March ABODE: Blacksmith's method, water-saving apps, and more

Plant your own forest
If you’re longing for a more verdant landscape outside your kitchen window—or if you just believe in the importance of oxygen—how about planting some trees? The Virginia Department of Forestry grows and sells upwards of 24 million tree seedlings every year, in a few dozen varieties—from hardwoods like red maple and sycamore, to conifers like Virginia pine, to ornamentals like dogwoods. You can order seedlings (as long as you want at least 10 of a species) at

Don’t need 10 seedlings? Go in with a neighbor; the prices are friendly ($45 for 25 northern red oak seedlings, for one). And do it soon; many species sell out. The harvest season ends in April.

Tips for planting: Plant during the seedling’s dormant season (for most species, that means before April). Keep roots moist and covered, and don’t prune them. Dig a hole as deep as the roots are long, plant the tree up to its root collar, and if you mulch, don’t let the mulch touch the trunk. Keep your new seedling watered and look forward to a long, beautiful friendship.—Erika Howsare

Bring on the critters
Having lots of wildlife around your home isn’t just a matter of getting lucky. There is plenty that humans can do to encourage the presence of bees, birds, and other animals near our dwellings. In fact, the Piedmont Environmental Council offers help to homeowners who want to create a welcoming habitat. Start at the PEC website (, where you can read a Bird Habitat Guide, browse a list of native plant suppliers, and learn how to build a frog pond.
Then, consider calling up Sustainable Habitat Program Manager James Barnes, who’s available to give advice on any size project, from bringing pollinators to a suburban backyard to making grasslands more inviting to birds. The best part? There’s no charge for his wisdom.
Speaking of charges, if the expense of a habitat or other land conservation project is standing in your way, the PEC also now offers a database of funding sources to help you out. The database gives the lowdown on 82 different programs, from tax relief for conservation easements, to the Pine Bark Beetle Prevention program.

Sounds like the bee’s knees to us. Barnes is available at or (543) 347-2334, x30.—E.H.

That’s the number of official “Transition Towns” in the U.S.—that is, cities that are undertaking initiatives to confront peak oil, within the model of the Transition movement (which began in the U.K. in 2006). Charlottesville held its own Transition workshop in February, kicking off what organizers hope will be a more sustainable future for our town.

Too sweet
Attention, cookie monsters: You can cut down on sweets and eat them too—that is, if you get hip to lower-sugar cooking and baking. Luckily, we have a local expert on this matter: Wendy Vigdor-Hess, dietician and author of the book Sweetness Without Sugar. She’ll share some of her many recipes for satisfying treats that don’t rely on refined sugar, March 31, during a workshop at Divine Play.

Vigdor-Hess knows that sugar cravings are no joke. She aims to give folks healthier ways to satisfy those urges. Check out her book at or at Integral Yoga Natural Foods. Or sign up for the workshop at Divine Play, 313 Second St. SE, 1-3pm on March 31. The cost is $55. See for more.—E.H.

Woolen Mills as captured by Bill Emory. He gave a “Where I Live” talk on the neighborhood in February; this month, the series will cover the Martha Jefferson/Locust Grove area. 

Locale news
Charlottesville’s rich history lives not only in the brick-clad edifices of Court Square, but in the minds and memories of residents from all over the city. The Historic Resources Committee will bring some of those stories into the open with its “Where I Live” events—a series of monthly talks on Charlottesville neighborhoods, taking place at C’ville Coffee throughout 2012.

The series kicked off in January with a talk about West Main Street by lifelong resident Preston Coiner and photographer John Shepherd, and continued in February with a presentation on Woolen Mills by Bill Emory and Victoria Dunham.

Each event happens on a Sunday, 3-5pm, and it’s free to attend. Next up is a March 18 talk on the Martha Jefferson/Locust Grove neighborhood. A tentative schedule includes talks on many other parts of town, from Lewis Mountain to 10th and Page. Call 970-3130 for more info.

Oh, and bring your storyteller hat: Audience contributions are encouraged.—E.H.

Flower fun
One of our favorite discoveries of 2012, so far, is a blog by Nancy Ross Hugo, the Howardsville-based author of Seeing Trees. She was a longtime garden writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and she’s an all-around expert on plants and flowers and being outside.

Her blog is called Windowsill Arranging, and the premise is simple: She makes a new flower arrangement every day. It’s a smart, lovely site. The arrangements are casual, the writing is crisp, the photos are pretty. And it’s evidence of the small beauties of our region, seen through the lens of a devoted observer. Hugo makes use of whatever’s currently blooming, or has a nice shape: hellebore leaves, parsley stems, a lone daffodil on New Year’s Day (!).
Bookmark it for a daily dose of quiet delight:—E.H.

This month’s artisan: Gerald Boggs

(Photo by Sarah Janeway)

The ancient, elementary craft of blacksmithing is the province of Afton-based Gerald Boggs, who forges forms both practical (coat hooks) and symbolic (the Tree of Life) under the name Wayfarer Forge. “One of my favorites is the cross,” he tells us. “It’s one of the oldest symbols of man, one of the most simple, and yet has endless variations.” Find Boggs’ work at City Market, the Michie Tavern and Monticello gift stores, or at his shop (which is part of the Artisan Trail). Contact him at—E.H.

Describe the style of your work in five words or less.
I don’t have a style, I have a method: “Forged by hand and hammer.”

