Tag Archives: country life

Chronicling Spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


I am a gardener, animal lover, author… Fortunately, I haven’t had to choose a single focus and incorporate my loves into my writing. Among my greatest passions is the Shenandoah Valley in general, and our farm in particular. The meadows are covered in a wash of green and looking far more hopeful than the brown hue we’ve lived with since November A blanket of snow is pretty but we haven’t had much snowfall this year. Thank heavens the rain has returned after months of drought. Fingers crossed, it stays.

Our drained and dug out farm pond is finally beginning to fill back up again. It was a dry crater all fall and winter like something on the moon. The barnyard geese were suspicious at first, but now go for swims. We are watching for the migrating waterfowl and birds who were once regular visitors here. Sadly, our place was off their radar last spring. Having an alive pond again is exciting. We’re consulting experts about what to do regarding fish, and I’m toying with getting ducks. The original pond had filled with silt over the decades and had to be redone. It’s located in a marshy spot in the meadow fed by wet water springs and is the head waters of Cooks Creek, which ultimately feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. Fencing keeps the cows out. We have planted some trees and shrubs around it and will plant more.

(Geese enjoying the new grass. Ruins of an old barn visible behind our farm)

I’m in my ‘giddy about the earth awakening mode’, or was, until the wind storm hit. My spirits are a little battered, and the crocus are kind of sad after the roaring bluster. But I trust the blossoms will revive and new ones will open when this gale finishes with us and sweeps away. March really roared in this year. Inclement weather is a trial to gardeners everywhere. We hopeful souls go on. We must. I’m chronicling spring as it unfolds in my bit of earth.

(Early crocus and snowdrops)

I saved a lot of seeds last year, ordered many others, and started some early varieties of flowers, herbs, and vegetables in my little greenhouse. One late February day was so balmy, it felt like May. I planted my early salad greens in the garden during the warm spell. Then the lion returned, and the seeds will slumber until the warmth comes back.

“Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps;
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.”
~A. Bronson Alcott, “The Garden,” Tablets, 1868

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

(Miniature iris return faithfully each year)

(Yellow crocus)

***For more on me follow my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Trissel/e/B002BLLAJ6/

Furbaby Friday with Shenandoah Valley Artist and Author Mike Reisenberg!


I am happy to have animal lover and expert, Mike Reisenberg, on the blog to share a beloved dog memory, and wonderful stories drawn from his life. I have known and admired Mike for years, and was a faithful listener of his radio show.

Abby & Mikey:

Sometimes we dog and animal lovers go looking for a dog. It’s time. We’ve been without a pup since our beloved Champ, Rex, Tinki, or Bear left us. The pain of that loss may have inspired promises we would never have another dog. The pain fades and being without a dog, for a dog lover, is a void more painful. We know the breed that fits us best because that’s the breed our family or we have always had. Pug people are pug people. Lab owners swear they will always have labs and that sentiment is extended to almost every breed by some group or another. Those of us lucky enough  to have shared a house with a Mutt, are not as limited in our search. A trip to the SPCA or shelter almost always guarantees a psychic connection and the next family K-9.

Sometimes happenstance inserts itself and delivers a dog when you positively are not thinking or looking for that K-9 companion.  Normally this happens to first-time dog owners, even those who say they do not like dogs. It often happens to dog lovers not quite ready to replace or add a puppy to their home. It especially happens to those of us thinking we may get a dog, but knowing our family or economic situation, we make the decision to wait. That is when the best dogs find us.

Pam and I and daughter Charity had owned cats. Charity liked cats. We didn’t want a cat and a dog, and I had a basement full of tropical fish and some cockatoos and a red rat snake. If Pam had let me, I would have filled our house with animals, and I’m sure a dog would have been included.

Instead of an in-house zoo that would have threatened my marriage, I purchased The Animal House Pet Shop. About that same time, we were thinking about adopting a baby. Any thought or talk of a dog was quickly hushed as being too much work with a new business et all. The Animal House took in mixed breed dogs for sale. We had them checked by a veterinarian, paid for the required first shots and worming to ensure good health. We then made a modest profit selling them to dog lovers. The idea was the new dog owner would purchase many dollars worth of toys, bowls, leashes, collars, beds and grooming services. Puppies were vet checked before they were accepted and any major health problems were avoided.

