Thursday, November 30, 2006

1966 Jeep Gladiator

1966 Jeep Gladiator

November seems to have been my month to write about classic vehicles. First Our New 1946 Ford Tractor, then the Hudson Super Wasp, and now this 1966 Jeep Gladiator, which came to visit us for Deer Season (the official holiday of West Virginia). This is in original condition, and had only 28,000 miles on it when our friend bought it from a little old lady who only took it to her hunting camp on Sundays. Isn't that color something?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Projectile Points

Projectile points from Droop Mountain and Caesar Mountain

The point on the left came out of our garden here five years ago, while the one on the right came from tilling a garden on Caesar Mountain about 30 years ago. They are both about two inches long. Both are still sharp enough to cut skin. (Don't even ask....) Someone who knows more than I do about such things tells me they are from the Archaic period, she guesses about 3000 years ago, and that they came from a flint quarry in what is now Greenbrier County. I haven't had too much luck finding out how these things (arrowheads? they seem very large for arrows) are classified through my local library, so I did some Internet poking about, and found these references.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Trilobite Hunting

My West Virginian trilobite

I collected this little trilobite alongside a road in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in 1985. I wish I knew the locality but my field notes for that period of my life are quite sketchy. It was in the fall, and it was a cold, dreary day, but any details useful in finding the spot again are long lost. Check Paleoblog for an interesting sketch of trilobite hunting at the Earth's core. This is clearly a warmer climate than that I hunted in. If I were she, I would have put on my Daisy Mae outfit, for a less formal, more practical cartoon-lady look.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New Shirts on the Line

new shirts on the clothesline

Here are the menswear shirts I've made in the last week. As three of them are relatively bold plaids, I tried some of the plaid-matching tips I accumulated earlier. The one that made the biggest difference for me was using a walking foot. I was able to avoid those annoying quarter-inch mismatches at the center fronts. I submit these nicely matched fronts, and their vintage buttons, for your inspection. This is probably the only time the shirts will be buttoned, as I usually wear them over a tee shirt or thin sweater, as a jacket. These were all recycled, flea market or otherwise salvaged fabrics.

center front button band center front button band on plaid jacket wool jacket, center front and button

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Waking Up Above the Fog

Foggy morning on Locust Creek, but clear on Droop

It often happens that the morning dawns bright and clear on top of Droop Mountain, but Hillsboro and the Little Levels District are shrouded in dense fog.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Appalachian Origins, Revisited

For today's new insight into Appalachia, I need to thank Michael J. Ryan of Paleoblog for passing along a New Origin for the Appalachian Mountains. The original article is Acatlán Complex, southern Mexico: Record spanning the assembly and breakup of Pangea by R.D. Nance, et al. Geology 34:857-860 (2006). Dr. Ryan quotes from the press release:

According to the conventional map of 420 million years ago, two main land masses were separated by the Rheic Ocean. In the south sat Gondwana, a supercontinent consisting of South America, Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica. To the north was Laurussia, made up of North America, Greenland, Europe and part of Asia. The old map showed the Acátlan Complex attached to Laurussia. The complex broke off Gondwana about 80 million years earlier, drifted toward North America along with the other land masses, closing an older ocean, known as the Iapetus Ocean, as it did so. The collision created the Appalachian Mountains.

The new map looks rather different. Based on the new evidence the Acatlán Complex collision with Laurussia actually occurred about 120 million years later. The rocks once existed on an ancient ocean floor, but this ocean has proven to be the Rheic, not Iapetus as previously thought.

Same trilobites, different ocean.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Henry Adams on Southern Intellect

Blue bearded iris

In my on-going attempts to understand how people see Appalachia, and perhaps also the rural South, I give you this interesting excerpt from The Education of Henry Adams. It came to my attention as a quote in W.J. Cash's The Mind of the South. I include here a bit that came before Cash's quote, and a bit after, to show that Adams was not writing a meer screed against the Southern intellect, but finding fault with his own education. I hadn't read Adams' book since my undergraduate days ("Science and the Literary Imagination," Iowa State University, Winter term, 1977), and I'd forgotten what a strange, engaging book it is. Something else for the long winter evenings by the wood stove, perhaps.

Into this unusually dissolvent medium, chance insisted on enlarging Henry Adams's education by tossing a trio of Virginians as little fitted for it as Sioux Indians to a treadmill. By some further affinity, these three outsiders fell into relation with the Bostonians among whom Adams as a schoolboy belonged, and in the end with Adams himself, although they and he knew well how thin an edge of friendship separated them in 1856 from mortal enmity. One of the Virginians was the son of Colonel Robert E. Lee, of the Second United States Cavalry; the two others who seemed instinctively to form a staff for Lee, were town-Virginians from Petersburg. A fourth outsider came from Cincinnati and was half Kentuckian, N. L. Anderson, Longworth on the mother's side. For the first time Adams's education brought him in contact with new types and taught him their values. He saw the New England type measure itself with another, and he was part of the process.

Lee, known through life as "Roony," was a Virginian of the eighteenth century, much as Henry Adams was a Bostonian of the same age. Roony Lee had changed little from the type of his grandfather, Light Horse Harry. Tall, largely built, handsome, genial, with liberal Virginian openness towards all he liked, he had also the Virginian habit of command and took leadership as his natural habit. No one cared to contest it. None of the New Englanders wanted command. For a year, at least, Lee was the most popular and prominent young man in his class, but then seemed slowly to drop into the background. The habit of command was not enough, and the Virginian had little else. He was simple beyond analysis; so simple that even the simple New England student could not realize him. No one knew enough to know how ignorant he was; how childlike; how helpless before the relative complexity of a school. As an animal, the Southerner seemed to have every advantage, but even as an animal he steadily lost ground.

