Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wildlife Gardening and a Mosey around Martinsburg

On Saturday I met up with the Fauquier Master Gardeners for the first time this year. They had kindly given my name to the Lifestyle Magazine who were running an article on the schoolhouse and my photo was used on the cover of the Broad Run May edition. Woo hoo! Very exciting to see that in my mail box, and it was great to see the ladies again showcasing their gardens which were bursting with new plant growth, lush green leaves and an explosion of blues and purples.
The bullfrog had stayed over the winter and was grunting happily in the pond as we all congregated under the shady trees for today's workshop, which was how to prepare your garden for wildlife. We learned about the ideal native plants to grow for insects and birds, the ones that would attract butterflies and hummers, and also the ever important bees. I think I must have a nest nearby at Meadow House as for a few days now, I've had a lot of buzzing on the patio made by many bees as they come to drink after I've watered the containers.
We learned how to place bird baths and puddling areas for butterflies, and even how to make a toad abode for our amphibian friends. How to have different heights and pathways among the plants for the birds' safety, how to build rock piles for cool shelter for salamanders, frogs and insects, safe roosting boxes for birds or bats and the genetically modified plants to avoid, such as anything with double flowers, since they are nutritionally worthless to the animals. Native plants are best, and I already have a lot growing here, including my huge oak next to the house, which I was pleased to hear is nature's biggest feeder in Virginia, and is a great home for 557 varieties of caterpillars as well as providing food for many animals and birds.
I took plenty of notes and as usual the ladies were very generous in handing out spare plants that they had brought with them. I got a Dutchman's Pipe for my trellis and some Yellow Wood Poppies, both of which I'm watering constantly, hoping they'll take root in these hot days. I also learned from them that the wonderful fragrance when I walk in the meadows is from Creeping Charlie, which although a prolific weed is also edible, so I'll be trying that in salads.
I was also too late this year to grow sunflowers but they gave us a handout citing as the place to order from for next year. I plan on ordering American Giants which the birds love and which can grow up to 16ft! Peggy also mentioned that if the heads are too heavy for the stem to hold the seeds up so the birds can eat, then cut the heads off and nail them to a tree trunk. Genius! I'm hoping I can make the next workshop, these ladies are an invaluable asset to us local gardeners.
My plans for the rest of the weekend changed because of the impending storm coming up from the Carolinas. I had hoped to kayak down south with a buddy but he thought it best to cancel so I had to find something else to do. I decided to drive up to Martinsburg, WV, a relatively local town that I'd not visited before.
I'd read about a roundhouse near the train station so made that my first stop.
The Roundhouse, built around 1848, has been extensively restored with a new roof, windows and doors. The tall cupola was designed to allow the steam and smoke of the engines inside to escape. Confederate troops burned it down in 1862 and reconstruction began 4 years later.
The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was started by workers here in Martinsburg protesting pay cuts.
The Car Shop, built around 1867, was used for building freight cars and later to construct railroad switches. A more detailed history is here.
And here is a video showing the Roundhouse after vandals burned it down in 1990. This really emphasizes how much work had to be done during its restoration. I couldn't get on the other side of the fence, everything was locked up and empty of staff so I wasn't able to take many good shots.
Driving around downtown led to some interesting stops.
Loved these murals on a shop wall.
This brightly colored little building is the Wonderment Puppet Theater. It's listed as a top attraction so I had to at least see the place. I didn't have the nerve to venture inside, it's more for small children than adults.
While I was here I drove around looking for possible abandonments to explore at a later date. I came across a couple that interested me but which I wasn't going to venture inside on my own, but then I came across a small industrial area which had a rustic charm about it. Creepers and vines were slowly taking over the brick buildings, making me imagine that only green mounds would be visible by the end of summer.
I walked around avoiding the copious amounts of poison ivy and wandered through storage or production buildings. It was nice and cool in here. Back in the hot car, I drove to another place I'd listed to nose around.
Adam Stephen, a Scottish doctor who served under George Washington, had a house in Martinsburg. I drove up to it expecting hoards of visitors but found that I was the only one at that time so I had a personal tour which was nice. I wasn't allowed to take photos inside which was a shame as there were some particularly horrendous family portraits that I would have loved to photograph in which the artist had managed to make Adam Stephen's young children and grandchildren look more like his great grand parents.
There are also tunnels under Martinsburg, with an entrance under this house. All entrances have been closed off and there is varied speculation what the tunnels were originally used for. Some say that Native Americans used them, or they were escape tunnels during the Civil War, or used by smugglers during Prohibition. Some locals remember playing in them as children before they were closed off. An article on them is here.
I left after a long chat with the docents and was even invited to stay for lunch, which would have been lovely except that I was already stuffed with a Subway sandwich and would likely have fallen asleep in the car if I'd consumed anything else. I promised to return as one of them wanted me to see her English styled garden. What lovely folks!
I sat in Stuart and while I was looking at the map, I spotted a cemetery and intrigued by its layout I drove to check it out. Green Hill Cemetery sits on top of a hill covering 15 acres. It was designed from a design seen in France by David Hunter Strother, who with his father owned the famed Berkeley Springs Hotel.
It was this layout that caught my eye as I searched Google maps for anything interesting in the area, image above. Strother served as an adjutant general during the Civil War and was later appointed as Consul to Mexico. He is among the several notable persons buried in the cemetery.
 I parked at the top of the hill and started walking the terraces, round and round in circles. It's a very pretty cemetery, the walls and steps were often draped with cacti and yellow sedum, although the grass was in dire need of a cut.
I loved these mausoleum doors, with a hint of the colored stained glass beyond them. The door was understandably locked so I had to content myself with just peering through the cloudy glass.
This lady was obviously very confident on where she'd be heading after death. I hope she got there OK. I walked around and around, not seeing one other person. Birds were plentiful here and their song was lovely to listen to as I passed by mockingbirds and robins perched on the tops of obelisks and stones. But despite being on top of a hill there was no breeze and after a while the humidity and insects got to be too much so I retreated to the car.Time to head home but glad I'd found this interesting town which is definitely worth another visit.

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