a hop and a skip: swover creek farms and brewery.

burgimg_7371I was excited enough about seeing a real life chainsaw artist and drinking some new beer. I totally didn’t anticipate the beauty of the drive.

If you leave my house in Timberville and head north on 42, you’ll drive over a high ridge — a narrow ribbon with rolling farmland falling away on both sides. The naked trees of winter are no longer a visual barrier to the golden mountains in the distance, and the wind howls around your car. Onward through Forestville, Getz Corner, and Hudson Crossroads, you’ll see centuries-old farmhouses, barns, and buildings that in the suburbs would translate into “dilapidated.” Here, though, in this rocky and imperfect terrain, they are rustic, if not downright beautiful. It’s like driving through the landscape of history itself. There is something comforting about traveling over that ancient bedrock, so heavy, solid, and rooted to the earth.

When you get to Conicville, you’re close. Swover Creek Farms and Brewery, officially located in Edinburg, feels like a combination of everything outdoorsy: a little bit summer camp, a little bit ski lodge, a little bit cabin on the river, a little bit grandpa’s farm. Plus a chainsaw artist. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Lynn and Dave St. Clair started Swover Creek Farms in 1998. In 2011, the farm began producing sausages, and little by little, yet with consistent progress, beer came along — starting with the planting of hops in 2013, the nano-brewery in the old tractor garage in 2014, and then in 2015 moving into the current brewery building with a 3.5 barrel brew system. In fact, up until 2014, the land where the brewery now sits was mostly land and cows.

burgimg_7458When you arrive, you might think you’re at someone’s private residence, because that’s how it looks. You’ll see a wide front porch with colorful Adirondack chairs, a patio with a fire pit, and some dogs and kids running around in the yard. Yep, you’re welcome to bring your dogs and your children. The owners of the place are quite friendly and love company: on Fridays they host Dart Night (7pm) and the third Thursday of the month is Trivia Night (7pm).

Just inside the front door is the taproom. A long bar runs along the back wall, and comfortable seating (and a couple TVs) fill the rest of the warm and cozy (yes, fireplace) space. The large room to the right is called the “Loafing Shed.” It’s an enclosed and heated space where the farm’s cows used to hang out. This room boasts seating for nearly 50 guests, a little play area for the kiddos, two dart boards, and an 11-foot TV screen! You can access the patio from this room, and beyond the patio is a nice grassy area.

burgimg_7404So, the beer and the menu. On tap they usually have six or eight beers, like the Dirty Blonde, the Vanilla Sour Wheat, or the Nitro Oatmeal Porter. You can order a flight, fill your growler, or even join their Farmer in the Ale club and get your very own, one-of-a-kind mug crafted by SENK Pottery. Looking around the place, you might not realize how close to Interstate 81 it is. But the brewery enjoys consistent patronage from locals and from travelers passing through. We’ve all had that point on a long trip where you say, “GAHD I NEED A DANG BEER.” Plus, there are three wineries within just a few miles, which makes for a nice little tour. This is one reason why Swover Creek tries to keep a Belgian on tap — Belgians appeal to wine drinkers. Since business at the brewery is hopping, there are no plans for distribution. For now, they’re happy to be a beer destination. However, they will start bottling soon (12 and 22oz) for purchase at the brewery. Also on tap for 2017 is a non-alcoholic beer, a gluten-free beer, and “Firkin Friday,” when they’ll brew a special firkin (11 gallon cask).

burgimg_7382In the Swover Creek Farm Store and Kitchen (on the other side of their parking lot), you can buy many many many wonderful items. Made-on-site quiche using local duck eggs, jams, pretzels, mustard. About a dozen kinds of smoked sausage, produced on site. Black raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and blueberries. Smoked chicken salad and sweet zucchini relish. And you can even pick your own hops in their hop yard (but this requires a reservation, so call first!).

You can order food in the brewery: the Farm Store and Kitchen makes it and then delivers it to the brewery. They offer about ten different brick-oven pizzas (and they make the dough on site), about a dozen smoked sausage products served on homemade pretzel rolls (such as andouille, chorizo, bratwurst, kielbasa, and even apple maple), plus pepperoni rolls, baked jalapeño poppers, chipotle cheese dip, beer cheese, and Firefly Hot Sauces, made at nearby Passage Creek Farm.

There is a story in here… I know it.

