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Home Handcrafts

Mary | May 6th, 2013

The Needlecraft Barn has been a staple of downtown Morgantown, W.Va. for over 30 years. The store currently features needles, hooks, yarn, threads and various other handcraft supplies.

Cecilia Graves purchased the store from its previous owner 3 years ago. Graves’ love for teaching and handcrafts explains the range of classes offered consistently inside the shop. A former professor and debate coach, she has combined her former profession and her lifelong love of creating.

The Needlecraft Barn offers a variety of classes including sock knitting, pictured in the above video.

In the late 2000s, the Great Recession, combined with record-high oil prices, led many Americans to not travel great distances or not travel at all. In some cases, people still decided to take vacations and trips, but on a smaller scale, sticking closer to home.

I wanted to find out how this trend affected West Virginia’s public lands, specifically the state’s state parks, state forests and state wildlife management areas as well as the four National Park Service units in the state: Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River and Gauley River National Recreation Area.

Final Graphic pic
(Click here to see a larger version)

West Virginia does not charge an entrance fee for its state parks, so it relies on traffic counts to estimate the total number of visitors per fiscal year. The National Park Service has a similar measurement tool, but keeps figures by calendar year. I was also curious about overnight lodging, so I used the most recent fiscal year to see how many people used overnight lodging in state-owned properties, including the number of out-of-state residents using said facilities.

Annual attendance figures were averaged from 2007 – the beginning of the Great Recession – to the most recent fiscal year to find an average annual increase or decrease in visitors for each property. The data showed that of the 46 state-owned properties, all but five properties had an average annual increase in visitors. However, only one federally owned property had an average annual increase.

Total attendance at West Virginia-owned parks increased every fiscal year from FY2007-08 to the present. Out-of-state visitors made up a majority of cabin rentals and lodge stays for state properties, while state residents comprised most of the camping reservations.

This data could suggest that West Virginia is becoming more recognized as a tourist destination, particularly in regards to the jump in total attendance and the percentage of non-residents that stay overnight in cabins and lodges. State facilities that do not provide overnight lodging also seem to be least favored among prospective visitors. For example, of the five state properties to report a decrease in average annual attendance, three – Cathedral S.P., Fairfax Stone S.P. and Droop Mountain Battlefield have no overnight facilities.

In addition, Canaan Valley Resort is influenced by third variables unique to the property. Because the park has a ski area on the property, its visitor numbers are likely influenced by winter conditions. Therefore, if winter conditions are not ideal, or people feel they can get better deals at other privately owned ski resorts nearby, Canaan Valley may not see as many visitors.

There are other ways to break down the data not shown on this graphic, like taking federal overnight lodging numbers into account, or looking at the number of users of specific activities, like rafting or boating, for example (though these numbers may not necessarily be available). Still, the data does suggest a strong future for West Virginia’s state-owned properties.

The West Virginia State Vegetable

Aaron | April 18th, 2013

The ramp, also known sometimes as a wild leek, is a wild onion native to North America growing anywhere from South Carolina to Canada. The bulb of a ramp resembles that of a scallion but it’s the broad flat leaves of the ramp that set it apart. The word ramp comes from “rams” or “ramson,” an Elizabethan dialect rendering of the wild garlic, according to John Mariani, author of “The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.”

West Virginia is well known for ramps and you can see this celebrated in the many festivals and events held throughout the spring season. Among the most notable festivals are those in Richwood, Barbour County and Elkins.

Ramps grow in the spring time and are usually ready for harvesting in mid-April. All you have to do is go out into the woods and find a good moist area that doesn’t receive a whole lot of sunlight, and you can usually find ramps. While digging them, keep in mind to dig around the ramp and be sure to get all the way down to the roots.

A TIP FROM MY GRANDFATHER: Never dig all the ramps from one area, only a few from each patch. Digging all the ramps out of an area will likely lead to them not growing there again.

photo copy
Cleaning ramps is easy just cut off the roots and wash away any dirt.
The flavor and odor of a ramp is usually compared to a mixture of onions and garlic with a particularly strong garlic scent. Personally, I love the smell of ramps, but I always warn a new ramp eater of the smell because most find the scent slightly repulsive, and the scent can linger on for several days.

Don’t let that stop you from enjoying the wonderful and unique flavor of the ramp. Ramps can literally go with any dish that calls for onions. Just simply exchange the onions for ramps, and you won’t be disappointed.

