Archive for June, 2009


June 29th produced our first harvest basket–not too bad considering that we weren’t able to plant most things until mid-May.  Mostly heirloom varieties: 2 varieties of cucumber, 4 varieties of summer squash, snap peas, (Early Girl hybrid) tomatoes, pepper, lettuce, swiss chard, parsley, basil.  (Missed the pole beans hiding at the base of their poles.)  It’s not hard to see that the quantity is about to increase exponentially (we’ve ordered a freezer, due to arrive later this week).


Given our experience with a community garden in New Jersey last year, what is perhaps most striking is the almost total absence of pests so far.  Insects have nibbled at the leaves of some of the lettuce, arugula, vegetable amaranth, and eggplants, but so far none of the usual suspects that caused so much trouble last year!  The string beans on the string trellis were searching two feet upward with their tendrils, so I’ve installed 10 foot bamboo poles to accommodate them.  There’s no secret to any gardener where Jack and the beanstalk comes from!


When Monika and I were looking around in Nelson County last summer, we bit into the best peaches we’d ever eaten while camping at Montebello Campground.  The peaches came from Saunders Brothers, which happens to be located just a few miles away from where we’ve settled.

And much to our surprise and delight, peach season has already begun!  Saunders Brothers grows 16 varieties of peaches, which appear consecutively from about June 20th into mid-September.  Currently we’re eating “Spring Snow” and “Early Redhaven,” and we’ll end up (appropriately enough) with “Fairtime” and “Snowball.”   So we’ll be having a peachy time time all summer long!

For those who like hiking, this post is meant as an enticement to come visit us!  It also testifies to the fact that one great thing about retirement is that there is ample time to combine work and play.  With five acres and a needy house, there is always work to be done.  But we’ve found time to take advantage of wonderful local opportunities as well.

Walking and Birding in Rockfish Valley


The Rockfish Valley Foundation has developed a network of trails less than ten minutes away.  Monika and I have  hiked several of them in various seasons, as well as going on a guided bird walk.  The terrain is easy but varied, and the range of birds and other creatures (we saw a mink chasing and catching a rabbit on the birding walk!) extraordinary.  And the view up the creek to Three Ridges Mountain breathtaking.  Click here for more pictures, including Monika’s picture of a bluebird peeking out from its house.

Panoramic Views from Spy Rock


Spy Rock is a rocky dome that provides one of the best views (360 degrees) of the central Blue Ridge mountains.  The trailhead is only about 20 minutes away, and the round-trip hike only 3.2 miles.  The forest on the way up was filled with flowering dogwoods, which had faded weeks ago at lower elevations.  Nic and I did this hike on May 21, shortly after we finished putting in the vegetable garden.  Flaming azaleas and rhododendrons were in bloom at the higher elevations.  An unexpected surprise was the rock pool teaming with tadpoles on the summit!  Click here for more pictures.

Blackrock Mountain in Shenandoah National Park


I took this short hike on June 21 (just over a mile round trip from the Jones Run parking area) with Nic and Alison, who continued on to camp overnight on their anniversary weekend.  Despite the bouldering to the summit, it’s an easy hike rewarded with great views of mountains and valleys and of the winding Blue Ridge Parkway in the distance.  Click here for more pictures.

Crabtree Falls


Nic and I hiked the four mile (round trip) Crabtree Falls trail,  about twenty minutes drive away, in late June.  A sign at the trailhead reminds hikers that 23 people have died by getting too close to the series of cascades and waterfalls.  Despite the touristic hype about the falls–e.g. the claim that they are the highest east of the Mississippi–they are impressive and beautiful in their own right, and the trail well-designed to keep one safe and yet able to see the highlights.    A neat feature is a boulder cave that one can go through and rejoin the trail slightly higher up!  Click here for more pictures.


Getting a vegetable garden planted as quickly as possible was important to us.  Nic and I started sod removal on April 24, followed by broadforking and rototilling the soil, amending it with compost from a paper mill that we had delivered, creating raised beds and planting seeds and seedlings, and finally constructing a fence to keep out deer.  By May 18th the garden was pretty much complete. Click on any picture above to see a larger gallery.

We settled on our new home on April 17th, 2009, and were greeted by a very different view from what we first saw in February.  We’ve come to realize as the season has progressed how beautifully landscaped our property is, and how it constantly changes.

Although Monika and I both enjoyed teaching at the Camden campus of Rutgers University and appreciated the wonderful colleagues we had there, in the past several years we felt ourselves increasingly alienated form the sprawl, congestion, mindless consumerism, and general ugliness that surrounded us in South Jersey.  For me, thoughts of an alternative were spurred by a study I did for the Rand Institute on agritourism  (pretty much anything that connects farmers directly with the general public)  in South Jersey, a project that also landed me a seat on the New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture’s Agritourism Council.   For both of us, visiting farms and talking to farmers harked back to summers spent in farm country growing up, in Bavaria and Vermont respectively.

And so….we find ourselves now in retirement with a five-acre property in Virginia, on Blue Rock Lane in Roseland, Nelson County.  We love our new life, and this blog is intended partly as a record for ourselves and our family, and also as a way of sharing our new life with friends, former students, and anyone else who may be interested.