March 31, 2008

Demolition Man

Frank has demolished about 80% of the kitchen. Our contractor showed up today and removed the plywood that was under the tile and took a load of debris to the dump.

March 30, 2008

More on the Zirkle Mill

For our library speaker program yesterday, we had Robert Andrews speaking on the Zirkle Mill in Forestville, VA. He's done a tremendous amount of research and showed us images of records that helped him date the mill back to the 1760's. For instance, the mill provided 6 barrels of flour to the Continental Army in 1781 (when they were facing the British at Yorktown). That indicates that it is older than most mills still standing in the Shenandoah Valley.

Mr. Andrews and Sherryl Belinsky purchased the mill in January 2006. They are descendants of the Zirkle family who came to Forestville from Pennsylvania in 1753 and founded the mill. Andrews and Belinsky plan to give the mill to the Old Dominion Preservation Foundation which was founded to save the mill from being dismantled and moved away from its original location.

I couldn't help thinking that my mother would have enjoyed that lecture. She liked old mills and covered bridges - examples of technology and architecture from the past.
forestville grist mill
Previous Post Forestville's Gristmill

Historical Marker: Andrew Zirkle Mill

March 29, 2008

The View from the Church at Jerome

Yesterday I was driving home from errands in Woodstock and Winchester and the afternoon light was pretty and the sky had dramatic clouds. One place with a clear view of the sky is the Lutheran Church on the hill in Jerome (Virginia). I've posted photos of views from Jerome before and even a picture of the church at sunset.

Here are some of yesterday's views. Yes, that's a gas pump in front of the building across from the church entrance.

It's pretty country and it's on the way home from Woodstock if I take the long route, leaving 42 to head west at Columbia Furnace. This may be a better route to take for a while if road construction slows down traffic on route 42. A sign says that construction starts this coming week and to expect 15 minute delays.

dramatic clouds

March 28, 2008

Squirrel Kitsch

I've posted so many views from our deck I'll bet they're getting monotonous. So I posed this salt and pepper shaker carrying figurine on the rail, incorporating a view, a squirrel, and a ridge in the photograph. 

March 27, 2008

We've Started the Kitchen Project

kitchenWe are remodeling the kitchen. We've talked about it for over a year, and worked with a designer since last summer. But we didn't go ahead and order the cabinets until about a month ago. They will be here in April.

Frank is doing some of the demolition of the old kitchen himself. Then our contractor will come in to build the half-wall before the cabinets arrive.

Today we moved the fridge out of the way, got the "secret house" ready to use as a temporary kitchen, and removed a few boards. Tomorrow we start packing everything in the cabinets. Some of it will go up to the apartment and some we'll put in the garage.

Tomorrow I meet with Nancy again to try to finalize the selection of the countertop. We've selected several before but they turned out to be expensive. Frank and I are both somewhat frugal. (Hey, did I hear a snicker out there? Okay, so maybe we're cheap.)

I still haven't found the oven I want. I'd like a slide-in downdraft range with electric coils, self-cleaning and convection oven. We can actually get a Jenn-air with all this but the controls are just about impossible to read without stooping low and using a magnifying glass. Considering the high price of a Jenn-air, the controls should be legible. So we can get a non-downdraft with everything but the convection feature, which seems to come only on the glass-top ranges. I don't want glass-top because they scratch if you use cast iron cookware plus a lot of people are not happy with them because you have to scrape them clean.

A possible solution is to purchase the cooktop and oven separately and have a cabinet built to house them but talk about pricey... and as you know, we are frugal.

Left: Above the garage is an efficiency which the grandkids call the secret house and Marie calls the Fonzie apartment.

March 26, 2008

Star Fort

I was pleased to read in a local paper that the Star Fort in Winchester will be preserved. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation now owns the property and is preparing to put up a fence and begin restoration.

