Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

DUCK BREAKFAST A LA CARTE’

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

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This is a true Eastern Shore duck tale, not a tall Eastern Shore duck tale.  But “breakfasting with friends” took on a whole new meaning for me down at the Bayford crab shacks in Nassawadox, VA recently. I had left home at first light, hoping to shoot a few photos of  some colorful puffy clouds reflecting over the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Nassawadox Creek inlet at Bayford.  

But once I got there, what really ended up captivating me was a duck breakfast.  (Very different than breakfast atDSC_0735 Duck Donuts for those in Duck, NC  and Virginia Beach, who are addicted to those fabulous treats).  Dawn was just breaking as I pulled in. As it grew lighter, I noticed 2 ducks paddling steadily up the inlet towards the boat ramp. Arriving, they proceeded to walk directly up the ramp and onto the land, totally ignoring me.  They waddled, quack-quacking,  over to an old pier adjacent to the ramp in what I initially thought was just random meandering. But immediately 2 additional ducks popped up to greet them from a large crevice by the dock pilings, which apparently are a duck version of Air B’nB accommodations, emphasis on the “air”, as in very open air!

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 Then the 4 of them, like the group of old buddies they were, immediately turned back around, waddled down the ramp and straight into the water. These old  friends of a feather swam leisurely over to a nearby dock offering plenty of mud and barnacle-encrusted pilings and began to nibble around them, devouring what I assume was their idea of a delicious meal, probably bristle worm ceviche, served with a mud aioli and finished with chiffonade of eel grass.  Duck Breakfast a’ la carte!   Thereafter the sunrise, with soft pink glows, huge billowy clouds, vivid water reflections, everything I had come to see and photograph. Voila’, full daylight and off to my people breakfast.  Thankfully, no worms, mud or eel grass on that menu!

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“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.   

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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.

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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.)

 

A New Cape Charles Vacation Rental Home, Introducing “Beach Villa”

Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Sand beach at "Beach Villa", a Cape Charles VA vacation rental home

Relax on the soft sand beach at “Beach Villa” on Eastern Shore Virginia

We get a lot of calls  here at Blue Heron Realty Co. for a vacation rental home with lots of seclusion but with lots of amenities too and that’s usually  a hard order to fill.  However, we  have just acquired  “Beach Villa”  as a Cape Charles VA area vacation rental.  This exquisite villa style home,  sleeping 10, offers  water views galore plus old world charm and the use of its  37 acres with beautiful Virginia Eastern Shore  Chesapeake Bay waterfront.  Best of all,   Beach Villa offers a gorgeous  sand beach, private to the owners and their rental guests, offering wide soft, soft  sands, glittering in the golden sun, perfect for relaxing under a beach umbrella, book in hand, some sweet Southern-style  ice cold tea in the cooler.  And as you wade from the beach into the Bay, the salty Chesapeake  waters start out quite shallow but  gradually reach swimming depth so bring your mask and snorkel to check everything out.   Surrounded on two sides by a pristine little freshwater lake,  imagine waking up  in the serene environment of this home  to the calls of  seabirds overhead  and  waterfowl out on the lake.  Love jogging ? Imagine the pleasure of making lazy circuits around 37 acres surrounded by such natural beauty.  Surely this is a  vacation opportunity extraordinaire.

Aerial view of "Beach Villa", a beachfront home near Cape Charles VA

“Beach Villa” offers old world charm on 37 acres near Cape Charles VA

With 3 bedrooms and 3 and a half baths plus a day bed in the sunroom, there is plenty of room to catch up on some sleep  in this nearly 4000 sq. ft. home. Large great room with living and dining room groupings plus a   gourmet kitchen make conversation with your group a breeze. The gas log fireplace in the living area is perfect for cool fall evenings.  Sliding glass doors lead from the great room to the spacious fieldstone patio overlooking  beautiful flower beds, the lake and the Bay, the perfect spot for a steaming cup of morning coffee.   Paneled den and enclosed sunroom provide additional space for just relaxing, letting the mind and body unwind in this gorgeous setting.  First floor master suite, so convenient, with a master bath which includes jacuzzi tub with marble surround.   Everything about this home is top of the line, you will not be disappointed by selecting this home for your vacation.

