Shawna Hartsook sums up the aim of her family farm in simple terms: “I want to keep people shopping in their community.” Oak Hart Farm, which expanded this year to offer a larger store with an expanded variety of goods from spices to grains, to coffee and kombucha, serves as a curator of local and regional produce and pantry items.
They also farm rows and rows of their own chemical-free vegetables, herbs, and flowers, an enviable sight alongside the gravel road leading to the store. Oak Hart sells fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs (chicken and duck), and dairy items from several local and regional farms – including sauerkraut and kombucha to appeal to the pucker-lovers.
And their “low waste” ethos permeates the store, where shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bottles, jars, and bags. Bulk items for sale include olive oil, vinegar, and a host of cleaning supplies. All products are carefully researched and vetted for sustainability, and Hartsook stands strong in her insistence on chemical free products across the board.
On a recent visit to the new store, I felt a nice, slow-down vibe hit me, as apparently did several customers who wandered in and out of the store and shared in conversation. It’s as if someone opened up her own well-kept pantry, with so much to please the senses, and said, “Come on in and stay a while.” You might find something tasty if you do.
Each week Oak Hart’s website posts available produce offerings from their market. This week you’ll find kale, chard, beets, potatoes, turnips, and lots more. Hours of operation and offerings can be found at https://oakhartfarm.com/market.
Oak Hart Farm is located at 822 Shepherd’s Mill Road, Berryville, VA 22611.
If a visit to Mount Vernon is in your summer plans, be sure to take a close look at the pictures hanging in the full-scale restoration of the grand Front Parlor. Curators painstakingly recreated the room down to the smallest details. The gilded frames holding the Washington family portraits were handmade by Berryville’s own Peter Miller, a highly skilled carver, gilder, conservator, and restorer. He creates one-of-a-kind frames using the same traditional methods used by 12th and 13th century craftsmen.
Miller was contacted by a Mount Vernon curator to craft 13 historically accurate frames. These replicas were essential because some paintings are too valuable to be put on public display, some original frames did not survive, and some paintings are owned by others. After extensive research and trips to photograph and take exacting measurements, Miller and his apprentice and assistant Christian Ferrante produced the ornate hand-carved and gilded frames.
Miller has also crafted frames for pictures in the George W. Bush Presidential Library. They hang in a floor-to-ceiling recreated Oval Office, the only recreation of the Oval Office in the world.
Originally from Connecticut, Miller learned to work with wood as a child, serving as his father’s eyes and additional hands. His father was a wood shop teacher in the 1940s–50s as well as a hobbyist, but lost his sight when Miller was just a year old. “He continued to work in his home shop,” Miller recalled. “My first tasks were sanding for him and cleaning his brushes. Eventually, I learned to use a drill press.”
Miller didn’t do any woodworking in high school, and gave no thought to a career in the field. In fact, he had no idea what he wanted to do, so his guidance counselor advised him to go to a business college. “I got a bit of business, accounting, economics,” he said. “It wasn’t for me.”
He gave woodworking a second look and switched to another college, where he majored in teaching woodworking, in what was called industrial technology. However, he never did teach, deciding that, “I couldn’t teach in the public school system and build birdhouses for the rest of my life!”
After college, he went to work drafting and engineering for New England Log Homes, then for a millwork company doing cabinetmaking, drawing, engineering and estimating. However, it was a family business and he could advance no further with them. He started thinking of what he could do on his own, and framing was a viable option. A family member had a framing business and he went to work for them.
He started his own business in 1983 in a small frame shop that had been established a few years before. “All they had been doing was typical ‘walk into a frame shop and see the stuff you would order from distributors.’ Then one day a client asked, ‘Do you ever get or work with closed corner frames?’”
Miller explained that with ‘closed corner’ or ‘finished corner’ frames, all of the work—the joinery, carving, etc.—is done prior to any finishing, resulting in a frame that looks seamless. “That was the kickoff point for me,” he recalled.
He began seriously learning more about hand-made frames and became enthralled with gold leaf. “The community I got involved with, The International Society of Gilders, is primarily in the USA but with members around the world. These are the people who taught me to gild. I went in there as a newbie and took workshops and studied with some of the finest gilders in the United States for many years, and I still take classes.”
He added that most of the work he does is focused around frames, but he also does furniture. In addition, he does architectural gilding—he gilded the crosses at the Episcopal Church in Berryville.
