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Monday, September 29, 2008

Indian Arrowheads Spark My Imagination

We live out in the country in Jackson County, WV. We are situated on a small knoll. The land used to be a large farm in the area. Long ago I'm sure game flourished here (as it still does) and Indian hunting parties likely frequented the area following the creek which meanders its way around our small country sub-division.

We have plowed a small garden on our lot for the past 30 years. Each year I anxiously search the earth for ancient treasures.

The Indians have left their beautiful arrowheads, intact and broken, behind for us to find. Many small pieces of flint flakes are scattered throughout our garden space.

My imagination speaks to me. I see in my mind a campfire surrounded with Indians in what was once the frontier of our country. I see them sitting by the fire and making the flint into spearheads, arrowheads and scraping tools. I see them making plans for their hunting trips in an area which teemed with large game.

Below are pictures of what inspired me to write my Picture Book Rising Sun. It is about a young Indian boy who yearns to go on his first hunting trip with the warriors of his tribe. He goes to the knoll and practices making arrowheads and shooting his bow.

Any agents or publishers out there interested?

Here are a group of artifacts I've put in a shadow box for display. Large arrowheads, small arrowheads (which I believe are the ones from the most recent Indian tribes), and broken arrowheads (which to me are just as important to find as the whole ones).

Here are some of my more recent finds:

I believe the following are scrapers. They are flat on one side, except for the one on the right. I believe the small one to be a broken arrowhead which they fashioned into a tiny scraper.

All comments are welcome. If anyone has information they can provide on my arrowhead collection, I welcome it. I'm not very knowledgeable on the subject.

Every time I am in the garden my eyes look downward hoping to find another artifact from the rich past of West Virginia.

If you found this post because you are interested in arrowheads, go here to see other posts about finding artifacts in my garden.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Picking and Grinning With Hillbreed

If you like bluegrass and good down home singing, you'll love Hillbreed.

They were in our area doing a benefit sing for Donna Duff today at the SJC Fire Department located at Fairplain.

The singing group is made up of members of the James Harrison family. Give them an instrument and they will play it.

They are a great act to watch. They don't just sing and play, they put on a show.

They sang many classics plus a song wrote by a group member telling about their P-I-G they have to spell in front of so he won't know he's going to the B-U-T-C-H-E-R to become B-A-C-O-N and P-O-R-K C-H-O-P-S in the S-K-I-L-L-E-T.

They played their version of the poor man's Dueling Banjos.

When you can't afford two banjos, two people duel on one.

And as the song says, Momma don't allow no suspender playing....

The fiddle player walked out into the crowd and performed on a chair.

Dad and daughter harmonized together.

And do you know what instrument this is?

It's a Dobro!

Yes, give them an instrument and they will play it....banjo, fiddle, Dobro, harmonica, guitars, and mandolin.

Good times.

Good food - hot dogs with all the fixins (chili, slaw, ketchup, mustard and onions). Mmm, mmm, nothing can compare to a good ole West Virginia hot dog.

And good singing and fellowship for a good cause.

An Elegant Visitor

There are many words to describe our friend who paid us a visit today.




Which word would you choose?

We always welcome a visit from our Great Blue Heron. She's a beautiful sight to see looking off our front porch.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jackson County's Miniature Stone Mountain


It may not be as famous or as big as Stone Mountain, Mount Rushmore or the Easter Island sculptures, but Otis Shinn left his mark in Jackson County.

Where is this sculpture, you ask?

It is on Parchment Valley Road. When the foilage is off the trees, you can see the head from I-77. The six foot tall carving is approximately one mile north of the Fairplain exit.

Why did he carve this massive face on a rock cliff?

I don't know.

Does anyone out there have the answer to this question?

Otis also carved a bust of President Thomas Jefferson in 1932. It sat on a pedestal in the front yard of the old Shinn home place. it was eventually sold to an antique dealer.

A carved lion, almost life size, also sat on a pedestal in the front yard. It is gone now, too.

Go on a drive this fall and see the large sculpture. The majestic face still watches the cars as they whiz by. Tell everyone you saw Jackson County's version of Stone Mountain.

Otis Shinn died in 1962 at the age of 63, but his legacy lives on in the chiseled stone face on Parchment Valley Road.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Apple Butter and a Dear Friend

Long, long ago in a large kettle far away simmered the best apple butter in the entire universe.

Everyone came, everyone stirred, everyone sampled and everyone took home fresh homemade jars of apple butter.

I do not like store bought apple butter. It does not look like and it does not taste like the kind that simmered in the big kettle in Grandma's yard.

Lucky for me, a dear friend and neighbor who is not with us anymore, gave me a recipe for stove top apple butter.

The beautiful red color far outshines the dull brown color of the store bought variety.

Don't you agree?

She gave me the recipe one day while I visited her.

If you're making it from fresh apples, peel and slice apples and add them to a large cooking pot till it is full. Add small amount of water and cook until tender.

Remove apples from pot and mix in a blender until a smooth consistency.
You should now have 8 cups of applesauce.


8 cups of applesauce
5 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of cinnamon drops
1/3 cup vinegar

Stir together the above ingredients and put on stove and bring to boil.
When boiling, stir constantly for 20 minutes.
Add 1 drop of cinnamon oil (like you use for hard rock candy)

Put in 5 sterilized pint jars.
Make sure the jars seal.

It is soooo good! If you don't have apples, buy the unsweetened applesauce and use it.
It's quicker and it cuts out the chore of peeling, slicing, and cooking of the apples. This is what I do if I run out of canned apple butter in the winter or spring.

Sweet rusty West Virginia yellow delicious apples. You can't beat them for taste.

We didn't have very many of these delicious apples, so you better believe I'm going to be buying applesauce this year to make my Stove Top Apple Butter.

I like to eat apple butter plain and on a biscuit. Some people think I'm crazy, but I also like to eat apple butter on sausage patties and with pinto beans. Mmmm Mmmm.

How do you eat your apple butter?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Grandma and Writing

This is the beginning of my fictional middle grade book I am currently writing. It starts with Lucy's marriage and ends with the birth of her first son.


Only my parents saw me get married that Saturday afternoon in 1908. It was a cool crisp autumn day and the leaves were a golden yellow and russet brown. They blew in the wind and rustled beneath my feet as I carried a bucket of cool well water into the kitchen. I laid the bucket down, placed the long handled dipper in it and smoothed my hair back in place with my hands. Usually I wore my hair flowing down with the front tresses tied back from my face with a white ribbon. But this morning I piled up my light brown hair hoping this grown up style would make me appear older than my 17 years. I tucked my crisp white blouse into my long gathered skirt. The freshly ironed ruffle hung down and covered the buttons of my blouse. They rolled smoothly up and down like the brightly colored hills surrounding our house.

Below is a picture of Grandma Lucy and Grandpa James. It was taken very early in their marriage by a traveling photographer. They married in October of 1908 and had 10 children together. Grandpa was born March 18, 1887 and died Dec 10, 1953. Grandma was born June 7, 1891 and died Jan 1 1984.

She's the one I went berry picking with in my childhood days. She left me with many memories. Memories of her delicious applesauce stack cake, memories of sitting in the yard with her and picking four leaf clovers, memories of sitting on her front porch waiting on the mailman, and memories of playing under the large weeping willow tree in her front yard.

Many memories from many years ago.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Have a cookie! It'll make you feel better.

Most everyone in our house is suffering from the first cold of the season. I've got the worst of it for some reason. I guess since I never had a cold last winter, fate decided I needed a whopper of one this year to make up for it. I lost my appetite (yippee!), but I had a craving for chocolate. I always crave chocolate.

I made a batch of what I call the unofficial cookie of Jackson County. It's the official cookie at our house! Everyone loves them. Whether it's a picnic, church dinner, bake sale or just a craving, you gotta have these.

No Bake Oatmeal Cookies


If you haven't already, give them a try. I would invite you over for one, but the platter is now empty.

Here is the recipe I've used since I was a teenager.

It's a little hard to read, so I'll type it out for you.

Put into pan -

2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup of milk
4 Tbls. cocoa

Stir together over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes.

Take off heat and add-

3 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups oats
(I usually leave out the pinch of salt)

Stir together and drop by spoonfuls on wax paper. It makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them.

Cool (if you can wait that long), pour you a glass of cold milk and enjoy. It'll make you feel better.

What's your favorite cookie?

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Gather pieces
Watch it grow
Piece together
In a row.

Make it useful
Make it bright
Start it right now
Start tonight.

The jeans and dress
Are now gone
They made a quilt
To lay on.

When I have time, usually in late fall and early winter, I like to quilt, craft and sew.

The winter of 2007 I made a blue and pink blue jean quilt. This is the 5th blue jean quilt I have made. The other ones were different shades of blue and the blocks were smaller. I back them with flannel and you don't have to put batting between the layers. I knot them with embroidery thread. They're easy to make and durable. I like the bigger blocks, because I am impatient!

The leading character in my Middle Grade story Family Treasure (which I have received numerous rejection letters on) had a quilt just like this.

Here is a detailed picture of some of the blocks. The pink block with butterflies on it came from a jumper and the small flowers were on the leg of a pair of blue jeans. I also left the pockets on some of the blocks.

Here is another picture. The large flowered blocks came from a large skirted dress. The pink blocks came from pink blue jeans!

I also had enough material from that flowered dress to make a matching teddy bear.

The teddy bears are another story. I have been sewing since I was young. I made my clothing when I was a teenager, my wedding gown, and Halloween costumes for my children when they were young. But the hardest thing I ever learned how to make were teddy bears! When I first started making them I made many mistakes until I finally got the knack of it. Needless to say, I don't make them any more. Below is what they look like. The one on the far left was the flowered one from the left over material I sewed in the quilt. The others were made out of an old tablecloth, a chenille bedspread and a very old quilt which was too tore up to save.

As I stated above, the quilts are easy to make. They are an easy way to get rid of the old blue jeans that the kids (or you) have outgrown. Or if you don't have any you can buy them at a yard sale or thrift store. Cut out the squares, sew together, put flannel on the back, then knot them together and put on the binding. Voila! You're done.

Happy sewing!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Addiction to Yard Sales and Thrift Stores

I admit it!
I'm addicted to yard sales and thrift stores.
Maybe it's the thrill of the hunt or the exciting find.
I'm not looking for anything in particular.
I go because you never know what you're going to find and that one item I find may be something I just can't live without......

Like the old motion lamp below I got for $3.
It reminds me of the one we had at home when I was a child.... and that makes it priceless!

Or this really neat bookcase filled with my collection of Little Golden Books I got for $3.
Can you guess what it's made from? (see answer at end of post - don't peek)

And the dishes and kitchen items that fill this old Hoosier cabinet. They are so colorful! They brighten my day just looking at them.

And did I mention I collect old salt and pepper shakers. Most of these pictured below were obtained for 25 cents to $1 for a pair. I also got the cabinet they're in at a yard sale.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
I'm going to have to get a bigger house if I don't stop going to yard sales.
Help me! Please.

Seriously, tho, I have slowed down a little.
I'm pickier about what I get now.
I have to be, I don't have room for anything else.

The answer to the above question: If you said it was an old floor model radio, you're right! Shelves were inserted and glass doors put on the front.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

3 R's and the old school house

If you know me, you know I like old things.
I like history, genealogy, antiques, old books, etc.
While looking at the numerous icons on my desktop, one caught my eye.

Union School House

This old 2 room school house was located at the foot of Tuppers Creek in Kanawha County, WV. The church I attended, Walker Chapel Baptist Church, stood across the road from it.

If I remember correctly, Union School taught grades 1,2,3,& 4.
From 1930 until 1960-61 it taught many children up a country road readin', writin' and arithmetic.
We lived approximately 2 miles up the holler from the school and my mother, who was born in 1924, attended Union. My sisters also went to this school, but it closed before I was old enough to attend.

All that remains are memories and photographs.

I attended Wallace Heights Grade School. It has now been turned into a school bus garage. Former students and teachers were invited to attend a farewell ceremony when they closed it down. My hand print is now on the cafeteria wall with my name under it.

I went to my first grade room and sat in the chairs. Those chairs seemed to be a lot smaller than I remember them. I walked through the playground where I used to swing and jump rope with my friends. I walked down the long row of steps which led to the road where we caught the school bus home. Then with a sad heart I said goodbye to an old friend.

Go here to see pictures of old schoolhouses in West Virginia.

If you have any memories of these schools or another school now closed and forgotten share your comments for all to enjoy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Write What You Know

I started writing in the spring of last year. The ideas come to me and I write.
They say to write what you know, write what you are familiar with. That is what I try to do.

I belong to the Appalachian Wordsmiths. They are a wonderful group of writers and poets and are very helpful to me in my writing.

None of my stories have been published yet. I have a collection of rejection letters. But I will continue to write and submit.

I write children's picture books.

My first picture book has never been submitted. I am still working on getting it right. It is about what I know very well - picking blackberries as a child with my grandma. I drove my writing group crazy with all the versions I have written it in. So I gave it a rest and will work on it again at a later date. It is the story that got me started writing and I am determined to get it right.

Some of my other picture books are about a dachshund, a lady scarecrow in a cornfield, a little Indian boy determined to go on a hunting trip with his tribe, and a little boy who needs glasses.

I write middle grade stories.

Family Treasure takes place in southern West Virginia during the 1960s. A country girl and her cousin from the city discover clues in the attic about a family treasure lost during the Civil War. Read this story and find out the significance of becoming 13 years old in this family.

Lucy is a work in progress about a young couple living in rural WV in the early 1900s. The story starts on their wedding day and ends with the birth of their first son. It includes early superstitions, traditions and everyday life happenings during that time period. It is a fictional account of my grandparent's early life.

A quote by Richard Bach---A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit

I don't intend to quit!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Blackberry Recipes

Since I showed you my blackberry vines yesterday, I thought I would share three of my favorite recipes with you today. Get a pack out of the freezer or pick some from the patch and start baking.

Delicious! This is the best cobbler I ever tasted. It melts in your mouth.


1 stick of butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1/3 cup milk
approx. 1 qt. blackberries

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in a 13x9x2 baking dish. Heat sugar and water in saucepan until sugar dissolves; set aside. Cut shortening into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and stir with a fork only until dough leaves side of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured wax paper. Roll out to a 12x10x1/4 inch rectangle. Lay berries evenly over dough. Roll up jelly-roll style. Cut into slices, each about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange slices in pan with melted butter. Pour sugar syrup carefully around and over rolls. (This looks like too much liquid, but the crust will absorb it.) Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

If you like, you can use 2 cups of peeled, finely chopped apples, sprinkled with 1 t. cinnamon, instead of the berries.

I would show you a picture of the above dish, but we just finished eating it.

This next recipe is an easy one.


You can change the amounts below, depending on how big you want your cobbler. You could use 1 cup or 2 cups of the last three ingredients instead of the 1 1/2 cup amounts.

3 cups (more or less) blackberries
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sugar

Melt butter in baking pan. Mix flour, sugar and milk together and pour over melted butter. Drop fruit o n top of batter, do not stir. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

You can use any fruit you wish on the above recipe.

I make this next recipe when I'm rushed for time. It is quick and easy and good!


In a mixing bowl combine:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar

With a pastry blender, cut in

1/4 cup cold butter

Combine until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
Put into an 8" square baking dish approx. 1 quart of berries (more or less)
Cover berries with crumb mixture, pressing down lightly. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Now you see why I can't lose weight this summer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why Writing in the Blackberry Patch?

September 2, 2008

I love blackberries. I have been picking blackberries since the middle of July.
I also love to write. Writing in the Blackberry Patch seemed like a fitting title for my blog.

I picked blackberries when I was a child. I picked with my grandmother, Aunt, Mom and cousins.
We picked in the ditches, by the creek, on the hillsides and anywhere else the vines grew. We put on our long sleeve shirts, boots and long pants to protect us from the thorns.

I still pick blackberries, but I pick them from two rows I planted in my back yard. I no longer worry about scratches because my blackberries are thornless!

Here is the pathway between my two rows of blackberries:

My berries don't seem to know their growing season should be over. I still have green, red and ripe blackberries waiting to be picked.

I have a new raspberry vine which shot up among my blackberries. It is totally confused. Raspberries ripen in early summer. This is a new vine which shouldn't produce berries until next year and it is heavy laden with large raspberries waiting to be picked.

Makes you want to take one off and eat it, doesn't it.

I am ready for autumn. I have picked blackberries, froze blackberries, made blackberry cobblers, blackberry jam, blackberry jelly, put blackberries in my oatmeal and put blackberries on my ice cream. I see blackberries when I close my eyes at night.

Yes, I am ready for autumn.