An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

October 31, 2010

The House on Indiantown Creek

Aaron and Elizabeth Deale were married shortly after his return from the war. Though the rest of the state lay largely in ruin, the people on this side of the bay remained mostly unscathed with an optimistic eye on the future. As a wedding gift to his son and new daughter-in-law, Moses Deale built a house on a bit of high ground overlooking Indiantown Creek. The elder Deale was famous on both sides of the bay for his boat building skills, and it was with these talents he built a simple yet sturdy house that despite wind and tide still stands today.
Kudzu House 12

Shortly after moving in Elizabeth turned the new oak, pine and brick into a warm home filled with beautiful, but modest things. She surrounded the house with bountiful gardens that provided much for her pantry, as well as frequent bouquets for the alter at church. She was proud of her home, but was the talk and envy of many village women. Marriage suited the young couple well, and they soon found themselves anxiously expecting a child. As far as first pregnancies normally go, this one was unusually easy and Samuel Deale entered the world without incident. By all accounts he was a delightful baby, and everyone said he was the spitting image of Aaron, who could not have been prouder.

Elizabeth was not so fortunate with her second pregnancy and suffered through most of the months. Twin girls, Martha and Mary were born after an agonizing labor that nearly took the young woman's life. For the next few months when the twins weren't sleeping, they were crying. Elizabeth's body was slowly healing, but most said her soul never did. The house she was so prideful of became cluttered and dirty, and the garden was overrun with weeds, and vegetables rotted in their rows. Even during the daylight hours Elizabeth kept to her bed, and when her eyes were indeed open, they remained vacant. She could barely nurse the twins, and her affections for Samuel and Aaron were absent. The family would not have eaten or had clean clothes to wear if it had not been for the tireless efforts of Elizabeth's younger sister.
Kudzu House 11

Elizabeth spent most of the summer in this depressed state, but rose abruptly from bed one cool October morning and began cleaning the house, and that evening she bathed the children. The next day she began cutting back the overgrown garden and dismissed her sister, thanking her and bidding her to return home. Aaron was deeply encouraged by this change in the wind and knew that the time spent on his knees in prayer had not been wasted. Later that week he came home from his day's work at the boatyard, and as he entered the clean kitchen noticed a full dinner plate covered with cheesecloth on a table set for one. He called out to Elizabeth, but the house remained quiet.

Aaron mounted the stairs leading to the bedrooms, and nearing the top he noticed Elizabeth's wrist hanging limply from the bed through the open door. A fallen spoon rested on the floor just out of reach of her fingers. Her skin was blue, her lips stained red brown and her body was cold. An empty bottle of laudanum sat on the night stand, glowing in the last of the day's sun. Samuel was in the bed as well, his skin and lips similarly colored. Martha and Mary lay smothered in the crib they shared in the corner by the window. Aaron ran from the house wailing like a stuck animal for all the village to hear, never to return.
Kudzu House 13

After sitting vacant for several years, Moses Deale eventually rented the house to tenants for his absent son. No family ever stayed there more than a few months before moving on. Several of the tenants, especially the women, mentioned enduring bouts of incredible sadness while living there. One family was regularly awakened by the sound of falling silverware hitting the floor, only to search in vain for nothing amiss. One poor woman ran out of the house screaming in the middle of the night, tormented one time too many by the sound of another woman singing. Years passed and eventually the house was simply used for storage as no one would ever live there. The house still stands, but is covered in wild vines, glassless windows exposing the house to weather. Villagers claim that on still moonless nights you will occasionally hear the clang of a spoon hitting the floor or a mother's voice singing lullabies to her children coming from the old Deale house.

October 28, 2010

Big Meadows

I will end my Shenandoah National Park posts where it officially began when dedicated by FDR in 1935 at Big Meadows. I had hoped our stay would begin here as well. We left Norfolk fairly early so that we could get to the first-come-first-serve campsites before the bulk of the expected Columbus Day weekend crowd. I really wanted to camp at Big Meadows, but when we got to the park the admitting ranger told us that only Loft Mt. campground, at the other end of the park, had any spaces left. We ended up with one of the last 10 spots remaining in the entire park. On Sunday we returned north just so I could see the meadows. I have been there before, but never with anyone who would abide with my desire to wander, though the often surly, soon to be 13-year old who I was travelling with did not want to go, to which I said "you are welcome to go back to the car or sulk on that rock, but I'll be through when I'm through".

