Archive for the ‘Climate and Weather’ Category

Ready, Set, Go— Now Is The Perfect Time To Lock In Your Week At A Cape Charles VA Vacation Rental House

Friday, March 21st, 2014

SnowflakeIt probably seems a bit counter-intuitive to be planning reservations for a warm, sunny summer vacation in the midst of all this cold, snowy weather which seems like it has been making East Coast life miserable for eons.   Or maybe not.  Definitely planning can take the mind to a better place, sort of like warming one’s hand on a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter afternoon brings a smile to the face, it just feels good. When I was a child, my mother used to pull out her seed catalogues on a wintry Sunday afternoons and work on her garden plan. Not that she had such a huge garden but she had it organized down to a T– what needed to be rotated to a new spot, what plants complimented the other, where to stick insect repelling marigolds, she planned it all in detail, usually changing her mind numerous times before she was satisfied.  But it seemed to me that she enjoyed working on her garden project most on a really cold, miserable day– and in Ohio, unlike on the Eastern Shore,  there are a whole lot of really cold, snowy, icy winter days !  Just like back to the future, she was mentally transported  from winter’s wind and ice to the cool  days of Spring, outdoors in the sun, in her garden.

Simply Relaxing The Shore WayBut, I digress, my point being that planning one’s vacation is a task  that offers a lot of fun in the execution.  Just deciding where to go is key and offers lots of opportunities for on-line exploration of  lots of great places– for instance, not that I’m biased of course, the Eastern Shore of Virginia.   Naturally a lot depends on the type of vacation one is looking for.  If its  bright lights and  loud music, then the Eastern Shore isn’t the place. But if you’re looking for a quaint, restful area with lots to do,  the Shore is a great place to enjoy a unique coastal vacation experience.  Not only can you enjoy our pristine natural beauty, there is nearly an endless list of fun things to do, from “A” for artists galleries to “Z” for zesty clam dip.

Savor sunset strolls on our uncrowded beaches, feel the exhilaration of  kayaking our to our string of off-shore Barrier Islands. Charter a boat for a deep-sea fishing expedition.  For golfers, the Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus Signature courses which front along the Chesapeake Bay in Cape Charles offer opportunities to challenge your game on some of the most beautiful waterfront courses on the entire East Coast.  Or check out our museums and art galleries, treasure hunt on the beach or in one of our antique shops.  Get wet swimming, clamming or crabbing.  Explore our quaint little towns, visit a vineyard and winery, check out our Wildlife Refuges or State Park.   Or just chill out on the porch, gentle breezes blowing, book in hand, letting  the stresses of everyday life disappear.  And at Blue Heron,  we call this “Simply Relaxing The Shore Way.”

Beach chairs tide out

Sunset with Bikes and people on deck 6a Surfer golf cart Seagull close resized

Edwards 002This year the Blue Heron Realty Co. vacation rental department is introducing a new vacation rental home, “Seashell Cottage“,  located   just a quarter block off the soft sand beach in the little Victorian town of Cape Charles, VA.   Seashell Cottage offers 4 bedrooms, 2 and a half baths plus a 3 rd floor loft overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.  Its open floor plan, comfortable furniture and close proximity to the beach make this a great vacation home.  And the wrap-around porch is perfect for outdoor dining and soaking up the dazzling sunsets.  Check it out at www.blueheronva.com, click on the Vacation Rental section under “Listings”  and  give us a call at 757-678-5277 to reserve your vacation week at one of our great vacation rental beach homes.  From a cozy in-town cottage to a beach home on acreage in the country,  the Blue Heron Realty Co. vacation rental agents can help you select the best home for your needs and budget.

 

A Glorious New Year’s Day 2014 Trip From Eastern Shore Virginia To Williamsburg, VA’s Historic District

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

CBBTBright, sunny, beautiful from dawn till dusk, New Year’s Day 2014 was simply lovely.  We had planned early on to ring in New Year’s Day in Williamsburg and the weather could not have been more co-operative.  One of the  delights of a trip to the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg in December are the beautiful holiday decorations– the door of each home in the restored area is adored with a unique, handmade wreath.  And since they are all crafted by the residents, no wreath is duplicated.  For about the last ten years we have made an annual pilgrimage on New Year’s Day to enjoy a guilt-free buffet brunch at one of the hotels because afterwards we take a brisk walk through the restored area to work off all those calories !   ( An excellent excuse for sampling several deserts …..)  And the trip from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Williamsburg is so easy,  a glide over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, clear blue waters below,  chop-chop-chop up I-64 E , exit onto Colonial Parkway and, insto-presto, in less than 2 hours it’s napkin in lap, fork in hand, ready to enjoy a luscious lunch.

 

Williamsburg InnLunch this year was an interesting buffet at the always special Williamsburg Inn– in addition to  Southern regional dishes like oyster pie,   seafood fritatta and minced Smithfield ham salad,  a surprisingly excellent offering was a black-eyed pea bisque.  For those not familiar,  it is a Southern tradition that on New Year’s Day, one must eat black-eyed peas — they are supposed to bring good luck for the coming year.  I don’t really enjoy them and the idea of black-eyed pea bisque was initially not appealing whatever. But Hubby tried some, wow, said he, this bisque is really excellent, you really should try it.   So I did…. once, twice and three times a charm !  Couldn’t believe it, that’s how delicious it was, best darn thing on the menu, I shall remember it aways.  Well, maybe not always but at least until next year when I hope they will serve it again !  The desserts were fun, especially the crepe’ station, rich, thin crepe’s filled with Bananas Foster, topped with a little scoop of fabulous ice cream and sliced fresh strawberries, very, very yummy indeed.

