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PETIT VERDOT IN THE PIEDMONT

A N N I V E R S A R Y

FAVORITES OF THE PIEDMONT VIRGINIAN • OLD RAG IN ART • SANDY LERNER & AYRSHIRE FARM • RURAL CULTURE ON THE EDGE • DISNEY REVISITED

NOV/DEC 2017 • $5.95


VIRGINIA’S NORTHERN PIEDMONT IS AN EXCEPTIONAL PLACE. Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Piedmont is beloved for its scenic beauty, unparalleled in its significance to America’s history, and valuable for its productive family farms, PEC’s primary area includes nine counties in the Virginia Piedmont. Our work often benefits communities outside of this region as we join in productive partnerships, provide a model of grassroots engagement, and improve policies at the local, state, and national level.

Photo by Bruce Jones

Piedmont Environmental Council


pine Grove, stanley

Pine Grove’s 200+/- acres provide a rare opportunity with a multitude of options. Knock-out views of Blue Ridge, Massanutten Mtn. & Page Valley. This parcel would be a fabulous escape. Roads and electricity are in place. The property was subdivided in 1970 and has 126 tax map parcels with approved roads, allowing for multiple investment scenarios. $940,000

JuBa Mountain escape, sperryville

Sited on the highest knob of Juba Mountain at over 1,200 ft, this mountain top retreat has perfect privacy on 30 +/- acres. The modern 2BR cabin is designed as a comfortable escape. With wide windows, high ceilings, open floor plan and amazing views, it takes full advantage of the dramatic setting. Adjacent is a wonderful garage/studio and loft building that could be a guesthouse. $595,000

Horn Hollow road, Madison

This spectacular 50 +/- acre parcel is as good as it gets! It has fenced fields, forest, a strong stream, privacy and breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A red barn and an old homestead provide a historic ambience. $499,000

old stonewall, Flint Hill

Old Stonewall is an updated Prairie-style home near Flint Hill that has breathtaking panoramic views of the SNPark. The 4 BR home includes 2 fieldstone fireplaces, an open floor plan, gourmet kitchen, wide windows, tall ceilings and an airy atmosphere. The 29 +/- acre property includes a fantastic pool, tennis court, pond, attached 2-car garage and a separate studio. $1,250,000

General Banks, Madison

Located in the scenic Graves Mill Valley, General Banks features 162.7 +/acres of prime farmland and forest. With frontage on the Rapidan River and several mountain streams the property features a wide diversity of native flora and fauna. Surrounded by properties in scenic easement, this beautiful area is guaranteed to remain unspoiled. $899,000

Mountain top vistas, sperryville

This spectacular 70 +/- acre property is sited high above Sperryville. The impressive 5 BR/4BA home has a gourmet kitchen, high ceilings, a full basement and a 2-car garage with an apartment above. $799,500

eldon view, woodville

With its Blue Ridge panorama, Eldon View is private, convenient and spectacular. The property includes a 3BR, 2.5BA main house, a 2 BR, 1BA guesthouse, an extra-large garage and 16 +/- acres. $835,000

cheriwoodard.com (540) 987-8500

37 Main Street, Sperryville, VA 22740


COMING ON THE

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he Piedmont is vast, beautiful, extraordinary. With so much to explore, taste, see, and experience, 64 pages are hardly enough to capture all of the wonderful people and places that comprise this region. Luckily, connecting with you has never been easier. If you love the Piedmont, then you need to follow us online! Lightwire TheaterIX/ Art Moscow Charlottesville’s Park National Ballet’s Nutcracker Coming soon: comes to the Paramount • • • •

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Exclusive food and drink recipes such as our Red Wine Hot Chocolate and Palladio’s Orange Olive Oil Cake Our #PiedmontWeekendPicks newsletter to help you plan an awesome winter weekend! Additional content: behind-the-scenes, in-depth looks into feature pieces A look back on your favorite articles from our 10-year history!

Casual Cafe, Event Venue, Garden Shop & Trails

FARM TO TABLE MENU * ICE CREAM * SATURDAY TASTINGS Extensive Curated Virginia Beer, Cider & Wine List! THEMARKETATGRELEN.COM Somerset, Virginia 540-672-7268 w

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FEATURES NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 • VOLUME XI • ISSUE 6

12 Palladio The Poetry of Land, Food, and Wine at Barboursville Estate BY CHEF LAURIE BETH GILLS

16 Petit Verdot A minor blending grape from Bordeaux becomes major in Virginia’s terroir. BY FRANK MORGAN

20 Feminine Devine The Paintings of Judith Thompson BY ERIC WALLACE

24 The Victory Garden Hope and healing in the garden

COURTESY OF JEFFERSON VINEYARDS

BY CARLA HOGUE VERGOT

ON THE COVER: The Piedmont in Winter, Rappahannock County By Gary Anthes Right: The “Punch Down” of the Petit Verdot grapes at Jefferson Vineyards PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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A LOOK BACK

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PIEDMONT PEOPLE

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Musings from our Founder

A Sport and a Pastime:

Celebrating 30 Years

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The photography of Doug Lees

The Inn at Little Washington is the crème de la crème

Chocolate Chestnut Naked Cake

Boar’s Head Resort Peanut Soup

A holiday delight

A Virginia Favorite

Poetry

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Disney Revisited

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An ancient trade still thrives today

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Ayrshire Farm and the restoration of the local food chain

The Village Smithy Evolves to Fit the Times

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The Piedmont’s iconic mountain in art

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Fine Art & Fine Frames

FOUNDING EDITOR: Walter Nicklin

CO-FOUNDERS: Arthur W. (Nick) Arundel, Sandy Lerner

PUBLISHER Dennis Brack

圀栀攀爀攀 攀瘀攀爀礀 昀爀愀洀攀 椀猀  A Match made in....Heaven? No, made愀 眀漀爀欀 漀昀 愀爀琀⸀ right here in Berryville

EDITOR Pam Kamphuis DIGITAL MEDIA AND EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Morgan Hensley SENIOR EDITOR Gus Edwards PHOTO DIRECTOR Jacki Dyrholm SALES DIRECTOR Jim Kelly

䘀愀爀洀椀渀最琀漀渀 刀椀瘀攀爀 戀礀 倀攀琀攀 䈀攀爀最攀爀漀渀

INTERN Anne Marie McPherson

㄀ 䔀愀猀琀 䴀愀椀渀 匀琀爀攀攀琀 䈀攀爀爀礀瘀椀氀氀攀Ⰰ 嘀椀爀最椀渀椀愀 ㈀㈀㘀㄀㄀ ⠀㔀㐀 ⤀ 㤀㔀㔀ⴀ㌀㤀㌀㤀 椀渀昀漀䀀瀀栀洀椀氀氀攀爀⸀挀漀洀 眀眀眀⸀瀀栀洀椀氀氀攀爀猀琀甀搀椀漀⸀挀漀洀

ACCOUNTING MANAGER Carina Richard Wheat CIRCULATION MANAGER Jan Clatterbuck 540-675-3338

Gilding, Carving and Restoration Services offered

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Glenda Booth, Andrew Haley, Jordan Koepke, Doug Lees, Keith Miller, Eric Wallace, James Wilkinson BEAGLE MIX Angel The Piedmont Virginian is published bimonthly by Rappahannock Media, L.L.C. P.O. Box 87, Amissville, VA 20106 540.349.2951, info@piedmontvirginian.com Subscription inquiries: 540.675.3338

In the doghouse? We can mediate.

All editorial, advertising, reprint, and/or circulation correspondence should use the above address, or visit the website: www.piedmontvirginian.com The editors welcome but accept no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts and art. Reprints or bulk copies available upon request. Single-copy price, $5.95. One-year subscription rate, $24.95, Two-year rate, $45.95 © 2017 by Rappahannock Media, LLC. ISSN # 1937-5409 POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to The Piedmont Virginian, P.O. Box 87, Amissville, VA 20106.

Family Law • Custody/Divorce • Equine Law The Law Office of Catherine M. Bowers, PLC 49A East Lee Street, Warrenton, VA 20186 (540) 216-7160 f (540) 216-7981 www.CatherineMBowersLaw.com Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekend & Evening Hours Available

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16033 Ira Hoffman Lane Culpeper, VA 22701 540-825-8371 800-577-TREE (8733) www.KMLawnGardenArborist.com

Family friendly. We invite you to stop by our dealership today to see the SA and YT Series tractors from Yanmar. yanmartractor.com

RATE APPLICABLE TO NEW YANMAR COMPACT TRACTOR EQUIPMENT. RATE INFORMATION DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN OFFER OR EXTENSION OF CREDIT. ALL TRANSACTIONS ARE SUBJECT TO CREDIT APPROVAL AND SUCH OTHER TERMS AND CONDITIONS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE. MONTHLY PAYMENT PLAN BASED ON RATE OF 0%. ACTUAL RETAIL PRICES ARE SET BY DEALER AND MAY VARY. TAXES, FREIGHT, SETUP, AND HOLDING CHANGES MAY BE ADDITIONAL AND MAY VARY. MODELS SUBJECT TO LIMITED AVAILABILITY. OFFER IS NOT AVAILABLE WITH ANY OFFER. ***See your local dealer for limited warranty details and information. Certain restrictions apply. Engine Manufacturer specifications and programs are subject to change without notice. Images may not reflect dealer inventory and/or unit specifications.

FABRICS UNLIMITED

OUR CONTRIBUTORS Chef Laurie Beth Gills is the owner and Executive Chef of LB’s Classic & Contemporary Cooking, a culinary instruction, catering and garden consulting service. She is the founder of Fredericksburg’s first fine dining group and is also a certified master gardner. www. ChefLB.com Jim Hanna After retiring from a long career with the World Bank, Jim established Jim Hanna Photography, L.L.C. in 2006. JHP is dedicated principally to the appreciation of the ecology, heritage and sustainable economic development in and around Loudoun County, Virginia. It specializes in landscape, aerial, panoramic and environmental portrait photography of such subjects. Its products support market communication in these areas by commercial and non-profit organizations, private collectors and other entities. He lives and works in western Loudoun County.

Your Locally Owned Decorating Source

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3912 Seminole Trail, Charlottesville 22911 434-973-5641 ~ Monday-Saturday 9:30-5:30 www.fabricsunlimitedva.com 6  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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Frank Morgan A Virginia native, Frank Morgan works in the Legal and Data Privacy group of a global company by day. He is the author of the DrinkWhatYouLike.com wine blog, started nine years ago to chronicle his wine travel experiences and to share stories of the wines, wineries, and winegrowers of Virginia. His site was recently named one of the top wine news blogs by Millesima. Morgan is also a contributor to the wine site Snooth, Wine Industry Network, and Savor Virginia Magazine among others. As work and family commitments permit, Morgan is working on the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) wine diploma. He lives with his family in Chesapeake.

Carla Hogue Vergot recently finished writing her first book, a mystery wrapped in a romance set in Marshall, VA. She is currently working on the second in the series. For fun, she and Ricky work in the garden, play fetch with the dogs, and take Jeeps off road. Ricky is quick to point out that Carla’s planting skills far exceed her wheeling skills. To date, no one disagrees with that. Tony Vanderwarker went to Andover and Yale, served in the Peace Corps, Marine Corps and Army. A recovering adman, he is the author of four books, including his latest I’m Not From the South But I Got Down Here As Fast As I Could. He lives in Keswick with his wife, four dogs, two horses and a Sicilian donkey named Jethro. tonyvanderwarker.com Eric J. Wallace’s writing has appeared in Canoe & Kayak, Adventure Kayak, Modern Farmer, All About Beer, Twisted South, Scalawag, and other national magazines. At present, he writes a travel/ outdoors column for The Daily Progress. www.ericjwallace.com.


PUBLISHER’S NOTE

W

elcome to a special issue of The Piedmont Virginian. This magazine is, and has always been, a labor of love for its small staff and merry band of contributors. We are passionate about Virginia’s spectacular Piedmont and aim to reflect the region’s bounty on these pages. This issue marks the tenth anniversary of our singular mission: giving voice to the people, history, and natural beauty of this special—no, magical—place. Ten years is a significant milestone in the publishing world where most magazines shutter in their infancy. We have you, our loyal community of readers and advertisers, to thank for this. Over the past decade we’ve seized each and every opportunity to express our gratitude the only way we know how: through articles and photographs that seek to encapsulate the majesty that surrounds us. To celebrate this landmark we’re showcasing our favorite stories from the magazine’s history with a particular emphasis on those early, foundational years. We’ll revisit 13 artists’ visions of Old Rag. We’ll reinvestigate the grassroots movement that halted Disney’s ill-fated quest to develop a sprawling theme park on our treasured, historic grounds. We’ll re-read the humorous and poignant essays by Walter Nicklin, this magazine’s founder, and amuse ourselves

with his insights into the unique, illustrious character of the Piedmont. All this and more. It’s a cliché to say times change, but they do, perhaps more than ever before in the past decade as technology advanced at a blinding clip. For both better and worse, the media landscape has experienced a seismic shift since we published our first issue in 2007. Amid this turbulent landscape—much less serene than the Piedmont landscapes we all treasure—producing a small, quality, independently owned print magazine is challenging. Two years ago, we responded to this ever-changing market by publishing more issues with fewer pages. Now, as the magazine enters its second decade, we’ve decided upon a different model, one that we believe will reward our readers. Rather than publish six thin issues, we’ll publish two robust ones. This reconfiguration permits us to delve into the history, art, cuisine, music, businesses, and people that imbue the Piedmont with its amazing diversity and abundance. What has not changed, and never will, is our sincere appreciation that you’ve welcomed this magazine into your home.

