Category Archives: Virginia

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.


??????????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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The Road Home is West Toward the Mountains and Setting Sun

I have a love affair with the mountains that began years ago. While driving the back country road toward home this evening, I snapped a photo of the setting sun behind the Appalachians west of Staunton, and smiled.

I love where I live.

Throughout the years there has been camping. Hiking. Picnicking. Leisurely drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. Snow skiing Wintergreen. Wading in creeks. Swimming in mountain lakes. Snowtubing at Massanutten. Sharing my mountain love with my children, and taking them to the places I knew as a child.

I never tire of the beauty, one of the lucky ones to live in the shadow of the Blue Ridge and Appalachians. And at the end of the day, I can rock on the porch or sit on the garden bench and look out over the sweet Virginia landscape, and be grateful for where I live.

My love affair with the mountains continues, and probably always will….

First Day of Spring 2017

The first day of Spring arrived at 6:29 this morning and, in Virginia, it comes after a lackluster winter that saw little snow and wildly fluctuating temperatures with plenty of spring-like days.

This first day of spring is brought to you by the animated spring equinox Google doodle. Click here to see the latest in a line of creative entertainment from the premiere search engine — but hurry because it will only be there one day — March 20, 2017.

Spring equinox marks the time of year when day and night are equal — 12 hours each — and then days become longer until the summer equinox on June 21. This year it offers the pleasing nugget of being on a Monday. Kind of take the edge off this first day of the week, doesn’t it….? Spring flowers, spring temperatures, spring sunshine, spring cleaning.

Enjoy spring!

Photo by Mark Robbins


Nor’easter Stella Predicted To Drop Substantial Snow On Virginia

Do you want to build a snowman? Hunker down because some who live in the path of the impending March nor’easter named Stella could see up to two feet of snow, and substantial amounts have been predicted along the East Coast from New England through the Carolinas. With such high snow totals, it’s sure to be boom or bust, depending on location.

In Virginia, the predicted snow comes on the heels of a relatively mild winter that seemed to have more up-and-down temperatures than usual. With the first day of spring a week away, this wintry forecast may seem like a cruel joke but it is March in Virginia so nor’easter blizzards are not unusual.

It’s worth noting that Stella is on a similar path as the March 11-13, 1993, winter “Storm of the Century” that hit the East Coast twenty-four years ago, causing 310 deaths, billions of dollars in damage, and had record low temps as well as thundersnow, extra high winds, and tornadoes. Stella is not predicted to be a repeat of 1993.

As a sad side note, Washington, D.C.’s famous cherry blossoms, expected to peak this weekend which is early because of the warms temps of winter 2016-17, are in danger from winter conditions that are the harshest since record keeping began in 1921. Northern Virginia and the nation’s capital have the potential to see up to a foot of snow.

At our house west of Staunton in the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we are under a winter weather watch. The forecast as of Monday morning was suggesting we are in the path for 4-8 inches of snow that will begin between 6-8pm, high winds, and overnight lows in the 20s. Temps through Thursday are expected to top out at daytime highs in the low- to mid-30s with overnight lows in the teens. Areas north of here are expecting much more wintry precipitation.

The National Weather Service as well as numerous weather outlets will be updating throughout the storm. The Weather Channel’s head meteorologist Jim Cantore was in Boston on Monday with a platoon of other TWC weather watchers on location through the storm area.

Wherever you are, and whether you’re expecting snow, rain, or nothing at all, be safe and keep a weather eye to the sky.


Virginia Brunswick Stew Recipe


Baby, it’s cold outside! On this chilly, early March Sunday with below-freezing temps, it’s a good time for a steaming bowl of Brunswick stew — hot and filling and yummy.

From the cookbook, Virginia Hospitality: A Book of Recipes From 200 Years of Gracious Entertaining, is the Brunswick stew recipe I have used for years. As with any cook, I have variations (in parentheses). Stew is best when the flavors are given time to meld together so I often make mine the day before it will be served. The recipe easily doubles and triples for larger groups. Enjoy!

Brunswick Stew
1 whole chicken, cut up (I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 onion, quartered
2 ribs celery, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
16 ounces white shoepeg corn
10 ounces frozen small butterbeans
1 pound canned tomatoes
2 small potatoes, cubed (I double or triple that amount)
1/3 cup ketchup
2-3 Tablespoons vinegar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon marjoram (I omit)
2-3 Tablespoons butter

Place chicken in Dutch oven and add enough water to cover well. Add onion, celery, salt, and pepper. Boil until chicken comes off bones easily. Remove chicken to cool and add corn, butterbeans, tomatoes, potatoes, ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar; cook 2 hours or until tender. Remove chicken from bones or shred chicken breasts and add to vegetables along with Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, marjoram, and butter. Serves 6-8.

Note: Vary amount of water for thick or soupy stew. Add a cube of chicken bouillon after the first or second serving.

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March Events at Augusta County Library



There’s lots going on at the Augusta County Library during March. Be sure to check the website for all the latest, and to sign up for the e-newsletter to stay informed of upcoming events. Below are the special events for March. Happy reading!


