Tag: Virginia

Pass the Honey (a bit trickier out here)

“I’m covered in bees!”
― Eddie Izzard

My Dad was born in the wrong century, his real vocation is to be a gentleman farmer. Unfortunately he’s a bit hobbled by things like the 21st century and neighbors too close for his liking, but he makes up for these inconveniences by working on his land to turn it into a wild kind of estate.

His projects have run the gamut, including clearing a handful of acres for a meadow, digging for a pond (I’ve driven the excavator and the power trip is enormous!), digging a well and building up a natural stone wall around it, planting an orchard (a bit sparse still but we have high hopes), and planting berry bushes. All of these are ongoing, and lot of fun to help with when we’re in town.

But as far as I’m concerned, his most interesting venture has been beekeeping.

IMG_0151

Amy and Ryan were in town and tagged along like troopers when I wanted to watch him start the summer harvest. As a reward they got to witness the (hilarious, I’m sure) sight of me running to escape a disgruntled worker that at one point tangled up in my ponytail. I’m just glad he didn’t summon his friends!

IMG_0167

Nothing alarming happening here, oh no, sir. Just keep very still.

Wild honey, especially from the forest, looks nothing like what you buy in the store. It’s as dark as molasses and almost punchy with flavor.

IMG_0175

This venture has been completely hobby based. Dad’s built up his supply of equipment and gear piece by piece and solved problems as they’ve come up.

IMG_0158

To pick one example, not entirely at random, the problem of bears has been solved by that electric fence. No one has figured out a solution to the problem of bears in the neighborhood, however.

Once he smokes the bees and takes the hive boxes he wants to harvest, the next step is to extract the honey.

IMG_0199

You use an electric hot knife to slice off the cap of the comb and a machine that uses centrifugal force to spin the honey out of it. Then you take the comb (still intact) back to the bees who will refill it with honey for themselves and use it to survive the winter. Resourceful animals, they make litres of the stuff a year. Dad and I experimented around a bit one evening, entertainment being somewhat harder to find around here, and turned some of those hive caps into a brick of pure beeswax. When you need to strain a pot of  boiling hot liquid, a t-shirt is a normal substitute for cheesecloth right?

The only problem is that we can’t quite eat the stuff fast enough. Amy went home with a jar of it, the better to drink American style tea, my dear, but we need to figure out some other schemes too.

all images my own

Meet Magnolia

“Old houses were scaffolding once and workmen whistling.”
– T.E. Hulme

My desire to own a historic home is a deep, throbbing one born of being travel-spoiled and living too many places with too many fascinating houses (at some point I’ll have to take some photos of some of the local estates that were built before founding of the country!), it messes with your sense of proportion. In Germany we lived in an old house with an orchard in the backyard and a ruined castle up the hill. Our village in England was primarily famous for an Anglo Saxon silver hoard being dug up in someone’s garden. History!

I’m an 18th century house lover myself, but a few miles walk from my parents house is a late 19th century farm house that’s been recently restored. And I want it.

It sits on a couple acres with two huge paddocks/lawns fenced in prettily. It has its own stables (no good to me, I haven’t ridden in years, but it adds beautifully to the charm), and the drive is honest to goodness an old carriage and wagon track. It even has its own herb garden, for heck’s sake. The name of this gem:

IMG_0121

Blame Britain but I am a firm believer that every proper house should have a name. My family’s land doesn’t have a house on it yet (Dad has ambitions) but it’s named Stonewell.

IMG_0119

See? Absolutely charming. As with all local, old farmhouses, at least one extension was built onto the back, though this view hides it. And it isn’t just the house that gets branded:

IMG_0120

In case the horses forget to which house they belong. And, in case you forgot I live in Virginia (home of 18th century, democratic ideals and titles to match), the even older across the country road is called…

IMG_0128

Equanimity Farm. You can’t even see that house, it’s set far back from the road and surrounded by privacy protecting trees.  The whole spot is just riddled with character!

And really, that’s what I love about old houses – they have character. Mass produced houses built inches apart from and completely identical one another seem just utterly soul-less. But these old houses, they have stories behind them. You can see that lives have been lived in them, you can see that time has left it’s mark on them (some more than others) and you want to know how they went from families living there, people being born and dying for generations, to being reclaimed by the woods. Older houses don’t just have characters, like Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame they are characters in their own right.

IMG_0127

Come. On.

Anyone got $350,000 they can spare me?

A Sort of Churchyard

“Before I die, I want to change my name to “Here,” so that my tombstone could simply read, “Here lies.” And then people who knew me could walk by, shake their head, and say, “Ain’t that the truth.”
― Jarod Kintz

The church with two faces doesn’t have a proper graveyard, there are only five graves total. But the other day (during the daytime, naturally) I wandered over to take a look.

It sounds morbid but birth and death dates interest me. We don’t tend to think of ourselves as living in momentous times but when you think about it for the last couple of centuries at least no lifetime has been devoid of some really amazing breakthrough, technology, interesting world event, etc. I like to take a gander at gravestones and go through what that person must have seen in his or her lifetime. It’s a weird compulsion, I do the same thing with authors, artists, the lyricists in church hymnals – if I get a DOB and TOD I think about it.

In this particularly tiny “cemetery” (word used loosely because there was no rhyme or reason to the gravestones’ placement and they are already being reclaimed by the encroaching woods), there’s a WWI vet and a couple relatives, but the salient point is that every single person buried there was born in the 19th and died in the 20th centuries.

IMG_0108

Think about it. Sallie there was born one decade after the American Civil War (which, given the area we live in, I’m willing to be money she had a relative of some kind participate in) and lived to see rock’n’roll. To say nothing of the Spanish American War, two World Wars, the Korean War, both Roosevelts, the invention of the automobile, the rise and fall of the British Empire, the rise and beginning of the fall of the Jim Crow South, the death of the corset and the rise of women’s hemlines, the eruption of Krakatoa, electricity, the Titanic sinking, the Panama Canal, the development of the cinema, the ratification of five amendments to the Constitution and the repealing of one, the Great Depression, the dropping of a nuclear bomb, and goodness knows what else!

What a life! And one she probably thought was pretty small and humble. Perspective.

The Difference of Daylight

“Night was a very different matter. It was dense, thicker than the very walls, and it was empty, so black, so immense that within it you could brush against appalling things and feel roaming and prowling around a strange, mysterious horror.”
― Guy de Maupassant

Just up the road is a really great little church. Built in 1923, it has no parish now and it’s locked, but it’s kept in good repair by someone. Frankly it looks just like what you expect a country Prohibition Era southern church to look like.

IMG_0106

Cute, huh?

Drive past it at night, though, and you get the distinct impression of something sinister waiting just beyond the treeline to do something nefarious. It’s delightfully creepy!

IMG_0089