Posts Tagged With: nature

Exploring the National Parks System on it’s 100th Birthday, Aug 25th 2016.

It is in the woods that I find peace and my spirit is rejuvenated. It is in the forest of my beloved West Virginia that I rejoice that we live in a country that values and protects the most unusual of our natural resources. It is in our countries wisdom that they have saved millions of acres of land and miles of waterways for future generations.

West Virginia is one of the states that does not have a fully designated National Park. So for this August 25th celebration I want to share a vision of one of my  states protected National Forests, Monongahela National Forest. This unique forest ecosystem is preserved at the national level within the National Park System along with West Virginia’s  National Rivers, The New River,and Blue Stone, Two National Recreation Areas,The Gauley River National Recreation Area and Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, a National Historic Park at Harper’s Ferry and of course a National Scenic Trail the Appalachian Trail. All of these locations are protected for future generations buy the National Parks System of the United States of America.

 

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The Monongahela National forest represents a wide verity of rare and unique ecosystems, natural wonders, beautiful vegetation, and abundant wild life. It is here within the forest that my family and I have spent hundreds of hours exploring, searching for that rare moment when the outside world disappears and  nothing remains but the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

This National Forest comprises roughly a million acres of forest land in West Virginia. An approximate 1.3 million visitors come to the Monongahela National Forest each year.The forest spreads across the Southern portion of the state from the city of  White Sulfur Springs to the Northern border of West Virginia to Maryland state line. With the main body of the forest residing on the Eastern side of the state, along US Highway 219.

Within West Virginia’s largest National Forest there is a long list of natural wonders. Some I have photographed over the years and others are still a mystery to me. Some are easy to access and others are miles from civilization. So with the help of my family I have had the pleasure of seeing much of the forest and can share just a few of the wonderful sights that I have explored over the years.

Stuarts Park campground, picnic area. DSC00023

Stuarts Park has several CCC built covered pavilions with in the Monongahela National Forest. Also located within a mile of the campground/ park pavilions is Bickel Knob Observation Tower where it is possible to see about 1/3 of the National Forest and the surrounding towns.

Bickle Knob observation Tower in the the morning sun randolph county West Virginia 2016

The trip up this tower early in the morning lets us see over six different ridge tops and two small towns.

Christopher and JoLynn on top of Bickles Knob observation tower last days of summer 2016

 

The Bowden Fish Hatchery is where the local brook trout, brown trout and the West Virginia Golden Trout are brooded for release all over the state.

Tom Christopher at the Bowden Fish hatchery 2016

We fish in the many streams and rivers in the forest. My son learns to cast at Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.DSC00172

Exploring Smoke Hole Caverns on a hot summer afternoon is a treat.To spend a couple of hours under ground exploring the caves is one of my families favorite summer time trips.

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Smoke Hole Caverns entrance

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The slow drip of the Smoke Hole Caverns ceiling

All of these amazing locations are within the National Forest but what I am most fond of is the simple quiet beauty that we see as we forage and hike through the woods.

mushrooms on stump Monongahela National Forest

Mushrooms growing on a tree stump near Bear Haven Campground

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Young horse at home on public grazing land at Monongahela National Forest

queenann lace with blue flowers summer 2016

Summer wildflowers along a forest service road in the Monongahela National Forest

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

Wet wildflowers at Stuarts Park, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

 

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Cheat Mountain Salamander takes visitors on rides through hundreds of miles of the Monongahela National Forest. This is my favorite way to see the sights.

This train ride is headed for Green Bank and the National Radio Observatory where in the middle of the Monongahela Forest is the darkest place in West Virginia. It is the perfect location for star-gazing with professional astronomers. This is where my family and I finally got to see the Milky Way with our bare eyes.

As you can see I love my state, love my Forest and am excited to be included in this centennial  celebration. Thanks to Cotopaxi Company  for inviting me to take part in the festivities in my small way. I am proud to share with all of you the great work that Cotopaxi is doing all around our world and how one company with a mission can change the world one backpack at a time. I am so glad that their company supports and loves the outdoors as much a I do. Thanks for reminding us all about how important our Nation Park System is and what would be lost without our ability to explore and enjoy to great outdoors. Again Thank you Cotopaxi for letting me join in the fun!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Cheat Mountain Salamander, family fun, Hardwood forest, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, natural resources, Potomac river, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Family Tradition: Deer Season Opening Day Nov 27th 2014

I was born into a hunting family, I married into a hunting family and I am now raising my own little hunters. So if you find hunting or eating wild game offensive please skip this post. The hunting life style is a huge part of our everyday lives here in North Central West Virginia. Our family’s have hunted for wild game for generations. This is a wonderful photo of my husbands Grand Father with a 28 point buck that shot some time in the 1950’s in Randolph County West Virginia.

