We understand that planning a three-week stay at a rural location can be complicated. Although we encourage you to make this place your own during your residency period, we also want to set some expectations before you arrive.
The kitchen, dining/living room, porch/decks, and outdoor areas are common spaces for all to share. We clean the house before and after each residency session, but not during the session – we expect residents to work together to maintain a livable space.
Bedrooms & studios
You will have your own bedroom & studio for the time you are here, and either a private or shared bathroom.
Bedrooms are supplied with sheets, pillows, blankets, and towels, as well as a set of house keys, a flashlight, and a discount card for the local Martin’s grocery store. Studios have several work surfaces, chairs, lighting, and a power strip. Feel free to move furniture around if it suits your work better (ask for help if you need it).
Internet, phone, & television
Our Internet connection is slow and unreliable. It’s usually enough for casual web browsing, Facebook, email, etc., but has troubles with streaming video or downloading large files. A few coffee shops in Martinsburg have faster internet.
Some cell providers work here (Verizon, AT&T); some don’t (T-Mobile, Sprint). We recommend enabling wifi calling on your phone if possible. Residents may also use the house cellphone.
The living room has a a TV and DVD player, and a small library of DVDs. We do not receive cable or broadcast television. There is a Redbox kiosk in Martinsburg, at the Martin’s grocery store.
Our neighbors Doug and Cindy live in the gray house by the road. Their two dogs Ruth & Paisley are friendly, and will occasionally come up say hello. Paisley loves going for walks. She also has a love of plastic objects, so do not leave anything valuable (like shoes) on the front porch where she can find them.
How to get here
By car, we are approximately two hours west of Washington DC or Baltimore, off the I-81 freeway corridor. We are three hours from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Richmond, and four hours from New York City. We will email you our street address and detailed driving directions before you arrive.
If you are arriving by train, bus, or plane, we can arrange to pick you up.
What to bring
- any supplies, materials, or tools you will need for your work here
- personal toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen, etc.)
- sturdy shoes or boots for walking outdoors in mountainous terrain
- hat, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts help keep the sun and insects away
- insect repellent to repel mosquitos, gnats, ticks, and other pests
- food you need for the first few days of your residency, beyond the basics that we usually stock
If we are picking you up from the airport, train, or bus station, we will stop at the Martin’s supermarket on the way back to North Mountain. Staff or other residents with cars make trips into town several times a week, so there’s no need to stock up for your whole residency.
If you need to ship anything here before your residency session, please contact us for details.
Health & Safety
West Virginia is wild and wonderful (as the signs proclaim) so please enjoy the outdoors around you. However, proceed with caution.
Trails and land
Our trails are fairly rough. Wear good sneakers or boots when you go out. Use a walking stick (near the front door) for stability, to catch spider webs, and for poking around rocks and holes.
Most trails are marked with pink ribbons tied around the trees. These are good guideposts, but you should still pay attention to avoid getting lost.
Getting lost in the woods is a real thing that can happen! Make sure to leave well before dark, and don’t let it get dark on you. There are site maps on the little table in the living room. A good way of gauging where you are is using gravity – uphill/downhill can guide you to Tuscarora Pike (the main road) relative to where you are. When walking, make regular note of landmarks (pastures, pond, roads, etc.). If you’re heading out solo near dark, let one of your fellow residents know. Bring a cellphone just in case you need to call for assistance – but beware that cell service is spotty.
The front orchard has an electric fence to keep the horses from wandering. You may cross over the fence, but it can give you a healthy zap if you’re not careful. The best method is to carefully place a foot on the wires (your shoes will insulate you from the electricity), hold them to the ground, and then step over. Don’t touch the wires with your hands.
Plants, insects, animals, reptiles…
You may encounter tasty-looking wild berries, roots, and mushrooms. However, these can easily be poisonous. Never taste or eat a plant unless you’re absolutely certain what it is.
Poison ivy is common here. If you’re unsure what it looks like, refer to the poison ivy info sheet near the door. If you think you might have come in contact with it, use the TECNU wash located in the first aid kit in the pantry on the first floor by the laundry.
