Ramble On

Friday, February 29, 2008

Page County population growth

A while back I was startled to find out that Front Royal, VA a town in Warren County, just to the north of Page County, and about 35 miles from Stanley, is in the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area.

On finding this out, I grew worried that development is inevitable - there is a rich agricultural heritage in the valley that I would like to believe is sustainable.

There are seven counties that are typically counted as part of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley...using a clock face as the frame of reference, Page would be at about 4:30, Rockingham at 6, independent city (uniquely Virginian reference) Harrisonburg in Rockingham, Shenandoah at 9, Frederick at 10:30, independent city Winchester in Frederick, Clarke at 1, Warren at 2, and Rappahannock at 3, due east of Page.

The boundary of Page and Rappahannock is interesting, as it runs along the top of the ridge line in Shenandoah National Park.

The 2007 populations of the seven counties range from 7,193 in Rappahannock to 74,160 in Rockingham. Fastest growth during the 2000 to 2007 timeframe was Frederick County, which grew 23.2% from 59,209 to 72,949. Frederick is developing fast as an outlying bedroom community on commuting corridors to cities in Maryland and the DC area.

Most of the counties have seen significantly slower growth in the 2006-2007 timeframe, indicating that growth has slowed after a boom in the early part of the decade. That is, with the exception of Page and Rappahannock counties, which each grew slightly faster from 2006-2007 than their average annual growth rates for the 2000-2006 timeframe.

The two cities in this area, Winchester, 2007 population of 25,896, and Harrisonburg, 2007 population 44,707, continued a track record of growth. Both have unique attractions and are located on the busy I-81 corridor, a solid commercial region in the state.

This data is from last week's Page County News and Courier - credited to Weldon Cooper Center at UVA.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RWX @ Page County

Our subscription to the Page County News and Courier has begun arriving. The paper is a regional weekly covering county news, published on Thursdays. We receive it, conveniently enough, on Fridays, which should give us enough overlap to know what's on out at the cabin when we head out there for the weekend.

Last week's edition had an article on January temps and the weather in general in Page County, file by Carl J. Quintrell III, Special Correspondent. Highlights:

January 2008 average afternoon high temp: 45.5 degrees
65 year average afternoon high: 43.5 degrees
Highest January 2008 temp: 69 degrees
January 2008 average low temp: 26.4 degrees
65 year average low temp: 24.5 degrees
Lowest January 2008 temp: 6 degrees

Two snowfalls during January:
.25 inch on January 15
4.5 inches on January 17.

Total rainfall was 1.12 inches, 1.44 inches less than the 65 year average of 2.53 inches. This continues the 2007 trend of less rainfall than average. The January 17 snow is included in this count, translating 4.5 inches of snow to the equivalent rainfall of .47 inches.

Peak wind gust was 52 mph on January 22.

There were 25 clear to partly cloudy days in Page County during January 2008.

All in all very pleasant weather, but the lack of rainfall does give one cause to worry in an agricultural area such as Page County.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Massanutten Google Earth Image

Quick follow-up to the earlier post - here is a Google Earth image of the resort, with the ski slopes visible in the southern part of the image.

Mass-o'-nuthin' indeed

I told an old friend about the Massanutten "Four Seasons Resort" a while back - a friend who is a great skier and goes to the slopes in Utah and Colorado. He dubbed Massanutten mass-o'-nuthin' while we talked about it.

On Sunday we took another ride down to the little resort on the Massanutten ridge. While it is too warm in this part of Virginia to have reliable snow, they do make snow on those hills. I have some photos here to show the activities - one of the lift line and one of the "apres ski" area on the slopes.

It's not Europe, or the west, or Vermont, but it looks like fun and I'm looking forward to getting out for some winter sports there. Also, they have a snow-tube run, a groomed slope that has its own specialized lift, so even if skiing on the mild slopes at this resort is too risky, there is something to do.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for a report from my sister, who took the family to Wisp in western Maryland. The location there has more reliable winter weather, and it is near the Deep Creek Lake resort area. Hope they had fun.

Monday, February 18, 2008

If a trees falls in the forest...

We drove out to the cabin on Friday evening, leaving after rush hour and arriving after dark, some time around 9:30 pm. Typical for an after dark arrival, we rushed to unload the car and get inside to go through our "opening" procedures of turning up thermostats, turning on the water, etc.

