Category Archives: Shenandoah Valley

Chasing Autumn in Rockingham County in Western Virginia

Friend Barb and I took Tuesday to chase autumn and spend time together enjoying the beautiful Shenandoah Valley where we both live. Besides the fun of back roads and stunning mountain vistas that we both enjoy, we found all kinds of fall décor for our houses.

Our first stop was Myers Pumpkins just east of Harrisonburg, a family-run farm that provides already-picked pumpkins and gourds, chrysanthemums, pick-your-own pumpkin patch, corn maze, and corn stalks ready for decorating. This was a new place for me that Barb introduced to me, and they were well stocked.

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Autumn Flowers: What’s Blooming in the Yard Today?

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley and the fall flowers are blooming in these days before cold weather descends. A sure sign of autumn is when the mums begin blooming, and mine are popping out all over the place.

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Summer Recipes: Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

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It’s late summer and, I don’t know about you, but our tomatoes are rolling in from the garden here in the central Shenandoah Valley. The fun of having fresh vegetables and herbs is the abundance of recipes that are useful during these warm summer months.

With so many tomatoes — we have a variety of cherry and regular-sized tomatoes — it’s sometimes a challenge to find enough ways to use them before they rot. We share with everyone we know but still have plenty because Mr. Mitchell loves to work in the garden so there’s always enough for everyone.

DSCN4179In this recipe I’m able to use our cherry tomatoes and freshly harvested basil leaves from my deck herbs. For dinner tonight I tweaked this a bit by sautéing the tomatoes and garlic in olive oil on the stove top since I try to limit my use of the oven on hot days which, I suppose, could change the name to Pasta with Sautéed Tomatoes and Garlic. I added the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and, wow, the flavors popped. Yum.

The pasta can be adjusted for gluten free diets. Nothing says summer like the garden-to-table freshness of a home vegetable garden. From MyRecipes.com … enjoy!

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

Ingredients

1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pints multicolored cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
1/4 cup small basil leaves

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1 tablespoon salt. Add pasta; cook 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 6 tablespoons cooking liquid. Return pasta to pan. Combine reserved cooking liquid and 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Boil 4 minutes or until mixture measures 1/3 cup. Add oil mixture to pan with pasta; toss to coat.

3. While pasta cooks, combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, tomatoes, and garlic on a jelly-roll pan, tossing to combine. Bake at 450° for 11 minutes or until tomatoes are lightly browned and begin to burst. Add tomato mixture, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to pasta; toss to coat. Top with cheese and basil.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 1 cup)
Total time: 35 Minutes

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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Stuarts Draft Company Adds Jobs for Augusta County

Stuarts Draft sits at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southern Augusta County, a flattened out plain that is an ancient river bed, that is divided by the South River that floods during heavy downpours. “Draft” probably refers to the winds whistling down the mountain slopes.

Its main claim to fame is mountain man John Colter, born in the vicinity sometime in the mid-1770s. When his family moved further west, his skills in the outdoors help him become a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and to explore western lands where he was the first white man to enter the Yellowstone and Grand Tetons areas.

This is the manufacturing center of Augusta County, long ago agreed on by supervisors as the area to locate factories like Target, Hershey, McKee Foods, and Hollister. They like its proximity to a ready work force as well as the east-west I-64 and north-south I-77.

And it is in that area that Virginia’s governor made the announcement Tuesday about new jobs.

Draftco, Inc, a machine and fabrication shop, settled there in 1965, as a fully equipped precision job shop with highly skilled craftsmen who have the capabilities to meet most any need involving conventional machine work, Computer Numerical Control machine work, welding and fabrication work, sheet metal fabrication, and machine and equipment building.

The announcement that the company will invest $450,000 to expand its manufacturing operation and create 16 new jobs was good news for the local economy.

Tracy Pyles (I-Pastures District), Chairman of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, noted that local jobs are always welcomed. “With a rich history vested in Augusta County, Draftco, Inc. has served as a leading machine and fabrication shop since the mid-1960s,” he said. “Having the chance to have home-grown jobs harvested by our eager and well-prepared young people brings a great since of pride to the County Board.”

“Draftco exemplifies a long-standing community business that provides skilled manufacturing jobs, good stable pay, and economic growth opportunities for our area,” said Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24th Senate District). He continued, “I am pleased the Commonwealth can assist with this expansion and insure the company’s vitality for another 50 years of business.”

