Help is on Hand with Budget Handyman Service

by Claire Stuart

Spring is the traditional time to clean up and catch up on the chores that didn’t get done in the winter. If you need help with your to-do list, Melvin and Susan Hallman, owners of Budget Handyman Service, invite you to call on them for jobs big and small. They are local, licensed and insured, and they guarantee their work. They promise to arrive on time and do the job right.

Their expertise includes carpentry, plumbing, and installation/repair of ceramic tile and laminate floors. They are also ready and willing to tackle odd jobs, from cleaning out the garage, pressure washing, and painting, to repairing drywall, installing locks and deadbolts, fixing garbage disposals and maintaining your landscape. They can replace windows and doors and spruce up your kitchen with new cabinets and countertops.

Budget Handyman Services is a husband-and-wife operation. They do almost all of the work themselves, with occasional help from reliable craftspeople they have worked with for years.

Susan provides the estimates, schedules the work, does the billing and generally deals with customers. She will even accompany you to home improvement stores to consult on materials. Susan worked in the office side of the construction industry for many years, including a stint with FEMA in home inspections, reviewing inspections and billing.

The growing season finds her at work outdoors in the landscaping end of the business. She mows, plants trees and flowers, mulches and weeds. In winter, she helps with snow removal. And, she says, “I will paint if I have to!”

Melvin has years of experience in all phases of construction, including custom flooring. His background also includes work with a local plumbing and heating company, dealing with everything from outside water and sewer to inside plumbing and fixtures. In addition, he worked for a builder doing “punchout” work, the final step in new construction where last-minute details are completed. This covers things like repairs to doors, wood trim or drywall that was damaged in the construction, hardware, adjusting installed appliances, minor electrical adjustments and touch-up painting.

“It could be anything from drywall to doorknobs,” Susan explained.

The Hallmans have been in business for themselves for over 16 years, the last eight years full-time. It began with Melvin working on custom ceramic tile floors in his spare time.

Susan recalled, “As he worked on a floor, someone might ask him to remove a toilet or a vanity, install fixtures. He’s very handy. If you want it done, he’ll figure out a way to do it!”

Thanks to his plumbing background, he could take on bigger jobs, leading into kitchen and bathroom remodeling. Both Melvin and Susan lost their jobs when the housing bubble burst, so they decided to take their part-time business full-time. They put out the word by sending out a bulk mailing describing their services.

“We only got four customers,” recalled Susan, “but we still have them!  We re-did one customer’s house and now we have the new owner.”

Their handyman business expanded in another direction when their son graduated high school.  “He wanted to go to college to study turf management and asked if we’d add landscaping,” Susan explained. “We did, and then he joined the army! So now Mom and Dad have the landscaping.”

She reports that they do not do mowing on a contract basis. “Some operators contract to mow on a certain day every week and do it whether it needs mowing or not. We do it when it is needed—sometimes there will only be two or three weeks when we need to mow. We’re old school – we agree with a handshake.”

When they are called on to paint, says Susan, “We start by doing one room at our own pace so that you can see how we work. If you like it, you can tell us to go ahead with the rest. We are a time-and-material business. We work by the hour so you are only paying for when we actually work. You get all the receipts for material.”

Budget Handyman will tackle just about any job, large or small, except new construction. They have chinked and sealed historic log structures and changed a light bulb two stories up. They have even installed Christmas decorations for elderly folks who were no longer able to do it.  If you are on a fixed income and need work done, they will do their best to plan the work around your budget, prioritizing and doing what you can afford over a period of months.

Twenty-four hour emergency service is available for urgent problems like leaks, and they will get there within 24 hours and try to fix the problem the same day.

The Hallmans prefer to work close to home in Clarke and western Loudoun County, but they will travel to Frederick and parts of West Virginia. The farthest they have travelled for a job was to Alabama. “That was for family,” Susan laughed.

