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Planting an Allergy-Free Garden

May 5, 2015 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Planting an Allergy-Free Garden
donnawilliamson

By Donna Williamson

Tom Ogren has a long-time interest in allergy-inducing plants. He has written several books on the topic and in February released his latest The Allergy Fighting Garden.

He explains why plants can stir up allergies and has included information about 3,000 different species that we plant in our landscapes and grow in seasonal gardens. His ranking system relates to the level, size, stickiness, and potency of pollen produced. … Continue Reading

April Is The Time To Plant – Don’t Forget Hardscapes

April 1, 2015 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on April Is The Time To Plant – Don’t Forget Hardscapes
berries

– By Donna Williamson

April is a perfect time to plant permanent fruit-bearing plants at your home. The soil has good moisture and we can get the plants established before it gets too hot and dry.
You might be interested in the excellent book The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips. He has valuable information on growing all kinds of trees and berry fruits.

Blueberries love our climate but hate hot and dry conditions. Areas with sun, good moisture, and good drainage are premium spots for your blueberry bushes. Blueberries bloom on old or last year’s woody growth so early pruning would be counter-productive for your pie-maker.

Blackberries are delicious, love our summer heat/humidity, and are easy to grow. Like raspberries, they grow well in northern Virginia. You will enjoy them more with a little containment system that makes picking the berries easier. Google ‘berry trellis’ to view various design and building options.

Gooseberries and currants are shrubby. These old-time fruits are delicious in pancakes and jams. There are several varieties you can grow easily. Tuck them into a shrub border. Little hands can pick them easily. Don’t plant near white pines.

Rhubarb is another permanent fruit for your home landscape. Each year, it will emerge in spring to treat you with great pink stalks ready to be stewed with a bit of sugar and served by itself or with strawberries.

Figs require space and some winter protection but are well worth it. The leaves can be large and tropical looking and the fruit is the flower. Delicious and succulent fruit ripens in late summer.

Grapes can be wonderful – I’ve had good luck with the Concord grape. It tastes exactly like childhood memories of grape jam. There are seeds though. Grapes grow on a woody vine that can be trained over a fence, arch, pergola, or trellis, providing a leafy canopy in summer. Annual pruning keeps it from getting out of bounds.

Now On To Hardscapes

“Hardscapes” is a term used by landscape folks about the stuff that is not plants. Walkways, patios, fountains, pergolas, stairs, pool decks, fences, and stonewalls are all examples of hardscaping.

If you are planning to have some hardscaping done, you will want that finished before you add the plants. Plants are easily beaten up in the midst of stone, stone dust, gravel, forms, concrete and big construction boots.

My best advice to you is when you have any steps are installed, be sure the riser (the up piece) is no more than 4-5 inches high and the tread (the part you step on) is at least 16-18+ inches wide. It will give you a nice, comfortable step or stair. Steps should be solid and flat – no tipping and evenly spaced for good, safe, long-time usefulness.

Walkways are most accommodating when they are 4-5 feet wide, so two people can walk side-by-side, and are uniformly flat.

Stonewalls are lovely. A short stonewall, as part of a patio, can be useful as extra seating when entertaining. Short walls can also create terracing when there is a change in grade.
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Donna Williamson is a garden designer and coach. She has taught classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands and Shenandoah University. She has two e-books on Amazon – one is an updated version of her Virginia gardening book and her new perennials book. She can be reached at donnawilliamson2002@earthlink.net or 540 877-2002.

Nine Ideas As You Prepare Your Garden for Spring

March 4, 2015 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Nine Ideas As You Prepare Your Garden for Spring
spring garden butterfly

By Donna Williamson

As winter winds down, we are so eager to get out and start cleaning-up and getting the growing season going. Many folks start pruning; remember that annual/regular pruning is not required or necessary. Spring flowering plants, like forsythia, can be pruned after flowering. Summer bloomers, like lavender, can be pruned earlier in spring as they flower on new growth. (For more info see pruning lists at www.dwfinegardening.com) … Continue Reading

Enjoying the Harvest of Your Summer Garden – Now

February 3, 2015 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Enjoying the Harvest of Your Summer Garden – Now
donnawilliamson

By Donna Williamson

Bitter, windy, nasty weather has given me an opportunity to look at some of the books I’ve collected recently and think about plants I want to try this summer season.

