All posts by LHM

About LHM

Lisa Minney is a writer, librarian, teacher, amateur gardener, porch sitter, typewriter collector, and publisher. She lives in West Virginia with her husband Frank, their beagle, Daisy; a tabby cat, Dandelion; and several hens.

Sunny, But Saturated

I love extreme weather. Lightning, thunder, heavy snowfalls with big, fat flakes. Many of my most vivid memories involve weather. I remember sitting inside the storm door excitedly as a child, counting the seconds between a flash of lightning and the following roll of thunder to yell out how many miles away the lightning struck. I remember the first time I saw snow rollers, a rare meteorological phenomenon where cylindrical snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by the wind. Daddy said, “you may never see them again in your entire life,” and I have not seen them since.

I remember sitting on the front porch of my grandparent’s cabin in Blue, West Virginia, watching a hailstorm approach from across the field as we strung beans. The roar grew louder and the hayfield flattened in a line that drew closer until the hail pounded and dented the metal roof in a pounding percussion. I remember the night my mother woke me from sleep so we could take a walk around our neighborhood through fresh-fallen snow so crisp that it twinkled like stars beneath the streetlights.

I remember the spring blizzard of 1993, which began the first day of my spring break from college and snowed me in with my parents for eight days, forcibly canceling my plans for a week at the beach. I remember the ice storm of 2003 when our snowy world was covered in a half-inch of ice. I walked through the crunchy fields, listening to the trees on the hillsides creak, groan, and snap under the weight of their encasement.

I remember standing in the garden, totally unprepared when the 2012 derecho hit, how the wind knocked me off balance into the mud, and slammed the lawn chairs against the garden fence. I remember the first time I saw the floodwaters take over the fields here on the farm and watched a round haybale float past me as I waded up our water-covered driveway. I had heard the stories of previous floods but had not been able to conceive how our lazy creeks and trickling streams could expand across acres. I remember hurricanes: Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma.

Today, Sunday, is sunny and bright. Perfect fall weather, with the sounds of katydids and crickets in the air. The day is a lovely break between the rains of last week and the passing of remnants of Hurricane Laura, and the rains predicted to arrive perhaps this coming week. After 20 years here, I now know the guessing game of times like this. How saturated is the ground? How high is the creek? How much more rain can fall before it rises beyond its banks? How high will the waters rise?

The answer is a gut feeling. A feeling that comes from knowing the past, from knowing the land, from knowing the local waters. A feeling I had watching the weather predictions on June 22, 2016, a sense of dread when I went to bed. I knew people would die that night. I knew, in the darkness, 8-10 inches of rain on the hills would become roaring deadly waters in the valleys. By morning, 23 West Virginians were dead. Amongst my horror and tears, I was grateful. The storm front lost its strength just east of our Steer Creek watershed, and most of the rain fell just south of central West Virginia. If the storm had reached across a few more miles or if the heavy rain lasted a few more moments, we too could have been devastated.

Human beings often seem surprised by extreme weather. We act as though we didn’t know such damages could happen, as though Mother Nature has freaked out or is punishing us. How quickly we seem to forget the power and pressure of water, the grip of ice, the strength and will of wind. But I am amazed and awed by such things. They imprint in my mind, and I remember.

Floods are one of West Virginia’s most frequent and costly disasters. According to storm data from NOAA, every county in the state reported at least 14 floods between 1991 and 2016. Since 1988, eleven flood events in West Virginia have claimed 20 or more lives. In these eleven floods alone, nearly 400 West Virginians have died. The deadliest, Buffalo Creek (125 dead, 4 missing), was a man-made event, but the remaining are all due to natural weather. Four of those eleven deadliest floods included high levels on the Little Kanawha River.

How well do you know the waterways around you? Can you tell, looking at rising waters and gauging the rainfall, when the time has come to start moving your life to higher ground? When I first moved here, I assumed the flood threats would come with spring rains, but my memory and history tell me that floods come at all times of the year including September (1861), November (1985), January (1937), June (2016).

On average, in floods across the country, about 25% of flood insurance claims are outside the delineated flood plain. Approximately 68% of individual assistance claims from FEMA are for properties outside the flood plain. Every year in West Virginia there is a 1-5% chance we could have a repeat of 2016. Throughout the State of West Virginia, approximately 78,000 residential buildings are in Special Flood Hazard Areas. Only 12% of those structures are covered by flood insurance.

