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The Incredible Egg | Recent rationing and buying local

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You probably saw it across social media and the nightly news — avian flu hit the U.S.A. hard this year. While it rarely affected the small backyard flock or small farms, it permanently indented the commercial egg and chicken industry. This Spring, more than 49 million chickens and turkeys died or were euthanized in the U.S. due to Avian Influenza.  Fifteen different states across the Pacific North-West, deep into mid-west commercial farms, we severely affected.  The impact was treacherous, and now it’s beginning to hit the every day consumer.

About a month ago I saw the first article — “eggs being rationed” and “egg prices increasing due to shortage”. It’s happening, it’s for real. It’s not the end of the world and I really don’t expect the apocalypse to happen anytime soon. But if you’re an egg lover, then it’s time to listen up.

It is now cheaper to buy eggs from your local farmer or farmer’s market than it is to buy at the store. Yes, you read that right. While it may not have hit Mayberry towns just yet, it has already started in the larger cities. Eventually, and inevitably, it will trickle down. Here’s your chance to support your local market and buy directly from a trusted backyard chicken enthusiast or farmer. Most local eggs sell for $4-$5 a dozen. Here on our homestead, we sell them for $4/dozen and we do not plan to increase the value just because the commercial industry has increased their rates.

The bigger question, however, is what’s the difference between commercial eggs and pastured or free range eggs? It’s hard to understand, but I’ll explain it to you quickly and easily.

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Failed Garden Gadgets: Some Things Work Great, Most Things Don’t

By Carla Hogue

Gardening is really just a big science fair project, minus the tri-fold cardboard display board. First you generate the hypothesis, and then you plan and perform experiments to test it. Ricky and I are excellent at the hypothesis phase. We regularly crank out strings of gardening hypotheses over coffee, on the way to the bank, in emails to each other. In their fledgling form, they are brilliant and rock solid. In reality, most are dim-witted and shaky.

In the spring issue, we focus on some of the blue ribbon ideas that worked out beautifully. In gardening as in life, though, the goof-ups are usually more entertaining.

Tomatoes, for example…

Tomato, Prisoner In The Cage.After storing conical tomato cages year after year, battling to pry them apart each spring, risking tetanus when the rusty frames burst their welds, we decided to explore some alternatives.

Not wanting residue from treated wood to leech into the soil, we tried stakes made from untreated wood. The rich dirt pushed the tomatoes way past the tops of the stakes, and we found ourselves adding stakes around each plant just to keep up. By mid-summer, we had what looked like Tinker Toys on steroids. Vines were velcroed to the closest pole. If there wasn’t one close by, we simply jammed another into the dirt.

Completely disgusted with the poles, we turned to the Florida weave. I checked out google images, read a few articles, and even pulled into a stranger’s driveway to get a closer look at his perfectly woven tomato plants. It seemed amazingly simple. It was not.68eadfa4ce12ec20b768bdd360ec5780 copy

From a distance, the wall of vines in the back box made you think of Boston’s Green Monster. Up close, it was a train wreck. The twine sagged, the limbs broke. Eventually plants started overlapping, chocking each other out. And the blight! The blight was at its worst that year.

At this point, the rusty cages weren’t looking so bad after all. That’s when we hit on the collapsible, powder-coated tower-style structures, because when you can’t solve a problem, throw money at it. Alas, the towers were smarter than the gardeners. We couldn’t figure out how to secure them with the accompanying clips. We tossed the clips and wedged the frames into the dirt as best we could.

While you will no doubt see examples of each of these failures in the garden this year, we have a fantastic new technique for supporting the tomatoes. You can read about it in the spring issue, on the stands now!

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Photo credits: Tomato cage via bigstock.com, Florida weave via pinterest.

Our spring issue is out-and it’s a good one!

Subscribers should have theirs already, and I am in the process of delivering to newsstands.

pea soup for webThis issue features a section of beautiful Piedmont home profiles, an article with about veterans who return from service and take up farming by Marian Burros, and a photo essay by Doug Graham, photographer from Capitol Hill who found joy in photography again in photographing the local area around his home in Bluemont.

Also featured are the Poetry of Perry Epes about restoring a historical house in Loudoun County by our new writer, Morgan Hensley. Adopting ducklings and homesteading, native flowers, and helpful gardening gadgets by Carla Hogue are also explored. For wildlife, we have an article by Glenda Booth about the Snakehead fish which is spreading through Piedmont rivers, and our food section covers local spring foods, with recipes from Brian Lichorowic and Laurie Beth Gills. Our vineyard this issue is Glen Manor Vineyards by Kit Johnston. And for art, we have delicate handmade lace by the Piedmont Lace Guild.

And two articles from Walter Nicklin, founder of the Piedmont Virginian, round out the issue: “Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?” previously published online, and his regular Letter from Amissville, a reflection on our love for the Piedmont, especially in the springtime!

