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May 30, 2009

I Heart Bill McKibben

1bmg.jpgI’ve typed the name Mckibben so many times in the past few days that I can actually spell it now without using a cheat sheet. The environmentalist and best selling author came to Floyd on Tuesday and spoke at The Floyd Country Store on sustainable local economy to an engaged audience of about 140. I was busy taking notes and pictures, so I didn’t ask a question during the hour long question and answer time, but if I had the name “Al Gore” might have come up. I’ve been told Gore was first alerted to the dangers of global warming through the work of Mckibben.

It’s amazing to think that over 20 years ago my family and many others came to Floyd with the intention of building community and living more sustainable lives, and now sustainable local economy is a topic of mainstream conversation. For decades those in the Floyd alternative community have been living under the radar homesteading, home schooling, home birthing, growing food, living simply (some of us off the grid), bartering, making our own plant medicines, shelters, and crafts, and gathering in celebration and circles that have strengthened our bonds. This week we drew a national celebrity and kindred spirit to talk about the value of those very things.

I was impressed with Mckibben’s ability to blend intellect, humor, and spiritual reflection in his talk. He managed to give an uplifting message along side sobering lines like … “the artic is melting fast … We can no longer change global warming one light bulb at a time … oil is running out faster than once thought… Our problem is that we’ve been trying to meet non-material needs for love, respect, status, affection, and all those things humans need with material purchases, and it hasn’t worked very well.”

One of my favorite Mckibben lines related to the economy of local food brought laughter from the crowd. He said, “Most food travels an average of 2,000 miles to reach your lips. That’s a high ecological cost, but it’s also a high culinary cost. I just traveled 2,000 miles yesterday to get here. I know how that tomato feels.”

I’m working on a more in depth story on Mckibben’s visit for the Floyd Press. In the meantime, you can view a series of short video clips of the event, which was hosted by Sustain Floyd HERE, HERE, and HERE. Doug at Blue Ridge Muse has a post on McKibben as well.

May 29, 2009

New YAC Play Comes to Sun Music Hall

The following was published in The Floyd Press May 28, 2009. I saw the play last night and can highly recommend it. It's being performed tonight at 7:00 and Sunday at 5:00.
Since the fall of 2005 Floyd's Young Actors Coop (YAC) has been entertaining audiences. With over a dozen productions of original plays and stage adaptations to their credit, and building on the momentum of their well received winter performance, "Comedy through the Ages," the group has a new play opening on May 28th at the Winter Sun Music Hall, with subsequent showings on May 29th and May 31st.

The full feature play, titled MEN2B, was written by Haden Polseno-Hensley in collaboration with YAC founder and director Rose McCutchan. Polseno-Hensley and McCutchan both have theater backgrounds that began more than a decade ago at Floyd County High School under the guidance of Drama Teacher Nan Johnson and Forensics Coach Janet Keith.

According to YAC's Myspace site, MEN2B is described as having a "good mix of social commentary, humor, and music with a tip of the hat to the Beatles." It's a comedy with a plot that revolves around a Boy Band with fake British accents, their groupies, and an investigative reporter, says Polseno-Hensley.btmg.jpg

Comedy is a good fit for Polseno-Hensley. As a member of a comedy troupe at Vassar College in New York, where Polseno-Hensley was an English major, he wrote as many as twenty skits that were performed in front of large audiences. The Floyd native recently relocated back to Floyd from Alaska, after receiving an MFA degree from the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

The four members of the fictionalized MEN2B group are played by Elias Sarver-Wolf, Cameron Woodruff, Ian Gammarino, and Emerson Perry and are loosely based on another fab four: John, Paul, George and Ringo. Perry's character, who likes to wear lots of necklaces, is named Blingo Scar. Gammarino wears a white suit like John Lennon's and Woodruff walks barefoot across Locust Street in a photo take-off on the Beatles' Abby Road album cover posted on the YAC Myspace page.

"They know nothing about the Beatles," Polseno-Hensley explains. "It's their super evil producer who has made them speak with accents, put them into clubs, told them how to act and told them who their favorite Beatle was."rosedrcts.gif

Art Goldberg, the evil MEN2B producer trying to capitalize on the Beatles' popularity, is played by Abraham Cherrix. Marsden Woddail is the band's road manager, and Boy Band fans trying to get into a concert are played by Bethlehem Cherrix, Jessica Spangler, Avery Foster, and Vivianna Lynch. Alesandra Hicks plays one of the girls' little sister who threatens to tell her parents about her older sister's activities if they don't let her tag along. Bedelia Burris- McGrath is the reporter probing for the truth. Other cast members are Coriander Wooddruff, Maggie Avellar, Hanna Da'Mes, Hannah Schwenk, Hannah Mitchell, Arlo Glibert-Tanner, and Wilson Coartney.

With 37 roles played by 19 actors aged 7 to 18, MEN2B is the first YAC full feature play and the first one that Polseno-Hensley has written. Another first is the participation of Mike Mitchell's students at The Floyd Music School, expanding on the showcase of local young talent.

"There is live singing of Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby. The Floyd Music School is going to play on most everything that we do, mainly violins," says Polseno-Hensley. There is also an original piece, reminiscent of a Boy Band song that was written just for the play by Adam Parks, a musician who was recently visiting Floyd. "It has a familiar pop sensibility. I think it's brilliant. It captures exactly what we were trying to do," noted Polseno-Hensley.

