Celebrate Pollinator Week-Plant a Flower: Host a Butterfly or Bee

Monarda, or Bee Balm, and the Mountain Mint that’s pictured in the background, will attract pollinators to your garden.

You’re probably aware that this week, June 22-June 28, has been designated as National Pollinator Week. Pollinator Partnership is celebrating this week by lighting buildings across the country with orange and yellow lights to call attention to the tiny insects and hummingbirds that are so necessary for food production.

That’s wonderful, but what’s even more wonderful is that many people are planting pollinator gardens and hanging hummingbird feeders in hopes of attracting more bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. This year, there seems to be an increased interest in backyard gardening, and I think that because of the pandemic many people are more aware than ever of the need for food security-and for the pollinators that make it possible.

It’s not hard to establish a pollinator garden, and it doesn’t require much space. I live in a condo, so I’m limited to a container garden on my patio and a couple of small flowerbeds. Still, I try to do my best, and frequently I’m rewarded with the buzz of bees, the raipd flutter of a passing hummingbird, or the sight of a butterfly flitting gracefully across my flowerbed. So, I’ve prepared a few tips for attracting these polinators as well as some links to websites where you can get some expert advice.

Bees

The first thing to remember about bees is that they are your friend, and it’s a good thing to have them around because they’re there to pollinate your flowers and vegetables. If you see them, don’t swat, because while they normally don’t sting, they might become a little defensive if you appear aggressive. And for heaven’s sake, get rid of those poisons. You’re not only killing the bees, which are necessary for food, but you’re poisoning the whole food chain right up to domestic animals and humans.

Instead, try to provide a safe habitat for them, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service provides a wealth of information for urban and suburban gardeners. Many flowering plants will attract them, but natives are best because the highly cultivated hybrids often have little of the nectar or pollen that attracts bees. Daisiess, sunflowers, salvias, and coreopsis are among the many plants that bees seem to adore.

Earlier this spring, I had swarms of bumblebees on my patio while my columbine was blooming, and while the columbine is out of bloom now many have taken up residence on the malva. I’m partiularly partial to bumblebees because I love the humming, buzzzing sound and because they almost never sting.

Butterflies

Dianthus can look a little scraggly when it’s in-between blooms, but it’s actually very hardy and is a repeat bloomer that will last all season.

Monarda, dianthus, larkspur, Joe Pye Weed, and scaboisa are among the many plants that will attract butterflies. I’ve also found that sages, or salvias work wonders in attracting butterflies as well as bees, and they’re repeat bloomers that are available in a variety of colors and produces blooms all season.

Mints, including our own native mountain mint, or Pycnanthemum Virginianum, also attract butterflies. I see a lot of horsemint at False Cape State Park, and I also see more butterflies there than anyplace else that I go. August, when many of the wildflowers are blooming, is a particularly good month for butterfly watching.

To keep our native Swallowtails and Monarchs coming back, plant host plants to provide a place for the mother to lay her eggs. Swallotails lay their eggs on parsley and dill, so if you see a caterpillar munching these herbs, don’t pull it off. Yeah, he’ll probably devour your herbs, but your reward will be a newly hatched butterfly.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, and while tropical milkweed, which grows here as an annual, is a little controversial, many milkweeds are native to Virginia and absolutely butterfly-safe.

There are many resources, including The Virginia Butterfly Society, that provide information on how to attract butterflies to your garden.

Hummingbirds

I’ve saved my favorite for last. Who doesn’t get excited at the sight of a hummingbird flitting aroound a feeder or flower? They move so quickly that all too often they’ve disappeared before you can really get a good sighting, and I’ve never been able to get a picture of one. Still, I’m happy to report that my resident male and female-I supsect the same ones from last summer-have once again hatched babies on my neighbor’s patio!

Hummingbirds are generally attracted to bright reds and pinks, so dianthus, columbine, zinnias, and many other bright flowers attract them. They also like tubular flowers, and the cigar plant, or firecracker plant, seems to draw them like a magnet.

If you want to learn more about native plants to attract pollinators, check out the Virginia Beach Master Gardener pollinator garden at Virginia Beach Farmers Market, located at 3640 Dam Neck Road. Norfolk Botanical Gardens also has a butterfly house, and although it’s not open right now because of the pandemic, you can visit it virtually and learn more about native butterflies. If you live outside Hampton Roads, check out your local Master Garden website and extension agency for more information.

