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January 25, 2015 / coalstovesinkguest

A winter visit with Puck

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.

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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.

February 12, 2014 / coalstovesinkguest

No Rabbis Were Harmed

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.

The god damned orange chair during NYE avant guard revelry.

The god damned orange chair during NYE avant guard revelry.

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.

From noplasticshowers

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.

From noplasticshowers

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!

January 10, 2014 / coalstovesinkguest

January Visit

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.

Shenandoah scene (photo by Amy Barley)

Shenandoah scene (photo by Xena)

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.

Golden walk (photo by Amy barley)

Golden walk (photo by Xena)

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.

Coal Stove Sink escort service (canine division)

Coal Stove Sink escort service (canine division)

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.

December 15, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Solstice bonfire creation

Solstice bonfire creation

Creating this year’s solstice bonfire!

December 15, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Thanksgiving visit

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.












November 17, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

October Visit

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.





November 11, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Music, drinks, conversation, and dogs

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.