Meet Steve Charles

When I first met Steve Charles, I assumed that his backyard would be the most interesting part of his house. Now, don’t get me wrong, his beautifully maintained gardens and natural areas are breathtaking and fascinating, but even they struggle to compete with his museum-like garage. But first, let me take you through the backyard. Steve’s backyard has a view of the Nansemond River, and he has the privilege of flowing freshwater trickling through his backyard. As a result, he has a variety of wildlife that will visit him in his garden, including some curious box turtles. As he is working with his beans or tomatoes, the small turtles will come up beside him, and he will have turtle races to see which one will reach the tomato first. He has attracted a number of birds with his four predator-proof birdhouses that he modeled after the ones on the walking trail in Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield. He used ductwork to create a cylinder around the pole that would deter snakes and raccoons from stealing eggs, and a mesh extension around the entrance provides further protection from unwanted visitors. The side of the bird house opens, and Steve is able to photograph the baby birds and their parents. He was even able to pet one brave bird! Steve has amassed dozens of mushroom logs in the past year to support his latest hobby, and he is enthusiastic to share his knowledge, tips, and experiences with interested growers. He shared that while white oak logs are the best logs to use, sweet gum can also be utilized. He heartily recommends the Field and Forest website, especially their “mushroom minute” videos. He is currently growing shiitake mushrooms and loves to share them with his friends.

How could he top the views of the river, the hummingbirds flitting to and from his feeder, and the beautiful grove of mountain laurel? His garage is a tribute to his father, his work, and this neighborhood. His interests are organized and hung across the walls, and it’s hard to know where to start. My eyes were immediately drawn to the pieces of rafts from past 4th of July raft races. He has two fragments from Nierman’s rafts as well as a unique piece of waterman’s history. Deepwater Dick created his last boat fender to sell in a silent auction to support the now closed market at the entrance to the neighborhood after it was impacted by a fire. Knowing that Deepwater Dick’s arthritis would prevent him from creating these eye-catching rope creations again, Steve bid higher and higher and was thrilled to win this piece of history. Because he used to work in the car and trucks parts business, signs for various automobile parts hang on the walls. Alongside these signs are pieces of history like a bayonet and multiple pieces from his father. Some of his favorites include a powderhorn and Japanese handcuffs from his father’s time in the war. His most favorite piece in the entire garage is a propeller from an ice boat that his father built that dates to 1939. His father was a mechanical engineer who could make anything, and Steve follows in his footsteps by watching Youtube videos and fixing whatever appliances are broken in the house.

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