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Living slowly,foraging,cooking,canning,hunting and fishing our way through Appalachia
Updated: 1 day 18 hours ago

Part # 1 The Rehabilitation of the Golden Rule Building, Belington W.V. Begin’s.

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 20:44

In the small town of Belington, West Virginia stands a 116 year old building that is reminiscent of West Virginia’s heyday of coal and the money it once brought to Barbour County. The Golden Rule building owned by the Shinn family was built to serve the local community as a grocery store and later a furniture store. 70 years later with the closer of several coal mines, decline of the population and the loss of jobs, the 3 story building fell on hard times just like the community where it stands. Left to decay and become an abandoned storage building the Golden Rule’s future was questionable.  In 2014 the historic building, having one of the only water powered elevators in North America, was listed as an endangered property by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. It took another 4 years for things to change for the future of the Golden Rule.

1902 Golden Rule Building Belington West Virginia

Water powered elevator pulles in basment of the Golden Rule. photo use with permission of the PAWV.

As the building name implies, The golden rule,“Do on to others as you wish them to do unto you” the Woodlands Development Group of Elkins, West Virginia is taking on the challenge of bringing the structure back from abandoned and returning it to usefulness. In March of 2018 the building officially changed ownership and the slow work of rehabilitation began. With use of historic tax credits, forgivable loans and grant money, the plan includes converting the upper two floors of the building to 10, one and two bedroom apartments with at retail space on the first floor. The ground-floor space will have the Durbin& Greenbrier Vally Railroad ticket booth, a small museum space and an artist market and coffee bar. The additional building on the property is planned to house a community space with a working kitchen and outdoor seating. Woodlands Development Group is working in partnership with the Belington Revitalization Committee and The Barbour County Development Authority to meet the needs of their community with quality housing and new jobs within the building itself.

messages and images similar to these will appear in the Golden Rules windows. These appeared in store front windows in White Sulphur Springs, W.V after their down town was flooded in 2016.

The first stages of change that community will see are the boards going into the window spaces in the upper levels of the building. The boards will be painted with brightly colored images and inspirational sayings to help residents visualize that positive change is happening. The other less obvious change is the clean-up of the interior of the building. Loads of trash and recyclable items have been left all though the building and must be removed before any serious construction can begin.

mixed recyclable items with trash and barrel inside the Golden Rule.

With some of the items left behind the partners hope to have a fundraiser for the rehabilitation of the building. I have been asked to help create Golden Rule commemorative plate with an image of the building on some of the stoneware plates you see below. What was once trash will be sold in commemoration of the building and its return to usefulness.

bottles and plates found in the basement of the Golden Rule. This plates will be decorated with a decal to commemorate the rehabilitation of the building 

As often is the case, the previous owners of the Golden Rule have just walked away, leaving some else to clean up the mess. It will take months of AmeriCorps service hours to clean, sort, recycle or reuse the buildings contents but in some way it is all a sign of positive change for everyone involved.

Empty boxes line the shelves of the sales floor of the Golden Rule Building. 

The project is expected to take around 3 to 4 years to complete with completion of the community building taking a little longer. Today I watched as AmeriCorps members removed the arched windows of the front of the building so that they could be repaired. It is just a small step towards the final goal of seeing this building being a vital part of the downtown of Belington, West Virginia once again.

 

 

 

Golden Delicious Apple Dumplings with Salted Caramel Sauce.

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 21:45

So one of the things that the producers of “State Plate” TV show want me to make is apple dumplings made from our very own state apple the Golden Delicious. A wonderful history fallows the apple. It comes  from one of the most rural counties in our state, Clay County, West Virginia. The county is a twisty, curvy, mountainous place to call home but that is where the very first Golden Delicious apple tree was found. The apple tree was  growing wild on a hillside on the Mullins farm back the 1890’s. It was thought to be a naturally occurring hybrid but no one really knows. So after discovering the tree and it’s unusual fruit, a sample was sent of the Stark Brothers nursery for identification. It has been said that they were happily surprised by the new find and made plans to buy the tree and the land that surrounded it.  the  Stark Brothers company bought the tree in the early 1900’s and built a large fence around the tree.  The Stark Brothers company worked several years with seed and graphs to develop the very best and marketable tree that they could and in 1914 the began sale of the Golden Delicious apple that we love today. A crisp, yellow, fine skinned apple that is lightly tart; when baked softens easily making wonderful apple sauce or dumplings that are soft enough to cut with a fork.

Modern example of the Golden Delicious Apple

So as I continue to prepare for our up coming filming I have made a couple of batches of apple dumplings for testing and tasting. I wanted to be sure that I  still knew how to make them. I  made them from small hard Wine Sap apples on the farm when the whole family lived close together back in the 90’s. My brother-in-law still talks about them even today. So here is a photo of the first test batch.

My family personally does not care for the sweet sugar glaze that most people eat with a dumpling. We would rather eat them with ice cream and salted caramel syrup topping. So that is how I am making them for the show.  I am hoping to make one more batch this weekend just to be sure I will not have a panic attack while they film. So in case you want the recipe I will share it here with some photos. If you get a chance to see me making them on the Inspiration Channels  “State Plate” you can see how they are made with the help of Taylor Hicks. 

So the simple recipe that I am going to use is this one.

Apple Dumplings West Virginia Style

For the crust for 6 dumplings

2 1/4 cups all purposed flour

2/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup plus a couple of tablespoons milk if needed

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg with water for egg wash on crust

 

For the dumpling

6 snack size golden delicious apples, peeled cored and left with whole down center

1 stick room temperature salted butter

6 to 7 heaping tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

One Jar Smucker’s salted Caramel topping.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes until dumplings are golden brown and juice has escaped the into the bottom of the pan.

Mix together dry ingredients for pie crust adding in shorting and cutting together. Until dry crumbles form and they look like cheese curds. Slowly add milk and cut in more as needed to make a dough ball. Food processors do a wonderful job here.  Remove from processor and form a large flat ball and place in container in refrigerator while prepping apples.

crumbly crust before adding all the milk

Peel apples and remove core with a melon baller tool,without breaking the apple.The apple should be hallow inside. Set aside while making the stuffing for apples. Mix brown sugar with butter until creamy but firm enough to hold together. If you can model it with your fingers like play dough you have enough brown sugar. Mix in the 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon cloves.  Set aside

7 inch crust rounds

Remove cool crust from refrigerator roll out on a floured surface in large oval about 1/4 thick. With a kitchen bowl around 5 inches in diameter,  mark and cut crust in smaller circles.  Re-roll until thin and about 7 inches in diameter. Score crust in 4 evenly placed locations to allow crust to fold neatly.

mix up 1 egg and 3 tablespoons water and brush edge of circle of crust.

Place apple in center of crust and spoon in sugar mixture pushing to bottom as you go.  Wet edge of crust with egg wash, wrap apple in sections over lapping where the edges need to be pinched to hold together. Bring all edges together at top of apple and pinch together using more egg wash to hold everything. Cover dumpling with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon  repeat with other 5 apples.

crust wrapped apple dumplings ready to bake

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes in a deep dish pan. Dumplings will leak and have sticky syrup in pan be careful it is very hot.Serve with a caramel topping and/or vanilla ice cream.

Salted Caramel sauce over apple dumpling

yummy desert with apples and caramel

A Different Presective on Life: Macular Degeneration.

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 00:12

Yellow Flowers at Stuarts Park near Elkins WV

So about two weeks ago I was told that the inherited eye disease that my family carries is beginning to do damage to my eyes too.The usual end result is legal blindness, although they say I may still be able to see some at the edges of my vision field. I am not sure if we ever knew what blinded my Grandmother but we are positive that my mother has battled “wet”  Macular Degeneration for about 20 years. She began to notice the changes in her sight in her late 60’s with a very quick loss of vision over about three or four years. In my case I have a type of “dry” macular degeneration or Age Related Macular Degeneration. The outcome is almost always the same with either disease,  although the my condition is a chronic slow loss of vision and my mother had a very acute fast-moving loss of vision, we both will end up blind at one point or another.

So far there is no real treatment for this type of vision loss and they can not predict when or if I will go completely blind at any point. So I am faced with the most challenging obstacle in my life. A unknown cloud  will slowly yet steadily take away one of the things I have enjoyed most in my life and make even everyday tasks become almost impossible to do on my own. This new challenge has changed my perspective on things that I can hardly explain here.

How do you quantify the value of your sight, or hearing, or the ability to touch taste or smell??? How do I explain the feeling of loss that is trying to drag me into the darkness without even allowing me to try to fight back. There is no recovery,  rehabilitation, cure or corrective device for this progressive loss of sight. So how do I learn to keep my balance in life when I am not even given something to fight against. I am left with trying to make peace with my situation…. and if you know me at all, making peace is not my best quality, by nature I am at my best when the fight is on.

The Dr. suggest that I change my diet to lower my blood pressure and lower the sugars in my diet to at least slow the progression of my loss. Diabetes and high blood pressure cause all kinds of damage to our vision. If  I can reduce my risks for other complications I may reduce the chances of going blind faster. Strange that I am hoping to just slow down something I can’t control in the slightest.