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Aqua Restaurant at Cape Charles offers fine and casual dining on the Chesapeake Bay

Be Sure To Try The Delicious Seafood At Aqua Restaurant During Your Stay

Nearby amenities include Kiptopeake State Park, Eastern Shore Wildlife Refuge and the Rails to Trails jogging/biking trail. The historic little Victorian town of Cape Charles is less than 10 minutes away and offers restaurants, shops, art galleries, marinas,boat ramps, train rides,  special events, holiday parades, etc.,  as well as Palmer and Nicklaus Signature 18 hole golf courses.   The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a terrific spot for a relaxing, low-key vacation, for what we like to call ” Simply Relaxing The Shore Way“.  From A for Artist Galleries to Z for Zesty clam dip,  there is nearly an endless list of things to do and see here on the Eastern Shore.   Savour sunset strolls on the beach,  kayak to our unique off-shore Barrier Islands, charter a deep sea fishing trip, treasure hunt in our antique shops,  attend a live performance at the Palace Theatre, ride horseback along waterfront trails, explore our little coastal towns, visit a local winery,  get wet clamming, enjoy a superb seafood meal at Aqua Restaurant,  see the artifacts of yesteryear at the Barrier Island Museum.  ( By the way, the Tall Ships Cape Charles Festival will be held this year the weekend of June 14-16,  an exciting event for adults and kids alike. Three tall sailing ships will be in port offering open deck tours and day sails, the Navy’s USS  Tornado will also offer tours, individual owners will be there with their sailboats, skipjacks and antique “buy boats”, the harbor will be bursting with great stuff.  Plus loads of other activities  are part of this Festival, it’s a really fun-filled event. )  But whatever you do, memories of your Simply Relaxing  Eastern Shore Vacation  will stay with you forever.  To reserve your week at Beach Villa, email us at easternshorevacations@blueheronva.com or call 757-678-5277.           (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 )

Too Blooming Early- The 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival In Washington D.C.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Cherry Blossom Pink

As it happily turned out,  instead of being at home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  at 4 pm on March 17th, thinking about  getting ready for an excellent St. Paddy Day dinner at Kelly’s Gingernut Pub  in Cape Charles,  I was instead walking through  the magnificent grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.,  surrounded by  incredible beautiful blooming cherry trees.   A  postponement of a visit by a client left me with a few unscheduled days available and it took us all of  30 seconds to decide what to do with them.  Ever since our youthful days lived  in the Washington metro area,  about a thousand years ago,  my husband and I have always loved Spring there and the amazing cherry blossoms.   Earlier in the week I had  read  an article in  The Washington Post  which indicated that the record breaking warm weather this year  ( hello climate change)  was forcing the blossoms to open  very early,  almost 2 weeks earlier than usual.   Peak bloom, where  at least 70% of  the blossoms would be open, was forecast for March 20 – 24th.   So on Friday afternoon it was a quick call for a hotel reservation,  a dust-off of some sturdy walking shoes, a quick pack-pack and we were ready to set off early on Saturday morning.  Somehow, as often happens,  but I’m never sure how,  although dog feeding, watering and walking has something to do with it,  the planned  early  departure turned into a late 10:30 departure.   But finally we were on the road,  off  to the 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival !    It was a gorgeous day,  a perfect day for a drive, the  ride  over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge offered sparkling blue waters and views of boaters out enjoying the warm and breezy day.   Fortunately, D.C.   is only a 4 1/2 hour drive from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, made somewhat longer but definitely more fun with a  lunch stop  at the famous Cheese Shop at Merchant’s Square in Williamsburg, VA  for a  luscious sandwich of  Virginia country ham and cheddar, piled high on a French baguette, slathered with their marvelous  house dressing,  accompanied by a glass of Williamsburg Winery’s  Chardonnay.

The Jefferson Monument- Never More Beautiful Than At Cherry Blossom Time

A word about the history of these beautiful cherry trees planted so profusely around the Tidal Basin and the National Mall.  According to Ann McClellan in her excellent book about the Festival,   ” The Cherry Blossom Festival Sakura Celebration“,  in 1909,  First Lady Nellie Taft, who had visited Japan and seen the cherry trees blossom there,  became interested in the new parks beautification  plan underway in  D.C.   Mrs. Taft  made known to the Superintendent of Public  Buildings her interest in seeing Japanese flowering cherry trees planted along the roads from the Tidal Basin to the  Park boundaries to create  continuous lines of  gorgeous spring color.  As her interest in the trees became known publicly, as a gesture of  friendship in 1909,  the city of  Tokyo, the capital of Japan, offered to send a gift of 2000 cherry trees to her sister city, the capital of the United States, Washington DC.  However, a friend of Mrs. Taft  assigned to travel to Japan to help select the trees  ignored the advice of  Fairchild  Nursery ( the nursery was to oversee the transportation of the trees to D.C.  from the port in Seattle where they were to  arrive) to select very young, small trees. Instead, hoping to get impressive blossoms very quickly, she instead selected mature trees whose roots and limbs had to be severely pruned.  This error made  it unlikely that the trees would survive once planted.  On top of all  that, once the trees had arrived in Washington D.C.,  the U.S. Dept.  of  Agriculture discovered that many of these  mature trees had infections and infestations and it was decided unfortunately necessary to burn them all, creating a diplomatic flurry of apologies and letters.

Peeking Through The Cherry Trees At The Washington Monument

But the city of Tokyo still very much wanted to fulfill its promise to gift these trees and  the Imperial Horticultural Experiment Station was selected to create a committee of experts to oversee  the propagation of 3000 young cherry trees.  By early 1912 these  trees were ready for shipment to Washington, arriving in March.  At a special ceremony at the  Tidal Basin in March 1912,  the Mrs. Taft  is said to have  planted the very first tree herself.   The rest. as they say, is history.   Word of the beauty of the blossoming trees quickly became known, bringing artists, photographers and thousands of  ordinary citizens to Washington to photograph, paint and generally celebrate the beautiful blooms, with the first  official  “Cherry Blossom Festival”  celebration taking place in 1935.  The 2012 Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the 100th anniversary of the planting of the trees in March, 1912  and in the horticultural world  this is an especially exciting year,  the Cherry Blossom Centennial.

A Microcosm Of The World’s People Celebrating The Beautiful World Of Cherry Blossoms

As we gaily drove  over the Memorial Bridge,  it was clear that the early bloom  prognosticators were  right,  the trees were absolutely glorious,  blossoms waving in the  breeze, petals  floating gently to the ground like pink-tinted pixie dust, their sweet scent  perfuming the air.   People were everywhere,  enjoying this once yearly treat, hand-in-hand, parents, youngsters, oldsters, tweensters, toddlers, lovers, photographers,  walking,  jogging, snapping photos with cameras, iPhones, Droids,  you name it,  sitting on the grass,  laying on blankets,  under the shade of these magnificant trees or in the golden sunlight between them. Spring was in the air, temps were in the mid-70’s  and everyone was there to celebrate this truly glorious Spring  day,  tourists and residents, citizens and  foreign visitors,  folks with roots from all across the globe,  chattering happily in a multitude of languages.    English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, German, Italian, you name it,   enthusiastic conversations wafted through the air,  everyone  basking in a beautiful dream world of  millions of gorgeous pink blossoms,  a world first envisioned by Nellie Taft  over one hundred years ago,  a vision of  a cultural coming together that  I imagine the Coca Cola folks could have had in mind in their “Real Thing”  ad  from the early 1970’s.

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

Unwind In This Romantic Lindal Style Cedar Beach Home For Sale On The Eastern Shore of Virginia

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

What could be more relaxing than unwinding at sunset on the deck of your Chesapeake Bay beachfront home,  surrounded by rolling dunes and serenaded by the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the shoreline  and seabirds calling overhead ?   On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a beach home is all about a sense of fun, of embracing a new way of life,  of  kicking back, breathing in the tangy salt air, listening to the seabirds call,   focusing on the spectacular views donated by Mother Nature !    Especially so in this Lindal  style cedar beachfront home offering the casual elegance and  real livability that  turns a mere house  into a  longed for retreat, one’s very own sand castle.   Nestled on about four acres of  sparkling sand dunes  dotted with sea oats waving in the breezes,  gnarled maritime pines and  striking  yucca plants,  this custom 5 bedroom, 4 1/2 bath  beachfront beauty is all about immersing in a nature-inspired lifestyle.  With over 2200 sq.ft. of balcony and multi-level open decking dedicated to outdoor living,  perfect for fresh air entertaining or just basking in the sun,  and a huge hot tub beckoning  star gazers or moon watchers at night,  folks  may never want to come inside !