Williamsburg Historic area shop 244The weather was  delightful,  a little warmer than usual, about 55 degrees,  so when we started our walk  Duke of Gloucester Street was teeming with folks from all over, tourists wearing their badge passes,  locals,  students from the College of William and Mary which is located just a few blocks away, everyone quite  relaxed, just enjoying the afternoon, strolling down this historic street.  If you love dogs, Gloucester Street is also a “meet and greet” heaven for dogs of all kinds and sizes, as owners leisurely traipse down the street behind their pooches.  This year was an especially great year for “people walking dog”  watching– a Bernese Mountain dog, Labradoodle, Great Pyrenees, Scottie, Doxie, Boxer, you name it, they were enthusiastically escorting their owners down this four hundred year old street where individuals  like  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both alumni of William and Mary, probably walked their dogs too.   Interestingly, you almost never see aggressive canine behavior there, just doggie curiosity and tail wagging which makes the whole “man’s best friend” scene lots of fun. And to add additional interest to this convivial scene, the  period style carriages were out in force, each drawn by two gorgeous, well-cared for horses, stepping high, coats gleaming in the afternoon sunlight, liveried driver seated high above.  The carriages are apparently hand- manufactured in Austria according to one of the drivers but the wheels themselves are actually handmade at the wheelwright shop right in the Williamsburg Historic Area. Anyway, four or five horse-drawn carriages traveling down the street is quite a sight.

Williamsburg Christmas Decorations 241 This year’s batch of wreaths and swags was interesting as always.  Nearly every home and shop in the Restored Area is decorated each holiday season with a wreath or swag made entirely of materials which would have been available to residents of  the 18th century, basically constructed from fresh greenery pine, fraiser, boxwood, holly, magnolia and decorated with a myriad of dried different flowers, seeds and fruits, no artificial decorations allowed.  To up the ante’ a bit for residents, 1st, 2nd. and 3rd place blue ribbons are awarded and given the obvious amount of  effort many wreaths show, I’m guessing there is a bit of friendly competition every year to win a ribbon.  The effect is so pleasing that every year literally thousands of visitors come each year over the holidays to see the decorations and enjoy a holiday meal in one of the period taverns.  Each Tavern is  gaily decorated for the season, softly lighted by candles with costumed servers offering food authentic to the period– one of the most famous is the King’s Arms Tavern which is famous for its peanut soup,  Game Pye as well as an unusual veggie offering, a rich creamed celery with a hint of nutmeg,  which doesn’t sound that great but which was quite delicious.   There is always something new to see or try in Williamsburg and a visit there is  a great way to kick off the New Year.

 

From The Entire Crew At Blue Heron Realty Co., Our Wishes For A Happy Holiday Season And A Great New Year !

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Well, it’s that time  of year again,  putting up the outdoor lights, decorating the big cedar tree in the front yard,  getting  a wreath properly hung on the door so that it isn’t that  tiny bit crooked, and,  my special favorite, stringing long loops of  colorful holiday lights along the full length of our back deck, such a cheery sight as dusk falls.  And all the usual outdoor holiday decor tasks  are made so much easier here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia because of our mild but definite 4 season climate. ( The delights of  the  Shore’s fabulous climate  were brought into sharp relief today by a call from an employee who had made what was to have been just a quick trip to Houlton, Maine, expecting to be back for work as scheduled on yesterday.  Instead, she got trapped by a major winter storm with a projected duration of at least 2 days, 8-12 inches of snow and lots of ice accumulation expected, so she missed  work  because it was too dangerous to drive.  You just wouldn’t  believe it, said she, ice pellets are falling fast and furiously, snow drifts are about a gazillion feet high, I’m so ready to get back to the Shore !  )  So,  counting my blessings as I puttered out on the deck yesterday afternoon, dressed in a light windbreaker, potting up pansies into  3 beautiful flower pots  I  got as  gifts for a special friend,  sky blue, sun shining, slight breeze blowing off the water, nary a snowflake in sight, no black ice, no 30 car pile-ups…..  I think next year I should just print t-shirts that say:  “Life is good ….on Virginia’s Eastern Shore“.

On a more serious note, this is the time of year when friends and family  are close in mind and heart, and, if we are lucky, in body too.  Trivial and petty are hopefully cast aside,  leaving more space for thinking  not just of family and friends but especially about helping those less fortunate.  By nature, I am an optimist and 13 is my lucky number–  but it does seem that 2013  has brought  definite economic improvement here on the Eastern Shore and nationwide.  For this, at Blue Heron Realty Co.,  we are truly grateful.  And we would especially like to thank our clients and customers, all the many folks who have purchased or listed property through our firm.  Please know that we very much appreciate your business and really value your confidence in us.

And to the readers of this little blog about life and real estate on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, we hope you found some of the information you were looking for and had some fun too, learning about our slender peninsula bordered by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  Happily,  we had our 15 minutes of fame and celebrity this year as the Home and Garden Network (HGTV) premiered  a “beachfront house hunter” episode earlier this month about the Eastern Shore of Virginia  and one of its most charming little historic towns, Cape Charles, VA  and, ta-da, featured Eva Noonan, sales agent in Blue Heron’s Cape Charles office and her buyers, the Outlands.  I loved watching the HGTV crew film the show over 4 days, it was such a fun and a unique experience, keep an eye out for  repeat showings of our episode.  And I’m hoping in 2014 you will keep reading our little blog to learn more about the amazing quality of life and the outstanding real estate opportunities on the Eastern Shore to purchase beachfront properties, homes with backyard boat docks, Bay Creek Golf Resort listings,  historic homes as well as  town and country homes  listed for sale by Blue Heron Realty Co. in the Chesapeake Bay area   

And so, from Lemoin, Marlene, Montaigne, Mike, Gerry, Heather, Kay, Lisa and Brandi in Blue Heron’s  Machipongo, VA  main office and from Dave, Eva, Jennifer, Luisa, Bonnie and Cynthia in Blue Heron’s Cape Charles, VA branch office,  thanks once again for your continued support, we really appreciate it.  Best wishes to you and yours from the entire Blue Heron crew for a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous  2014.      ( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA. )

