I made my annual pilgrimage to the Coal Stone Sink recently and got a nice dose of winter on the Shenandoah River—with bitter cold and light snow on day 1 and torrents of freezing rain on day 2. Traveling by plane made little sense given the delays both ways on several of the relatively scarce wintery days so far this year, so I switched to the train on the return trip and left Union Station with a clear blue sky and mild temps. The cardinals feeding (thanks to Amy) will shine more brilliantly.
The Coal Stove Sink has a certain familiarity to it that is welcoming, and the walk up to the guest cottage is fun for both Puck and Mogli. Oh yeah, Mogli is a new addition to the resident clan and his spunk gives Puck a little more giddy-up in his step. Mogli is a Golden Retriever puppy (8 months old) who craves attention from any warm body but loves to engage Puck who often voices his annoyance in the form of grunts and growls while appreciating the entertainment value of the jostling.
Mogli has alpha dog tendencies but Puck is clearly the one in charge and the one who gets the best spot in front of the fire, the choice of dog toys and he takes up most of the bed in the guest house as my companion for the night. Mogli made several attempts to join us but couldn’t muster the courage to jump up on the bed with Puck sprawled out in the center. Mogli resigned himself to keeping watch on the snow turning to rain during the night.
Zane, Zelda and I got our work done in time for a wonderfully delicious blend of spices in a Bourbon cordial with Angostura bitters and fresh lime juice that provided warmth from the inside while the fire provided warmth on the outside. It’s called a Lion’s Tail and we had to have a second round given how delectable it was. We caught up on the recent kid’s exploits and adventures while reminiscing about years past and how our kids are. We waited to launch into our wonderfully divisive annual discussion of politics and given all of the uncertainty and entertainment of the Republican primary races we found ourselves in the unusual position of agreeing on our assessment of all of the candidates…they all suck.
However, the chicken dinner was masterfully prepared to perfection and the Hollandaise was perfect on the Brussel sprouts. The Italian red wine was rich with a smooth finish that paired nicely with both the chicken and the politics. We got a chance to see Ron Howard’s version of “The Art of a Deal” with Johnny Depp which was slightly more entertaining compared with the real thing. We then adjourned to the bar for after dinner drinks that included a new toy that required exercise….a device to carbonate cocktails using CO2 from stainless steel canisters loaded into the top of this stainless steel thermos device. It took two attempts mixing Laird’s Apple Brandy with a few other items poured over a solid sphere of ice made from another steel press designed specifically to make these unique orbs. It harkened back to the Orgasmitron from Woody Allen’s Sleeper. Once the right combination of canisters was mastered the result was a wonderful tickle of a cocktail with a touch of “smacked” mint (prepared by hand….literally).
I made it through another annual visit to Berryville although this visit was unique from years passed in that I never consumed a liberal…nor did we discuss liberals. There was no need given the dearth of conservative clowns on the red side and the socialist and the liar on the other. I did share my version of a “Hail Mary pass” with Gary (in Bloomberg potentially making a run as an independent) but the probability of Sanders continuing to increase the populist young voters in his camp as opposed to withering from the Clinton machinery to make room for Bloomy is unlikely. In any event Gary didn’t think it was likely. What is more likely is that next year we will both poke fun at the Inauguration on the next chapter of the Coal Stove Sink visit.
It was a unique experience to stay with the CoalStoveSink. Most impressive, it was difficult to locate any plastic, including the non-plastic shower. There appears to be a plastic forcefield around the entire area. However, the forcefield failed to prevent a herd of deer from unwisely entering the property. The hotel CoalStoveSink mouthwash was most refreshing. Weird that Scope now labels their mouthwash as “Rum.” Hot water worked very well. Would be nice to have a working onsen, however. Consider a Winter Solstice residual heat sauna by adding copper pipes and proper steam regulators to the bonfire. Two thumbs up.
On 3/14/15, pi day extraordinaire, I hopped over from DC post conference for celebrations chez Coal Stove Sink. This was my first solo visit that I can recall. I was so caught up in the celebrations, I took zero pictures. We started at an art show and post show party, but at 9:26:53 on the dot, we cut some pi(e). We also had pi-based musical accompaniment, which was weird. I had apple and pecan (peee-can, not pah-cahn) pie. And there were drinks of course: corpse reviver, blue moon, Berryville passage, and something else I can’t remember. We had oodles of fun, ending the evening with silly anagram versions of all our names, most of them sounding slightly pornographic. The least dirty one was mandate sniffer. And even that could go either way.
