Meet my Neighbors: German Baptist Brethren

Our home in Franklin County has a well.

When we first offered to buy it, a well inspection was part of the home inspection. Our well inspector, Dale, was my first introduction to the Old German Baptist Brethren.

The German Baptist Brethren are a community that has been a part of Franklin County since the 1700s. Many of them dress “plain”: the men wear long beards, broad-brimmed black hats, dark colors. The women wear white or black caps over neatly pulled-back hair and dresses that cover their arms and legs. But oh, those dresses are beautiful! Made of cotton prints, I’ve seen them in every color imaginable.

I was fortunate because the company that inspects wells also offers exterminator services, and Steve, who came out here to take care of a little pest problem, appeared in his hat, suspenders, and impressive beard, and struck up a conversation. After a minute or two, he said, “Well, I’m being very rude! Here I am asking you questions about yourself and I bet you have questions about me!”

As they say in Franklin County, this was a blessing. I’ll be honest, one of the drawbacks to this part of Virginia is a certain lack of diversity. And I love this diversity of a different kind.

The Roanoke Times just added an article about a big German Baptist meeting that is coming up next week (old news to me because Steve told me about it!). But you should check it out and you can see more about these new neighbors of mine.

Critters

A subtle fox

In Franklin County, you don’t forget for long that you live in the country.

This guy started coming to clear about the bird feeders as the sun was going down each evening, but he’s gotten bolder and is now showing up earlier. He even brought a friend one evening!

Like most of the folks around here, we have a number of deer that stop by from time to time. But on Saturday, we had this little dude showed up with his mom.

And we have birds aplenty (in fact, our lazy little cat nabbed a nuthatch one evening, thoroughly disgusting Jim, who wrenched the prey away just as it expired).

Surprisingly fierce

Possums, bunnies (for awhile I was taking an early-morning exercise class where one of my classmates would ask if anyone has seen any “Bambis or Thumpers” on the way over) foxes, skunks, turkeys and groundhogs, even a sleepy bear or two. It really reminds you who was here first (and makes one much more cautious while driving around at night).

I’ve Got Your Weekend Plans!

So what are you doing this weekend?

If you’re at Smith Mountain Lake, I have the perfect place to start.

Bridgewater Plaza is kind of like a boardwalk area. It is situated right where the Hales Ford Bridge goes over the Roanoke River to connect Franklin and Bedford Counties. If you are driving to the lake area from the northeast, Rt. 122 suddenly opens up to a stunning view at this point and it’s very welcoming!

This beautiful photo is from the Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission webpage – they are the folks who helped us out with our cow a couple of months ago.

You can do all kinds of things at the Plaza: rent a boat, find plenty to eat, see a show, purchase gifts (while enjoying a sample of very nice fudge), grab a cup of coffee, paint some pottery, or get yourself a wakeboard. You can even start your search for your own lake home because there are a number of savvy Realtors who have offices right there.

It gets C-R-A-Z-Y on summer weekends, but I had the place to myself when I stopped by one day last week.

The Visitors Center has tons of information
Lakeside dining and fun
You can play golf OVER THE WATER, whoa

And lucky for me, our college kid is making pizza over there this summer, so I get to hear all the stories without battling the crowds!

Thomas Jefferson’s Revenge

A long time ago, I applied to go to college at the University of Virginia. “No, thank you,” said UVA.

Four years later, I applied to go to law school at the University of Virginia. UVA said (a little more sternly), “Anne. Did you NOT HEAR US the first time?”

So I’ll be honest: UVA and I are not friends. But a couple of weeks Jim had a conference to attend up in Charlottesville and I tagged along.

I got to grab lunch with my friend Priscilla in a delicious sandwich place.

This is Tillman’s downtown. So nice, I went there twice.

The next day, I took a great walk to The Corner and had a posh yogurt parfait.

Corner Juice. That was a good yogurt!

On the way back I saw the lacrosse team doing their thing along with some students determined to get their epic graduation pictures taken.

I hear that lacrosse team is pretty good.

But just when I started seeing the appeal of the place, I misjudged a curb, tripped, and landed in a heap right in front of the arena. (Or was it the ghost of Thomas Jefferson firmly making a point?)

It’s okay, UVA. Charlottesville still has the nearest Trader Joe’s to my house. I’ll be back.

Memorial Day at SML

This is our first Memorial Day weekend at Smith Mountain Lake and oh my goodness, what has happened to this place?

We moved to the area at the end of July, as summer was on the wane. And it was beautiful and fun, and still less traffic-laden from the northern Virginia streets we were used to.

Then Labor Day came and went, and pretty soon all the boats you’d see were the intrepid bass fishermen. And wow, did it get quiet.

A very young wakeboarder getting ready to go

But this weekend, that all changed. All of a sudden, there were people in the Kroger you didn’t recognize. LOTS OF THEM. They all had beer in their carts (I am not judging; we had friends stopping by so I also had beer in my cart). The boat traffic on our stretch of the lake has exploded, particularly with wake-boarders dipping through waves behind sleek boats blasting reggae music.

Our quiet rural home has become a resort. And I’ll tell you what: it’s fantastic.

Dark Side

A few weeks ago, when I posted about running around in the woods, one of my friends commented that I sure made it look enticing out here in the country. And I’m grateful because that’s exactly my point: I really want you all to see how amazing it is out here in Franklin County.

But of course not every day here is full of wonder. And I’m not just talking about the days you get stuck driving behind this guy.

Jim jokes that our cat feels like every time he looks out the window he sees something terrifying. I get that sometimes (raccoon on the porch? Hard pass on that one).

