“Skunking” Away

Jun. 19th 2013
Sunset at Belle Grove by Tamara Riley

Sunset at Belle Grove
by Tamara Riley

Yesterday was another one those days that so much happened that it was hard to write about it all. But there is one more thing I just have to tell you about.

If you follow the blog and Facebook, you know we have allot of wonderful wildlife. We have deer, groundhogs, osprey, rabbits, eagles and raccoon. Recently, I came across a skunk that seems to like to hang out in our lane at the entry of the plantation. When I first saw it at night, I thought it was a cat. But the white strip down the back quickly told me this was not a “cat” I wanted to get close to.

Yesterday, we got a surprise for our skunk. He decided to head over to the bowling green and visit the grassy field behind the caretaker’s house. Being sunset, I thought I could finally get a good shot of him. So I jumped into my car, windows rolled up mind you, and headed to that side of the driveway.


He had moved off into the tall grass and my camera doesn’t have a good long range lens so it was hard for me to get up close. So, I decided to do a little off roading. Of course with all the rain, I was just praying I didn’t get stuck in the mud. Can’t you image me telling the toll truck driver, “Yeah, I got stuck because I wanted a close up picture of a skunk.”  Boy would this small community have a laugh about that one! Thankfully I didn’t get stuck.

What I got was a really funny story!

I got up to the edge of the grass and I could see him walking towards the caretaker’s house. He was down low in the tall grass, so all I could get was this black thing moving through the grass. I kept thinking to myself, “Just look up!”

Then I got an idea…. I will tap on the roof to get his attention. Yes, I had the window rolled down to get a better shot.

So I reached up and tapped on the roof….

Have you ever seen a cat when you startle it?

It jumps up really high in the air.

That is what this skunk did!


He jumped up, turned to face me and had his tail sticking straight up in the air!

It was so funny!


After a few seconds, it continued on its way.

I tapped the roof again.


It jumped, turned and had it tail up again!


It continued walking….

I did this about five times, each time, it would jump up, turn and had its tail sticking straight up in the air!

I only got two good shots of him doing this because after the second time, I was laughing too hard!

I pulled away from the grassy area and the skunk made his way on through the grass. I am sure I will get another chance to see him. My friend who was visiting me later saw TWO skunks near the bowling green. Who knows. Maybe one day we will have baby skunks too! But now I have to think of a name for the two. One thing is for sure, it won’t be Pepe or Flower.

Anyone want to make some suggestions?

Sunset on the River on 6-18-2013

Sunset on the River on 6-18-2013

To see more wildlife here at Belle Grove

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Sunset on the Plantation

May. 30th 2013

This afternoon, someone knew I needed a “pick me up” kind of moment.


Last Sunday, while Brett was pulling up bricks on the riverside of the Mansion, I got started on the old fountain. It has been there since the early 1900s and we aren’t able to save it. So we are pulling the bricks and will be using them in the walkway as a way to “repurpose” them.


The bricks were coming up pretty easily because the cement has dried up and started cracking. As I got the first level of bricks off, I started hammering the cement and wire messing down so we can fill the hole and make it a beautiful space for a bride and groom to say “I do”. After about 20 minutes of breaking this cement up, I remembered we had a chisel we had bought just for this task.

Just a few minutes later, I was starting to really go to town on the fountain. Bricks were coming up and the cement and messing were falling away.

Then it happened….

One good hit and I was screaming. The hammer had missed the chisel and came down on my left, ring finger. I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Brett rushed over and his former Navy Corpsman came out. We pulled off my work glove and my finger was already dripping blood. As soon as I saw it, I ran to the porch. The whole time I was crying and telling Brett how bad it hurt. He got me up and we ran to the kitchen to get it under cold water. As I ran to the kitchen, I started doing the “Oh my this really hurts” dance. But when I put it under the cold water, I started doing the “OMG!  This really hurts” dance.

Poor Brett! I was crying and telling him that it hurt so bad. Then I started feeling light headed and telling him I was going to pass out. (I didn’t) But Brett was trying to see the finger and hold me all at the same time. I just love him. All he could see was the blood running down my finger and my hand. We could see that I had two really good cuts. So he did whatever great Corpsman does in an emergency.

Since we haven’t really moved all our things up yet, we don’t have allot of supplies at the house. So needing a plastic bag for ice, he dumped out a hot dog bun bag and made me an ice bag. That plus two towels and we were off to Patient First in Fredericksburg.

One hour and one x-ray later, we found out that it wasn’t broken and I had two cuts, one across the top and one down the side. Luckily, Brett got my wedding band off before the swelling started. They couldn’t do stitches so I ended up with a bulky wrap for a finger. The good thing was by the time we left, my finger had gone numb. And it stayed numb for three days.

