Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

The 2017 Eastern Shore Virginia Birding and Wildlife Festival

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

DSC_5254For the past 25 years, on the first weekend in October, excited Birders throughout Virginia and nearby states flock to Virginia’s Eastern Shore to celebrate the annual Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival. As migrating birds fly south each fall, they are funneled into the narrow tip of the Shore so Northampton County is a truly critical part of the Atlantic Flyway. Each fall literally millions of songbirds and thousands of raptors migrate through our area, taking advantage of an important opportunity to feed and rest before continuing their long and difficult journey south. ( And not just birds, this is the time of year when beautiful clouds of butterflies, the gorgeous orange and black monarchs, float through on their way to tango in Mexico for the winter. )

The Festival headquarters were at Kiptopeke State Park and offered numerous activities including hikes, an DSC_5273evening “owl prowl”, bird banding, hawk observatory, kid’s craft activities, hay rides, information booths sponsored by numerous environmental groups — plus a surprise appearance by a stalwart Smokey the Bear ! The fascinating “Flight of the Raptor” show featured such fine feathered friends as Scooby Doo, a great horned owl, and Salim, a Lanner falcon. It was quite interesting to see these magnificent birds swoop and chase the lures presented to them by their trainer, and being carnivores, then munching on the attached rewards of raw chicken. Learned several interesting raptor facts … The leather hoods covering the birds heads are placed there by the falconer to help the birds relax. ( Who knew birds needed R&R ? ). Harris hawks work together to hunt their prey and are called the “wolves of the sky”. Peregrine falcons are some of the fastest birds on the planet and can reach an amazing 300 mph as they dive. Unlike most other birds, the raptor males are smaller, therefore faster than the females, making them more suited to their role as the hunters while the larger females are busy protecting the eggs in the nest. If a hawk is on the ground when it catches it’s prey, it spreads its wings around its catch to keep it safe from interlopers, called “manteling”.

DSC_5083Also integral to the Birding Festival fun are the wonderful boat tours originating from the harbors in Willis Wharf, Oyster and Wachapreague which meander out to the Barrier Islands to observe the shorebirds. Offered by various local tour captains, including Broadwater Bay EcoTours, Seaside Ecotours and Eastern Shore Adventures, these trips offer a fine vantage point to enjoy waterfront bird watching and present a unique opportunity for visitors to observe and photograph the many species of marsh, wading and shorebirds found in the marshes lining our waterways and out on the Barrier Islands.

 

 

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Contemporary Home On Eastern Shore Virginia Waterfront Point

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

100_1363_0001Boaters, set your course for this impressive 3 bedroom, 3 and a half bath custom built contemporary home nestled into a 1.25 acre+/-partially wooded waterfront point near Cape Charles, VA  listed by Blue Heron Realty Co.  Priced at $799,000 and located in Franktown, VA, on the scenic Eastern Shore of Virginia, this single story home is on a quiet cul-de-sac in a tiny upscale waterfront hamlet. Sitting atop high banks, it offers gorgeous views of the clear blue waters of its colorful saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay. The handsome dock with good boating water would provide the perfect home for your boat, with fast easy access out to the Bay for fishing or just a relaxed cruise.  Love kayaking ?   The pristine, calm inlet with its many prongs makes exploring by canoe or kayak a real pleasure.

 

 

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Exceptional construction, dramatic window package and an open floor plan with lots of natural light offer coastal living at its best. This unique home is truly a work of art starting with a bronze fountain featuring elegant blue herons which greets visitors at the front door created by famed Eastern Shore artist, William Turner. Lovely mosaic tiles by local artists throughout, including, in the foyer, an amazing marble mosaic reproduction of Vincent Van Gough’s “Starry Nights” by internationally known Eastern Shore tile company, New Ravenna.

