Historic Garden Week In Clarke County

The annual Historic Garden Week Tour will take place April 24, from 10am till 5pm. Only 500 tickets will be sold, and staggered for morning and afternoon to avoid crowds at any one location. Tickets, which are $40 each for four properties, are available online only at vagardenweek.org; no tickets will be sold onsite.

GPS is unreliable in Clarke County. It is advised to stop at the Tour Headquarters at the Barns of Rose Hill at 95 Chalmers Court, Berryville.

Boxed lunches are available on tour day in Millwood at Locke’s Store. For options view their website at www.lockestore.com. Prepay reservations by credit card no later than April 23, 2021 by 2pm by calling 540-837-1275; ask for Shauna and be sure to mention Historic Garden Week with your order. Orders may be picked up after 10:00am.

Due to the pandemic, Claytonville and Thurman will be gardens only tours, but Caleb Nei Jazz Trio will  play from 10am till noon at Thurman, and 2–4pm  at Claytonville. Clay Hill and the Dower House will allow interiors to be viewed as well as their lovely gardens. Just ten guests will be allowed in the house at a time and all must wear masks and social distance.

The Dower House
211 Warner Washington Lane, Berryville
Mr. Peter Cook, owner

The house was built in 1765 by George Washington’s cousin, Warner Washington. The Greek Revival style wing was added in 1820s. When it was enlarged again in 1928, the structure became C – shaped. The Cook family added a new kitchen, family room and garage in 1977. The bottom of the original 1765 hand – dug well, located near the residence is still visible. A large 1830s barn was severely damaged by a Civil War cannonball but remains standing and is one of four pre – Civil War barns remaining in Clarke County. The property is open for Historic Garden Week in tribute to Beth Cook, wife, mother, and member of the Winchester – Clarke Garden Club, who loved the home and its gardens. She was the inspiration for the property’s Japanese Garden, designed as a metaphor of rain falling in the mountains, cascading down to the sea, thus repeating the cycle of life. It features more than 50 Japanese Maple, Japanese Black Pines, umbrella pines, Serbian Spruces, bamboos, liriope, hostas and peonies. Pastures are home to Mr. Cook’s rare Cleveland Bay horses, a critically endangered British breed. Formerly used as carriage and work horses, they are now bred to be sport horses. 

Thurman Farm and  Blakemore Cemetery
3836 Lord Fairfax Highway, Berryville
Barbara and Harry Byrd, III owners

The residence is named after General Thurman, a Civil War general. A memorial in his honor is situated along the driveway leading to the house. The Byrd family has owned Thurman for three generations. In 1975 the present owners decided to tear down the previous Victorian house and build a stone ranch house incorporating many of the old doors and paneling from the original structure. A 1981 addition included an artist studio, a family room and a guest room. Stone from an old home in Hedgesville, WV and beams from an old tobacco barn were repurposed in its construction. Mrs. Byrd is a noted artist who has contributed numerous covers for The Chronicle of the Horse. An avid horsewoman, she has bred Connemara ponies for more than thirty years. They can be seen grazing in the pastures around the home. Just minutes away on the property owned by the Byrd family is the oldest privately owned enclosed cemetery in the county. Take a right after leaving Thurman, and another right and follow the signs to Blakemore Lane. It is the resting place of  Lt. George Blakemore who served under General La Fayette at Valley Forge. Later he served as a judge and sheriff for Frederick County. 

Clay Hill
859 Clay Hill Road, Millwood
 Elizabeth Locke and John Staelin, owners

Built in 1816, this Federal style stone and stucco home situated on 100 acres has been featured in both Architectural Digest and Garden and Gun magazines. Originally built for the daughter of Nathaniel Burwell, only four families have lived at Clay Hill since its construction. The home retains many of its original features. The property underwent an extensive renovation in 2008, with an addition of a kitchen wing, formal Italianate boxwood parterre gardens and a custom made 19th century-style glass conservatory. Extensive perennial and vegetable gardens wind their way through stone walls built by Hessian soldiers. The attractive grounds include an original ice house, a chicken cloister and house as well as orangery.

The Gardens at Claytonville
574 Clay Hill Road, Millwood

Inspired by magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the limestone Federal style house was built in 1993. It is surrounded by formal gardens, manicured pastures, stables and a racetrack. The gardens were originally designed by the English designer, Sheila MacQueen who worked extensively for the British royal family. The gardens she designed at Claytonville focused on the inclusion of numerous trees, shrubs and plants used in flower arranging. The gardens have been expanded adding garden rooms, a potager and an overlook. The herb gardens are designed by country, with French, Italian, Mexican and Asian beds all interspersed with bee-loving and edible flowers. All gardens are organically tended with the use of companion planting and are filled with the beautiful display of flowering bulbs in the spring, summer and fall.