The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
March 2017   |
Introducing Our New Logo

Check out these new releases!

February 2017’s Volunteer of the Month

Meet Keith! Keith Bell is a student at Riverheads High School, but is a well known young man around the library.As a child, he loved the library and began volunteering in middle school.  His favorite subject in school is English and he loves reading and writing as well as movies and music of all kinds. Learn more.

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UVa’s President Sullivan Announces 2018 Retirement


On Friday as University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan announced her retirement that will take place in the summer 2018, she asked that the Board of Visitors to begin the search for her replacement.

In an email message to faculty, staff, and students, Sullivan wrote:

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Congratulations JMU — FCS National Champs


While I don’t normally post about sports, the FCS championship win Saturday by James Madison University is worth celebrating, not just because it is a Valley school, but because it is my son’s alma mater.

Located in Harrisonburg in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, JMU’s fans reportedly filled three-fourths of the stadium in Frisco, Texas, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Indeed, purple overwhelmed the stands.

JMU scored early in the game and led from then on. The score was much more lopsided until the closing minutes of the game when Youngstown got a touchdown to make it a closer 28-14 ending.

Congratulations, JMU! You’ve made your students, faculty, alumni, and Virginia proud.

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Welcome 2017 … a Look Back at 2016


It’s New Year’s Eve and we’ve decided on a quiet evening after weeks of activities with friends and family. Freshly back in town, I’m content to sit in the light of the Christmas tree on this dark and cold December night with a fire in the woodstove and the outdoor holiday lights turned on to brighten the darkness.

Looking back on 2016, I’m grateful on many levels. In January I happily rejoined Bearing Drift after a 1.5-year hiatus. In February I celebrated 10 years in the Virginia conservative blogosphere. Writing is my passion and politics is my hobby. This year they both took a hit with the crazed primaries and election that left some with many questions. I still continue my blog with postings about my back road ramblings, sights along the way, and photographs of where I’ve been.

Politics continues to be a swamp with back-stabbers who follow power and change sides on a whim. Those who are truly loyal are a tiny number, not just in politics but life in general.

A few highlights from the year….

It was a happy day in June when former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was exonerated when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously threw out his corruption conviction with an 8-0 decision. It left the former governor free but in debt for millions of dollars after his defense against an overzealous federal government.


2016 started with a blizzard in mid-January that dumped 18 inches of snow on the Valley with three-to-four foot drifts. The storm also affected most of the Commonwealth including Northern Virginia and Richmond.

The Republican presidential primaries and debates dominated the year. The GOP began with 18 candidates and whittled it down to one. The Super Bowl saw the Denver Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers. In March Virginians were saddened at the passing of Nelson County native Earl Hamner, author and co-creator of “The Waltons” TV show, and mourned the death of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, wife of President Ronald Reagan.

The Republican Party of Virginia held its state convention in Harrisonburg on the campus of James Madison University. Nelson County’s Devil’s Backbone Brewery was acquired by beer giant Anheuser-Busch. In Bedford, the 72nd anniversary of D-Day was commemorated with a ceremony held at the Memorial and attended by people from around the world. 2016 also marked the 30th anniversary of Hands Across America.

In July Democrats made history by nominating Hillary Clinton as the first woman presidential candidate of a major political party, and she chose Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. In November Americans elected Donald Trump as president.


A devastating flood hit West Virginia during the summer. A National Park warning went out about black bears; at Humpback Rock along the Blue Ridge Parkway a bear broke into a vehicle while at the northern end of Skyline Drive a bear killed a hiker’s dog.

In September, Natural Bridge became Virginia’s newest state park. In April, Shenandoah National Park had the second-largest forest fire in its history, consuming more than 10,000 acres. 2016 was the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attacks on America, and the tenth anniversary of the death of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.

There were many celebrity deaths during the year as well as notable names of those who are not as familiar but who made a mark on the world. The list of names is almost staggering, leading many to curse the fact that 2016 had taken so many, but blogosphere colleague Doug Mantaconis explains why there seemed to be so many:

… the reason that it appears that more celebrities are dying is a combination of several factors. First, many of the people who have died in the past year became celebrities during one of the biggest population increases in the history of the United States and other nations in the West, which means that there are more people to take notice of their passing and, likely, that there are more “famous” people than there used to be in the past.

Second, the rise of new technologies and new genres of music and other forms of entertainment means that there is more of a likelihood that any particular day, week, or month, will include the death of someone that some significant group of people consider famous for some reason.

Additionally, as I already noted, the existence of online social media and the Internet means that people are more likely to be exposed to things they otherwise might have missed in the past and that the news of someone passing away spreads more easily, and more rapidly than it ever has before. These phenomena also serve as a sort of shared community where people can share their grief over the passing of a favorite actor or singer.

To many 2016 was a good year. Others are glad to see it go. In a few hours, 2017 will roll in and we begin anew.

Happy New Year!

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

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2015: The year the fudge wouldn’t set and other Christmas thoughts

Christmas gifts 2Originally written Christmas Eve 2015….

It’s late Christmas Eve. I’m alone with the Christmas tree, “It’s a Wonderful Life” showing on the television, and my laptop. Everyone else has turned in for the night in preparation for a busy day tomorrow that will include family and friends.

When we look back on the historically warm Christmas of 2015, I think I will remember it as the year the fudge wouldn’t set up.

It’s been rainy with warmish temperatures most of Christmas week but today — Christmas Eve — the temperature was in the upper 60s, humidity was high, there was on-and-off rain, and we tried to stay cool by opening all the windows and doors — which didn’t help much in the kitchen. The oven was turned on by 10am to cook the ham for Christmas Day dinner, and it didn’t get turned off until 7pm as ham and casseroles were baked one after the other.

Fudge that was made Wednesday afternoon was still soft and not totally set when I cut it today so I scrapped plans to make toffee. The weather conditions just aren’t conducive for candy-making. And so it’s the Christmas that the fudge wouldn’t set.

Historic temperatures are in the forecast for Christmas Day all over the eastern part of the country. Friends from Williamsburg east to the beach had 80-degree temps today. Tomorrow … who knows? The warm temps will continue through the weekend.

It’s a far cry from the white Christmas many had hoped for … including me. Instead, we spent the day with windows and doors open, and ceiling fans set on high. My hair battled the humidity and lost as summertime frizzies set in.

In the Richmond area, not only were there high temps but also thunderstorms and downpours. Many reported running their air conditioning. Power outages were reported in the west end.

A wild outbreak of tornadoes spun off violent thunderstorms in Mississippi and Tennessee where seven people died including a seven-year-old boy. It’s sad to think of such tragedy especially at this time of year.

Toasty fires and visions of snow will have to wait, at least until after this week. Santa may get warm in that velvet red suit as he makes deliveries.

I think I’ll sit here and enjoy the lights and the quiet for a while longer. We’re all together, and that is all that matters. Merry Christmas to you and yours as the world pauses to celebrate the birth of a King….


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from

Christmas 12 lanternThe reason for the season….

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.” Luke 2:8-20

The true meaning of Christmas … a time for the Christian world to pause and celebrate the birth of the son of God.

As 2016 comes to a close, I are thankful for a successful year and especially for my readers who contribute and share the posts published at

It is a time to remember those who have special meaning in our lives. I am writing full-time and photo editor for, and still writing and posting pictures at The past year was busy.

February marked 10 years since I began writing in Virginia’s conservative blogosphere. January marks one year since I returned to Bearing Drift and that group of excellent political writers, strategists, and number crunchers.

Here’s to a great 2017 and another 10 years observing, writing, and taking pictures of politics and more. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Happy Birthday, Mike Thomas … and Thank You


Mike Thomas, First Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia’s State Central Committee, has a birthday today. What would Virginia Republicans do without this pillar of the party whose steady hand and even temperament have carried us through many rough patches. His institutional knowledge is legend — he is a walking encyclopedia of Virginia Republican politics. During the battles between factions that occur, he has worked with all sides, listening and mediating and seemingly always available.  For that, we owe him a big thank you. I hope he is enjoying his birthday without politics interfering for this one day.

I went through my photo archives and looked for pics of Mike from the past 14 years at Republican events around the Commonwealth. Here are a few of them. Thanks, Mike — your friendship and wisdom are truly appreciated. Happy Birthday!

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Olde Richmond’s Christmas of yesteryear … Miller & Rhoads holiday windows and Legendary Santa


How I do miss the department stores of downtown Richmond from years past. The Nordstrom and Macy’s of the day were Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimer’s, multi-story buildings that faced Broad and Grace Streets and sold clothing, toys, household items, and more.

Every year at Christmas, those stores became magical as they transformed into winter wonderlands, destinations for thousands of Virginia residents who traveled to Richmond to look in awe at animated displays inside the huge plate-glass windows, and visited inside for shopping, dining, or to visit Santa.

It was an annual event as my mother would dress up my sister and me in our Christmas dresses that she had sewn, usually matching miniature versions of hers and usually velvet, bundled us in our coats, white furry muffs and hats, and off we would go along with our Aunt Ruth for a special day in downtown Richmond.

Once downtown, we joined the crowds standing on the sidewalk and watched awe-struck as the animated, moving soldiers, woodland bears, miniature trains, animated dolls, and busy elves in workshops moved and twirled. Each window had a different theme. The two stores would compete with one another for the most entertaining and elegant windows … and the public was the richer for it.

Entering the department stores was a holiday wonder because everything was so big … the ceilings, the bright lights, the Christmas decorations, the escalators that took us up, up, up to the floors above. My sister and I had two stops on our agenda: the toy department and Santa Land.

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Virginia late autumn woods … the road home to the Shenandoah Valley


We took the back road home to Staunton from Richmond after the long Thanksgiving weekend, enjoying the late autumn leaves and winter woods along Rt. 250. A late-morning start had us ahead of expected heavy traffic as students returned to western Virginia universities and travelers began their journey home.




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