April ABODE: The Scene

Spring abounds with opportunities to learn about growing fruit. (Photo by John Grant)

Compleat gardening
Growing herbs can mean nothing more than a pot of chives on the kitchen window—or it can be the foundation for a healthy, nature-centered way of life. That’s the idea behind the course “Whole Living from the Ground Up,” offered by Louisa’s Forrest Green Farm this growing season. The 12-session course teaches a holistic approach to growing and using herbs and veggies, touching on many other aspects of organic living along the way.
Students will learn not only how to grow and make medicine from herbs, but also herbal body care, seasonal eating, making cordials and elixirs, using cover crops, basic botany and a long list of other skills in the garden and kitchen. The goal is to cultivate self-sufficiency through whole foods, seasonal awareness and herbal wisdom, and the class is hands-on, so you’ll be taking home the results of class projects.

The Whole Living course meets two Sundays a month, May through October, and costs $600 plus a $300 materials fee. See forrestgreenfarm.com for more.—Erika Howsare

Bin there
Not jazzed about plastic compost barrels? Tired of critters raiding your unprotected heap? Here’s a local, aesthetically pleasing alternative. Brian Wright of Faber’s Pilot Mountain Farm makes wooden compost bins by hand.

The bins are made of untreated cedar on sides and top, with untreated pine framing, and coated with linseed oil for protection. They cost $195 and you can order one by contacting Wright at bwright@goldengate.net or 361-1568.—E.H.

A bounty of learning
Just like every year, this spring there’s a wealth of local opportunities to learn about growing food—especially fruit. Here’s the tasty lineup.—E.H.

*Find out all about grafting and propagating fruit during an all-day intensive workshop taught by Alexis Zeigler, April 7 from 9am to 5pm. You’ll learn how to grow fruit trees from seed, a number of different grafting techniques (they have cool names, like whip grafting and saddle grafting) and specialized techniques for hard-to-root plants. There will also be a discussion about growing fruit in the local climate without using pesticides or fungicides. You’ll take home five fruit trees, plus a grafting knife. Contact Zeigler at 409-6006 or alexis@conev.org. The workshop costs $50.

*On May 5, bone up on the “art and science of finely crafted fermented cider” at Albemarle CiderWorks. This Cider Maker’s Forum costs $125, including lunch. Register at vintage-virginia-apples.myshopify.com.

*Learn from a local master grower, Michael McConkey of Edible Landscaping, during a three-hour fruit production course at Scottsville’s Maple Hill Farm on May 17, 4-7pm. McConkey will discuss what kinds of fruit grow around here (going well beyond apples—think kiwi and pomegranate!), plus site preparation, pest management, and propagation. The class costs $35 and you can find out more at 286-2176 or info@localfoodhub.org.

Fair thee well
Charlottesville’s EcoFair has become a spring ritual for greenies, plus folks who like music, gaiety and food (read: everybody). This year’s EcoFair happens April 22, noon-6pm, at the Main Street Arena.

The heart of the fair is the long list of exhibitors—last year, those included everybody from Bellair Farm CSA to Natural Earth Laundry to the Ivy Creek Foundation. Another reason to show up: great raffle prizes, like rain barrels, solar panels and (for the pleasure-seeking environmentalist in you) massage gift certificates. Plus, there’s live music, local food and hands-on demonstrations.

Want to help out? The EcoFair needs volunteers. To find out more, see earthweek.org.—E.H.

(Photo by John Robinson)

This month’s artisan: Todd Leback
Bringing a Scandinavian touch to the local furniture scene is Todd Leback, who sells his modern cabinetry and furniture at his own Sycamore Gallery at 608 Preston, plus other local retailers: Chroma, the Artful Lodger and Muses. Leback, who’s self-taught, uses both solid wood and veneers in his work, forgoing stains and paints.

Despite being new to the business, he’s already making a name for himself: “I’m going to be attending some major furniture shows this year,” he told us, “the first being the Baltimore Fine Furnishings show the first weekend in May.” Get in touch with him at 960-4516 or check out vaneristudio.com.—Erika Howsare

Describe the style of your work in five words or less.
Modern with clean lines.

