August 31, 2008

Two Pictures from this Spring

man with ice cream coneSummer is ending and I feel a bit sad that it's going. Except for a week or so last month, it hasn't been uncomfortably hot. Also, we had sufficient rain here in Shenandoah County so the green leaves have graced us all season, making the scenery gorgeous and delightful.

Here are two pictures from the start of the warm-weather season. Frank is enjoying soft-serve ice cream, and below we see a photo that he took of me and Peggy in the Outback parking lot in Winchester.

Another Group Photo

AM, FW, LW, MW (& Toby), BW

August 30, 2008

Lake Laura in August

We visited the beach at Lake Laura. Frank grumbled at the idea of the steep walk up the hill so I drove through the lake-side residential area until we came to the "Path to Lake" sign. I dropped them off there so they only had a short (and downhill) walk. Then I drove back to the parking lot below the dam and walked up. It was hot hiking up there in the sun but the lake looks lovely once you pass the dam.

The "beach" has only a small sandy area but there's room to relax on the hillside among the pines. There's a place to rent a small boat, but I believe it closes after Labor Day.

After hanging out a little while, we all walked down the path, taking care not to slide on the steep spots.

August 29, 2008

Nothing Like it in the World

I finished an audiobook called Nothing Like it in the World - The Men who Built the Trancontinental Railroad 1863-1869. It's by historian Stephen E. Ambrose, who also wrote a fascinating book about Lewis and Clark.
I enjoyed the story about the transcontinental railroad as an audiobook. It moved quickly and had enough excitement to seem like a novel. Actor Jeffrey DeMunn does an excellent job of reading the book to us with expression and clarity.

Ambrose manages to interweave the first part of railroad story with the concurrent events of the American Civil War. Abe Lincoln not only supported the idea of a transcontinental railroad, he took a personal interest in it and lent government support to it even though a war was going on. After the war ended and Lincoln died, other key figures from the Civil War turned their attention to the railroad, notably U.S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.

It's a really interesting story.

August 28, 2008

Check this out:

I read about Kiva and checked out the site. Wow! You participate in making loans to people who are struggling to make a living and need a little money to buy an ox or a pig or set up a little shop. You can join and loan $25 to the person or group that you choose from an extensive list.

Visit and read the press coverage and look at the people who are getting funding. The rate of default is very low.

Oh, in case you've forgotten what a kiva is, it's a Hopi term for an assembly room. Here's the definition: "A large chamber built under, or in, the houses of a Pueblo village, used as an assembly room in religious rites or as a men's dormitory. It is commonly lighted and entered from an opening in the roof."

Picture from last weekend

I still have photos from the weekend (and last week) to post.

Allison came up and spent Friday night so that she could see her aunts and Uncle Bill. She does not get to see them very often since they live 5 hours away.
three people
Mary, Bill and Allison

August 27, 2008

Personality Test?

I followed a link to PersonalDNA. It's one of those "psychological" quizzes that asks you questions and then summarizes your answers, putting you into some neat little categories. Not too revealing (and a little frustrating when their page scrolls unnecessarily) but satisfactory if you like coming up with words to describe yourself.

  • "Your solid grounding in the practicalities of life, along with your self-assuredness and your willingness to appreciate new things make you a LEADER.

  • You're in touch with what is going on around you and adept at remaining down-to-earth and logical.

  • Although you're detail-oriented, this doesn't mean that you lose the big picture.

  • You tend to find beauty in form and efficiency, as opposed to finding it in broad-based, abstract concepts.

  • Never one to pass on an adventure, you're consistently seeking and finding new things, even in your immediate surroundings."

  • ... and so forth plus
    • You are RESERVED – you aren't someone who always needs to have others around, and you find you can handle most situations on your own.
    • You can be very happy spending time alone, and enjoy your own thoughts and ideas.
    • You find it difficult to understand why some people get so emotional and tell everyone else their problems.
    • You believe that if you want to get something done, it is best to do it yourself.
    • In your experience, other people are not always completely dependable, so you generally rely on yourself and only a few close others.
    • Despite your independence, you are not a closed-minded person who makes hasty judgments about others. You know that it isn't always easy to walk in other people's shoes.
    • At times other people's feelings are puzzling to you, and you wish that people were more rational.
    • Your vision of the world is complex – your values are not set in stone. Instead, you are able to change your beliefs as you learn new information.