The evening ended for me with a collapse into a warm bed. I woke way too early the next morning, as I always do, but there was coffee followed by eggs and biscuits. After letting all that settle, I headed back home, saying goodbye to Coal Stove Sink until next time.
Bill and I spent New Year’s Eve with the hosts and a select group of friends. We each contributed something for dinner. We bought oysters from the waterfront fish market, which is always a colorful experience. Here I am posing with some dead fish.
We dressed up and took this picture before we left home. (See the tree in the background?)
Dinner was served at this beautiful table. We drank much champagne and danced well past midnight. Fortunately, we do not have pictures of us dancing. [But see this apothecaryshed entry.]
A good time was had by all.
The winter months are upon us and we once again are bracing for a big storm in the northeast but before the storm hits, it’s time for my annual pilgrimage to see Puck, Skillet, and the rest of the clan on Rookhuman Road.
You may think it a bit strange that I wish to travel 5 or so hours by car in the middle of winter to go see a dog…but this is no ordinary dog. This dog has some cool masters and a family with eclectic interests that serve soul warming food to wash down the wonderfully interesting wine after polishing off a bottle or two of bourbon leading to some typically intense dialog on philosophical foundations of the existential evolution of a divine entity in the universe or lack thereof. So I generally enjoy the friendly banter around the hearth and learn things like Jack’s off to Abu Dhabi for a semester to visit the 68th most expensive city in the world. Puck pointed out that Abu Dhabi means, Father of Deer, in Arabic so evidently he has been following Jack’s lead and learning some Arabic in preparation.
Puck was complaining that he hadn’t seen as much of Jack since he began his time-zone adjustment process earlier in the week to get his body clock aligned with Abu Dhabi time. Evidently Puck’s not a big fan of plane travel…they frown on barking and there are no chickens to chase.
Anyway Puck’s masters prepared an awesome meal of roast beast and asparagus that followed some wonderful French Onion soup that was heavy on the French (lots of bread and cheese). Eli joined the dinner and his father pointed out how helpful Eli has been over the years with the farm chores and specifically the major projects (the Barn, Apothecary, etc.). Eli’s Dad would ask for a cold one and Eli would go running into the house, grab a cold beer from the fridge and then deliver it (following all State and county ordinances) open to Gary with only a small amount of evaporation.
A friend of Puck’s master joined us for dinner (Drew) who may be short of a few things but a boat and many opinions are not two of them. Puck has a way of making everyone feel comfortable at the Farm and as the conversation drifted into politics I was amazed to hear Drew admit to voting for Obama. Now this is the same Drew who joined one of Puck’s masters on election night and beat his chest for the Republicans and now reveals that he actually voted “against” the Republican McCain simply due to his choice of running mates…that Alaskan cheerleader. I asked Puck what he thought of Palin and he told me he thought that she’d make a pretty good dog owner. I have to admit that Drew did make a pretty convincing point with a good amount of F-bombs. Puck’s not a big fan of people that drop f-bombs every other word simply because he thinks someone is calling him in from the porch. He could do without the constant confusion when Drew talks and it’s not that Drew doesn’t smell OK when Puck greets him; it’s just hard for Puck to get some shut-eye when he thinks every other sentence is referring to him!
Drew left at a reasonable time and Puck escorted him to his car. He then came inside and was fortunate to be let inside to feel the warmth of the fire. After listening to cosmic conversations about the origin of the Milky Way and the local art scene in Zeenaville from his masters it was time to make the short journey to the guesthouse. Puck showed me the way and immediately made certain the bed was safe for sleeping by jumping up on it. By the time I brushed my teeth and got into the bed, Puck had stretched out fully and was starting to snore. Of course I wanted to replay the events of the evening with him but he was more into sleep.
The next morning arrived and it was time for some fresh eggs, one of Puck’s master’s is a great cook, and freshly squeezed OJ. As I walked to the car escorted by Puck after saying my goodbyes, he told me to make sure that I come back soon. I agreed and drove off taking one last look at the river.
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.