McCutchan, who has a degree in Theater Performances from Marymount Manhattan College, taught an arts based afterschool program to young children and acted in Community Theater in New York before resettling in Floyd. Excited about MEN2B, McCutchan says, "It's just so much fun. The main characters are well developed and there are some sensational side characters. It's a play that shows off the kids and how amazing they are." ~ Colleen Redman

May 28, 2009

The 13 Thursday Flight Plan

blmpzc.jpg1. A mother phoebe with a nest in the porch rafters has been using our picnic table for her runway while making feeding trips to her babies, as evidenced by the bird droppings I have to clean up everyday.

2. The above gives new meaning to the term “poop deck.”

3. “Pooh” is actually a name listed in some baby books. The meaning of the American originated name is listed on one baby name site as: Little One. A popular name for pets or stuffed animals or a pet name for humans. The popular storybook character "Winnie the Pooh" was named after an actual bear in the Winnipeg zoo named "Winnipeg Pooh"

4. In naval architecture, a poop deck is a deck that constitutes the roof of a cabin built in the aft (rear) part of the superstructure of a ship. The name originates from the French word for stern, la poupe, from Latin puppis. Thus the poop deck is technically called a stern deck, which in sailing ships was usually elevated as the roof of the stern or "after" cabin, also known as the "poop cabin.” ~Wikipedia

5. My husband used the term “Mucky Muck” recently. I had no idea it was a real term, where it came from, or what it meant. It reminds me of the first time I heard SOL (shit out of luck) and the person who used it was thought it was incredulous that I didn’t know what it meant.

6. For many years whenever any asked me ‘if you had to be an animal which would you be?’ I always answered a duck because they can fly and swim.

7. Have you heard of or seen THIS amazingly bright pink dolphin?

8. Was the word “chirp” invented just for birds?

9. How did Led Zeppelin get its name? According to the Wikianswers, when Jimmy Page was assembling the group, Keith Moon (drummer from The Who) got word of his plans and predicted the group would go down "like a lead balloon" (this is a common English expression). Bassist and keyboardist John Entwistle thought it would be "more like a lead zeppelin." Page took the phrase and decided to change the phrase because he said "those damned Americans will pronounce it lead (leed) zeppelin."

10. And the Beatles? The old “party line” that John Lennon used to give was: “A man came down on a flaming pie and said ‘let there be Beatles with an A’” A more orthodox explanation is it was inspired by Buddy Holly's backing band "the Crickets" and the misspelling was a play on words to describe a “beat” band.

11. I used to like to black out teeth and draw hair-dos and mustaches on faces in magazines, but I never drew anything like THESE, found at Pearl’s place.

12. When the rush of writing stops and the stories slow down I feel like a race horse in the stall expecting to find myself at the starting line with the start-up gun go off at any moment.

13. The birds are back … checking out the real estate … a high-rise nest … on my porch rafter … A one room shelter … inaccessible to cats … with southern exposure … and a landing deck … Find out how this poem ends HERE.

More Thirteen Thursdays are HERE.

May 27, 2009

A Matter of Time

It’s only a matter of time before I spill tea on my new white shirt.

Before my one-year-old grandson is old enough to sleep over.

Before I teach my step-granddaughter jump rope songs from the 60’s.

Before I forget and leave the house without makeup on my one white eyebrow

Before I write a poem about the mountains.

Before I have carpal tunnel.

Before I visit New Orleans (after hearing about how much my son Josh loves it there)

Before I eat Swiss chard from the garden.

Before I get confused while trying to call my mother because our numbers are so much alike and I get that poor woman from Hull who I call by mistake and who knows me by my first name now.

How about you?

May 26, 2009

We Schlepped in our Pajamas

It wasn’t a hike, just a leisurely neighborhood stroll and a chance to hold hands as we walked, Joe in his plaid martial arts PJ bottoms and me in my baggy purple house silks.
Passing a couple of well-groomed yards tucked away off winding dirt roads caused us to think about how wild our own property is and led to my headline comment: “While others were mowing their yards or off to Memorial Day cook-outs and parades, Joe and I schlepped in our pajamas.”
“Irises should be purple,” I first said to him when we reached our destination, a swing chair and flower garden on the edge of a mountain overlook. But I didn’t take much notice of the purple blooms, being more drawn to peek inside the black ones, marvel at the white ones, laugh with delight at the exotic pink and yellow ones, and name the maroon and orange ones Virginia Tech.

