Spring Snow at Pleasant Grove Cemetery

This weeks Spring weather has had it all, sun, high winds, rain and snow. It is as if the Gods of winter and spring are having a fight to see who will control the weather. Even the resting souls in the local cemetery noticed the fight.

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Early morning snow in Barbour County

With this maybe being our last snow of winter I was just lucky to have a camera in the car and time to stop several places along my route to work last week. It takes about 28 minutes of winding country roads to get into Philippi West Virginia and along the way I always see something interesting. Often I see deer or turkey in the farm fields, tractors mowing hilly farms and lots of barns. I also see lots of cemeteries and this one was just beautiful on this cold  snow-covered morning.

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Hwy 119 headed to Philippi, West Virginia. 

These photos were taken at a small country cemetery name Pleasant Grove Cemetery just outside Century, West Virginia. Many of the head stones date back into the mid 1800’s. I love to photograph cemeteries, I have been doing it for years. I think there is something about old historical cemeteries that is fascinating. Maybe it’s because the tradition of stand up headstones is fading, or idea that every community and/or family owning a cemetery is not as popular anymore,whatever the reason, I find these small old cemeteries wonderful. Then with a little light snow you have a place that magic.

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Pleasant Grove Cemetery Fence

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Unique headstone at Pleasant Grove Cemetery near Century, WV.

So while visiting I did find one very unusual head stone. A type that I had never seen before.This marker looks finished and carved on one side but other half is just ruff chiseled stone. I have no idea what it means or if it was done on purpose, but it was fascinating to see such a different marker dated so long ago. I now wonder even more about the life this woman and her unique headstone.

 

As you can tell the cemetery is old and most of the headstones dated back to the middle 1800’s and some have faded and toppled over. There is no church standing watch over these families, so I wonder who cares for the graves and who clean up the dead flowers. The Donation Box makes me think that someone is looking after several generations of families without much help.

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Donation box for the Cemetery 

 

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Snow falling on mail boxes across from Pleasant Grove Cemetery ,Barbour County,WV.

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Front Gate of Pleasant Grove Cemetery.

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Deer trail at Pleasant Grove Cemetery

The weather continued to snow and I had to get to down the road to work so I quietly left the headstones behind.  I will never get the answers to my questions about the cemetery or the families who rest here. I will wonder about them for a long time. This beautiful place made the last snow of the year a little more bearable. I am glad that I took time to look a little closer at what beauty is all around me.

HAPPY SPRING!!!

 

Categories: Barbour County, Cemetaries, Philippi, photo review, Snow day, Uncategorized, West Virginia, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , | 3 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

Making Murals in the Mountain State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Saying Goodbye to 3 years of AmeriCorps Service.

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

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 the Elkins community  during the Martin Luther King Day Celebrations 2017 

 

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

frist day of Americrops working on Heritage Quilt Block Panels

Work on Heritage Quilt Squares for down town Elkins.

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

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Teaching at the Old Hemlock Foundation 2018

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

Pancake Breakfast volunteers 2017

Serving breakfast with the Easter Bunny 2018

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

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

 

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

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My home away for home the Golden Rule 2018

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

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

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Helping to support the local Parish House Donation Center. 

 

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

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.

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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

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

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1902 Golden Rule Department store at beginning of redevelopment 2018.

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

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

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

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

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Boot boxes line shelves at the Golden Rule.

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

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

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

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

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

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JoLynn Powers AmeriCorps Volunteer in Elkins, WV.

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

 

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

A Meaningful and Tired 2018. Year end photo gallery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Basement full of bottles and plates

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Broken Boy with Grape basket lamp by window.

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Spoiled canned  fish from the 70’s?

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

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

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

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

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Wild Mountain Laurel Elkins WV

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

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Jolynn Powers and Taylor Hicks cooking in the kitchen.

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Baked Apple Dumplings fresh out of the oven.

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

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

Golden Rule sign

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

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

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Hershey Tower drop

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

Halloween costume idea

Halloween Costume #1 for 2018

halloween costume 2018

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

Christopher in santa hat

Christopher Powers in Santa hat age 10

Goveners inn buckhannon christmas 2018

Govenor’s Inn Main Street Buckhannon, WV

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

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

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

Delicate Beauty of the Paper Wasp.

Bringing the outdoors in”, is often a decorator term that means using natural materials for home decorating and design. It is not uncommon for people in West Virginia to collect all kinds of natural wonders, often it is the delicate paper wasp nest.

