Weekly update from Pocahontas County Free Libraries
One pleasure of Spring is the gathering and enjoyment of fresh wild edibles. From ramps to mushrooms, wild chives to violets, dandelions to spring beauties, our forests and backyards are repositories of an incredibly diverse and nourishing botanic feast.
Because there are a few plants that are dangerous, a handful that are deadly, and parts of certain plants that are safe while other parts are not, it is important to know with certainty what we are picking and consuming.
The Pocahontas County Free Libraries has resources available to assist foragers in the identification and proper handling of wild plants.
The Peterson Field Guides Series is a particularly useful set of books for identifying wildlife. One currently in the libraries' collection is "Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs." According to the "how to use this book" section, "This guide includes 500 of the more significant medicinal plant species of the eastern U.S. with important historical uses, present use, or future potential." The information is succinctly presented and the color photographs are beautiful as well as helpful.
"The Complete Ourdoorsman's Guide to Edible Wild Plants," by Berndt Berglund and Clare E. Bolsby, includes not only identification information on 50 common wild plants but also recipes "demonstrating simple culinary principles used by settlers of this continent."
Two books by Samuel Thayer, "The Forager's Harvest" and "Nature's Garden," are new additions to the libraries' shelves. These are both guides to identifying, harvesting and preparing edible wild plants.
Another new book is "Edible Wild Plants - Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate" by John Kallas. The recipes in this book look delicious, and Kallas includes a table of nutrient values of some of the more common wild greens.
No matter how detailed, no printed reference surpasses a hands-on, hunt-and-find outing with an experienced leader. Some of us were fortunate enough to have had parents or grandparents who shared this knowledge with us. The Pocahontas Nature Club has an offering for those of us who did not have such guidance.
The Wild Edibles Festival is set for Saturday April 21, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Hillsboro Library. This free event features instruction from Mimi Hernandez (http://www.mimihernandez.com/), an herbalist and holistic health educator and Outreach Coordinator of the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies at Frostburg State University in Maryland.
Local Master Naturalists will lead a walk to gather wild edibles, and members of the Nature Club will demonstrate proper cooking techniques. A covered dish dinner, quilt raffle and door prizes are part of the planned festivities. Lunch including wild edibles will be available at Hillsboro's Pretty Penny Cafe.
The Wild Edibles Festival is supported by a grant from the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau's Calvin W. Price Appalachian Enrichment Series and is co-sponsored by the Hillsboro Library Friends. For more information or to register, contact Mary Dawson at 304-799-4766 or email@example.com or visit the Pocahontas Nature Club on Facebook.
I took a walk in the new Durbin Public Library and Community Center yesterday. I paced out the spaces in anticipation of the inside walls and was excited about seeing the programs, meetings, parties, relaxation, reading, research, and discovery it will hold in the years to come. Almost everyone I meet asks me when we will be moving into the new space. It is easy to get impatient with all the details and hard work that is still to be done. The building makes progress as the funds come in and as the volunteer work crew take on the projects. Restricted by law to prevailing wages we are dependent on these experienced volunteers to stretch our donor dollars. In the near term, the windows and doors will follow a protective coat of paint applied to the outside. The outside will, of course, have siding, in time.
Just for a moment let us think of the progress already made last year. Early in spring there were signs of life, large machinery and trucks came to dig and pour a foundation and, by May, Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity was on the scene to lead the "Barn Raising." Thirty-six volunteers from the community and surrounding areas put up the walls and it was accomplished on the 21st of May. Since that day volunteer builders readied the building (trusses to sheathing) for the roofers to complete the metal roof of blue in November.
Already this year, a team from NRAO donated and installed the electrical service to power the tools needed for the next steps.
All this activity could not have happened without the material assets provided by our donors behind the scenes. Before we start a Phase II, I would like to mention them to you. The 2011 donors were Gracie F. Collins, John and Michelle Connor, Dunmore Community Association, Dunmore United Methodist Church, Dunmore United Methodist Women, Durbin Lion's Club, Durbin United Methodist Women, Eleonora O. Florance, Frank and Janet Ghigo, Sue Ann Heatherly, Deborah H. Hoeper, Moreau and Marie Keller, Jr., Jacob Meck, Lindsey B. Moore, William and Pauline Pappas, Rev. Gary and Dorothy Phillips, Frank Proud and Pat Adams Proud, Donna Rexrode, Marvin Schuhmann, Danny and Diana Sheets, William and Mildred Simmons, Town of Durbin, The Whistle Stop (Durbin), Buster Varner, Joyce Varner, Julian and Marilyn Whanger, Dale and Margaret Whiteis, Henry Widney and all the faithful fourth Saturday and Durbin Days Bingo attendees, all those responding to fundraisers and anonymous donors. There are more names already for this year but that can wait for another update. Please consider joining them this year with a donation to Durbin Library Building Fund.