Butterfly

On FKD, Love, and Hope

Butterfly staked out her territory in her first day in her new home.

I was so devastated and even a little angry to learn that my recently adopted kitty, who had quickly become my love, had a rapidly progressing kidney disease and was possibly entering kidney failure. It just wasn’t fair for her or for me. My 20-year-old cat, Frosty, died of kidney failure in early February, and I’d been lonely ever since and wanted another cat badly.

I began searching at the Virginia Beach SPCA, but the selection process took a long time. I wanted a mature cat because they’re generally harder to place than little kittens, and when I found a sweet little 7-year-old Persian mix with a spunky, affectionate personality, I fell in love with her. I knew that she was in the beginning stages of kidney disease, but I also knew that with treatment cats often lived for years with that condition, and I was so infatuated with her that I was willing to take the challenge.

I was so proud when I brought her home in mid-May, and she seemed to understand right away that she was in her new and forever home. Her SPCA name was “Skye,” but the staff told me that she hadn’t learned to respond to it, so I decided to change it to “Madama Butterfly”, or Butterfly for short, because, like a butterfly, this petite little kitty flits airily from place to place.

Butterfly seemed very comfortable in her new home, staked out her territory, and was at once both confident and extremely affectionate. I became concerned that she was eating very little, though, and when I took her in to the SPCA for a re-check on a urinary tract infection, the vet decided to do additional bloodwork. That revealed the bad news about the disease’s progression.

The vet was very sympathetic and even said that she’d talk to the SPCA shelter staff about refunding my adoption fee, but then she added that I could have Butterfly euthanized and choose another cat. No, I was not going to do that, not when she’d just found her forever home. Despite her problems, she’s energetic and playful, and she loves life too much to leave it now.

She’s also the sweetest little kitty I’ve ever known in a lifetime of dealing with cats, and once my anger and initial shock subsided, I realized that maybe she was sent to me for a reason. Perhaps I can help her through this, and she’s already helped me to re-focus after dealing with the loss of Frosty.

So, I’m working with my own vet, and Butterfly is on Mirtazapine to stimulate her appetite. We’re also puttinig her on vitamins, and I’m giving her fluids, which is a process that I hate. I am such a clutz. I have no medical training at all, and I’m such a mechanical imbecile that even putting together the drip line and attachments provokes anxiety. I also have a lot of angst about how much to give her The vet prescribed 40-60 ML daily, but she’s such a tiny littly kitty-only five pounds- and seems well-hydrated even 24 hours after receiving them. I’m nervous about over-hydrating her.

Trying to tempt her to eat is another challenge. She always appears hungry and runs on cue when she hears cans open, but often she will sniff the food, perhaps taste it, and then walk away. I tried baby food, and she developed such a fondness for this that, for a fewdays she’d lap down four or five small jars a day. Perhaps her appetite was stimulated by the Mirtazapine because she would even take a little of the kidney disease catfood mixed with it if I spoon fed her.

Over the next few days, she began eating more regular canned food on her own, although she still turned up her cute little button nose at the prescribed diet unless it was well-disguised. I was pretty gleeful, but then it began to unravel. For the past couple of days, she’s back to sniffing, tasting, and walking away I’ve tried several different types of food, and this afternoon I did finally get her to take a reasonable amount of Fancy Feast Chicken Feast from the spoon.

Still, she’s full of energy and always wants attention. My vet said that it’s impossible to tell how long she’ll live-perhaps only two months, and perhaps a year. Of course, I hope for a miracle, and I would appreciate any advice that anyone has. I’d also like to hear your story if you’ve been through this. For some reason, feline chorinic kidney disease seems to be almost like a pandemic right now, but perhaps research will reveal better treatment methods. In the meantime, we can work together to assure that our cats get the love and support that they deserve.

Three Things to Do in Virginia Beach Before You Hit the Beach

It’s the middle of June, and when I went out for my daily walk today I work a jacket underneath my rain poncho. Yeah, it’s cool for the time of the year, but after last year’s unseasonably hot spring, this year has been refreshing. It gives you an extended opportunity to explore some more offbeat places in Virginia Beach before it’s really time to hit the beach for swimming and tanning. So, I’ve prepared a very brief bucket list of three things to do in early summer.