Christian Ferrente, 22, was working on an ornate wall bracket that will be gilded. “I’ve been working here a little over a year. I’ve been doing woodworking since the summer after high school, taking whatever cool opportunity came my way, and I’ve been lucky enough to do some pretty awesome jobs. I did a little bit of gilding, but just very basic. I got referred to Peter. There are very few people around that know gilding like Peter does, so I’m here, learning.”
“Christian doesn’t boast,” added Miller, “but he has done timber framing at Mount Vernon, and a little over a year working at the National Gallery in the Conservation Department.”
Miller explained that they use very old traditional techniques. “One of the things I’m most passionate about with gilding and this entire art form is that virtually nothing has changed since the Renaissance.” He pulled out a translation of a book on techniques and materials written by an Italian craftsman in the 15th Century. “Our tools are the same, nothing has really changed, even the formulas and recipes.”
Miller offers occasional classes and workshops on frame-making and gilding.
P.H. Miller Studio is located at 1 East Main Street, Berryville. For information, visit www.phmillerstudio.com or call 540-955-3939.
For A More Successful Nesting Season
Story and photo by Doug Pifer
I’ve put up seven bluebird houses at various sites on our property. For the past couple of years, bluebirds have nested in them and successfully raised a brood or two of young. Tree swallows have also used them. When I clean out the nest boxes in late winter, I’m happy to have enhanced some of the wildlife habitat of this small plot of land.But successful nesting is far from certain. Over the three years since we’ve installed new fences, the barn cats have learned to walk on the top boards as if on balance beams. Now they can routinely investigate every bird house that’s mounted on a fence post. Red foxes, raccoons, snakes and other ground predators have learned to keep an eye on nesting boxes, waiting to grab eggs, nestlings, or even adult birds. Hawks and owls patrol the skies day and night.
Alternative nest sites
It’s easy to install bird houses on fence posts, and such sites are attractive to birds such as tree swallows and bluebirds. But studies of nesting bluebirds have shown that over time, fence post nests may be less successful. They offer predators a safety lane across an open field where they can hide, hunt and ambush nesting birds. And if all the bird houses are in the fence line, the nests are set up for failure. A safer alternative is to place some bluebird and tree swallow houses on free standing, non-climbable posts. Mount bird housing on metal fencing T-posts, PVC, or metal conduit pipe cut to appropriate lengths. Positioning them ten or twelve feet from a woods or fence line makes the nests less accessible to predators.
Bird houses mounted on posts in open areas are even safer from predators if a baffle is provided. A baffle can be anything that allows the nesting bird easy access but excludes a predator. You can buy one or make it yourself. I put a pre-made baffle on the post supporting the wood duck nesting box I placed next to the creek. It resembles an upside-down funnel about two feet in diameter. A raccoon or blacksnake trying to climb up to reach the wood duck eggs will be truly baffled! Professional wildlife managers
recommend using such baffles on every wood duck nesting box.After reading literature by the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA), I learned that the telescoping metal pole that holds my martin house is climbable by snakes and raccoons. Last season I bought and installed a custom-made metal baffle to protect my martin colony. Great horned owls also can reach their talons into martin houses and grab nestlings. The PMCA sells owl guards that fit in front of martin house openings to prevent such predation, but I have yet to try them.
To further protect bluebird houses, attach to the entrance a 2.5- to 3-inch-thick square of wood, drilled with a hole the same size as the opening. A cat, owl or raccoon won’t be able to reach the birds in the nest with its paw or talons. To also discourage snakes, attach a simple tube of bent wire mesh extending from the entrance five or six inches. The outermost edge of the mesh is cut and bent outwards so the sharp wires deter a hungry snake. Bluebird predator guards are available online or at stores that sell backyard bird feeding and housing supplies.
My, what a busy month March was for us Town Council members!We began our budget work in earnest during our daylong March 12 budget work session. We have advertised a tax rate of 20 cents per $100 of assessed value for the upcoming fiscal year 2020, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2020. This tax rate is an increase from our current fiscal year’s rate of 19 cents. However, we agreed to advertise the higher rate in order to give us flexibility to see what we can afford in the upcoming year’s spending plan. It is worth noting that, legally, we cannot adopt a tax rate over what is advertised, but we can adopt a rate under what is advertised, so keeping the tax rate level is indeed a possibility.
With any adopted rate and budget as a whole, we need to consider our needs for future planning and rising costs, particularly in construction, without a considerable growth in the tax base.