 


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Interior details include elegant teak floors, custom cherry cabinets, granite kitchen and bathroom counters, amazing floor-to-ceiling custom windows, skylights, barrel ceiling and luxurious bathrooms. Everything from the custom details and the dramatic window package to the mature landscaping, trellises, many decks, hot tub and lovely in-ground swimming pool work carefully together to create a special synergy with the home itself, producing a truly inspiring waterfront haven. Only about 20 minutes to Palmer and Nicklaus signature golf and the sparkling sand beach in Cape Charles. This unique home definitely must be seen to truly appreciate. http://www.BlueHeronVa.com/boating_properties/

 

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The 70th Annual Garden Week on The Eastern Shore of Virginia

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

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Saturday marked the 84th Annual Virginia Historic Garden Week statewide and the 70th Eastern Shore Virginia Annual Garden Week sponsored locally by the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Five beautiful properties were opened for visitors to view both the homes and grounds. It was an otherwise busy day for me at Blue Heron Realty so I had to choose just one.  Because of its waterfront setting and history, I selected Vaucluse House located on Church Neck about 25 minutes from the little historic town of Cape Charles, VA. 

Built circa 1784, Vaucluse was the seat of the prominent Upshur family. By 1829, one of its most notable heirs, Abel Parker Upshur, had expanded their holdings into a grand Virginia plantation.  But young Abel, an attorney, had grander ambitions, becoming a judge and eventually becoming Secretary of the Navy and then Secretary of State, both under President John Tyler. As Secretary of the Navy, Upshur established the Navel Observatory in Washington DC, one of the oldest scientific agencies still in existence today, in charge of the critically Old Naval Observatoryimportant positioning, navigation and timing for the US Department of Defense as well as the US Navy. It also operates the US Master Clock for GPS satellites, all pretty darn important. And Blair House, the official residence of the Vice President,  is located on the Observatory grounds. So young Abel did some really impressive work during his tenure which was cut short when he died in an explosion aboard the new steamship, USS Princeton, during a demonstration cruise along the Potomac River in 1884. In addition to the continuing importance of the Naval Observatory, his legacy also includes 2 navy ships named in his honor, a number of streets plus counties in several states named for him, as well as Mount Upshur in Alaska. 

Meanwhile, back to the 2017 Eastern Shore Garden Tour. The Upshur plantation lands have long been divided off inVaucluse blue aerial looking north 2006to neighborhoods and small farms but the grand old home, Vaucluse, built by Abel Upshur’s father, Littleton, remains proudly centered on a 5 + acre tract overlooking one of  the Shore’s most colorful inlets from the Chesapeake Bay, Hungar’s Creek. The house has been fully restored and a large addition plus a carriage house have recently been added. Of frame construction with brick ends and impressive classical brick chimneys, the main house features the classic superb interior woodwork and design found in grand historic homes from that period.  For the Tour,  each room was decorated with  fabulous original floral arrangement created by Garden Club members for the occasion, designed specifically to complement the colors and attributes of that particular room. Beautiful views of the park- like setting and the blue waters of the inlet create a special harmony between the grounds and the home.  Guarded at the entrance by brick columns flanked by two towering evergreen trees,  Vaucluse’s formal shrub gardens, an herb garden and the fountain garden are just a part of the magic of this property.  A great addition to Garden Week, special thanks to the owners for opening their lovely property to the public last Saturday.  Garden Tour proceeds help fund important preservation projects for more than 40 historic public gardens as well as research fellowships and projects with Virginia State Parks, all to the benefit of the citizens of our great Commonwealth. #VirginiasScenicEasternShore

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The New Cape Charles Farmer’s Market– Fun And Delicious

