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Moser: When It Comes to Political Campaigns, You Don’t Know Me

Opinion 

I have the ability to think for myself. Better still, I have a desire to genuinely understand all sides of an issue. I don’t have a lot of campaign savvy. I never studied political science, nor did I participate on any debate team, but if you want to know what it takes to win my vote, here’s the way it works for me.

A successful campaign is not about “winning” a race.  It’s about achieving an opportunity to do good for the majority of people with a defined need. A successful campaign has nothing to do with personal gain. I’m sure we all get a little weary of reading the rants, blame slinging, self-serving rhetoric and incessant yammering of people declaring themselves to be the one visionary who has it all in perspective.

I know I get sick of all the pompous declarations, the flag-waving attempts to appeal to my patriotism, the subliminal messages designed to push my buttons, the media messages, and the continual assault on my senses and sensibilities all designed to sell me an idea.

Here’s a fact for all those candidates and incumbents: You don’t know me. You don’t know what’s in my heart or in my head. Your endless attempts to manipulate my vote by appealing to some issue you think matters to me will not work.

I realize I am a minority, not as a woman, but as a free thinker. I remain unencumbered by loyalty to any political party. I am motivated to vote for a candidate by what he or she has shown me, not what some campaign manager told me.

I am completely turned off by any candidate who opens his mouth to sling mud about his or her opponent. Don’t talk to me about your opponent! Talk to me about what YOU can do. Don’t make accusations, don’t try to artfully disparage your opponent, and don’t stretch the truth to make yourself look good at the expense of making someone else look bad.

If you are an incumbent, you are certainly welcome to tell me all the good things you’ve already done, as long as you include the things you are going to do in your next term. If you are a challenger, don’t spout those talking points unless you have the data to back it up. Show me a plan, convince me your idea is best or even that it will work.

If you have made an error, committed an indiscretion or been guilty of misjudgment, I forgive you. I’m fairly certain politicians are human and I do not expect perfection.

What I want, what I demand, is that you do the best job you can do, without bias, prejudice or unfair advantage. I expect a man or woman of honor and integrity, someone who cannot be bought with gifts or favors. I will vote for the person who is not looking to make a name or a career in politics, but is intent on serving for as long as he or she is effective as a leader. Show me that and you don’t have to “win” my vote. I’ll humbly drop it at your feet.

News
Five Fall Favorites at the Manassas Farmers Market

This week we’ve found five of our vendor’s fall favorites.  Check out these delicious products at the Thursday and Saturday markets

If you've never had a Honeycrisp apple, you're missing out! They're incredibly crisp and fresh and delicious. These apples make a delicious snack.

If you’ve never had a Honeycrisp apple, you’re missing out! They’re incredibly crisp and fresh and delicious. These apples make a delicious snack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Pumpkin Mini Galettes- They are delicious and pumpkin flavored.

Pumpkin Mini Galettes- They are delicious and pumpkin flavored.

 

 Mums! Beautiful and are the epitome of the fall flower.

Mums! Beautiful and are the epitome of the fall flower.

 

 

 

 

Morning Glory muffin from Bread House bakery. This muffin has carrot and other dried fruit. They also have pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pound cake.

Morning Glory muffin from Bread House bakery. This muffin has carrot and other dried fruit. They also have pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pound cake.

 

Pumpkin butter from Wildwood Farm. Great on slice of toast in the morning with your cup of coffee.

Pumpkin butter from Wildwood Farm. Great on slice of toast in the morning with your cup of coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News
Tuition Refund Check is in the Mail, Maybe

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

“Hi!” I know I sound giddy, answering my phone. But it’s my son! In his fourth week of his freshman year of college, and he’s calling me!

He’s called a few times, sometimes even just to say hi and check in, bless his heart, but it’s still infrequent, and very exciting. So I gush when I see his name on my phone.

Today, however, my 18-year-old is all business. “Hey, I just got a check from the college. It was in my mailbox. What do you want me to do with it?”

“A check?” I’m confused. “Why did they send you a check?”

“It says you overpaid the tuition. It’s for $2,200. What do I do with it?”

“Overpaid tuition?” OK, now that’s annoying. When I went to pay his tuition bill I checked it online for several days, and the bill was different every time. Finally I gave up and called the school, and was told that the latest number was accurate and correct, and besides, anything extra I sent would be kept in my son’s account towards the spring semester. And yet now my kid has received a check – for $2,200, that’s a lot! – and a note that says just the opposite.

I sigh and roll my eyes at the absolute … grr … well, OK, I decide, this is more a good thing than a bad thing, college costing less than I had planned, and no big deal. I’ll just take the check, deposit it, and send it back to them when I write the next check in January.

So: “Just mail it to me,” I tell my son.

There is a silence on the other end. “Mail it?” He hesitates. “Is that safe?”

I smile. Too funny. My technologically capable kid is perfectly comfortable with online transfers, debit cards, and direct deposit, but doesn’t trust old-fashioned paper checks to be delivered via U.S. mail.

“Um, it would be fine,” I tell him, smiling. “If you’re worried about it, just wrap the check in a piece of paper so you can’t see the numbers through the envelope. Did I give you envelopes and stamps?” I know I packed mail supplies for my daughter when she went to college, but she pared down the shopping list for my son, crossing off items she didn’t use. And now I don’t recall sending them along with this second kid, darn it.

But … “Uh, actually,” my kid says, hesitating slightly, “I’m more worried about user error.”

I pause a minute, try to figure out what he means. User error? Oh, holy cow: “Do you not know how to address an envelope?”

Another pause, then, “Maybe I can just wait and bring it home with me on fall break?”

Oh, my gosh. I grin, and rub my face with my free hand. Wow. Doesn’t know how to address an envelope. How did I let this very crucial part of my son’s education go unfilled? And how can I rectify this now, from here? I imagine talking him through writing out an envelope: ‘In the upper left-hand corner …’. Maybe I can scan one in and email the image?

Then, “Oh, wait, I know. Our accounts are with the same bank. You can just deposit it into my account. I’ll send you the account number.”

Wait: ‘How do I do that?’ I shake my head again and wonder what other life skills I have completely overlooked as I “prepared my son for college”!

News
Alborn: ‘Warfront to Storefront’ Initiative Could Fill Empty Retail Space with Able Vets

Opinion 

Today, service in the Military requires sacrifice beyond what many Americans may imagine.  The price the young men and women pay for the privilege of protecting the rest of us includes unimaginable sacrifices, significant hardships, extended absences from families and friends, and often dismemberment and the constant risk of death.

Veterans are coming back to a depressed economy, a shrinking government, high unemployment (particularly high for veterans), and competition with those who did not serve for jobs.

The Federal Government is in no position to help.

I suggest that it is time for a little out of the box thinking to make accommodations for these young men and women returning home. 

