds arrive for lunch.

The festival began 35 years ago encouraged by a local Maple Sugar Camp owner Mr Richter and the tradition just keeps growing and families just keep coming. The Richter maple sugar camp is only few minutes from Pickens and is part of the joy of a day spent at the festival taking time to learn about the process of taping the trees and boiling down the sap to make the sweet syrup we all love.

During the festival their are lots of family friendly events that take place from live music to wood chopping demos, to ax tossing and lots and lots of eating. Their is the traditional maple syrup pancake breakfast, their is smoked pork, turkey and beef, maple cotton candy, honey, jam, jelly and a wine made from honey called Mead.

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Christoper Powers on his way up the rock wall Pickens Maple Syrup Festival 2019.

Tom and I enjoyed hand made maple-dark chocolate candy and brought home strawberry rhubarb jelly. I bought a bottle of syrup for the next morning just so we could remember our fun. The food was fantastic and the smell of smoke and hot maple syrup was to-die-for.

Tom and I bumped into many of our friends from all over the state at the event. It was like a family reunion on a grand scale. I really enjoyed watching the people shop and the kids play on a downtown swing set.

old men visit on porch at the Maple syrup festival

Row of old men visit on historic store front porch at the Pickens Maple Syrup Festival 2019.

In true West Virginia fashion over half the visitors arrived on side by side ATVs, riding trails from the other side of the mountain. Taking part  in one one of the first spring ATV poker rides that raises money for a charity or family in need. At one point the whole main street was filled with ATVs, maybe 40 of them paraded down main street, it was a sight to see in the small town.

lady making Maple cotton candy maple syrup festival

lady making Maple flavored Cotton Candy in the old post office in Pickens.

The entertainment for the day was all about was inexpensive or free, you could learn to through an ax on main street or you could watch a wood chopping competition on the wooden stage just off main street. You could take the kids to meet Scooby-Doo or just watch the kids play on the swing set in the park enjoying live music from a local blue grass band.

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Beautiful church on a hill high over Pickens West Virgina.

After about 4 hours Tom was ready to head home. I could have spent more time in the early spring sunshine, but I was happy to enjoy the beautiful country drive home. Next time I will remember to bring the fishing poles as the streams all around Randolph county were clear and the sun was out making for a great day on a stream also.

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Strawberry Rhubarb jelly and pure West Virginia Maple Syrup from the Pickens Maple Syrup Festival March 2019.

Learning more about our mountain communities is always fun and taking part in the Maple Syrup Festival Tradition was one of the best. Next time I hope to focus more on the making of the syrup and less on the food. But, that smoked turkey bacon and swiss sandwich is one of the best picnic foods I have ever had !!!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Fairs and Festivals, family fun, Maple Syrup Festival, Randolph County, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Manncave Distillery Continuing the Moonshine Tradition in West Virginia.

The tradition of making Moonshine in West Virginia goes back generations and is still a part of who we are today. Making something out of nothing has always been a way of life in our hills and hallows and Manncave Distillery inc. is making wonderful corn-based spirits in the small town of Weston, West Virginia. Manncave Distilleries goal is to prove that West Virginia can be the source of superior products like Moonshine (129 proof), Vodka (80 proof) and its own brand of whiskey just like the big distilleries in other Appalachian states.

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Bottles of Moonshine and Vodka at the Manncave Distillery.

The setting for the Distillery is as beautiful and secluded as all the lore you hear about moonshiners. Several miles from the nearest town, back in the woods, on a dirt road you will find Manncave Distillery. The bright blue building announces that you have arrived at a more legal and popular liquor sales location then in days past.  This property, a source of family pride, is the location of the Mann family farm and was the same property where Stephen Mann grew up. Coming from Lewis County, it seemed natural to start the business on the family owned farm, where 3 artesian springs produce more than enough water to supply the distillery and the farm.

