Penelope Moseley

So clean, I ate off the floor!

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The Dutch Oven, Court Street, Hillsville, VA

The Dutch Oven, in Hillsville, Virginia, is so clean, I ate off the floor!

My floors are not always clean but I still practice the 5-second rule.  Grant Miller dropped a donut off the stick while transporting them to the serving tray.  I swiftly volunteered to eat it.  Five seconds hadn’t passed and that floor was clean enough to eat off.

Son Grant with donuts for the case.

Son Grant with donuts for the case.

Rolin and Hannah Miller are celebrating more than a year in business. They opened the Dutch Oven on Court Street, Hillsville, Virginia after years of selling donuts and baked goods at farmer’s markets and festivals around southwest Virginia.  Business continues to be good according to Hannah. “Friends and neighbors would ask why we didn’t bring our donuts to town instead of driving for an hour to sell them at the farmer’s markets”, says Hannah. “We yielded to popular demand and bought this building from the bank for a bargain, opening our business here in July 2013.”

Rolin Miller went from hammering nails to hammering the cash register.  Hannah went from one oven to another.  She trained as a baker her whole life, apprenticing under her mother, a seasoned baker with a large family to feed.  Hannah worked at various restaurants in her teen years and has been baking ever since.

The Miller’s moved to southwest Virginia from South Carolina and are raising their seven children in an 18-family Mennonite community.  The oldest is away at college studying to be a teacher.  Grant, for the time being is helping out at the Dutch Oven.  Much to Hannah’s chagrin, he will be leaving for a seven-month mission in Asia.  The other five children attend Island Creek Mennonite School, Monday through Friday.  On Saturdays, the whole family gather to help out at The Dutch Oven.

“Lunch is the big thing.” Hannah maintains.  The Carroll County Courthouse is at the end of the block and very handy for lunch on court days.   The Millers import their sandwich meats from the Ohio Amish company, Troyer’s Country Market.  There are no GMOs and no MSGs or other preservatives.  The award winning Baby Swiss cheese severed on the sandwiches was perfected over 50 years ago by Alfred Guggisberg from the Guggisberg Cheese Company in Ohio.  In addition to loaves of Hannah’s breads, meats and cheeses are available by the pound for take-out.  They also stock Amish Wedding Food brand canned goods of pickled treats and fruit butters that are traditionally served at Amish weddings.

The next time you’re speeding up and down Interstate 77 near the Virginia/North Carolina line, take a break and drive two short miles into Hillsville for a sandwich made on sourdough or wheat bread baked on the premises.  If you prefer driving the more scenic routes in southwest Virginia along highway 52, you’re only a block away from a breakfast or lunch worth driving miles for.  If a sandwich is too much, take a break for a donut or a cinnamon roll as big as a cat’s head or a pumpkin and cream cheese muffin, all baked fresh each morning.  Leftovers at the end of the day are donated to Joy Ranch Children’s Home.

You can still find the Millers selling donuts at the Rocky Mount Farm Days once a month or at an occasional flea market around southwest Virginia, including Hillsville’s Labor Day Flea Market.  You don’t have to wait for Farm Day or the Flea Market to try their delicacies.  The Dutch Oven is open Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm and Saturdays from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, 118 Court St, Hillsville, Virginia.  Call them at (276) 728-0302.

 

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Covering Main Street Hillsville VA

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Laura and Jamie welcoming customers.