Thomas Bennton Powers  with his monster buck

Thomas Benton Powers with his monster buck

My father on the other hand hunted for Elk and Mule deer in the mountains of Colorado. Both families eat what they hunted and were subsistence hunters. This was a way to feed their  family’s through long cold winters and lower the cost of having sometimes 4 to 8 children.

So hunting in my family today is less important to sustain our smaller families, but is still a deeply rooted part of who we are as people. It is on these cold dark November mornings that sometimes three and ever four generations gather together after working long hours all summer to find time to finally visit. In most cases the whole family gets involved in some way, some cook food for the hunters who roam in and out, some butcher, some hunt, some grind and pack but every one takes part in the opening of Deer Season.

Toms dad with a nice buck in the 1980's

Toms dad with a nice buck in the 1980’s

Tradition is that Grandma starts Grandpa’s coffee pot around 5:00 a.m. on opening morning. The sisters get chili on the stove for lunch and I  wash knives clean grinders and get butcher paper out and get ready to butcher.The drive way slowly fills with trucks and SUV’s and at 5:45 a.m. just about everyone in the family besides the smallest children are up eating a hardy breakfast going over plans for the day. Before the death of my father-in-law mornings in the kitchen sometime warmed 10 people ready to head to the woods looking for a deer that was worth the effort of dragging home.

Cody A Powers age 8 first deer.. 1998... 78 years after the above photo of his great grandfathers deer

Cody A Powers age 9 first deer.. 2000… 50 years after the above photo of his great grandfathers deer

In our family it is not only the men who hunt and my daughter in law and myself have hunted and learned the rules of safe hunting. We are not able to hunt as often as the men but we enjoy what time we can spend in the cool quite mountain air just like they do. The hunting sport is very adaptable for anyone who choose to have the experience. My son who is 6 will hunt with his dad this year although he is not allowed to kill any thing until he is 8 years old. I will hunt later in the year after the Thanksgiving rush is over and go muzzle-loader hunting in Dec. if my foot allows. My daughter in laws brother who is a paraplegic will hunt from his truck in a mountain meadow with a friend again this year. The people who enjoy the hunting experience are as different as any group but share one common believe. That hunting is a gift, that nature should be shared and protected. That the more time we are able to get back to our roots the better we are as people.

Opening day of deer season young couple hunting together(Cody and Jamie Powers)

Opening day of deer season young couple hunting together(Cody and Jamie Powers)

Hunting teaches so many lessons that are rarely learned any place else. First is of course is gun safety and second is the lesson about life and death. It is in a hunters first kill that they discover the emotional and moral consequences of killing another being. There are many people who after that first kill discover that hunting is NOT EASY. It is not a prideful experience and many people chose to never do it again. Then there are others who give thanks for what they have received from the earth and know that with the loss of one life, ours will continue. It is one of the only ways that a person can feel that they are truly part of the cycle of life. That you are a living part of nature, part of a system that is older than the human race.

Cody at 22 years old with his 1st wild turkey.

Cody at 22 years old with his 1st wild turkey.

I know that there are bad people everywhere and the hunting community has their share. I can’t tell you that people do not poach wild animals, I can’t tell you that people don’t trophy hunt. I can’t tell you that people don’t get hurt while hunting, guns are dangerous and deadly. What I can tell you is this, that the time shared outside with a grandfather or grandmother is what teaches the next generation about the meaning of life. It is the connection from one generation to the next that forms a bond of education and respect. I want my sons and grandsons to have the same experiences and life lessons that my husband and I have had in the woods. It is from generations back that we teach others how to have respect for what the land gives to us.

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

So as opening morning of deer season approaches the excitement builds. The guns get cleaned, the warm gloves are found, friends called and plans confirmed. When dawn comes you experance a fall sunrise through the trees, watch steam rise from an icy pond, listening to chip monk chattering in the leaves and see hunting in a different way. It really isn’t about killing at all. It is about family and wild life and the glory of an early morning in the woods.

Tom and Christopher getting ready to hunt together age 5

Tom and Christopher getting ready to hunt together age 5

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cody, deer hunting, family memories, Hunting, natural resources, Seneca Rocks, Uncategorized, Venison, wild food, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Horse Farm Labor is Our Second Job, Finding the help you Need.

     Tom and I  travel to so many farms during the year that we hear some of the same complaints at every stop. Frist there are not enough well-trained Farriers and second that finding farm workers, caretakers and horse handlers is almost impossible. Thiers reasons for both of these problems and some of it has to do with economics. Frist, Low pay for the hard work  sends many into town and second, farmers are not  good at  letting people know that they need or want help. 

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom putting shoes on Oat

Tom putting shoes on Oat

 If you have a problem on a horse farm the best two things you can do is let your farm community know what kind of  help you are looking for. Farm stores have bulletin boards, clubs have news letters, and friends have kids these are all great ways to get the word out the you need a helping hand around the farm.  Pay well and often, everyone loves payday and even the kid who cleans out the barn needs paid before he leaves for the day.  

 Over the years of showing, raising and training horse I have worked for several farms in my area. Yes, I shoveled horse poop for a living. Not glamorous work but it beat the rat race any day. I received fair pay, always about double what minimum wage was at the time.  Farm work is hard, dirty and at times stressful. To modern kids Micky D’s is a lot easier and pays better than most farm jobs. Keep this in mind when you are looking to put up hay in 90 degree weather with a 5 am in starting time and that kid at Micky D’s is making 9 dollars and hour.If you want them you will have to pay them.

      This also is true for your Farrier, if you own a horse part of owning that animal is occasional foot care. Most farriers charge a standard rate for trims/ shoe/or resets. Pay your bill promptly and you will have a good relationship with him, wait to long or try to haggle the price and you will be looking for a new one very quickly. If you are not able to afford to pay everyone cash remember that some people are open to barter for services. I have  mucked stalls for riding lessons and Tom has trimmed horses  for hay. Just be clear about what you need and what you have to offer. We have always been happen when we worked out a deal.

 I also do sitting for several horse farms. We all need a vacation now and then. Sometimes families  just go to the fair and other times families need to head out for an emergency, it is this short periods of time that I help out on the farm.

Squaw and dancer

Squaw and dancer

I find that there is a real need for farm families to leave  a few head of horses, a couple of dogs and cat alone for a few days. The horses really need people who understand them if you are going watch them and the time to care for them is pretty labor intensive. I find the best way to find some one who can help, is asking your other horse friends, farriers and farm stores. I get asked all the time because my husbands farrier business. We both are willing  and able to help with animal care. The rate that we get  to come to your farm and care for your horses is not  much less then you would pay to a stable them while you are away. So with each additional horse we charge an additional fee. I find this the fairest way to charge for my time and gas. This way I can keep my rate the same from farm to farm. This makes everyone pay the same and no one gets up set over changes in pricing. The biggest difference is that the horses are at home in their own stalls with their feed and water and no hauling needed. It’s to the advantage of my clients that they do not have to stress the animal while they are away. 

  No matter what type of labor you need for  your farm, remember to just get the word out that you need a farrier, a farm sitter, a person to help string fence. They are their and if you pay them fairly they will be willing to come back and work for you over and over. It is worth building these kinds of relationships because over time you never know who it will be to help out. I never thought that Tom being a farrier would over flow to farm sitting and that I would be working with some many wonderful families and their animals.

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out of town and one of their walking horses

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out-of-town and one of their walking horses

 I hope that my friends Ron and Marylyn have had a great trip and that they feel confident that their horses were in good care while they were away. It is always fun to spend time on their farm and we love doing it.

Categories: Farm work, Farming, Farrier work., Friendship, horse health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shotgun VS. The Water Snake and other stories.

copperhead close up and personal

Copperhead close up and personal

    It is almost spring in the mountain state and with the warmth of the woods and spring flowers comes reminders from the old folks that it’s about snake time again. As a child who really never had a “bad” experience with snakes, I never really listened to the warnings. But after the last twenty years of life I have gained a respect for where and when to watch out for snakes. I have even had a couple of encounters that were shocking to say the least.I have found that snakes in spring and summer are a basic topic of conversation in these hills and everyone has a story to tell. Some are lucky enough to have photos of the serpents and others only long arm recollections of the animal. But  so far I have not met a farmer who does not have a snake store of some kind.