The lesson in education was vital to these young men, who who, within ten years, killed each other by scores in the act of testing their college conclusions. Strictly, the Southerner had no mind; he had temperament He was not a scholar; he had no intellectual training; he could not analyze an idea, and he could not even conceive of admitting two; but in life one could get along very well without ideas, if one had only the social instinct. Dozens of eminent statesmen were men of Lee's type, and maintained themselves well enough in the legislature, but college was a sharper test. The Virginian was weak in vice itself, though the Bostonian was hardly a master of crime. The habits of neither were good; both were apt to drink hard and to live low lives; but the Bostonian suffered less than the Virginian. Commonly the Bostonian could take some care of himself even in his worst stages, while the Virginian became quarrelsome and dangerous. When a Virginian had brooded a few days over an imaginary grief and substantial whiskey, none of his Northern friends could be sure that he might not be waiting, round the corner, with a knife or pistol, to revenge insult by the dry light of delirium tremens; and when things reached this condition, Lee had to exhaust his authority over his own staff. Lee was a gentleman of the old school, and, as every one knows, gentlemen of the old school drank almost as much as gentlemen of the new school; but this was not his trouble. He was sober even in the excessive violence of political feeling in those years; he kept his temper and his friends under control.

Adams liked the Virginians. No one was more obnoxious to them, by name and prejudice; yet their friendship was unbroken and even warm. At a moment when the immediate future posed no problem in education so vital as the relative energy and endurance of North and South, this momentary contact with Southern character was a sort of education for its own sake; but this was not all. No doubt the self-esteem of the Yankee, which tended naturally to self-distrust, was flattered by gaining the slow conviction that the Southerner, with his slave-owning limitations, was as little fit to succeed in the struggle of modern life as though he were still a maker of stone axes, living in caves, and hunting the bos primigenius, and that every quality in which he was strong, made him weaker; but Adams had begun to fear that even in this respect one eighteenth-century type might not differ deeply from another. Roony Lee had changed little from the Virginian of a century before; but Adams was himself a good deal nearer the type of his great-grandfather than to that of a railway superintendent. He was little more fit than the Virginians to deal with a future America which showed no fancy for the past. Already Northern society betrayed a preference for economists over diplomats or soldiers- one might even call it a jealousy- against which two eighteenth-century types had little chance to live, and which they had in common to fear.

Nothing short of this curious sympathy could have brought into close relations two young men so hostile as Roony Lee and Henry Adams, but the chief difference between them as collegians consisted only in their difference of scholarship: Lee was a total failure; Adams a partial one. Both failed, but Lee felt his failure more sensibly, so that he gladly seized the chance of escape by accepting a commission offered him by General Winfield Scott in the force then being organized against the Mormons. He asked Adams to write his letter of acceptance, which flattered Adams's vanity more than any Northern compliment could do, because, in days of violent political bitterness, it showed a certain amount of good temper. The diplomat felt his profession.

The Education of Henry Adams, Chapter 4, "Harvard College"

Thursday, November 23, 2006


White tailed deer, doe and fawn

I learned a new word this week: Buckeggy. I asked the people who used it how they would spell it, and, while no one had seen fit to write it until now, this was the consensus (although it might be hyphenated). It refers to what happens when an otherwise calm person sights a big buck while deer hunting, and gets too excited to aim and shoot. It affects kids and seasoned hunters alike. It seems to work like stage fright, and it has little to do with experience.

Happy Deer Season!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My Biography In Buttons

Buttons, brown, yellow, and green

I spent an hour yesterday going through my button supply, looking for shirt buttons. I keep most of them in plastic zip lock bags, sorted by color, and yesterday, out of curiosity, I weighed the bags on my old kitchen scale. The main collection weighs 12 pounds, and I have a jar of white shirt buttons I didn't bother to include in that total. It's a lucky thing I hoard sewing notions, as good buttons are hard to find these days.

An antique button

The core of my button stash is inherited from my mom, who taught me to sew. I remember her running the Singer Featherweight at the kitchen table, pausing to showing me how to use a needle and thread on flannel shirt scraps. There's probably a law against giving preschoolers needles now, but I was hooked on textiles early. Most of the buttons are salvaged from worn-out clothes or left over from previous sewing projects. My mother pointed out some that came from her grandmother's dresses, and more from her own mother's wardrobe. (Someday I'll show you a few of the cotton scraps for quilts, spanning the 1890's to 1990's. The hoarding of sewing notions runs deep in my family.)

Part of the red button collection

Mom died ten years ago last month. She suffered dementia her last year, but even after she couldn't recognize people or speak, she would still reach out to visitors, and touch the buttons on their coats.

1950's era pink plastic buttons

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My Persistent Assistant

Flannel menswear shirt, on the hood of the El Camino

Here's the flannel shirt I started yesterday, displayed on the hood of my '77 El Camino. This is some flannel I bought several years ago in a junk shop where we were looking for tools. Washed and sewn, it looks better than I expected, especially considering its $2 price tag. I was especially pleased to find a nice color match in my vintage button collection.

Flannel shirt, button detail with paw

Of course, grey paws go well with any ensemble.

Flannel shirt, with grey cat

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Return to Textiles

KwikSew Men's Shirt Pattern

For the first time since early August, I've done some sewing. All my fiber arts web-rings notwithstanding, there hasn't been much textile activity on my weblog. I dyed some socks purple, I spun some burdock-laden fleece, but that's about it. No knit hats or velvet scarves for the local craft shop, no socks or mittens or new cardies for me.

Book Cover: Shirtmaking

Today, I sewed myself a flannel shirt. The summer before last, I immersed myself in shirtmaking, trying nifty techniques from David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing. I tried all sorts of patterns, and made shirts for men and for women. I was pleased to find I remembered the techniques I wanted to use, in that "motor-memory" way.

Although the shirt is for me, I used Kwik-Sew pattern 2777, a men's oxford shirt. I skipped the front buttonband, because this is where my shirts show wear first, and I made different cuff plackets, from the pattern in the Coffin book. I think they make a tidier finish. I've tried many women's shirt patterns, and made scads of different alterations in the search for a perfect fit, but when it comes to a flannel shirt, I've gotten my favorite fit by simply sewing up a men's shirt with no fitting alterations at all. I'm not sure why. There seems to be a mystery involved in the fit of a shirt yoke.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Calico Relish, For Cucumbers or Zucchini

To my surprise, my recipe posts have been getting visits and comments. This a favorite sweet pickle relish. It's good on hotdogs, and in potato salad and cold meat salads, such as ham, venison, and roast beef. It's easy and reliable, unlike many pickle recipes.