But when they do finally decide come inside,  what dramatic beauty awaits.   Soaring cathedral ceilings, walls of windows,  an open and flowing floorplan.  With  the home’s  east-west orientation,  it’s easy to follow the sun all day.  From the soft light in the  breakfast room  at sunrise to mint juleps in the great room at sunset glow, this home is  light filled and airy.  The large great room focal point is a  towering two story floor- to- ceiling  fireplace and massive  hearth constructed of custom selected stone in  eye-pleasing  rose and grey hues.  The architectural design on the waterside consists of three “prows” , each of which creates a feel of a particular living space yet essentially  it is one large light-filled open living space,  a  “great room”  in every sense of the word, with a sitting- conversation area at one end and a dining area at the other.   An abundance of windows on each wall of  the prows and sliding glass doors leading to the decks bring the outdoors inside, the golden sunshine,  the dazzling views of  blue Chesapeake Bay waters,  the sparkling sand beach and the glorious skies at sunset,  sun slipping below the horizon,  painting the water in vibrant hues of reds and golds.

A  large master suite carries on the theme of high ceilings and  beautiful windows and also includes doors to the deck . Guest bedrooms are upstairs, with a central guest sitting area, individual balconies and great waterviews as well.  Beautiful library/music room/den off the great room, a  cozy space  for curling up with a good book, soft music in the background.   Downstairs,  a  full walk-out basement with it’s own patio and outdoor shower, a library area, media room &  pool room,  extra storage for bikes, kayaks, fishing gear and other essential toys, etc., etc.    Truly, this  is a beach home that doesn’t just look like a beachfront home,  it’s a beach home where you really feel the sense of  sand and  blue waters  everywhere,  an inspiration inside as well as outside !   Located in a tiny beach neighborhood offering private pool and tennis club for residents.    Only 10 minutes from the historic little waterfront town of Cape Charles, VA offering a wide variety of amenites including shops, restaurants, art galleries, theatre, cultural events,  Palmer and Nicklaus signature  golf courses  and two deep water marinas.   Atttractively priced at $1,595,000.  For more information and photos on this property, visit  www.blueheronva.com  and click on beachfront  under the “listings” menu on the top navigation bar.

                       

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

Our Annual Carter Mountain Trek- From Virginia’s Eastern Shore To The Blue Ridge Mountains In About 3 Hours

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

World Famous Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Westward Ho !  ,  the theme of our annual trek  some weeks ago from our beloved Eastern Shore’s sandy seashore to the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Charlottesville, VA.  It’s a trip that, depending on traffic,  only takes 3-4 hours,  but it’s a trip that shows off  the real beauty and diversity of  Virginia geography as we drive from our saltwater-dominated Atlantic coastal plain through the Virginia’s rolling plain Piedmont area, ( think Williamsburg, Richmond, etc. ),  and then into the gorgeous Blue Ridge area of Charlottesville and Roanoke.

A View From Carter Mountain, Charlottesville VA

( Westward still would place  you in the Appalachian Mountains and Virginia’s  famous Shennandoah Valley, very beautiful yet somehow we seldom go that far. )  Virginia certainly isn’t an especially large state but it has a diversity which makes getting a change of pace and scenery easy and fun to do.  For some reason,  it never ceases to amaze me that I can be driving on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, watching rolling  waves and seabirds just after breakfast and by lunchtime I can be sitting in a chair atop Carter Mountain,  munching a juicy York apple.

Michie Tavern, ca.1784, A National Historic Landmark

This year,  because of an especially busy schedule,  for the first time,  we made  our Annual Apple Trek after Halloween rather than before, which like most things in life had its pros and cons.  Pros were that it was quiet,  no lines to pay for apples and Carter’s fabulous fresh-pressed apple cider,  easy to find an attendant to get questions answered and a chair was immediately available  to sit and admire the wide vistas.  Cons– well, I really missed seeing all the kids running around trying to choose their Halloween pumpkins,  the hayride wagons full of  excited parents and kids,  the bluegrass fiddles and banjos.   In short,  apparently it wasn’t just about the crunchy apples and the beautiful vistas from atop Carter’s Mountain, it was also very much about the infectious  atmosphere of their month long October Apple Festival accompanied by the mouth-watering aromas of fresh apple pies and apple cider donuts  wafting through it that we had been enjoying all these years.  At any rate, before venturing up to the Orchard we enjoyed  a late lunch at Michie Tavern,  located right at the foot of the mountain and only a half mile from Jefferson’s Monticello.  Built in 1784 as a country inn to accommodate travelers of the day, it is a beautiful structure, a National Historic Landmark, very well-preserved. Serving a menu of foods typical of the time and still popular today– fried or baked chicken and excellent southern style  pulled pork BBQ,  accompanied by black-eyed peas,  stewed tomatoes, beets, cole slaw, mashers, cornbread, big, fluffy biscuits, etc. ,  Michie Tavern gives an authentic taste of  what travelers of the time would have experienced.  Lunch can be eaten  inside or al fresco  on their screened porch overlooking the propery’s magnificant woodlands or by the roaring fireplace in winter,  it’s always a very pleasant experience.  (www.michietavern.com)