Small businesses are the engine of our economy.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce/Small Business Administration, small businesses employee about half of all private sector employees and pay nearly 45 percent of total US private payrolls.

Changes in American shopping habits and retail investments have created a plethora of empty storefronts across America.  All one has to do to confirm this is wander around any of those strip malls created in the last Century and then go to one of the new Town Centers that have pretty much destroyed traditional down towns and strip mall retail.  These empty storefronts are a problem for local communities, property owners, and Government. 

Perhaps we may turn this “problem” into an “opportunity”.

Warfronts to Storefronts suggests that we “break a few rules” to help returning veterans with an entrepreneurial spirit to get beyond finding a job and start creating them. 

It focuses on helping them start businesses that will create jobs for others.  It suggests that we develop a strategy for moving troops returning from the battlefield into those Empty storefronts.

Let’s “connect the dots” on how we might accomplish moving Veterans from warfronts to storefronts.

Problem:  Regulation continues to make opening a new business difficult.  Government continues to add new hurdles at all levels to “protect the American public”, enforce zoning rules, and nickel and dime businesses to generate revenue. 

These regulations add months, sometimes years, to the process of actually starting a small business and sometimes actually preclude business opportunities.  Regulations regarding home based offices and businesses often stop entrepreneurial initiatives “in their tracks”.

Strategy:  Evaluate all regulations in the value chain for all aspects of opening and operating a small business and make explicit exceptions for returning Veterans. Particularly examine regulations that make opening a home-based business difficult.  It should be easy for someone who has returned from a combat zone to open a business in America.  “Breaking a few rules” is a small sacrifice to help them get started.

Problem:  Rents may be unrealistically high as property owners “do the math” regarding reducing rents and tax breaks.

Strategy:  Involve property owners in the warfront to storefront project.  Work with them to reduce rents in vacant storefronts for returning Veterans to make opening a business easier.  Increasing traffic to a strip mall increases the value of that property, and increases rent potential for other vacant storefronts.

Problem:  Taxes, particularly business taxes on gross receipts regardless of profit or loss, make that critical first five years of any small business particularly challenging.

Strategy:  Create tax based business incentives for veteran owned new businesses. Offer local business and real estate tax relief for the first three years.   Implement State and Federal tax credits for the first five years.  These are not “tax breaks”.  They are an investment in veterans, jobs, and America’s economy. 

Problem:  Veterans first instinct is not necessarily to start a business.  Many don’t recognize the applicability of the skills they developed to survive in the battlefield equip them to survive in the business field.  Vets often don’t “connect the dots” between their military training and the need for those skills in the private sector.

Strategy:  Create and publicize a Warfronts to Storefronts program to introduce the vision of entrepreneurship to returning Veterans.  “Connecting the dots” between military skills and civilian business opportunities would reframe how vets view their prospects in the private sector.  Partnerships with local Veterans Groups and the Chamber of Commerce might provide a vehicle for delivery of this program.

Establish a mentorship program, perhaps principally staffed by successful veteran entrepreneurs, to work with returning Veterans. 

Vets have what it takes to start a business.  Actually, they have more than it takes.  They may not recognize that the skills that kept a platoon fed, supplied, and alive translate into the skills needed to start a business.  They took risks every day that makes new business risk pale by comparison.

Veterans are used to leading.  This leadership will result in jobs, increase tax revenue, create wealth, protect property values, and contribute to restructuring our economy to perhaps not be quite so dependent on the Federal Government. 

This is just an idea.  I suggest that perhaps local Governments consider a tightly scoped Warfront to Storefront pilot project be created to evaluate the viability of implementing some of these suggestions to see how they work out. 

Our legislatures in Richmond could lend a hand by looking for Commonwealth incentives for such a program.

Every idea is incomplete and fraught with unintended consequences.  A pilot project would allow Warfront to Storefront to be evaluated, refined, expanded, and perhaps scale to a National Program.

A community focused on Economic Development that includes a Community Development component would be an ideal place for such a pilot.  Prince William County, Virginia would be an ideal location.  It certainly has plenty of empty storefronts, and more than its share of veterans.

Every big business started out as a small business and an idea.  Let’s plant the seeds for the next generation of big businesses.  Let’s leverage the talent and confidence of returning Veterans by helping those with the entrepreneurial spirit create their own future.

It’s all in how you approach a problem.  This is a (to borrow from the military mindset) “can do” idea.

News
Moser: Economy Chugging Along as People Stop Looking for Work

Opinion

Last week, I began to feel prospects dimming in the search for a government or contractor job. Seven months have passed since smart companies caught wind of sequestration and began paring their ranks. Bill, being a well-compensated employee was in the vanguard of layoffs. I’ve begun considering the possibility my husband may no longer find employment in the cleared jobs he’s done all his life and perhaps would need to look outside the federal service sector.

First, I searched for “employers Prince William County.” That term yielded some pretty good information, such as this story from the Washington Business Journal. The author, Michael Neibauer, is a staff reporter. His data wasn’t exactly heartening if one is seeking a professional, technical position, as he summarized the employment prospects by declaring the top ten employers in Prince William County using the 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Seeking justification, I worked with my research partner, Google. I gained an excellent result with this document: the Virginia Community Profile, compiled by the Virginia Employment Commission. That document is the jackpot if you like simple statistics. There, on page 21, I found a list of the top 50 Prince William County employers.

For brevity, here’s the top ten. I encourage you to look at the entire document.

1. Prince William County School Board

2. U.S. Department of Defense

3. County of Prince William

4. Wal Mart

5. Morale Welfare and Recreation

6. Sentara Healthcare

7. Wegmans Store #07

8. Minnieland Private Day School

9. Northern Virginia Community College

10. Target Corp

In addition to learning who the top employers are, there’s lots of information about working in, or outside Prince William County. I can’t say it was great to learn that computer and math careers fall in the top five of unemployment claims. (Page 17) Then, on page 22, I discovered 7016 persons work for the federal government and 17,683 persons work for local government. Well, there’s something to work with.

My next search took me to the Human Resources page. There, I found 34 positions open, but only one in IT (Information Technology) and it was for a Geographic Information Systems Division Chief, nothing even remotely like an Oracle Database Administrator.

Looking at the remainder of the Virginia Community Profile, I saw diminishing numbers of employees. It appears if you are a professional Oracle DBA with many years of experience, you will not find a job in Prince William County, with or without a clearance.

In fact, after seven months of searching both within a 30 mile range and outside of it, using every conceivable job search that may yield results, such as: Indeed,  Simply Hired, Bright, Monster, Beyond, and Dice as well as every friend we have in the industry, we remain unemployed.

