Archive for January, 2019


Getting a buzz on

Posted on Jan 26 2019 | By

Internationally known beekeeper to teach training course

As one gains an understanding of the Piedmont’s population, it’s inspiring to learn of the number of talented people that choose to live, work or retire here.

A newcomer may think our scenic landscape is rural living at its best. And it is. But beyond the beautiful vistas is a deep reservoir of successful men and women who are making significant contributions to the commonweal.

The intellect, drive and success of these “locals” likely outshines most rural areas in the Nation: physicians, IT professionals, writers, pilots, political mavens, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and beekeepers abound.

Beekeepers? Well yes, but one in particular: Ann Harman.

Harman lives on a farm outside of Flint Hill and has honey in her blood. “I’ve been a beekeeper since the late 1970s but I wanted to be a beekeeper from the time I was a very small child.” Like five years old.

Ann Harman

Educated as a chemist at the University of Maryland she was in the labor force until motherhood found her tending her own “hive” of three children. As they grew older, she rejoined the workforce as head of the science department at a private school in D.C.

“While at Maryland I was enrolled in agricultural classes taught by an excellent professor.”

He encouraged Harman to take up beekeeping commercially given her fascination with the little guys.

She established a 50-colony honey production operation in Maryland before eventually moving to Flint Hill where she nurtures her own four hive operation in concert with a neighbor.

One of her daughters lives separately on the farm working as a horse veterinarian.

One of the pivotal points in Harman’s life was when her former professor also urged her to join various beekeeping associations. Join she did but not as a passive member. Her love of the flying insects was too strong not to become more deeply involved.

To glance at her packed resume is to marvel how far passion can take a person.

Consider just a few of her experiences: Maryland State Beekeeper of the Year 1982; 1990 President, Eastern Apicultural Society; Vice Chairman of the board, Eastern Apicultural Society 1992-2007; President, Virginia State Beekeepers Association 2008-2010; Certified Honey Judge, Wales UK Beekeeping Institute; The President’s Volunteer Service Award, 2004, 2005, 2008; Chairman’s Award Eastern Apicultural Society 2000; Coauthor of a honey cookbook; author of international beekeeping journal articles, and on and on.

Harman is also a regular contributor as a writer and editor for a number of well-known beekeeping magazines and books, including BEE Keeping and Bee Culture. Google ‘Ann Harman beekeeper’ and watch as more than 20 links pop up.  Mention her name in bee circles and the reaction will likely be, “Oh yes, I know who she is.”

To reinforce her “doer bee” reputation, Harman connected with two international organizations and traveled worldwide for two decades teaching beekeeping, often in countries trying to establish a thriving honey production industry. During this period, she visited 29 countries on 54 separate assignments for two-week training sessions. While her expenses were covered, the work was otherwise all volunteer.

“I traveled around the world on volunteer missions because they were looking for people with experience that could help others get into the business. It was just for two weeks at a time but you can accomplish a lot in that short period,” said Harman.

Colony Collapse
Much has been written over the last decade about the decimation of the bee population commonly referred to as Colony Collapse and its harmful impact on agriculture. Harman shares an interesting insight into the problem.

“They really had no idea was happening in the beekeeping world and today we don’t actually use that term anymore. A very intelligent Ph.D. student cracked the cause of the problem. He identified a non-native parasite in our western bees. It attacks both the hive and also transmits a virus; viruses cannot be controlled with antibiotics,” said Harman.

The solution to the problem has yet to be found. “I couldn’t tell you how long it will take to find a key to the solution but there is hope today we can find a cure.”

It’s interesting that feral bee colonies that live in trees seem to be unaffected by the parasite. Such bees, however, exist in a different environment than domesticated colonies.

Classes begin soon
It’s useful to understand Harman’s breath of bee knowledge as preamble for considering spending some time with her as a mentor. Starting on February 5 at Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville, Harman will conduct a seven-class course for beginner beekeepers.

Some years ago, Harman worked with a Loudoun County beekeeper to develop the training course.

The classes are limited to 20 participants but individual families who sign up are considered a single participant. The course will cover all the basics of starting and nurturing a hive.

Students will receive two training books and a substantial amount of related written material. The course will also provide a CD containing all the information from the course for home study and as a ready-reference. The cost is $100 for the course and materials.

Students are not be expected to purchase a hive or bees prior to the course but will be trained to do so by the end of the sessions, which dovetails with the beginning of the bee season.

In summing up her expertise and love of bees, Harman said, “Bees are absolutely fascinating. Every time you open a hive you learn something new.” Anyone sitting in on Harman’s classes will also learn something new and much more from this master apiarist.

For additional information and registration details, contact Karen Hunt, treasurer, Northern Piedmont Beekeepers Association at (540) 937-4792 or at


Published in the January 23, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.  

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Signs of blight

Posted on Jan 23 2019 | By

Littering with roadside ads

Cash for Used Cars. Fast Cheap Internet. Yard Sale. Bush Hogging. House for Sale.

Ever seen these ads emblazoned on telephone poles, stop signs and in median strips? Of course. Ever responded to one? Unlikely. So why does all manner of businesses advertise this way?

Because it’s free. And to some degree, it must work. Nonetheless, it’s unsightly, illegal and growing.

Roadside advertising is simply littering. No sooner than a good citizen might pull one off a telephone pole or out of a median strip the rascals are back planting their crop.

The Code of Virginia prohibits signs and advertisements within the limits of the highway. The Virginia Department of Transportation is authorized to remove any sign that is in violation.

The agency can levy a $100 civil penalty for each occurrence. VDOT also works with localities and the Adopt-A-Highway program to enforce the law.

The law does allow advertising within sight of highways but it must meet certain requirements and require a permit as well as permission from the local government.

You can bet the farm most of the signs have not been sanctioned. Stick it and run is the game plan of the violators.

In 2017, Stafford County cracked down on the practice. Its county parks and recreation staff risk their own safety removing as many as 800 signs in a single weekend.

Dwaine Ware, VDOT’s program manager for outdoor advertising, underscores ad signs are illegal on any state right-of-way unless allowed by permit. Typically, the right of way extends to utility pole lines but varies in distance depending on location.

“Every sign that is illegally placed is subject to a $100 penalty in addition to civil penalty fees. We do remove them but we also enter into agreements with local governments to act as our agent.”

Adopt-A-Highway volunteers also aid in making the signs disappear when they clean their section of roadways twice annually. Unfortunately, the limited number of volunteers are no match for the army of sign planters continually on the hunt for prime real estate.

To levy fines, offenders need to be identified. “If the signs don’t have an address its often hard for us to identify them,” said Ware. The administrative costs of pursuing violators can also mitigate against widespread enforcement. “Individual VDOT district offices are the ones who would remove the signs and level fines.”

To underscore the scope of the problem Ware states, “At the beginning of political campaigns we do send letters to known candidates about the violation incurred by placing political signs on VDOT right-of-way.” We all know how effective that warning is.

A more frequently used strategy is employing VDOT contractors to sweep highways in advance of mowing operations to protect equipment and reduce the multiplying effect of mower blades turning a single sign into a blizzard of garbage.

In addition to blighting our scenic highways, safety looms as another threat to motorists. Signs can be dangerous, obscuring views of oncoming traffic. After bad weather, they can become even more unsightly and dangerous.

Piedmont Press & Graphics
The signs most frequently used in illegal advertising are plastic with inserted wire legs. In the industry, they are known as “Popsicle” signs. They are quick and easy to install and violators can place dozens a day when their marketing juices are flowing.

Where do they come from? “I’m guessing the internet has made it easier to procure the signs at cheaper prices,” said Tony Tedeschi, owner of Piedmont Press & Graphics in Warrenton.

A quick online search reveals one can score a two-color 12-by-12-inch sign for as low as 88 cents apiece but larger signs with colors go for a couple bucks each when purchased in bulk.

The signs present somewhat of a conundrum for Tedeschi who also sells the signs at his shop.

While it’s a legitimate business practice he opines, “We talk about this issue all the time because it’s important. Yes, I am in the sign business but I can also make a living being a good business person, a good citizen, and steward of the environment.

“We don’t question people about the use of their signs but if they tell us where they are going to put them, we tell them if it doesn’t seem appropriate. ‘I don’t believe you’re supposed to do that. I don’t think that’s legal. You should go check with the county.’”

He also knows the town and county is overwhelmed and doesn’t have the staff for widespread enforcement.

Tedeschi says he has never received guidance from VDOT on the illegal use of the signs. “The state does not give us any advice on the legality of them on VDOT right-of-ways.

“I think it’s a good idea if they provided some information. A little pamphlet or brochure that we could give out to our sign customers advising them when they may be violating the law.”

VDOT does not currently communicate directly with sign vendors.

There are myriad legal ways to promote a business, including inexpensive social media. For firms who break the law, it not only does injustice to the environment but it undercuts honest businesses who pay for conventional advertising.

Perhaps the most effective ways to counter the pernicious practice is for citizens to occasionally note an offending roadside phone number and call the company stating they would not do business with someone littering the highways.

At the end of the day, only the bottom line is likely to stifle a practice that’s both against the law and scene-stealing.