I visited the family while they had a small break between guests at the distillery on Millstone Road on the outskirts of town. The tour of their location was personal and the story of the businesses beginnings is about timing, being in the right place at the right time.The samples that Wendy Mann Shared with me, Vodka (80 proof) and Moonshine (129 proof), prove that this family has captured the flavor of  West Virginia.  I was pleasantly surprised by everything I found out about Mann family and their distillery, hard work and love, flows through everything that they do.

It has been a labor of love to start this project for Stephen and Wendy Mann, taking about 3 years to get to the point of retail sales and 2.5 million dollar investment to get the business up and running. The couple travel every weekend to West Virginia from thier current home in Virginia, where they work during the week. They come back to see and help with the construction of the buildings, stabilize the springs, and running the still. It is truly a family owned and operated business from the very ground it stands on, to every bottle produced and sold.

This same commitment to tradition and family, flows into the products they make.  It is obvious from the very beginning that these products are different. With a clean, crisp aroma to a slightly vanilla after taste, this is not backyard moonshine. It is very pleasing and will appeal to anyone who wants a moonshine without the harsh bite and wants a smooth drink that will mix well with anything. Stephen and Wendy have also barreled their first few batches of whiskey, aged in charred white oak barrels in the traditional manner, taking time to age and gain that soft amber color. The whiskey will be smooth with a bit of West Virginia honey for a light sweetness. They hope to release the whiskey at the end of summer when the product reaches their expectations of taste and color.

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Manncave Distillery aging barrels for sale and for use.

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Whiskey barrels on high racks at Manncave Distillery, Weston WV.

The free tour is a wonderful part of getting your own bottle of Manncave Moonshine or Vodka. The whole process is in-house and is explained step for step by Stephen while Wendy and their girls great you. The whole feeling is much like stopping over at a neighbor’s house and staying for a warm drink on a cold night.

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Stephen and Wendy Mann serve a sample of their MannCave Moonshine to a local visitor.

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Stephen Mann walks a couple through at tour at Manncave distillery 2019.

 

I wish I could have spent a few more hours enjoying the flow of customers coming in to try out the Manncave products while seated at the wooden bar.  Instead, I will be returning for another visit to the distillery when they have their summer launch party for the Manncave Whiskey that is now in the quality control and testing stage. It’s sure to be a great time, with a beautiful location,  a fresh stream, wonderful whiskey and friends to share with. I am so glad to add them to the list of people I know who are working to save the very things that make West Virginia unique and wonderful.  For more information about upcoming events fallow them on Facebook, or head over to the website. Don’t forget to get your copy of the Apple Pie Moonshine recipe on Facebook at Manncave Distillery.….I will be making it this fall for those family gatherings. No one without proper ID will be served samples or allowed to purchase alcohol at this location. 

So from Mountain MaMa, I wish the very best for your new business! I plan to enjoy your hard work with family and friends right here in the Mountain State.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Country life, Distillery, fermentation, home brewing, Honey, Lewis County, Moonshine, nostalgic, Weston, whiskey | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Webster County W.V. Resident Restores Boardwalk from the 1800’s

 

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Tom at the Bell Street entry of the Lovers Lane Trail 2018.

Webster Springs, a small isolated mountain town in West Virginia, has recently reopened a river side boardwalk that was part of the community over 100 years ago. Lover’s Lane Boardwalk has been rebuild and is free and open to the public. The 3/4 mile path winds its way from downtown Webster Springs along the Back Fork of the Elk River ending at a  small park area and a historical swing bridge.

view looking back at town and 1st swinging bridge along Lover's Lane Board Walk

Looking back from the boardwalk to the  1st swing bridge and the town of Webster Springs.

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Long straight away along the Lover’s Lane Board Walk with a over look spot.