Christmas party blog photo

 

“Fire”, A Female Cooper’s Hawk, Was The Hit Of The 21st Annual Eastern Shore of Virgina Birding & Wildlife Festival

Monday, November 25th, 2013
Image of Eastern Shore flyway

Eastern Shore Virginia bird migration flyway

Every year during the first week of October, thousands of bird lovers gather on the Eastern Shore of Virginia for the annual Birding Festival.  Hosted by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Festivals, Inc, a local non-profit, we recently celebrated the 21st annual Birding and Wildlife Festival.  Coinciding each year with the annual fall bird migrations,  the Festival is a celebration of the amazing variety and quantity of bird life found here on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore, especially at the Shore’s beautiful Southern Tip.  Since the land mass of the DelMarVa  (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) peninsula, of which the Virginia portion is the southern terminus, is widest at the northern section and narrows gradually as one moves south,  it acts almost like a funnel.  The bountiful tip of  Virginia’s Eastern Shore,  just south of Cape Charles, VA where the land ends as the  Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay converge,  is a bird-friendly area offering lots of food, water and protective vegetation becomes the natural  “layover”  point for  millions of migrating feathered friends as they travel south along the Atlantic Flyway. 

Eastern Shore Virginia Barrier Island chain

Eastern Shore Barrier Island chain, part of the Virginia Coast Reserve

So what better location to hold a Festival to see and learn about a whole variety of birds than the special place where they stop to rest and feed before beginning a  journey over open waters ?   Having spent a summer nesting and parenting,  munching on gourmet goodies like seeds,worms and insects, just generally loafing around and yuking it up in the temperate climate of the East Coast of North America, the Birding Festival takes place during the peak migration period.  Migration is dangerous, a  journey from which  is estimated that nearly half  will not survive to return to breed in the Spring because of  the  predators encountered en route and the hazards of  a long, energy-demanding flight over  lengthy stretches of open waters.  Since the Chesapeake Bay is a large physical barrier,  it is especially important that natural habitat offering plentiful food and cover be available at the tip of the Shore to provide for refueling and protection from predators as the birds  rest for a day or two before  departing on the next leg of their journey.  This makes it especially important on the Eastern Shore for individual landowners and conservation groups to make sure that the trees, shrubs and grasses which  provide the critical seeds and berries needed by the birds are maintained . Towards this end, several large farm parcels  located in this very critical rest corridor have been purchased by The Nature Conservancy for the express purpose of trying to maintain vegetative cover for bird habitat. And The Nature Conservancy has also been very active in preserving other critical  bird life areas on the Eastern Shore including  acquisition of  the famed “Virginia Coast Reserve“, the off-shore Virginia Barrier Islands chain, now designated as a United Nations Biosphere,  purchased by the Conservancy to protect them from development and to maintain crucial wildlife habitat.

Kids petting a skunk at eastern Shore VA birding festival

Petting A De-perfumed Skunk At The Eastern Shore Virginia Birding Festival

Fire, A Harris Hawk, Munching On A Her Raw Chicken Reward

Fire, A Trained Harris Hawk, Munches On Her Reward For A Demonstration Well Performed

The Festival includes a central Exhibitor’s Hall in Cape Charles, a forum for conservation groups and private firms to provide information on their programs. Once again the exhibits by the Virginia Living Museum were a big hit, especially the de-perfumed skunk which the kids had great fun petting.  But some of  the really fun stuff  involved a few special programs and the amazing variety of  unique field trips.  Which brings us to the beautiful  Harris Hawk  named Fire.  She is the big star of  an amazing show featuring  various raptors  in flight, called, duh, the Flight of the Raptor.  Started in 1995 by Master Falconer Ray Pena,  this fascinating demonstration includes numerous hawks and peregrine falcons who have been trained to catch a lure in mid-air and bring it to ground,  just as they would in the wild.  Apparently for nearly four thousand years  raptors have been trained by man to help  hunt for food, especially rabbit and pheasant.  During the show, Fire and other hawks are released and freely fly to any nearby perch— in Fire’s case,  to the top of a Bay Coast Railroad locomotive.   The falconer then twirls a feathered or fur lure in circles over his head, the hawk circles overhead and then dives for the lure, bringing  it dramatically to ground.  Ray gets the hawk to release the prey to him and rewards it with a bit of raw chicken,  Fire’s favorite treat. ( By the way, hawks eat everything from their catches —  feathers,  fur, bones, the whole nine yards, which help satisfy the mineral requirements in their diets. )  The substantial crowd which had gathered for this demonstration was pretty amazed to see how, when these hawks are released from their perches, they fly off to a nearby tree or whatever, watch for the lure, dive for it and then let the falconer take it away from them.   

DSC_0112 DSC_0016  DSC_0089 DSC_0075

Banding songbirds at Kiptopeake State Park

Bird Banding At Kiptopeake State Park During The 2013 Eastern Shore VA Birding Festival

Aerial view of Oyster VA harbor

Aerial View of the Oyster, VA Harbor, Departure Location For Several Birding Festival Boat Tours

All kinds of interesting field trips are available for attendee  participation — ranging from bird banding demos, hikes,  boat tours and workshops, there is something for everybody.   The bird banding is fascinating and the  hikes are a big favorite, especially the  Eyre Hall Hike over 600 acres of diverse habitat along Cherrystone Creek.  Here hikers will see mature forests, freshwater marshes and ponds, open saltwater beaches and tidal flats as well as open farm fields.  Bird watchers are invited by the owner to tour the famous gardens associated with Eyre Hall’s  circa 1760 home.  The  Owl Prowl Sounds of the Night outings at the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge and the Kiptopeake State Park are also lots of fun and  good opportunities to experience nocturnal wildlife activity.  Captain Buddy Vaughan’s Cobb Bay Boat Excursion leaving out of  Oyster village harbor is an exciting way to see a barrier island beach and view numerous shorebirds including oystercatchers, whimbrels, sandpipers and terns. For attendees hoping to see clapper rails saltmarsh sparrows and maybe even a Delmarva fox squirrel, Capt. Rick Kellam’s Broadwater Bay Ecotours out of Willis Wharf  offered a boat tour of the pristine Machipongo River, a seaside saltwater inlet from the Atlantic Ocean.  Popular workshops included the Butterfly Walk and the Dragonfly Workshop &  Field Trip.  Another interesting boat trip, sponsored by the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality, was the Sea Grasses and Oyster Reefs Boat Trip.  Also departing out of  Oyster village, this trip traveled to the nearby sites of the US’s largest and most comprehensive  aquatic grass restoration project,  a $6,000,000 investment by Virginia Coastal Zone Management to support shellfish farming and ecotourism.  Something for everyone is the promise of  each Birding Festival and it truly delivers on that promise. 