A shutdown of the Federal Government looms, certainly further decreasing opportunities. The economy is plugging along, the stock market is doing well, yet day after day, more people just give up looking for work. If you want a sobering look at the state of jobs, not just here, but all over the United States, have a look at this document from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It may seem increasingly difficult to remain optimistic. Yes, we’re down…but we’re not out!

I continue to hope for the best, but I am beginning to wonder if I have prepared for the worst.

News
Prince William Forest Park Has Lots to Offer in Fall

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Picture 1 of 8

I recently spent most of the afternoon at our lovely Prince William Forest Park. I saw quite a few other people enjoying it in their own way as well.

There were runners, bikers and trail hikers. I chose to take my cameras, tripod and rubber boots with me. I wanted to take in all the sights of the park before the flora and fauna fall into winters slumber.

News
Pantry Reveals Hidden, Expired Snackfood Gems

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

“January 2011,” I call out to my husband as I hear him step into the hallway, coming up from the basement. “That was the oldest expiration date.”

“Yeah?” Two steps later and he’s in the kitchen, surveying the scene.

There’s not much to see. I already cleaned most of it up. The trash bag has been pulled from the can and sits, bulging, by the back door. The boxes, a whole stack of them, have already been unfolded or crushed and carted to the recycle bin. In fact, the only remaining evidence of my purge is the heap of plastic chip clips sitting in the middle of the kitchen table, scavenged valuables.

I stand, hands on hips, perusing. “I can’t believe how much snack food we had.”

“I can,” my husband says. “The pantry was overflowing.”

And, OK, he is absolutely right. I hadn’t planned to tackle the pantry today, but when I got back from the grocery store and there was nowhere to put the box of oatmeal packets, it kind of became a necessity. At first I was going to just rearrange stuff, shove it deeper back, make a space just big enough for a box of oatmeal packets, but then I looked and … well, it needed to be done.

Almost 40 minutes later, the pantry contains less than half its contents. And oh, the surprises inside!

I was disappointed to throw away four boxes of expensive packages of individually packaged pretzel sticks – three unopened, but all long expired. My son, recently delivered to his freshman year in college, loved them in his school lunches … for a little while. Not, sadly, for very long, and I had stocked up in the meantime.

There was an individual fruit and gelatin cup that had turned a color no doubt unplanned by the Jell-O company. Honey roasted peanuts that had actually gone soft. Six – six! – partial bags of marshmallows, all (clunk, clunk!) alarmingly hardened. A whole heap of snack packages of peanut-butter crackers without expiration dates, but that crumbled a little when I picked them up.

There were three boxes of graham crackers in the pantry, each missing just one brick; did I make a cheesecake and forget the rest of the box the next time? I was disappointed but sort of proud of myself to put two unopened but quite old boxes of double-chocolate Milano cookies in the trash.

I opened and dumped a couple of jars of pancake mix straight into the trash – poof! For a while my kids wanted pancakes for breakfast, and I bought powdered mix and portioned it into jars so in the morning we could just add water, shake, and cook. Obviously, though, the requests at home ran out before the stockpile did.

On and on it went. We have a deep pantry, and stuff has always tended to get shoved in deeply. Bravely I reached in, blindly, time and again, grasping pale packages lurking in the back. Courageously, I stuck my arm in and swept the far corners, feeling for hidden yucky things. Calmly, I emptied out the last vestiges of school lunches, accepting that I’m done making them. Forever.

Now, my husband and I survey my work. The top two pantry shelves have stuff in the front only, nothing at all in the back. The pouches of protein powder that were sitting on the kitchen counter, too big to fit anywhere before, are tidily put away. The extra large bag of peanut M&Ms, previously stored down with the dog food, efficiently sits front and center.

“Nice work,” my husband says, then turns on his heel and gets back to whatever he was doing.

And as I stand and look, I realize with dismay: hey! No more marshmallows!?

News
Alborn: Conservatives Love the Environment

Opinion 

Last week, I attended the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) Annual Conference. at Lake Placid, N.Y.   I’m a member. 

I spent three plus days hanging out with a diverse group of outdoor communicators.  There were a lot of published authors in every medium, photographers, videographers, and advocates of the outdoors.  I came home with a number of interesting ideas to advance my personal worldview as a conservationist.

On the last day of the conference, I listened to the president of a respected conservation advocacy group bemoan the loss of federal funding for parks and recreation.

The speaker waxed eloquently about the Federal Government’s reductions in spending on outdoor recreation.  He came from the position that it was the government’s responsibility to provide for every form of hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor related activities.

I sat there wondering why this gentleman, or anyone else, expected the Federal Government to be in the business of entertaining us? 

While many of my friends walk around expecting the Government to do all kinds of things for the American public, Conservatives always ask the following question regarding public policy and the Federal Government:

Where in the Constitution does it say we should do this?

In all fairness, people of good will disagree on how to interpret the Constitution.

Many people view it as something of a guide or perhaps an irrelevant historical artifact to be ignored.  Most conservatives view it as a strict rule set designed to constrain government’s growth and intrusion into our lives.

Back to the speaker at the conference. Realizing that I was in a room perhaps full of folks sympathetic to the speaker, I crafted my question carefully.  I simply asked if his organization had considered going to the states, businesses, and private groups to fund the recreational projects that the Federal Government is cutting back on.

The frame of reference to understand my question, or why I asked it, was definitely lacking.  The conversation about those obstructing Federal funding for outdoor recreation continued.

When Conservatives are approached by folks who want to fund something, or question why funding to some program they favor is being cut they always silently ask the same question of themselves:

Where in the Constitution does it say we should do that?

Their context is simple.  The 10th Amendment is rather clear.

AMENDMENT X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

I use the presentation at the OWAA Conference as an analog for many discussions going on in and about our Congress these days.   My friends used to a Federal Government that funds all kinds of things are bemoaning the defunding of long established programs and causes.  They are lamenting visions of a smaller government, and lobbying for continued support of things about conservatives question the very existence.

That’s the disconnect.

Conservatives love the environment, like to fish, hunt, bird watch, take pictures, and do all sorts of things outdoors.  They also want to feed the hungry, see people in comfortable homes, help out those folks who are unemployed, etc., etc., etc.

Conservatives just don’t understand, from a constitutional perspective, why the Federal Government should be involved in any of these things.  If it’s not enumerated in the Constitution as a power  or responsibility of the Federal Government, these folks should be talking to their state government, businesses that profit from outdoor recreation, or private groups.

The point of this column.   Things will never be the same.

The Federal Government is shrinking not necessarily because of any particular philosophical considerations, but simply because it no longer afford to support all of the things it signed up to.  Conservatives in Congress are taking advantage of this to reduce the size of Government wherever they can.  

Medicare or outdoor recreation?  Social Security or funding for places to hunt and fish? 

Medicare and Social Security are not going away.  The Federal Government has made promises, and these promises must now be fulfilled.  That being said, the future of these programs may change over time for future generations.  

