April 6, 2015

In recent years Floyd has gotten quite a lot of good press both as a tourist destination and as a great place to plant your roots.  Perhaps the easiest to write about and the most colorful to photograph is the annual event called FloydFest.  Not too long ago, Floyd got a big time writeup in the National Endowment for the Arts magazine.  The other articles in the November 2011 issue were about the Telluride Film Festival and summer theater festivals in the Berkshires.  Heady but strange competition for "A Place Out of Time:  Virginia's FloydFest is Where Music Pops".   

One of the things that makes FloydFest so super intriguing is the backdrop of the electic Blue Ridge Mountains location. People caravan in expectant of great music; but the unbelievably beautiful mountaintop location is for many a welcome surprise.  Festival founder Kris Hodges attributes a lot of the success of FloydFest to the fertile artistic soil inherent to Floyd County.  "The community supports people with fresh ideas and living.  Since it was first settled, it has such a strong foundation of creativity that it really affords the opportunity to create your own life."  

His wife, co-founder Erika Johnson elaborates.  "With the Appalachian musicians, organic farmers, potters, timber framers, yurt makers, midwives, and even a doctor who does house calls and runs a barter clinic, you really do have a place out of time, where the outside world doesn't dictate how people live, think, or create.  We pride ourselves on having a unique haven from the rest of the world.  And we were able to take FloydFest into this mix and represent that."  

So, on this blustery chilled day of spring, I am pining for the warmest days of the year which usually surround the week of FloydFest.  But just like we Floydians don't do things quite like the rest of the world, we also do summer on Floydtime and with a Floyd thermostat set about 10 to 15 degrees cooler that the rest of Southwest Virginia.  


PS  Have you checked out the 2015 festival line-up?  Ahh..a welcome summertime musing for another rainy spring day.


March 16, 2015

One of the most exciting parts of my job is walking the gorgeous land we have for sale in Floyd County.  I often tell potential land buyers to please include me in their walk around property they may be interested in; I find nothing more relaxing and pleasurable than to be out in the woods, or down by the creek, or over in the pasture or up on the ridgetop breathing in the wonderful Blue Ridge Mountain Air. 

Another perk for me personally is the opportunity to pour over maps and plats, locating family cemetaries, creek beds, old mountain trails and fieldstone walls that time may have forgotten.  Spring is a particularly nice time to be out on the mountain: the trillium, the fiddlehead ferns and the flame azalea are absolutely dazzling.

I was looking over the Floyd County map the other day and saw something that I had never noticed before.  A squiggly yellow line that seems to drop down the ridge into Franklin County, travelling south before it heads NE and juts a little bit west as it leaves our area of SW VA right around the Montgomery County line.  This little line caught my interest, so I did some research with my handy dandy google search engine.  Seems I had stumbled upon the eastern edge of the Continental Divice; which transects the northeastern part of the county.  Tributaries up here on the mountain flow into the Roanoke River down in the Valley and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.  A continental divide by definition is "a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into an ocean or sea (in this case the Atlantic Ocean) and the basin on the other side feeds into a different ocean or sea (in this case the Gulf of Mexico)".

Anyone spending much time in Floyd County eventually hears the the old-timers muse about how "Floyd holds the headwaters of all the water in the region, every river, creek and branch flows out from Floyd County."  Their claim can be substantiated because the Eastern Continental Divide by definition represents the highest terrain in our area.  Google for yourself, this is some interesting, right in our own backyard.   

April 25, 2014
Floyd Country Store

The Friday night before Easter brought us to downtown Floyd, trying to show off a little bit of our VirginiaaboutFloydCountryStore.jpg hospitality to a houseguest from Michigan.  Daughter's friend Kim had already wondered why everyone stopped to talk to you as you walk along the street of a town that contains one stop light; and why a quick run in to the Harvest Moon  may involve greeting a half dozen people by name.  It's a small town, Kim.  A small town with a cool vibe and friendly folks.  We started our evening out at Dogtown Pizza, sharing a couple of pies and a couple of Parkway Brewery Get Bent (Mountain) IPAs.  Next we strolled over to the Floyd Country Store, one block down and light years away, where not only Kim was in for culture shock.   