Call Budget Handyman Service at 540-327-1189 or 540-327-9130


Clarke Softball Field is Rededicated to Charles O. Grubbs

By Sinead Juday

When Susan Grubbs first started coaching softball for Clarke County High School, the field was “too small and behind the Presbyterian church with only a few benches and rusty backstop,” says her sister, Kim Braithwaite. Now, many years later, the new and enhanced softball field is dedicated to their father, Charles O. Grubbs, who was responsible for these improvements.

In the spring of 2001, the Clarke County High School softball field was first dedicated to Charles. Recently, a ceremony was held to rededicated the field to Grubbs following his death in October. On March 10, his family, friends, and the Clarke community gathered to celebrate the significant improvements that Grubbs had made, not only to the Clarke County High School softball field and program, but to the lives of many people.

After retiring in 1992, Grubbs took on the task of fixing up the Clarke County High School softball field. He spent most of his newfound free time soliciting people to assist him in upgrading the field and seeking out more who could help fund these improvements so the softball program wouldn’t have to bear all of the cost. Grubbs helped lead the way to build the visitor’s dugout, the concession stand, and the press box while also improving the backstop and repairing the batting cage. These renovations have helped to enhance both the Clarke County High School softball field and the softball program.

Grubbs, however, did not expect nor need to be recognized for all the work he put into this project. When the field was first dedicated, it came as a surprise to Grubbs. Although he took great pride in the softball field, the mere satisfaction of improving the field and helping softball program was enough for Grubbs. He took this on as a personal project.

As well as coordinating contributions for the softball program, he could often be seen mowing, digging holes, or trying to get water off the field himself. According to his family, Grubbs’ dedication to the field and joy for helping the softball program are some of the many virtues that possessed. These qualities are what inspired the decision to dedicate the softball field to Grubbs.

Charles Grubbs wasn’t the only one of his family to be involved in softball in Clarke County. With Grubbs as a role model, each member of the Grubbs family has shown enthusiasm to assist in bettering the Clarke softball programs. His daughter Susan Grubbs, who is currently a math teacher and softball coach, has been a part of the softball scene for many years. Kim Brathwaite, another of Grubbs’ daughters, has also been very involved with Clarke County Little League softball and baseball.

Because the majority of his family contribute to the Clarke County High School softball program,  many members were involved in the ceremony. His wife Shelby Grubbs threw the first pitch, and his grandchildren unveiled the new sign and scoreboard at the field. In addition to the scoreboard and sign, a chair with Grubbs’ jacket was displayed in the location where he often sat to watch the softball games.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” Grubbs would often say. His passion for helping others is echoed in this frequently spoken phrase. Even in the last couple years of his life, Grubbs was always looking for a way to help his family and to help others. The entirety of the Clarke softball community and all of Clarke County will remember Charles Grubbs for his humility, his dedication and his love for serving others.

“Our Place” Respite Center, an invaluable community resource

by Karen Cifala

Being a caretaker is one of the hardest jobs ever! Every caregiver goes through a “burnout” period when they feel exhausted and stressed out, and just not up to the responsibility. Here are a few burnout signs to look for if you are a caregiver of a loved one:

  • Not wanting to interact with people, especially family and close friends.
  • Not being as interested in your favorite hobbies, such as reading.
  • Thoughts of suicide or hurting your elderly loved one; feeling depressed.
  • Abnormal eating patterns.
  • Abnormal sleeping, not being able to fall asleep or have trouble getting up.
  • Not being able to shake a cold, signs of a reduced immune system or not really feeling good.
  • Irritability that triggers negative responses and actions.

Any of these signs might be a clue that caring is becoming too draining on you and that you need a break.

Our Place Respite Center, formerly housed at the Episcopal Church is Berryville, is now located at Crums Methodist Church, on Crums Church Road in Clarke County. Our Place is a social model program developed by the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) and the Brookdale Foundation, and has been in existence for 14 years. You don’t have to be a Clarke County resident to attend, as SAAA also operates another respite center in Edinburg. You can choose whichever is closest to where you live.