 

 

 

As a lover of West Virginia culture and history I really wanted to see the boardwalk. Originally built just after the Civil War in 1875 and  reconstructed 1890 the boardwalk was in use until the 1940’s. It lead visitors down a path from a old Victorian boarding house and grist mill to downtown without having to pass through the mud and dirt of the street. I also wanted to see for myself if the name Lover’s Lane was even appropriate. I’m not a huge romantic type so calling a wooden walk way “Lover’s Lane” is a bit of a stretch for me. But this is one place that the name fits and you feel the passion and beauty of nature all around you. The deeper you go into the woods the more you travel back in time and surprisingly find yourself in love, maybe not with the person you are walking with, but the whole idea of Dr Gillespie’s project.

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An unexpected find along board walk a water value found at the base of Beech tree.

 

The reconstruction of the 3/4 of a mile boardwalk was the passion of local resident and retired University Librarian Dr. David Gillespie. Who has purchased most of the land along the river where the boardwalk runs and has over seen all of the construction and funding for the project. He also has encouraged the use of the land at the end of the board walk as a park by adding a wooden walking bridge onto a low water island along the river.

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Lover’s Lane Bridge and island park.

In addition to the short 3/4 mile boardwalk at each end of the trip is a historic swinging bridge crossing the Back Fork of the Elk River. Then a paved sidewalk to the main street area of downtown Webster Springs making the the walk about a 2 mile loop. Where in warmer weather you can find ice cream, sandwiches and CVB office open.

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Christopher trying to keep him balance on the 2nd of two swinging bridges.

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Christopher and I getting ready to head across the second swinging bridge.

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View from the swinging bridge over the Back Fork of the Elk River.

We took our walk in the month of Dec. maybe not the most beautiful time of year for a trip to Lover’s Lane but a wonderful time to get out of the house to beat back cabin fever. I plan to come back to the board walk in May to enjoy the rhododendrons and leaf cover of spring.  I am hoping to share the experience with my grand-daughter who loves to be outside and hike with me. I think Christopher and Paige will really enjoy the bouncy walk across the bridges together.

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Holiday Decor on hog pen along the path of the Lover’s Lane Boardwalk Trail.

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Hog pen along street along the Lover’s Lane Boardwalk trail.

To find the board walk you can park downtown in the town of Webster Springs and find the beginning at Back Fork Street across from Minnich’s Florist or you can try to park along Bennett Ave, but this is not advised as their is no real parking on this residential street along the river. The best parking is at the head of Bell Street about 7/10 of a mile from downtown. The parking is Handicapped accessible with the small island park and one of two of the swinging bridges. To get to the boardwalk from here you head towards town and pass a few residential houses and buildings.  If you need more information about the history of the boardwalk, the Grist Mill or Boarding house that were at the head of Lover’s Lane please contact Dr. David Gillespie at 681-213-1205.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, family fun, hiking, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Lover's Lane, Webster County West Virginia, Webster Springs, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not having WIFI Made Me a Terrible Blogger.

Ok maybe WIFI is not the only problem I face as a blogger, but it sure made writing harder. It has been over 9 months that my old laptop lost it’s ability to connect to my wireless router. That meant two things for me, I could not read in bed anymore, where I read most of your blog posts and I had to work connected to an Ethernet cord. That was the killer for me. I had enjoyed time writing in the comfort of my recliner or in bed but now I was forced to sit at my kitchen table on a hard wooden chair. Who wants to do that for a couple of hours every evening. So I got lazy and just stopped reading and writing as much. I miss all of your stories and photos so much.So when the old lap tops brain finally said” I am full ” and slowly died I was so happy get a new laptop and get to back to reading and writing.

So I hope to see more of all of your blogs and get more time to comment. I kinda hate reading for pleasure on my phone, the eyes are shot and the screen is tiny, so I just skipped many of the notices I got about your posts.