The second day after, I got a call from Patient First. Guess what! I did break it. Right on the tip. There isn’t much you can do but splint it and let it heal. But that night, the feeling started coming back. I spent most of yesterday with my hand up, trying to stop the throbbing.

Today has been a little better. The bulky wrap is off and I am just in a splint. But this afternoon, I hit it on the steering wheel as I was driving back from Stafford. It was just a little painful, even with the splint on there. But someone must have taken pity on me as I pulled into the driveway.

Sunset over the wheat field

Sunset over the wheat field

As I drove down our long drive, I say one of the most beautiful sights. The sun was setting over the wheat fields and it turned them to a beautiful golden color. I stopped the car and jumped out for a picture. I have started carrying my camera everywhere because you never know when it’s going to happen.

I headed on up to the main gate, hoping I might see some of our wildlife. As I rounded our circle, the only thing I saw was a cat laying in the grass by our wooded area.

But then I saw them!


Out from the riverside ran two white tail deer! They had been on the riverside of the Mansion eating. Imgine sitting on the balcony and seeing them come up to eat! It would have been wonderful! I grabbed the camera and got one picture before they disappeared into the woods.

After I got in, I stopped to look back out at the riverside hoping they would come back. Instead I caught two sweet rabbits eating right close to the window. All of a sudden, one started chasing the other. It was so much fun to watch them run and play.

Then I saw it!

Sunset over the River

Sunset over the River

One of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever had. I grabbed the camera and flew out the door. I got down just to the bluff as the sun slipped down behind the trees. The river was so calm and flat. Almost like glass. And the color. Oh the color was glorious to see. It was as if someone had set up this perfect shot for me to take.

As I came back in, I wasn’t worried about my finger any more. It had stopped throbbing. All I could think about was how beautiful this plantation is and how very lucky we are to be here.

How great to see the wonders of this place and to be able to capture it and share it with you.

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Day Off for Meeting

Jan. 9th 2013


On Tuesday, Brett and I had a meeting back at the plantation with several of the key people we need to get through our zoning process. As we drove up to the plantation, I spent the time playing with Twitter and learning some of the functions on my Twitter app. By the time we arrived at the plantation, I think I have figured some of it out.



I am not sure if you notice, but we also got “Pinned”!


The first person to arrive was Doug from Fredericksburg Paving. He is going to be doing the paving we need at the entry from the highway. Then we had two officials from King George arrive, followed the representative from the Virginia Department of Transportation. As we were waiting, we were talking with everyone about the history of the plantation. And just as if it were on cue, over our head flew five eagles.


As we walked down the long driveway, I was talking to the VDOT rep and Doug. I asked them if they knew who all had rode or walked down this plantation drive. It was so much fun watching their faces as I told them about General Ambrose Burnside during the Civil War and the escape route of John Wilkes Booth and the detachment that followed and had stopped at the plantation to rest. I have to say for me, I still get chill bumps knowing the history that has passed through our plantation.

After viewing the drive and entry and reviewing the plan for the parking area, we got our answer as to what we needed to do for each. For the entry from the highway, we are not going to have to move the entry twenty feet to the north…whew! We just need to widen it as far as we can without adding a new covert or moving any utilities. As for the long driveway from the entry to front gate entry, we will be expanding the drive to 18 feet. We are currently at 14 feet. We may have to trim some of the limbs of the Red Cedars that line the drive, but at least we won’t have to cut any of these historic trees down. As for the circle drive around the bowling green, we will need to expand it out to 16 feet. It is also at 14 feet like the long drive. We will use the circle drive as a one way so we won’t need to have places for two cars to pass.

After all the zoning talk, Brett and I walked everyone through the Mansion. Only one of the visitors had ever been in the house. He had come during the restoration, but had not seen it since it was completed. As we walked around, we shared history and our ideas for each room. Giving tours of this grand house is one thing I have to say I just love. To be about to share the history that walked these halls is just…. priceless.

Ferry FarmBoyhood Home of George Washington

Ferry Farm
Boyhood Home of George Washington

After we said our “good-bye” we decided to head to Historic Fredericksburg for a bite to eat. But being that we were here during the week, I talked Brett into stopping at Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home to see our favorite archaeologists, Mara and Jason. WE also got to meet a new friend Melanie. I brought along our new finds to see what we had. Of course, all the small items were all 2oth century, so no excitement there. But I know Mara is really into bottles, so I couldn’t wait to see if our bottle was something special.



