Country life

Legend of the Dogwood Tree, Spring in the Hollow

Like so many things in Appalachia, legends surround almost everything and many are held as truths still today. One of my favorite folktales told over and over in West Virginia is the Legend of the Dogwood Tree.  (This is a wonderful copy of the poem that tells the story)

Dogwood blooms in Buckhannon, WV

Dogwood blooms in Buckhannon, WV

As the story was told to me over two decades ago… Jesus was nailed to a large wooden cross made from Dogwood timber and as he died he blessed the tree because of it sorrow for its master’s death. The blessing held that the tree would never again grow straight or tall enough to be used for a  crucifixion cross again.  The flowers would be a symbol of his life, death and resurrection, to everyone who looked on them. With the white blooms standing for Christ and the red tinged edges being the symbol of his blood. The petals of the flower would shape a cross with two long arms and two short and the center in gold is the crown of thorns that he worn on that day.The notched edges of each petal are a reminder of the nails the held him on the cross and each spring we are reminded of his being raised from the dead when the Dogwood blooms again.

So is the story true? No, not really. The evidence pretty well shows that the story is just a tall tale. Do the people of the mountains and hollows still look forward to seeing the Dogwoods bloom every spring… and do they remember this story, Of course!

Dogwood berries ready for winter

Dogwood berries ready for winter in our back yard

The legend moved me so much when we lived on the farm, that while my neighbor was clearing the fence line between our two properties, I stopped my car along the road where he worked. I asked  the older man “please not cut down the young dogwood tree”. I shared the legend  with him while he looked on in amazement and put down his saw. For the following 10 years that same farmer never cut down the dogwood tree that stands in our shared fence row. At that moment I understood for the first time the power of the circuit ministers of the 1800’s in Appalachia. They must have had a lot of time to think when they rode these hills and hollows. They needed ways of reaching people so that they could understand the ideas of crucifixion, resurrection, sacrifice, forgiveness and love. So they used nature as a teaching tool(just like most folktales) to keep a story alive in a way that everyone could understand.

This tail is still heard in churches and at picnics here West Virginia. In spring as the forest slowly returns to life, it is the dogwoods blooms that remind me to tell this story again to another generation. So that my children will one day will share the story that holds many in these mountain hollows together.

Dogwood tree from Wikimedia commons

Dogwood tree from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Buckhannon West Virginia, Church, Country life, Folk tails, spring | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The “Creepy Virginia”, Stereotyping West Virginia.

When I hear about people joking about West Virginia it ruffles my feathers. I am not a native to the Mountain State so I find it even more offensive when outsiders make fun of the people I love and work with everyday. Last month I was again disappointed when I heard that The Daily Show’s Twitter feed called my state “Creepy”.

The Darden House my office in Elkins WV

The Darden House my office in Elkins WV

The Daily Show’s Twitter statement that I have linked to, shared a disparaging comment about West Virginia and it struck me as irritating. As usual, a person who knows nothing about history or culture has attempted to paint a crude generalisation about the people who call West Virginia home. Calling West Virginia “creepy” and implying that West Virginia is not the “Good Virginia”, pissed me off for about 2 seconds. It took me two seconds to get mad and then two seconds more to understand that maybe being creepy is not such a bad thing…. Let me explain.

West Virginia is 75% wooded and has a population of about 1,844,128 about 36,488,393 LESS than California! That ranks West Virginia in the lowest 12 populated states in our county. So lots of woods, few people, few big cities, means less of the problems that many of our Western States face. Massive growth and terrible air pollution( I know about this one, I grew up in the Denver Metro Area and you can keep the brown cloud) are just a few of the Less Creepy Problems that California, Colorado and Nevada face everyday. Then when we start to think about Virginia you know the “NOT SO CREEPY STATE”… the one with Washington D.C. I wonder if the Daily Show would like us to forget the constant gridlock of traffic in and out of the Capital City?The high cost of living( 6th highest in the country) and the amount of people pleaser who live in and around D.C. Also does The Daily Show really want all of us to forget about the Crime Rates of other states and cities all over the country? We are not perfect here in West Virginia but we do have some really great things going on, maybe Creepy is not so bad after all.

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

As my mind rolled this twitter post around over the following weeks, something came to mind. It is a very specific kind beauty that popped into my imagination. An image of something that is not found just anywhere but in the deep hollows and on the high ridge tops. The beauty of the ancient and of the decaying, the beauty of the “Wild and Wonderful”. The beauty that is found in hard work and long-suffering,the kind of beauty that is epic and larger than a single story. These are not the images of perfect clean beaches, crisp snow-covered vistas or smooth sandy deserts. They are not images of the huge skyscrapers or modern metro stations. They are images that are creepy and I love them.

Kenchelo road barn before being torn down

Kincheloe road barn before being torn down 2015.

I am not a fantastic writer or photographer, but I have dedicated my blog to trying to share the magic of my state. I share my love of  the creepy, decaying, damp, world that I see every day.

