We arrived at Lake Monticello after driving the two trucks through the night with a rest stop snooze of an hour. The two feral cats in Randal’s truck had sung most of the way. Don’t you wonder how cats and dogs can howl for so long without getting hoarse? I do.
We had walkie-talkies that we’d used to stay in touch along the highway and anytime I would talk to Randal the cats would start howling. He told me they were quiet otherwise, but I’m not too sure I believed him. I’m sure they were pretty scared in such unfamiliar conditions. I’d read what to do when we got to the new home and placed them in a small confined area so they could feel safe within that environment. It happened to be the master bathroom.
After we got unloaded and all doors closed, we would let them have the screened porch to adjust to the sights and smells of the area in another safe and secure environment. I had told them before we left that they were going to become Happy, Health, House Kitties and they seemed to readily agree with me.
The people we had hired to unload us did not show, so we got the mattress out of the truck and into the house before dark and slept on the living room floor under the skylights. I was amazed at the blue of the sky in Virginia. We had never seen such bright skies in Alabama. Although we were exhausted from the packing, loading, and driving, I remember lying there for quite some time looking at all the stars and thanking God for a safe journey to our new home.
The next morning Randal went to a few neighbors to get ideas on where we could hire some folks to help unload the trucks. A nearby convenience store had a lady working there that did this sort of thing with her son. They arrived a few hours later and got the furniture into the house in record time. We were both impressed and Randal was very grateful to get the job done and get the trucks dropped off in Charlottesville.
We were so happy and excited about our move to Virginia, but when we unloaded the mattress after arriving, we noticed cars behind those “40 acres of woods that would never be developed.” Walking through the back yard down into the hollow and back up to the rise, we realized it was a shopping center. We had seen the place in September and it was now a week into November and most of the leaves were gone, so those 40 acres weren’t as deep as they were wide.
The weather was still nice so we made sure, between getting settled and keeping up with the business, that we got out to discover something several days each week. We were looking forward to our first winter “up North” and I wondered how many years it would take to have enough snow to build a snowman.
We were only in a few weeks before being invited to a Christmas gathering of the neighborhood and what a delight it was to meet Bob and Kathy who lived directly across the street from us. It was their gathering and there couldn’t have been a warmer welcome. We had lived in Alabama 18 years as vegetarians and found few to really know what the word meant.
We were standing in the kitchen of our new neighbors when Kathy pulled a tray out of the oven with bruschetta and offered us some. I thought it had pepperoni on it and mentioned we were vegetarians. Kathy asked, “Vegan or do you eat cheese?” Well, you could’ve blown us away with a breath! We were so shocked and thrilled all at the same time we were almost speechless. She informed us that it was sun-dried tomato slices, but it did have cheese on it.
Even now, six and a half years since that time, it brings a smile to our faces. We surely felt like we were in the right place.
We got settled in quickly having much less house and stuff to organize and began our search for land which allowed us to learn the area very quickly with maps and day trips to various areas. We thought we would find something readily and begin to build so I was already sketching out floor plans of what we wanted. I’d looked at hundreds of floor plans and couldn’t find one “just right.” Like Goldilocks I think I was being much too fussy, but I was having fun with it all and it certainly kept me entertained while we discovered more and more of the places within an hour of where we lived.
It didn’t take long to realize that Nelson County was the spitting image of the place of my dreams. Very wild with no real developed towns. The county seat of Lovingston had one shopping center and some family-owned businesses. The views were incredible and the feel of the county was unmatched with anything we saw outside of it. After all, it included the town of Schuyler which was the setting for the television program, The Waltons. A program we loved to watch as a family, so why wouldn’t it be a dream come true to live near there?
We wanted land with a lot of diversity of plant life since we wanted to make it a wildlife refuge, and since Virginia is over-populated with deer, much of the undergrowth of many areas was well eaten by browsing deer. It proved to be a greater challenge than we thought, but I was diligent.
We named our home Bluebird Cove at Green Acre because of all the bluebirds that we saw our first winter here and because we had an acre and wanted to green it up. We’d never had bluebirds in Alabama since our home was surrounded by forest and bluebirds like open space. After naming The Refuge it only seemed appropriate to have a name for our home.
As Spring arrived at Lake Monticello, we began to add some plants that would benefit wildlife. We had certified The Refuge in Alabama with the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat Certification Program and wanted to do the same here. The four requirements for wildlife are: food, water, cover, and nesting places. We were a bit short on cover since it was a new home and there were no bushes and little undergrowth other than a lot of wild blueberry bushes which were low to the ground.
We were about to learn very quickly that we were not going to be the ones to decide what types of plants we had at Bluebird Cove. That would be decided for us by the deer.