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Archive for the ‘Country Lore’ Category

Pond Fountain 2

You bird lovers out there probably already knew the answer to the question in yesterday’s post about  Ridgely Historic Gardens. 

That ghostly hanging thing was a clump of sheep’s wool!Wool for Birds'NestsBest

Songbirds love this well-insulating, all-weather fiber that’s ideal for their nests and there for the pickin’!

Ridgely Gardens is a historic two-acre mountainside property overlooking the town of Clifton Forge in the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia.  This week my friend, Norma, and I had a private tour with Donald Roberts, the current owner and gardener!

View from gardenThe Roberts believe gardens are to be shared and welcome visitors, including groups, garden clubs, and folks like Norma and me, who are just curious.

These beautiful gardens were first started in 1902, professionally landscaped in 1932, and now the original detailed plans and blueprints are on display.Aerial of upper pond--2012

Donald Roberts Owner

Donald Roberts – Ridgely Historic Gardens

Mr. Roberts cleared, managed, maintained and stuck closely to the original plans and plantings which included a boxwood maze, a large variety of heirloom plants and extensive Depression era stonework.  Fishponds, fountains, a stone pagoda, a greenhouse, a sunken stone hothouse, and a gardener’s cabin are other features of this remarkable place.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “All About Me.”

Explain why you chose your blog’s title and what it means to you.

There was another blog first.  It was a memoir for family and close friends and became the beginning of my growing love for the blogging process.  Technicolor Daydreams has now been converted to a self published hard copy book created as a gift for the special people in my life.

I thought I was through blogging, but there was more to come.

Since the old self seemed to be adequately recorded in that first blog, I began to stretch and strike different poses (much like clicking around for the perfect selfie).

And a new blog was born!

Shenandoah Sunrise 1

Virginia Views is the second-story canvas now used to portray a city girl’s transference to country living.  High heels on a gravel driveway, a horse in the pool, and finding puff balls  and paw paws  in the wild, are the types of stories that still make me chuckle and I hope will bring smiles to anyone interested in the vagaries of country living.

Being mostly mixed up, I originally planned this new blog enterprise to be named Country Living for Beginners.  But I misread the form and a great title became the URL address instead – https://countryliving4beginners.wordpress.com .

VIRGINIA VIEWS turned out to be the all encompassing title of the new blog and I still love it.

My friend Cindy of Photos from the Loony Bin, helped with that title, and the “views” part allows me to wander from poetry to photography to worded essays and stories, however the mood shall strike.

Of course there are always lurking recollections of  hilarious adjustments to the surprises of living “out in the county” but like an emerging butterfly, Virginia Views morphed into an eclectic introspective interpretation of life in general.

The birth and growth of a blog is a terrifically exciting process with grandiose dreams of endless material to share.

Virginia Views now features over 600 posts and even when I think there is no more to say and “nothing new under the sun”, a new story emerges. Just telling you about it is the inspiration to begin again.

Uh oh!  Watch out WordPress!  There may be more to come.

~ Dor

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Mail Boxes 3

The Case of the Vandalized Mail Box or Boxes

On my way out one morning this week I saw a dreadful thing.

There were two ruined mailboxes lying on the ground (in shambles) right next to our own mailbox!

I was astonished!   We had vandals in a peaceful rural community.

“What can be done about this horrible thing?”  I wondered, 

and as I drove by, I was thinking, “Tampering with the mail is a Federal offense!”

 “Maybe we should post hidden cameras around to detect the culprits.”

I was so alarmed that I reported the downed boxes to the President of our loosely knit association.

I also called a friend and neighbor to discuss possible solutions.

Both were lengthy conversations about the shock of such activity here in our quiet little enclave, and then about what could be done about it.

A Letter from the President

It was decided the President should write a note to alert everyone about the crime in Camelot (not to alarm anyone of course) and the possibility of other such incidents.

Call the Sheriff

It was also decided that each of us should contact the Sheriff to report the current problem.