Briefly, how did you become a furniture maker?
I’ve been trying to do furniture full time for the past year. I dropped out of William and Mary after one year in ‘97 and started working construction, doing remodeling and new construction. I’ve built cabinetry and also attended a six-month course in traditional wooden boatbuilding.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made in the last year?
A console table I’ve built using macassar ebony and cherry. It has a sleek, simple design reminiscent of some mid-century modern pieces. One of my favorite aspects about it is that I made the legs removable for easy shipping.

What’s an object you love in your home that you did not make?
We’ve got a number of Clementina plates from South Africa that I think are fantastic—hand painted with vibrant colors and designs.

Peter Hatch’s new book details the Monticello gardens he’s tended for more than 30 years. (Photo by Ashley Twiggs)

Garden Week features Hatch book launch
As always, Historic Garden Week is packed with more fine old houses, notable furniture and (oh yeah) gardens than you could possibly take in. See vagardeenweek.org for the full schedule and ticket info. Garden Week 2012 takes place April 21-28, with the Albemarle tours happening in and around Keswick on April 22 and 23.

One highlight at the granddaddy of Albemarle estates: Monticello will host a launch party to celebrate the release of a new book by its director of gardens and grounds, Peter Hatch. The book, “A Rich Spot of Earth”: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, is a nearly 300-page, full-color tour of Jefferson’s beloved and, in many ways, radical mountaintop gardens. It covers everything from Jefferson’s seed-saving practices, to favorite vegetable varieties, to how the third president was influenced by garden practices from other countries.

“I tried to emphasize that this was a sacred place,” Hatch told C-VILLE in 2009. During his nearly 35-year tenure on the little mountain, he oversaw a major shift at Monticello, returning to an emphasis on historical accuracy at the World Heritage Site.

The launch party for Peter Hatch’s book will happen April 23, 6-8pm, on the West Lawn at Monticello, and includes informal tours, Virginia wine and heavy hors d’oeuvres. You must reserve $60 tickets at Monticello.org.—E.H.

(Photo courtesy Design House)

All designs in one house
Now in its third year, the Design House event is becoming a bright star on the local calendar. Each spring, the Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE), which supports victims of domestic violence, invites interior designers to apply their talents to a local house—with each designer transforming one room–then opens the home for tours. (ABODE is a sponsor of this year’s event.) You can tour the 2012 Design House, located in Ivy Farms, May 5-20.

Design companies on the roster include Gibson Design Group, Kathy Davies Interiors, Stedman House, Water Street Studios, and 14 others. They’ll gussy up the home of Sanjiv and Cindy Kaul, which features a separate two-bedroom cottage, a pond, and a two-story quartz fireplace. The house was renovated in 1994 by Haven Construction, with finish work by noted local tradespeople like Toru Oba and Terry Herndon, and boasts a sauna as well as family rooms on each of three levels.

Organizers have planned a few tempting special events. Besides taking a tour (tickets cost $20), you could attend a Preview Party May 3 (6-9pm, $100). Or check out a Designer Breakfast May 9, 9-10am, where four of this year’s designers will share tips on decorating topics like color and fabric (tickets are $15). On May 14, folks from Beehive Events will give a talk on Table Top Design, for no extra cost if you’ve got a tour ticket.

Check out cvilledesignhouse.com for more, and mark your calendar!—E.H.

(Photo by Cramer Photo)

To remember where she’s been
Laura Van Camp, owner of Jean Theory
“When I graduated from college, my dad bought me two maps—one of the U.S. and one of the world. They’re pretty big, two by three feet. He bought them for me because I wanted to travel. I was going to mark the places I wanted to go, but I started marking with red dots the places I had been. I couldn’t get them framed because custom framing, my goodness, is like $250. So I framed them with crown molding from Lowe’s.”

(File photo)

Dealing with the nasty stuff
During spring cleaning time, we’ve all come across stuff with the toxic CAUTION label looming. It’s tempting to just throw it away. Problem is, dangerous reactions can happen when hazardous chemicals are combined—not to mention the effects of pollution on our land and sea creatures and, in turn, us humans. Just one quart of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water. And here in Charlottesville, 70 percent of our rivers, lakes, streams do not meet federal and state water quality standards! Everything we flush, put down the sink or drain, on our lawns, ends up being treated and put back into our waterways.

According to Robbi Savage, Executive Director of the Rivanna Conservation Society, one of the most important ways to help is to properly dispose of prescriptions and household hazardous waste.