Our Place in Clarke County offers a break to caregivers of persons with dementia, early to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disabilities. This program provides a benefit to both the caregiver and the participants. It is very affordable, with a sliding scale daily fee ($10­–25) which includes lunch and snacks. Participating adults need to be mobile (which includes using a walker) and able to participate as well as able to toilet themselves. The food is provided by Meals on Wheels and is delivered daily for the participants. Participants need to provide their own transportation to and from the program which runs in Clarke County from 10am to 3pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Reverend Tom Barnard, pastor at Crums United Methodist Church, describes “the church” as, “We are the People of God,” and extends his belief that the church, in some respect, is also a hospital where help is offered in many forms; physically, mentally and spiritually for all people. Pastor Tom is very pleased to be able to provide a space for this community service. Crums Methodist also has an all-volunteer food delivery distribution for needy families. They also have a K-1 st grade “backpack program” where they collect easy to eat snack food donations for needy kids. Please support their youth mission to Rosebud Reservation by attending their fundraiser pancake supper on April 29th at Enders Firehouse, in Berryville, from 5-7:30.

A typical day at Our Place might look like:

  • 10:00 Coffee, snack, greetings, puzzles, brain teasers, word games
  • 10:30 Exercise: balloon volleyball in chairs, basketball, stretching or walking
  • 11:30 Lunch provided by Meals on Wheels
  • 12:30 Rest with background music in reclining chairs with a blanket
  • 1:00 Craft
  • 2:00 Restroom break
  • 2:15 Game, dominoes, checkers, card games
  • 2:45 Prepare for departure

“An invaluable program,” says Tony Hopson, whose wife has been a regular participant at Our Place for several years. Kathy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Our Place has not only freed him up to do regular chores that we take for granted like grocery shopping, but the therapeutic interaction that Our Place offers is very encouraging to Tony as he continues to see small incremental positive changes in his wife’s behavior.

Another wonderful man I talked to, Leroy, who is the sole caretaker of his wife Mareta, explains that her dementia has supercharged her personality and behaviors to the point where she can’t remember what happened even two minutes ago. Our Place has proven to be something that he can’t live without and wishes that they could offer more than three days a week. His wife loves to stay busy every minute and the positive interaction, games, and exercise brings her more pleasure than staying at home all the time. Plus as you can imagine, down time for yourself is non-existent in a situation like this and Our Place gives Leroy the peace of mind that his wife is being well taken care of while he takes some time for himself.

As I walked around the facility I noticed a lovely wall with family collages. Each participant is encouraged to bring in pictures to make a collage of their own. The participants also have raised garden beds to grow vegetables and flowers; they go outside for walks, bake in the kitchen and join in spontaneous singing whenever the moment strikes. How can i forget this song, I heard it at least a dozen times during my interview; “This is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in Him. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.”

Along with individual care plans and respite for the caregivers, Our Place occasionally offers support group meetings and other collaborative resources for the family.

For more information or to make an appointment with SAAA regarding care for your loved one contact Charity Michael, case manager for SAAA, call 540-635-7141, ext.# 1016

Karen Cifala is a Realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville, VA with a special interest in our aging population. She can be reached on her cell 303-817-9374, office 540-955-0911 or by email. She is happy to take article requests!

Farmers Market Opens for the Season with Live Music

The Clarke County Farmer’s Market is starting strong this season with Furnace Mountain Band providing live music on opening day, Saturday, May 5. The market offers fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, crafts and baked goods every Saturday morning, May through October, from 8am–12pm in the town parking lot on South Church Street in Berryville. Enjoy something new every week as produce comes into season.

The 2017 vendor list currently includes:

Visit the market’s Facebook page for updates, or e-mail

About Furnace Mountain

Though often overshadowed by Southwest Virginia and its famed Crooked Road, the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia’s northwestern counties have always been fertile ground for traditional music, and they continue to be home to many of its finest practitioners.