Visit a local farm stand and pick some berries

Strawberries only bear fruit within a certain temperature range, and this year, the local berries have thrived in Virginia Beach because of the mild early spring and the cool May. Some are still available, although you may have to hunt for them.

Early blueberries are also ripe for the picking at the Berry Patch at Cullipher Farm Market, located at 772 Princess Anne Road. They grow highbush berries on that farm, an earlier variety that I find to be just as sweet and juicy as their more Southern cousin, the Rabbiteye. Later this summer, Rabbiteyes will be ripening at Pungo Blueberries, and while that farm won’t be open for pick-your-own this year, the berries will be available for sale at local farm stands.

This year, Virginia Beach residents have flocked to local farm stands, possibly because the pandemic has increased the interest in locally grown food and local food markets. That’s prompted some stands to stock a variety of items, including the locally grown meats, locally produced cheese spreads and sauces, and even Virginia tofu from Twin Oaks Community. I prefer this tofu, which has a nutty flavor and firm texture, to the grocery store varieties, but up until now it’s been hard to find in Virginia Beach. Now, Cromwell’s Produce stocks it as well as cheese dips produced by The Creative Wedge, a Virginia Beach-based market.

Visit Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park

It was all cool sea breezes and sparkling waters on the southern beaches on one recent sunny early summer day. Located in extreme southern Virginia Beach and the North Carolina state line, Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park are truly hidden gems. To access the beach or interior hiking trails, park at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, located at 4005 Sandpiper Road, and you’re free to hike or bicycle the four miles to the state park-or beyond-all of the way to North Carolina if you want. On this day, I walked down the interior trail and saw some lovely water lillies blooming. Then, I crossed the high dunes to the beach, and as the ocean came into view I felt that False Cape high-the one that you feel when the cool wind hits your face and you smell that special False Cape smell of salty ocean water combined with the wax myrtle growing along the dunes. The tide was very low, and the sand was very firm, and the easy walking increased my feeling of euphoria.

Visit the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center

Many, even life-long Virginia Beach residents, might not be aware of the Master Gardener gardens at this center, where visitors are free to stroll through the beautful gardens. It’s a wonderful place to get ideas for your own landscaping, and no matter where you live in Virginia Beach, there’s a demonstration garden that mimics your terrain, whether you have a beach house with dry, sandy soil, or a wetter, shady yard. You will also get some ideas about plants that will attract pollinators as well as about smaller ornamental trees that do well in small yards or underneath power lines. Plan to spend some time there, and make sure that you take your camera and a notepad with you!

So get out and take advantage of the weather and the diverse list of activities that we have available here in Virginia Beach. If the heat sets in before you get to do all of these, remember that the fall is also a perfect time to go for a hike on the beach, tour some gardens, or visit a farm!

All creatures great and small-The good, the curious, and the greedy

I love this little spring rabbit, but I really, really wish that he’d find someplace else to enjoy his afternoon snacks.

This has been a rather strange spring that’s brought the usual flying, hopping, or crawling creatures, and it’s also brought a few new experiences with them. First, the good news. I’ve seen plenty of bees, and, in fact, there were swarms of bumblebees on my patio earlier this spring when the columbine was in full bloom. Just a note on bumblebees-they don’t normally sting and will ignore you if you ignore them, so there’s no reason to spray or to harass them. If their buzzing bothers you while you’re trying to work outside, just move on. You can come back later after they’ve finished their work, which is pollinating your flowers.

The good, the curious, and the greedy

More good news-my compost bin is loaded to the brim with wiggling earthworms. It’s been a good year for them, possibly because of the mild winter. They’re hungry little creatures, and they love feasting on a diet of coffee grounds, herbal tea bags, and the usual spring fare of strawberry caps, asparagus tips, kale stems, and the shells from May Peas. Some of them have already been put to work enriching the garden soil, but many remain in the compost bin while I wait to put out more warm weather annuals.

The strange news is that, while I haven’t seen too many butterflies and only an occasional glimpse of a hummingbird, I have encountered an extremely curious skink, a very hungry, bold baby rabbit, and a couple of birds that thought that it was okay to fly down chimneys.