The next morning, enjoying a cup of coffee outside on the brick terrace, I noticed that sometime in the last two weeks we lost a pine tree. This first photo is the perspective that caught my eye. The tree is one of several in the yard that are scrubby and have clusters of small cones on them. It had grown up next to an old stump and an oak, which looks to be about 15 years old. I think the mix of root systems likely weakened the tree.

This tree was about 80 feet tall, and up to two feet in diameter at the base. It fell parallel to the house, missing all the structures and taking down some branches from the neighboring pines with it. Kenny, our friend at Southern States, told us that there was a storm with strong winds last Sunday, the 10th of February, so that is likely when the tree came down. Here are a few more shots of it.

The question before us is what to do with the sudden bounty of nature-provided firewood and gardening materials. Should we take on the project of clearing the tree ourselves, or hire someone to do it. Some preliminary research indicates that we can rent a chain saw for $65/day at the Farm Co-op...we can get a mulcher for the same price...and this tree trunk would make a substantial quantity of firewood for next fall and winter, during the camping and hunting seasons. More to come on this.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Glimpse of the simple life - part 2

Continuing with the summary of the Best Places to Live in Rural America, from the February 2008 edition of The Progressive Farmer...

Wexford County, MI
  • 80 acres woods, prime recreational, $199,000 or $2,499/acre
  • 168 acres prime hunting land, $285,000 or $1,696/acre
  • 294 acres with mature timber surrounded by wetlands, $564,000 or $1,918

Fayette County, TX

  • 266 rolling acres with lake, pond, and wildlife, $1,200,000 or $4,511/acre
  • 160 acre ranch with home, hills, and ponds, $600,000 or $3,750/acre
  • 160 acres partially wooded with two barns and pond, $410,188 or $2,564 acre

Coffee County, AL

  • 50 acres with home, pond and buildings, $225,000 or $4,500/acre
  • 216 acres with ponds and pastures, $2,000,000 or $9,259/acre
  • 155 acres pasture and forage, $527,000 or $3,400/acre

Gilchrist County, FL

  • 480 acres of pastures and trees, with home, $8,640,000 or $18,000/acre
  • 400 acres with pastures, ponds, and buildings, $7,200,000 or $18,000/acre
  • 80 acres of pastures and trees, $800,000 or $10K/acre

La Plata County, CO

  • 70 acres with home and barn, $2,350,000 or $33,571/acre
  • 80 acres, mountain views, $275,000 or $3,437/acre
  • 305 acres, $510,000 or $1,672/acre

More of this, including the stats for all of the top 100 rural places to live, are at www.progressivefarmer.com/bestplaces

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Glimpse of the simple life

Somehow we find ourselves subscribing to the publication “The Progressive Farmer” – I suspect it’s because of our account at one of the co-ops in Page County. I am going to look forward to receiving it in any case…articles in the February 2008 edition include: Beating Back Wicked Pasture Weeds, Hanging a Gate Perfectly – the First Time, Parasite Control Starts at Calving, and Holding on to Farm Life. I’ll sum it up by saying the magazine offers a pretty fascinating glimpse of a lifestyle that is very different from what I am accustomed to.

This month there is a feature called “Best Places to Live in Rural America” and ten locations are covered in detail. Among other information about these top ten locations, there is a summary of real estate information – recent sales – on three selected farm properties for each. In this post, I’ll list the first five, and in a future post the remaining five.

Kent County, MD:
· 462 acres, mostly tillable with a new irrigation system, $5.95 million or $12,879/acre
· 34 waterfront acres with limited river access, $995K or $29,265/acre
· 77 acres of rolling land, 50 tillable acres, $640K or $8,312/acre

Ellis County, KS:
· 157 acres, all grass with water well, $234,900 or $1,496/acre
· 80 acres all tillable, $192,000 or $2,400/acre
· 160 acres with 42 acres grass, $256,000 or $1,600/acre

Livingston County, MO
· 300 acres with CRP, timber, hunting, $600,000 or $2,000/acre
· 538 acres with timber and cattle ranch, $888,525 or $1,651/acre
· 45 acres, excellent hunting, $78,500 or $1,744/acre

Obion County, TN
· 200 acres with 40 acres cropland and remainder in marketable timber, $250K or $1,250/acre
· 700 acres prime bottomland for crops, $1,890,000 or $2,700/acre
· 157 acres farmland, $471,900 or $3,006/acre
· 63 acres flat farmland with frontage, $270,000 or $4,286/acre

Columbia County, PA
· 203 rolling acres with views, $1,300,000 or $6,404 acre
· 94 acres with 90% tillable, $700K or $7,447/acre
· 91 acres with frontage and wildlife, $410,000 or $4,505 acre

If we have any readers from these locales, sorry in advance if we’re giving away your secrets. To the rest of you, they aren’t making any more of this stuff! What are you waiting for?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

February already?

