Spruce Forest Artisan Village

Along the National Road, in an area once known as Little Crossings, Spruce Forest Artisan Village stands as a reminder of the Appalachian farming traditions established in the Allegheny (Maryland) region over two hundred years ago, and serves as a unique locale for artisans to create and display their works.

For years, my parents have attended Spruce Forest’s “Christmas in the Village,” an annual, two-day celebration in early December that showcases the region’s history and provides an opportunity for the six resident artists to interact with visitors who are curious about their various crafts.

This year, I was delighted to find that a visit to my parents’ house coincided with the event. We piled into the car and headed west—through the “cut in the mountain” near Cumberland, past Frostburg, and on to Grantsville, Maryland, the home of Spruce Forest Artisan Village.

It was a rainy evening; but as the locals were quick to say, it’s not uncommon for the event to be blanketed in snow. This blog post won’t do our visit justice, but hopefully it will serve as a glimpse into the careful preservation and extraordinary talent that make the Village a unique, year-round experience—made brighter still by the lights and luminarias of Christmas.

But first, a brief look at the town of Grantsville, Maryland, itself:


The Casselman Inn, built in 1842, represents the many inns along the Old National Pike, which was a busy, westward passage across the Appalachian Mountains for stagecoaches, covered wagons and drovers (drivers of livestock). The Casselman, now a Western Maryland historic landmark, is still in service today and offers a quaint, country lodging and dining experience.


An original stone mile marker from the National Road has been restored outside the Casselman Inn. (Grantsville, MD)


The Casselman River Bridge is over 200 years old and is situated within a 4-acre state park next to Spruce Forest Artisan Village on the eastern side of Grantsville, MD. This bridge is a glimpse into Maryland’s early transportation days—when the National Road, a 620-mile stretch of federal highway that enabled settlers to head west, was in its heyday. During that period, the 80-foot bridge was the longest single span stone arch bridge in the world.

And now, on to the Village!


Bear Hill School is the studio of resident wood turner Gene Gillespie. Among his works were pieces made from multi-colored, exotic woods. They were gorgeous! — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)


The Markley House (rear) pre-dates 1775, making it older than the United States. The Hosteler house (front) was built in 1800 and reconstructed at Spruce Forest from parts of the original structure. (Most of the structures in the Village have been moved there, reconstructed and preserved.) — Granstville, MD


At the time of our visit, the hearth of the Markley House was decorated with wooden figures carved by sculptor Gary Yoder. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village


A hummingbird carving by resident sculptor Gary Yoder was a work in progress, but was already showing signs of the artist’s skill and attentiveness to detail. Mr. Yoder began learning his craft at age 10 or 11…right there in the Village! — Grantsville, MD


Authentic elements of the Yoder family can be found inside the House of Yoder at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. Pictured here, near the entryway, is the family crest. The crest dates back to 1350 and contains a pelican, which in ancient times represented involvement in the religious crusades.


When I entered the Yoder House, I spotted a gentleman tending the fire. In the adjoining room, children were making rustic ornaments as part of the village experience. Upstairs were authentic tools and utensils of times past.  — Spruce Forest Artisan Village


From the front porch of the Glotfelty House, (where resident weaver Ann Jones works), the Miller House (circa 1835) stands as a symbol of peace (right), while the 1820 Winterberg House (left) serves as a studio for potter Lynn Lais. In the center, in the distance, is the Fernwood Soap shop. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village


Resident artisan Lynn Lais’ studio was filled with beautiful pottery…and a wooden nativity. I purchased a sturdy mug from him that has been put to good use already. My sister picked out a lovely tray, which Mr. Lais told us is a piece often commissioned by local churches for use as a communion serving tray. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village; Grantsville, MD


Here’s a flashback to “Christmas in the Village” 2012 (taken by my father): Artisan Lynn Lais works at his potter’s wheel in his studio at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. (Grantsville, MD)


Amish Bishop Benedict Miller constructed the Miller House in 1835 with his son Joel. Today, the house (which was moved to Spruce Forest in 1986) serves as an Anabaptist Peace Center, with a focus on the early Millers’ walk of faith. Pictured here by the hearth is Miller’s great-great granddaughter, Barbara, who graciously and perfectly posed for this picture. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)


Inside the Miller House, an original lantern from an inn along the Old Pike is on display. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)


The Compton School (left) is the last and only preserved log school house in Western Maryland. The Village Church (center) is used for music and special events. While visiting the Village, I heard carols coming from inside the 80-year-old structure. The 19th century Eli Miller Shed (right) is the studio of metal sculptor Mike Edelman. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village


Part of Penn Alps Restaurant, adjacent to Spruce Forest Artisan Village, consists of the original log inn and stagecoach stop along the Old National Road. — Grantsville, MD

Spruce Artisan Village is supported by grants from the Maryland State and Garrett County Arts Councils, as well as by agencies funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Note: Unfortunately, I somehow overlooked photographing the log cabin of metal smith Doug Salmon.