You may not live in the established flood plain, but if you live on low-lying land, or near even a small run of water, you are at risk. Maintain the drainage around your home and develop a plan. Where can you relocate your valuables and family if/when the waters rise? Can you evacuate if the roads are covered or gone?  How quickly do the waters rise during a downpour? How high do they rise when the ground is already saturated, as it is right now,  and more rain is predicted? Those of us who live in the valleys have little choice but to watch and wait when the waters begin to rise. Those who have experienced floods know the nearby waters intimately and have a plan for when future floods come. Even on sunny but saturated days like today, the local creek levels are still in the back of our minds.

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A Good Year for Tomatoes

Finally, it’s tomato time. We haven’t had a garden in a few years, but 2020 seems the time to revert to some of our prepper tendencies. The four hens I purchased this spring should start laying soon, and I hear the “pop” of jars sealing on pizza sauce downstairs.

There’s a comfort in a full pantry, one that many in this world do not have. Pizza is my go-to meal when I’m feeling too lazy to cook, and I know from past years, we simply cannot can enough. Every pint jar is enough for three or four pizzas, three or four meals.

Normantown Historical Community Center recently held an online auction as a fundraiser, selling off all the things Gilmer County Schools left behind when they closed Normantown Elementary School. Desks, books, file cabinets, lockers, sinks, shelves, chalkboards, and whiteboards, etc. When I visited the center to make arrangements to pick up the item I won (a set of lockers for 20 bucks), I was offered a tour of the facility.

The Community Center was cruisin’ along when COVID came along. Monthly craft classes, weekly basketball night, exercise classes, and more. A clothing closet, and also, the food pantry. For the most part, everything came to a halt in the spring–and all focus turned to the food pantry.

After seeing the set up for the food pantry, I now understand why people begin lining up at 7 a.m. on the second Friday of every month. I understand why traffic has lined up on Route 33, and why Normantown draws people from at least four counties on pantry days.

The food pantry in Normantown is a tremendous operation. Without restriction, anyone can drive through and be provided enough food–meats, cheeses, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, pies, cereals, and more—to last at least a month (depending on the size of your household). I cannot even imagine the volunteer effort required to manage the pantry itself, much less the one day a month the pantry is open.

During my recent tour, I was also told they are considering re-opening the Clothing Closet. While the room that serves as the closet smells a tad musty from being closed so long, the items I saw available were in good shape, even though they may need washing. Though it is 93 degrees today and tomatoes cook down on the stove, winter is coming, and I saw a variety of nice coats available.

I work when the food pantry is open, but I am comforted by the full jars lining up in our pantry, and knowing if I truly need the pantry, it is there. Here, in my community. I am comforted knowing that others in our community have no need to be hungry, no need to be cold. Volunteers in our community are making sure of that.

As is in most places in West Virginia, the volunteer group trying to maintain these services and resources is older, from generations ingrained with the concept of giving back, of service to others. They can use assistance. At Normantown Center, a volunteer mows the yard, while another repairs pantry freezers, another writes grants to get the roofs repaired. Clothing donations for the Clothes Closet need sorting, rooms need the dead ladybugs swept out of the windowsills and up off the floor.

I have to wonder: how many of those who line up for the pantry those second Fridays ever return to give back?

If you need the Food Pantry or the Clothing Closet, I urge you to make use of them. What I witnessed was the set up of quality efforts, with significant choices and options. And whether you make use of them or not, I can see that our Community Center needs more volunteers. Can you push a broom? Run a weed eater? Unload a truck? I started this column to help promote the center, and though COVID has sidetracked some of their plans, it has done nothing to dampen their dedication or their efforts. Their organization meetings are the 2nd Tuesday of every month, and the 2nd Thursday and 2nd Friday—food pantry day and the day before—must be their days of greatest need.

When we look back at how COVID has changed us, and our society, I hope we can look back and say that 2020 was the year we stepped up, the year we recognized the importance of community, of family, of friendships, of time outdoors, of giving. In a year that seems destined to divide us, I hope the opposite is the actual result. I hope this becomes a year we can look back on as a time of fresh beginnings, and as a good year for tomatoes.

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If you would like information on Normantown Historical Community Center, visit nhccwv.com or facebook.com/groups/Blair58. You can subscribe to Lisa’s seasonal email newsletter at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

Thank You Very Much, But I’ve Had Enough Fear

I have recently been thinking a good bit about fear. When teaching Public Speaking to college students, my goal is to help them overcome their fear of speaking in front of people, their fear of judgment, of making mistakes. And over the last few weeks and months, we have all been facing and processing pandemic fear—infection fear, election fear, fear of losing our freedoms, fear of returning to school, fear of those who don’t wear masks, fear, fear, fear.

I have to say, I’ve had about enough of fear.

