Blue Ridge Leader News – October 31, 2010

Check your Bags

We’ve been watching the planes coming into Dulles Airport with a more wary eye over the past several days; despite questionable inspection practices in some foreign countries, officials have reported no suspicious packages arriving at the local hub for a healthy number of international flights. The Metro Airport Authority announced an all-clear, as it were, at Reagan National, BWI and Dulles, the latter being the preliminary long haul hub for the Washington Metro Region.

One thing’s pretty clear: we can’t just rely on luck and the good nature of strangers to keep our cargo planes safe; I heard someone say that if we can put a man on the Moon, we should be able to inspect packages on airplanes.

Or, should we?

The Low Road

And, the story which got lost in this week’s security concerns in the eastern US and overseas, we find that the suspected terrorist from Ashburn remains in custody. Authorities believe Farook Ahmed took part in planning an attack on metro stations in the region; he didn’t find out until too late (for him) that his ‘partners’ in this worked for the FBI.

Agents got into the act when they discovered that Ahmed had made statements about waging jihad overseas.

The FBI investigation dates back to April, and Ahmed was arrested this past Wednesday.

He’ll most likely spend about 50 years behind bars for all this; that would put the would-be terrorist into his mid-80’s upon release.

Let’s hope it’s a better world when he emerges.

Officials stressed that the public was never in any danger during the surveillance period; I’d have to wage a guess that the metro riders felt just a little less comfortable in their seats following Ahmed’s arrest.

Choose Carefully, and Often

So, you’re all ready to vote on Tuesday, having double-checked your ballot location and studied the races which affect your area. Bully for you.

Not everybody has, as we’ll find out with the voter turnout numbers after reading the returns.

It’s been a fairly loud campaign season on the national level, so it’ll be interesting to see how many turn out on the local level for what appears as a pretty ‘small’ ballot.

We told you last week that the big race for Loudoun County comes in deciding on the 10th District Congressional seat.

Perennial Incumbent, Republican Frank Wolf faces challenges from Democrat Jeff Barnett and Libertarian Bill Redpath.

Frank’s been in office since 1980; some see this as a strength, others try to use it as a point of contention.

He’s beaten every challenge since gaining the seat; not many remember that he lost his first two attempts for the Office, but he hung in there.

Those who head to the polls on Tuesday can expect to see some constitutional amendments on the ballot: the first two concern tax relief for wounded veterans and for the elderly.

The third asks permission to set up a state-level rainy day fund in the event of an economic downturn.

They all sound like pretty good ideas, and if you’d like to find out more, you know where to look.

There’s also a school bond question to round out the decisions.

Voters in Hillsboro elect Mayor and Town Council on Tuesday as well.

Oh, voters in Leesburg can expect to be asked to sign a petition to attempt to get their Town Council Elections moved from the spring to the fall. This is an item of some controversy: supporters say they can get bigger turnouts by moving the local elections to November; detractors say that the Council races would get lost in all the other campaign season hoopla, and that this is a ploy to turn the Town elections into a partisan event.

I will say that it’d get mighty confusing to follow in years of Supervisor Elections. Hey- I’m just sayin.’

So, you’re ready for Tuesday, right?

“More Four Years!”

The local school board’s already made an important decision about next year’s elections. They voted this week to back off of a motion to go with staggered terms on their panel.

This has been a topic of some discussion over the past year- among both the school board and County Supervisors; so far, neither group has gone all the way with the idea.

Some say staggered terms (electing roughly half of the governing body every two years, instead of the whole group every four years) would bring more continuity to the process, and allow for more ‘corporate knowledge’ to trickle down to newcomers.

Others believe that doing this would distract and confuse the voters.

Distraction and confusion- in Loudoun County- who would ever guess?

Million Dollar Lady

Why would a highly-paid Hollywood actress come to Loudoun County to promote a movie? Well, I guess you’d have to ask yourself why Hillary Swank agreed to take the lead role in Conviction in the first place.

The story concerns a wrongfully-convicted felon and his sister, who frees him after an 18 year legal struggle.

She appeared at Prison Fellowship Ministries in Lansdowne this week, for a screening of the film; the Oscar-winner even took questions from the local audience.

Her support lends quite a bit of clout to the plight of individuals convicted of crimes for which they claim innocence.

Now, the cliché in prison is that nobody’s guilty and every prisoner got railroaded.

Well, not every felon can prove their innocence, and in the case of Conviction, I guess they had their facts straight.

I give Swank a lot of credit for choosing all of her roles based on human interest, rather than Hollywood sexiness, or whatever you call that schmaltzy stuff they try to sell out there.

Not that she’s hard to look at.

The part of Betty Ann Waters is just one more great character in her growing arsenal of very respectable work.

I’m glad she stopped by.

You, too.


Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader

Watch Out for The Witches’ Brew!