So you may see posts from time to time about my new situation and how it changes my perspective on things in both a literal way and a figurative way. I have a new pair of glasses which I hate… and can’t hardly use comfortably. I now have to see my eye Dr’s every year with other visits if I discover any changes. I was lucky I went for an annual exam when they discovered the changes were more drastic than I thought or could have imagined.

I now  live and look at things with a more studious eye. Drinking in the colors and textures of the things I love as if I may not every see them again. I will continue to read as long as I can. I will read all of your wonderful blogs and drink in the words as deeply as my heart allows. I have made it a point to enjoy more books too. Real books with paper pages and smells of old books stores with torn edges that I can annotate and dog ear. I will reread and re-watch my favorite books and movies until I know them and they become a part of me. I will create this blog until the time comes when I can not see the words on the page but only get to hear them read back to me with a computer voice. I will learn to work with it, around it  and through it and move forward into what ever wonderful things that God still has for me.

In a decade they guess I will no longer drive or clean my house. So I must have something wonderful to do some other way…. Maybe I will become Agatha Christy who dictated every one of her books and had a wonderful editor who transcribed them for her? Who knows maybe I am to be a painter of impressionistic flowers that tour the world as “works of the blind”?? Or  Maybe a Philosopher who spends too much time alone thinking about the meaning in life and discovers the “One Thing” that explains life as we know it.

So my perspective is changing on many things, but mostly on what beauty is and how we express it; What is Art and how do we enjoy it and what is Joy and how to find it.

 

 

Welcoming the TV Show “State Plate” to Our West Virginia Home.

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 15:22

It is so confusing for me that we have not only been invited to appear on one TV program but now two. The second invitation came from a representative from the Television show titled “State Plate” a food show that represents all 50 states here in the US. The show visits a community and talks about regional foods that people love from that state. It would not really qualify as a cooking show, they don’t really show how to make food step by step, they just talk about the dishes famous in that area.The show shares information on the history of that food item and how it is prepared. In my families case, Tom has been asked to talk about one of West Virginia’s most famous foraged foods, Ramps, a wild leak or wild onion that grows wild in the hollows of West Virginia. I on the other hand will be talking about Golden Delicious apples, making an apple dumpling with ice cream. Their will be three other items covered on the show, the pepperoni roll, trout and biscuits and gravy. Other members of our community will be asked to show how they make these traditional dishes in a West Virginia style. So our portion of the show is only about two items out of 5 segments, each being about 6 mintues long.

Field of wild growing ramps

Tom will be the star of the “Ramp” segment and he has 50+ years of experience digging ramps, cleaning and eating ramps. He will visit a family friends farm and dig ramps with the host of the show and then if all goes well the show will visit a ramp dinner here in Buckhannon and see the many ways ramps are prepared and eaten.

freshly cleaned ramps ready to cook

Here is a link to some info about the show and their Facebook page if you want to learn more or are just interested in see what states they have visited or will visit in the future.

http://www.insp.com/shows/state-plate/

State Plate Facebook page

Then later the crew will visit our house to film a portion of the show about apple dumplings using Golden Delicious apples. At least this is one thing I know how to make and have made in the past. I am just hoping to not totally freak out about cooking in my house with cameras rolling. Cooking for anyone other than family and friends is a completely new experience, wish me luck on this part of the adventure. I will plan to make a couple of batches and freeze them just in case everything goes terribly wrong. Let’s hope nerves don’t take over and I can’t actually cook on camera. My heart is already doing flip-flops just thinking about the whole thing and the work involved in getting my house ready and getting just the right recipe together.

The filming will take place over Easter weekend and we are going to have a house full off and on all weekend.I am not even planning to make our traditional family dinner this year, we are likely going to get to-go boxes from the local ramp dinner and eat right out of the foam containers this year! I hope you all will fallow along as I work on getting ready for this next adventure into TV.

In a future post I will share my attempt at making apple dumplings for the show and you can see the mess and stress I go through trying to make something worth seeing on TV. I can only hope that we have as much fun making State Plate as we did making the episode of Barn Wood Builders. Who knew, a Hillbilly boy and his family would ever have these kinds of adventures in their own back yards!

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding his first ramp age 3

 

 

20 Years of Raising Awareness in Randolph County with the Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group.

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:48

For twenty years the members of the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group in Elkins, West Virginia have worked to educate Randolph County community members about diversity issues. The group continues to sponsor the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and marked its 20th anniversary planning the event January 14th of 2018.

It was just after this anniversary that I sat down with the founding members of the group to talk about the celebration and the current state of our community’s cultural awareness. The members shared how the group was formed as a grassroots effort to support a multi-racial, multi-cultural, diverse community that is free of racism and bigotry. At the time of the formation of CAEG, surrounding counties harbored hate groups like “The National Alliance” that were putting on rallies and publishing hate documents. It was an unsettling time for the community and people were naturally drawn together to stand against the spread of hate propaganda. It was after a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 1998 organized by Ann Kingsolver and Catherine Fygan at the Davis and Elkins College that the group formed said Margo Belvin Denton.

Pictured above: Jane Birdsong, Carrie Kline, Mary Alice Milnes, Margo Blevin Denton and Melvin Marks, Founding members of teh Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group 2018. 

The group brought attention to local issues like acts of racism in the Elkins area and attention to the Riverside School Association, the group who worked to preserve the African American regional high school. They held meetings every two months and brought guest speakers to meetings like Paul Sheridan, Former Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to talk about the “Not in Our Town” program, Jerry Dale spoke about the white supremacist group “The National Alliance”, and Karla Schantiger from Women’s Aide in Crisis spoke about domestic abuse.

In late 1999 the group heard that a local group of Ku Klux Klan members were planning a rally at the Harrison County Court house. The members of CAEG banded together to attend a counter rally the same day. The “Let’s Get Real Rally” countered the KKK members in downtown Clarksburg and in a peaceful yet strong way. The non-KKK protesters made it clear that the community was not going to stand by and watch the KKK be the only voice herd that day. The amount of community members who attended the “Let’s Get Real Rally” outnumbered the few Klan’s men at the Harrison County Court House. The counter rally was viewed a great success for groups like CAEG and the State’s program “Not in My Town”.  The energy from these events propelled the group forward for years and its annual Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration has remained a staple downtown Elkins event for the past twenty years.

Community members inculding Elkins Mayor Van Broughton gather for the Commemorative MLK JR. March Jan. 2018. 

The goal of the CAEG has always been “to raise awareness” said co-leader of this year’s MLK day celebration Jane Birdsong. The group with help from community members, AmeriCorps service members and students from Davis and Elkins College, shared music, dance, poetry, prayers and a monolog written by Coretta Scott King about the legacy of her husband. The closing song of the celebration had everyone on their feet holding hands singing together about unity and love before a community pot luck began.

Guests fill the sanctuary of the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church during the MLK Day celebrations in Elkins 2018.

Also during the program a call to action was announced by Barbra Weaner. Emotionally Mrs. Weaner declared that with the current leadership in Washington, D.C. and acts of racism in Elkins that community needed to reinvigorate the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group once again. She said the issues of intolerance were just as relevant today as 20 years ago and we must not allow hate to reign again.

Kyle Pajorito walks hand in hand with a unknown woman at the MLK Jr. Day celebrations 2018. 

After twenty years I was looking into the same faces that had stood up to racism, hatred and violence in Randolph County. The members have aged but continue to teach, share and love just like the first day they worked together. The goal of Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group is still the same: “Make Elkins and Randolph County a climate for tolerance in a world of intolerance.”

 

 

Link for the KU KLUX Klan Clarksburg, WV rally:  http://americancityandcounty.com/features/government_one

Link for Paul Sheridan:    https://www.niot.org/category/niot/paul-sheridan

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Elkins West Virginia

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 21:48

 

I have left jobs, lost jobs, ran from jobs and wanted different jobs, but I am not sure I am happy about leaving this job. I am leaving my AmeriCorps position in Elkins West Virginia to move on to my final year as an AmeriCorps to a smaller town called Phillipi, West Virginia. After two years serving in the community of Elkins, I would have thought this move would be easier. It’s not easy…… and I am not accustom to leaving work that I enjoy and feel passionate about. AmeriCorps has been wonderful to me and I have learned to love my community and state even more because of the work I do.

It is the people that I hate to leave… they have opened their homes and hearts to me and I spent two years learning in the shadow of giants. Most of them are under dogs, scrappy  hard fighters who have never had a easy time of livinging in the mountains of Appalachia. Most work long hours often on bugets that outsiders would never be able to open a door with. They make due, they know how to stretch a dollar and work past dark for little pay. It is not easy to carve out a new future from the dark wooded mountains of West Virginia’s past, but they move forward. The community of Elkins is a strong, proud group of people who love as hard as they work.

I will say goodbye the 8th of Feb and take a much need rest before I move on to a smaller more remote community. I am excited and hopeful that I can help another community bring to life their dreams for a brighter future. I can only hope that this move will be just as  rewarding as my years in this mountain town.

So as my far well approaches I thought I would share some of my favorite photos of

Elkins and the people who made my term so wonderful.

Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge: Hiking The Wetlands of The Refuge.

