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?

A Clement Weather Day at SML

I’m a big believer in “clement weather days”.  It only makes sense.  If there are a few days each year when the weather is just so bad that we get a day off, there should also be a day or two each year that are just too nice to work.  I’m not a church-goer and this just seems like a really nice tip of the hat to the Great Engineer.  A way to say “Thank you, God, for this day”.

We have a true fall here. This time of year we have spurts of summer where daytime temps can climb up into the upper eighties with nighttime temps in the sixties.  But now we also get days that do good to get into the seventies with nighttime temps in the fifties.  There are more “open window” days right now that not.  As I write this, what was Hurricane Nate is churning its way up the Blue Ridge Mountains and it is gray and drizzly – the mountains are holding the heavy rain to the west.  This past Friday was a perfect “clement weather day”.

sm_DSC_0001
The iconic Harbor Town Miniature Golf course at Bridgewater

We took full advantage of it by heading up to the Smith Mountain Lake area.  We got there just as Moosie’s opened at 11:00 and walked around for a little while before lunch.  Mango’s an open air grill and bar with a live music venue doesn’t open until noon.

sm_DSC_0002
Mango’s on a Friday morning before opening

Our plan had been to make it up to Beford to see the D-Day Memorial about twenty minutes away but it was such a beautiful day and we were enjoying Bridgewater Plaza so much, we didn’t want to get back in the car.

After lunching at Moosie’s, browsing through all of the shops, and feeding the fish, we took a walk down the boardwalk past Bridgewater Pointe,  a condominium that sits next to the plaza.

sm_DSC_0006
Bridgewater Pointe Condos

I’d never noticed the boardwalk before so this was new for us.   The sun was shining and warm and there was a refreshing, cool breeze off of the water.  Boat slips whispered and creaked and moaned a little in the water.

sm_DSC_0008
The boardwalk goes far beyond the condos

As you reach the point where the boardwalk bends, you can see the mountain in the distance. It is just far enough away that the camera doesn’t really pick it up.  It seems larger in real life.

sm_DSC_0004
Mountains are just barely visible

A wary crane watched us pass and I wished that I had a long distance lens.

sm_DSC_0005
A wary crane

But I didn’t.  We just enjoyed our view.

sm_DSC_0007
Just a beautiful day at the lake
sm_DSC_0011
Just a beautiful day at the lake

The boardwalk ends at the bridge that stretches over Smith Mountain Lake on its way to Moneta. It looks like they are doing some work there building either an extension to the current condos or additional parking.  There is a pad site for sale for another condo project.  I hope that we’ll still be able to walk on the boardwalk after this site is finished being “built out”.

sm_DSC_0009
More condos to come?

There was no visible boat traffic as we walked down to the end of the boardwalk but that didn’t last long.  As soon as we turned around to start back there were easily half a dozen boats appearing all at the same time.  It truly was a beautiful day and a great day for the lake.

This is near the end of the season.  The bartender at Mango’s said that they would close for the season by the end of the month.  They’ll reopen sometime next March, when spring has returned as well.

For more information about this destination, please check out the following links:

 

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”

A Little Love for the Charles & Rose Hylton Library

I love the local Spencer Penn Center.  There’s a lot there to love but one of my favorite parts is the Charles & Rose Hylton Library.

sm_DSC_0021
The Charles & Rose Hylton Library

I have a card at all of the local libraries but this one is my favorite.  I discovered Karen White’s “The Sound of Glass” here.  I also got started on Carol Miller’s Moonshine Mystery series here, reading “An Old-Fashioned Murder: A Moonshine Mystery“.

sm_DSC_0001
The Charles & Rose Hylton Library

The thing to note about Carole Miller’s Moonshine Mystery series is that they are set here locally.  Moonshine is still a big thing around here but that’s another post for another time. I had just finished the first book in the series, “Murder and Moonshine“, over the weekend and decided to pop over to Spencer Penn to see if I could pick up “A Nip of Murder“, the second one in the series and the only one I have left to read. (They read fine out of order).

sm_DSC_0003
The Charles & Rose Hylton Library

As I understand it, the library got its start with donations from local residents (and still actively receives a lot of donations).  That translates into a lot more Debbie Macomber novels than dusty classics which, to me, is a good thing.  (Nothing against the classics but there’s nothing wrong with exploring new novels either). These are books people have read because they wanted to rather than because they thought that they ought to, so there are a lot of good choices for fun reads.  The span of genres is pretty impressive too.

As it turned out, I got distracted by another book that’s been on my “to-read” list for awhile and completely forgot about the book that I was looking for.  “The Alice Network” is a historical novel about a female spy ring in WWI that was released this past June.

So I’ll have to wait to finish the Moonshine Murder series.  But I swear that I’ll read it next. (Full disclosure: That might not be true.  Anne Mott Davidson’s “Tough Cookie” has been flitting around my desk, under my desk, or near my desk for a week demanding to be read. )

P.S. There is usually a cart outside the door of the library with used books for sale.  I almost always browse the cart with the result that I have, at about any given time, a stack of books to read.  Paperbacks are fifty cents a piece. Hard backs are a dollar.

P.S.S. I also buy used books from Amazon with my Amazon points.  And those books will generally end up on the cart I mentioned above after I’ve read them.

P.S.S.S. There is also an adorable book store, Books & Crannies, in Uptown Martinsville that we try to visit occasionally because we want to support local businesses too and, well, it’s a bookstore.

My point is that that cart in front on the library is very active and I’m not the only reader around here that donates, buys, and checks out books on a regular basis. If you’re local, you should check it out.  And go inside and sign the visitor’s log.  You might leave with a new favorite author.

Are we friends on GoodReads?

my read shelf:
Beth's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

my to-read shelf:
Beth's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (to-read shelf)