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Eppie FinalistShenandoah Watercolors Shenandoah Watercolors follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Author/farm wife Beth Trissel shares the joys and challenges of rural life on her family’s small farm located in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Journey with her through the seasons on the farm, owned by her family since the 1930s, and savor the richness of her cherished gardens and beloved valley. This journal is a poignant, often humorous, sometimes sad glimpse into a vanishing way of life for anyone who loves or yearns for the country and even those who don’t.

~ Shenandoah Watercolors is available as an ebook at Amazon Kindle and at Barnes & Noble as a Nookbook.

For more on this book, country life and gardening, please visit my blog at One Writer’s Way

Excerpt

“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

RoseThis is one of those sweet June mornings when the world seems fresh and new, too soft for words, but I’ll try. I’m looking out the two windows in my bedroom as I write into the most beautiful gold light, the sort of light photographers love. Roses glow like jewels, their red, yellow, pink blossoms heavy with rain from the night. White daises sparkle, lacy pinks, red clover, lavender candy tuft, angel wing poppies, nodding columbine bells, spires of blue salvia, and crimson lupines…all the plants with a rich promise of more to come.

Hues of green spread through my yard and garden, out over the meadow, and up into the hills beyond the fields. The sky is washed in pale blue at the edges, deeper blue as it arches upward. And the air is alive with birdsong. Cows impatiently bawl for more Apricot Hollyhockshay, greedily snatching at the bales tossed down to them from the mow. Plump gray and white barnyard geese fuss, as is their way––I never quite catch the argument––while the goslings make this funny whistling sound.
“Waddle-butts,” I call the infants, “busy little waddle-butts,” plopping down to rest when they tire and then darting off again to catch up with the group.

If a gosling falls too far behind, its shrill peeping can be heard over hill and vale, by all, including the baddies out there that eat silly babies. Given the absentmindedness of mama and papa geese and auntie and uncles, it’s amazing that as many goslings survive as they do. Somehow, they manage, usually.
Mom's Kitten
Wood duck mamas loudly cry ‘whoo-eek’ The Trissel Pondfrom the pond to round up the ducklings dartingover its calm surface like little bumble bees. Mallard babies quietly follow their mothers in a dutiful row or all huddled together. Not so the wood ducklings. They are far more independent. But fast. Bad old snapping turtles are hard pressed to catch them. Snappers are the pond’s version of sharks, and not to be confused with the benign box turtles, but I shouldn’t end on that visual image.

The Alleghenies

Way up beyond the hills and the distant fields, the Allegheny Mountains rise above all. Why weren’t they called the Blue Ridge? They are equally blue, and can be every bit as hazy as the Smokies. What’s in a name? Much? Little? Some are steeped in meaning, others not. I don’t even know what Allegheny means, only that the mountains are glorious. They seem to roll on and on forever like the swells of a sea. I tell my daughter, Elise, that as long as the mountains stand and there are green meadows, we are well.~

*Pics by my mom and daughter Elise
SHENANDOAH WATERCOLORS at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

 

Novel Notes

Written in a month by month journal style, Shenandoah Watercolors follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. This collection of word paintings begins in May 2003 and concludes at the end of May 2004––a highly significant year for our family as it turned out.

Uncertain what route to pursue regarding its publication, I set it aside and continued to work on my fictional historicals for The Wild Rose Press. However, my mother showed Shenandoah Watercolors to a local historian who insisted it beautifully captured a vanishing way of life and must be published, an insistence that nagged at the back of my mind. With the evolution of the eBook world I decided to self-publish and share Shenandoah Watercolors with my fans.No seat belts

My mother, Pat Churchman, did the spectacular cover and was of immeasurable help in editing this book, reading it over and over. We originally intended to include some of her wonderful photographs of the valley and mountains, but the enormous undertaking involved was too daunting. As it was, I had to hire an editor to format the manuscript for epub, not as easy as you might think. So I invite you to explore this blog where many of mom’s photographs are featured in various posts on gardening and rural life.Buggies

Description of Shenandoah Watercolors
Author/farm wife Beth Trissel shares the joys and challenges of rural life on her family’s small farm located in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Journey with her through the seasons on the farm, owned by her family since the 1930′s, and savor the richness of her cherished gardens and beloved valley. This journal is a poignant, often humorous, sometimes sad glimpse into a vanishing way of life for anyone who loves or yearns for the country and even those who don’t.~

Old Order Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

As I work in the garden I often see horse and buggies clipping by on their way to some get together in the Old Order Mennonite community. Many of our neighbors are Old Order Mennonites, gentle, hard-working people, and good friends to us. The sight of a horse and buggy passing our farm, or meeting one, or a stream of buggies, on the back roads (especially thick on Sunday mornings) is a frequent occurrence here. From inside my house, the sound of horses hooves coming and going is as familiar to me as the trill of meadowlarks or mooing cows. We live on a dairy farm, in my husband's family since the 1940's.

