Monday, April 25, 2011

Mt. Olympus Farm

On Saturday, in search of a driving destination on a nice day, we settled on what was billed as the “Mt. Olympus Farm Earth Day Festival.” Now, we really weren’t expecting much in the way of a festival, but a drive in rural Caroline County seemed like a good bet. The farm is right off of Rt. 1, near Ruther Glen, and turned out to be very picturesque, with rolling hills and a sizeable lake.

Mt. Olympus Farm is similar to Miller Farms in Spotsylvania County. There are pick-your-own berries, plus a variety of veggies available in season. They also have two large greenhouses with annual and perennial plants for landscaping, herbs and vegetable plants for the garden. Plus, there’s a farm market with fresh produce, preserves, local dairy products, eggs and meats. The farm is family-friendly, with picnic tables and a small play area set up for the kiddies.

Strawberry plants for sale:

The earliest of the farm-grown berries:

The Earth Day Festival featured some local vendors, a few animals, face-painting for the kids, and food for sale. There was nothing particularly Earth Day-ish about the event. Next year, Cub Scouts, you might want to serve your Earth Day burgers in something other than styrofoam containers. And how about recycling bins for the cans and bottles? We sampled a few local treats, and brought home some excellent biscotti made by the Biscotti Fairy.

Biscotti Fairy goodies:

Mama minding her newborn lamb:


and their wool:

Harbinger of things to come:

After strolling around the grounds a bit, we checked out the produce in the market. I was surprised to see so many vegetables displayed with the “Virginia Grown” sign. I’m not naive enough to think that tomatoes and cucumbers were harvested from Virginia fields in April. But I am trusting enough to believe that if the sign says “Virginia Grown,” then somewhere in the state, there’s a greenhouse turning out tomatoes and cukes. When I asked where the veggies came from, it turns out they were trucked up from Florida. When I suggested that the Virginia Grown signs were misleading, I was told that “those are just the signs we use” and that the farm-grown produce would be coming soon. A lovely farm, but they need to get their labeling right.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Historic Garden Tour

April in the Fredericksburg area is the prettiest time of year. The trees with their baby leaves are that lovely apple-green color, and the dogwoods, redbuds and azaleas are in bloom, so even on my shady, deer-munched, untended piece of land, there’s spring color to be found. So it really is a perfect time for Historic Garden Week in Virginia, which includes garden tours in 32 locations, all presented by the Garden Club of Virginia.

The Fredericksburg area’s historic garden tour this year was in Spotsylvania County. Several of the properties were historic, and some were modern subdivision homes, all with varying amounts of landscaping and flower beds. This year’s tour was focused on the homes’ interiors, and on the many beautiful floral arrangements that graced each home, rather than on lush outdoor gardens. The variety of arrangements was an inspiration to me, because while many relied on cut flowers with showy blooms, just as many focused on native woodland plants, flowering trees and shrubs. So even a non-gardener like me could get ideas for filling vases with spring branches and buds and blossoms.

Our first stop on the tour was historic Millbrook. George Washington's sister, Betty Lewis, moved to this property after she was widowed, and could no longer afford the Kenmore mansion. She lived here for two years before her death. Her original house burned down, and this one replaced it in 1836.

The rear garden at Millbrook:

Stevenson Ridge, a B&B, is made up of a number of historic buildings moved to the site for use as guest lodgings and event venues. Riddick House at Stevenson Ridge is a circa 1812 home which was originally part of a North Carolina plantation.

The interior of one of the cozy cottages at Stevenson Ridge:

This home, in the Bloomsbury subdivision, had extensive landscaping, all personally tended by the homeowner, a woman in her 80's:

The front flower bed of another Bloomsbury home: