Mr. Jefferson’s Gadgets

My neighbor Charles is one of those fascinatingly entertaining people that abound here in Charlottesville. He is an extremely talented craftsman, with a wickedly cool workshop in his back yard that deserves its own post. ( I really thought I had some shots of the workshop, but I can’t seem to find them, so I’ll need to fix that!) Among the projects he works on back there are a number of fascinating reproduction gadgets for Monticello where he works as a guide. Many a cozy (happy) hour has been spent in Charles’ workshop as he shares his latest labor of love. Over the years, Charles has built a number of Jefferson-era reproduction gadgets, so when I heard he was going to give a talk on the topic up at Monticello, I immediately knew this was going to be a talk worth going to.reserved

Edie and I were officially guests of Charles – with reserved seats no less! A friend of mine from high school was in town, so I dragged him along as well. As I sat between the two of them, Chris directed me to take pictures of things, while Edie gave me the side eye every time she heard my camera click, so I tried to strike a balance that kept both my companions happy.

Charles had samples of some his gadgets, as well as a slide show illustrating some of his work and points. Over the years, he’s built the wine dumbwaiter currently in use in a display in the basement, a replica of the folding ladder used to wind the clock in the entry hall of Monticello, a camera obscura, an orrery and a replica of the portable desk Jefferson commissioned for himself, used in the writing of  the Declaration of Independence. Charles discussed the research that went into creating these reprodutions as well as things he’s learned about Jefferson along the way (he liked things that folded and things that rotated).  He shared with us in great detail the current rabbit hole he has fallen into – studying Jefferson’s Hawkins/ Peale polygraph No. 57.


The talk was very well attended and absolutely fascinating. At the end of his talk, Charles invited everyone up to come check out his gadgets, where there was loads of hands on exploring. Thank you again for having us as your guests Charles – it was an absolutely stellar talk and wonderful to see so many of your works on display. I do hope Monticello hosts more talks like these, as they are fascinating.

A Saturday Adventure.

The plan was to go pick up some composted manure from a friend’s goat farm for our garden plot. Said farm is out in what we city dwellers refer to as “the sticks” – south of town between Schuyler and Scottsville, a few dirt roads off the main road.

Virginia and I set out about mid-morning in our old pick-up truck. We stopped off at the garden to tidy up and drop off some tools before heading south.

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Pink Pickled Turnips

In a recent conversation with my friend Aaron, the subject quickly moved to the subject of pickles – specifically these pickled turnips he and his wife Dahlia seemed to only find in Jerusalem and did I think I could recreate them.  He briefly described them to me and after a quick google search, I realized not only would they be fairly easy to make, but I had a recipe on hand for them already. (Joy of Pickling of course.)


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Living in Wild Kingdom

My garden looks rough.  There’s no way around it.  Granted, it’s the middle of October and everyone’s garden looks rough.  August and it’s lack of rain combined with September and early October’s deluges have just left everything looking rather unfortunate.  Partially inspired by an article I recently submitted for publication on the topic of how to winterize one’s garden and partially inspired by the purchase and renewal of the house behind us that has sat vacant for well over a year (and had slipped into neglect the last few years before that), I found myself with a few free hours the other day and decided to do a little bit of a clean up in my sunny perennial bed, aka, the ‘down by the side of the road’ garden. Continue reading

Breathing room.

It was a glorious Memorial Day weekend here.  The weather was just simply beautiful and honeysuckle scented.  We had no where to be for three whole days – a first since a snowstorm I’m pretty sure. Pat went fishing with Cola, we had lots of girl time in the yard, gardening was done, back roads were driven in pursuit of local berries, which got jammed and frozen while the strawberries we picked from our yard garden got turned into strawberry ice cream that was shared at an impromptu dinner last night with Charles and Carol, our second dinner party with neighbors over the weekend.   There was a yard sale score in the shape of a pretty new covered cake stand – the sort that you can flip upside down and turn into a punch or trifle bowl in a pinch,  which I guess gets entered into both collections, bringing me to four punchbowls and eight cake stands. To celebrate, I baked a pound cake – this is my go-to recipe, one I tore out of Southern Living eons ago.  Just dump everything in your stand mixer and let it go. I love those sorts of recipes.  Baking the pound cake was also to use up some of the four dozen duck eggs that were dropped off this weekend, some of which might be involved in a pickling project. The pound cake was pretty divine served with the homemade, homegrown strawberry ice cream.   Ambitious to-do lists were made and accomplished this weekend, although the house didn’t really get cleaned like it needs.  Now that I’ve wrapped up my last PB&J Fund classes for the semester, I’ll have free afternoons again so maybe I can get that caught up. I did get laundry (mostly) caught up this weekend.  One shouldn’t be too ambitious about these things I don’t think.  All in all, it was a lazily productive weekend, the sort that had lots of impromptu pop-ins and visits, poison ivy, lazy yard drinks, beautiful evenings and the first lightening bug sightings of the season.  Hello summer.