Trotting down the long farm drive toward Beaver Dam Creek my stout little nose could not help but pick up the scent of fall in the air.

While the soft breeze seems cooler, it is different somehow this year as the drought is really taking its toll on all that surrounds me. The ground is hard as a rock.

The trees just seem weepy and I don’t mean weeping willows. The trees are crying for water to lift their great arms back into the heavens above. As if that is not enough, I come down to the edge of the creek bed and the water sits, almost stagnant from lack of rain and movement.

Alas, it is early in the morning, the sun has not yet begun to rise above the crest of our ridge when who do I see peeking out from underneath the rock ledge where the water is still drifting in and out of a little cove but my old friend Tommy Toad!

“Top of the Morning to you Tommy,” I said in my happiest voice and flashed my best brilliant white tooth grin. Tommy croaked back in his deepest toady voice, “Good Morning Sushi – you brightened my morning as I was beginning to get down in the dumps about this lack of creek water.

“Easier for me to swim across dear Tommy”, I barked. Tommy laughed and plopped himself right out into the water and up onto the rocks ledge.

“You know Sushi,” I think it high time we do something about this rain dilemma. “And, just what do you suggest”? I asked. Just meet me down at the creek right before dusk and bring everyone you can think of.

“You’ve got it Tommy.” And off I trotted.

As I meandered further down the creek bed I came across Freddy Frog and shared with him Tommy’s request. Freddy assured me he would have all the big and little froggies at Tommy’s rock ledge.

Next, I wound up through the woods and back into the fields that led me to the Barn Yard. There, I gave word to those two ornery barn cats Hokie and Mountie.

Before I knew it the day was coming towards an end and all my barn yard friends headed for the rocks ledge on Beaver Dam Creek.

Together, with Hokie and Mountie leading the way, Gnarly Gander and the Goose gang, Mr. and Mrs. Bourbon Red Turkey, the farm ponies, Sadie, Toby and Tink, and a herd of sheep, all made our way down towards the creek.

What a sight it was – toads and frogs, deer and raccoons, squirrels on turtle’s backs, possums hanging by their tails from the trees and even the sly ones – Mr. and Mrs. Red Fox – had come to hear Tommy’s master plan to make it rain.

Flashing my best white tooth grin I barked “Call to order! Call to order! Tommy Toad would like to speak.” With that all the little toads and froggies gathered round.

The young animals were most curious as to what the great Tommy Toad had to say. Tommy Toad and Freddy Frog had quite the reputation. You see, they were the longest living amphibians to keep out of reach of Hattie the Witch’s Toad and Frog Stew!

Tommy cleared his toady throat and croaked “Now it is high time we praise the Lord and give thanks for all we have. I believe the Gods might think we have forgotten in our busy lives just how lucky we are to have roofs over our heads provided by the old sycamore, oak and poplar trees, to have shade and warmth provided by our ancient evergreen trees. Food and water created by our beloved Beaver Dam Creek.” “Hear! Hear!” Freddy Frog cheered.

“Now here is what I propose,” Tommy continued. All you young ones gather ‘round together by family. Look each other in the eye and give thanks first for the family you love. Next, gather paws, hoofs, tails and snails, and start thumping the ground with your feet. Turn in a circle around one another like this and lift your heads towards the heavens and cry out in your prettiest croaks the song of old –

“Rain, Rain, Rain! Oh Rain, Baby Rain! When the honey is slow … and bees don’t know where to go … we need rain baby rain! When the creeks are low and the water can’t flow, we need rain baby rain!

On they all chanted well into the night – dancing and thumping the ground to the depths below until dark cloud cover started moving in and the heavens rumbled in a croak deeper than Tommy’s.

Tommy Toad’s rain dance rang throughout the night and more and more animals gathered in great hopes of thanking the Gods above that rain would come and replenish their quickly dying woods. It was just about this time that Ol’ Mr. Moon was shining his brightest when suddenly a shrieking cackle could be heard high above the treetops and a black silhouette could be seen on a broomstick crossing Mr. Moon. A deathly silence quickly came across the joys of the rain dance – just as Hattie the Witch, cackling at her best, streaked across the moon, as the sky thundered and roared and the rains came pouring down.

All but the Frogs and Toads quickly gathered the young ones and headed for the shelter of their homes to hunker down and wait out the storm.

Now, Frogs and Toads love the rain and often when it is raining, you can see them leaping for joy along the roads as the wet weather brings a watery playground for them to dance in. All the big and little Froggies and Toads cheered and chirped and croaked until the woods rang loud in amphibious song.

“Oh now the witch is gone, the witch is gone, the witch is gone.”