4 c. ground onion
10 c. ground zucchini or cucumbers
5 tbsp. salt
2 1/4 c. vinegar
1 tbsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. allspice
4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 c. hot banana peppers, chopped
   (or about 2 tbsp. crushed dried red pepper)

Combine onions, zucchini and salt. Let stand overnight. 
Drain and rinse in cold water, then drain again. Place in 
large kettle, and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a 
boil; cook for thirty minutes. Place in hot sterilized 
jars; place sterilized lids and bands on jars, screwing 
bands tight. Makes about 5 pints.

I usually make a double batch, and waterbath can for 
15 minutes, so that the jars seal more reliably. The 
hot peppers and the allspice were my addition to the 
original, which came from "Favorite Recipes of Home 
Economics Teachers" (1975).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Caesar Mountain and Viney Mountain

Our house from the new addition to the place

This week I found something interesting in Pocahontas Times' "Fifty Years Ago" feature which quotes from editor Cal Price. In 1956, Price wrote about a bit of history which I'd heard about often, but for which I had no reference. Because the "Pocahontas Times News Archives is now Paid Access only," I will quote the article at length.

An Old Timer

In a law suit at the October term of the Circuit Court reference was made to the Massenbird land lines. So, the question, what about such land lines on Droop Mountain, anyway?

Well, around the year 1839, a man named George Massenbird died at his home on Droop Mountain. He was a native of England, and had lived here for a good many years. He owned Caesar Mountain and Vina Mountain, and other land. The tradition is that these mountains were given to and named for two Massenbirds slaves-Caesar and Vina Freeman.

However a casual search of the records shows only one transaction. This is a deed from John and Jane Blair to George Massenbird for 250 acres. The date is August 29, 1829, and the consideration is $120.

In the year 1842, there is a Court record of the appraisement of property left by the late George Massenbird. No mention is made of real estate. The appraisement of personal items amounts to $19.62. 1/2. However, bonds payable in dollars were appraised at about $2600. There was in addition a bond appraised at 500 English pounds sterling. This was due from the estate of one of George Breckenburg, of Skendleby, England.

The personal items, appraised at $19.62 1/2 brought $12.71 1/4 at the sale. Here are the purchasers and items:

  • Nancy Ware bought two bunches of newspapers at 3 1/2 cents and 2 1/2 cents; wearing apparel at $1.34.
  • Sarah Freeman two lots of newspapers at 7 1/4 cents.
  • John Hill, 6 numbers of Methodist magazines, 16 cents; Watson's Wesley 34 cents.
  • Walton McClung, 7 numbers of Methodist magazines, 20 cents.
  • Thomas Casebolt, 8 numbers of Methodist magazines; 21 cents; one slate, 26 cents.
  • James Keener, Doctor Clark's sermons, $1.75.
  • Thomas Hill, Doctor Clark's Life, 38 cents; Doctor Clark's Commentary, $8.

George Massenbird was a native of England. Further than that, there is meager tradition of him, other than he lived the life of a country gentleman and at the end he gave freedom and land to his servants.

Caesar Mountain and Viney Mountain are ridges connected to Droop Mountain.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pocahontas County Links

My original goal for my Website and for this weblog was to provide a counterbalance to the commercial view of Pocahontas County exemplified by The Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau (PCCVB) and Snowshoe Mountain Resort. I've assembled Pocahontas County link collections before, but I've never been satisfied with them. However, in the spirit of NaBloPoMo, I'm working with a deadline, and am therefore less fussy.

Here are some informative links about the county, mostly the work of people who live here. They are not slick, but they give a truer picture of the place than sites for tourists.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Spiders, Past and Present

Orb weaving spider on goldenrod

I came across this on Slashdot the other day: "Build a Web spider on Linux: A simple spider and scraper collects Internet content." After reading through, I thought, "Wow! I could do that!" It's now on my (excessively long and ambitious) list of "Do It Yourself" projects. I was surprised to find that IBM's Web site includes developerWorks: IBM's resource for developers, and that this includes interesting how-to's and projects for a hobby-hacker such as myself. I was particularly interested in Web development: Resources for Web 2.0, Ajax, wikis, PHP, mashups, and other Web projects." It's quite a change from my mental picture of "Big Blue" as a bloated, arrogant presence sucking the blood out of small businesses and individual computer users. (Based on my experiences in the 1980's and early 1990's.) Thanks, IBM!

Orb weaving spider on goldenrod

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Claude Levi-Strauss in the Fifth Grade

St. John's Wort flower

Just because I've been working in elementary and middle schools doesn't mean I haven't been expanding my cultural horizons. A few weeks ago, a professional dance company visited Marlinton Middle School. I was working with special needs fifth graders in their classroom, so I went to the gym with them to continue my mentoring. (It usually went like this: "Sit down!" "Pay attention!" "Sit down! Please!") The dancers had an interesting, age-appropriate program, and the kids were fascinated, if puzzled.

In homage to Brazil, the company presented a short dance called "Black Beans and White Rice." I expected some snappy Brazilian music to accompany a visual interpretation of Arroz com Feijao (Rice with Beans). It was much stranger than that. The dancers were accompanied by a recording of a lady reading an essay about Claude Lévi-Strauss and The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science of Mythology. It wasn't a rhythmic reading of poetry, it didn't feature dance-able background music. A lady (with a standard college-lecturer speaking style) read a long essay discussing the national dish of Brazil in a structuralist context.

I can't really tell you how the dance went. The kids enjoyed it, but I was distracted by a flashback to the 70's when, as a college senior, I took a graduate seminar in linguistic anthropology. We read The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science of Mythology by Claude Lévi-Strauss, along with some Piaget, some Chomsky....I was completely baffled. I read the texts, and diligently tried to understand them, but the class discussion featured a lot of terminology along the lines of this course description: Claude Levi-Strauss: The Structural Study of Myth. I had the feeling that the professor and the graduate students were talking in some sort of code. I couldn't even figure out how to ask them questions.

