We visited our hosts in October and arrived in daylight hours so that we could take a hike along the river. Our host and an abundance of dogs accompanied us along the river and over farmland. We encountered this abandoned house:
If I were a film scout, I would definitely have this on my list as a sight for a horror movie. Then we stumbled upon this sacrificial alter:
Or maybe it was just a burn pile. Before I could think, we were charged by a pack of zombie chickens:
Or maybe they were just hungry, but I never know how to read their beady little eyes. I wish I had a picture of “My Little Pony” who decided to be my friend for the day, but maybe he was just missing Horsey who had made an unexpected exit that weekend.
That evening we ate a delicious dinner, had stimulating conversation, and some of us thought we solved the worlds problems over a drink or two.
Technically I did not stay in the guest house – my mandolin player did. I collapsed on the couch at 5am and slept like a baby…. for 3 hours. The night had begun with the band playing a crazy gig for about 100 guests who danced from start to finish. Lots of musical twists and turns here, as well as laughs. In my group, it is encouraged, in fact required, for the musicians to play and sing whatever they feel whenever they feel inspired to do so, and this happened in abundance, which resulted in frequent fits of laughter as I tried to sing. Exactly how I like it.
We quickly packed up after the gig and headed straight to the farm. Began the proceedings with absolutely the best drink I have ever had in my life – a Bitter Liberal. Delicious is not a strong enough word. After that and some nice conversation we decided that the best thing to do after a 4 hour gig would be to…. play some more music. But this time we tapped into a different feeling altogether. The rowdiness of the earlier gig was left behind for a mellow vibe. Acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and dobro blending sonically as God intended and supplying the perfect bed for the quiet vocal. Soulful stuff – I live for it.
After a few more tunes, it was time for the next round of drinks. This one was called a Lion’s Tail. Whereas the Bitter Liberal was immediate love, the first sip of the Lion’s Tail was a little startling. Taste-wise it was night and day from the Liberal. After the second sip though, you start to get used to it, and by the third you’re fully acclimated and in the zone. More conversation followed, and then more music. This time I picked some banjo, and while we played I could feel myself rocking back and forth. I was feeling great with the sounds, drinks, and friendship mixing in the most perfect way.
The cycle continued and the next thing we know it’s 5am. I haven’t stayed up this late in years, but it is not difficult to do this when you’re having such a relaxed good time. Oh, and did I mention the dogs? Big, sweet, dumb dogs. I mean, the night was already so good that it was nearly a crime, but to add dogs on top of that?! Might as well go ahead and throw me in the slammer right now.
Thanks again for the best evening I’ve had in a long time.
I recently had the pleasure of spending the better part of the week in the Guesthouse, marking my forth such visit to the excellent establishment. This visit, just spanning the gap from the brutal Virginia summer to the region’s exquisite autumn was particularly enjoyable as it included not only the good food, drink, and especially company found on any visit to the Guesthouse, but also a magnificent thunderstorm, an afternoon kayak trip down the river complete with eight bald eagle sightings and schools of enormous bass, and a final morning spent gathering beautiful produce and pulling mountains of weeds from my hosts’ fabulous garden.
Rather than pontificating over the trip, I’d rather share a few photos that best sum up the pleasures of my visit starting with one of the obligatory evenings spent at the local bar. The evening documented in this photo involved a tour through a range of delicious bourbons, several from the antique collection:
One of the things I miss the most from my youth spent in the South—aside from warm nights, sweet tea, and properly ripened tomatoes—is a good thunderstorm. Although weather had been dry for ten days before my visit, I was lucky enough to enjoy a powerful, if brief, downpour that harkened back to my childhood in Georgia and Virginia. This shot was taken shortly after the storm cleared:
The bounty of the grounds surrounding the Guesthouse isn’t limited to the produce from the garden that concludes this post. My hosts germinated the morning glory in the photo below from a single seed and now enjoy a mass of deep green-leaved vines and vivid purple flowers covering a full side of the porch stairway:
Along with the excellent human company, the Guesthouse always provides a plethora of enjoyable animal interaction as well. Here, the fiercest among the guardians practice their intimidation techniques:
And, let us not forget the larger four-legged inhabitants of the land. After harvesting and weeding for sometime, my host and I gave the horse a special treat of some slightly-dried corn ears. Who knew the dog would think he’d like some corn, too?