However, ramp season isn’t long, so here are some tips and recipes that I’ve come across over the years, so that not a single ramp goes to waste.

1) As I said before ramps go with anything that onions go with, so the first dish I would recommend is simple. Fried Potatoes and Ramps: simply grease a pan, add potatoes let them cook, then add the ramps later either chopped or whole along with some salt and pepper.

2) Ramps also go great with eggs, either fried, scrambled or in an omelet. I would recommend a ham, cheese and ramp omelet.

3) If you’re feeling crafty, a personal favorite of mine is sausage and ramp gravy. Simply follow a recipe for any gravy and add finely chopped ramps before serving.

4) A creation of my own and maybe my favorite way to eat ramps would be the rampdog. Take your favorite hotdogs or bratwurst and slice them half way through long ways. Place a few ramps in the hotdog or brat then wrap in a slice or two of bacon. Once you have a few done, wrap them all in aluminum foil to keep the bacon from separating from the hotdog/brat and place it on the grill over low/medium heat for about 20 minutes. Place it on a bun. Add toppings of your choice, and there you have it.

5) A local favorite of the Elkins area is the Rampburger. Before making your hamburger patties chop up some ramps, and add them to your burger. Mix it well and then make your patties, place them on the grill and add the toppings of your choice.

If you’re wanting to keep your ramps throughout the year, placing them in a bag and freezing them is always an option. But here are a couple of other ways that I believe work a little better.

1) Pickled Ramps: This is an easy and tasty way to have ramps all year long. When cleaning your ramps, cut off the leaves and place them aside for other uses; place the bulbs in a pot of lightly salted boiling water for about 30 seconds then transfer the ramps to ice cold water before placing them in jars. In the meantime, bring a pot of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water to a boil, depending on how many jars you’re planning to make. This amount will make about two medium size jars. Place all the spices (coriander, peppercorn, mustard seed and fennel seed, one teaspoon of each) in the jar with the ramps. Pour the hot vinegar and water mixture into the jar. Screw on the lid. Let it sit for up to a week. Then enjoy.

2) Here’s a good way to use those leaves you cut off for the pickled ramps. If you have a dehydrator then great. If not, you can use your oven. Place the leaves and/or any ramps you have left over in the dehydrator and let them sit for up to four hours or until crisp. Remove them and use a mortar and pestle to finely crush the ramp into a spice that can be used in any recipe. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can also use your oven. Just turn it to a low 95 degrees and follow the same process.

Nursing a Dream

Mary | April 11th, 2013

West Virginia is ranked 47th in the nation in health according to the United Health Foundation. This ranking is down from 43rd in 2011 and includes rankings at 43rd for teen birth rate, 48th for physical activity and 42nd for children in poverty. We have a serious responsibility to concern ourselves with healthcare.

Nurses are an integral part of healthcare, and in West Virginia they are in the one of the 10 lowest paying states. They handle the majority of patient interaction, interact with the family and often work strange (and long) hours. Their engagement and investment in patients is inspiring. Alex Shaver, featured above talking about the moment she knew she wanted to be a nurse, spoke glowingly about her profession at 9 p.m. after working a 12 hour shift at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Tourism In West Virginia

Mary | April 4th, 2013
If you have ever visited a racetrack, ski resort, or a state park in West Virginia, you know tourism is a major industry for the state. According to statistics from the West Virginia Division of Tourism, it provides more overall jobs than traditionally recognized economic powerhouses within the state, including the coal industry. Visitors to the state come for a variety of reasons. They come to enjoy the scenery and environment, learn about the state’s history, and participate in adventure sports. The graphic above shows where different counties rank in terms of tourism dollars, and highlights some of the biggest attractions.

Ben Gazsi

Aaron | April 3rd, 2013

Ben Gazsi is an art sculpture major at West Virginia University and has been creating his own pieces for the past three years. Before finding his passion in art he attended architecture school but quickly found out that wasn’t the right path for him. So, Gazsi decided to give art a try and has since found a knack for creating things out of nature.


“People walk by branches, grapevines and moss without even glancing at it. I want to take these things and make something that people will recognize as something creative,” Gazsi said.

