Tag Archives: ShenandoahValley

Virginia–Steeped in History and Inspiration–Beth Trissel


The rich history of Virginia, the Native Americans and the people who journeyed here from far beyond her borders are at the heart of my inspiration.  Not only have I lived in the Old Dominion for most of my life, but also several previous centuries in the sense that my ancestors were among the earliest settlers of the Shenandoah Valley (1730’s/1740’s). Chapel Hill, circa 1816, the Churchman family home place on my father’s side, is part of the inspiration behind the old homes in my novels, as are the other early plantations I’ve visited like Berkeley, Shirley and Carter’s Grove.  My Scots-Irish forebears settled Augusta County in the southern valley with names like Houston, Patterson, Finley, Moffett and McLeod.  These clannish people often intermarried, so I can tie in with many other early families depending on how I swing through the ancestral tree.

Colonial Virginia encompassed a vast territory.  Initially  Augusta County named for Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales, stretched northward from the present day county of Rockingham to include part of Page; to the South it extended the full length of Virginia’s border, and to the northwest it included the present day states of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and part of western Pennsylvania, all the territory claimed by Great Britain at that time.

Jamestown, the earliest successful English colony, and  Williamsburg,  a vital center in early America, are both in Virginia.  If you haven’t visited Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, you’re in for a real treat.  These sites are wonderfully  restored so it’s like stepping back in time to another age, one that fascinates me.

Virginia is steeped in history.   How could I not be drawn to this wealth of stories here?  They span centuries.  And if the earth could speak what tales it would tell, some of them horrific.

Virginia is also the site of more battles than any other state in the union, encompassing the Indian Wars, the Revolution and that most uncivil of wars, the Civil War.  Not to mention, Virginia has more ghost stories than any other state.  Also fodder for the imagination and yet more stories.

For Lovers of Gardening and Country Life (And Wannabes)


My award-winning nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, is free at Amazon Monday May 14th–Wednesday May 16th.  Written in a month by month journal style, Shenandoah Watercolors follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Excerpt from May:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

~William Shakespeare

The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.

I’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new-mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.

Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

***FREE kindle at Amazon. Also available in print with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.

“This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I’ve ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read…” Amazon Reviewer C. G. King

A Spring Walk in the Country


Earlier this week, on a spectacular blue sky day, my daughter Elise and I went for a walk on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley.  We passed beneath the flowering cherry,  crab apples and the edible apples all in full bloom, then continued on down to the meadow where we circled the pond, followed by curious cows and one of our farm dogs, Lance.
Our other farm dog, Luca, (both lab mixes) won’t go into the meadow after she accidentally touched the electric fence that keeps the cows out of the water (an EPA requirement).
So, sadly, Luca can’t go for a swim without the risk of being zapped by the fence and stays clear of the field now. Lance sticks to the wide swath of grass and the small stream that meanders through the meadow further below the pond.
While near the water, Elise and I looked to see if the trees planted along its banks last year all survived, they did, and we looked for nests in the larger trees that have been there for years  We also spotted a goose on her nest.  A protective gander kept watch nearby and we gave them a wide berth. Geese get very fussy about anyone trespassing too near their nests. Especially Canadians, which this pair are.  We also have domestic barnyard geese nesting in various hotly contested sites on our farm. (Nesting goose by the pond and Lance getting really muddy.)
“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”  ~Proverb
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.” ~Nadine Stair
***Only not near any thistles, I hasten to add, having stepped on plenty in my day.
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.”
~Robert Frost
After crossing the grassy field, we navigated the barbed wire fence and walked on up the hill to the woods beyond it.  Elise took her camera and recorded our outing. She got some wonderful shots with her new lens.
On our way, we passed an ancient barn, rather derelict now, and the overgrown spot where the farmhouse once stood.  It burned down decades ago.  The old man didn’t die in the fire, but later.
A quaint outbuilding remains, but the scent of skunks kept us at bay. I assume they’ve taken up residence there. That site is always a little creepy, and I wonder what paranormal investigators might find with their high-tech gadgets, but not on such a glorious afternoon.
“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”
It’s quite a hike getting up the hill and then following the line of trees across it. Along the way we paused by a stand of oaks I call my ‘sacred place’ and said a prayer for loved ones and in memory of those who have gone before us.
After a pensive pause, we explored further among the copse of trees and found a burrow that may belong to a fox. The farmers who live on one side of that hill have spotted a number of them.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Startled deer sprang past us, white tails up, and bounded away while birds sang from high overhead.  We continually craned our necks to try and catch a glimpse of the songsters but most were out of sight.  A tantalizing glimpse, now and then and I recognized several calls. Others I wasn’t certain of.
Meadowlarks trilled in the distance, my favorite spring bird, and extremely elusive. I rarely ever catch sight of a meadowlark and am thrilled when I do.
Coyotes also live somewhere in those woods, but don’t generally come out until after dark.  Not where I’d want to be then.  Our dog Lance had given up the walk and turned back so if we were attacked I’d have to rely on my trusty walking stick. Coyotes have come to our farm and far too near the house for comfort, at times, but the dogs keep them at bay.  Go out of their mind barking.  Not a hint of anything sinister on this fine day, though, just beauty. Then we did the entire walk  in reverse and returned by a different route. Elise took pics all along the way.  I was whacked by the time we got home.  It was definitely tea time.
*All images are by Elise except for the meadowlark.  We have yet to capture one of those birds on camera, but it isn’t from lack of trying to track them down.
Shenandoah Watercolors, my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, is available at Amazon in kindle and now print with photographs by my talented family.
“For those who love the country and even those who don’t.” A 2012 EPIC eBook Finalist
“The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.”