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 20:16

This past fall Tom and I were encouraged by some work friends to explore one of the hidden gems of West Virginia. The Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge in Davis, West Virginia. An unusual place, high in the Allegheny Mountains, a wetland on top of  the mountain, where you feel as if you have entered a cranberry bog in Main. 

We were not prepared for the difference in environment that the refuge supplies. We planned our hike for a day that was predicted to be the peak fall color in the hardwoods.   We thought we would be hiking in the shade of those trees. We did not bring water or plan for lots of mud. Instead, in the wetland we spent time with thorn trees that provide no shade.We found our trails blocked by wet weather springs and beaver dams. We hiked past rock outcrops and over wild blue berry bushes. We found sandy beaches and twisted evergreens, but not the leaf covered floors of my back yard woods. We spent our day a little bewildered, visiting parts of the valley that felt as if I was no longer in West Virginia at all. It was a splendid surprise and I am so glad we were able to spend our day here.

Toms family for years had a time-share condo in Canaan Valley Ski Resort area. They used it in the off-season during the summer to rest, swim, play tennis, sight-seeing and shop. They never spent time hiking or learning about the unspoiled portion of the valley. Tom was so surprised by what he saw that he now has plans to explore the rest of the refuges 16,550 acres.

Tracking an enormous black
bear one morning in the mid1700s,
George Casey Harness
came to a spot, “on the western
slope of the Alleghenies which
overlooked a wide, well-watered,
wooded and grassy valley. The
breathtaking beauty of the wild
valley so impressed young
Harness that he involuntarily
cried out, ‘Behold! The Land
of Canaan!’” *This story is but
one of the ways that the valley
may have gotten its name.

Within the refuge there are about a dozen trails, all well-marked and made on relatively flat ground (easy to moderate ratings). We spent most of our time either hiking the bowl edge of the valley, while getting wonderful views of the ring of mountains that surround us, or in the bottom land walking through water. The Camp 70 Trail is the best view of the wetlands and is the location of the beaver dams. It is only 3 miles from downtown Davis, West Virginia. It was a photographers dream…. so many colors,textures and reflections to see and capture on the 2.4 mile hike into the park.

When we arrived we drove through the typical West Virginia hardwood forest into a new world that we had never experienced before.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Ski Resort and Davis, West Virginia

The park spreads across the highway and covers areas that are very flat to areas that are mountainous with rocky ledges with heath bogs. The  Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge boarders the Dolly Sods Wilderness area with another 17,700 acres of wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest with 919,000 acers.All three are worth the trip even if you can only stay long enough to walk a mile to see the splendor of the area.

Trail to large beaver pond. In the back ground is Dolly Sods wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest.

Rock choppings appear along the trails everywhere In the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

twisted horn tree in the wet land of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Over the course of a day we did two trails with about 6.5 miles total. We then left the refuge and headed towards Dolly Sods to see the heath bogs and a more rocky terrain. Some where between the two we ended up on a forest service road deep in the Monongahela National Forest and never arrived at Dolly Sods. We followed the forest service road for about 15 miles and ended up seeing some wonderful mountain views that lead us to Seneca Rocks State Park.   We drove through some of the most beautiful places in West Virgina, and never planned it.  The trip home took longer then expected but the day in the wilderness was well worth getting lost and finding our way back home again.

If you plan to visit the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge keep in mind that many acres of the refuge are not on trail maps and the surrounding acreage are mostly National Forest or State Parks with huge land holdings you will not be able to tell when you have left one place and entered another if you are not on a marked trail. Combined these three land holdings have over 930,700.00 acres of wilderness. Each park, refuge and forest have different rules about their trails and land uses. Also keep in mind that camping is not allowed on the refuge but is in some areas of the State Park and National Forest. Get Maps… if you plan to do any cross over hiking, or off trail exploring. It is rare to hear of someone getting lost in the wetlands or forests but it can happen. Be prepared for Bear! This is bear country, while we hiked that morning (during early bear season) we met a large group of bear hunters who had gotten a bear only 3 miles from where we hiked. The group traveled with a large pack of hunting dogs, 5 or 6 of the sweetest dogs you ever wanted to meet. But, if you are not a hound lover it can be overwhelming to see 3 or 4 running at you down a trail. The men were friendly and we talked with them for several minutes about the success of their hunt and that it was the senior member of the group who at 76years old had taken the bear after hiking 8 miles to find it and another 6 to get back to a truck parked near by. All of this hunting had finished before 11am that morning. This is West Virginia and hunting is legally allowed in all of these locations with limits to non-populated areas. Become part of the “Leave No Trace” program and take back what you bring into our parks, forest and refuges leaving no trace.Making sure that everyone can enjoy all that is Wild, and Wonderful about West Virginia.

Beaver pond with reflections, Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.

 

2017 Photos and Thoughts About 2018.

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 18:39

In 2017 I found comfort in simple beauty and family. I have spent more time with people who are important to me. I fell even deeper in love with our home state with several visits to new places in West Virginia this summer. Over the fall I  discovered how much blogging means to me as I spent over 4 months struggling with my computer. I  finally just give in and purchased  a newer lap top over the holidays. I want to able to write when the feeling strikes or a topic is burning a hole in my mind. So you should see more from me in the future.

I will change service/work locations in 2018 and will get to build a future working in a field I love. I will still be working in community development but this time in the area of structures and buildings. I will be working predominately with two historical buildings in my region. Taking them from abandoned and run down into useable contributing structures in the communities where I work. One is a 1906 hotel that had fallen into disrepair and had become a low-income housing.The 6 story structure will be turned back into a downtown hotel.  The other is an abandoned retail grocery/ hardware store from the 1890’s. This one will be turned into a 11 unit apartment building for college students with a historical feel. I will be doing everything from cleaning and painting, to arranging for community volunteers to help with planting flowers and trees, to reglazing windows and filing for permits. It takes lots of work to rehab old buildings but I can not think of something that I love more.

The former Tygurt Hotel circa 1906 in downtown Elkins, West Virginia 2017 before rehab begins.

So this photo review is just a portion of the beauty I found this year and a taste of what I will be doing in the future. I hope that you have a wonderful New Year and 2018 brings you prosperity and joy! I am looking forward to an interesting new adventure in 2018.

Gas log fire-place behind antique farm table in modern addition of the Cutlip /Mayes log home.

Barnwood Builders film crew with producer Sean Mc Court at Dave Cutlip and Patricia Mazes home filming Spring of 2017.

I took time to write a story here on my blog about a historic house in Beverly, West Virginia. Owned for generation by my friend Dave Cutlip’s family. The story was then passed on to the Barnwood Builders producers. The producers liked the story so well they filmed the home for one of their TV shows.This gave me a second chance to work with Sean McCourt (producer) and Mark Bowe(creator and star) from the T.V. show the Barnwood Builders.

 

Doc Holiday sleeping with Christopher June 2017

Tom and I were happy to watch both of these boys grow healthy and strong for another year. Christopher and Doc… both snuck into my bed one Sunday morning while I was making a late breakfast.

Veda Maxine Buffington Lowrey age 87 summer 2017

This photo of my mother is the most beautiful sight I had all year. A family visit to see my mother in Rolla, Missouri turned into a mini family reunion. At age 87 she really enjoyed having most of her children and a couple of her grand children visiting her.As her health slowly fails my future starts to look completely different.

The famious St. Louis Arch from the Old Main County Court House steps St. Louis MS.

 

Under the Sea Mural at the Newport Aquarium, Newport Ky. 2107

After seeing my mom near St. Louis Missiouri we traveled to Ohio and Kentucky on the way home. Stopping at the Newport Aquarium and along the Ohio River.

Christopher tossing rocks into the Ohio River with Tom watching Newport,Ky. 2017

 

The 4th of July found us at the Old Hemlock Foundation property. The historic home of George Bird Evans the internationally famous upland bird hunter, artist and writer. Spending the holiday weekend with LeJay Graffious and his wife Hellen Ann tagging birds and releasing them, teaching young people about foraging in West Virginia, hiking and playing with the most beautiful dogs was about the best weekend we had all year.

Old Hemlock Foundation Visitors Center and education outreach building 2017

Then it was state fair time and the heat of summer. Christopher won a trip to the West Virginia State fair with his 4-H project pillow. We rode the rides, eat fair food and spent the weekend taking in the local town of Lewisburg,WV. The heat and humidity just about melted us at the fair, so Christopher slept in the air conditioned back seat of the truck all the way back to the hotel.

Christopher with his 4-H project pillow at the West Virginia State Fair 2017.

Full view of the Historic Greenbrier Hotel

The following day we spent touring White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It was one of the most interesting trips we have made in a long time. We took one whole day to  tour the flood ravaged town and the world-famous Greenbrier Hotel. 

My work had me working on several Heritage Quilt Trail panels over the late summer and fall months this year. Volunteers and I finished 4 of the panels this year. The largest was 8X8 feet and is the bottom photo called “The Tree of Life.”

Emma Scott Garden Club helps paint the panel called “Bear Paw” 2017

Panel made for The Elkins Sewing Center called “The Basket” 2017

Working on “The Tree of Life” with staff from Citizens Bank of West Virginia 2017.

Close up of color patterns on “The Tree of Life” heritage Quilt Trail panel 2017.

As the summer closed and fall arrived I decided that fall stood for “fun” and I took full advantage of it. I spent a couple of days volunteering for Christopher’s local youth center by helping with Stockert Youth Center fund-raiser The Haunted River Walk. I took Christopher trick or treating twice and spent more time in the mountains then I did all summer. The time spent with both my boys during Halloween made me feel young and many laughs and smiles were shared.

The woods in fall in West Virginia are spectacular. We spent time hiking at the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge during the peak of the leaf change. The high mountain bogs and wetlands are so unusual in this part of the country that you think you have been transported to Maine or Vermont.

Thorned tree in the middle of the wet lands of Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge.

Beaver Dam pond on a fall day Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge 2017.

A traditional country road in the mountains of Pendleton County West Virginia.

Then a quick trip to West Virginia University campus with Christopher’s 3rd grade class. How often to you get to stand on the 50 yard line of you favorite college stadium while the kids run the field and meet the Mountaineer Mascot?

Christopher and class mates meet the WVU Mountaineer Mascot on the Mountaineer field fall 2017

Christopher and several class mates run from the 50 yard line at Mountaineer stadium 2017

Finally winter came and we got 5 inches of snow and the temps dropped into the teens. So often I walk alone with my dog in the snow and see things in a different way. The old airplane hangers and airfield are connected to my back yard and make wonderful photo locations when the weather changes.

Veiw from my back yard on a walk with my dog in Buckhannon, WV

Maybe this theme of change is what I should look forward to this New Years. I have no resolutions, no promises or written plan. I just know that life is short and we should all be able to pursue what makes us happy and I hope to accomplish that in 2018.

 


Filed under: Barnwood Builders, Buckhannon West Virginia, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Elkins West Virginia, family fun, Greenbier Hotel, Halloween, Old Hemlock Foundation, photo review, Photos, State Fair, Uncategorized Tagged: Barnwood Builders, Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge, Greenbrier Hotel, Halloween, photo year in Review, photos of West Virginia, WVU stadium

Coconut Cream Cup Cakes with Amaretto Buttercream frosting.

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 01:12

 

quick coconut cake with Amaretto  buttercream icing

It is not often that I have a chance to make something in the kitchen just for the my youngest son. He recently asked me “What does coconut taste like?” I could think of only one thing…. Cake. So I put together what I had in the kitchen and made up a simple white cake made with coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk as the flavoring. Then topped off the cup cakes with my favorite flavoring, Amaretto, in a butter cream icing. I could have made the cake in a traditional two layer style but I really wanted to share the cake so I ended up with 36 white and toasty cupcakes instead. They were a big hit with my husband, my co-workers and my son… he likes the sweet soft coconut not the crunchy topping. I guess you win some and you lose some. Next time we will make it with the regular  shredded coconut as topping instead, even if I love the toasty crunch.

So the cake is really simple I used a store-bought white cake mix and to that I added 1 8oz. can unsweetened coconut milk and 1 6oz. can sweetened condensed milk and 3 eggs  omitting the oil in the directions.

 

 

This recipe is one that I will use again when we get closer to Easter and the bake sales for the church and 4-H Clubs start again in the spring

The recipe:

1 box of white cake mix.

1 can unsweetened coconut milk 8oz.

1 can sweetened condensed milk 6oz.

3 eggs

pour one 1/4 cup of batter into muffin tins lined with paper wrappers

The cooking time is slightly longer then what is listed on the box. I think I needed to add about 8 minutes making the cooking time 30 mins. at 350 degrees.

While the cupcakes cooled I toasted one 12 oz. bag of sweetened shredded coconut. placing the coconut on a cooking sheet in a thin lares under the broiler on low heat. Watching constantly, stir every time the flakes on the edge of the sheet begin to brown. This took stirring 5 or 6 time over the 5 minutes.

toasting sweetened Coconut

Frosting:

1 cup real butter at room temperature. This is two sticks.

1  2 pound bag of powered sugar, mixed into the soft butter slowly.

2 teaspoons almond extract, or Amaretto liquor.

1 tablespoon milk

After cupcakes have cooled frost and roll in toasted coconut. Adding half of a Maraschino cherry on top if desired.

the recipe makes 36 to 38 cup cakes.

Coconut cupcakes with almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut toping.

So what would you make if you were asked ” What does Coconut taste like?” I have not cooked with it much other than making cakes or cookies. If you have any other ideas send them my way I would love to try other things too!


Filed under: Amarretto, cakes and family deserts, coconut, Easter, family memories, Holidays Tagged: Amaretto, buttercream, cake, coconut, Easter, family fun, holiday cooking

Warm Feet for Winter Project was a Meaningful Success.

Sun, 12/24/2017 - 22:19

 

pile of my families mismatched socks

Today was a beautiful West Virginia early winter day. The temperature was 50 degrees, the sun was shining, and my car was loaded with donations to the local homeless shelter. 60 pairs of new socks overflowed into the seat of my little station wagon. I was able to collect them from my co-volunteers at our annual holiday dinner.With each donation my friends said “This was so much better than buying a gift for each other.” That they were happy to help in this collection drive, and things like “I picked theses socks for a woman who needs them much more than I do.” Today I  was happy to drop off the donation and I am filled with  the spirit of what Christmas means to me.

As you can see below I created a graphic to share with my friends and co-volunteers from the Appalachin Forest Hertiage Area, AmeriCorps program. I wanted everyone I work with to have the opportunity to do something different with their money for the holiday days.

I took my lunch hour  the fallowing day to drive downtown to drop off the socks. As I drove the large shopping bag and box to the local homeless shelter, I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would walk into a house with an office with basic amenities where I would drop off the socks. Then an administration person would hand them out and make sure everyone in the shelter would get their fair share.

What happened instead at the homeless shelter was enlightening. I parked at the front of the building only to find a note on the front door to go around the house to the back,  go up to an office on the second floor. Before I could get my foot on the wooden steps to the second floor, a door opened, a woman leaned our of a doorway and asked if she could help me. She must have seen me coming around the house. I told her about dropping off the donation and she said she would send a couple of people out the front door to help carry everything in. So I headed back to the street and popped the hatch of my car.

What appeared out of the front door of the blue Victorian house was sad for me. Two men, one my husband’s age (in his mid fifties) and the other maybe 35. The older was weathered from years of smoking. He wore a faded coat issued by the US Army and had only a T-shirt under his coat. The other younger man was taller, thinner and darker. He asked if he could help me with the box and I passed it to him out of the hatchback. I smiled and said “thank you” to the tall, thin man. He responded with a smile of  broken teeth of a meth addict. The older man took the large bag and spoke very quietly to me. He hoped that my friends and I  knew how much these sock would mean to them and the others who would not get off the street this winter. He reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of heavy thermal socks. He rubbed his wrinkled, dry hand over the bundle of two socks and said” hummmmm these will be so warm.” The younger man turned and walked up the steps to opened the door to the house.  I watched the older man in his green army coat step away from my car and up to the porch. Holding the heavy bag in one hand, he raised it as if in victory, with the other hand he waved saying “Thank you so much, have a Merry Christmas.” I returned his wave and would spend the rest of my afternoon thinking about him and the 11 other residents of this shelter.

I have known and loved some poor people in my life. I have seen men bundle two and three socks together to make a decent pair of socks to cover the wholes in each pair. I have seen the ravages of alcohol, meth and heroin addiction in my own family. It is never easy to look into the eyes  of a person who is struggling, when you are not. But when we take time to see them, talk to them and be kind to them we raise them up. It also raises us up, together we can share in something meaningful even if it is just warm feet for winter.

I challenge you or your work place to do something kind for someone who needs it more than you do over the holidays. It was an uplifting experience for me and my friends. It could be life changing for a person who is on the street and could get not get shelter over the winter. Even a pair of socks can made a difference and I was happy to be part of the Warm Feet For Winter Project.

 

 

 


Filed under: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Christmas, community service, Helping the homless Tagged: AmeriCorps, blessings, community, donations, Helping the homeless, West Virginia

Deer Meat, Pretty Girls and The Ghost Women.

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 21:26

It seems to me that family traditions are become fewer and fewer with each year. We talk less, spend time together less and often it is too late when we realize we needed information that has already slipped away. So to prevent that from happening today my husband and I spent the day teaching two of my younger girl friends the art of skinning, quartering and cutting up a deer to make into venison burger.

So when Danielle and Samantha asked me about our life style here in West Virginia, hunting and deer processing came up. They both asked if they could learn more about butchering and how we prepare the meat that we hunt. It was a wonderful day of being outside spending time with  two pretty girls and my husband.

 

So the morning started with the 4 of us in the garage with a nice buck hung and ready to skin. The process is easier when the deer is still warm but with this deer we wanted to the girls to help learn the process from the beginning. Tom took time to explain the steps needed to cut through the skin and the processes of pulling the hide down over the body to the head of the deer. Each girl taking turns pulling and tugging. Then he showed each girl how the quart the deer and cutting off anything we don’t butcher. Slowly, we moved the quartered pieces into the house to be cut up and ground into burger.