Dennis Brack, Publisher

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HAPPENINGS

BY TOM DALY

FILM • ALBEMARLE 30th Annual Virginia Film Festival. November 9–12, Throughout Charlottesville. Virginia’s premier film festival celebrates its 30th year with a stellar lineup of more than 150 films and an outstanding array of special guests including Academy Award-winning filmmakers Spike Lee and Ezra Edelman, Emmy Award-winning actor William H. Macy, and noted author Margot Lee Shetterly. “Once again, our audiences will be able to choose from a program of extraordinary depth and breadth, including some of the hottest titles on the current festival circuit, fascinating documentaries that address and comment on the most important topics of our time, the latest work from some of the newest and most exciting voices on the filmmaking scene, and the best of filmmaking from around the world and right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” says University of

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Virginia’s Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa. An opening-night gala welcomes cinephiles with a toast, hors d’oeuvres, big band music, dancing, mingling, discussion, and a screening of Downsizing, a science fiction-flavored dramedy about a group of people exploring the possibility of dramatically reducing their carbon footprints by miniaturization à la Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. In light of the recent attack in Charlottesville, James Madison’s Montpelier presents films that bravely address race in America, fostering constructive discussion and empathy through a shared experience of cinematic art. The festival also features workshops, a tribute to our veterans, a series of health documentaries, a spotlight on Virginia filmmakers, and much more, all culminating with a Sunday night finale to commemorate 30 years of Virginia’s dedication to the power and artistry of the silver screen!


TOM MULLANY - HILLSDALE DRIVE-IN

DREW ERNST - GREEN ROBE ON TIRE MOUNTAIN

HAPPENINGS

ARTS • RAPPAHANNOCK Tom Mullany and Drew Ernst: Night Scenes and Bardo. Opens December 11 at Haley Fine Art in Sperryville. This joint exhibition features two powerhouse painters. Mullany’s varied work is realist, abstract, surreal, and everything in between. His works are featured in renowned galleries as well as public spaces; an accomplished muralist, his recent projects include commissions from The Winery at Bull Run and Culpeper’s Downtown. Ernst is a realist figurative painter. Of his work he says: "Every emotion goes into my paintings: love, hate, joy, sadness; it's all in there. An amazing thing happens when I love hard and paint hard. I become one with the work. My mind can make paint do things, anything; make it behave in ways it shouldn't. The act of painting becomes spiritual. Once this happens, anything is possible.” See the interplay of these two talented painters as their works intensify the presence of each others’ in an artistic symbiosis.

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HAPPENINGS

HOLIDAYS • LOUDOUN Christmas in Middleburg. December 1–3. We all know the iconic photograph: foxhunters in their gleaming reds, flurries of snow, the hounds trotting through the idyllic streets, the foggy breaths of an elated audience. The Hunt Review is back again this year, as are the hayrides, parade floats, crafts fair, and a tea party and a matinee of The Nutcracker performed by Loudoun Ballet Company. The morning starts with a breakfast with Santa Claus himself and ends with Spirits of Middleburg, a pairing of the historic town’s ciders, spirits, and wines with the delicious cuisine of its many excellent restaurants. So come early, wander through boutiques like Lou Lou’s and Tully Rector, grab a cup of cocoa from Cuppa Giddy Up (or perhaps a hard cider from Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery), a coffee from Middleburg mainstays Common Grounds and Market Salamander, and partake in the festivities that surround The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Weddings & Events EVENTSATGRELEN.COM Amanda@themarketatgrelen.com Somerset, Virginia

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COURTESY OF CAMI (LEFT) AND MIDDLEBURG ECCENTRIC (RIGHT)

THEATER • PRINCE WILLIAM Martial Artists and Acrobats of Tianjin. November 12, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Manassas. Two of China’s finest troupes show off their superior skills in acrobatics, circus acts, illusions, and martial arts. Accompanied by traditional Chinese music, more than onehundred performers take the stage in a spectacle of acrobatic stunts, feats of balance, juggling acts, and contortion tricks that are guaranteed to dazzle and delight audiences. The Martial Artists and Acrobats of Tianjin are a favorite of audiences throughout the world, have won numerous awards including the Silver Clown Award, and several of their acts also perform with some of the most renowned circuses in the western world. This event is perfect for the whole family!.


COURTESY OF PETE DUVALL

HAPPENINGS ARTS • PRINCE WILLIAM Zofie Lang and Mojdeh Rezaeipour: Ephemeral Treasures. December 5–January 20; Opening Reception December 6, Hylton Center, Manassas. Ephemeral Treasures features work exploring the magical and evanescent nature of dreams, visions, fairy tales, desires, hopes, and elusive longing through the collage and assemblage works of Zofie Lang and Mojdeh Rezaeipour. Through delicate collages featuring encaustic details incorporating foraged materials, Mojdeh Rezaeipour’s work evokes tender and forceful imagery asking the viewer to reflect upon the mesmerizing everyday encounters that connect our inner and outer worlds. Zofie Lang’s elaborate and intricate assemblages delve deeply into our subconscious to reveal themselves as magical vessels of transformative imagination prompting the viewer to contemplate the tender and forceful imagery and become lost in a world of dreamlike wonderment and curiosity. Often working with wood and photography, both artists create new realms filled with story and introspection through a fierce accumulative culmination of purposefully found and mindfully reconstructed elements.

Historic

MUSIC • ALBEMARLE Hackensaw Boys’ Black Friday Spectacular. November 25, Jefferson Theater, Charlottesville. Want a better way to spend Black Friday than trampling your extended family members in an overcrowded mall full of thrifty shoppers trying to stay awake despite a near-overdose on turkey and tryptophan during a particularly voracious Thanksgiving dinner? Yeah, so do we. That’s why you’ll find us burning calories in a good ol’ fashioned hoedown with Hackensaw Boys! For touring musicians, the road is a harsh mistress. It takes an iron will to survive and a hard-headed love for music so deeply ingrained that the mere thought of a missed gig makes you nauseous. For 17 years, the Hackensaw Boys have plowed the asphalt, bringing their raw, gritty version of American roots music to the venues and streets that originally inspired them. What’s kept the Virginia natives together is a burning hot vision of American roots music brought kicking and screaming into a new age, fueled as much by a rowdy punk spirit as by the traditional masters that first inspired them. With their first album in nearly a decade now released (2016’s Charismo), the group is eager to get their loyal fans back on the dancefloor where they belong!

Middleburg

Virginia

New restaurants have opened in middleburg—please come visit and enjoy! Ongoing activities at National Sporting Library and Museum:

Nov. 2-4

69th Annual Christmas Shop

Gallery Talks (Wednesdays)

Nov. 4

Middleburg Music Fest at Salamander Resort & Spa

Sunday Sketch (last Sun. of the month)

Nov. 25

Small Business Saturday

The Horse in Ancient Greek Art

Dec. 1

Town Tree Lighting

Dec. 2

Christmas in Middleburg

Dec. 3

Foxcroft School Pageant

The Hunt in Belvoir Vale by John Ferneley Sr. Photo courtesy of National Sporting Library & Museum

Discover our Traditions while creating your own... Shopping, Dining, Arts, Horses, and History

540 . 687 . 8888

www.visitmiddleburgva.com PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

MBPA

The Middleburg Business & Professional Association in support of the local business & retail community.

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FOOD & WINE

Palladio

The poetry of land, food, and wine at Barboursville Estate STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAURIE BETH GILLS

I

believe that the taste of wine is most appealing and appreciated when the intimate relationship between the land, food, and wine is understood and revered. Situated on rolling hills with picturesque views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, Barboursville Estate, founded by the Italian Zonin family, embraces this relationship. Currently the home of wellknown Barboursville Vineyards, the estate also includes the impressive Palladio restaurant, replete with its own culinary gardens. The restaurant is simply lovely. To eat at Palladio is to taste a bit of Italy and a bit of Virginia. There couldn’t be a more perfect pairing than the experience of Italian cuisine blending with the Virginia Piedmont—it’s a marriage made in heaven. And the food, which commands serious attention, reflects this ideal.

THE LAND

Upon arrival to the estate, my traveling partner and I were handsomely welcomed and then quickly swept away to a private garden and on a grounds tour lead by Rob-

ert Sacilotto, head gardener and distinguished horticulturist. He concentrates on edible plants that can be perfected in his garden—plants that are given as much care and attention as the vineyard’s grapes— and accentuate Palladio’s menu, to then be complemented by their world-class wines. Robert was excited to share his ideas, thoughts, and work with us. He talked about his zeal for passion flowers, specifically the fruity maypop passion flower, and how he’s working to improve their size and quality. He also showed enthusiasm for the Native American potato (Apios americana), a perennial groundnut vine that bears tiny beans and tubers which have a flavor similar to cowpeas. Since our next stop was the dining room at Palladio, I found myself eager to see what prized plants of Robert’s would garnish our plates. As both a chef and gardener, I reveled in this opportunity to listen and talk of gardening and food. It melded into a symphony of conversation and helped draw my imagination into the plant world. As we moved around and through the gardens, I

could sense the differing aromas of the soil and recognized that Robert’s farming practices are based on sustaining the terrain. I could also pick up on the fact that he is an experienced and talented cook. THE WINE

After our garden tour and back at the winery, Luca Paschina introduced himself. Since 1990, Luca has maintained the title of winemaker and general manager. He is recognized worldwide in the wine industry as a first-class wine master. A recipient of outstanding awards and recognitions, he played an enormous part in positioning Virginia on the fine-wine map, sculpting an impeccable wine culture. With his impressive list of accolades, he wears humility well. A natural leader who seems to genuinely deflect attention, he doesn’t boast about his global recognitions. I sensed he views happiness as a journey, and that he is quite conscientious—all remarkable characteristics to own. And just as the gardener and the chef have perfected bringing together delicious and thoughtful food, so has Luca perfected the wine. He can be credited, literally, with transforming this historic estate into Virginia’s most honored and recognized winery. Barboursville occupies 900 stately acres with roughly 186 acres in vine, produces approximately 38,000 cases per vintage per year, and continues to grow while maintaining its status as a world-class producer of fine wines. When tasting all the wines Barboursville has to offer, you will discover the distinctively vibrant flavors that echo the winery’s nature-filled surroundings, a beautiful expression of their original grapes remaining

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FOOD & WINE

true to their characteristics. In 1998, he was inspired to unite Barboursville wines with Virginia’s finest food, and so was born.   THE FOOD

It was time for us to eat, so Luca joined us for a leisurely lunch—a three-hour lunch, to be exact. It seems there’s always so much to talk about when the subject matter revolves around food and wine. We engaged in conversations concerning acidic soil, mushrooms, native pollinators, harvesting wine, Thomas Jefferson and Governor James Barbour’s associations, milkweed, blue corn, and fresh homemade pasta, just to name a few. All the while, we fine-dined. As each plate arrived I made sure to focus on the subtle components that embrace the essence of a dish: the seasonality, regionality, aroma, flavor, and taste as well as the heart, mind, and spirit. We selected from the well-composed, seasonal lunch menu. It was clear that the

Top: Poached wild king salmon with whipped Yukon gold potatoes, estate-grown beans, and black olive pesto Center: Robert’s Supernova Jerusalem artichoke

menu design was based on the land; many of Robert’s carefully cultivated edibles were present: the estate’s piquant variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flora. It’s obvious that the wines are an important component to the menu, and Palladio curates the entire dining experience meticulously to create a polished pleasure for all the senses.

