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another page in our book of memories… is gently turned today
we will miss this beautiful lady…
sister-in-law, friend, aunt, hay-making farm hand…
throughout a very long, hard-fought battle with cancer
she handled everything with great strength, grace and dignity
we all still have much to learn from her example
Rest In Peace… Donna
|Ida (l.), Lena (m.), Nellie (r.)|
Grandma Lena loved to read and do handwork. She wrote many poems often on the back of envelopes or greeting cards. In 1951 she sent her poem “Fairy Lace” to Five Star Music Masters in Boston where Mr. Lew Tobin composed a piano arrangement for it; returning it ‘with pleasure… confident that she would be as pleased wtih it as he was.”. We often wonder if it was ever performed.
|Lena, Ray and 12 of their 13 grandchildren|
With much gratitude to those that came before us, we move to the second generation of our family to live on our farm, as we continue our series for Women’s History Month – honoring the women who helped to build this farm that we love so well. Let us introduce Great Grandmother…
Hannah Huston, the youngest of seven children, was born November 27, 1863 to Amanda Hartley Huston and Thomas Huston, near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania in a beautiful old stone house. Thomas was the son of an Irish immigrant and a riverboat captain on the Monongahela River. She married David Ambrose Dixon on September 14, 1889. The following year, Hannah, David and David’s parents, Amy and Andrew, moved from Pennsylvania to our farm in West Virginia. They moved into the large, three-floor weather board house. Amy and Andrew’s kitchen was on the first level along with a large cellar. Hannah’s kitchen, dining room, a parlor and two bedrooms were on the next level, and upstairs there were four more bedrooms. The parlor had a huge fireplace that was large enough for a five foot log. It would take Hannah three days travel, in her buggy, to visit her family back in Pennsylvania.
Hannah and David would have six children; five daughters and one son. The youngest daughter was born in 1910 when Hannah was 47 years old. They raised their own wheat and took it to the flour mill at Amboy where it was ground into enough flour to last for a year. The family raised just about everything they needed except for sugar, salt and rice. They milked ‘a good many’ cows, and Hannah made butter to sell in the little town of Rowlesburg. Her butter was exceptionally good, so she never lacked for regular customers. She would travel down the mountain in her buggy and had to cross a long overhead railroad bridge. If a train came along when they were crossing, it scared the horse badly. The family always heaved a sigh of relief when they got safely across.
Hannah had the first sewing machine in the community. She hemmed sheets and pillow slips for her friends. She was a beautiful seamstress and made lovely dresses for her daughters, with tucks, pleats and frills. In later years she turned her skill to making quilts. She would sit for hours happily cutting and sewing little pieces together. She hated to stop, even to eat, when she had a quilt in the quilting frame. She was a fast and expert quilter. Each of her daughters had at least a dozen quilts when she got married.
“Golden Wedding Observed By Mr. And Mrs. David Dixon of W. Va.”
Amy Donham was born on October 17, 1830 near Greensboro in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of eight children born to Rebecca Engle Donham and John Donham. On December 5, 1855 she married Andrew Kramer Dickson. They would have seven children, only three of which would reach the age of 20. In 1890, Amy and Andrew, along with their son, David and his wife, Hannah, packed up and moved to our mountain top farm in West Virginia, on what would later be known as Lantz Ridge. David drove the wagon and Hannah came in Amy’s buggy with her beautiful buggy horse. Amy and Andrew traveled on the train to Rowlesburg. Once they reached that river valley town, they had to travel the narrow, steep, winding road up the mountain to reach their new home. There they moved into the large white weather-board house near a good spring which, 121 years later, still supplies most of our family’s water. We have oftened wondered how Amy felt during that first, long, lonely trip up the mountain. It must have seemed that she and Andrew, then in their sixties, were going into the wilderness.
In 1900, Andrew gave the land for the community’s church to be built, and Amy named it Mt. Olivet, because it reminded her of the Mount of Olives in the bible.
Grandmother Amy was a very lovely woman, and a beautiful seamstress. When she became so ill that she could no longer sit up to do her handwork, she would have someone tie her back in her little armless rocking chair to help hold her up.
“Mrs. Amy Donham Dixon after a lingering illness, departed this life on the 13th of November, at the home of her son David Dixon, aged 75 years and 26 days… Although a stranger among strangers, it was but a short time until she could count her friends and acquaintances many. Mrs. Dixon was of a kind and amiable disposition, and it was through these noble qualities, that she drew so many to her. She was a beautiful character. Now that she is gone she will be sadly missed, not only in the home, but throughout the community, and the church of which she was a member. She was a Christian woman ripe and polished for the inheritance of the Holy Promise! The funeral services were conducted by her pastor, Rev. W. H. Berry from Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church in the presence of a large concourse of people, who had gathered to render this their last tribute of love and respect…”
What a testament to one’s life to be remembered so well.