I have a family of skinks who take up residence in my flower beds and on my patio every summer, and, because they eat insects, they’re very welcome here. This year they arrived early-in March-and by now they’re pretty used to seeing me. Still, I was surprised to see a skink placidly sunbathing in the flower bed just a couple of feet from where I was working on one recent day. It was one of our rare warm, sunny days, and perhaps the warm sun made him sleepy, but he just gazed at me as if he was mildly curious but totally unconcerned.

I’ve also had another little visitor who doesn’t seem to pay much attention to me either, and,while he’s cute, he isn’t passive or isn’t particularly well-behaved. In fact, he’s very greedy and has devoured many of my flowers. A very bold young rabbit loves feasting on flowers, particularly the snapdragons, young dianthus, heuchera, pansies, and even the tender young leaves on my Melva. Oh, yeah, I forget to mention the emerging Obedient Plants, which have been chewed down to the ground. Today, I watched as he stood almost upright, reached up, pulled the head down on my last remaining snapdragon, and bit it off. He’s out there hopping through the beds and munching on leaves and stems every time I go out, and he just seems to shrug when he sees me.

I was also a little surprised to awaken on a couple of recent mornings to the sounds of birds chirping inside my house. While I know that birds flying down the chimney are said to be an omen of bad luck, I just took them to be a symptom of a missing chimney cap and called a repair person. I was relieved to learn that there was no nests or birds in there, so I guess that these two were explorers who just got a little too curious. A chimney cap is now in tact and the birds are safely outside.

And the very cute and awesome=

I haven’t seen too many butterflies so far this year, but perhaps this little butterfly, who looks something like a Monarch, will bring some luck.

Finally-and like a new mom I have to brag a little here-I now have my very own little butterfly inside the house. I adopted a seven-year-old female cat from the Virginia Beach SPCA. She’s a long-haired flame cat whom I’ve decided to call Madama Butterfly, or “Butterfly” for short. She’s settled in nicely and has pretty much claimed the couch as her territory, but she’s very quiet, sweet, and affectionate.

If you’re searching for a pet, I highly recommend that you check out the ones who are available at the Virginia Beach SPCA. Their volunteers are very patient and supportive, and for a reasonable adoption fee (discounted because she’s considered a senior cat) I left with a spayed, vaccinated, microchipped kitty, as well as her medical records, and probably a month’s supply of prescription cat food.

So that’s the buzz on bees, birds, and my own special little butterfly. I’m scattering hot peppers around the flowers in the hopes of repelling the bunny, but the rain keeps washing them away and, anyway, when one spot is peppered the bunny just moves on to another. While I wish that he’d find another place to dine, I also hope to attract some swallowtail caterpillars on my parsley and more hummingbirds to my feeders. Meanwhile, indoors Madama Butterfly has assumed the role of benevolent dictator. Outdoors there are skinks, earthworms, birds, and a few remaining bumblebees-all small creatures who play a very great role in the ecosystem.

Musings from a locavore: food banks, hummingbirds, and other signs of the season

Modern Farmer cites a study that shows that less than one-third of the world’s population could feed itself on crops grown within a 62-mile radius. The recent pandemic has brought disruptions to the complex food supply chain, and, since most of the food that appears on grocery store shelves is shipped from long distances, this has turned attention to the question of food insecurity.

Food insecurity has, of course, always been linked to affordability on the individual level, and it’s no secret that the pandemic has created massive partial or full unemployment. Locally, food banks have an increased demand and a decreased number of donations because many depend on food drives at area schools to keep them stocked.

So, food security has become a goal of the Virginia Master Gardeners’ demonstration gardens. The Virginia Beach Master Gardeners maintain a kitchen garden at Virginia Beach Farmers Market, and on one recent day this week a group of us harvested spring vegetables to donate to the Courthouse Community United Methodist Church, which is currently distributing food to those in need by drive-through each Wednesday from 10 a.m to noon or from 5:30 p.m.to 6 p.m.