Take Pictures

On the way home I stopped at the stricken mailboxes again.

My plan was to take a picture of the carnage (for the Sheriff’s records) and to circulate along with the President’s notice.

I was about to snap the photo when a car pulled up and a neighbor emerged.

I recognized her as one of the mail box marauders’ victims.

“Have you seen this mess?” I asked.  “ I am about to take a picture for the Sheriff.”

“Yes, ” she answered.  “I did it.  Did you think it was vandalism?”

“Uh – yes I did.”  

“I’m sorry!  We bought a new mailbox,” said she, “Something more modern and bigger.  All that remains is to dig the hole for the new post.”

I managed a weak smile and then a somewhat false hollow laugh, and trying to look poised and put together, I said something like,

“Well it’s a happy thing I ran into you, and if you will excuse me now, I have some phone calls to make!”

I’m sure my face was red from embarrassment.

Thus began another round of telephone calls.

To the President:   “It looked like 2 mailboxes because the old one had another one inside it, but both boxes belonged to Mr. and Mrs. X.  And the X’s got a new box to replace the old 2 boxes.  And we don’t need to write that notice after all, or to call the Sheriff now.”

Response:  “Would you please go through that again?”

To my Friend:  the same explanation as above.

Friend’s Response:  “Could you repeat that please?”

And To my Husband:  “Wanna hear a funny story?”

I did not take pictures of the downed boxes but will snap the new lineup before this goes out (just in case we need it for the Sheriff if there ever is vandalism in Camelot).

 

 

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Fenceline Tween Living and Deadfarm-fence-icon copy

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"Sang"

“Sang”

There are odd characters here in rural America.

Cindy of Cindy Knoke, recently commented, “You know the most interesting people.”  She triggered the idea for this post.  By the way, if you haven’t found Cindy’s blog yet, be sure to check it out for fabulous color, beauty and fascinating information from “the Holler” and beyond.

My husband and I moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from the Washington, DC area (which, if you hadn’t noticed, has its own debatable cast of characters).

But, I had no idea the range of oddities among people here in the country.  Rural Virginia boasts fields of wildflowers, which at first seem ordinary, but on closer inspection, have  imperfections to make them  stand out among perceived “ordinaries.”  So it goes with the people here.  In fact, there are so many curious varieties that if you are not a bit odd yourself, you will not fit in.

My Country Cast of Characters (so far):

The Pickle Lady – who insisted on giving us horrible pickles in 5 gallon jars, just because I lied (to be polite) and told her I liked them once.

The Lumberjack Lady – who is handy with a chain saw and is always ready for battle with either trees or people.

The Gun Slinger – O.K., this is the same chain saw lady who also carries a tiny gun in her waistband, supposedly to ward off wild animal attacks.

The Avian Propagator – Who had over 100 finches flying around an unoccupied (except for finches) bedroom.  You could only open the door a crack to witness this fast growing population.

The Crow’s Nest Spy – A woman so worried about trespassers that she built a crow’s nest atop her house and has “seen things” ever since.

The Accidental Dumpster Diver – A friend who fell in a local dumpster, was rescued by the fire department, and still laughs at his own story.

The Tobacco Chewer – A handsome fella who has descriptive slang for any occasion and for every odd character in the county.  Have you ever heard the saying, “He’s hotter than a two-dick dog?”  Do they censor blogs?

The Mushroom Identifiers – A charming couple who could recognize mushrooms – particularly puff  balls (big white beautiful round mushrooms that are absolutely delicious).

The Wild Herb Identifier – Who could show me where to find watercress and land cress.  Who ever heard of land cress?  It grows in my driveway – or so she said.

The Ginseng Explorers – A couple of true country characters (Daryl and Daryl?) who politely asked (every year) if they could search for “Sang” in our woods.  Did you know ginseng is a root that looks like a little man and sells for hundreds of dollars?  It is supposed to be an aphrodisiac and has other health giving qualities.

Had enough?