From the Editor

Along the Appalachian Trail this weekend, hikers greeted spring. Flowering redbud reached for sunlight; dogwoods unaware of the blight afflicting their brethren bloomed their crucifix flowers. The understory seemed to leaf out as we watched.

Underfoot, Dutchmen’s breeches and all manner of wildflowers strutted their stuff. Everything seemed as it should in April; the only reminder that this was a season like no other were the masks polite passersby pulled from their pockets as they passed, traveling in the opposite direction, nodding Good Morning with collective eye twinkles not seen in a year.

The Shenandoah Valley below turned green after the morning rains. On pastures near the trail, steer chewed the sweet new grass oblivious to the people passing. The youngest calves finally gave up crying for the mamas to run and play. Yes, even the bovine seemed ready to move on.

Was it only a week ago that we wrapped the blossoming peach and apple trees in tarps against the cold? And ten days since a morning snow squall kept the hens huddled indoors till noon?

Was it only a year ago that we lined up in our cars to retrieve school kids for “two week break” that, for some, will continue till June 2021? And all the rest of it. All of it.

But there was beauty. Walks along the river with kids who would otherwise be way too busy for us. College kids we thought were gone forever, home again for extended stays. Game nights, with the winner memorialized in the box top — and sometime in August, finally, Dad wins a game. It’s there, in ink!

Sadness, too. Parents who died from growing old, but alone, leaving families and friends without the opportunity to grieve in gatherings. To tell stories, to laugh and cry together.

Then, Spring. Is it possible?

Two jabs in the arm. Then, slow dancing to James Taylor with a sweet friend. Then, Easter with Mom. Then, sipping bourbon with buddies, still outdoors but, hey, it’s spring. And, then, a postcard arrives. Save the date. A July wedding. A college buddy’s daughter. A reunion of sorts. It is possible.

Tomorrow is uncertain. Tonight, though, the windows are open, and frogs are singing in the trees. Last year’s rosemary and sage are going strong. In our little corner of the world, we hope we never forget every blessing, every kindness, every act of love, every prayer that got us through.

That’s what we have, what we share.

— David Lillard

Dusty Wissmath: Fly Fishing is for Everyone

By Rebecca Maynard

With spring nearly upon us, many people are eager to spend more time outdoors, and what better way to commune with nature than fly fishing? If you’ve always wanted to try but aren’t sure where to start, look no further than Dusty Wissmath Fly Fishing, which offers both instruction and
guided trips.

Wissmath, who splits his time between Berryville and Boiling Springs, Pa., grew up in Missouri, started fly fishing when he was eight and began guiding and teaching fly fishing in the early ‘70s while working on a degree in wildlife biology at the University of Wyoming. In 1996, he founded the Dusty Wissmath Fly Fishing School & Guide Service in the hills near Mercersburg, Pa., where it quickly earned a reputation as a professional yet easygoing fly fishing school. 

Fly fishing is an angling method that uses a light-weight lure, called an artificial fly, to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. The light weight requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting.

As well as directing his own school, Wissmath heads the Orvis Fly Fishing School in Boiling Springs, Pa., is an instructor at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing and served as the lead instructor at L.L. Bean’s Fly Fishing School in Virginia. He guides in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Montana and hosts trips to fly fishing destinations worldwide. 

Wissmath is a Simms and Costa Guide Ambassador and a Pro Staff member of Scott Fly Rods, Hatch Reels, Hyde Drift Boats, ARC Fishing and a royalty tier for Holly Flies. His writing and photography can been found in several fly fishing publications. “There is so much good fishing in our part of the country,” Wissmath said, explaining that the Shenandoah River is particularly known for smallmouth bass, but many other varieties can be found there and in other nearby bodies of water. And while most people think of trout when they think of fly fishing, “Anything you can catch on conventional tackle, you can catch on a fly rod,” he said. “A little instruction goes a long, long way,” Wissmath said. “Fly fishing is not difficult, but it’s not intuitive either. Getting some instruction saves an awful lot of frustration.”

The school’s most popular offering, a two-day introduction to fly fishing, combines the fundamentals of fly fishing with practical experience. It is tailored for the person who wants an in-depth introduction to the sport. The class is offered in Carlisle, Pa., less than two hours north on Route 81. They also offer private one-on-one casting lessons for people wanting to improve a particular phase of their casting or learn a new cast.  Guided walking/wading trips are offered in a number of locations, including the native Eastern Brook Trout streams of Shenandoah National Park and the limestone spring creeks of the Shenandoah Valley. 