There are several noteworthy items that we are considering for funding in fiscal year 2020: renovation of the playground in Rose Hill Park; creation of a deputy town manager position to assist our town manager and be the point of contact for the Public Works and Utilities departments; replacement of a police department cruiser.Also, as of this writing, we have set aside funding for the three budget goals adopted by the council in the last quarter of 2018: funding for police department accreditation; matching funding, along with the Clarke County Board of Supervisors, for a study on the extension of Jack Enders Boulevard; and funding for a branding and marketing study of the town, which would enable us to know our target markets to grow our tax base and foster economic growth.We will adopt the budget and tax rate at our June meeting.
We welcome all public input at our upcoming budget public hearing, set for May 14.
Another matter before us in March was the findings of a study regarding our utility system. This study recommends increases in both our water and sewer rates to pay for the costs of the system over the next five years. Many of these increases stem from high anticipated capital costs, with a very good possibility that we will be eyeing a significant renovation, if not altogether replacement, of our water treatment plant. That cost, alone, hovers north of $11 million. The consultant who prepared the report is also recommending an increase to our fee for new water connections, but a decrease to sewer connection fees.As much as all of us would like to avoid utility rate increases, the high capital costs, quality mandates we must adhere to, as well as our low user base, means that we must find a way to fund our system to make sure it provides adequate service for years to come.A point of emphasis — our water and sewer funds are enterprise funds, meaning that they must be self-supporting. These funds have zero impact on our general fund, which is funded by our real estate and personal property taxes. So, an increase to water and sewer rates has no bearing on tax bills, and vice versa.The report, which is available on our website (www.berryvilleva.gov) provides useful information including growth rates of neighboring jurisdictions compared to ours, monthly usage analyses, and historic data on our utility rates.We always welcome and encourage public input. If you are not able to make it to a public hearing or the Citizens’ Forum at one of our meetings, please feel free to email us your thoughts.This monthly column is authored by the members of the Berryville Town Council. For information on town government, including meetings, agendas, and contact information for the Town Council and town staff, visit www.berryvilleva.gov.
Farmers Market Opens With Live Music and Petting Zoo
The Clarke County Farmers Market is starting strong this season with The Sweet Nola’s Po’ Boys providing live New Orleans style jazz music on opening day, Saturday, May 4. The Bar C Ranch petting zoo will also be at the market.The market offers fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, crafts and baked goods every Saturday morning, May through October, from 8am to 12pm in the town parking lot on South Church Street in Berryville. Enjoy something new every week as produce comes into season. “This is only my second season with the Clarke County Farmers Market but I have been overwhelmed by the excellent vendor participation and community support that this market receives,” said market manager Karie Griffin. “We have a great group of vendors who form our market executive committee and they put in a lot of effort every year to make each week a great experience for everyone, lining up great local music and family friendly events. I’m honored to be a part of it.”Visit the market’s Facebook page, Web: clarkecountyfarmersmarket.com; Email:
12–14 Quilt Show
Clarke County Parks and Recreation Center. 225 Al Smith Circle. Berryville. Northern Shenandoah Valley Quilt show will be held. For details, visit www.nsvquiltshow.com.
13 Fundraiser Dinner
Boyce Volunteer Fire Company. 1 S. Greenway Ave. Bake sale during dinner. Free will offering. 4–7pm. 540-837-2317.
13 Downtown Berryville Yard Sale
Various locations in downtown Berryville. Begins at 8am. Contact Berryville Main Street for details at 540-955-4001.
13 Easter Egg Hunt
Clarke County Parks and Recreation’s Lloyd Field. 225 Al Smith Circle. Berryville. Bring a basket and don’t forget the camera for when the Easter Bunny hops in. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held inside the Senior Center side of the Recreation Center. $3 per child, tickets can be purchased in advance at the Recreation Center (cash, check & credit) and day of at Lloyd field (cash & checks only). Ages 1–2, 11am, 3–4, 11:20am, 5–7, 11:40am. 540-955-5140.
13 Rose Hill Chamber Orchestra Debut Performance
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. The finest musicians in the area perform. 8–10pm. $20 in advance, $25 at door, 12 and younger free.
14 Community Conversations: Common Ground
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. A trained moderator will oversee a discussion open to all residents and designed to help people from different backgrounds and viewpoints connect and better understand each other. 4–6pm. Free.
14 Talk and Book Signing With Jesse Russell
Long Branch Historic House and Farm. 830 Long Branch Lane. Boyce. Clarke County native and local history expert Jesse Russell will discuss his new book, “Juliet: From Slavery to Inspiration.” Refreshments prior to talk. $10 ahead, $15 at door. 6pm.