 

 

 

 

Living Life On The Water On The Eastern Shore Of Virginia

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

In my efforts to let folks who are considering buying property on the Eastern Shore of  Virginia know what  living  here  would be like,  I sometimes think I write too much about the many “Happenings”  and the wide variety in  the myriad of  things to do here  and not enough about the simple pleasures of  daily life at home here on the Shore. We  are very lucky to live  on a beautiful waterfront parcel near  the town of Nassawadox, VA, named for one of the Shore’s  Native American tribes, long since vanished.  And one of my cherished treats on beautiful days when I won’t be going into the office is to have my morning coffee out on our screened porch or the adjacent back deck, both overlooking the clear blue waters of  a wide, pristine saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay. ( On days when I’m going into the office I don’t even try to relax outside, instead I start getting geared up for another long day of  everything but the kitchen sink.)

Bradford Pear tree in our backyard

Our Bird Sheltering, Shade Producing Bradford Pear Tree Standing Proudly Between The House And The Woods

This morning, sitting on the porch very early, coffee mug in hand, the sun coming up over the tops of the trees in the orchard and just beginning to illuminate the now  huge Bradford Pears  in the backyard,  the thought occurred to me that it probably is hard to truly understand how relaxing and peaceful it really is to live on the water, to be able to just  sit and gaze at the ripples along the channel, listening to the sounds of Nature, watching the birds get a start on the day.  ( We have a number of bird feeders in both the back yard where we can enjoy them from the porch and also in the front yard, hanging from a magnolia tree,  easily viewed from what I lovingly call ” the library” but which is  a very large south-facing room with an entire wall of windows overlooking the expanse of front yard lawn and flower beds.  Over-stuffed with not only two walls of book shelves,  crammed with a lifetime collection of  books, but also two desks with adjustable office chairs, two comfy Lazy Boy loungers, a stereo system plus a billion and counting compilation of cd’s & dvd’s.  It’s a veritable paradise for two,  filled with  things we love.)  As I look out now into the backyard, a  pair of cardinals and a couple of fat  doves are pecking at seeds on the ground which have dropped out of  the feeder, two tiny yellow finches are flitting between the feeder and the pear tree, trying to eat and keep safe too,  and a pesky squirrel is trying to decide what to do, munch off what’s fallen on the ground from the feeder or attempt to shinny up the pole to get to the serious goodies !  Out on the inlet, an early morning waterman checking his crab pots has startled a large blue heron which gives a loud squawk-squawk-squawk as it skims over the water, searching  for a more promising breakfast venue further down the  shoreline.

View of the water from our deck

Views Of The Water From Our Deck

When we first bought this house, there were two small Bradford  Pear trees that the original owner had planted about 150 feet apart in the middle of  the large expanse of lawn between the house and the woodline along the water.  It seemed to me that the trees marred the view of the water from the porch and deck  and I wanted to have them cut down but my husband loved them and convinced me to wait a year to see if I still wanted to have them removed.  Well, that was quite a few years ago and the Bradfords are still there,  bigger and taller now than most Bradfords  ever normally grow.  But what I came  to realize over the course of that very first year was that those trees don’t interfer with the view, they are a part of the view.  Miss Charlotte, our first Newfie,  loved to sit under the one to the left of the porch, relaxing in the shade of  its branches,  scanning the woods along the water for signs of rabbits or squirrels, maybe even a deer,  ready to instantly  jump up and futilely chase.  Now she is resting forever  in the shade of that tree, her big floppy stuffed bunny buried with her for company.  Songbirds adore that tree because the large bird feeder hanging from a metal staff just outside the dripline  is so easy to reach from the safety of its leafy branches, they establish a sort of rhythm, eat for a few seconds, fly  into the tree and look around, then back to the  feeder, a careful ritual, repeated over and over by all sorts of sweet, tiny birds, singing  songs we love.  And although I know hawks have to eat too, when I see a soaring redtail  land in a high branch of a big oak or  a tall pine in the woods, I love knowing that the sweet little birds who come to our feeders are safely hidden among those Bradford leaves, the trees being too close to the house for hawks to comfortably venture near. I often think how much we would have missed had those trees been removed.  Thanks Hubby,  you were  so absolutely right.

View from screened  porch

Cozy & Comfy– From A Cup Of Early Morning Coffee To A Glass Of Wine At Sunset, Our Screened Porch Is About My Favorite Place To Be

As I finish this post, after a coffee refill, the breeze is picking up, gently moving the  kitetails of the two wind chimes positioned on opposite ends of the deck, creating gentle music.  I love wind chimes and since  being on the water offers  breezes all season long,  our deck is ideal chime territory. It’s also home to a myriad of flower pots filled with bloomers of all kinds, this year mostly in  shades of lavender and pinks, including a gorgeous deep pink mandevilla,  although the big pot of red geraniums may be the most eye-catching.  Since we’ll be here  all day today, I’ll serve lunch out on the screened porch, on our little glass-topped rattan table for four.  I’m thinking cold roast chicken from last night, sliced thinly for sandwiches, bread and butter pickles,  maybe a glass of well  chilled Riesling,  a tiny piece of Kate’s Kupboard coconut pound cake, just  a sliver to satisfy the sweet tooth.  After lunch, maybe an hour or two with Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno, read stretched out in a big, comfy porch chair, totally relaxed, totally into Home Sweet Home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the house, the water, the birds, the butterflies, the  Newfies and squirrels still carefully eyeing each other, for today life is good.