In 2017, Mary D. Moller, (Ph.D., DNP, ARNP, PMHCNS-BC, CPRP, FAAN), spoke at a session during the Neuroscience Education Institute (NEI) Congress. She discussed the physiology of fear and its long-term effects on human well-being. I recently read a summary of her presentation, and I learned what extended periods of fear can do to us.

There are three predictable stages the body uses to respond to stressors, called the general adaption syndrome. The first is, obviously, alarm. The first reaction to stress recognizes there’s a danger and prepares to deal with the threat. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system and autonomic nervous system are activated. Primary stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and nonadrenaline are released. This is the “fight or flight” response. I felt that in March when Governor Jim Justice shut the state down. I remember where I was, who I was with when I watched his quarantine press conference. Do you?

The second body reaction to fear is resistance. Homeostasis begins restoring balance in the body, and a period of recovery for repair and renewal takes place. Stress hormones (that fight or flight response) may return to normal–but there may be reduced defenses and adaptive energy left. We feel tired, less inspired, and our immune system is weak. I went through that too. All that quarantine project energy I had in March and April? The manic energy of May? Yeah, well, all that petered out about halfway through June. In July, I became a slug, sloughing through my days, binge-watching Netflix, and avoiding the heat. And now here we are in August.

The third stage of processing continual fear is exhaustion. At this phase, the stress has continued for some time. The body’s ability to resist is lost because its adaption energy supply is gone. This is often referred to as overload, burnout, adrenal fatigue, maladaptation, or dysfunction. I don’t think I’m in the third stage yet. Yes, I’m tired. Tired of masks, hand sanitizer, my due diligence to others’ recklessness. I’m tired of politics, tired of press conferences, tired of video meetings, tired of talking about it. I think of Madeline Kahn in the movie Blazing Saddles singing, “Tired, tired of playing the game, Ain’t it a crying shame, I’m so tired.” I’m tired of it all, but I’m not yet exhausted.

So, Dr. Moller, with her numerous degrees, also tells of the physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms of long-term fear. And you know, it isn’t good. The potential effects of chronic fear on overall health include immune system dysfunction, endocrine system dysfunction, autonomic nervous system alterations, sleep/wake cycle disruption, and eating disorders. I am sleeping well, but I’ve gotten quite tired of cooking. I had a boil (infected hair follicle) during July’s dog days, the first I have had since childhood. It was as unpleasant as I remember.

The potential effects of chronic fear on emotional health include dissociation from the self, inability to have loving feelings, learned helplessness, phobic anxiety, mood swings, and obsessive-compulsive thoughts, continued fear of leaving home because of paranoia. The potential consequences of chronic fear on spiritual health include bitterness or fear toward God or others, confusion or disgust with your higher power or religion, loss of trust in your higher power and/or clergy, inactivity or lack of responsibility while waiting for a higher power to fix the issues, despair related to a perceived loss of spirituality. Without making this into a sermon, I must say that I still have faith. I have always believed in some higher plan, though I may not understand it or like it. Plus, I’m more likely to place blame for most messes in this world to human error, narcissism, or greed.

I have a t-shirt in my closet that is now too small for me to wear, but I cannot part with it. On the front, it says, “fear less, hope more.” I’m trying to make that my mantra. I want to get past my defeatist prayers of “thy will be done,” and get to the point where I’m making plans and decisions – not based on fear but based on hope. I hope this virus ends. I hope for economic stability. I hope for a smooth election, a safe school year, more tomatoes, Christmas travel. I hope I don’t have to take the vaccine, I hope our country survives the election. I hope all of this passes. I hope.

I know that sounds cheesy, even as I write it. I’m a cynic at heart, with an inherent distrust of authority, traditional medicine, and government. I have faith in some people, but little faith in mankind. I see no reason to believe a higher power would favor us over the animals of the land and sea, or the flora and fauna we trample on. Even so, I cling to hope. I have had enough of fear this year.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not an anarchist or radical. I have every intention to remain vigilant and cautious. I have masks of all kinds and colors, and several face shields. I’ve got multiple bottles of hand sanitizer in my car, purse, home, and workplace and I use them. I will work, I will vote, I will live. Caution and diligence are not fear, and if there’s anything I am tired of–truly tired of–is fear.

Hope with me. Don’t lose your faith. I know you are scared of the classrooms, the virus, and the decisions our leaders are making. I know you fear being infected, quarantined, hungry, homeless. I don’t mean to dismiss any of that. But I try to remind myself, “this, too, shall pass away.”* Nothing, good or bad, lasts forever. The current situation will not last forever. “Fear not,” is in the Bible 365 times, and now that I know that long-term fear can do, I can understand why. The Renaissance followed the Black Plaque, and the Roaring Twenties followed WWII and the Spanish Flu. So we can hope that brighter times are coming.

