New Year, New Camera

A brief respite in winter weather demanded a quick afternoon trip to Mountain Valley Brewing to try some of their new flavors and see what’s changed since last year.

I missed some beautiful shots this morning.  I had to drive down an unpaved road into the woods after a rain to get to a friend’s house so I was worried that I’d be able to make the trek at all without getting stuck or sliding down a hill. I hadn’t taken my camera with me.  It turned out that I got down the road just fine and the rising sun through the trees, a light fog here and there, and otherwise crystal clear air was breathtaking.  I passed a herd of longhorns that would have made an especially wonderful photo.  Oh, well.  Next time.

In the meantime, there are cats.

This is a test shot of Sunshine, a Siamese cat, perched in a window
Sunshine Perched in a Window

We’ve gotten a little over an inch and a half of rain recently and it’s been cold.  It’s warming up to normal January temperatures now but last week we had a short but glorious taste of spring weather so I escaped the cabin and headed over to Henry County’s local craft brewery, Mountain Valley Brewing.

Photo of the taps in the Mountain Valley Brewing tasting room
The Tasting Room Taps

Now, the folks at Mountain Valley Brewing are friends of mine.  We moved into Henry County around the same time and one of the owners, Herb, and I both tried a short stint in real estate before we went on to our respective livelihoods.  Mountain Valley Brewing started as a hops farm.  They still grow hops but the brewery has been growing like a weed.

A Glass of Porter's Porter and a few samples
Porter’s Porter and Some Samples

For one thing, they make excellent beer.  I went for a little Porter’s Porter (named after their newest canine family member) and got to try samples of some of their newer creations: Ginger Bread Man and Choc Full of Cherries. Both were incredible.  They had just come out with a new red that is not even listed on their website yet.  Despite being new, everyone coming in the door ordered it as soon as they set one foot over the threshold.  I am not a fan of reds normally but I did try a pint and I can see what all the fuss is over.  It may be the only red I like.

Mountain Valley Brewing Pamphlet Advertising as a Venue
Mountain Valley Brewing Has Become a Popular Venue

One important thing,  my photos will not do Mountain Valley Brewing justice.  Just take a look at their website and you’ll see some stunning photos.  One of the reasons for their incredible growth rate, besides incredible owners,  is its popularity for hosting events.  For many around here, craft beer is a novelty.  It really helps that it’s really good craft beer but they’ve gone a step further and tailored one of their beers to the domestic beer lovers so feel assured that, if you like any kind of beer at all, you’ll find something you like here.  This helps make the experience inviting for everyone.

Backlit shot of the interior of the pavilion with Herb playing an acoustic guitar
Herb Sings a Little House of the Rising Sun

This past season they enclosed the pavilion.  There is a separate set of taps in the pavilion that have different flavors than what is available in the tasting room.  This is also where the live music is.  They have some incredible talent come through, usually in the evenings.  Herb has been known to pick up a guitar and sing a little “House of the Rising Sun” now and then in the afternoons.

There is also a new deck off of the back of the pavilion. It was a perfect spot to enjoy the music and fine weather last weekend.

The sunlit deck off the back of the pavilion with several people enjoying good weather
The New Deck Off the Back of the Pavilion

They’ve also put in a hammock garden featuring locally made hammocks from DAM Good Equipment in nearby Martinsville.

A wooden structure built to attach hammocks out on the lawn in the sunshine.
The Hammock Garden

They still have the fire ring and we may be fast approaching the temperatures that make that kind of thing enjoyable.

Making a mental note… scribble, scribble, scribble

The firepit with benches around it and some of the view you get from that vantage point.
The Fire Pit

There is still some finish work to be done but, all in all, you really can’t beat a trip to Mountain Valley Brewing on a reasonably warm winter afternoon.