These are but two examples.  

When faced with these “tough choices”, there will be winners and losers.  When you start listing government programs on a whiteboard, and then prioritizing them, the losers become rather obvious. 

Those folks should change their focus to look for new revenue streams outside of the Federal Government now.

Conservatives see this as an opportunity for state governments to assume their rightful 10th Amendment role in deciding how they want to address anything not covered in the United States Constitution.

Lobbyist and special interest groups are perhaps wasting their time lobbying conservatives in government facing the current fiscal environment and future financial challenges for new or continued funding for things that have no constitutional foundation. 

When some in the audience protested, I pointed out that the Commonwealth of Virginia’s states that “it shall be the Commonwealth’s policy to protect its atmosphere, lands and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction…” and that ““The people have a right to hunt, fish, and harvest game, subject to such regulations and restrictions as the General Assembly may prescribe by general law.”

My point was simple.  If it’s not in the Constitution, and you believe that the majority of Americans believe that the Federal Government should be involved in some endeavor not enumerated therein, the correct way to add it to the Federal Government’s plate is through the Amendment process.

Then, “It’s in there”!

I view the Constitution as a rule set to be strictly enforced to manage the size and growth of fovernment and its intrusion into our lives.   I also believe that if enough people don’t agree with “what’s in there”, it’s ok to add Amendments as long as you can get 35 states to agree.

If it’s “not in there”, we shouldn’t take it on as a new mission, and we should be cautious in supporting those existing Government programs that lack any Constitutional mandate.

If you are lobbying for any group, the first question to ask yourself before opening a conversation with a Conservative lawmaker is, “Where in the Constitution does it say we should be doing whatever it is that I am about to ask for?”  If you don’t have a good answer, perhaps you should reconsider which level of Government you are talking to, and start visiting State capitals.   

I find folks on both sides of the aisle that I like.  I wouldn’t want to live under a Government dominated by either party for long. 

I purposely mix up my voting habits to prevent any one party or philosophy from dominating public policy at all levels for too long.  That natural, cyclic change from liberal to conservative will, IMHO, eventually level out into a steady state with which we all may live.

I don’t expect to see that “steady state” in my lifetime; however, I will continue to weigh in to try and make Government a little smaller every chance I get.

You will see a lot more of a Conservationist flavor in future columns.  Among other things, I am an outdoor communicator interested in Conservation issues.  I may not be here every week as I am working on a book and several other projects.  If you are interested in what I’m up to, you may keep up at my new website,  Virginia Trout Bum, and my outdoor sports blog.

News
Moser: On Unemployment, Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Opinion 

Unemployment has been on my mind a lot lately. (Well, since the beginning of March, it’s been on my mind almost constantly.)

My husband, Bill, has worked for the government his whole life. The first 20 years for the U.S. Air Force and later for large companies like PRC (purchased by Litton in 1995, evolved into Litton PRC, then Litton Industries, Litton TASC, and then absorbed by Northrup Grumman).  More recently, he worked for SAIC.

The only job Bill ever left voluntarily was through retirement from Air Force. Every other career change came about because the structure of the company changed or the contract he was working expired without renewal. This span is the longest he’s gone without work in 44 years. It’s been difficult for both of us, financially and emotionally.

Still, you know my motto: “Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.” 

With that in mind, I had the dreaded “talk” with my spouse. I asked, “What if you don’t get hired at all this year? In four months, you’ll be 63-years-old. I know there is not supposed to be anything like age discrimination and 63 doesn’t seem too old in a world where it’s common to live into the eighth decade. I know you’re smart and your career as an Oracle DBA has always been in high demand, but the condition of the federal job market is so unstable right now. What if you just can’t get another job comparable to the ones you’ve loved?”

Bill does not want to talk to me about that. He does not even want to think about that. I, however, feel compelled to consider alternatives, ready or not. I don’t have a lot of experience in job searching so I started by defining the future of employment into these two categories:

1. What Bill does
2. What Bill may have to do

I started off with the idea that the jobs Bill does for a living may be available in the private sector. I accept his pay will be lowered. (Although, if you are currently making zero, any job is a raise!) Then I assume he will not be using his clearance, which is expensive to obtain and if allowed to lapse will be difficult to re-activate.

All right, I admit I’m unhappy his job may no longer be in the service of our country, but there will be some positive changes, like less commuting time! For 24 years, Bill has never had a commute less than an hour each way. (The worst commute was when he worked in Bethesda. The best commute was when he was able to take a van pool to the Pentagon.)

I want to share the progress I made, the results of my search and the “what’s next” factor, but I don’t want to bore you with an overlong article, so I’m going to continue the saga next week.

Meanwhile, if you have helpful advice or insight, leave it in the comments. I often find the comments to be more enlightening than a post and appreciate the sincerity of people who are interested in what I write and willing to help work on the problem. I’ll be back here at potomaclocal.com next Sunday with Part II.

News
Support Your Home Team Farmers Market this Season

A Fresh Focus — Sponsored Content by Historic Manassas, Inc. 

I’ll admit it, I’m a Ravens fan. I realize this makes me an outsider in Redskins territory, but I’m not from here originally.

From a suburb of Baltimore, everyone seems to “bleed purple” there, and it’s rubbed off on me. 

I’m also, admittedly, a fair-weather fan.  Last season was a great season to be a fair-weather fan, seeing as we won the Super Bowl. So while I don’t follow player statistics or even know when games are going to come on, I do enjoy some of the things that football season represents. 

Football means fall, and tailgating, hot beverages, chips and dip, and wearing sweatshirts. Football is a nice distraction from the painful cold of January.  It’s a good excuse to get out of the house to watch the game, or to invite people over for a watch party. 

I can’t say that men tackling each other and women wearing next to nothing jumping around with pom poms is particularly exciting to me, but I do appreciate the fact that this activity brings people together from the area. And when people come together for football games there is almost always some delicious food to be had. In the same way we have a tendency to support the teams that hail from our hometowns, I’d like to suggest that you support those farmers and artisans in your area that grow and create things in your home state.  

Our farmer’s market has everything you need to grill delicious meats and veggies, locally roasted coffee beans, homemade treats, and more! Plan to support your team and your community by shopping the Farmer’s Market this football season.  What’s your favorite thing to eat during a game? Comment on this post and let us know! 

News
Packing List for Parents Weekend Grows Longer by the Phone Call

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I started my Parents’ Weekend list on a notepad in the kitchen on the day we got back from moving my son into the dorm for his freshman year of college. Parent’s Weekend was almost a month away then, and I didn’t want to forget the few things we neglected to pack:

· Travel mug

· Mattress egg crate pad

I mean, we took down a mattress egg crate pad, a brand-new one advertised as the right size for an extra-long twin bed, never opened, but when we got to the dorm it was weirdly shaped, both too wide and too short. We sort of wrapped it around my son’s mattress, but immediately planned to take my daughter’s old one down at the first opportunity. In her senior year of college now, she’s in an apartment with a double bed, and her old, regular sized egg crate pad is in the basement. Luckily we never seem to throw anything away.

