Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ladies & Gentlemen... I give you - my kitchen!

Ever since I gave Granny Sue the option of picking the next room in the house that I wrote about, I have been looking for time to photograph it - right after I cleaned it. I'm not a neat freak by any means, but living in a construction zone can make any room in the house less than picture-perfect. So I broke down and finally have photographed the kitchen for posterity, at 1:30am on Sunday morning. What was I doing up at that hour? That's what I'm wondering as well.

I'll start off by introducing you to your tour guide, Franklin, who will from now on be giving the tours of the house. He spends the most time of any of us in the house, so he knows the most about it. Here he is, showing off the tacky white laminate floor that the previous owners felt would look great. Someone should have told them white shows dirt. All the dirt-

Eventually I will replace this floor, but for now it stays. Franklin doesn't seem to mind it.

This is the door to the basement, dressed in dried herbs and an old flour sack. The shelf on the wall is the spice rack - which has been hanging in that same spot since we moved in. It always seemed at home there, and is very easy to use. The dishwasher is mobile, and I wheel it over to the sink to hook it up when I need to use it. I have a valance for the kitchen window, but have to get a curtain rod for it.

The watermelon sack holds plastic bags for reuse later, and the flyswatter has yet to be used. With warmer weather, I'm sure the flies will be aplenty.

Here is the corner across from the basement door. The window and dishwasher sit next to the stove. This corner is a bit of a hodgepodge, since the countertop is a makeshift one. The stove is gas. As you can see there is a bit of a country vibe to the room, that's intentional. Alot of the stuff in here is heirlooms or stuff I've bought traveling in WV.

The washboard on the wall belonged to my great-grandmother Mary, who my brother has written about extensively on his blog. On top of the cabinet you can also see her cream pitcher, its brown and white - the one on the far right. The blue and white cow (on top the cabinet) belonged to my grandmother Virginia "Bunny" - who was the subject of my first post here. Also, just over the door on the right you can see part of the horseshoe that hung over the kitchen door of the farmhouse I grew up in located in Germany Valley.

The big white floor cabinet came with the house, and serves as what little counterspace I have. It came from IKEA I was told, and I think it is ugly as sin. Talk about an elephant in the room. But for now it stays-

I don't like the idea of an open kitchen, especially one opened to a traffic flow that leads from the back porch through the house. I keep thinking about all that dirt running through the kitchen. Let me know if I sound crazy. I've always liked the idea of having rooms - I'm not one for open living, for some reason.

Here you get a better view of the horseshoe and part of the dining room. It's yet to be painted. The archway now houses John's lantern collection - they seem to fit the space. It has to do with the railroad, I'm sure.

The other side of the counter in the dining room is currently also housing the plants during the winter. Some of the other objects in this picture are my favorite mug (red one, on the counter), the five lanterns, a white Nefertiti bust (with its back to you), and a gray castle I'm working on for the yard this spring. See anything you want to ask about? Everyone says I've got the weirdest things around my house - like those Ravenhearst games. It's probably true. But all of them have a story.

Here we have come full circle - the refrigerator, complete with magnetic towel rack, photos on the fridge door, magnets, and Granny's kraut crock on top (full of clothespins). If you look in the entry way through the door you will see signs of ongoing renovation, as well as an ionic column. Franklin likes to call it his pedestal. What's in the glass on the sink? Cherry 7-Up. That's Franklin's little blue cat cubby in the hall.

Well I hope you have all enjoyed the tour of my kitchen. Which room will I do next? I don't know - any suggestions?

I will leave you with this piece of advice. No matter how cute they look, never turn your back on a cat.

If they're anything like Franklin they'll go right for your toes!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Springtime Plantin'!

The tulips are budding, the daffodils are out, and the spring rains have settled in for - about the next two months. What better way to celebrate the end of a horrid, long cold February than with a trip to your local nursery? Here in Morgantown there are the usual places such as Lowe's, but I prefer and honest-to-goodness greenhouse nursery like Shield's Nursery near Clay Battelle & Core, WV. It's right on the WV/PA line, and I'm still not sure which state it's in.