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       *From a speech by Abraham Lincoln: “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.”

If you would like information on Normantown Historical Community Center, visit nhccwv.com or facebook.com/groups/Blair58. If you have any submissions for 25267 news, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com. You can subscribe to my email newsletter at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

Dog Days 2020

Oh, this heat. The Dog Days are upon us, the most oppressive period of summer, between July 3rd and August 11th. Why are these days called “Dog Days?” The Farmer’s Almanac tells us it is because, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog, and this is why Sirius is sometimes called the Dog Star. (It is also the likely reason why Sirius Black of the Harry Potter books can turn into a dog named Padfoot.)

Canis Major as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set
of constellation cards published in London c.1825.
The bright star, Siris, marks the dog’s nose.

I discovered during this heat how much ducks need water—and of course, after one being bitten by a turtle, my ducks just flat refused to enter the lake out back. After refilling a kiddie pool twice a day for a week or more, I decided to find the ducks a new home. Of course, I still have my four young hens, who are nowhere near as messy or demanding. This heat is also hard on the garden. We have taken to watering at night with soaker hoses to keep the tomato plants from dying. I forgot about a lovely hanging basket on my front porch, and by the time I remembered to water the basket, it was far too late.

I worked from home for ten years. Maintaining ducks, flowers, chickens, and the garden was much easier when I could address their needs as they arose. But animals and plants do not care if you have to go to work all day. When plants need water, they need water. When fences need mending, delay can cost you the whole garden. And when animals have a crisis or problem, a lack of immediate attention can cause injury or lost lives.

I think about the farms and gardens when West Virginia’s “outmigration” began in the 1950s when fathers, brothers, sons, families began leaving the state to find work elsewhere. “Outmigration” means leaving a region or community, to move or settle into a different place than one’s home territory. Outmigration is a significant problem in West Virginia. What started in the 1950s has continued since.

A statistical brief from the West Virginia Health Statistics Center said more than half the Mountain State’s overall loss from outmigration during a 50-year period (1950-2000), occurred from 1950-1960. When the major 1950s outmigration started, over 40% of the nation’s produce was grown and harvested from family gardens and farms, and I imagine the percentage was higher in West Virginia. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, and meat at the store was almost always sourced from a location less than 50 miles away.

Imagine the West Virginia farms and homestead in 1950 — especially after President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged every American to fight food shortages of World War II with a home garden. In 1943, twenty million “Victory Gardens” existed in the United States. But then the war ended, the demand for coal bottomed out, and the outmigration of people essentially drained a whole generation from West Virginia. Victory Gardens were neglected or abandoned, and workers here were forced out of the state to make a living. Gardens, hayfields, and meadows and hills were left in the care of those who stayed behind – or were simply left untended.

Singer Steve Earle wrote a song titled “Hillbilly Highway,” recorded on his 1986 album Guitar Town. The Hillbilly Highway refers to the emigration of Appalachians to industrial cities, primarily in the years following World War II. While most often used in this metaphoric sense, the term is sometimes used to refer to specific stretches of roadway.

Why? Because, during long weekends, holidays, and lay-offs, workers who left along the Hillbilly Highways returned home. More than any other migrant industrial workers in America, Appalachians traveled home. During layoffs in Flint, Michigan, as many as 35% of the Appalachians left for the hills. I often think they came to help put up hay, harvest the garden, and mend fences — literally and metaphorically. They returned to the homestead, but many came home to unkempt and unchecked environments.

Since then, family gardens in Appalachia have declined, at first in tandem with the levels of outmigration, and then (as land and knowledge were passed less often to the next generation) nearly disappeared. While industrialization and commercialism made our lives busier and “easier,” Americans handed nearly all our food production concerns to a few massive corporations. Who has time to grow and weed a garden? Who has time to water ducks when the ducks are less than 50 feet from a lake?

This heat reminds me: we don’t control nature. Nature controls us. If you have a garden, you must constantly respond to the garden’s demands. If you have livestock or pets, you must diligently provide for their health and safety. I know what a neglected garden can look like after being abandoned for three weeks. Imagine the Appalachian migrants who left these hills for months or years and what they found when they returned home. How much changed in their absence? How much was lost?

Happy Dog Days. While you are staying safer at home for COVID, remember to stay safe in this heat. Avoid strenuous activities and take frequent breaks. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, and avoid direct sun. Drink plenty of hydrating fluids–alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks can hurt more than help. And of course, NEVER leave people or pets in a closed car. Come mid-August, it is likely we will experience fewer days at peak heat and humidity and Dog Days will be behind us. We can only hope it’s the same for the virus.

