Washington column for Feb. 21

Love — capped with cold, snow and ice

In spite of the cold temperatures I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day last Thursday, Feb. 14. This was a week for homemade soup, curled up by the fireplace with a good book to read. And then Wednesday brought us nasty winter weather of snow and ice.

Planets viewing

Beside the cold weather, this is a great month for planet viewing! We can watch Venus, Mars and Jupiter pop out at nightfall. Venus is the brightest of all planets, and third-brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon — and puts on a spectacular show with Mars this month!

According to EarthSky, Venus and Saturn are not truly close together in space, but reside on nearly the same line of sight. Venus is an inferior planet — orbiting the sun inside Earth’s orbit. Saturn, on the other hand, is a superior planet — orbiting the sun outside of Earth’s orbit.

Saturn, the 6th planet from the sun, is the farthest world that we can easily see with the unaided eye.

Venus ranks as the 3rd-brightest celestial body to light up the heavens, after the sun and moon. Venus presently outshines Saturn by about 80 times. In fact, Venus is so dazzlingly bright that some sharp-sighted people can even see this world in a daytime sky.

But let us not forget the king planet Jupiter, which is the 4th-brightest celestial body to adorn the heavens, after the sun, moon and Venus. All these planets — Venus, Jupiter and Saturn — will continue to light up the morning sky for many months to come. Jupiter and Saturn will climb upward, away from sunrise, while Venus will sink in the other direction, toward sunrise.

So get out your binoculars, or your telescope and take a look at the marvelous views in these dark Rappahannock skies.

AT wonders

Lauralee Bliss completed the Appalachian Trail twice, one going north with her son and the other south as a solo hiker. Photo by Rappahannock Historical Society

The Rappahannock Historical Society and Happy Camper Equipment present Wonders of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, at the Sperryville Fire Department.

Come hike with Lauralee Bliss as she takes you along the 600 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia going North to Grayson Highlands and the wild ponies, McAfee Knob, the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah National Park.

See some of the gear used on the trail and learn how to safely enjoy it in all seasons. For more information, call the Rappahannock Historical Society at 540-675-1163 or email Happy Camper at info@happycamperequipment.com

Book Barn books

The Book Barn is featuring books in February on our U.S. Presidents in honor of Presidents Month. Come by and see our history selections and purchase a book on any president for half price. There is a good selection of cookbooks, bestselling fiction, classics, and children’s books as well. Drop by the Book Barn (next door to the Rappahannock County Library) each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kite flying

February is nearly behind us, which means kite flying is just around the corner as March arrives next Friday. March, if you didn’t gather, is the month for kite flying.

A flag or windsock is handy to help you gauge the wind. Flying is most fun when the wind is moderate so you can make your kite dance across the sky by pulling in and letting out the line.

Make sure you are in an area that is open and free of trees, electrical and telephone lines, and buildings. Let the wind lift the kite and as it does feed out the line to the height you desire. Always walk in the direction of the wind as you feed out the line. If the kite won’t climb you can reduce the bridle angle. To land the kite, walk toward it winding the line on the reel as you walk.

I’m looking forward to flying a kite this year with my grandchildren. Kite flying is great fun and it’s easy. So grab your kite and join in the fun. The big blue sky is big enough for all of us who love to fly them.

In closing

Like to leave this quote from Charles Dickens with readers: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

Have a wonderful week!