And that was the full list for several days, until my son’s renter’s insurance policy came in the mail for his signature. Renter’s insurance, covering all those electronics in his room, is the cheapest way to go, we discovered, but I couldn’t set it up until we had his dorm address, so I just now got the policy. And I added to the Parents’ Weekend delivery list:

Renter’s policy for signature

Then my son called: could we bring him a bike? We have several bikes in the garage, he knows, he’s not picky, just one of those? He has to get all the way across campus first thing every morning, and a bike would be very helpful. OK, no problem; so the list became:

— Travel mug

— Mattress egg crate pad

— Renter’s policy for signature

— Bike

Then I went shopping, and I picked up some snacks I knew he would like: another big bag of peanut M&Ms, two boxes of HoHos now that the store has them back in stock, two cases of green tea bottles, from which he must be going through withdrawal, plus a long-sleeved shirt that I bought on impulse. My son has plenty of clothes, I know, but I saw it and thought he’d like it. It’s a Mom thing, and I realize it’s more important to me to give the shirt than it is for him to receive it.

The very day I went shopping, he got a final paycheck in the mail from his summer job. “What do you want to do with it?” I texted. “You can bring it here,” he answered. So then my list:

— Travel mug

— Mattress egg crate pad

—  Renter’s policy for signature

— Bike

—  Snacks + green tea

— Paycheck

A few days later, another text message from my son: “When you come down can you bring me a Caps jersey, preferably the Ovie one, and the pull-up bar from the doorway?”

Immediately I went upstairs, dug out the jersey, pulled the pull-up bar off the door, and set them to the side in the hallway. I didn’t want to forget them. And I extended the list, which almost filled up the paper, because I didn’t realize the list was going to be so long and I started off with pretty big handwriting:

— Travel mug

— Mattress egg crate pad

— Renter’s policy for signature

— Bike

— Snacks + green tea

— Paycheck

— Ovie Caps jersey

— Pull-up bar

And now, still a week away from the Parents’ Weekend trip, I think of the pile we’re taking down, realizing that we have to drive the pick-up truck down again now that we’re taking a bike. I think about the box I mailed last week with five pair of socks and night-vision goggles, and I consider the suspiciously small load of stuff we drove down the first time … and I realize how glad I am to still be needed.

News
Alborn: ‘Hope And Hardship: Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory’ Worth the Read

Opinion

I’ve known Linda Johnston for a few years.  She is a local naturalist, hiker, kayaker, and occasional environmental activist.  I only recently found out that she is also a researcher and author. 

Linda is the author of Hope And Hardship:  Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory.

I was intrigued, so I bought the book.  I also was a bit intimidated, because I’m not really a fan of history books.  Linda shared that, “I wanted to make history attractive ordinary people who wouldn’t read a history book”.  That would include me.  To my surprise, I discovered Johnston writes history that I actually enjoyed reading.

I don’t do “book reviews.” That being said, Johnston’s book tells a compelling story with lessons in history that are really applicable to today. Sometimes, it is worth browsing how we got here to understand where we are, and recognizing how little things have changed. 

This is no trivial work.  Johnston spent 25 years researching the pioneers who settled in Kansas Territory almost 160 years ago.  Her source material was, diaries, letters, newspaper articles, and other artifacts of the times.   I can only imagine what it must have been like sitting amongst years of index cards, notes, musings, and clippings trying to “connect the dots” into a cohesive document of the times. 

Johnston pulled that off. 

The backdrop for the stories Johnston shares is the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.  This allowed the residents of Kansas to vote upon admission to the union as to whether it would be a free or slave state.  Immigrants poured in to Kansas from the North and South attempting to create the numbers to decide the outcome.  These were passionate, and occasionally violent times.

Yet, life goes on.

I browsed the Wikipedia to see what it had to say about Kansas, and got a superficial discussion of this issue.  Hope And Hardship:  Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory gets past the historical Cliff notes, and actually focuses on the daily lives, trials, and challenges that settlers faced moving away from family, friends and perhaps a more secure community to a Territory that is the focus of a national conversation over the future of slavery.

A bit about the book.  Its organized around the four seasons.  Each season provides a “snapshot” of activity such as immigration (a special issue thanks to the Kansas-Nebraska Act). the natural world (I particularly enjoyed the wild flowers), Entertainment, the Sabbath, and personal pursuits.  Each season closes with a letter or article that shares some particular thoughts on Kansas.

Folks in Kansas focused on the same issues that we all focus on today:  Religion and Education.  They enjoyed the same things we enjoy today:  an occasional party, nature, food, politics, and life.

Something unique about this book is that it contains the writings of both men and women, given two perspectives of the times.  Letters were particularly important.  Linda documents that a trip to the post office to mail a letter or see of one is waiting for you could take a day.  Communication between friends and family left behind was obviously important to these early Kansas pioneers. 

These letters put a heart and soul into the History of Kansas in a way that engages those who would otherwise pass on tales from the past.  There are weddings, funerals, parties, fights, and the triviality of daily life documented by hand by pioneers who thought that perhaps some day others might be interested.  Thanks to Johnston, her research, and her book, those words have come to life fulfilling the hopes of those who wrote them.

Johnston’s book has been well received by the public.  In our interview, it became obvious that she recognized the last 25 years provided a roadmap and perhaps a template for future projects. 

Johnston is contemplating another book following the same structure.  She shared, “I recognize this is a repeatable process.”  Johnston is considering Virginia as her next project.

Johnston also recognized the value of journaling, and its historical importance to really understand the lives and times of our ancestors.  She also understands that our ancestors might be interested in our lives. 

Johnston is actively engaged developing Journaling Workshops for Young People, and investigating other ways to document our lives and culture.

As I sit here on my front porch writing this book review on my MacBook Pro, I realize that perhaps those of us who write columns, blog, have websites, or post on social media are perhaps the modern version of those early pioneers.  I just hope there is a Linda Johnston out there in 150 years or so to prevent our musings from becoming only the temporary ramblings of otherwise anonymous authors of our era.

News
Moser: In Prince William, Where Does the Middle Class Live?

Opinion

At some point in my life, I began describing myself as “solidly middle class.”

I don’t know exactly when that occurred. I know I was very poor growing up, but I don’t recall thinking, “I am poor, therefore, I am lower class.” I know I was often given clothes from someone’s child who had outgrown them, and I do recall my cheeks burning when it crossed my mind that the person who gave them to me might see me wearing them. To the best of my recollection I never encountered any humiliation, but I may not have recognized it at any rate, because I was more excited about having “new” clothes than I was worried about the donor!