Subsequently, I've had this experience many times. Most often, the code-talkers are trying to make their area of expertise seem more complex and important than it actually is. Web 2.0 and education theory are two topics that have a considerable literature in this style, but there are offenders in every discipline. Looking back, I doubt the anthropologists were trying to exclude me. The students were practicing their fluency in technical jargon of their field, a skill every graduate student must acquire. If I had been less shy, and had asked stupid, clueless questions, I think they would have tried to help.

Food, however, is a universally-intelligible language. Here are some attempts to elucidate the structure of feijão.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cucumber Sandwiches: Culinary and Social Implications

This summer, I had a few extra cucumbers. Not enough to make pickles or relish, too many to peel and eat. I remembered enjoying cucumber sandwiches one rainy summer day in Scotland, but I couldn't recall what was on them. That's how I happened to put together this strange collection of links. For the record, it was butter, not cream cheese, on the sandwiches I enjoyed, and they were not, I don't believe, excessively effete.

    We are a community open to clergy-husbands of all Christian denominations. We aim to build each other up; and provide a space to consider the issues surrounding the ordination and continuing ministry of our wives.
  • Roni's cucumber sandwiches
    cream cheese, mayo and dry Italian dressing  
    8oz cream cheese
    1/2 c. mayo
    1 pkg. dry Italian salad dressing(1pkg. makes 8oz. dressing)
    3-4 medium size cucumbers
    1 loaf bread your choice
  • Esther's Cucumber Sandwiches

    I grew up in England in a household where we had cucumber sandwiches for tea very often; we also used to take them for seaside picnics. Here is the recipe of my grandfather's housekeeper, Esther King:

        * 1 thin cucumber
        * 1 loaf brown bread, sliced
        * 1 stick sweet butter
        * salt and pepper to taste 
    Peel cucumber and slice in paper-thin rounds. Salt rounds lightly 
    and place in colander for 15 minutes to drain. Press to release 
    water; pat dry with paper towels.
    Spread sliced bread (bakery whole wheat is closest to English Hovis) 
    with softened sweet butter. Put 2 layers of cucumber slices on bottom 
    slice, salt and pepper to taste, and top with another buttered slice. 
    Press lightly with palm of hand. Cut all crusts off with a sharp 
    knife. Cut sandwiches in half diagonally.
  • B's Cucumber Pages: The Cucumber Recipe File

    Here's some ideas of things to do with cucumbers when you're in the culinary mood. All the recipes I find or receive, I post.

  • Cucumber sandwich, from Wikipedia

    The traditional cucumber sandwich is composed of paper-thin slices of cucumber placed between two triangular slices of lightly buttered white bread....

    Cucumber sandwiches contain little protein and so are generally not considered sustaining enough to take a place at a full meal. This is deliberate; cucumber sandwiches have historically been associated with the Victorian era upper classes of the United Kingdom, whose members were largely at leisure and who, therefore, could afford to consume foods with little nutritive value. Stereotypically, cucumber sandwiches formed an integral part of a polite afternoon tea. (By contrast, people of the era's lower working classes were thought to prefer a coarser but more satisfying protein-filled sandwich, in a "meat tea" that might substitute for supper.)

    Some writers have attempted to draw out an association between the daintiness of the sandwich and the perceived effeteness of the British aristocracy. Cucumber sandwiches are often used as a kind of shorthand in novels and films to identify upper class people, occasionally in a derogatory manner. In addition, the sandwiches were once considered appropriate delicacies to offer to visiting clergy, in times when such visits were still a common feature of English middle class life.

    The popularity of the cucumber sandwich reached its upper-class zenith in the Edwardian era, when cheap labour and plentiful coal enabled cucumbers to be produced in hotbeds under glass through most of the year. With the declining popularity of tea as a meal in the United Kingdom, largely a result of the increasing proportion of women working outside the home, there was a corresponding decline in the popularity of cucumber sandwiches, but they are still frequently served at teas, luncheons, and gatherings. They are now increasingly popular in the UK due to the hotter and longer summers, and the range of variants of accompaniments from take-away sources (e.g. supermarkets etc.) are large - hence they are a popular lunchtime snack for workers. Most English cricket clubs supply malt vinegar and ground pepper to dash inside the sandwich and this is the simplest form commonly used in England.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Exploring Applique

I've been experimenting a bit with machine applique. Here are a few links I found with nice, simple applique designs suitable for novice users such as myself.

  • Free Applique Patterns - free sewing patterns - free patterns!
    Our free applique patterns are just waiting for you to print them and cut them out of your favorite materials! The free sewing patterns are simple and easy to sew. These applique patterns are also great to use for applique on quilts. Join Free Applique Patterns newsletter to be notified when more free patterns are posted on this site. Happy sewing!
  • lots of simple applique patterns from Quiltmaker print magazine
  • Cats Who Quilt
    Since this crazy page went up eight years ago, thousands of cat-loving quilters have written to tell me about their cat fabric stashes, their cat quilt patterns--and of course, their cats. I had no idea what a collective nerve I was striking in cyberspace when I came up with this page. I've heard from quilters as faraway as Australia and the Far East telling me how they were snatching up cat print fabrics, just like I am, to make into a cat quilt "someday." You'll find on this Web site links to cat quilt patterns around the of cat quilting fabric on how to search for out-of-print cat quilt stories of real-life cat quilters.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ambrose Bierce in Pocahontas County

Ambrose Bierce visited Pocahontas County on at least two occasions--the first on December 13, 1861, when he was among the Union troops engaged in the Battle of the Top of the Allegheny, and the second time years later, before he published this piece, A Bivouac of the Dead in 1903.