Every spring (and honestly, throughout the summer), I find myself being drawn there - not only for the great deals on plants, but because of the atmosphere. The simplistic decoration, the use of recycled materials, and the laid-back appearance of the place gives me a feeling of peace and contentment that I hope to be able to build in my own yard. There's also an overwhelming sense of abundance, as if you could walk around the place all day long and not see everything there. It's a Disneyland for gardeners and plant lovers!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the greenhouse. I was concerned at first about taking photos, but the owner of the place laughed at me with her thick Romanian accent and says, "Take all the pictures you want. I don't know why though - there is nothing here to take photos of." I sensed that somewhere beneath that sentence there was thick sarcasm. Judge for yourself:
An aged lion spouts water beneath a trellis on top of a pedestal of railroad ties. Note the baskets of flowers hanging from the trellis. Very nice!

This is the entrance to one of the eight or so greenhouses. No surface is devoid of plant life - sometimes not even the walking path!

This old tree stump was inside the one greenhouse, planted with moss and succulents, and surrounded by annuals. Beautiful! I think some of the success of this nursery is their ability to make everything look like it "just happened" that way.

This gazebo is right in the middle of one of the greenhouses - little respites like this are everywhere. And in case you're wondering, that's juniper growing across the arch in the background!

See? Of course, these are not all the common, garden-variety WV plants. There are some exotic things here, too.
Such as this papyrus - anyone feel like making paper like the ancient Egyptians? And speak of exotic, the grounds of the nursery is also home to 6 or so of these:

I have to say, I love peacocks. They're beautiful birds, and I love their call. I kept waiting for the one above to spread out his tail, but he only did it once when my digital camera was OFF, of course. I will make another trip soon to see if I can get a better picture of his tail feathers.

There was also a large flock of peahens around the greenhouses. They really are beautiful birds!

Yet I digress - here are more photos of the nursery:

Thinking of creating a water garden? You can get your plants here:

Complete with tadpoles:

Of course, there are also the shade plants and the wine shoppe, which sells local wines, crafts, and pottery:

Here are some shots from inside the wine shoppe and craft store:

And now, back out to the nursery - these are some really neat shots I found around the place. Amazingly, there are a lot of customers all the time, but it is so big and full of vignettes that it feels intimate - like you have the whole place to yourself.

Wisteria over the doorway - very romantic.

Can you grown oranges in your garden? This was simply amazing!

Here are some more shots to get you in the mood for spring -

A bright red azalea! And below, some flowers I cannot identify. Any ideas?

Well, the peacock says it's time to go. Until next time, keep thoughts of spring on your mind - because if you aren't careful winter might come back!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WV Storytelling Institute

I know, I know - write about the kitchen. I promise - but I wanted to get out information about the latest storytelling event (arguably the largest) in West Virginia. A lot of my fellow tellers will be there, and West Virginia's Spectral Heritage will have our display there as well!

The West Virginia Storytelling Institute will take place on April 3-4, 2009. This is a Friday and Saturday, and is the second time this event has taken place at Fairmont State University.

This is the Falcon Center, the student union at Fairmont State University. It's a new building, and impressive. The university is hosting the second annual WV Storytelling Institute here. There will be storytelling, sessions on how to storytell various styles, and music! Lots of storytellers use music in their storytelling (something I've yet to do). One of my favorite balladeers, Susanna "Granny Sue" Holstein, will be there again this year. Here she is presenting a workshop on ballads last year:
Of course, my favorite things about the storytelling institute are getting to see a lot of my friends that I normally only see once in a great while - and some that I last saw at the institute! Sad, I know, but thankfully a few of us have discovered Facebook, which helps us keep in touch better. Still, face-to-face is much more preferable. Here are Jo Ann Dadisman (of the Mountain Echoes), Granny Sue, and Ilene Evans. All are primo, excellent, one-of-a-kind storytellers!
Here are some other photos:

Here Ilene is in costume, when she portrays Harriet Tubman (and does a great job with it!). I'm not sure what made us laugh, but with us it could have been anything.