The other good news is that I have finally eaten up all the free media space that WordPress gave to me 5 years ago. So I am preparing to get my own domain address and make this blog a real  website. I think this will take place about the 15th of Dec. but I have to get the new machine up and running completely before I go changing everything here. All I can say is that having a free blog was one of the very best things I have ever done for myself. I hope I feel the same when I start hosting my own website. This also means that address will change and I will share that info several times over the transition

I have so much catching up to do. I hope to pop into all the blogs I fallow over the next few weeks and get back in touch. All of this will give me something to do while it is so cold and snowy outside. It should be 18 deg F in the morning…. burrr.

So here are a couple of photos from Christopher’s 1st trip to the Barbour County Fair and his first ride on a fares-wheel.  I thought I would just show off the beautiful view we had at the top during that afternoon. Maybe this will be my first blog post at the new site? Who Knows??

carnival rides at Barbour county fairview from Barbour County Fair Grounds

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Changes to blog, childhood memories, Fairs and Festivals, rural life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Floating, Fishing and Resting in the West Virginia Mountains.

No matter what time of year I love to be near the water in West Virginia.  I find spending even just a day at the river floating, fishing, swimming or just watching the current brings peace to my soul like nothing else.  So I tried to share that restful feeling with my family this summer  when we spent 4 days exploring several rivers and streams in the Mountains of Randolph County.

We started our trip with a couple of days on the Shivers Fork River teaching my son and granddaughter about tubing and the freedom of just swimming in the wide river.

Christopher and Paige float down the Shavers Fork river near Elkins

Paige and Christopher Powers float along the bank of the Shavers Fork River near Elkins, WV

The Shavers Fork is a favorite for tubers, paddlers and fisherman. The river is wide and often not very deep on a hot summer afternoon. My older son spent the same day fishing for rock bass and caught several as Kayaks floated by.  The afternoons were spent either in the water or on a sandy bank roasting marshmallows for Smores. The smell of  the camp fire would linger for hours in the damp air next to our rental cabin.

The following mornings were about fishing… and lots of it. My family loves to fish just about any where but most often in a trout stream. We traveled from Elkins to the Harman area to fish on the Laurel Fork and hike out of the Laurel Fork campground. It was a perfect day to be on the river, few people, warm weather and fish. The boys caught 3 in a matter of an hour that were all eating size and were taken home for a fish fry later.

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

Tom  Powers  Christopher Powers and Cody Powers all fishing together on the Laurel Fork .

This creek is small and very cold, but is stocked a few times a year with brook trout and brown trout. This time the Paige and Christopher caught only craw crabs and creek chubs but they laughed and played the morning away.

Paige and Christopher fishing in the Laural Fork near Rich Mountain

Paige Powers showing off her fishing skills

After the weather warmed the river I  was pretty hot so I took off to do some hiking on the trails that leave the Laurel Fork Camp Ground. It was a perfect afternoon for finding mushrooms growing along the trail. I shared with Paige names of the plants we found and we talked about the beaver dam next to the trail.

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From the Laurel Fork camp ground we traveled to Canaan Valley  in Davis, WV where we took a long lunch at a local family restaurant  Big Johns Family Fixin’s .We ate on the deck that looked over a fish pound. The kids fed the catfish as they boiled the water looking for small bites of fish chow that was bought for a quarter. The day ended with more time on the Shavers Fork and dinner on the deck of the cabin.

Cannan Valley National Refuge with Christopher and Paige

Our final morning we headed to the Glady Fork and the Allegheny trail head to fish before heading home. The sun was just cresting the hills around us and I just could not help but take photos of how beautiful the morning was and how much fun it was to just spend a few days with my family enjoying the water and time together.

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Paige Powers, Jamie Powers and Cody Powers near Glady Fork and Allegheny Trail parking area heading out to do some fishing.

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morning sun coming up over the Allegheny  Trail Head Bridge

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West Virginia Barn along Rt#33 in the morning sun.

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

wild flowers after the rain Randolph County West Virginia

 

 

Categories: Allegheny Trail Head, Appalachian Mountains, cabins, Camping, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Elkins West Virginia, Glady Fork River, Randolph County, Shavers Fork River, trout, Tubing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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