Out in Print–My Book About Gardening & Country Life!


At long last Shenandoah Watercolors is out in print!   My talented daughter Elise labored hours and hours to design the layout and incorporate her and my mom, Pat Churchman, and husband Dennis’s beautiful photographs of the Shenandoah Valley and mountains.  Also a few vintage images from times past.   A lovely coffee table sized book, Shenandoah Watercolors will be a joy to those who want to savor the images and linger with me in my beloved valley.
The book is available at Amazon.  I authorized other outlets for it as well but am not sure where it many show up for sale, so wouldn’t count on it being anywhere else.  The cost is as inexpensive as we could possibly make it for a book of this size with many colored images.  We won’t get rich, that’s for sure, but hope to share our love of the country, of our valley and the mountains, of family and all that’s good.  And God bless those who join us.
A 2012 EPPIC eBOOK FINALIST~

For Those Who Love the Country and Even Those Who Don’t


Written in a month by month journal style, Shenandoah Watercolors features rural life in the Shenandoah Valley of VirginiaI  enrolled the book in the kindle lending program where you can borrow it for free at this Amazon link.

Shenandoah Watercolors is a 2012 finalist in the nonfiction category of the EPIC Ebook Awards, ‘Kind of a big deal’ in the publishing world.  Winners to be announced in March.  My American romance Red Bird’s Song is a finalist in the historical romance category.  Fingers crossed for a win!

Back to Shenandoah Watercolors:

“This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I’ve ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read.”

~Amazon Reviewer C. G.  King

January Excerpt from Shenandoah Watercolors:

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.” ~ Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pale streaks of mauve feather the western sky above the frozen pond and the golden glow of the sun illuminates the ice as it sinks below the ridges.

The hardcore group of hockey players who’ve been here for hours still whack the puck around the smooth space cleared of snow and a lone couple circle together in one corner, reluctant to leave.

The frigid twilight breeze rustles the dry leaves that cling to the bare branches of the maple and I caught my breath as I trotted Mia past the wintry scene of skaters, timeless in its way. It seems as though the ice will last on and on, but we rarely have more than a week when the pond is frozen hard enough for skating. Weather in the Shenandoah Valley swings back and forth between north and south as though it can’t quite decide which we are.

Considering that my brother John said it was twenty degrees below zero in Vermont, I’d say we qualify as the South, just on the Northern fringes. Our sentiments are decidedly Southern.

Unlike the dedicated skaters, I scurried back inside. If it weren’t for the need to exercise my plump little dog and idle self I’d just lie on the couch like a slug. I’m well into my winter hibernation mode. Every fall I swear this lethargy won’t overcome me, but inevitably it does. Ernest Miggleton remains immune. He’s one pesky kitten since we took the tree down and climbs into the cabinets, raids the trash, steals Elise’s new fuzzy socks, her fluffy dog toy, and annoys the heck out of the big kitties. But all this sport pales in comparison to the daily assaults he launched on that enticing pine, resplendent with baubles hung just for his amusement.

