September 29, 2009

September 28, 2009

White Goose at Pond

This started as an ordinary-looking digital photo. Basically, I used the "Find Edges" filter in Photoshop and saturated the colors.

Saint Waudru Collegiate Church, Mons

A Gothic Church in Mons, Belgium

I came across this image on an old backup drive which I brought out of retirement in order to copy 24 GB of files from Frank's ailing PC. We visited this church about nine years ago when Susan and Doug were living in Belgium.
This photo was altered using PhotoDeluxe, a precursor to Photoshop Elements. It started out as a color picture taken on a cloudy day, but I changed it to grayscale and added some moody effects.

September 27, 2009

Edinburg Mill

This Shenandoah Valley landmark is mentioned on Civil War Traveler as follows:
Edinburg Mill, two Trails signs in the parking lot of the mill on Route 11 – This mill, opened in 1850, survived the burnings ordered in late September and early October 1864 by Union Gen. Philip Sheridan. More than two years earlier Confederates used Stony Creek (which provided the mill's power) as a defensive line. A sharp battle on the line near the mill in late March 1862 delayed a Federal advance on the Valley Pike.

September 26, 2009

Four Guys at the Beach

At Sandbridge, VA in May 2003

Once I actually forgot to take my camera when we went on vacation. Frank had a digital camera but the resolution wasn't too good. After all, the year was 2003.

So I purchased a disposable camera at a store in Sandbridge. I chose a panoramic format and a couple of the photos turned out really nice. I scanned in this one of Dave and Frank with Justin and Austin.

Web Log Entry #2100

This blog has had 45,327 total visits since I started keeping track. Thanks for dropping by and I hope you'll keep coming back!

Tree Cut Down

Frank had a large oak tree cut down in Dale City. It was in the back yard of the rambler that he's selling.

The tree was dead so the buyer wanted it taken down.

September 25, 2009

View with a Fountain

That's the north end of the Massanutten Range in the background. Above the flower I spotted a little sign saying "WISH" just about hidden by weeds.

Another View of the Old School in Forestville

This building in Forestville can be seen from Route 42. It stands very handsome on a hilltop.

I played with the image in Photoshop CS4, adding the evening sky from another picture, increasing the "vibrance" in a duplicate layer, and blending that layer in "soft light." Still, I don't think it's necessarily better than the version in an earlier post, which was naturally shot.

September 24, 2009

Views at the Carrier Arboretum

I like the cart-as-a-planter idea. I've seen it done before and may try it myself if I get a suitable vehicle.

If you haven't visited the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum in Harrisonburg, you should check it out before frost comes. It's on University Boulevard at James Madison University.

January '08 Post: JMU's Arboretum

September 23, 2009

Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters in Winchester

I'd been to Jackson's Headquarters in Winchester some years back on a field trip and I wanted Frank to see it. He had seen the exterior but the interior is more interesting. There are many antique and historic items to see and they are nicely displayed.

The house was once owned by Lt. Col. Lewis Moore, an ancestor of actress Mary Tyler Moore. She has visited the house and contributed to its restoration. The house is open to visitors from April through October.


This house was used by Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, then commanding the Valley District, Department of Northern Virginia, as his official headquarters from November 1861, to March, 1862, when he left Winchester to begin his famous Valley Campaign.

Butterfly Bush

September 22, 2009

Old Time Festival 2009

We went to the festival in Edinburg, Virginia on Sunday afternoon. They call it the "Ole Time Festival."

Frank liked looking at the antique cars and eating lunch at Sal's Bistro.

Civil War Marker in Edinburg

Historical Marker, Edinburg, VA
Civil War Action in Edinburg
During Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's 1862 Valley campaign, Confederate Col. Turner Ashby's cavalry and Chew's Battery halted Union Maj Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks's steady advance southward. Ashby engaged Union forces 28 times in April along Stony Creek and the Valley Pike. Confederate guns located on Cemetery Hill to the southwest, dueled with Union batteries on Academy Hill directly across the center of Edinburg. In early October 1864, during their burning of the Shenandoah Valley, Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's troopers set the Edinburg Mill afire but extinguished it after two local girls protested.

September 21, 2009

Kessinger Publishes Rare Books (like Aunt Emarel's and F. Canuti's)

Frank discovered that he can purchase a new copy of his grandfather's book, The Siege And Fall Of Constantinople: The Last Roman Struggle In The East (1887) by Felidio F. Canuti (also known as Frank Canuti). It seems some enterprising publishers are using technology to copy old out-of-print books and make them available again.