First intact artifact!  Bottle with screw top

First intact artifact! Bottle with screw top

After examining it, she thought it could be an extract bottle or medicine bottle dating somewhere around 1925-1928. Ok, so it’s not Civil War or Colonial, but I could take that. Plus it was the first item we had intact. After we arrived home, she had sent me an update on the bottle. Here is her final outcome:

The bottle is indeed an extract bottle, although from what company remains to be seen.  It does not appear to be utilized by Sauers, however. The reason we can never be sure of what company utilized this bottle is that the form is still prevalent today. So, the company that made the bottle was the Brockway Glass Company.  This mark was utilized since 1925 so the bottle dates anywhere after that.  They merged with Owens-Illinois Glass Co. in 1988 and that’s when that mark when out of use.”

So it could be anywhere from 1925 to 1988. Darn! But that’s okay. We are going to find so much more as we start doing landscaping!

Capital Ale HouseFredericksburg

Capital Ale House

We decided to stop at Capital Ale House on Caroline Street in Historic Fredericksburg for a bite. We have been here several times and it didn’t take long to figure out what we wanted.

Bavarian Pretzel with Sweet Bavarian Mustard

Bavarian Pretzel with Sweet Bavarian Mustard

Fried Potato and Cheese Pierogies with Onion and Applewood Bacon Bits topped with Melted Havarti Cheese and Herb Sour Cream

Fried Potato and Cheese Pierogies with Onion and Applewood Bacon Bits topped with Melted Havarti Cheese and Herb Sour Cream

The best part was that we were able to see the manager we had meant the first time we came. Because it was in the middle of the afternoon and everyone else was at work, we were able to talk and catch up on things. When you come to see us, you have to stop in and see Jason and grab some awesome food!

As we headed home, we took a road that cuts through our plantation called Port Conway Road. We made a quick stop in an area called Dogue. Down the road from this area is another old plantation that dates back to the Colonial period called Cleves Plantation.

Cleves Plantation

Cleves Plantation

I had found it one day when I was exploring the area. You can’t really see the plantation house, but you can just image what it must look like. I found out today though that the original Colonial home burned down and that the house we saw was built in the early 1900s. I may have to do some research to find out more for you later.

As we arrived at our plantation and headed over the James Madison Bridge, I was able to catch the sun slipping down behind the trees across the river from our plantation.

Sunset as we cross the James Madison Bridge. Belle Grove is to the right on the opposite bank.

Sunset as we cross the James Madison Bridge.
Belle Grove is to the right on the opposite bank.

The sunset continued as we passed through Caroline County into Essex County.

Sunset across the Virginia  Country side in Essex County

Sunset across the Virginia Country side in Essex County

It was just so beautiful and wonderful end to our day of skipping work.

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Berry Fun Weekend

Oct. 7th 2012

Bowling Green Farm

This weekend Brett and I headed up to Fredericksburg and did some side road traveling to get to know the area a little better. What is so much fun about doing this is you tend to come across places you never knew where there. It’s like little surprises around each corner.

The first surprise came as we traveled over to Bowling Green, Virginia. Bowling Green is a small town just outside Fort A.P. Hill along Route 301. It is the location that the Union detachment found Willie Jett, the Confederate soldier who assisted John Wilkes Booth and David Herald across the Rappahannock River and sent them to Garrett’s Farm. Garrett’s Farm is just a few miles from Bowling Green.

Bowling Green is lined with beautiful old homes and a quaint small town square. As we were driving along, I would point out each of the houses and say, “Look at that one! I think I must have been saying that through most of the trip through town. As we came out of town just by the exit to I-95, we decided to turn around and go back through. That is when I caught sight of a home I missed just minutes before.

Sitting back behind a beautiful entry gate and a long drive and green sat what looked like a colonial home. There was a sign on the gate saying “Estate Sale” with Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s date. I quickly asked Brett to turn around. I told him we had to go. Not to buy anything (unless I found something) but to see the inside of this house.

Bowling Green Farm

As we walked up to the front door, you could see that it was in fact a colonial home. The sidewalk leading to the door was lined with tall boxwoods and the drive was lined with beautiful old trees. On the porch was a board with some of the history of the home. I would later find out it was called “Bowling Green Farm”. One of the owners informed us that the main house had been built in 1740 and the back kitchen section was built in 1791.

Bowling Green Farm

Front Porch Lantern
Bowling Green Farm

The main house was four room downstairs and four rooms upstairs. In the middle was a beautiful old stairway that turned its way up to the second floor. Through the dining room was the door that leads to the kitchen area. You entered a small room that could have been a small dining room. Through a door at the back of the room you walked into a small stair case area, more than likely a servant stairs. On to the back room which would have been the kitchen with its larger fireplace.