You have my word these are (or were) real people who in the real world would be considered characters.  Actually, this IS the real world.  I tend to forget that.

There are more characters, lots more.   Knowing these folks, or at least being able to identify them and their stories, has been part of the fun of living in a diverse rural community.

And now – wonder of wonders – I have joined another community (this time in cyberspace) where there is a huge cast of odd blogger characters.

I MUST develop some recognizable idiosyncrasies soon!  I don’t want to be the only one in a group who is labeled “normal.”

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Groceries-in-Brown-Paper-BagI once knew an elderly woman named Betty who was tougher than she looked and smarter than most thieves.

She was robbed twice by purse snatchers because she looked vulnerable and couldn’t fight back.

After the second robbery, Betty became aggravated and plotted her revenge.

Did I mention that Betty was a diabolical woman?

She transferred everything that was in her purse to a brown paper shopping bag (the kind you can still get in most grocery stores).  So her money, her identification, and her charge cards were all in the bottom of a grocery bag which she carried around with a few groceries poking out the top.  From that day on, if you saw Betty on the move, you would see her with her shopping bag.

She also carried around her “real” purse with a couple of rocks inside (for a little heft) and always had it slung over her shoulder.  And that’s the way Betty walked in public for the rest of her days.  

Results:

Betty was robbed once again.

But this time, the purse snatcher snatched her purse!

Surprise!  Betty had the last laugh!

This is a true story.  And didn’t I tell you Betty was a diabolical woman?

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Crumbling Bldg

“They never tear anything down in our county.  They just let things crumble away.”

That was a statement made by my old friend, Viola, a local girl who loved to drive around the county to explore this part of the Shenandoah Valley.  And she would point out crumbling barns, rusting gas stations and collapsing homes.

And sure enough, she was right.  This area is just a treasure trove of disintegrating buildings. They are in various states of disrepair and every time I see another I imagine people there and I weave stories.

But here is this square little building I see almost every day and still have no idea what it might have been.  Perhaps it was a store before because it is not as welcoming as a home, or maybe it was a gas station, or a bank.  In the early stages of decay, it still seems so strong and sturdy, but each time I look, something else is crumbling away.

I feel sad about crumbling buildings.  They are like people giving up on life, just waiting to be rescued before the end.

Note:  Rumor around here is this building was a “weigh station.”  There was a quarry nearby and truckswith their loads of rock were driven onto a scale to determine prices.  The quarry expanded across the highway and a new weigh station was built.  What does this building look like to you?

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If you think you have seen a bear, you have.

That is what people tell me here in rural Virginia and yes, I have seen a bar (Virginia slang for bear) walk right by my window.  Granted, he didn’t know it was my window.  He just sauntered on by in all his magnificence as if it were his regular route to our peach trees. Bears are supposedly very shy critters and will avoid meeting up with us humans UNLESS we take them by surprise or come between a mama and her cub.  There is at least one other major causative factor leading to human-bear connections, which leads me to a good story.

I live in a semi-wilderness area where twelve human families reside in private dwellings in the middle of 300 acres of jointly managed undeveloped land.  We all know the area is teaming with foxes, ground hogs, squirrels, turkeys, deer, raccoons, possums, and yes, Virginia Black Bears.  Every now and then one of my neighbors reports seeing a huge 350 pound bear!  This may be a slight exaggeration but could be true too. They do grow to large proportions. If I walk along our country lanes I give warning  by  shuffling loudly or clapping my hands, or clearing my throat, or shouting at myself.  I doubt this will help if a bear decides to attack, but I feel better and I do not care if accidental onlookers think there is a madwoman in the area.

HELP!  I AM TRAPPED BY A BEAR!

My neighbors claimed to be trapped in their home by an enormous bear who was banging on their windows and sliding doors.  I have heard numerous versions of the story and have settled on this one.

Dinner was delightful and my neighbors, Joan and John (fictional names), had just put away the dishes and settled down to an exciting night of television sitcoms when they heard noises at the window.  Looking up, they were stunned to see the face of an enormous black bear looking in and periodically pounding on the glass.