Big Meadows (6)

Even as a kid, I was fascinated with meadows and played in them on the fringes of our neighborhood before they fell victim to sprawl. This type of landscape is not natural here, rather it is more of a transition form, usually filling the gap between what was once agriculture and a return to what was before - the forest. Big Meadows is no exception. It is the last large open area in the park, a remnant of what much of the park looked like in 1935, a collection of homesites, fields and pastures cleared from the forest. While the rest of the park has been allowed to return to its former state, NPS keeps Big Meadows as it is by a once yearly mowing. While we were there it had transitioned to fall and was a 300 acre tapestry of color and texture.

Big Meadows (2)

Big Meadows (7)

Big Meadows (8)

Big Meadows (9)

Big Meadows (11)

Big Meadows (3)

Big Meadows (4)

Big Meadows (5)

Big Meadows

If you would like to see more of my Shenandoah N.P. pictures you can click here.

October 25, 2010

October Skies

October Skies

It was fairly cloudy most of the day here, and rain began falling late in the afternoon. On the way home from work I made a stop to pick up some flowers (tomorrow is our anniversary), and as I was leaving the store the sun broke through the last few minutes of the day. The sky began to glow, and I dashed behind the shopping center to get a picture. In an instant it was over.

October Skies (2)

October 23, 2010

Two Trails

During our stay in Shenandoah we went hiking several times. I asked one of the rangers if she could recommend some trails near our campsite. On her endorsement we hiked the Jones Run Trail with the promise of 43' falls. As we entered the trial it was obvious to me it had been a while since rain had fallen. We descended fairly steeply the dry mountain until we came to Jones Run itself, which was a little better than a trickle. By the time we reached the site of the falls more water was flowing, but not enough to use the word spectacular. However, it was still lovely - the water, the stone and the forest.

Red Maple

Dogwood Skies

Fernstone (4)


Jones Run Reflection

Jones Run Slowed

The next day we hiked the Mill Prong Trail which seemed to have received more rain over the summer than Jones Run. The foliage looked less droughty and the stream was very lively. We ended up at Camp Rapidan, which was the presidential retreat of Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou Henry. I thought I knew my Virginia history, but I had never heard about this place until fellow blogger Art at Oh To Be Hiking wrote about it last July. The Hoovers built their Brown House (as opposed to the White House) along side the Rapidan River to take advantage of the trout fishing. We were able to take a tour of the Brown House led by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer, but it became quickly apparent that he was definitely old-school. He was explaining to the all-male tour group that the pots of forest clippings were in the cabin because Mrs. Hoover did not garden at Camp Rapidan and used what she found growing wild, "but of course none of you would be interested in that". I nearly lost it though, when he told us that Mrs. Hoover paid full asking price for the acreage and didn't try to "jew down" anybody. I can't believe people still use this offensive term. After that I was ready to leave before anything else fell out of his mouth. Back outside and with lunch at Big Rock Falls, I was quickly over our non-PC tour.

Hoover's Brown House

Camp Rapidan Fireplace

The Brown House Deck

Maples (2)

Along Mill Prong Trail (4)

Maples (3)

Mill Prong (2)

Big Rock Falls

October 18, 2010

Into The Folded Land

The place where I live is flat - flat like the kitchen floor. There are very few elevation changes and these are often imperceptible, except during storm tides when mere inches make a great difference. Though I do love living on the coast and am willing to endure the occasional nor'easter or hurricane, I try to get to the mountains whenever I have the opportunity. I remember a post that Joycelyn of The Art Garden published earlier this year about a trip to Telluride, Colorado, and I commented that I would have a hard time getting anything done if I lived there, as I would be staring at the mountains all day. She had to remind me that some people have the same issue when they are near the ocean.