Over the years I have been fascinated with the beauty of the things in nature here in the hardwood forest. I often take photos of mushrooms,flowers, and plants that grow on the forest floor. I collect birds nests and nuts that fall from oak and walnut trees. Yet, the most intricate of all the natural finds is the summer home of the paper wasp. I have often had friends and family members who have displayed them with pride in their homes and businesses.

Carrie Shupp’s Paper Wasp nest collection, Elkins,W.V.
Image of a traditional shaped paper wasp nest via e-bay

The nests are made up of chewed up wood pulp and wasp saliva. The pulp is placed in repeated thin layers around a central core of cells that are the home to all of the wasps larva. It is their home for only one summer season. A good fall frost will kill off not only the larva but also the mature wasps living inside. Fall rain and winter snow are deadly to a wasp nest. Water of any kind will slowly deteriorate the nest before spring. So the challenge of capturing a nest before winter is tough.The goal of the collector is to keep the delicate paper and cells in tact and preserve the nest for the future. It is possible to bag (cover with a trash bag and tie it off) a live nest to try to collect it, but the risk of being stung multiple times makes this way of collection dangerous. Wasps are territorial and will defend their home with hundreds of swarming stinging insects if you threaten their home.

Over the years I have heard several stories of why people collect the nests. Some used them in homeopathic medications, some collect them for display, while others use them to ward off other wasps from building near their homes. I have never tried the fallowing remedy or used a nest to ward off other wasps but I will share these unique stories anyway and let you be the judge of if they are worth the effort.

It was my friend and horse trainer, Red who was the first person who explained to me that he used the paper wasp nest in his treatments for horses and other farm animals. If an animal got a injury that needed to have medication applied to the wound he would make a poultice with a wasp nest as part of the mixture. The paper was torn way from the nest placed into a bowl and crushed with a mortar and pestle.Other items for the poultice was added like leaves, oils and liquids, then mixed with the paper until it became thick and pasty. Then the mixture was applied to the wound. I don’t think the paper had any medicinal qualities other than as a suspension for other ingredients. With the mixture formed into a paper paste I think it would be easier to handle and be applied like a compress. I have never attempted to use a nest this way but it sounds like it would have been easy to make for our forefathers .

The logic of using an old paper wasp nest to ward off other nest building wasps is based on the territorial nature of wasps and hornets. It is rare to observe two nests close together because of in-fighting between swarms of wasps. It is believed that if a dead nest is kept in place, or a artificial nest is placed on a porch, it will prevent more nest building just by being seen by other wasps. The information found online says an artificial nest will keep other wasps from building about 200 feet from where it is hung. So if you can keep an old nest dry, it would be possible to reuse the nest as a natural chemical free wasp repellent.

Fake wasp nest found on line at Garden Supply.

Finally, The most common of all the uses for the delicate paper wasp nest is for decoration. I have found that the owners of the nests love the outdoors and the wildlife of West Virginia. They often have wild stories about how the nest was collected and who got the nest down from some far fetched branch. Often the nests are treated like a trophy, a physical reminder of a courageous adventure up a tree, where a person is face to face with what could be a live nest full of bees.

A friend of mine, Carrie Shupp, shared with me a the story of her cousin climbing a tree, 20 feet in the air, to cut a nest free one fall day. Without ropes or safety equipment her female cousin shimmied up a tree to cut a basket ball size nest free in the canopy of a hardwood tree. With nothing but a hand saw she slowly cut the branch that the nest was attached to and brought the nest back down in her mouth. I am sure I would have passed out from just the thought of getting stung in the face, but this young woman was not worried at all. Not all of the stories I have heard are quite as dramatic as this one, some are just about fallen trees that have huge nests hidden in them. Other friends have told of having nests in bushes behind barns where they are a danger to animals and people.The farmer shared with me that he sprayed the nest with chemicals and left it to dry for a few weeks. Then cut it free from the brush and brought it into the barn to show it off as a prize of the war between man and bees.

Every story is different, but each is about our relationship to nature. Some tails show man triumphant over the simple danger of a stinging bug. Others are about the challenge to gather the delicate paper as if it was a treasure worth risking our lives for. Some are about how they are needed for keeping animals and people healthy and how they are coveted as a tool for healing. Other stories are about the danger and the thrill of the capture. I don’t think any other items collected in the forest causes such a strong emotional reaction. These simple homes are loved and hated in equal measure, making a paper wasp nest a unique and fascinating conversation piece in a home, barn or office.

close up of leaf embedded in the side of a paper wasp nest.

damage shown to the bottom of a paper wasp nest where the cell structure inside the nest is visible.