Through most of my husband’s military career, we qualified for free and reduced price lunches for our children. In the first ten years, we actually qualified for WIC, but I don’t ever remember thinking we were lower class. I was nearly offended when were told by school officials we qualified for these programs. I was not offended that some people needed these programs, but rather, that anyone might think WE needed these programs. We didn’t use those available benefits. Instead, to make ends meet, I began working in military clubs, first as a waitress, later as a supervisor, and toward the end of our tour at Scott AFB, I worked as a night manager.

My husband, Bill, and I worked opposing shifts so we didn’t have to pay for child care. We had one car, and lived in substandard housing on base. That term may be obsolete, but at the time  it meant no central air conditioning, no carpet, small rooms and very old. (For all you folks that think military pay is great because military get “free” housing, I hope you’ll read this page that describes the current situation for housing). It is much better than when we were young, but still distributed by rank and grade. I may have occasionally felt a bit of “colonel envy,” but I still never felt lower class.

As corny as it sounds I have always believed if you work hard and are willing to make sacrifices, you will ultimately obtain a payback on your investment of time and energy. I don’t want to be rewarded…I just want what I have earned to pay off.

That kind of thinking rules the way I perceive our older neighborhoods. I am such an advocate for older communities because I don’t see the time and effort invested to make them pay off. My perception (and I assure you I am not alone) is that our older communities are being allowed to fail. Like kids with new toys, we have cast aside the old ones. We keep building vast new developments, but neglecting the very heart of our communities.

I don’t really believe there is such a thing as a caste system in Prince William County, but for the sake of argument, tell me: Where do the lower class live? Where do the middle class live? Where do the upper class live?

News
Easy to Find and Enjoy, Virginia is for Apples

Virginia is known for its wonderful apples and guess what—they’re in season!  Not only does an apple make an excellent afternoon snack or commute snack, but they’re probably one of the most versatile fruits around.  Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve made a list of twenty ways to love an apple. Find your favorites on this list, hit the market, pick up some apples, and enjoy!

20 Ways to Love an Apple:

Apple Pie

-Apple chips (dehydrated apples)

Pork and apples

Applesauce

-Apple cider

-With brie on a baguette

-Apple turnovers (Becky’s Pastries sells great ones if you don’t want to make them from scratch!)

-Apples and peanut butter

Apple fries

-Caramel apples

Apple fritters

Apple donuts

Apple cobbler

Apple chicken

Red cabbage, bacon, and apples

-Apple wine

Apple-scented potpourri

Apple cake

-Bobbing for apples

-Apples in your salad (for example: Waldorf salad)

 Our Tuesday market is over for the season, but Thursday and Saturday are still going strong through the beginning of November. Then, you can expect your year-round market on Saturdays in the winter.

Come out and spend your fall Saturday mornings with us! 

News
No Longer Facing Rules, Being a Role Model, Mom Makes Plans for Free Time

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

The text from Christy is out of the blue: “Wanna have dinner w/me tonight? Just u & me, and early (we do have school tmrw).” The message closes with a smiley face.

I stop and think for a minute: tonight? Um … I hadn’t planned on it. I’ve got things to do. My husband isn’t home, but there are chores; laundry, and – finally – taking a flamethrower or its chemical equivalent to my son’s bathroom. Um ….

Ah, forget it, I think. Cleaning the bathroom, really? Over dinner with Christy? “Yes! I’m in! 6ish?” Woohoo! I grin and do a silly happy dance. So exciting! A spontaneous weeknight girls’ night! With Christy, my buddy from the gym who I really only get to talk to while we’re sweating it out on the yellow mean elliptical machine, or quickly in the locker room.

Chores, schmores. That bathroom has been filthy for months, another day or two won’t hurt it. Right? And I start my planning – what I’m going to wear, what time I should leave. Fantastic!

The only problem with the dinner with Christy, really, is that it’s yet another step down the slippery slope. All of a sudden, with my kids both in college and out of the house, my new mantra is, “I can do whatever I want.” It was a shocking revelation some months ago, and I’ve spent the summer applying it, first with tentative baby steps and now more frequently and boldly.

It all started with the newspaper. I’ve always read the whole newspaper every morning. I start with the front page, work my way through local news, then read the Style section, saving the comics and crossword puzzle for last – mental dessert, after the hearty news fare. One day I was short on time, though, and decided I didn’t want to waste my abbreviated breakfast hour on the news. I would hear that on the radio on my commute to work, or check the headlines online. Instead, I just read and enjoyed the Style section and the comics. And lo and behold, the world didn’t grind to a halt. Now, shockingly, it’s a rare day when I read the whole front page section.

The next step was drinking directly from a carton of milk. I was standing there in the kitchen, nobody was around, and I didn’t feel like making the long walk to the cabinet – probably four whole feet! – for a cup just for one swig. And then I was going to have to wash the cup, too. And hardly anybody drinks milk besides me anyway. As long as there’s no backwash … I lifted the carton, took my gulp, rescrewed the lid, and put it back in the refrigerator. Nobody ever knew, and nobody got sick. Freedom!

It spiraled down from there. “I can do whatever I want” has meant staying up way past my bedtime to talk to a friend. Completely illogical but ravishingly beautiful blue suede heels arrived in the mail just a few days ago. And I have a mad, deep, and lustful crush on an adorable – adorable! – sporty yellow car. I’ve always wanted a yellow car, it gets great mileage, I’ve driven my minivan for 11 years and mostly: I can do whatever I want.

I don’t have kids around to answer to or care for anymore. I don’t have to be a role model, or eat vegetables, or buy a new winter coat in sensible, match-everything black.

And tonight, I don’t have to clean my son’s bathroom. I can do whatever I want, and I’m going out. On a schoolnight. See you at six o’clock, Christy!

News
Alborn: Recovery a Family Affair at Rainbow Riding Center

Opinion

A couple of weeks ago, Katherine Gotthardt, the Outreach Manager for the Rainbow Center 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program, Inc., invited me to their facility for an update on what they are doing for Veterans. 

I had last visited the program a couple of years ago.  I documented my visit in a blog post, The Rainbow Riding Center During that earlier visit, Ms. Debi Alexander, The Executive Director of the Program, gave me an impressive overview.  Rainbow Riding serves those with physical, intellectual/cognitive, and emotional and behavioral challenges.  

Its principle tool is horses.  I’m not a horse person, I’m a dog person, and I get it.  I have seen the difference therapy dogs make in the lives of injured service members and veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital and with senior citizens.

Alexander hit home when she discussed their plans to serve disabled veterans.  These current wars are different.  Thanks to advances in medical treatment, our veterans injured in combat are surviving (thank God) in much greater numbers.  

