Beautiful Crafts

On November 11th a friend and I embarked on a special Virginia experience that I had never tried before.  We decided to participate in the 18th annual Artisans Studio Tour in Charlottesville and surrounding counties.  This year, 36 artists were displaying their work in 20 studios, many of the them right here in Nelson County near Naked Mountain where I live.  I love their moto:  from our hands to yours.  Here is their website.

We only had time to visit four studios, but three displayed the work of more than one artist.  I had intended just to get information about woodworkers and furniture crafters, which I certainly did, but I couldn’t resist the works of other artists and purchased pottery items as well as a gorgeous pair of dangling sliver earrings.  The level of artistry was truly amazing and some of it among the most creative work I have ever seen anywhere.

The day we did this was gorgeous with a bright blue, sunny sky and warm, sixty degree temperature.   As we drove along old, historic roadways we passed lovely old estates and farmhouses with horses and cattle dotting the mowed and grazed fields.  Glimpses of the aptly named Blue Ridge Mountains were frequent. 

There were alot of people engaged in this most pleasant acitivity.  Checking in on the website today I am not surprised to see the report that this year’s tour was the most successful ever with a record number of visitors. 

Between our studio stops, we reluctantly bypassed one of our favorite places in Nelson County, the Blue Mountain Brewery, and its special artistry: hand-crafted beers.  The parking lot was jammed!  We had a sort of schedule to keep.  But by 2:00 p.m. our senses were saturated by stunning examples of crafts of every description and our stomachs were rumbling.  We were just a smidge too late for a delightful lunch of French-inspired handcrafted soups, salads and sandwiches at the charming cottage that houses Basic Necessities.  Not a problem, we simply walked up the small hill to another famous eatery in  Nelson County: The Blue Ridge Pig, and had a hand-crafted, pulled BBQ sandwich with coleslaw. Excellent!    


Road Work

My road, which has probably been in existence and periodic use for 200 years, is narrow, gravel and 2.4 miles long.  Since it cuts up Naked Mountain through a forest, trees line both sides of it from the beginning to the end.  Invited guests that make it to the top are rewarded with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and nice cup of tea (or something stronger) proffered by the lady who lives in the small gray one-story house on the ridge (that would be me).  However, to reap the reward part of this journey you must be able to get up the road.  This is not a problem on foot, but if you are driving, you may encounter a few problems.  A common one is tree fall.  See the August 23rd blog entitled “Stymied.” 

To try and prevent the experience in “Stymied,” my good neighbor Steve suggested we cut down obviously dead trees that look like they could fall into the road.  We set aside this past Saturday to do the work.   Another friend, David, joined us.  The captioned pictures below describe how the trees were selected and cut.   Most of them were additionally cut into logs that can be split into firewood.  We piled these next to the road for later pick up.

Steve cuts a wedge to direct tree fall.



The wedge.

Steve cuts the tree into logs while David holds it steady with a Peavey.







As I have decided, unlike some women in rural areas, I am not well-suited to use a chain saw, I took the opportunity, as we walked down the road to each tree site, to do another

Author cuts sapling with loppers.

road work task:  grooming the sides of the road by cutting small saplings that will eventually impede travel by growing into trees.  I probably cut 250 saplings of varying sizes with a pair of loppers and my sore forearm muscles are confirmation that I did.    

 We cut down a total of eight trees.  As Steve cut the largest one, pictured here, an Eastern Screech Owl flew out of a hole in the tree.  We were all sorry to have destroyed this owl’s home.  But I am confident there are many more large dead hollowed out trees on Naked Mountain and that this owl will quickly find another home within its established territory.  

I do not understand why these charming, small 8-9 inch reddish-brown owls are called screech owls.  They do not screech. Their song is a pleasant descending whinny quite similar to a horse whinny.  During mating season the song is often a monotone trill.  You can download an audio recording of an Eastern Screech Owl from the Cornell Ornithology Lab here.  You can see photos and read more about screech owls here:



Return to Naked Mountain

I was away on international travel for several weeks, and then my regular schedule on Naked Mountain was interrupted by Hurricane Sandy.   But a couple of weeks before Sandy hit, on October 20th, I snapped  the picture on the header from my deck as the sun was lowering.   The fall colors have been beautiful and the sunsets spectacular! 

Today, was bright, sunny and a warm 60 degrees.  I decided to go for a good, long walk down my road.  But before I set out I watched a white-tailed deer, a young, two-point buck, making his way gingerly through the yard.  The creature was so graceful, but unfortunately also destructive.  When there are too many deer their browsing of tender tree shoots can keep a forest from regenerating.  On Naked Mountain, I have noticed that a number of wildflowers  have been diminishing due to deer browsing.  At the urging of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program stewards who help me manage the preserve, I have arranged for a neighbor to hunt deer.  Steve, who is featured in the August 23rd Blog entitled, “Stymied,” is a very experienced and safe hunter.  He has erected two deer stands on the preserve and he has already spent a few days hunting this fall season on Naked Mountain.  Even though I want deer controlled on Naked Mountain to protect forest habitat for all the myriad species that depend on it, I did whisper to the gentle creature tiptoeing through my yard to, “Watch out for Steve!” 

 On my walk down the road I saw, and heard, some other denizens of Naked Mountain.  A Pileated woodpecker was noisily working the trees, jerking its way up one side, then winding around the back of the tree and jerking its way up to the top speaking loudly the whole time.   I often see pairs or threesomes of these striking woodpeckers on Naked Mountain.  They remind me of flying dinosaurs with their long, pointed beaks and their bony

Pileated Woodpecker (Stock photo)

red-crested profile that is exaggerated by the black and white stripes on their cheeks and necks. Pileateds need about 300 acres of forest to successfully breed.  I love seeing them in pairs on Naked Mountain.   It is direct confirmation of the importance of establishing a natural area preserve and working to protect the habitat that allows this species to survive even though it means destroying some members of other species that are in harmful abundance.