We met at 7:30 a.m. to get the fresh food to the church in time for the food bank volunteers to sort and package it before the 10 a.m. distribution. By 8:30 a.m., we’d harvested, weighed, and washed several pounds of mustard greens, lettuce, spinach, Swiss Chard, and collards. We’ve been told that the food bank is in particular need of fresh fruits and vegetables, and, as master gardeners, we’re always interested in educating the public about the joys of locally grown produce.

And so the season continues…

Pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, are essential to food security, and I’ve been blessed with swarms of bumblebees this spring. I’ve seen an occasional butterfly, but I hadn’t seen a hummingbird until this week, when I was startled to see one on my patio buzzing around my citronella. Those perverse little creatures go where they want and do what they want to do. All of this time I’ve been putting out bright pink and red flowers to attract them, and it was the pale lavender citronella blooms that grabbed this little bird’s attention!

So, the season progresses. I have a family of lizards that takes up residence on my patio each summer, and I saw my first one for this year on a recent warm day. Local farm stands are in full swing now and the availability of local crops is increasing. Cindy of Cindy’s Produce just posted that, in addition to vegetables, there are a variety of bedding plants available, so check them out this weekend!

Despite Covid-19, It’s Still Strawberry Time in Princess Anne

As I write this, it’s a raw, rainy day outside, but then it is the season for Northeast wind and rain. We all know what these April showers bring-they bring fresh strawberries and spring veggies, of course! This year’s pandemic hasn’t stopped spring, with all of its trappings, from coming to Southern Princess Anne. The farmers are cutting asparagus and kale, and strawberries are starting to come in, but the pick-your-own market is a little different this year because of Covid-19 concerns.

The taste of spring-strawberries and asparagus

While social distancing restrictions are in place, some local farms are opening for pick-your-own strawberries this season. Grower Bruce Henley, or Flip Flop Farmer, has been selling already picked Sweet Charlies, an early variety of berries, at his Culver Lane market since mid-March. I have to confess that I’ve already sampled these-several times-and they are sweet and delectable and make a wonderful pie.

Other fields are beginning to open for you-pick or already picked berries, but at least one, Cullipher Farm, is closed for pick-your-own. You can still buy from them, but you must order in advance, and the market is only open for pick ups.

Social distancing regulations that require pickers to stay at least six feet apart. apply at all farms, and some restrictions may vary from farm to farm. It’s also important to remember that it’s early in the season and picking conditions can vary depending on the weather, so it’s best to check the Facebook pages or call before you go. While you’re there, don’t forget to pick up some fresh asparagus and sweet, curly-leafed kale!

Recipe Ideas

Asparagus plants can only be cut for six weeks, so there’s a very narrow window when local asparagus is available. This year, the crop seems to be plentiful, but it won’t be here long so be sure to get some while you can. It’s so sweet and crunchy that I usually eat it raw or gently steamed, but tonight I’m going to try my hand at cream of asparagus soup. I’ll let you know in a later blog how that goes.

Strawberries, of course, lend themselves to all kinds of wonderful recipes. They can be cooked into main dishes, folded into pancakes, or made into strawberry bread, strawberry short cake, or strawberry tarts. I find, however, that people often prefer strawberry pies, and they’re easy to make. Unfortunately, I can’t find the recipe that I’ve used for years, so I found another that is very similar. I did modify it slightly by folding the remaining berries into the mixture rather than placing them in the pastry shell, and, of course, spread whipped cream over the entire pie and garnish with fresh berries.

Where to find them

Remember to check with the growers before you head to he fields because social distancing restrictions and availability vary. Virginia Beach growers include Henley Farm , Flip Flop Farmer, Cullipher Farm and Vaughan Farm’s Produce

So, happy picking and happy spring!

117-year-old lady never forgave the soldiers who stole her turkey

I couldn’t let Black History Month go by without giving a shout-out to Mary Jane Munden, a local lady who was born into slavery, rose into the landowning class, and lived to see her granddaughter become a schoolteacher. Miss Mary Jane was a prominent community member, a charter member of Little Piney Grove Baptist Church, and the matriarch of an old, well-established county family. She was also a self-described Yankee-hater.

I interviewed members of the Munden family in 2010 for an article that I was writing for The Beacon, and Barbara Henley wrote about Miss Mary Jane in her 2013 book Glimpses of Down County History. Both she and her husband, John, were born into slavery, and the family thinks that they probably were brought from North Carolina to Princess Anne County by their owner, possibly someone named Dudley.