14 Sunday Wellness Series:
Brain Matters!Sanctuary Wellness Center. 208 N. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Registered medical herbalist Geo Giordano presents issues of the brain relating to toxins, diet and lifestyle, and solutions will be discussed and the video interview “The End of Alzheimer’s” will be shown. $20 with pre-registration, $25 at door. 2–4pm. 410-707-4486. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.sanctuaryberryville.com
18 Physical Therapy for Vertigo
WorkshopBerryville Physical Therapy and Wellness. 322-A N. Buckmarsh St. Learn about this troublesome condition and various forms of treatment. Free interactive session with questions and answers at end. 540-955-1837. 6:30pm.
20 Spring Craft Show
Chet Hobert Park. 225 Al Smith Circle. Berryville. More than 75 crafters and artisans will offer unique, handcrafted products. Show moves into recreation center in case of rain. Free admission. 9am–5pm. 540-955-5147.
20 Bumper Jacksons Concert
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Early jazz and country with a unique, DIY style. Dance party after concert. Dinner at 6pm with Jordan Springs barbecue for sale, concert at 7pm. $20 in advance, $25 at door, $30 at door for seated and dance party tickets. www.barnsofrosehill.org.
21 Community Pancake Breakfast
John Enders Fire Hall. 9 S. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Come support your fire and rescue squad and enjoy the finest pancake breakfast in the area. Adults $8, children $4, children 5 and younger free. 7am–12pm. 540-955-1110.
21 Blue Ridge Hunt Point to Point Races
Woodley Farm. 590 Woodley Lane. Berryville. First race at 1pm. Easter egg hunt, antique car show, Nantucket Beagles on parade and more. $25 per car, $150 for VIP tailgate parking. 540-631-1919. email@example.com.
23 Community Meal
Boyce Volunteer Fire Company. 7 S. Greenway Ave. Free meal prepared by county churches on the fourth Tuesday of every month. 5:30pm. Contact Eleanor Lloyd at 540-247-6311.
25 Soul-Full Community Meal
Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church. 210 E. Main St. Berryville. 13 local churches get together to provide a meal open to all in the community the fourth Thursday of each month. Free. 5:15–6:30pm. 540-955-1264.
25 Winedown Yoga
Historic Long Branch. 830 Long Branch Lane. Boyce. Led by Amy Hope-Gentry. Contact Amy for details and to register. 5:45–7:45pm. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.amyhopegentry.com. www.sanctuaryberryville.com.
26 Patron’s Night Art at the Mill
Burwell Morgan Mill. 15 Tannery Lane. Millwood. Enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres as you preview and purchase art. 6–9pm. Tickets are $65 a person and available at www.clarkehistory.org or 540-955-2600.
27 Spring Spaghetti Dinner
Boyce Fire Hall. 7 Greenway Ave. Fun, food and fellowship with takeout plates available. Free will offering benefits Boyce United Methodist Church Ministries. 4–7pm. 540-336-3585. 540-409-7197.
27 Art at the Mill Opening Day
Burwell Morgan Mill. 15 Tannery Lane. Millwood. Runs through Sunday, May 12. 250 artists display for sale over 1000 works of art in a historic 18th century, operating mill. Saturdays 10am–6pm, Sunday–Friday 12–5pm. Adults $5, seniors $3, children 12 and younger free. 540-837-1799.
27 Bud’s Collective Concert
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Powerful group of pickers from the hills of West Virginia in the bluegrass tradition. 8–10pm. $15 in advance, $25 at door, 12 and younger free. www.barnsofrosehill.org. 540-955-2004.
27 World Tai Chi Day
Chet Hobert Park. 225 Al Smith Circle. Berryville. Led by Adrian VanKeuren. Participate in demonstrations, experience grounding and chi flow and learn how Tai Chi can bring stability to your life. 9–11am. www.worldtaichiday.org.
27 Lyme Alive Support Group
Sanctuary Wellness Center. 208 N. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Adrian VanKeuren leads with the topic of preventing Lyme and tick-borne illnesses. 2–4pm. email@example.com. www.sanctuaryberryvillecom.
28 At Eternity’s Gate Film
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Film explores the world and mind of Vincent Van Gogh. 4–6pm. Members $5, nonmembers $8. www.barnsofrosehill.org. 540-955-2004.
28 Guided Historic Tours
Historic Long Branch House and Farm. 830 Long Branch Lane. Boyce. Led by Colette Poisson, who worked with the previous owner. Adults $8, children younger than 12 free. 12–4pm. 540-837-1856.