Oh….and our photo contest is coming up again…details coming soon on www.piedmontvirginian.com

We are now hard at work on the summer issue, which I am very excited about. We will have a large section on Farm to Table in the Piedmont, a photo essay on rivers in the Piedmont (perfect for summer!), some history about Suffragists and a memorial going up in Prince William to honor them, a profile of Larry Keel, Piedmont bluegrass musician, by Eric Wallace, and, of course, all our regular writers featuring poetry, art, the environment, recipes….covering everything that is special in our Piedmont.

You can pick up a copy at one of our local newsstands (see http://www.thepiedmontonline.com/page.cfm/go/pick-up-a-copy) or subscribe online for either our print or digital editions at http://www.thepiedmontonline.com/page.cfm/go/subscribe

Of course, as always, we thank all our advertisers, readers, subscribers, newsstands, writers and everyone else who supports our magazine!

Photo: Purple Podded Heirloom Pea Soup by Laurie Beth Gills

 

Appleton Campbell Earns 2014 Angie’s List Super Service Award

Appleton Campbell earned the service industry’s coveted “Angie’s List Super Service Award in Heating & Air Conditioning” for the fourth consecutive year. This award reflects Appleton Campbell’s exemplary year of service to the local and regional market place and members of Angie’s List.

Mike Appleton and Scott Wayland

Mike Appleton and Scott Wayland

Mike Appleton, president of Appleton Campbell, said, “We are honored to receive this award. Exceptional service is the cornerstone of Appleton Campbell’s business and what the Appleton Campbell team strives for every day.”

Angie Hicks, the founder of Angie’s List, said, “Only about five percent of the heating and air conditioning companies in the Greater Piedmont and Northern Virginia Region perform consistently well enough to earn our Super Service Award.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2014 winners have met strict eligibility requirements that include an “A” rating overall, a recent grade, and a review period grade. The company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, pass a background check, and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

For more information about Appleton Campbell, visit their site

 

Piedmont Real Estate: How to Reduce Home Showing Stress

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How to Reduce Home Showing Stress

This is the second column by Rappahannock County real estate agent Amy Sloane Timbers. Have a question about real estate matters? Write Amy at amy@amytimbers.com.

By Amy Sloane Timbers

Selling a house can be a very stressful process.  Sellers can be under pressure to move due to job transfers, or re-location demands. Buying or selling a house can be one of the most stressful events in life.

One thing a seller can do to reduce the pressure is to ensure the house is in good showing order. The house should be spruced up, cleaned-up, and picked-up so buyers can roll in at a moment’s notice.

It’s not easy to maintain a house in showing order but the following tips may help.

Sprucing up is the most time consuming and money consuming. These are the type of things that can be done in advance that will last: including re-painting rooms, fixing delayed maintenance items, fixing drippy sinks, up-grading outdated appliances, and landscaping.  Projects like this will put the property in the best light. Prospective buyers can be turned off by a home when they see gutters that don’t drain, a 1970’s green stove, peeling paint in the bathroom, or a dead lawn mower in what was once a yard. The buyer might fear this indicates the seller hasn’t taken care of the house, and there could be other, perhaps expensive things in disrepair.

The seller also needs to clean up. This is the de-cluttering or de-personalization part of the job. Closets and cabinets should be cleaned and organized. The garage should be turned back into a garage instead of a storage area. Personal items and personal touches should be reduced.

Personally, I find this hard to do, but when it is done buyers will be able to see the house and not the seller’s personal belongings. This helps buyers to visualize their things in the house. However, it is possible to go too far in the clean up. Sellers don’t want to create an “unlived in” feel.  Their house needs to retain some of their personality, just not too much.

Picking up is the day-to-day cleaning that so few of us really do day-to-day. I think of these things as something anyone would do when expecting guests. The problem is these guests, the buyers, want to see everything.  When having guests over for dinner, I don’t worry about how the laundry room or the master bedroom looks.  When prepping to sell your house every room counts, even the basement. The buyer will want to look everywhere. Bathrooms and kitchens are very important—no rings or dishes. If the seller has children, this can be almost an impossible task.  Toys should be contained and crayon marks cleaned. Buyers should make allowances for children and most do so.  Sellers also need to ensure there is no pet odor or hair.  Pets, like children, make things trickier and each case is special.

Major repairs or updates are items that should be examined individually. Some repairs, such as a leaking roof or basement should be fixed. This type of repair might not make the property sell for more but it will surely sell for less if it isn’t done. Some updating is optional, such as re-doing the guest bath. However, some buyers many not want the guest bath re-done so they can put their own touch on the house.

Deciding whether to put on new wallpaper or re-painting children’s rooms are also debatable updates. You might want to discuss items like this with your agent first. Some of them are purely a matter of style so it can be difficult to decide if it is worth the time and money.

If the seller can spruce up and clean up, then the pick-up will be faster and easier.  This will reduce some of the stress. It is even better if the seller can get into a routine of a quick pick up. That way you can be confident the house looks good when an agent calls and wants to show the house in 15 minutes to an out of town buyer.


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