( Posted by Marlene Cree, a licensed agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo,VA.)

 

Attending Cherry Blossom Festival 2013- In Virginia Beach VA

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
View of the two spans of the 17 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel connecting the Virginia Eastern SDhore to the Virginia mainland.

The Beautiful Chesapeake Bay Bridge Seen From Fisherman’s Island area

Early April is the time of year when we usually look forward to going to the Cherry Blossom Festival in  Washington DC.   Unfortunately, this year we were not  able to go.  About three weeks ago, when I was bemoaning to a friend that scheduling conflicts were going to prevent us from going  to DC,  she mentioned that  nearby Virginia Beach, VA  also has a Cherry Blossom Festival,  why not check it out ?   There won’t be the fabulous blooms along the Tidal Basin, the National Mall or  Parkway Drive said she,  but it might still be interesting and fun.  I took her advice and after some research  found to my surprise that 2013 marked the Virginia Beach 9th  Annual  Cherry Blossom Festival.  Who knew ?  Anyway, that  Saturday  dawned bright and sunny, most welcome after all the spring rain we’ve had this year, a little breezy but expected to be near 60 degrees, a very pleasant day.   So after lunch we decided to go for it,  jumped in the car, zipped over  the Chesapeake  Bay Bridge  Tunnel, waves sparkling in the  afternoon sun,  making a bee line for Redwing Park , about an hour’s drive from our house, planning to get there in time for most of the program,  including the Taiko ensemble’s  performance. (Another little plug for life on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is how close we are to the Hampton Roads area which is the 32nd largest metro area in the US.  It’s like having your cake and eating it too– enjoy  a low-key, relaxed rural feel here on the Shore but be able to access virtually every known metropolitan amenity in less than an hour in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, etc.  Love it, love it, love it ! )

Taiko drums at Cherry Blossom Festival

Taiko Drums At The Virginia Beach Cherry Blossom Festival

I was especially looking forward to the Japanese drums,  called Taiko, which are  really amazing, nothing like what we are used to as drums in a regular  band. A  Taiko drumming performance  is something really special.  Construction of these drums dates  back to feudal times, many  are very large,  made from beautifully grained wood, highly polished, often about the size of barrels, most actually  sit horizontally  and can be played  simultaneously by two drummers, one on each end.  The rhythms are hypnotic, with point and counterpoint, played in long mesmerizing “songs”   Historically,  these drums were often  used on the battlefield because  their loud “voices”  could communicate over long distances.  Taiko were also frequently  used in religious ceremonies in Buddhist and Shinto temples which  had really fabulous drums, usually  fashioned  from trees with  huge diameters, resulting in amazing  drums with faces 10 to 12 feet across. Drums like this could not  be easily moved and were played only by men who received special permission from the monks.  The first time I ever saw a Taiko performance was about a hundred years ago, in the Japanese Pavillion at EPCOT.  I was just transfixed by  the “song”  of the drums and their  mesmerizing beat– in fact, I went around  for days with the beat from one particular  “song”  replaying over and over  in my head.  Taiko drumming is quite demanding, not only because of  the physical strength needed to control the depth of sound and the tempo changes, but also for the sheer physical endurance required.   Certainly I wasn’t expecting professional quality taiko from the Virginia Beach  group,  called Soka Tiako, but they sounded great and  looked quite colorful in their  costumes, garnering lots of applause when their number was completed.

Dancing the flower dance at the Festival

Flower Dance At Cherry Blossom Festival

Lots  of other terrific performances of traditional Japanese music and dance in addition to the Taiko were offered all afternoon.  Among the most interesting was a group from Old Dominion University who played the koto, a zither type  instrument about six feet long, with 13 strings,  which creates the high pitched  sound I most associate with Japanese music.  The koto looks incredibly difficult to master  and in speaking to one of the performers just  before the show, I  was assured that  it is indeed difficult to master,  even more so outdoors  which involves a knack for playing while  breezes ruffle one’s music sheets.  The performers all wore traditional garb, kimono with obi,  gorgeous and colorful.   In fact, quite a few folks in the audience, both men and women, wore traditional garb which gave the whole event a  very authentic feel. One of  my other favorite performances was by the Virginia Beach Okinawa Sanshin-Kai band which played traditional three string lutes and featured a very sweet, almost ballet-like  dance by a mother and her young  daughter, both wearing beautiful kimono and elaborate “flower”  hats symbolizing the first blooms of Spring.

DSC_0881Parasols for saleJapanese character writing

DSC_0754DSC_0802For  martial arts fans, various groups from around the city offered  martial arts demonstrations throughout the afternoon including karate, judo and some a very proficient  kobudo with impressive moves with the traditional swords.  I personally am not into any of that but  a lot of applause went their way from folks who are.  Shopping is more my style and I enjoyed seeing some of the little gift items for sale in the tent area. The most popular item seemed to be a selection of colorful parasols, attracting gals and  girls alike.   In addition, the origami  and calligraphy demonstrations were fun,  lots of folks crowding around  to get their names written in Japanese  by some volunteers who were amused as they tried to write  names like Henrietta and Martha in characters.  A local rescue group for Akita’s was on hand with two of their charges, a handsome grey and a placid sand colored dog–I had just recently seen the Richard Gere film “ Akita”  (  based on a true story)  and we all agreed that it was a real tear jerker  of a movie. Who can even imagine a  depth of  loyalty that would compel a dog to wait outside a train station each night for 9 years, waiting for his owner who was long dead ?  Wow !