    Arlo and Pete at Carnegie Hall

    I was surprised to see this announcement:
    Guthrie & Seeger

    an evening with Arlo and Pete
    Abe, Tao, Cathy, Annie, Sarah Lee, Johnny & kids!

    Carnegie Hall

    Saturday • November 29, 2008 • 8PM

    Seeger has been singing since before I was born. I saw him sing with Arlo Guthrie at Wolf Trap some years back. It's amazing that he still performs in his 80's. I discovered him when I was around 12 and a folk music program on public radio played his records. I talked my mom into buying some of his albums for me and played them repeatedly.

    Perhaps you saw the interesting documentary on PBS, AMERICAN MASTERS Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.

    August 26, 2008

    A Bit of Shopping

    Our houseguests have gone home and we are returning to our normal routine. After we delivered my sister-in-law to Dulles Airport, we took advantage of being in that area and did a little shopping: Sears to look for Lands End slacks and Whole Foods to get some allergen-free snacks. Halfway home we stopped in Front Royal so Frank could get a burger at Checkers. The new Wal-Mart was open there and I needed filters for my water pitcher so we went in.

    Wow! What a huge store! It's said to be the largest Wal-Mart in the region. We actually found a whole aisle of ceiling fans, although not the exact model we want.

    The store was bitterly opposed in Front Royal and the original proposal was turned down by the town (see Save Our Gateway). Eventually a less-objectionable location was found but construction was slowed by instability of the soil (fill dirt), I heard.

    It's easy to criticize Wal-Mart for their employment practices but they are certainly efficient in their retail practices. I was impressed by the lights that come on in the refrigerated shelves as you approach; these save energy by staying off when not needed (and doubly by not heating up the cool air). Back in our county, the local Wal-Mart is the only store that carries some items that I want, such as goat milk. (Shenandoah County is still sparsely populated so shopping opportunities are limited.) So we stop there regularly.

    August 25, 2008

    John "Appleseed" Chapman

    A popular place to take visitors in Shenandoah County is the Johnny Appleseed Restaurant in New Market. The goofy statue at the door makes it memorable, and the country-style food is decent to excellent depending on what you order. (The prime rib is especially tasty but they only serve it on Saturday night.)

    Johnny Appleseed Restaurant is within view of I-81 but the turn off 211 is tricky. You have to swing wide at the light and enter the driveway between the mini-mart and the gift shop.

    The outdoor statue has been refurbished and will speak to you if you push a button. Indoors at the hotel lobby stands a more dignified version.

    There's no evidence that the real Johnny visited our area, but apples are raised here so I guess that inspired the theme of the restaurant.

    More Photos from Woodstock Tower

    Below: Looking East toward Fort Valley with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance

    I convinced both Frank and his sister to climb the steep steps to the top of the lookout tower. Going down the steps is a bit nerve-wracking.

    We reached the tower from Fort Valley, taking the road that passes the library there. The road has a few sharp turns but is not downright scary on this (the east) side of the mountain. Don't drive up from the Woodstock (the west) side unless you like narrow mountain roads. Meeting another vehicle there can be disconcerting -- terrifying if that vehicle is a swift-moving truck in the middle of the road.

    There's a trail from the parking space on top of the mountain. It's not long but it has steps and rocky spots.

    My GPS said the tower is at North 38.870, West 78.449. (On enter @38.870 -78.449.) This may not be exact but it's close.

    August 24, 2008

    The View from Woodstock Tower

    Looking west from Massanutten Range, we glimpse the bends of the Shenandoah's gleaming North Fork rising like a tower (left of center).

    August 23, 2008

    Scamp Meets a Pomeranian

    Here Scamp meets cousin Toby. Scamp was fascinated by Toby, but Toby clung to his safe perch on Mary's lap.

    Ballroom at Shrine Mont

    ball room

    Third Floor Ball Room, The Virginia House Hotel
    Orkney Springs, Virginia

    light fixture

    For all my posts on historic Shrine Mont and Orkney Springs, click my Orkney Springs label.

    August 22, 2008

    Group W

    DW, BW, FW, MW

    August 21, 2008

    A Simple Garden

    I believe the white flowers are a variety of sedum, with echinacea (purple coneflower) in the background.
    Seen at Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area, George Washington National Forest.

    (The campground there is described in The Best in Tent Camping Virginia by Randy Edwards and Marie Javins.)

    A Stop at Elizabeth Furnace

    Frank's sister enjoys visiting antique shops and historic sites so we took her to Strasburg Emporium and continued up Virginia Route 55 to Waterlick, turning right on Fort Valley Road. We stopped at Elizabeth Furnace to see the old cabin.

    people on bridge
    See the Historic Markers Database page on this cabin which has more pictures of this area, including some that I contributed.