“Oh now the witch is gone – and we can sing and play”

The joy in their croaking was something to hear! They all knew Hattie the Witch would not be out hunting while it rained. Old wrinkly Hattie with her ratty silvery hair and big wart on her crooked nose would melt away if she got a good dose of wetness. Since the time of Halloween was coming, they knew that each one of them could be her next victim for the terrible witches brew!

It was time for me to call it a night and off I trotted up the long farm drive to my home.

So, until Halloween comes and goes, I will pray the Gods above keep me and all of you, my friends, safe and warm from old Hattie the Witch and her magic spells.

I am really glad Cairn Terriers are not a high priority for Witches’ brew. So until next week I cannot wait to share with you the Halloween stories that are bound to happen in the depths of our great woods, down near Beaver Dam Creek!

Be Blessed and Stay Warm –


The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always sought out places where I can feel completely alone, safe and familiar. Not always an easy task in Loudoun County, but, as they say, where there’s a will there’s a way.

I first heard about the Blue Ridge Center for environmental Stewardship when the County Government was mulling over the Purchase of Development Rights program- as a possible conservation easement candidate. I learned that this place contained almost 900 acres of the closest thing to publicly-accessible wilderness I was gonna find this side of the Blue Ridge. I think I used the first excuse I could find to cover a news story up there, back when Wage Radio in Leesburg still employed humans to tell stories.

I was hooked; the place had, for me, everything from the specific to the sublime. You could lose yourself watching a turtle in Wortman Pond –or in a meadow full of butterflies, or you could just stand gazing at the views of Short Hill Mountain to the east or the Blue Ridge to the West – and even some of the landscape which heads north to Harpers Ferry. Pretty fertile ground for the historic imagination. The place is also big enough, and filled with enough well-maintained trails, through hilly terrain, to provide about 9 miles of possibilities to fulfill an ambitious wanderlust. I still haven’t even walked the entire network of hiking paths, all these years after my initial discovery.

But, back to the 21st Century and the Blue Ridge Center: I can never figure out why the place isn’t more crowded; their parking lot only accommodates a dozen or so cars, and I’ve only run into other people on the trails on one occasion- a friendly group on horseback.

In fact, the US Trail Riders should get a big plug for all the volunteer work they perform on the walking and/or riding paths at the Center. They place a high value on the availability of recreational trails in the region, what with a fast-disappearing natural landscape.

That’s where a guy like me fits in, I guess, since I come from an area of the country where I may have taken space and outdoor activity for granted. My former home along the Mississippi River afforded countless hours of healthy exploration and solitude; my boyhood farmstead had taught me the importance of having expansive places to roam.

I’m guessing that many of my neighbors don’t frequent venues like the Blue Ridge Center (and I know there are other outdoor playgrounds in
Loudoun County, but today’s story focuses on this giant up in the northwest hills) because they never developed a love for limitless space.

For me, it’s as important as the air I breathe. Maybe it is the air I breathe. Just as the horse riders value their experiences, I clutch onto those activities which cleanse the lungs, sharpen the vision, develop the appetite, expand the heart, and otherwise entice the senses with the knowledge that there’s always more horizon.

So, on the days when I have an extra couple of hours to myself, you may just find me traipsing the hills of the Blue Ridge Center –imagining myself an early American explorer, or maybe even one of the first Real Americans, before the ‘Discovery,’ or perhaps as a scout for one of the sides of the Civil War, take your pick. Or maybe I’m just little, mortal Tim Jon, facing slightly smaller, if no less personally important issues in my own life. Because this is the best place I can find to fix what ails me, and to make me strong enough to face the times I know
lie ahead. This is mine, for now.

You can have your shopping malls and luncheons. I’ll take the Blue Ridge Center and whatever it can throw my way: rain, snow, mud, tree limbs, etc.

And, you know, on second thought, maybe it’s not for everybody. Maybe eccentrics like me are in the vast minority here. That way, the parking lot will always hold just a dozen or so vehicles, and the only humans I encounter will be few, far between, and pretty darn friendly.

Tarara Winery Making an Old Winery New Again with Artisan Wines

It has been 21 years since Tarara Winery first opened its doors as one of the pioneer wineries in Loudoun County. Since its grand opening, much has changed in Loudoun and in the whole wine industry world. Many wineries want to rest on the idea of being one of the first, and want to continue to make wine as they always have. At Tarara Winery that is where things are different.

The first 20 years at Tarara Winery gave a great foundation for what they are able to do today. For twenty years Tarara Winery acted as a favorite for many wine styles and some fabulous events. In 2007, the team at Tarara Winery decided to take those loyal patrons that had visited for 20 years and offer them some new angles to their winery. Tarara Winery has since then been remodeling itself to be new again.

The first change that was made was that they worked harder at understanding their vineyards and what grows well in each of the vineyards they are partnered with. With this knowledge they have changed their wine line up to include classic varietals that are showing the best qualities and working to define the vineyard. This started Tarara Winery’s Vineyard Designate wine series that showcases the best vineyards. Some of the standout vineyards and wine that are starting to get released are Nevaeh Red and White, Tranquility Red, and Honah Lee Red and White. Nevaeh Red is a blend using Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot in varying quantities per year, and the Nevaeh White is a charming blend of Viognier and Chardonnay with some Pinot Gris in select vintages. Tranquility Red is a powerful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat coming from a steep slope just outside of Purcellville. Lastly, the Honah Lee White is dominated by Viognier but some vintages will also be blended with Rousanne, Petit Manseng and Chardonnay, and from the high elevation steep south west facing slope in Orange, VA, the red is a rustic and massive blend of Petit Verdot and Tannat with Pinotage sometimes making an appearance. Ultimately the idea is to recognize some of the best vineyard sites in Virginia and showcase them with Tarara’s minimalist but precise winemaking style.

Although there will not be many wines at Tarara created for their variety, but rather the vineyard, there will still be some added selections to showcase Virginia as a whole. The blended wines simply mean that the wine may have come from multiple vineyards to show top varietals in Virginia or unique styles. The Cabernet Franc, Three Vineyards Chardonnay and Viognier are expressions of how the grape variety can do all over the Commonwealth.

Long Bomb and Charval are unique blends crafted to showcase a style and please many palates. The Long Bomb is a tribute wine Tarara Winery’s founder Whitie Hubert who always went for the big play. It is crafted to be big, bold, complex and approachable, much like Whitie and normally contains Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tannat and Petit Verdot. The Charval is their aromatic crisp blend that is equally suited to enjoy any day of the week by blending Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Viognier into s slightly off-dry, but crisp palate.

In 2010 Tarara Winery also released their newest luxury line of wines called the Commonwealth Collection. The wines include CasaNoVA, SuperNoVA, and TerraNoVA and are Tarara’s benchmark wines for showcasing terroir in Northern Virginia. These wines have already been sold out and were rebottled August 2010. The winery is now accepting requests to be added to the waiting list for an allocation of the 2009
vintage, being first showcased as barrel samples on October 10, 2010.

All of these changes with the wines have come in a full package with the winery’s new philosophy. Gone are the days of large festivals with face paintings and dunk tanks. Tarara Winery has strived to create only events that best showcase the finest vintages. Their Fine Vine … Just Say Viognier is a celebration of Viognier in Virginia. It is a five-course affair using all local and seasonal ingredients by local chefs paired with 5 of Virginia finest Viogniers, selected by an elite panel of wine writers and sommelier surrounding the DC metro area. Tarara
Winery also has continued their Toast to the Tunes Summer concert series where one can enjoy a bottle of Tarara’s most recent wines with the smooth sounds of local artists. The concerts occur every Saturday evening from the start of June until the first weekend of October
to kick off Virginia Wine Month.

With all of these changes Tarara Winery has also completely re-modeled its brand to best represent their ideas and their wine. The wines are showcased in elegant, yet simple wrap labels and an unassuming screw top closure. Their thought is that it is all about what is inside
the bottle that counts. The labels do showcase a striking piece of art painted by Martha Hubert that will change with each vintage. The art and wine seem to pair each other so well, and at Tarara they like to say they are “Artisan Wines.” With the launch of Tarara’s new brand and their new website that will be online.

Be sure to get online and check their website: to see the latest happenings.


Fall, Glorious Fall! In spite of the severe drought upon our Virginia farm land we still manage to have a wonderful show of fall colors. The wind swirls the leaves down, down, down, upon my well worn paths along Beaver Dam Creek. I am traveling home, wet, tired and cold from a hard day’s work chasing the Sly Ones. I am ready for a good night’s sleep.

This time of year, as the evenings bring on the foreboding signs of our winter to come, Mr. and Mrs. Red Fox are at it again. They love to chow down on the best free range, gourmet laying hens, at Fields of Athenry Farm! Those chicken predators really know a good deal when they find one – stealing, from where the good stuff lies, right across from their den. Okay, so I have it in for the foxes –but yes, I know, the raccoons, possums, mink and chicken hawks are to blame too. That list of chicken predators wears me out just thinking of the running I do to keep them all away. All in the name of my born and bred duties as the Small but Mighty Cairn Terrier – SUSHI!

On my little farm the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains where I live,I am ready to curl up, tired and worn, paws up on my favorite couch ( which by the way I never hop onto until Mr. B is sound asleep and snoring away – this is my cue that the coast is clear, then I dream of my morning to come! )

In the kitchen of the big white farm house Mrs. B is up bright and early.

Before the sun has even started to rise she is hustling and bustling, opening a cabinet here and a cabinet there. I watch curiously as she puts a little of this and a little of that in the huge pots that sit on top of the gas stoves. It’s a school morning and much needs to get done before the girls wake up and start their day. I lay diligently at my master’s feet in hopes of any morsels that might fall my way.