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

Snail on river moss, cleveland, WV

Snail on river moss, Cleveland, WV

If you find in some way that these photos  are creepy, then you have discovered the ancient magic of West Virginia. A magic that is not always visible to outsiders, as the above Tweet reveals. West Virginia does not open her secret vaults to all who pass by her borders. She remains hidden just like Avalon in Camelot.Only allowing those who understand her mystery to view her treasures.

 

Iron train bridge in foggy Lewis County West Virginia

Iron train bridge in foggy Lewis County West Virginia

snow bales, west virginia

snow bales, West Virginia 2014

So, I now am wondering if maybe Trevor Noah and the crew at The Daily Show are close to the truth when posting that West Virginia is “Creepy”. Maybe our lives seem foreign to people who live in the big city under the spotlight. I am thinking maybe being Creepy is the very best way to keep our state a secret for another generation.Saving all of us Mountaineers from the problems of the “Good Virginia” and other states.

reenactment at the TALA front lawn

Reenactment at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum  front lawn, Weston, West Virginia.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, blogging, Country life, history, rural life, Stereo Types, stereotyping, trends, Twitter, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Celebrate Easter with Trout and Ramps .

It is official spring has come to the Mountain State. Trout and Ramp Season has begone and I am getting excited for the first skillet full of the wild food that is traditional in West Virginia.  My husband’s family have enjoyed fresh trout and ramps for generations. As far back as the family story can remember. The family enjoyed the freedom of the Mountains where tiny speckled fish and ramps are always a part of the celebration spring.

Brookie3_Handy

Brook Trout by Mat Hardy from Trout Unlimited

Often my husband and his father would take off in the middle of April for a trout fishing trip with hopes of also gathering a burlap sack of ramps. The farther from civilization they drove the smaller the trout got and the larger the ramps grew. So off on some deserted logging road on a mountain top, where a small stream started, my father-in-law and husband would be found fishing. The tiny native trout with copper skin and bright orange spots are fighters like anything that lives so far into the mountains.Making an almost freezing morning exciting as the two would wade the stream looking for ramps along the way.

Field of wild growing Ramps

Field of wild growing ramps

When the noon day sun would finally reach the steam at the bottom of the holler they were fishing the two would break for lunch. The two eating pepperoni rolls off the tail gate of an old truck, they would talk about if the fishing was good enough to spend more time in the water or if it was time to trade the fishing poles for a ramp hoes. Neither father or son would want to leave the peacefulness of the rushing spring water but they knew more treasures waited for them on the mountainsides.

Tom fishing on a cold Easter Morning

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County, West Virginia

 

The team would drag themselves up the steep banks of the mountains with a short-handled hoe, looking for clumps of green in the otherwise brown forest floor. If ramps were spotted, one would yell out to the other in the other wise silent woods and the digging would start. Gathering just enough of the bulbs for the family and leaving many to spread out the seeds of future plants.By late afternoon the two would shimmy back down the mossy covered banks to the truck. Fresh fish would be in the cooler chilling, topped with a sack of muddy ramps. The two would ride the bumpy road back home for a fest of fresh spring foods.These foods were almost impossible to get any other time of the year and the deep joy of finally being free from the winter always made the meals more pleasant.

Often the first dinner that we fix of ramps is meatless. Not for any reason other than it seems fitting that such an early spring meal would have also been meatless for  generations of homesteaders of this land. They would have enjoyed a meal of fresh ramps with brown beans, cornbread and maybe if their storage was good fried potatoes. Our ancestors would have celebrated that fresh greens had to grown again and life had returned to the hills they called home.Ramps brown beans and fried potatoes cornbread

So as my family celebrates Easter weekend, I am not only thinking of my Savior and his miraculous life, I am thinking of countless generations of West Virginians who have come before me. I am thinking of the blessings and bounty of another spring and of how to share its traditions and stories with the next generation. How a fish and a sticky bulb were not a trendy food but a way of life for the mountain people of Appalachia and how I can keep the spirit of thankfulness alive.

Happy Easter my friends enjoy Spring !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Corn bread, country cooking, Country life, Easter, fishing, Homestead, ramps, Ramps, trout | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Town that Time Forgot, The Heritage Center of Beverly West Virginia

Often when people travel by car they are so busy trying to reach their destination they never take time to stop and enjoy little towns along the way. Beverly, West Virginia in Randolph county is a  mountain town that time forgot. It is a place to enjoy walking on historic streets, take educational tours and shop and eat in places that remind us of our struggles,our victories as a country and a state.

Driving to Beverly a person leaves the more modern world of strip malls and congested traffic and  returns us to a quieter time. This town is mostly residential, built around a central plan of main street businesses that are all within walking distance. The historic district surrounds a small green town square that is hub of activities even today. The city has added to the historic downtown over the years, investing in other old structures, moving them from other areas in Randolph County.

Cloudy day in Beverly WV looking down Main Street from the Heritage Center

Cloudy day in Beverly WV looking down Main Street from the Heritage Center

As a visitor my first stop was at the Beverly Heritage Center to take the tour of the largest and most important buildings in the Historic District. It is hard to miss the Bank on the corner of Main Street ( US Rt 250/219). I feel in love with its white brick and decorative exterior the minute I drove past. Built in 1900 by  the local Dr. Humbolt Yokum, it was the town’s only bank for 33 years. It is the first of the four buildings that connect as The Beverly Heritage Center.

Main Street Bank Beverly, WV Circ 1900

Main Street Bank Beverly, WV Circa 1900.

Rounding the corner off of Main Street on to Court Street, visitors are able to view the other buildings in the collection and enter the parking area at the back of the buildings. The next building on the side street is the most notable of the four buildings. It is the former Randolph County Courthouse. The Courthouse completed in 1815 is one of several buildings used as a County Courthouse. The location of the county seat would move  back and forth from Elkins to Beverly several times over 84 years. Finally the city of Elkins won the battle for the county seat in 1899 leaving this building to serve other purposes.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and House

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and House.

The Courthouse connects with the next building in the row, the Hill building. The Hill building was constructed in 1912 for use as a store, pool hall and bar, it has the smallest footprint of the four buildings.The bar inside is said to have even survived the prohibition era with ease.Then connected to the Hill building is the Bushrod Crawford House Circa 1850. The building housed a family until General McClellan needed a headquarters during the civil war in the summer of 1861. The home was an important location to the General because it’s close location to several battlefields, it had electricity and could supported telegraph communications. The historic value of this simple looking home is priceless to anyone interested in the history of our country.

Beverly Heritage Center Sign

Beverly Heritage Center Sign

In back visitors see the main entrance of the  Heritage Center. Here you are able to take a tour,enjoy a gift shop and look through a collection of found items from around Randolph County and the Rich Mountain Battlefield.

The quality of this restoration project and unique way the four buildings connect into a single unit is flawless. Visitors move seamlessly from a modern addition where offices and tour guides lead you to the historic buildings. Tour Guides explain the history of each room as you pass from one room to the next room through natural looking passages. The tour actually starts in the rear of the Courthouse and passes to the Bank and back to the store/bar then to the house. At the end of your tour you return back into the entry area through a second doorway.

Each of the buildings are handicap accessible and the flooring in all the rooms of the center are of traditional hardwoods. Each of the buildings contain a collection of items that would have been found in a building of this style and age. The Courthouse has a courtroom display that made me think of what it must have been like for a judge in such a rural area in the 1800 hundreds. Thoughts of the of crimes and what judges would have to rule about drifted into my mind.

inside old Randolph County Courthouse, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Inside the old Randolph County Courthouse, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly W.V.

After leaving the courtroom visitors are lead into the Beverly Bank. The inside restoration is just as  wonderful as the masonry work of the exterior. The shiny tin punched ceiling and the arched windows make me almost want to go back into banking. The displays in this room are a collection of found objects that were found on or around the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike that passed through Beverly. Many of the items are things that would have been part of wagon or team of horses. There’s also a lovely desk covered in banking papers reminding me of the importance a bank has to a small community.

Desk with bank papers underglass, Beverly Heritage Center.

Desk with bank papers under glass, Beverly Heritage Center.

McClellan style saddle, used during the Civil War and would have been seen along the roads in Beverly WV

McClellan style saddle, used during the Civil War area Beverly WV

 

Beverly Bank interior with tin ceiling, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Beverly Bank interior with tin ceiling, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

When visitors finish enjoying the Bank, they pass back through the courtroom into the Hill building. This building is home to a beautifully restored bar and pool hall area with a storefront window that has two mannequins who appear to be running for some sort of county office.

Bar Room in the Hill Building of the Beverly Heritage Center.

Bar Room in the Hill Building of the Beverly Heritage Center.

Mannequins about to shake hands in typical 1800s dress, Beverly Heritage Center.Beverly WV.

Mannequins about to shake hands in typical 1800s dress, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

Finally the tour heads into the Bushrod Crawford House circa 1850 where the Heritage Center has a civil war display area. My favorite portion of the collection is a corner display of a civil war camp site. Making thoughts of long cold nights in the Appalachian woods and the sounds of rifle fire slow my pace through the tour. Visitors also enjoy the story of General McClellan’s use of the house and how important the telegraph was to the battles in this area of West Virginia.

Civil war encampment display at the Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

Civil war encampment display at the Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

When finished with the Civil War display visitors pass into another area of the house that has a fireplace and furnishings that remind you that at one time this was a home. Visitors then can shop for handmade gifts and toys popular in the 1800’s in the last room on the tour. Quests slowly make their way back to the modern entry where the tour of these buildings comes to an end.

Fireplace and upright piano in dining area in Crawford house, Beverly Heritage Center.

Fireplace and upright piano in dining area in Crawford house, Beverly Heritage Center.