So on this particular day, Brandy and I drove on out to Swover Creek Brewery for the purpose of (drinking beer and) seeing a chainsaw portrait artist doing live portraits on the patio. His name is Glen Richardson, and it was a sight to behold. His subject sat in a chair with a barber cape around his neck while Glen carved (WITH A CHAIN SAW) the man’s profile into a slab of tree. It took about 20 or 30 minutes to complete the carving, and then Glen charred the portrait with a propane torch, and he let the subject help with that part, too. He advised the subject to lightly sand the portrait once it cooled down. It was amazing.

burgimg_7387burgimg_7386burgimg_7420burgimg_7427burgimg_7426burgimg_7425burgimg_7422burgimg_7438At Glen’s website called Sawaddict, you’ll see photos of the many characters he creates, such as Fraidy Dance and Slug Boy. He’s done series like “Rabbit Folk” and “Wackadoodles,” and he’s created lawn furniture based on the phrases “putting your butt in danger” or “bite my ass.” You can follow Glen on Facebook to keep up with his events or to reach out if you’re interested in a carving.

burgimg_7372Once the sun went down, Glen’s carving demonstration ended and we all piled into the Loafing Shed for another beer, some pizza, and an awesome chorizo/pretzel sandwich. The brewery has a friendly, welcoming, relaxed vibe that’ll leave you warm and fuzzy. It’s open Thursday from 4 –  8pm, Friday and Saturday from noon – 8pm, and Sunday from noon – 7pm. Go try ’em out — it’s just a hop and a skip, and well worth the journey.

burgimg_7460Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

time flies: red wing roots music festival, 2014.

RedWingKidsDay three brought a new element to the Red Wing Roots Music Festival: my children.

Honestly, I was so excited they’d get to attend that I couldn’t get there fast enough that Sunday. In case you didn’t know, kids get in free at Red Wing, and there’s plenty for them to do. But I really wanted Bree and Cal to hear some music. So many times when bands perform, it’s way past bedtime. Great music shouldn’t be reserved for just the 18 and older crowd. I prefer to start influencing/molding/controlling their music interests EARLY. You’ll never find “Barney’s Greatest Hits” in this mama’s car. EVER.

We parked and started the trek to the Local Roots Stage, where we looked forward to seeing Bourbon Barrel Congress and Bryan Elijah Smith. I worried for a moment that the walk from the car would be a little long for the children… but who am I kidding? They’re young and strong and enthusiastic. Cal found a walking stick and that’s all he needed. Bree was fascinated by the sheer number of people and their cozy campsites. At the gate, one of the volunteers recognized the three of us — she’d seen our faces right here on this web site — and said she feels like she’s watched Bree and Cal grow up and then asked, “Do your kids just never argue?” And I could proudly say, “It’s rare.” Another volunteer suggested I write my cell number on the kids’ wristbands in case they get lost. But… my cell phone was useless out there, so I quickly scrawled “BRING ME TO THE STUMP” and said a quick prayer about the kindness of strangers.

On we went. We were a bit early for Bourbon Barrel Congress, so I showed them where the stump was — our meeting place should we get separated — and we got some Kline’s ice cream and an iced coffee from Lucas Roasting Company.

LucasRoasting JP Harris and the Tough Choices were on the South Stage, with that voice that could melt steel and sounds that could slice through it. I could see Brandy snaking her way closer to the stage, and the kids and I wiggled our way through the sweaty crowd to join her. We caught the last few numbers of JP’s performance, including the very first song he ever wrote, “If There Ain’t No Honky-Tonks in Heaven.” It made me think of Harper Lee and how she won the Pulitzer for her very first book. Why bother writing anything else when you hit a home run the first time at bat? Perhaps in JP’s case, because PEOPLE WANT MORE, for one. That band was awesome. Their new album, Home Is Where the Hurt Is (amen) comes out in a couple weeks, and you can catch them TONIGHT (!!) at Clementine in Harrisonburg. And I will see you there :)

JPHarris5 JPHarris6 JPHarris7Then we moved to the Local Roots Stage for Bourbon Barrel Congress. Thankfully we were able to sit in the shade, but still it was hot enough to shed about eight pounds of fluid while performing. But the heat didn’t slow these guys down; rather, it seemed to ignite their spirit and, likewise, the crowd’s. Soon everyone was clapping and stomping to the bellow of Chris Davis’ upright base, the squeals of Rene’s Devito’s fiddle, and the laughter of John Spangler’s banjo. On and on they barreled indeed, through an impressive eight numbers… lively instrumentals alternated with songs embroidered with Ethan Hawkins’ like-freshly-Windexed-glass voice. Cleeeaaan. Bourbon Barrel Congress will play at Harrisonburg’s Local Chop and Grill House October 17!