I was at Star Fort on a field trip in 2004 and it was apparent then that the fort was suffering. It looked neglected and development was encroaching on it. Since then, it has suffered erosion from all terrain vehicles being driven on it.

These are pictures I took there in 2004. There are more on my Civil War field trip site.

star fort

How I got elected...

It sounded like a small favor. Someone asked me to serve on the CSDA board, and they usually have just one board meeting a year. I wouldn't have to drive to Maryland to attend because they could hook me up on a conference call.

I haven't been to any of their lectures in years but I maintain a basic website for CSDA. So okay, I said I would serve on the board.

During the meeting last week, the slate of officers was announced. Unfortunately, the nominee for vice president decided to decline for privacy reasons. (As a not-for-profit organization, the officers are a matter of public record, and will be listed in publications and on the internet.) Anyway, I was asked to serve as vice president and was pretty much assured that I would not have to serve as president, at least not for more than a very short time.

My previous experience with another nonprofit board was not much different. People don't compete to be officers; more often, they try to avoid it.

March 25, 2008

A Shetland Visitor

Scamp spent the day with us while his people went to Northern Virginia. He seemed to have a calming influence on Ben after a few initial protests.

I tried to let them play together but they were both pretty independent.

Just Practicing

I'm playing around with the lessons from my Photoshop class.

Our textbook, Advanced Design Techniques in Adobe Photoshop CS2,textbook is huge, and my progress is very slow. I really need to work harder at it.

March 24, 2008


I fell this morning. Slipped on ice on our front deck. Landed in the driveway on my left leg, which got all scraped up and bruised. Fortunately, nothing was broken.

I did not see the ice on my way out the door. I saw that the deck was damp, but with the temperature at 36 F, I was not expecting it to be slippery. 

Officially, the season is spring, and yesterday was Easter and we have daylight savings time, so I've been thinking it was spring. However, there was a dusting of snow on the trees when I first got up this morning.  So I should have been more careful.

March 22, 2008

Lake Laura Dam to be Upgraded

The Lake Laura dam needs be upgraded to meet current Virginia standards, which are more stringent than they used to be.

Here's a couple of pictures of the dam that I took today. The first one shows the dam in the distance, and an old stone wall is in the foreground. I walked to the far right and up a hill to take the picture below, which shows the dam and its spillway, which flows into Stoney Creek.

damThe dam is owned by the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Bryce Resort uses the water of Lake Laura for snow-making in the winter and operates swimming and boating facilities on it in the summer. On the other side of the lake is a basic boat ramp managed by the state. That area can be reached from Orkney Springs using Happy Valley Road - see the Shrinemont map.

See also my previous posts for pictures of the swimming area and the boat ramp area.

A Pond in Basye, VA

This pond lies just below the Lake Laura dam on Stoney Creek. Ben and I took a walk there today.

On the hill to the left is a row of condos.

March 21, 2008

Easter is Coming

Easter will be earlier than usual this year.

Here's an Easter photo from many years ago.

Lynn and Marie

Ben watches leaves blowing

We just had a VERY windy day. Ben likes to chase leaves, and if he can't get outside, he'll watch them blow around from inside.

March 20, 2008

Another Squirrel Photo

Here's a squirrel picture I took a few weeks ago. The diagonal white line is the edge of a ski slope, and it was still visible today. Even though today was the first day of spring, I saw people skiing today.

Marie in Colombia

Don't miss my daughter Marie's trip to Colombia with her friend Craig.

March 19, 2008

Pond Photo, Not 100% Realistic

Pond at Shrine Mont, Orkney Springs

green pond
Another P-shopt image: This picture looked dull. The pond was a dull yellow-green and the surroundings had no contrast because the sky was overcast. Some experimenting in Photoshop brightened everything up.

To start, I made a copy of the background layer for experimenting. That way I can lessen the effect or multiply using layer blending choices. I multiplied the colors here, as you can probably tell. I added a dry brush filter and sandstone texture - hard to see that with this little picture, but I have a 5 MB version that I'll have printed. Don't know if I'll like it enough to hang on the wall; I have an awful lot of enlargements already. Maybe one day I'll sell some at a local crafts show.

March 18, 2008

Garden overlooking the Pacific

Here we see two photos I took when we were in Palos Verdes a month ago.

flowers and wallOr is it one photo?

My picture of these flowers at Wayfarer's Chapel was a bit washed out, and the sky was just white space. Using Photoshop, I added another picture that I took there, one of the ocean, and just made it visible in the windows. Then I saturated the flowers and applied a couple of filters (watercolor and texture) to give it a painted look. After all, if it's an artificial photo, I like it to look like art, not just trick photography.

Playing with the Template

Sometimes I hit the Next blog button to see what other blogs are out there. Couldn't help noticing that a lot of them look like mine, as far as the same background and colors. That's because I've been using one of the standard Blogger templates, that is, "Dots Dark" designed by Douglas Bowman, with a dark polka-dot background and matching font colors.

Well, I decided to make some changes. For now at least, the posts will have a solid background, although I'm keeping the dotted background along the side. I replaced a large-dot graphic at the top with a bar of three flowers that I made. After experimenting with different font colors, I kept most of the ones that came with the template because they go with the dotted background, although I did change the color of the blog title to bright blue to match a morning glory in my little graphic.

Useful resource: Web colors at

March 17, 2008

The Trail Above the Duck Pond

At Shrine Mont, March 14: If you head up the mountain a little way from the pond by the tennis court, you climb up to a rock formation. On the other side of the rock is a wooden stairway going downhill. I'm pretty sure this trail connects with the trail from the stone church.

Ben and I did not try to navigate the stairway. A sudden lunge on his part could pull me down the stairs, and besides, we had walked far enough. We headed back the way we came. My feet slid a little bit on a steep stretch where several inches of leaves covered the trail, but we made it back to the pond without me falling.

Water Rushing over the Dam

Right: Close up of the dam at Bridgewater. To me, the rock looks like an eye.

Farther down the North River, it joins the South River to form the South Fork of the Shenandoah.

Do you like the roar of rushing water? Play the little video below.

For directions see: Wildwood Park

March 16, 2008

At the River in Bridgewater

Allison visited yesterday and we took her to Bridgewater and Dayton. I took these pictures by the dam on the North River.


After leaving the park, we spent some time in the Dayton Farmers Market. We had lunch at Southern Kitchen in New Market so that Frank could have some of their tasty pie.


March 14, 2008

Book: Lincoln's Melancholy

Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness
by Joshua Wolf Shenk, read by Richard Davidson, Audio CD version.

lincolnI enjoyed the audiobook version of Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. I found it entertaining and thought-provoking.

Shenk provided a detailed biography of Lincoln interspersed with musings on psychology and related topics. He points out that modern culture has unfairly criticized depressives as negative people, with only a minority of scientists pointing out that depressed people may actually be more realistic than optimists. Some researchers have postulated that "happiness itself could be considered a mental disorder." In light of the threats facing mid-19th century America, Lincoln was more in touch with what was likely to happen than his happier peers. Shenk also shows that Lincoln's long-standing depression contributed to some of his outstanding character traits, such as his desire to be of service to his country and an unwavering determination to complete necessary tasks, no matter how unpleasant. This made him strong enough to lead his country through an incredibly bloody war.

Shenk finishes the book with a discussion on Lincoln's biographers and how historians inject their own prejudices into published research. The final CD concludes with an interesting interview with the author.

Moreland Gap in Early March

road in mountains
Moreland Gap Road runs between Fort Valley and Meems Bottom (famous for its covered bridge). I stopped along it last week to take a picture of the creek.

See my autumn picture of Moreland Gap Road.

the babbling brook as seen from the road.


March 13, 2008

Things I learned in Sears today

We went to Winchester (VA) to look at appliances this afternoon.