The bread arrived and warmly welcomed us with a tasting of three soft house-made loaves adorned with the creamiest, most heavenly butter (though, honestly, the bread alone was so divine it could stand on its own). For the first course, we all agreed on the vegetable salad as we were excited to taste Robert’s prized and unique plants on the menu. The dish tendered Venice yellow pole beans, which had been briefly blanched to retain their expectedly good, crisp crunch and then cut on the diagonal. The herb vinaigrette included house-grown tarragon and basil, and was balanced and delightfully tame on the tongue.   Another must-mention is the housemade smoked prosciutto. No exaggeration here when I say that it is so tender that it almost completely melted in my mouth! The kitchen also produces several other sausages and patés. The crowning dish that came out of the kitchen, in my opinion, was my choice for the second course: homemade fettuc-

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FOOD & WINE

A kind kitchen embrace with Executive Chef Spencer Crawford

BELOW: OUR MEAL

Top Left: First course: Vegetable salad with blanched Venice yellow pole beans and house-grown tarragon and basil vinaigrette. Top right: Second course: homemade fettuccine layered with zephyr summer squash and roasted Fairy Tale eggplants. Bottom left: Second course: roasted Fairy Tale eggplants, tomatoes, red peppers, and onions baked with homemade corn polenta. Bottom right: Dessert: lemon and traditional cocoa tiramisu.

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cine, lusciously layered with warm zephyr summer squash and roasted Fairy Tale eggplants, then garnished with a noticeable early-morning harvest from the chef ’s herb garden. All together, the dish was imaginatively conceived and impressively executed. My friend immensely enjoyed her second course, a vegetarian dish featuring more of those delightful Fairy Tale eggplants with tomatoes, red peppers, and onions, all roasted and baked together with homemade corn polenta. Delicious and cleverly plated, you couldn’t ignore this dish even if you tried. And to think my friend shared merely one bite with me. Just as tasty was the dessert. We surrendered to locally farmed fresh peaches that were sautéed in vanilla and brown butter and accompanied by other seasonal fruits. A duet of tiramisus—lemon and the irresistible classic cocoa—also charmed our palates. All was complemented by the brightly refreshing Barboursville Phileo wine, and then finished with Italian espresso. It was such an elegant finish to the entire Italian- and Piedmont-infused experience. THE CHEF

After we dined, it was thrilling to visit the kitchen and to meet Executive Chef Spencer Crawford. He updates his menu often, always highlighting produce from Robert’s culinary gardens and always prepared with wine in mind. We food-chatted

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a little about his love and admiration for Italian cuisine, his mother and grandmother’s home cooking. He fondly recalled how dinner was prepared and served almost every night at home, and only on special occasions did they dine out. He affectionately shared, “That concept is kind of lost now. People eat out all the time, and now eating at home is the special occasion.” It was incredibly refreshing to see first-hand how he recognizes and appreciates the importance of food, family, and community, and how he demonstrates this in the food he crafts. There are many emotional connections to draw from when creating dishes from the bounty of a particular region. The culinary harmony enjoyed between Robert, Luca, and Spencer is indisputable as each brings a personal and unique interpretation to not only the menu, but to the entire estate. IN CLOSING

On a recent trip to this viticultural masterpiece, I became more aware of the vitality of the land, and how it intrinsically connects us to ourselves, our history, our soil, and our culture—to our past and to the present. More so, fundamental provisions such as food and wine have profound energetic effects on the body, mind, and spirit. I discovered an evolution of art that remains present at Barboursville. Barboursville Vineyards is preserved in such a humbling manner so as to offer a modern experience while staying true to its notable historical character. This is an accomplishment that only few can manifest. The entire estate offers a peaceful oasis, a place where one instantly becomes unhurried, and yet one’s mind is at full attendance.    Thomas Jefferson’s belief and dream of our area one day becoming a premier wine destination has come true in the robust terroir of Virginia’s Piedmont, most notably at Barboursville. The conversation, the casual familiarity with someone you’ve never met before, and excellent food and wine were the hallmarks of dining with Jefferson. In a surreal way, we found ourselves wondering if we possibly had indeed dined with the Founding Father. In land, food, and wine, there is truth. With this visit I leave in great admiration.


FOOD & WINE

About Barboursville Ruins: The mansion was originally built for the Commonwealth’s 18th governor, James Barbour, whose architect was none other than Thomas Jefferson. The Founding Father, whose obsession with wine has created the foundation

upon which so many Virginia wineries now stand, was renowned for his belief in Virginia’s wine-growing potential, praising the area as having “every soil, aspect, and climate of the best wine countries.” The magnificent mansion Jefferson designed was destroyed in

OCTAGON Octagon, Barboursville’s flagship wine, is the most celebrated red wine of Virginia. Taste it and you’ll never doubt its pedigree. If you’ve never experienced a vertical wine tasting before, this is the time, the place, and the wine to step up and sample. It’s a tasting of the same wine but from different vintages, considered a rare opportunity to delve into valuable, older wines. The vertical wine tasting is held in the vineyard’s exquisitely stylish tasting room, Library 1821, where you’ll discover all of the wines are creative, interesting, and exciting. It’s a fantastic way to experience Octagon’s uniqueness and evolution from each harvest. It can also enhance your understanding of the many factors that play subtle roles in shaping the components of a single wine. Check Barboursville’s calendar for upcoming events and tastings.

an 1884 fire (its ruins are a regional landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are still visible on the estate today), but Jefferson’s passion for viticulture and agriculture live on in Barboursville’s commitment to the local and historical spirit.

ON THE

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FEATURED RECIPE: PALLADIO ORANGE OLIVE OIL CAKE

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WINE

Petit Verdot Comes of Age in the Piedmont A minor blending grape from Bordeaux becomes major in Virginia’s terroir. BY FRANK MORGAN

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BEFORE

AFTER

“GREEN HARVESTING” The reduction of clusters per vine during the growing season is critical to ensuring petit verdot clusters ripen evenly. Before and after pictures of the same vine this August at Barboursville Vineyards portray the perfecting of the wine at this critical stage.

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beginning. In a 1998 edition of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Viticulture Notes, Dr. Wolf wrote that he was “consistently impressed with the relative cold hardiness of petit verdot.” Cold hardiness coupled with more consistent ripening two of the characteristics that prompted many winegrowers to devote vineyard space and resources to petit verdot. Wine pioneers Dennis Horton and Jim Law were among the first winegrowers to plant the varietal in Virginia. Law first planted the promising grape in his Hardscrabble Vineyard at Linden in 1991. Like many winegrowers, he initially used it in red blends but soon recognized its potential as a stand-alone variety and bottled his first petit verdot wine in 2002. Horton, founder of Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, just north of Charlottesville, experimented with the bold, smallberried grape the same year. “There was a single, longish row at his Berry Hill Vineyard planted in 1991,” recalls Mike Heny, winemaker at Horton Vineyards. “We had so many other promising varieties like touriga nacional, norton, cabernet franc, and tannat, we bulked out our petit verdot. Horton mostly watched from the sidelines,” says Heny. “In 2014, I worked with some petit verdot from the Silver Creek Vineyard and finally got what the buzz was all about. Wonderful texture and length, haunting aromas, engaging color. Since that time we have planted it at the Berry Hill vineyard and it looks promising.” Luca Paschina, who has been the winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards since arriving in Virginia from his native Alba,

COURTESY LUCA PASCHINA, BARBOURSVILLE (2)

nky dark in color, aromas and flavors of violets, black cherry, and plum with hints of earth on the edges. Grippy tannins. Full-bodied. These are the signature characteristics of wine made from petit verdot grapes grown in the soils of Virginia’s Piedmont. Named for the small size of its berries (translates to “little green one”), petit verdot may be best known as a minor blending grape in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. As much as any grape variety cultivated for wine in the Commonwealth, this one has proven to be one of the most consistent in the vineyard and winery, earning it a home in the Piedmont as a serious standalone variety. With 205 acres planted (and 50 nonbearing acres) in vineyards across Virginia, petit verdot is the sixth most planted wine grape variety behind chardonnay, cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and viognier. This is a significant increase from the 80 petit verdot bearing acres that had been planted as of year-end 2007 (the first year plantings were tracked separately), a testament to the growing importance and popularity of wines made from the grape. Dr. Tony Wolf, a professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech, was among the first to cultivate petit verdot in Virginia. Wolf and and his team planted the grape in vineyards at the Winchester Agricultural Research and Extension Center in 1991 and then at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackstone in 2005 to evaluate its potential. The grape showed promise from the


COURTESY OF JEFFERSON VINEYARDS

Italy, in 1990, makes one of the state’s most elegant and balanced petit verdot wines. “Seventeen vintages of growing petit verdot in three parcels with different slope and exposures has allowed us to accumulate a good understanding of this sometimes misunderstood and abused variety,” says Paschina. “While some growers, seeking elegance, limit the yield and carefully select each cluster’s ripening stage, others allow for fairly high production of uneven ripening clusters, capable indeed of muscular dark wines but coarse and lacking elegance. One thing necessary for petit verdot to reveal its elegance is time, and from us, patience,” explains Paschina. Jake Busching, who has been a winegrower and vineyard consultant for 20 vintages in Virginia says, “Petit verdot is a survivor and shows off our terroir well. It performs like we need it to: later bud break, great cold hardiness, vigorous to get through to maturity, and a good crop load.” In the rolling hills of Madison County, Scott Elliff has found success with the wine from this grape at his small artisanal winery, DuCard Vineyards. Elliff’s complex petit verdot, with loads of dark fruits and ample tannins, has been featured in several state and national forums as an example of what Virginia is capable of producing. “We planted one acre of petit verdot in our estate vineyard in 2001 and it consistently provides a small quantity of distinctive, super-expressive fruit,” says Elliff. “Initially, we used it to add aromatics and structure to our red blends but started bottling a varietal petit verdot a few years ago given its intensity and great violet, sage,

“THE PUNCH DOWN”: “When our red grapes are harvested, we destem them. What’s left are partially broken grapes that we put in a T-Bin (shown here). These grapes and grape bits are fermented in the T-Bin. The fermentation process brings these solids (grape skins, seeds, pulp) to the surface. This mass is called the ‘cap.’ We want to make sure we are consistently integrating this cap back into the wine. By doing this repeatedly we extract more color and flavor. The more often we do these punch downs the more likely we are to extract more dark color and tannic structure, especially with petit verdot which has an abundance of tannins and beautiful rich dark color. Punch downs take extraordinary effort. There are machines that can do this, but we do it all by hand—it’s a workout!” — Attila Woodward, Jefferson Vineyards PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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WINE and plum characteristics. Today we bottle about 100 cases of it each vintage, which typically sells out in a few months.” Results of the 2017 Virginia Governor’s Cup, the most prestigious wine competition in the Commonwealth, may be an indicator of how petit verdot quality has improved in recent years and how it compares to other fine wines when tasted in a blind comparative setting. Of the 494 Virginia wines entered in the 2017 competition, just 23 earned gold medals, five of which were petit verdot wines from

spots in the Governor’s Case. With seven-and-a-half acres of petit verdot planted, Veritas has one of the largest plantings in the state. “This 2014 vintage was one of the coolest I have had since 2009,” says Veritas winemaker Emily Pelton. “Cooler years are always my favorites, the basic acid structure is what allows petit verdot to age gorgeously.” Charlottesville-based Jefferson Vineyards also earned a gold medal and spot in the 2017 Governor’s Case for their bold yet balanced, vanilla, earth, and dark berry-flavored 2014 petit verdot. The Woodward family, founders of Jefferson Vineyards, were among the earliest winegrowers to devote significant vineyard space to cultivating it. “Small yet powerful, the tannins in the grape add a lot of structure and body. This serves as a great blending tool and is equally magnificent as a varietal on its own,” says Atilla Woodward, third-generation owner of Jefferson Vineyards. Today, Woodward, along with winemaker Chris Ritzcovan, and their team, farm three-and-a-half acres of petit verdot that were planted in 1998, 2003, and 2010 in the estate vineyards at Jefferson Vineyards. Of the 65 grapes cultivated for wine in Virginia, petit verdot is one of the most consistent in the vineyards and continues to show promise as a stand-alone variety. Virginia is one of the few regions where the varietal is widely available, presenting an opportunity for unique differentiation in the overcrowded fine-wine marketplace.