And who says no one is interested in Appalachian culture? It seems to me that we drew one heck of a crowd! Of course, with a great book such as this one, how could we not?

This book is our latest guild publication, titled From Our Mountains: A Collection of Stories from the West Virginia Storytelling Guild. It's a great read! And it puts its best foot forward - after all, my story is the first one! (I'm not saying anything about the stories being in order by author's last name). This book is still in print, and still for sale through any storyteller. You can get yours by contacting me, or any other storyteller from the
WV Storytelling Guild.

The schedule starts on Friday, the 3rd of April starts at 9am and runs through 9pm (or later). Saturday is much the same, with various tellers, events, and presentations throughout the days. You can find more information on the guild site, as well.
While you're at Fairmont State University, you may want to check out the Dr. Ruth Ann Musick library.
If the name sounds familiar, Dr. Musick was the lady who collected WV's ghost stories long before I was born, and is my inspiration for the WV Spectral Heritage Project. Her works include: The Telltale Lilac Bush, Coffin Hollow, and The Green Hills of Magic. Here are some photos from the inside of the library:
There is a large tile mural in the library depicting various scenes from Dr. Musick's books. This particular scene is of the coffin rider ghosts, a common theme in WV ghost stories.

This scene is from The Telltale Lilac Bush - a story about a husband who murdered his wife and buried her in the yard, but the lilac bush gives up his secret. I recommend these tales to anyone who loves a good ghost story!

This is several scenes of the tile mural, but the one in the middle depicts the "ghost light" spirit of a man killed by a train while walking the tracks at night. His ghost still lights his way on the tracks where he died.
If you want to know more about WV ghosts, read Dr. Musick's books, or go the West Virginia Spectral Heritage Project. I will work on getting the kitchen posted on here, but until then I hope you can forgive me and my spring fever!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Not My Fight? I Don't Think So...

Well Susanna, I am working on getting that post together about my kitchen. I will warn y'all firstoff - it is not a pretty room. Functional, but not pretty. That post is a'comin' either later this evening or tomorrow, whenever life settles down enough. Last evening I went shopping for things I could not put off buying until later, and by the time I got home I was too pooped to type.

Today I thought I'd update everyone on my most recent endeavor. My sister-in-law, Shirley, wrote a book called Bringing Down the Mountains, and is now working on her second endeavor - this time with the Sierra Club- on a book about mountain top removal. If you don't know about this current disaster state in West Virginia and most of Appalachia, then I suggest you educate yourself. Here you can get a good idea of what happens when a mountaintop is removed.

A Mountain top removal site - very moonscapish, eh? This was once verdant, green mountains!

For this second project, Shirl asked me to either draw her a picture or write a short piece for the book, and I came up with the idea for a poem. Since no one in my family (excepting those in Shirley's) have ever been employed by coal companies, it took me a while to find an angle from which to come at the subject. I knew what I wanted to say, but I did not want to come off sounding like an outsider talking about what I did not understand. This is something I constantly rail against myself - the last thing Appalachian culture needs is more local color writers!

I think I came up with a good poem, and I hope that it inspires others to not only realize the problems of mountain top removal, but also that we ALL have a part in it. Here is the poem I wrote for the book:

Not My Fight

I know nothing about coal mining,
Or the miner’s poor soul.
A coal company’s decisions don’t affect me
I’m told.—
There’s no coal to be mined
In the place where I dwell—
So I should ignore that
You’re turning heaven into hell.

Up here in Pendleton,
There’s no coal in sight—
No mines in these mountains
And green valleys so wide.
No tipples on the clifftops
Where the eagles fly high—
And you tell me there’s no part
For me in this fight.

On my family’s homeplace,
We’ve lived three hundred years.
All full of loving, laughter and tears—
Yet our sorrows are eclipsed
By the tragedies of coal,
Where fortunes in business
Are bought with the soul.

Words cannot render
The beauty I see
When I sit on my front porch
And look around me.
My mountains are safe now,
But how long will it be
Before some bought politician
Sells off my heritage?

