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.
It was my second visit to the CSS, though this time I was a solo guest. The occasion was a Cigital ARA summit. It is pretty remarkable what a good group of minds can accomplish in a short period of time when there is a change of scenery. The summit was an exchange of good ideas and ended with a new direction for the ARA practice. Post-summit was a break for apéritifs (I enjoyed a cocktail called The Liberal with a real marisca cherry… a house specialty).
Dinner followed with a subset of the ARA summit guests and our host’s progeny. The main course was an outstanding beef tenderloin (that put the steak I had the previous night at Wildfire to shame), paired with a malbec. A bonus during dinner was getting to watch a grown man eat his very first Brussels sprout. He immediately and amusingly decided he did not like Brussels sprouts. These examples of the cultivar happened to be roasted to perfection, so he really must not like Brussels sprouts.
After dinner, the last visiting Cigitalite other than myself left, and the party moved to the bar. As always, the drinks were exceptional and made from the finest ingredients. It is a rare opportunity to sample such high quality cocktails and I enjoyed every last drop. This strategy was not without its shortcomings, but those repercussions waited until the morning to show up. The drinks were accompanied by great conversation with the host. Many topics were discussed and some new ideas were formed for both work and non-work (a.k.a. “life”).
The night wound down at about 2 AM and I made my way up the hill to the CSS. What happened next is a bit hazy for me. I sat down on the couch to remove my shoes, blinked, and the sun was up. Apparently, I decided to (or felt compelled to) crash on the couch. My host found this amusing and I found it to be practical—no sheets to wash!
The plan was to have breakfast at 10 o’clock, so I had about an hour to (re-)explore the farm. I was immediately greeted by some energetic dogs and timid cats. It was my own personal run through “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” as I spent some time with the dogs, cats, chickens, horse, pony, and goats. I do realize this is quite routine for most, but for a Brooklynite (or Philadelphian) it was quite cathartic.
During my exploring I came across a familiar site. There are two wagon wheels on the farm that once belonged to a relative. I had not seen them since they were FedExed to [undisclosed location] from New Hampshire (much to the amusement of the FedEx driver) and it was really moving to see them in such a perfect setting.
After a rejuvenating breakfast (bacon with nitrates) and a short driving tour of the local county seat, I headed home. Many thanks to my generous host. Already looking forward to another visit to the CSS in April!
For the uninitiated, the Coal Stove Sink Guesthouse is an amazing experience.
Great location. Great people (especially the bar tender-disc jockey-sous chef).
Warning: be prepared to drink, talk, laugh, debate (pick any subject), drink, laugh, listen to great music (a truly eclectic mix), drink and laugh some more. Did I mention the drink part?
The house specialty is called a “Liberal” an insane cocktail concoction that lives up to its name in numerous ways: Liberal = liberal types and quantities of spirits, liberally served and consumed, causing liberation from many inhibitions.
[from noplasticshowers, The Liberal
.75 oz Bourbon (I like to use Pappy van Winkle 20 when I am feeling adventurous, but definitely something cask strength)
.75 oz Sweet vermouth
.3 oz Amer Picon (or Torani Amer if you live in the states and always run out of Amer Picon)
Add a dash of Orange Bitters but only if you are using Torani Amer in order to help it simulate the real thing (I use both Fee Brothers and Regans as the mood strikes me)
Stir over ice, serve up with a cherry.]
My evening included two or three Liberals (I don’t remember exactly), a shared bottle of wine over a wonderful meal talking about a wide range of subjects from the frivolous to the serious touching on everything from public policy to family.
The night was capped with an alchemist’s cocktail (something I am sure was stolen directly from Severus’ closet) and a final effort to turn a Scotch man to the Dark Side (Bourbon and its wiley ways). This attempt failed, but the ordeal was wonderful.
At this secret location, art is a critical piece in the whole experience and art has to hang at the right place, right? Our host was artistic for a couple minutes, and tried to hang the art right. He essentially showed off his calf muscles and nice slippers, but didn’t get anything done.
When you live on a far, you seem to have two choices, you wash goats (like me), or you oil ponies (like our host). It’s important that the engine of the (robot? who knows!) pony gets some oil once in a while. Mission accomplished, the pony ran fine after the oiling.
Last but not least, it is important to keep drinking while you’re at the hosts location. If not…
Thanks to the bartender on duty that day, we had great drinks. The new drink of the eve was the joint (girly?) cocktail we created (right?):
- 2 ounces of Zacapa 23
- 1 ounce of Glogg
- 2 ounces of fresh pineapple juice
- 1 ounce of Coconut rum
- 1 ounce of Simple syrup
I can highly recommend the Matusalem 15 for the bar! When you’ve enough Amer, I’ll bring you that one! (Or maybe the next guest at the guesthouse can bring that for you…)
Almost forgot, instead of going straight to the big city, we took a detour to Harpers Ferry where the Potomac river and the Shenandoah river come together. I can highly recommend this visit. On the one hand, it’s all about American history, on the other hand, it’s all about mother nature as two gigantic rivers collide; really impressive!
We got our fill of liberals, Americana, and a dusting of crystalline precipitate from Ma nature. At some point we actually watched a good Super Bowl game and ate a lot of crazy food that will likely preserve many of our vital organs for years and years after we’ve already
kicked the bucket.
We even got some culture with an art show (pictures attached).
For my most recent stay at Coal Stove Sink, I was greeted by this:
And though a Fisher Price toy xylophone looks harmless enough, I should have known that this would be no ordinary visit to [location deleted].
Intrigue grew to eleven once there was an Aubrey sighting:
And, even though Aubrey was in the house for the where’s aubrey performance, he was nowhere to be seen for the opening of the second set. Fortunately, he wasn’t lost. Maybe he was just chatting up a bartender?
The crowd was a joy—warm, enthusiastic, a true pleasure to play for. They can be heard but not seen at the end of this video:
A highlight of the evening was being joined by the rest of the Bitter Liberals. The first three tunes with these fine minstrels were a complete blast. Then, all !@#$%^%$ broke loose on the opening of the fourth song. In fact, the start of this tune has been described as a sonic version of some super-famous explosion on Battlestar Galactica. Either my bandmate can’t count very well, doesn’t know Spanish, or possibly both. Fortunately, the pulse somehow emerged from the rather chaotic opening, as you can hear if you stick with it:
The music and merriment continued late into the evening at the post-performance gathering back at Coal Stove Sink. Finally, when the festivities really had to come to an end, we abdicated all responsibility for the remainder of the night (or was it for the rest of all time?) with a Berryville Passage. At last I called it an end to a beautiful day-evening-night-morning and headed up to the guest house as Eno’s new ambient masterpiece Lux was playing.
Oddly enough, Eno was still playing in an infinite loop at 11am the next day. In fact, Eno continued as the soundtrack of our Sunday recovery until Aubrey left…
Hey, wait a minute, where is aubrey???