Patterson Ridge

To indulge this love of the mountains and to facilitate a change in perspective, as well as to get a little closer to the wilderness, my son and I headed west for a long weekend in Shenandoah National Park. Although I have been to the park many times, this was the first time I camped there.

Two Oaks

I had hoped my timing was right to see the foliage at its peak, but I think we were about a week too early. I am not complaining though, as there was still lots of color, and I enjoy this place no matter the time of year.

Third Day

Maple  (2)

Thistle and Sumac

I will spare you the history lesson (this time), but what is now a treasure for all of us was once home to thousands of families who were forced to sell their land so the park could be created. There are scant few physical reminders of this before time, and nature has done a remarkable job of returning farms to forest. However, I find it wonderful that after 75 years these people's apple trees still abound throughout the park.

Barn Latch


Yellow Apples

Red Apples

Little Green Apples (2)

We spent a lot of time hiking while we were at Shenandoah, and I will share a couple of these in the next post.

October 14, 2010

Bloom Day - Shenandoah National Park

Though I do have blooms in the garden, there is little to show for October that hasn't already been shown in September or August. The temperatures and humidity may have moderated, and some of the trees are just now starting to bronze, but it is basically still summer here. So I am stretching the rules for this month's Bloom Day and will show some of what I saw last weekend in Shenandoah National Park - where it was indeed fall.

The campground where we ended up staying was nearly overrun with two plants, Clematis virginiana with its showy seedheads and...


... Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus).

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

There were several varieties of Aster still blooming though I am not entirely positive which species they are. Perhaps this one is Heath Aster (Aster ericoides).

Asters, Bee and Sumac

There were still a few Thistles in bloom.


Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) was just comming into bloom.

Hamamelis virginiana

The Coralberry was not the only fruit showing color. The Hawthorns (Crataegus) and...


... American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) were adding lots of color to the park.

Celastrus scandens

The seed pods of Purple Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) were popping out everywhere to ensure next summer's blooms,

Milkweed Seeds

and I was not the only creature enjoying them.

Milkweed Feeders

I will continue sharing our trip through the park in the next few posts, but if you would like to see what other gardeners are sharing at this time of year, please visit Carol at May Dreams Garden who graciously hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.

October 11, 2010

Barboursville Ruins

This past Friday my son and I headed west for a weekend of camping. Along the way we travelled through one of my favorite parts of the state, the western Piedmont where it nears the Blue Ridge, and stopped at the Barboursville Ruins. The house was one of only a few that Thomas Jefferson designed for a friend, in this case James Barbour, who was a U.S. Senator, Secretary of War and a Governor of Virginia. It took 11 years to build and was constructed in Jefferson's favorite neo-Palladian style. The main receiving room was an octagon from which all other rooms flared. On Christmas Day in 1884 the house burned leaving nothing but the walls and porch columns. The love of Virginians for their history seems to know no age, and even back then the ruins were preserved. Today Barboursville is a central part of the Barboursville Vineyards, home of many excellent wines.

Barboursville Ruins (5)

Barboursville Ruins (2)

Barboursville Ruins (4)

Barboursville Ruins (9)

Barboursville Ruins (3)

Barboursville Ruins (6)

Along with the bricks, the historic landscape around Barboursville survived the fire as well. In order for Barbour's guests to get to the front door, they first had to traverse his race track still in place (this was and remains a country of serious horse culture). The other major feature of the landscape is its boxwood plantings. As I have said in several other posts, no old Virginia house, ruined or otherwise, can be without its boxwood. Those at Barboursville are the largest I have ever seen, and I was able to walk under them without hitting my head. If the house was still habitable, the race track would be obscured from the second floor rooms by boxwood.

Barboursville Ruins (7)

Barboursville Ruins (8)

Barboursville Ruins

(My usual disclaimer is in place, in that I have not received any compensation for the mention of anything in this post, including a case of 2006 Octagon which would not be refused if it should happen to appear on my doorstep.)