March 21, 2009

West Virginia, Spring '09

I'm in Hinton, West Virginia this March, visiting Amy on my way home to Mpls from Philly. I was here once before, in summer 2003 when Amy was interning at Enchanter's Garden. She now lives and works here. As luck would have it, as I'm heading home to Mpls to hopefully buy a house as part of a network of housing cooperatives (CAHN), the land she lives on was once a commune. Now it's just her and Tony, Pete and Andy, and lots of birds.

Amy and Tony live in a log cabin built by a union soldier after the civil war. It's divided into two parts, each with a wood stove and a second storey. The right half of the house in the second photo is the newer addition.
Amy and Tony's place.jpg

New addition.jpg

I got here on March 13th, and just caught the tail end of the snow, which was followed by 3 straight days of rain.
Last of the snow.jpg

Rainy days.jpg

Ornamental quince bush.jpg

Ornamental quince bush above. But it was cozy inside by the stove, even though we are almost out of (dry) wood. I've been baking, as usual. I made my first loaf of beer bread, and my first buttermilk biscuits. I had a nasty cold, which Amy seems to have cured with her boneset syrup in camomile tea.
Living room.jpg

Morning tea.jpg

Note the composting toilet in the outhouse...
Composting toilet.jpg

... although we prefer to pee right here.
Pee spot.jpg

First crocuses.jpg

I missed my down vest! Rescued from Austin by Amy. The horses are Ivan and Nellie. They sure tear up the yard.
Got my vest back.jpg

Ivan and Nellie.jpg

Other critters include chickens, turkeys, guinea hens, peacocks, and Mocha and Butterball (dogs).
Rooster and hens.jpg

Two turkeys.jpg

The only other people living on the 250 acres are Pete and Andy, just next door. Pete runs the native plant nursery.
Downstream to Pete and Andy's.jpg

On Saturday, Tony got us invited to their friend Robert's place to play some music with him and Virgil, who runs a campground. I recorded a some of the living room jam session, with Robert on banjo, Virgil on mandolin, Tony on cello, Amy on manjo (mini banjo strung like a mandolin), banjo, and flute, and me occasionally giving manjo a shot. My favorite I think is Wagonwheel because it has the chatting and chord-finding inherent in this kind of music. Robert sings on Wagonwheel and Crossfire, which was written by Virgil. There's also a short clip highlighting Robert's banjo skill.

Music at Robert's.jpg


Laila learns manjo.jpg

And I've almost concluded my three months of couchsurfing!
Back in sleeping bag.jpg

On my fourth day here, the sun finally came out, and it truly felt like spring. These are the same crocuses as the photo above.
Patch of purple.jpg

Crocuses in sun.jpg

This old Airstream trailer was Amy's first home here, back when she was interning in 2003. I came and stayed with her for a week then.
Airstream trailer.jpg

We took advantage of the sun and went for a walk in the woods, after checking out the salamander population in the pools they use for aquatic plants.
Salamander pool.jpg


They collect the seeds for the native plants they sell (often via mail to folks in surrounding states) all around their land, and they work hard to remove invasive species that threaten to overcome the native ones. Here Amy finds one of plants I just saw being grown in the green house.

Native plant find.jpg

Red and green moss.jpg

Check how thick this moss.jpg

Check out how thick that moss is! Moss isn't always a good thing, as it chokes out grass, and the horses eat grass, not moss. Here's one of the many streams that are flowing into the hollow, and a rare patch of rhododendrons. On the way home I found a nice vine for swinging.
Stream and rhodies.jpg

Found a vine.jpg

With 250 acres to choose from, I searched high and low for the perfect spot to pitch my tent, and finally found it...
Tent site.jpg

As we're trying to conserve wood, sleeping in a tent indoors raises the air temperature by 5-10 degrees. I've used this strategy to save on heating costs in Philly and Mpls as well.

Living room light.jpg

Stairs to loft.jpg

Vegan peach muffins.jpg

Still baking, made some vegan peach muffins with walnut oil. Tasty. This Mpls-sized shack is currently unoccupied, if anyone's looking for rural home. Needs a bit of foundation work...
Shack chat.jpg

I've been practicing my tarot skills while I'm here, doing readings for Amy and Tony, and Amy did one for me as well. I'm predicted to have a "peaceful hiatus in an otherwise discordant situation".
Amy's tarot.jpg

Laila's tarot.jpg

Tarot on porch.jpg