The litter of black puppies arrived before Christmas. Their mother was a Heinz 57; their father was unknown. The scruffy litter looked like Scotties and would sell fast. All had that ‘you have to love me’ look and the friendly playful way that endears dogs to anyone with a heart. They checked out, had their shots, and the adoptions started. After a few days, one of the smaller ones became sick. A follow up revealed an infection and hernia that would require surgery and shunts. The little pup needed compresses changed, and I brought her home for my daughter to nurse. I had full intentions of taking her back to the Animal House and selling or giving away a healthy pup.

Charity named her Abby. We took turns with the compresses, and Abby was there to stay! You’re thinking I should have known that? We then had a new business, a cat, and a puppy. Abby ended up looking like a long body Scotty fooling even some Scotty owners into asking who the breeder was. We also adopted a son, Mikey. Abby welcomed him by craping under his bed. He would become her favorite.

Like most of her kind, Abby was not a finicky eater. After a day in Charlottesville, we arrived home to find Abby bloated and her face covered in fish guts and scales. She had also perfumed her body by rolling in the remains of her feast. Our neighbor Jim had cleaned his fish and buried the guts and scales behind his shed. Abby was not a welcomed sight. As luck would have it, Pam’s mother was visiting, and Pam, in a firm, fussing rant, wanted to know why Opal and Charity hadn’t bathed the dog. They had twice! Three times Abby had figured a way out of the house to the waiting well aged fish. Pam’s mom said, she’s your dog and two baths were all she was doing.

Abby was mostly Mikey’s dog; she followed him everywhere. Mikey walked at ten months. The reason for his early two-legged jaunt was Abby. Mikey would grab hold of her back hair, pull himself up and then walk along beside her. Abby seemed to know not to go too fast. Mikey’s little legs grew strong as he gave up crawling for walking alongside his dog. His ten-month solo was at a Christmas Party. Abby barked with delight. They spent the next twelve years running and playing. As dogs often do Abby grew older faster and passed away.

A Pet Supply Christmas Catalog arrived and in it was a page of dog ornaments. One was the splitting image of Abby dressed as a winged angel. She has been on our Christmas Tree ever since. She hangs each year next to Mikey’s paper hand.
MR

Beth: What a touching story, Mike. I loved it.

Mike: I am new to e-books and Kindle. My first five entries are short stories. The titles are  Boots, the Best Dog in the World. The Cave. Rooster Eggs? Fish-tales, Snappers and Fishhooks. The Haunted House at Hopkins Farm.

They were all taken from a larger book that I am still working on. Each event is from my preteen years to age fourteen. Here are some brief passages from each one.

Boots:

The grownups in the neighborhood called us the Hartwell Boys. We called ourselves the Snakes. As soon as school let out for the summer, we would spend Saturdays hiking and exploring the woods behind Drake hospital. We would rise early, raid the fridge, make sandwiches, and pack our own lunch.

We ate anything and everything from apples to liverwurst to sardines. Our creative combinations between two slices of bread would make Dagwood Bumstead proud. Peanut butter could be spread with anything. Our hope was that Mom didn’t have any chores for us. We were a band of five to seven adventurers. Boots, our dog, came too.

Cave:

After a drink from our communal canteen, we circled the sinkhole and felt the cool, inviting wisp of escaping air. The leaves had been washed away by recent rains, and the opening looked more friendly than usual.

I stood looking down at the dark hole and welcomed that most pleasant mix of fear, excitement, and anticipation. Like standing in line for your first rollercoaster ride. “We should have brought more ropes.” I heard myself say.

Rooster Eggs:

After Lenore’s first day, she sat at the end of the walk, her feet in the road, sobbing into her apron. She wanted to go home. Her hands hurt, her legs ached, her body cried for sleep, and her eyes tried to wash away the thought of dishes needing cleaning. She would have fled if she had had a place to go.

She may have left on tired legs down that dusty road if she had quit crying before Luther found her.