Published in the January 23, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Living breathing art

Posted on Jan 17 2019 | By

Remington tattoo studio focused on artistry

Over three decades ago tattoos were viewed as less than mainstream. One wasn’t surprised when a soldier or sailor returned home with a small flag or state motto proudly inked on a youthful bicep. Beyond that, the industry had a somewhat seedy aura to it.

Towns often denied permits to such establishments because they weren’t sure what went on inside and local chambers likely had concerns on their impact within the business community.

But that was then. Today tattoos are a $1.6 billion industry; 45 million Americans have at least one and half of all millennials sport some ink. Moreover, 36 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds are displaying and 33 percent of urbanites and 25 percent of rural folks are decked out in living color. Three in 10 adults now proudly wear an image.

By any measure ink on skin has taken hold in the 21st century. Why?

Reasons abound with some theorizing today’s society seeks increased individuality and self-expression in the age of digital communication. A tattoo immediately shares one’s creative side and breaks through the silent world of texts and emails.

The art form has also evolved new terms for the ancient practice: body art, body bling, fashion ink and more.

To highlight the level of popularity, the 9th Annual DC Tattoo Expo was held in Arlington January 11 to 13. More than 400 tattoo artists were in attendance during the three-day conference talking shop with large crowds and tattooing those in need of a rose pedal or eagle.

Black Sheep Studios
An important reason for the surging popularity in tattoos today is the technical skill and artistry being brought to bear on epidermis canvases.

Joe and Jen Poteet are emblematic of a growing number of tattooists that are changing the industry’s reputation by force of their skill and creativity. Playing off the fading image of the art form, the shop is called Black Sheep Studios Gallery & Tattoos and is located at 204 Main Street in Remington.

When you walk through the doors of their establishment set your preconceived idea of an old-time tattoo parlor on the sidewalk. The shop is not a shop. It’s called a studio and for good reason.

The Poteets are artists first and tattoo mavens second. If you are going to make a lifetime commitment, you want to put yourself in the hands of creative experts. Black Sheep Studios are those hands.

“I was going to school to obtain a fine arts degree but didn’t know what I really wanted to do. Tattooing gave me a goal and a job. I got my apprenticeship at a shop in Maryland,” said Jen Poteet.

“I met my husband Joe there who also was a tattoo artist. We fell in love, got married and started a family.” Today the couple has five children ranging in ages from 9 to 23-years-old and live in nearby Summerduck.

They moved to Virginia after years of working in Maryland and opened their studio in November of 2017. “We really love the area and wanted to open our own place. Remington was the perfect location with its older buildings and lots of history.

“The business started off slowly and grew by word of mouth. The town and local people have been awesome in supporting the business. Today we’re seeing more people come in from throughout the county and beyond.”

Poteet recalls how the industry has changed over the last three decades. Back in the 90s people often selected their tattoo designs off the wall of a shop. In today’s internet era an unlimited amount of art is available online and customers show up knowing what they want.

“We started when you often began with just a sketch. We are still old-school and do a lot of hands-on designs. Because of our experience, we can pretty much do anything anybody wants. We are classically trained artists.”

Poteet observes that tattoos are not for everyone and reinforces their own practice is conservative. They do not do face tattoos. Recently a woman came in to have a hand tattoo done on her young daughter. “We told her we do not do hand tattoos on people under 18. We try to get them to understand that tattoos are forever.”

The couple’s studio has a clean, modern look with art for sale gracing the walls; both theirs and others. “We have some new artists display work because they might not have an opportunity to show it elsewhere. We like to help the underdogs.”

Art prices range from $10 for a small print up to $200 for larger pieces. Given the nature of the business, landscape art is not sold. The emphasis is on colorful portraiture, geometric designs and other intriguing subjects done in a modern format.

To further reinforce the inviting nature of the shop, the husband and wife team will on occasion set up their own easels in the studio and paint while customers visit.

Price tag
So what does a first-class Black Sheep tattoo go for? “The smallest design would be $50. An average one ranges from $150 to $200,” said Poteet. “Sleeves can cost a couple thousand dollars and may take several months to complete.” A sleeve tattoo extends from the shoulder down to the hand.

“A sleeve is a big project. Some people do it in pieces beginning with an outline and have it colored in over time. They generally go in knowing it’s going to take a long time.”

The studio will also enhance old tattoos and ones an owner may no longer care for. Relationships gone sour can dictate a visit to the studio. Walking around with an “I love Susie” tag when Susie has long vanished is not the way to enhance a memory.