MMMM. MMMMM. MMMM. Oh, those smells. I’d know them anywhere. My taste buds are starting to tingle. My tongue is starting to drool. It is kind of an embarrassing dog thing –drooling. I try my best to lick my lips and show I am not too anxious, but oh, oh, oh, that lamb sausage gets me every time! I want to hug myself and float right up to the pot and snatch some of the good stuff right out of Mrs. B’s lamb chili!

Mrs. B continues to sprinkle a little of this and a little of that into the large pots. I know her stirring is bound to bring me a splash of something good, right to the very floor where I lay my obedient head.

Sure enough, Mrs. B starts to stir the big pots mixing her special blend of seasonings to get her concoction just right. As she stirs away, she yelps in mock surprise as she drops a little lamb sausage right in front of my very nose! I just love it when she “treats” me! Quickly I snatch up every morsel and lick the floor clean.

Why do I love this lamb sausage so much? Well, if you promise not to tell on me about sleeping on the couch I will share the infamous FOA Lamb Chili recipe with you. Then when you taste it you will know why I crave it. I do expect some kind of payback. When you come to visit the farm bring Big Doggie Bones. I love the lamb neck bones best … just FYI.

Or, a simple pat on the head. Or a good belly scritch will do. Mrs. B never gives out recipes, so please do not snitch me out. Lamb Chili – well it is a Fields of Athenry to die for staple on the farm.

Forgive me, but Mrs. B cooks everything up in large batches – that is how she keeps dinners on hand to feed so many on the farm at any given time.

So you take it from here, as I am doing the best that a Small but Mighty Cairn Terrier can do when my born and bred duties are to hunt foxes –NOT COOK DINNERS. Mrs. B’s secret Lamb chili recipe can be found below

Love, Sushi

Fields of Athenry Lamb Chili

  • 10 lbs. Fields of Athenry Farm: Lamb Sausage Loose

  • 1 Bag of Chick Peas (cook according to instructions on back of bag – you need to soak overnight )
  • 2 Bags Red Kidney Beans (cook according to instructions on back of bag – you need to soak overnight )
  • 2 Jars Pimento
  • 1 Jar Capers
  • 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
  • 100 cracks fresh Black Pepper(out of your pepper mill)
  • 8 cans Organic Stewed Tomatoes (easy to find at Natural Mercantile – Hamilton, or For Goodness Sake – Leesburg)
  • 2 Tablespoons Cumin Seed
  • 2 Tablespoon Paprika (remember if you are arthritic – paprika is a night shade plant – bad for arthritis – so you may want to substitute this – Yepper, I have learned a lot in this kitchen laying obediently at my masters feet)
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (Night Shade)
  • 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (Night Shade)
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (Night Shade)
  • 1–2 Medium Onions diced
  • sauté before you throw into pot with everything else
  • 6 diced Green Peppers
  • 6 diced Red Peppers

Cooking Instrutions (and a few parting words from me):

  • In a separate pan, sauté the onions.

  • In a big pot, start slowly cooking up loose lamb sausage, drain off most of juice, leaving some for flavor (about a ¼ of lamb sausage

  • When the lamb sausage is slightly browned and still moist (not over cooked – lamb is lean – you do not want to over brown! Juices run clear – it is ready – if not sure, call my master (703-926-8444) do not tell her who gave you the number! Or no more recipes! Really – trust me – she loves talking more than e-mails!)
  • After draining, add all the other ingredients and let simmer for a few hours on very low –until all the savory flavors blend. Let the big pot cool down and then chill in the refrigerator overnight. When you get to it, in the next day or two – portion out into containers to freeze for future meals, this way all the flavors settle in to great mouth watering Fields of Athenry Farm Lamb Chili!

Well, that’s a wrap for me – totally busted I know – we are talking CIA-material-muddy-waters-big-trouble-I-am-in –may have to take safe haven in a motel in Memphis …

So until next time – I really may have to try out a Fox Hole when Mrs. B finds out I am giving out family recipes … But they are so Way Good!

Do unto others as they would do unto you is my motto – so do not tell on me!

Love , Sushi

A Victorian Ball!

December 19, 2010 –better known as 1860, at least in the world of Loudoun Valley High School’s History Club.

“Victorian Ball is History Club’s recreation of a 19th-century ball. It’s a way for members to experience the etiquette and characteristics of the Victorian era,” said History Club Treasurer Courtney Coombs, a senior.

History Club members who wish to participate in Victorian Ball must pay a small fee and attend dance and etiquette sessions to help set the Victorian mood on the night of the dance.

“Those interested in Victorian Ball must attend one dance practice and one etiquette training session. In addition, they must pay a fee of $25. It is expected that members attend in period costumes that can be purchased, rented, or self-tailored,” said President Kate Babcock, also a senior.