BourbonBarrelCongress3 BourbonBarrelCongress2BourbonBarrelCongress4When at last Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wildhearts, accompanied by singer/writer Krista Polvere, climbed up on stage, I felt both happy and sad. For me, this was the finale of the festival. After their performance, the kids and I would have to hit the road. So we savored every last note of their set. Their sound was huge — almost too big for the Local Roots Stage — and it felt like the amps would blow the tent down at times. But the warm sound lassoed us, hugged us all, and like a hypnotist’s spell, compelled us to stay put.

Since that performance I’ve purchased every single album of theirs, and I can’t help hear a bit of Dylan — both Jakob and Bob — in Bryan’s love-worn-leather voice and timeless words, paired with the band’s unique yet diversely broad instrumental style. If you liked what you heard that day, too, you can celebrate the release of their latest album, These American Hearts, at Clementine on September 12th. The show is proudly presented by our local Friendly City Food Co-op, Lucas Roasting Company, WMRA, and Three Brothers Brewing. It’ll be a good ol’ hometown party.

BryanElijahSmith1 BryanElijahSmith3 BryanElijahSmith4 BryanElijahSmith7On the way back to the car, the kids’ broad smiles and cute comments brightened each step.
“I want to see those bands again!”
“I can’t believe how loud that was!”
“When can we go to another festival??” and
“Mom, can I bring this rock home?” No. (Because, we sorta have a lot of rocks already at the house, you see.)
“Okay. See you next year, Rock!”

RedWingrockSee you next year, indeed!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

life of the arty: art lotto 2014, first friday.

art lotto chalk2So the day after Art Lotto’s private opening was First Friday in downtown Harrisonburg, and this time the festivities spilled out onto the pavement in front of Larkin Arts. Just take a look at how much fun everyone had! And, the general public was extremely impressed with all forty-two portraits. It’s one thing to see photos of the artwork, here… it’s entirely another to see it in person. Kiddos enjoyed a whole bunch of fun activities like nail painting and sidewalk art, and hundreds of people kept caricature artist Susan Edelman busy all evening. Old Hill Cider was there to keep us refreshed, and Many Nights Ahead provided a live soundtrack for the whole shebang. It’s no wonder, between the talent represented in the show and the natural way Valerie and Scott host a party, that Larkin was one of Harrisonburg’s busiest art venues that evening.

Check out these photos, and then hurry down to Larkin Arts between now and September 3 to see the exhibit!

art lotto chalk art lotto caricatures1 art lotto sidewalk1 art lotto reflections5 art lotto reflections2 art lotto painting art lotto nails2 art lotto nails1 art lotto many nights ahead5 art lotto many nights ahead4 art lotto many nights ahead2art lotto many nights ahead1 art lotto many night ahead3 art lotto kyle BW art lotto crowd4bw art lotto coloring1 art lotto chalk3Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

show of hands: court square theater.

Court Square Theater nightI was expecting a different lesson, one about working hard to overcome obstacles and achieve a lifelong dream. After all, Little Bread HenBarefoot Puppet Theater‘s rendition of the old, similarly named story – follows a little red hen’s endeavor to make bread from scratch. Planting and tending the field, cutting down the wheat, doing whatever-is-typically-done to make flour… seems a bit ambitious for a chicken, if you ask me. So I was expecting a lesson about struggle and reward.

But Heidi and Sam Rugg, who operate this outfit, had something else in mind. In a spoiler-free nutshell, Herr Brotmeister and his daughter Maguerite own a bakery in an undisclosed European nation. They have a few hens running around – you know, for eggs – and Marguerite gets particularly attached to one of them, Millie, named for her deceased mother. Business is good.

barefoot puppet 4Then the villains show up: a fox and an older lady who’s got a thing for the widower Brotmeister. Another woman comes in and orders sixty strawberry custard pies for the Strawberry Festival in Paris. A tall order for this tiny operation run by two people and a herd of chickens.