Black Sheep Studios Gallery & Tattoos is opened Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. If the idea of sporting some ink intrigues you, settle into their online tattoo chair for more information at:


Published in the January 16 , 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

The orange bag brigade

Posted on Jan 09 2019 | By

Adopt-A-Highway volunteers labor to beautify the land

The numbers are remarkable: 52 billion pieces of litter cluttering the Nation’s highways and byways. That’s 6,700 pieces of stuff per mile. Consider one plastic bottle can take 450 years to decompose and a glass container one million years. This is no short-term problem.

Moreover, cleaning up the mess costs $11.5 billion annually.

It’s hard for most of us to fathom someone tossing soda bottles, beer cans and fast food detritus onto our verdant landscape. Yet it occurs around the clock, seven days a week. Over 80 per cent of littering is done intentionally.

Decades long educational efforts have had a positive impact, significantly reducing the litter rate in the U.S. but the reduction still leaves our roadways flashing and glittering with tons of trash.

The problem becomes more visible in winter and when lush vegetation withers and exposes the underbelly of motoring along the Commonwealth’s highways.

The mess is national in scope and a partial solution to the problem was discovered in Texas in the early 1980s. James Evans, an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation saw debris flying out of a pickup truck bed.

Litter control was expensive so Evans enlisted local volunteer groups to clean up sections of the state’s highways. The Adopt-A-Highway program was born.

Today, 49 states have programs in place to keep America beautiful.


The Orange Brigade

Here in Virginia, Joe Williams with the Virginia Department of Transportation oversees the Adopt-A-Highway program. It was established in 1988 to keep our highways free of litter and promote the safety, convenience and enjoyment of travel and to protect the public investment in the highway system.

“Our goal is to preserve and enhance the scenic beauty of our highways and adjacent areas,” said Williams. We partner with a nonprofit outfit called Keep Virginia Beautiful.”

The organization engages Virginians to improve the state’s natural and scenic environment. Volunteers are asked to sign up for a three-year commitment and require two cleanups a year. After individuals or groups report two trash sweeps, they can have signage placed along their assigned roadway with their name on it.

Orange trash bags and vests are provided to the collectors by local VDOT offices. After each collection report is filed, a VDOT truck picks up the collected bags.

Statewide there are 1,223 volunteer groups with 15,370 participants. In 2018, they cleaned 1,393 miles of roadway collecting 22,750 bags of trash while contributing 34,928 volunteer work hours.

That’s a lot of trash none of us had to look at as we motored to and from our destinations.

Here in Fauquier County, 35 groups with 196 volunteers collected 337 bags of garbage from 266 miles of roadway while

donating 132 hours of their time.

Virginia saves $1.35 million with volunteer trash collection.

So what type of trash do volunteers typically encounter? Beer and soda bottles rate high on the list but plastic bags and fast food refuse along with a variety of empty containers are also found in abundance.

One interesting observation is that spent wine bottles are rarely seen. One reason may be because those between ages 19 and 35 are three times more likely to litter than the over 50 crowd.

Or could wine consumers simply be more socially conscious? Our county vineyards would like to think so.

Angry Rednecks Against Littering
Yes, you read that correctly. There is an Adopt-A-Highway group in Fauquier County called Angry Rednecks Against Littering. Max and Penny Greiner have labored for 26 years cleaning up local roadways under that very moniker. Today they are responsible for three two-mile sections in the Catlett area.

“We moved here in 1991 because it was such a scenic area. But we soon noticed all the litter on the roads when we took our boys to baseball and basketball practice,” said Max Greiner. “There was a lot of talk among the local folks about cleaning up the roads but no one ever followed through. In 1992, we officially signed up as a volunteer family.”

So how did the unusual name come about? “I come from a deep redneck background and we don’t claim to be something we’re not.” That said, Greiner recently retired as a engineer working at the Pentagon so his redneck bona fides have been nurtured beyond any humble beginnings.

The Greiners also lay claim to one of the more unique Adopt-A-Highway reputations: their road sign is the most swiped in the state. “Our sign has been stolen at least 14 times over the years.

“People have come by and pulled it out with their tractors and other ways to possess a souvenir for their bars and garages. VDOT has been spectacular about replacing them. They are now embedded in concrete with steel posts,” said a smiling Greiner.

A note of caution to those tempted to become a souvenir hunter. In Virginia, stealing a state sign is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail or a $2,500 fine or both.

For individuals or groups interested in joining the cadre of county volunteers helping to keep Fauquier roadways beautiful, Linda Wilson, Adopt-A-Highway coordinator, is the person to call or write.

Wilson can be reached at (540) 347-6448 or Her office is located at 457 E. Shirly Ave.