24 hours in Savannah, Georgia

Last weekend, I visited Savannah with my younger sister and her family. We arrived in “Georgia’s first city” on Saturday a little after noon and made our way back to North Carolina just before noon on Sunday.

Conceptually, that doesn’t seem like much time at all! But beautiful Savannah has so much to offer in terms of history, culture, and architecture that it’s astonishing what one can see and do in just 24 hours.

Our first stop was The Marshall House, one of Savannah’s oldest hotels and the place at which we would be staying. The concierge directed us to a nearby public parking deck, where we deposited our car for the next 24 hours–Savannah is a walkabout city!


The Marshall House, one of Savannah’s oldest hotels, served as a hospital during the Civil War and during two outbreaks of yellow fever.

Our growling bellies led us to The Olde Pink House for lunch. Erected in 1789 by cotton mogul James Habersham, Jr., this pink stucco, Georgian mansion is one of the only buildings in Savannah to survive the fire of 1796.


The Olde Pink House in Savannah, GA, served up one of the best eating experiences I’ve ever had. No exaggeration! (Pictured: My sister, me, my nephew, and my brother-in-law; taken by one of the friendly restaurant staff)

The Olde Pink House is the Mary Poppins of Savannah, Georgia. From the moment we walked up the steps to the moment we left, the experience was practically perfect in every way.


What’s a quintessential southern meal without fried green tomatoes? I didn’t want to find out, so I ordered a delicious dish complete with mixed greens, fried green tomatoes and brown sugar-crusted bacon. Oh my! — The Olde Pink House Restaurant in historic Savannah, Georgia


The maitre d’ was particularly proud of The Olde Pink House’s pastry chef, and the house-made pecan pie did not disappoint. (Savannah, GA)


A statue of city founder, James Edward Oglethorpe, stands in Chippewa Square. (Savannah, GA)

The Olde Pink House is located on Reynolds Square, which is one of 22 squares in historic Savannah. City founder, James Edward Oglethorpe, planned the city on a grid, with lovely garden squares surrounded by eight city blocks. Each eight-block area was called a “ward,” and this design enabled the city to grow. (There were originally four squares when the “Oglethorpe plan” was laid out in 1733.) Savannah’s gardens are charming, and the District that contains them is considered a National Historic Landmark.


Savannah’s squares, with their Live Oaks and Spanish Moss, exude southern charm. But beware the enticing hanging moss–it’s full of chiggers, which burrow under the skin and irritate! — pictured here: Johnston Square (Savannah, GA)

After lunch, we returned to The Marshall House, where we relaxed in the hotel’s tastefully decorated library to await our chief reason for visiting Savannah.


The Marshall House’s Library, (Savannah, GA), contains intriguing artwork, books and historic artifacts. My young nephew particularly liked the complimentary lemonade available each day in the library for thirsty guests.

Our chief reason for visiting Savannah? A behind-the-scenes tour of Hunter Army Airfield. Our “tour guide”–an officer with nineteen years of service in the military–arrived on time, and we spent the next couple of  hours gaining an even greater appreciation for the skill, discipline, and sacrifice that goes hand-in-hand with duty to country.

Rain had set in, and we returned to The Marshall House once again to check in and freshen up for dinner. After dinner at 45 Bistro, (which I am sorry to say was a culinary catastrophe and hopefully an exception to an otherwise highly regarded restaurant in the historic district), we made our way down the street to the famous Leopold’s Ice Cream, established in 1919 by three brothers who had immigrated from Greece.


Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has left its mark everywhere in the city–in a good way. Next door to this cinema is Leopold’s Ice Cream–a must-have when in Savannah.


Years later, Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, GA, is still in the Leopold family and operated like an old-time soda fountain.


During our wait in line at Leopold’s Ice Cream, (the line was out the door!), we enjoyed the movie posters–they are rotated out periodically and are films produced by current shop owner and operator, Stratton Leopold. I was delighted to see (pictured here) two of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman and Ben Affleck, and (for better or worse) my favorite Affleck film, Paycheck.