    August 20, 2008

    The View from Adams Lane


    We saw a house for sale on a hill with a magnificent view. It's between Basye and Conicville on a quiet country road. Built in 1992, it has an old-timey style porch and plenty of land for gardens. (MLS#: SH6631520)

    It wasn't until after we toured the house and entered the garage that I realized I'd been on the premises before. There were signs advertising flowers for sale and they looked familiar. I remembered following these signs 5 or 6 years ago from Senedo Road up Pepper Road and onto a side road -- which was where we were. We had not gone into the house then; we walked around the gardens and bought a plant.

    Now the house is vacant and the gardens overgrown. But the house is in good shape and would be great for someone who wants 5 acres and a mountain view.

    August 19, 2008

    A Step Toward Making a Pond

    Frank talked his sister into helping him roll stones out of the rock pile and into an outline of a pond.

    We have looked at various pre-formed ponds but Frank has not seen exactly what he wants.

    Butterfly on Thistle Flower

    butterfly on purple bloom

    August 18, 2008

    A Grand Old House in Mt. Jackson

    There are some great buys in real estate right now in Shenandoah County. This is a 200-year old house in that we saw on Valley Pike facing the intersection for Route 263. It has two (2!) grand staircases and is listed at $299K. (MLS#: SH6809826)

    The house was once divided into apartments and is quite roomy. It needs some updating but has a large lot.

    grand staircase

    August 17, 2008

    Birdbath with Amaryllis

    Amaryllis Belladonna

    I keep seeing these pink flowers on long stems and I had to look them up to see what they are called: Amaryllis Belladonna, aka "Naked Ladies." They look like pink lilies without any leaves.

    Color for the Clerestory

    When our remodelers were here the other day, we asked them to mount this decorative window inside the middle clerestory window. I've had this item since my birthday but we didn't have a ladder tall enough to reach the top of that window.

    August 16, 2008

    Getting the Dogs Ready for Company

    When we are expecting out-of-town visitors, we clean up the house and fix some things that have been on our to-do list for a while. And then there's the miscellaneous things that need to be done to avoid embarrassment, like giving Ben a bath. He doesn't like it but he was starting to smell a bit, so on Wednesday Frank got him into the tub and I gave him a good washing. It takes a day or so for him to stop smelling like a wet dog.

    Then there was Scamp's barking. He barks a lot sometimes, and since it gets on Frank's nerves, I've been working on behavioral modification. I had a couple of gadgets that make a high-pitched sound that's supposed to deter barking. I had tried them on Ben long ago and they didn't faze him. One is a hand-held gizmo that I have to press when the dogs barks and another automatically reacts to barking provided the dog is in front of it. Unlike Ben, Scamp will stop barking in front of these gadgets but quickly resumes as soon as he moves away from them. Shaking a tin can full of pennies works too, but of course it takes diligence on my part.

    I'd read about anti-bark collars and decided that before Frank's sister was due to arrive, I would get the kind that sprays a light scent when the dog barks. (Shock collars are available but that seems like overkill and might confuse the dog since in the past he had to the kind that works with an invisible fence.) Well, the collar works as long as he's wearing it. However, I don't want to keep it on him all the time. After all, I expect him to bark at intruder-like-sounds and I feel he should be free to bark during play time with Ben. Scamp made the distinction immediately: collar on=don't bark; collar off=bark all you want. Maybe he had one before.

    Well, at least he can wear it when we need quiet time.

    Oh, in case you are wondering, the thing that stops Ben from barking is a little recording of his own bark. Scares him quiet every time.

    Clerestory Maintenance

    workmenWe had the carpenter duo who did our kitchen work come back this week to replace the trim around our clerestory windows. That woodwork takes a beating from sunshine all morning and water every time it rains.

    Here we see Ken and Helmut applying primer.

    August 15, 2008

    Hurry if You're Buying Me this for Christmas...