Virginia Black Bear

“Make lots of noise and wave your arms,” said John, and they did.  But that only made the bear more determined and he pushed and prodded ever harder on the house and the windows.  Then he moved to the sliding glass door.   “Run,” cried Joan, and they did.  They ran into a back bedroom (which also had two windows) and soon the bear was seen coming toward them again.  “Call the sheriff!” yelled Joan, and that’s what they did.  The conversation must have gone something like this:

“Help!  We are trapped in our house by a bear!”

“Trapped? What do you mean?”

“Oh no Oh no Oh no!  He’s going to break the glass!”

“You mean a bear is out there trying to get into your house”?

“Yes Yes Yes!  Come quickly please!”

So, the good sheriff came quickly, but by the time he arrived there was no sign of the bear.  Perhaps he (Bruno) had heard the squad car drive up and decided to flee the law even though he had not yet succeeded in breaking and entering. The sheriff tried to calm the couple and promised Animal Control would be out in the morning. But, the sheriff had to leave to cover other dire emergencies like a woman who reported footsteps on her roof.

My neighbors returned to their home with great trepidation.  Would the bear come back?  Why had he chosen their house out of all the others in the community?  Should they go to a motel?  Would they be plagued by this mammoth creature all night?  They decided the danger was over and they went to bed. But, the bear returned and kept scouting around the house for points of entry.  Eventually he gave up and around 4 AM Joan and John were able to fall asleep in a closet with no windows.

Later that morning, as promised, Animal Control arrived with a very big bear trap.  They explained the trap was a humane way to subdue and confine Bruno so they could remove him to an even more remote location.  The trap was laced with a big canned ham as bait (taken out of the can of course).  The result?  The ham just stayed there, the bear never returned, and the couple lost sleep night after night worrying about it.

Animal Control people did have some questions for the couple on that first day.  They began with,

“Where do you usually put your household garbage?”

Answer:  “Outside in a covered garbage can.”

Animal Control:  “What did you have for dinner last night?”

Joan and John:  “Grilled Salmon.”

There were no more questions.  Everybody knows from watching National Geographic that bears love salmon (especially “wild” salmon which was also the Joan/John preference). Our Bruno must have thought he was on the Colorado River and had fallen into a treasure trove of nature’s salmon bounty.  The fishy scent wafted over the treetops to wherever he was roaming and lured him right to my neighbor’s back yard. And the remains of that one delightful fish were just the appetizer.  “There must be more.  Maybe there’s more in that house,” thought Bruno. “If I could just get through this hard place that looks like air, I know there will be more!”

There is a moral to every story, and although this story has been ever so slightly embellished for dramatic effect, there is definitely a moral.

DON’T LEAVE THE REMAINS OF EDIBLE GARBAGE OUTSIDE, ESPECIALLY NOT SALMON, BECAUSE IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE SEEN A BEAR, YOU HAVE!

*This story is founded in fact. My neighbors were indeed trapped in their home by a bear and wound up calling the local sheriff. And they did leave the remains of a fish dinner in their outside garbage can. Animal Control did come out with a ham-baited bear trap but Bruno never returned.  The rest is fiction.

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It was reported that a naked woman, bleeding from the shoulders, was seen running in terror through my neighbor’s pasture – a horror story for sure.  The report was called in to our local sheriff and I don’t know what action was taken, but rumor has it the real story was somewhat different.

As you may have noticed, part of the fun of living in the country is in observing people with idiosyncrasies?  You have to be slightly strange to live in our neighborhood and of course my husband and I are the only normal persons residing here.

One of our very sweet neighbors has a crow’s nest (different from crow’s feet), which is a viewing area at the top of her house that allows her to see far off into distant horse pastures.  Things from a distance look closer than they are.  Isn’t that the message on the rear view mirrors of your car?  Well, Louise (name changed to protect the innocent) saw what she saw.  And what she saw was a terrified naked woman bleeding from the shoulders and running for her life.  And that is what she reported to the sheriff.