The continued exploration of the historic district should be seriously considered while visiting. The Heritage Center Staff have walking tour booklets and other information to help you continue to enjoy the town of Beverly West Virginia. Below are some more of the wonderful places I photographed that day.

Bosworth Store/ Museum across street from Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Bosworth Store/ Museum across street from Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly

Green grass city Square Beverly, WV

Green grass city Square Beverly, WV

Randolph County Jail 1813

Randolph County Jail 1813

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This town has so many  interesting stories and I have only begun to explore them all. My trip to the Beverly Heritage Center was a morning well spent. I will be back and will be taking more time to learn about this wonderful little town that time has forgotten.It was such a pleasure to spend a day with people enjoy old buildings as much as I do.

Categories: Beverly West Virginia, Civil War, Country life, Elkins West Virginia, ghost stories, historic locations, history, Randolph County, rural life, Travel, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , | 25 Comments

The 1800’s Mansion on the Hill, The Lewis County Library,Weston WV

Time stands still every time I have the opportunity to spend time in this historic mansion. Lewis County, West Virginia is one of a few communities that have taken on the major task of making one of their county’s most historic buildings useful in modern times. The Louis Bennett Memorial Public Library is a grand house built by local craftsmen with local materials between 1874-1876. It represents the “Can Do Spirit” of the West Virginia people. With its massive size (4 stories) and grand features(12 foot ceilings) it allows visitors to imagine what life would have been like for the very wealthy who could live in such large homes.

front of Louis Bennett Library

Front of Louis Bennett Memorial Library from the Court Street View. The white enclosed porch was the normal family entrance and the grand double front doors were rarely used.

4 story mansion donated to the city of Weston,WVG for use as a llibrary

4 story mansion donated to the city of Weston,WV for use as a library in 1922.

 

Senator Jonathan McCally Bennett had the huge home built overlooking the downtown area of Weston, West Virginia after his home at the same site burned to the ground. The  replacement home is in the Italianate style with 20 rooms and built by the Parkersburg architect Columbus B. Kirkpatrick. At the time this may have been the first house in Lewis County the used a real architect for its construction. The construction contained 125,000 bricks and 209 handmade windows, one that is round and ruby-red in the tower. The large house is heated with two main chimneys with 6 fireplaces not including the kitchen chimney with two fireplaces used for cooking in the rear half of the house.  The home became plumped for illuminating gas at the end of 1875 making it one of only two buildings to have gas lighting throughout at that time. The other building with gas illumination at the time was the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum only a few blocks from main street and easily visible from the front porches of the Bennett’s new home.

On June 21,1875 Jonathan and his wife Margaret moved into the residence while some construction continued on some of the finer details. The cost of the mansion is stated as $4,000 in 1876 and converts to about $450,000.00 + in today’s market. Sadly after a decade of life in the grand house Margaret Bennett succumb to heart problems and died in 1886. Then to the dismay of their 4 children Jonathan M. Bennett passed away a year later. The house was left to their 4 children and eventually placed into the care of their son Louis. The home remained in their hands until the death of Louis Sr, and of Louis Jr, his son during World War I. These two deaths within a month of each other drove Mrs. Bennett to make arrangements for the houses donation to Lewis County for use at the first Public Library. In 1922 the home transferred hands and Mrs Bennett moved to Europe. The home has since been used as a Library and meeting area for the community of Weston and all of Lewis County.

When visiting the massive building your first view of the inside of the building is of the grand hall on the main floor with the staircase and upgraded chandelier that was once a gas light fixture. The County has tried very hard to leave the home as close to “lived in” condition as possible adding only what is necessary to make the building safe and warm.

Main hall with a view of the front doors and Chandelier

Main hall with a view of the front doors and chandelier at the Louis Bennett Memorial Library.

The remaining rooms on the main floor are two parlors, a dining room, kitchen, and small library. The two parlors are home to the circulation desk, the main collection of fiction books and computers. The library room is used as a small meeting room/ reading room. The dining room and kitchen areas are for the children’s books and the nonfiction collections.

Main staircase and entry of the Louis Bennett Memorial Library

Main staircase and entry of the Louis Bennett Memorial Library.

The second level of the mansion includes what the Bennett’s used Bedrooms. Again off of a main hall the second floor housed 4 bedrooms two for the parents and two for the girls and boys. Today the wall between two of the rooms is removed to make a large meeting area where we have our book club meetings. The other rooms are now two offices and a bathroom.

My book club meeting in the second floor meeting room with Christopher

My book club meeting in the second floor meeting room with Christopher.

The third floor housed the servants quarters with three main rooms and a bathroom and door way for the tower. The third floor has individual rooms for selling used books and is full of donations for fund-raising for the library.

Christopher in the Attack of the Louis Bennett Library. Front peak room full of used Children's books

Christopher in the Attack of the Louis Bennett Library. Front peak room full of used children’s books.

Third story bathroom in the Louise Bennett Library

Third story bathroom in the Louise Bennett Library.