Elise pointed out how seriously bored Ernest was yesterday as he perched eagerly beside her printer waiting for it to whir and buzz magically to life. She’d just finished printing a paper for ninth grade English lit and he was enthralled. Every time she gathered him up he wriggled to get back into position, not wanting to miss anything. So she printed another page, but that only feeds his fetish.

We’re endeavoring to find the little fellow a hobby. He has expressed interest in bird watching, the nurture of mice, and collecting kewl stuff.~

*Our latest kitten rescue is our Siamese mix, Pavel, picture by daughter Elise. *Snow covered Nandina berries photograph by my mom Pat Churchman. *Sunset over the frozen lake I bought from istock because I don’t have a good one on hand and out pond isn’t currently frozen.

*My brother John Churchman is an amazing photographer gaining much long overdo recognition.  For his scenic, artistic images visit: Brickhouse Studios

Another Ghost Story


“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet

This incident occurred about ten years ago at a friend’s home located very near our old farm-house that had the poltergeist–the account featured below in my Spook-A-Licious: Where Book-Ks Devour you Blog hop Tour post.

A friend of ours, George, had died of cancer and my mom and I were house sitting for his family the evening of his viewing at the funeral home (a popular tradition in the Shenandoah Valley) while his widow and children were there receiving friends, in case anyone came to the house during their absence. Mom and I were in the living room watching a nature show on TV (two weird guys catching highly venomous snakes) when we heard someone at the door, which we thought rather odd because we’d seen no car lights or heard a car pulling into the driveway, and this was out in the dark wintry countryside so no one was likely to walk over.  Then we both heard a male voice that sounded exactly like the deceased in the kitchen saying “Hello!” in the sing-song way he had of greeting people when he’d return to discover guests in his house.

I got up from the couch and rounded the corner to the dining room with the strongest impression that he’d just rounded it from the other direction, then poof he was gone. I sensed he realized his family wasn’t there and left immediately. I checked and no one was at the door, or in the house, or in the driveway.  The next evening after George’s funeral, (again, we had the strongest impression he was there enjoying every minute) the old grandfather clock that had stopped working and only he knew how to fix started working again.  The family was convinced he’d fixed it.  When I returned to the house several days later, I felt he’d gone on to heaven, and was no longer there.

***If you enjoyed this account, you might also enjoy this post:The Poltergeist in our Old Farm House

Scenic, Historic Virginia


Not only have I lived in the Old Dominion for most of my life, but also several previous centuries in the sense that my ancestors were among the earliest settlers of the Shenandoah Valley (1730’s/1740’s). Chapel Hill, circa 1816, the Churchman family home place on my father’s side, is part of the inspiration behind the old homes in my novels, as are the other early plantations I’ve visited like Berkeley, Shirley and Carter’s Grove.  My Scots-Irish forebears settled Augusta County in the southern valley with names like Houston, Patterson, Finley, Moffett and McLeod.  These clannish people often intermarried, so I can tie in with many other early families depending on how I swing through the ancestral tree.

Colonial Virginia encompassed a vast territory.  Initially  Augusta County named for Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales, stretched northward from the present day county of Rockingham to include part of Page; to the South it extended the full length of Virginia’s border, and to the northwest it included the present day states of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and part of western Pennsylvania, all the territory claimed by Great Britain at that time.

Jamestown, the earliest successful English colony, and  Williamsburg,  a vital center in early America, are both in Virginia.  If you haven’t visited Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, you’re in for a real treat.  These sites are wonderfully  restored so it’s like stepping back in time to another age, one that fascinates me.

Virginia is steeped in history.   How could I not be drawn to this wealth of stories here?  They span centuries.  And if the earth could speak what tales it would tell, some of them horrific.

Virginia is also the site of more battles than any other state in the union, encompassing the Indian Wars, the Revolution and that most uncivil of wars, the Civil War.  Not to mention, Virginia has more ghost stories than any other state.  Also fodder for the imagination and yet more stories.

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*Pics are of: The Shenandoah Valley, Chapel Hill, Thomas Jefferson‘s Monticello, Early home in Jamestown, The first church in America in Jamestown, Shirley Plantation, Early American church doorway in Jamestown, Colonial Virginia home, The rotunda at the University of VA designed by Jefferson, young girls in colonial dress at a historic farm, old plantation kitchen, the capitol building in Williamsburg, the Susan Constant Sailing Ship that brought English settlers to Jamestown Virginia in 1607, and several from colonial Williamsburg.