(excerpted from the writings of our Great Aunt Florence and a newspaper clipping of obituary)
You know that person
:: who stops to wonder at the display of ring pin fasteners everytime they go to the farmstore
:: thinks that zip ties, bungee cords and rachet tie downs were just about the best things ever invented
:: whose Boggs barn boots are among their most prized posessions
:: has at least one Joel Salatin book on their night stand
:: slows down to a crawl when they pass a field containing a baby farm animal
Then, of course, there is their unadulterated admiration of hay! Is there anything quite as pretty as that interior layer of hay where the bale naturally falls open after the baler twine is cut? To delight in the charm of the tidy rows of timothy and alfalfa… but oh, to behold the beauty of the perfectly preserved red clover on a cold winter morning… it can take your breath away.
The expectant ewes share that appreciation of a good bale of hay. They come running, stealing mouthfuls on the way to the feeder. They are not very patient or polite this time of year – pushing, shoving their way in, trying to make sure they get their fair share of the goodness – very much the pregnant ladies at the salad bar. Samson stands guard, ready to re-establish order should things get too rowdy.
|Courtesy of G & N Ramp Farm|
We started day two of the conference with Forest Non-Timber; it began with a West Virginia legend, Glen Facemire, He and his wife, Noreen, run G & N Ramp Farm in Richwood, home of the Feast of the Ransom. Industrial/residential development and over-harvesting are putting our beloved ramp in some danger, so here is some of Glenn’s advice:
— better to harvest and plant than let the ramps go to seed; they have a better chance of survival
— they like to be planted near rocks
— dig the big clumps and leave the twos, threes and singles
Glen is a great speaker and very informative. We could probably do an entire post on just his class, but instead we will direct you to his book ‘Having Your Ramps and Eating Them Too’. If you can’t dig your own, or buy roadside ramps, you can buy them from Glen.
Paul Goland of Hardscrabble Enterprises was next up in the Forest Non-Timber class and gave a very educational talk and demonstration on Shitake Mushrooms. Paul is in his 80’s and is a master at what he does. Just two of his many pieces of advice – shade and temperature change are essential, and if you are having slug problems sprinkle some agricultural salt around the base of your logs. Paul does not have a web-site so if you would like contact information just let us know.
Next up, Beekeeping with Paul Poling, West Virginia’s State Apiary Specialist, presenting all the steps necessary to get started. It was very informative, as we took well over a dozen small pages of notes.
|Liberty Hill Farm’s RoBeth Holstein Herd courtesy of their website|
The lunch time speaker was Beth Kennett from Libert Hill Farm in Vermont. Beth is an energetic and dynamic speaker, and shared her family’s inspirational story of running a Dairy Farm with a Bed and Breakfast. She ended her talk with a story about a young mother, her son and farmer super heroes. Suffice it to say that the Shepherdess/s and most of the room had tears in their eyes by the time she was done.
It is difficult to believe, but the class following lunch featured another great speaker, Mimi Hernandez. Mimi is the Outreach Coordinator for the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies, and presented Medicinal Plants from the Farm and Forest Floor. She covered everything from making Chickweed Pesto to preparing a spit poultice from Plantain, the herbal bandaid. Mimi is traveling the state presenting her Mountain Roots workshops. It would be well worth the effort to hear her speak.
We rounded out the day with Brad Smith’s Small Ruminant Management. He spoke about efficient and sustainable sheep and goat production. We take every opportunity we can to attend anything about small ruminants, and always walk away with new insight, some tidbit of information or that feeling of why didn’t we think of that before. And… well,…you know…we just love to talk about sheep.
I almost ended without mentioning The Great West Virginia Pop-Off! and the Local Food Celebration & Banquet. We will save that for another day, another post devoted just to the food because that was the theme of the conference – “It’s all about the food!”
Gosh, where do we begin… We had a great time at the WV Small Farms Conference! Day 1 was spent in a Cheesemaking seminar. In the morning there was a presentation by Brian Stone from Northboro, MA. Brian has traveled the world helping farmers make better cheese. He reviewed all the dos and don’ts, the rules and regulations. We learned, for example – Raw Milk cheese has to be aged 60 days or longer according to FDA rules; there is a PMO – Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (who knew); and to sell cheese from your own milk, you must become a certified Grade A Dairy.
After a wonderful lunch, we had a brief visit with Beth Kennett from Liberty Hill Farm in Vermont. This would be the first of three times that we heard Beth speak. She is a remarkable lady, but more about her in a later post. This is after all.. all about the cheese.
|Spring Gap Mountain Creamery Tomme Cheese (their photo)|
The afternoon session began with a panel discussion with Brian; the WVDA; the Health Dept; Callie and Ben, start-up cheesemakers; Vince, maker of Mozzarella, from Hancock County; and Penny and Jurgen from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery, in Paw Paw. This was really interesting as they talked about their operations, mistakes they have made and the challenges of being Artisan Cheesemakers.
We were a little disappointed that the seminar was not more hands-on, but we signed up for a follow-up seminar that is to include the actual making of cheese. We ended the session with, of course, a cheese tasting! Talk turned to wine and cheese, but Brian informed us that real cheese tastings are accompanied by beer. We shared some of Vince’s Mozzarella balls, several cheeses from Trickling Springs Creamery and a couple from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery. They were all delicious, but the favorite of both Shepherdess/s was the Tomme Cheese from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery named Shenandoah Sunrise.
We spent the evening at the Winter Blues Farmers Market – good music, lots of local food – pretty much the perfect ending to a pretty much perfect day.