Ticks can carry Lyme’s disease and other viruses which can cause major health issues if you are bitten and not treated fairly soon. Study the tick information sheet posted near the front door. Use insect repellant before you go out, and do a thorough ‘tick check’ every time you return to the house. Partner with a friend to check each other. Don’t be shy if you think you see a tick on a fellow resident, especially around the neck where it’s hard to check oneself. If you have been bitten, save the tick so it can be tested, and contact staff to help you.
Bees, wasps, and other stinging insects are common. They usually won’t bother you unless they’ve been disturbed. Let us know if you find a bee or wasp nest around the house so we can remove it. Keep clear of the honeybee hives near the white sheds next to the road. Please let us know if you’re allergic to bees or other insects.
To keep most insects away, wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Consider a dedicated set of outdoor clothes. Use an insect repellent such as DEET or one based on essential oils. When you come back to the house, wash your arms and hands well with soap, and remember to do a full-body check for ticks.
Horses, goats, and chickens live on the property, along with two dogs. The horses are generally calm and friendly, but can be startled easily, especially by quick movements and large groups. If you want to get to be friends, approach them slowly, one or two people at a time, and let them get used to you being there. Always stay in front of the horses – you don’t want to be kicked. They like eating apples from your hand, but watch their teeth.
Snakes can occasionally be found in both nonpoisonous and poisonous varieties (including copperheads and rattlesnakes). If you find one, keep a safe distance. You may find them sunning themselves, or resting under rocks. Be observant, and never put your hands where you can’t see them. Use a stick to poke around rock piles instead of your hands.
Bears and mountain lions do exist in the area, but are rarely encountered.
The water supply in the house is from a well, and high in minerals. It’s fine for washing, bathing, and cooking, but we recommend using the dispenser on the kitchen counter for drinking water – it comes from a local spring and has been treated. Never drink from the creek or the pond. We have one of the cleanest water sources in the state, but you never know what’s upstream from you.
Never leave a flame unattended, whether inside or outside. We have no fire hydrants or sprinkler systems, and the nearest fire department is at least 15 minutes away. Even in humid weather, fires can easily catch and spread!
You are welcome to use the fire pit. Please use the kindling and logs next to the house. Use the garden hose and/or sand (in bucket) to put out the fire fully before you leave the firepit area. There is a fire extinguisher near the firepit for emergency use.
For the health and safety of all residents, please do not smoke, light incense, or use candles inside the residency house. Smoking is permitted away from residences and studios.
Pets and visitors
Pets and visitors are allowed by special arrangement. Please contact us for details.
The surrounding area
Martinsburg is about 20 minutes away, just over the mountain. Other nearby towns are Shepherdstown, Hagerstown, or Winchester (about 40 minutes each), or Frederick (one hour). The following are recommendations from staff and past residents. Search around the Martinsburg area on Yelp or Google to discover more options.
Martin’s is a large 24-hour supermarket with a decent gluten-free/natural/organic selection as well as a pharmacy and a small Starbucks cafe if you need faster internet. Orr’s is a farm stand with good local vegetables & produce. In Winchester, Food Maxx is a decent international market with a wide variety of produce, spices, condiments, etc. In Frederick, The Common Market is a large co-op grocery similar to Whole Foods.
Not far from North Mountain is El Taco Rico, a small taqueria and market. In Martinsburg, Good Natured Collective is an excellent vegan/vegetarian cafe, and sells groceries. Finn Thai has good Thai/Asian food and an awesome whiskey bar. For coffee and internet, try Mugs & Muffins (the fastest wifi around) or Daily Grind. In Shepherdstown, good places to eat & drink include Town Run Brewing Company, Blue Moon Cafe, and the Mecklenburg Inn. The Opera House has regular live music.
Lewis’ Hardware and US Post Office is a locally-owned hardware store. Lowe’s and Home Depot are big box-store chains. Michael’s carries art supplies if you’re desperate and can’t wait for an Amazon delivery.
For urgent health care, visit MedXpress (no appointment necessary). The closest pharmacies in Martinsburg are Martin’s, Rite Aid, or CVS. In Shepherdstown, Tonic is a natural/herbal dispensary, as well as a small cafe with interesting food & drinks.