Wildlife Photos and Some History of Bland

A vacation to our cabin in Bland, Virginia is usually filled with chores. That’s the reality of having a farm in another area. This spring it has been about the cabin. The trim needed to be repainted and the surface of the decks and porches thirsted for a new protective coating – especially on the southern-facing side.

Bland cabin with freshly painted doors and windows
Bland cabin with freshly painted doors and windows

Bland Cabin may 2013

But it isn’t without its share of excitement. With my new camera in hand, I tried to capture some of its wildlife and surrounding beauty. If you are not familiar with where Bland, Virginia is, let me give you a little information about it.

It lies in the Southwestern corner of Virginia and sits in a bowl surrounded by the Jefferson National Forest. Before the late 1970’s the only way into and out of Bland was up and over steep mountain passes. When the tunnels came through, allowing Interstate 77 to cut beneath the mountains into West Virginia, the travel time between Wytheville and Bland was decreased by as much as half an hour.

But the digging unearthed some remains of a Native American tribe and the road had to be moved to preserve the site. You can visit this site at the Wolf Creek Indian Village and Museum in Bastian, Virginia which is in Bland County just one exit up from the town of Bland. We say our farm is doubly bland – being in Bland town in Bland County.

Wolf Creek Indian Village
Wolf Creek Indian Village
In reality, it is anything but bland. We have seen a lot of wildlife on this farm, spectacular sunrises and sunsets – the beauty of being up on a hill within the bowl – and some fantastic storms.Some Bland Pictures Some Bland Pictures

“If you talk to the animals, they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.” – Chief Dan George

Bland - deer may 2013

“Every animal knows more than you do.” – American Indian Proverb

Bland black bear 2013

Bland rabbit may 2013

“Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard.” – Standing Bear

If you look closely you can see the baby turkeys in the tall grass.
Bland turkey hen with babies may 2013

Bland fiery clouds may 2013

“The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.” – Chief Seattle

Bland Hay bales

I couldn’t resist the moon shots. When you pull this one up you can see the craters on the surface. Wow! I think I’m addicted to photography now. When will I find time to actually write again?

Bland moon with craters may 2013

The fields are lush and there’s a fragrance to Bland that is unique to the area. A lot of the long time residents don’t smell it anymore until I point it out. It is some kind of wild herb or grass – a little like lavender. I love it, although it isn’t a constant aroma. It comes and goes on the breeze and my imagination will allow me to believe it is the natives communicating with me.
Bland truck in field with corn crib may 2013

I took this shot from the back porch.
Bland sunset from back porch view may 2013

And this one from the deck.
Bland - deck sunset view with lantern may 2013

We had a wild steer using our property as its own personal feed trough once. It apparently got loose from a neighboring pasture during a storm and decided it liked freedom better than the company of others. It would hide out in the forest – which joins our property – and eat our alfalfa. I think they eventually lured it back into the fold mid-winter when it ran out of food sources.

We also have enormous squirrels – fox squirrels in silver and sometimes in red. Elk may wander through from neighboring areas that were stocked, but this is a rare sighting. We have crested grouse and the largest woodpeckers I have ever seen, lots of hawks and owls and even had a carrier pigeon once. There was a blue tube tied to its leg – the message I suppose. We decided it had been blown off course during a storm.

And because there are no stop lights or strip malls in Bland, the night sky is inky black and the star formations pop out. We often sit around and try to find those we know like the big and little dippers and the milky way.

So if this is bland, so be it. It can be deliciously wonderful to be surprised by nature. And a hail storm on the tin roof – rare music.

Tony on front porch of cabin
Tony on front porch of cabin

I also have a bit of not-so-good news and the reason my posts have gotten thin lately. We are trying to get all of the chores around the farms and house completed before mid-June. My husband is having a bit of surgery and won’t be able to do much for a few weeks. It’s not complicated – hernia surgery. But the most difficult part will likely be keeping him still. I’ll keep you updated when possible but with the extra work for me and tending to him, I’m not sure how it will all pan out. Keep fingers crossed and a good thought – will ya?

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   


  1. You are clearly enjoying that new camera which is good because it allows us to share what your sharp eyes land upon. Great images. I can see why you love the farm in Bland. It must be terribly difficult to leave. Maybe you can lock your husband into the Bland farm while he’s recuperating? Ach, he’d probably be anxious to tinker and do guy stuff instead of sitting on the porch and watching life happen. Best wishes to both of you.

    1. Thanks Linda. He did mention having me drive him there after the surgery. It’s about an hour and a half from where we live, but since we farm it, the undone work load would likely drive him nuts.

  2. Your cabin is lovely and all the photos of the area make it anything but bland. It seems it would be the perfect location to sit and recuperate from a bad spell. I hope your husband’s surgery goes well and you both survive the “keeping still” part. Take care.

    1. I don’t know which of us will find it the most difficult. And so many people call my husband for everything. I’ve been coaching him on how to say ‘no’. We’ll see if it works.

  3. Lovely lovely lovely! And you know how to enjoy it too! You are blessed !

    1. Bland was named for Richard Bland – a statesman and leader during the revolution. There is a huge monument to him in front of the courthouse – which is lovely given the small size of the town. It’s just one block. The town only has about 400 people and the county has less than 7000. But there is a lot of acreage and the Appalachian Trail run through it so people come there hiking quite often.

  4. Bland looks to be a majestic place rich with the enchantment of the wildlife living in the mountains.
    I enjoyed all your gorgeous photos. I feel like I been on a short journey to a corner of heaven.
    I look forward to your updates. I hope all goes smoothly with your husband’s surgery.
    Sending out positive thoughts and prayers for your husband to have a quick recovery.
    (and sending out positive thoughts for you too)

  5. Most often “bland” is actually “bliss” – beautiful cabin. Praying for a quick recovery for your hubby and extra strength for you.

