Tag Archives: Virginia

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.

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

Paranormal Accounts from The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


These excerpts are taken from Supernatural Tales,The Virginia and West Virginia Mountain and Valley Folklife Series by late Shenandoah Valley author and historian John Heatwole. Mr. Heatwole interviewed many inhabitants of Brock’s Gap and wrote up a wonderful collection of stories included in his series. He said, “The Brocks Gap section of Rockingham County is rich in folklore of all kinds. It is an area in the northwest part of the county isolated by the North Mountain range.” And not far from where we live, I should add. This post is one I did several years ago and thought deserved reposting.

The following spooky stories are a great source of entertainment while snug inside next to a warm hearth, but not so much fun if you find yourself out on your own in the woods and hollows after dark.~

“Frank Caplinger lived across the road from the old Caplinger Chapel near the Criders Post Office in western Brocks Gap. In the evening Frank would sometimes hear pews scraping on the floor of the church on the other side of the road. Each time he walked over to check on things he would find the building empty with no signs that anyone had been there.

Once Frank was crossing the German River on the old suspension foot bridge; he was going to the post office on the opposite bank. As he entered the bridge he looked up and saw a strange man sitting on top of the cable frame, still and quiet. When Frank neared the other end of the bridge he looked back and the figure had vanished. It was impossible for the man to have scrambled down and run out of sight that quickly.” 

****

“Other folks remember strange lights on the mountains or in the cemeteries.  Harrison May recalled: ‘We’d see lights up in the Caplinger Cemetery every so often. When we got there to check there’d be no lights anywhere. Guess they were just spooks.’”

Moonlit Night

“When Nelson Whetzel was a young man he had an interesting experience while walking home from work one evening. In Brocks Gap in earlier times the only things to light ones way were the stars or the glow from a lamp in a neighbor’s window. 

As he walked Nelson heard a horse coming up the road behind him.  Nelson stopped for a moment, thinking, ‘Good! I’ll have someone to talk to.’ But the sound of the horse’s hooves stopped when he did. He called out, asking who was there in the pitch-black.

No answer came and Nelson began uneasily walking again, this time a little faster. The sound of the horse picked up pace to match Nelson’s. He stopped a second time and the sound of the horse ceased to be heard. Nelson started trotting and the sound horse’s hooves were heard at a trot behind him, close on his heels. He grew very frightened and began to run as fast as he could.  The galloping horse seemed to be so close, Nelson thought he felt the breath on the back of his neck.

Up ahead Nelson saw the lighted windows of the cabin belonging to George and Mat Smith. He was so terrified that he hit the Smith’s front door at full force. He knocked it down and went right through the structure, knocking down the back door as he exited. The Smiths blinked at each other in wonder and amazement. They saw no phantom horse follow Nelson through their home.

Immediately after his encounter with the doors Nelson noticed the sound of the pursuing horse was gone, however, he ran on home as fast as his feet would carry him.”

*That tale reminds me of the headless horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Scary!

“The Roadcaps lived in a two-story log cabin just down the road from Gospel Hill Mennonite Church. All of the girls of the family shared a room upstairs.  One night one of the sisters, Peggy by name, went to the bedroom alone.  There she saw a woman sitting up on the iron headboard of one of the beds.

The woman didn’t say anything or move toward the frightened child, just sat there and looked at her. Peggy was rooted to the spot in fear but able to find her voice and call to her father to come to her aid.  There was something in her voice that demanded immediate attention and she heard his heavy footfall as he hurried up the stairs. As her father neared the room, the woman vanished into thin air.  Peggy never entered that room alone again.

****

The children of the Roadcap family loved to play on the banks of the little Shoemaker River near their home. Once they came running home and told their father they’d seen a woman all dressed in white walking along the opposite bank of the river from where they played. They’d never seen her before and being shy had not spoken to her but only observed her progress.

Their father listened thoughtfully and then told them they had seen the spirit of a young woman who had died years before of a broken heart. They were told they would probably see her again and that she would do them no harm. They were to behave as they had before and refrain from calling out to the spirit.