I suggest that if you ever have the chance to own or collect a paper wasp nest that you take a little time to preserve the nest. Most people will suggest varnishing the nest but I don’t like to change the color of the nest with varnish so instead I use clear flat spray paint. Making sure not to saturate the outside of the nest to much. Let the nest dry and mount in a high dry corner of a room. Then share the wonderful story of how the nest came to be in your home and let people share their feelings about wasps and their nest with you. The nest will keep for many years if they are kept dry and away from curious pets and children.

Categories: bees, Home Decor, home remedies, natural remedies, wasps | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chili Sauce from the Garden

Sauce with tomato peppers onions and spices 

  The weather in West Virginia this fall and early winter has been a soggy mess.  So to keep the family warm and fed until the cold of  winter freezes up the mud and turns the world to a lovely white. I have been cooking comfort food in the rain. Home made Chili is a easy quick dinner when you make and can the sauce at the peak of tomato season. 

 Chili sauce from the garden is a family favorite. We have been making this sauce for generations and it can be made fresh from the garden or canned and stored for the long winter. We usually use ground venison as the meat adding a mixture of kidney beans to the sauce when ready to serve.

 If you raise tomatoes and sweet bell peppers you can make home made chili sauce with just a little effort. This recipe usually makes 7 to 8 quarts of sauce but you can easily cut the recipe down or double it for a larger family. Each quart of sauce added to one pound of ground meat and two cans of beans makes around 6 to 7 servings of Chili. 

For this recipe you need 25 pounds of ripe tomatoes. I usually have about half that ripe at one time in the garden and end up adding some to mine from the farmers market. You can also buy a half bushel of tomatoes at once and make one turn of sauce. 

IMG_20180825_092840864

cored tomatoes ready for boiling water bath.

The first step is to wash, core and scald all 25 pounds of tomatoes. I do the best I can coring the tomatoes and leave them whole to scald to remove their skin. The more ripe the tomato the faster and easier it is to remove the skin. I boil about a gallon of water in a large stock pot adding tomatoes until they reach the top of the pot. Boil the tomatoes 3 minutes until skins come lose. Dump hot tomatoes into a cold water bath in a sink and allow to cool. I add a couple of trays of ice to the bath. Refill the cold water bath as it gets warm after adding 5 or 6 pounds of tomatoes at a time.  The skins will pull lose easily leaving a nice pealed tomato for chopping.  

Next dice up tomatoes with a ruff chop and place in large stock pot to begin to cook down. At this point you will have enough juice to cook the tomatoes with out scorching if you use a Med/High heat.

 Next add onion, peppers, garlic, sugar, spices and allowed to cook until everything is soft. Simmering the sauce for about 30 minutes. At this point add tomato paste, 2 cans will help to reduced the amount of water in the sauce. The sauce could be canned at this point if you like a chunky sauce or  I put ours through a food mill to remove any seeds, skins and lumps.

(I make small packets of spices to drop in the simmering sauce to make it easier to remove the large seeds and leaves.)

 After pressing the sauce through a food mill,  heat sauce to boiling and ladle into clean prepared quart jars. I always wash and sterilized at least 9 jars just in case I end up with more then 7 quarts of sauce. Add clean sterilized lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath 20 minutes. No pressure needed with high acid foods like tomato sauce( 20 minutes for quarts and 15 minutes for pints). Each jar will last at least one year after being canned. I rarely make less than 14 quarts at a time.

 

Garden Chili Sauce 

1/2 bushel ripe tomatoes or 25 pounds

1 cup chopped fine hot peppers we use a med hot pepper. 

1 cup chopped sweet peppers

1 cup red onion

2 heads of garlic chopped fine this equals about 10 cloves

1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt 

1 teaspoon black pepper

1  2.0 oz  can ground chili powder, more or less to taste

2 small cans tomato paste

1 tablespoon pickling spices, placed in a cheese cloth,

We use Mrs Woods Mixed Pickling Spices but if you do not have Pickling spice, mustard seed, Bay leaves, whole allspice, cinnamon and coriander seeds can be used.  

When ready to use add one pound cooked ground meat and two cans of kidney beans simmer and serve. 

for more information on canning in a boiling water bath please refer to the Ball Jar Website. 

 

Categories: canning, country cooking, gardening, peppers, Preserving, regional food, Venison | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Fresh New Start for 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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