After a great but long week at the Cigital office planning my 2014 destiny, I arrived at the farm. I was greeted by Puck and Skillet as I traipsed through the layer of snow that had fallen earlier in the week. I warmed up by the fire for a few and caught up with Zane. He shared his story of the god damn orange chair and we had a few laughs.
Shortly after I got settled in, we headed out for a walk down the river. This was a particularly cold week and there was a few inches of snow on the ground, but we weren’t about to let that stop us from a nice stroll and conversation. The K9 crew blazed the trail as we headed down the river. It was still flowing, but large pieces of ice relayed the week’s cold history. I learned the story of the land, and of the monks that occupied the space around the farm. We returned from our walk to find Guthrie outside of the gate meandering around. Our attempt to fix this just led to further wandering. Eventually a bucket of food and a little patience corrected the issue. We were greeted by Xena just as we returned.
We warmed up for a few minutes, and Zane introduced me to the bar. We started with a Lion’s Tail and discussed plans for dinner. Shortly after we started prep. The meal was a lovely dish of polenta, tomatoes and chorizo [don't forget the feta] with some fresh bell peppers on the side. I met the rest of the family while we sat down for dinner. An awesome bread pudding starred as the desert and completed the meal.
Just a few minutes after dinner was complete, the cavalry arrived with instruments in tow. We setup in the living room and Zane made us all the house cocktail, The Liberal. For the next few hours we took turns calling out a variety of tunes. Some I knew, some I didn’t, but it was a fantastic time. We ran the gamut well and ended with an odd rendition of “I Shot the Sheriff.” Somehow it found itself in a minor key and Zane’s fiddling turned it into “I Shot the Rabbi”. Needless to say we all had a few laughs and no Rabbis were harmed in the process.
After the hootenanny let out we sat back down at the bar for more drinks and conversation. I learned quite a bit about the different parts of Zane’s collection and where it all came from. Xena joined us and we spent the next couple hours talking and trying different cocktails. It was a great end to an already wonderful evening.
As the evening wound down I made my way out to the guest house. Puck followed me determined to keep me company for the evening. This was a nice surprise as I had been missing my dog while I had been away all week. As I got situated in bed it took him just a couple of minutes to walk over and wait for the invite to sleep with me in the bed. It was pretty cold, so the furry blanket was quite welcome.
The next morning I woke up to find it was still quite chilly. I gathered my things and headed back to the house. I was treated to fresh farm eggs for breakfast. It might seem a little silly, but I truly do enjoy fresh eggs over the store bought variety, so I was quite happy to have them. Zane and I spent the morning talking a bit of shop and I headed out for the airport. It was a great visit and I am looking forward to future trips!
It’s January 9, 2014…still adjusting to the last digit being a 4 instead of a 3. So now we also have to adjust our commentary to the fact that “what we plan to do in the new year…is already here so it’s no longer, next year…it’s this year.
Of course this becomes a little more challenging with discussions of the obligation of attending a company Holiday party in January instead of December. I’m glad my company doesn’t have January Holiday parties because evidently the thought of gathering together with colleagues after the hustle and bustle of the holidays to celebrate holidays from last year just seems wrong in so many ways. Mostly since the holiday spirit reinforced in December through lots of holiday cheer has given way to the introspective time of January.
I’m clearly in my retrospective mood as I join my gracious hosts for a brisk walk down river with Puck, Sofie and Skillet leading the way. On the way back the sun peeks out of the cloud cover and we enjoy a luminescent burst of yellow light against the trees and ice bursts on the river as a sparkling reminder that the day is coming to a close.
It’s time to head inside and try a Cat’s Pajamas that lives up to its reputation and takes the edge off. Next up is a soft and smooth Priorat from Spain that is paired with a wonderfully prepared Tenderloin with the famous pink Bearnaise sauce that exceeds high expectations.
I learn the secret to preparing a wonderful roast beast is timing…specifically 18 minutes per pound. I also learn that the recipe past down from Mom includes a magical Yorkshire Pudding made in the pan that has become a [host] family classic.
Post dinner conversation is a mixture of technical discussions (on the use of Google Chromecast) along with more reflective thoughts on the “mellowing” that comes with age. Would we be in any less of a hurry to learn and achieve if our lives were extended by 20-50 years? We debate this over our first Berryville Passage which lubricates the lively debate. Consensus ends up supporting the assertion that we would pursue achievements aggressively despite eternal life.
We then discussed plans for skiing out west in March and April respectively. The snow reports are not great now but likely to change in time for some deep fluffy stuff later in the spring.
Another Berryville Passage launched serious reflection between two friends and colleagues evolving their relationship to one even more sturdy despite the uncharted waters ahead and a mellowing that comes with age.
My hosts were nice enough to assign me an escort on my walk up to the Cottage as Puck sprinted through the open doorway at the same time I turned around to look for him. He was kind enough to turn down my bed and keep me nice and toasty with warmth all night.
In the early morning light I encouraged him to take a walk and he abruptly declined when he noticed the freezing rain. So he escorted me down for my fresh breakfast of eggs on an English muffin. A great way to start the day.
Another visit comes to a close and fond, warm memories endure.
Creating this year’s solstice bonfire!
E and I visited for Thanksgiving, and enjoyed lots of turkey, family camaraderie, great b-day cake thanks to Helen, and had fun tromping around in the woods, playing with J’s new google glasses, trying out our new Team Tartan hats (Thanks Xan!) and generally being silly. We also spent some time helping to pile wood onto the growing solstice party bonfire (see the timelapse of bonfire building in the other post). We won first place in short term memory and pie eating.
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.