May 25, 2009

Tour de Floyd

~ The following appeared (in a slightly different order) in The Floyd Press on May 21, 2009.
1. The weather cooperated for the 3rd Annual Tour de Floyd last Saturday. Under sunny skies, 98 riders made the 63 mile loop, much of it along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Participants left the Floyd Fitness Center in groups at 8:30 and arrived at the downtown stoplight soon after.
2. With a green light, bikers cycle past the Floyd County Courthouse.
3. A group of mostly women wave and smile as they pass onlookers.
4. Heading out of town for Franklin Pike and then to The Blue Ridge Parkway.
5. Rest stops at Floyd Dry Goods and Buffalo Mountain Store were sponsored by The Partnership for Floyd. Some bikers made pit stops and enjoyed the views at Smart View, Rocky Knob, or Mabry Mill. Support vans and a rescue squad vehicle were on hand if needed.
6. Blacksburg resident Jan McGilliard said she was training for Team in Training, a national biking event at Lake Tahoe that raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She rode Tour de Floyd in honor of her friend, a fellow athlete who recently died of cancer. Blogging about her fundraising efforts, McGilliard has raised $12,000 for the cause, her blog (janintraining.com) reports.
7. Wearing their Tour de Floyd T-shirts, provided by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Crey, Jean, and Alea Lacoste make a good support team for the bikers. The turn-out for the ride was up from last year's 76 riders, Jean Lacoste said.
8. Holding more than a thumbs-up, Tour de Floyd organizer Paul Lacoste and a friend from Washington D.C. take a break from cycling to pose at the Saddle. The ride raised $3,000 for The Floyd Rescue Squad, Lacoste later said. “Everyone was all smiles and all went well,” he added, reporting that the last group of cyclists returned from the tour loop to the Floyd Fitness Center at 3:45 pm.
9. Houck and K.B. Medford from Winston Salem and Mimi and Mike Dannhardt from Vienna, Virginia, stop for fudge provided by Nancy’s Candy in Meadows of Dan. Houck Medford (seated), Director of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, came out to support the Tour de Floyd riders and take pictures.
10. A list of Tour de Floyd sponsors, pictures, and a link to a Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation slideshow of the ride, can be found on the Tour de Floyd website at tourdefloyd.swva.net. Lacoste encouraged those interested in the event to volunteer for next year, saying, “The rides have been successful and are growing. With that growth comes a lot of work. If anyone wants to be involved in ways other than riding, they can go to the website’s contact and send us an email.”

May 23, 2009

Birthday Bloopers

For a couple of decades I’ve been part of a Triple Spiral of Neighborhood May Goddesses who celebrate our birthdays together. Like clockwork our birth dates fall like dominoes just days apart.
Over the years we’ve posed together with irises in our hair, roses in our teeth, holding pies and all varieties of cakes in restaurants, in kitchens, on porches, and at tea parties. We’ve watched our clothing styles change, ourselves getting sillier, and Dolphin, the youngest, grow up.
We took these recent photos for Dolphin and I've posted them on Facebook for her to see. She lives in Alaska now and for the past couple of years her mother Jayn (pictured between me and Diane) or her sister Amy has stood in for her for the ceremonious shot … because traditions are hard to break and we all love this one.

May 22, 2009

Succession Planting for Miracles

beans.jpgStruck by the design on some green bean seeds, I realize that growing food is no less magical than a beanstalk that leads to a golden egg laying goose, than a cow that jumps over the moon.

After planting a second row of beans, next to the ones already growing, I take a break to make some tea and then return to the garden with corn kernels cupped in my palm. I’m in awe, stopped in my tracks to stare. From this small mound of seeds a couple of dozen plants will bear corn, more golden than money, taller than my sons.

Later, with the sweet smell of rose and valerian lifted by a swish of breeze, I watch the garden from my seat under a giant pine, sip tea, and think about the corn and bean seeds buried in the ground. The birds flit and chirp like they’re throwing kisses, no less magical than the birds that made Cinderella’s gown. The song of the wood thrush is no less enchanting than the nightingale that Hans Christian Anderson’s Emperor followed into the woods.

May 21, 2009

13 Thursday: No Comment

13nocm.jpg1. I check for blossoms on my flowers with the same vigilance that I check for blog comments.

2. My Thirteen Thursday last week was almost canceled due to lack of comments on Wednesday. It was the first time in the four years I’ve been blogging that an entry received no comments, so I considered leaving it up until it got one.

3. Getting no comments reminds me of going to a craft show to sell my jewelry (which I used to do) and making no sales.

4. Watching for comments is like watching the clock. It never moves when you’re looking it.

5. If a blogger quits blogging for lack of comments, do the lurkers feel bad?

6. After a whole day without a comment I had to send myself one for a test.

7. Sometimes while clicking my mouse I think about Dorothy clicking her red shoes to link back to Kansas.

6. Speaking of red, Byrce has “no comment” about THIS birthday present.

9. One of my birthday presents was a mouse (cordless) in a cat gift bag.

10. The post with no comments that I mentioned above actually got 2 before the week was done. See HERE

11. I wrote the following poem, titled “No Comment.” off the top of my head after someone gave me the prompt “button.”

I should know by now
how to button my lip
just go zip…
and close it.

12. It’s a good poem to end a poetry reading with, or a 13 Thursday list, but today I have something Beatlesque in mind.

13. And in the end the comments you take are equal to the comments you make

Seems like a lot to say for a blog post titled “No Comment.” Go HERE for more 13 Thursdays comments.

May 20, 2009

Merry-Go-Round Memories

ppcarro.jpgThere was a rumor that went around amongst Hull kids growing up in the 50’s – or maybe it was just in my family – that if you put your finger in one of the horses mouths on the Paragon Park Merry-go-round snakes would come out and bite you. I was about four years old the first time I rode it and I thought the horses were real, in the same way I thought the newscasters on our black and white TV could see me in my living room.

It was a sad day when Paragon Park closed in 1984 and was torn down soon after. The Paragon Carousel was the only part of the amusement park that has remained in Hull, about a block from its original site in the middle of the park across from Nantasket Beach. It was saved from auction by investors and then purchased by The Friends of the Paragon Carousel in 1996. From what I have gathered over the years, it’s been a struggle to keep it going. So, it was great to get an email from my brother Bob yesterday with a link to a Patriot Ledger story citing that the Friends of the Carousel have just won $100,000 from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Monday to make needed repairs and restorations to the carousel and to keep it running.