Tori gate at RedWing Park in Virginia Beach

Tori Gate in Miyazaki Garden at Redwing Park

Reflecting pool with cherry blossoms

Reflecting Pool At Miyazaki Garden

Apparently part of the impetus for the planting of  the lovely cherry trees at Redwing Park, as well as for the creation of the Festival itself, was that about 14 years ago Virginia Beach established a   “Sister City”  relationship with the city of  Miyazaki , Japan.  This  special relationship resulted in many cross-cultural exchanges and eventually in the city’s construction of  Miyazaki Garden, a  lovely traditional Japanese strolling garden, as well as the planting of hundreds of ornamental Japanese cherry trees in the Park.  The trees  were only in about 25% bloom that Saturday due to the cooler than normal Spring this year,  but that  was enough to see how gorgeous they were going to be this year. Miyazaki  Garden was beautiful  though, an early blooming tree  leaning over a reflecting pond was the site of  much photo taking, prompting me to take pics of  people taking pics.  All in all, as my friend forecast,  it wasn’t the National Mall and it wasn’t the Tidal Basin, but the Virginia Beach, VA  2013 Cherry Blossom Festival was definitely quite nice and we’re glad we went.

( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA. )

 

 

 

 

Third Time Is A Charm For The Wallop’s Island VA Launch Of The Antares Test Rocket

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

A quick up date to my recent  post on the scrubbing of  the test  launch of  Orbital Science’s  Antares rocket from the NASA Wallop’s Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  The purpose of  this test launch was to demonstrate the commercial viability of this rocket as part of  a NASA program to move  a good deal of the space program into private enterprise.  In fact,  the success of this launch will secure for Orbital  contracts for 8 resupply missions to the International Space Station, missions I believe are now being flown by Russia, which is being well compensated for same I’m sure,  so it will be nice to see that money stay right here in the good ole  US of A.   But the part that still amazes me, astounds me actually,  is that this entire effort is taking place on the northern border of  the Eastern Shore, surrounded by the bucolic bays and salt meadows of the Assateague Wildlife Refuge, being as closely observed by the herd of  Chincoteague  wild ponies as by the throng of national media reporters staged here for this launch.  Because as unlikely as it seems,  something about the  exact physical location of Wallops Island makes it one of the few places in the US  which is perfectly positioned to most easily  thrust a payload into orbit. Who would have thunk it ?

Dinner at Wrights Seafood Dinner At Wright's Seafood Restaurant Near Wallop's Island VA

Seafood Dinner With Hubby & Grandson At Wright’s Waterfront Restaurant Near Chincoteague VA

On Wednesday, after having rushed up to Wallops to see the first lift-off  attempt which was unfortunately scrubbed at T minus 12  ( space jargon for cancelling the whole darn thing 12 minutes before the  witching hour)  because of an umbilical problem (more space lingo meaning the thingamajigg connecting to the back end might fall off too early ),  we spent the rest of the evening having fun with our grandson,  visiting the Refuge and having a seafood dinner at Wright’s.  The flight was rescheduled for Saturday so once again, zip-zip, a one hour drive up to Wallops only to discover  once we got there that it was cancelled again, this time because of  excessive upper level winds  (  space-speak for it’s too darn windy out there).  Why on earth they couldn’t decide that an hour earlier rather than a half hour earlier  is a mystery to me, but there we were again, launchless in Chincoteague.

Antares rocket contrail as seen from our Eastern Shore VA backyard

The Antares Rocket Contrail Photographed From Our Eastern Shore VA Back Yard

NASA’s mission update website showed Sunday as the new  reschedule date, with 5 pm  designated as zero hour.   So about 2 pm on Sunday we started trying to decide whether to make that whole two hour  round trip for yet a third time.  But since it just seemed so windy, leaves were rustling in the trees, the wind chime on the back deck was singing its little heart out,  even our Soleri wind bell was clanging away, Hubby and I both agreed that no way are they doing to launch this thing today.  Ha, talk about famous last words !  We flipped on NASA TV, channel 184 courtesy of Dish,  about 4:30 just to double check.  Voila’ ,  the countdown was pressing on !  I just couldn’t believe it, the mission had not been scrubbed because of  the wind.  And so after two false alarm trips to see the real thing,  we were now going to have to watch it on TV instead of  getting to see, hear and feel the entire experience parked just  across Watt’s Bay from the actual launch pad. Anyway, I got my camera ready because we were pretty sure that if we rushed outside right after liftoff we would be able to see it  by looking northeast across the lawn.  And sure enough, there it was ,  streaking across the sky at a fair clip,  7900 mph according to the NASA commentator.  Got a pretty good picture of the puffy white contrail, would much rather have had one of  the lift-off,  but it was exciting nevertheless. Congrats to all involved, a new day has dawned for  Wallop’s Island, or I should say,  for the the Eastern Shore’s new Mid-Atlantic Spaceport !          (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed  Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr.,  Machipongo VA )

Antares Rocket Launch On Wallops Island VA Scrubbed But We Had A Great Time Anyway

Thursday, April 18th, 2013
NASA photo of aerial view wallops island va launch pad

NASA Photo of Rocket Launch Pad At Wallops Island VA

It’s still hard for me to believe that the Eastern Shore of Virginia has entered the Space Age in an important way at Wallops Island, located at the extreme northern portion of the  Virginia Eastern Shore just a few miles from the Maryland state line, nearly an hour and a half from  our stomping grounds in Cape Charles VA.  Wallops Island has long been home to what I have generally thought of as a rather remote NASA outpost for launching weather satellites, etc.,  but no longer, its entered the big time.   Now named the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport and an important part of a NASA program to commercialize space efforts, Wallops is about to begin a whole new life as the re-supply location  for the USA team’s efforts on the International Space Station. For reasons which I don’t entirely understand – it is rocket science after all –  the physical aspects of Wallops, latitude, longitude, something, make it one of the few places in the US perfect for launching  satelites and launching rockets with payloads into orbit  destined for the Space Station.  So now a  company by the name of Orbital Sciences Corporation  has  a contract with NASA to  fly 8 resupply missions to the Space  Station  from little ole Wallops Island and is in the process of test flights of  its Antares rocket and its companion  Cygnus cargo spacecraft there.  ( The Orbital Sciences story is pretty interesting in and of itself because it was the brainchild of  the folks behind Pay Pal.  Who could have guessed that all those little Pay Pal fees would be enough to launch a brand new space enterprise ? )