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Water hose, 1; SWAC Girl, 0

Ten years ago this week we were dealing with equally hot and dry weather so while looking back through the archives, I came across this adventure. From July 27, 2007….

It was hot today in the Valley although very breezy — a hot breeze. I was outside working in the yard most of the day … weeding and deadheading flowers, trimming forsythia bushes and getting sweaty and tired … and the sun was hot. A late-afternoon thunderstorm ran me inside only to leave us with only thunder, lightning, and wind while all the rain went north of here.

When I went back outside after dinner to water my flowers, SWAC Husband was watering the tomatoes in the garden. I noticed a substantial leak in the hose so decided to try and scoot the leaky section to the garden so all that water would go on vegetables … except the hose didn’t cooperate. It twisted and turned and twisted again like a snake … I jumped and screeched and tried to throw it over the fence … it twisted back on me — yowie, that water was cold! — and … well, let’s just say I’m watered from head to toe!

Next time I’ll turn off the hose first. Got my towel; now I need to go outside and get back to work….

Water hose, 1; SWAC Girl, 0.

Summer 2017: 40 Things to Do In and Around Staunton, Va

Voted as one of America’s Top 20 Main Streets by Travel and Leisure magazine, the central Shenandoah Valley city of Staunton was also named one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America by Smithsonian magazine as well as many others who have discovered this quaint corner of Virginia.

With views east toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and west toward the Appalachians, Staunton is an historic slice of Virginia that offers restored Victorian homes, cozy downtown shops, and small-town atmosphere. Patriotic holidays find Beverley Street, the main thoroughfare that is lined with restaurants, store fronts, the Dixie Theater, the city courthouse, and old-fashioned lamp posts, lined with American flags. Be sure and check the Staunton Convention and Visitor Center Calendar of Events for all the latest happenings including art exhibits and live entertainment.

There’s lots to do during the carefree summer months so here are some places and events, in no particular order, that may appeal to those visiting the area.

1. Trolleys
A great way to get around downtown, Staunton’s two trolleys pick up and discharge passengers at stops located throughout the city. It’s one of the best deals around, and offers a way to see the city without driving. Cost is $0.25 a ride or free to visitors with tokens from the Visitor Center. More information can be found at the Staunton Visitors Center on New Street.

2. Wright’s Dairy-Rite
Ever heard of the country group The Statler Brothers? They grew up hanging out at the 1950s-era Wright’s Dairy-Rite Drive-In, and it is very much the same today. Pull to the curb, order from the authentic call box, and have a carhop deliver your freshly-cooked meal while listening to 50s music — hamburgers, onion rings, ice cream goodies, fries, and lots more. Or go inside to the 1950s-decorated interior complete with tables, booths, and a historical display of those who have visited over the years including the Statler Brothers and Virginia Governor/U.S. Senator George Allen. It’s a local favorite.

3. Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room
Ox-Eye Vineyards is owned by John and Susan Kiers who lovingly renovated an historic building in the Wharf area of downtown Staunton. The Tasting Room offers wine tastings of their varied selections of reds and whites. Ox-Eye Vineyards displayed at the 2012 Shenandoah Valley Wine and Jazz Festival at the Frontier Culture Museum, and in April 2013 the Washington Post named them one of the Top 10 Mid-Atlantic wineries to visit. Where did the name “Ox-Eye” come from? It’s the name of the common field daisy with a yellow center and white petals that grows all around Ox-Eye Farm. Hint: If you like white wines, try their Riesling and White Ox.

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Festivals, Saunders Brothers, Blue Ridge Mountains … just another day in paradise

By Lynn R. Mitchell

[Editor’s Note: With the unofficial start of summer behind us, here’s a rerun column about the variety of events and activities available in the Shenandoah Valley.]

??????????It’s summer with all the festivals and events that are available in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond so today we decided to spend the day just going where the wind took us. We plopped our straw hats on the back seat — I burst out laughing when I saw them and had to take a picture — and off we went. Our first stop was at our friends’ house near Crimora for a garage sale. After visiting a while and paying for our purchases, we headed to Waynesboro where the first day of the 2014 Extravaganza was going on.