They believed their father. There were not that many people living in those parts and the children knew them all. They promised not to disturb the apparition if they encountered her again. During their childhoods they witnessed her strolling along the river on several more occasions.~

That story reminds me of the novel, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which is also a very intriguing BBC mystery/thriller starring Tara Fitzgerald. I saw the film on Netflix and highly recommend it.

***If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy other related ones.

***John Heatwole’s books are at Amazon, but may only be available as used copies.

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons. ~Jim Bishop


autumn-trees-in-mountain-drive

(The Alleghenies)

Autumn blew in last night. Friday and Saturday, the Shenandoah Valley got some much-needed rain out of the hurricane that wreaked havoc on so many. I am deeply sorry for those caught in Hurricane Matthew’s path, and almost feel guilty that it did our dry valley some good. Living this far inland, we often escape the wrath and reap the benefits from a fearsome storm. But not always. Sometimes the valley and mountains are deluged with rain, wind, and flooding. It can get very bad here. Fortunately, this wasn’t one of those times. The valley is green again, and with cooler temps, fall is settling in and leaves beginning to turn. I had feared with all the drought and heat of August and September that we would have poor color this year, but maybe it’s not too late.  I hope so, because I love autumn and am posting some favorite pics from past falls.

chloe-sitting-on-our-pumpkins

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

I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze.
The sweet chill of pumpkin and crisp sunburnt leaves.
~Ann Drake, 2013

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

A glorious crown the year puts on… ~Phebe A. Holder, “A Song of October,” in The Queries Magazine, October 1890

autumn-branch

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”

tree-on-fencerow-bordering-our-meadow-by-elise

(Behind our farm)

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

The softened light, the veiling haze,
The calm repose of autumn days,
Steal gently o’er the troubled breast,
Soothing life’s weary cares to rest.
~Phebe A. Holder, “A Song of October,” in The Queries Magazine, October 1890

A beauty lights the fading year… ~Phebe A. Holder, “A Song of October,” in The Queries Magazine, October 1890

"Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower."~Fall Quotes and Images--Beth Trissel

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

Catch a vista of maples in that long light and you see Autumn glowing through the leaves…. The promise of gold and crimson is there among the branches, though as yet it is achieved on only a stray branch, an impatient limb or an occasional small tree which has not yet learned to time its changes. ~Hal Borland

There is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky…
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

O’ pumpkin pie, your time has come ’round again and I am autumnrifically happy! ~Terri Guillemets

chipmunkonpumpkin

“Autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. She occupied her mind as much as possible in such like musings and quotations…” ~Jane Austen

“green-veined leaves suddenly blushing copper
bronze-edged trees swaying in autumn breezes
gold foliage drifting past pewter branches baring all
brass-hued leaflets dying in beauty, falling in grace”
~Terri Guillemets, “In the Autumn Wood,” 2016

autumn in the Alleghenies

Mom took the pic of the chipmunk on the pumpkin and the one toward Reddish Knob in the Alleghenies above. Daughter Elise took the others of the leaves, trees, grandbaby Chloe with our pumpkins, and the mountains. Grandson Colin is the baby reaching for the leaves taken by his mom, my daughter Alison. Autumn is a family time.

Geese I know #Countrylife


Here's looking at you kid.JPG2(‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’)

With my new photography craze, I’ve taken to stalking the barnyard geese, aka Pilgrim geese (an old breed). They’re squawky, easily spooked, and difficult to capture on film. I creep around corners, freeze when they spot me, and attempt to hang out with the gaggle to win their trust. Not gonna happen. When I toss grain their way, they fear I’m throwing stuff at them and flee. Not overly bright, but fun to watch. I’ve gotten a few good pics and many of their retreating backs.

'I think we're alone now'             (‘I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.’)

These geese have been on our farm for decades. They began as two pairs. The breed is so long-lived, I suspect we still have the originals. If they were better parents, we’d be overrun, but they’re absentminded and forget where they left the goslings. We’ve retrieved distressed peepers and restored them to the gaggle, but only a few reach adulthood out of those successfully hatched. A lot of them don’t even make it out of the egg. After four plus decades, we have about two dozen in the flock.

geese counting cows(Geese counting cows, only they don’t count very well.)