“How wonderful there’s a Ridge business again on Main Street {Hillsville},” reminisced Ruthie Ridge Griggs, life-long resident of Hillsville and daughter of C. E. Ridge, owner of a onetime staple of Hillsville’s Main Street shopping, C.E. Ridge’s 5 & 10 Store. Laura Ridge Sinclair opened “The 304 North Main Shop”, a custom upholstery business, in mid-August after only two weeks of prep time. Laura had outgrown the space in her home when someone informed her of the possibility of a storefront opening on Main Street.  She didn’t think long.  She signed a lease and moved right in.  There was no painting or prepping necessary.  She and sister, Jamie Lee Ridge, started right in, improving the much needed eye-catching curb appeal.  The bright yellow umbrellas now stand shading the colorful flowers planted in a planter box made by their deceased brother, Bugs.  It had been in storage for years.  The sisters were elated to include a symbolic piece of their loved one in the new adventure, thinking of his presence in the planter as watching over them. The purposefully ambiguous name of the business, “The 304 North Main”, is meant to give the new business plenty of room to grow.  Laura did not want her business to be known solely as an upholstery shop.  It is not a design studio, but certainly has the components and merchandise anyone needing help decorating a home would want to see.  Jennifer Powers of Lisette Interior Design, just next door, is proving to be a complementary business neighbor.  They’ve already collaborated on contracts. The focus of “The 304 North Main” is upholstery, custom draperies, window treatments, and pillows.  Laura and Jamie specialize, too, in painted furniture, anything recycled or rejuvenated.  There are harmonizing antique pieces, Jamie’s original art, and handcrafted boutique pieces such as designer aprons and unique lampshades. Pieces are for sale of upcycled furniture that have been given a face lift with modern, contemporary fabrics Neither the textile industry, or the retail industry is new to either sister.  They grew up around the business. Their mother and dad owned Custom House Drapery in King, North Carolina, a commercial operation selling to Sears, J. C. Penney’s and Belk.  Right out of school, Laura worked for 18 years as the International Customer Service Rep for a textile manufacture, Fieldcrest Mills in Eden, North Carolina. The seeds of the business first came about when Laura and Jamie were taking life-long learning classes at Surry Community College.  Jamie was on sabbatical from Salem College in Winston-Salem, but continuing to pursue a degree in art with classes in Dobson.  Laura was taking wine-making classes.  They preferred to take a class together.  The only class that fit the two schedules was upholstery.  They signed up, thinking they would take the class for no other reason than to upgrade their own furniture. Jamie’s background in studio art, art history and color theory, a natural fit with Laura’s background in textiles, gives roots to their desire to breathe new life into old pieces of discarded furniture, saving them from the landfill.  They have a vision of what a piece could be.  “A piece that may have lost it’s luster is a diamond in the rough.” says Jamie.  “Older pieces tend to be made more sturdily from solid wood, no plastics.” In fact, Laura is so conscientious about the environment that she became a certified bee keeper through a program at North Carolina State University.  Concerned with the demise of the bee population and the effects on the environment, she maintains two hives. “Nothing is too small to make a difference,” she says. Laura and her husband, Kerry, stumbled into owning a farm in Carroll County many years ago.  At a family reunion she overheard her uncle, C. E. (Charles) Ridge mention that he was going to sale his farm on Snake Creek Road.  She held him off until she and Kerry could see the property and discuss the possibilities.  They bought the farm and used it as a summer house getaway while they lived and ran their used car and property management business, of 30 years, in Beaufort, North Carolina.  Three years ago they retired and became permanent residences in Carroll County. They have fully acclimated into the community, becoming members of the Hillsville Presbyterian Church and volunteering at several non-profits, including the Hale Wilkinson Carter Home Foundation. Laura says she is overwhelmed by the support of the community with her new endeavor.  She has already established regulars who stop by for a coffee and cracker in the friendly gathering place that is being created at 304 North Main Street. The formal grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is to be announced.  She is open “By Chance” on Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm.  Laura suggests people call ahead to be sure she will be available, 252-725-0656.
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Walking My Mountains to Prepare to Walk the Camino de Santiago