People leaving after Antares rocket launch scrubbed at Wallops Island June 17, 2013

Leaving after Antares rocket launch at Wallops Island scrubbed 4/17/13

Which brings us to  yesterday.  My husband,  who loves the concept of flying in outer space,  thought it would be interesting  for us to go watch the launch of  the Antares rocket and educational for the young  grandkids to see it too. Unfortunately, one was out of town, one was home  with a fever,  which left just one able to go with us.  So off we went,  Hubby, 11 year old grandson who is in the Rocket Club at school, and moi, a little bit on the late side,  surprise, surprise,  but we made good time, remembered to slow down at Temperanceville so as not to get caught in their 45 mph speed trap,  ( still looking for temperance in Temperanceville, which by the way is only a short distance from Modest town) .  We took a back road to a little neighborhood which we knew overlooked one of the small bays between the mainland and Wallops which we thought would offer a great view and not be too crowded, arriving a mere 10 minutes before launch time. No sooner had we pulled into the only parking spot left on the whole road and begun walking  across the grass to where about  50 other folks had lined up folding chairs to watch the event, when somebody shouted out, Mission Scrubbed  and everyone began to leave.  We waited around a bit,  from our vantage point we could see everything perfectly,  the rocket standing tall on the launch pad and then puff, a huge cloud  of smoke, apparently from oxygen being released because of mission  cancellation,  still exciting to witness even without the liftoff.

Assateague wild pony standing in marsh

Chincoteague Ponies Have Distinctive Markings

With  a couple of hours of daylight left,  we decided to drive to the nearby Assateague Wildlife Refuge,  home of the well-known Chincoteague wild ponies.  The ponies, made famous by the book Misty of Chincoteague,  are part of the annual Chincoteague Pony Swim conducted in July each year by the volunteers of the Chincoteague Fire Dept. who care for this little herd of  distinctively marked wild horses, compact in size,  who live in the marshes, eating primarily salt  marsh grass and sweet hay that the firemen put out for them  in the  winter.  After swimming across the channel from Assateague to Chincoteague during the Roundup each year,  the young ponies are auctioned off,  the proceeds supporting the costs of maintaining the herd .  Pony Roundup Day is a huge tourist day, with literally hundreds of thousands of folks visiting Chincoteague for the Swim, which is the reason why  I’ve never  attended.  I just can’t imagine swiveling my neck 180 degrees around for a glimpse of a horse  with  200, 000 other folks crowded round trying to see the same thing.  But during the rest of the year it is not unusual to spot  a pony or two when driving through the Wildlife Refuge.  Didn’t see any ponies yesterday but we did decide to  stop along the oceanfront beach and watch the waves rolling in for a bit.  But even more fun was watching a fellow who was  getting into surf casting big time, three  extra fishing poles stuck in the sand  and  making some hefty casts into the rolling surf with the fourth.   Didn’t  catch anything while we were there but he seemed to be having a mighty fine time anyway.

DSC_0072By consensus,  Wright’s Seafood Restaurant just a few miles away was selected  as our dinner destination. Wright’s is located right on Watt’s  Bay and I do mean right on— the front pilings of its foundation are actually right in the water. So if you  want to enjoy  waterviews during dinner,  Wrights is a great option if  you’re near Assateague.  In business since 1971, Wright’s is famous for it’s Flounder Imperial, a  fillet of  juicy flounder layered with crab imperial and gently browned under the broiler.  The sun was low in the sky as we  pulled into Wright’s , the views were  lovely,  the three of us  had a great time discussing the rockets our grandson is helping build in his school’s Rocket Club and looking at some images from the the NASA app on the iPad while waiting for dinner to arrive.  A fine time was had by all even though the mission was scrubbed — and we still  have hopes of trying again when the launch is rescheduled.     ( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )

Gorgeous 90 Acre Farm Near The Water For Sale On The Eastern Shore of Virginia– Perfect For Hobby Or Commercial Farming

Friday, March 22nd, 2013
Aerial view of 90 acres farm near Nassawadox  VA

Aerial view of 90 acre farm near Nassawadox VA

For anyone thinking of  buying a farm or little farmette  here on  the Eastern Shore of Virginia and getting  “back to the land”  so to speak,  you’ll be in good company.  For literally hundreds of years,   the  traditional economic engines of the Eastern Shore  have been seafood harvesting, commercial farming and small family truck farming.  In fact,  Northampton County, Virginia  still has some of the most productive farms in the entire state.  But like everything else, things change and some of the smaller farms are being purchased by folks who aren’t planning to make a full-time living in farming but who are interested in getting involved in doing something on the land, even if it doesn’t provide their  full-time living.  Blue Heron Realty Co. has just listed a beautiful 90 +/- acre farm near the water  with exceptional soils and a great  location, a property which would be absolutely perfect for starting a small farm operation.  From raising horses to  planting a boutique vineyard to setting out a few acres of  organic tomates to a raising a small herd of alpacas to becoming a serious beekeeper,  there is a lot of fun and satisfaction that comes with getting back to a simpler life with hobby type farming and this particular farm could help in getting started on that path. ( For more information on this property, go to www.blueheronva.com/farm_for_sale/ )  Obviously a  back to the land life is not for everyone but, as a Realtor, over the years I’ve had a lot of fun and satisfaction helping some very interesting folks, from all sorts of professions, find just the right little farm or farmette here on the Eastern Shore from which to  create a new lifestyle and move in new directions with their life.