In order to recreate the Victorian era, the History Club rents out a period building and decorates it accordingly. This year, Victorian Ball will be held at Buchanan Hall, located in Upperville, Virginia, and will be a Christmas-themed masquerade.

“Dance instructors are brought in to teach students period dances such as the waltz. Music is provided by a group which plays instrumental pieces. Costumes, decorations, and etiquette allow our members to go back in time,” Babcock said.

Given the economic times, History Club officers are trying to cut down on the members’ expenses as much as possible.

“Currently, we’re finding inexpensive ways to make the costumes, which will be taught at our optional costume workshop,” Babcock said.

Practices for Victorian Ball will begin on November 9th and be held on various dates leading up to the dance.

“We currently have around thirty people interested in Victorian Ball, so we feel confident that people are still up to the challenge [of paying, attending practices and assembling the proper costumes],” said Babcock.

Lauren Pichon is a senior at Loudoun Valley High School. She is involved in the History Club and school newspaper and hopes to pursue a career in print journalism.

A Celebration of Color!

By Donna Williamson

It’s one of those blue sky days in Virginia, rare and exquisite –a perfect day to check on the ginkgo grove at the State Arboretum of Virginia at Blandy experimental Farm in Boyce. For weeks, I have swung by there, watching the slow departure of chlorophyll from the leaves of the ginkgo trees, While not so noticeable at other times of the year, the autumn show is spectacular.

Ginkgoes are among the most beautiful trees for the landscape. The leaf shapes are exquisite, pests and diseases seem to leave them along, and they grow very well in our climate. They hold their beautiful yellow autumn color and then, drop their leaves almost all at once. No dribble of leaves to rake over weeks – just one deluge!

A usually large and broad shade tree, some varieties of ginkgo are unusual, like Princeton Sentry, a large tree that is distinctly upright or Jade Butterflies, a dwarf, getting only 12 feet tall in 10 years, perfect for most one-story homes.

Most folks select male ginkgoes for their landscapes since female ginkgoes bear fruit with a fleshy covering (over a nut) that is so stinky, containing some of the same chemicals as vomit. One year when I was a docent at Blandy, we went out and collected these fruit for a demonstration by Asian experts who treasure the nut within the fruit. I wish I had remembered that event earlier in the day.

My dog Lucy needed a good walk so she came along and as I walked around taking photos, she found it delightful to roll in the stinky fleshy coverings of the fallen ginkgo nuts. Of course she did. Dogs love to roll in stinky things that smell like death or vomit. She was so proud!

The ride home was breezy with all the windows open. Of course, I won’t remember this next year when I am watching to see the ginkgoes go yellow – I will think – what a great day to take the dog to the arboretum for a walk. Not a thought in my head except – with a blue sky like this, the ginkgoes must be fabulous!

Donna Williamson is a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.”

Belt-tightening Homeowners Discover the Value of Do-It-Yourself Painting

By Debbie Zimmer

Declining home values, tight credit, and concern about the jobs picture are causing homeowners to scale back their remodeling plans, according to industry sources. At the same time, more consumers are discovering the satisfaction and cost-savings to be had with do-it-yourself painting. “While economic stress has taken its toll on consumer spending, people still want their homes to look attractive,” says Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute. “For many homeowners, the solution is to take things into their own hands and do their remodeling with paint.”

The economic benefit of sprucing up with paint is apparent when you consider the average cost of remodeling a kitchen or bath – two rooms that homeowners frequently focus on. According to the latest survey by Remodeling magazine, a mid-range bathroom remodel costs $16,142, while a “minor” kitchen remodel runs $21,411.

“By way of contrast, you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $100 or so repainting a bathroom or kitchen yourself … For a few dollars more, you could even go one step further and repaint the cabinets and woodwork to give the room a totally new look. Granted, repainting would still leave the existing fixtures and appliances in place, but in terms of appearance, a fresh coat of paint can do wonders in remaking a room,” says Zimmer.

The story’s the same when it comes to exterior remodeling. Take the front door, for example. “The average cost of installing a new fiberglass entry door is nearly $3,500, but you could easily repaint an existing door for $30 or so in just a couple hours’ time,” Zimmer says.

Bigger savings are possible for those willing to tackle their exterior walls. Rather than spending more than $13,000 on average to have a contractor install vinyl siding, for example, the do-it-yourselfer’s cost for materials to repaint existing wood, vinyl, or aluminum siding would likely be well under $1,000.