IMG_1992The founder of Taoism, Lao-tzu, is attributed with saying “The longest journey begins with a single step.”  My journey began around 2000 when I was first introduced to the Camino de Santiago by Shirley Maclaine’s book, The Camino.  I was intrigued by her accounts of a self-discovery pilgrimage. Maclaine wasn’t the first person to travel that Pilgrimage and I won’t be the last.  For the last 1000 years, people such as St. Francis of Assisi, Charlemagne, Ferdinand and Isabella, Dante and even Chaucer have taken the journey. Most people walk the distance in 28 to 42 days. I will be taking my time and staying at least 40 days. I’ve asked myself several times, “Why am I so interested in walking 500 miles, alone, in a country 4,000 miles away from home?”  My Spanish is nonexistent.  Almost 50 years ago, I had one year of  Spanish in high school. I’ve always been fascinated with other cultures and travel.  I’ve fed that attraction with many trips to numerous countries.  I’ve hosted people from several counties and have been a guest of others in foreign lands. A vivid memory from my early childhood was my owning a book titled The Wanderlust.  I don’t know how I acquired it and I don’t remember the plot.  I’ve searched on-line, hoping to find a clue to the allure, but haven’t found anything that resembles that particular book. Why? Could it be something about Maya Angelou’s passage?“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James or the Camino de Santiago, begins at home and ends at the final destination site.  To me, a pilgrimage is more than just the miles one walks on the actual route.  I can attest to the fact that the journey begins at conception by the 8 months I have spent, and the 3 months more that I need, to get ready for this walk; not counting the years that the seed has been germinating in my heart and head. It has already been a journey in and of itself; just the soul-searching alone could be termed a pilgrimage. I’ve given hours and hours to internet searches and I’ve read several books, including A Pilgrims Guide to The Camino de Santiago by John Brierley, To Walk Far, Carry Less by Jean-Christie Ashmore, Eyewitness Travel ‘s Northern Spain, and one book that was so boring I gave it away and don’t remember the name or author.  When The Waycame out, a 2010 American film with Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen, I was beside myself with excitement. It was such a small budget, small release film that I missed it in the theatres, but was so happy to buy it on DVD two years ago. My tickets to Spain, in early May, are ready and waiting.  I have a reservation for a two-night stay at a hotel when I arrive in Pamplona, known here for Hemingway and the Running of the Bulls. I’ll need to get over jetlag and I want some time to see the city before I set out on foot. I’ve gone against my frugal nature of walking around town, several days a week, and have joined the Carroll Wellness Center.  I need upper-body strength to carry a 20-pound backpack and have it less burdensome.  I’ve followed all the sales at REI and made three trips to Greensboro, the nearest REI store, to reequip my hiking supplies.  My boots are 20 years old and the sole is about to come off.  Five-hundred miles with less than wonderful hiking boots-I don’t think so! The main pilgrimage route to Santiago, since the Middle Ages, follows an earlier Roman trade route. There are more than a dozen routes that converge at Saint James’ tomb in western Spain. Many people walk the Way for religious reasons.  Many hikers walk the route for non-religious reasons such as travel, sport, or the challenge.  Part of my fascination and determination is to experience a spiritual adventure and to distance myself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Part of my resolve is to stay as young as possible, both mentally and physically.  This segment of my life should provide proof of my mental and physical competences, one way or the other. The Camino’s accommodations are unique with pilgrim hostels (albergues) which allow pilgrims to sleep in dormitory-style accommodations for as little as €3-10 ($4-14) per night. A good reason to go in May is to avoid the college kids that frequent the trail in the summer months.  By all accounts, there are pilgrims of all age groups.  Pilgrim menus are served in restaurants and sometimes at the hostels and are reasonably priced to accommodate the cathartic adventure. To prevent misuse of the 1000-year old spirit of hospitality at the refugios, a stayis limited to those carrying proof of their intentions.  One small indication that a person is a perigrino (pilgrim) is the iconic symbol of the scallop shell carried by the traveler.  There are many accounts as to why this item is symbolic, but one source suggests the grooves in the shell meet at a single point that represent the various routes traveled, arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela. Authentic pilgrims carry a credencial, a pass which gives access to the inexpensive and sometimes free, accommodation.  The credencial is stamped at each hostel along the way. Once you reach the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, after a ritual visit to Saint James’ tomb, you may present your credencial and petition for a compostela, a certificate of accomplishment, written in Latin, given to pilgrims completing the Way. How will I feel after spending that many days away from family, away from the familiar?  Will I want to take up where I leave off? Will my life ever be the same? Follow my day-to-day experience as I blog about this journey at www.penelopesart.com.  I will also carry a pencil and a beautiful new lightweight leather journal that my good friend gave me for the trip in which I will attempt to record my thoughts for later reflections.
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Bed Full of Bonnets