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Farmers Mkt. BBQ StandOn the Eastern Shore of Virginia this summer, Tuesday afternoons  from 4 to 6:30 pm are  a special time in the little coastal town of Cape Charles, Virginia — particularly for foodies and farm-to-table enthusiasts.  It’s a time slot  that lots of locals  ( and visitors too ) have set aside for a visit to the brand new Cape Charles Farmer’s Market.   Located on the spacious grounds of the Cape Charles Museum on Stone Road,  the Market takes good advantage of the Museum’s huge grassy front yard so there is plenty of room for venders to set up little tents to display their yummy wares.  Wicker basket in hand, I traipsed from the parking lot over to the vendor area, not exactly sure just what to expect in the way of  variety so I was  pleasantly surprised  to see so many beautiful fruits and veggies on display, some local artwork too, including some new designs from Mama Girl and tantalizing home baked goodies from Cape Charles Confectionery.  But my first stop was at Shore Beef and BBQ, where owner Ron had smoky good aromas wafting from a sizable portable smoker grill hitched to his pickup truck, folks already in line, buying sandwiches and BBQ by the quart, pulled pork, beef brisket plus cooked-to-perfection ribs.

Farmers market peopleMy plan was to make a big circle, check out all the vendors and circle back around again to make my purchases.   And that would have been a good plan if I had brought a bigger  basket and if I had not stopped to talk to a few friends along the way and ended up having a detailed conversation comparing southern style creamed corn recipes.   Who knew that “with or without bacon drippings” could be a major creamed corn issue– but trust me, it is !   ( And for those like myself, not originally from Virginia, south of the Mason-Dixon Line “creamed corn” does not contain a drop of cream, that is to say, dairy cream. Instead, creamed corn is made by cutting the kernels off the cob and then carefully scraping the corn’s own juices, the cream, from the cob with the dull edge of a sturdy table knife into a waiting bowl.  This can be a pretty messy job, best done with the bowl in the sink to avoid corn splatters all over the counter. Now comes the contentious part, cooking the creamy mixture.  Diehard Southerners almost always insist that sautéing in a generous amount of bacon dripping is the only true method. But transplants like myself often prefer olive oil with a bit of butter added at the end when seasoning with salt and pepper.  And so it goes, where it stops nobody knows, the new vs. the traditional.

 

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Farmers Mkt.ProduceContinuing on with my circle, I was captivated by a lovely display of cut flowers– nothing like a gorgeous bouquet to brighten any room, especially at the great farmer’s market prices, finally settled on the cheery sunny faces of a colorful bunch of long stemmed sunflowers.  Further down the line found some local honey, so great on my Mother’s excellent recipe for fresh buttermilk cornbread, eaten warm from the oven and slathered with butter, then honey.  Saunders Orchard cantaloupes looked great, and so low cal as well as delicious.  At Mattawoman Farms, a local CSA,  some vibrant and crisp Swiss chard caught my eye, a rainbow of colors ready to sauté with chopped onion in …..you guessed it,  a little bacon dripping, finished with a little cider vinegar. Yum.  They also had some good looking kolorabi. I have never actually cooked kolorabi, I’ve looked at it, considered it, but never taken the plunge.  This time was no exception, still haven’t worked up to it, next time maybe.  But their Zebra tomatoes were keepers, small red orbs with golden stripes and so were the really ripe small tomatoes from Copper Cricket Farm, displayed in a sizeable bin and priced at ” select a bunch of them  for $3.00″. By that time my little basket was about full but I headed back to the bread tent for a loaf of sour dough, hoping to try a recipe for an Italian tomato and bread salad, panzanella, that I had seen recently in the Washington Post. Doesn’t sound that great but I’m imagining that fresh artisan bread, lovely ripe tomatoes wedges combined with finely chopped garlic and fresh basil chiffonade, everything tossed in a delicate vinaigrette is going to be worth trying, we shall see.  At any rate, when I got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor cook got none.  But there is always next Tuesday and all the other Tuesday’s until October, so sooner or later a loaf of sour dough shall be available and a panzanella shall be made !

 

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

Monday, November 25th, 2013
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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.   

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Banding songbirds at Kiptopeake State Park

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

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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.)