End of Quarantine, Spring Re-Opening

Spring has now arrived with full force, and it matters not if human-kind has re-opened or not, the world of wildlife is ready for business. Oscar, the largest of the resident snapping turtles, returned to the lake in our back yard this week to spend the summer as he always has. He comes up the driveway in the muddy ditch line, then crosses the side yard and climbs up and over the bank around the water. It’s only by luck that we ever witness this silent quest, and in our 20+ years here, we’ve caught the crossing maybe three or four times. I believe the local goslings are perhaps now big enough to avoid becoming his dinner, but that remains to be seen. The parental geese still are keeping the young ones off the water for the most part, so perhaps all eight young (five from one nest, three from another) will survive the season.

Some who read this column will remember that our last hen went missing in December as we were visiting family in Virginia. Winter is not a good time to start chickens, but the moment the quarantine hit, I ordered more hens. Nothing like a pandemic to make you feel like you need your own supply of eggs. I know some people order chicks by the hundred, but I selected four hens of select breeds and paid extra for them to be sent at 6 weeks of age. I’ve named them Sassy (Buff Orpington), Lacey (Silver-lace Wyandot), Coco (Easter Egger), and Simone (Australorp). Frank has been working to increase the fortitude of our chicken pen against ground and sky predators. We also purchased a battery back-up for our automatic chicken door, having realized that there are enough power outages here to skew the timer on the door and cost chicken lives.

Our beehive caught us off guard this week, producing three swarms in three days. Two swarms gathered low in a raspberry thicket along the garden fence and were captured. The third swarm took to the air and very quickly moved across the field, around the barn, and off into the wilds of Bear Fork. Keeping bees is more challenging even than keeping chickens. Some predators and diseases can wipe out a hive in just a few hours, and the warm-cold-warm-cold tendencies of West Virginia early springs can be tough on a hive. We thought we had lost our last hive in March, but now we have three hives in place again.

We are starting the garden late this year, but I have peas and lettuce in pots on the porches and have been harvesting asparagus for a few weeks now. Once “serious” gardeners who worked from home, we now do the best we can in the spring and wish the garden luck. Our jobs prevent us from winning most of the battles against weeds and invasive insects, and typically by late July, we have lost the war. As long as we get to have a few tomato sandwiches, I’m happy. I notice the asparagus patch is thinner this year, and also that my patch of chives is thin this season as well. Perhaps the winter was too wet? Either way, I will attempt to place some new plants in each of the patches. We love asparagus, and I am accustomed to constantly harvesting fresh chives throughout the growing season.

A deer came through one night and nipped the buds off of most of my Asiatic lilies, my most prized and beautiful spring blossoms. I typically spray them with a mixture of dish soap and water a few times in the spring (along with my hostas) but I got sidetracked by other quarantine projects and was too late. I will have to be satisfied with the more fragrant blossoms of the peonies which will bloom soon, but the sweetness of their flowers draw ants, and I have to shake out the insects before bringing cut blossoms inside to place in a vase.

I am glad to have these diversions from national and worldwide current events. The chickens do not care if I’m wearing a mask, and the bees are not out to murder or infect anyone. Even seeing the snapping turtle, Oscar, as grouchy as he is, was like a reunion with an old friend. I can sit and watch the chicks for hours, mesmerized, like watching a fire, a lava lamp, or a fish tank. I’m so grateful to be in rural West Virginia, especially now. I feel protected from “the outside world” here, and the world outside my door offers entertainment, distractions, and opportunities for restoration and calm.

Next week, the world re-opens even more, to a new normal, a world that requires safety measures and sanitization. But today, this weekend with the sun shining warmly on my shoulders, it feels so good to get my hands in the soil, to scrub afterward to wash away poison ivy oil and not some infectious disease. I can almost feel my body absorbing Vitamin D from the sun, my immune system building a defense against the stressors of life. Somehow, I find myself believing that everything, at some point, will be all right.

Normantown News: Why Did it Have to Be Germs?

Just as I was getting used to quarantine, the push to end it comes barreling along. At my age, I’m a proponent of the “better safe than sorry” perspective, but I also know we can’t stay home forever. Our economy cannot bear it. I watch the numbers of those infected, of those who have died, but I also watch the state’s revenue numbers, the numbers of people applying for unemployment, “forgivable loans,” and other assistance.

When a human being experiences a traumatic event, that person is permanently changed. We may wish to return to normal, to the being we once were, but we have been altered by the event and there is no reclaiming our former self, no un-doing of the changes made to us. Just as it is so with human beings, I believe it is so for human cultures.