Later it was learned that a horsewoman named Jan (name also changed), clad in tan riding breeches and a tan blouse with red designs on the shoulders, had lost her horse.  She dismounted for some reason and the horse got “spooked” and took off.  Jan ran after him to keep sight of his approximate direction. She knew when he calmed down, he would respond to her whistle.

So, picture this:  a naked woman (actually clad in tan riding clothes), running for her life (really running across the pasture after her horse), bleeding from her shoulders (actually red designs on the shoulders of her blouse).  Add imagination and the distance to a crow’s nest and you have “Terror in a Horse Pasture,” an apt name for a prize winning, fictional thriller.

And later, “All was well,” said Jan with a grin, “I got my horse back in good time. And I suppose from a distance, you might think I was bleeding and maybe naked too.”

Well, it makes for fine dinner conversation among us normal folks in the country.

Country Tip for City Dudes:

Things are never what they seem.

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The first time a Mint Julep appeared in print was in a book published in London in 1803 where the drink was described as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.”

The first time I ever tasted a mint julep was at a party in Virginia, and I spit it out!  They say it’s “an acquired taste” and that, my friends, is an understatement.  However, there is a certain charm in serving this beloved southern drink, especially in summer but certainly not “of a morning!”

It’s a warm weather drink though, supposedly sipped from icy cold pewter cups as you stand beneath the broad leaves of a stately Magnolia tree.   Although I personally don’t love the taste, the idea of a mint julep always takes me back in time travel to the book/film, Gone with the Wind, and parties at the old plantations, but no one is really sure about the true origins of the Mint Julep.

Magnificent Magnolia Tree

 THE KENTUCKY DERBY

Juleps are also always associated with the Kentucky Derby, where 120,000 are served at Churchill Downs within two days of racing.  Churchill Downs is famous for unveiling the world’s largest mint julep glass.  It is 6 feet tall, shaped like an official 2008 Derby glass, and can hold 206 gallons of mint juleps dispensed via a complicated pumping system!  Another of the world’s many wonders!

HOW TO BE A JULEP BARTENDER

Today’s MJ’s are still made in time honored tradition with bourbon, sugar, water and a mint garnish (usually spearmint).  The mint is meant to enhance the flavor and enlarge your experience beginning with a seductive fascinating aroma!  Maybe I should think again about spitting out such an erotic drink!

Here’s a typical aromatic Southern recipe:

Ingredients:  About 20 mint leaves; 2 tsp sugar; 2 to 3 oz. bourbon; plenty of crushed ice.

Instructions:  Put mint leaves and sugar in a pewter Mint Julep cup.  Muddle leaves and sugar until sugar dissolves.  Add bourbon and stir.  Fill a pewter cup with crushed ice and stir until an icy frost develops on the outside of the cup.  Garnish with additional mint leaves or a whole sprig and serve immediately.  Makes one Mint Julep Cocktail.

RULES FOR HOLDING A MINT JULEP CUP (Even if you’re already “in your cups.”

Never heard of a rule for holding a cup?  How about this one:

Hold it only by the bottom and top edges!  This is so frost will form and build up on the larger outside surface (presumably to make you feel cooler in warm weather).  If you hold the cup by its sides, the heat from your hand will penetrate and make the drink too warm.  The object after all, is to keep you cool, feeling no pain and probably totally snockered.

PLANNING A PARTY?

Next time you’re having a summer party, think about serving Mint Juleps.  Entertaining with the wonderful chilled goodness of a traditional Southern beverage will leave your guests reeling, cooled down from the summer heat, and definitely of good cheer, unless they spit it out of course.

Note:  This blog post is an edited version of an article I wrote for my favorite little shop in Lexington, Virginia, called Virginia Born and Bred.  The store still carries pewter cups that can be ordered online or off , including one patterned after a design by Thomas Jefferson.

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