Laura Cassell

Laura Cassell

by Penelope Moseley The wind was howling, furiously, on a cold day in March when a petite, frail looking women came scurrying round her house to let me know I was knocking at the wrong door. When this writer sat down with Mrs. Cassell to hear about her art forms, I asked where she would like for me to sit.  She answered, “Anywhere.”  Thinking she might want to claim a very comfortable looking rocker, I said, “But where do you usually sit?”  Her answer to that question set the stage for the summary of her life, “Well, I’m usually upstairs settin’ at my sewing machine.” Laura Cassell, who celebrated her 94th birthday this past January (2014), has worked tirelessly this brutal winter to replenish her inventory at Mayetta’s Market, an auxiliary body of the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home Foundation. Mrs. Cassell is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.  She learned to sew in a Home Economics class in school.  In her opinion, she learned more from her aunt, Flora Gardner, when she lived with Flora for four years.  Laura says, “You learn by doing.  You make one mistake and you don’t do it again.” Mrs. Cassell, born and raised on route 221 in Carroll County is the oldest of five children. She is a woman who has never been in a hospital and whose no-fear attitude started early in life.  When she was a young teenager, her brother needed a tonsillectomy, but didn’t want to go alone.   She was not sick, but volunteered to go with him.  When they arrived at Dr. Cox’s office, he announced that he would do two for the price of one -  $25.  They both went home to heal that day. In a time this country was suffering from the effects of a depression, Laura married Harvey Wayne Gardner and they moved into a one-room house, with a loft for the bed, in Floyd County. Someone gave them a chicken, another friend gave them a cow and another a pig.  “I thought I was in heaven,” says Mrs. Cassell.  They set up housekeeping and began her self-sufficient life style, farming and raising a family. After Mr. Gardner returned home from WWII, he bought a sawmill and milled the lumber for the home that sits on land bought from her father, that Mrs. Cassell lives in today. She is very gratified with the solid oak floors that stood strong against four children, Elizabeth Huff of Hillsville, Harvey Ray Gardner of Martinsville, David Gardner of Charlotte, NC and John Wayne Gardner, deceased.    Today 12 grandchildren test the house, especially in their special playroom filled with Cabbage Patch dolls and an assortment of other interesting things to keep a child at play. A creative and frugal woman, Laura used her skills to make ends meet by repurposing used garments and feed sacks into clothes for the family.  She asserted, “Even the teachers wore feed-sack dresses in those days. “  After working at the school cafeteria, Mrs. Cassell, at the age of 45, took a job at Sprague Electric in Hillsville and retired there after 20 years of service. Today she does alterations for friends, quilts, pieces quilt tops, decorates cakes, makes grape vine wreaths from her own grape vines, and is renowned for her cooking abilities. She makes the cookies for her homemade banana pudding!  She wouldn’t think of using store-bought vanilla wafers. The craft that keeps her occupied in the long winter months, these days, is sewing; sun bonnets, aprons, casserole totes, tote bags, baskets or anything else she dreams up.  This winter alone, she fashioned more than 30 eighteenth century style “Country Wives” bonnets, commonly worn by our British, French and North American working, middle-class women. She makes them from 100% cotton in small, middle and large sizes, as well as doll-size.  She began making the bonnets when friends wanted them for local events.  She didn’t have a pattern, but remembered seeing women wearing them in her younger days and came up with her own pattern. When she started making the bonnets, Laura gave them away, but explained that so many people wanted them and materials got costly, so she had to start charging.  In addition to selling her craft items at Mayetta’s Market, Laura dons her bonnet and apron with a period dress to demonstrate butter making (churning) and to sell her work at Shockley Old Timey Days, in Hillsville each September. She is an experienced butter maker.  In her farming days, she would get up at 4:00am to milk the cows. She made butter and cheese for the family and sold milk to various customers.  A beautiful Chippendale style secretary desk sits opposite a cherry corner cupboard in her living room.  The cherry cupboard was made from a tree, milled by Mr. Gardner, that went down in her yard.  The Chippendale, that houses a set of World Book Encyclopedias, was proudly purchased from her milk money. She doesn’t have time to quilt for people anymore but her quilting frame hangs from the ceiling of her sewing room, ready to hoist down and quilt for her family.  She has given a Double Wedding Ring quilt to each of her 12 grandchildren and 3 children. In addition to her craftwork, Mrs. Cassell is active at Fairview Presbyterian Church and with the seniors who meet each second Thursday at Sylvatus Ruritan Club.  She also volunteers to sell hot dogs for the Hale Wilkinson Carter Home Foundation during Hillsville’s Cruise Ins. Her numerous perennial flowerbeds are yawning the beginning of spring. In her words, “I like to work outside too much in the summertime to do any sewing.  I don’t know how much longer I can do it, but I’ll keep at it as long as I can.” To see Mrs. Cassell’s work and the art and crafts of many other local arts, visit Mayetta’s Market, an auxiliary of the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home Foundation.  It is operated by volunteers for the benefit of the Home, to provide income in support of local and regional artisans and upkeep and maintenance for the Home. Writers, musicians, artists and crafts people are invited to apply to participate through the jury process. The Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home Foundation preserves “The Home”, a historical museum, and informs the general public about the cultural heritage of southwest Virginia by promoting artistic, educational and intellectual events.  Hours to tour the home vary, but Mayetta’s Market Gift Shop located on the first floor is open 11:00-4:00 Thursdays and Fridays and 11:00-2:00 on Saturdays, March through December. For more information on the Carter Home you may call (276) 728-5600 or visit the website at www.halewilkinsoncarterhome.org.  
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Tripping or Centering?