They roam all over the farm, frequent the pond, the meadow, the barnyard, shady grassy spots when the sun’s too hot, and of course, the barn itself. They keep company with the cows and dislike dogs. Cats are ignored. ***Note, these are not attack geese. They fuss and carry on, but will take off when threatened unless defending their nest. Don’t get too near nesting geese of any breed.

“Ego: The fallacy whereby a goose thinks he’s a swan.”

***Images taken by me in July.

‘No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.’


As drab February drags on, my thoughts turn to the shimmering promise of spring. Glorious days lie before me, filled with promise of the riches to come here in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I call ‘the Shire.’

“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” ~Ruth Stout (Me too!)

spring flowers in the Shenandoah Valley

Seeds are ordered and hoarded–I have enough for a meadow–but can’t commence in my little greenhouse until the deep freeze passes. It’s only solar heated. I don’t start anything in there before March. Cruel frosts can strike us into mid-May, even later, so no tender seedlings go into the ground until the ‘Corn Planting’ moon is past, as some Algonquin tribes referred to it. Frosts often coincide with a full moon. Outside, hardy plant seeds go in the garden as soon as it’s dry enough. Not likely before March. Many lovely heirloom flowers, and some vegetables, reseed themselves freely. As do the weeds. Hardiest of the lot.

“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.” ~Anne Bradstreet (True, Anne, but we’d rather not.)

Farm garden with horse and buggy going by1

(Mounds of rhubarb in our garden with piles of compost and buggy going past.)

Each year, I declare THIS will be the best garden ever! I’m an optimist. Whatever comes, there will be bounty and beauty despite adversity, bugs, and blight. Daughter Elise and I are researching and rethinking which organic gardening methods and aides are best. We’re big into companion planting and expanding on that theme. Also using lots of compost. If anyone has any great ideas about battling the squash vine borer, that also attacks our beloved pumpkins, please speak up. It’s enemy number one. The hoard of squash bugs are enemy number two. We’ll be planting many more herbs and flowers in among the vegetables to attract the good bugs and repel the bad, plus trying floating row covers, and an insecticidal oil from Gardens Alive. I like their products and use various ones. I will report in and let you know how we fare with our schemes and dreams.

Spring 2015

(Snowdrops in bloom from last year. In bud now)

“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” ~Ellis Peters

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?” ~Edward Giobbi

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. ~W. Earl Hall

Early spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

(The Shenandoah Valley–image by my mom)

“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.”
~Julian Grenfell

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.” ~Mark Twain

Indeed.

(Images by Elise Trissel unless otherwise noted)

Never Give Up On Anything You Love


flowers near gardenYou probably think I’m speaking of my writing that I’ve fought like a mad dog for, but in this instance I’m referring to my beloved garden(s). After learning I rank in the top ten percent of allergy sufferers in the nation, which explained a lot and has led to 30 plus years of allergy shots (four at at time), daily meds, inhalers, etc, I can be outside much of the year, although ragweed season remains a challenge. My allergist declares I’m the only patient extremely allergic to spring who revels in it anyway. And definitely the only one who gardens as I do despite my inherent intolerance of all pollen.

hyssop in the gardenBefore making strides with my shots, allergies drove me indoors from August through late September, with bouts in between. This is actually how I ended up writing novels. I called that time ‘being under house arrest’ and gazed longingly out the windows. It occurred to me that I could focus on my love of literature, history, mystery, romance, and yes, the out of doors, in my books. My passion for herbs and herbal lore is woven throughout many of my stories, and I’ve even written an herbal. If I didn’t have allergies I’d probably still be making dried wreaths and arrangements, potpourri, raising and selling seedlings…Now, my gardening is strictly for myself and whoever else enjoys entering in. Daughter Elise is my right arm. The grandbabies take a keen interest, and those who drive past our farm enjoy seeing the garden(s) visible from the road. When allergies surge, they grow neglected, but my many hardy perennials, reseeding heirloom flowers, and herbs have a way of hanging on. And there’s always next year.

With spring around the corner, my thoughts turn, as ever, to the garden. My beautiful valley I call, ‘The Shire’, is known for being quite inhospitable to allergy sufferers, but nothing would compel me to leave.

Never give up on anything you love.

Emma and Owen in the garden1Images by Elise and hubby Dennis