At this point I think, “Wait. Maybe this is about Herr Brotmeister finding new love after the death of his wife! Then again, maybe it IS about overcoming obstacles, what with the pies and all.”

barefoot puppet 2This is what happens when an English teacher attends a puppet show. She tries to pin down the THEME. So I stopped taking notes and decided to just enjoy the show like a kid would. Wasn’t hard.

Herr Brotmeister is so distracted by all these women that he forgets to tell Marguerite about the fox… and Marguerite leaves the gate open… and then gossip spreads through the farm animals like mad cow disease about a dog named Fred and his possible murder… which, of course, causes all the animals to be unwilling to help evil, old Millie make bread, which results in a bread shortage. Ah, consequences. It’s all cause and effect, people.

And so the lesson is a bit less hopeful than my original prediction: If no one helps, everyone gets NOTHING.

barefoot puppet 1The husband and wife proprietors of Barefoot Puppet Theater, Heidi and Sam Rugg, take lots of folktales and add twists and quirks. They also make all their puppets and sets, man all the puppets, each with a different voice, and use props for interactive improv with the audience. It’s really very clever and fun to watch, their antics resulting in squeals and giggles from everyone in the audience, blurring the line between kiddo and grownup. After the performance they were happy to answer everyone’s adorable questions.

barefoot puppetbw 9They’ve been known to perform in major cities up and down the East Coast including Long Island, DC, and Atlanta, and isn’t it nice that we live in a community where awesome entertainment for all ages is just a quick stroll downtown? A quick note to parents: A membership at Court Square Theater is about as vital to your family as your library card and your Kohl’s cash. Court Square Theater members get twenty percent off tickets and FREE popcorn, for the equivalent of about seven bucks a month. Plus you’re helping support the arts in your community. And you can purchase and drink beer and wine in there!! (And of course the usual sodas and other beverages, which I’m admittedly not as excited about.) Now THAT’S family friendly!

Tonight through Sunday you can catch a performance of Valley Playhouse’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun. In coming weeks, you’ll find a variety of entertainment, including a dance performance, a craft beer film (yow!!), and concerts like Danny Knicely and Ellis Paul. Time to get that membership!

barefoot puppetbw 3Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

if you can’t stand the cold: new leaf pastry kitchen.

…then warm up in here!

burgIMG_5129 burgIMG_5140bw burgIMG_5158 burgIMG_5176burgIMG_5151Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

the warm fuzzies: wonderkittens 2013.

wonderkitten signLet’s face it. Being a grownup just isn’t as fun as we thought it would be. When we were young, we couldn’t wait to be older… so we could stay up late, or watch a PG movie, or go on a date, or learn to drive. Once we reached those milestones (and all the buzz-killing responsibilities that accompany them), we longed again for our youth, back when no one was really relying on us, when sticks and rocks were far more valuable than money, when we measured time in increments of Sesame Street episodes. THAT was freedom. Remember it?

If you’re having a hard time remembering, I have a remedy. Spend some time with a kid. If you don’t have a kid handy, I have some I can loan you. When you spend time with a kid, you start by teaching them all the amazing, profound things you know. Then at some point, you realize you know nothing, and the child in front of you is the one who has it all figured out. And for a fleeting moment you glimpse the innocence and joy and unfettered love you were born with which has been buried under all your adult baggage. You can’t BE a kid again, but you can be WITH a kid… and that’s like the best of both worlds.

wonderkkitten music2wonderkitten fansThese worlds collided in a beautiful way when Brandy and Denise hatched yet another mind-blowing idea: why not pair up an adult, working artist with a creative youngster, and let them immortalize each other in a portrait? Let the child see what the adult sees, and more importantly, let the adult look once again through the tender eyes of a child. Moments after they thought it, Brandy and Denise set out to do it, and therefore, they did it. Because that’s what happens when those two get together.