So Many Apples, So many Choices At The Carter Mountain Orchard

Lunch over, up  Carter Mountain we went.  The apples were great,  as usual.  We normally buy a bushel each of four different varieties, typically Stayman Winesap, York, Fugi and Pink Lady,  so that we can mix them together and give them as little  “happy-apple-harvest”  gifties to friends and family.  A Pink Lady is an especially pretty apple, a very pale green with a large blush of deep pink on the side,  quite crisp and slightly tart, one of my favorite apples, both a good eating and a good pie apple.   But for applesauce, I think you just can’t beat the combination of  the Stayman and  York varieties with a few Fugi and Macintosh thrown in for good measure.   At our house we love applesauce, unsweetened, chunky, flavorful,  lightly laced with cinnamon,  completely delicious with chicken or pork, and, I might add, so good for you.  It’s hard to tolerate what passes for applesauce in the supermarket, thin, grainy, absolutely flavorless– must be made with mealy red delicious, the worst apple ever for flavor.  But a big pot of  three or four  types of  sweet-tart Carter Mountain apples, slowly simmered with a little apple cider,  mashed carefully to retain some chunks  (but not too  many), gently flavored with cinnamon and perhaps a tiny dash of clove at the very end — now that’s an applesauce that we will drive 3 hours to get really fresh apples to make !  ( By the way, applesauce freezes very well, pull it out, defrost and it tastes almost as great as the day it was simmered off in the big apple kettle.)   So we got some  great apples, newly  picked that morning,  we got the fresh-pressed apple cider, delicious either hot and mulled or icy cold,  as well as a dozen pre-packaged cider donuts.  All in all,  we had a great day.  But …..  for Apple Trek 2012,  I think we will make a point to go before Halloween so we can enjoy all the extras too — the yelling kids, the noisy hayrides,  the bluegrass band twanging away and the aromas of apple pies newly baked,  all the many features of the October Apple Festival atop  Charlottesville’s Carter Mountain.

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

The Exciting Sights And Sounds To Be Savored When Crossing The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

A few  weeks ago,  David Kabler, broker for Blue Heron Realty Co.’s Cape Charles, VA branch office,  wrote an  interesting post about an unusual tour he and other members of the Cape Charles Coast Guard Auxillery were priviledged to be able to take of the inner workings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel complex which connects the Eastern Shore to the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area of mainland Virginia.   Dave’s post was primarily about the interesting things the group learned about the history, construction and operation of this amazing structure, known far and wide as one of the great engineering marvels of the modern world.   Like Dave,  I too have traveled  “The Bridge”  countless times, on the old single lane span and the new double lane span,  in good weather and bad,  during the day and in the middle of the night,   “going across the Bay”,  the old Eastern Shore colloquialism,  a throw-back to the days when traveling  for several hours by ferry was the only way to cross these wide waters, a significant trip for sure.  People didn’t say they “were going to Virginia Beach”,  they said “I’m going across the Bay” and that native phrase is as alive and well today as it was 50 years ago.  I love traveling on this Bridge, for reasons too numerous to count, but let me give it a try.