Ms. Mary Jane’s age was listed as 117 in the 1930 census, and much of what the family knows about her comes from a faded newspaper article entitled “117-Year-Old Woman Still Hates Yankees for Stealing Big Turkey from Oven.”

The article included a photograph of Miss Mary Jane, a petite lady who was dressed in a long skirt. For 117, she looked very alert and active, and she told the story of how the Union Army raided her home near Munden Point in their march through Princess Anne County. They stole all of her livestock, and even took the turkey that she was cooking for dinner out of the oven.

No, Miss Mary Jane hadn’t forgiven them, she said. Yes, she still hated them. It’s not too hard to imagine why. She and John had several children, and life couldn’t have been too easy for them even before the invasion. Probably about the last thing that you need when you have a houseful of hungry children is to have your entire food supply, including that night’s dinner, stolen by invading soldiers.

After the war: prosperity then early widowhood

Still, Miss Mary Jane and her husband persevered, and after the war they became landowners. John also found work as a light keeper for a buoy on the North Landing River. That river was a major shipping route at the time, and, although it’s hard to imagine now, the channel’s buoys had to be manually lit in the pre-electronic era. That must have been very dangerous work because, like members of the Lifesaving Service, light keepers had to go out in all kinds of weather, and sometimes they didn’t return. John was one of those martyrs who went out in a storm one night and never came home, and by the 1870 census, Miss Mary Jane was already a widow.

Miss Mary Jane and her family didn’t let the patriarch’s early death defeat them any more than the Yankees had. They continued to farm, and the children attended school in the old segregated school system. One granddaughter, Lelia Lamb, taught at Pleasant Ridge School. The family remained prominent in the community, and many descendants still live in the county.

The aftermath: a tribute to local black history

It’s no secret that one of the most horrible things about war is its effects on the civilian population. It’s also no secret that hard times produce many unsung heroes whose stories are never told. The story of Mary Jane and John Munden, who rose out of slavery, survived an Army raid, and went on to become landowners and the ancestors of a large,thriving family, is one of those that has survived. That’s largely thanks to the efforts of family members who have saved an old newspaper clipping and used it as a springboard to research their history. John and Mary Jane Munden’s story, and the descendants’ efforts to preserve it, is pretty incredible.

It’s also pretty incredible to think about someone living to be 117 and still having the spunk to berate those thieving Yankees.

The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail: A Hike Through Time

On one recent Sunday, I was in the mood for an outdoor excursion and decided to try the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail. Like many people, I’ve seen very little of the Dismal Swamp with the exception of a recent trip to the Dismal Swamp State Park in North Carolina. I thought that it might be interesting to see a little of it from the Virginia side, and this 8.3 mile trail sounded like a pleasant place for a walk on a mild late winter afternoon.

The multi-purpose asphalt trail is actually a stretch of the old, two lane Route 17, and while I knew that it wouldn’t be pristine wilderness, I was hoping for something at least a little wild. While much of the Dismal Swamp has been drained and cleared, it’s still an awesome, rugged terrain that’s home to countless species of animals and giant cypress trees. I’d seen evidence of black bears and caught a glimpse of what might have been bobcats in the North Carolina state park, and I was hoping to see some of that, in addition to some cypress swamps, on the canal trail.

The trail, however, follows the present Route 17 closely, and cars on this highway are visible throughout the length. The narrow grassy buffer between the trail and the highway is completely cleared, and there was only a narrow buffer of undergrowth between the trail and the canal. I saw no wild animals, but I did learn a little about the area’s history from historical markers posted along the way.

The Dismal Swamp Canal, part of the Intracoastal Waterway, opened in 1805, and it provided a major thoroughfare for merchant ships, particularly before the railroads were completed. Now, it’s primarily used by recreational boaters, but the markers tell the story of its glory days when it was abuzz with activity.

One interesting site is a ramshackle, weatherbeaten old building that once housed the superintendent of the Dismal Swamp Canal Company, which operated the canal. It also served as a toll house where tolls were collected from the ships or from travelers on the road that ran alongside it.