Take a trip with one of their experienced guides who will not only share their knowledge of the water and the sport, but will work hard to find you some hungry trout. Everything is included in these trips; they can outfit you from top to bottom and the guides will supply all the terminal tackle.“When you can open the door to a sport you feel passionate about, you get a kick out of that,” Wissmath said. “It’s always fun to help folks that have tried it but have become a bit frustrated, and once they get it figured it out and realize it’s not difficult, it’s a lot of fun.”

“My goal has always been that by the end of the day, a student is going to have a foundation of knowledge that now they’re going to be able to go out and learn on their own,” Wissmath said. “When you learn about natural history and the aquatic entomology, the more you understand the habits of fish, the more you understand how we’re imitating food using the fly.” “It’s a lot of fun,” he said. And it’s always going to be someplace pretty. With moving water around, it’s going to be pleasant.”
For more information, visit www.dwflyfishing.com or call 540-220-9283.

Seniors on CCHS Life and New Beginnings

By Rebecca Maynard

Members of the Clarke County High School (CCHS) class of 2020 never imagined they would finish their classes at home after school was canceled in mid-March because of COVID-19, but are making the best of a difficult time. On May 28 and 29, an in-person ceremony for the school’s approximately 170 seniors was held outdoors in Wilbur Feltner Stadium. Physical distancing guidelines were followed, and a time slot was reserved for graduates to be presented their diplomas and have their photographs taken. The individualized ceremony lasted about five minutes per graduate.No more than 10 people were allowed on the football field at a time, including staff and family members, and some of the school’s graduation traditions were included, such as photo opportunities with the Shepherd’s Crooks, which each graduating class traditionally walks underneath. A number of graduating seniors shared their thoughts on distance learning, future, and memories of their time at CCHS.

“It was awful adjusting, and coping with knowing you won’t have your senior prom with your friends or a real graduation,” said Clara Davidson, who plans to attend University of Sydney. “But it was all the little moments we lost, such as lunch in the senior court, spring sports senior night, seniors’ last day where you leave early and go around saying goodbye to everyone and signing yearbooks. Those were the hardest to lose.” “Learning from a distance was not hard, but it felt like a chore. I realized how much I enjoyed school once I was no longer going every day,” Davidson said. “Everyone always looked forward to homecoming week, and the best one by far was winning the spirit stick senior year,” she said. “Lunch in the senior court was a privilege you got during your final year, and that was so great. It was just the seniors, and we all got so close during those lunches, goofing around, making plans for the weekend, talking about our futures. I will always remember some of those days. They were ordinary, but that’s what made them so special.” 

“Distance learning honestly made classes easier,” said Hayden Hartsell, who plans to attend gunsmithing school and college for mechanical engineering. “We could complete the work at our own pace, and as long as it was turned in biweekly, everything was fine, which caused much less stress and rush.” Hartsell particularly enjoyed the agriculture program and FFA. “I learned so much there, and had a great time doing it.”

Colby Childs plans to attend Hood College in the fall to major in business and continue his baseball career. “Distance learning wasn’t too bad other than internet problems at our house at times,” Childs said. ”I absolutely missed being in school with friends and teachers, especially my senior year. Missing out on my senior year of baseball with guys that I’ve grown up with was very hard to take.“It has been a great four years overall,” he said. “Winning the Bull Run District title in baseball my sophomore year and the Bull Run title in football my senior year was awesome! Breaking the school’s career, single-season, and single game passing records was something that I will never forget. I would like to thank all my teachers and coaches for a great four years at Clarke! GO EAGLES!”

Faith Compton’s future goals involve traveling around the world as much as possible, and she says the pandemic has affected her interests greatly. “It was hard adjusting to online school and the stay at home order, but I understand it was for the best to keep everyone safe,” Compton said. ”My time at CCHS has brought me many good memories, especially being part of the Clarke County Winter guard teams.” 

Emmie Jo Aiello plans to attend Virginia Tech in the fall to major in neuroscience.  “Hopefully I get to live on campus for the first semester, but due to the coronavirus, I don’t know if that is possible yet,” she said. “COVID-19 has definitely altered my path in taking steps to college. Choosing a college, filling out paperwork and learning about the process without the help from my college and guidance counselors has been difficult. I had to do all this while quarantined in my house! “Adjusting to the unusual circumstances was definitely a challenge,” Aiello said. “Hearing that I was not going to have a senior prom, a regular graduation or even finish the rest of my senior year was devastating. My heart aches for those who didn’t get to finish their spring sports season. Having our classes online was weird for sure. I live well out of town and my wifi out here is pathetic so completing assignments out here was not easy. However, the teachers and principals of Clarke made it a lot less stressful and they would work things out with me and my siblings to make sure we could get it all done!”