"Simple" "Forceful" "Musical" "Idiosyncratic" "Startling"
These are some of the words used to describe the poetry of Louise McNeill (January 9, 1911 - June 18, 1993), Poet Laureate of West Virginia from 1979 to 1993.
Born on her family farm near Swago Creek in Pocahontas County, she was the daughter of Marietta Grace and G.D. McNeill. G.D. was a well-known educator and author of The Last Forest and Tales of Pocahontas County.
Louise McNeill wrote her first poem at the age of 16, and published Mountain White, a small chapbook of poems, when she was just 20 years old.
However, it was Gauley Mountain, published in 1939, that brought McNeill's story-telling gift national attention, inspiring Stephen Vincent Benet to write in the forward of the book, "...there is a new poet in the land."
Subtitled "A History in Verse," Gauley Mountain imagines the stories of the people who settled this area. Although fictional, we know these folks: Josh MacElwain, the hard scrabble farmer - "He meant to haul the fodder in that day, So while his Marthie fried the corn-meal mush, He slopped the hogs and forked the cow some hay"; Josh's stoic wife, Martha - "And Granny Saunders watched another bed, She was alone with birth, and then her dead"; Granny Saunders, the herbal healer and midwife - "I took the babe, blew breath into its mouth, And tied its navel with a linen thread"; Sol Brady, the swaggering lumberman - "He could ride three logs down the river's course, And shoot the head from a dropping pin"; Dan O'Kane, the unpunished murderer - "Dan O'Kane with an Irish grin, Washing his hand of an English sin".
McNeill's Gauley is inhabited by strong women and men who suffer, survive, thrive and die while making their homes and raising their families in this region. The vitality, authenticity and contradictions of these charters and descriptions remind us not only of ourselves but also of our place. It is through the eyes and voices of these characters that McNeill reveals the beauty, the challenges, the solidity of life in our mountains, forests and valleys.
Continuing the tradition of McNeill's poetry, the Hillsboro Library Friends will host "Poets of the Pocahontas Hills" at the Hillsboro Library on Saturday, March 17, beginning with a reception at 6:30 pm. This free St. Patrick's Day gala will feature local poets sharing their writings in a casual cafe-style setting. Old-timey music and Irish song and rhyme will add to the fun. For more information, contact the Hillsboro Library at 304-653-4936.
Come into McClintic Library any Tuesday or Wednesday evening, and you will hear sounds of music: fiddles, banjos, guitars, and the occasional voice raised in song. Ever since I started working for the Pocahontas County Free Libraries in 2004, local music teacher Pam Lund has given lessons to her students in the library. The routine is the same each week; during the day, mothers and/or fathers drop off instruments so the kids don't have to take them to school. At 3:30, students pour into the library, ready for their lessons. They do homework or check Facebook while waiting their turn with Pam. And from the conference room or hallway, sounds of old-time music drift through the building.
Baseball player Branch Rickey said, "It is not the honor you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind." He was talking about his sport, but he could easily have been talking about the rich musical heritage of Pocahontas County. Pam Lund works very hard to inspire our county's young musicians, to instill in them a love of the music that forms the basis of their own heritage. It's important work, and I'm so thrilled that the library shares a tiny bit in the preservation of age-old musical traditions.
Now, for the exciting news: Pam and her students, as a way of saying thank you to the library, are holding a fund-raising concert for McClintic Library. The students will be playing on the Opera House stage on Friday, March 9, at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation. The event is co-sponsored by the Opera House, and by Pendleton Community Bank, which has offered a generous opening donation to the library.
This is a wonderful opportunity to come out, enjoy an evening of good music played by some very talented youngsters, and to support your local library and the children who want to "give back." I'm very proud of the students who have worked so hard on their music, and I can't wait to hear them all get together and play as a group.
Who knows? We may have the next big country music star right here in Pocahontas County!
People read for different reasons. Pleasure reading is obviously for relaxation, but even that can be broken down into different categories. Sometimes you want a big, meaty novel about three generations of a dysfunctional family; sometimes you need thrills and chills and excitement; sometimes it's romance or danger or fantasy that sounds appealing.
But if you're ever looking for humor, try "The Spellman Files" by Lisa Lutz. Our heroine is Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, a 28-year-old young woman who is employed by her parents as a private investigator in the family business, Spellman Investigations.