“Do-it-yourself painters are the ones who reap the greatest savings, but big savings are available even to those who hire a professional painter to do the work,” says Zimmer. “It might cost $800 to hire a contractor to repaint a bathroom, but that’s a far cry from the $16,000 average cost to remodel the room.” For those who want to save the most and do their own painting, Zimmer offers some tips:

  • Spend time doing good surface preparation before starting to paint. Make sure all the surfaces are clean and free of dirt and rime, mildew, and flaking or peeling paint …

  • Use high quality brushes and rollers, and when working outdoors, use quality spraypainting equipment. Better tools and equipment apply the paint more evenly, make the work go faster, and produce a better-looking paint job. vUse top quality 100 percent acrylic latex paint.

Zimmer explains: “Since these paints have better hiding characteristics, they’ll cover even dark colors in fewer coats, and many of them function as both primer and paint. As a result, they offer a lot of built-in cost savings. Top quality 100 percent acrylic paints are also easy to apply and they produce a tough, durable finish that will last for years, making them a great value in terms of cost-per-year-of-service.”

According to Zimmer, the trend toward do-it-yourself painting, and painting in general, will likely continue. “Recent surveys indicate that consumers’ spending habits will be permanently changed as a result of today’s tough economic conditions. As time goes on, we expect more people to discover that repainting is a very affordable, and very effective, way to beautify their homes,” she says.

For more detailed information about surface preparation, paints, and painting, visit the Paint Quality Institute website at

Lights at Franklin Park

What’s the story with the lighted ball fields at Franklin Park?

Over the years, three different Boards of Supervisors formally considered putting lights at Franklin Park. each of these three Boards, the Barton Board (1991-1995), the Meyers Board (1996-2000), and the York Board (2004 to 2008) decided the price was too high given that there is a time restriction on the use of lights and tight county budgets gave a higher priority to such things as schools and fire stations.

Today those lighting-use restrictions remain and budgets are even tighter, necessitating laying off some county employees.

Although the text of the Master Plan for Franklin Park has no mention of lighted ball fields, and Appendix indicates that if lights are put on the ball fields, the costs would be $260,000 (not including engineering costs) in 1991 dollars.

Over the years, these costs have increased and have ranged from $750,000 to $1 million.

According to the 1995 Special exception which approved Franklin Park, any future lights on any ball fields must be turned off at 9:00 p.m. weekdays and 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. No lights are permitted on Sundays.

The present board has now approved funds for an upgraded power line leading to the ball fields and funds to light one 90-foot baseball diamond.

The funds for this project will come from leftover construction funds from Scott Jenkins Memorial Park in the Catoctin District. As it now stand, the lights on the field at Franklin Park will be installed after Scott Jenkins Memorial Park has been finished.

Dedication for the New Woodgrove High School

The dedication for Woodgrove High School took place in the school’s new gym on October 20, 2010.

No stranger to controversy, Woodgrove High School was the subject of multiple lawsuits initiated by the Town of Purcellville, which resulted in years of delay and caused overcrowding at Loudoun Valley High School.

In his dedication address, Superintendent Dr. edgar B. Hatrick quoted his “Aunt Gloria”, saying “It’s important to know the past, but don’t dwell on it”. He went on to say “You can’t change what happened but you can look to the future.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Hatrick affirmed that Woodgrove High School is part of the Loudoun County family.

The morning included acknowledgments to the Board of Supervisors, specifically Blue Ridge Supervisor Jim Burton for his efforts to get the school built.

Closing remarks were given by Kelsey Briel and Mark Bland, SCA co-presidents of Woodgrove High School. In his speech, Mark stated, “I am so proud and moved by the energy and spirit that I see within the school and I look forward to the memories and the legacy that Woodgrove will create for us all.” Mark was followed by Kelsey Briel who commented, “I would like to start out by offering a sincere thank you to the Woodgrove High School administration, staff and student body for being so positive and helpful during the opening of this school.

Teen Fashion… It’s All About

By Helen Sim
BP Department Manager
Nordstrom Tysons Corner Center

Let Me Get Right Into It!
… It’s all about versatility and comfort this season with fun, bright colors.
… Loose boyfriend fit tees and blazers mixed with fitted jeans are all the rage. Mixing and layering is a huge part of this season whether it be a tank, a cardigan or a scarf.
… Pairing something old with something new and modern, mixing something masculine with something feminine for that unexpected
twist is what it’s all about.

Two words:
walking contradiction is the biggest TREND.
… One rule of thumb: It’s quality versus quantity. If you are going to purchase an item, you NEED to be able to create three different looks with that specific item or it’s not worth your money.

