Early Spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

My nonfiction book about gardening and country life, Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 EPPIC eBOOK Finalist, is FREE at Amazon through the 8th, then free for prime holders–$2.99 for others.

Daughter Elise, my mom and I are hard at work on the print version of this book that includes lovely photographs of the valley and mountains taken by my talented family.  Stay tuned for breaking news on this unbelievably time-consuming project.  The print will also be for sale through Amazon.  At least, initially.

This winter has been exceptionally mild, especially in comparison to the past two that were horrific.  Here’s where I point out that I found a brown woolly bear caterpillar last fall with no black rings on it at all–the hard winter indicators–so knew the winter would be super mild.  Now we’re heading into an early spring which is lovely, but worrying.  We hope a hard freeze doesn’t zap everything being lured out too soon.  I’m featuring an excerpt taken from the March Chapter in Shenandoah Watercolors.  The book is divided into months.  These images are from last spring.


That come before the swallow dares, and take

The winds of March with beauty.”

~ William Shakespeare

‘Tis the time of daffodils, swaying in golden reign as if in King Arthur’s court, brave and cheerful, no matter the weather. If I had to choose one flower to symbolize the essence of spring, it would be the faithful daffodil. Its unique sweetness exudes this most beautiful of seasons and has since I was a child.

Bright crocus are also favorites and take me back to Easter eggs hidden beneath their purple petals and the perfume of hyacinths waft the riches of ancient Persia. Is there any greater wealth than the scent of spring flowers? These are treasures all can share.

Commercials on television promote fabric softeners and carpet fresheners that promise the scent of spring meadows or fields of flowers, but how many people have any idea what a meadow really smells like, or anything else in Nature. Breathe the real smells whenever you can.~

The Old Order Mennonite woman up the road from us has her tidy garden neatly plowed and her peas in. Not long ago I saw little boys in long pants and hats and pigtailed girls in cotton dresses out planting potatoes. Elise and I seeded a small salad patch and mulched the age-old asparagus and rhubarb that push up along the garden wall. We spread crumbling manuery hay over the garden and pressed Dennis into tilling it, but we’re looking at a big plot of empty with a great deal of work ahead of us before it’s crowded with corn, beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin vines. We ordered red, blue and yellow heirloom potato tubers from a company located in Maine, but they haven’t come yet. A New Englander’s idea of spring planting may be June.

Today our neighbor’s clothesline is hung with a long row of clean wash flapping in the breeze. The pants range from men’s to boys and the hems of the dresses lengthen with the line, as though graded by size. Another Old Order woman farther up the road has such a long clothes line that it reaches from the house way up into the sky and out quite a ways. She must use a pulley to reel her laundry back in.

How good her clothes will smell caressed by the wind and sun, but I’m too lazy to do my laundry this way. I didn’t always have a dryer, though. I remember the numb fingers and stiff jeans and towels, also the sheets scented with that heavenly fragrance of earth and sky.~

*Daffodil and Lunaria

Old Order Mennonite neighbor’s wash line

6 responses to “Early Spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

  1. Thanks Beth,

    I just ordered the book.



  2. I always wanted to take a picture of your Old Order neighbor’s wash hanging on the line, but I never have had enough nerve to do it. I never was so neat and orderly when I hung out my wash, but I remember the wonderful smell and the icy fingers. I still hang out my sheets to get that lovely smell.


  3. Looks like beautiful country. I’ve never seen a wash line that big before.


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