Of the 65 grapes cultivated for wine in Virginia, petit verdot is one of the most consistent in the vineyards and continues to show promise as a stand-alone variety. the 2014 vintage. All five—from Ingleside Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, King Family Vineyards, Valley Roads Vineyards, and Veritas Vineyards & Winery—were among the 12 highest-scoring wines earning a spot in the coveted Governor’s Case. The aromatic and complex 2014 Paul Shaffer 6th Edition Petit Verdot from Veritas Vineyards & Winery, based in the town of Afton, about 25 miles west of Charlottesville, scored one of the 12

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ART

Feminine Divine Inspired by women, the paintings of Judith Thompson transport viewers to timeless realms of playfulness and childhood joy. BY ERIC WALLACE

S

tepping into Purcellville-based painter Judith Thompson’s Ship Hill Studio, one is struck by an array of fantastic color and imagery. Big, wall-gobbling, five-, six-, and even eight-foot cavasses confront the viewer with fantastic worlds and sleek elongated characters that seem to have been plucked from a dream authored by a team of Mexican muralists, surrealists, Fauvists, and Dr. Seuss. However, phantasmagoric as they may be, the scenes appear more whimsical than malicious, evoking rather a sense of playfulness or adolescent mischief than anything nightmarish or ominous. “It’s not that I have a prejudice against work that expresses darker emotions,” says Thompson. “But each of these pieces takes a very long time to produce, and I find it hard if not impossible to work if I’m not enjoying myself. If it’s not fun and I’m not laughing and having a good time making it, chances are I’m going to trash the thing and go in another direction.” The results of Thompson’s approach are various, but tend to range between two poles. On the one hand, she presents what might best be described as a pastoralizing of childhood reverie. On the other, a feminine maturity that is, paradoxically, both soothing and unsettling. Strikingly, nearly all of the paintings feature women as their central characters, with many being either flanked or accompanied by an animal. The faces of the women— and, for that matter, the animals—are calm to the point of appearing opiated, ethereal, otherworldly. Suspended in a timeless dreamscape, while occupying fleshly forms, their perfect posture and serene expressions channel the divine. While the attention of younger figures tends to fix on other objects and tasks (see Hoopla, for instance), in works like A.W.E., the older woman’s eyes seek the viewer, not so much questioning as simply peering into him or her. Encountering the respite of a realm free of fourth-dimensional constraints, the effect is mesmeric. As if we are but passerby before a window, the women humor our momentary presence. The slight, upward turn of their mouth alluding to a world that we long to enter but cannot.

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ART

A.W.E., oil, 48” x 60”

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ART

Hoopla, oil, 48” x 48”

“I am inspired by women and, generally speaking, femininity,” says Thompson. “When I work on these paintings, I feel this deep serenity. I’m drawn to woman’s role as protector and nurturer, and, when I add the animals, it’s almost always a means of emphasizing that aspect. So while, yes, they are my creations, for me, being in the presence of these women is very soothing, very safe-feeling. I get very quiet and open myself, and I experience this sense of incredible freedom. And that’s what I try to put into the paintings.” According to Thompson, who does not paint men, her interest in female subjects stemmed from her Connecticut childhood, specifically her experiences with her mother and grandmother. “My penchant for the arts became apparent about the time I turned six and [it] quickly took the form of an almost obsessive precocity,” she says with a chuckle. 22  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

“Like most kids, I started off drawing, only, once I got started, I couldn’t stop. It’s all I thought about. All I did. I’d go outside to play, but would come back itching to draw what I’d seen or found. I’d wake up in the morning and the first thing I’d do was draw my dreams. I literally filled hundreds of sketchbooks. My life centered around it.” Meanwhile, Thompson’s reproductions were uncannily good. Her sketches of her mother, father, and five siblings looked more like real people than stick figures. She sought to render birds with feathers and shading as opposed to inverted, oblong horseshoes. Astonished by the child’s ability, her grandmother and mother supported her wholeheartedly. “Their biggest contribution was a surety that I always had an appreciative audience,” she says. “But they also encouraged me by buying supplies and making sure I

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had access to all kinds of materials. From very early on, every birthday and Christmas gift was an art item!” Throughout high school and into college (where Thompson earned a BFA from Syracuse and an MFA from Temple University, both in sculpting), despite being singled out and mentored by a handful of teachers, the two women remained Thompson’s foremost pillars of support. Then, something happened. Within a short span of time, she lost them both. “When my mother and grandmother passed I felt very, very alone, like the tie with everything I’d known and been was suddenly and permanently severed,” Thompson confides. “But I knew that I had to keep moving forward, that more than anything they’d wanted me to pursue my passion and become a professional artist. So that’s what I did.” Only, although their lives had been extinguished, the women insisted on coming back—albeit in a different form. Without planning or premeditation, images of her grandmother and mother’s faces kept surfacing in Thompson’s work. Not one to shy from inspiration, she decided to delve deeper. “I felt very ill at ease at the time and found that, when I painted my mother and grandmother, it opened a door to a kind of safety,” she says. “I realized I’d spent a lot of time as a child making art in their presence, and I always felt so happy and safe and protected in that space. When I began to put them in the pieces, that feeling returned.” Without intending to do so, Thompson had stumbled onto a way to honor her mother and grandmother’s contributions to her life and access the sanctity they’d provided her throughout her childhood and adolescence. As she developed the style, the women in the paintings morphed and changed, but continued to serve as guardians. “I paint them idealistically as safe, steady and ever-present,” she explains. “Their presence nurtures me and helps me embrace challenges and successes without fear, and pushes me to continue moving ahead with my art.”


ART

Roar, oil, 36” x 36”

Between Ship Hill’s larger pieces hang smaller studies of objects, animals, and landscapes that, despite appearing to be mosaics, are actually paintings. “This newer work features an experimental mix of enamel and oil paints, and it’s something I’m rather enjoying,” says Thompson, pointing to a 36-by-36-inch piece titled Roar, a facial portrait of a quiet-eyed lion rendered almost entirely of small vertical rectangles of alternating color. By stacking layer after layer of brushstrokes, Thompson’s rectangles take on a raised texture

and look like ceramic or glass tiles. As the latest of a long line of innovations, the new technique is welcome. After seriously studying ceramics in high school and sculpture in college, Thompson worked for years in a bronze foundry, then as a clothing designer, making clothes out of building materials. Always looking for the next thing, she transitioned to painting about 20 years ago. Constantly experimenting, she follows her good-timing muse wherever it may take her. “I’m in the studio five to seven days a

week, eight hours a day, and this is how I make my living,” she says. “However, while I support myself by selling art, I find it extremely important that the work never fails to be surprising or enjoyable. I want to feel validated by my efforts but, even in the most challenging of circumstances, I want to be having fun as I’m creating. If I’m not enjoying myself, I cut my losses and start looking for a more pleasurable route.” More from Judith Thompson: ➤ www.judiththompsonart.com

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GARDEN

The Victory Garden Garlic is funny, because it sprouts at a time when the rest of the garden is fading. BY CARLA VERGOT

I

When the love of your life decides one of the last things he wants to do on this earth is to plant garlic, what can you do but plant 100 cloves?

Whenever I can’t find him, he’s probably in the garden, doing God knows what. During that dark time, it was a natural place for us both to be. By mid-summer, the 2016 garden was a jungle of overgrown beds and weeds up to our knees. Even though we weren’t taking care of it, we accepted that it was taking care of us. We ate beans and tomatoes and goofy, twisted sculptures of trombone zucchini. Since we both kept picturing a time when one of us wouldn’t be there, we tried to make as many memories in the garden as we could. When we got married in July, we took that cheesy picture of our left hands that everyone takes. Not only did we take the picture in the garden, but we embraced our inner hillbilly and used the tomato plants on the cow fence for the backdrop. As we dealt with end-of-life issues and had those hard conversations, I asked him if there was anything he really wanted to do. He thought about it for days before answering, and his response was so pure: he wanted to plant the garlic. Ricky has always had a chronic problem with over-planting which may or may not stem from his chronic problem of overpurchasing seeds. Needless to say, I was not surprised when he ordered a quantity of garlic sufficient to supply a chain of Italian restaurants. It had been delivered during the madness, and now he wanted to plant it. Such a simple and sweet request from my farmer, I couldn’t say no, but the

PHOTO BY B CASKIE PHOTOGRAPHY (TOP)

t’s been well over a year since I shared a story about the garden. So much has transpired. I took a sabbatical from teaching special education. Ricky and I got married. I wrote a book and painted the kitchen. Upon completing the sabbatical, I permanently resigned from teaching. The biggest news, though, is that Ricky didn’t die. This is a story of how what was supposed to be our last garden turned into our next garden … our victory garden. It was May of 2016 when the first symptom appeared. A ghost itch that couldn’t be traced to one of the usual suspects like a rash, dry skin, or bug bites. Before long, jaundice accompanied the itch, and Ricky turned as yellow as a crook neck summer squash. The prognosis wasn’t good. We heard the word “cholangiocarcinoma.” A Google marathon uncovered one thing: it would likely kill him before we learned how to spell it. We weren’t prepared to fight this opponent. Up to that point, our adversaries had been hornworms, squash beetles, and stink bugs. In our organic approach to gardening, we relied heavily on the pluck-and-smash method to deal with an enemy. However, squeezing the guts out of the bad guy wasn't a viable option in this case. It’s fair to say we didn't know what to do besides cry and pray. We did both in the garden. While he was too sick and I was too sad to tend to the vegetables, we still found peace there. It has been his haven ever since we put it in six or seven years ago.


thought of harvesting it without him the next spring broke my heart. Regardless, we launched Operation Too Much Garlic in early September, planting a hundred cloves. Garlic is funny because it sprouts at a time when the rest of the garden is fading. Surrounded by the crumpled cucumber vines and the yellowish-brown tomato plants, the tender bright green shoots seem to mock the garden’s natural life cycle. Right around the time the garlic shoots appeared, things with his diagnosis became inexplicable. After a whole lot of endoscopies and biopsies and core samples, a tiny blob of cells told a different story. The untreatable, incurable cholangiocarcinoma everyone expected was in fact a treatable and curable lymphoma. Just like the garlic popping up amidst the death and decay, there was suddenly hope. Medically speaking, no one can say for sure how this happened. Spiritually speaking, we can say for sure it was the power of prayer. We didn’t pray for a cure, we prayed for a chance to fight the disease. Ricky got the chance and entered chemotherapy like a warrior. He is cancer free today.

A Google marathon uncovered one thing: it would likely kill him before we learned how to spell it. It’s fair to say we didn’t know what to do besides cry and pray. We did both in the garden. When I think back on the year and the fact that we weren’t supposed to have another garden together, my heart gets full and one phrase comes to mind every time. It’s a phrase I first heard from my granddad—”the victory garden.” I asked Pap once why he always called people’s gardens victory gardens. He explained that when he was a boy a victory garden was a way for citizens to support the country during the war by planting a few things in the yard to ease the strain on the food supply. Every garden was a victory garden when he was a kid, and he called it that for the rest of his life. Our victory garden took on a new layer of meaning in 2017 with Ricky’s victory over cancer. We started our plants last winter with the joy of two people who felt like they had actually discovered a cure for the disease. The garden, with all it’s sappy symbolism, became the metaphor of the cancer experience. Hope was like the garlic planted when everything around it was dying. The tomatoes this past year were sweeter, and the squirrels took fewer of them. The red Chinese noodle beans made us laugh. The smell of basil perfumed the whole side yard. We harvested buckets of poblano peppers. And there was a bumper crop of garlic. Sometimes working outside this past summer I would secretly stare at him while he fussed with a vine or weeded a bed, and my gratitude flowed through my tear ducts. The things that used to irritate me don’t anymore. Like when he picks tomatoes and leaves the little green starfish things on the top just because it looks prettier that way. Everything about the victory garden is prettier to me, even the weeds. The lesson, I think, is to celebrate the moment while you’re in the moment. Each one is a victory.

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Our Favorites SPECIAL 10TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE | 2007-2017

The magazine’s mission is to “celebrate and serve.” To the enterprise we will bring the intimate and heartfelt knowledge of a native son—together with the appreciative eyes of a newcomer who never takes things for granted. — Walter Nicklin, editor & publisher, 2007

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KEVIN ADAMS: HIS ULTIMATE PLEIN-AIR EXPERIENCE

HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS

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A LOOK BACK As an introduction to our “Best of the Piedmont Virginian” issue, we think it appropriate to share some writings of our founder, Walter Nicklin. Following is his first letter from the editor (“Letter from Culpeper Street”), and then some of his musings through his time as editor and publisher in the following pages. Initially, The Piedmont Virginian’s offices were on Culpeper Street, and then moved to Rappahannock County. Now we are back at Culpeper Street; seemingly the magazine has not “achieved escape velocity” either and has come home to Warrenton.

W

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hen I was a young and ever eager student, a thoughtful teacher encouraged me: “Buddy, you’ll go far one day.” I counted it off last week: I’ve gone exactly 179 paces. From 86 Culpeper Street, my maternal grandmother’s home, to 39 Culpeper, the offices of The Piedmont Virginian. The street is so-named because it was the old road to Culpeper. All the street names here in Warrenton, built on a crossroads, are of similar origin: Alexandria Pike, Falmouth Street, Winchester Street, Waterloo Street. Leading out of town, away from here ... to seek one’s fortune. That’s what most of my childhood cohorts did, and so did I—with a career in journalism, publishing, and international LETTER FROM relations. But I kept returning—never quite CULPEPER STREET able to sever completely my roots here By Walter Nicklin in the rolling, softly seductive landscape of Virginia’s northern Piedmont. To have done so would have been too painful. Or, in the words of a friend from nearby Washington, D.C., a Beltway-bandit engineer: “Walter, you’ve just never achieved escape velocity.” Yes, the gravitational pull here in the Piedmont is strong. And not simply for natives. People with the wherewithal to live anywhere in the world pick the Piedmont to call their new home. They come for the natural beauty. They come for the history, the sense of time and place. They come for the agrarian way of life. The magazine’s mission is to “celebrate and serve.” To the enterprise we will bring the intimate and heartfelt knowledge of a native son—together with the appreciative eyes of a newcomer who never takes things for granted.