From the book, The Resilient Gardener, I read about parching corn. With certain species of corn, you can drop a few kernels in a dry cast iron pan and cook them to deliciousness. The author also parches kernels in a custard cup in the microwave. The toasted kernels enlarge, split, and get soft and sweet. It doesn’t work with all kinds of corn; after doing extensive research it seems the red/purple varieties are the tastiest. Seeds of Change carries “Red Supai” (seedsofchange.com) while Seed Dreams (SeedDreams.blogspot.com) offers “Parching Lavender Mandan”. Siskiyou Seeds (siskiyouseeds.com) has “Magenta Parching Corn”. The author, Carol Deppe breakfasts on a cup of tea and a handful of parched corn. … Continue Reading

Preparing Your Garden for Spring

January 6, 2015 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Preparing Your Garden for Spring
FrecklesRose

By Donna Williamson

My winter sowing experiments of the last two winters have been entertaining and successful. One of the amazing things is that growing woody plants from seed is remarkably easy. Hydrangeas, abelias, and roses have germinated and grown quickly.

The tiny rose hips from my native pasture rose (Rosa carolina) opened to reveal shiny brown seeds that grew into foot tall plants this past summer. This rose actually likes sunny, dry hillsides and can thrive here on the mountain, forming dense thickets that birds, butterflies, and bees enjoy.

The practice of setting seeds and a little clean potting soil out in plastic containers to have rain, snow, and frigid temperatures as well as sun work on them is a great way to increase the perennials in your garden inexpensively. Whether you buy seeds or collect them from existing plants, annuals and perennials grow very well using this process. … Continue Reading

December A Time To Look Back – A Time To Plan

December 10, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Virginia Gardening Comments Off on December A Time To Look Back – A Time To Plan
donnawilliamson

By Donna Williamson

December is a great time to look back on the gardening year and remember what went well or failed miserably.

Last winter’s winter-sowing of seeds went very well in spite of the polar vortex and I was able to test the seed of a couple of woody plants including the Carolina rose, all of which germinated well. Though winter is not my best season, being able to start seeds of perennials and shrubs outside with hopes for the spring makes it much more tolerable.

After reading an article about delaying a second planting of tomatoes this spring, I held back some of my little ones in containers and planted them in the ground a month after my first tomato planting. Since I grow many heirloom tomatoes, diseases always hit them in late summer and they start to dwindle. The later planted tomatoes were robust and productive until killed by the frosty temperatures in November. So that is a tip to pass along – make two plantings of tomatoes a month apart and see for yourself. … Continue Reading

Achieving a Natural Balance in the Garden

November 5, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening 2 comments
MagSieboldii

By Donna Williamson

This spring I noticed that my Magnolia sieboldii was looking wonky. This is usually a spectacular magnolia with downward facing blooms and red stamens in the center of the flower.

I thought maybe the terrible winter had damaged it. The leaves had come out but the closer I looked, I saw that it had sooty mold. It’s called sooty mold because it looks like soot staining the bark or the leaves. It is a fungus that grows on the sugary poo of tiny leaf-sucking critters, often aphids or whiteflies. And, in my experience, sooty mold is a harmless symptom of insect activity. It doesn’t really hurt the tree. … Continue Reading

Time To Plant Bulbs

October 7, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Time To Plant Bulbs
TSylvestriswithblues

By Donna Williamson

It’s time to plant bulbs again – seems like this year flew by.

It’s easy to fall in love with bulbs. They are not costly, they bring joy in the spring, and many of them will build colonies over time.

Even the woodland tulip will come back for you. It’s a charming short yellow tulip that seems to like our climate. Most big tulips are good for one year and then they are not able to cure in our hot spring weather, preferring the cool, moist landscape of Holland or Seattle. It’s called Tulipa sylvestris.

Oatlands has had a large colony of this tulip at the back of the mansion for many years. I’ve found them at older properties and include them in newer plantings. … Continue Reading

Goldenrod – A Major Fall Beauty

September 3, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Goldenrod – A Major Fall Beauty
donnawilliamson

By Donna Williamson

It’s easy to think that goldenrod causes autumn sniffles. It’s a native with species that tolerate all kinds of conditions, from full sun to shade, from moist soils to hot and dry. And it blooms everywhere around the same time that the real culprit – ragweed – is blooming and full of pollen.

Ragweed is a tall, coarse plant with tiny greenish flowers and huge quantities of yellow pollen. It’s a plant so non-descript and inelegant that many have never looked at it carefully. Ragweed just seems to be a green thing in the background of many paths and along the road. (And it’s not that very tall plant with yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom along the road – that’s called frost weed. If you look carefully at the stems you will see wings or thin, papery tissue along the stem. Frost weed got its name for erupting with ice at the base of the plant during the first frosts of the season. Harmless.) … Continue Reading

Tomato Harvest and Other Joys

August 6, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Tomato Harvest and Other Joys
potato

By Donna Williamson

Ah, it’s tomato time. As usual, I planted and grew many heirloom and newer varieties of tomato plants and am loving every minute of the harvest. Those little cherry tomatoes are so delicious and refreshing while working in the garden or roasted with a touch of olive oil for 20 minutes in a hot oven.