Furnace Mountain, named for a mountain near where all the members grew up, consists of some of the most innovative and gifted musicians in Virginia. With Aimee Curl on bass and vocals, Danny Knicely on mandolin and fiddle, Dave Van Deventer on fiddle, and Morgan Morrison on guitar, bouzouki, and vocals, the band creates music that is at times lively and raucous, with spirited fiddle melodies weaving in and around the powerful rhythms of the bass and bouzouki, and other times poignant and poetic, with sublime vocal harmonies beautifully interpreting some of the oldest songs ever written.

Furnace Mountain has performed throughout the world, from the Yangtze River in China to the banks of the Shenandoah River, where they are the host band of Watermelon Park Festival, held on the site of one of the very first bluegrass festivals, in 1965. Furnace Mountain plays music from the American Appalachian traditions, as well as original compositions and songs penned by their favorite songwriting friends.


PVAS Sponsering April 13 Forum on Environmental Advocacy

The Potomac Valley Audubon Society will sponsor a forum on environmental advocacy the evening of Thursday, April 13 in Shepherdstown.

The forum, entitled “A Guide for the Uneasy Environmentalist,” will be held from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. in the Frank Arts Center auditorium on the Shepherd University campus.

Admission will be free and everyone is welcome to attend.

The event, which is being billed as non-partisan, will be aimed at promoting effective advocacy on environmental and natural resource conservation issues.

It will feature a panel discussion that will explore such questions as what tools are available to change perceptions about these issues, how does advocacy influence decision-making, and what strategies are most effective.

The panelists will be former Democratic State Representative Stephen Skinner; Dr. David Didden, Jefferson County Public Health Department; Mary Ann Hitt, Sierra Club; Christian Thomas, Sky Truth; and Wendy Radcliff, former Environmental Advocate for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

The forum will be followed by a post-event gathering from 8:30 p.m. onward at the Domestic Restaurant, 117 East German Street, Shepherdstown.

For more information go to

Shenandoah University To Host Virginia Humanities Conference In April

Winchester, VA – The 2017 Virginia Humanities Conference (VHC) at Shenandoah University, to be held Friday, April 7, and Saturday, April 8, is titled “The Unbearable Humanities.” Sponsored by the university’s College of Arts & Sciences, this conference examines the concept of that which cannot be endured or tolerated—with scholars, activists, and students from a wide variety of disciplines and institutions.

VHC 2017 examines how and what kinds of knowledge the humanities produce that existing structures cannot bear; how and why approaches to this unbearableness that are grounded in the humanities are met with resistance; and, finally, how those in the humanities value, make use of, and respond to contemporary, and sometimes unbearable, issues.

“I am thrilled that Shenandoah University has the opportunity to host this year’s Virginia Humanities Conference,” said Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Jeff Coker, Ph.D. “We have a great number of diverse and interesting panel sessions for those attending, and those on the panels not only represent our fellow Virginia academic institutions, but institutions and organizations from across the country and around the world as well.”

Two events which are free and open to the public are associated with the conference:

Pressures of the Unbearable: A Critical Conversation, a keynote address given by Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, is held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, April 7, in Halpin-Harrison Hall, Stimpson Auditorium. Berlant, the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor of English at the University of Chicago, and Edelman, the Fletcher Professor of English Literature at Tufts University, are co-authors of “Sex, or the Unbearable” (2014). Read more about the keynote speakers below.

Can the 21st Century America Bear the Humanities?, a humanities panel discussion, is held from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 8, in Henkel Hall, Hester Auditorium; moderated by Dr. Coker. Participants include: David Bearinger, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; Robert Ehrenreich, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; David Smith, Department of History, Baylor University; and Robert Townsend, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Those wishing to attend the full conference should visit to register. Register by Tuesday, March 28, to avoid a late registration fee. For more information, contact the President of VHC 2017 and Shenandoah University Director of Gender & Women’s Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature Petra Schweitzer, Ph.D., at or 540/545-7380.

Shenandoah University Professor Awarded PAEA Research Grant

Winchester, VA – Distinguished Professor and Director of the Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program Anthony A. Miller, M.Ed., PA-C, was recently awarded the 2017 Faculty Generated Research Grant from the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), along with C. Jayne Brahler, Ph.D., associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Dayton.