The house was seized by Union troops and used as a barracks and stable during the Civil War, and it was largely abandoned after the war when the tolls were dropped. During the 1930s, a lean-to was built to serve as a kitchen, and a tea house was opened that served travelers on both the canal and the road. According to legend, the plaster was replaced because Union soldiers had scrawled slogans and words on the original walls that the ladies who operated the tea room considered unsuitable for a respectable establishment.

The trail also provides a number of amenities, including a boat launch for kayaks or small boats, and there is free and handicap accessible parking. It’s also open for horsebackriding and bicycling, and the flat, even surface makes it suitable for running.

So, while it doesn’t provide a wilderness adventure, I’d recommend this trail as a pleasant place for outdoor recreation or exercise. I do, however, recommend that you call and get clear directions before you go. The access to the trail isn’t well-marked, and my GPS became confused and directed me to an entrance that was closed.

The Dismal Swamp Canal access is located at 1246 Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, and the phone number is 382-6411.

CBD: What exactly does it do?

In my experience: absolutely nothing

Much has been written about the benefits of CBD salves and ointments. These magical miracle cures are said to promote psychological and spiritual well-being, relieve sore muscles, moisturize dry skin and, apparently even improve marriages If you’re and evangelical believer, they might even make you rich. I received an email a few days ago telling me about all of the money that I could make blogging about these wonderful and oh-so-trendy products.

So, I decided to write about my own experiences with CBD, although I don’t expect to get paid and am likely to be shouted down and railed at by loyal CBD devotees and their suppliers.

I need to qualify my opinion by saying that I have no medical background, although I have cited research by the Food and Drug Administration on CBD. I also have to admit that my perceptions are based only on one product. I’m not offering a product review, and I’m certainly not offering medical advise although I do note some cautions raised by the Food and Drug Administration.

Rather, I’m just sharing my own perceptions of a particular CBD salve and hoping to invite feedback.

CBD: A Little Background

CBD, derived from the hemp plant, was removed from the list of controlled substances by the Farm Bill of 2018. Since then, a plethora of products including candles, salves, and elixirs have appeared on the market.

Manufacturers and faithful users tout the benefits, but the Federal Drug Administration warns that, while CBD has been shown to help control certain types of epileptic seizures, research on other benefits is inconclusive.

Still, I decided to try CBD when I learned that a small, local company was manufacturing lavender-scented salves. I always like to shop locally, and I’m a fool for all things lavender.

I really didn’t expect that the CBD products would create this magic state of homeostasis that its ads claimed, but I did think that it might help relieve sore or tight muscles and winter dry skin and lips. So I plunked down my money and tried the product.

So what were my expectations, and what did it actually do?

  1. Soothe sore muscles: I’ve used The Merry Hempsters Hot Hemp Muscle Rub for years, and I love it, particularly in the winter when muscles stiffen and get sore from exercising outdoors in cold weather. All of a sudden, though, that seemed as out of style among the trendy set as foot binding and painful corsets. Local fitness gurus labelled hot muscle rubs “obnoxious” and assured me that this CBD product was far superior. However, when I tried it after exercising I felt absolutely nothing, and an hour later, I felt nothing, and the next day I had very sore muscles. When I tried it right before bedtime, I had the same results.
  2. As a stress reliever: I do believe that lavender and some other herbs have a calming, soothing effect. Unfortunately, the scent in this CBD product isn’t strong enough to induce this effect, at least not for me. I rarely have trouble sleeping, but occasionally I do have night-time angst when I have a particularly overwhelming task to perform the next day, and the CBD proved to be useless in inducing relaxation.
  3. As a moisturizer and lip balm: The CBD product has a decidedly greasy feeling, but it seems to evaporate after only a few seconds, and its effect is negligible. Its greasy texture also makes me not want to use it for fear of staining my clothes or making my hair oily.

But it does have a pleasant scent…

I do have to admit that the scent, although light, is appealing, but the scent from teas, candles and lotions lingers longer, and for the money that you’d spend on CBD Salve, you can buy several plants and grow and harvest your own lavender.

For sore muscles, my experience has been that the hot rubs are more effective, and a whole lot cheaper, than trendy CBD salves. We all have our favorite ways of dealing with stress, and there are plenty of good skin moisturizers and chap sticks available on the market. So, my best advice is to save the $50 or so that you’d plunk down on CBD Salve and invest in candles, wine, teas, and The Merry Hempsters.

