May 31, 2008

Sketching Faces

In drawing class, we are trying to draw people. Nancy had us copy drawings by respected artists. My first try looked okay although not really like the picture I was trying to copy. (Yes, the original looked effeminate too.)

This one is better. It was a simple image though.

There was another one that isn't worth showing you. Then in class, I worked from a mirror. Frank dislikes this because the expression is not happy. But copying from a mirror is not easy.

Resource: Loudoun Heights

I still get a fair number of site visits from people looking for information on the Loudoun Heights trail (sometimes misspelled Loudon).( I mentioned it here in 2006). Well, Craig Swain has posted a page on Loudoun Heights with a number of good photos on his Marker Hunter blog.

Craig is a contributor to the Historical Markers Database with expertise in Civil War sites, so I was glad to find his blog when I was looking for information on Third Winchester markers.

May 30, 2008

Along Route 7: Battle of Third Winchester

These markers along U.S. 7 remind us that a large battle took place here in 1864. Third Winchester, sometimes called the Battle of Opequon, was the largest battle of the struggle for control of the Shenandoah Valley.

Text for marker J 3:
Third Battle of Winchester

Here Confederate forces under General Jubal A. Early, facing east, received the attack of Sheridan’s army at noon on September 19, 1864. Early repulsed the attack and countercharged, breaking the Union line. Only prompt action by General Emory Upton in changing front saved the Union forces from disaster. At 3 P.M. Sheridan made a second attack, driving Early back to Winchester.

historical marker
Text for marker J 13:
Third Battle of Winchester

On a hill, approximately one-half mile to the west, Philip H. Sheridan established his final position on September 19, 1864. General Jubal A. Early held the ground one-half mile further to the west. At 4 P.M., Sheridan advanced with massed cavalry and infantry and broke Early's line.
Nearby is a historic home that is easily missed because it has been disguised by vines.
Woods House

Wood House, or Spout Spring

This house, now dilapidated, stands next to the Opequon Water Reclamation Facility. See the NPS page on Third Winchester for mention of Spout Spring. Interesting old photos of the house and nearby spring can be seen at

For information on touring the relatively unknown sites of this battle, see Third Winchester information at:

Historical Marker, Stephens City

This marker is in front of the Stephens City Post Office on Route 11 just north of the historic district.

General David Hunter ordered the burning of this town on May 30, 1864; but Major Joseph Streans of the First New York Cavalry prevented it.

Sounds like there's more to the story, doesn't it? Read the rest at the Newtown History Center page of the Civil War.

May 29, 2008

Unplug those chargers!

Y'all know to unplug your chargers when not needed, right? This saves energy but more significantly, electrical chargers occasionally cause fires - not often, fortunately, but once in a while a charger or battery is defective and can put off sparks or worse.

I was reminded of this today when I looked up the Apple Powerbook class action settlement. Some users have reported that their laptop chargers put off sparks, catching nearby papers on fire, even ruining the computer! Anyway, I got an email the other day saying I can participate in a class action settlement if my laptop belongs to a rather large group of Powerbooks and iBooks. Rather than click on the link in the email ('cuz you never know if such an email is legit), I searched for info on the case. The URL matches the one in the email and the site appears legitimate. See the FAQ at

I have to admit I leave devices charging at night - probably not a 100% safe thing to do. We always unplug all chargers when we go out though. We also unplug heat-producing small appliances such as the coffee-maker and toaster, just in case. It only takes a few seconds and could prevent a fire, say if a switch stopped working.

May 27, 2008

Yesterday's Evening Sky

Norm Butman

Our community has lost another great citizen. Norman Butman passed away this weekend during heart surgery. His death was a shock because he was vital and active until his last day. He was still working and volunteering, often commuting to Northern Virginia to teach.

Norm and his wife lived right behind where we used to live. They had a lovely log home built on the lot behind ours, with a huge stone fireplace and geothermal heat.

Norm was an experienced instructor in first aid and CPR and conducted several courses here in Basye including a lecture for the library and CPR classes for the Lions Club. He liked helping people.