According to the Ledger, the Paragon Carousel is the last operating carrousel in Metropolitan Boston. It was Built in 1928 – the 85th of 89 carousels created by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. The roundabout contains 66 hand-carved and painted horses, 35 period oil paintings, 18 carved goddesses and 32 carved angels.

Post Notes: That’s Joe, me and Dylan (Bryce's daddy) in the above photo riding the Paragon Carousel in the early 90’s. The photo in THIS post about Paragon Park shows the carousel (on the right) in its original spot. The post is one from 2005 that continues to get comments to this day. The Paragon Park Roller Coaster (1917) got a second incarnation as The Wild One and is still in use at Six Flags in Maryland. See it HERE.

May 19, 2009

Dogtown Pizza Comes to Town

1dgtown3.jpg~The following was published in The Floyd Press on May 14, 2009

There’s a new Friday night street attraction in downtown Floyd. Jamboree goers lined up on a recent Friday for fresh baked pizza from an open wood-fire oven on the back of a pick-up truck. John Roberts pulled pizzas in and out of the homemade oven with a long handle paddle while his friend and business partner Scott Smith laid out dough and spread sauce and toppings under the Dogtown Pizza tent.

With a special crust that Smith describes as complex and tangy, mostly local ingredients, and a name that pays tribute to a days-gone-by area in Copper Hill, the pair pooled their talents to launch Dogtown Pizza after a couple of years of testing, tasting, and perfecting their baked goods from Roberts’ wood-fire oven at his Copper Hill home.
“We thought about a restaurant but decided to take it on the road and go to places we want to go, like the Jamboree. We love being at the Jamboree,” Smith said while working the dough. He described the “Aha” moment when the idea for the portable traveling business became clear. He and Roberts had been looking online for oven designs when they saw an Old Word photo of a man pushing a pizza cart.

Already vending at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, Roberts and Smith envision Dogwood Pizza being a regular offering at the upcoming Floyd Farmers Market, which will be situated where the Pizza stand was set up between noteBooks and the old Mama Lizardo’s building being renovated by Floyd Country Store owners Jackie and Woody Crenshaw. “We plan to do baking classes too,” Smith said, gesturing to the outside venue.

“We’ve contracted with Across the Way Productions to do all their events,” he added, explaining plans to build a permanent bigger wood-fire oven at the Floyfest site on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 2dgtwn.jpgThe entrepreneurs also do catering and employ an event coordinator and pizza making line workers when needed. ‘Dogtown Pizza makes a party out of any occasion,’ their website reads.

Smith, who has cooked at the Roanoke Coop and “got the bread program going at Local Roots Café” in Roanoke, said his love of baking began while watching his Italian grandfather make pasta and bread, something he remembers from when he was a boy who could barely see above the kitchen counter. He met Roberts while shopping for building materials when Roberts headed up Eco-solutions, a green building supply company that was once based out of Floyd. Roberts and Smith soon discovered a mutual interest in local food economy and wood fire baking.cust.jpg

A Dogwood pizza begins with a sourdough starter. “Even our yeast is local,” Smith said, as he explained how ice water is used to retard the growth of yeast for a certain amount of time, a step that contributes to the flavorful crust. Eight inch pies start at $10. On this particular Friday night, sausage from Bright Farm in Floyd and spinach from Greenstar Farm – an organic farm in Blacksburg – were incorporated. Basil and fennel added aromatic flavor. Caramelized onions and feta cheese were also featured, along with standard pizza ingredients.

In the end, the proof is in the tasting. Homemade pizza to the strum of a fiddle under an evening sky: “It’s very good,” reported more than one satisfied diner munching on a freshly baked pie.

May 18, 2009

A Marathon May Weekend

A photo shoot of the 3rd annual Tour de Floyd, with 98 riders cycling 63 miles (mostly) on the Blue Ridge Parkway to benefit the Floyd Rescue Squad.
A weed walk with Thrivalist Frank Cook, who taught us what we could eat from the land surrounding the library parking lot.
A story on the latest Young Actors Coop play about a Boy Band with fake British accents, their groupies, their evil super producer trying to capitalize on the Beatles, and an investigative reporter.
A birthday cake (mine)
or two (Bryce's).
The crowning of my grandson as Prince of the 1st Birthdays.

Add a bout of gastric disturbance, a missed Spoken Word Open Mic, a trip to the hospital to visit our former foster care resident who just had emergency surgery, a stop at K-mart to return some lawn chairs, and the movie Babel checked out from the library and you'll understand why the first thing I said to Joe upon waking up this morning was, "I'm dead meat."

More on these stories later. In the meantime, LOOK who came to Bryce's birthday party.

May 17, 2009

Birthday Bull

I always wondered what that wall of photos of people wearing sombreros in the back of El Charro was all about.
Then they brought out a Mexican dessert with a cherry on top, put the sombrero on my head, and snapped.
Now I’m one of the photos on the wall. Aging may be bull but celebrating is fun. I’m a Taurus, so the (above) photo is fitting.

Thanks to Suzi and Awlyn for their company and for driving from Blacksburg to buy me a birthday lunch.