“As we continue to recognize that the key to health professions education is not simply memorizing a great number of facts, the importance of examining how to determine critical thinking skills rises to the top,” said Miller. “I am hopeful this research will help to illuminate how critical thinking skills impact the success of physician assistant studies students.”

The grant is an opportunity for researchers to gain support for their investigation of a question of critical interest to PA education and/or the profession. The pair’s research will explore two questions:

1) Do Health Science Reasoning Test scores predict PA student didactic year success as measured by persistence, number of course grades less than “B,” and end of the post-didactic/pre-clinical grade point averages (GPAs)?

2) Is there a significant difference in changes in PA student abilities to think critically as measured by the Health Science Reasoning Test, based on the pedagogical model a program uses?

Miller and Dr. Brahler’s winning proposal was chosen through a rigorous two-phase, blinded process. A panel of reviewers from the PAEA Research Council and the Grants and Scholarship Review Group comprise the review board.

Bennett Russell and Others vs. Negroes Juliet and Others

 By Jesse Russell

In 1850 one of the most hotly contested court battles in the area, if not in the entire state of Virginia, began its long journey through the courts and was not resolved until 7 years later in 1857. What made this particular court case so unusual were not only the defendants but what they were defending. The defendants were slaves. Their argument was the most basic of human rights. Freedom.

In 1848, a large landholder and slave owner in the northwest part of Clarke County, died. His name was John Russell Crafton (1772-1848)* and in his will he not only left his 2,000 acres to be equally divided among his heirs, but he also named a large number of his slaves to be freed upon his death. Among those slaves named to be freed was a young black woman known only by the name of Juliet. She had known what was in the will, but she did not know that a later addendum to that will, known as the “Articles of Agreement,” had been added to the will June 13, 1842. It not only revoked their freedom, but instructed the heirs to sell the slaves upon Crafton’s death.

Juliet was not going to be deterred from her fight for freedom, and forced the heirs of Crafton’s estate to bring suit against Juliet and others who had refused to accept that Crafton had reversed his initial desire that she and others be freed.

It does seem odd that John Russell Crafton would have changed his mind about freeing these slaves. He had been raised by his mother’s family (his mother Ann Russell had died shortly after his birth) in Loudoun County, Va., and his grandmother had been a Quaker. As has been well documented, Quakers saw slavery as immoral. It would have been natural that John Russell Crafton would have been, at least in part, influenced by his grandmother. Although he had been a slave owner, there may have been a residual guilt of owning another human, and to rectify such he therefore made the late moral decision to free his slaves upon his death.

In 1839 John Russell Crafton had provided in his will the freedom of his slaves and any children that may be born prior to his death. Their names, with their ages as given in 1850, were as follows: Juliet (35), Moses(30), Amanda(17), Fanny(16), Harriett(13), Marshall(12) and all their children, named Rachael(4), Mary Jane(19), Granchison(8), Thomas(7), Wenny(4), Emily(2) and two infant children, one the child of Amanda and the other a child of Mary Jane. The total persons declaring their freedom was a total of 14 slaves.

Two years after John Russell Crafton’s death, the court case was filed in the Clarke County Court House by Bennett Russell, curator for the estate of John Russell Crafton. The year was 1850 and in 1851, the court was moved to Frederick County, Va. No doubt, the venue was changed by the request of the attorney representing Juliet and others. With Clarke County being a far larger slave-owning county than Frederick County per capita, and the fact that Bennett Russell, curator, was not only well known in Clarke County but was also a Gentleman Justice of the local courts, the attorney for Juliet did not feel that a fair trial could be had in the local court.

How Juliet was able to convince any local attorney to take their case is not known, but it does not seem possible that Juliet would have had the resources to pay an attorney. The local attorney who represented Juliet and the others was Richard Parker. The Parkers were an old family in Clarke County who had lived for several generations at their home between the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah River known as “The Retreat.” This stately old home still stands today and the development, Shenandoah Retreat, next to it was named for the home.