The novel begins with a breathtaking car case. Someone is chasing Izzy, and she tries every trick she knows to lose them. Then, "The Ford is about a hundred meters back, but closing in. I slow down...I accelerate one last time...and follow it up by slamming on my brakes. The Ford screeches to a halt about ten feet behind the BMW. I casually get out of the car and knock on the driver's-side window. A moment passes and the window rolls down. I put my hand on the hood of the car and lean in just a bit. "Mom. Dad. This has to stop."
This first scene sets the tone for this fun novel, and crazy family. In addition to Izzy, there is her older brother David, who was born perfect and declined working for the family, becoming instead a lawyer who specializes in negotiation. We also meet younger sister Rae, a 14-year-old who is admittedly addicted to "recreational surveillance." And let's not forget Uncle Ray, who also works for Spellman Investigations when he isn't enjoying one of his Lost Weekends. Bringing Uncle Ray home again is often one of Izzy and Rae's cases.
Izzy hasn't had a very successful love life. She lists normal dates (few) and her ex-boyfriends, complete with their last words to her, which include, "Our relationship is a threat to my sobriety" and "You ran a credit check on my brother??" So when she meets a new potential ex-boyfriend, she wants to give herself the best possible chance, and keep him a secret (ie. away from her family). Her parents, however, hire Rae to follow Izzy and get the scoop, and so Izzy snaps. She quits. Her parents have one stipulation: she may quit the family business as soon as she solves a 15-year-old cold case. Izzy accepts and seems to be making some progress, until Rae disappears, and things suddenly get serious.
Lisa Lutz has continued the Spellman adventures with three more novels: "The Curse of the Spellmans," "Revenge of the Spellmans," and "The Spellmans Strike Again." The fifth book, "Trail of the Spellmans" will be released in a few weeks. Part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry, Izzy Spellman is one of the most fun characters I've met in a long time.
"A Red Herring Without Mustard"
by Alan Bradley
The third Flavia de Luce mystery
Flavia is back, and she's just as precocious as ever. This 11-year-old girl, who loves chemistry and poisons, thinks her two older sisters are odious toads, and has named her trusty bicycle "Gladys," will steal your heart once again in this fun mystery by Alan Bradley.
The little village of Bishop's Lacey is bustling with excitement. Not only is there a f�te being held at St. Tancred's Church, but a real gypsy has set up her tent to tell fortunes. Flavia hears her fortune, which relates to the mother who died when Flavia was only a year old. Startled, she jumps up and knocks over the lighted candle.
Feeling great remorse for burning down the gypsy's tent, Flavia invites her to camp on the grounds at Buckshaw, Flavia's ancestral home. Flavia returns early the next morning, hoping to have breakfast in a gypsy caravan, only to find the old gypsy woman horribly beaten and clinging to life.
Who would attack the gypsy woman? Was it Mrs. Ball, who has always insisted the gypsies stole her baby years back? What about Brookie Harewood, a young man of questionable morals and suspicious income? Flavia is on the scent, determined to find the gypsy's attacker and bring him, or her, to justice.
Finding a body hanging from Poseidon's trident in the crumbling 19th century fountain at Buckshaw only serves to complicate matters for Flavia. Are the two incidents related? Leave it to Flavia to put her skills to the test, and outdetect Bishop Lacey's police force!
Alan Bradley continues the fun in this third installment. I love the relationship between Flavia and her sisters ("Feely was seventeen and ranked herself right up there with the Blessed Virgin Mary, although the chief difference between them, I'm willing to bet, is that the BVM doesn't spend twenty-three hours a day peering at herself in a looking glass while picking away at her face with a pair of tweezers.") and her hilarious and utter confidence in her own charm.
If you have not yet made Flavia's acquaintance, you are missing out on a wonderful reading experience! I would recommend reading her adventures in order; begin with "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" and then read "The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag" before settling in with"A Red Herring Without Mustard." McClintic just received the fourth book, "I am Half Sick of Shadows" but I haven't been able to get my hand on it yet. Even more delightful are the audio versions of these books. The narrator, Jayne Entwistle, captures Flavia's voice and spunk perfectly.
You won't regret getting to know the de Luce family.
I don't know about you, but it feels like everywhere I turn, there is a book with a vampire in it. Or maybe a werewolf. Now, don't get me wrong. I like creepiness as well as the next ghoul. But it just seems as though too many authors are jumping on the bandwagon (or in this case I should say, the hearse) and using too many paranormal characters in their novels. Especially novels aimed at the teen market. A person can only read so many vampire books.*
So I was pleasantly surprised when the 2012 Printz awards were announced, and realized there wasn't one vampire, werewolf, ghost or witch in the entire bunch. The Printz award is given annually to the best young adult novel published in the previous year. It's named after the late Michael L. Printz, a youth services librarian who made a significant impact on his young patrons over the years. The award was established in 2000, and stands with the Newbery Award (best juvenile literature) and the Caldecott (best picture book illustrations) as a standard of excellence in children's literature.
Every year, the libraries try to add both the award winners, and the honor books to our collections. This year is going to be more difficult; we have some serious budget shortfalls, and our money is tight. So I'm hoping some of our readers can help. A donation of $30 will buy one set of 2012 Newbery books; a donation of $43 will buy one set of Caldecott books; and a donation of $55 will buy one set of Printz books.
I posted this information on Facebook, and we have one set of Newbery books purchased! But we have five libraries in the county, so there are more opportunities to donate. Please consider giving the children in Pocahontas County some new, quality books to read. It's a small amount, and it will make a huge impact. If you are interested, just call me at 304-799-6000. You can specify which library you would like to help, and I would be happy to tell you about the titles that won the awards, or that were given honorable mention.
*Disclaimer: If you love vampires, do yourself a favor and read the best vampire novel ever written, Bram Stoker's Dracula. Despite being 115-years-old, it reads like a modern novel and has enough tension, horror and sharp teeth to please the most critical vampire fan.
I'm a great admirer of children's picture books. They are beautiful to look at, showing different styles of artwork, as well as having a variety of forms of the written word, poetry, prose, song, etc.
But there is so much more to a children's book than how they look or sound. They are functional. They are tools. Books can help children make sense of the complex world we live in. Books can help children get through scary and unfamiliar situations. Some children's picture books teach about a difficult topic such as divorce, illness and even death. Through other books children can learn about values-kindness, cooperation, compassion and tolerance. Children can relate to a character in a story, they can feel what the character feels. This can be a source of comfort for a child that may be going through a similar situation.
I worked with the youngest age group at a private elementary school in a previous career. We took great care in choosing stories for the book-table each day. For many kids this was their first time away from home and feelings of sadness were common. Stories came to the rescue, helping children transition into the school day. One of the teachers would always take up residence at the story-table during morning drop off. The stories allowed for a successful transition because they were familiar. They also gave the children a chance to survey the situation without jumping in too quickly or maybe just took their mind off the feelings of sadness.
As an additional benefit, story-time gave the kids an opportunity to connect with the teachers, to feel safe. With books borrowed from your local library, you can help your children benefit in the same way.
I remember we had one little boy from Japan who did not speak much English. We had an intern who spoke Japanese, so this made his transition easier; yet, when the intern went on lunch break, the boy would cry inconsolably.
The solution, "Everyone Poops" by Taro Gomi. When he saw the intern about to leave he would grab my hand and lead me to the reading table and hold up "Everyone Poops." For those of you not familiar with this children's story, it is a book about how...well... what goes in must come out. An irresistibly humorous, somewhat educational book, illustrated with bright colorful pictures. This child found a solution for feeling insecure all on his own- books. Other children would gather around and more stories were read. As the school year progressed he felt more confident, but he still loved story-time.
Here at the Linwood Library, and at all Pocahontas County Libraries, we try to create a comfortable, safe place in our children's areas to explore the world of books. Where children can discover people and places that are far away; they can learn about feelings and that everyone has them; they can see and hear art and poetry; and of course learn that everyone poops.
When I was in the fifth grade, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. I read everything I could get my hands on concerning the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs, Stonehenge, the ancient cities of Athens and Rome, the ruins of Pompeii. I don't quite remember what brought on my sudden depression; I think it was reading about Schliemann discovering the city of Troy. Anyway, I vividly remember running to my mother in tears because, "everything is going to be discovered by the time I grow up!"
This sentiment, that it's all been done already, also affects those adventuresome souls who enjoy exploration. There is no Wild Frontier anymore; the North Pole, the South Pole, all the far corners of the Earth -even outer space-have been explored. So now, exploration must become simply adventure. And there is a lot of adventure still out there to be had.
In honor of all the explorations of the past century, David Roberts pulled together an anthology of 41 excerpts from some of the greatest adventure tales of the 20th century. The book is called "Points Unknown." Each excerpt is taken from a work originally written in English, and which highlights great adventure writing.
Roberts makes a distinction between great adventures and great adventure writing in his introduction. He says, "The first ascent of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 exemplified expeditionary mountaineering, but...Sir John Hunt's "The Ascent of Everest" is a plodding book."
