Dirt

dirt-animThere are a few places around Charlottesville where topsoil has to be trucked in to grow good grass. This is the exception rather than the rule and generally soils in the area are very well suited for pretty much anything you’d like to do with the land. A look at the soils map for the area will give you a quick indication of how quickly soils change from one hill to the next. It’s a fascinating study in geology and can be pretty important if you have a specific land use in mind. There are a few things I’ve learned over the years.

The redder the better. That’s what the old farmers say. The best soils for growing things like corn or soybeans, good hay or vegetables is a deep red with a pretty high clay content that retains moisture but is still friable, (crumbles) when it is moist. These soils are generally nice and deep and will be found in softer, gently rolling terrain. The beautiful, fat fields of southern Albemarle and Orange counties are good examples of these great Virginia soils. These good deep soils also tend to work easily for septic fields. While they do not drain quickly, they drain consistently.

Closer to the mountains where the ground is a little steeper and the runoff faster, the soils tend to be shallower, a little rockier and drain pretty quickly. While this may not be ideal for heavy farming it is the preferred soil for orchards and vineyards. We are seeing much of the piedmont’s prime orchard country, especially in western Albemarle County gradually transforming in wine country with great success.

There are certain soils to watch out for so it’s worth it to ask if you are looking for anything more than just a front and back yard. There is some grayish-greenish soil heavy with mica and clay that is problematic even for pasture and a famous sticky soil called blackjack that will retain rain water in puddles for days and tractor ruts left from the winter seem to be made of cement in the summer when they dry. These may be found in less rolling terrain and can function perfectly well as grazing land and less productive hay land.

Downtown Charlottesville in the Summer

by John Ince, President Charlottesville Country Properties, LTD.

Walking past the glittering marquee of the Paramount Theater, skirting the crowd watching young boys juggling , smelling the aroma from Friday’s special at Bizou as it wafts on the warm, humid air, hearing violins in the alcoves playing for tuition…such are the sights, sounds and smells of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall on a Friday evening in the summer. Barring heavy rain, you’ll find about ten blocks of one of the happiest melting pots in America. The pedestrian only Main Street is crowded with locals, out of towners and students vying for outdoor seating at any of the thirty something restaurants and pubs or strolling down to Fridays After Five, the free concert held at the Pavilion each Friday at the north end of the mall. There you’ll see elderly couples in the folding chairs, families with kids sprawled on blankets on the lawn, and barefoot coeds grooving to the tunes up close to the stage. It’s a cornucopia of sensory delights and the southern summer air only enhances its richness.

Charlottesville’s downtown revival has been a complete success and is studied by other cities that have fallen prey to suburbanization. Twenty five years ago Downtown Charlottesville rolled up the carpets after five and the nice restaurants could be counted on one hand. Today, boutique shops, wine bars and remarkable dining establishments fill every space while kiosks selling jewelry and pottery compete with impromptu street musicians for your attention and extra change. Anchored on one end by the Omni Hotel and Ice Park and on the other by the cloud-like Pavilion, our main street has matured with shade trees, fountains and it’s very own ambience that can turn an outdoor dining experience into a life changing decision to make this place home.

Charlottesville sells itself every day of the year without trying. As a Realtor I quickly learned that silence is golden and nothing speaks louder than a smiling population of interesting, intelligent people and breathtaking landscapes and architecture. Whether strolling on the Downtown Mall, The UVA Lawn or the Greenway Trail along the Rivanna River, you’re likely to find reasons to linger at every turn… perhaps much longer than you ever imagined.

www.charlottesvillecountry.com

Corn

by John Ince, President Charlottesville Country Properties, LTD.

