Tag Archives: The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

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.

#Ghostly #Christmas #Romance Somewhere the Bells Ring on Audible!


Woot! A favorite novella of mine is now available in Audio at Amazon. Narrator Tom Jordan did a terrific job.  He says Somewhere the Bells Ring is, ‘The most touching romantic ghost story since Demi Moore made pottery with Patrick Swayze.’   

Somewhere the Bells Ring was an engrossing story to write, and yes, very moving. The old house in the story is based on the family homeplace in the Shenandoah Valley where my father grew up and that I often visited as a child. The story opens in 1968, an era I have a lot of nostalgia about, with time slips back to 1918 and the end of WWI.

Story Blurb:

Caught with pot in her dorm room, Bailey Randolph is exiled to a relative’s ancestral home in Virginia to straighten herself out. Banishment to Maple Hill is dismal, until a ghost appears requesting her help. Bailey is frightened but intrigued. Then her girlhood crush, Eric Burke, arrives and suddenly Maple Hill isn’t so bad.

To Eric, wounded in Vietnam, his military career shattered, this homecoming feels no less like exile. But when he finds Bailey at Maple Hill, her fairy-like beauty gives him reason to hope – until she tells him about the ghost haunting the house. Then he wonders if her one experiment with pot has made her crazy.

As Bailey and Eric draw closer, he agrees to help her find a long-forgotten Christmas gift the ghost wants. But will the magic of Christmas be enough to make Eric believe – in Bailey and the ghost – before the Christmas bells ring?

“An intriguing, gripping ghost story with a focus on romance rather than terror.” ~Reviewed by Stephanie E with Fallen Angels Reviews

Listen to Somewhere the Bells Ring at: https://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Bells-Ring-Time-Book/dp/B075GWRZ1G

Geese Have Quite A Lot to Say, Actually


Here are the geese having a clandestine meeting. They do that a lot, with secretive quacks and goosey murmurs which change to alarmed scrambles when I’m spotted. Bad me, spying on the Goose Alliance.

But I feel compelled to stay abreast of their plots. Even more furtive, are these gatherings at dusk with the cows. I suspect they’re planning an uprising and trying to take over the farm.

Again, all appears innocent in this early morning shot of them grouped beyond the flowers, but beware. Geese For All and All for Geese.  I’m suspiciously absent from their mantra.  I could be wrong, though, and the gaggle are exchanging knitting patterns. In case I’m right on, I will continue my surveillance. Does anybody truly know the mind of a goose?

“The goose that lays the golden eggs likes to lay where there are eggs already.” Charles Spurgeon (No idea what this means, but I’ll keep a lookout for it).

Coming Soon-My Very First Newsletter!


With much appreciated help, I’m putting together my first ever newsletter, a mix of gardening, geese, the farm, my furbabies, books…new release…If you’d like to be among the happy recipients please message me your email at bctrissel@yahoo.com or fill out the form on the left side of my blog. A $20.00 Amazon gift card will be awarded to one of the recipients for coming on board. I’m too busy herding cats, geese, Puppy Cooper, gardening, and that writing thing…to get a newsletter out more than quarterly so don’t worry about being bombarded.

This announcement is brought to you by my publicists, Peaches and Cream..

‘The Darling Buds of May’


2Flowering Crab

As a child growing up during the 19th century, or so it sometimes seems, I remember placing baskets of flowers as a surprise on friend’s doorstep early on a lovely May Day morn. Also, dancing around the May Poll festivities in which, not I, but my younger brother and sister both participated. The little girls with garlands in their hair, decked out in pretty spring dresses. Mom made my sister’s. One year the wind toppled the May Poll and then there’s the time the children got all wound up in the ribbons and over it went.  Humiliating for my young brother who’d practiced so hard and tried to no avail to instruct his fellow dancers to wind them properly. I never did trust that May Poll thing to go as planned and hoped to be crowned May Queen, surrounded by a glad assembly of courtiers. No such luck. But May Day was special and has strong flowery associations in my memory. And wind. It never entered anyone’s mind that this revelry had possible pagan connotations. May Day festivities were simply a spring rite and good fun. (*Flowering crab apple tree in our yard)

How about the rest of you? Any May Queens among us?


“May 1st, often called May Day, just might have more holidays than any other day of the year. It’s a celebration of Spring. It’s a day of political protests. It’s a neopagan festival, a saint’s feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it is a national holiday. (Royalty free image of birch tree)

Beltane

Celtic calendar feast ushering in the start of summer. (It also went by a variety of other spellings and names in assorted dialects of Gaelic.)

Bonfires, often created by rubbing sticks together, were common features of Beltane celebrations. Related rituals included driving cattle between two fires, dancing around the fires, and burning witches in effigy. Another tradition was Beltane cakes, which would be broken into several pieces, one of which was blackened. They would be drawn by celebrants at random; the person getting the unlucky blackened piece would face a mock execution.