I looked up Kessinger Publishing and found that they have also republished my great-aunt Emarel's vegetarian cookbook, The Golden Rule Cookbook: Six Hundred Recipes For Meatless Dishes (1910). Her name is listed as Maud Russell Lorraine Sharpe, although she later used the last name of her second husband, Kurt Freshel.

Stairwell, Looking Up

I composed this at an angle to emphasize the form of the stairway. It's in the Virginia House, Orkney Spring's large historic hotel.

See a more conventional view in a previous post. The hotel is owned and maintained by Shrine Mont and can be visited during Spring, Summer or Fall. They close during the winter.

September 19, 2009

McInturff's Ford on the Shenandoah

This spot on a pretty section of the North Fork is the site of a ford which figured in the battle of Cedar Creek (1864). Here three Confederate divisions under General Gordon crossed the Shenandoah on their way to attack a Union position on Cedar Creek.

View our Cedar Creek Field Trip (1997)
See Cedar Creek in Johns Military History

September 18, 2009

Is Your Tap Water Safe?

You've probably read that chemicals including traces of prescription drugs are showing up in water supplies in the USA. But we have mostly felt that municipal tap water was adequately treated for bacteria, except for rare cases like the 1993 situation in Milwaukee in which over 100 people died. Lately I've realized that not only is there harmful bacteria in many municipal water supplies, but it is often not discovered before it causes harm.

Today NPR broadcast an interview about bacteria building up in shower heads in chlorinated water. If you didn't hear it, look it up online. Today I purchased an all-brass shower head, because plastic seems to harbor more bacteria than metal.

The New York Times is running a series on water pollutants. A little heavier reading but important is the NRDC report Children at Risk - Drinking Water Contamination.
And of course, even chlorine has it's risks - see the EPA page on disinfection byproducts.

Then there are the studies showing that some carbon filters actually encourage growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. See my previous post.

Landscape with Knob

I believe this perfect hill is Turkey Knob, home to one of Shenandoah County's apple orchards.

September 16, 2009

Graffiti House at Brandy Station, VA

We drove to Culpeper recently and visited the nearby Graffiti House. It served as a Civil War hospital and also as Union Headquarters. It's only open on certain days (fewer after October) so check the Brandy Station Foundation's website for hours.

I was particularly curious to see the Civil War graffiti written on the walls by soldiers. This was not unusual in Civil War hospitals; patients became bored, after all. I've seen such writings on a wall of a private residence in Alexandria (since covered with drywall, but not before it was recorded - see brief mention here). At Brandy Station, the graffiti has been partly uncovered and can be viewed. (See examples.)

The visitors' center also has a film and some interesting artifacts, including a hoe fashioned from a sword.

Gardener's Resource

The good folks at Exline Iris Gardens told us about the Dave's Garden website. I see some useful features there, including customer ratings of mail-order garden shops. I haven't purchased a subscription to Dave's but much of the site is free without subscribing.

Photo: Craft shop at Exline Iris Garden. See also previous post: Acres of Irises.

September 15, 2009

Two Views of the North Fork

Above: Near Front Royal
Below: Near Waterlick

September 14, 2009

Expand this Battlefield Park at Winchester

The Civil War Preservation Trust is struggling to raise enough money to preserve 209 additional acres at the Third Winchester Battlefield. See their Save Third Winchester page. It has some good links as well as basic information.

Over the past few years, interpretative signs and some very nice trails have been added at Third Winchester. Local residents enjoy walking, jogging, and riding bikes there, and of course Civil War buffs come from far away to view the battlefield.

The sign below is one of several at the Redbud Road entrance to the battlefield park. It tells of famous people who were present at the battle. They included two future presidents, two senators, a state governor, and several military leaders. The portraits on the marker are of Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, John B. Gordon, Henry A. DuPont, Fitzhugh Lee, Phil Sheridan, George Custer, Emory Upton, Jubal Early, and Wesley Merritt. For the full text, see "A Gathering of Future Leaders" at

September 13, 2009

Home Sale Spoiled by FHA Appraisal

It looks like FHA's appraisal policies have sunk my chances for selling my property in Dale City. Under FHA's new appraisal rules, the appraisal stays with the house for six months! So a ridiculously low appraisal has ruined the value of my house.

