Here on our little hillside, in WV, we try to live a simple life. One where we can try to make the best decisions in regards to what we feed our family, and where we source our foods. We try to make green decision that are not only good for our family but for our community and planet as well. There is no place I would rather raise a family, than these WV hills! So I guess it is our responsibility to preserve them, and our heritage.

Monday, January 28, 2013

simple life at stake

Growing up in the mountains of West Virginia, I always had a dream of escaping this place.  Into a big city, with endless possibilities.  When the opportunity to leave came, over and again, I decided to stay.  I could not leave these mountains.  There is something about this way of life, these people, & about raising a family here.  I want my children to have the opportunity to see and experience the things I did as a kid, well, most of them..  ;)  These mountains helped shape who I am.  These mountains have taught me so much!  These mountains taught me to appreciate the simple, green life they help provide for us.

These mountains provide everything we need from entertainment to jobs.  From the family working in the coal mines, to the animals harvested during hunting season.  These mountains give us everything we need.  You can grow a garden and raise animals for milk and meat.  You can forage for berries, mushrooms, herbs, greens, ginseng, ramps, nuts, etc.  You can fish the local streams for native fish.  If not native, it was probably raised locally, somewhere like the Bowden Fish Hatchery.  You can also learn so much from these mountains about nature, science, animals, weather, & living in general.  These mountains also provide great entertainment.  From swimming in lakes and streams, looking for crawdads, hiking, biking, 4-wheeling, catching lightening bugs, boating, rafting, camping or simply exploring the woods.  You get so much from these mountains!

These people are special too, and you can never truly appreciate all that they have to offer, unless you can embrace their lessons as gifts.  The soul of every West Virginian resides in the way of life our ancestors adapted to in these mountains so many years ago.  We are a very friendly and welcoming group of people, with an amazingly rich heritage.  From the music, folklore, arts, culinary traditions, work ethic, family traditions, and beliefs, these people and our culture are remarkable!  Here are a few local musicians, Chad Slagle, The Davisson Brothers Band, Breach the Silence, & 6'6 240, as just a small examples of the great music that comes from this state. You can find a huge collection of WV artists (pottery, jewelry, fine art, folk art, etc.) at the Tamarak.  You can see live animals at Hovatter's Zoo or the French Creek Game Farm.  Go to the Theater, catch a concert, attend a music festival, watch the Mountaineers, and there are always local musicians playing somewhere close.

I would venture to say that West Virginia is one of the nation's top hidden secrets. Most of us would prefer to keep it that way.  Our state has been in the news lately thanks to the MTV premier of Buckwild.  However, our state should be in the news, for a far bigger reason,  the destruction of our mountains.  I know you have heard the debates over mountain top mining, but the truth is, our home, our mountains, are being destroyed daily by the process of Mountaintop removal.  An evil form of coal mining that blows the top off of our mountains and then tosses the remaining rubble into our nearest creek bed.   Destroying  not only the mountaintop, but areas surrounding it as well.  It is an extremely destructive form of mining, and employees more machines then men.  It is destroying our home, our heritage, our history, and it is killing our people.  Destroying our Mountains, destroys our way of living.

It is bad enough that our mountains, that have shaped who we are, are being blown up. Now one particular mountain is at stake that helped shape not just Appalachian heritage, but American history. Unfortunately  few have even ever heard its history.  Have you ever heard the term "redneck"?  Ever wonder where it came from?  Have you heard of Mother Jones?   Do you know how the UMWA started?  Do you know Blair Mountain and the history she tells?  Well, you should!  Everyone should!  Instead, this huge part of American history, & this historic mountain is in a legal battle between those who wish to preserve her and those who wish to surface mine her.

Many families in this state, including my own, have depended deeply on the coal these mountains hold.  For years, underground mining has supported our families, preserved our heritage and held our history. Mountain top removal however, seeks to strip us of our history, heritage, culture, and health. Strip mining is bad enough, but the damage to land, water, people, wildlife, heritage, etc., that comes with Mountaintop mining is unacceptable!  These mountains provide us with a simple yet seemingly perfect life.  It is time we start to channel our inner Mother Jones and "fight like hell" for the mountains that have shaped our lives.  We deserve the right to pass these mountains on to our children and grandchildren.  Actually it is our duty to preserve our culture for them, and to do so, we must preserve our mountains!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

peach crisp

One of my favorite things about canning and preserving my own food, is being able to have a taste of summer in the dead of winter.  Recently I made peach crisp with some of the canned peaches we had done the year before last.  With the preserved fruit on hand, this dessert is so simple to make, and you should have the other ingredients in stock in your pantry.

For the crisp I emptied the fruit into a baking dish.  I had the peaches canned in halves so I chopped them up a bit.  You can also use fresh, frozen, or store bought canned peaches.

In a large bowl: mix ~ 4 cups of oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 -1 cup of cold butter, and 1 tsp cinnamon with your hands, until the mixture can be formed into ball and crumbled.  

Crumble oat mixture over the fruit and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until oats reach desired crispiness!

You can adjust your fruit to crisp ratio to your desire, we like about an even amount of both.  

Let cool, or not, and enjoy!!  There is nothing better during single digit winter weather!  Except for Raspberry cobbler, and that is next!  Yummy!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The vaccination debate

My daughter has her regular check up soon, and it is time again to consider whether I will allow her to get the recommended vaccinations.  So far I have allowed her to receive all the ones recommended, just on an altered schedule.  Now the tough decisions are going to be coming, like MMR, and the pressure from doctors to get the flu shot, which we have never favored.  