My family and I have lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  for over 25 years.  We love it, wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,  we treasure the Shore’s beautiful lands, the relaxed pace of life,  its friendly people.  But I also love the shopping malls,  the numerous special events,  the art  institutions like Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall and Harrison Opera House as well as the numerous restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world,  all  to be found less than an hour away  in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.  And then there are the  points further west but still within a 2-4 hour’s  drive of the Eastern Shore,  fabulous and historic cities  like  Williamsburg,  Richmond,  Charlottesville and Washington DC,  all of which  which we visit for one occasion or another at least several times a year.  In fact,  we  just got back from a week-end trip to D.C. and Richmond last month and are planning to make our annual fall   “apple trek”   to Carter’s  Mountain in Charlottesville later this month.   So the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel  is our easy, fast,  safe and truly beautiful connection from our splendid low-key, relaxed cocoon here on the Eastern Shore to the wider, faster, ultra busy-busy  world on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay, our tether to a metropolitan lifestyle but  “on-demand”,  our demand.   It’s  a lifeline from one set of  interests to another,  a  way we Eastern Shore residents  have found to have  our cake and eat it too,  a time machine,  enabling the traveler to emerge  smiling from one type of world into another —-  in less than an hour !

Not only does the Bridge allow the practical physical connection of our slender peninsula to the Mother Ship of mainland Virginia,  from an aesthetic point of view,  the Bridge itself  is a beautiful sight to see  and the sights and sounds of a trip on the Bridge are extraordinary.   The 17 mile crossing point is placed approximately where the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic  Ocean merge so it’s like traveling over a water wonderland,  seabirds  swooping and calling overhead,  flocks of pelicans skimming over the waves,  that little flock of cormorants usually perched on the railing outside the second tunnel or  what seem to be billions of chattering gulls, diving madly into the water to take advantage of a passing school of  menhaden.   In summer sometimes we’ ll be lucky enough to see a school of dolphins jumping — this area is the nursery ground for  the bottlenose dolphin.  The Eastern Shore is a critical part of the Atlantic Flyway and autumn brings sights of  large bands of migrating songbirds and raptors  swooping gaily through the skies or taking a break in the sanctuary of Fisherman’s Island ( seen  just as one gets on ( or off)  the main span ).  In winter we keep our eyes peeled for the small number of  humpback whales that  migrate through between December and March but  have never been fortunate  enough to see one,  still hoping though.

 

Large tankers traveling the Baltimore Channel on the horizon,  sailboats and power boats  crusing along, doing their fishing or crusing thing are a common but nevertheless, interesting sight.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky,  near the south tunnel you’ll see  one of the  destroyers  or a submarine, maybe even a huge hovercraft,  from Naval Station Norfolk,  one of the Navy’s largest  U.S. bases, traveling through the  open navigation channel for large ships at  Thimble Shoal Tunnel, the south tunnel.  Once we happened to be traveling on that section of the Bridge just as the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise  passed through,  deploying for the Middle East.  She is quite an impressive  sight.   And a couple of months ago,  for the first time ever,  I saw a helicopter carrier ship which had just passed  through the channel,  going east– I pulled over at the special viewing area on the tunnel’s 5 acre manmade  island to watch for a few minutes and saw flying out,  one by one,  to land on her deck,  about  8 helicopters, no doubt deploying to some faraway part of the world,  leaving home and family behind in Virginia Beach.   And  quite frequently we see  huge cargo ships up close,  loaded with containers to be off-loaded at Norfolk Terminals.  From time to time we’ve seen ocean liners  passing through the channel over the tunnel,  headed to the  Cruise Ship Terminal next to  Nauticus Museum in Norfolk,   these ships passing in the night  are especially pretty,  lights blazing from long rows of  portholes.  There’s  always,  always something interesting going on as one travels  “across the Bay”.

                     

When you first get on the Bridge  you cannot see  the land on the other side,  you are just suspended above  what seems to be an endless expanse of  water,  blue and glistening on a sunny day,  deep pinks and violets when traveling at sunset,  very, very  special  on full moon nights,  the  golden-white moonbeams casting a long trail across dark  waters,  a perfect  illustration for the nursery poem  ” Winken,  Blinken and Nod”,  as they sailed  off into a river of crystal light with the glorious stars above,  one of the most beautiful times to be on the Bridge.   And in my estimation, one of the prettiest sights you’ll see on the Shore is the  gracefully curved shoreline of  Fisherman’s Island Wildlife Refuge on a sunny day as viewed  from the top of the homeward bound north span’s  high level bridge,  the sparkling blue waters,  waves breaking on  the shore,  lacy white sea foam,  the  glistening  white sands,  green beach grass,  the infinite waters of the Atlantic beyond, ….. well,  ” mid  pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home !”   And the Bridge is our faithful conduit from pleasures and palaces b

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

ack to our Eastern Shore home, sweet, sweet  home.