wonderkitten ella flowersThey named the portrait show Wonderkittens. It’s goal was to “bridge the gap between the untapped creative mind of a child and a thriving, working, independent artist.” After securing several willing artists and children, Denise and Brandy created an online survey for everyone to complete, which helped them match the kids with compatible artists.
pairsThe artist’s role was to mentor the child, guiding him or her through the process of creating a portrait, adhering to a deadline, respecting craftsmanship, promoting the show, working together, and all else that goes into a collaborative project. The role of the child was to make the artist giggle with wild abandon, forget what time it was for a little while, remember with fondness his or her own childhood, and maybe secretly swing by McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. :)

wonderkitten_-_ wonderkitten____What actually happened was an incredible display of patience and tenderness on both sides. My daughter COULD NOT WAIT for her weekly session with her artist partner — Wednesdays at 7pm at the Dodger. She gratefully, and with more seriousness than I expected, soaked up his every word. He showed her, with unending generosity and kindness, all about pens and ink and paper and different comic styles. Other artists found ways to “get together” even when schedules clashed — through Skype or Facetime or even over the good old phone. One child wanted to create more than one portrait of her artist partner, and that’s just what she did, filling a whole corner of the Larkin gallery all by her cute self!

wonderkitten ___wonderkitten _--_I’m not sure the last time I saw so much cuteness in one place. Larkin Arts hosted the Wonderkittens opening on December’s First Friday. There were snack and drinks (thank you, Kathy Whitten!) kid-friendly music by Nick Melas, interactive art work by our local troupe Artery (Wes Way, you are an awesome human being!), and of course all the portraits.

wonderkitten musicwonderkitten artery1wonderkitten artery4 wonderkitten artery3 wonderkitten artery2The artists were used to seeing their work on a wall… the kids were really thrilled! And there, in that act, the gap was bridged. Perhaps the artists remembered when their art was displayed for others to see for the very first time. Perhaps the children, for the very first time, saw themselves as artists.

wonderkitten lynda_ wonderkitten morgan_ wonderkitten john_ wonderkitten ella_chriswonderkitten denise _ wonderkitten ben_ wonderkitten bree_tripwonderkitten _ wonderkitten __For me personally, I am extremely grateful to the grownups of this community who have not just touched but improved my children’s lives. I am so, so glad I live here. I am so, so glad my children are growing up here, amongst all you lovely people…. especially, these two:
wonderkitten D and B

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

play into your hands: glen’s fair price TOYLAND.

This year for Christmas my kids are asking for things like an iPod Touch. A smart phone. A laptop.

And I’ve told them, NO FREAKING WAY. You’re a kid!

And when I was a kid (here we go, with the “back in the day” crap we parents all subject our kids to), I remember pouring over the Sears catalog and folding down the corners of pages that contained things I wanted. Like play kitchens with all the cute little pots and pans and pretend cereal boxes and velcro cupcakes. Or the Holly Hobby Easybake Oven (which I got when I was six). Or a Hot Wheels race track. Not motorized, although it WAS cool when that came along… but those flimsy orange track pieces with the blue, tongue-shaped connector pieces.

And Tinker Toys. I loved Tinker Toys. And board games. And Lite Brite. You’re getting excited, aren’t you?

And that’s why this year I’m doing some shopping at this place:

glens fair price signThat’s right! If you weren’t aware before now, there’s a toy shop in the basement of Glen’s Fair Price, and YOUWOULDNOTBELIEVE the old school toys down there!! Eeeeeeeee!! You could put me in a play pen with some Lincoln Logs and Tommy Atomic and I’d be happy for hours. Days, if I’m within reach of a mini-fridge.

Your heart will swell when you see Stratego. You’ll get goosebumps over Pig Pong, and you’ll get full-on palpitations when you see the John Deere toys. You’ll want to buy every single Star Wars action figure AND Gettysburg action figure, and on the drive home, you’ll fantasize about an epic battle between past and future. You might even return to the store to buy yourself the Executive Putting Green (it actually says “Feel Your Stress Disappear” on the box!). You’re bound to find something your kids have never seen before, something no other kid has.

glens fair price conehead

how could anyone NOT want a Conehead figurine??

So feast your eyes on these gift ideas. Then blow your kid’s mind on Christmas morning!

glens fair price ventriloquist glens fair price uncle wiggily glens fair price toy shelf glens fair price tommy glens fair price star trek glens fair price ppls court glens fair price marionette glens fair price hard bodiesStay tuned for more photos this week! Glen’s Fair Price is located on North Main, just past the Blue Nile, and not quite to Chanello’s. See you out and about!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

best dressed: halloween on the square 2013.

Halloween courthouse pumpkinsMy son was showing off his newly acquired Halloween jokes in the car.

“What’s a ghost’s favorite movie?”


“No, BOOty and the Beast!” Silly giggles. Then, “What’s a ghost’s favorite movie?”

