Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Education on Herbs and #18 Schoolhouse

On Saturday there was another workshop at the school gardens by The Fauquier County Master Gardeners, this time on herbs. And another opportunity to visit those beautifully colorful gardens again. The school was also opening it's doors to visitors so I set off with my camera and enthusiasm charged.
I didn't think it could be possible but the gardens were even more colorful than my last visit. Plants had got taller and fuller with plentiful blooms busting and bursting everywhere, all eagerly stretching their heads to the bright sun. There were also now a large clump of magnificent sunflowers shining above the other perennials and reaching out their broad green leaves as if they were saying, "We've done it, we've finally got here!"
Janet's herb garden, which would be the subject of today's workshop, was looking healthy and ready for inspection, with clumps of marigolds blooming cheerfully along the edges.
I had a stroll around the beds, enjoying the resplendent display of color, and the buzzing and humming from the nectar collectors of Marshall, which I'm sure were all present in this little garden today.
And then it was time for the workshop, and I gratefully sat on a chair in the cool shade. The Master Gardener team had put together a pretty display on the table of herbs on trays and in glass jars, along with books and leaflets. They had also brought a glass urn, filled with water, ice, and slices of lemons and limes, looking like it had been plucked straight from the pages of a Country Living magazine.
And then Janet talked about herbs, explaining their uses as medicinal, culinary or simply as decoration. The Chinese had used them for thousands of years, believing they would cure any imbalance of Yin and Yang,  while the Romans liked to steep lavender in their public baths to scent the water. The first written lavender recipe was penned in 1615. We even learned that lavender mixed in wax helps to keep woodworm at bay.
We learned how to cultivate our herbs and the best places to buy seeds or seedlings from. DeBaggio's was of course mentioned. I didn't know that herbs dislike over watering or that they should be watered from the base. I've always grown mine in pots but think that next year I may try putting them in the ground now that I know the more fragrant ones, such as lavender, sage or rosemary could be used to border the others since they will deter the deers. I also learned that cilantro doesn't really like bright light, preferring a filtered sunlight, and not to bother growing oregano from seed as it is a slow grower.
A tray of various herbs was passed around so we could feel and sniff, and I fell in love with the pineapple sage; it really did taste of pineapple. A definite one on the list for next year, with such pretty flowers too. I also learned I could pick my herbs and put them directly into a ziplock bag and into the freezer, something I did as soon as I returned home, to save my basil plants, which are now shooting up and sprouting flower heads almost faster than I can clip them off. I shall also make some pesto with the rest of the plants, which I can then freeze. Click here for an awesome pesto recipe, and finally an opportunity to use my pestle and mortar!
I took a lot of notes during the workshop and now have plenty of ideas for next year. I shall  also try to overwinter my woody herbs, (lavender, rosemary, sage) this year, not something I thought I could do in the past.
Janet walked us around her plot explaining uses and care of the plants, which we followed with our handouts. It had been a great class and she had even made lavender cookies for us to try. Unfortunately I have no photos of mine because I'd woofed it down before taking a photo even came to mind, but it was delicious.
Peggy, who has the bed with perrenials and the sunflowers very kindly gave me a clump of brown eyed susan and a purple plant, which I've forgotten the name of. They had wilted by the time I got them home but I planted them immediately with lots of watering so have my fingers crossed that they will recuperate.
Once the class had finished I walked across to the old school house. The bell had rung out a few times while we were learning about herbs, and it had been delightful to hear that pealing, while thinking we were listening to the same sound that had called the children to class over a hundred years ago.
Built in 1887 on land donated by the Shackleford family,  it served as a school until 1964, for white children until 1910, when they moved to a newer school, and then for African American children until it closed. It's now the only 19th century one room school in Fauquier county, and one of a small handful left in Virginia.
Most of the interior is original, including the blackboard, floor, walls and ceiling. Even the bell was restored although the cupola was replaced. There was no furniture inside but the old pot belly stove was replaced with a donation, along with old school desks from the era. There are markings on the floor still from the desks' legs and burn marks from the stove's cinders.

The Marshall Regional Historical Society restored the old building to its former glory, collecting materials needed, with some being donated, such as paint from Marshall Hardware. It seemed that few members of the community were willing to give their time though which was a shame. If I had been around in 1989, I would have leaped at the chance. But regardless, the society did a superb job of finishing their arduous task, and the building is now a museum, opening on the third Saturday of each month from 1-3pm.
The article above from August 1989 shows the president of the MRHS and quotes his disappointment in the lack of local help.
The school has some great artifacts inside, showing how the learning system was back then. There are old books, pupil chalkboards, toys and even snacks from the era. There would have been an average of 29 pupils to the 1 teacher, with ages from 6-13, the older pupils assisting with the younger ones. As well as their lessons the pupils had chores, such as collecting water and wood, watching for the mailman and cleaning. Pranks such as dipping braids in ink wells or depositing frogs in the water bucket were punished with spanks and behavior reports to parents.
The photo above shows the school in the late 70's. There was an article inside from 1974, explaining the uncertainty of the building's ownership at that time. A James Hitt and his wife were living there rent free in exchange for guarding the dumpsters on the property.
This doll made me start when I looked up. judging by her expression, she's obviously used to that kind of reaction!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Shiny Trucks of Love