Since 1967

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Walter Nicklin Editor & Publisher

Originally published AUTUMN 2007


OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Juniperus virginiana

LETTERS FROM AMISSVILLE

The Landscape in Winter

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n spring, summer, and fall, the rolling landscape that forms the Virginia Piedmont is provocatively and suggestively decked out in fancy foliage and fashionable colors, from the pastels of spring to the dark hues of autumn. But after the last leaves fall, the land is not simply disrobed, as in human nakedness. Rather, the land can be said to be like a nude, perhaps the oldest and most beautiful art form in the Western tradition. As Lord Kenneth Clark, the art historian, famously pointed out, to be naked is to be deprived of clothes, implying embarrassment and shame, while a nude is a work of art. More practically, wintertime is when you can see, really see, the lay of the land. It’s the one true time, most realtors will tell you, that you can actually see what you’re buying if what you’re buying is raw, undeveloped land. Rock ledges, ridges, and swales—at other times blurred and camouflaged—suddenly leap into view. And their lines are stark and clean, evoking a purity to the vision that is reminiscent of the nude Greek gods in ancient statutes. There is, too, of course, a whisper of death in the winter landscape, but that is not without its own transcendent beauty. Certain wild creatures that have not gone to ground or headed south can be heard or seen in the rustling, fallen leaves. And you don’t have to believe in Greek gods to know, as surely as the sun rises every morning, that in just a few short weeks spring will reawaken everything. The world will be reborn. In the meantime, you get to glimpse the afterlife in skeletal trees and decomposing stalks. Moreover, your aesthetic sense becomes more expansive when you realize that a plant’s structure, form, and texture are perhaps even more important than its color. The sculptural remains of dead and dormant plants in midwinter stand out in peaceful, subtle, and stately contrast to the mostly monochromatic background palette of browns and grays. In this context, the flamboyant display of color that comes with flowers in the spring can seem almost pornographic.

Originally published WINTER 2015

Evergreens, of course, inject some color into the winter landscape, but it is a green so dark and somber that it seems almost funeral-like black. The Virginia cedar stands out, not because of its often diminutive height and statue or even its pleasant aroma, but because it’s everywhere, like Christmas ornaments, decorating the landscape. Along fence lines, in any uncut field, at woodland’s edge, they’re ubiquitous. Formally called the Juniperus virginiana, it’s also known as the eastern red-cedar, red cedar, eastern juniper, red juniper, pencil cedar, or aromatic cedar. The Native American name means “redwood.” European settlers first took note of it on Roanoke Island, in 1564, and it became prized—because of its resistance to insects and weather—by colonists for building furniture, rail fences, and log cabins. But nowadays it’s often considered a weed tree because it is so hardy and prolific. In ecological succession, it is a “pioneer invader,” meaning it is one of the first trees to repopulate cleared, eroded, or otherwise damaged land. Because it is resistant to extremes of drought, heat, and cold and can grow well in all types of soil (rocky, sandy, clay), it is a Darwinian survivor, often living for hundreds of years. During the 1930s Dust Bowl, farmers were encouraged to plant eastern juniper to create wind breaks. Perhaps the only negative that can be said of the tree is that, as an alternate host for the fungal disease known as cedarapple rust, it should not be allowed to grow near apple orchards. Birds are especially fond of the small bluish berries produced by the cedar. These seeds pass through the birds’ guts in just a few minutes, and the seeds consumed by birds have levels of germination roughly three times higher than the uneaten seeds. As the birds digest their meal, they often sit on fences. No wonder so many brand new cedar trees can be spotted growing along just about any Piedmont fenceline. Yes, the winter landscape invites observation and contemplation. — Walter Nicklin

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

The Mountains Whose Name Is Gone

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simply as “Formative” or “Woodland” cultures. Evidence of Virginia’s only known “cliff kill” site—where the earliest Native Americans would drive game over the edge of a sheer drop— has been discovered in the Shenandoah National Park near the Rapidan River’s Blue Ridge headwaters. To recount all this, as I have just done, makes me sad. And to have done it so matter-of-factly, even sadder. So why did I feel compelled to do it at all, to set down in my own written language the little that I know of the Indians, my spatial ancestors, who once lived where I do now? Scholars, of course, know more than I; indeed, much of what I, a layman, think I know may well be wrong; so it is with some risk that I have even tried to put figurative pen to paper. That I know so little, maybe that’s what makes me sad. At night, sometimes, I go outside and stare at the stars. My eyes are pulled downward toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are darker even than the night. I find my mind wandering, wondering how an Indian, my predecessor, looked at these same mountains, what he saw, what he thought, what he felt, what they meant to him. And, most of all, I wonder what was the name he called them, these dark mountains to the west that swallow the sun, by what name was suggested their mysterious presence and power? To die, to have your children die, and their childless children die, your gods die, your genes extinguished, your race eradicated, never to be remembered, that is death enough. But to leave ignorance not only for your own name but also for the names that you gave to the places you loved — that must be oblivion. — Walter Nicklin

Originally published AUTUMN 20013

MONOTYPE PRINT OF OLD RAG MOUNTAIN BY TUCKER HILL

oday, as many as 8,000 years later, in freshly turned cornfields on the floodplains of the Rivanna, Rapidan, and Rappahannock you can still find what they made— so fine crafted, so indestructible, so timeless, as if actually made for you, for you to discover, and then for you to leave for others, yet unborn, to find anew. They seem almost alive—these quartzite and basalt spear-points of arrowheads— as though they were made to kill. By the time the first English explorers pushed up the Chesapeake estuaries, the natives who inhabited these banks were the Algonquin tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy, including the Pamunkey, the Mattaponi, the Chickahominy, the Nansemond, and the Rappahannock. These tribal designations all still live, attached now to Virginia tidal rivers of the same names. Upstream, above the fall line, were other Indians about whom less is known. By the time European settlers encountered and described them, disease and dislocation had altered their precontact ways. Nomadic, they tended to make their home along the rivers and streams while hunting buffalo and other game. These upland Indians of the Piedmont included the Tanxnitania and Whokentia tribes of the Manahoac (Algonquin for “They were very merry.”), who were often warred upon from the north by the Iroquois, whose trail crossed the Rappahannock at what was to become known as Norman’s Ford. Like the Manahoac, other Siouan-speaking groupings apparently inhabited the Virginia Piedmont, too: the Saponi, Tutelo, Occaneechi, and Monacan. But very little, not even the name, is known of those who came before, now called by students of America’s prehistory


Rivers Define Us

The Old Waterloo Bridge

COURTESY OF PRESERVATION VIRGINIA

T

he name “Piedmont” invokes images of the land, specifically the rolling hills forming the beautifully undulating landscape that literally means at the foot (“pied”) of the mountain (“mont”). But the Piedmont is actually defined by water. Geologically and geographically, the southeastern boundary of Virginia’s northern Piedmont lies precisely at the fall lines of the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James Rivers. Below the falls lies Tidewater Virginia. The Piedmont’s northwestern boundary runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains, from which the headwaters of the Rappahannock and its tributaries spring. (The Potomac and James actually cut through the mountains, so their headwaters are farther west.) Indeed, the Piedmont’s rich history was determined by its rivers. At the fall lines, where ocean-going ships could travel upstream no further, grew Virginia’s major commercial hubs— Alexandria, Fredericksburg, and Richmond. During the Civil War, the so-called “Rappahannock Line” separated Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the Union’s Army of the Potomac. The Battle of the Wilderness, for instance—whose 150th anniversary occurred just this May—took place on the terrain of the Rapidan-Rappahannock confluence. Farther upstream, Kelly’s Ford and other river crossings were the pivotal points for flanking maneuvers and resultant skirmishes, sometimes full-scale battles. One such site, Waterloo Landing, is witnessing a skirmish of sorts today. Its old truss bridge has been closed for safety reasons; should it be torn down or rehabilitated? The battle lines are drawn. Waterloo Landing was the upstream terminus of a nineteenthcentury canal paralleling the Rappahannock and linking Fredericksburg with the upstream Piedmonters. Beginning in

Originally published SUMMER 2014

1853, a series of wooden bridges was constructed here. In 1878, the new, durable metal-truss bridge was installed and it still stands today. Considered a significant engineering work, the bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Hedgeman-Rappahannock Rural Historic District nomination that has been submitted to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Although not as historic as the bridge, I’m still ancient enough to confess that some of my fondest boyhood memories, from a time long gone, are entwined with it. It was our favored, seemingly foreign, destination for my friends and I bicycling from Warrenton, fewer than 10 miles away. From the bridge span, we would fish and (probably illegally?) use the rock outcroppings below for BB gun target-practice. Beneath the span, we would swim and launch canoes as we heard the scary, rumbling sound of an occasional vehicle crossing overhead. Recently I had an opportunity to relive those memories as I floated beneath the bridge on a canoe trip made possible by heavy spring rains. Normally, the upper Rappahannock is much too shallow to run without constantly getting hung up on the river’s ubiquitous rocks. In its shallow, unmuddied waters, you’re reminded that the Rappahannock is one of the very few East Coast rivers unpolluted (except for agricultural runoff) and running freely (with the dam in Fredericksburg now gone). The Old Waterloo Bridge is much more than an occasion for reverie and nostalgia, however. It contributes to the unique character of the northern Virginia Piedmont. It’s not always the case that human engineering enhances the landscape so. When it does, we should preserve it. — Walter Nicklin

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

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Ways of Looking at Old Rag BY MARY WINSTON NICKLIN, CURATOR

The mountain stands alone, looming majestically over the Piedmont. Its peak marked by exposed granite boulders, Old Rag is unique, a regional icon. As Monhegan Island is to Maine, the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco, so is Old Rag to Virginia’s northern Piedmont. The dominant peak on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge, the mountain has long lured hikers and captivated artists. The poet Wallace Stevens famously said that there are 13 ways of looking at a blackbird, so here are 13 ways of looking at Old Rag Mountain through the eyes of some of the region’s most accomplished artists.

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Originally published AUTUMN 2007


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1 STEFAN PASTUHOV

2, 3, 4 RICHARD LYKES

5 THOMAS SPANDE

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Old Rag from Yowell Farm (left) Stefan Pastuhov’s grandparents fled to the United States from Russia during the 1917 revolution. Pastuhov grew up in Massachusetts, and lived in Maine for 18 years. He graduated in 1975 from Tufts University and the Museum School of Fine Arts. Like the Hudson Valley painters who were drawn to American landscapes as the New Eden, Pastuhov is a plein-air painter who loves the outdoors and paints outside year-round. Pristine Landscapes like Virginia’s Old Rag Mountain and New Hampshire’s White Mountains conjure emotional responses for Pastuhov and are compelling to paint. The beautiful seasonal changes in light appeal to Pastuhov and he captures these changes on canvas. His work has been featured on the covers of several L.L. Bean catalogs and placed in selected collections throughout the U.S.

Crevice at the Top of Old Rag Artist Thomas Spande was inspired by a hike up the mountain. “When a few friends went off to explore, they left me time enough to be drawn by (and vice versa!) the beauty of the crevices and boulders that crown Old Rag Mountain, my favorite place to hike in Virginia.The texture of the rocks and their incredibly ancient history appealed both to my imagination and to my sense of rendering in pencil.” Spande has exhibited at Middle Street Gallery in Washington since he was 11 years old. He spent his childhood weekending in Rappahannock on an old family farm south of Sperryville. Throughout Spande’s youth, he sold drawings and paintings of landscapes at regional art fairs. A graduate of Bowdoin, where he majored in studio art, Spande also attended the Maryland Institute College of Art and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

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Old Rag in Fall Twilight (top, left); Aerial View of Old Rag (top, center); Old Rag Looms Large in the Distance (top right) An avid photographer since the mid-1950s, Richard Lykes lived on a farm on Fogg Mountain in Rappahannock County with an almost 360-degree view of the close-by Blue Ridge mountain range. “We have very little of what most folks don’t want—traffic, shopping centers, developments, and lots of what everyone loves—beautiful scenery, green fields, woods and streams, and small villages here and there,” Lykes said. “I find inspiration for my photography surrounds me. This unique image of Old Rag [in Fall Twilight], with bales of hay just visible in the twilight, captured my attention while driving along a country road at the end of the day south of Sperryville.” Editor’s note: Richard Lykes passed away in 2009.