“Uh, BOOty and the Beast?”

“No, Black BOOty!” Sillier giggles. Then we noticed the people in the car next to us were also laughing… and looking at us… how did they hear our jokes? Oh wait, they were laughing at the slice of bacon in my back seat.

halloween group1

We met Brandy, Spongebob, and Ella UnDead downtown for Harrisonburg’s annual Halloween on the Square, a fun, family-friendly, and more-safe-than-scary tradition. It’s a great idea: get the trick-or-treating done early so everyone’s sugar high will be over by bedtime. And parents won’t be freezing their butts off trick-or-treating in the dark. And those die-hard Halloween fans can still go trick-or-treating on actual Halloween in their own neighborhoods. Plus, Halloween on the Square offers face painting,  and arts and crafts, and music and dance performances, and carnival games, all from 10am to 2pm.

Halloween crowd1I have to say, I’ve never heard the word “bacon” so many times as I did that day. Someone a hundred yards behind us would scream, “Bacon!!!” just as someone passing us would say, “Hey, it’s bacon!” Bree whipped out her own joke: “Nice to MEAT you!” and to every shop owner handing out candy she said, “Trick or meat!” We even ran into the Bacon family–my friend Darcy and her girls–and felt compelled to say hello.

Halloween group chalkboardAnd then Bree found her soul mate — Deviled Egg. Dana’s actually a teacher from Bree’s former day care. Reunited!

Halloween bacon and eggCal, feeling a little envious of all the attention she was getting, secretly wished his sister would get at least nibbled by all the many puppies and dogs strolling around town that day. And when we got to Blue Ridge Dog, our downtown dog boutique, Cal practically pushed her through the door with an evil laugh. They, by the way, were handing out Kit Kats. Ha!

We saw lots of awesome costumes that were not meat-related. Cal and Blake were easily recognized in their homemade Charlie Brown and Spongebob get-ups, and Ella was hands-down the prettiest zombie in the hood.

Halloween candy break

candy break.

And just get a load of these!!

Halloween Toy Story family

Love this family!

Halloween precious scarecrow

Cutest. Scarecrow. EVER.

Halloween father son

crime fighting team!

Halloween fairy Halloween cute t_rexMany thanks to Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance for hosting the event and to all the businesses and volunteers who were so, so kind to so many monsters!

We have a whole lot more pictures, so stay tuned all week! You might see someone you know!

Halloween leaves 2Copyright © 2012 – 2013 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.


fall guys: back home on the farm.

Back home on the farm sign 1We had planned to go the weekend of my son’s birthday. That was the week it started raining Wednesday and didn’t stop til Sunday. So to squeeze in one last visit to Back Home on the Farm, we scooted over there last Thursday after school.

It was cold outside, and I was already freezing because my classroom is a balmy 58 degrees (okay, maybe not quite that cold, but I’d be surprised if it were even 65). Thankfully, there’s so much to do at that place that I warmed up quick! Plus I was in cute company, which gave me the warm fuzzies.

Back home on the farm heartsNow, if you haven’t gone to this place and you still want to, you must do it this week or weekend, because Sunday is their last day of the 2013 season. Don’t worry; they open back up in the spring, but right now there are some pretty cool activities going on.

Corn Maze. It’s about 5 acres, it’s pleasantly challenging, and the staff will help you turn yourself around if you wave your flag in the air.

Pumpkin Patch. You can ride the tractor up to the pumpkin patch and pick out the perfect one for you. They also have a huge selection of beautiful pumpkins and gourds by the snack bar/gift shop.

Back home on the farm gourdsBack home on the farm pumpkinsYou can ride an underground slide down to the barn yard, where you can play all sorts of fun games. Like giant hay bale volleyball. A garden maze. Rubber duck races.

Back home on the farm slideBack home on the farm hay balesBack home on the farm garden mazeBack home on the farm duck racesThe kids loved petting the animals and firing plastic pumpkins at targets with really big slingshots.

Back home on the farm goatBack home on the farm sling shots1There’s even bowling, a Sound Garden, and tractor rides.

Back home on the farm bowlingBack home on the farm sound gardenBack Home on the Farm also has a really nice Carousel, decorated with all sorts of things related to Virginia history. And in the barn that houses the carousel, you can see some impressive taxidermy specimens.