I talked to his wife yesterday and was surprised to learn that he was from Roscommon, Michigan, which is only 30 miles from where my Aunt Clarice used to live in Rose City.

May 26, 2008

Two More Pics from Historic Stephens City

I took these photos after the parade and a block away. First, a couple who drove their old tractor in the parade make their way home.

Stephen's City is not really a city so much as it is a town. The Wikipedia page on Stephen's City estimates its 2006 population at 1,446. [There's a surprising amount of detail about the town's history on that page, check it out!]

I've mentioned Stephen's City on this blog before, particularly at a Spring field trip with LFCC and a Greek Restaurant (which is actually across the interstate from the town).

Today is Memorial Day so I'm posting the grave marker of a Revolutionary War veteran who was buried behind the Stephen's City UMC. John B. Tilden "served his country during the revolutionary war as Captn" and "was a minister of the gospel." He lived from 1762 to 1838.

Parade in a Small Virginia Town

On Saturday we saw the Newtown Heritage Festival Parade. It's the 250th anniversary of the town, now called Stephen's City, which was founded in 1758.

The parade was not as elaborate as the one we saw a few years back on Woodstock's 250th anniversary, but it was fun and nostalgic.

The soldiers made me think that in some countries this is reality: armed soldiers policing the streets.

However, the military trucks had antique tags.

Above right: A float from Strosnider Farm.

Left: Revolutionary War Re-enactors

Parade Watchers

Above: The old-timey Newtown Emporium features "Sell on ebay" and "Fed Ex Shipping."

Left: Frank watched the parade from a shady spot on the curb.

May 25, 2008

More Scenes from the Parade

Here we see some of the groups in the Heritage Days Parade: the Just Say No club, a 4-H club, Stephen's City Mom's Club, Commercial Press, and Gore's Processing.

Sherando Marching Band

We went to Stephens City (between Middletown and Winchester) and watched the parade. Here's the high school band marching by.

May 24, 2008

New Activities at the Resort

girl climbing
jumping girlThis weekend some new attractions opened here at Bryce Resort. Youngsters seemed to be really enjoying them.

I've seen a climbing wall before, but the bungie-trampoline combination was new to me. Riders suit up in a sling-garment that is attached to a bungie cord hanging from arms way overhead. They jump on a trampoline and the bungie helps them fly way up in the air. Looks like fun!

May 23, 2008

Opequon Creek

This is the Opequon Creek as seen from Route 7 at the Frederick/Clarke County line. Not to be confused with the Occoquan River farther south, it is an historic body of water.

It was named for the Opequon tribe. George Washington spelled it Opeckon on a 1766 survey. It was a significant geographic feature in the Battle of Third Winchester, also called the Battle of Opequon.

May 22, 2008

Frustration with Penney's Home Decorating

Allow me to vent again. This time it's about vertical blinds that we did not receive.

We have two huge sliding glass doors that give us a nice view of the mountains. When we bought the house, it came with insulated shades that cover the windows at night -- very old insulated shades. We got tired of them coming out of their tracks and decided to replace them with vertical blinds.

Frank wanted to just buy a few sets and put them up but I really wanted them professionally done. I haven't been happy with vertical blinds in the past because we crimped the tracks slightly during installation and that made them hard to pull open and shut.

So we arranged for a home decorating visit from JCPenney's. After some initial confusion with their national office, a nice lady from the Winchester store came out in late winter and measured carefully and showed us countless samples. Finally we agreed on something and placed an order, paying half as a down payment. The installation date was set as the week of April 21.

I called JCP's the week before that and left a message asking when they would come. Got no answer and called twice the week of the 21st, getting an answering machine and leaving a message. When we still did not hear back, Frank called the store manager. After that the decorator called us and said she would call the installers. Later she called to say she left a message for them and would let us know.

The next week I called her cell phone and she said she would call them again. This was repeated several more times.

Four weeks after the original installation date, the supplier called to say that the blinds had been delayed and would be ready in July. "What!" I exclaimed. "That's two months from now!"

And three months late... so we canceled the order. Now we are back to deciding what to do about covering the windows.

May 21, 2008

View at Cool Spring

Location of the Battle of Cool Spring near Berryville, VA
Taken on the grounds of the Holy Cross Abbey

CD: Global Impact of the American Civil War

I have a lot of work to do on my recent field trip photos. In the meantime, I'll share a Chautauqua lecture by James McPherson that our county library has on CD.

The Global Impact of the American Civil War delivered by James McPherson. 1.25 hrs.
Recorded Books LLC, Great Lecture Library [2006]
This is a lecture given by noted author James McPherson. He discusses the attraction that the American Civil War holds for people in other countries and how they identify with the struggle for independence. On the other hand, our young nation's failure to end slavery had cost us the respect of many of freedom's admirers by the time our Civil War began. McPherson also explains that European aristocrats felt that our democracy was doomed and the secession of Southern States showed that common people were not capable of governing and holding a country together. The struggle for democracy in other countries might have remained uncommon had the Union failed to win the war.

May 20, 2008

On the road again

I try to post to this blog just about every day. Yesterday I could not because we went to Northern Virginia and did not get home until 1:15 this morning.

We worked on the vacant house in Dale City most of the day. Met with contractor Noel about painting the outside and upstairs of the house. Frank touched up the downstairs paint and replaced a broken toilet. He took down the old mini-blinds which were in bad shape and I purchased replacements.

We have not found a new tenant yet but should be able to now that the house is not so ugly. I hope so because the tenants in his Montclair townhome will be moving at the end of June so that home is up for rent also. It's pretty nice so should rent quickly.

We were really tired by the time we got home. Ben was frantic to get outside but had been good while we were gone. Poor guy -- we were not planning to be gone so long.

May 18, 2008

Recognition for our History Teacher

Congratulations to our field trip leader on being selected a Faculty of the Year at Northern Virginia Community College. Charles P. Poland, Jr. was presented with a certificate and engraved Jefferson Cup at a ceremony last month.

Dr. Poland teaches history at the Annandale  Campus and through the Extended Learning Institute. 

A number of his students (past and present) nominated him for the award. I was one of those who submitted a nomination form, having been informed of the award competition by another history student who has attended the field trips for many years.

Dr. Poland and his wife Betty put an incredible amount of effort into planning and leading the Civil War tours.

May 17, 2008

Iris at Monocacy


I took these pictures today at the New Jersey Monument at Monacacy Battlefield near Frederick, MD. This location is near the river and the parking lot is reached by what Prof. Poland called a "sneaky turn" - a sharp turn onto a small road that's easy to miss.

May 16, 2008

Tailgate party?

The picnic benches at Gordonsville were damp from last night's heavy rain, so some of my classmates ate standing up. I was one of the few who found a dry spot on the bench.

They were also saving time, since we spent more time touring the Exchange Hotel Museum than we intended.
people eating from trunk of car

Pam, John, Lynn, and Arch

These folks are all veterans of Dr. Poland's field trips. John and Arch have actually been taking the class much longer than I have, and this is my 19th year.

May 15, 2008

It's Raining...

Right now, it's pouring outside. We've had frequent rains lately so the weather service has issued flood warnings for our part of Virginia.

I hope the rain lets up before morning. I'm planning be in Gordonsville at 9 AM for a Civil War Field Trip. Saturday is another trip (Leesburg, Monocacy, Kernstown), followed by another one on Sunday (Harpers Ferry-Winchester). We are covering battles of 1864 affecting the Shenandoah Valley.

May 14, 2008

Cattle Call

One of the great things about living in the foothills of Great North Mountain is that every time you drive out to go shopping, you have a chance to see beautiful scenery and interesting things. We like seeing farm animals, especially the young ones.

Here are some cattle as seen near Dayton, Stephenson's Depot, and New Market.

May 13, 2008

How I got an Appalachian Dulcimer

We went to the Flea Market next to the Shenandoah County Landfill on Friday to look for a coat rack. At one booth I spied three handmade dulcimers hanging on the wall. "Oh, that's what you can get me for Mother's Day!" I told my husband. He didn't hear me so I showed them to him and repeated myself.