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H

OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017 6 STEVEN KENNY Donna

Steven Kenny left New York City, where he was a highly successful commercial illustrator, to move to Rappahannock County in 1997. His love of nature brought him to the Piedmont, which serves as the inspiration for his work: combining the human figure with elements from nature to highlight their interdependence. Painted shortly after their move, Kenny’s portrait depicts his then-wife, Donna LaPre, who is a gardener and small-scale farmer. Old Rag makes a background appearance as seen from Slate Mills in the southern corner of Rappahannock County. In describing his work, Kenny says, “For subject matter I focus almost exclusively on humans and birds in varying combinations. For me—as they have in religion, myth, and art for millennia— birds represent both the untamable natural world we inhabit and the vast spiritual and psychological wilderness within each of us. … The manner with which my figures interact with their natural environments is a direct reflection of the successes and failures modern man experiences on a daily basis. The quality of our internal lives is manifest in the physical world around us. The future health of Earth’s biosphere will depend on our ability to intimately nurture our inmost hearts.”

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7 TUCKER HILL

Summer in Champe Plain Valley Beneath Old Rag Tucker Hill has been creating site-specific monotypes of Virginia rural landscapes since 1985 using a simple and direct process that begins with photographs and proceeds through freehand sketches that guide the inking of the print plate, ultimately leading to the single image. After studying printmaking in the early 1980s at the Richmond Printmaking Workshop, Hill set up his own studio in Richmond with a small (16” x 30”) floor-mounted Charles Brand etching press which he moved to Madison County in 1991. In addition, Hill had a long career with history museums creating exhibits and publications until his death in 2010.

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8 LAWRENCE ALTAFFER Old Rag Mountain

Though primarily self-taught, Lawrence Altaffer has exhibited landscape paintings in prestigious juried exhibitions. In fact, Taggart Lake was awarded Best In Show out of 700 paintings at the Annual American Landscape Show at The Art League in Alexandria in August of 2003. Altaffer began painting in 1997 and has been a member of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters, one of the oldest plein-air painting groups in the United States. He has also been an elected member of the Salmagundi Club in New York, one of the most venerable art organizations in America, whose roster has included renowned artists such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, William Merritt Chase, and N.C. Wyeth. He is listed in “Who’s Who In American Art.” Altaffer’s paintings hang in many private and corporate collections in the U.S. and abroad.

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9 JOE O’KANE Out of Warranty

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“Often, when people come to visit Rappahannock they attempt to take a piece of the magic and serenity that the county of­fers, and a photograph of sunrise from Old Rag Mountain, the maple tree on Main Street Sperryville in the fall, or a newborn calf lying on the grassy green hillside, will surely allow them to recall the visit and bring them back for another look,” says Joe O’Kane. O’Kane first picked up a camera when he joined the U.S. Navy, where the world’s stage guaranteed good subject matter and a good 35mm was a worthwhile investment. But since settling in Rappahannock Coun­ty in 1999, O’Kane has found just as many artistic opportunities—in the surrounding countryside. “I only have to drive around Rappahannock to find the majority of my subject matter,” O’Kane says. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

10, 11 THOMAS MULLANEY Wild Roses and Old Rag; Evening in Rappahannock

Virginia artist Thomas Mullany doc­uments local Rappahannock landscapes and events, as well as fictitious images, and has gathered a loyal following by col­lectors across the U.S. Reminis­cent of the Hudson River School, Mullany demonstrates a masterful understanding of paint and light. Mullany says about his work, “I paint imagery in a straightforward kind of real­ism, whether or not the scene is real. The paintings from my imagination are treated as matter-of-factly as possible, but I like to alter the paintings of real things and places to suit my purposes.” A graduate of the Corcoran School of Art, Mullany has exhibited his work in numerous one-person shows in Washing­ton, D.C., New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina. His paintings are included in many public and private collections. In addi­tion, Mullany has received a wide range of public commissions in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and New York.

10 11

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12 JOE LEVINE Autumn Skyline

Photographer Jo Levine grew up in Niagara Falls, New York, and currently di­vides her time between Washington, D.C., and Rappahannock County. Levine began taking black-and-white photographs after her husband gave her a camera as a wedding present. For a time, she debated between becoming a professional photographer and going to law school. Law school won out. Jo returned to the serious pursuit of photography after retiring from a successful legal career with a federal con­sumer protection agency. She specializ­es in fine-art photographs of nature and semiabstract patterns created by natural and man-made objects.

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13 EDWARD COOPER On Old Rag

Naturally, Edward Cooper, partici­pant in many plein-air art competitions and arts festivals, has found inspiration in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He is a self-described wanderer. “My constant com­panions are a pochade box, which allows me to do quick plein-air oil color sketches, and a digital camera.” Outdoor scenes, like mystical Old Rag, evoke emotional responses within the artist, which Edward Cooper cap­tures for the viewer. Frequently featured in publications and art magazines, his paintings are also exhibited in galleries all along the Eastern seaboard, from La­gerquist Gallery in Atlanta to William Ris Gallery in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Other galleries include Hatfield 2 Fine Art in Charleston, South Carolina, South Street Gallery in Easton, Maryland, and Susan Calloway Fine Art, in George­town, Washington, D. C.

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Great Piedmont Hikes Five of my favorite places to spend winter days BY LEONARD M. ADKINS

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t is always nice to take a hike, but winter’s long, dark hours often keep us close to home. With summer’s extended daylight, it’s time to explore farther afield. Here-

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Although they’re miles from the Chesapeake Bay’s mouth, the marshlands of Mason Neck State Park, northeast of Prince William Forest Park, are affected by the ocean’s tides, providing habitat for blue crabs and other saltwater water creatures. Belmont Bay’s shoreline attracts bald eagles, osprey, ducks, geese, and herons. A trail system of less than 10 miles, with an elevation change of no more than 50 feet, has a boardwalk over wetlands where painted turtles bask in the sun. Other points of interest include a cattail-lined marsh and a forest of oak, hickory, and poplar.

Depending on the source you consult, Crabtree Falls in Nelson County drops anywhere from 500 feet to 1,200 feet. No matter which is correct, know that this is such an impressive waterfall that the U.S. Forest Service has lavished much attention upon it. Graded switchbacks, wooden steps, and native stone observation decks ease the 1.5-mile ascent of 1,000 feet. If you’re feeling a bit lazy, the first cascade is reached within five minutes.

Fields and forests with elevation differences of 1,200 feet ensure abundant wildflowers in Sky Meadows State Park near Paris from winter to fall. Skunk cabbage appears by mid-February, and cutleaf toothwort and rue anemone bloom in early April, followed by violets, spring beauties, and chickweed. Soon afterward, wooded areas become their most colorful—pink wild geranium grows above corydalis’ yellow trumpets and mayapple’s white flowers droop below green foliage. In summer, jimsonweed dots road banks and daisies and crown-beard thrive in meadows. Touchme-nots bloom in September and mullein adds bits of gold into October.

1 The quiet beauty of

PHOTOS BY LEONARD M. ADKINS

Prince William Forest Park is all the more

remarkable because of its proximity to heavily-populated Washington, D.C. In addition to picnic areas, campgrounds, rental cabins, and a backcountry campsite, it has nearly 40 miles of trails passing through a forest that has been maturing since the park’s 1936 establishment. The moderately easy terrain undulates by an old pyrite mine, two waterfalls marking the Piedmont’s passage into the Tidewater, and the old orchards and cemetery of a former farm site.

with are five of my favorite places to spend some of these days. It is not a “best of ” list, but rather a “get acquainted with” what the Piedmont has to offer.

This article was excerpted from Adkins’ book, 50 Hikes in Northern Virginia, published by The Countryman Press, available at online booksellers and outdoors stores. Originally published SUMMER 2014

PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

5 Centuries before

Lake Anna State Park

(south of Culpeper) was created in the 1970s, the area was home to Native Americans and early settlers. Later, iron furnaces processed local ore, a gold rush lasted from 1830 to 1850, and plantations flourished before the Civil War. Numerous trails allow visitors to roam the 2,400 acres, discovering natural beauties and finding reminders of past human activity.

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

As the Inn prepares to celebrate 40 years, we look back on their 30th anniversary.

Celebrating 30 Classic country coupled with creative cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington is the crème de la crème BY ANITA L. SHERMAN

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHAMUS FATZINGER, COURTESY OF TIMES-COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS

V

alentine’s Day is over, and no doubt engagement rings were part of the menu. It’s been another amazing performance. From the kitchen to the intimate tables, Chef Patrick O’Connell and his staff have dazzled and delighted scores of love-struck guests in his world-renowned and richly romantic Inn at Little Washington. Hide a new mink coat in the closet? Conceal a string of pearls in a bed of oysters? Not a problem. Disappointment is a word not in their vocabulary, and special requests are never a chore. Now, it’s Sunday afternoon and O’Connell, who lives nearby, will soon be heading over to his inner sanctum to create yet anoth­er gastronomic wonder. Camera crews are scheduled the next day to capture on film some part of the essence of this place and all that it has become over its 30year history. The video is being pro­duced as part of a grand gala event to be held in Washington, D.C., and will not only commemorate the Inn’s anniversary, but Chef O’Connell’s contribution to the culinary world. No doubt a cookbook could be written and filled with recipes of rave reviews, appetizers of accomplishments, and heavenly desserts fashioned from dreams with ingredients like sublime, sophisticated, sensuous, lavish, opulent, elegant, charming, impressive, divine, outstanding ... and the list of accolades goes on! O’Connell is a master at what he does: creating not only fine food but, perhaps more importantly, the ambiance in which to enjoy its flavors. His settings are unhurried and meant to soothe, yet with every sense titillated and teased by an eclectic and often­times eccentric presentation. His menus change with the seasons, even with the weather, and they are often tossed about like leaves on a crisp autumn afternoon. A wizard of whimsy, O’Connell is ever offering his customers little surprises and fanciful touches. It’s been 30 years and O’Connell is still smiling whether on stage as maestro of his kitchen or gliding effortlessly to greet a politician, European chef, celebrity, or a newly married couple who has come to dine. What keeps O’Connell inspired and energized? “A challenge craves a challenge,” said O’Connell, “and our chal­lenge is not only to maintain, but to make it better in every way, every day.” O’Connell credits

Originally published SPRING 2008


With Gregorian chants often playing in the background, Chef Patrick O’Connell’s blue and white porcelain-tiled “sanctuary” is not the typical restaurant kitchen

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Then and now: O’Connell and Lynch shortly after opening the inn in 1978. Now, sporting the Inn’s distinctive Dalmation-spotted apron and pants, O’Connell confers with one of the staff. There are now well over 100 employees at the Inn.

his diverse staff—now numbering around 120—with providing the impetus to make that hap­pen. “No one person has all the ingredients,” continued O’Connell. “It’s the total experience of working together in collab­oration to do what we do. If food were the only element, it would be far less challenging.” CRITIC’S CHOICE

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bered O’Connell. “Of course we wanted a review.” Rossen had been remarkably impressed and told O’Connell, “It might change your whole life.” At that time, the Inn’s staff consisted of only O’Connell, Lynch, and one young server. “I’d be cooking and answering the phone at the same time,” laughed O’Connell. Once Rossen’s review caught the eye of curious and discerning food connoisseurs in D.C., the Inn became a destination food mecca. The phones started ringing and a steady stream of diners flooded into town. No one seemed to mind the bucolic 70mile drive west to get there; in fact, it made it just that much more appealing and tantalizing for inquiring minds and appetites. Once comfortably ensconced at the Inn, folks found that they weren’t in any hurry to leave. The upstairs of the old Merrill’s Garage had been a combination dance hall and gymnasium. What it needed was a bit of foreign flare, so O’Connell and Lynch called upon Joyce Evans, set design­er for London’s Royal Opera, who turned the second floor into a series of six distinctly decorated and inviting rooms resembling the epitome of an English country inn. With a restaurant and now rooms for overnight guests, the full potential of the Inn was quickly being realized. O’Connell and Lynch continued to add staff.