Back home on the farm carouselBack home on the farm taxidermyI think our favorite part this time was the Pig Race. Four pigs run around a small track, at the end of which is a favorite treat: slices of pumpkin. There are eight pigs total, so you get to see two races. The name of the track is Squealer Downs, and each pig has either a “gangster” name or a “fairytale” name, like Al Hambone, John Delilinks, and Porky Boy Floyd; Rumplepigskin, Pocahogtas, and sweet little Piglet.

Sweet Piglet is the littlest one. When he left the gate, he darted out like the rest of the pigs. Then he got distracted by something and muckmuckmucked around in the dirt until one of the staff came over and cheered him on. Then he seemed to snap out of it and trot on his little high-heel hooves til he reached the pumpkin treat. Precious!

Back home on the farm pig race 1Back home on the farm pig race 2 Back home on the farm pig race 3Okay, enough reading. Get out to Back Home on the Farm as soon as possible. Remember, Sunday’s the last day of the season! To get there, take 42 N from Harrisonburg, and turn left on Willow Run Rd. It’s just a little ways down that road, on the right.

Back home on the farm statueCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

check meowt: wonderkittens!

wonderkittens girlI’m so grateful to live in a community that values kids and sees them as vital citizens. So, so many opportunities for kids to perform, to play sports, to create, to learn, and just to enjoy life. And Brandy and I have highlighted many of those right here, from The First Tee, Ragtime Fabrics, and Glen’s Fair Price, to Dragonflies Toys, Larkin Arts, and Ten Thousand Villages. Oh, and the Cupcake Company and Westover Pool. The John C. Wells Planetarium. Oooo and one of my favorites, the Hostetter Museum of Natural History. And even our library, one of our first posts ever.

There are some really great individuals involved in the lives of my children, and to them I am forever indebted, because such kindness can never be repaid. It can only be paid forward. Brandy is one of those people. She’s family, really. I trust her as much as anyone with the hearts and minds of my kids. They love her so.

And now she and Denise Allen have cooked up yet another way to enhance their lives: Wonderkittens! It’s an apt name; kids love baby animals, and it’s sort of a play on wunderkind (in German, it means, like, Superkid, prodigy, etc.). Mozart, for example, was a Wonderkitten. Harrisonburg kids can be Wonderkittens, too, by participating in this year’s Art Lotto for young’uns.

wonderkittens groupYou remember Art Lotto. Local artists drew names of other local artists and then had to create a portrait of that artist. Portraits of artists by other artists. Wonderkittens is the same thing, except a child is paired with an already-established local adult artist. Each of them creates a portrait of the other. The biggest difference, though, is the level of collaboration. The artist must mentor the child: teach him or her how to budget time, meet deadlines, collaborate creatively, complement each other’s work, prepare the piece for display, promote the art opening… all the bits and pieces that go into being an actual artist.

first meetingBWMy daughter has been meeting with her partner artist for a few weeks now. I take her to meet him once a week — same time, same place — where they check in with each other’s progress and continue to discuss all those things I mentioned above. The whole who-got-whom thing is still under wraps — you don’t get to find out until opening night — but Bree’s partner artist is… well, a gift. He is extremely patient and kind, very encouraging of her work and her ideas, and just open and willing to guide her in whatever way she needs it. So far it’s been an amazing experience, one she and I both feel truly thankful for. And those thanks extend to all the participating artists, to the supportive parents, to Brandy and Denise for organizing this whole thing, and to Larkin Arts for hosting the exhibit.

bree hand 2BW bree handBWother handBWAs for Cal, he’s not participating, but he tags along with us. And I think it’s good for him to understand that some things are for his sister, and some things are for him. He seems to accept that we all need our own endeavors.

calBWNow for some details. Everyone who had expressed an interest completed a survey online.  Brandy and Denise used this survey to match each child with an artist. Questions on the survey included things like, “What is your favorite color?” “Who is your favorite band/musician?” “If you could design a restaurant, what would its theme be and what would you serve?” and “If you could have a superpower, what would you choose?” After looking at all the answers, the gals determine who’d be most compatible and paired everyone up. Then we all met at Mr. J’s to find out who was paired with whom. And since then, we’ve been meeting and scheming.

wonderkittens boy wonderkittens lyndaBree and her partner have to complete their work by the end of November. The exhibit will be part of December’s First Friday event (!!!!), and all the artwork will be on display that Friday at Larkin Arts!