I'm especially fond of the children. Little girls and small boys in the hats the men wear peering out from the back window of a buggy is always a delight, as is seeing women and children collected on a wagon on their way to a gathering…or riding old-fashioned bikes, at work on their farms, and sometimes even at play. Long lines of wash flapping in the breeze with pants and dresses in graded sizes from large to tiny is a picturesque addition to the community. Across the meadow and up the hill from our farm is a small Old Order school. Last fall I spotted a line of children holding hands out for a walk along the country road with their teacher(s). Darling. At the end of recess and lunch time, I hear the bell ring to summon the students back indoors. Reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her ‘Little House‘ books.
Shenandoah Watercolors
The Old Order neighbors on the farm up the road from us have a produce stand with fresh vegetables from their garden for sale. They use the honor system for customers to leave money in the box; the prices are listed on a handmade sign and the produce ready and waiting. If you have a question, likely you can find someone about on the farm or wielding a hoe. Normally I grow my own veges, but if I run low or have a crop failure I know where to go. Their garden is always perfect. They have many children and a great deal more help than I. Sigh.
Cook's Creek
I much admire The Old Order Mennonite’s unique way of life and very much hope they are able to continue as they are. The economic hardships facing many family farms, including ours, and the growing demands made by a burgeoning federal government with all its rules and regulation imposes yet more stress on a people already struggling to survive. Imagine trying to live like it’s the 1800′s in 2011.

For example, they have no health insurance, but band together and support each other in times of illness and injury. Doctors and hospitals make some concessions in regards to billing Old Orders, but the cost of medical care is still staggering. These people do not, however, want to be forced into a government health plan as this goes against their religion. They have as little as possible to do with government and the secular world in general. I believe their unique way of life must be respected and protected or the day may come when buggies no longer pass our house.~

*Old Order Mennonites are one of the aspects of rural life in the Shenandoah Valley I touched on in my nonfiction book entitled Shenandoah Watercolors.

Early Spring*Pics of Old Order Mennonites and their farms by my husband and mother. Old Orders do not like to have their pictures taken if their faces are visible so we are careful not to reveal them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews

“What an amazing book. I just love to read journals for the simple reason most put their heart and soul into what they write. Beth Trissel has managed to do that in her book Shenandoah Watercolors. The more I read, the more I thought of my life as a child back in a little country town in Nebraska. The story of Daphne and Darlene along with their newest drake Don and wild mallard Dwayne brought rounds of laughter. I could just see Dwayne pursuing his gal.

The descriptions of the Virginia countryside are marvelous and if you have never been there before you are in for a treat. I have made a couple trips through the Virginia country side and as I read Ms. Trissel’s book I could picture myself being there as she plants her garden, chases the old heifer away from her bushes, going to the county fairs and patiently waiting the arrival of her grandchild.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is one book I will read again if only to take another trip down memory lane with Beth Trissel. Excellent book with an amazing beautiful cover. Highly recommended.”

Review by Lynn at Miss Lynn’s Books & More

Even though I’ve lived in both cities and rural areas, I’ve always considered myself a city girl although that’s probably a misnomer. Truthfully, I’m overwhelmed by city life and fast grow bored with life in the country. Whenever I’m living in the city, I yearn for a less complicated life; when living in the country, I yearn for all the stimuli a city provides.

Which typically leaves me in the suburbs, but that’s another story.

I recently read Beth Trissel’s Shenandoah Watercolors, a series of short essays which account a year’s time on her family’s rural farm in the Virginian Shenandoah Valley. Full of rich imagery and fantastic characters in the forms of people, house pets, and farm animals, Mrs. Trissel has cured me of one thing: the idea that living in a rural area is less complicated than living in the city. It’s complicated all right: farm animals must be raised, sometimes by hand. Cows are ushered from areas they’re determined to plunder, fences be damned. Pets wreak their particular brand of havoc in the house, carefully hoarded spoils overriding the aftermath of broken items and strewn garbage from un-sealed trash bags. There’s constant worry about flooding and droughts and broken-down equipment; no harvest means more debt and tight finances.

Throughout all of this threads the familial and neighborly relationships - a sense of community seldom seen in city life. When trouble strikes - be it concern over a crop or the unexpected death of a much loved and anticipated, newly born grandchild - families and neighbors come together to help and nurture each other in any way they can. I was struck by Mrs. Trissel’s summation: “The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost.”

While the grass always seems to be greener in someone else's pasture, I’m inclined to agree with her assessment. While I don’t think farm life should be everyone’s calling, I do feel that we can all learn much from stopping to smell the flowers and reconnecting with the part of ourselves that isn’t connected to the conveniences of modern-day life. In our haste to have the latest, high-tech toys we tend to neglect the very things that keep us grounded in our humanity.~

Review by Author K J Pierce


This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I've ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read. I didn't rush through it because I found it such a peaceful way to de-stress when I needed to. I'd read a chapter or two, or even a few pages and feel calmed by the flowing language, which painted scenes of baby animals growing in verdant pastures, kids skating on the frozen winter pond, birds trilling summer songs and garden projects of all kinds. Mrs. Trissel, a farm wife in a setting that makes you want to move to the Shenandoah immediately, has an insightful way of weaving the world around her into a quilt of colors and patterns, scents and sounds. Her perspectives are delightful. She doesn't gloss over the hardships, but takes in the joys with such depth all is tempered and balanced.

Mrs. Trissel has an amazing knowledge of flowers and plants and a sense of humor that had me laughing on many occasions. Whether accompanying her husband to the county fair, pouring over seed catalogues with her youngest daughter or rolling her eyes affectionately at her older daughter's ballooning wedding plans, the reader feels part of that life. She has a fascinating background that is revealed in snippets here and there as offhandedly as plucking flowers in the many gardens on the farm. Both that background and her obvious knowledge of literature (lovely quotes included throughout) add depth to her day to day life which comes across to the reader.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I've read a lot of memoirs, but none so appealing as this one. Highly recommended.

Reader Review by C. G. King