SARAH LATHAM/RAPPAHANNOCK NEWS (LEFT)

O’Connell was born in Washington, D.C. The family moved to Maryland and as a teenager he worked at a small carryout restaurant in Clinton. The old-school restaurant owner may have been one of his first mentors. O’Connell laughed as he recalled those days, “It was before fast food really took hold.” Somewhere between the battered onion rings and pickle relish as well as some work in the theatre, the seeds of O’Connell’s future genius were planted. It was at Catholic University, which O’Connell attended on a theatre scholarship, that he met his future partner, Reinhardt Lynch, who hailed from Indiana. Heading west to rural Rappahannock County, the two took up farming, and O’Connell soon had a plethora of fresh ingre­dients for his food palette. He spent long hours reading cook­books in an unheated farmhouse and would often frequent the county library to get warm. Together, the two started a catering busi-

ness, and their reputation grew along with their combined desire to create something really magnificent. They later purchased a run-down building on the corner of Middle and Main Street in the historic town of Washington. The town, surveyed by a young George Washington in 1749, preceded its larger cousin, Washington, D.C., which wasn’t established for another 51 years. For many, this quiet, quaint, and rural town may have seemed an unlikely setting for a fine-dining establishment, but for O’Connell and Lynch it was the perfect place in Rappahannock County, their home. O’Connell’s passion for the intensity of the restaurant business, sparked by his stint as a short-order cook, was now married to his passion for the theatre. The former Merrill’s Garage morphed into The Inn at Little Washington, and its doors were opened to wel­come its first guests in February of 1978. Fueled by their catering clientele, O’Connell and Lynch didn’t expect that their business would grow much beyond the surround­ing three to four counties in that first year, but they were wrong. Food critic John Rossen, then with the Washington Evening Star, came to dine. He asked O’Connell if he wanted him to write a review and let the larger world know that they existed. “I was startled,” remem-


By 1988, when the Inn at Little Washington had celebrated a decade of existence, it was flying the flag of the elite Relais & Chateaux, a group of small luxury hotels and restaurants with exacting standards and ratings for the five “C’s” of hospitality: c­ haracter, courtesy, calm, comfort, and cuisine. In the world of food, wine, and hospitality, the Inn was now included in this revered membership, opening its doors to the sophisticated European traveler. For O’Connell, it was “acknowledgment that America was growing up in terms of taste, style, and cuisine.” He wasn’t alone in his assessment. The Inn had already turned the heads of noted food journalists like Craig Claiborne of the New York Times and Phyllis Richman of the Washington Post. 1989 was unprecedented as the Inn at Little Washington became America’s first and only inn to earn Mobil Travel Guide’s prestigious Five-Star Diamond Award from the American Automobile Association as well as the Zagat Hotel Survey’s highest national rating and the first “perfect” score for food. Favorable reviews from food critics are always a plus, but cer­tainly not without pressure for O’Connell and his staff. “You never know when they are coming,” remarked O’Connell. “Some of them even wear disguises, going to great extremes even though it’s not necessary; there is little you can do that is remarkably dif­ferent than any other night.” On a recent icy evening, O’Connell was informed that a Washington Post food critic had arrived under the pseudonym of “Mr. Cook” to celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday. Within minutes, the power went out but they weren’t about to close their doors. “We went into emergency mode,” said O’Connell, “and by the time I walked over to greet him, the power had been restored. Our guardian angel had arrived, and we finished wonderfully, we think.” O’Connell lamented the fact that food critics aren’t what they used to be. Many are no longer schooled via extensive restaurant tutorial visits, and reference points have changed dramatically. “The more traveled and knowledgeable they are, the more they will appreciate what we are doing here;” said O’Connell. “But it’s difficult now; we’re on a third generation of restaurant critics and their cost-to-value ratio is viewed very dif-

ferently. They get younger and younger, the papers’ budgets are smaller, and their reference point is often a noisy restaurant downtown where there are a lot of distractions and they don’t have to focus on an intimate conversation.” Self-taught, O’Connell and Lynch made a practice of spending at least a month a year touring Europe, visiting restaurants and tak­ing notes on what the very best establishments had to offer in terms of cuisine and service. “It was perhaps the most intelligent thing we ever did,” said O’Connell, “closing the restaurant in January and taking this pilgrimage to the greatest restaurants in the world. We did this for 18 years, and it was an education in itself as we experienced them from the perspective of guests. No one had it all or was perfect— in fact, some had tragic flaws. It was pretty amazing and we used what we learned as a measuring stick.”

“. . . we have an infectious atmosphere, a terrific balance where every day we are inspiring one another.” “In France, for instance,” noted O’Connell, “it’s not unusual in a wonderful restaurant to have that exhilarating feeling of theatri­cality, a sense that you are the star in a film; it’s never money first.” For O’Connell, this is a great tragedy in American culture ­that the celebration of food, how it is prepared, served and savored, is an experience often measured in terms of dollars. “It’s a celebration that you can’t create instantaneously and one that can’t be replicated,” noted O’Connell, referring not only his efforts but to those of his staff who, to him, are priceless. NO ROOM AT THE INN

In 1990, O’Connell and Lynch proposed an extravagantly viewed, large-turreted addition that would have added more suites, an indoor swimming pool, and formal gardens to their existing building,

plus expanded parking. Neither O’Connell nor Lynch were prepared for the flurry of ruffled feathers that their proposal would cause among town locals and officials who viewed any change as one for the worst. Threatened lawsuits and frayed nerves left supporters on both sides weary. The resortlike plan was ultimately denied. Despite this setback and thoughts of relocating the Inn, O’Connell and Lynch stayed steadfast with their commitment to the vision of the Inn and its location. “Well, I learned something from that,” mused O’Connell. “I thought at the time that our patrons would want to be in a selfcontained cocoon. That was our perspective, but in hindsight, we found that they would much rather be part of the rich landscape that is already here.” The Inn’s 20th anniversary in 1998 was celebrated with the unveiling of a $5 million renovation. With Gregorian chants often playing in the background, O’Connell refers to his kitchen as his “sanctuary,” and it is here along with a host of sous chefs clad in Dalmatian-spotted pants that the real show stoppers are created. For several hundred dollars extra, patrons can get a ringside seat in this beautiful blue and white porcelaintiled palace for their own private viewing. The kitchen is as well-appointed as the rest of the Inn with its coffered ceiling, large bay windows, and gigantic Vulcan stove built in France and helicoptered to the Inn as a separate piece. The kitchen easily accommodates more than a dozen working chefs and assistants with O’Connell presiding as lord and master. If anyone forgets why they are there, O’Connell has posted his philosophy of the five stages of dining as a reminder: anticipation, trepidation, inspection, fulfillment, and evaluation. O’Connell’s staff is international and this global confluence of characters creates a unique atmosphere. “We’re bringing staff from many different countries with many different work ethics,” said O’Connell. “We have Americans working alongside Russians. We have staff who will happily do whatever is needed or required and others who overanalyze, but we have an infectious atmosphere, a terrific balance where every day we are inspiring one another.” Employees at the Inn are exposed to more than O’Connell’s high expectations both in

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

The Inn’s “day” wine cellar houses only a small fraction of the 15,000 bottles of wine offered by the Inn’s extensive inventory. Dinner guests can choose from a selection of some seven tastings paired with wines.

and outside of the kitchen. “They have opportunities to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise meet and it’s an education” remarked O’Connell. When First Lady Laura Bush came to celebrate her birthday with a host of her lady friends, she had no qualms about a group photo taken in the kitchen. “She couldn’t have been more inclusive and gracious with the staff,” noted O’Connell. The same was true when Barbra Streisand visit­ ed. “They come to the country and they become more real, relaxed, and relate to the staff in an open and genuine way. It’s very exciting and a real benefit.” When O’Connell met Alan Greenspan for the first time, he had been forewarned that Greenspan was difficult to understand—from a different planet—and only spoke in code. O’Connell found that not to be the case at all. “He was the nicest, most pleasant and easy conversationalist, a very regular guy,” chuckled O’Connell. In April 1997, Alan Greenspan was wed to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in a wedding held at the Inn. It brought out the likes of Barbara Walters and Senator John Warner. Greenspan is a favorite and regular patron, 44  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

celebrating his birthday there each year. He, along with O’Connell’s mother Gwendolyn, are cur­rently lobbying to get their favorite dessert back on the menu­: chocolate mint fantasy ice cream. “We make it with fresh green mint; it’s very refreshing and my mother’s fixated with it, has it every night,” said O’Connell. Greenspan chided O’Connell, “Our two votes should have some influence.” ACTING LOCALLY

O‘Connell is a perfectionist and every ingredient that he uses is a precise measurement of his devotion to his craft. As such, O’Connell is blessed to have his restaurant located in Rappahannock where there is an abundance of fresh produce that he prides himself on using. Take for instance Sunnyside Farms. “They are terrific neighbors and are continuing in the tradition that David Cole began; their greenhouses are pro­ducing for us,” said O’Connell, who noted that the Inn has recent­ly added a little apple orchard with heirloom varieties. As has been a tradition for many years at the Inn, locals form

| NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

a line at the back­door bringing eggs, turnips, cabbages, morels, fruits, and more, as the French would say, “cuisine de terroir.” O’Connell basks in the bounty that the county offers. “And seafood, it’s one of my greatest victories!” exclaimed O’Connell, who gets fresh seafood delivered daily from Dulles Airport. “One of my former sous chefs is now a fish wholesaler in Hawaii; he’ll call me at midnight and we’ll talk about what he has picked out for us. He’s a terrific young man and he knows what quality we’re looking for.” Menus at the Inn are personalized, so be ready to smile when you open yours and it reads, “A Warm Welcome to the McNear Party“ or “Happy Anniversary, John and Diane.” Guests for dinner can choose from a selection of some seven tast­ings paired with wines. These might include potato crusted tuna wellington with caponata ravioli and sauce bearnaise served with a Spanish gran familia, rioja, or their three-course selections with choice of dessert. Always with unusual and artistically prepared combinations, many of O’Connell’s creations are given fanciful names. Seared tuna sashimi with daikon radish and cucumber sorbet, for instance, makes its entrance as “Fire and Ice.” The Inn is pure class with dishes delivered in synchronized service, but style doesn’t mean stuffy, and elegant doesn’t preclude a bit of quirkiness. O’Connell has fun, so if foie gras isn’t your thing, indulge in one of his favorites—macaroni and cheese with Virginia country ham and shaved black truffles. The Inn’s wine cellar contains some 15,000 bottles, and the sommeliers know every one of them. COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Over the years, both O’Connell and Lynch have served in local government. Lynch was vice mayor and served on the Washington Town Council while O’Connell is chairman of the Architectural Review Board, whose mission is to preserve the historic character of the town. Each spring, the Inn has sponsored the annual 10-K Fodderstack Race, and at many fundraisers the prized auction item is a dinner for two at the Inn. Local art


JOHN MCCASLIN/RAPPAHANNOCK NEWS

Flags unfurled and flying in the breeze, the Inn welcomes visitors at the corner of Middle and Main in Washington. Thirty years ago the building was converted from Merrill’s Garage. It didn’t take long for food critics to discover the new restaurant.

students vie for a chance that their design will be chosen for the Inn’s Christmas card. O’Connell offers cooking classes and in December at the Annual Christmas Parade, staff at the Inn were a hit in their brilliant blue-feathered headdresses. The Town of Washington has a population of fewer than 175. They have no property tax and don’t need one, according to Mayor Eugene Leggett. A food and lodging tax imposed in the mid-80s produces sufficient revenue from the town’s restaurants and bed and breakfasts, and most notably the Inn, so that the tiny populace can breathe easy. BLACK AND WHITE

If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive on an evening when the Inn’s two mascots, Pearl and JoBe, are curled up in the lobby like royalty on satin pillows. These two perky Dalmatians are the inspiration for many of the aprons and cooking pants that

you’ll find in the Inn’s shops. Many years ago, Inn staff bought their pred­ecessors— DeSoto and Rose—as gifts for O’Connell

Postscript: In 2016, Michelin Guide launched its first guide to Washington, D.C., and the Inn was one of only three restaurants recognized. This October, O’Connell celebrated retaining two Michelin stars with his staff and locals, including Washington, Va., Mayor John Fox Sullivan, left.

and Lynch, a distraction from their 24/7 workaholic pace in building what today is a world-class destination. For O’Connell, change is the only constant. Now, as sole pro­prietor, he is prepared to take the Inn to even higher levels. A phone rings. It’s one of his staff. Notable French chef Alain Ducasse is staying at the Inn’s latest and most magnificent addi­tion, The Claiborne House. He will be having lunch soon. “We’ll need to prepare him something very special,” said O’Connell. You don’t have to be a French chef, celebrity, or noted econo­mist when you walk through the doors for dinner or to spend the night. Your desire should be simple— to be awed, intrigued, com­forted, and restored by the total ambiance of this very special and magical place hidden in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Do come Inn.

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Stereographic photograph from the main eastern theater of war, Grant’s Wilderness Campaign, May-June 1864.

Echoes BY DAVID SAM as a flicker drums assembly from his perch high above the field, taking his careful hungry aim.

just as this morning smolders with miasmas that ghost the hillocks raised high by geology and long dead men.

The salving cool vapors drift among the wilderness of new trees, like smoke curling up from smolders

A fresh company of starlings flash their blueblack metallic wings and settle hidden among the ripe blades.

These grasses and trees screeched with bird and squirrel long before those last cries of the dying stilled into wind.

or wafting after being loosed from cannon and blackpowder rifles, their ancient thuds just  echoes in long dumb ears.