Of course, there will be another, longer post when December 6 gets here, but for now I wanted to share all this good news and let you MARK YOUR CALENDAR to come see the artwork of my offspring! See you there. And don’t be late!

wonderkittens BW catCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

for the birdies: the first tee of harrisonburg.

heritage oaks signfirst tee harrisonburg clubs 1 bwfirst tee harrisonburg range bwfirst tee harrisonburg close rangefirst tee harrisonburg range bw2first tee harrisonburg ballsCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

brandy awesomers: larkin arts youth summer art program.

dry erase board in classroomMy friend is so talented. So talented!!

Brandy Somers works all year as a high school art teacher, photographs their creations, this beautiful city, and adventures with her loved ones and publishes it all on FOUR blogs (or five??), heads up a massive portrait show each year, participates in several art exhibits throughout the year, volunteers, raises children… I aspire to be like her in so many ways. She somehow seamlessly weaves all this into her life — a life full of color and texture, people and love, laughter and light. And last week I was able to see her talent in action as she taught a class at Larkin Arts… about something she does beautifully: weaving.

kids weaving basketsValerie Smith has been heading up this summer art program for years, only now she gets to host it at her own shop. She put out a call to local artists who’d like to teach a week-long class, assembled a fine group of those people, and sort of let them decide what it was they would teach. Then Valerie worked with the artist/teachers to determine appropriate age groups and ordered the necessary supplies. The twenty-six classes run through August 16 and serve kids age six to fourteen.

My kids and I arrived toward the end of her class entitled “Basket Full O’ Fun” — a week-long seminar dedicated to basket weaving, but which turned into much more.

To start each three-hour session, Brandy had students complete a quick sketch (in their self-made sketch books) centered around a particular topic, like “what was your worst injury?”, “draw your scariest moment” and “your biggest accomplishment”, and “what super power would you most like to have?” Answers, in the form of sketches, ranged from stubbed toes to falls from fences and split chins, from scary moms in masks to creepy cardboard cut-outs of Dale Earnhardt, and from super sniffing and shape-shifting to shooting something you want straight out of your hand (in Ella’s case, a bagel and drink). Pretty much everyone agreed that the pouch baskets were their most recent major accomplishment.

kids drawings on wallAfter the sketches, Brandy began the lesson. The week started with making a type of basket called a bean pot. The apt students caught on quickly in weaving these large, sturdy baskets, and in no time, had some gorgeous finished products.girl weaving basket

kids weaving baskets boy holding basket kids holding basketsThe pouch baskets (like a little purse) turned out equally beautiful but were harder to make and required patience and teamwork. Still, the determined students (and teacher) pressed on and completed the job on day three. !!!

group weaving pouch baskets hands making pouch baskets hands making pouch basketsNever fear. This isn’t Brandy’s first rodeo, and although the kids had completed her week-long class in a mere three days, she had more tricks up her sleeve. In fact, she needed sleeves… to make tee shirt rugs using hula hoops as looms. This is where Ella’s super power would have really come in handy. It takes A LOT of tee shirts to make enough strips for five kids to each weave a rug, so what super heroes came to the rescue? Denise and Sean Allen, that’s who. They showed up with a gigantic donation of old tee shirts. Let the shredding begin!

class weaving hula hoop rugskids hula hoopingA well-deserved and much-needed break.

And that awlsome project lasted clear through Friday’s class, when I was there visiting. One student was determined to finish her rug as a father’s day gift. Another’s strips kept getting tangled up. This student’s rug was finished and needed to be tied off, while that student still needed more strips of red fabric. Brandy moved with ease around the room, as she always does, helping everyone, as she always does… never losing patience, always speaking kindly, laughing and enjoying the moment, weaving color and texture and light into their lives, at least for one week.

girl weaving hula hoop rug girl weaving hula hoop rug boy weaving hula hoop ruggirl with hula hoop loom hula hoop rugsBrandy and I have taught at the same school for years, but it’s not often that we see each other during class. It was a real treat to see her in this element, and I mean that sincerely. Any person — young or old — would be lucky to receive her instruction, or her friendship.

There are still weeks and weeks of classes available to your kid this summer. Many of them still have space available, so now’s a good time to get signed up. They’ll be taught by professionals who love their craft and aren’t afraid to show it… just like Brandy.

kids holding final productsCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.