Free and clear (warning- laundry tips ahead)

Here at the Highlander Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast, we try to keep all of the rooms, even the 2 pet friendly ones, free of allergens.  That’s one reason we have individual mini-splits (wall mounted Air conditioner/heaters that have a personal remote control) in each room and we ask that guests do not open the windows, which lets in pollen from outside that can attach itself to drapes and upholstery.  Our pillows and duvet inserts are all hypoallergenic as well and we use ECO-friendly, hypoallergenic laundry detergent in our washes.  We don’t add fabric softener to our high thread count sheets because of the damage that is done by softeners.

While on the subject of laundry, I have been asked in the past why I like the front load washers and how I keep them running when other people have had so much trouble with them.  The trick, I think, is to keep them clean and dry and to do some easy maintenance on them regularly.  See the following if you are interested in some tips:

Front of washer

First thing that you should be doing is leaving the door OPEN when not in use.  This is the easiest way to keep from getting those stale smells from mold and mildew.

Use an absorbent rag to dry out ring

You should also be cleaning and drying the rubber gasket after each use. Go all the way around the gasket.

Drain holes catch whatever is too big to drain.

Also before or after use, make sure the drain holes are clean.  (I cannot begin to tell you all of the things I have had to dig out of these while using laundromats when we travel in our camper! UGH!!)   Just use a paper towel or your fingers to pull whatever is in there, out.

Speaking of the drain, on a regular basis, you should be cleaning out the drain filter.  It would be advisable to do this if your machine starts having trouble draining all the water, at least.

Here are the steps to this:

Where the filter hides on this machine

First find out where your filter is at.  On this machine, it’s behind this little door.  If you didn’t know what it was, you might not know you can get in there and do this stuff, but it’s easy.

This one opens with that little latchy thing on top:

Opened hatch

Next, find something to accumulate the water that will inevitably come rushing out all over your floor.  I used a Cookie sheet so that I can get it under the machine somewhat.  It might be easier to control the water if you can take off the cover and/or you might want to put a towel under the cookie sheet or instead of it.

Cookie sheet with door off

Now you have to get the filter basket out.  This one looks a bit like some refrigerator water filters and it’s a black dial that you turn. Lefty-loosy, righty-tighty.

Filter cover

Filter basket

Once you get the knob turned until it comes out, pull out the filter and check it for debris.  I have found cellophane wrappers in this thing that was keeping the water from draining.  Cellophane, plastic and rubber are big water blockers but enough hair in here will screw up your wash too.

After you clean out the filter basket, just reverse what you have done.  Put the filter back in and tighten it. Tighten it GOOD or you could have leaks when you use the washer.  Put the cover back on and close it.  Get that water out of the cookie sheet and pick up your towels.  That’s it!!

You should also be running your cleaning cycle on a regular basis.  If you don’t have a cleaning cycle, then you can do the same thing with cleaner and your hot cycle.  If you don’t want to use Bleach (which most manufacturers recommend for cleaning cycles), you can use a combination of vinegar and baking soda.  Just mix up about 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1/4 cup of water and put this in where the detergent goes. Then pour a couple cups of white vinegar into the tub.  Now run your cleaning cycle or hot cycle.  If you already have some mildew built up in there, this should help (I also use vinegar and baking soda for clearing drains!).  After the cleaning cycle, remember to dry out the door Gasket and LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN!

Have a good day!

Spring time update

It’s so beautiful here right now!  I just can’t get over it.  Highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s.    The chickens are laying eggs like crazy, the bunny is back munching on the grass out back.  The trees are budding out and my bushes are starting to leaf out.

The new season at the Barter Theatre is going strong.  Mamma Mia just finished up and a Midsummer Night’s Dream is beginning in a day or so.  There is also a play about robots at the little Barter theatre.  Later this year, they are doing Footloose!! and I am hoping to get tickets to that myself.  I bet it will be fantastic!!!

Barter plays

The ground hog got it wrong

I just left the allergist. It is 78 degrees out and beautiful- it is still February for heavens sake!!! I am not complaining, mind you. Spring time is one of my favorite times of year. This might be a little early for Southwest Virginia but I will take it!