Still, I have to concede that there might be wonderful CBD products out there that do all of the things that they’re said to do. I know nothing about the source, purity, or percentage of active ingredients or lavender in this particular CBD product, and judging the quality of CBD products is very difficult.

Your own experiences with CBD products may be very different from mine, and I’d be interested in hearing your opinions-whether good or bad-of these salves. I welcome feedback and would love to do a follow-up column, particularly if you have a particular product that you can recommend.

This Winter Be Vocal: Shop Local

Right now, the weather feels more like mid-Fall than January, but we hardboiled old locals know that this isn’t going to last. Virginia Beach winters can be raw, windy, and pretty miserable, and to get through this one we’re going to need warm clothes.

The good news is that you no longer have to be frumpy to be warm. Those boring, monotone mom slacks, sweaters, and jackets have yielded to today’s eclectic styles that feature a variety of rich textures and colors.

The bad news is that it’s still January, and, let’s face it, we’re all hunting for a bargain. We also don’t have a lot of time to drive all over town searching for the right winter outfits. So, on one recent day, I visited two of my favorite Southern Virginia Beach shops, including Pungo Board House and The Teal Eagle, to check out the winter styles. Although I could happily have stayed all day trying on clothes, both stores have appealing displays and good organization so that it’s easy to get in, make your choices, and get out quickly.

Southern Virginia Beach has developed its own brand of rustic chic, and these shops are the places to get outfitted for work, outdoor fun, or social activities.

The following are a few things that caught my eye.

Outer wear and outdoor clothes

I love the sherpa jackets and pullovers this winter, and out of all of the colors that are out there, this soft blue pullover particularly caught my eye at Pungo Board House. It’s a good match with these dark blue, touch screen knit gloves, and the gloves feel as soft as the jacket.

Pungo Board House is one of my favorite go-to places for outdoor clothes. No one knows how the northeast wind feels any better than owner Dylan Rogers, a surfer and general outdoors enthusiast.

I was particularly ]drawn to warm, thick hoodie in a bright shade of pink that had a little hint of salmon. I also noticed a very bright, warm, red and black plaid flannel oversized top, and both items were very reasonably priced.

The sherpa jackets and sweaters appealed to me because their warm, soft texture made it hard to resist touching them. The styles ranged from very warm, snug coats to lighter-weight jackets or pullovers.

Both shops displayed a variety of knit hats and gloves. I decided to buy a pair of warm, touchscreen gloves at Pungo Board House because of their soft texture and because they were long enough to keep your wrists warm. The Teal Eagle was also displaying sparkly gloves that would go stunningly with some of the sparkly sweaters and tops that were also featured in that shop.

Tops, Dresses and More

Chic, funky, elegant, and practical were all words that came to mind when I walked into the The Teal Eagle. The dusters, which come in a variety of colors and patterns and range from elegant to funky, also caught my eye.

I was also drawn to the cardigan and pullover sweaters in warm, soft colors. Bulky seems to be the word for sweaters this year, and I particularly noticed one very elegant, knee-length ivory sweater trimmed in faux fur. This, when combined with dangling earrings and sparkly gloves would go well with anything from skinny jeans to a fitted, basic black skirt or dress.

Because I love dresses and all things long and flowing, I was drawn to a mid-length black dress. I couldn’t resist trying this on with a lacy, crochet duster that was hanging on the same rack, and I couldn’t resist the combination.

The Teal Eagle also carries a number of lovely accessories, including jewelry and gift items made by local crafters. Holiday dresses are also on sale, and some skinny jeans were also reduced to very affordable prices. The choices can be overwhelming, but owner Tatiana Hill and her staff have very good taste and always willing to help with your selection.

It’s a challenge to choose from all of the lovely styles at The Teal Eagle, but I was particularly drawn to this whimsical duster and , which seems particularly elegant when worn over this little black dress.

Get to know your clothing retailer

So, there’s no need to take out a bank loan or patronize chain stores. If you want to be fashionable, try shopping small and local, where they know you by name and treat you like family. If you get to know your local retailers, you’ll save time, put your money back into the local economy and provide jobs for your neighbors.