And the big, juicy tomatoes ready for a burger or a salad are the best. Warm from the garden and never refrigerated, tomato sliced with fresh basil and mozzarella is a memorable summer dish.

My tomato bounty is ready for processing and canning for winter use. Keeping up with the harvest and processing in small batches works for me. … Continue Reading

Let’s Start Thinking About Planning A Fall Garden

July 3, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Let’s Start Thinking About Planning A Fall Garden
fallgarden

– By Donna Williamson

There is so much information out there about gardening and planting – it makes my head spin. Some good information, some bad information that just gets repeated over and over – so here is some info I hope will help.

You can water your plants in the sun. Thunderstorms do it all the time. Better to have enough water than to wilt and be stressed.

If possible, water in the morning before it gets too hot and stresses the plants.
There are cool season weeds and there are warm season weeds. The cool-loving ones have already bloomed, set seed, and gone dormant while the warm season plants are very strong in July. If you don’t have time to weed them out, at least cut off and throw away the seeds they are producing so you will have fewer weeds next year.
Late July and August is perfect timing to start those fall veggies that like cooler weather. They get a good start in warm soils and then can boldly get through the cold nights of fall and even winter with some protection.

… Continue Reading

June – July Experiment Planting Tomatoes

June 3, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on June – July Experiment Planting Tomatoes
junejulyexperiment

By Donna Williamson

It’s possible to be regularly fascinated if gardening is a pastime you love. Just last year I learned about winter-sowing and started growing baptisia, hydrangea, and many native perennials from seed easily and inexpensively.

Last month I read an article about planting tomatoes in succession. It’s good timing to think about that idea. I grow several varieties of heirloom tomatoes because I can/jar them in the late summer for winter use and good tomato taste is important. But the heirlooms have not been “improved” and are often susceptible to diseases as the summer goes on. They also can slow down in production of new tomatoes in late summer. … Continue Reading

Hurry Up – Plant Something

April 30, 2014 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Hurry Up – Plant Something
GoldenNinebarkFlowers

By Donna Williamson

Spring is here and while it’s possible there might be a few more chilly moments, the worst is over. What is more likely is that we will heat up and be in full summer before too long.

In an average year, the rains are plentiful in the spring and seem to disappear around the end of May. So get some planting done soon so the gentle rains can do the watering for you.

New plants need to be established – lots of plant professionals talk about that. It means that you cannot count on Mother Nature to care for your perennials, shrubs, trees, or even that basil plant until the roots have had time to dig into your soil and drink up ground water. So you need to shepherd your new plants, sometimes for months, to make sure they get enough water. … Continue Reading

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Sustainable Planet

Not Your Father’s El Nino

15 Aug 2015

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NASA and other agencies now forecast the incipient El Nino conditions to continue at least into the winter and the early part of 2016. Figure 1 compares Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly for the El Nino of 1997- 1998 with …

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Ask Dr. Mike

At Wits End

7 Aug 2015

Michael_Pic

Dr. Mike, My sister’s son is autistic, but she is in complete denial. I’ve done my research and he fits a diagnosis of autism. He is three years old and doesn’t talk or socialize. He has meltdowns that are out …

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Just Like Nothing (Else) on Earth

Just Like Nothing (Else) on Earth: Morven Park

7 Aug 2015

morvenpark

I think what strikes me most about this place – as over the top as it is in many ways – is how understated it really is; I know that’ll take some explaining. I’ve been to Morven Park hundreds of …

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Mount Zion Church

1 Jul 2015

timjon

– By Tim Jon So: You’ve never given the American Civil War a great deal of thought, much less walked the grounds of Gettysburg or some of the other, major battleground sites located in our region; you may not be …

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Sushi's Corner

March Sushi

4 Mar 2015

pot of gold

Hello everyone, this is Hokie Cat from Fields of Athenry Farm. Sushi is in big trouble as we speak and is residing in doggy dungeon. I am here to fill you in on what took place. My brother Mountie loves …

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Virginia Gardening

Planting an Allergy-Free Garden

5 May 2015

donnawilliamson

By Donna Williamson Tom Ogren has a long-time interest in allergy-inducing plants. He has written several books on the topic and in February released his latest The Allergy Fighting Garden. He explains why plants can stir up allergies and has …

