Summer (Memorial Day – Labor Day) is the traditional time in West Virginia for family reunions. In our state, these gatherings tend to be very large, spanning multiple generations and including distant relatives, with family members traveling from great distances to attend. Here in Pendleton County, the largest annual event may be the Alt-Kimble family reunion, now celebrating its 84th gathering, which is held at the Old Judy Church about three miles north of our farm, near the Grant/Pendleton county line. This reunion is so large that it includes a church service, bluegrass band performances, and guest speakers. Even non-family members routinely attend. This year, Barb and I were invited to attend, even though we are not related in any way to the Alts or Kimbles, although we have become good friends of several distant relatives.
This year, one of the scheduled guest speakers was WV Delegate Bill Hamilton, who is now running to become our State Senator. I needed to speak with him about my effort to pass a bill that will allow direct farm-to-consumer sales of unprocessed farm-fresh milk. At this point in the election season, he has no formal opposition for that seat, so I hope to gain his support for that initiative. This gave me an added incentive to attend, but as it turned out, he was unable to attend.
I did, however, get an opportunity to meet Estyl Curtis Shreve, who was a long-time Pendleton County Sheriff from the Smoke Hole community. His brother, Dona Barton Shreve, wrote a trilogy of books detailing his childhood experiences and many interesting, colorful stories and legends about Smoke Hole that define its heritage and special character. I have referenced some of those stories in my previous posts. One of the three books features stories about Estyl’s experiences as the County Sheriff and I had been interested in getting his signature on that book for more than a decade. At 96 years of age (he will turn 97 in October), he was the oldest person attending the reunion. I truly enjoyed the opportunity I had to sit down with him and share some of our personal memories. Despite his advancing age, Estyl’s memories remain sharp and vivid and he carries himself with great dignity. I was honored to get his signature on the book, which, ironically and coincidently, I just happened to be rereading now.
This was the second time in my life that I had an opportunity to listen to and talk with a 90+ year old person at a family reunion. During my childhood on our family farm in New Hampshire, I attended a number of my father’s Hill family reunions in Belmont, NH. The Hills were his mother’s immediate family and her oldest brother attended once in 1970 or ’71. At that time, he was 94 or 96 years old (I forget which), having been born only a decade or so after the Civil War. Two of his uncles had fought in the war, and he recounted tales of their exploits and his life experiences throughout the late nineteenth century. Having lived most of his life deep in the mountains of northern New Hampshire, he had a very traditional manner of speaking that included words and phrases that we struggled at times to understand as the stories flowed from him. I recall his memories of hunting in the White Mountains where “wildcats” still roamed (which I now know to have been an exaggeration) and of the first “horseless carriage” he ever saw and how it spooked his horse as it passed by. Like most multi-generational mountain patriarchs I have known, he was a spell-binding story teller who mesmerized us by the way he told his tales. Although we attended a number of the annual Hill reunions, I remember that one best because very few children ever attended them (most of my father’s extended family had no or few children), so we were often bored with the affairs. At that time, we were told that children were to be seen, not heard, so any stories that could be told in an engaging and entertaining way stood out in our minds.
At this year’s reunion, we also had an opportunity to see the Old Judy Church, which was built in 1848. During the church’s early years, the Pendleton County line was located about three or more miles north of where it is today. It was the first church built in Pendleton County and, although it has been substantially rehabilitated over the years, still retains its chinked log construction. A close inspection of the large white pine logs clearly revealed the adz marks made when they were first hand-hewed. The walls of the church were also adorned with pictures of family members and memorable events in the past, such as the historic flood of 1949 and the first train to arrive in Petersburg.
It was a pleasant day for the reunion and everyone appeared to enjoy the festivities. It certainly captured the spirit of family fellowship and loyalty that so gracefully frames traditional life in the mountains and hollows of wild and wonderful West Virginia. In all honesty, we had a far better time at the Alt-Kimble reunion than I ever had at the old Hill-Courier family reunions.
I’d also like to use this post to give you a brief update on some of my previous website posts from this summer. In my August 2 post regarding the 2018 Tri-County fair, I announced that we had won ribbons for six of the eleven produce and product exhibits we entered. However, earlier last week, we received a check for the awards we earned, and it was a little more than we had estimated. As it turns out, two more of our exhibits (my banana bread and Barb’s sourdough bread) also won second and third place ribbons, respectively. To our surprise, we actually won eight ribbons from our eleven entries, not six as I had reported in my original post. Not too shabby for our first participation in the Tri-County fair.
Also, as I informed you earlier, we have been appearing at the Grant County Farmers Market most Saturday mornings since June 30 to sell some of the fresh vegetables we have harvested from our garden. Although the weather this year has been challenging, with all the excessive rains, high humidity, and limited sunshine, our garden produced well and we managed to set some new record proceeds levels. However, after a total of seven appearances, many of our vegetables have been exhausted (including cabbage, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, broccoli, and corn), so we don’t feel our remaining garden production will support continued appearances. It appears that our last regular farmers market sale for the season was on August 25. We will now be working to store and preserve what little our garden has to offer in preparation for the coming winter.
As for the weather conditions during this growing season that I discussed in several earlier posts, the excessive rains we experienced this spring have continued throughout the summer. We received higher than average rainfall totals in both July and August, with every month since April producing two or more days with rainfall totals in excess of an inch. We have received a total of 8.08 inches of rain in August (for which the 30-year average rainfall is only 3.54 inches) and more rain is forecast over the final four days. July and August also plagued us with high humidity levels, even though our highest temperature reading so far this summer has topped out at 92 degrees on June 18, July 4, and July 14. If that high temperature holds through the rest of August and all of September, it will be one of the coolest yearly maximum temperatures we have seen over the past decade. I think the cloudy skies that have accompanied the endless days of high relative humidity have helped keep the daily high temperatures below 90 degrees. If we’re lucky enough to deserve some dry and frosty nights in early fall, we should be able to enjoy some spectacular fall foliage this year. I don’t know about you, but I think we deserve it. As for winter, I have no idea what to expect for then.
That’s how we stand today at Peeper Pond Farm. As always, we wish you and yours the best of what life has to offer. We hope you’ll continue to follow our adventures.