We had a contract on the house and the buyers wanted an FHA loan. The appraiser selected bargain properties to use as comparables: a short sale, a couple of foreclosures, and another house that sold twice within two months. He used both sales on that same house as separate comparables, even though the first was about $30K cheaper than the second. Obviously, the first sale was a tremendous bargain for someone who turned around and flipped the property for a much higher price. So I think the appraiser should have excluded the first sale; it's low price was not indicative of current market value. That one combined with the short sale and foreclosures (which are also not indicative of true market value since they are distress sales) brought down the average and so the figure he came up with was $32,000 lower than the agreed-upon selling price.

When we accepted the contract, we had another offer which was almost as good so I don't think our price was high. Frank studied comparables carefully when we set the price in the first place. So I was not willing to accept a $32K cut in price and the buyers could not borrow more than the appraisal amount. So we released them from the contract and put the house back on the market.

Housing prices are going up in Prince William County, which is where we used to live. (Still, they are only about half of what they were a few years ago.) Unfortunately, most buyers who are looking for homes in Dale City are using FHA mortgages because of the low down payment. And their lenders will use the same dumb appraisal. So now the pool of potential buyers has just about disappeared.

Second Choice: Rent it Out

I hoped to sell the house after my tenant left because it is too far away for us to maintain easily. The house is still listed for sale but we are also listing it for rent at $1295 per month. We require good credit and references with the rental application and a $1295 security deposit.

Listed on Homes Database

POSTSCRIPT - House sold October 27. See comments.

Late Afternoon at Lake Laura

View from the Lake Laura Dam, Basye, VA

September 12, 2009

Yesterday at Orkney Springs

We took Flash and Ben for a walk around the pond by the tennis court. It was a beautiful day.

Helping at the Music Festival

Frank and I volunteered to help at the dessert booth at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival several times. Last weekend we worked both concerts. He helped dish out ice cream and I was one of a team taking orders.
I took this picture of three other volunteers at the season's final concert. They are posing with the last three brownies.

September 11, 2009

Store-bought Flowers

When we got home from our California trip, I found little blooming in our garden except zinnias and goldenrod. I probably could have made an arrangement out of them, but I found some lovely cut flowers on sale at Martin's Supermarket.

Take an Online Copyright Quiz

Read Copyright Myths Debunked to find out how much you know about copyright. Short version: Unless a created work is really old, it's probably protected by copyright. Before using someone's photos or artwork, you need their permission.

You may have noticed a link to my copyright page in the left column. In many cases, I can provide a larger file of a photo if needed. (Often I shrink my images to 4x6" or 5x7 before posting, so they are fairly small.)

September 10, 2009

Fronds, Picket Fence, and Rose Bush

Seen at Point Fermin Light, San Pedro, CA

Walls, California Evening

In earlier posts (in August as well as this month), I shared photos of the key places we visited in California. Here are a few with little value to our travelogue -- I'm including them because I'm intrigued by the lines of the building and the evening light.

Above: View through a Patio Door

Left: A Glimpse of Sunset

September 9, 2009

Greeters in the Terminal

Even though I don't like large airports like Dulles, I was happy to land there because it meant we were not far from home. And when I saw these smiling faces, I just had to join them for a photo op.

In contrast to our last return trip through Dulles, this one went smoothly. Our luggage appeared fairly promptly at the baggage claim, and the shuttle bus showed up quickly to take us to economy parking. Yay!

Mountains and Valleys of Home

Frank took this aerial photo as our jet descended towards Dulles Airport.
I regretted letting him have the window seat as we neared home, because I wanted to drink in the scenery. After looking at the picture, I've concluded that it shows the South Fork of the Shenandoah River somewhere between Luray and Front Royal. The Massanutten Mountains rise behind the river, masking part of the Shenandoah Valley. We are looking west toward the mountains of West Virginia.

Someone has posted a much crisper view of what appears to be the same area here. And you can see a view of the so-called "Seven Bends" of the river from Skyline Drive . Here's an old postcard showing that view point. Don't be confused, but the other branch of the Shenandoah, the North Fork, also has a section called Seven Bends. And the number seven is misleading, for there are many more than 7 bends.

For some interesting views and facts about our beloved river, see Shenandoah River Basin on