The tower also held small rooms for servants or children. The middle room of the tower has two balconies for viewing the sights of the growing town and a small drawing-room at the top surrounded by windows on all  four sides. The public is not allowed into the tower any more and the head Librarian states that its maintenance is major concern.

Rear view and main entry into Lewis Bennett Memorial Library

Rear view and main entry into Lewis Bennett Memorial Library

This small library serves a county of about 16,500 people and is one of the most beautiful buildings along the downtown area. For our family and many others this is the only library with in the county and is one of the very few places that the public had free access to computers and internet. This old house serves a very vital role in Lewis County and I happy to see is still open to the public and being used everyday. I am proud user and supporter of this wonderful building and hope that more people of my local area see how important it is to try to preserve it.

Entry way of the Louis Bennett Library

Entry way of the Louis Bennett Library

All factual information on the construction of the house is gathered from a booklet by Otis and Betty Reed of Weston West Virginia, Titled ” The Building of the Jonathan McCally Bennett Mansion in Weston”. Copyrighted 1997,by the Friends of the Louise Bennett Public Library,inc. The information is used with permission of the the Head Librarian Karen Enderele, 2016.

Categories: Books, Country life, historic locations, Lewis Bennett Library, West Virginia, Weston | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Snowy Farm Mornings With The Mares

The one thing that I still miss about the farm is the silent snowy mornings. Moving to town has its advantages in snowy weather… streets get cleared a lot faster and the grocery is a lot closer but something is just not the same, let me explain.

My horses on in the top pasture on a snowy morning.

My horses in the top pasture on a snowy morning.

When you own livestock you never get a snow day. So the mornings for me always started early even in the cold. I would get up early, like all farm families do, so I could get the feeding done before work and school would take the day.

Dressed in my coveralls, hat, and gloves, I head out of the back door of the farm-house. I cross the back porch and hear the first crunch of the snow on a step. Walking my way to the barn across the yard I look for them but can not see them in the top pasture. Even though the barn doors are always open the herd of four quarter horse were never in the barn until feeding time.

Even if they heard me tracking slowly through the snow they never moved. They stand at the farthest point away from the barn on the top of the hill. I holler at the top of my lungs”Here Girls!” and get no response. Just the quite… no cars or trucks, no snow plows (sometimes for days), no other person for miles was outside on a 12 degree morning. I reluctantly fill the feed buckets with two heaping scoops of sweet-smelling grain. I Complain to myself about walking up the bank into the pasture to looking for them.

You do it to make sure that everything is alright if they do not come in. Horses trapped in fences, cases of colic and babies born in the open all happen when humans are not looking. Today was not going to be one of those days. I open the gate with the frozen chain and hear it bang as I swing it through the snow and across the frozen ground and into the pasture. The hill blocks my view. No knickers or neigh for me to hear from the group, just my snow boots crunching up the slope to the orchard trees.

Annabell in snow at the farm in Jane Lew

Annabell in snow at the farm in Jane Lew,West Virginia.

Past the orchard trees, I finally see the huddled mares in the upper corner of the field. Snow only ankle-deep and they still do not want to move. “Come on Girls!” I yell again, this is ridiculous I think as the wind blows the quiet snow in my eyes.  I give in and walk to top of the hill and discover I am out of breath and breathing hard. The steam I blow matches the clouds that surrounds them. They breath in and out almost in time and the moisture from the four 800 pound bodies rises into the air. They see me and two heads turn as I finally come close enough to actually touch the snow-covered beasts.

Their winter coats are such good insulation against the cold that snow flakes dance on top of the longest hairs of each animal. Icicles form on the whiskers of each damp muzzle and each wet eye lash. The mares do seem to mind the cold and seem more at home in the winter snow.

Daisy with skippy in snow

Daisy with Skippy in the snow on the Jane Lew farm.

For the small herd, standing and sleeping is more comfortable than slipping down the hill to the barn. I can’t blame them, they have stood together most of the night and have melted some of the snow on the ground . I sneak up close to the oldest mare and slide my gloved hand across her back and talk softly and she murmurs back to me. I get close and feel the warmth of her 100 degree body against me. Warmth and friendship, could life get better for her?

The others push closer to me, nose to nose, they breathe me in and I, them. The smell of the mare’s breath and coats is warm, round and deep. It is the smell of the summer dirt, fresh-cut hay and dark warm stalls.They smell of old barns and fresh shavings,of carrots and cookies, of sunshine and creek water. I kiss each nostril in turn.

Hidden in my coat pocket is a lead rope that I slide around the old mare’s neck. I clip it under her chin… more imagination than rope. I lead her and she willingly follows me down. The younger horses gallop back and forth across the field, bounding, bouncing, jumping and twisting.

Horses Playing in the snow

Horses Playing in the snow

Play time for the young and feed time for the old. I walk her through the gate to the barn, each following her lead without a fight. Her head lowers into the bucket and she blows out the air in her lungs as if to sigh. The rattle of those buckets is the only sound for miles. The sun rises to the shifting sounds in my barn. I toss hay into each stall as the last of the gain gets lipped out of old buckets.