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Samuel Moore-Sobel

What It Means To Be a Man

7 Aug 2015

moore-sobelnewmug

By Samuel Moore-Sobel As I have gotten older I have noticed that there are more and more young men who ask me for advice. To me it seems silly – I am often not much older than the person asking, …

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Amy V. Smith's Money Talks

A Social Security Strategy Could Enhance Your Retirement Income Plan

7 Aug 2015

Smith0035

By Amy & Dan Smith What do you think of when someone mentions Social Security? Many people consider Social Security and retirement as one and the same. More than 90 percent of working Americans plan for Social Security to replace …

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Student News

8th Grade Writers Honored At Blue Ridge Middle School

2 Jul 2015

blueridgemiddleschool

Sixty-seven Blue Ridge Middle School eighth graders have been honored for their writing during the 2014-2015 school year. Many students had their writing selected for publication by Creative Communication, a program for student writers, while others won county-wide writing contests. …

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Ben Kellogg Achieves Eagle Scout

1 Jul 2015

benkellog

Benjamin Robert Kellogg achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor conducted at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Purcellville on March 29. Friends, family and troop leaders attended the celebration, including his parents, Robert and Deirdre Kellogg. …

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Blue Ridge Middle Places 11th In National Science League

1 Jul 2015

blueridgemiddleschool

Blue Ridge National Science Day Declared Tuesday, June 10 has been officially been declared Blue Ridge National Science Day. At a recent Purcellville Town Council Meeting, Mayor Kwasi Fraser and members of the town council signed a proclamation designating this …

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Events

August 2015
M T W T F S S
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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale Returns with Bargains for Everyone

Friday Night Live with Emma Rowley & Saffron Gourmet Food Truck

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Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale Returns with Bargains for Everyone

Chef Sebastian Oveysi's Saffon Gourmet Food Truck at North Gate VIneyard

Book Signing: 'Beyond Jefferson's Vines' by Richard Leahy

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Spinners

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale Returns with Bargains for Everyone

Chef Sebastian Oveysi's Saffon Gourmet Food Truck at North Gate VIneyard

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

Live Music: Connor Duffy at North Gate Vineyard

Ronnie Milsap

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Live Music: Willie White at North Gate VIneyard

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

Lovettsville Historical Society Lecture: "Hex Signs: the History and the Mystery"

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COFFEEHOUSE: LOVE, LOSS & WHAT I WORE

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Dinner and a Dive In

Creedence Clearwater

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

Emily Guagliardi Live at North Gate Vineyard

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Mobile Hope’s “Back to School” Shopping Event Helps Loudoun Struggling Youth

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

Culinary Garden Summer Music Series

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

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Afghan Treasures Trunk Show

Notaviva Vineyards Monthly Bluegrass Jam is BACK w/Short Hill Mountain Boys

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

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Recent Comments

  • Mark Gunderman on Gifts Within: Second Mount Olive Baptist Church, located in Hamilton, VA, was founded in 1872. The congregation desires to exalt God and...
  • Kathleen Hannon on What It Means To Be a Man: Great article Samuel! We have two daughters and we try to teach them to look for qualities such as...
  • R. Ohneiser Esq. on Congress and MWAA VS Loudoun Taxpayers: Interesting discussion but let's consider how to actually resolve this problem permanently FOR THE BENEFIT OF LOUDOUN NOT JUST FOR...
  • Nan Siegel on Remembering Mabel: A lovely, heartfelt tribute. Though I never met Mabel, I think she must have had a wonderful life, full of...
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View From the Ridge

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Purcellville

5 May 2015

blueridge2

Mark Your Calendar, They’ve Asked for Our Input So Let’s Give It To Them By Steady and Nobull The Purcellville Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled a series of public input sessions June 4, 11 and 18 at 7:00 p.m. at town hall for the proposed sweeping zoning changes. These major …

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Editorial

Getting Purcellville Out of the Conflicts of Interest Trap

7 Aug 2015

town of purcellville sign

Three Virginia laws address openness in government: the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA), The Virginia Public Records Act (VPRA) and The Virginia State & Local Government Conflict of Interests Act (VCOIA). VFOIA guides how public bodies conduct their meetings and regulates access to government records. VPRA establishes basic rules about what constitutes a public record and what the government’s …

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Lifestyle

Historic Village Prepares for 46th Annual Bluemont Fair

25 Aug 2015

IMG_4106

The sleepy Blue Ridge village of Bluemont in western-most Loudoun County, Virginia, is bustling with activity as it prepares for the 46th ANNUAL BLUEMONT FAIR, September 19 & 20, 2015 from 10AM to 5PM both days, rain or shine. Admission is still only $5/adults, under 10 free, with free parking available. One-way traffic and crosswalks will be enforced in the …