Fish Tales:

“That’s a BIG turtle” he boasted as if he had caught it himself. “What you fixin’ to do with it?”
“Take it back to camp and eat it.” declared Richard.
“They are good eaten that’s for sure. But hard to clean. You boys ever clean a turtle?”
I nodded yes.
“ Now I know no white boy young as you done cleaned a turtle. Not as big as this un.” He hedged.
“Yes, I have! I helped my Grand Dad in Virginia.”
“Helpings one thing, but cutting through that hard shell…

Haunted House:

The heavy door creaked open, and all but Fritz strode in. The dim was stripped with shafts of thinly sliced sun dancing dust in ribbons of gold, opaque against deeper, darker, bluer shadows. We walked and turned, mouths agape, as if part of a slow-motion square dance, choreographed to silent music, playing the same song, in all our heads. It felt as if the barn was turning around us. Our partner in a song of wonder.

The loft with hand hued ladder; hay bales still waiting to be used; horse collar and plow, buckets, hoes, rakes, egg baskets all placed ready for the days work. A workday that never came ‘till now. Now they would be our tools assisting our work. The best kind of work, the play of young boys.

Thanks for reading.

Beth: Fabulous stories, Mike. Some remind me of my childhood, and my brothers’. I remember your pet shop. The kids and I loved going there.

***Be sure to visit Mike’s Amazon Author page. He is a highly talented artist and also has some wonderful paintings  on that page. He designed his book covers.

To visit his page and browse his kindle books visit:

https://www.amazon.com/MIKE-REISENBERG/e/B079WP7QTM/

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave Mike a comment.

Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him. ~Hal Borland


Autumn color has been slower to arrive this year, but stunning when it finally came. These are some pics of the wooded hills behind our farm.

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.” ~Faith Baldwin, American Family

“The bright summer had passed away, and gorgeous autumn was flinging its rainbow-tints of beauty on hill and dale.” ~Cornelia L. Tuthill, “Virginia Dare: Or, the Colony of Roanoke,” 1840

“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. The rich colours of grass and earth were intensified by the mellow light of a sun almost warm enough for spring…” ~P.D. James, A Taste for Death

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~George Eliot, letter to Miss Lewis, 1st October

“Autumn repays the earth the leaves which summer lent it.” ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908

“No spring nor summer’s beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face…”
~John Donne, “Elegy IX: The Autumnal”

falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly
~John Bailey, “Autumn,” a haiku year, 2001, as posted on oldgreypoet.com

“Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees….
Are we not better and at home
In dreamful Autumn, we who deem
No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
A little while, then, let us dream…”
~Ernest Dowson (1867–1900), “Autumnal”

“The days may not be so bright and balmy—yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.” ~Northern Advocate

Spring Is When the Meadowlark Sings and It’s Singing


Signs of spring are everywhere on the farm. February is like an erratic March. So was January. We’ve had little real winter. Almost no snow. Our weather blows mild then cold then warm again, even balmy before the wind cuts through us once more. The geese are in hyper fussy mating/nesting mode. Don’t even try to talk to them now. Fuzzy pussy willows will soon burst into full-blown catkins. Possibly today. I’m calling it. Spring is here. I’ve got pea seed and early greens ready to plant.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
― Margaret Atwood

Early spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Meadowlark, Eastern MeadowlarkBack to the meadowlark, my goal is to ever actually see one of these elusive birds again. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be such a challenge, with our meadows and all. Once or twice, I’ve glimpsed a yellow flash and spotted the bird perched on a fence post before it flew. Mostly, they hide in the grass and skim away to another spot before I get a good look, calling all the while from various positions in the meadow.

Several years ago, daughter Elise and I were determined to track down the evasive songster and take its picture, like photographing fairies. We tenaciously followed its calls, even climbed over the fence into the neighbor’s pasture and picked our way along the little creek that flows from our pond, but never caught up with that bird, or birds. There may have been more than one taunting us. Unless I catch another rare glimpse, I must content myself with their beautiful trills. Birds like this need tall grasses and untidy hedge rows for nesting. Bear that in mind in your own yard and garden. Keeping everything trim and cultivated robs our feathered friends of habitat. It’s also a good excuse for a less than perfectly kept landscape. A little wilderness here and there is a good thing.

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in spring“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
― A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

***Images of spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by my mom, Pat Churchman.

I bought the image of the meadowlark. Sigh.