The mild winter has helped us finish all of our planned remodeling.  (It’s hard to paint when it’s below freezing outside).  The last big thing was the laundry room.  That thing was pretty gross before and now it’s just pretty…and more functional.

Its not a part of the house that guests get to see, of course, so it was one of the last items in the house to be remodeled.  I won’t bore you (gross you out) with the before photos but here are the afters!!

Laundry room after

Laundry room after

Laundry room after

Laundry room after


Cruising through January

We have had a pretty mild winter so far this year.  While it was really cold last month (and I lost some chickens), this month has been fairly pleasant, if rainy.  I know.  The fact that I am talking about it being mild has completely jinxed it now.  And it always seems like February is the worst month for snowfall and cold weather.  So there.  I have done it and it can get cold again…..We added a heater to the chicken coop and we put up additional walls to keep the snow drifts out so they should be ok even with snow.

Today I went out to give the hens some mealy worms and pick up eggs and I notice the daffodils are breaking through the surface.  It seems like spring out there to everything, but I know that it’s just trying to trick me.  I don’t need the groundhog to come out and look for his shadow.  I KNOW winter isn’t over but, to me, being cold is still better than being hot.  And, the days are already getting longer and it’s over 60 degrees out there right now!

Meanwhile, in the slow time, we have been updating the inn (and working on income taxes…yuck!!)  We have mostly been working on parts of the house that the guests don’t see like the kitchen and the owners quarters.  Frank is finally working on that soffit in the kitchen, Yay!   I had shut down for January and February because I figured, low VOC paint or not, who wants to pay to deal with the smell and noise of construction?   But since we have most of the painting done, we opened back up after next week.

I hope everyone out there is having as much fun as we are.

Lucy the chicken

Lucy the chicken

Where is spring?

img_6757It’s been a long winter already!
Yes, I am about done with the snow, the short days, and the snow.
And the electric and gas bills.
I know it has been relatively mild so far this winter but tell that to the two chickens who died from hypothermia. In Florida, where we came from,  winter lasted 2 days and it’s going to be in the 80s this week.
Because of the issues with we had last winter with the snow when we had guests, we decided to try closing for January and February this year. We planned on having the opportunity to finish up some work in the kitchen and owners quarters while we are off….but it’s hard to paint or woodwork when it’s below freezing all week long.
We have gotten a reprieve this week. It is finally above freezing and we can turn off the heater out in the chicken pen. (Yay!$) But instead it’s raining.
Argh! At least the days are getting longer again instead of shorter.
We will be able to work on our projects.
And just a note, if we show no rooms during this time and you are going to be in the area looking for lodging, give us a call anyway. If the parking lot is cleared of snow, we can probably accommodate you!



Musings on tropical weather

Frank and I first began to think seriously of moving away from Florida in 2004 and 2005. We lived through the 2 worst years ever for Atlantic hurricanes and we were tired of it. We had moved in 1998 from Jacksonville, 6 miles from the Atlantic ocean, to Fleming Island where we somehow thought the storms wouldn’t be so bad. We didn’t really take into account how close we now were to the St John’s River and how much worse it would be for us than for other people in Clay county. Regardless, in 2004 Bonnie, Charlie, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne made a mess, left us without power and with a mess to clean up. We thought we had lived through the worst year ever.

In July 2005, we took our vacation to go to New Orleans. We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the Garden District. We took the street cars to the French Quarter, ate at some wonderful restaurants and got to know the people and the city. One afternoon, we took a guided tour of the whole city, mostly to get out of the heat and into a nice air conditioned van. During the tour, the guide drove us to see the levees. We had heard about these things before and somehow I expected some concrete and metal structures… or anything besides what I actually saw. These things were like the berms that our old neighborhood had between the houses and Atlantic Blvd….for privacy, sure, but to keep out a storm surge???!! Ridiculous!! And we told this woman that. We said, “Look, if a storm is coming this way, leave. These things are not going to keep you safe”.

We were devastated then when, 10 days later, Katrina hit the Gulf coast (it’s third landfall) and afterwards New Orleans flooded. We were glued to the tv set and worried about all of the people we had met.

But the 2005 storm season wasn’t nearly over yet. Heck, we were on H in August. We still had to deal with Rita and Wilma, and then NOAA started the alphabet over with Alpha, Beta etc.

So after all of this, we started looking for a place in the mountains where we could get out of the hurricane paths. We bought a cabin in North Georgia. We loved that place and really thought we would retire there. We eventually decided we wanted to “live the dream” and run a bed and breakfast, of course, so we sold the Georgia cabin and we bought the house in the southern Appalachians of Virginia.

Watching the news and tracking this last Atlantic hurricane, it surprises us how much we know about tropical storms and hurricanes. I guess after spending more than 40 years living with them, or the threat of them, it shouldn’t be surprising. But one blocks out some things. As the IT director of a fairly large company, I tracked every storm, every year – I worked there for 24 years. I could guess the landfall sometimes better than the Weather channel.

I hope the damage from this storm, Hermine, is not extensive anywhere. And if this begins another couple of bad seasons for storms, I hope it serves as a reminder to people to be prepared and be careful.

It serves as a reminder to me of why we moved away from the coast in general and Florida in particular. And why we probably won’t be moving back.

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Dog days of summer

Miss Sonoma

I guess you would call these the dog days of summer. It’s been hot and rather dry. I know it hasn’t been nearly as hot as other parts of the country and for that I am grateful…. and maybe a little proud. I mean, the weather is part of why we moved from Florida to the hills of Southwest Virginia. It’s cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than other areas. We get 4 seasons here: a little hot, a little snow, and beautiful temperate springs and autumns.

Being summer and all, we had family visiting recently, which was great! Since we were entertaining, we did some things we hadn’t had a chance to do like take a tour of the Bristol Motor Speedway. That was a blast although that was one of the hotter days this year. Regardless, we got to sign our names on the wall at the finish line. We also got to visit one of the (air conditioned ahhhh) luxury suites. That would certainly be a great place to watch a race, given the opportunity!

We also went to the William King Museum and the Arts Depot finally. These are both in Abingdon and I had ridden by them constantly but never stopped. There was a great exhibit called Viva Appalachia! which I found quite interesting and I posted a couple of pics from there on our Facebook page. If you are visiting the area, I recommend these venues as well.

Both places are currently having shows associated with the Virginia Highlands Festival which runs this year from July 29 to August 7 ( This is an annual event here and there are a lot of activities besides art. You can peruse the vendors that are on Remsburg Drive near the farmers market. The Antique show is going on at the Higher Education Center by Heartwood at exit 14. A youth tent is at the Barter where there is face and body painting. And there’s so much more including, Historical activities and Tours.

We are booked up right now but we actually have some availability this coming weekend. The weather people are forecasting mid to upper 80s during the day and mid 60’s at night so it should be pretty comfortable and just a grand time for all!

Give us a call or make a reservation for this weekend online by clicking the Reservation link. We’d love to see you!

Just another day at the funny farm

From ordering wine to preparing to paint the owner’s quarters, it’s never ending fun around here!

We have been busy, busy, busy.  We have gone through some weeks where we were so busy with no days off for almost a month, and we had been exhausted.  Based on the concepts of supply and demand, and discussions with my dear husband about same, I have been trying different things on the reservations.  While Frank wanted me to stop having any one nighters, like some other b&bs do, after trying that on weekends and losing out on bookings, I have instead started offering discounts for 2 night stays.  We already had them for 3 or more nights.  As I tell him, he wanted to be near the Interstate for people passing through so that kind of contradicts the 2 night rule.  So I am interviewing cleaning services to help out here since we spend a lot of our time cleaning when we could be doing other things (but then isn’t that true for everyone, I wonder?).

I also added a wine package add-on for all the rooms.  We did packages including wine, flowers and candy for Valentines Day this year and had some success with it but we won’t be doing that again for Valentine’s Day since February seems to be snow blizzard month and we managed to dissolve our front steps.  I will probably try a romance/anniversay/birthday package but the add ons seem to work better with our reservation software.

Our garden is finally in. The weather was so strange this spring with an early warm period and then a late frost so it was start and stop and start and stop.  So it’s not overflowing veges at this point but it is finally on it’s way.  We are planning on picking up a few more chickens since we lost 2 to some predator, probably a fox that a very astute guest told us she heard.  Two days after she heard them, a neighbor saw them in her yard and messaged me about them.  The electric fence around the chicken pen is now on and we are back to closing the coop doors every night and since then, no more losses. I guess whatever it was, it just went right into the coops at night and grabbed what it wanted.  It’s very sad and I really miss my Nellie.  I will try not to name the new chickens so maybe I won’t be so upset if something happens to one.  But even Frank has a favorite chicken now and swears she converses with him when he opens the coop in the morning.

The weather here is still great compared to what we are used to: Highs in the 70s and 80s and low in the 50s and 60s (although tomorrow they say it will get up to 91.  But the humidity is usually low and it is nothing like what we were used to in Florida.  The lightning bugs come out just before the sun goes down and they give a great show.



Spring, spring, spring

It has been an interesting spring so far. After all the snow in February, we were absolutely thrilled to have weeks in the 70s in March. We even started putting in our vegetable garden. Then the COLD weather came back. In fact, this morning it was in the low 20s. Then it got up to 65 today and is supposed to be 75 tomorrow. Very confusing.

The winter, in general, was tough on us. We had guests during the winter while some of our contemporaries were closed. After salting a couple of times so guests didn’t fall, our front concrete steps dissolved. They were 100 years old (like the house) and had been patched many times over the decades. Frank made the (ultimately correct) decision to replace them with board and not mess with the ‘easy’ way out that I leaned towards. We had a hard time getting anyone to give us prices, then a horrible time with the code inspector while we were trying to get them built but eventually, we reached a point that everyone was moderately happy… well ok, not ‘happy’ but at least a compromise had been reached and the steps are done. In a few months, we can paint them but otherwise, they look great.

It helped our sanity that we had gone to Florida to visit family before the construction mess. It was pretty cold and windy there too while we were there so our visit to St Augustine beach was short lived but still it was good to be back to familiarity… and it was also enlightening. We renewed our belief that we don’t want to go back to the Jax area to live. It had bad memories. It had crazy motorists. It had rush hour (our rush hour is Tuesday afternoon from Kroger to the Interstate from 4:45 to 5pm… there are 10 cars in front of us- oh my!) We drove the route I used to drive to work. I calculated how many times, roughly, that I had made that drive – 4000+ times each way. Lord.

Now we are back in gear. The weather this weekend is supposed to be great. The Bristol Motor Speedway has their first big race of the year. The Food City 500 plus 2 other races is this weekend. Their big video scren gets it in inauguration, I am told. We actually still have one room open as of this writing so come on out if you are reading this!

Lots of great things are going on in Abingdon as well. 1984 just opened at the Barter Theater. The daffodils are still in bloom. And it has warmed up! Yay!


New Year full of promise

2015 ended with a snow storm and 2016 has begun with really nice weather, albeit we are getting a heavy dose of rain. The wind has been blowing down the mountains into Meadowview wreaking havoc on our chicken pen. Our meager efforts to keep the chickens warm and dry were at best, a flop, but it did point us in the right direction to make them happier.

We had a great holiday season by having family from Florida pay us a visit for Christmas. It was a wonderful to see them and gave me the opportunity to fine tune my breakfast cooking skills as well try a couple of new recipes. Everyone enjoyed the meals, especially the farmhouse toast and gave us great feedback. A few of the other items we make for our guests are farmhouse potatoes and a wonderful goat cheese omelet. Of course being here is not just about the breakfast. It is also about the old farm house and the surrounding property. It’s a country setting with pasture and cows all around and close enough to all of southwest Virginia’s sights to enjoy this as a base of operation for your visit.

The new year brings new opportunities for the Highlander Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast. Bristol motor speedway currently has 4 big events scheduled beginning in April and running through the college football season. Of course there will be two races again this year but 2 football games have also been scheduled. The University of Tennessee football team will be playing the Virginia Tech. team and is being billed as the largest crowd in history to see a game. I can not imagine having 155,000 people at a game. The noise level will be higher than having 43 hot rods running around the track. It is an event that will make history!