Portions of West Virginia feature wide valleys covered with rich soil, well-suited to farming, but others do not. Eking out an existence among the steep slopes and narrow hollows of the New River Gorge region, for example, was no easy task for early pioneers. Subsistence farming, where a family produced everything they needed to survive, only bartering with neighbors as necessary and rarely purchasing “store-bought” goods, was an extremely difficult life requiring all of a person’s time and energy and leaving little to no margin for error or disaster. Often such farmers could only barely produce enough to meet their own needs without any left over to sell or trade. Yet it was the reality for many West Virginians over the years, and there’s nowhere better to glimpse this difficult lifestyle than at two homestead museums in the Sandstone Falls area of the New River Gorge National Park.