28 Cooking Demonstration
Four Forces Wellness. 424 Madden St. Berryville. Nutritionist Christine Kestner will show how to make a whole food, plant-based lifestyle work. Samples and recipes to take home included. $20. Register ahead. 2pm. 571-277-0877. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.sanctuaryberryville.com.
29 Yoga Fundamentals Class
Sanctuary Wellness Center. 208 N. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Four week class led by Amy Hope-Gentry. $65 per person for the series. Register ahead. 11am–12pm. email@example.com. www.sanctuaryberryville.com.
30 Jarlath Henderson Concert
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Youngest ever recipient of BBC Young Folk Award, who featured on the soundtrack of the movie Brave, performs. 8–10pm, Jordan Springs barbecue sold before show. $20 in advance, $25 at door, 12 and younger free. www.barnsofrosehill.org. 540-955-2004.
3 Folk Concert
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Lloyd Martin and Vox perform folk music with ukulele, mouth trumpet, hand percussion, bass, finger-picked guitar and harmony. 8–10pm, Jordan Springs Barbecue available ahead for purchase. $15 in advance, $20 at door, 12 and younger free. www.barnsofrosehill.org. 540-955-2004.
3 Wild Edibles Festival
Watoga State Park. 4800 Watoga Park Rd. Marlinton, W.V. Geo Giordano is keynote speaker at festival with foraging hike, vendors, demonstrations, live music and more. 3pm. www.wvstateparks.com/event/wild-ediblesfestival.
4 Farmers Market
Season Opening Day Town parking lot next to Dollar General. 20 S. Church St. Berryville. Food trucks, Bar C Ranch petting zoo, live music and many vendors selling meat, produce, cheese, vegetables and much more. 8am–12pm. clarkecountyfarmersmarket.com.
4 VHSA Horse and Pony Hunter Show
Sandstone Farm. 3805 Millwood Rd. Millwood. Call for details. 540-837-1261, or day of show 540-532-2292.
5 Blue Ridge Singers Concert
Christ Church. 809 Bishop Meade Rd. Millwood. The Blue Ridge Singers will perform under the direction of Dr. Jeff Albin. Light refreshments served afterward with meet and greet with performers. Free, suggested donation $10. 4pm.
5 Fiesta in the Garden
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. On Cinco de Mayo, join Sustainability Matters and Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District for a Fiesta of sustainable gardening. 1–4pm. $30 in advance, $25 for Barns or Sustainability Matters members, $10 for children. www.barnsofrosehill.org. 540-955-2004.
7 Trivia Night
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. The Clarke County Historical Association and the Clarke County Library team up once again to bring live team trivia. Categories include History, Movies, Literature, Science and more. Prizes donated by local area businesses. Barn doors open at 6:30 p.m., trivia begins at 7pm. Free. 540-955-2004. www.barnsofrosehill.org.
10 Hiroya Tsukamoto Concert
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Internationally acclaimed guitarist and composer takes us on an innovative, impressionistic journey filled with earthy, organic soundscapes that impart a mood of peace and tranquility. 8–10pm. $15 in advance, $20 at door, 12 and younger free. www.barnsofrosehill.org. 540-955-2004.
11 Angela Marchese
Concert Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Soprano Angela Marchese is a passionate and versatile artist whose “rich, burnished voice” has thrilled audiences both locally and abroad. 8–10pm. $20 in advance, $25 at door, 12 and younger free. www.barnsofrosehill.org. 540-955-2004.
11 Horse Fair
Historic Long Branch. 830 Long Branch Lane. Boyce. 4H all-breed horse parade, demonstrations by local experts, expo, food and drinks and more. Admission to Saddle Up! Museum exhibition and art show included in ticket price. $5 per person, children younger than 12 free. 12–4pm. 540-837-1856.
16 Karan Casey Band Concert
Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Karan Casey has long been one of the most innovative, provocative and imitated voices in Irish traditional and folk music. 8–10pm. $25 in advance, $30 at door, 12 and younger free.
Art at the Mill
Burwell Morgan Mill. 15 Tannery Lane. Millwood. Runs through Sunday, May 12. 250 artists display for sale over 1000 works of art in a historic 18th century, operating mill. Saturdays 10am–6pm, Sunday–Friday 12–5pm. Adults $5, seniors $3, children 12 and younger free. 540-837-1799.Farmers MarketSaturdays, May–October, 8am–12pm. Town parking lot next to Dollar General. 20 S. Church St. Berryville. Many vendors selling meat, produce, cheese, vegetables and much more.
Bradley Stevens Art Show and Sale
Long Branch Historic House and Farm. 830 Long Branch Lane. Boyce. An exciting opportunity to purchase work by renowned Virginia contemporary realist painter and portrait artist Bradley Stevens. Through April 22. 540-837-1856.