So Roberts looked for great stories told with skill. He didn't want just hairbreadth escapes, but also the whimsical, the humorous, the lighthearted adventures, as well. The book is divided into three sections: Obsessions, Idylls, and Ordeals. Each excerpt lists the author, the book the excerpt is from, and an introduction to the piece. Here are some of the pieces included:
Robert Falcon Scott's diary from his last expedition, trying to be the first to reach the South Pole in 1912, is a heartbreaking, tragic story. The introduction says "Scott's diary, which he kept faithfully to the end, is the most vivid and detailed account of slow deterioration and inevitable death in polar annals. For decades, its last page has lain open, under glass, in the British Museum...The last of the five men to die, he managed, after five days' silence in the last camp, to rouse himself for one last entry, giving the world two of the most memorable closing lines in exploratory history."
We follow Bertram Thomas as he becomes the first man to cross the Empty Quarter in southern Arabia-probably the world's most inhospitable desert-in 1931. Joshua Slocum takes us with him on the first solo circumnavigation of the globe at the turn of the century, a voyage that took just over three years to complete. Eric Hansen heads out, alone with very little gear, into the rain forest of Borneo in 1982, an American vagabond intent upon exploration. Robyn Davidson, who had undertaken a similar solo trek by camel across the western desert of Australia, said of Hansen, "Only a consummate traveler or lunatic would set off alone across Borneo with nothing but a pair of ratty sand shoes and a knapsack full of trading goods." We experience one of the great partnerships of modern mountaineering, that of Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker, as Peter describes the ascent, and then the more dangerous descent of the mountain called Changabang, in India. Roberts says, "The duo has to pull out all the stops to get down from the summit alive. Then, just as they anticipate relaxing and gorging themselves at base camp, they stumble into the tragedy all mountaineers dread-and find themselves driven to a mission of mercy more macabre than any climb."
I like these adventure books because, let's face it: I am not putting out $70,000 to possibly die on Mount Everest; I am not canoeing down the Amazon dodging poison dart guns. It's just not happening. But I can get the thrill of the adventure from the comfort of my own home, thanks to all these men and women who have gone before me, and written about it. In fact, I got the thrill of 41 different adventures.
If you are an armchair adventurer too, you will enjoy "Points Unknown: the greatest adventure writing of the 20th century."
Libraries are a hub of community activity, and quite often that activity revolves around the meeting rooms. You would be amazed at the number of groups that meet in any given branch of the Pocahontas County Free Libraries. We host meetings for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Seneca Health Services, Parents as Teachers, AA, Pocahontas Woods and many other groups. Our rooms are also available for a small fee for personal events, such as baby showers or birthday parties.
I bring this up because Wednesday, January 25, at 1:30 p.m. at the McClintic Library will be a meeting of the Pocahontas County Tobacco Coalition. This group does some important work in getting the word out about tobacco use, its dangers and how to quit using tobacco. The meeting is open to anyone who is interested in getting involved. If you miss this meeting, you can always contact Karen Larson, who acts as a Regional Coordinator for the Coalition.
Karen says, "Fresh air should not be just something that we read about; it should be available to all of us. Children have no choice about the quality of air that they breathe. If their caregivers smoke, then the children are forced to breathe in cancer causing chemicals like arsenic, ammonia, polonium-210, and many more. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or cancer-causing. According to a Surgeon General's Report, about 43% of U.S. nonsmokers still have detectable levels of cotinine, a biomarker of secondhand smoke exposure. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25-30%. In addition it states that 60% of U.S. children aged three-to-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke. Dangers of secondhand smoke to children include, but are not limited to, the following: pneumonia, asthma attacks, bronchitis, and increased risk of ear infections, weaker lungs, and sudden infant death syndrome.
Ventilation cannot be relied on to control health risks from secondhand smoke exposure according to The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the preeminent U.S. body on ventilation issues. Eliminating smoking inside is the only way to protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Protect the people around you by giving them "A Breath of Fresh Air." Help is available to you if you would like to quit using tobacco. Call the West Virginia Tobacco Quitline at 1-877-966-8784 or 1-800-Quit-Now for free nicotine patches or gum. If you are not willing to quit for yourself, please quit for those around you. Help others to breathe fresh air and help to protect them from increased risks of things like asthma, breast cancer, lung cancer and heart disease."
This subject is near and dear to me, after losing two close family members to lung cancer. So please, if you use tobacco, call the Quitline and start the New Year out right. If you want to get involved with this group, contact Karen Larson at 304-799-6112 or by email at LarsonRTPC@hotmail.com
We don't want to lose you!