May 15, 2009

Go to the Head of the Class

poindexterb2r.jpgMy grandson Bryce has passed his first year of life with flying colors. As he’s reached all the normal first year milestones – first smile, first tooth, first step, learning to sit, crawl and walk – we’ve watched with enthusiasm and awe at how much a baby can learn in one year. As much as I’ve been impressed with his physical accomplishments, I’m equally impressed with the sometimes more subtle developmental milestones that assure me of his emotional health and his humanity.

Self-confidence: Bryce often exudes this as he struts his stuff, taking pride in his play and taking his life investigations very seriously.

Sense of Humor: I’m surprised at how early this human trait develops. It’s easy to make Bryce laugh and he likes to make you laugh as well.

Self- preservation: When I see Bryce move away from something strange or when he occasionally becomes afraid of something or someone, I’m impressed by his instincts and I know that his sense of personal boundaries and cautiousness will serve him well all through his life.

Ability to express love: I’m so impressed with Bryce’s hugs. They melt my heart and it touches me to know that he has the ability to form loving attachments.

Ability to express hurt feelings: Recently, while on a walk I handed Bryce a bright red wild strawberry, but then I remembered reading something about a mock wild strawberry and worried that it might be poisonous, so I quickly pulled it away (knowing he would surely put it in his mouth). He cried as though I broke his heart. Even though it was hard to hear him cry, I knew his ability to express his tenderness was a healthy sign.

Watch Bryce exhibit some of these skills HERE. (I could watch this one all day.) If you listen closely you’ll hear him say NANA!

Post notes: Later I did some research and verified that there are no poisonous strawberries but there is a wood strawberry that is particularly large and pretty; it's edible but has no taste. And just to be clear, Bryce does not wear glasses. Those are mine that he pulled off my face.

May 14, 2009

The Whole Thirteen Thursday Shebang

13sheb.jpg 1. Does Shebang mean the same thing as a kit and caboodle?

2. I recently became interested in the word “Shebang” and looked up its origins and found this: Known to go back at least to year 1862 (Walt Whitman), shebang is suspected to originate from the French word char-a-banc, which was a bus-like wagon with a lot of seats. Later, Mark Twain used it to describe a vehicle, as well as "any matter of present concern".

3. Which leads me to wonder who came up with the name Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and to saying things like “caboodles of noodles.”

4. I recently did an interview with a pizza pie maker while he was flipping dough. Now I can add him to this nursery rhyme I began last Thursday that now goes like this: “A year or so ago I would never have guessed that I’d be interviewing and writing about an opera singer, a cheesemaker, a toymaker, a pool player, a play director, a singer, a landscaper, a quilter, a publisher, an actor, a knitter, a market grower, a dairy farmer, and a baker!

5. The computer screen is a canvas to a writer like pizza dough is for a baker.

6. With all this clicking and typing I do, I can totally relate to a baseball player being taken out of the game so that he can rest his arm.

7. My latest online pet peeve is when I get sent somewhere I don’t want to go simply because my cursor rested on link or lightly brushed over one.

8. I just realized that Shebang would be a great name for a pizza with everything on it!

9. According to one artist’s interpretation, THIS is what a shebang looks like (found via google image).

10. And THIS is what I think a shebang should sound like.

11. If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls you’ll understand our family joke when we say that our neighbor’s yard (he keeps it like a park) is like the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and ours is like the New York side.

12. “#!” Is another way to say Shebang. I kid you not. Look HERE.

13. When it comes to grandchildren, Bryce is the whole shebang! He’s one year old today.

More Thirteen Thursdays are HERE.

May 13, 2009

Good Food for Good People

1tndns.jpg~ The following was published in the Lawn and Garden supplement of Community Newspapers of Southwest Virginia in April 2009.

Known for its vibrant music and art scene, Floyd County has also been fertile ground for a flourishing of sustainable agriculture. Since the early 1990’s small market growers and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms have been putting down roots in the county, adding a new green twist to Floyd’s age old farming tradition.

Tenley Weaver and Dennis Dove have been at the forefront of Floyd’s local food movement, both as certified organic farmers of their Full Circle Farm and as owners of “Good Food for Good People (GFGP),” a retail and wholesale distribution business for seasonal produce. With as many as 30 local growers providing fresh organic and biologically grown vegetables and no/low spray fruit to area restaurants, stores, and consumers, GFGP is a labor of love that has really taken off.

“I can’t take any credit. It’s the cooperation of the growers and the support of the suppliers and consumers that has made it a success,” Weaver said from her office, a desk tucked in a back corner of the GFGP headquarters, known as Greens Garage. ggtnl.jpg

The Garage (pictured above) houses an 8 x 10 cooler, a food store (which Weaver refers to as “a farm stand and more”), a greenhouse where garden seedlings and organic farm supplies are sold from, and room for recycling storage. The back of the garage, dubbed by Weaver as the “pack shack,” serves as a produce distribution packing station and a CSA share pick up site.

CSA fosters relationships between farmers and retail consumers. Consumers purchase shares at the start of the growing season and are paid back in produce at harvest time. Some CSA’s incorporate a “pick your own” harvest, but because of the size and variety of markets they serve, GFGP makes weekly drop-offs during the growing season (April – December) in Floyd, Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Roanoke. “It’s probably the biggest CSA in the state,” Weaver noted.