The weekend was unbearable with a blazing, unrelenting sun and temperatures in the upper 90's and high humidity. I had no inclination to be outside at all, not hiking, cycling or even kayaking. My energy was sapped. But after watching a couple of hours of TV on Saturday I was bored so decided to check out the local truck stop on I81 and gauge the reactions of the truck drivers for a future evening photo shoot.
I parked up and stepped onto the blistering tarmac, feeling the heat through my shoes and on the top of my head. I looked around at the trucks parked, really only wanting to shoot the more vintage styles. I love these huge metallic monsters, and have always been smitten since watching the movie Duel as a young child. Made in 1971 and starring Dennis Weaver, it terrified me, a huge noisy Peterbilt that constantly threatens the life of our hero, but never shows the demonic driver. Even now, having one of these older trucks come up behind or alongside me on the highway can send shudders down my spine. The official trailer of the movie is here.
I walked towards a line of trucks, looking for the older ones, with chrome and lights blinking and glinting in the glaring sunlight. A huge machine rumbled and growled past me and I quickly snapped a shot as he drove past. It wasn't until I later looked at the image that I spotted the driver's arms waving at me from inside his cab. He had grinned hugely as he passed me.
They really just don't make them great anymore. The modern trucks seem to be lacking in any character or individuality They don't have that robust and sturdy, sinister aura about them, enhanced on the older models with their angular lines, hooded windscreens and huge metallic bumpers that looked like they'd mash me into the ground as they loomed in front of me. There's no tall silver pipes or chrome accessories and even the number of lights has dwindled. Yet looking at the smooth curved lines of the newer trucks, it's understandable to see that you really can't add those extras anymore, there's nowhere to attach them. The black truck above managed a slightly threatening stance but I think it was due to its dark paint job. No monster sized grill in my face like a solid wall.
This father and son team were busy cleaning their beloved truck but I did notice that they stayed on the shady side. They would have been blinded or burned from the gleaming silver on the sunny side.
I walked across the road to the Love's truck stop where trucks could get washed or fill up with fuel. I loved the retro 70's decor and was lucky enough to be there when one of their own gas trucks was fueling up.
The guy who owned this truck hailed me over when he saw me walking about. He was a retired veteran and very proud of his vehicle. I admired the paintwork and took a photo but wondered how much better it would look on a vintage vehicle. There was another newer model which caught my eye as it looked a bit ratty and had a confederate flag. I spotted the long haired driver inside and held up my camera, asking if I could take a photo. He glared back and gestured no. I couldn't really blame him. With the confederate flag getting so much bad press at the moment he likely thought I was taking shots for local papers.
This trip had been a scouting trip; one, to ascertain whether there would be many vintage trucks to take photos of, and two, to register drivers' reactions towards me at taking photos. It had been a positive outcome overall, so I'll return on an evening with more traffic and less heat.
Driving through Toms Brook, I noticed there were a few confederate flags flying in protest to the recent news, but I only took the one photo from inside my car, not wanting to cause any provocation.
As I passed through Front Royal, I spotted some beautiful trucks parked behind a fire station, and pulled in for a closer look.
These were gorgeous and I'm sure parked in this manner to draw attention. Their chrome flashed in the sun as I walked towards them.I took a few photos but the heat really was stifling and I was having a hard time dodging the sun bursts that jumped off the shiny metal and attempted to dazzle me every time I moved. Admitting defeat I went back to the car and headed for home, craving shade and A.C.
As I neared home I pulled into a little country store for a chat and a cool drink. I love this cozy place, perched on the side of the hill, and each time I come in, the owner has collected new oddities and antiques for his own personal display on the walls and also for sale. I spotted some vintage style sodas in his fridge so I selected two then set off on the last leg of my drive home.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fields of Golden Sunshine

Everyone had been talking about the sunflowers up in Maryland so Bill and I drove up there with camera gear and his 6ft ladder. The fields weren't as crowded as I'd suspected but it was still hard to concentrate on being artistic with the air so sticky and oppressive. I was covered in bug spray after getting bitten so badly the last time I was here and the smell was horrendous. I could almost sense the poor sunflowers shrinking away from me as I passed by. But at least the nasty little buzzy flying things were ignoring me.
Bill set up his ladder immediately and I wandered further down the field, wanting to have the flower heads facing me as we'd entered the field from behind them.
These flowers are just as interesting to view from behind though so I grabbed a few photos, trying to get my creative juices flowing.
It looked like this little chap had been busy. He was certainly going to need to clean up before he went home yet he had no plans for leaving and zig zagged his way back and forth across the flower, head down and completely ignoring me.
I'd never really noticed before just how much pollen came from these flowers.
My little crystal orb came out for a shot and Bill set up his ladder near me. An Asian couple joined us with their small step ladder and we utilized both of them, sharing each other's props. We had a great view from the top, a sweeping panorama of yellow sunny orbs on a emerald sea.
Our friends had come prepared and the lady wore traditional garb for her portraits. Before long other folks were walking over and using the ladders too. We ended up with quite a crowd and saw no hope of leaving so we suggested $5 a go, and they started hanging back, allowing for our getaway.
I spotted a lot of dragon flies along one of the paths and noticed that the end of each branch tip had one perched at the end, as though they were trying to get the best spot to catch the very faint breeze that occasionally wafted across the fields.
We spent about 3 or so hours among these golden globes before hunger and thirst got the better of us, and we were just desperate to get out of the blazing heat. Enthusiasm was waning and I didn't feel I'd done as well as last year with my sunflower photos, but there's always Burnside Farm which will open up in the next couple of weeks.
A couple of photos of Seneca lock before we left Maryland and the sunshine fields behind us.