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We were fairly early to this annual event that features spectacular fireworks, ahead of the crowds that began showing up by the time we left. Crafters, artists, games, pony rides, carnival rides, food vendors, and live entertainment … there was plenty to do. We enjoyed talking with local photographer Brent McGuirt (www.brentmcguirtphotography.com) whose stunningly beautiful work showcasing the Shenandoah Valley and beyond was on display. (Check out his Facebook page for his latest works.)

It was great to run into Bill and Jean Ann Bolling who were spending the weekend nearby in the cool of the mountains.

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Memorial Day 2017 … Small Town Honors Fallen With Moment of Silence

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The annual Memorial Day tribute in front of our house from my Air Force Vietnam-era veteran husband.

On this Memorial Day weekend, a special memory comes to mind that epitomizes the meaning of the day.

It was Memorial Day in 2009 in the central Shenandoah Valley. My sister and I had made a last-minute trip to the local Food Lion in Staunton for a forgotten cookout item when now-retired manager Dan Pritchett’s voice came over the intercom at the Coalter Street store. In his soft southern voice, he addressed employees and customers:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is Memorial Day. The store will shut down for the next 60 seconds as we observe a moment of silence in honor of America’s fallen heroes.”

Perhaps this is one of the things I love most about living in a small town.

Dan Pritchett

News Leader photo

It was 3:00 pm on Memorial Day, the time of the national moment of silence. The cashiers stopped checking out customers. Muzak was turned off. Customers paused in aisles while employees ceased working. The store was essentially shut down and for the next 60 seconds all observed a moment of silence for America’s fallen military heroes. Among those was an uncle I never knew, a casualty of battle in Germany just six weeks before the end of World War II in Europe.

Thanks to Mr. Pritchett, the small town of Staunton in western Virginia paused to remember … this town that is home to the Stonewall Brigade, the 116th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army National Guard, founded in 1741 and active during the Civil War, World War II, and most recently deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan … this community that turns out when troops deploy and return from battle.

It is also home to the Statler Brothers whose “More Than a Name on a Wall” is their own hauntingly poignant tribute to those who died for God and country, and returned home draped in the American flag: “She said, ‘Lord my boy was special and he meant so much to me. And oh I’d love to see him just one more time, you see. All I have are the memories and the moments to recall. So Lord could You tell him he’s more than a name on a wall.’ ”

Freedom is not free….

Staunton area community welcomed home the Stonewall Brigade in 2011 after deployment to Iraq.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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Frontier Culture Museum ‘Pay What You Will’ on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day Monday, May 29, the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton will celebrate May Fair and, best of all, it will be a “Pay What You Will Day” so you decide how much to pay for admission: pay a little, pay a lot, or pay nothing at all.

During the 16 years that we educated our children at home, our one-income family lived on a tight budget and often could not take in all the historical sites we wanted to see so a “pay what you will” admission is helpful for families who are in the same place.

If you have never experienced the Frontier Culture Museum, or if you’ve been multiple times throughout the years, Monday will be a great time to join in the fun, enjoy hands-on history, explore the early days of 1600s England, 1700s Ireland, 1700s Germany, pioneer America, and 1700s West Africa. Interact with on-site historical interpreters dressed as the country they represent as they go about the daily tasks of the time — cooking, spinning, basket weaving, gardening, and other chores common to the time period.

Stroll the trail between the Old Country and pioneer Early America. Linger at the forge in Ireland and watch the smithy at work. Pause to talk with the animals — sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens. Explore the Indian village. Stop by the rustic 1740s log cabin, then discover how early American housing advanced with the 1820s and 1850s American farm houses. Peek inside the school house.

Bring the entire family from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm to experience the living history, enjoy lunch on the Museum’s Pavilion with live musical entertainment, and visit the Artisan Vendor Fair in the Courtyard throughout the day.

ARTISAN FAIR:  (9:00 am – 5:00 pm) 
Shop the artisan craft booths located in the Museum’s newly expanded courtyard throughout the entire day. Visit the caricaturist, face painter, and ballon twister too!

FOOD VENDORS:  (9:00 am – 5:00 pm)
Area food vendors will be on hand beginning at 9:00 am.