    Some of the stories that get passed around are as old as the hills and are full of insight into the fear of having snakes appear in places that they do not belong… like  inside your house, car or barn.They also add the mythical quality to the stories and make snakes something to fear no matter their role in nature.Then others are newer stories about the general surprise caused by actually seeing,touching or stepping on a snake. These tails don’t usually end with the death of the snake just a jolly laugh about how they scared you and your friends that day.

   So here is some of the folk-lore that I have found in my area about snakes. Frist and foremost… don’t harass a snake during “Dog Days”. Ok, for those of you who are unfamiliar the term, “Dog Days” it is an astrological event that lines up the Dog star and constellation close to the horizon in the last of Aug. There are visible changes to the environment during this time of the year like the covering of water with a thick bubbly, slimy film, hot humid days and snakes beginning to shed their skin. It is widely believed that at this time of year snakes can not see well and the will bite randomly if bothered or harassed.The shedding skin is believed to thick and opaque for them to see through. I am pretty sure that this is not true but I am not going to hunt out a snake and harass it to see if the prediction is true or not.

   My personal favorite, “never burn a snake”. I am not actually sure where this one comes from but I am a believer in it. The saying goes that if you take a dead snake and burn it the next year you will see twice as many snakes on your property. My husband killed several black snakes one year in the barn. He dragged  them out to the burn pile and set the serpents a flame.My son and I warned him that was not the best idea but he continued his plan.The following summer was the frist time I got a close up look at a Copperhead as I walked my sons pony across the yard. I also found snakes in every out building on the farm, not a fun summer at all.

cooper head in the woods

cooper head in the woods

  Some of the other stories are about finding snakes eating things that seem impossible for a person to understand. People talk of snakes eating full-grown rabbits and chickens. But my favorite one is about how to catch at egg eating snake. We had chickens and at some point had a problem with a black snake eating our eggs. I started asking questions  about how to stop the invader with our neighbors and this is what I learned from Eugene Hicks the farmer next door. Eugene began with his thick southern accent,”place a glass egg at the entry hole where you think the snake is getting into the coop…and place another inside,on the other side of the hole and wait”. He went on to explain,”the snake seeing the outdoor egg will eat it swallowering it whole…as snakes do, he will then slither through the hole and find the second glass egg inside.He’ll then swallower the inside egg and with them deep in his belly will get stuck because neither egg with be crushed. He’s trapped by his own love of eating eggs and you can kill him at feeding time. He isn’t going far”. I never tried this to see if it actually worked,but we did let the dogs out to see if they could find the snake. The battle was over in few minutes as my dogs found and shuck the snake to death.

Don’t get me wrong I am not a snake hater, I find them fascinating and useful. Even my husband who used to  kill every snake that crossed his path is getting a bit more tolerant of the creatures. Mostly because the funniest snake story I know is all about him. I have relentlessly teased him into giving snakes a chance to fill their role after a hot summer day when a green water snake won the battle against him.

The property we lived on at the time was Seven acres of “L” shaped land in the rolling hill part of West Virgina. The “L” shape is divided almost into equal thirds by a creek and a run off  that would dry out in the late summer.One afternoon my husband walked from the middle of the property where the main house sat down the road to the lower right corner of the property.About half way down the road  he had to cross a culvert that housed our creek. The creek is only a couple of feet wide and at its deepest is around two feet deep. The little creek floods at times  and trash and debris float down the creek after a good storm. Well this day there was a shiny sliver tin pan in our creek a few feet from the culvert opening and on the pan was a very small delicate green snake sunning himself. Tom saw the snake from on top of the culvert and resigned himself to go back to the house and retrieve his shotgun to kill the beast before it  caused any serious damage to anyone.  He returned several minutes later with a fully loaded 12 gage shotgun and a pocket full of shells.

  I watched  him walking towards the culvert from his sisters front porch. We lived only a 50 yards apart on the farm. We could see  him slowly loading the shotgun and both of us wondered what in the world he was up to. Blam, went the first shot as Kathy and I  moved to the banister of the porch… Blam, went the second shot into the creek. Now we were really wondering what  he was killing  in the creek, then with in a half a second BLAM>>BLAM>>>BLAM…. something came flying back up out of the creek and landed within inches of my husbands feet. He jumped up and down, shooting the gravel road until the gun was out of shells. Finally he stopped shooting and started shaking out his shirt and twirling around in the road. By this time I was well on my way up the road to see what the hell was going on.