During quarantine, I have heard and myself have expressed, a desire to “return to normal.” But in a world contaminated by a virus that is 1000x more contagious than others we have dealt with, zero percent human immunity to it, at least 15% error in the testing data, and no sign of a vaccine in sight, I believe our society has been permanently changed. There is no “back to normal” after this socially traumatic event. Even when the vaccine comes (and it will, though predicted to take up to two years), telecommuting, telehealth, remote work, video conferencing, and an entire generation of children who have been trained to social distance will continue to exist and propagate. I have read articles that note that the ingrained social handshake of greeting will become as frowned upon as smoking.

My father was a Navy Medic who served with the Marines in the Korean War. As a result, personal hygiene and cleanliness (and thus sterility) were important to him all his life. He showered twice a day, every day, and washed his hands more than any man I have known. He had hand cleansers, degreasers, and soaps, and little scrubby brushes that cleaned in the creases and beneath his fingernails. My father was not above getting his hands dirty, but they certainly never stayed so for long. I was raised knowing the proper way to wash my hands–twenty seconds at least and including the thumbs, which are most often overlooked.

During 9-11, I often wondered what Daddy (who left us the year before) would have thought of the events. I longed for his advice, input, commentary for comfort. During COVID, I know how freaked out my father would be. I think of Indiana Jones when he realized the floor of the tomb was covered in snakes. I can hear Daddy saying, “Germs, why did it have to be germs?” (“Germs” being a catch-all term that covers bacteria, viruses, etc.) I imagine he would have had us all on lock-down, with military attention to all methods of sterilization and safety. I know what Daddy would say. Wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, clean everything constantly, stay home. I have no doubt Daddy would be wearing masks and gloves. I can even imagine him in a homemade protective bodysuit of some sort just for a run to the grocery store.

As a library director, it falls to me to develop a plan to re-open the library with the virus still out in the world. Along with my board, I am suddenly responsible for ensuring that our employees and patrons are protected from an invisible enemy of which none of us are immune. I can honestly say, this is the heaviest burden ever placed on me when serving in a leadership position. I cannot insist that our employees wear masks to return to work, but they have all expressed willingness to do so, and the library has purchased n95 masks for all of them, and a cloth mask to wear when washing the other. We have also purchased disposable gloves and masks and will be asking patrons to wear them while interacting inside the library. This is my father manifesting in me. This is me, following my father’s advice.

This morning, I almost cried when I read that two governors re-opening with “mandatory masks” in their guidelines were withdrawing their mandates for masks due to rioting and the concept of violating personal rights. As a librarian and a child of a war veteran, I carry a respect for personal rights that ranks even higher than my personal respect for safety. Like everyone else, I have “thrown caution to the wind” a time or two (likely too many) in my life. But I have been suddenly saddled with the burden of protection. Protection for myself, my employees, their families, our patrons, their families. To my count, that includes about 2,000 people—many of whom will not want to wear a mask to execute their right to library access.

This is not a time to throw caution to the wind. Trust me. I’m a librarian. I’ve done the research. We will not be “returning to normal” any time soon, and masks quadruple protection if BOTH parties interacting (not just one) wear one. If you are not wearing a mask, bandana, or scarf in public, you should be. As West Virginia re-opens, please respect those who ask you to wear protective gear in their establishment. Of course, you have a right to go without one, but don’t the rest of us have the right to feel safe?

From Normantown Historical Community Foundation president Blair Wright:

NHCC will be giving EMERGENCY FOOD BOXES on May 8th, 2020. All workers will be selected volunteers and volunteer firemen. Don’t come before the scheduled time, and if you are not from West Virginia, do not come at all. All special health regulations apply–no loitering, visiting, etc.. You must remain in your vehicle; do not get out of your car until you are told to do so.

ALL VEHICLES MUST LINE UP ON THE WEST (STUMPTOWN) SIDE OF RT. 119. If you are traveling West towards Stumptown, after you pass NHCC, turn around in a safe and legal location, and join the client line from that side. Traffic flow must be maintained as much as possible.  Have your vehicle’s trunk clear or your truck bed reasonably empty. Food dispensing will begin at noon or as near as possible to that time. Questions? Call 304-884-6962.

A special thanks to Calhoun Banks and to Parkersburg Area Community Foundation for contributions to purchase food and to fund operations of the NHCC Food Pantry. The pantry averages nearly 100 families each month. NHCC was recently awarded a $2000 grant to assist with the operation of its pantry by Kroger Company. These donations are greatly appreciated.

Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret. Donkey Basketball has been rescheduled for October 17th, 2020.