Every war has a “signature wound” and IED’s  (Improvised Explosive Devices) are particularly ugly in that regard.  Today’s warriors are surviving with much greater challenges.  They need all the help they can get to overcome those challenges.  Rainbow is building a program that provides therapy to help Veterans and their families get their lives back.

From the center’s brochure, “Wounded Warriors at Rainbow Center is a program supporting the physical and emotional healing of men and women in the armed forces who have been injured in the line of duty. A treatment team of instructors, an Equine Specialist, and mental health professional personalize and implement each session. Current programs focus on recovery and exercise after brain injury, amputation or PTSD. Active Duty Personnel and their families receive the benefits of care outside the hospital setting, in a private and dignified manner.”

The Center works with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Wounded Warrior Care Center to identify and accept referrals from all of the Military Services.  Its program addresses both mental and physical challenges that Veterans face.  Ms. Gotthardt pointed out that the Center takes a holistic approach to treatment. 

Recovery is a family affair, and family members actively participate in the program.

Money is an issue for the program. 

Sequestration, threats to DoD and VA funding, and the fluid state of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (to name a few) all add uncertainty to the level of service the center provides to the community.  This is ironic (not in a good way) as wars wind down, and greater numbers of Veterans return to Prince William County in need of a little help.

I was accompanied on my visit by Angela McConnell, the Co-Chair of the Prince William Veterans Council (PWVC).  The PWVC acts as a “connector” between Veterans and resources. McConnell was interested in this program to see how the PWVC might be one more dot to connect in the puzzle of helping our Veterans.

I thank Katherine Gotthardt, the Outreach Manager for the Center, for taking the time to introduce me to the Rainbow Riding Center’s Wounded Warriors Program.  I appreciate the hard work that all of the volunteers and staff do to help our community. 

Veterans deserve a rainbow now and then.  While the Center does have some generous benefactors, they always need volunteers and money.  This is where you might check into donating either or both.

If you would like to learn more, my good friends Bill Golden and Connie Moser created an excellent video, Debi Alexander and Katherine Gotthardt interviewed for PWC Round Table

News
Moser: Smallest of 7, Evolving Neabsco District has Deficiencies

Opinion 

A large number of people in Prince William County are unsure what the Neabsco District is. Many folks actually pronounce the name, “Nabisco,” like the maker of Nilla Wafers, but alas, the Nilla Wafers have 313,000 fans, while the Neabsco Action Alliance page has a mere 87.

We are, in fact, Neabsco. It is pronounced: “knee-ab’-sko” and the district name is tribute to the Neabsco Creek that runs through the area. There’s a Wiki description here, but there is very little information and what is written only confuses things. The entry states Freedom High School is in Neabsco, (a census designated place of 13,068). Freedom High School is actually in the Woodbridge Magisterial District.

Far more interesting is the Wiki for Neabsco Creek, an entry submitted by the Prince William Conservation Alliance, providing a little history about the area and detailing the condition of Neabsco Creek. The Neabsco Creek is often cited as an example of what NOT to do for anyone interested in land and water stewardship. There’s some detailed reports from the EPA here and here. Perhaps the most detailed and simplest to read synopsis of the condition of Neabsco Creek is here, in an article posted in the blog, “Your Piece of the Planet.”

All of Dale City and a few other nearby developments are part of the Neabsco District. Dale City is approximately 15 square miles, and the Neabsco District is by far the smallest land mass of the remaining six magisterial districts. All magisterial districts are based on population. Somehow, we’ve managed to pack about 85,000 people into this district.

We have the smallest land mass, but with a number of residents equal to all the other districts. All around us, in every other district, development and redevelopment is occurring. As each community evolves, we can see beautiful landscaping and architecture. We see ever more expensive homes, resulting in a higher tax rate for all of us to pay for the resulting services and infrastructure required.

So, while we have no new roads and few improvements, we have no beautiful entrances or gateways, we are paying the same tax rate as everyone else in PWC. (A point of clarification: for the most part, our tax bills ARE lower, because our property value is less.)  Most of our schools are old and in need of modern renovations. I’m not even going to address our shopping and dining in Dale City in comparison with other communities.

Why, when I mention such deficiencies, do people attempt to refute statements such as the above?

I’m not saying we don’t have anything to brag about. We do! We have the best Farmer’s Market, we have Andrew Leitch and Waterworks, and we have the Hylton Boys and Girls Club. We have a diverse population and long established churches with a committed population.

Is that enough for you?

If you’d like to discuss this column or the state of our community. I invite you to attend the Neabsco Action Alliance meeting on Tuesday, September 10. We meet monthly, usually with a top notch speaker, who can answer our questions and help us determine a better future for our residents.

This month we’ll meet with Matthew F. Villareale, Assistant Public Works Director, Department of Public Works, Prince William County. Join us at 7 p.m. in the Occoquan Room at the McCoart Building at the County Complex.

Visit Neabsco Action Alliance on the web for more information. Here is a link to the magisterial district maps, with insets for the Congressional. House and Senate Districts. 

News
Pumpkin Frenzy Hits Farmers Market

004A Fresh Focus

Labor Day has come and passed.  Do you know what this means?  Yes, school is in session again, but that’s not all.  Yes, traffic is terrible again, but that’s not what I’m talking about either.  

Brace yourself- because it’s the time of year that people anticipate for many months. It’s pumpkin season.  Starbucks has featured the pumpkin spice latte again, and grocery stores are stocking the shelves with Halloween candy (really, who’s buying it this early?). However, consider getting your fall pumpkin fix at the Farmer’s Market instead.

Ricks Roasters Coffee Co. has featured a pumpkin iced coffee that is delicious. You can purchase an actual pumpkin from Roberto’s Produce to use to make a homemade pie, or to decorate you porch. Soon you’ll find pumpkin in some bakery treats at the market.

My first year post-grad, I lived in Spain. While I loved the experience, there was something missing from my fall—pumpkin. What was considered to be pumpkin in Spain is what we know as butternut squash. Not the same, friends, not the same.  When my parents came to visit me that winter, they brought me a can of pumpkin, which I used to make a pie. My Spanish friends had never seen anything like it (but definitely enjoyed it).

So as it turns out, pumpkin is a very American treat.  I learned recently that in the last two years, pumpkin mentions on menus is up 38%.  So show your pride for the great American pumpkin obsession and get your pumpkin fix at the Farmer’s Market!    

News
Close Call a Reminder to Drive Safely

Slug Tales

The sound of screeching tires. The smell of burning rubber. The sight of an oversized pick-up veering directly toward my car window.

None of these were things I wanted to experience during a slug ride last week.

There I sat in the front passenger’s seat while slugging home one afternoon, looking down at my phone, having a light-hearted conversation with my best friend over text messages. It had been a rough day for both of us at work, and we were joking to make each other feel better.