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Register for Rally for the Cure™

24 Aug 2015

blueridge2

Want to participate in a fun tournament for a great cause? Then sign up to participate in the Stoneleigh Women’s Golf Association’s annual Rally for the Cure ™ golf tournament in Support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month! This is a great opportunity to play at the golf course recently cited as being the Prettiest Golf Course in Northern Virginia by …

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LCSO Announces 36th Citizens’ Police Academy

24 Aug 2015

sheriff

Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman announced the formation of the 36th Citizens’ Police Academy, which will commence on September 15, 2015. Members of the class will participate in training classes taught by Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office personnel. The classes provide an overview of all the aspects of law enforcement within the agency. Members of the class may also have …

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Wild Loudoun

Dragonflies – To See Is To Believe

7 Aug 2015

wildloudoundragonflies

Shadow Darner. Unicorn Clubtail. Black Shouldered Spinyleg. Blue Dasher. Ebony Jewelwing. Calico Pennant. Sanddragon. Their names conger up some magical place inhabited by devils and demons, elegant queens, daring lovers – creatures you would need to see with your own eyes to believe really existed. But, each of these, including the Calico Pennant, is actually one of the most common …

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Around Virginia

Congress and MWAA VS Loudoun Taxpayers

davelarock

By Delegate Dave LaRock It’s no secret that population growth and business development have left Loudoun County, especially busy areas to the east, with some pretty challenging traffic. The process of expanding the local network of roads and transit always seems to be playing catch-up, usually tied to availability of …

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Governor Signs Senator Black’s Campus Sexual Assault Bill

governorsigns

On Thursday, May 28, Sen. Richard Black traveled to Richmond for the bill signing ceremony of his bill, Senate Bill 712, the Campus Sexual Assault Bill. Black’s law will change the way that Virginia’s colleges and universities handle sexual assault cases.  “When I heard about the Hannah Graham case, I …

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McAuliffe Announces Movie To Film in Virginia

McAuliffe

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia has been selected as the filming location for “Loving,” a motion picture based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginia married couple who, in 1958, were arrested for violating a state law at the time prohibiting interracial marriage. The couple …

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Sports

Drew Hunter Heading To Pan American Games

7 Aug 2015

drewhunter

Loudoun Valley’s Drew Hunter placed second in the United States Track and Field 1500-meter run Junior National Championship. That earned him a spot on the United States Junior Team going to the Pan American Games in Edmonton, Canada in late July. Drew lost to college freshman Blake Haney of the …

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American Legion Post 34 Hosting Mid-Atlantic Regional Baseball Tournament

5 Aug 2015

americanlegionpost34

Batter up! Chartered in 1919 by an act of Congress, the American Legion is one of our country’s oldest, largest and most prestigious veteran’s organizations – dedicated to mentoring youth, sponsoring community programs, promoting national security and supporting veterans and members of the armed forces. Specific programs include scholarships, scouting, …

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This Month in History

July, 1776: Loudoun’s Revolution Within A Revolution

1 Jul 2015

thismonthhistory

– By Andrea Gaines Loudoun County was heavily invested in the fight for independence from Great Britain. Loudouner Francis Lightfoot Lee was one of 56 delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence. More Loudouners served in General George Washington’s army than any other county in Virginia, and the county’s enormous …

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Mary Rose Lunde

More Than a GPA

7 Aug 2015

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde In school we are measured in every way based on a number system from a point scale resulting in grades then translated into a GPA that can’t be easily fixed in just one semester. Students are forced to think that all they have to achieve is …

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Sarah's Closet

Go Pink … As Pink As You Like

1 Jul 2015

sarahcloset3

– By Sarah Nearis Look at these sweet and summery pink blouses and tops. Don’t you want to try one on? Some women are afraid to wear pink, thinking it’s a bit too feminine. But, pink comes in such a wide variety of shades – from soft mauves to fuchsias …

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Letters

Thank You Purcellville

7 Aug 2015

town of purcellville sign

I want to express my sincere appreciation for the outpouring of support by the local business owners and residents in relationship to my challenge to …

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Independence Won – Much Left To Be Done

1 Jul 2015

speak

With graduations behind us and summer vacations ahead, we have much to look forward to. My summer will be full of events and opportunities to …

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Reflections for Father’s Day, a Child’s Constitutional Rights

15 Jun 2015

Bob Ohneiser

I’ve been a licensed attorney and a father since the late 80’s. Yet, I wonder about how many of our country’s legal theories – theories …

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