Joyce Johnson Rouse


How do I Love thee, Virginia Blog

I Love thee for Virginia Beach: Good for Mind, Body and Spirit





I Love Thee for Yet Another Freedom


Enjoy this guest blog written by my friend and scholar John A. Duvall



It was once against the law to be a Baptist, or any religion other than Anglican, in Virginia.  Virginians were required to worship in Anglican churches.  While colonial Anglicans sometimes “tolerated Protestant dissenters,” they more often tried to marginalize them and to create unfortunate barriers to their existence.  Lines were blurred between religious and civil authority as parish vestries and county courts tried to secure control over religious matters.  Non-Anglican preachers, including independent Baptists, vocal Calvinists, and frontier Methodists thought to be loyal to British rule, were regularly imprisoned without habeas corpus rights for violating the Anglican loyalty law.  

Tensions rose…and rose!

In time it became clear something had to be done to permanently relieve such an explosive situation.  Private discussion and public debate, including questions of Indian and African religious practice, occupied many citizens in the early scattered communities.  Other dissenters resented the legal restrictions imposed on their religion and dared to express open resentment of the favored, tax- supported Anglicans, whose churches benefitted from enforced taxation.

About 1750, and onward through the Revolutionary War, evangelical Christians increasingly challenged the discriminatory religious rules of the establishment.  After the Revolution they formed effective alliances with democracy-leaning politicians; and in Virginia they united their efforts to strip the Anglicans of their long-held stranglehold on religion.

Though sketchy, this brief background is intended to reveal the fertile soil which sprouted the religious liberty seeds sown in Virginia by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, James Monroe and others in the Commonwealth’s formative years.  Enlightened leaders with a marvelous vision of Virginia’s future, they soon saw that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” including worship of one’s Creator, or non-worship of any Creator, dwelt in the dictates of one’s own heart.  Inner conviction, conscience, for them, and for us, is a powerful force.  

In 1777 Jefferson first penned the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.  This document’s inception and circulation roughly parallels the years of the American Declaration of Independence and Revolution.  The actual adopted 1786 version assures Virginians both “freedom of conscience and the right to think and to let think.”  This principle was also carried forward into the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which initially was to address freedom of “religious” speech only, but by the time of its adoption was amended to address freedom of “all speech”.

For over 229 years the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom has certainly stood the test of time.  Other freedoms it has spawned or inspired along the way include abolishing human slavery; voting rights, long denied, for all women; and humane custodial care for children.  

Reverend John A. Duvall is a retired teacher, social worker, and United Methodist minister.  He lives at Valley Magister Farm in Comers Rock, Virginia.

Photo by Kim Baughman


I Love thee for thy dirt.


I do love gardening in our rich Virginia soil. This past weekend I canned pints and pints of carrots and beets, all grown in our garden. Although quite a lot of work goes into canning, its so rewarding to reap the rewards of the seeds we planted in the spring.

The following post is by my good friend, Deborah Tilson Clark. Deb is a native Appalachian who enjoys reading and writing, growing vegetables and eating, having friends and being a friend, and learning every day.* Deb, her husband and their cat live on the banks of Guffy Creek. Their children live elsewhere. Deb's mother lives a short drive away, from whence she continues to dispense advice and direction to all and sundry. Thanks so much, Deb, for this delightful post.

How do I love thee, Virginia? I love thy dirt, thy rich and loamy soil, thy sandy creeksides and red clay banks, thy stony gullies and ah, the fields where limestone lumps rise like yeasty bubbles in good bread.

One of my mother’s remedies for the blues is, “Go dig in the dirt.” In this, as in many other things, I have found her to be right. And now, science agrees. In a recent re-posting of an article in Gardening Know How, Bonnie L. Grant explained that certain microbes commonly found in soil have an ability to raise serotonin .  Artificially-manufactured serotonin is the stuff that does the job in Prozac and other popular antidepressants. People who “dig in the dirt” may absorb the microbes by inhaling them in dust or through cuts or scratches in their skin – or if, like me, they accidentally swallow some in the process of planting, weeding, or re-designing landscaping. The effects are noted to last for up to three weeks.

Here in the southern Appalachians, we have dirt that has been millions of years in the making. We have earth that has been uplifted, ground down, simmered under an ocean, rolled over by glaciers, and built by layers upon layers of leaves that fell from a forest primeval. It has supported small farms and towns; forests; and plant, insect, and animal species uncounted, for ages. It even makes us happy! But it works only if we take care of it, and keep it healthy. Evidently, this is another of those cycle-things: we absorb happiness from the soil, the soil is enriched by our caretaking of it.

Another thing my mother likes to say: “What goes around, comes around.”

* We also happen to know Deb as an award-winning writer, teacher, journalist and community builder.  Sample some of Deb’s writing by reading the posts on her Mountain Stock Pot Blog.


I Love you for your Wine Festivals


Virginia, I love thee for your wine festivals

Let’s raise our glasses and make a toast to all the vineyards and the hard working people that bring us the wine, so we can get together to celebrate your goodness.

The Grayson County Wine Festival is near and dear to my heart. It is in my own backyard, in Independence, Va.  I love the music, the people, the wine, and of course it supports a great cause-help preserve the Historic landmark.  This year’s festival will be held on Saturday August 23rd from 4-8pm. The proceeds benefit the Historic 1908 Courthouse Foundation, a non-profit with the mission of preserving the Historic 1908 Courthouse for future generations.

Grayson County Wine Festival


Here are just a few more around the state. For a more detailed list go to Virginia is for Lovers and plan your year full of spirits:

Floyd, VA,  has - Black Dog Summer Music Festival and Black Dog Music Festivals presents Wine and BBQ Festival.

The Plains hosts the Virginia Wine Festival  which is oldest wine festival with over 50 of Va. best wineries.

If you want to add history, go to the Fall Wine Festival & Sunset Tour at Mount Vernon and meet “George and Martha Washington” on the Mansion's piazza.

And in Nellysford - Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery Blackberry Harvest and Music Festival not only can you taste the wine but you can still go into the fields and pick your own blackberries.  

So no matter where you are come on out, make a toast to Life, Love, Happiness, and a Great Harvest.  Keep the wine flowing. As you can see we Virginians don’t miss a chance to celebrate.  CHEERS Virginia!


I Love thee for your Music Venues


If you’re anything like me, music is a part of your soul.  This is one of the reasons I love thee Virginia.  You don’t have to look far for a musical event.

  • Every Friday night you can go to the Rex Theater ,in Galax for the Blue Ridge Backroads Show to hear some good ole’ time, foot stomping music.


  •  The Blue Ridge Music Center, located in the Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 213, has concerts on Saturday and Sunday as well as a mid-day fix from noon till 4pm Monday – Friday.


  • The Garth Newel Music Center , in Hot Springs, VA is a place where you can enjoy the music and a dining experience.
  •  Elm Park in downtown Roanoke has a musical event every night thru September.
  • Pancho Villa Pavilion Celebrate Virginia Live is located towards the back of the Central Park Shopping Center on Gordon W. Shelton Boulevard.   Some of the well-known country acts such as, Dustin Lynch, Craig Campbell and Allen Jackson are just a few people you will see there. 


  • If you desire a more classical style you can visit Richmond’s Center Stage.  This venue hosts the Richmond Symphony’s summer series.
  •  The NorVa   in Norfolk, VA has everything from blues to alternative rock to fulfill your yearning to feel the beat as well as hear it.
  • The Farm Bureau Live located in Virginia Beach, is a 20,000 seat outdoor amphitheater that has rock, rap, country and any sound in between. 



  • Pocahontas Live located in the State Park in Chesterfield County gives you the opportunity to camp out if you would like or just stop by and enjoy the show and nature together.

Earth Mama's motto is “Helping Heal the Planet One Song At A Time”, so you music lovers come on out and hear the sounds of music in and out of the hills of Virginia.


I Love you for your Community Colleges



Virginia’s Community Colleges System (VCCS) has a 45-year track record of educational excellence and innovation to serve the needs of our citizens and strengthen the commonwealth’s economy. There are 23 community colleges in the state and all of these colleges commit to increasing access to affordable education and training so more individuals can acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in an ever-changing global economy.

Wytheville Community College, (WCC), located in Southwest Virginia, also offers courses at the Crossroads Institute in Galax and at the Smyth County Education Center in Atkins. WCC has a strong distance learning program for students who wish to take classes at or near their homes.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to perform a number of musical concerts for Wytheville Community College to educate our youngsters and adults in the importance of taking care of our earth. President of WCC, Charlie White Ph. D., has committed to professional development in “Green” initiatives in workforce programs and will provide funding for professional development activities related to “Green Jobs”. In a Report of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Environmental Sustainability published in 2009, he states his plans for implementing “Green” into appropriate curricula and classes.   

We Virginians are fortunate to have a strong higher education system in place to help us grow into a sustainable future. VCCS adds to our Virginia Beauty.


I Love you for your Festivals



Elk Creek Fiddlers Convention


Last weekend was the Leaf & String Festival in Galax, this weekend is the Wayne Henderson Festival at Grayson Highlands Park, the following weekend is the Elk Creek Fiddlers Convention. In May there was the Strawberry Festival in Roanoke. And this is just in far southwest Virginia.

The summers in Virginia are filled with festivals, music and just plain old fun.

Try the Traditional 4th of July Celebration in Stauton or the Fourth of July Fireworks - Williamsburg to have some fun on the 4th.  August brings the Carter Family Traditional Music Festival , the Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery Blackberry Harvest ... ; September has Williamsburg Arts Month that runs from September 1st through October 12 in Williamsburg or try the Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival in Arlington, the Annual Shrimp & Wine Fest in Central Virginia.

Music, art, wine - whatever your interest - there’s a festival. will take you to a listing of festivals throughout our great state of Virginia.

Where ever you are in Virginia, from spring through fall, you’ll find a festival to go to.

We do love you, Virginia!!


I Love you for your Libraries



I’m looking forward to the “Paws to Read” summer library program I’ll be doing at my local library in Independence, VA on June 19. I enjoy doing library programs. The kids are interested and so full of energy, and there’s always so much going on at Virginia’s libraries.

Enjoy this guest post by Laura Bryant below!


Virginia's libraries come in all sizes, places, shapes and interest…as the slogan says "Virginia is for Lovers", so are her libraries for lovers.  For example our local library in Independence  is open 50+ hours a week and 24/7 online for lovers who need information and help - or even a book to read.  Lovers who need a computer to find information (for those who don’t have one, have one that is not in working order, or a visitor coming through town needing help or directions) can always find this resource in a local library.  Families and kids are always welcome to the special activities and events that educate and entertain.  And always, the people who work in libraries are lovers too - they love to help you.  

                                                                               "Purl" our library cat

Virginia loves its history. Our libraries have history resources and provide sources of information on the place you live, local history, your family history, and information on places you would love to visit or just interested in learning about.  To research family history, check with your local library, or the Library of Virginia for databases and links to resources - all free to use.

So How Do I love thee, Virginia Libraries? --- Virginia Libraries will always Love you back!

Inside our library

Many thanks to Laura Bryant for guest-writing this post. Laura Bryant is a retired director of the Galax-Carroll Regional Library, long time librarian for Oak Hill Academy, and tireless community volunteer in Grayson County, Virginia.


2. I Love you for your Blue Ridge Parkway


Photo by Kathye Mendes

A song I wrote titled “Ribbon of Stone” from my “A Sense of Place” CD,  celebrates the recent 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a mountain folk song honoring the 469 miles of a region and culture "unlike any other on Earth".  As drivers wind their way through the breathtaking forests, hills and valleys, they hear the sounds of whistling warblers, look out over mist-shrouded mountains, and touch the stitched fabrics of heirloom quilts.

The Blue Ridge Parkway experience is often called “America’s Favorite Drive” - just beware of foggy days. The Parkway stretches along the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains through North Carolina and Virginia and includes some of the oldest settlements of both pre-historic and early European settlement. The Parkway protects a diversity of plants and animals and offers opportunities for enjoying all that makes our region so special.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is so many things. It’s the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States. It’s an elongated park, protecting significant mountain landscapes far beyond the shoulders of the road itself. It’s a series of parks providing you access to high mountain passes with a continuous series of panoramic views. It’s the product of a series of major public works projects that provided a boost to the travel and tourism industry and helped the Appalachian region climb out the depths of the Great Depression.  

And, its the home of the Blue Ridge Music Center. The Music Center includes an outdoor amphitheater and indoor interpretive center that honor the music and musicians of the Blue Ridge, both of which are still alive and thriving in the region. Live local music is performed daily at the Music Center throughout the summer months. Stop by for an experience that you will thoroughly enjoy.

Watch a Virtual Tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Click here for Parkway information.


1. I Love You For Your Orchards


Orchards in Virginia - some history and facts:

One of my favorite apples, the Virginia Beauty, namesake of my song, is one of the many fruits found in orchards throughout Virginia. The original Virginia Beauty apple tree grew before 1820 in what is today Carroll County in southwestern Virginia.  

Serious fruit tree growing in Virginia began with our very first US President, General George Washington. Washington had fruit trees and nut trees transplanted to the orchards on his 8000 acre estate in Mount Vernon, VA. President Thomas Jefferson was also a very skilled fruit tree grower. His home, Monticello, had two orchards, vineyards, berry patches, and a nursery, all known by Jefferson as his "fruitery."

With Virginia’s climate ranging from the very cold winters in the Virginia mountains to the warm coastal areas, growing a broad range of fruits, nuts, and berries in Virginia orchards is very “fruitful” when matching fruit to its ideal climate.

Some facts:
* Hundreds of apple tree cultivars, as well as varieties of peach and cherry trees, are well adapted for growing in orchards all over the state of Virginia.
* The Stanley plum tree is very cold hardy and productive in Virginia's cold mountain orchards. Our tree took a vacation last year, so I’m expecting a great crop this year.
* A hardier type of pear is found in orchards in the colder areas of Virginia. Other varieties grow in coastal areas like Virginia Beach.
* Fig trees have been a favorite fruit tree for Virginia gardeners, since early American colonists introduced figs from Europe. The Tennessee Mountain fig is the most cold hardy fig tree and can be grown in all areas of Virginia, especially the Virginia mountains.
* Grapes of many colors and kinds are grown in all parts of Virginia.
* Berries of all sorts - red & black raspberries, blueberries, blackberries- can be found in orchards throughout the state.

Want to pick your own fruit? helps you find an orchard near you.
For a directory of all Virginia Orchards:


Virginia: How Do I Love Thee, Let me Count the Ways!


Your Wineries, Your Festivals, Your B & B s, Your Cities, Your State Parks, Your Rivers...There is much to love is this rich and diverse state.