LIVING HISTORY ACTIVITIES:

  • Old World Exhibits: (9:00 – Noon)
    • West Africa: Drum and Dance/Gardening
    • England: Green Woodworking/Herbals in the Garden
    • Ireland: Natural Dyeing/Spinning
    • Germany: Games/Gardening
      .
  • Lunch: (Noon – 2:00)
    • Pavilion:  Take a lunch break under our covered pavilion or at the picnic tables
  • America Exhibits:  (2:00 – 5:00)
    • Ganatastwi: Clay cooking pot construction/ Fire Starting
    • 1740’s Settlement: Court Days and Militia Drill
    • 1820’s American Farm: Bread oven baking/Doll making
    • 1850’s American Farm: Basketmaking
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Bear Under the Deck

A bumping outside the window woke me this morning around 4:00. Edging over to the open window, I listened to the bump and then heard the snort.

Bear.

Our garbage cans are kept under the deck. Only one had trash — one bag — but the full-grown black bear was in the process of knocking them all over to be sure there wasn’t anything more than what he was able to drag out and spread all over the ground.

I shined my small flashlight out the window and caught the shadowy outline of our woodland visitor. Padding across the carpeted floor, I gently shook a sleeping Mr. Mitchell.

“Hmm?” he responded, groggily. Guys sleep through anything.

“There’s a bear in the trash,” I whispered. I wasn’t sure what he could do about it but it seemed only reasonable that I should share this pre-dawn moment by disrupting his sleep.

He stumbled out of bed and disappeared into his man cave, coming back with a handheld spotlight. Did I hear him say it was a million watts? Whatever it was, it was bright.

Positioning himself at the widow, he pointed the spotlight in the direction of the bumping and snorting. There it was … a full-grown black bear pawing through our discarded water bottles, empty cans, used paper towels, and all the other assorted odds and ends found in the family trash.

With iPhone in hand, I snapped some photos but the combination of darkness, the screen on the window, and distance made it difficult to get a clear picture. The bear ate. I took pics. The bear pawed through the pile. More pics. More pawing and eating.

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What’s Blooming in the Yard Today….

What was blooming in the yard today? After two nights with 30-degree overnight temps which required covering tender plants and flowers with plastic, everything not only survived but seemed to thrive in today’s sunshine and temps in the mid-60s. Purple salvia continues to bloom into its second week while the pink and white peonies blossomed under the hothouse-like plastic.

Irises

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Ox-Eye Vineyards Offers Wine Tastings and Fun in Downtown Staunton

A hidden gem to Staunton is being discovered by visitors as well as locals. On Saturday we joined friends for the Sears Hill Bridge dedication in downtown Staunton and enjoyed lunch at the Clocktower Restaurant before walking to the Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room on Middlebrook Avenue. The day was beautiful so we sat outdoors on the patio and enjoyed a tasting and glasses of award-winning wine from Ox-Eye Vineyards.

 

Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room is located in the Historic Wharf District of downtown Staunton in a 1904 building designed by noted architect T.J. Collins. After sitting vacant for years, it was carefully and tastefully renovated by the Kiers.

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A Look Back: Staunton’s First ‘Bridge Day’

[Over the weekend Staunton celebrated “Bridge Day.” Here’s a look back at “Sears Hill Bridge Day offers festive atmosphere in historic downtown Staunton” held on April 13, 2013.]

Sears Hill Bridge Day in Staunton, Virginia – Noon on April 13, 2013 – Dedication of the refurbished foot bridge over the railroad tracks connecting the Sears Hill neighborhood to the Historic Wharf District of downtown Staunton. It was reminiscent of a Mayberry day with the local Stonewall Brigade Band providing music, balloons, and a turnout of citizens from throughout the region to join in the festive mood. City Council members and other local dignitaries joined in with business owners and others.
The crowd spilled out onto the cobblestone parking area and into the street including ladies dressed in Victorian attire.

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It’s Spring … Get Your Hands In the Dirt Part 2

??????????Hands in the dirt … time to plant spring flowers and garden vegetables.

Dirt … spring planting sunshine … outdoors.

??????????Window box choices.

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??????????Lavender and rosemary.

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Get Your Hands in the Dirt

Plants from Milmont Nursery wait to be potted … Hanging baskets look skimpy now but will be overflowing in a couple of months …

Working in the potting shed under the deck …

Lawn furniture is in place along with the hammock for summer lounging …

Terra cotta pots wait for flowers….

Dirt … spring planting sunshine … outdoors.

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