Thus began a court case that Cartmell’s book, “Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants” described as, “…a torturous course through the courts…..attracting large crowds of people to every trial.”

In the 1850s the abolitionist movement was reaching an all-time high. The winds of war were already being felt. The wealth of the South had been built upon the backs of slavery. Ending slavery meant ending their wealth and power. There was no doubt that the area residents, as well as others throughout Virginia, followed this court case with intense interest. How the court eventually ruled on this case would have reverberations throughout the land.

Slavery had from the beginning been questioned as a moral issue but now, a small but vital part of the slavery question was being addressed in a court of law. For the slaves involved in this court case, it was far more than a legal precedent. It was simply freedom versus continued bondage. For slave owners everywhere, the case was viewed as a possible chink in the legal armor of slavery laws. The court had already, knowingly or not, acknowledged the right of a slave’s voice to be heard in a court of law and question those who enslaved them.

John Russell Crafton was an old man in 1842 when these Articles of Agreement were signed and although my research has not yet proven so, there are questions as to the health and “soundness” of Crafton’s mind when he signed the Articles of Agreement — if indeed he had actually signed such an agreement. What is known, the courts took 7 years in which to answer this question. This was an unusual amount of time to spend in court for what many thought would be an open and shut case in favor of John Russell Crafton’s heirs.

In 1857, the court finally rendered a verdict. It was the court’s opinion that the Articles of Agreement was to be considered the Last Will and Testament of John Russell Crafton, thus ending the slaves historic and heroic 7-year battle for their freedom. Per the directive of the Articles of Agreement, the slaves were sold.

How could a man who initially had left his slaves their freedom turn around and not only revoke their freedom but make the decision to break this family up by selling them? The answer to this question will never be known for sure and we are left to only speculate.

Two years later, in 1859, a lanky, bearded man with intense eyes and severe countenance passed through this county, stopping at large estates to repair clocks. It has been said that he was often found conversing with slaves on the farms he visited. This strange and intense old man had, within months of passing through Clarke County, become the leader of a slave rebellion that ended in his capture after a short, but bloody, fight at Harpers Ferry. The old man’s name? John Brown.

John Brown’s trial was held in Charles Town, Va. (now West Virginia). The judge who presided over his trial and sentenced him to hang was none other than Richard Parker, the attorney who had for seven years fought for the freedom of John Russell Crafton’s slaves.

*John Russell Crafton’s father was Major Bennett Crafton from King William County, Virginia.  Other than the signing of his marriage bond and his Last Will and Testament, he informally went by the surname Russell. All of his children went by the surname Russell as they became adults. John Russell Crafton is the 3rd great grandfather of the author of this story; and Bennett Russell was his 2nd great grandfather. The name of the family farm was Rock Hall, and the old home first built as a log cabin and later added a stone wing was torn down in the early 1990s. A photo of the old home and Bennett Russell was taken in the late 1850s to 1862. 

The Simple Life Begins In The Garden

A Primer for Gardening with Kids

by JiJi Russell
For anyone who has ever found joy in digging in the dirt or watching nature transform a seed into a sprout, and then a plant, you might not need to be convinced that gardening offers undeniable benefits. Gardening with children can amplify the fun, while passing skills, knowledge, and appreciation right on down the chain.
Many children possess a natural curiosity about the world of nature. Planning and tending to a garden can deepen that interest, while also imparting a sense of stewardship and self-reliance among our next generation. Research also shows that working with dirt can boost the healthy “microbiome” of our bodies, the microorganisms that live on our skin, in our intestines, and in other regions of our body. The so-called “good bacteria” of the gut are part of that microbiome; these organisms help with digestion and absorption of nutrients. The health and vitality of one’s microbiome is now considered an indicator of overall physical and even mental health and well-being, giving us another good reason to play in the dirt.