by Penelope Moseley Easter Monday, the day before Arbor Day, was a perfect time to be outside.  I wanted to hike Buffalo Mountain, elevation 3,971 feet, a hike to aid my training for the Camino de Santiago.  The Buffalo is a pilot for the Blue Ridge Plateau region, as “Pilot” Mountain is the pilot for piedmont North Carolina.  The Buffalo amazes you from many vantage points in Carroll, Floyd or Patrick Counties. Carroll County Virginia is THE place to be to center yourself, in many ways.   Nature is my go-to-place for self-reflection.  Downtown Hillsville is the center of my universe, the center of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the center point for day tripping that will keep you from tripping out.  Numerous trails in southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina serve my centering purpose.  I think each hike I take is my favorite place.  And, it is.  Until I take the next one. The sun was bright, the temperature pleasantly warm.  I stuffed lunch and water into a daypack and took my granddaughter, Lacy, for a short ride out highway 221 to Willis, turned on Conner’s Grove Road (VA 799) and drove about 5 miles to Moles Road, (VA 727).  Moles Road turns right one more time. I drove about another mile on a dirt road over some huge washed-out potholes made by winter’s attack.  I wouldn’t want to drive a low-slung car on that road!  I took a right at a three-way fork and drove over a better dirt road to the parking lot. The trail is a one-mile hike to the summit, but it is a strenuous mile.  Lacy is an eight-year-old. She marched up the mountain like a Sherpa guide - until the sweat started pouring. I forgot to grab her a hat and all that hair was making her feel like she was wearing a sheepskin coat, standing beside a pot-bellied stove. I tried putting her hair up using a stick, but she thought she didn’t look good enough and took the stick out.  I finally gave her my hat to stop the complaints.  We were one or two weeks early for the shade of newly developed leaves in the deciduous forest.  As it was, we had a clear view to the cerulean blue sky. I love nature.  Lacy is much the same way.  Even at a young age, she would sit in my garden and dig in the dirt for what seemed like hours, happy as a lark.  It was easy enough to quiet the complaints by focusing her on the significant natural occurrences we were walking on.  My old rock-hounding days from a life in Asheville, North Carolina paid off.  The magnesium rich outcroppings on Buffalo render it unlike any other place in the Commonwealth. There were beautiful milky white quartz veins all along the trail. She became very interested in the rocks, weighing down my pack with new pieces for her collection. According to the website, http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/natural_area_preserves/buffalo.shtml, Buffalo Mountain is the only known location in the world for a mealy bug called Puto kosztarabi.  After searching several websites, I finally found a picture of the Buffalo Mountain mealy bug.  I really did see a corpse of one that I pointed out to Lacy.  Too bad I didn’t have enough foresight to photograph that too. I did photograph flowers, but like the fish that got away, I missed a great shot of a bee on a cinquefoil, the white, strawberry-looking bloom with razor sharp pointed leaves that reminds me of images I’ve seen of marijuana leaves. I was able to capture one image of a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.  Black Swallowtails and Tiger Swallowtails were abundant near and on top of the mountain. Ah!!!!  Nature!!!!! The conversation going steeply up the last 50 steps went something like this: “Yaya, I’m tired.   Yaya, stop!  I need water.  Yaya, can we sit on this rock for a while?  Yaya, can we eat here?, etc.”   With the last step, just as you crest the summit and see the view below and the rocky ridge in front of you, all that changed to, “Oh my gosh!!!!!!!”  Out of the blue, Lacy saw the reward for all the difficult steps. Don’t count on a porta-potty or any shade on top of the wind-exposed summit!  I used my jacket draped on a bush to make shade while we enjoyed our sandwiches.   There were too many people on the trail, especially on top that day, for me to be comfortable squatting behind a bush.  Our break was quick and we scurried like a squirrel back down the trail. I turned right on Conner’s Grove Road, instead of backtracking to Willis.  We came out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and turned west, stopping at Meadows of Dan for a restroom and an ice cream, a reward for an invigorating hike.  Back in the car, Lacy slept and I CENTERED.
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Contact Me
If you would like your vacation or tourism property covered in a feature story, contact me,
Penelope Moseley
276-733-9704
paw@penelopesart.com