The bartender in the pavilion serving a beer - a red.
Someone’s Getting a Red

I am still running the camera on “auto” but I plan on joining the Blue Ridge Photography Club that has just started meeting at the Martinsville branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.  (The Blue Ridge Photography Club was previously the Spencer Penn Photography Club but has changed its name as it has changed venues).

Here’s to warmer weather and better photographs!

Cheers

#MoveToMartinsville

I loved the Henry County promo and now I’ve found that Martinsville has put out a new promo video as well.  It’s ironic that the preview slide for the video is skyline of Atlanta, Georgia, I know. For the most part, it’s a really good video. Martinsville really does have a lot going for it. The buildings in Uptown are beautiful. The people are wonderful. There’s a great greenway, the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail, snaking all the way through town and is being expanded.  Real estate is cheap. Groceries are cheap. Restaurants are cheap.  The local community college puts on several high-quality musicals every year.  There is a good improv group in Uptown Martinsville (TheatreWorks Players) and the tickets are cheap.  The Rives Theatre, also in Uptown, has good musicians in all the time.  All the ingredients are there for Martinsville (and Uptown in particular) to absolutely flourish.  All that is missing is the catalyst and it’s anyone’s guess as to what that will be. I, for one, am convinced that it will eventually happen.

Memorial Day in MHC

Of the last five Memorial Day weekends in Henry County, Virginia, we’ve had rain or threat of rain on four of them.  Somehow, this has never been able to really put a dampener on the weekend – at least for us.

There are so many things to do around here on Memorial Day weekend that it would get a little ridiculous to list them.  However, there are a couple of events that are a lot of fun that you might not hear about unless you just stumble across them.

Yard Sales & The Local Flea Market on Highway 58

The first is the stretch of Highway 58 between Martinsville and Stuart that fills up with yard sales.  This is apparently one of the very best kept secrets in the area.  There are a number of individual yard and garage sales at private homes along the highway and then there is one large flea market-style sale just next door to Larry’s Variety (which is a good spot to find new and used furniture). The flea market is not promoted online that I can find and I’ve looked.  It shouldn’t be this hard to find, especially when you already know it exists.  All I can truly tell you is that it is a large area and it usually has a good attendance regardless of the weather.  The flea market rents spaces for $15 a day and I’d guess that they normally have around two acres covered with vendors. I believe that it is put together by an area Methodist Church, but I can’t find which one.  There is $1 paid parking but a lot of people park along the highway.  The driveway in and out is topped with rock and the parking itself is grass so, even with rain, mud is not really an issue. If someone local has any idea about who puts this on, please let me know.

Although we do not typically go to yard sales, I do make a point to go to this one.  There is a lot of kitsch and a lot of junk but there are also some handmade things there from time to time. I usually find at least one thing there each year.  One year I found a hand-painted pie safe for $15. Vendor turn out was down this year (70% chance of rain on Saturday and it looked fierce) but we still went and found some home-canned pickles from Moose Country Farm, a local farm that also specializes in goat milk lotion with essential oils.  Their dill pickles are delicious and their spicy pickles mean business! They sell a variety of things through their Facebook page. It did not rain on us.

Mountain Valley Brewing’s Anniversary Party

The second is a newcomer.  Memorial Day weekend happens to also mark the anniversary of Henry County’s first Craft Brewery, Mountain Valley Brewing, and 2018 was their first anniversary.  They had two bands lined up and they tapped the raspberry wheat that weekend.

Virginia Brew Hub, a Roanoke-based magazine that covers all things craft, was on hand with their drone and took the following footage over the course of the day.

It was a great day and, while we only intended to stay for a couple of beers, we ended up listening to the whole set by Faded Travelers (and buying their CD).  The video below is just a snippet to give you an idea of the feel of the band.