Each took a cutting board and knife and begin to talk about the different cuts of meat that people use. We made roasts and talked about stake and stew meat. We talked about our favorite ways to make jerky and what people do to cut the “gameness” of venison.  We eventually had a tub full of venison chunks that would be ready to grind in a few minutes.

 

As we talked, laughed and told stories I had the distinct feeling of the past coming to life. As if generations of women were watching us and reflecting on our work. A tribe of woman from Danielle’s Alaska, a group of farm woman from Samantha’s Ohio and a group of homesteading woman from my West Virginia, all crowd around us in spirit. They whispered their comments, talking about how they once smoked, canned, dried and froze the meats that men and boys brought home. How they took pride in their work and how hunting and butchering were shared activities in families. How no one was left out, everyone was expected to help in providing for the long winter months.

As we break for lunch, I make a pot of venison barley soup and thin slices of tenderloin fried until brown for steak sandwiches. We eat together and talked about our homes, fulling our bodies with the goodness that our hard work  produced. The ghost women of the past seem satisfied with our skills for today. They know that their grandchildren have learned some of the skills that kept generations of our ancestors alive. Lessons that the ghost women are happy that we are sharing.

Tom takes time to help with the grinding as I stuff it into bags. We feel the ghost women retreat, they shower their blessings on my family and home as they fade away. I take the bags to the freezer and close the lid. I stop in the gray light of the basement and say a prayer of thanksgiving to all of those who have helped me on my way to becoming one of the keepers of this knowledge and a woman of the woods.

It is not often in the modern world we are asked to share our traditions with others. So, I was so happy to have these two pretty girls come and spend a day with me learning a skill that I have repeated a hundred times over the years. It was wonderful sharing my life with people who want to learn about it and want to be in some way a woman of the woods also.

 


Filed under: Appalachian Mountains, cooking, deer, deer hunting, family traditions, Hunting, organic food, rural life, Venison Tagged: butchering, family traditions, girl power, hunting, organic food, venison

Child’s View of making a Holiday Cake

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 21:57

Christopher’s Thanksgiving turkey 2017

While getting ready to make holiday preparations yesterday I was surprised and filled with joy by a little scrap of paper my son Christopher  and I made 4 years ago. I was busy that Thanksgiving Eve of 2013, getting our holiday deserts ready for the big day. Christopher was in the kitchen with me on a stool mixing the dry ingredients for one of my families favorite cakes, a Southern Style Carrot Cake. I only make the huge cake once or twice a year. The recipe has been passed down from his Grand Mother Powers. While checking the recipe several times to be sure it all the ingredients and instructions were followed, he asked me if he could make a recipe for a cake also. I suggested that after we finished the cake I would help him make a recipe for his very own Christopher Holiday Cake. As the cake baked in the oven I sat with him at our kitchen table and wrote down what it was that he thought in his 5-year-old mind would make a good cake.

Southern Style Carrot Cake.

So with a cute recipe card in hand I wrote down the ingredients for his cake.

The Christopher’s Apple Tomato Carrot Holiday Cake.

  • 2 cups of eggs
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 4 packages of sugar
  • 5 tomatoes 
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sliced apple 
  • 8 cups vanilla icing 

Then we talked about how he wanted to make his cake like his grandmothers. Mixing everything together with a big spoon and putting it in the oven. He  then told me how we were going to make the cake and I wrote down the following. 

In a large bowl crush eggs with a hammer. 

Mix in flour and sugar packets. 

Put tomato, apples and carrots in microwave and boil them for 7 minutes

blend them into bowl. Pour into pan and bake until done , 14 hours. 

top with icing and pour vinegar over top and eat. 

As I read over the notes I had taken on the recipe card, I was struck with thoughts of  how quickly times change. I was taken back to this Thanksgiving Eve 4 years ago and how small and sweet he was. I thought about how now he could write his own recipe cards and could read most of the directions alone. How he will not need me to help him to make a cake in a year or two. I realized how much this silly little recipe card means to me. To have it fall from my cookbook onto the floor was just the very best thing that happened yesterday. It reminded me why I make that darn cake and how much I love my family. Happy Thanksgiving hope you have a great celebration where ever you are!

 


Filed under: Uncategorized

Being a Hellion for a Good Cause

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 01:12

As a teen I am sure that my Mother often thought I was a Hellion. I was a free spirit, with wild friends and an artist heart. I dressed in the fashion of the Punks and Goths, stayed out way to late and had to many boy-friends. I loved reading horror novels and watching dark movies. I never really caused much trouble and did not fail out of school. So most of the problems I caused were minor. Actually I ran with a pretty smart crowd, kids who were just the misfits of our high school. You know them, every school has them, the theater kids, the artists, the poets, the gays, the rebels and musicians. The ones who were creative and always looking for an outlet. So many of my Halloween’s were filled with parties and costumes. That all ended as I grew up, working most holidays and getting kids ready for their costume parties. That all ended last week, my 2017 Halloween was as full as any child’s and it was all for a good cause.

Hellion and Insane Chainsaw Man ready to head to the Haunted River Walk 2017

I was recently asked to help with a fundraiser for my sons after school and summer program (Stockert Youth Center). I was happy to help out and even happier to find out that they were putting on a haunted house themed event. The Haunted River Walk was planned for the weekend before Halloween and I was asked to be a monster in the woods of the walking trail. It had been years since I had made a costume and years since I had taken my creative monster making skills out of the closet. This was going to be good.

Test run of the Hellion costume Elkins WV Down Town Trick or Treat 2017

So as a fan of old Hollywood monster movies, I knew that I wanted something that was more old school then resent horror films offered up as characters. So with a quick look through my closet and a trip to Party City, I came up with the Hellion. Not really the Devil himself and certainly not the naughty she-devil that young woman play but a beast with horns, claws and skin of red. Something that was possible to put together in a few days. So with a lot of hair spray and some top quality black lipstick and some body paint, I became for the first time in many years a creature of the night. The fun had just begun.

 

The Haunted River Walk took about two weeks of planing and a few hundred hours of donated time from the local city workers to pull together. Our location was part of a city park that needed dividing walls and crowd control methods installed. We needed volunteers for set up, makeup, scary monsters and ticket sales and late night clean up. So the call for volunteers brought together families, students from the local college, city workers and our Mayor.  All people who wanted to see our local non-profit after school program/ summer camp program, continue to supply the much-needed support that our children need and deserve.

 

College girls ready help out

asking the new volunteers into the meeting

 

Planning our costumes

The planing meetings included settling on masks and costumes. We looked over the site, picked locations for the mazes, tents and places for scary monsters to hide. Each day the excitement in me grew,  I had never been the source of the scare in the haunted house before. I was always a willing victim in a haunted houses imaginary world. This would be my first time trying with all my heart to scare the crap out of people and I was not sure I could do it!!

The day came for setting up the trail, the tents were delivered on the backs of roll back trucks. Loads of scarecrows were staked out in what was a soccer field. Rubber body parts and  fake corpses were hidden and hung in trees. Strobe lights were located in the most important places and we all prayed for no rain.

Real structure walls were delivered and placed at the beginning and end of the trail . Cody my son was placed at one to use as a backdrop.

That afternoon my older son Cody, joined me at my home, saying he was ready to volunteer too.  So with my daughter in law’s help, we spent a couple of hours putting together our makeup. We covered my son in his first ever, white make up and teased my hair and sprayed it high. Cody had volunteered to be the insane chain saw welding character. He brought along his chain less, real chain saw. He was willing to stay out late and help clean up, so I had a partner in the long night ahead. At about 5 pm  we were ready to head out the door and take our places in the woods for the first shift of scaring visitors.  The first two hours was for children, we were instructed to not be tooo scary.

view of the trail and in the back ground The Woods

Tote of body parts and dead animals

Flo is that you? Evil Scarecrow

At our arrival I was informed that I was supposed to warn the children about a slippery bridge that I was guarding. I had not even thought about how my character would sound. I had thought about hissing, and growling but never the voice of this Hellion had. Somewhere in my imagination I found a voice much like a hissing witch to let the families know that the bridge was slippery. Within those two hours I had found my scaring style and timing. Scaring children is not hard but with groups of adults it is all about timing and it took some skill to hide well enough and let people get close enough to scare them without getting punched. There is always the risk that a guy will feel so threatened  that he would try to punch you.

The night grew darker and the rain started, I think all of us hid under whatever cover we could find. I wrapped my cloth shroud around me and stepped off the gravel path into the cover of the trees and underbrush and waited. I lowered my head and let the rain wash over me. I watched dark rain drops drip from the tips of my horns. Finally after a short break the adults and full families slowly worked their way through the tents, a field of old broken scarecrows and mutilated body parts to the woods.

Over the course of the night I found that I was able to do two scares from my location. I was placed at the left side of a bridge that had a black plastic divider down the middle. I had placed skull decorations and lights around the ground and would leap out off to the side of the decorations. Then when the visitors returned to cross the back side of the bridge, I would tuck myself up close to the black plastic hiding the horns. In the dark I was almost impossible to see. I would make this guttural scream and leap out at them again with arms raised high with the shroud flapping. This was a fantastic location as the trail turned a 90 degree turn away from me at the end of the bridge. People were often much more worried about making the turn and staying on the trail than looking for me. A distant light allowed me to see them coming yards before they were within reach, so I had time to plan my attack.

Taking the advice of  a friend, I took my time when I planned my scares.  He commented to me that most haunted houses frights always get the people in the front or back of the group, never the middle. So often times, I would wait for the one moment when the whole group was near by or just past me so I could scare the whole group. In one case the group was about 7 people who appeared to be one large family group. In the lead was a young preteen girl with her mother and maybe an aunt. Behind them was a grandma with a female friend walking behind a few paces. Following the older women were three men  most likely fathers and or husbands. Hiding in the folds of the black plastic fencing I waited. I knew how the group was moving through the park by my first passing with them. I knew, I wanted to scare not only the little girl but the older women if I could. So as the mother, daughter and aunt passed me, talking quietly to themselves, the older women crossed the bridge a few steps behind them. With a large clear plastic umbrella in hand they came slowly off the wooden bridge and took three steps towards me in the corner of the turn. From the darkness, all at once I screamed like a creature from the depths of Hell and leaped at them. The umbrella flew into the air backwards and all 4 sweater covered arms flew up wards. The women’s screams rang out in the darkness and I had achieved success. The two women broke out in uncontrollable laughter with huge grins.  I had frightened the two older woman so hard that they had to turn around to recover the lost umbrella from the ground.  The men behind were laughing out loud and congratulating me on a scare well done. In the dark one man said “good job someone finally got them”. My heart sang at his words. I felt that I had finally given over to the actor in my heart. A smiling Hellion returned to the black rain covered woods to wait  for the next group willing victims.

The night continued with groups of teens and college kids passing and backing away from the horned monster who I had become for the night. I tried to find better and better hiding places and often times laughed right along with the victims of my scares, but two other encounters stand out in my memories.  The first was an older man and woman in their 60’s who may have only come to the river walk to donate money to the youth center. They seemed like locals who did not seem the least bit frightened in the dark of the walking path. They passed me the first time with controlled interest but no real fright, but the second time they never saw me coming. The couple was on the second pass of the bridge and the husband was in front chattering away at the wife who trailed behind him a step or two. As they left the edge of the bridge instead of turning up and away from me, he continued to walk straight… towards me….. in the dark. He continued  looking back over his shoulder speaking to his wife not aware how close he was to a demon. As I watched in the dark his foot left the path and he stepped onto the soft forest floor. That was my cue, a second later I flew at him, hissing arms spread wide, horns aimed at him. He turned shocked, he let out the scream of a woman and jumped back into his laughing wife. The man had actually gotten scared in our little haunted river walk. The wife thank me over several times for scaring the old man, who was always so smug about his lack of fear. He left my portion of the trail beaming and giggling with his wife. It felt good to know that men scare just as well as women, you just need good timing.

But my favorite moment of the night and the reason I will return to the woods again next year if they need me, is the memory of a young family with two children. The older of the two was a girl who looked about 7 or 8 years old walking hand in hand with her lovely mother both dressed in matching rain coats. Following behind was a father, tall and bearded holding a small boy in a hooded coat maybe 3 or 4 years old. They had come to the adult portion of the haunted river walk and I had mixed feelings about my amount of effort to put into my scare. I knew they did not see me in the dark bushes as they just about passed me. I slowed my jump and hissed like a cat at the right arm of the father as they passed. The mother and daughter squealed and leaped forward several steps as I stopped next to the young boy in his fathers arms. The father froze… and stopped moving altogether, I stood behind them by then. When the father knew my fright was over he moved to join his wife and daughter who were ahead of him on the path. As he passed the little boy in his arm turned around to face me and over his father’s shoulder yelled out, ” YOU ARE A BUTTHOLE for scaring me and my Dad”. The family tried to quickly correct the boy by saying things like “You can’t say that! and”That is not nice!” but It was too late. I was not offended  at all. It was all that I could do to keep from rolling on the ground with laughter. That boy was mad at the monster and let me have it in his 4-year-old way.

The night ended early, the rain had poured down for 3 1/2 hours and the temps dropped to about 38 degrees. We were all soaked to the bone, even my son who was wearing heavy clothes and a hood was cold and wet. The group in the woods had gathered at the exit of the river walk where my son was charged with standing with his chain saw. We all agreed that the fun was over and the night was to cold and wet to continue. As if by magic a herd of monsters,  the insane and dead emerged from empty spaces in the woods. We walked under the rain and fog of the field lights like an army of the dead. 15 creatures of the night, carrying skulls, bodies, cauldrons, chain saws, headed to the main tent to begin the long night of finding warm, dry clothes and washing off face paint. It had been the most fun I had in years!

In the end Stockert Youth Center’s Haunted River Walk had 96 visitors, in the pouring rain and cold. We had 20 or more volunteers who worked that night in costumes, 3 city workers who set up and tore down the event and lots of fun. We raised around a thousand dollars in 3 hours for programming, healthy snacks and field trips for all the children who use the center. In my heart I know that this Hellion was a force for good. So many good things came from this event, so many smiles and giggles were shared, so many children will benefit and so many friends were made in the dark that night. I can only hope to be asked to dig out my monster making skills for next year.

Jacobs Ram skull use as a prop at the Haunted River Walk

 

 


Filed under: AmeriCorps, Buckhannon West Virginia, Halloween, Haunted House, public art, Uncategorized, volunteering Tagged: AmeriCorps, costumes, Fund raising, Halloween, Haunted House, Haunted locations in West Virginia, volunteering

Art and History Spark Interest in Downtown Elkins W.Va.

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 23:05

Quilts have always kept us warm, reminded us of our past, and brought families and friends together. These same ideals are used to create the Elkins Main Street’s Heritage Quilt Trail. A community supported effort to bring art, history and warmth to downtown Elkins. With guidance from Elkins Main Street and their Promotion Committee, small groups of community volunteers, such as Emma Scott Garden Club, Davis & Elkins College ladies lacrosse team, Youth Build North Central and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps members, are creating more quilt blocks for instillation on several downtown Elkins buildings this fall.

“Maple Leaf” quilt block mounted at the YMCA building in downtown Elkins

The Heritage Quilt Trail began in 2015 with members of the Main Street Promotion Committee discussing how the brightly colored panels could spark a grass roots beautification effort. With information gathered from the Pocahontas County and Monroe County W.Va. quilt trails the committee set out to make their own quit trail. Quilt panels like the one above are created with grant funds and project proceeds received by the Elkins Main Street office.  The funds are used to purchase the construction materials and paint needed to make the 4, 8’ X 8’ft panels. Money gained from the sale of the quilt block panels in turn pays for the creation of more panels in smaller sizes. The current plan includes making 12 panels of three different sizes.

Members of Emma Scott Garden Club paint “Bear Paw” quilt block panel

The images used to create the quilt block panels are copied from traditional Appalachian quilts. They represent things that a family from the mountains would see or use every day. The patterns are often designed after nature. Leaves, animals and trees are the most often found subjects in West Virginia quilts, but other patterns like baskets, houses, and stars are also popular. Often families would use remnant materials from old clothing and sewing projects to make the quilts. Mixing materials and colors made each quilt unique and cherished by the owner.

A single quilt block panel will often take over a month to make, from design ideas, to painting, to an installed product. The Heritage Quilt Trail panels have approximately  15 different volunteers’ handy work as part of their finished product and installation. This part of the process is also reminiscent of the traditional creation of fabric quilts. In days past, friends and family would gather for quilting bees, but  today  Elkins Main Street  hosts painting parties, where people from the community come together to get to know one another and take part in community  art.

  AmeriCorps Members Molly Greenhouse, Dominic Piacentini , JoLynn Powers (project coordinator) and Katie Marie Simmons add tape pattern to the 8 x 8 ft. panel.

  Volunteers help install the “Log Cabin” Heritage Quilt Block at the YMCA in Elkins

It takes a diverse group of volunteers to make the Heritage Quilt trail possible, and it brings a community together to enjoy them. With the future creation and installation of all 12 panels, the Main Street Promotion Committee hopes to publish a Heritage Quilt Trail Map.  The map/ brochure will give the location of the quilt block panels, a description of the images used and information about the history of quilting in Appalachia. Elkins Main Street hopes to give visitors another interesting reason to linger in the downtown and take time to enjoy the beauty of Elkins.

“West Virginia Star” installed at the Davis Trust Company Bank, Elkins W.Va.

 


Filed under: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Art, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, West Virginia Tagged: appalachian mountains, Art, Community Art, Elkins Main Street, history, quilt, Randolph county West Virginia, West Virginia

Meeting the International Champion Monroe County, W.V. Lego Robotics Team.

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 23:59

While taking my youngest son to see his 4-H project at the West Virginia State Fair this August, we met a group of inspiring young people from Monroe County. The Boa Constrictor Robotics Team from Union, West Virginia is not only a local and national champion, but a 5th place winner on the world stage for Lego Robotics building.

Yes, you read that properly, 2 dozen kids from one of the poorest counties in the nation placed 5th in the world. The team beat challengers from Korea, China,and Chile, to name only a few of the over 60 nations represented. Monroe County claimed awards and trophies for beating hundreds of well sponsored teams from all over the United States and the World.

Members of the Monroe County 4-H Lego Robotics team at the West Virginia State Fare 2017

The Monroe County 4-H members put on a demonstration in the 4-H/FFA center building at this years State Fair. The same room where all qualified projects are displayed and judged for the best projects at the state level. This team was able to show hundreds of visitors what 4-H can do for kids and what one small community was able to do with some dedicated volunteers.

Christopher was instantly engaged in the robots and the team allowed guests to play with the winning robot named Rook. The team made and displayed several smaller introductory robots also. I could not drag my son away, the visit to see his own project was forgotten and it  became a quest to learn more about how to make and drive these machines.

Christopher getting instruction from Boa Constrictor Lego Robotics Team member

 

Christopher in front of his first year 4-H pillow project that made it to the State Fair Level. 

The Lego Robotic program is a wonderful way to show off what is often overlooked in our young people in West Virginia. 4-H members have to do the math and work with their hands, solving problems in real world situations. They develop teams were they learn to build what they need rather than counting on something prefabricated. All things our rural kids already understand. Our kids will need more than one sponsor, unlike other teams who can depend on money from wealthy colleges or business.  They will have to develop public speaking skills as they talk to business people, university presidents, churches, banks and farmers to find the over $15,000 dollars it took Monroe County to make their dream come true.

Christopher plays with the first robot the Monroe County team built-in 2016

So with my  family and others, an older son who loves to work with his hands, and help from our County extension office, we are now taking  on the challenge of getting more young people involved in STEM projects ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and  Robots. Our families hope is to increasing the number of children who are exposed to the future of technology and keep that interest growing . Lewis county 4-H is stepping up and following Monroe counties lead and starting their own Robotics team and my family is all for it. Soon we will have our own team,starting our own Lego robotic build and teaching kids about robotics. From the bottom of my heart, I am so proud to see our youth reaching their dreams. I thank them for inspiring a whole state of 4-H members and hope to hear great things about the Monroe county kids as they take on the State, Nation and the World competitions again this years. Best of luck kids….. West Virginia is behind you all the way!

To learn more about 4-H and Lego robotics and STEM projects contact your West Virginia University extension office in your county.

 


Filed under: 4-H, awards, Christopher, Cody, education, Legos, Monroe County, Robotics, STEM Tagged: 4-H, Christopher, education, Lego, Monroe County, Robotics, STEM, West Virginia

Chow Chow Relish – Using Late Season Garden Vegetables

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 15:46

One of the last summer treasures from the garden in Chow Chow. My husbands family loved to make and eat it every summer and it never remained in the cellar for long… Here is the same recipe they used and passed down. Enjoy !

Town & Country Gardening

Grandma’s CHOW CHOW

1 peck (1/4 bushel) green tomatoes about {12 or 15 pounds}
5 lbs. strong flavored yellow onions
1 large head of cabbage course chopped
5 lbs. sugar
5 red hot chili peppers {you need at least 2 of these and more if you like your chow chow hot and spicy}
2+ cups chopped sweet green bell peppers
2+ cups chopped sweet red bell peppers
2 to 5 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 or 4 tablespoons celery seed
Optional – 1 package of pickling spices
About 1 qt. of cider vinegar

Slice or dice tomatoes and sprinkle with 1 cup salt, place them in a clean old white pillowcase and hang them from a close line pole over night. {This will remove most of the green tomato juice from your bag of sliced green tomato’s} I’ll bet wrapping your sliced tomato’s in cheese cloth would work…

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Filed under: Uncategorized

A year after the 1,000 year flood in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 02:18

Having the opportunity to travel to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia a year after the 1,000 year flood,the 3rd most deadly flood in the state’s history was eye-opening. The resolve of the people who call this area home, the love and compassion they have and the amount of work that has been done since that day in June 2016 is amazing.

These are the images the country had seen for days in the wake of the flooding in Southern West Virginia. This YouTube Video shows the complete devastation one family experienced as their home not only was flooded but floated away while on fire. The small stream the usually quietly trickles water through downtown that day became a rushing raging deadly river.

 

These are photos taken that same day in different location in the downtown.

 

The flood almost wiped the town from our memory that day. The famous Greenbrier Hotel  resort became the main shelter for many of the effected residence. Rooms that often cost $ 600.00 dollars a night  or more became home for over 200 people for about two months while crews worked to do clean up. Many of my work friends became FEMA volunteers and coordinators helping to dig out privet homes where the nation guard was unable work.

These are the photos I took less than 14 months later.

a pole sign the greets everyone on main street near the memorial park.

The white gazebos that sits at the entry to the memorial park from the street.

memorial informational sign

Stone memorial wall left side with names of those who were lost to the flood waters. Eight names and markers 4 on each side were recessed into a grass covered mound in the small downtown park.

Christopher and Tom walk over the bridge at Howard’s Creek. This bridge was under 5′  of water during the flood. Christopher would have been completely underwater.

Howard’s Creek the stream that  flooded the town of White Sulphur Springs June of 2016.

 

As my family walked the quite downtown. It was true that many of the shops are still closed.That many of the stores did not have insurance and were wiped out, but today you see these wonderful signs of hope, strength and courage. This place is ready for a renewal, ready to come back to life again. Every thing is clean, every place has taken on what they can to make their town look beautiful. The streets are lined with flowers, benches and trash cans have fresh paint and patio umbrellas dot the sidewalks to eat under.  We felt welcome and wanted in their downtown.

Alfredo’s Italian & Greek Family Restaurant on main street White Sulphur Springs.

You can not tell the story of White Sulphur Springs without showing  the Greenbrier Hotel. Many come to the area just to visit the historic building circa 1778. It is one of West Virginia true treasures and I was over joyed to be able to spend some time visiting at the hotel.

Flower beds in the entry parking area of the Greenbrier Hotel Resort 2017

The main flooding to the property was on the hotels golf course so the main build and the rooms of the hotel were free from damage. The 1778 hotel sits high enough on hill at the edge of town to escape the flooding. Making the owner Governor Jim Justice a hero to many who lost everything and were able to have a safe place to stay for a month or two while clean up and recover efforts were underway.

Some outsiders say “if it was not for the Greenbrier the town would have never recovered fully , they are a rich town”… I can’t disagree more. The people of White Sulphur Springs are why the town is slowly rebounding. It is apparent that they want their town back and are willing to work very hard to have the town to thrive again. It takes more than one hotel to get the schools back up and running, it takes more then just tossing money at a mud puddle to clean up block after block of flooded stores, it takes more then a Governor to declare his business a shelter to build a park and make memorials to those who died that day.

White Sulphur Springs is also home to my friends at The Barnwood Builders T.V. show. So just in case you were wondering… Yes, they have their showroom on main street it is called  Barnwood Living. Yes, they are doing all they can to help the town with their business and the donation of a log structure that will be used at a pick nick pavilion for the whole community to enjoy. They also helped do some construction at Hope Village, a community owned and planned subdivision that was built to move families out of the flood plain of the White Sulphur Springs up on a hill where they will always be safe.  They are proud of their home and are working for its successful future. I remain a fan of the show and loved shopping in their store.

White Sulphur Springs is an example of West Virginians commitment to community, family and hard work.The old saying, “she could make a silk purse from a sows ear” might be fitting. Some how the people have taken the worst of a situation and made something better for everyone. My only hope is to return to see what they do to improve in the next year!


Filed under: Appalachian Mountains, Barnwood Builders, community service, Country life, Flooding, Greenbier Hotel, historic locations, Uncategorized, White Sulphur Springs Tagged: community, Flooding, Greenbier Hotel, Memorials, West Virginia, White Sulphur Springs, WV historic locations

All for the Sake of Dogs: My visit to the Old Hemlock Foundation.

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 18:52

Summer has gotten ahead of me this year. We have been traveling a lot for work and pleasure. So I have a back log of stories about the people, places, and events which, I have been enjoying. Needless to say, I love the people of my state. I have met some really wonderful people this summer like LeJay and Hellen Ann Graiffious, director and caretakers at  Old Hemlock Foundation.

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LeJay Graffious with Mountain Laurel and Helen Ann Graffious with Black Willow. Used with permission of OHF.

On the other hand, I am about to say good-bye to some absolutely wonderful AmeriCorps volunteers. It is August and it is the end of their year term, so things are very hectic as some leave and some join the program. So, I wanted share one of the many stories that could be written about another AmeriCorps Site, Old Hemlock Foundation in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, where I did some hiking this summer.

Tucked away in some of the most beautiful old growth forest property in North Central West Virginia is the Old Hemlock Foundation, the home of George Bird Evans and his wife, Kay. Known internationally as an author, an artist, a husband and dog breeder of profound influence, George called a rural 230 acres in Preston County home. His life could be defined as a Renaissance Man of the last century, a man who lived life on his own terms. Yet, this post today is more about the writings of George and his wife,  Kay, the property the foundation cares for and the DOGS. Oh my, the beautiful dogs!

 Mountain. Laurel,(back)  Black Willow (front) English Setters  of the Old Hemlock line.Photo used with permission OHF.

Mt. Laurel in the lap of Tom and Christopher Powers in the home of George Bird Evans.

The relationship we have with dogs can be profound. At the Old Hemlock Foundation a guest enjoys hearing the story of how and why George began the Old Hemlock line of  English Setters, about his love of upland game bird hunting, and the land that he called home. You experience their lives in a personal and inmate way surrounded by their belongings and dogs. The entire visit felt as if George and his wife, Kay, had just stepped out for a trip to town and left my family with the two dogs and neighbors for company. The opportunity to explore their home, enjoy their writings, see their artwork and spend time with their dogs immerses you in the experience unlike most museums or art gallery exhibits.  You begin to feel their presence as you walk the pathways to the house and walk into the woods they saved from timbering.

Living room bookcase with the writings of George Bird Evans.

Mt. Laurel sleeping on bed

Fireplace surround and Mantel in Master Bedroom of George and Kay Evans.

The home of George Bird and Kay Harris Evans, built-in 1815 was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and is still the location of many of family’s personal belongings. Seeing where this talented man spent his hours reading, writing and drawing was enlightening. To be able to write  professionally at the small desk by a north window of their home was impressive. George was dedicated to sharing his stories and helping people understand his life in the field hunting for grouse and working his dogs. It is apparent to me now that the house and desk were merely vessels that George used to get his message out into the universe. His life, home and books will be a source of inspiration for years to come, as I continue to aspire to be a writer.

Illustrations created by George Bird Evans for Cosmopolitan Magazine.

 

George Bird Evans photo on top of the desk in the photo.

Front View of the home of George and Kay Evanses with side porch showed in the sun circa 1780

When you see the photos of the family with their beloved dogs displayed proudly on the walls you begin to understand the family’s connection with the English Setters. With no children of their own the dogs were a constant source of love, affection, laughter, and respect. George writes about his dogs, not in an anthropomorphic way, but in a transcendental mystic way, making his relationship with the animals a spiritual connection. A relationship built on shared respect and the joy.

Mountain Laurel planted by Kay, blooms at the front wall of the Evanses’s Home

The joy that he experienced with his dogs is shared with guests still today. LeJay and Helen Ann Graffious live with two Old Hemlock Setters on the property. So in the tradition of George and Kay there is never an un-dog related pleasant moment. Willow and Laurel, registered Old Hemlock English Setters, make each and every person feel at home and welcome on the property. The speckled coated dogs( known as belton coats) attend every hike, every meal and class that is given on the property.  They are magical animals … and  I see why George spent a life time writing about the deep love he had for the Old Hemlock breed line.

George began journaling his hunting outings in 1932.With these as his foundation, in the 1950’s he wrote magazine articles about his dogs and hunting adventures. in 1971 he published his first of 21 upland game hunting books. His well known hunting books and a hundred articles are still regarded as some of the best outdoor publications.  He shared his deep respect for the game he hunted, the dogs he raised and the connection he shared with nature. His romantic style of writing that painted vivid images for readers and is unique in the genre. It is easy to understand why his expert writings are still studied, and revered some 19 years after his death. He still has much to share with anyone who wants to learn about upland game hunting, nature and training dogs….. or is it “how dogs train us”?

George Bird Evans with  Robert  Brown current owner of the Old Hemlock Line with the dogs at his home in Bruceton Mills. Used with permisson of OHF.

While at the property we spent a large portion of our time walking the trails that surround the welcome center and log home. With dogs and kids running and playing in front of us we explored some of the old growth Hemlock trees of which the property is named. I regret deeply that I cannot convey to you the awe that I experienced when we entered the deep dark Hemlock forest. It was something like a fantasy  movie set or a church… Yet, none of these words comes close to relating how  startling it is to leave the lush green sunny forest of the hardwood canopy and enter a tall stand of climax Hemlock trees. Everything changes in an instant. The light dims as it tries to shine through the conifer bows. The colors change, there is no bright greens or yellows, just deep rich greens and grays. The height is different, there are no branches that droop and hang low. The Hemlocks stand 80 feet high with broken stumps of branches reaching out to you.  Even the ground is  transformed, with only gray rocks, deep brown dirt and the lush green of moss and ferns under foot.

Welcome and Education Center for The Old Hemlock Foundation 2017

 

As our group forged ahead of me into the darkness of the thick Hemlocks, I entered the stand alone and last. With Helen Ann with in hearing distance of me, I actually let out an audible exhale, one loud enough to be heard several feet away. I then continued with an “Oh My” and heard from ahead on the trail Helen’s reply, “This is why they refer to Hemlock forests as Cathedrals”… (Also look up Cathedral State Park in West Virginia for other stands of old growth Hemlocks).It is so impressive, that I now crave to see these kinds of woods again and again. I am so thankful that George and Kay found this property and chose to save the Hemlocks from the sawyer. It is another magical part of the Old Hemlock Foundation that should not be missed.

 

 

 

 

After our two-day stay, we packed up to leave the  foundation’s property,  I  knew I had found a place where kindred spirits had lived. We share a love for nature, dogs, writing, art and a passion for sharing what we love most. Thank you to the foundation for allowing us to be part of your education outreach program and for inviting my family back to explore more of the wonders of Wild Wonderful West Virginia.

For more information about the Old Hemlock Foundation, educational programs, history and the dogs, follow the above link to their website or follow them on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/OldHemlockFoundation/. 

Mountain Laurel Old Hemlock English Setter 2107 age 2


Filed under: Appalachian Mountains, Dogs, George Bird Evans, Hemlock Forest, hiking, historic locations, Hunting, Old Hemlock Foundation, Preston County WV, Uncategorized Tagged: Dogs, English Setters, George Bird Evans, Hemlock Forest, hunting, Kay Evans, Old Hemlock Foundation, West Virginia

Why a Life of Service is not a Job, But a Life Style

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 18:22

With my second term as  an AmeriCorps  Service member half over and me reflecting on what my career plan should be. I have come to the conclusion  that I want to keep in the service industry and hope to work for a nonprofit. I have committed to a life style not a job.

I have spent most of my adult life living on other peoples terms… go to college, get married, get a job, and have a family. Not that these ideals are bad, they just seemed to be a little boring. I have always been rebellious, adventurous with a love for life. I want a passion filled life, with travel, new people and getting dirty trying new things. I want something more than the 9 to 5 with benefits that colleges promise. I want more from life than punching a time clock allows. Deep inside I want to make a difference in the world.

So at the complete worst time in my adult life after a surgery, heartbroken about a personal loss, and feeling unqualified to do much with a Fine Arts Degree, I started looking for work. A writer friend inspired me stop looking for a JOB and start looking for a life style. A life style that reflected what I really wanted. She helped me to see that what I was looking for was career fulfillment, not career advancement. How eye-opening that moment was for me.

In our visit she shared with me her Year of Service Story and introduced me to AmeriCorps, the Citizen Conservation Corps of WV (more often known as the three C’s) and Peace Corps. After our conversation I realized that my skills and passions could all make a difference right here in West Virginia, the place I love most.

I have been fortunate to serve as an AmeriCorps Member in Elkins, West Virginia for the last 18 months where I work with AFHA (Appalachian Forest Heritage Area), a regional initiative to promote heritage tourism, conservation and education based on forest heritage. AFHA, AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service and by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  As a service member for AmeriCorps I have had opportunities to meet, work with, and learn from some of the most interesting people in the state.  My Site, Elkins Main Street, is deeply committed to working with local and state government officials on projects that help to bring jobs, investment, growth and prosperity to our community.

First Lady Joanne Tomblin and Elkins Main Street Director Karen Carper

At my Elkins Main Street site I work with community volunteers on making public art projects that preserve Appalachian culture and inspire people to take pride in their community. Working side by side with community groups like the Riverside School Association, we celebrate ethnic and social diversity, and cultural differences like at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration.

Riverside School Ass. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration 2017

Also as part of my AmeriCorps duties, I am asked to take time regularly to see and experience the culture and history of the community where I serve. A person cannot begin to make significant changes to the future of a community without first understanding its past and present. We are encouraged to see a wide range of locations in our service area, from the mountains, to the largest cities and oldest historic landmarks. For example, I traveled to the West Virginia Capital Complex to speak with Volunteer West Virginia about the role of the National Main Street Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left side: AmeriCorps members from AFHA touring historic Bear Creek Grist Mill cir. 1840, Summersville, WV.  Right side: West Virginia State Capital Complex, Charleston, WV.

AmeriCorps members are a team banded together over large expanses, doing the work of preserving and protecting the local environment, the history and culture of a people and encouraging travel and education about our unique locations.  AmeriCorps is a force for good in places where times are a little harder and people need a helping hand to building on their strengths. I am proud to say that I choose everyday to be a AmeriCorps Service member, because I want  something more than a job , I want  a lifestyle making a difference.

 

Appalachian Highlands Trail trash pickup day 2017. Members of AFHA AmeriCorps collected 16 bags of trash for the trail foundation.


Filed under: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, community service, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest, volunteering Tagged: AmeriCorps, community service, volunteering, West Virginia

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