If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share or any personal messages you want to be posted in local media, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

Normantown News — Martha and Her Goslings

I have named the goose nesting on the island in the lake behind our house Martha. As I have mentioned before, she took her position on that nest about the time we were quarantined. Martha laid one egg every one to two days, usually early in the morning, as geese do. She has not left the nest, to eat, drink, or bathe once the eggs started incubating. The gestation period is 28 to 30 days, so there should be some activity over there pretty soon.

The appearance of these goslings will be one of the highlights of our quarantine, right up there with painting the bedroom and putting purple highlights in my hair. I’ve been told only boring people get bored, but I am grateful for that goose and her pending goslings and monitor her every day from the back door window. A few days ago, I noticed that she had turned around on the nest, something she had not done in a month. The next day, she was fidgety, plucking and tucking the ground around her body.

I knew, when the male took up a guard position three feet from the nest, that something was happening. The female on the nest had poofed out her body, but remained with her head tucked back into her wings, but the male did not move. He did not pluck at the grasses, did not paddle around the lake, did not falter. For the most part, he had left the female alone for a month, but now he was diligently by her side.

The next morning, the nest was empty, and no geese or goslings to be seen. But, after 22 years of observing this spring ritual, I did not panic. Instead, I looked to the yard and the fields. Geese mate for life, and nest close to the same spot every spring. There has been at least one nest on the island every year since we moved here, so I go on the assumption that this couple has raised several broods on this lake. I likewise assume they know what I know: at least one massive snapping turtle lurks beneath the lake’s waters.

We witnessed the day, several years back when the snapper tried to pull a chicken-sized gosling off the bank of the island. It was large enough to dig into the mud with the free leg and flap its wings enough to keep from being pulled into the depths. But the turtle did not let go. To our amazement, the larger parents took turns, jumping on the turtle’s back, stomping on it, and pecking its head. This battle continued for nearly thirty minutes, and that was the day I learned: a snapper WILL let go. But, it takes a long and brutal beating before the turtle will admit defeat. That gosling grew up with a dysfunctional leg joint but is still living a normal goose life.

To my count, two snappers keep residence here in the warmer months, but the one is truly huge. The last time I caught him crossing the yard in the spring on his return to the lake, his shell alone was 15 inches long. Throw in the head and the tail and you’re looking at a two-foot snapper. Like most snappers, he has a surly attitude, and he can pull a gosling beneath the waters without so much as a ripple. This is why ducks don’t nest here. They have never adapted to the danger beneath the surface, and lose all ducklings, silently, within the first week. They’re just there paddling on the water, and then, with the slight sound of a raindrop, they’re gone.

But the geese who raise here and were raised here know the danger, and freshly hatched goslings are not taken to the water. Today they pluck around the yard, splashing in the puddles made by the second day of rain. Right now, the clan is high on the bank that runs the lower side of the lake, the father tall and diligently watching, the mother resting with her head partially tucked under her wings. But her eyes are open and she keeps them on the five goslings waddling around her body. Another goose has nested on the lower ponds, and that clan will keep their goslings closer to the water at first, though I haven’t seen signs of hatching yet at that nest. Eventually, when the goslings are all big enough, both clans will bring their young to the lake out back. Each year I watch to see if the turtle has goose for dinner.

So, the next phase of goose observation is just that – to see how many survive. This phase comes with mixed feelings because, in truth, geese are a nuisance around here. Goslings are cute for a very short period, then go through a rather ugly phase. Then they become geese. Geese are noisier than you can imagine and prefer mowed grass. Thus, goose poop is an issue in the yard. Also, their defecation in the lake increases the water’s nitrogen level, promoting the growth of problem water plants and duckweed. Duckweed looks like algae on the water’s surface but is actually a plant. It is spread by birds flying between ponds with the tiny plants clinging to their feathers. The plant is prolific and given enough nitrogen, can produce a new plant every 24 hours. In two weeks, a single plant can produce up to 17,500 more to cover the entire surface of the water.

It is difficult to root for the survival of all the goslings when I know I will come to hate them later. Sometimes, in years when the geese have especially large broods, I root for the turtle.

Normantown Historical Community Center’s May food pantry will be on Friday the 8th, for emergency box distribution. They will need the same volunteers as the April pantry, likely because they know the safety procedures. Thanks again to Parkersburg Area Community Foundation for their donation of food, and for the previously awarded grant to repair the roof on the brick concession building. Also thanks to Ken Roberts for his contribution.

Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret. Donkey Basketball has been rescheduled for October 17th, 2020.

The Normantown School Alumni Association Reunion has been canceled. They are currently looking at Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, September 5, 2020, as a possible reschedule date. It will be appreciated if you could remit your Scholarship Fund contribution now so the program can grant its award on schedule rather than waiting. For more information, contact Gary Smith. I see also that the Gilmer County High School All-Class Reunion has been cancelled.