Following our dairy delight and mini trip down the Hollywood walk of fame, we ventured toward the Savannah River to explore River Street, which is home to several hotels, shops, and restaurants, and offers an up-close view of the boats and ships passing through or docked for a spell.


Historic steps leading down to River Street in Savannah, Georgia. The sign: “Use at your own risk” — We did. 🙂


The World War II Monument along the river walk (River Street) is one of several war monuments in Savannah. This one is referred to as “The Cracked Earth,” because it depicts a world divided.


My sister took this picture of me surveying the names of all the fallen WWII soldiers from Chatham County, GA, who are memorialized inside “The Cracked Earth” World War II Monument. Also inside the monument, on the top right, is a Purple Heart and a Metal of Honor. — On River Street in Savannah, GA

As twilight was settling on the city of southern hospitality, we came upon the monument of John Wesley in Reynolds Square.


John Wesley was secretary to James Edward Oglethorpe, Savannah’s city founder. Wesley later became rector of Christ Church in Savannah. Also in his lifetime, Wesley was a missionary to the Indians, started the Sunday School movement, and was the founder of Methodism.

Our night at The Marshall House was comfortable and pleasantly uneventful–the hotel is reputedly haunted–and the next day we headed back to River Street for Sunday brunch at Huey’s On the River. As we later made our way to Bay Street for a history tour in a horse-drawn carriage, we encountered an interesting sight–a palm leaf artist feeding the pigeons some of her morning oatmeal.


Scattered throughout the touristy spots in Savannah, GA, are the “palm leaf people”–vendors who craft roses, swords, etc. out of palm leaves. This particular palm leaf artist had quite a following…of pigeons. Without being commissioned, she crafted my nephew a sword, which she said could be turned upside down and hung as a cross in his bedroom once he got home. He was quite pleased with it, and my brother-in-law felt obliged to give a donation for her efforts.


A carriage tour of Savannah may seem a bit touristy, but it’s a great way to get an interactive view of the city and determine what and where you’d like to explore in more depth. Our guide was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and allowed for two-way conversation and questions.


Along the carriage route, we saw the historic Scottish Rite Masonic Center. If the story our tour guide told us is to be believed, the blue trim work on the top facade (beside and above the columns in this photo) is worth a pretty penny.


This fire bell, known as “Big Duke,” was purchased in 1872 by the Savannah Fire and Police departments. It’s said that each eight-block ward/square was given a designated number, and that number was struck in an emergency to communicate the location of the fire/trouble. Big Duke was quickly decommissioned, because in practice it was difficult keeping track of how many times the bell tolled.


On a whim, I captured this church steeple through the trees during our Savannah carriage ride tour. Turns out, it’s the steeple of Independent Presbyterian Church–where the feather floated down in the movie Forrest Gump! Portions of that movie were filmed in historic Savannah, perhaps most notably the “life is like a box of chocolates” bench scene.

We passed by many other historic places and notable sights during our carriage ride, such as the home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. Fittingly, the building where the first meeting was held (just behind her house) was surrounded by a troop of chattering tourist Scouts.


Savannah’s City Hall, with its impressive gold-colored dome and waving flag was a majestic sight, and one of the final ones we saw as we left the grand old city.


The last thing I photographed in historic Savannah–though the window of our retreating vehicle–was The Savannah Cotton Exchange, which harkens back to the 1880’s when cotton was in its heyday and the area was considered “The Wall Street of the South.”


As we bid the low country and marshes adieu, we all vowed to return very soon–there was still much to be explored. …My nephew enthusiastically added, “I want to live in Savannah!” 😉

The Year of the Rain Barrel Debacle

Spring planting season is upon us here in central North Carolina. Conceptually, I want to go whole hog—no doubt a throwback to my rural roots. In reality, I am hesitant—no doubt a throwback to “The Year of the Rain Barrel Debacle.”

It was about five years ago, and I had decided to grow edible stuff on the balcony of my townhouse. I planted ever-bearing strawberries, tomatoes, two varieties of peppers, and even some parsley and mint for good measure.

I sat back and waited for the rain to come. And waited. The soil became “dry as punk” (to use one of my mother’s quirky colloquialisms). I grew so desperate for rain that when it did fall, I ran from porch to patio positioning pots and pans at the downspouts and hoarding water for a dry day.

It soon occurred to me that a rain barrel was the answer to my gardening woes. After some research, I settled for a fifty-two gallon contraption—complete with a diverter system to prevent barrel overflow—wrestled it into (then back out of) my little SUV, and poured studiously over the installation instructions.