How did you become a blacksmith?
By the serendipitous meeting of a blacksmith. Upon first sight, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. At first he would let me come to his forge on the weekends; later he gave me a job. I worked for him for three-and-a-half years and then started Wayfarer Forge.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve made in the past year?
My favorite form was a Tree of Life. All cultures and beliefs have a Tree, so everyone finds a connection to it.

What’s an object you love in your home that you did not make?
I have several wooden chests and boxes. One’s an old Gold Rush stage coach chest.

Deco set
The greenest furniture is the stuff that already exists. Our favorite secondhand find of the month is this diner-style table and stool set, which called out to us at the Habitat Store.

Virginia Victorian
Nothing like a well-placed detail to turn the heads of passersby. In Belmont, this house charms with its very local (i.e., brick-and-white) take on the Victorian form. It works because of that just-ornate-enough woodwork edging the porch roof, and the slim columns that recall—but not too closely—all the white verticals propping up Mr. Jefferson’s porticos.

Rain garden
The old way: Funnel stormwater off pavement and roofs into closed sewers, and thence to the watershed. The new way: Guide it to a planted depression in the ground, where native plants take up excess water, soil filters out pollutants, and runoff to local waterways is reduced (along with erosion). That’s called a rain garden. This one was planted by residents in the RiverBluff neighborhood.

Where the chips fall
Artwork is a surefire way to bring personality and charm to a space, but it sure can be expensive. Ready to let go of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s print? (Face it, you don’t even like that movie.)

Here’s a fun and easy way to make some affordable, one-of-a kind artwork for your abode.—Ed Warwick

Paint chips from the home improvement store
Mat and frame

Spray adhesive

Pick up a handful or two of paint chips at your local home improvement store in colors that suit your mood and will complement your space and décor. Using your scissors, cut the paint chips into the shape(s) of your choice (try triangles or diamonds). Be sure to cut off the part that lists the paint color name–you know, Mango Sunset, Clean Laundry, Misty Mountain Morning, etc.

Arrange your chips into a fun pattern on your cardboard to visualize the final product. Once satisfied, cut your cardboard to the size of your frame and spray it with even coats of spray adhesive. Lay your paint chips on the cardboard, in your desired pattern, and press firmly.
Once dry, place your new artwork in a store-bought frame for a more finished look. Hang, enjoy, and serve with wine and cheese.

Keep it clean
There’s nothing more frustrating than finally locating the tool you’ve been searching for, just to discover it’s still gummed up with last month’s paint or, worse, last year’s machine grease. Ick.

When it comes to keeping your tools clean, a proper solvent is often required to eliminate the remnants of various oils, stains and other gummy grime.

A word of warning: Solvents are powerful cleaning agents because they often contain strong and possibly harmful chemicals. Please follow manufacturers’ guidelines carefully and employ proper safety techniques.

As a rule, use the least powerful method appropriate for the clean-up job to minimize unnecessary exposure to toxins. For example, if you have some adhesive residue from a sticker on your new, energy efficient double-pane windows, don’t douse it with acetone (nail polish remover). Instead, try using smearing some hand lotion on the goo. Wait a few minutes and it should wipe right off. Clean the oily streaks with a 50:50 vinegar water solution and some newspaper.

Certain gunk requires bringing out the big guns. It’s nearly unavoidable (unless you want to throw that sloppy paint brush in the trash). Alkyd and other oil-based paints and stains require a tough solvent to free the brush, roller or sponge from the pigments and binder. Turpentine, which is actually made from trees, is a tried and true brush cleaner and paint thinner. Bonus: it’s reusable! Keep your turpentine sealed in a glass container and let the particles settle to the bottom after cleaning your brush. The stuff on top is ready to use next time.

Many solvents contain water, which can damage some metal parts on tools. Using a product like WD40, odorless mineral spirits or a water-free citrus-based solvent will help stave off rust. In fact, any freshly cleaned metal items will benefit from a wipe down of 3-in-1 oil or vegetable oil. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a liter of Goo Gone.—Christy Baker

tips from better world betty
Apps to save water
Water is vital to everyone, every day. In honor of World Water Day on March 22, this month Betty has found top-rated iPhone applications to help you do your part to conserve our most precious resource.

Drip Detective: I love this clever app that calculates your water waste and cost from leaky faucets. Simply tap the screen each time a drip fall from your faucet and voila—see the reason why you should fix it ASAP!

How Blue Are You? This application launched by American Standards details their highest efficiency products, but also offers a water savings calculator, quiz, and efficiency tips.
How much water do you eat? The Virtual Water Project would like to tell you. This application shows the large amount of water it takes to produce everyday things such as food, paper, and cotton clothes. ($1.99)

My Water Diary: Track your weekly water consumption with this application. Just click on their cute shower, toilet flush or mop graphic to see your use. Only caveat: because it hails from the U.K., it calculates in liters.

Meter Readings will help you easily monitor all of your household utility meters—in addition to water, energy and gas. Once you start entering readings, your usage, costs and savings are calculated and displayed in easy-to-visualize graphs.

Finally Facebook, Friend2Friend, and Siemens have teamed up to offer a Personal Water Footprint Calculator to help you conserve. Take a test and you’ll learn where you use water and get savings tips. Plus, you can share with your friends.

Check out Better World Betty’s green living resource list at and blog at

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