Last year the GFGP’s Fruit Share, supplied by 10 regional farms, generated 250 shares. This year a Vegetable Share is being added, along with an Ala Carte Share, which will allow consumers at some CSA drop-off sites to order items carried at the Greens Garage store, such as farm fresh eggs and dairy, locally baked bread, honey, and hormone-free grass fed beef and pork.

As homesteaders who live off the grid, Weaver and Dove are reluctant business owners, but they are passionate about farming and they understand the contribution GFGP is making towards a sustainable local economy. Through GFGP they support local farmers to make a decent wage, lessen food miles, and provide “something tangible for our friends and neighbors to eat,” said Dove, a former Virginia Tech environmental researcher of crops and soil sciences. “We wake up and look out the window and see our work for the day. We’re happy for it. It’s the most rewarding work I can think of,” he added. 2greenh.jpg

Weaver, who has a degree in literature, discovered her passion for wholesome food while working at a health food store in Delaware, where she went to school. She cites the “historical moment” – referring to the recent positive media attention given to green businesses and lifestyles – for helping to propel GFGP to success. “We were in the right place at the right time. We couldn’t have done this 20 years ago.”

As the country has seen with the recent bailouts of financial markets, conglomerates can be susceptible to collapse. Whether banks or farms, small local businesses offer a diversity that promotes security. “Food safety and security is increased by thriving small farms. If there’s a problem at one farm you have more to rely on,” Weaver explained. “When you focus your food source on a few multi-nationals you get things like the recent widespread peanut contamination or the outbreak of E. coli in spinach, a problem that affects many people in a severe way.”

Weaver says she spends about 40 hours a week working at Full Circle where she and Dove specialize in growing herbs and salad mixes (high dollar, short rotation crops) for fine dining establishments. Between farm work, Greens Garage, GFGP, and meetings with Blue Ridge Growers Collaborative (the core group that plans the GFGP growing season) their lives revolve around food. Recently they began employing a few part time workers at Full Circle Farm during the peak growing season. They have six part time employees at GFGP and one full time Greens Garage manager.

The work is hard and business is good, but no one is getting rich, at least not in a monetary way. “We work on a shoestring. We don’t do debt,” Weaver said. Explaining how their business is motivated by friendships, she cites an 83 year old orchardist, whose farm provides the bulk of their Fruit Share, as one of her greatest inspirations. “He’s one of the few people I know that is truly satisfied. He’s got his homestead scene together. He’s happy with what he’s created, loves his job, and isn’t striving for more and more.”

For the past four years Full Circe Farm and other GFGP suppliers have opened their farms to the public for a Mother’s Day Farm Tour. Because it has rained two out of the past four years and road access into the farm is difficult when it rains, the couple has decided to present a series of free gardening workshops at other venues this spring. Most recently Dove, a tomato seed breeder whose heirloom varieties are available in gardening catalogs, presented a workshop on growing heirloom tomatoes. Other recent changes that reflect signs of growth at GFGP include the hiring of a bookkeeper and the purchase of a GFGP delivery truck, releasing the couple from relying on their own vehicles for deliveries.

“It’s the Year of the home garden,” Weaver said enthusiastically. Dove added that everyone in the growers’ community has been inspired by Michelle Obama who recently broke ground on the first White House garden since the FDR presidency. He and Weaver concur with Obama’s sentiment that children should know where their food comes from, that garden grown fresh vegetables are good for us and taste best.

Encouraged that the issue of the economy of local food is finally getting public notice, Weaver said, “It’s not about us. It’s about changing the world. Our goal is to change the world one forkful at a time.” ~ Colleen Redman

Note: For information about GFGP CSA shares and Full Circle Farm Farmer’s Market schedule contact gfgpfruitshare@swva.net. The last photo is of Tenley, her daughter Summer Rain, and Dennis. Tenley is holding CC Ryder, who she refers to as their P.R. agent and trucking mascot. The family has five draft horses. Summer Rain is a student and trains horses.

May 12, 2009

The Wave of the Future

Go Green
Walk Your Talk
Gets Good Gas Mileage

May 11, 2009

A Difference of Opinion

I’ve been having a difficult time trying to find a doctor that I can work with, probably because this (burdock root ready for steaming and tincturing) is my idea of medicine.

May 9, 2009

Floydfest Prep

Many of the following photos were published in The Floyd Press on May 7, 2009.
1. A busy group at last Saturday's Floydfest workday. Workers from Floyd, Blacksburg, Radford, Hillsville, and Cana came to exchange their labor for tickets for the July 23-26 Floydfest music festival or for the Floyd Fandango Beer and Wine Fest on July 4th and 5th.
2. Blacksburg resident Erika Gregory, pictured weeding at the Floydfest front entrance, helped prepare lunch for the workers earlier in the day. She said she planned on working 8 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday in exchange for Floydfest and Fandango tickets.
3. Barbara Gillespie adds landscaping ambiance throughout the 80 acre site. Here she instructs two young women from Floyd on spreading mulch.
4. Frank Gropen, a Floydfest staff member, taking apart an 8 year old picnic table in the Beer Garden. The table will be replaced by a new one, he said.
5. Floydfest founders Erika Johnson and Kris Hodges measure out vending and craft areas for upcoming festivals.
6. The Streamline Timberworks crew pose after a day's work framing the "Front of House," the sound operation station where music performed on Hill Holler stage will be mixed from. Streamline Timberworks, a Floydfest sponsor, built the Hill Holler stage in 2007.
7. Jon Beegle (in white) from Beegle Landscaping and Lawn Care (another Floydfest sponsor), working with others on a terrace retaining wall for outside sitting at the Floydfest Dance Tent. Dana Beegle brought water for the workers. The site is wet from an afternoon drizzle.
8. Tanya, a longtime Floydfest staffer, now a full time mom, takes a moment to study the grass with her 10 month old son.

Post note: Click and scroll HERE for more More on Floydfest photos and stories. Their webpage is HERE. The next work weekend is June 6 and 7. RSVP to volunteers@floydfest.com

May 8, 2009

The Best Case Scenario

1. The Vanishing
2. The Loitering
3. The latest Evidence of Spring

May 7, 2009

Thirteen Thursday Was Here

13ce.jpg1. A year or so ago I would never have guessed that I’d be interviewing and writing about an opera singer, a cheesemaker, a toymaker, and a pool player. It sounds like a jump rope song.

2. One thing I’ve learned about going on interviews for stories is that wearing my reading glasses in a holder around my neck while my camera is hanging there too is only asking for trouble.

3. My husband Joe has thick curly hair. When my kids were little and he needed a haircut, they would tease him by calling him “Ofra” Winfrey.

4. Now when he needs a haircut we just call him Rob Blagojevich.

5. I woke up yesterday morning and discovered three pens and three stalks of asparagus in my bathrobe pocket, which tells you a lot about who I am and what I do.

6. I recently learned that for several hundred years pool balls were made of ivory. The billiard industry realized that their supply of ivory was not sustainable because elephants that were being slaughtered just for their tusks were becoming endangered, so they challenged inventors with the incentive of a $10,000 prize to come up with an alternative material. The result was the invention of plastic.

7. Funny how we call a prolific weed invasive but if its a flower we call it naturalized.

8. My comment to Angoralady after reading a post about her garden: My next post will definitely be about my garden. I’ve got the bug, but I hope not the kind that eats veggies.

9. Then I read a post at Beautiful Layers about the author’s shop idea for her vintage and handmade clothes and said: You are definitely on the cutting edge (sewing pun intended).

10. I was listening to an NPR review of Bob Dylan’s latest album and was intrigued by one song titled "Hell's my wife's hometown.” It made me realize that my husband could say “Hull’s my wife’s hometown."

11. Always a lover of the short rhyme, my favorite jump rope song as a kid was: Mickey Mouse bought a house. He didn’t pay the rent so he got kicked out.

12. I have a hula hoop, a couple of kaleidoscopes, and a pair of pink kazoo lips. Now I’m starting to want a jump rope and some chalk.

13. And THIS makes me want to be a daycare teacher again.

Play more HERE.

May 5, 2009

Potter Blogger

jckb.jpgThe kiln was our language and we all came to speak it fluently. ~ Josh Copus

Recently when talking on the phone to my Asheville potter son Josh, he spoke enthusiastically about watching blades of new grass grow. I thought it was a reference to his stopping to take time to smell the roses and was glad that his workload was lightening.

A week later I spoke with him again and began our conversation by joking, ‘how’s that grass?’ He answered in all seriousness about how well it was doing. The next day I read an update about work at his Marshall County property, home of the three-tiered Community Temple woodfire kiln that Josh built:

Combining the heavy machinery with ingenuity, grit, and pure determination, I was able complete my goal of being able to plant some grass by this spring. It’s springtime now and the grass is growing.2.jpg

For four years I’ve been blogging about everything from Josh’s wild clay dig, His BFA Building Community show, the building of the Community Temple, and his gorilla suit escapades – with blog titles like Josh of All Trades, He Gets a Kick out of Bricks, Clayspace Potters Strike it Rich and The First Annual Pot Party.

Now he’s the blogger, writing firsthand in preparation for the Carolina Kiln Build to be held on his property in August. The blog will be a collective one, documenting a three week kiln building workshop, in which eight potters will be selected to live on site and immerse themselves in kiln building in a rural mountain setting. It’s modeled after a similar type of extended workshop that Josh attended at the Hurricane Mountain Center for Earth Arts in Keene, New York, one that shaped his life as a potter.

He writes about his hopes for the Carolina Kiln Build: The idea of working closely with other artists, fully immersing yourself in the project, eating and drinking together, swimming in rivers, creating lasting memories and funny stories for years to come is what this thing is about.joshcopusproperty.jpg

There’s more than grass growing on the property.

Along with fellow Clayspace (the potter’s coop that Josh founded) member Eric Knoche, Josh will be heading up the construction of two Anagama type wood-burning kilns. One will be a large simple tube, built with a flat floor to accommodate firing larger work and the other will be an egg shape climbing Anagama buried in a hillside, the CKB press release says.

Josh writes on the blog: Eric and I both learned how to build kilns by actually building kilns and we believe that there is really no substitute the type of education that occurs when you are working with bricks and mortar … We saw this as opportunity to build momentum and add energy to the work we have already begun. We wanted to form new friendships and continue contributing to the ceramics community. Those were just some of the ideas behind the Carolina Kiln Build.

May the ceramics community and studio potter model continue to grow strong, like the new grass on Josh’s property.

Post notes: Check out the introductions and participant details on the Carolina Kiln Build blog HERE. For more photos and stories on Josh click and scroll down HERE.

May 4, 2009

Artist Salvages Barn for Heirloom Toys

ronc.gif~ The following was published in The Floyd Press newspaper on April 30, 2009.

"But how will my friends know it is me, Barnaby, the old barn?" "Simple," said the toymaker. "Your boiler and cab are made from the logs that you had when you were a barn, and the roof of your cab is red like the red roof you had as a barn." ~ From Barnaby: The Barn Who Dared to Dream by Ron Campbell

When Ron Campbell was a young boy he played with a wooden paddleboat, handmade by his grandfather. Campbell doesn't know what happened to that heirloom toy, but he has never forgotten it. "I want to continue the cycle of passing things along," he said about the steam locomotive he built for his grandson from the wood of an old chestnut barn.

Campbell's locomotive, which is also a kaleidoscope and a nightlight, is part of his three piece exhibit, currently on display at the Jacksonville Center's "The Earth is Our Home" Hayloft Gallery show. Other works in Campbell's exhibit are his pen, ink, and watercolor drawing of a red roofed log barn, and a framed signed first copy of a children's book about a barn named Barnaby that dreamed of being a locomotive.

Both the drawing and the children's book, written and illustrated by the artist, are framed with salvaged wood from the same old log barn that the locomotive was made from. choo.jpg The barn sat for more than 100 years on Conner Road before it was dismantled by Campbell and his neighbor. 'Take the whole thing. I want it out of my view,' said the woman who answered Campbell's ad for "barn wood."

Born in Cullen and raised in Williamsburg, Virginia, Campbell had been working a high stress job in Atlanta before coming to Floyd. "I came out of corporate America saying, 'I've had enough of this. There's something better,'" he said. After retiring from his job and then purchasing land in 2001, he and his wife Lenny moved to the county in 2003. He had an art business in mind. "I've been drawing since I was a kid," he said.

For years Campbell worked as a computer technician. His background in electronics came in handy when he added sound effects - a bell, a whistle, and choo choo - to his heirloom locomotive. His experience as a woodworker, which Campbell says he "learned along the way," helped him to recognize the value and rarity of the old Connor barn, built with American chestnut, an important part of Floyd culture before the chestnut blight of the early 1900's.

Pointing out the wooden pegs incorporated in one of his picture frames, Campbell explained how they were commonly used to put buildings together before store bought nails were available. "There were some handmade square nails in the barn. We saved as many as we could," he said.

After building his own log home with a wrap-around porch, Campbell set about to make eight wooden swings, two for each side of the house. He completed two and sold a third, then a fourth. Soon he was filling orders. A bench with a wood burned banjo design in it was purchased by Woody Crenshaw for The Floyd Country Store. Another two benches and a swing can be found at Sweet Providence Farm Store.

Potter Jayn Avery, a Jacksonville Center board member and co-chair of the exhibit committee, remembers Campbell's hesitance when he first entered a piece for exhibit. "When he put his first bench in a show he wasn't sure it was okay," she said. Referring to his current multi-medium display, she said, "He's a wonderful carpenter who has joined all his different skills, his eye for carpentry and wood, sketching, and, as it turns out, even writing."

Another artist active at the Jacksonville Center, Marie Daniel, was instrumental in Campbell's involvement with the Center. She encouraged Campbell to show his pen and ink drawn barns after seeing them on his website and being impressed. When Campbell first came to Floyd he took classes at the Jacksonville Center, now he is teaching them. "I just finished a third class of about eight students," he noted.

Avery says that it's been fun to watch Campbell's art grow over the past few years. She thinks his story is a good example of how a person's creativity can be nurtured by a healthy arts presence in the community. "One of the Jacksonville Center's missions is to keep arts in the hands of everyday people and not have it be something out of reach," she explained, adding, "And we want people to recognize that everyone has inside them a creative aspect and that it takes many forms."

Campbell says he plans to make four more limited edition heirloom locomotives to be sold at the Country Store. The accompanying book about Barnaby the barn can be custom made to include the name of any child, just as Campbell's grandson Mason is a character in the first printing.

Although it took 2 - 3 months to hand build the first locomotive, Campbell says, "I've got a pattern of every piece now, so the next four won't be so hard or expensive." His hope is that the old Connor barn will live on through the passing down of the heirloom toys, just like the one in his story. "It was there for well over 100 years," he said about the barn. "Maybe the locomotives will be here for another 100 years. Maybe more." ~ Colleen Redman

May 3, 2009

I Feel Pretty

Tu Tu Cute
Aroma Amore
Come in a Little Closer

May 1, 2009

The Garden of Eden Before the Snake


"Do you have any warts?" the conversation began at the morning breakfast nook under a giant pine with a view out onto the garden.

He didn't have any warts left, so I guess the celandine that I replanted from my friend Jayn's garden worked. And now it had spread throughout the garden and needed to be pulled up, even though the bright yellow sap running through the stalks was ready to heal others of warts.

Before the first sip of tea, the conversation had drifted to corn and beans. Rotate the corn, to where? Cover the beans so the rabbits don't eat them before they have a chance to grow. The asparagus has grown a foot over night. The price of straw bales has gone up.

Oh, by the way, can you dig up the burdock and yellow dock that has volunteered? Only second year roots can be tinctured. Now, where did I plant those dahlias? Have you noticed that the scarecrow looks so not scary? He'll need a hat when the corn comes up, something new to make the crows think he's real.

Before the last bite of an egg covered bagel I had wandered over to the garden to examine what has newly sprouted and, like a detective looking for clues, to see what new invader was planning to intrude.