Sometime in April green lines start appearing on the dormant fields. The undulating rows “jump off the page” as the warming days show where the no-till planter placed each wrinkled kernel of corn under last year’s stubble. Hundreds of acres looking stitched and tidy with each lengthening day bringing more definition and depth, the green slowly overtaking the brown. In no time it seems, the stalks have taken shape and once hot weather hits they jump, inches each day until soon the stalks are ten feet tall, loaded with heavy ears of feed corn. It never ceases to amaze me what the land will provide, the sheer biomass of an acre of corn practically gushing forth from moist earth and warm sun, thousands of bushels of golden grain filling the combines, spilling out on the country roads on their way to the silos or the co-op. I’ll admit it, watching a high def Blu Ray on a 55” screen is pretty amazing…but it doesn’t hold a candle to corn. www.CharlottesvilleCountry.com

Winter in Charlottesville

snow-scenes

by John Ince, President Charlottesville Country Properties, LTD

Winter is a big surprise to most people and the perfect time to look at country property in Virginia. In the winter in Virginia the hardwood forest lets you walk through unencumbered without the blackberry canes and poison ivy snatching at your pant leg. If you wondered what the view might be like with a little clearing, now you can see through the trees and imagine a home site with dramatic mountain vistas. If you insist on privacy from your neighbor, winter is the time to see how it feels with the leaves gone or how effective those evergreens might be
High on the top ten list of why people who can choose where they live, choose Charlottesville, Virginia is that we have four distinct seasons, none of them severe. Winter provides just enough cold weather to make the threat of snow exciting and fun. We have just enough hard freezes to keep parasites down but can almost always count on warming up above freezing in the afternoons. Two ski resorts up around 3000’ can make snow from fall till early spring and crystal clear days and nights are the perfect complement to those slow, hazy summer days. We’ve already had a four incher this month, (December) and there’s a buzz going around about a white Christmas
you enjoy walking the land, there is no better time to visit the area and see Charlottesville the way we love it, without the tourists and students. Lodging is a breeze and restaurants have tables. You can visit Monticello without a wait and maybe catch a glimpse of the Keswick Hunt galloping over hill and dale. Any of our cozy Bed and Breakfasts would love to save you a place by the fire and we’d love to take you over the river and through the woods

Visit Charlottesville This Fall

Fall is a Magnificent Time in Central Virginia

Fall is a Magnificent Time in Central Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia Climate
Fall in Central Virginia

by John Ince, President Charlottesville Country Properties, LTD

August temperatures in the low 90’s are summer’s last hurrah. Beach vacations, pool parties and evening thunderstorms give way to open window sleeping temperatures in the 60’s beginning in September while highs still reach into the 80’s in the afternoons. Cooler temperatures also clear the air and the mountains pop, beckoning hikers and day trippers to the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway both of which begin on Afton Mountain just 25 minutes from downtown Charlottesville. October ushers in fall in full with our first frost usually coming about mid-month and the trees starting to show their color late or early in the month depending on all the variables like moisture and night-time lows. This year promises to be later for peak colors. The dogwoods and poplars are well on their way and the maples are just beginning to blush here in the third week of October. The oaks and hickories are still green and in full leaf so we’ll probably have a prime show for the Montpelier Hunt Races, my annual barometer for fall colors.

Fall is a magnificent season here in central Virginia. Two major steeplechase races occur in the fall at Foxfield and Montpelier and Thanksgiving includes the annual ritual,”Blessing of the Hounds” at Grace Episcopalian Church in Keswick. Spectators dress warmly to watch the horses and hounds blessed in a pageantry of color and sound as the full Keswick Hunt with riders dressed in their formal colors begin chasing their foxes across some of America’s most spectacular farms and estates. The countryside is beautiful with newly harvested corn fields and last cutting of hay coming off the land.

It’s always a big surprise to see the homes that were hidden by hardwood forest show again as the leaves fall. You can see so much more through the woods and the lack of understory makes walking in the woods so much easier after a frost. Fall is an ideal time to look at country property in Virginia. The air is fresh, the mountain views are ever-present and festivities abound in Charlottesville and all the charming small towns that surround her. You may want to visit the Lodging page on our website and check out all the wonderful Bed and Breakfasts that would welcome your visit. www.charlottesvillecountry.com