As Emma and her guest mosied towards the dance floor they were swept into a flat-footing frenzy by Friday night jamboree regular Leo, complete with a fresh pair of bib overalls and a frayed hillbilly hat.  Now, I'm not sure where you purchase a new hillbilly hat, but I can tell you I've not seen one for sale amongst the art galleries and cool hippie boutiques that line the other side of the street.   Leo taught the girls the latest swirls while I caught the hilarious action on video.  I wasn't sure if the whole thing wasn't a shtick, but there sure were a lot of tourists enjoying themselves amongst the regulars.  I was torn between cutting the rug myself and trying to explain to the smiling hand-clapping tourists that not everyone in town was a hillbilly.  The dancing won out.  And I'm looking to buy me  a new hat.  

April 9, 2014
Bent Mountain Bistro

The Bent Mountain Bistro,  our new farm-to-table locavore, hangout, meet your neighbors watering hole and restaurant is now up and running!  We are so thankful for the amazing support of the Bent Mountain/Floyd County/Roanoke people  for a restaurant that looks just like our community: smart, artsy, eclectic, locally owned and operated AND delicious.  


My current favorite supper is wood-fired Onion-Bacon pizza served with a Parkway Brewery's "Get Bent" IPA.  Locally sourced carmelized onions, corn and argula topped with some organic Applewood smoked bacon and olive oil.  The crust rivals anybody in town, and even more than passes the muster with this former New Yorker.  


The best part of this new addition to our hamlet is a chance to hang out with the neighbors that you only see a couple times a year.  Now we see each other on a weekly basis; this hasn't happened since they closed our sweet Bent Mountain Elementary.  


So neighbors, take a five minute drive (YES that is right for almost all of us) to the best news we've had on this mountain for a long time.  And yes, we also invite you out for a beautiful drive to head up Bent Mountain and eat with us at the Bistro.  

November 21, 2013
Bent Mountain Tacky Tractor Christmas Parade

If you venture up on Bent Mountain the first Saturday in December, you may be surprised by an annual event that is as colorful as it is festive, the 19th Annual Bent Mountain Tacky Tractor Christmas parade.  Warning, the whole shenanigans can be a big irreverent.  My daughter wrote about the parade and her let's just say, eccentric neighbors, in her college essay and was accepted into a very competitive northern college.  I just think they wanted to have a look at her to see if she was sporting all her teeth.  Just kidding, she's a smart kid.  But the parade and said participants makes for very colorful essay fodder.
We started parading about 19 years ago.  My kids were not yet one and two and a half.  It was a zillion degrees below zero.  The parade originated when the Hortons and the Florins threw some ratty tinsel and yard sale reject Christmas decorations up on some old tractors hitched to some raggedy old trailors and took off down the road.  The party soon drew in our neighbors from Bent Mountain as well as friends from Roanoke and Floyd who included pickup trucks and Harleys and llamas. We've even had parade spectators.  That makes it more fun because we get to do the parade wave and jingle the bells.  Most years we have had room for whatever parade spectators wanted to become parade participants.  We just threw them on up one of the "floats."  We usually stop along the way and picnic and libate.  I think I just made that word up.  It's fitting.  Making merry and all.
This, it seems, is an open invitation.  Bundle up, throw some tinsel on your ride and head up Bent Mountain back towards the Nature Conservancy at Bottom Creek Gorge.  You won't miss us, I promise.    

April 17, 2013

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 If you, Gentle Reader, permit me a sweeping generalization, honour me thusly.  (Oh, my.  Don't ever let me read 17th century English poetry early in the morning and then try to blog. I don't want to be the one to give you just cause to upchuck your oatmeal.)

But the word is out: American vacations have evolved. The days of the $13,000 "Grande Tour" are pretty much done for. Trends are currently post simple living and a couple of decades past extravagant living. It is not a popular choice to spend too much money, even if you have it.  It is the era of the smart vacation.

Don't get me wrong; people still want to retreat. We all work hard and hopefully are wise enough to store up a bit to reward us for our labor.  We do that differently in 2013.  

A few years ago we built a cabin in the woods. Electricity runs off a generator and we "take our toilet" in an old-fashioned privy. We warm our french-pressed coffee from a kettle on the woodstove. 

The little cabin is quite beautiful. Lots of found lumber and some gorgeous wormy chestnut trim board that we were lucky enough to discover in an old barn that we own.  