There’s a lot of adjustment moving to a new spot. We lived in the busy DC suburbs for nearly 30 years (even longer for me), and when you leave that behind as a middle-aged person, you also leave behind a real comfort zone.

And it’s eye-popping to explore a new place, but sometimes, just sometimes, you start to wonder if you’re going to be able to find a spot to fit in. That’s where I’ve been for a couple of weeks.

So dudes, wait until you hear some of the stories about trying to find folks to hang out with. And of course, I will still try to entice those nice people I know (like you, Larry!) to come here too.

Spring Fever

Spring has sprung down in Franklin County and with the warm weather, people were going hard at the garden stores this weekend.

Unfortunately, out in Wirtz, the hardware store and the garden store are not open on Sundays (a lot of things aren’t open on Sundays), so we had to drive into the city to get to a garden store.

It’s not a hardship. And we got coffee, too.

The garden store we found is Walter’s Greenhouse. It’s just a few minutes outside of Roanoke, on the road out to the lake.

It’s family run and super friendly. Also super hilly. The lady at the cashier table cheered on the people buying plants: “Come on, girl! Keep going!” We didn’t buy too much, just enough to get started. But Jim loves lurking around garden stores so I know we’ll make this a habit.

The view from the bottom of the hill
… and from the top (how cool is that truck?)

Forest Bathing

Getting out in the woods is so good for your soul, there’s even a name for it: forest bathing.

I’ve been doing a little of that myself over the past few weeks, with my renewed outings with the Shine Runners. I found this fun pub-run group last fall, but took a break from joining them during the winter because (it’s cold and) they run on local trails in the dark. I tried that once. I didn’t like it. And they run fast, in all conditions, for really long distances. Like running superheroes.

These folks had done 20 miles the previous weekend. Still faster than me.

But spring is here and with it daylight savings time. Those evening runs are once again taking place in the early twilight. I am by far the slowest of the group, but I’ve kind of designated myself the go-to person in case anyone wants a casual pace. And it’s been great.

No hunters this particular evening

We’ve gone out to Chaos Mountain Brewing, where you can run by a farm and catch a glimpse of a tom turkey (and hear him gobbling) as well as plenty of good-looking cows. Then maybe sit by the fire pit and enjoy their Marg and Rita gose, mmmmm.

We’ve enjoyed the woods around the Brooks Mill Winery, where Cathy and I took a wrong turn, disturbing some goats and dogs in a little barnyard (their owner came out on her porch in her pajamas to assure us that the dogs wouldn’t hurt us, but please, don’t let them follow us). And last night, a small group (okay, two of us) climbed up Grassy Hill in Rocky Mount.

Swiped from Andy D’s post

Grassy Hill was the most running I’d done in my run/walk combo, particularly as we headed downhill. And I noticed something. As you go running through the woods, you get to feeling very Midsummer Night’s Dream (“Check me out, I’m PUCK, y’all! IN THE WOODS!”).

Maybe it was relief at not feeling like my knees were wrecking themselves. Or not wiping out on the rocks (because Grassy Hill is a misnomer. It’s rocky). But it’s exhilarating.

And who needs to be a superhero when you can be a Shakespearean fairy? Seriously, go run in the woods.

Showing Off in Person

It’s my friend Lorenda’s birthday today, but last week she gave ME a present by coming down to Wirtz and letting me show her around.

My friend is a middle school teacher in a large public school system in busy northern Virginia. Her son is a student at Virginia Tech, a terrific university down the road in Blacksburg, Va. She decided to use the large public school’s spring break to visit her boy and me as well! I’m so grateful.

I’m also grateful that she is a good sport — instead of hiking all day, as planned, we had to spend a chunk of the afternoon waiting for a tree guy to remove a tree that had fallen on the side of the house in a storm.

But first, we hopped in the car and drove all around Smith Mountain Lake and into Roanoke for lunch at the tasty On the Rise Bakery in the Grandin part of the city. Then hustled back to sit on the porch to wait for the tree guy.

Our cat, who has liked no one since we moved him from Fairfax, even liked her.

I hope she wants to come back so we can get that hike in. Or, as the weather gets warmer, a swim. And some belated birthday Homestead Creamery ice cream.

Cherry Blossoms, FraCo Style

This is our first spring in the southwestern part of Virginia, and for a couple of weeks, I found myself really missing the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.

The cherry blossoms are famous. They ring the Tidal Basin near the Potomac River and draw crowds from around the world. Seriously large crowds, my friends, and the challenge of finding the right time to visit and avoid those crowds is a DC-area pastime in itself.

Beautiful, right? For awhile, it seemed like all of my northern VA friends were posting pictures just like this one, making me wistful for the old homeplace.

But then I noticed something along the roads.

This place is awash in redbuds.

We had a redbud in front of our house when I was growing up. We also had a crabapple, whose flowers mimicked those cherry trees and made the redbud look a little less, well, profuse by comparison. Sad to say, our redbud was not a major player in my childhood floral memories.

They definitely have a different flavor. In the past, I had only seen them as little glimpses of pink contrasting the sea of new green around them.

But when you get a lot of them together, it’s pretty impressive.

Franklin County has a lot of redbuds.

In fact, I was reading an old newspaper article about the initial filling of Smith Mountain Lake where the reporter bemoaned the loss of the redbud trees as the waters rose. And even better, when a friend posted a photo of his own (northern Virginia) redbud, I learned that he is a Franklin County native with stories to tell about growing up here.

So I (almost) quit missing the cherry blossoms because these buds have a beauty that is quite as nice.