Yoga at Long Branch
Thursdays, 5:45pm. Historic Long Branch. 830 Long Branch Lane. Boyce. Vinyasa Flow class has you move at a sweet and mindful pace. $20 to drop in or ask about class passes. 540-837-1856. www.visitlongbranch.org.
Alcoholics AnonymousTuesdays, 8:15–9:15pm. Grace Episcopal Church. N. Church St. Berryville.
FISH Clothing Bank and Food Pantry
36 E. Main Street. Berryville. Open Wednesdays 9am–12pm and Sunday 2–5. 540-955-1823.
Boyce Fire Hall. 7 S. Greenway Ave. Thursdays at 7pm, Sundays at 1:30pm. Proceeds benefit the volunteer fire department. 540-837-2317.
By Jesse Russell
When I was a child growing up in Clarke County during the 1950s and 1960s, apple orchards were practically every child’s backyard. We played there, ate apples straight from the tree, worked summer jobs there, and when in high school, we developed the art of kissing between the rows of hundreds of thousands of apple trees, if we were lucky! But, as they say, “Nothing lasts forever.”
By the mid 1990s, orchards began to noticeably decline as a result of cut-throat competition from within our country and beyond, along with weather events that hampered maximum production. Today, half of the apples we consume in one fashion or the other are grown in China. But my purpose is not to provide a history and statistics, just a memory of a time that has since passed us by.
Apple orchards were so plentiful in Clarke County that they were a virtual extension of our play. The two largest orchard owners were the H.F. Byrd Orchard and the Moore and Dorsey Orchard. For those of us who lived in the Berryville area, there wasn’t a single child that didn’t find hours of play time in these orchards. So, you might ask, “What in the world could an orchard have that could ever possibly be such an attraction to children?” I cannot speak for all, but I can say what it was that attracted my two neighbors, Bill and Larry Tavenner, and myself. We lived one mile south of Berryville along Route 340, and across the road from us was the Harry F. Byrd orchard. Come spring, workers would begin stacking long wooden poles. These poles were anything from cut sapling trees to long narrow branches from larger trees, and were then stacked in a tepee style arrangement. The orchards would later use them to prop up the limbs of apple trees that were laden with fruit and threatening to break the tree branch from the sheer weight of these quickly growing apples. But, we saw the “tepee” as, well, a tepee. But they had no door in which we could enter, and so to work we would go, removing the poles in one area and then placing them on either side of our future entrance. Eventually, we would make it to the center where there was enough space for us to gather. Our tepee club house was then complete, but being active boys, standing around in our wooden tepee quickly became boring. It was time now to explore the miles of orchard land and any structures that might be found in the middle of it all.
Small water towers and abandoned homes would rise up out of the orchard’s heart like phantoms of man’s past creations. Most structures we found were old wooden water towers with a long spout that swung out from these stilted wooden planked tanks where the spray trucks would refill their own tanks with water and the additive chemical DDT. So far, Larry, Bill and I are still alive, but I would not recommend playing in DDT to anyone! Back then, no one knew the dangers of DDT like we do today.
Once the trees began to bear apples, the spray trucks would slowly crawl within aisles left between each row of trees, sending up a white cloud of pesticide to protect their crops. Both trucks and drivers were covered with a thin white coating, making them seem like ghosts riding upon their great mechanical beasts spewing their poisonous load. Little did we know, the DDT killed not only the mice, but killed chipmunks (I never saw a chipmunk here in Clarke County until maybe 20 years ago), played havoc with the deer population who ate the apples on the trees, produced side effects to the eggs of hawks and eagles who ate the smaller DDT infected creatures, which in time eliminated nearly all in this area.
Although we had great fun playing in these orchards, I would be remiss not to mention a few of the downsides of apple production, but I will not dwell on this issue. I would also be remiss not to mention that the apple industry provided hundreds of permanent jobs both within the orchard and in Byrd’s apple production facility, along with close to a thousand part-time apple thinning and picking jobs. The orchards were, in fact, Clarke County’s largest industry and economic engine.By late April, the trees would seemingly bloom overnight into one of the most beautiful sights in all the country.Miles and miles of land were covered with apple blossoms that turned the countryside white like a freshly fallen snow. Everywhere you went, including the town of Berryville, was scented with this rare, sweet, one-of-a-kind, fragrance. If you have never walked among apple trees in bloom, do so before you die! Nothing, in my opinion, can compare.