When you first meet Ben you wouldn’t really picture an artist but when you step into his two story home your thoughts immediately change. The walls are covered with drawings, pictures and artwork that he’s done. There are tables with lizard and fish tanks, plants in every corner and on the window sills and four energetic dogs running around the house.


Last year Ben did a piece at Coopers Rock State Forest using natural materials such as grapevines, logs, branches, leaves and moss. He named it “The Giant”. With the popularity of “The Giant” throughout the year Ben decided to do another sculpture using the same materials and is planning to revel it on Earth Day.

1. The culture

The people, rich history and beautiful landscape of Pickens are enough reason to go there any time of the year. A festival with sugary goodness just gives you one more great reason to make the drive there this weekend.

2. The Events

The Maple Syrup Festival has become a popular event in West Virginia, drawing in more and more people regardless of the weather. There are pancake feeds, craft shows, wood chopping exhibitions and several others. Take a look at the event schedule for this year.

3. The Pancake feeds

There will be three pancake feeds during the course of the weekend, and I would recommend going to each one and stuffing as many of those delicious and warm pancakes down as possible. The American Legion Hall has one on both Saturday from 9-4 and Sunday from 9-3. The Pickens School also has one on Saturday from 9-5, so you have plenty of time to get some pancakes, plus its only $7.50 for adults and $5.50 if you are under the age of ten.

4. Ham and Bean Buffet

The Ham and Bean Buffet is another food event must. In past years, they’ve had several different kinds of ham including maple syrup ham and smoked ham. Top that off with a heaping pile of beans and a warm, buttery slice of corn bread, and you have a country meal that you can only get in Pickens. The buffet Starts at 5 p.m. in the American Legion Hall and only cost $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for children under ten.

5. Wood chopping Exhibition

If you’ve never been to a wood chopping exhibition I would recommend this over everything else, except maybe the maple syrup. A bunch of guys with axes and two-man cross cut saws going through logs like butter is truly an amazing thing to watch. You can catch this event outside the American Legion Hall at 1p.m.

6. Square Dancing

There’s no better way to end a long day than a good ol’ fashion square dance. Musicians gather at the American Legion Hall to pick some tunes and call out dances, so that even the beginner can jump in and dance. The locals even go out of their way to show you a thing or two out on the dance floor. It’s nothing but a good time and goes from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.

7. The After Parties

Don’t be afraid to talk to a few strangers and see what’s going on after the square dance. Chances are someone will mention a house close by where all the locals will be going to continue the party. More food, music and stories will be shared with anyone, so don’t be bashful. They’ll welcome you in like you’re family.

8. The Drive

The drive itself is one of my favorite parts about going to Pickens. There are a few routes, but each one is a beautiful drive through the mountains of Randolph County. If you’re coming from Interstate 79, here’s a detailed map to get you there . If you’re coming from the Elkins area here’s another map . Also, here’s another list of directions from the Pickens site.

9. Helvetia

Helvetia is another great small town, just a few miles away, with a rich culture and history. If you have the time I would recommend making a stop at The Hutte for a bite to eat. It’s a small yellow building located in the center of Helvetia. It’s a truly unique restaurant with great food, great people and a great atmosphere. It even appeared on the Discovery Channel’s, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman.

10. The Maple Syrup

Finally the maple syrup. This is worth the trip alone. People from Pickens collect sap from the thousands of maple trees in the area and turn it into delicious maple syrup to make this entire festival possible. Knowing the hard work and time that goes into making maple syrup makes you appreciate its sweetness even more. So get on down to Pickens this weekend, and try some out for yourself. The festival takes place March 16th – 17th.

Blues n' Shoes

Aaron | February 27th, 2013

Al Anderson, 75, grew up in the small town of Osage, W.Va. In the early 50s, he was recognized for his voice and was asked to join a local band. From there on, he never looked back. Anderson sang blues all over the country from the east coast to the west coast. However, he primarily did gigs throughout the West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland area.

“We were in high demand,” Anderson said. “If you wanted our band you better book us a year in advance.”
Even at the age of 75, Anderson is still belting out tunes. He recently recorded his latest album this past year titled “Al Anderson and his Rock and Soul Revue.” You can find a copy for ten dollars in his shoe shine shop in Osage.

Anderson is a man who is really passionate about what he does and where he comes from.
“You see, I didn’t play no instruments. All I had was my voice, and you got to protect your voice,” Anderson said. “All these people try to change your voice with this new technology but I don’t allow it, not me, no.”