Uh-oh. I would need to cut the downspout and replace a five-inch piece with an adaptor that would ferry the water from the spout to the barrel. Technically, the downspout was not mine—it went right down the middle of where my house ended and the house to my left began. I would need to get permission from the neighboring property owner.

That neighbor also happened to be my older sister. After hearing my passionate pleas to help save the fruits and veggies from wilting on the vine, she conceded to what she referred to as my “dern hippie ways.” (That’s an exact quote right there).

The following Saturday, I rounded up my tape measure and hacksaw.

Was nine o’clock in the morning too early to hack through a downspout? I wondered.

rain-barrel-frontBy nine-o-five, I was ripe with impatience. Rationalizing that I would be quick about it, I began to saw with purpose. The sound of metal against metal cut through the peaceful morning air. Past the point of no return, I saw my task through to the ear-splitting end. (I was later informed that my sister’s princely pooch howled at the raucous ruckus, circled the living room, and did his business where he had no business doing it. …Um, oopsy?)

With the contraption in place and the spigot at the bottom of the barrel tested for functionality, I again waited for the rain to come. It did and my barrel filled quickly. But along with the water came the critters. Soon I had a thriving ecosystem outside my basement door. Mosquitoes swarmed around the closed lid of the rain barrel, and frogs from every stage of the life cycle—from eggs to tadpoles to full-grown hippity hoppers—took up residence within. No less revolting was the water itself, which became green and stagnant.

Did I really want to pour this on plants that I would later eat? I wasn’t so sure, so I chewed on the question at some length.

I was torn from my obsessive musings when the spigot began to leak. As I eyed the drip, I knew what I had to do: face the fungus head-on. Literally. (The barrel was too heavy to move, and the idea of emptying fifty-two gallons of water at my basement door seemed all wet.) So I got a ladder, removed the lid, and bent headfirst into the mire.

As I leaned further in, searching for the spigot that needed tightening, I heard a drawling voice say, “Looks like you’ve got yourself quite a predicament there.”

I bolted upright as though poked with a cattle prod. Peg, the unofficial neighborhood watchman, was watching me with a hint of amusement in his eyes.

I tried to appear casual and breezy despite what I could only assume was a disheveled appearance. We spoke inanely for a bit, then Peg returned to his house and settled into a patio chair to watch the gold finches flit around his feeders.

With renewed determination, I threw myself into my murky task and managed to tighten the spigot. I put the lid back on the rain barrel, went into the house, and proceeded to expend ten times the water my rain barrel could hold by washing my slimy clothes and taking a cleansing shower.

For Sale: One Rain Barrel. Lightly used. $1, or best offer. Serious inquiries only.

Representative bounty from “The Year of the Rain Barrel Debacle”

To Better Homemaking

“Cooking means the knowledge of all herbs, and fruits and spices, and of all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves, and savory in meats; it means carefulness and inventiveness and watchfulness and willingness, and readiness of appliance; it means the economy of your great-grandmothers, and the science of modern chemists; it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality; and it means, in fine, that you are to be perfectly and always ‘Ladies—loafgivers’.” [1]

Such is the opening address in the Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook.

The very first Inglenook Cookbook was published in 1901, complete with 1000 recipes from women associated with the Church of the Brethren. Two generations later, “granddaughters” of the original contributors submitted over 5000 recipes from which the Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook was born.

When my mother graduated from high school, her grandfather gave her the Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook. When I was growing up, many of our meals were based on recipes from it. (I say “based on” because my mother is one of those creative cooks who views recipes as mere guidelines and likes to add her own pinch of this and dash of that—with excellent results!)

A few years ago, I purchased a 1973 edition on eBay. (You can find practically everything there!) The 1973 edition was modified to “serve new generations with recipes that are still current and choice.” [2] … Chicken potpie … Scalloped Potatoes … Creole eggplant … Applesauce Doughnuts … Black Walnut Taffy….

Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook, 1973 edition: Herein lie the secrets to the daily routine of managing home with thought and ingenuity.

Much like the dictionary and encyclopedia, I enjoy simply opening the cookbook and reading—it’s a quaint and delightful adventure of gastronomic proportions topped only by actually making the recipes described.

As the introduction to the cookbook exhorts, here’s “to better homemaking”!

[1] Quote by Ruskin, Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook. The Brethren Press, Elgin, Illinois; 1973, 5.
[2] Ibid.