  6. Take care of your husband and take care of you as you nurse him through his recuperation. I can imagine it will be painful for him…perhaps a blessing in disguise to curtail the activity. I can’t imagine a bear or bears on a property…oh dear. I would think twice about venturing into the woods. I have to laugh that your small town is called Bland and ours is called Bellville.

      1. To answer your question. The Bell name is quite a family name in Texas…Bellville, Bell County…including Peter Bell, TX’s third governor and others I’m sure…one we know personally.

  7. Not bland at all!

    The best advice Hubbs got before Hernia surgery? “There will come a time in the future when you might feel a little tug there, don’t freak out, it’s normal.” Absolutely came true and now he doesn’t freak out if it happens getting in & out of a vehicle!

    Take care!! MJ

      1. He did well … and he lived on the couch for about a week — we have a lot of stairs so it was easier to stay on one level. Tell him that, just like having a baby, the hardest part is getting up or getting down — once he’s up & going he’ll be ok — and, don’t over do it!! Our neighbor had the same surgery and installed a garage door the next day — bad move, he ended ended up admitted to the hosp with torn stitches and a raging infection -terrible!! Bests to you both 🙂 MJ

        1. I’m printing your comment for him to read. The doctor has already warned him that he’ll feel like returning to normal in about three weeks but that if he doesn’t take the full six, he’ll be right back in for tears and such. I suggested he go ahead and make the second appointment for three weeks in. LOL. No tractors – ugh! No pets jumping on him – double ugh! No sex for a little while – triple ugh! Looks like you both survived this just fine though. Thanks for the info.

  8. Sounds as though your cabin in Bland is a wonderful get-away! (My ex was originally from Glade Spring, not far from there. I may have shared that with you before.)
    Sending good thoughts for your hubby’s surgery!

  9. Looks like a utopic place to spend time and a great place to get addicted to photography. I know how that feels :-). Hope surgery and recovery go well.

  10. Praying all goes well with his surgery. Your cabin looks great with its fresh paint. It certainly has nice surroundings. I miss being able to see a mulltitude of stars. Love the wildlife.

      1. I can’t wait to see them, Renee! I’m not seeing many around the yard right now. I may have to go out looking for them.

          1. LOL I’ll have to get a sign for the door, “Gone Birdin’!” Thanks for the idea.

  11. Wow, thank you for the virtual vacation! Loved the pics and the wisdom in the Indian quotes! What a charming setting. Best wishes for the patient (and the caregiver)!

    1. Thanks. I’m so glad you liked the quotes. I thought they were appropriate given the setting. The museum is full of private collections of artifacts found on property that was being farmed or excavated for building. And the spirit of “The Original People” really vibrates there.

  12. Porches and a tin roof – how perfect. (even with the chores!) The sunset from the porch are gorgeous. And bears! It’s been so long since I’ve seen one free. Great quotes
    (You have my sympathy with that surgery ahead…. try and keep husband still and from picking up anything heavier than a gallon of milk – what a battle)

    1. I told him to schedule the repair surgery at the same time, knowing him as well as I do. But everyone keeps telling him to listen to the doctor’s orders and he won’t have to turn a six week ordeal into a 9 or 12 week one.

    1. Thank you Sheri. Yes, a man used to working is hard to keep still. One of the things we have had success with at Bland is specialty hay. Alfalfa and Timothy grass grows better at that elevation than it does where we live in NC. Horse people love it! That’s why the fields look so pretty and green though.

  13. I hope your husband’s surgery goes well. My father had hernia surgery recently and he also has that problem where he can’t sit still – those types always find the post-surgical period very difficult. I love your cabin – it’s very cute and in such a gorgeous position xx

  14. Anything but Bland for sure! Cute cabin, awesome wildlife.
    I hope your husband does well with his surgery. If he’s anything like my husband the hardest part was the sitting still…and the boredom. 😉

    1. Don’t tell him yet, but we’ve gotten him more than a dozen movies and magazines. That way, if the pain meds knock him out mid-way through one, he can just select a scene and watch it from there. Maybe that will help – hopefully.

  15. Renee, there is nothing bland about Bland, Virginia! Oh my goodness, what a beautiful place! I love your captures but I’m over the moon with the moon one! ha! How magnificent! Be warned, now that you have the photography bug, you’ll rarely find yourself without your camera which is better for us since we’ll be treated to lovely shots! Wishing your husband a speedy recovery! Love the cabin with it’s wrap around porch! 🙂

  16. Appreciated this. Had to read it when I read the heading ‘And some history of Bland’ because my married name was Bland!! I thought it was a history on the name. I didn’t like it – Noeleen Bland…

    The Native American Indians have a solid, valuable history, rich in wisdom. I’m glad the road was moved to preserve the site. Considering my mother was exhumed one suburb away from where Daniel and me lived, and so when I went to visit her grave one Mother’s Day and she was gone and all the shock I experienced in that, well, I’m telling you I appreciate that respect.

  17. Looks like a lovely place with a rich and abundant wildlife. Great shots, Renee, and I bet it’s been fun to shoot with your new camera. 🙂

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  19. Oh boy, look at this woman go! Amazing what a little Sx50 Canon can do for a person’s enthusiasm! I ordered one directly from Canon and held my breath as Calgary floods shut down the highway over which the courier had to travel. But it arrived in about five days and I find it such a delight. I just posted a bunch of shots on my personal Face Book – all nature shots. I’m still getting the hang of being fast enough. I usually like using the view finder, but may have to use the screen more…I wasted time finding some of my subjects today!

    I’m going to thank Otto, too, but a big thanks to you, Renee!

    I adore the quotes you added in this post. They are so true. Animals know so much. We must listen NOW!

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