The city and county will continue Household Hazardous Waste disposal service this spring: for residents, Saturday, April 14 (I’ve heard they are STRICT with their hours: 9am-2pm). Amnesty collection days for Bulky Waste will follow on the Saturdays of April 21 (furniture/mattresses), May 5 (appliances), and May 12 (tires), which contain flame retardant, freon, and other chemicals unfit for regular trash cans. See rswa.avenue.org/household.htm for the list of items accepted.

CFL bulbs? HHW Day, Lowe’s, and Vanderlinde Recycling accept them.

Partially empty or full paint cans? Vanderlinde Recycling or the Ivy MUC (materials utilization center) location.

Nail Polish: EPA considers this a household hazardous waste. Bring it out to HHW Day.
Never mix used motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, paint, paint thinner, pesticides, solvents or other potentially hazardous liquids together. Of course, never pour them into the ground or storm sewer.

As for prescription drugs: Most grocery store pharmacies now sell an 8 x 11 envelope ($2.99) to place leftover or out-of-date prescriptions. Or you can wait until National Take Back Prescription Day on April 28. Call ahead to see if your favorite pharmacy is participating. (Details at Environmental Return System: www.sharpsinc.com)

Check out Better World Betty’s green living resource list at betterworldbetty.org and blog at cvillebetty.blogspot.com.


Materials: Black cardstock, White cardstock. Tools: Camera, Scissors, Glue stick, Pencil. (Photo by Ed Warwick)

Prints charming
I have a very vivid memory of my parents forcing me and my two siblings to sit still on vacation while a street vendor made our silhouettes. From the trendiest of magazines to the chicest of weddings, silhouettes are all the rage again—a traditional, yet modern approach to the family portrait. Here’s how to make your own silhouettes, easily and for just a few bucks.

To begin, take a profile photo of your subject, whether it’s yourself, a loved one, or the family pet (don’t worry, you can cut out your double chin later). Have the photos printed at your local photo lab (the size print will be determined by how large you want your silhouette to be).

Using your scissors, cut out the profile image, removing the background. Lay your image flat on your black cardstock and trace it lightly with your pencil. Then carefully cut out the image on the black cardstock. For a more traditional look, mount the silhouette to a piece of white cardstock, mat, and frame. For a more modern look, mount the silhouette on a piece of patterned scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, or a wallpaper remnant.—Ed Warwick

Vintage finds
Back in the day, craftspeople relied on their tools to make a way in the world. Today, many of those same tools have survived and are still going strong. The ergonomic handles, quality hardwoods and carefully forged metals afford these instruments longevity not often achieved by their modern counterparts.

True, some antique tools should be admired for design and aesthetic. Some should be revered for the stories tucked in the rust, chips and cracks. But a fair few can be cleaned up and put back to work.

A vintage hand drill tops the list as an elder tool still worth its iron. A hand bit brace and an “egg beater” style gear drill are the two most prevalent types of older hand drills. Both are non-electric and rely on the transfer and amplification of rotating force, through gears and the like, to turn a drill bit. Well-maintained hand drills are perfect for precision drilling or small jobs that may suffer from too much torque (think furniture construction and repair). Plus, you don’t have to worry about the battery failing mid-drill, or whether the extension cord will reach far enough.

Although made with softer steel than modern chisels, wooden handled vintage finds are easier to sharpen and therefore, maintain than their extremely rigid granddaughters. Here is also a case for the superior ergonomics of older tools, as the lathed handles are comfortable and responsive. Not to mention that wood functions as a healthier shock absorber than most plastic, while still transferring the force of a mallet’s blow effectively.

Arguably, most contemporary tools benefit from vastly improved materials (think titanium claw hammers) and more precise manufacturing processes (most measuring instruments: laser level, sliding bevel, etc.). But for the sheer delight of nostalgia and elbow grease, I’ll stick with my grandfather’s hand forged auger bits for now.—Christy Baker


(File photo)

Spare me
We love the architectural look—like futuristic office towers—of these bowling pins from local company Cardboard Safari. They’d look equally sharp in a kid’s room or grown-up living room. Best part: You can actually bowl with them. Other best part: They’re made from recyclable cardboard. See cardboardsafari.com.

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