My chore is almost done. The water is thawed and waiting when they finish their meal. The gate is locked up tight. I am alone again in my walk back across the large yard. My cheeks are cold and frosty but my heart is warm. I think to myself…. “Love You Girls” as I hear the squeaky snow under my boot.

 

Categories: Country life, Farm work, Friendship, Horses, Jane Lew, Memories, snow, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lives of Service, The Gulf War and Americorps

Thomas Powers In Germany in Recovery Tank

Thomas Powers In Germany in Recovery Tank

While today ( Jan 17th) is the 25th anniversary of the Bombing of Baghdad and the official start of what was the Gulf War. My family’s service to America comes to mind. My husband served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves for ten years from the age of 17 to 27 serving in the Gulf War until its end in March 1991. His role during the war was as a Military Policeman dealing mostly with POW.The years before the war Tom spent a tour in Baumholder, Germany where he worked as a recovery specialist with the 363rd mechanized division. He was a volunteer enlisted person all of these yearsI also recently have become a volunteer for our country although not with any military function. I have been officially joined AmeriCorps. A domestic federal volunteer program that serves local at risk communities. Much like the military you sign up for contracted amount of time and work for lower than average wages to serve communities that face economic struggles. Some of the problems that AmeriCorps works toward fixing include natural disaster recovery with FEMA, working to help homeless and aging veterans, educational issues in low-income areas, medical and dental issues in rural areas, and economic revitalization of depressed communities. Just like the rest of my family,a father who was a marine and a brother who is a retiring colonel from the U.S. Army and an MP husband, it was my turn to serve the people who I love and the communities I want to see prosper.

I became drawn to AmeriCorps for the same reasons my husband joined the military. If you asked either of us if we would help out a friend or neighbor who needed a hand, making their lives better with the work we are doing, we would jump to help. The other benefits are also a nice incentive.  The army has the E.I. education bill and Veterans benefits and AmeriCorps offers similar benefits. I am actually using my time with AmeriCorps to pay off the final portion of my college loans. They also offer money for college tuition and medical insurance. They both also offer travel with living expenses to new places ( domestic travel only with AmeriCorps). Mostly they aim to help the people of this country in some way and that is something that repays you in things more valuable than money.

I came to this place in my life because the events of the last year. It became clear after helping my husband’s family with the care of his dying mother that I finally felt the draw to serve. I had never given so much of my time to another person in my life other than my own kids. It was eye-opening to see how the healthcare world works and how without a family member or close friend things get missed and care can be inconsistent at best. So I knew after her death, I wanted to work in a field that made a difference for people. So I starting looking into the different ways I could make a difference and that lead to AmeriCorps. Essentially their work here in my state, fit right into what it is that I am trying to do with this blog. To uplift and rise above the problems that we face as community and state.

I will be working with the economic redevelopment of a nearby rural community, under a program called Elkins Main Street. I am so excited to share my skills with a very small non-profit that wants to try to build up an old downtown area. I have no idea where this will lead me but I am sure to learn allot and meet some interesting new people. I am also again surprised that this blog is one of the reasons I received a service offer. That my writing and creating this site had a huge influence on the people in charge. I will be working with them on a new website on WordPress. I will be promoting the work that they do on Facebook and trying to help share the activities we all are working on with my photography.

This new adventure will change my blogging some, I will be writing more on the weekends and evenings. So my posts will almost always be at night. It will also add to the fun that I have, as I work on fairs,festivals, work with historic buildings in Elkins West Virginia. It is a new adventure for me I aim to continue this blog to share what I am learning.

I find it a little ironic that it was this weekend that I joined AmeriCorps, as this is the same week that my husband 25 years ago faced the fact that a ground war was only days away. I guess everything happens in due time and it is just my time to serve. I think my husband is happy with my choice and he understands what it is like to serve. I am so excited about this opportunity and look forward to serving the people of West Virginia. Hopefully you all will be along with me as I see new things and help new people. Thanks to AmeriCorps I get to start a new direction in my life and make a little money along the way.

New River Gorge Bridge with fall folage 2000 by jolynn powers

New River Gorge Bridge with fall foliage 2000 by Jolynn Powers.

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Army, community service, Country life, Fairs and Festivals, Friendship, historic locations, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Adventures of Pruning an Old Grape Vine.

Over the last 25 years trying to live close to the land in West Virginia, I have had several adventures with grape vines. I love the vines for their wildness. I sometimes wonder if the wild muscadine vines here are kin to roaches or coyotes because of their staying power. I think one day they will take over the world after some crazy annihilation of the human race. They are truly the winding, twirling, fast growing vines of folktales and do real destruction if left on their own.

Twisted grape vine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia

Twisted grapevine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia.