 

Garden Week 2013 On Eastern Shore Virginia– The 80th Annual Event Sponsored By The Garden Club of Virginia

Monday, May 20th, 2013
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The Beautiful Southern Tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia

April, 2013 marked the celebration of the 80th Annual Historic Garden Week in Virginia, presented statewide  by the Garden Club of  Virginia each Spring since 1929.  This year’s official Garden Week book indicated that 178 homeowners all over Virginia, assisted by over 3000 volunteers from the 47  member clubs,  opened their homes and grounds to public tours last week.  Proceeds from the Tours help preserve the grounds of historic landmarks all over the state as well as to  fund scholarships in landscape architecture. The Eastern Shore of Virginia has so many beautiful historic homes that have been preserved and restored that going to the Garden Week open houses here is always a delight.  The homes that are selected  are always great and the last week of April is a perfect time to show gardens in full bloom here on the Shore. This year six waterfront  homes in Northampton County’s beautiful southern tip were opened for Garden Tours  and we devoted our  Saturday afternoon to visiting three of them, two historic and one quite contemporary home.  Each was gorgeous in its own particular way.  I only  wish that interior photos were allowed because the architectural detail is often remarkable in these homes, as is the  decor, including  some outstanding collections.

Old Castle Entrance

Old Castle’s Elegant Approach

Our first stop was at Old Castle, home of  Northampton County Supervisor Rick Hubbard and his wife, Kate.  It’s a lovely  traditional style home  located on the  Cherrystone Creek  inlet from the Chesapeake  Bay  near the historic little  town of Eastville,VA,  seat of Northampton County, well known as the oldest repository of continuous  court records in the nation.  The house itself is of a telescoping design,  a favored architectural style on the Eastern Shore in the 1700 and 1800’s, with a gambrel roof .  The approach to the front door is through a  double row of ancient  boxwoods, taller than I am, and pressing close in,  don’t think that someone the size of Pavarotti could have made it through without a bit of a push, not that I am the size of Pavarotti.  Once inside the spacious foyer, which features a striking custom floor covering by well-known local artist,  Mariam Riggs,  it quickly became clear that a lot of love and work went into the restoration of this lovely home.  My favorite interior architectural details were the two identical fireplace mantels in the  parlor and the dining room.  I’ve not seen any quite like them,  multiple layers of thin carved wood in descending size, sort of like thin steps in descending order, apparently created from a single solid piece of wood,  creating a remarkable effect, especially given the tools of that day.  As part of the Garden theme, each room in a Garden Tour Home has a floral arrangement custom created to compliment the colors and feel of the particular room in which it will be placed. Lots of lovely floral pieces throughout this home, clearly a great deal of  thought and effort went into these arrangements.  Interesting collections abounded, especially Kate Hubbard’s amazing collection of salt cellars — an entire room is devoted to  display shelves featuring nothing but salt cellars.  All shapes and all  kinds, crystal, silver, porcelain, from countries  all over the world– who knew that the Chinese even  used salt cellars or that German salt cellers were generally so ornate ?  But the real showplace was the backyard where Mother Nature  took over the limelight, including one of the most beautiful crape myrtle trees I’ve ever seen as a focal point. Fronting on the Cherrystone Creek inlet,  Old Castle’s fabulous views spread right out to the Chesapeake Bay, totally awe-inspiring, I’m sure  that sunsets are absolutely spectacular.