We asked the lady at the counter if the dulcimer prices were negotiable. She said the man who made them was here and she would get him. We talked to him (Ted Ferrell) and yes, he could give us a 10% discount. He said they were made of local woods.

The one Frank bought me is made of oak and sassafras with a walnut tailpiece. I don't remember how to play one if I ever did -- it's been 25 years since I tried. I've ordered a
book with a CD (Mel Bay First Lessons Dulcimer) to make it easier for me to tune it.

May 12, 2008

Everyone's sleepin' but the dog...

Allison spent the day with us Thursday and part of Friday. She needed a break from her busy job at a college. Looks like she adopted Frank's favorite method of taking a break.

Squirrel Sketch

Nancy Meyer is teaching drawing classes at the Old Pro Shop. For practice after the first class, I sketched a squirrel figurine.

May 11, 2008

It's Mothers Day

I've published several photos of my mother in the past. Here's a photo from a family gathering about five years ago.

Left to Right:
Seated: My mom's sister, Mom, my brother
Standing: My Sister and Me

My Father's Family of Origin

Here's an old photo of my father's sister and his parents. I never knew his father (he died in 1937) but his sister and mother were kind people.

Clarice, Charles and Leora Suiter

May 10, 2008

But the kitchen sink...

I'm not real happy with our new kitchen sink. We accidentally bought one that's extra-deep. I did not want that kind because it strains my back when I lean forward far enough to reach into it, but I didn't see the depth until it was installed. When we saw it displayed in Lowe's, it was ten feet up on the wall and did not look particularly deep. I liked the shape and it met our requirements - double sink, stainless, suitable for a laminate countertop.
Installing it was difficult for Stad the plumber because the cabinet door was narrower than under most sinks due to it being in a corner. And I don't like the way the countertop is cut in front of it - those little angles jutting out are not comfortable. 

I hope I can get used to all this because redoing the countertop and sink would be expensive. Not as expensive as moving though.

May 9, 2008

About the kitchen and our carpenter

Our kitchen is functional again. The remodeling is not complete; we must wait for additional trim and two replacement cabinets to be delivered. Yesterday Ken and Helmut cut travertine and glued it in place on top of the half-wall but did not grout it. They will do that when the trim arrives. (This is polished travertine that the previous owner of our house left in the basement.)

Helmut mentioned to Frank that he got training in building trades in East Germany. Intrigued, I got him how he came to the west. He and his mother were in the part of Germany that was given to Russia at the end of World War II. After his training, he worked in construction but a bad winter and floundering economy put an end to building projects.

One day he told his roommate, "If I don't come back, you can have my motorcycle jacket." That night he and his mother crossed the ice-covered Elbe River to reach the west. They succeeded but it was risky - not far down the same river, a group of people were shot trying to do the same thing.

When I commented that his story was exciting, he said that his mother's was more so. During the first World War, she fled her home as the Polish army approach. During the second World War, she fled again as the Russian army marched towards her town. And then eventually she risked her life with him to reach freedom.

May 8, 2008

Wildflower Trail, Massanutten

Before going to lunch in New Market yesterday, we took a short hike on the Wildflower Trail. It's at the Massanutten Visitors Center (which was closed) on US 211.

The trail follows the old New Market and Sperryville Turnpike, known to history buffs as a route taken by Stonewall Jackson's army on their way to Fredericksburg in 1862. (The 2nd Corps Civil War Trails marker is next to the trailhead). Route 211 does not precisely follow the route that the turnpike followed during the Civil War, so if you want to walk in Jackson's footsteps, take the Wildflower Trail.

The lady slippers were not blooming yet but the wild azaleas were pretty in pink.

May 7, 2008

Sunset in New Market

The other evening we spotted a nice sunset so we pulled off the road at a Civil War monument where I've taken pictures before. I zoomed-in on the orange patch of sky and got the photograph above.
Here's a broader view showing the location: the 54th Pennsylvania Infantry Monument along Route 11.