Little did I know at the time how much worse things could possibly become.

Suddenly, I heard the driver gasp, and felt the car jerk towards the left shoulder. As I looked up in surprise, I cringed, expecting to collide with the pick-up truck coming over from the right lane.

Luckily, we didn’t.

Thanks to the quick reaction of the driver, we narrowly avoided the accident by the skin of our teeth. She blew the horn at the reckless driver of the truck, who seemed completely oblivious to his wrongdoing.

“He wouldn’t have even stopped if he did hit us!” exclaimed the driver, obviously shaken up and trying to regain her bearings.

I shook my head in agreement, unable to form a response. The driver continued down the HOV lanes silently for the next few minutes, steering clear of the careless driver. We were both somewhat in shock.

“That was close,” she finally mumbled.

As glad I was to have made it through the ride unscathed, it was a terrible feeling that I had in the pit of my stomach.

What if we had gotten into an accident that day? What if the driver hadn’t noticed the truck coming into our lane in time? What if….

I had to stop thinking about what could have happened – instead, I was thankful that it hadn’t. The slug driver was kind enough to drop me off right at my car, with a reminder to get home safely.

“You, too!” I replied, thanking her again.

Of course, accidents happen. They can happen to anyone at any time, as a passenger or as a driver, whether you or someone else is at fault. I’d like to think that all slug drivers, or drivers in general, will exercise caution while on the road, but of course that’s never guaranteed.

So, here’s a Public Service Announcement for all of my fellow commuters and drivers this week: Drive carefully! Remember, it’s not only your safety at stake, but also the safety of your passengers and thousands of other drivers on the Northern Virginia roadways.

News
Prince William Boasts Area’s Best Kept Farms

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Editors note: From exceptional museums and children’s programs to historic haunts and unique hikes, there are numerous hidden places waiting to be explored in Prince William & Manassas. Through a monthly feature, Discover Prince William & Manassas will help residents and visitors alike discover some of the best kept attractions, activities and events the community has to offer.

Prince William & Manassas’ Best Kept — Farms

Discover Prince William County and ManassasEscape the bustling highways and subdivisions to enjoy a day on the farm. Despite being one of the fastest-growing suburbs of Washington, D.C., Prince William County has maintained some of its picturesque rural landscape and working farms. We invite you to meet with local farmers, learn about the history of farm families in Prince William and enjoy fresh produce from your neighbor’s back yard!

Just down the street from some of the county’s newest suburbs, Pablo Elliott’s family operates Stoney Lonesome Farm. For 10 seasons, Elliott’s family has provided fresh produce to the area through the Community Supported Agriculture program. The program, which runs May through October, connects people to the farm weekly where they can pick up fresh potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and other produce.

“We grow everything organically and people really enjoy the experience of coming out to the farm,” Elliott said. “It’s also a way of engaging kids,” because they can see where there food is coming from.

Elliott said the offerings change weekly and depending on the season, but they work to provide members with a wide variety of options for about $30 a week.

When fall comes to a close and winter approaches, that is when Prince William resident Jim Gehlsen’s farm comes to life. Located in Nokesville, Evergreen Acres is a Christmas tree farm where visitors can select and cut down their own tree for the holidays. Gehlsen, who has been selling from his farm for more than 20 years, said visitors can wander through 40 acres to select White Pine, Scotch Pine and Norway Spruce trees.

Or, instead of taking a trip to an active farm, discover what farm life was like in the mid-1800s at the Haislip-Hall cabin. Located at the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre, this home interprets the rich farm history of Prince William. Tour the building and the neighboring garden maintained by the county’s historic preservation division.

The site is open for tours May through October and will also be part of the annual Prince William County Farm Tour. Scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 28, the tour highlights numerous local farms including Clover Meadows Farm, Yankey Farm and, new this year, True Farms, which is a hydroponic lettuce farm.

“What makes this unique is you get to actually talk to the farmers,” said Randi Reid, one of the farm tour’s organizers. “This is an educational event that helps people understand agriculture in the community….[it also] connects neighbors who are living the subdivision community life with neighbors who are living the rural countryside life.”

This is the 13th year for the free farm tour that will focus on farm life past and present in Prince William and Manassas.

For more information: http://discoverpwm.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=81

News
Empty-Nester Grocery Shopping Means Smaller Sizes, No Peanut Butter & Jelly

Mom on the Run

I’m in the grocery store, wheeling my cart slowly, slowly down the aisles. Up and down, up and down. If I don’t go through the store in the same order, not skipping any aisles, I forget things. I may not remember I need mayonnaise until I’m in the actual condiments aisle, confronted with it. So up and down I go for the whole length of the store, every time.

Today, though, is different. I suspect there are a lot of things I don’t need to remember; today I’m shopping for just me and my husband – my first empty-nester shopping trip. With just a few exceptions, annual kids-at-camp weeks, I’ve shopped for two grown ups and one or two kids for the past 21 years. But now both kids are at college, and that makes today’s trip very strange.

I’m half-way through the grocery store already, and my cart isn’t even a quarter full. In the produce section I got oranges and bananas for myself, but no grapes for my son or strawberries for my daughter. I bought one russet potato for my husband and one sweet potato for myself, just one of each, not even bothering with a plastic bag.

In the meat section I had to dig for a small package of ground beef. A few years ago, when I generally fed all four of us plus my daughter’s boyfriend, I always bought two-pound packages; that’s how much it took to make enough tacos or cheeseburgers for everyone. For the last few years, down to one kid, I bought one pound. But today, I figure I’m looking for three-quarters of a pound of hamburger. There isn’t one that size, though; the smallest package is just less than a full pound, so I guess we’ll have leftovers.

I troll right past the peanut butter and jelly – the partial jars already in the pantry and fridge will last just the two of us quite a long time. Same with salsa, relish, and my stock of canned soup. I don’t even need to buy pasta; all we need is a half box, maybe less, per meal. I hesitate, then go ahead and pick up a loaf of bread. Even if we have some at home, it’ll probably be stale by now.

It’s strange, this empty-nester grocery shopping. It’s not depressing or sad, really, I’ve been thinking about and planning for it for a good while. But it is eye-opening, how large all the cans and packages are, and how frustrating a bag of eight hamburger buns is, because they’re just not the same after having been frozen and thawed.

So I wheel slowly, looking for smaller units. Aisle after aisle, nope, don’t need this; nope, have plenty of that. For everything I do want, I put the smallest size container in my basket.

Finally I make it to the dairy section, where I stand and look at milk for a good long while. I checked before I left the house, and I still have three unopened half-gallons. It’s remarkable; I can’t recall the last time I didn’t need to buy milk. But I wheel away, no milk in my basket, and record yet another milestone moment.

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