Well, looking back over the posts so far this year has me thinking. We are busying our thoughts with the construction projects ahead, there are a number of them to prioritize and line up...the pool, the brick patio and stone wall that needs repointing, new insulation in the addition. Which ones will we get to, which ones will have to wait another year?

We've had Jesse out for a look under the house - you can't make that adventure during the summer, but in the cold of February it is pretty safe, at least from reptiles. We're waiting for his report, which will tell us the state of the post and beam system under the addition. It is likely that there will be some new tasks out of this. For one thing, we know that the under-house insulation is installed paper side down, and will have to be replaced.

We have been talking to a number of friends about the cabin and the potential for visits and hiking. In the midst of the cold weather (unfortunately, no snow here in Alexandria yet) it is great to be thinking this way already. I've got a number of hikes in mind this year, and need to put some thinking in on a great destination hike, like the Old Rag hike last November and the Half Dome in 2005. Starting easy this year, though, with some of the kindler, gentler trailheads off of Skyline Drive.

After catching a little bit of the Pebble Beach golf tourney on TV today, I reread the Robinson Jeffers poem from the January 2 post. Decided to google "Pico Blanco" - apparently it is owned by the Boy Scouts. Also, it led me to browse the Ventana Wilderness, here is a related site....http://www.ventanawild.org/ ...been a while since I have been in that part of California. I need to talk to Mary about a vacation out that way soon, taking in Monterrey and Carmel, along with Big Sur.

A couple of photos to break the winter monotony....here is a photo of the Carmel beach, fond memories of that place from my DLI days at Monterey, and the Bixby Bridge, down in Big Sur - just before the Ventana Wilderness, in fact.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Used Bookstore - Front Royal

Back in October, we took a drive up to Front Royal on a tip that there was an auctioneer who specialized in midcentury modern furniture. While we found the warehouse for this auction, our trip turned out to be a wild goose chase...no furniture and no preparation for an auction turned up.

We did find something else during that trip, a fine used book store in the same complex. We browsed a while on that previous trip, and I made note of the range of WW2 books that they had on hand.

One of our activities during the last trip was a Sunday drive up there - url is http://www.pagemaster-books.com/ - Mary and I both made some purchases.

Among mine are Behind the Steel Wall, A Swedish Journalist in Berlin, 1941-1943, by Arvid Fredborg, and The GDR: Moscow's German Ally, by David Childs. I also picked up a couple of WW2 history books, and a short autobiography by Heinrich Boll (proper spelling would include an umlaut), a Nobel prize winning German author who wrote extensive about the post-war period.

Our next trip to the bookstore is likely to be late spring, when we'll be looking for summer reading. With five purchases here, I think I have all I need to get through the winter!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Been a while...

After nearly a month, we were finally able to make a trip out to the cabin last weekend, February 2 and 3. I started a new job and had to wrap up a Linden Street project - these were the reasons we were unable to visit for nearly a month.

We went out on Saturday - after seeing Greg, my roommate from Berlin, off to the airport. From what I remember, we had an excellent reunion visit with some of our other colleagues from those days: Doug, Jamey and Stan. Cheers to you, buds.

During our absence, we'd had a fellow out to finish leaf raking and do some other yard work. There was a large felled tree out in the back that had left lots of debris on the roof of the garage, and for some reason it had been a good idea, according to the previous owners, to store 17 old tires under the pool area. These were all removed, while the leaves were raked into the woods down at the bottom of the hill in front of the house.

Two photos here, above, from the leaves looking back up at the house. I don't think I have posted this view before - shows the brick wall supporting the pool foundation and the deck area. Second one here is the vast pile of leaves that covers the floor of the woods around the little stream.

Next trip will be the 16-17th of February. We're looking into a winter hike that weekend.