Anderson now lives in Osage and runs his own business, Al’s Shoe Shop. At the age of eleven, Anderson started shining shoes as a means to make some change to see movies and get snacks. It became a vocation and he has stories from each shop he worked at throughout his life. Anderson even came up with his own motto about shoes.

“If your shoes are dirty, then you’re probably pretty dirty too… You seem alright though, your shoes are clean.”

Anderson is an incredibly passionate man who cares deeply for the things that he does and tries to do them to the best of his ability. He says he’ll be that way until the day he dies. He doesn’t want to just sit around in a chair watching TV as life passes him by; he wants to shine shoes and sing the blues.

“Shoes and music, it’s all I’ve done, but it’s kept me pretty busy.”

Emerging Mobile Tools

Mary | February 21st, 2013

As a graduate student in Journalism, I have spent the last five years hearing about how as journalists, we are on the cusp of something amazing and terrifying.

WVUncovered is a class where we are constantly trying out new tools and strengthening ourselves in areas that are not our expertise. Learning to adapt to new forms of media is a skill every new journalist must have; our profession is in no way stable and doesn’t look like it will ever be.

The Internet and Mobile are two separate things, and while we are still coping and attempting to find our place as journalists on the Internet landscape, mobile is interrupting.

Change isn’t necessarily bad; on the contrary, change brings out innovators and new forms of journalism. Years ago we couldn’t have possibly envisioned the work one-man-bands could bring us in television news. But steering away from huge ideological and social issues that can be and are discussed for hours at any J-school and newsroom across the country, let me focus on this.

While the platform for news consumption is changing, so are the tools for news gathering.

Mobile tools are amazing. With the recent emergence of “Vine,” (sorry Android users) I’ve seen the medium I love most come to life in social media. If you follow @WVUncovered on twitter, you may have noticed a number of posts with Vine links thanks to our lovely VISTA Kaitlynn Anderson.

I’ve heard different reviews of photo sharing services like Instagram and burning hatred vs. indifference from photographers. I have heard print journalists who love blogs as a platform and others who believe they will destroy print media’s readership.

I’ve yet to hear the negatives about vine from broadcast journalists, but maybe that is because the platform has such limitations.

This is not the end of my mobile love. Because serious reporting doesn’t happen in six second intervals, but there are tools for serious reporting on mobile platforms.

Enter audio production. Really, an audio recorder that provides a decent sound was something I was curious about. So I searched, read articles, and embraced my budget (which is nothing). And after several failures, I finally happened upon the Hindenburg Lite.

The free app allows you to email yourself recorded audio files and you can watch levels while recording. I’ve had some trouble with the marker’s it claims to provide (where you can mark the audio when something important is said), but for basic audio it’s impressive.

Now I’m not saying my iPhone can replace the sound collected with a good mic and audio recorder. But it is coming miraculously close, and for natural sound or on-the-fly interviews, it more than cuts it. My main complaint is it will not record calls.

I’m also addicted to my mobile Google Drive. Google drive is great in the first place, for sharing documents, and for someone who bounces from computer to computer like I do, it makes life so much easier (Macs and PCs don’t like to talk for me for some reason. I’ve formatted my drive but this just takes the guesswork out.

The mobile app for Google Drive is amazing. It includes a folder for your shared documents and is an easy, clean, user friendly design. I have zero complaints, which is something new for me. It’s even great for taking notes because its saves automatically.

These are just a few of the mobile apps designed to make our lives as journalists easier, and the field is just developing. And while the consumption of our content is changing, so should our tools. What are your favorites? Do you have an opinion on Vine?

Fishing for a Future

Mary | February 14th, 2013

This past weekend was our Immersion Weekend in Shepherdstown, W.Va. I was lucky enough to cover the National Conservation Training Center, a project of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Services. Deputy Director for Operations of Fish and Wildlife Services, Rowan Gould, was one of my interviews for my print article. One of the hardest parts for me about multimedia is how much content can be gathered and how little is visible in the finished product. Above is a story from my interview with Gould, the man on the right in the photograph above. He and Steve Case are looking at the original document from Theodore Roosevelt, creating the first Bird Reservation on Paris Island. The document is located in the Historical Archives of the National Conservation Training Center.