Away up in the heart of the Allegheny mountains, in Pocahontas county, West Virginia, is a beautiful little valley through which flows the east fork of the Greenbrier river. At a point where the valley road intersects the old Staunton and Parkersburg turnpike, a famous thoroughfare in its day, is a post office in a farm house. The name of the place is Travelers' Repose, for it was once a tavern. Crowning some low hills within a stone's throw of the house are long lines of old Confederate fortifications, skilfully designed and so well "preserved" that an hour's work by a brigade would put them into serviceable shape for the next civil war. This place had its battle--what was called a battle in the "green and salad days" of the great rebellion. A brigade of Federal troops, the writer's regiment among them, came over Cheat mountain, fifteen miles to the westward, and, stringing its lines across the little valley, felt the enemy all day; and the enemy did a little feeling, too. There was a great cannonading, which killed about a dozen on each side; then, finding the place too strong for assault, the Federals called the affair a reconnaissance in force, and burying their dead withdrew to the more comfortable place whence they had come. Those dead now lie in a beautiful national cemetery at Grafton, duly registered, so far as identified, and companioned by other Federal dead gathered from the several camps and battlefields of West Virginia. The fallen soldier (the word "hero" appears to be a later invention) has such humble honors as it is possible to give.

His part in all the pomp that fills
The circuit of the Summer hills
Is that his grave is green.

True, more than a half of the green graves in the Grafton cemetery are marked "Unknown," and sometimes it occurs that one thinks of the contradiction involved in "honoring the memory" of him of whom no memory remains to honor; but the attempt seems to do no great harm to the living, even to the logical.

A few hundred yards to the rear of the old Confederate earthworks is a wooded hill. Years ago it was not wooded. Here, among the trees and in the undergrowth, are rows of shallow depressions, discoverable by removing the accumulated forest leaves. From some of them may be taken (and reverently replaced) small thin slabs of the split stone of the country, with rude and reticent inscriptions by comrades. I found only one with a date, only one with full names of man and regiment. The entire number found was eight.

In these forgotten graves rest the Confederate dead--between eighty and one hundred, as nearly as can be made out. Some fell in the "battle;" the majority died of disease. Two, only two, have apparently been disinterred for reburial at their homes. So neglected and obscure is this campo santo that only he upon whose farm it is--the aged postmaster of Travelers' Repose--appears to know about it. Men living within a mile have never heard of it. Yet other men must be still living who assisted to lay these Southern soldiers where they are, and could identify some of the graves. Is there a man, North or South, who would begrudge the expense of giving to these fallen brothers the tribute of green graves? One would rather not think so. True, there are several hundreds of such places still discoverable in the track of the great war. All the stronger is the dumb demand--the silent plea of these fallen brothers to what is "likest God within the soul."

They were honest and courageous foemen, having little in common with the political madmen who persuaded them to their doom and the literary bearers of false witness in the aftertime. They did not live through the period of honorable strife into the period of vilification--did not pass from the iron age to the brazen--from the era of the sword to that of the tongue and pen. Among them is no member of the Southern Historical Society. Their valor was not the fury of the non-combatant; they have no voice in the thunder of the civilians and the shouting. Not by them are impaired the dignity and infinite pathos of the Lost Cause. Give them, these blameless gentlemen, their rightful part in all the pomp that fills the circuit of the summer hills.

  • For detailed information about the battle, visit West Virginia Archives and History's The Battle of the Top of the Allegheny on December 13, 1861 from the West Virginia Legislative Hand Book (1928).

    This is an article about the Battle of the Top of Allegheny, fought in. Pocahontas County, December 13, 1861, between the forces of the Union under Gen. R. H. Milroy, and the forces of the Confederacy, under Gen. W. W. Loring, Col. Edward Johnson, commanding....

  • The Ambrose Bierce Appreciation Society

    This page is dedicated to one of the most under appreciated authors and journalists of all time: Ambrose Gwinett Bierce. "Bitter Bierce" was quite famous in his day, but now only a core following of academics and curmudgeons know about him. And that is a shame. He is most often found in "Quotable Quotes" lists or signature files....

  • The Ambrose Bierce Project

    The Ambrose Bierce Project is an online forum and resource for the study of Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842-1914?), the American soldier, topographer, journalist, and writer.

    Bierce is an important, if underappreciated, presence in American literary history. He is today celebrated especially for his considerable powers as a satirist, and for his mastery of the short story genre. His incomparable writing has compelled many scholars to rate Bierce among America's finest prose talents.

    As a hypermedia project, the ABP strives to bring together Bierce scholars and students from around the globe. Here participants and contributors will exchange ideas, weigh literary analyses, and review new works of scholarship.

    Dear me. The "look and feel" of this site is stunning, but questionable grammar and words like "hypermedia" give me pause.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Habitat Photo, Electric Burner

electric stove burner in its native habitat

I think the season for edible mushrooms has passed, but the electric stove burners are starting to ripen. You can see here that they spread above ground by runner, like strawberries.

I looked all around the mountain side, but didn't find any dumped garbage or old farm trash piles. I'm completely puzzled.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Lord Loves Good Grammar

Chert on Droop Mountain

Recently I found a link to Blogs and God's Youth on a blog that aimed to ridicule Christian fundamentalists. It is a publication of the The Restored Church of God, a denomination that started as The Radio Church of God, and I'm a little suspicious of churches that focus on broadcast media. I didn't expect to agree with them, especially because I've tried to use blogging as a way to encourage teenagers to write. However, after seeing my students abandon their creative writing projects on Blogger in favor of smutty exchanges on MySpace, I find myself quoting with approval:

People naturally want to make a mark in this world; they want to make a difference, and many believe blogs will allow them to do this. However, most blogs, especially by teenagers, serve as nothing more than public diaries. (Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a personal diary, as long as it is kept private.) Certainly, professional weblogs can make a positive difference within some elements of society. However, teen blogging does not.

.....There should never be a need to use slang or any type of wrong words. We are commanded to put off filthy communication (Col. 3:8). What type of communication have you used? Certainly not all of it could be considered clean and pure.....The contents of blogs can often best be described as "trashy" and express shallowness....simply a mindless form of entertainment....He that has knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding (Prov. 17:27-28).

Idle words can make you appear foolish. How do you think God feels about the mindless blogging that is occurring?...The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times (Psa. 12:6). How many blogs follow this example?....There should never be a need to prattle on about your life on the Internet.