Happy Boots, Happy Self


happy-garden-farm-bootsI’ve been thinking about my garden/farm boots a lot lately, partly because I haven’t ordered a new pair in two years, and daughter Alison is also debating this question. We’re fans of the colorful spirit-lifting kind. She’s torn about which pair to get. Initially, you can get away with one pair of oh, say yellow polka dot boots for everyday and town wear, if you hose them off after feeding the goats, chickens, etc. But it doesn’t take long before the gloss is gone.  Mud and manure take their toll, which leaves you really needing two pairs. I’ve actually accumulated three of the same happy print over the years. They’ve held up well, but one pair has formed a small hole in the sole–easily detected when wearing them in the wet–and all have lost their shine. No zip left. Question is, do I get another identical pair because they’re so swell, or risk a new pattern?

My son-in-law asked why not just wear plain black, which better endure and are what most men favor. My farmer husband and son do. Alison said her soul would be just as dark while wearing them. Where’s the fun in that?

What it gets down to is having the money to purchase alternate pairs of the same puddle splashing, mud slogging, critter feeding (and other stuff) boots. It can seem rather frivolous when watching your budget. However, when my last new pair were still fresh enough for town, I wore them to get allergy shots to the delight of nurses and patients, and cheered passersby at the grocery store. I brought joy and light with me wherever I went/skipped. There’s far more to boots than you may realize. Children know this.

Ask a kid if they want yellow/pink polka dots, bright flowers, happy animals, or back boots and see.

“Everyone chases happiness, not noticing that happiness is at their heels” – Bertolt Brecht (Literally, if you’re wearing the boots.)

One of my current glossless pairs pictured above. For those eager to know, these are called Sloggers and sold at Amazon. Isn’t everything?

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. ~Christopher Reeve


Take hope. Each new day holds possibilities, and God is with us, even though sometimes it may not seem so. Below are some inspiring quotes to uplift our spirits as we go into 2017 with sunrise images from the farm.

sunrise-of-beauty-on-the-farm(Sunrise of glory on the farm taken by me)

Hope is the physician of each misery. ~Irish Proverb

God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us — in the dreariest and most dreaded moments — can see a possibility of hope. ~Maya Angelou

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all….
~Emily Dickinson, c.1861

What is Hope? a star that gleaming
O’er the future’s troubled sky,
Struggles, tremulously beaming,
To reveal what there may lie.
~R.A.P., “Hope,” in Southern Literary Messenger, December 1840

morning-has-broken-on-the-farm-jpg1(Morning has broken taken by hubby Dennis)

Where hope would otherwise become hopelessness, it becomes faith. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

All it takes is one bloom of hope to make a spiritual garden. ~Terri Guillemets

You’ve gotta have hope. Without hope life is meaningless. Without hope life is meaning less and less. ~Author Unknown

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. ~Anne Lamott

glorious-sunrise-on-the-farm(Fiery sunrise by me)

Hope is warmth against the cold winter of adversity. ~Terri Guillemets

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man. ~Victor Hugo

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. ~George Iles

Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them. ~Vincent McNabb

When the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
~Author Unknown

Thankfulness


Autumn leaves on maple tree near green rye field on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley

On this fine Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my precious husband, family, and friends, including the furry ones. I’d add ‘feathered’ friends but the geese don’t actually like me. I should get some ducks. I’m grateful to live on a farm in the beautiful, richly historic, Shenandoah Valley where my ancestors were among the earliest settlers. I’m surrounded by fields, meadows, wooded hills, mountains, and my slumbering gardens which will awake this spring and burst forth. Though I may need to toss more seed around and put in new plantings if the winter is too cold. Such is gardening. Still, I’m always delighted by what does survive–except for the weeds. For all its challenges, I love country life. (Image above taken by daughter Elise behind our farm)

farm-pond-and-wooded-hills-behind

(The farm pond with wooded hills behind taken by me earlier this fall)

Being a prolific author, I must include how grateful I am for a lively imagination, writing skills, an excellent editor, and publishing company. I am grateful for The Wild Rose Press. I recently finished a ghostly time travel romance entitled Somewhere My Lady, for my Somewhere in Time series, that will come out in the new year. As of yesterday, I am at work on a new paranormal/time travel for this series. With writing, and reading, you can travel all over the place and not leave your couch, chair, bed…Inspiration is all around me.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” ~Meister Eckhart

What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? ~Erma Bombeck, “No One Diets on Thanksgiving,” 26 November 1981

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~W.J. Cameron