Fresh off the vine

Time and again I have read and heard anecdotes of children becoming more willing to eat fresh fruits and vegetables when they have had a hand in growing their own food. And, the movement toward planting edible yards and landscapes offers an exciting intersection of utility and beauty: Grow beautiful plant combinations that you can actually eat!
Gardening can be done in small spaces with containers; or in cleared patches of yard. In effect, anywhere that the sun shines can be transformed into a space for growing. (Many options exist for shade gardening, too, but with a focus on edible plants, let’s consider first the sunny side.)
Let this be your year to start a garden with a child, or children, in your lives. Don’t overthink it; there will always be room for improvement. Even the most accomplished gardeners will tell you that they are never truly done.

What’s your fancy?

What kind of garden do you and your children want to create? A garden you can eat, or a garden you can clip, as in, flowers? Or a mix of both? There are many online resources for planning out garden plots (see sidebar). If you can narrow down your wishes, you probably will have more success preparing and caring for
your garden.
Some plants lend themselves particularly well to a children’s garden. Included are radishes, with a quick maturation period; green beans, which grow relatively easily and can be (indeed, should be) eaten right off the vine; cherry tomatoes (ditto); lettuces, which come in many varieties and are easy to grow and clip; pumpkins (big fun); and a multitude of herbs, which often can tolerate lots of sun and/or a forgotten watering.
Some books and web resources offer theme-based garden designs. “Pizza
gardens,” for example, can include tomatoes, onions or garlic, peppers of choice, and herbs like basil or parsley. Consider a round plot with pizza-like wedges delineated for
each plant.
For a mix of edible beauty, consider an herb garden that attracts butterflies. Herbs like parsleydill, and pineapple sage all beckon butterflies, those beguiling guests who also help with plant pollination.
Nasturtium, with bright orange, red, or yellow flowers, can grow in poor soil and offer a great example of color and edibility. Throw a few of the peppery flowers or leaves in with your tender salad greens.
As for culinary herbs: the list could go on forever. Parsleythymerosemarycilantrobasil (fresh pesto, anyone?). Let your taste, or that of your garden collaborators, serve as your guide.
Choose your plants, based on your preferences and your available space. Some plants are easy to cultivate from seed, while for others, you might have more success with seedlings. Whether you start with seed or seedling depends on the particular plants you’ve chosen and will take  just
a little research.
Seeds are less expensive than seedlings, but for many vegetable plants, you might experience better luck, and a longer harvest window, by starting with seedlings. If you want to begin some plants from seed, consider “direct sowing” of seeds outdoors, rather than starting seeds indoors, which presents another layer of complexity. (see sidebar for best direct-sow seeds)

Up high, down low

If you don’t have a lot of ground space, containers can be a great spot, especially for herbs and flowers. You can also grow vertically by staking frames for climbing plants, like beans or climbing flowers.
Consult your kids to create a vision of your planting areas. A mix of container and ground plots might provide a balance of ease and control for you. Sketching out garden plots or containers can be a fun activity for experienced and novice gardeners alike.

Ready to launch

As you plan your garden and choose your seedlings and seeds, take note of the maturity and harvest schedule for the plants in your plot or container. Vegetables like peas and broccoli thrive in cooler spring or fall temperatures. Dedicating one area to “early bloomers” will leave a hole when they’re done, so you might consider mixing up early, mid, and later-maturing plants. Or, you can re-plant an early
container or plot once it expires. You can find many resources in books and on the web showing planting and harvesting schedules, based on your zone. (Berryville is in Zone 6b, according to the USDA Plant Hardiness
Zone Map).
Prepare your soil. The act of soil preparation ranges from dig and drop to meticulous balancing. Check out some primers on how to get your plot or containers ready for the plants of your choice, and for the sake of sanity perhaps err on the side of quick-n-easy over
scholarly. (see sidebar)
What’s left after a little consideration and research? Getting to work! Let the fun and discovery unfold in your own backyard. Not to mention the unmatched pleasure from biting into a fresh-out-of-the-ground vegetable or herb, or giving away a bouquet of your own fresh-cut flowers.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Browse garden plans,
like “tea garden” and “salad garden”

Best direct-sow seeds

Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Preparing soil in spring

Best plants for kids’ gardens

101 Kid-Friendly Plants, by Cindy Krezel