Farming in the Virginia Mountains

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Farming above 3000 feet can’t be easy. Living in an environment with rocky soils, harsh weather and relative remoteness in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, hearth folk have thrived for hundreds of years. I love driving along ridge lines and through winding valleys, capturing what I see with my cameras. These images were made last month and reflect the unique beauty of it all.

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In the Woods

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I’ve written before and I’ll do it again, living where we do in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in SW Virginia, often provides a look back into time, at how people once lived. I was recently exploring on a road trip near our home and I found for the first time a small, log-crib building. Looking up close I wondered about the ladder on the front. Perhaps it allowed for access at the top of the crib.

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As I wandered around some more, I saw a small pond across the nearby winding road, and went to investigate. I’m sure many fish have been caught here, and I could hear in my mind the joyful sounds made by people jumping into and swimming it its cool waters during hot summer months long ago.

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My discovery brought me great happiness that day. I hope my photos have the same effect on you.

Appalachian Mountain Log Structures

As I travel short distances in the Blue Ridge Mountains I am impressed by the amount of labor early settlers had to exert to make homes, farm buildings and fencing to keep valued livestock contained. Hand labor using axes and saws after felling tree after tree resulted in fairly complex designs, all seeming to make the best use of what they had. Here are some examples I saw recently along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

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Some Views of Americana

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Starting with this old “stone” church in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there remain today an almost endless number of historical structures and objects, which are often referred to by photographers as views of “Americana.” Perhaps the modern roof on the church makes it less “historical” but the amount of loving labor it once took to haul and place thousands of mountain rocks together to make the walls and framed windows is impressive.

Looking at some more from our past, it seems as if old wooden barrels will never be replaced with metal or plastic. Thankfully, since I love the rustic nature of the wooden containers, holding fresh tomatoes or flowers.

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And then there are many old wagon wheels just waiting for my camera.

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And lastly, many “general stores” still operating today sell all sorts of fresh and homemade mountain goodies, with tables waiting to be used by visitors, especially during harvest time.

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Cattle in the Blue Ridge

Driving back home from Blacksburg, VA after a visit with our grandson Michael, I decided to drive a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, to see how Spring was “springing up” above 3000 feet elevation. New leaves on trees were much less than I expected, but the grass was very green with all the recent rain we’ve been having in this part of Virginia. My focus was “cattle.” I did not have to look too hard, although the ones I saw were a bit far away. You’ll have to look closely to see the black shapes in the distance. That was OK because I wanted to show the surrounding landscape too. Enjoy what I saw.

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Surprise in the Woods

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There were times when I was hiking miles and miles of Blue Ridge Mountain trails when, after carefully watching my step along rocky outcrops, with tree roots waiting to grab my foot to put me down, when I’d look up and say to myself, “Wow, that’s a surprise!” Today, I no long hike those trails as age and health issues have made me mostly use my car more than my feet to get me places, but I still find surprises along my way. The above photo is one such find. Had leaves been on the trees, I’d probably not have seen this old cabin in the woods as I drove slowly past, on a very steep and winding downhill narrow road in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But I did see it. Problem was, I was moving about 15 MPH on a road where stopping was not a very safe option, given the possibility of following traffic. However, I tend to drive “out the back window” as I learned while driving the fast Autobahns in Germany, always shifting my view from front to back in the mirror to see if any cars were closing in. Thus, I was confident there was nothing behind me, so I stopped, backed up, opened the driver’s side window and made this photo. As soon as I did, I noted another car winding a curve behind me headed my way. I had ample time to start moving along safely and smiled at what I’d done. Sometimes, I guess you have to take a risk to find a surprise. If you never look, you’ll never find.

Relic from the Past

There’s a special (for me) location along rural Route 8 in SW Virginia that I often drive by on my way into the mountains, that always makes me want to stop. The problem usually is that the farm house across the highway is apparently home today to a truck driver, because he usually parks his rig in front of the main object of my photo interest: I.M Akers General Merchandise Store. A relic from the Blue Ridge past. From the covered area in front of the store where hand cranked gasoline pumps perhaps stood, to the public drinking fountain by the main entrance, and lastly to the old homestead “out back” where I assume Mr. Akers and family once lived, working daily to manage and run the store; the only such place around for miles as far as I could tell, it’s all about history, and I like that a lot. Here’s a collection of photos I made recently when the semi-truck was NOT parked out front, thus affording me a great photo opportunity. Thank you Truck Driver whomever you are!

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Blue Ridge Farming Landscapes

On a clear day, such as this one, I like to go find farming landscape photo compositions in my favorite location, the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Virginia and North Carolina. I am so happy with my Panasonic GX7 camera, but if all goes according to my pre-order plan, I hope to get my new Fuji Film X100T camera later this month; the latest model of a camera I have lusted for over several years. Yes, I know, “lusting” is a sin; but hey, it’s only a camera we’re taking about. Now to the photos. Enjoy.

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