In recent years, Beltaine has been adopted or revived by neopagan groups as a major seasonal festival.

Bringing in the May: *This is more what I remember.  🙂

In medieval England, people celebrated the start of spring by going out to the country or woods “going a-maying” and gathering greenery and flowers, or “bringing in the may.” This was described in “The Court of Love” (often attributed to Chaucer, but not actually written by him) in 1561. Totally irrelevant, but I am a direct descendant of Chaucer on my father’s side.

(Iris and poppies image by my mom)

“And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.”

Another English tradition is the maypole. Some towns had permanent maypoles that would stay up all year; others put up a new one each May. In any event, the pole would be hung with greenery and ribbons, brightly painted, and otherwise decorated, and served as a central point for the festivities.

May Day was also a time for morris dancing and other dances, often around the maypole. In the 19th century, people began to braid the maypole with ribbons by weaving in and out in the course of a dance. Other later traditions include making garlands for children and the crowning of the May Queen.”

From an interesting site: Herbal Musings

Beltain, Bealtaine, Beltine, May Day, Cetsamhain (‘first Samhain‘), Walpurgis Night (Beltane Eve), Celtic ‘Flower Festival’

Druidic Name: Beltane

archangel-michael, old stained glass windowChristian Equivalent

Roodmas, Rood Day, Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, Feast of Saint Walpurga

Beltane is the cross-quarter festival that marks the start of the summer quarter of the year and the end of the spring quarter. This is a time when nature blossoms and felicity and fertility return to the land. In times past, the livestock stockaded at Samhain was returned to summer pastures at Beltane.

…a joyful festival of growth and fecundity that heralds the arrival of summer. It is the festival of the ‘Good Fire’ or ‘Bel-fire’, named after the solar deity Bel. Bel was also known as Beli or Bile in Ireland, with Bile meaning ‘tree’, so Beltane may also mean ‘Tree-fire’. Beltane is the counterpart of Samhain (and is sometimes referred to as Cetsamhain, the ‘first Samhain’), and these two important festivals divide the year into summer and winter halves, just as the two equinoctial celebrations, Ostara and Mabon, divide the year into light and dark halves.

Lighting fires was customary at Beltane, and traditionally a Beltane fire was composed of the nine sacred woods of the Celts. All hearth fires were extinguished on Beltane Eve and then kindled again from the sacred “need fires” lit on Beltane. People would leap through the smoke and flames of Beltane fires and cattle were driven through them for purification, fertility, prosperity and protection.

AngelicaIt is a traditional time for Handfastings (marriages), and for couples to make love outside to bless the crops and the earth. Maypoles were often danced around at Beltane to bring fertility and good fortune. Beltane lore also includes washing in May-day dew for beauty and health, and scrying (peeping) in sacred waters, such as ponds or springs.

The festival is sometimes referred to as Roodmas, a name coined by the medieval Christian Church in an attempt to associate Beltane with the Cross (the Rood) rather than the life-giving symbol of the Maypole. Beltane was also appropriated by the Church as the Feast Day of Saint Walpurga, who was said to protect crops and was often represented with corn.”

(*Royalty free images of the Archangel Michael and the sacred herb Angelica)

Geese Are Grazing In My Yard


Geese in front yard.jpg1

(Image from last summer but you get the idea)

Barnyard geese grow fussy and restless this time of year. The gaggle are in search of nesting sites and busy bringing about the goslings who will soon scuttle behind their parents. I read our variety of geese are called Pilgrim, because their coloring resembles the drab garb of those early folk to America’s shores, not because they date back that far. I used to think they did. Duh on me. This American breed was developed in the early 1900’s. They are termed friendly and called good parents by one site who sells the fuzzy goslings. I beg to differ. While it’s true these are not ‘attack geese’ I must point out that they hate me and run fast and far, so I must sneak up in them to get pics or use a telephoto lens.

Gray Geese sitting on eggs

(Nesting Geese in the barn)

As for their parenting, I would add, ‘When they remember.’ They tend to misplace their offspring and forget where they put them. It’s not unusual to discover a peeping gosling in great distress because it was left behind. I’ve retrieved and returned these babies more than once. But the adults lose a certain number every year. If they didn’t, the gaggle would be far larger. They roam about the farm, my yard, and the meadow. While they love swimming on the pond–now empty as it will soon be dug out and deepened–they are content with puddles, the cow’s watering trough, and ample grass. They also glean corn from grain the cows spill as they eat. We never feed the geese anything. They are free ranging. I’ve tried tossing grain their way to make friends with the ‘Beth haters’ but they just think I’m throwing stuff at them and run faster.

Geese and goslings

Sigh. I continue to try and befriend them but they are a ornery suspicious lot. Still, I’m fond of the cantankerous critters and protect them more than they know. So don’t ask if you can buy some to eat, and people do. The answer is NO! I am their defender whether they like me or not.