Mountain Valley Brewing is growing so fast.  They started out with just the tap room. Could that really have only been a year ago? Then came the pavilion.  Then the covered deck off of the tap room.  Now lawn games like corn hole are showing up and I understand that DAM Good Equipment, a Martinsville-based company making hammocks, tents, backpacks and sleeping bags, is planning on putting in a hammock garden.  They’ve already put in a couple (see the first video).  Take a look at their site too (https://www.damtough.com).  Besides their products, they are taking their own photos and not using stock images on their website. It’s fun to guess where the pictures were taken. Hoorah to DAM Good Equipment for that.

I’ve never seen a hammock garden.  Have you?

Could ‘Factory Man’ Still be a Catalyst for Eco-tourism?

18774017

Tom Hanks will produce ‘Factory Man’ mini-series for HBO – Roanoke Times (09/16/2014)

Only about half of the business books that I have started, I have also finished. Books about business can be the driest fare around but, luckily, Factory Man is one of the good ones.  Beth Macy, a Roanoke journalist, did an amazing job relating the history and ultimate effective extinction of the furniture industry in this area.  It goes a long way towards explaining why we have so much infrastructure here without the obvious foot traffic to sustain it.  That seems to be leveling off, though population numbers are still continuing to decline.

Everyone here was abuzz when Tom Hanks bought up the rights to Factory Man for an HBO mini-series; however, that was three years ago and the project still shows as “in production” on imdb. It is unclear as whether the bulk of filming, should it ever get started, would be here (in Bassett) or in Galax, or a little of both. We still have our fingers crossed.

Today, Bassett is a little community on the river waiting to be rediscovered.  The Smith River does not run through it as much as the town itself is wrapped around its banks.

sm_River in Bassett

There is a burgeoning interest in kayaking the Smith River. There are also trout in the Smith.  Smith River Outfitters has been running excursions down the river and Hamlet Vineyards has created some events for combining a trip to the vineyards with a trip on the water.  Papa’s Pizzeria is a restaurant on a picturesque road in Bassett that has a great outdoor patio right on the Smith.  It has the unique position to cater to river traffic.  All they would need would be a a little kayak parking and a path up from the river.  With elbow grease and luck,  it could really be an enhancement that could cause a noticeable increase in eco-tourism in the area.  Property values there, in my opinion, are still undervalued (see MLS). This could just be my experience with development in Texas talking but, if and when the ball ever does get rolling for Bassett to emerge as a river excursion destination, it is poised to gain momentum quickly.

I realize that that is a big “if” … that there are quite a few “ifs” in there, actually.  But I do still have my fingers crossed that this project will bring people in to see Bassett.  All it will take is the right person to see it.

Another Roger Carroll Mural and the Great Goblin Gallop 5K

While looking up information on muralist Roger Carroll, I found a link to an archived WDBJ 7 article about how he had also painted murals at Druid Hills Elementary School. I immediately recalled a mural that I saw there when I ran in the 2014 Great Goblin Gallop 5K.  The article said that “he tried to make the indoors appear like they’re outdoors.  The theory behind that is if the children feel less confined, feel good about where they’re at, they’ll just naturally do better.”

Druid Hills is the name of one of the neighborhoods in Martinsville that, along with its neighboring community of Forest Park is known for relatively pricier homes surrounding a private community lake called Lake Lanier.  The annual Great Goblin Gallop is put on by Henry County Parks and the run really is beautiful.  Continue reading “Another Roger Carroll Mural and the Great Goblin Gallop 5K”

The Silverbell Trail – A Walk Through Martinsville

I had started this year hoping to really get in some local hikes but, as they say, the best laid plans oft go astray.  I did succeed in finding a fantastic local hiking group connected to the Reynolds Homestead, The Homestead Hikers, and joined them on their inaugural hike for the 2017 year – The Silverbell Trail.

The Silverbell Trail is a short boardwalk trail that joins the Uptown Connection Trail in Martinsville just off of the Dick & Willie Rail Trail and ends, somewhat abruptly, at Church Street, across the street from the YMCA. Even in January, when all of the leaves are on the ground and a coat is required, this is a beautiful trail.   Continue reading “The Silverbell Trail – A Walk Through Martinsville”