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grape vine, Lewis County West Virginia

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grapevine. Lewis County, West Virginia

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park 2013

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park,West Virginia  2013.

They also produce an easy to grow fruit that almost everyone likes, grapes. Grapes make so many wonderful tasting things that is almost impossible for me to picture my country life with out them. So when we bought the “new to us house” last year, one of the things I wanted to grow was concord grapes. We had been able to take care of the family farm for several years and Tom’s dad had several concord grape vines established when we moved in. I quickly learned how to make grape jelly and concord grape juice from the old vines. So, some kind of grape vines were on my wish list when we were looking for a new home. The exciting part for me is that this house had a grapevine… what kind of grapes no one knew. The vine was over grown and not well staked. So I had part of my wish answered but a lot of work to get it into shape.

A Single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon

A single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon,West Virginia.

I started my pruning at the recommended time ( late fall to late winter) after the vine had gone dormant. The temperature outside was around 50 degrees when I started working on getting the single vine back in shape. The vine had been let go so long that I found several vine tendrils had re-rooted on their own over the years.These sprouts needed to stay attached to the ground if I wanted over half the vine to remain alive. This complicates things, none of the gardening guides or books said anything about this problem.It often happens and is natures way to reproduce another grapevine. I did the best I could with the off shoot and attempted what the guides offered for advice(not much on old vines by the way). I followed the main vine and marked off with tape three main branches from the original root-stock and tried to keep them and remove the rest. One of the re-rooted shoots was from the main three branches so I really needed to keep it. That shoot was going to make trellising the vine almost impossible.

The vine had grown so long that it was actually attacking a small ornamental tree in the yard. When we moved in I had cut all of the vine from the little tree in the early spring to stop it from covering it and knew I would need to do more work this winter. In the course of 6 months the tree was under attack again. Tendrils had reached to top of the 10 foot tree and covered half of the trees branches.In a matter of 3 years the tree would die from lack of light reaching the leaves and the choking action of the vine. Even domestic grapevines can be destructive if not maintained.

Knowing grapevines only fruit on year old stems, I had to keep some the young shoots if I wanted any fruit at all next year. I literally pulled, tugged and untwisted most of the vine on to the ground to find were each branch went. Most of the vine had no outside support so this made pruning easy. I started to cut back everything that was old, dead or just to long. I removed about 3/4 of the old growth off the vine. The photo below shows the freed end of the arbor, ready for new growth.

Pruned concord grapevine

Pruned concord grapevine.

I will likely only get five or six bunches of grapes this year because I removed so much of the vine this winter. Then the following year ( year 2) I should have 20 bunches of grapes if the weather allows.  After the third year I will be back to prune the vine again. My local extension office suggests pruning  almost every year on wine grapes or grapes that have been well-tended. I think in my case every two or three years should keep the vine healthy and looking full.

I plan to add another vine to the other end of the arbor this summer. A grape that could be used for fresh eating and wine making. Concord grapes are hardy in the cold but grow small and sour fruit. Just try eating the beautiful purple fruit raw…ooo… it takes a heck of a person to chew the tart skin and chew up the large seeds. I am hoping that adding a pink or red grape will add to what I can do with them.

In the future I hope to write a post about my home-made concord grape jelly made from the fruit of this very vine. I will be working hard to remove all the weeds and briers that moved in under the vines.I will be using our bunnies for fertilizer to help them grow stronger.I just hope the summer proves my pruning was a successful, that the vine is now healthy and providing my family with fresh fruit and juices.

Categories: Country life, DIY, Grapevines, Homestead, Jelly, pruning, rabbits | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Believe Me, I am not a Journalist!

I had the great fortune in the last 12 months to work with the crew of Silent Crow  Arts Production Company. These are the people who work very hard to make the television shows The Barnwood Builders and many others like the Deadliest Catch. After working with the cast and crew last summer I have been able to reflect on what it is  that I hope to accomplish with this blog. After talking with two of the producers and one photographer last summer (2015) I had a revelation that I would have never come to with out their input…… “I am not a Journalist ! This will never be a Journalistic Blog!

During my college career I wanted more than anything to become a female western artist. I wanted  trained in the highest forms of drawing and painting and to travel the western states of the United States exploring the culture and drama of life. Yet, when I started doing more research about these woman and their histories I found that many had less formal training then I had. That many just created from the heart and found their happiness in just being able to share with their communities. Some of these female artisans shared traditions handed down from generation to generation and others created from spiritual believes. Many traveled to the west and became inspired by the natural beauty of the area. They all  felt that they needed to share what they were seeing in their own way. I knew that I wanted to share my world views also,  I just did not know how it would come to pass.

It took me 13 years to change from painter to writer of stories about Appalachia. The Eastern mountains are the most undiscovered, unappreciated  area of our great country. So I changed my medium from working with pencils and paint to words. I am learning to paint pictures with words and share stories with my photos. I feel as if I must tell the stories I find about these woods, these towns, and in these people.