Old Castle FrontviewOld Castle BackviewOld Castle Crepe Myrtle Tree

Pleasant Prospect  Farm Front View of House

Pleasant Prospect Farm on Cherrystone Creek Inlet

Off next  to nearby Pleasant Prospect Farm, a 170 acre working farm,  home to retired 4 star Admiral  William J. Flannagan, Jr., whose distinguished naval  career included  the very  serious responsibility of being the  Norfolk, VA based  Commandant of the entire US Navy’s  Atlantic Fleet. True to its name,  Pleasant Prospect Farm is indeed quite pleasant, with a  quiet approach through fertile  waterfront farm fields , sun glinting off the glistening  blue waters all the way  down the  driveway.  Passing several outbuildings, including a two story garage with a castle-like  appendage, we arrived at the main house,  a very attractive Dutch  colonial style with two huge pin oaks heralding the front entrance.  The original section of the home can be dated back to the 1750’s. During restoration, support beams were found in their original, unfinished state,  revealing  a numbering system directing the order in which they were to be installed, a rare historic construction detail.  The original wainscoting is also still in place which I believe is fairly unusual. A new kitchen has been added, large, luminous, with a  lightly stained hardwood ceiling adding warmth and texture, a dream kitchen really,with every detail and convenience one could wish for right there, ready to take on anything from a simple omelet to  a large dinner party.  My favorite floral arrangement of the day was here,  the long dining room table the display surface for a striking  composition consisting of  5 small, dark green watermelons  (or maybe they were citrons ),  about 6 inches in diameter, handsomely striped, arranged in a zigzag pattern among fancy curled Lucky  Bamboo stalks which had been arranged  in  delicate vases of  a variety of sizes and shapes, but all  in various hues of  pale green, a pleasing contrast to the deep green of the melons.  Absolutely stunning, kudos to the ladies  who created it.  Once outside in the backyard, we took a few minutes to peek into several of the numerous outbuildings, my favorite being  an elegant little building, light-filled,  housing a built-in marble jacuzzi, waters steaming and swirling, neck muscles could unwind just by looking  at it.  From there, Mother Nature took over the limelight again.  If possible, even broader views of Cherrystone inlet and the Chesapeake Bay were on display here, simply inspiring, no other words  for  it.

Pleasant Prospect backview

Pleasant Prospect Marble JacuzziPleasant Prospect Waterview

Pickets Harbor House Waterside View

Simple Yet Elegant Describes This Pickett’s Harbor Beachfront Home

Then, as they would say on Monty Python, now for something completely different. Leaving  the Eastville area, we headed to the Eastern Shore’s very southern tip, past Cape Charles, nearly to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, to  the Pickett’s Harbor area and a new beach house nestled into the rolling sand  dunes of this unique topography.  Unlike most homes on the  Eastern Shore, this home is  very contemporary, a single story  home, almost a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style home,  appearing as if it had just grown out of the ground, looking as natural here as any of the numerous trees and shrubs which surround it.  Cedar sided, it blends  quietly into the  wooded setting right at the edge of the dune line. Yet immediately as you enter  the house you realize that instead of just simply being in a beautiful woods you are actually on the edge of an amazing beach, that although the house is nestled into woods on the front side, the rear of the home is balanced on sparkling, rolling dunes, nothing but sand and swaying sea grasses for hundreds of feet, ending only at water’s edge, where a view of infinite blues takes over the eye’s focus. The house itself, designed by its architect owner, Tom Goffigan, an Eastern  Shore native,  now transplanted to the bright lights of L.A., is long and narrow, basically one room deep in many places, but each of  these bright and airy rooms enjoy fabulous views of  sparkling waters, glistening  sands and  golden sunshine. What more could be asked of such a pristine  setting ?  My favorite room was the screened porch, full house wide, built- in window seats spanning one entire end, framed with wide cedar cross posts forming a soothing  pattern, breezes flowing through, laden with the tangy  sea aromas.   Outside,  a long, low slung  boardwalk zigzags unobtrusively from the house to the end of the dune line, providing an easy path to the beach and protecting the fragile  dune vegetation from being trampled. This is a very handsome home, decorated with all sorts of Eastern Shore memorabilia, old maps, photos, antique fishing reels,  a very restful space indeed, a great home to end our tour with.  From there,  after making a  quick stop at nearby Nottingham Farm Market  to pick up some  tender, picked-that-morning-fresh  local asparagus for dinner,  ever so yummy grilled with lemon butter, we set out for home, a delicious spring treat in hand, the end of an interesting day. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr.,Machipongo VA)

Pickets Harbor Screened PorchPickets Harbor BeachPickets Harbor Board Walk To Beach

 

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. )

 

 

 

 

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 )