We've also discovered some like minded folk who are looking for land in Floyd County to build their dream cabin.  Not a dream mansion, mind you; but we've found that most of the time we spend at the cabin is outside anyway.  We wanted something comfortable, smart and affordable.  Did I mention we have just the land for your secret retreat?

Please indulge me one final time.

In the words of Abraham Cowley who wrote this way back before off the grid became mainstream cool.  Like he died in 1667   or something.  

"Ah, yet, ere I descent to the grave, may I a small house and large garden have; and a few friends, and many books, both true, both wise, and both delightful too!"     

February 13, 2013
Featured Real Estate Listing

Spring Branch Tract The Spring Branch Tract located on Sugar Run Road in NE Floyd County, Virginia is a very unique property with multiple branches running through the 25+ acre tract. The culmination of all this water is a lovely cascade of crystal clear mountain waters tumbling over mossy covered boulders. If you are an outdoors person or into botany, you will love the incredible diversity of plant life. One of SW VA's most special tracts, located halfway between Roanoke and the cultural music and arts community of Floyd, VA. View Listing Here


February 5, 2013
Historic Tobacco Barn Found in Bent Mountain Woods

Antique barn to home conversions are becoming a new trend, featured in magazines that cover real estate from Country Living to Architectural Digest. Giving these magnificent old barns and cabins a second life satisfies homeowners interested in preservation. Additionally, recycling and re-using brings out numerous creative ways to positively impact the environment.

Although life on Bent Mountain hasn’t changed that much in the last 75 years, newcomers wanting a peaceful lifestyle now co-exist with old-timers whose families have lived in these mountains for generations. Long before the modern homesteaders discovered Bent Mountain, VA (Roanoke County), Morgan Bartlett’s granddaddy, T.J. (Thomas Jefferson) Bartlett, farmed tobacco back on what locals call “the second loop”. Morgan remembers working with his grandfather and father raising and curing tobacco, taking it down the mountain into Shawsville by horse and wagon, and then shipping their product to Lynchburg by train. According to Morgan, his granddaddy raised mostly chewing tobacco, not the “pretty golden tobacco” farmed in warmer Franklin County.

Morgan’s grandfather got one crop a year, picking the tobacco in late summer and curing it in the Chestnut Tobacco barn in the early fall. Although Morgan (75) remembers dead chestnut trees still standing majestically in the forest, not much remains of those tall trees today. Chestnut stumps still sprout new growth but the trees never mature to adulthood. The Chestnut Blight of the early 1900’s took out an entire species of trees in a little over a decade. Economically important to the people of the southern Appalachians, the American Chestnut was lightweight, soft, easy to split, very resistant to decay and the straight grained wood was ideal for building log cabins and furniture.

T. J. Bartlett built his tobacco barn around 1918 from dying chestnut trees cut right on his property. Fireplaces on the outside of the barn fed flues two feet in diameter that went into the building, down the back wall and out the opposite side. The circulated air caused the heat to rise and dry the tobacco which hung on sticks throughout the interior of the barn, which functioned like a huge oven. The fire had to be tended constantly for two or three days, and Morgan remembers the interior of the barn becoming so hot that his dad wondered how the barn kept from catching fire.

Not only did the sturdy chestnut barn endure the heat curing tobacco, it later served as T.J.'s workshop and still stands today.  The Bartlett family no longer owns the property T.J. farmed, but Morgan and his wife still live up the road a ways.  Neighbor Larry Florin, owner of Floyd Virginia Land which specializes in unique mountain properties, appreciates the history and beauty of the area and has divided that part of the old Bartlett farm into three large tracts available for purchase.  He discovered the old barn after buying the property.  The 14 acre tract containing the old tobacco barn now boasts tall poplar trees replacing the chestnut trees of last century.  Florin is hoping for a buyer who will recognize the historic beauty and want to preserve and restore T.J.'s barn and be a steward of this Floyd County farm history.  While a lot of structures that are in various states of decay are dismantled and re-sawn into flooring, etc., this barn is still in excellent condition and could easily start a new life as a weekend getaway, a guest house, an outbuilding or an art studio.  The barn has incredible primitive joinery and a standing seam metal roof that is still in remarkable condition.  Thomas Jefferson Bartlett would be proud that his Chestnut beamed tobacco barn built by hand, most likely in a week or two, has survived the test of time on this mountain for nearly one hundred years.