Wilson also provides the needed orange bags and vests for a properly attired volunteer. Additional information can also be found at

If you are considering ways to contribute to the commonweal, removing litter from our scenic byways is an exceptional way to serve. Consider grabbing a bag and making the world a cleaner place to live and drive.

Published in the January 9, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.  

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Teen texting and driving: finding the fix

Posted on Jan 03 2019 | By

State Farm Insurance seeks reduction in distracted driving

Fact #1: Distracted driving crashes are under-reported and the National Safety Council estimates cell phone use alone accounts for 27 percent of all car crashes.

Fact #2: The fatal crash rate for teens is three times greater than for drivers 20 years of age and older.

Fact #3: 88 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 17 have or have access to a cell phone.

Houston, we have a problem.

Generation after generation older folks have clucked and wagged fingers about the shortcomings of the upcoming generation of young folk.

From Elvis and his road to perdition called rock and roll to today’s millennials who are deemed not contributing to society’s well-being, it seems youth is always taking it on the chin from adult swings.

The latest discontent is the constant use of cell phones by teenagers. The charge may be accurate but it’s also one that could be leveled at many adults. There are over 7 billion cell phones worldwide feeding the addiction.

The omnipresent “device” has shown a startlingly capacity to make a person forget where they are. But once a user—especially a young one—slips behind the wheel of a vehicle, it becomes a life or death issue.

Technology itself is seeking fixes to the problem; one feature is to remind drivers they are driving before they can accept a message.

But another approach is to reach out to teens in an interactive way to show them how lethal the combination of wheels and cells can be. The approach might be characterized as, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

State Farm initiative
Carmen Rivera manages the State Farm Insurance Company in Warrenton. She has worked for the insurer for over two decades assuming management of the local office last year. She has three full-time agents and two-part timers at her Warrenton Village Shopping Center office.

She is also the mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother. With a strong maternal instinct and a career in insurance, she observes, “You see things that you would hope you never see. One of them is children involved in distracted driving. It’s a huge responsibility to get behind the wheel of a car.”

To help counter the problem she took advantage of a program sponsored by State Farm to educate youthful drivers on the hazards of driving, with a strong emphasis on the misuse of cell phones. The effort includes both classroom instruction and simulated driving conditions.

She visits local high schools and speaks to driver education students on the responsibilities and dangers of driving. “One of my points is to get them to understand the horrific accidents that can occur from distracted driving.

“And they are not usually just fender benders. I also talk about how accidents and tickets can impact their insurance premiums. I emphasize the need to keep two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road at all times.”

More dramatically, however, is Rivera’s collaborative efforts with Virginia state police to simulate actual distracted driving conditions and its consequences. The program takes place at local high schools and involves the use of a four-seater golf cart that acts as a “vehicle” to create highway scenarios.

And less one thinks a golf cart is a golf cart, think again. The training vehicle—officially designated a Distracted Driver Simulator—is a tricked-out vehicle with doors that sport the colors and logo of a Virginia state police cruiser. A first-time reaction in seeing the little guy is likely, “Hey, that’s cool.”

“Liberty High was the first school where I actually performed the distracted driving course. We had over 150 students participate. We try to replicate on the road situations and tell the children, ‘this is what you are going to encounter’.”

The exercises take place in school parking lots lined with rubber cones to create a “road”. The cart is driven by a student with a police officer riding shotgun and two students sitting in the back seat. A series of real-time “tests” are then administered.

To make it fun and realistic, the students are told they can chat, tap fellow students on the shoulder, pretend they’re changing a radio station, and even text while driving. In other words, actions students often do while behind the wheel.

To further increase reality, on a section of the course drivers must choose to wear either daytime or nighttime goggles that impair vision and replicate driving under the influence or night time driving; many cones get knocked over.

Most dramatically, however, is when each student is told to text a friend while behind the wheel. “When they try to text and drive the “car”, even very slowly, they run over all of the cones. We emphasize that’s what happens in a controlled environment. In the real world, a split second can change everything.”

Rivera urges her students to stow phones in purses, glove compartments, or even in back seats so as not to be tempted to respond to incoming messages.

Weather permitting, the next on course training will take place in December at Kettle Run High School.

To date, Rivera has conducted three classroom sessions and one distracted driver session at local high schools. “I absolutely will continue the program in the years ahead as long as it’s beneficial to the students. I hope it helps the children and shows them driver responsibility.

“But a one-day classroom or driving session cannot fully prepare these children for real-life scenarios” so all efforts must be undertaken to combat the scourge of distracted driving.

Rivera showcases how one person can make a difference when passion and knowledge are brought to bear to solve a community problem.

For more information on her full community involvement, visit her on Facebook at:


Published in the January 3, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.