Alpaca resting on ground

Raising alpacas can be lots of fun

For example, we recently represented a client who bought a 20  acre parcel from a seller who whose company was promoting and  transfering him to the West Coast.  The seller,  an executive with the  Virginia Beach branch of a large firm  who commuted for 5 years from the Shore to Virginia Beach daily,  had acquired, a couple at a time,  a little herd of  cute, cute, cute  alpacas.  He said that when he first moved to the Eastern Shore he had absolutely no idea that he would get interested in farming and now,  just a few years into it,  the hardest thing for him about the entire move was having to leave his alpacas.  He and his wife had totally fallen in love with being out and about on their farmette,  raising these  gentle,  fleecy beauties had become a life-changing experience !

Horse grazing near Nassawadox VA

Get in touch with your inner cowboy

That really isn’t really unusual  on the Eastern Shore– I know so many folks who have some acreage who are doing  all kinds of  ” back to the land ”  things with their property.   The important thing is to have a  parcel of land with rich, well-drained soils  because whether its growing a crop or doing animal husbandry, soil structure and drainage is critical for both crops and pasture lands.  A lot of folks here have horses, some for show, others for breeding. I even know one couple who has built an amazing dressage show ring on their waterfront acreage, complete with bringing a special trainer in from the West Coast to work with their very talented horses.  Lots of other folks here have just a couple  horses and love to participate in the formal Trail Rides sponsored bythe Eastern Shore Trail Ride Association.

Another client who recently purchased about 10 acres of beautiful waterfront is looking forward to managing  a small herd of milk goats when they build on their property.   Their hobby is making goat cheese and cheese making  is a real passion for them.  Not only do they make the soft, creamy goat cheese that has the  lush  tang and is so nice when mixed with herbs but they also make a rich form of  feta cheese, one of my husband’s favorites– give him a little feta, crispy crackers, some salty Greek olives and a glass of  Cabernet , he’s set.  Dealing with goats and making goat cheese would not be my thing but these folks  absolutely are looking forward to it  as their  retirement activity, something with a challenge to keep them active and something to bring them in closer touch with the land.  And  I am looking forward to easy access to a steady supply  of  their flavorful homemade goat cheese !

Open land for cultivating near Nassawadox VA

Rich sandy loam soils perfect for cultivation, pasture, horticulture and much more

Which brings me back to  the excellent 90 acre farm for sale near Nassawadox.  Tremendous possibilities abound for uses for this property.  The soils are BOJAC, the best soil type on the Eastern Shore, rich, sandy, well-drained, perfect for any use whether cultivation, vineyard, orchard, horses, alpacas, honey bees, etc.   You name it,  this is a great piece of property for all sorts of land -based activities. About half of the property is in woodlands, the balance is in open fields.  Location is great,  within 15 minutes of  shopping , boat ramps, beaches, premier golf, medical, restaurants, etc. yet far enough away that you feel that you are out in the country, possibly a twenty first century pioneer, a rare opportunity indeed.    ( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed  Virginia  agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )

 

 

The First Signs Of Spring On The Eastern Shore, At Last !

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Watching the news this sunny Sunday morning was like experiencing a total disconnect between life on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and what’s going on just to the north of us. I cannot imagine what it must be like in Boston for example, where a close friend’s sister has lived for eons– she reports that electricity is out  for hundreds of thousands of folks and the temps are in  the low 20’s.  And then there’s that  30+ inches of  chilly white stuff on the ground with  5 foot drifts  piled up against her garage doors. Brrrrr ! And more Brrrr !  Meanwhile, I’m busy turning up the furnace, complaining that it’s only 38 degrees outside. But given that temps for later in the day are expected to be near 50, maybe, just possibly,  I should complain  a little less.

In fact, maybe I should remember to be a little more grateful for our terrific moderate climate here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. After all, we’re not Florida– warm in winter, scorching in summer. We’re not Carolina or Georgia–  warmish in winter, muggy, miserable and hot in summer. No, the Shore really has a wonderful climate, moderated by the waters  of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean which surround our slender peninsula,  keeping the Eastern Shore cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  We enjoy 4 distinct seasons, especially our long, pleasant springs and falls. The cold part of  our winter is blissfully short, mostly January, and compared to much of the country, very, very mild.  ( Ohio, I’m thinking of you, remembering helping shovel the driveway as a teenager after many a snow !  )  Or Pennsylvania, Michigan, upstate New York, New England– I could go on and on. Summers on the Eastern Shore are, with the exception of August, delightful. Not too hot, not too cold, or as Goldilocks would describe it, just right.  August is hot, but hey,  isn’t that  why they invented central AC ?

So, as I looked about outside this morning, I was delighted to see the first signs of Spring peeping shyly around the corner, checking to make sure it’s safe to cross the street, so to speak. The forsythia is just beginning to show its sunny face, little wrinkles of golden yellow showing through. Scattered through the trees, the daffodils are bravely pushing up, about 4 inches of bright green stems above the ground, bright yellow smiling faces to soon follow. The buds on our showy backyard triplets,  3 gorgeous Bradford pear trees overlooking the water,  are fat and healthy,  just about ready to unfold slowly into huge showers of amazing pink blossoms, great hiding places for the myriads of songbirds that will be flitting through our yard during Spring Migration. The winter blooming camellias that, together with a colorful  line of  crepe myrtles, border  our  long, winding driveway have just recently dropped their very last deep pink blossoms but their spring- blooming cousins nearer the house are almost ready to amaze us with huge, waxy flowers of delicate pinks, sweet as baby’s breath. In fact, that’s how I know when it’s truly time to celebrate the coming of spring here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore– in February, when the camilla’s start to flower, I know that Old Man Winter has had it.  And that Spring,  glorious Spring,  is nearly here.   So it’s almost time !   Can’t wait !   ( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )