Wednesday, October 25, 2023

My Favorite Visitors

September 23-25, 2023                                                Most Recent Posts:
Greenfield Mountain Farm                                Ups and Downs in Virginia
Virginia                                                                                   Disbelief


I took a delightful week-end off from all the chores and problems when Carrie, Celia and Colin came to visit.   They light up the farm with their laughter and smiles even though Saturday was rainy and dreary.  It was a short trip.  They arrived Friday and left Monday but we had a great time.

Each morning began with reading in bed.

When the rain lightened up a bit and they were getting antsy, we headed out in raincoats and boots.  Unfortunately my rain gear was in Ruby.  I hadn’t cleaned everything out.  I was still hoping.  


Off for a rain walk with Nana in the lead in a WAY TOO BIG raincoat of Papa’s.

Celia isn’t too sure but soon she’s taking a chance on this puddle splashing stuff even if gingerly.


And then they are off and running.

Celia suggests we catch raindrops in our mouths.  Not sure why Colin isn’t game.

We walk the length of the farm lane so as not to get anyone's clothes too wet in the grass.  Colin is ready to turn back before the rest of us.




Then it’s a trip to the local Wintergreen Hardware.  It’s been a month since they were here now so I can’t remember what I needed to go for.  Something to fix one of the overhead lights I think.

But they had a wonderful time playing follow the leader,  who of course was Celia, up and down the smallish store’s aisles.  No big box stores out here.

Mommy brings up the rear while the hardware man helps Nana.  Love small hardware stores where the owner helps you find what you need.


By this time, the power has gone out because of who knows what out here in the country so we build with duplos in front of the living room bay windows with plenty of light.

Colin likes to build tall buildings and make a train to put on the people on.


Still no power but we can have a birthday party anyway.  Colin’s birthday is September 1st but Nana was in Vermont then and couldn’t come to his party.  So they have another party when he comes to visit.  Never enough birthday parties RIGHT?



I gave Colin two Kanoodle Jr Puzzle Games so that he could “share” them with whomever he wished.  That means, Celia can play too if she asks Colin who is very generous.


Or when Celia moves to play with the other game I got him, Tanagram Puzzle Magnetic Pattern Blocks,  He can play with both the Kanoodles at once.  LOL!

Celia was very interested in the magnetic shapes and being able to copy the designs and letters.


Celia let Nana have a turn too.



And of course then we had to sing Happy 5th Birthday and have birthday cupcakes beneath a battery operated lantern hanging for the kitchen light.


Now what to do as it gets later?   Well Winnona has solar panels so she has power.

No problem finding things to do here.



Not sure what was so interesting about the passenger seatbelt but Colin is concentrating in earnest.


It’s very hard to win at Slap Jack with Colin as you can see in this video Carrie took.


Before joining Slap Jack Celia enjoyed the Hundred Acre Woods figures that travel with me in Winnona.  Looks like poor Eeyore got left out.  Or maybe he’s behind her hand.



Luckily the rain is gone by today but the we still have no power. 


I’d picked up these two big wheels a few weeks ago for them to ride on the farm road.   The only problem is that the road is a great wild ride down hill but a tough pedal back up.

At first they just ride from the barnyard down to where its little drive meets the farm road.  Perhaps fearing the turn to go all the way down.

If you can’t pedal up hill then pick them up and carry them.


In pretty short order they are flying from the barnyard down the lane until it levels out and starts back uphill into the woods.  They are the dots in the distance



They pedal on until they can’t any more and then they start carrying the big wheels up in order to ride down again.   This routine goes on for some time.




After some snacks, it’s time to  head over to the little local Community Center Park.

Things are problematic on a see-saw when your sister weighs more than you do.


That’s when you get your Nana to help.



Even big kids can play here.



PXL_20230924_184826854.MPBack home Carrie’s childhood friend Kate comes to visit us all the way from Richmond.  It’s great to see her and Celia particularly is a fan.

This has been a lovely day for all activities outdoors.  Check out the cheesy smile from Colin.  I think every child does that when told to “smile”.


Two different card games going on at the same time.  Rocks compliments of Colin.


Putting the rocks back reasonably cheerfully.


After letting the ground dry up as much as possible from yesterday’s rains, we set off for a hike to the stream in the lower field.

Celia is not so sure at first.

But soon they are stomping around and disappear out of sight returning with tales to tell.   That is one wonderful thing about living out here, the children can have adventures without much worry.

We finish off the day when I take them all out for dinner at the nearby Devil’s Backbone Brewery where the food is good and there is a large open play space for the kids to run.

Now there is a real smile!   And what a pile of loaded fries.



Sadly the next day it was time for them to return to work and school.  No pictures of the departure.  That’s not the part of this fun week end I want to remember.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Ups and Downs in Virginia

September 7- 21, 2023                                                  Most Recent Posts:
Greenfield Mountain Farm                                                 Disbelief
Virginia                                                Almost in Canada – Silvio O. Conte NWR


Back tracking from the loss of Ruby to those days before when I left Moose River in St Johnsbury on Tuesday September 5th and by driving one extra long day on Wednesday made the trip in two rather than 3 nights.  

The night before I was to arrive at the farm, I stayed in the Walmart parking lot in Martinsburg West Virginia. 

In the morning when I went out to redo the brake controller to leave, I saw hoses or something hanging down underneath Winnona.  I had no idea what they were and nothing had seemed to be wrong on the long drive the day before.

I wasn’t sure what to do of course and had no idea what these hoses were and no one to apply to for help who might be knowledgeable.  But I knew I didn’t want to risk having them hanging down to rub on the ground or snag on something and make things worse.

PXL_20230907_113742105.MPI crawled under the RV and tied them up with a bungie cord and a rope hoping that these weren’t anything that would get hot and cause a fire.  Needless to say I stopped  when I could find a rest area and luckily things seemed fine.

If any of you have any idea what these might be from my pictures, could you please let me know?   What I can read on the hose is Water resistant then Coleman Cable E54854   Paul?  Jody?

There are no RV dealers anywhere near the farm as in 90+ minutes away.



We arrived back at the farm without incident.


I parked Winnona in the barnyard for a while.   I hooked up t my 30 amp service but when I went to put the jacks down to be able to put the slides out, they would not go down.   The slides would go out so the pump and the motor are working but no jacks.  Solenoid problem again???   Everything was working fine 2 days ago.


It was HOT in Virginia, such a change from Vermont which is of course why I went to Vermont.  But 94 degrees to greet me seemed unfair and even more so when I went inside the farmhouse to find that the AC was not on and that the compressor was not working.   Luckily the folks who sold it to me can send someone tomorrow to look at it.

AND the water smells like rotten eggs.  SIGH – the well needs to be shocked.  At least I’m enough of a farm girl to know what it is though this is the first time I’ve come home to this after an absence in all the years we have been on the road.  10+  Perhaps because of the prolonged and high heat this summer?  Though I can’t see why that would cause it.   Any ideas??

My doctor’s office called to say they would have to cancel my annual check up app9ointment for early next week and could not reschedule me until late November.  I hope not to be here then.   I do all my medical appointments in September and early October every year…… SIGH.


Bad news from the AC folks.   They did their $370 worth of repairs and went on their way. In an hour the compressor was not working again.  The compressor was put in new 3 years ago to the tune of $700 but the AC is just over 10 years old (which doesn’t seem old to me but then nothing lasts beyond the warranty any more which in this case was 10 years).   They say they tried a booster and if that didn’t work it’s an entirely new unit with another 10 year warranty for $2500…SIGH.

So with no AC in the house and the temps still in the 90’s, I spent the night in Winnona whose AC was working.  Thank goodness for her or I doubt I’d have gotten any sleep.


I awoke in the morning to something pleasant for a change.  A dozen wild turkeys in the yard.

I first noticed them when I went into the bathroom and took these pictures out that window but I couldn’t get them all in one shot from that close.


So I went to the upstairs bedroom and took this one of half of them.  The other half were on the other side of the house.  


They all eventually wandered out the gate into the field.  If you look closely you can see 3 of them headed out.


I love this view from the second story porch.  While here I noticed the grass in the yard really needed mowing and the high today was predicted to be 86 so I needed to get it done after the grass dried from the morning dew but before it got too hot.  Hmmmm

When I  went out to mow the grass in the yard the mower backfired, sputtered and was cutting off.   My guess is that it is overheating for some reason.  So I gave it up and wondered WHAT NOW?


PXL_20230909_161039923.MPWhen he came by to look at my drooping wires and the jacks problem, Shannon said the mower did that to him too when he tried to mow while I was gone. He hadn’t been able to fix it and  would have to get a trailer out here to take the mower back to his place to have a look.


He spent 2 hours checking out the hydraulics and thinks he has isolated which solenoid is causing the problems.   I’ll order them from HWH or Lichtsinn on Monday.

power out

At the end of the day I was relaxing in the evening and watching a BBC mystery on TV when the power went out….SIGH.  This has been happening far too frequently lately.

  I get notified by email from my rural electric company every time this happens and I have been notified so many times this summer that I think this may be the problem with the compressor and caused its demise. 

The farm is located so far out that my electric connection is at the end of a line that comes across Heard’s Mountain.  There are no other customers for miles of forest between me and the next house.  Thus whenever a tree falls on that line anywhere for miles, I lose my power and when it comes back on the blast dead ends at my house.    I’m going to research how many of those notices I’ve had in the past 3 months, I’m sure close to a dozen,  and call to request they install a whole house surge protector for me.   I disconnect all my electronics and my refrigerator when I leave but I cannot disconnect the AC or the furnace.  SIGH…   And the list of problems keeps growing.

This will forever be known as black Tuesday.  It is the day I lost Ruby and was the subject of my previous post.

THURSDAY September 14, 2023

Before the incident (I refuse to call it an accident), I had planned with my friend Mary,who visited me in Vermont, to attend a program at the Soapstone Quarry Gardens in Schuyler (pronounced Skyler).  But when the day came,  I was not feeling great and inclined to skip it as driving was not something I wanted to do and it was a half hour or more away.   But Mary convinced me it would be good to get my mind off of the overwhelming situation I was in and I’m thankful she did.  Plus she was willing to do the driving.

The group was divided in two and our half went with Armand and his wonderful dog whose name Mary and I think was Skyla.  I even looked on their website to make sure to no avail. 

We began in the Visitor Center with the history of Schuyler and the Soapstone operation.  Armand has built amazing models of the area.



Schuyler has been known as the soapstone capital of the world since the 1890’s and it remains the only active soapstone quarrying area in the U.S.  Soapstone exists in only a few places in the world among them Alaska, Brazil, Finland and Central Virginia.  The guys quarrying are in the hole which they had to access by ladder.


From the Quarry Gardens website:  “Soapstone is a metamorphic rock composed mostly of talc and magnesium. It is dense, solid gray, and non-absorbent; resistant to both acids and bases, electrically neutral, and heat-retaining. It has a soapy-feeling surface and is easily carved. Such qualities made it a useful material for laboratory countertops, laundry tubs, film developing tanks, electrical backboards, telephone switchboards, stair treads, and other architectural features.    There were some 90 quarries in this area. Six of those—now appearing as two rock-sided pools of water (each about an acre in area and 30-45 feet deep)—are central to the Quarry Gardens. It is estimated that some 800,000 tons of soapstone were removed from this site, and 600,000 tons of quarried stone discarded here.”   Remember those figures when you see later pictures.

People for miles around use the soapstone for kitchen counters among other things including gorgeous woodstoves.  Soapstone is highly coveted, beautiful and expensive.


The quarries on this property were actively mined between the 1950s and 1970s. 

Following that they were used as a community dumpsite for about a decade.  In 1991 Armand and Bernice Thieblot bought a 600 acre property.  What they have done to the area is amazing. 

They spent 23 years doing what they refer to as a “casual site clean-up” to this 600 acres. Mostly removing a decades worth of dumped debris I would imagine. In 2014 they began a three year plan to create a public garden and in 2015 they placed a 400 acre buffer around the gardens into a conservation easement which was designated a Virginia Treasure by then Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2016.

PXL_20230914_151139378.MPThey hired the Center for Urban Habitat’s Devin Floyd to survey the biota and design and install the gardens. 

By 1917 when the Quarry Gardens opened to the public there were 2 miles of walking trails, more than 30 areas of native plant communities and a visitor center  that includes exhibits on native plants, local ecosystems and the history of the soapstone industry in Schuyler.  The picture above shows the group on a deck with two large pieces of discarded soapstone.  We are looking over at the quarry seen below.


There are two distinct geological formations underlying the Quarry Gardens which contribute to the multiple ecosystems with great variations in soil, elevation, and moisture.  The decision by the Thieblots to model the most inclusive plant communities possible in these 40 acres has created the largest documented number of Virginia native plants of any botanical garden in the commonwealth.  14 ecozones and 7 conservation areas are found immediately surrounding the quarry pools.  

The giant pieces of soapstone on the deck were host to prickly pear cactus which always amazes me.  Cactus in Virginia.  Not planted here, just grew here on these stones.






The plant survey which continues has so far listed 550 flora (503 native), 300 fauna, including 58 species not previously reported in this county.  About 100 local species have been introduced to make a total of more than 950.  I think Armand knows them all.

What the Thieblots have done here is jaw droppingly amazing.  The clean up, survey and additions, the trails, the tours and guided hikes, the visitor center and model of the town and works of Schuyler.  A huge undertaking and open to the public.


One of the quarries highlighting the soapstone walls visible in Armand’s model in the Visitor Center.



Throughout there are piles of discarded soapstone deemed not useful at extraction.


The second quarry.


PXL_20230914_163227738.MP The trails, because of the diversity of geology, elevation and soil wander among butterfly and pollinator gardens, wetlands, vernal pools, prairie plantings, a fern gully and a waterside talus.

The gardens are open every month and to private scheduled tours.  I joined the hiking group on Next Door for this area and found out about this tour.  That’s how we came to meet the Thieblots and have them take us on this guided tour. 

After the tour most of us went up to the covered picnic area with picnic tables and ate the lunches we brought with us.  I have found there is another tour in late October to highlight the fall colors.  I hope I can make the time to attend that one.    These gardens would be wonderful to visit in every season.  And luckily for me, the tour was short enough and they trails easy enough that my back didn’t start to complain extremely until near the end.

As an aside, Schuyler was the boyhood  home of Earl Hamner author of the books of this area upon which the TV series The Waltons was based.

THURSDAY September 21, 2023

After Quarry Gardens, a week went by as I went to chiropractor appointments three times a week, dentist, dermatologist appointments and tried to find another PCP since I have had it with the one who replaced my beloved Andy Macfarlan who of course retired.   I also tackled the constantly increasing todo list created by the carelessness of Ms Toyota Tundra.  See last picture below. 

I’m not sleeping well.  Waking up because of my back and neck and then being unable to go back to sleep thinking of my lists – find a car, get the kayak racks on it, get a baseplate and wiring to be able to tow it.  Get the farm AC replaced.  Talk to the power company.  Shock the well.  Get the parts for the jacks.  Mow the yard and on and on.

I got one item off my list.  Clyde Smith Inc came today and installed the new AC which is working again but I’m worrying about what the next power surge will do to it.


In the afternoon I took the well cap off and put almost two gallons of bleach down to take care of the smell.  I won’t be drinking the water until I get it tested.  This is my after the fact poor attempt at a selfie.  Oh and by the way, you can’t buy bleach in gallon jugs any more only 3.5 quarts, at least not here.  Total price for two, nearly $10.



This is a picture of my calendar for this week.  So many things they won’t fit in the usually adequate spaces.  

But at the bottom you’ll see the up coming week-end when some joy is coming into my life with the visit of Carrie, Celia and Colin.  Those fun days will be in my next post.