My home in the mountains
Is worth more than gold.
There’s no advantage for me
To do as you’ve told.
There’s no way I’m buying
What you’re trying to sell—
I hope your profits will save you,
When you’re burning in Hell.

I hope you enjoyed that - and be sure to pick up a copy of Shirley's Bringing Down the Mountains. I will also let you all know when her next book comes out. Until then, I will keep everyone updated on my house renovation... next up - the kitchen!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Relics of the Past, or Lives Lived Well

During one of my forays into the yard, I have found things. Relics of lives past, memories forgotten, and mementos that I don't really understand. However, I do like to think that within my yard (and my house) there have been many happy memories made. It is a happy place, despite its current under-construction condition. Even the lady who sold it to me said she was really sad to sell it, but her life led her south to Alabama. I've given her an open invitation to visit anytime, and I don't doubt that someday she will come knocking on the door. She is still here, in essence - immortalized (along with her cat, Twiner) in the names and pawprints on the concrete floor of the basement.

Here are some other things I've found around the house. These came from the yard:

The Clam Shells
The story? I think something like this:

"Honey, what are we going to do with those clam shells we brought back from the beach?"
"I thought they would look nice out around the flowerbed, you know - with maybe some hens & chicks around them. Or maybe just put them around the rosebushes."

And that's where I found them.

The Silver Tablespoon

For some reason I hear this dialogue in Granny Sue's voice.

Mom: "Tommy, have you seen my good silver serving spoon?"

Tommy: "I think Aaron had it out in the yard by the Water Maple. He said something about digging a hole to China."

Mom: "That boy! Always messin' in something!"

The Zinc Can Lids

My parents star in this one.

Husband: "Are you sure you want to throw these out?"

Wife: "YES. They don't hold a seal anymore. See how the metal has worn out around the edges. The milk glass inserts are slipping out of the one. Everything has a lifespan, honey. Let it go!"

The Red Glass Slag with the Yellow Streaks

Mother: "Emmy goes everywhere with that piece of red glass her father brought her home from the glass factory. Carries it around everywhere, and calls it her Princess Ruby."

Aunt: "Ah, to be that young again and full of imagination. And energy! If they could bottle that, they could make a million!"

Mother: "And she does have an imagination!"

The Broken Gas Line

Father: "We were lucky. The fire was only small, but it did a number on the boiler. I'll have to replace it."

Neighbor: "Lucky for you that your house was saved. It could have burned down your whole house - good thing you thought quick and turned off the gas."

Father: "Yes, the fireman called it a "flash burn"*. It did a number on the basement ceiling, though."

*There actually is a flash burn on the basement ceiling, from where the former boiler exploded. It could have happened...*

The Green Croquet Ball

During a summer family evening, full of lightning bugs, the smell of lilacs, and laughter:

"Anyone seen the green croquet ball*?"

"Nope. We've looked everywhere and no one found it."

"Oh well, it will turn up eventually!"

*(I found it in the hostas by the back porch.)

The Blue and White China Bits

Great-granddaughter: "I hate that I broke grandma's china bowl. My stupid, slippery hands! She'd be so mad at me if she knew I broke it!"

Mother: "I don't think she'd be mad at you, honey. She used her dishes - and she'd be happy to have you use them. She never did put things up to collect dust. 'Use yer dishes' she always said! So no, I don't think she'd be mad at you."

Great-granddaughter: "Still... I hate that I broke it..."

The Clock Weight

Grandson: "Grandpa's clock is off. I've got to go get a new weight for it, I think."

Mother: "Well, are you sure you know what you're doing? You might make it worse."

Grandson: "How? It don't keep good time now. What could I mess up? Maybe make it go back in time?"

Mother: *laughing* "Maybe! Crazy as he was, his clock might actually do that!"

Grandson: *laughing* "Yeah. I think I'll get a new weight for it."

Now it's your turn. Everyone out there - write a story about this. I'm not sure what it is, but it is solid iron, about 3 inches square, and was lying by the back porch near the drainspout. Best story gets to pick which room of the house I write about next!

Good luck, and have fun with it!