A friend loves her convection oven so I looked at some for our kitchen remodel which is scheduled for April. The GE Profile sounded good but I was surprised when I read the literature for their Advantium models. You set the time and item selector and the oven's computer decides whether to add convection and microwave cooking.

What if I don't want to microwave my meal? The literature does not indicate whether you can say NO to microwaving.

Although most supposed "risks" from microwaving are not proven, the loss of vitamin B12 has been well documented. And getting enough B12 from our diets is challenging enough.

Well, at least a regular oven is a lot cheaper.

Also, while in Sears I picked up a Lands End flannel shirt and read this on the tag: "The raised surface of cotton can singe if exposed to flames or intense heat especially if you use fabric softeners." Wow! I didn't know fabric softeners increased flammability. I avoid them because they add a bad smell, even the "natural" ones, and because those of us with sensitive skin need to avoid extra chemicals. Besides, I don't need fabric softeners. My dryer softens towels, and natural fabrics don't get static-y like synthetics do.

flower bar

A Simple Video Map of the Civil War

Awesome little video: The Civil War in Four Minutes. Every second equals a week. Keep your eye on the casualty ticker - the losses are shocking even though I've heard them before.

March 12, 2008

Today at the Tennis Court

We don't have a dog park around here. Sometimes people let their dogs run inside the tennis courts.
cocker spaniel

A Walk on Monday

Sometimes I talk Frank into going for a walk with Ben and me. Here they are at Shrine Mont near the pond.
man and dog

Stonewall's HQ in Elkton

Stonewall Jackson slept here. (And here... and here... and here and here...) General Jackson is still a popular hero in the Shenandoah Valley. Many of the places that he stayed or fought have been preserved for posterity.

This one is the Miller Kite House in Elkton, Virginia. It's open on Sunday afternoons in the summer and on certain special event days otherwise. I think one is coming up but I can't find the article.

I took these photos in September. I also have a picture of the Civil War Trails Marker but won't take up space with it here. You can see J. Prat's picture of the sign with it's text here.

A nice thing about the Civil War Trails organization is that they post directional signs on the main road to make it easy to find the markers. Thus you can find this museum easily from route 340 even though it's on a side street.
miller kite house

The interior contains items from the period and a small museum.

museum caseshallway

March 11, 2008

Rose Hill in Front Royal

I went to Front Royal on Sunday to shop at Better Thymes Natural Foods and Martin's. I took my camera along with the idea of taking some photographs of historic sites since it was a sunny day.

This is Rose Hill, an estate that saw action during the Civil War. (Don't be confused - there are a lot of Rose Hills, including one at Kernstown which also saw action in Jackson's Valley Campaign.)

There's a Civil War Trails Marker nearby but it's pretty much out of sight of the house. I walked around the block and saw that the house has an almost identical facade on the other side (below).

rose hillInterestingly, the front and back of the house have another section in between. Okay, that's a confusing sentence. Look at the picture on the right.

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is not open to the public.

March 10, 2008

Bridgewater College

Last week I met daughter Lynn for lunch in Mt. Crawford. After lunch I decided to stop in Bridgewater to take a picture of the college there for the Historical Marker Database site. I had noticed that they already had a picture of the marker and an old building but had published a request for another campus photo. I took one of the McKinney Center, below.
campus building
I also took a picture of one of the old buildings on campus, now used for administration (next picture). The markers database already had a photo like that so this one is for my own collection (and your edification).

You can easily find Bridgewater by taking the main road west from the Mt. Crawford exit on I-81. You reach the college just before your reach route 42. I published some photos of the river at Bridgewater in November. It's a neat town.

March 9, 2008

View from Fort Valley Road

If you take Fort Valley Road from the Luray area to Camp Roosevelt, you see some nice mountain views. In the distance you can see the South Fork of the Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

March 8, 2008

The other evening

Our days are getting longer. Yay! Here's the sunset a couple of days ago as seen from our deck.