… As I mentioned before, looser fit tees, tunics and tanks are the basic necessities one should have this season. Why? Because of it’s comfort and versatility from a casual day look to something trendy at night.
… Military inspired cardigans and jackets are also huge because of it’s classic quality –it will never go out of style.
… You can pair these with a cute tee, skinny jeans and flat boots for a day look and switch it up a bit a night by pairing it up with a pencil skirt and pumps for a night out of town.
… Lace detailed tops are also huge because of it’s fun, feminine quality. Pair a lace tank with a skirt and a cute blazer and you are styling in school or pair up a lace tank with a floral top for that added texture look.
… Leather jacket is a must have. Just like everyone needs a LITTLE BLACK DRESS, everyone must own a leather jacket. It’s something that can easily make an outfit look edgy and chic. Wear it with a floral dress and tights, wear it with a boyfriend tee and cargo jeggings, wear it with a tank and a skirt, or wear it with black slacks and a crisp white collar shirt for more of a business casual look. The options are endless.

… Military inspired denim and cargo pants are huge this season. Whether it’s flared or boot cut, they are great to make an outfit look more edgy and put together. You would always want to pair something with a feminine edge with these types of denim since they have a masculine quality to them. Remember, you want to always have a balance between masculine and feminine for example: chiffon peasant top, lace – detailed top.
… Skinnies denim and jeggings continue to be a huge part of anyone’s wardrobe because of it’s versatility. You can wear it with flats, pumps or boots b/c of their tapered hem. Girls constantly are attracted to skinnies because it’s easy and comfortable to wear it with just about anything. Wear it with a dress or wear it with a cute tunic or wear it with a basic tee and scarf.

Farm Color Tour Sparkled!

The Loudoun County Farm Color took place on Saturday and Sunday October 16 and 17. The weather was perfect! The crowds were huge! And, this special annual event celebrating Loudoun County’s agriculture heritage was a huge success, with people coming from far and wide.

The 2010 Participating Farms included Alpacas of Higgly Farm, Ayrshire Farm, Baileywyck Farm, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, Chicama Run, Crooked Run Orchard, Donkey Meadows, Fields of Athenry Farm, Grandale Farm, Ivandale Farm, Loudoun Nursery –Bellwether Farm, North Gate Vineyard, Overlook Farm, Philomont General Store, Moutoux Orchard, Sunny’s Corner Farm, Ticonderoga Farms, and Wegmeyer Farms. (Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, Donkey Meadows, Fields of Athenry Farm, Overlook Farm, Moutoux Orchard, and Ticonderoga Farms were new to the tour this year.)

Many visitors have made the Farm Color tour a family tradition, and this year there was a greater than ever variety of stops to choose from –with wonderful, fresh and local foods such as baked goods, lamb sausage, ribs, ciders, apple butters and more. Donkey Meadows was a big hit –their baby donkeys, cuter than cute, thrilled the kids. Hay rides at the 90-acre Crooked Run Orchard, which took families on a tour of apple orchards, Crooked Run Creek, the historic Manassas Gap Railroad Bed, the farm’s extensive berry patches and more gave visitors the opportunity to see a large agricultural operation right in the Town of Purcellville. Catoctin Creek Distilling Company –new to Loudoun County –had some of the longest lines, the beautiful horse barns at Ayrshire Farm were not to be believed, and Fields of Athenry Farm delighted visitors with tours of the farm, fresh sausages right off the grill, harvest your own eggs activities for children, a wine tasting and more.

Wineries made the day special, too, with wine tastings and opportunities to take in the scenery from cozy outdoor seating accompanied by fresh breads, cheeses and chocolates.

Mark your calendar for Farm Color Tour 2011.

The annual Farm Color Tour is organized by the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development. For further information, including other events taking place throughout the year, visit A full calendar of Loudoun County events can also be found at

Special Investigative Report: New Town Hall Cost Approaching $6 million

With the design plans now 98% completed (although not yet available for public viewing) the cost for Purcellville’s new Town Hall is approaching $6 million.

Once the package is ready for bid, the plans become available to the public. The Town is estimating there will be a bidders meeting by the first week of November. A budget of $2,600,000 was the most recent cost estimate to pave the Fireman’s Field parking lot (as required for Town Hall zoning to have a parking lot for staff, and residents attending night meetings), with a net loss of 20% of the parking spaces. No percentage breakdown has been determined for the Town Hall’s portion of the parking lot cost. There were no records showing that the parking lot was going to be paved until the new Town Hall building was purchased – then parking had to be provided according to Town zoning guidelines.

This is a timeline for the Town Hall Project (the budget is shown below):

  • February 2007 – The Town signed a Letter of Intent with Purcellville Baptist Church to purchase the building.
  • January 2008 – The Town entered into a Lease/Purchase agreement with Blue Ridge Realty which gave them a 20 year lease, and the building would be completely renovated (it was assumed that the building had been purchased by Blue Ridge Realty).
  • July 2009 – The Town decided to purchase the building outright from Purcellville Baptist Church for $1,950,000, and not rent from Blue Ridge Realty. (No renovations had been done, and the Town decided to negotiate itself out of the lease contract. Blue Ridge Realty never closed on their purchase of the building.)

(Click to enlarge)