Riley Marasco plans to attend the University of Virginia in the fall and study human biology. As of now, UVA is still planning on having students in the fall, but the pandemic has affected classes and things will be different, assuming nothing changes and students still get to go.“Transitioning to distance learning was definitely super new and different than what we have done before, but it wasn’t too bad,” Marasco said. “We had already used Google classroom a lot, so it was pretty easy to keep up with assignments and things. I think it just put some more responsibility on us as students to keep up with our work and check our emails and classroom to make sure we get everything done.“I have so many memories at CCHS,” Marasco said. “I am going to miss seeing my favorite teachers there every day and all of my friends. I am very thankful for all the high school has done for me to get me where I am today.”

Lauren Gibson plans to attend University of Georgia in August to major in Animal Science and minor in Agribusiness on the Pre-Veterinary Medicine track to obtain her DVM. She will also be enlisting in the US Army Reserves to serve time while in school until she gets her DVM and can enlist in active duty, as she aspires to become a US Army Veterinarian. “As of right now, UGA is saying there will be on campus fall classes; however, if that were to change due to the pandemic then I will be deferring a semester to LFCC until they resume on campus classes in order to save money,” Gibson said. “At first it [school closing] was exciting because I’m not one to enjoy being inside when it’s nice out and usually dread the last couple months of school anyways, but when I found out that I’d never be able to walk the halls of CCHS again and say a proper goodbye to my teachers, admin, and friends, it hit me hard,” Gibson said. “The saying that you never know what you got ‘til it’s gone is so true for the class of 2020 and it’s hard realizing we’ll never get a ‘normal’ ending to our childhood.”

“Memories are made of these little things like late nights at cheer competitions, football games, and basketball games, because we never played anyone close to us!” Gibson said. “Little things like baking bread for FFA, leading sermons with FCA, giving back to the small town Berryville community through Interact Club and NHS, and holding an officer position for SCA. Things like trying out track, or learning how to play steel drums. Making friends with the ladies in the kitchen who fed me everyday! Knowing what teachers you can go see no matter what happens, good or bad, like getting a good grade on a test or just wanting a snack or losing a friend to a car accident and needing someone to be there, just being able to go to those people no matter what for eight hours a day, five days a week for anything, that’s what means the most. “Watching all the people you’ve known forever grow up and accomplish amazing things and form big dreams, watching the spark in them ignite when they get to tell you all about it. All the events of homecoming week, powder puff volleyball and football, and prom, make up the little things. All these little memories will stick with me as well as the rest of my fellow graduates and friends for the rest of our lives. There’s a reason for everything and as John 13:7 says, “Jesus replied, ‘You may not understand now what I am doing but someday you will.’”


Chris Shipe Named Veteran Of The Year

The “Berryville-Clarke County Veteran of the Year” award is given to local veterans who exemplify the tradition of the citizen soldier, whose dedication to the nation and their communities does not end when their military service is complete. The 2019 recipient is Chris Shipe.

After graduating from Bloomburg University of Pennsylvania in 1983, Chris Shipe served in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 1987. Stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and in Germany, he served with the elite 2nd Armored Division whose motto is “Hell on Wheels.”

For most of his professional career, Shipe has worked with mutual insurance companies in Pennsylvania, Iowa, West Virginia, and Virginia, where he was directly involved in the leadership and governance of cooperatives. In 2003, he was named president and CEO of Loudoun Mutual 
Insurance Company. 

Chris Shipe and his wife 
Diane live in Berryville, where he has served in various capacities on insurance cooperative boards and industry 
committees, including as the chairman of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies’ Property Casualty Conference. Shipe serves on the Rappahannock Electric 
Cooperative board of directors and is currently its president.

Shipe, 58, has been a volunteer firefighter since he was 16-years old. He continues to run calls, serving Berryville and Clarke County residents as a volunteer with the John H. Enders Fire and Rescue Company. He has been Enders president for 10 years. In his spare time Shipe enjoys restoring old fire engines.

Shipe is also a lay leader and chairman of the Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church Administrative Council. A talented musician, he is an active member and vice president of the Clarke County Community Band. He supports many local community 
organizations through service and financial contribution.

Previous “Berryville-Clarke County Veteran of the Year” recipients are Norman deV. Morrison (2015), the late John F. Harris (2016), Michael L. Linster (2017), and Robert A. Freebee (2018). Their names are  on a perpetual plaque located in the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center. Chris Shipe’s name will be added to the plaque.

Oak Hart Farm Expands Produce and Pantry

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.

Hanging with the Presidents

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.