There is suppose to be a ton of scientific evidence that vaccines work; however, there is also no determined cause for autism, and vaccinations have not been ruled out.  There was recently a Japanese study that proved a link between the two.   It can be anything from an ingredient in a vaccine, to a reactions between two or more of them, or even, a combination, faced with a specific genetic trait that could be causing an increase in occurrence.  Hopefully one day we will have answers.  Until then, must we conform and follow recommendations?   

When I was young, we were required to receive 7 immunizations, my daughter today is required to get 14.  Sometimes piggybacked to be the equivalent of  8 or 9 vaccines at once.  Even if considered safe, that is an awful lot for such a little body to handle all at once.  We have never been a family who relies on the drug store or pharmacist.  We prefer not to allow these chemicals into our bodies, but are required to put ones worse into our daughter?

Did you know that people with Eczema should not get a vaccine for smallpox?  How about if you have a egg allergy you could have a reaction to the flu shot, and what if it is given to a child to young to know of they have an egg allergy yet??  How about a connection between vaccines and diabetes?  What about adult booster shots causing problems such as auto immune disorders?  There is a ton of mixed information out there,with the government & pharmaceutical companies being, seemingly the only ones, saying they are safe.

I live in WV, which has one of the toughest laws for vaccinations exemptions.  My daughter is required to be on schedule in order to attend public school.  Some child care centers even require them to be current on their shot record.  Religious beliefs and personal beliefs do not matter! Refusal to get immunizations basically requires you to home school your child.  Which with all we are seeing today may not be a bad thing to consider.

For other parents I would love to hear from you on your feelings towards the requirements, or how you have managed to navigate through the dreaded immunization schedule to allow for something potentially less harmful for your children.  Or do you simply follow recommendations and don't question the doctors?  As parents isn't it our job to try and protect our children?  With all the mixed information out there, I guess you can only make an informed decision, if you are well informed.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

looking ahead

As we start down the journey which will be 2013, I look back at 2012 and all that it had to offer.  Our greatest achievement was the birth of our first daughter, in April.  :)  After this, my contributions to the garden and remodeling this old house, halted for the most part.  My other half, however, managed to harvest almost everything by himself, put up new fence, and the majority of the other household tasks.  Our 16 year old is now a licensed driver. I mean Seriously?!?  There have been a great deal of changes over the last few years, (first time mom, new house, left job, etc) and I feel we are finally getting settled into this old house and the land is starting to head in the direction we would like.  As everything else seems to be working itself out too.

There are so many thing that need to be accomplished once spring arrives and we can start working.  Winter will be for finishing the last of the remodeling in this old 1911 house. Since winter has technically just begun, I was looking for a way to get a jump start on some of the outside tasks I am anxiously awaiting to start.  Since the move, our main focus was on starting a vegetable garden, so we would still have the ability to preserve our own food these last two years, even though the harvest was smaller than usual.  The one thing I have missed the most is my herb garden.  I sorely missed it when canning pickles and I didn't have fresh dill.  So I decided to start some plants indoors for the winter and transplant them outside when the weather breaks.
basil, thyme, catnip, cumin, lemon grass & sage
I like to use seed starting soil.  Follow directions for planting each type of seed.  Water lightly, and then place them in about a 1/2 an inch of dechlorinated water.  In this take along container, you can even fit the lid over top and make a mini greenhouse for your seedlings.  I plan on transplanting them to clay pots after their roots get strong.  I can keep them in the kitchen window until it is warm enough to keep them outside.  Then, hopefully after I get the patch tilled up for the herb garden, this will help give me a nice jump start.

This is a small start, but I somehow feel better having seeds in the dirt.  Next lettuce!  When the snow melts, we need to prune the apple trees.  They need pruned when they are dormant, but thanks to hurricane Sandy, we are going to have to trim them completely back.  One tree even got split in half.  I hope we can save it!   Also the weight from the almost three feet of snow that Sandy produced, along with her winds, also destroyed the majority of trees and bushes in front of the garden.  These now get to be cut out and the land tilled up so we can extend the garden plot about another 30 feet.  This should almost double the square footage.  YAY!!

I hope to get elderberries transplanted onto the property this year.  We also need to plant a peach and pear tree, start the strawberry garden up here, plant more blueberries and work on the grape arbor.  Also, if we can find good cherry and plum trees, we need to plant them.  Not to mention I would like to plant another nut tree, to add to the black walnut., if possible.  All this in addition to the changes that need made to the old landscaping.  As well as the clean up should keep us busy.  Our daughter will be around a year old when the outside work really starts.  She will be walking everywhere and exploring everything, this is going to be so exciting.  I wonder how much we will actually accomplish with our curious little adventurer on the go?  I can not wait!!

We now have the ability to get birds.  We have discussed meat chickens, egg chickens, and turkeys.  I would love any suggestions and advice on coops or breeds.  We are planning on raising them as naturally as possible, so I would love to hear any feedback on the most effective way to raise them.  Also advice on predator protection.  (raccoon, opossums, coyotes, etc.)  Please leave comments with advice or links, or share the info to our Facebook page.  Any advice would be appreciated!  :)  We harvest our own venison, split a cow that my cousin raises a 1/2  mile down the road, and buy pork and eggs from a local 4-Her.  We do not know a local supplier of meat chickens, so we plan on doing this ourselves.  We can always harvest wild turkey when in season, but we would love to raise about 6 for cooking each year.  So again, any info would be great!

For now, I will impatiently await the arrival of spring, while getting my hands in the dirt as much as possible.  We will try to finish the interior of this house, which consists of trim, fixing a few closets, running duct work, and waterproofing the basement.   Seeing as we started with framing in studs, I feel good that we are almost done, for now anyhow. A thought I am going to keep in mind , is that from here out, the days are only getting longer and the warmth of summer is getting closer every day. Guess we will try to stay warm and cozy inside and out of the cold for a few more weeks.