When I approached I found my husband with his eyes cast at the ground,confused and sweaty. I calmly looked at the bee bee pierce tin pan on the ground and asked what had happened. Thinking to myself,”a  tin pan was not really scary enough to shoot three times at close range”. He replied that” he had seen a water snake in the creek and went to shoot it so it would not bite the kids. Then… the damn thing had flipped up and landed on the road”. I took a moment to look for the dead snake and I began to laugh uncontrollably. Not only had he  missed the 5 inch green snake in the creek, he had scared himself so bad with the tin pan flying up from the creek, that he actually shot it three more times to make sure it was dead. Their was no sign of the little water snake anywhere, no blood, no guts, no green skin. Just a tin pan sitting alone on a gravel road full of holes. Tom was still visually shaken when I started to laugh,he really didn’t see the humor in the situation,  he was still sure that some how that damn snake had landed on him or near him. As my laughter grew I asked him, “was that little green snake was worth 5 shots and not killing it”. That was when he also saw the humor in what had happened and we talked the rest of the day of just leaving snakes where you find them, alive and safely away from him and his shotgun.

black racer hidding in the grass

black racer hidden in the grass

 I have also had my own frightened moments  from hidden snakes. In our barn they were constant visitors in the hay bales.So you learn to live with them, but I  have a problem if those same snakes wanting to go back to the house and hang over my front door.I am not accustom to having 6 foot snakes at or around the house.  This big boy was just lucky that I let him live the day I found him on our porch.

black snake at the barn

black snake at the barn

    This happened just about  3 years ago and I had already quit  my day job to stay home with my little Christopher who was about 2 at the time. I was preparing our lunch one afternoon and I saw something moving around on our front porch. Through the dinning room window I saw a black skinny thing waving around. That was nothing new, as I had placed an old water damaged buffet on the porch for my plants to sit on and a large bowl of cat food for my  black and white farm cat.I just thought it was the cat’s tail wiggling on the buffet while she eat. But something more caught my attention the tail was sliding up the window. ” Holy Crap”, was the frist words out of my mouth and Christopher wanted to know what was wrong. I made something up and continued to get him seated at the table to eat as I watched the big black snakes head disappear up over the top of the window and its body dangle below the frame somewhere on the buffet. As calm as I could, I told Chris that I needed to go out back for just one second and slipped out the door, around the back to the front porch. To my horror the snake had slithered across the top of the window frame across to our front door jamb and stopped to rest with about a foot of length hanging down the window frame. At this point I realised that he was around 6 feet long and about 5 inches around  the middle and didn’t seem likely to move. My heart was racing in my chest. I didn’t want Christopher to see this and was not going to remove it with him on the porch. I went inside to telephone my sister-in-law, who as you  already know lived across from me, on the farm. Her husband answered the phone and I asked him if he could help me remove the snake while I watched Christopher.In responce they were both out the door, down the road and up the drive in a matter of minutes.

 John carried a hoe up the drive and I put cartoons on the TV for Christopher and headed out the back again. The snake had moved some and was now hanging across the door like a wet noodle. The head hanging over a foot and tail hanging down the back about the same. John asked me from the ground in front of the porch” why haven’t you reached out grabbed that one” ( I have been known to pick up baby snakes) and I replied “that one is not a tame snake and I think I would just piss him off”. John stepped up on the porch with his hoe and I followed to “Help”. He reach out and tried to push the snake off the door frame. It just opened its huge white mouth and hissed at us… freaking me out, I stepped back to the edge of the porch. John reach up again, this time more aggressively twisted the hoe and hooked the snake, pulled him off the wall. The big black thing hit the porch with a thud of a 5 lb weight.The snake curled its self up lied still as we all leaped off the porch. I found this too funny, grown men and woman jumping off a porch away from a non-poisonous snake. As we talked and laughed on the stoop the snake hid himself away behind my wicker furniture. Before I could get back on the porch and open the front door to see Christopher sitting quietly on the floor watching cartoons the snake was gone. He lived around our house for several years taking up residence in our cellar house. We would see him and his shed skins off and on. I was glad when he finally found better hunting grounds and left, but I still have vivid memories of him.

Categories: Folk tails, snakes | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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