Have you submitted your 2020 Census questionnaire yet? This is the first time in my working-age life that I have not worked for the Census when it came to town. The results determine how much federal funding flows into West Virginia each year, and your completed questionnaire can be worth more than $22,000 in federal funding to our state. You can respond online, via phone, or by mailing in your questionnaire. https://2020census.gov/

If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share or any personal messages you want to be posted in local media, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

 

Quarantine Week 6: Easter Sunday

     I spend my time on the back porch gazing over at the Canada goose nesting on the edge of the island in the lake behind our house. She took her watch about the same time we quarantined, and I wonder who will be released first–her upon the eggs hatching, or me upon the passing of the plague. The goose has been more vigilant than I at social distancing—I have only seen her leave the nest once, briefly. She has remained on the nest through freezing temperatures, hail, rain, high winds–just kind of hunkered down and flattened out. We should all learn quarantine methods from her.

   The male goose doesn’t bother her, but plucks the grasses around the lake, waiting and watching for any invaders. If another goose arrives or hawk circles overhead, the male flies down to the water in a ruckus. The female lowers her body and watches his defense. For some reason, the male permits the ducks to visit, and the white egret popped in again this week for a day or two. I still have not seen Mr. Holiday, the eagle, but perhaps since it is Easter, he will make an appearance. I don’t think the male goose would welcome him though.

       We are about six weeks into this stay at home experience, and since West Virginia is supposedly at the peak of our curve (a month earlier than once predicted), I guesstimate we have about six weeks to go. I’ve found my quarantine routine, and my sleep schedule is almost back to normal – down by midnight and up by nine. I say I guesstimate we have six weeks to go, but in truth, I am mentally willing our little micro-climate to reopen by May 30. There’s a vibration in the center of my chest that thrums only for that purpose. I wonder if that’s how long-distance runners endure to the finish line–a central concept of energy within that works to draw them forward.

        When I do go to town, I have my plastic gloves and my makeshift mask created from a white bandana and two hair ties. A friend has promised to bring me a lovely hand-sewn mask with a wire inside the top to form tightly over the nose. That way my glasses won’t get foggy when I breathe.

       This is the first Easter in many, many years that I haven’t been sitting next to Mother on the pew in her Parkersburg church, her beaming with excitement over Christ’s resurrection and with pride of her daughter at her side. In recent years prior, my aunt Sybil also sat with us. In not so recent years, we sat on that same pew with my father, grandmother, and grandfather. If we were in that church this morning, many of the Easter lilies along the altar would be donated in their memory.

        Last year, Easter service was Mother’s big return to church after many miserable weeks of recovery from back surgery. After the service, it was quite the to-do to get Mother (purse and Bible), her walker, and six Easter lilies out of the sanctuary, down the chair elevator, and out into her car.  And then, of course, out of the car and back into the house. She wanted me to come this year, to drive from here (with zero confirmed cases), through Wirt (two confirmed cases), and Wood (recently noted as a cluster), into Washington County, Ohio (30+ cases). I shivered at the thought. Here, in my home, in our small rural towns, I am not very fearful. But the thought of traveling into an urban area brought back that childhood fear of the cooties. As internet comedian Heather Land would say, “I ain’t doin’ it.”

        Upshur’s Strawberry Festival was canceled right after the state-of-emergency, and now Calhoun’s Wood Festival has been canceled, as has Gilmer’s Folk Festival. I’ve been told the last time the Folk Fest was canceled was during World War II.  Since these festivals both have annual June dates, this troubles me about my May 30 goal… (Of course, you can’t truly prepare for such large events while social distancing either.) I suppose I’ll have to focus and pray harder for a Back-At-It June.

       While all other events at Normantown Historical Community Center have been canceled at this time, the Food Pantry was still held for April. Volunteers from the Glenville Fire Department included: Billy Jenkins, Mae Bailey, Tina Frymer, Herb Frymer, Mike Hess, Debbie Hess, Bobby Moore. Volunteers from NHCC included Jennifer King, Patricia Stump, Anna Carpenter, Dianne Jenkins, Carolyn Keaton, Molly McLaughlin, Diane Goodrich, Chris Dean, Roxanne MacKatee. Thanks for all the great help.

       HEY! If you have a cell phone with a 304 area code (and a cell signal) you can access Overdrive, Gilmer Public Library’s digital book collection, without a physical library card. Get your free digital library card instantly, and access thousands of online eBooks and audiobooks! Available at the top right of this web site: https://wvreads.overdrive.com/account/ozone/sign-in.

       Donations to NHCC can be made at https://nhccwv.com/donation, or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret.