The Rapp for Dec. 27

A whale tooth in Washington?

Rappahannock resident Will Metcalf sent in this photo of a fossilized whale tooth discovered in the summer by his wife, Jessica, and daughters Sydney and Madelyn – in a shallow stream near their Washington home.

Photo courtesy of Will Metcalf
Photo courtesy of Will Metcalf

The Metcalfs originally thought it was a bear claw, but Lauck Ward, curator emeritus of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, now believes it might be a whale tooth from the Miocene age and may be up to 18 million years old. If that’s the case, the tooth is a relic from a time where the entire region was under 600 feet of water.

Dr. Ward, a paleontologist, said he believes that Rappahannock is too far into the Piedmont for a Miocene deposit like this to be naturally occurring; the tooth might have been brought here by Indian or Colonial settlers. Metcalf reports that Ward is excited by the find and is eager to study the area and determine more closely the fossil’s age and likely itinerary.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have since heard, and seen some fairly persuading photographic evidence, that this artifact is more likely a bear tooth. Check the Jan. 10 Rappahannock News for an update.

PEC garden winners include one in Rappahannock

Photo by Roger Piantadosi/Rappahannock News
Photo by Roger Piantadosi/Rappahannock News

The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) began accepting nominations for its first School & Community Garden Awards last spring. The contest goal was to recognize gardens that celebrate the relationship between nature, food and community by awarding six school or community gardens cash prizes.

For a garden to be eligible, it had to be located in PEC’s working area; needed to be active during the 2012 growing season; and had to be a community effort. The ideal PEC was looking for was gardens that grew edible plants, provided pollinator plants and other wildlife habitat, and featured native plants.

PEC received 22 contest entries, including two from Rappahannock County – Mountain Laurel Montessori Farm School’s garden and Rappahannock County Elementary School’s ‘Farm-to-Table’ garden.

“This was our first year to offer the awards,” explains Jessica Palmer, PEC’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Coordinator, “and we were surprised by the number of applications we received. It’s so great to see a mix of school and community gardens in our area, and we are excited to recognize six dedicated and inspiring gardens!”

Though all of the gardens warranted a certificate of recognition, six were chosen for the featured awards. For the $500 awards, PEC selected Auburn Middle School’s “Farm 2 Table Garden” (Fauquier); Buford Middle School’s “City Schoolyard Garden” (Charlottesville); and the Culpeper Community Garden at CFC Farm and Home Center.

For the $300 awards, PEC selected the Haven’s “PATCH Community Garden” in Charlottesville; Madison County’s Community Garden and School Pizza Garden; and the RCES “Farm-to-Table Garden.”

To see the full list and photos of the 22 gardens nominated this year, visit

‘Last Night’: It’s a good night  

“It’s been fun every year and we’re looking forward to it,” said one guest who attended last year’s “Last Night Rappahannock,” the family-oriented New Year’s Eve event sponsored by the Rappahannock Historical Society – a great opportunity to stroll the town, greet old friends and make some new ones. The third annual “Last Night” is 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 31 in the town of Washington – with headquarters at the Rappahannock Historical Society (328 Gay St.), where you can purchase tickets for the evening’s entertainment.

Helen Williams mans the S’mores desk at last year’s “Last Night” event. Photo by Gary Anthes.
Helen Williams mans the S’mores desk at last year’s “Last Night” event. Photo by Gary Anthes.

That includes music for adults with Dontez Inferno and Evergreen Shade; a children’s venue, where Kitty Keyser incorporates stories, movement and crafts for kids, Shenandoah National Park ranger Karen Beck-Herzog will bring along her “Touch Table” and Cathie Shiff of Wit’s End Farm helps children make felted soaps; and food at Trinity Episcopal Church’s Parish Hall for all. (Children must eat at 5 so they’ll be ready at 5:30 for the fun at the RAAC Community Theater until 7. Making S’mores at the fire pit brings back many memories and thrills those who have never experienced this.

Tickets are $15 ($30 for families with children 12 and younger). Reservations, requested by Dec. 28, can be made at 540-675-1163 or by email to

RAAC’s new movie season begins

The Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community begins its winter season of films on Jan. 4. Featured that Friday is the comedy-drama “Your Sister’s Sister,” starring Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt. The film is rated R and runs 90 minutes.

Rosemary DeWitt, left, and Emily Blunt in “Your Sister’s Sister.”
Rosemary DeWitt, left, and Emily Blunt in “Your Sister’s Sister.”

As always, the place is the Theatre at Washington, on Gay Street, the time is 8 p.m. and the admission is $6. The concession stand will be open for popcorn, candy and water. Check out for more information on this and other events.

Aging Together helps people ‘live well’

Every day across this region hundreds of people struggle to live with the symptoms of chronic illnesses. A new program offered by Aging Together helps them learn to manage and improve their health through a six-week program of education and peer support.

Common chronic illnesses that affect the health of our friends and family members include heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and more. Nearly 92 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition and 77 percent have two or more.

The new Live Well program is a series of six classes, each lasting two and a half hours. During a portion of each session, trained volunteer group leaders – typically people with chronic illnesses – teach participants how to manage different aspects of their disease. This can include pain management, medication use, communicating with doctors and handling the emotions that occur with an ongoing illness.

Live Well participants set personal goals and share their frustrations and successes with others in their class. By the end of the six weeks each person has a set of tools to help them feel better and new friends who understand the trials of having a chronic illness. Most people say this is one of the best parts of the program – learning you’re not the only one who feels the way you do. The program was developed by Stanford University.

Aging Together is looking potential group leaders as well as people interested in joining the program sessions in January. To learn more, contact Chris Miller at 540-829-6405 or email her at There’s also information online at

New grant backs clean water

Gov. Bob McDonnell recently announced a new initiative to help farmers implement high-priority conservation practices and improve water quality statewide.

The new Virginia Enhanced Conservation Initiative boosts existing state agricultural cost-sharing programs that provide farmers financial and technical assistance to implement stream exclusion and pastureland conservation practices.

“Under the initiative, farmers can be reimbursed up to 100 percent of the cost to install systems that manage grazing and keep livestock out of nearby waterways,” said Doug Domenech, secretary of natural resources. Reimbursement for installing identified “stream-exclusion” systems previously has been capped at 75 percent under the state’s cost-share program.

“Keeping livestock out of rivers and streams is critical to reducing water contamination and pollution, and to improving water quality throughout the state,” said McDonnell. Stream-exclusion systems include features that prevent livestock from entering nearby waterways, such as fences, watering troughs, vegetative buffers, wells and pumps.

For more information, contact the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District at 540-825-8591.

Buzzing with activity? Apply now.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) recently released guidelines for applications for the Beehive Grant Fund, created by the 2012 Virginia General Assembly to promote the establishment of new beehives in the state.

Beginning Jan. 1, any adult Virginia resident who purchases a new hive or materials or supplies to construct a new hive may apply for a grant from the fund. Each grant is in the amount of actual expenses for the purchase of items, up to $200 per hive, and not to exceed $2,400 per individual per year.

Requests for grants can be submitted electronically utilizing the online application forms at

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