By June, the trees were showing their small round fruit, and once they became the size of a walnut, the apple battles would begin! We would first break off a small branch about the width of a pencil (the branch had to be flexible) and having a length of approximately three feet. Once we had chosen the perfect branch, we would take out our penknives and sharpen one end of it. Next, we would take our positions some 40–50 feet away from one another and stick a small apple on the end of our handmade weapons. Like some miniature hand held catapult, we would then fling the apples at one another. Rest assured, even though the apple flew off the sticks at a great speed, it also was one of the most inaccurate weapons ever devised by 10-year-old boys. Of the thousands of apples we hurled at one another, I can not remember anyone ever hitting their target. Eventually realizing that our battle would end in a draw, we moved on to testing our sadly inaccurate “weapons” in a competition to see who could fling their apple the greatest distance. I would like to say that I always won this contest, but since Bill and Larry are still alive, I am forced to be honest and defer to their apple flinging superiority . . . for now! Last man standing wins.
Ha! By July, the apples became too big to fling with our altered sticks of war, but bicycles, ponies and mopeds became regular sights in the orchards. Ponies, especially the Shetland pony, seemed to delight in trying to dismount us by running under the limbs of the apple trees where learning to quickly duck was a much needed skill. If there was no deviously evil pony available, a bicycle (a far more gentle mode of transportation) certainly was — and, for the lucky few, a moped. Mounds of dirt were built to create jumps that at the time appeared daunting to us as we approached our jump for the first time, but looking back, one was actually lucky if you could obtain separation between both of your tires and the ground. Oh, sure. There were those few who did defy gravity and later bought a motorcycle with their hard earned after-school money. I am happy to say that those early Evel Knievils such as Robert Tomblin, Sleepy Smallwood, and Flea Ladd, to name a few, have lived a full and primarily injury-free life.
By August, the apple crates were being stacked neatly and strategically throughout the orchards. They became our forts with minor alterations. Climbing to the top of these apple-crated structures we would then begin removing the center crates and stacking them up along the sides where eventually we could stand in the middle of our “forts” with little more than our heads visible. And why would we build these forts? For an apple battle, of course!These strategically placed apple crate depots were perfectly distanced from one another, where one could easily lob an apple from one makeshift fortification to the other. Dodging each others’ apples was fairly easy from this distance and, once again, casualties were a rarity. They only occurred when someone was hunkered down in their apple crate fort and unexpectedly got bobbed on top of their head by a slowly lobbed apple. Our orchard adventures were not measured in minutes or in hours. They were measured in the seasons of the year, with winter as our only interruption. There were no video games, no internet, and only three channels of black and white TV. Only the Saturday morning cartoons were of any interest to us at all. We had to make our own fun, but we never really consciously thought about having to do so. It was as natural as breathing. Although our fun might seem slightly dangerous by today’s standards, I can assure you, we never lost a single kid, and the worst injuries were typically nothing more than scratches and a few bruises. And we wore those bumps and
By September apples were beginning to ripen for eating. We all knew the different types of apples, and when each variety began to ripen. We also knew where the best eating apple groves were, and we took great advantage of this knowledge. Back then, the most popular apples to eat were the Red Delicious and the Golden Delicious. When we would get our fill of eating apples in the orchard, we would fill our tee shirts with these succulent treats, and graciously share them with our families like the little thieving Robin Hoods we were.
Although my old orchard haunts have long been gone, I can to this day show you where those Red and Golden Delicious apple rows were once planted. So, I would like to take this time to thank the Byrd family for these wonderful memories. These memories are as sweet as the scent of thousands of apple blossoms. As for the apples we helped ourselves to . . . the check is in the mail.
Article and photos by Claire Stuart
If you have ornamental evergreens, you might be familiar with evergreen bagworms (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis). Their little bags dangle from the tips of small branches, resembling bits of dried vegetation or even tiny cones. Bagworms are larvae of moths and are among the commonest pests of evergreens, including pines, spruces, and especially juniper, cedar, and arbor vitae. They occasionally feed on broad-leafed trees.
Bagworms shouldn’t be confused with webworms or tent caterpillars, two entirely different types of caterpillars, both of which live in large groups in communal silk webs that cover branches. Bagworms are also caterpillars, but they live as individuals in well-camouflaged bags made of bits of plant material stuck together with silk.
If you have been curious enough to try to pick one of the little bags apart, you no doubt discovered how tough they are. And if it was during the growing season, chances are that you found nothing inside. Any hanging bags would have been last year’s. That is because bagworms don’t attach their bags to the plant until the end of their life cycle. The rest of the time, they are walking around feeding in the foliage, and their bags are covered with fresh green material.
The bagworm wears its bag like a shell and can withdraw into it. It keeps its head and legs outside the bag to eat and walk around, and pulls them in when disturbed. Unlike a snail or turtle shell, the bagworm’s bag is not attached to its body. The bagworm enlarges its bag as it grows, adding
From spring through summer, the caterpillars wander around the trees to eat and grow. When they are mature and ready to pupate in fall, they move out to the tips of branches. They fasten their bags firmly with strong silk, where they hang like tiny Christmas ornaments. Mature caterpillars usually stay on their home tree to pupate, but some wander off, and you might find their bags stuck to the sides of buildings and fences. They seal themselves inside the bags and transform to the pupal stage, becoming adults in fall.
The life of the evergreen bagworm is quite unusual because the male and female moths look like completely different insects. Males have clear wings and look like small flies. Full-grown female moths are wingless and legless and look like slugs.
The female moths never eat or leave their bags, and their sole function is to mate and lay eggs. They send out pheromone odors to attract flying males, who mate with them in their bags. Males only live a few days. A mated female could live several weeks and will lay about 1,000 eggs inside her bag, then drop to the ground and die.
The eggs overwinter and hatch the next spring. The tiny caterpillars leave the bag immediately, and spin out long strings of silk. They sometimes just drop down to a lower branch, or they might be picked up by the wind and blown away. If they are lucky, they might land on another food plant.
Once settled, the young caterpillars start making their own bags. They can’t move to another tree unless the plants are touching or close enough together for the caterpillars to crawl there. Since females can’t fly off to lay eggs elsewhere, large populations of bagworms can build up on a single tree or shrub over several years and can defoliate it.
The bagworm’s case is extremely tough and is excellent protection against both predators and pesticide sprays. However the strange life cycle of bagworms actually makes it easy to get rid of them if you catch them before a big infestation can build up.
During the growing season, bagworms can be found anywhere on the plant as they feed. They are small and well hidden by the foliage. By the time they are ready to pupate, they are about an inch long, and they hang their bags from twigs at the outside of the tree. This will allow the caterpillars that hatch in spring to spin out their silk and catch a breeze
in spring.From winter through early spring, any dangling bags you see will either be empty or will contain overwintering eggs. Pupation will have been completed and adults have emerged. The males have left their bags, mated and died. Females have died and left their eggs in the bags. This is an excellent time to simply remove the hanging bags to get rid of eggs and the potential for infestation next year. The silk that attaches the bags is very strong, so if you can’t simply pick them off by hand, you should be prepared to use clippers.
February 1 event featuring films, beer tasting, and inspiration returns to Weinberg Center for the Arts
The American Conservation Film Festival’s Best of Fest returns February 1 to the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Md., the seventh year for an event featuring three award-winning films from the 2018 Festival based in Shepherdstown, W.Va. This year’s event will screen the 2018 Foreign Film Award winner Enough White Teacups; the 2018 Short Film Award winner Wildlife and the Wall, and the 2018 Green Fire Award winner The Serengeti Rules. All of these films have received multiple awards at festivals around the world.
Lineup for February
6:00pm: Reception with live music and beer tasting with Flying Dog Brewery.
6:30–7:30: Enough White Teacups. This inspiring film follows six stories of innovation and invention that embrace the goals of social, economic, and ecological sustainability outlined by the United Nations. See how design can be used to improve living conditions around the world, including initiatives to build affordable housing, prevent blindness, destroy landmines, deliver vaccines and blood in remote areas, clean up oceans, and help prevent infant and mother mortality.
7:45–7:50: Wildlife and the Wall. Filmmaker Ben Masters (of Unbranded fame) takes us on a brief but beautiful journey along the US-Mexico border, and shows us the landscapes, wildlife, and water sources that would be greatly disrupted by the construction of a border wall. (5 minutes)
7:50–9:15: The Serengeti Rules. Beginning in the 1960s, a small band of young scientists headed into the wilderness, driven by an insatiable curiosity of how nature works. Immersed in some of the most remote places on earth — the Serengeti in Africa, the Amazon jungle, the Arctic Ocean and Pacific tide pools — they discovered a single set of “rules” that govern all life. As well as winning ACFF’s top film award in 2018, it was also the Audience Choice winner. (84 minutes)This Best of Fest is sponsored by Flying Dog Brewery. Tickets are $8 for adults; $5 for seniors/students; and available on the Weinberg’s website, WeinbergCenter.org/performances, or at the door.