....In the end, blogging for personal expression is a waste of time. Of course, communicating one on one with people and building friendships and your personality is not a waste of can and SHOULD maintain friends the "old-fashioned" way, through actual personal contact, as well as letter writing, emailing or instant messaging.

Now, after wading through dreary, unintelligible postings on MySpace and FaceBook, this is the Church of God message I like best: Instant Messaging: Communicating in the 21st Century

It has become common to allow sloppy, improper spelling and grammar to creep into online communication. Spawned by text messaging on cellphones, "text speak" can appear in instant messaging. Text speak is a kind of new language--one that you should avoid! The more you use it, the more it will become second nature. By typing full sentences that are grammatically correct, you are training yourself to be a more effective writer and communicator. Writing will become natural to you. This improves other areas of life--especially when writing essays in school. Apply this principle to emails to further accelerate your writing and spelling ability....Instant Messaging with others from around the world can be a wonderful way to develop friendships, learn about other cultures and much more!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Through the Grape Vines

Wild grapes on the ground

This was a great year for fruit on Droop Mountain. Our peach, pear, and cherry trees set fruit, and the wild raspberries and blackberries did too. Most years there aren't many wild grapes, but this year, there were too many for the birds to consume, and they have dropped to the ground, still sweet and sky-colored.

Grapevines Grapevines Grapevines

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fleece Hat Patterns for Free!

One of the advantages to the Nablopomo is, for me, the way it's pushing me to post my small link collections that have been languishing in my "Blogstuff" directory. Before the substitute teacher job ate my life, I was working on expanding my collection of hand-made hats. Many people find wool and mohair hats itchy, and I thought I'd expand into hypoallergenic fleece fabrics. Here are some nice, free hat patterns.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day on Droop Mountain

Mt. Olivet Methodist Church, Droop Mountain, WV

Here's our polling place on Droop Mountain. The intriguing structure is a Methodist church, but no one I've asked has been able to tell me much about its history. My previous polling place in Takoma Park, Maryland was also a church--Our Lady of Sorrows. She seemed an appropriate saint for politics.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Funnel Cake Recipes

I had an odd idea for holiday snack food, and found myself collecting funnel cake recipes from the Web. I haven't tried one yet--I need to get over the Halloween candy I got at the middle school last week--but I would recommend the Berks County recipe collection for a variety of home cooked treats.

The recipes are similar, but there are so many batter variations--no sugar, sugar, honey--it's hard to know where to start. Given that confections usually take some practice before you perfect the technique, I could be frying funnel cakes from now until Christmas. By the time I get the recipe just right, my arteries could be completely hardened. Is there such a thing as "too much information?"

BerksWeb, Berks County Authentic Berks County recipes, Pennsylvania Dutch cooking
Funnel Cake The Amish call this fried dough cake 'drechter kuche.' * 3 to 4 cups of flour * 3 eggs * 2 cups milk * 1/4 cup sugar * 2 teaspoons baking powder * 1/2 teaspoon salt * powdered sugar for topping * vegetable oil for deep frying - heat to 375 degrees Beat the eggs, then add the sugar and milk. Sift 2 cups of flour, the salt, and the baking powder and add to the milk, sugar, and egg mixture. Mix while adding more flour until the batter is smooth and not too thick. The funnel should have an opening of at least 1/2 inch and be able to hold around a cup of batter. Put your finger over the bottom and add about a cup of batter. Remove your finger and allow the batter to pour into the center of the oil. Be careful, the oil may splash! Gradually swirl the batter outward in a circular motion, or criss-cross back and forth to make a cake about 7 or 8 inches round. We used to draw our initials to personalize our cakes! Check it with a pair of tongs and turn it when the bottom becomes golden brown. When both sides are done, remove with tongs and let it drip on a paper towel. Funnel cake is often served with powdered sugar on top. You could also use molasses, maple syrup, or fruit preserves. Enjoy!
Amish-Dutch Funnel Cake
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 tablespoon baking powder

Heat deep fat to 375 degrees F.
Beat egg and add milk.

Sift sugar, flour, salt and baking powder together. 
Add egg and milk mixture and beat until smooth. Pour batter 
into funnel, holding finger over bottom. Allow batter to run 
out of funnel into deep fat. Make swirls in fat from center out. 
Cake may be made to size wanted. Fry until golden brown. 
Drain on paper towels. serve with confectioners' sugar.
Mill Creek Manor's Funnel Cakes from Gerrardstown, West Virginia
    2 eggs, beaten
    1-1/2 cups of milk
    2 cups sifted flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 cups cooking oil 

Combine eggs and milk in mixing bowl. Sift together the flour, 
baking powder, and salt. Add to egg mixture; beat until smooth 
with rotary beater. Test mixture to see if it flows through a 
funnel easily. It it is too thick, add more milk. If it is too 
thin, add more flour. In an 8-inch skillet, heat oil to 
360 degrees (or until a drop of the mixture sizzles when dropped 
into the oil). Covering the bottom of the funnel with a finger, 
pour a generous amount of the mixture into the funnel. Release 
your finger and let the batter flow into the oil in a spiral 
shape. Fry until golden brown, about three minutes. Using a wide 
spatula or tongs, turn cake carefully and brown on the other side. 
Cook one minute more. Drain on paper toweling and then sprinkle 
with confectionery sugar. Serve with hot syrup or canned apple 
pie filling that has been warmed.
Whole Wheat Funnel Cake recipe

1   c  Whole wheat flour
1 1/4   ts  Salt (optional)
1/2   ts  Baking soda
3/4   ts  Baking powder
2   ts  Honey
1     Egg
7/8   c  Milk; warm
    Oil for deep frying
    Honey or maple syrup

Sift together all the dry ingredients and then add the 
honey, egg, and the milk. Beat until smooth. Heat about 
2 inches of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet. To test 
the correct temperature, drop a small piece of dough into 
the oil. If it floats to the top and bubbles appear around 
the edges, you are ready to make the funnel cakes.
Hold your finger at the bottom of the funnel and pour in 
some batter. Then, using a spiral motion, let the batter 
pour into the oil. The cakes should look like free-form 
spiral sculpture. Fry until golden brown, turning once. 
Drain on paper towels. Drizzle with honey oar maple syrup 
and serve hot.
The amount you can make will depend upon the amount of batter 
you use for each cake. 
Fante's Kitchen Wares Shop
Funnel Cakes Recipe
2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, if desired

Mix together milk and eggs.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Combine with milk mixture.
Beat to make smooth.
Test dough for proper consistency.
If it runs out of funnel too quickly, it is too thin
and needs a little more flour. If it flows too slowly, 
it is too thick and needs a little more milk.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Vision Thing

Cat sleeping under the rose and peony bushes

Dave wrote recently about a bobcat's daytime adventure Looking for Water. He speculated on the nature of feline vision:

Drinking from the creek is one thing, but still water must make a wild cat especially cautious. Can't you just see him, catching sight of this other cat in the water and jumping back, then maybe sneaking up on it and touching it with his paw?....The omniscient narrator finds himself unwilling to speculate further. It's all too easy for those of us who see in color to think we know exactly what we're looking at.

Comparative vision studies have always fascinated me. I have a pile of old photocopies of insect vision articles from my grad school days. Since I've been writing for the Web, I've been interested in the way visually impaired people use Web browsers, and the autism/special education gig has taught me about the pairing of visual impairment and autism. Dave set me searching for feline vision references, and I found several interesting things.

  • Are cats and dogs really color-blind? How do they know? Just what it says.
  • Feline vision--a cat's eye view talks about night vision and visual acuity.

    Cats give up the ability to see fine detail and rich colors in exchange for the ability to see in the dark. The level of retina illumination is about five times higher in your cat's eye than in yours. And all those rods pooling signals from minute amounts of light allow the cat to pick up the faintest light source. Nonetheless, some light still manages to pass between the rods and cones. Instead of letting it be absorbed at the back of the eye, as the human eye does, the cat has a structure called the tapetum lucidum that reflects light back to the receptors for a second chance to create a signal. The eye shine you see when you shine a light at a cat in the dark is the reflected light that has managed to elude the receptors in both directions and is bouncing back to you from the tapetum. The end result is that cats can see light at eight times dimmer illumination than you can!

    In summary, the cat's eye is specialized to see in dim and changing light. To achieve this it sacrifices the ability to focus close up, detail vision, and some color vision. It is the vision of a hunter active in both day and night, enabling it to detect movement under any lighting conditions, to use binocular vision to gauge distance, and to aim correctly to catch prey.

  • Vision In Dogs, Horses, and Cats, a veterinary eye care compares and contrasts vision:

    Dogs have cones that are receptive at 429 and 555 nm and are dichromats. All evidence suggests that the dog is dichromat with vision similar to a human who is red-green color blind. Cats are weak trichromats. Feline cones peak at 450, 500 and 555 nm. They live in a world of fuzzy pastels.

    Dogs and cats appear to respond to the blue and yellow short-wave length colors the best, but appear to have trouble with green and red. Both are also rod-dominant animals. As rods do not function in daylight these animals are dependent on their few cones for spatial and temporal visual resolution, which probably means that their blue and yellow visual world is a fuzzy blue and yellow world. What appears red to us is simply dark to the dog and cat, and a part of the green spectrum is indistinguishable from white. Colors that would appear very rich to us are more pastel-like to the cat. The cat sees a green, grassy lawn as a whitish lawn, and a green rose-bush as a whitish bush with dark flowers.

    Acuity is 30 cycles per degree (cpd) for humans, 18 cpd for horses, 12 cpd for dogs and 6 cpd for cats. Acuity in dogs is 0.4 times that of people, 0.67 times that of horses, and 2 times that of cats. Acuity in cats is 0.2 times that of people, 0.33 times that of horses, and 0.5 times that of dogs. If normal human vision is 20/20, then that of the dog is 20/50, the horse 20/33, and that of the cat is 20/100.

  • Ecology of Vision: Exploring the Fourth Dimension from the University of Bristol's Biological Sciences Department summarizes some comparative vision studies.
    As well as seeing very well in the ultraviolet, all bird species that have been studied have at least four types of cone. They have four, not three, dimensional color vision. Recent studies have confirmed tetra-chromacy in some fish and turtles, so perhaps we should not be surprised about this. It is mammals, including humans, that have poor color vision! Whilst UV reception increases the range of wavelengths over which birds can see, increased dimensionality produces a qualitative change in the nature of color perception that probably cannot be translated into human experience. Bird colors are not simply refinements of the hues that humans, or bees, see, these are hues unknown to any trichromat.
  • The Light and Vision section of Hyperphysics, hosted by Georgia State University's Department of Physics and Astronomy, is detailed, technical, and organized in an interesting way. The section The Color-Sensitive Cones discusses human vision.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hudson Super Wasp in Spice, WV

Hudson Super Wasp emblem

Our sweet little tractor is not the only vintage vehicle we have acquired recently. Near the old road that runs through our new property, there are the remains of a Hudson Super Wasp. It must have been a deep gleaming red when it rolled off the assembly line. We can only imagine the sad series of events that left it abandoned by a road that was itself abandoned years ago.

Hudson Super Wasp hood ornament

If you'd like to see a Hudson Super Wasp in good condition, check out these links.

Hudson Super Wasp door handle and lock

Friday, November 03, 2006

Our New 1946 Tractor

Ford 2N tractor, 1946, with view of Droop Mountain

We recently got a tractor. I can't explain, but most Iowa farm girls my age love tractors. I learned to drive on a tractor (in elementary school), and my first tasks involved backing wagons full of oats into grain elevators. Driving forward came much later, and automobiles hold little charm for me. Nonetheless, this is the first tractor I've ever bought. It's a 1946 Ford N2, with a four-cylinder engine that sounds just like a Model A Ford (at least as well as I can remember--in my childhood, there were still a few in use). Our tractor has an electric starter, but you can also start it with a crank.

Ford 2N tractor, 1946; front view

I can't contain myself. Isn't it just the cutest little thing? OK. That's out of my system. If you are interested in knowing more about these old Ford tractors (and there are many of them still in use in this part of the country), you can check out these links.

Ford 2N tractor, 1946, side view

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tips On Matching Plaids

Over the years, I've sewn many garments out of plaid fabric, and I've never been entirely pleased with them. My most recent plaid shirts have not quite matched at the center fronts. They are better-matched than ready-to-wear shirts, but they do not reach the degree of plaid perfection my mother always aimed for. Since I have need of more shirts, and a store of plaid shirtings, I've been looking for advice and tips I haven't already tried. I didn't find much on the Internet that didn't duplicate what I already knew (Cut your pieces one at a time, don't put the boldest plaid line across the point of an ample bosom, and match the horizontal lines at sides and center fronts). However, these three articles offer good advice.

  • Matching Plaids When Making a Jacket You'll find an extensive set of directions, including tips on two-piece sleeves and vertical darts on jacket fronts and backs.
  • Free Sewing Tips: Matching Plaids This site tells how to match plaids at the center front of trousers. Plaid flannel pajama bottoms are shown. These are particularly easy because they are loosely fitted, and the center front seam has minimal curve.
  • Sewing on Plaids by Julie Culshaw This article is less project-specific, but includes tips on wearing plaids, choosing suitable patterns, and sewing techniques. Here's the advice I found most helpful:
    Use a walking foot to avoid seam slippage, which will cause your seams to be slightly unmatched. By far the most accurate method of sewing plaids is a method called "slip-basting". Place your two pieces of fabric together as they will be sewn. Then press back, with the iron, the seam allowance of the top piece. This allows you to see exactly where it will be sewn to the under piece. Now hand sew them together, right along that seam line, slipping through the fold of the top piece, then picking up about 1/8" of the bottom layer. This will hold the two layers in place until you sew them. This technique combined with a walking foot will take care of any seam slippage.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ghost Flowers of the Forest

Indian pipe in Seneca State Forest, West Virginia

I thought these strange, subterranean plants would be a fitting topic for All Hallows Day, and that was before I remembered that "ghost flower" and "corpse plant" are alternative names. I've never heard anyone call them anything but "Indian pipe," but they are disquieting without the ghoulish monickers. What would possess a group of ericaceous plants to go underground, to live on mycelium, to dwell in eternal darkness? When I first heard of Baudelaire, these were the flowers of evil I pictured.

I wanted to check my taxonomic facts before I blogged. I remembered Lawrence's Taxonomy of Vascular Plants placed Indian pipe in Pyrolaceae, along with pipsissiwa, pyrola, and American wintergreen. My venerable field guides concurred, but I seemed to remember someone placing all the Pyrolaceae in the Ericaceae (heathers, rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries). The seed capsules of the previous year's Indian pipe (below) do remind me of wintergreen, azalea, and mountain laurel capsules. Dead and dessicated, Indian pipe looks much less ghostly.

Indian pipe seed capsules, with new flower stalk emerging from ground

The Internet has frustrated me in my taxonomic inquiries. The Integrated Taxonomic Information Service places Monotropa uniflora in the Monotropaceae. All the strange, subterranean parasites are related to each other, but this classification gives no clue to their nearest green relations. The ITIS is not at all forthcoming about when and where this new family assignment was published, if, indeed, it is new, and not a throwback to some nineteenth century botanical splitter.

Still, I did find some interesting information about Indian pipes, which I present for your approval.

  • Monotropa uniflora, the ghost plant on Tom Volk's, has a consise explanation of Indian pipe's strange symbiosis.

    ...all of the monotropes are parasitic on fungi! These fungi are mycorrhizal with photosynthetic trees, and thus the energy ultimately comes from photosynthesis of the tree, passing through the mycorrhizal fungus on the way to the Monotropa.

    The tree, already providing energy to the fungus, is probably physiologically 'unaware' of the additional loss of carbon and it is likely that it is the fungus that controls the passage of carbon to Monotropa....

  • Wildflowers of North Carolina's Indian pipe page includes a Cherokee legend (told with a hint of condescension, yet interesting enough to quote here):

    Before selfishness came into the world-that was a long time ago- the Cherokee people were happy sharing the hunting and fishing places with their neighbors. All this changed when Selfishness came into the world and man began to quarrel. The Cherokee quarreled with tribes on the east. Finally the chiefs of several tribes met in council to try to settle the dispute. They smoked the pipe and continued to quarrel for seven days and seven nights. This displeased the Great Spirit because people are not supposed to smoke the pipe until they make peace. As he looked upon the old men with heads bowed, he decided to do something to remind people to smoke the pipe only at the time they make peace.

    The Great Spirit turned the old men into greyish flowers we now call "Indian Pipes" and he made them grow where friends and relatives have quarreled. He made the smoke hang over these mountains until all the people all over the world learn to live together in peace.

    told by Mary Chiltosky in the book, Cherokee Plants...

  • Keith Dawson's page on Indian pipes, recounts some medicinal uses explaining alternative names for the plant.

    The plant's flesh turns black when cut or even bruised. It also oozes a clear, gelatinous substance when picked or wounded. Such unattractive characteristics have earned the Indian pipe some unflattering names, like ghost flower and corpse plant. Indians employed it as an eye lotion -- whence the name, eyebright -- as well as for colds and fevers. Americans of the last century treated spasms, fainting spells, and nervous conditions with it -- thus the names convulsionroot, fitroot, and convulsionweed.

    He credits Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles: The Lives and Lore of North American Wildflowers, (Jack Sanders, 1993) for this information.
  • Indian Springs Herbal Encyclopedia lists these medicinal uses:

    American Indians used plant juice for inflamed eyes, bunions, and warts; drank tea for aches and pains due to colds. Root tea used for convulsions, fits, epilepsy; sedative. Physicians once used tea as antispasmodic, nervine, sedative for restlessness, pains, nervous irritability. As a folk remedy for sore eyes, the plant was soaked in rose water, then a cloth was soaked in the mixture and applied to the eyes. Water extracts are bactericidal.

    Warning! Safety undetermined; possibly toxic -- contains several glycosides.

    Maddeningly, I found these same words on several other Web sites. No one gave attribution, and all claimed global copyrights. Tsk, tsk.