I’m not sure what the peacock wanted, but he certainly was serious in his intent:
And finally, I grew up on a good sized parcel of land in middle Georgia with parents’ who maintained a large, if not always terribly successful garden, each summer. As a young child who dreamed of cities and adventure I never fully appreciated the opportunity and benefit this represented to me. Now, as a longtime and happy resident of the (in my opinion) world’s most amazing cities, San Francisco, I struggle to grow a few pitiful tomatoes in hydroponic planters on my patio each summer. What a joy to finish my visit to the Guesthouse with a morning spent in the garden collection this bounty:
Until next time, may the Guesthouse’s other visitors have as much fun and wonderful times as I did.
Now, that’s the way to meet your cousins for the first time. Forget the formalities…let’s just be who we are. Penne alla Mitt, Barbera, Barolo, some mysteriously remote and complete supertuscan. Dinner was delicious, and your family is remarkable.
Thanks for the jamming without borders session (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JQgNJdVDvk) ..couldn’t remember some of the chords but it seems our foreign language skills improved for a couple of hours.
Had a very restful night in the guest house, slalomed coccode’ and chicchiricchi’ at dawn on the way to a delicious breakfast. The dogs wagged their tails and barely said hi, [Sophie] wanted my eggs…good morning cuz. Then on my way back to traffic, deadlines, meetings, and long flights. Thanks for the 12 hour family vacation!
Should have taken some pictures, if not of us, perhaps the suspended bridge or the barn. But in retrospect, it would not do it justice. I’ll keep the memory and thank you for the invite back. Likewise, let me know when you’re ready to shred some turns in the rockies!
I played a rain-soaked set in Virginia wine country this last Saturday (July 13th), but this was not to be the main event.
With the storms passed and the sun well-set, it was time to head out to Coal Stove Sink for a little music making. I arrived to the usual furry and enthusiastic greeting of both the dogs and the owner.
It wasn’t long before the spirits were flowing. A Corpse Reviver #2 was served up. I’ve never had the good fortune of sampling this beverage and I will say it lives up to its name. Bliss on the palate that could raise the dead!
Once we were well-lubricated, the instruments came out. I showed-up with a handful of new songs and we dove right into these with a peculiar reckless abandon. You don’t warm up with new material, but I was eager to share and the participants were willing enough to take the chance. The end result was remarkable and I only wish I had brought something to record the whole affair.
My lovely girlfriend arrived later in the night, providing a brief intermission. We all dove into the bit pile, exchanging tunes and musical commentary. But, the instruments could now be ignored. We grooved our way into some (not-so) old favorites. The spirits continued to flow as did the inspiration.
Onto covers! A raucous version of the Doors LA Woman erupted to my personal glee. There were sing-alongs and general merry-making. It was late when the music finally stopped and details of the final numbers are admittedly hazy. One of the last numbers we worked on was something new and it was decided that the chorus needed a five beat cadence. At that late hour, this was a bit difficult to wrap one’s head around–even still, things made sense. Yes, it was a memorable night of music making.
On July 5th, we headed down to VA for the Solstice Party (yes, late) followed by a benefit concert by The Bitter Liberals. We once again camped out at Coal Stove Sink. It was four of us in the guest house this time as my daughter her friend rolled out sleeping bags on the floor. As usual, we had all we needed: comfy bed, air conditioning, bathroom.
We brought along our dog, Gracie (pictured left). She chased the peacock and the chickens. Mostly, she wanted to play with them, but they would have none of that. She did run around with the other dogs and didn’t even get lost in the dark of the very late Solstice evening.
Speaking of late nights, mine was spurred on by a Corpse Reviver #2 or two, provided by the host. I highly recommend them, but maybe before 3 a.m.
The next morning, I slept in, had a nibble of breakfast and then took a dip in the river with the dog and the kids. I wish I had a picture of the dog paddling in the river. She was hilarious.
After some cleaning up, some lunch and a nap, we headed to another farm for a Bitter Liberals concert. Two sets of fabulous music later, we headed back to CSS for a much-needed good night’s rest.
The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast with eggs, bacon, and toast. We had to depart shortly thereafter to make the long trek back to Philadelphia. It was a great way to spend a weekend, a much needed respite from the hustle and bustle of our sometimes crazy life.
We recently hosted a bevy of Clarke County friends and neighbors at Coal Stove Sink for an interview and book signing with local sustainable agriculture farmer and author Forrest Pritchard. Forrest and I spent a few minutes chatting about aspects of the book Gaining Ground, his life farming, and the big picture—making a living while farming in America.
Special thanks to Jack McGraw for filming, editing, and making this piece coherent. And thanks to all of our friends and neighbors who created a warm and welcoming community for Forrest’s debut as an author. Forrest, we’re proud of what you do and what you’re doing.
Thanks to Amy Barley for the photographs. Music Laura Lou by the Bitter Liberals.