Good to Know
Consider adding a fire pit to expand your home’s living space
A backyard fire pit can boost your property’s relaxation factor with a cozy space to enjoy with friends and family on cool nights.
An outdoor patio with a fire pit or fireplace can extend a home's living space. For some, this newfound space can make an existing home more appealing and a move to a larger place unnecessary.
When adding a fire pit, most homeowners take time and plan where they want to locate the feature, noted Mark McAuliffe, vice president of Cross Creek Nursery in Chesterfield County. “Rarely do you just throw a fire pit in a space. They’re usually incorporated into a patio space.”
Fire pits are best-suited for stone, rock or paver patios. “Usually homeowners will want to base the shape of their fire pit on other aspects of their backyard,” McAuliffe said. “If a deck has angular lines or curves, or the patio space is curved, you may want to follow those lines.”
Fire pits can be built using materials similar to those of a patio, and can be wood- or charcoal-burning or have a gas insert.
Mark Viette of Viette Nurseries in Augusta County said propane fire pits also are an option.
“Fire pits are wonderful, because they can be a focal point of the backyard and are great for entertaining,” Viette said. You can make your own simple fire pit using a guide online, buy a small portable one, or build a complex stationary fire pit to complement your landscape.
Viette noted that permanent fire pits require room, and he recommends a minimum of 36 square feet. The portable pits, he noted, afford some flexibility. “You can incorporate them into your landscape and move them throughout your garden as needed, depending on the season.”
Fire pits should be kept 10 feet away from the house and should not be put on a wood surface. “Any foliage or plants you want to place around the fire pit should be kept at a safe distance,” Viette said. He recommended placing shrubs or container plants closer to seating areas than to the actual burn area. Make sure seating is a safe distance from the flames and made with safe materials for use around an open fire.
Virginia's Oyster Trail highlights the flavors, sights and sounds of the Eastern Shore
Maine has its lobster, Alaska has salmon and Virginia has the oyster.
“We want to make the Virginia oyster a household name,” exclaimed Sherri Smith, former executive director of The Virginia Oyster Trail and the Artisans Center of Virginia.
The oyster trail follows oyster farmers and related businesses throughout the state’s oyster regions.
The trail “is drawing attention to the industry and raising awareness of the Virginia oyster,” Smith said. “We want people to know the oyster is more than just a yummy food. It has environmental and economic benefits as well.”
Unlike any other state, Virginia offers an oyster for every palate, noted Smith.
With eight different coastal habitats, the flavors of Virginia oysters range from salty to buttery to sweet to combinations of all three.
The salinity levels of the Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries are ideal for sustaining great-tasting oysters.
According to Smith, some creeks on Virginia’s Eastern Shore are no more than a mile apart yet produce oysters with different nuances in flavor, texture and appearance.
Angels on Horseback Oysters
Chef Pete Woods from Merroir Restaurant celebrates the unique flavors of Virginia oysters in this clip from Real Virginia.
The trail has 22 aqua/agri-artisans, which are businesses featuring the Virginia oyster, such as waterman tours and oyster boat experiences, wineries serving Virginia oysters, and breweries and distilleries creating beverages with oysters. There also are 21 restaurants, 11 lodging facilities and seven artists or art venues creating art featuring oysters.
Eggs to be considered ‘healthy food’ by FDA
Eggs are a staple in many kitchens, and they may soon be named a ‘healthy food’ under a new proposed definition from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
For the first time since 1994, the FDA is updating its definition of “healthy” foods to align with current science and nutrition guidelines.
The proposal affirms what science shows—that eggs provide exceptional nutrition, supplying the body with an abundance of protein and 13 essential nutrients, including choline, selenium, riboflavin, essential fatty acids, and vitamins D and B12.
Additionally, the proposed FDA definition removes the limit on dietary cholesterol—something that had many “on the fence” about eating eggs said Mary Rapoport, the Virginia Egg Council’s consumer affairs director.
“It exonerates the previous bad press about eggs,” she said. “After decades of research on cholesterol, the data shows no link between eating eggs and cardiovascular disease risk.”
“Eggs are an all-around nutrient powerhouse,” said Lake Wagner, president of the Virginia Egg Board. “But don’t forget the yolks, folks. Nearly half of an egg’s protein and most of its vitamins and minerals, including those essential for supporting our brains and bodies, are found in the yolk.”
Southern-style Eggs Benedict
Chef Tammy Brawley from Virginia Farm Bureau's weekly television program, Real Virginia, offers this classic recipe with protein-rich eggs and nutrient-packed asparagus.