Before working with Silent Crow Arts, I had thought that I needed to learn more about journalism. That it is was important to get the facts and report the statistics of those facts clearly. Well that idea was TANKED after a short but meaningful conversation with Katie Rolnick on the site the Barnwood Builders episode.  She kindly explained that she had come to television production from a back ground in journalism and that it helped  her some but, it was not the only way to tell a story. Then she went on to remind me that I was a story-teller  already  and that was how I became part of the show. My mind became shocked and confused at the time.It took the last 6 months for me to process what she  meant. Yea, I am slow sometimes…. aren’t we all?

Katie Rolnick Producer of the BarnWood Builders on the DIY Network with Miss Lee

Katie Rolnick Producer of the BarnWood Builders on the DIY Network with Miss Lee

Recently, I finally excepted her description of my hobby as a story-teller (Narrative Writer) only after understanding what that means and the difference between being a story-teller and being a journalist. The differences are huge and I found that journalism leaves the heart and soul out of a story. The soul of my stories would be missing if I only wrote the facts of an event or experience. If I had to cut out the family that I love to write about, the pain and sadness that I experience, our silly adventures we go on, then this blog would not be mine at all. It would be a travel guide to West Virginia. I hope with your support to continue to write about it all… the good,..the bad,.. and the ugly.

So my blogging goal ( resolution if you fallow that way of thinking) is to keep writing about what I love. I want to keep you in the loop of the great things I find here, things that keep me inspired and happy. I want to write about our struggles too, the things that I want to see change and what I think we can do to change them. I want to share my family…. even if they are as goofy as I am. I want to show you photos of the beauty that I see all around me and finally I want to paint pictures with my words. I plan to work harder on editing, and learn more about creative writing so that I can convey things more clearly… ..Sometimes I just do not have the time to do the editing I need to do and that will change as Christopher grows older.

It took almost a year for me to fully understand how and why I am part of a TV show. It has taken at least that long to for me to understand that I am not a journalist but a story-teller and to become comfortable with that title. So here is to all the new stories I hope to tell in the New Year…. May they all be good ones!

German beer glass Circa 1987 Happy Beer New Year 2016

German beer glass Circa 1987  Kirn, West Germany ,         Happy Beer New Year 2016

Categories: About me, Barnwood Builders, blogging, Country life, writing | Tags: , , , , , | 18 Comments

The Lost Creek, West Virginia Depot Restoration is Complete 2015

Owned by the local branch of the “Lions Club” the Lost Creek rail road depot got a grant and a face lift in 2015. The Depot has always had a place in my heart, maybe because both my boy love trains or maybe because of the fact that I love old buildings, but when I began to see the work being done here I was so happy.

Lost Creek, WV, Depot Christmas 2015 restoration is complete

Lost Creek, WV, Depot from 1892,restoration is complete 2015

Lost Creek Depot Historical sign

Lost Creek Depot Historical sign

Sometimes a place that you see everyday just becomes a blur and you forget about how wonderful it is and forget the fact it is an important place in it the community. This little depot in a tiny West Virginia town called Lost Creek, is one of those kind of places. In the twenty some years that I have been traveling to Lost Creek I have seen this building only repainted once. Below is the before photo I found on the internet. This is how passing motorist have seen the depot for at least 10 years and you can see why it needed restored. The weather and water damage took its toll on the little building. At one time the Lions Club used the building to sell crafts and Christmas tree as fund-raisers but over the last few years the depot had fallen into such bad disrepair that the doors closed year round.

Lost Creek Depot before restoration had begone this fall 2015

Lost Creek Depot before restoration had begone this fall 2015

Now after Govern Earl Ray Tomblin added the structure to his list of grant recipients and awarded $40,000 through the Transportation Alternatives,Recreational Trails Program we can see what a beautiful place a depot can be.

I was able to watch the progress of the construction over the last part of this year and each time I made a trip to Lost Creek I notices more of the work being completed. It is a joyful thing to see another building on the states register of Historic places getting the restoration it badly needed. It has made a huge improvement to the small towns downtown and has added another interesting stop on the Harrison County rails to trails program. I hope in the near future to see the depot open again for fund-raisers and community festivals like it was 20 years ago,when I bought a cup of hot apple cider from the Lions Club during a Christmas street fair.

Lost Creek, West Virginia restored depot window with Christmas decor

Lost Creek, West Virginia restored depot window with Christmas decor

street view of the Lost Creek Depot and snowman 2015

street view of the Lost Creek Depot and snowman 2015

It is hard to believe that this depot was once a busy place and that millions of dollars passed through its door and docks during the late 1800’s. That at one time Lost Creek was on the main train line of the B&O railroad and a busy trolley stop for the larger cities north of here. Because today the town’s population is around 500 and there are only a few grand homes and business left from the time period makes it even more important to save some of the  local history of one of Americas most beautiful small towns.

 

Categories: Country life, Depot, Harrison County, historic locations, Lost Creek West Virginia, nostalgic, Photos, trains | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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