    The Humphrey Museum is Colorado is auctioning an Antique 18k yellow gold ladies double diamond ring that belonged to my great-grandmother.
    Current price: $2,163.89 (Reserve not met)
    End time: Aug-16-08 09:39:32 PDT

    Here's how the description starts:
    This beautiful double-diamond ring belonged to Mary Amaryllis Hammer, Hazel Lou Humphrey's grandmother. She was a well-known Chicago millionaire and socialite in the 1880s and 1890s. The Humphrey family had a 67-room mansion in Chicago which is still standing. Judge D. Harry Hammer made millions of dollars because when the Chicago fire happened, he bought of much of the burned real estate on the south side of Chicago. He made a fortune when people bought the land back from him over the years. Their home is now on Martin Luther King Blvd, but in the 19th Century it was known as Grand Blvd. Mary Amaryllis Hammer was written about regularly in the Chicago newspapers. She was president of many women's clubs and was a world traveler and collector.

    Chef Fronk

    Frank grilled some Bubba Burgers for us yesterday. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed eating them outside as the sun set and the hummingbirds buzzed around the other end of the deck.

    August 14, 2008

    Hummingbird Feeder

    We have a pair of hummingbirds who visit our deck every day. They are shy and fly away if we approach the window so I don't get many pictures of them.

    Sometimes they buzz around near me when I'm on the deck but if I move they zoom off to the cover of nearby trees.

    Yesterday evening I took these photos while sitting in a chair in the living room.


    August 13, 2008

    I Got U Location

    hand holding GPSI got a little USB Data Logger by i-gotU so that I can record the exact location of where I took a photo. I tested it and it worked well. The idea is that it records the latitude, longitude and time, and later the software synchronizes this with the time that the digital camera took a picture. Naturally you have to set the time on the digital camera correctly or you'll have to match the data manually.

    There's no way to be sure it's working correctly in the field so you need to test it first. The little light that shows you it's getting a signal is hard to see in bright sunlight, but for the price, it's a great little gadget. Amazing that something so small can communicate with a satellite.

    You read the data by docking it to a PC. I'm learning a bit about latitude and longitude - see the page on the Historic Markers Database called How to Obtain the Latitude and Longitude of a Marker for an intro. I've used their Google Maps method but it doesn't work well for locations on a trail; keeps pulling the waypoint back to a street.

    August 12, 2008

    Bolivar Heights in May

    view from Bolivar HeightsHarper's Cemetery

    These photos are from a field trip in May. We were studying the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The northern part of the Shenandoah changed hands so frequently we call this the "Yo Yo War."

    Dr. Poland moves at a fairly fast pace so I only got a few photos of this scenic area. That's one reason I chose to visit Bolivar Heights when we passed through Harpers Ferry recently. Also, it was a chance for Frank to wander around the old cemetery and admire the view.

    The view of Lockwood House (below) shows the east side of the building, facing the cemetery.

    lockwood at storer collegeLockwood House

    Storer College, Natl Park Service

    August 11, 2008

    Harper Cemetery

    View from Harper Cemetery, Harpers Ferry, WV

    Next to Lockwood House at Harpers Ferry is the old Harper Cemetery, which has a lovely view. Walk down the steps and you may see this sign saying:

    Harper Cemetery
    Passing through this region in 1747, Robert Harper - a Pennsylvania architect contracted to build a Quaker church in the Shenandoah Valley - was so impressed by the beauty of this place and the water-power potential of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers that he settled here and founded Harpers Ferry.

    When Harper died in 1782, there were only three houses in the town. Optimistic about the community's potential for growth, however, Harper had set aside this 4-acre cemetery. Childless, Harper left most of his estate to his niece, Sarah, who subsequently married a Wager. As you wander around the cemetery, you'll find the grave markers of some of Sarah Wager's descendents as well as stones of Irish and German immigrants who settled in this area during the 1830's.

    Left: These steps connect the Ridge Trail to the old cemetery.

    (I don't know whether Robert Harper was from the same family as my ancestor, Alida Belle Harper.)

    August 10, 2008

    Lockwood House, Harpers Ferry

    Bolivar, Harpers Ferry, WV: This historic building overlooks the Harpers Cemetery and is part of the campus of Storer College. An interpretative sign tells us:

    Lockwood House
    General Sheridan's headquarters in August, 1864

    With its commanding view of Harpers Ferry and the Potomac River gap, this house has witnessed significant chapters in Harpers Ferry's history. It was built in 1847 as quarters for the U.S. Armory paymaster and later served as headquarters for Union Generals Henry H. Lockwood and Philip H. Sheridan during the Civil War.
    After the war, Storer Normal School (later college) - one of America's first schools for freed slaves - began here, and for almost a century Black students and Freewill Baptist Church staff utilized this building. Today, its exterior is restored to the Civil War period, but two rooms are furnished as they were during its early Storer College occupancy.

    Frank at Lilypons