Door in the small kitchen area
Bowling Green Farm

Dining Room looking back into the front parlor
Bowling Green Farm

Small Dining Room in Kitchen Section
Bowling Green Farm

Kitchen Fireplace
Bowling Green Farm

If you heading up the servant stairs, you come upon two more rooms. These could have been servant rooms or children’s rooms. They were very plain and no detail, as most of the house. The only rooms that had more details where the front hallway and parlor. We didn’t get a chance to see the back yard, but through a window you could see a small sitting garden. I am sure there was a lot more if we had been about to see it. In the front windows, you could see the view of the front drive. Just beautiful.

Servants Stairs
Bowling Green Farm

Top of Servants Stairs looking into on room
Bowling Green Farm

View of front section of home from servant stair case window
Bowling Green Farm

Sitting garden view from Servant Stair case window
Bowling Green Farm

Front Stair Case
Bowling Green Farm

Front view from upstairs window
Bowling Green Farm

Front walk leading to front drive and green
Bowling Green Farm

From Bowling Green, we headed down Route 2 heading towards Fredericksburg. It had been my hope to see a sign that showed us where Mount Sion Plantation was located. This is the plantation that Captain Francis Conway and his wife Elizabeth moved to once they sold Belle Grove to John Hipkins. It is my hope to find out where it is and who lives there. I would like to see if there is a family cemetery and if so if Captain Conway is buried there. We didn’t find it… yet.

From there, we headed back down Route 17 towards Port Royal, then up Route 301 passing by Belle Grove. They are working on the highway, so traffic was really busy so we decided not to stop at the plantation. We are going to be there next weekend, so I was okay with not seeing it up close. We then turned onto Route 3 (Kings Highway) heading towards the historic site of George Washington’s birthplace and Stratford Hall, home of Robert E. Lee and his family.

Westmoreland Berry Farm

As we made our way down the road, we came up on a sign for Westmoreland Berry Farm. We have passed this sign many times, but today we decided to stop. As we pulled into the farm, we were greeted with fields and fields of fruit trees. I loved the signs at the front of each one of the fields informing the public that these trees were not open for “pick your own”. Immediately Dorothy and the Scarecrow came to mind as they picked apples from someone else’s trees.

Westmoreland Berry Farm

The farm was just beautiful. The main shop sits at the top of a ridge and overlooks a small valley that leads down to the Rappahannock River. It was breath taking. Then we saw the biggest entertainment located just to the side. On top of a pole was a platform and standing on this platform was a small goat. He was eating feed that kids from below where sending up along a rope pulley. The platform was connected to a walkway that crossed over the road way and down into the goat enclosure. There at the fence line were more goats enjoying feed from adults. It was sweet!

Westmoreland Berry Farm

Westmoreland Berry Farm

Westmoreland Berry Farm

We were drawn over to the fence where we too feed the goats and admired their wonderful horns. There was one larger goat who did bully his way into getting most of the feed, but after he would move on to others with handfuls feed, the other goats cleaned up the feed that had dropped from the hands as the larger one fed. My favorite was a smaller goat just relaxing on another platform with no care in the world.

Westmoreland Berry Farm

We turned to head back as a tractor came up the road from the small valley. Behind the tractor were smiling faces of people who had just enjoyed the beautiful views of the valley and crops and the view of the river. From the opposite side came another tractor pulling a small line of cow painted cars with small kids enjoying a short ride along the road of the farm.

Westmoreland Berry Farm

Inside the shop we found some wonderful surprises. Along the wall were homemade preserves, jelly and jams as well as sauces made by Westmoreland Berry Farm from their own crops. There were homemade pies and baked goods made from the berries and fruits from the farm. We even found honey that was made locally!

Westmoreland Berry Farm

We made a point to mean the store manager and farm manager while we were here. We found out that they not only grow local fruits and berries, but they also produce a wide range of local vegetables. Brett and I were so excited to hear this. The farm isn’t but 10 minutes from Belle Grove and will be a wonderful vendor for our fresh fruits and vegetables! The only time we will have to find another vendor will be during their down season of December to March. I can just see the wonderful dishes I will be able to serve to our guest using these local produce! Yum!

Westmoreland Berry Farm

From there we head back down Route 3 admiring the many small Virginia towns. Places that had been there for centuries. Farms and Farm homes lined the highway and gave you a sense of what this area is really like. While Route 17 and I-95 will get you to where you are going fast, Route 3 will show you what life is like in old Virginia. It was nice to slow down on the way home. What we would have missed if we hadn’t done so.

View of the Virginia country side along Route 3

View of the Virginia country side along Route 3

Sunset over the Rappahannock River just outside White Stone, Virginia

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Auction closes on Friday, August 2nd!



Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 30 Comments »