A sudden screech of red bellied woodpecker cries out a mimicry of long ended pain now  resurrected into the trees.

And the thermals high above it all have always circled in black vultures waiting to memorize the dead

A regimental fog bank forms, the long gray line pivots, then begins a slow march into its daily dissipation.

Virginia’s clay was red before these fields and woods drank from the dying, and is incarnadine still.

in their own flesh. All mist has risen now into a long, long summer day. The wind has ceased

That phalanx of young maple stand straight and silhouetted against the rising backlight of the reddened sun.

The Wilderness has always smoked with gray mists long before the massed men fell at each other in desperate lines —

its advancing waves of grass. At a bare place I reach down, and gather the memory of red clay into my fleeting hand.

Encroaching daylight exposes the long ranks of tall grass that march with the wind downhill against the woods 46  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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COURTESY OF LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Morning mist rises from the lazy bends of the Rapidan, hovers above fields that await their latest mowing.


Two Fawns BY ROBERT BOUCHERON Last summer, when it got so dry, After I moved to a Cape between Victorians, two fawns appeared In the back yard, without a doe, Two dappled fawns, toward morning. They stripped my neighbor’s garden of Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, corn. He set a tub of water for The fawns to drink. They sometimes lay On the grass, lingering past dawn. Winter delivered heavy snow. This spring, the rain fell every day. The grass turned green, luxurious, The ground too wet to cultivate. At last in June, my neighbor cleared The weeds and tilled and planted Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, corn. The garden’s too much work, he says, And he’s too old, with a bad heart, And every year he grows too much to eat.

Moving to Long Mountain BY DAVID BLACK After dipping the baby in every creek between here and there to keep him healthy, after the last log was in place and the last shake was nailed tight, Uncle Ab stood on his head on the ridge and yelled am I plumb? and after she sighted him side to side and yelled back you’re plumb! he climbed down from the roof to begin a new life.

Lonesome Mountain Road BY ROBERT BOUCHERON

Burning a Brush Pile BY DAVID BLACK Snow to mid-calf, but you’re sweating– this is heat you could lean against. Flames reach out for the next branch even as you pitch it. Sap boils out the butt end and disappears. He answers your curious glance: They say a good fire will burn snow. It won’t, you know, but you test with an icy snowball–gone before it lands. Later on you look it up. From bone fire, you learn, and you believe it, having felt your own begin to melt.

At the tail end of winter, A day of wind and sun, In the scrubbed air, I walk the length Of Lonesome Mountain Road. It turns, tunnels through trees, Rises and falls, affords a view, And best of all, leads nowhere. Calves frisk on a pasture, Butt heads, and bolt, in dumb show, While their elders watch me pass. At a farm for walkers, I stand Near a gate, no one in sight. Three horses trot to the fence. I stroke their flanks and muzzles. One gropes me for the snack I failed to bring. Next time, I tell them, next time.

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Chocolate Chestnut Naked Cake BY LAURIE BETH GILLS

The Cake

Serves: 12. Yield: Makes one two-layer, eight-inch cake (make this recipe twice if you want a four-layer cake)

Ingredients

2½ cups all-purpose flour 1/3 cup chestnut flour (a good substitute is almond or hazelnut flour) 1 Tbsp. baking powder 1 Good pinch of fine sea salt (I use Maldon) 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsps. good quality dark cocoa powder 1 cup granulated sugar ¾ cup light brown sugar 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus more for the pans) 3/4 cup buttermilk, well-shaken 4 large eggs, room temperature 1½ tsps. vanilla extract 2 Tbsps. vegetable oil ¼ cup freshly brewed black coffee, room temperature (I use Gevalia)

Method:

S

ometimes to make a cake spectacular, all you need to do is think simply. And although this cake is “naked,” a more exposed cake with less, the look here can be deceiving. This cake is spectacularly sophisticated, perfect for those special occasions throughout the cooler months. It’s rich and inviting, reminiscent of earthy scents such as warm vanilla with a subtle chestnut flavor. Be creative when decorating. This can be adapted to any theme. For instance, some rosemary and a sprig of holly says “Christmas,” while using autumn leaves makes a perfect Thanksgiving dessert.

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1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°. 2. Butter and flour two 8” cake pans, tapping out the excess. 3. In a large bowl sift all dry ingredients (listed above), then transfer into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low to combine. 4. In a separate bowl gently whisk together eggs, vanilla, ¼ cup buttermilk, and oil. Set aside. 5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the 2 sticks of butter and ½ cup of buttermilk, just until dry mix is moistened. Increase speed to medium-low for about 1 ½ minutes, then scrape down the sides and bottom. 6. Slowly add the egg mixture, beating just long enough to blend. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again to ensure an even mix. Add the coffee and beat the batter on medium-high for a final minute to ensure everything is well-mixed. 7. Divide the batter evenly into the two prepared pans. Smooth tops with a small offset spatula, or use the back of a spoon. The pans should be about three-quarters full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out almost clean. Let the cakes cool in pans on racks for 10–12 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to help loosen, then invert onto racks. Wait about 3 minutes and then reinvert cakes, cooling completely top side up. 8. While the cakes cool, make the frosting.

Originally published NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016


GERMAN ADVENT CALENDARS Chestnut Maple Buttercream Frosting Yield: about 1 ½ cups (double this amount if baking all four layers)

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces 1 Tbsp. chestnut purée, softened (available from Amazon) 1 pinch fine sea salt 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted ¾ Tbsp. Vermont maple syrup infused with real vanilla bean (can substitute using ½ tablespoon pure maple syrup plus ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract) 2 Tbsps. half and half ¼ cup roasted chestnuts shelled and ready to eat, finely chopped.

Method:

1. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, chestnut purée, and salt until light and creamy on low-medium speed. 2. Reduce speed to low and add 1 cup sugar, mixing until blended. Add the remaining sugar, one cup at a time until all incorporated, beating well. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl. 3. Add the vanilla, maple syrup, and half and half; beat on high for a further 2-3 minutes until fluffy and smooth. If frosting is too thick, add more half and half. 4. Set aside until ready to use.

Wooden Advent Calendars This snow covered chalet is truly a Christmas House! Look through the panes of glass in the windows and see Santa’s Christmas Tree and stockings hung by the fire. The candles in the windows, the wreaths, and the cheerful snowman sure put you in the spirit of Christmas!

Paper Advent Calendars Winter scene of Heidelberg. Opened windows illuminate when placed in front of a light source.

Paper Advent Calendars Winter scene of the framework houses of Rothenburg with the neighboring tower.

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Assemble the cake:

1. If your cakes have domed a bit on top, use a serrated knife to trim the tops for nice, even, flat-top layers. 2. Position the first cake on top an 8” cake board, then onto a cake stand or plate. Spread a fairly thick layer of frosting on it using an offset spatula, then top with some of the chopped chestnuts. Repeat this process for the second layer, (and third if creating a four-layer cake), then carefully place the last layer upside-down so that the top stays flat and virtually crumb-free. 3. Add a thin layer of buttercream to the sides of the cake, and then start spreading it out as you rotate the cake, creating the “naked” effect. Remove any excess frosting. Place in the fridge for a few minutes if needed. 4. Using a small sifter, apply a simple dusting on top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar. Serve as is, or choose your own favorite topping. (I like using fresh rosemary fresh from the garden. It easily creates a rustic, yet sophisticated look.) 5. I recommend using a sharp, thin-blade knife when serving. 6. You can cover cake in the fridge for up to three days. Just remember to take it out an hour or so before serving.

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Boar’s Head Resort’s Peanut Soup Virginia’s state bird is the cardinal. The state tree is the dogwood. If there were such a thing as the state soup, it would surely be peanut. Here, courtesy of the Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville, is one of the best versions of this dish we’ve ever tasted. It’s perfect for chasing away the nippy chill of winter in the Piedmont. Enjoy!

Ingredients 1/2 1 2 1 4 2 1 3 1/2 2 2

cup peanut oil cup carrots, peeled and diced cups onion, peeled and diced cup celery, washed, leaves removed, diced cloves garlic, peeled and minced quarts water 15-oz. can coconut milk cups tomato juice cup sweet chili sauce (Mae PloyThailand) lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes cups peanut butter salt and pepper, to taste

Method

1. Heat stockpot over high heat and add peanut oil. When oil begins to smoke carefully add carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Sauté until vegetables become tender, approximately eight minutes. 2. To the sautéed vegetables add the water, coconut milk, tomato juice, sweet chili sauce, and cubed sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are very tender, approximately 30 minutes. 3. Once potatoes are tender, add peanut butter and adjust seasoning as desired. 4. Carefully place small quantities of the soup in a blender and purée until very smooth. Strain through fine china cap and repeat this process until all the soup has been puréed. 5. When serving, garnish with chopped scallions and roasted Virginia peanuts. Yield: 1 Gallon

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Originally published AUTUMN 2009


Red Wine Infused Hot Chocolate Ingredients 1/2 cup red wine (pinot noir or merlot) 11/2 cups milk 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks, melted cinnamon, whipped cream, and orange zest to taste

Method 1. In a saucepan, bring milk to medium heat without boiling. 2. Melt chocolate chunks in microwave or double boiler, stir into the warmed milk. 3. Add wine and allow to heat thoroughly for 10 minutes. 4. Sprinkle cinnamon on top, add whipped cream, and garnish with orange zest.

Yield: 2 Servings

About the Wine Named after a branch of philosophy, Greenhill Ontology is aged in French oak for 11 months. The result is a wine that begins with intense aromas of soft wood and earth before flavors of cherries and wild fruits emerge, culminating with a long, tannic finish bursting with wild raspberries.

Originally published ONLINE HOLIDAY ISSUE 2015

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

The Village Smithy Evolves to Fit the Times An ancient trade still thrives today. BY MORGAN HENSLEY PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM

“T

his barn is built like a wooden ship.” Cold winds rustle around the creaking rafters while the ring of a horseshoe against anvil chimes outside. Farrier Scott Brouse walks inside the barn, reshaped shoe in hand, and approaches the horse calmly, wholly aware. Coaxing weight off the hoof, he lifts the leg between his knees and rests it on his leather apron. He talks to the horse in soothing intonations as a mother would when trying to take her child’s mind off the impending flu shot. The cloud of his breath mixes with the horse’s in the chilled air as he nails the lost shoe back to the hoof. His apprentice, Megan, comes over to clench the shoe and complete the early morning “tack on.” “After all these years, it never ceases to amaze me how sensitive a horse is,” Brouse says. “They can read you before you say a word or touch them.” His statement glows with poignancy considering the thousands of horses he has worked with in his lifetime. Born in upstate New York, Brouse has worked in barns since he was a teenager, "everything from mucking stalls to breaking young horses.” He relocated to the area in 1982 to ride competition-level horses. Through this position he met Paul Goodness, a renowned farrier who now works with Virginia Tech’s Equine Podiatry department in Leesburg. “If you’ve worked in the circuit, you’ve been exposed to great farriery. So I decided to switch.”

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Dismayed by the lack of mobility of a riding career, Brouse apprenticed with Goodness, and from him learned the art of farriery. In the wild, a horse’s hoof wears down at the same rate that it grows. However, domesticated horses are used more than in the wild, interfering with the delicate balance shaped by years of evolution, and so horseshoes were developed to counteract this excess wear. Farriery began with the Egyptians and Persians, who wove grasses together to shod their horses. Romans in-

Little has changed in the way of the everyday farrier’s tools over the past several hundred years. troduced iron shoes attached with leather thongs, a design that prevailed until William the Conqueror’s infantry, replete with nailed-on shoes, clenched a decisive victory

| NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

at the Battle of Hastings (n.b. “clenched” derives from farriery, the act of fastening a driven nail). The event resulted in William’s coronation and the advent of an important moment in farriery. “Farriery” derives from ferrarius, the Latin word for “blacksmith.” Smithies were the first farriers, as shaping a shoe and nails was the primary requirement. Over the years, heightened attention was directed to the horse’s conformation as well as the terrain and climate’s effect on the hoof, and so as blacksmiths and farriers diverged, their trades specialized. “There aren’t as many handmade shoes out there today. Now it’s mainly modifying stock shoes, welding, and making alterations,” Brouse says. This process of forging and modifying premade “keg shoes” allows farriers to allocate their attention to shoeing more horses and dedicating more time to each horse. While little has changed in the way of the everyday farrier’s tools over the past several hundred years, recent innovations such as epoxies and plastic shoes enable farriers to do much more with their craft. Brouse says, “With all of the recent technologies, we’re able to save horses we maybe wouldn’t have been able to in the past.” However, the most drastic change in farriery is a device we all use every day. “Having a cell phone has ruined my life!” Brouse jokes. “There’s no sacred time anymore. That’s the biggest game-changer.” A farrier with Brouse’s reputation and experience is on call nonstop these days. Be-

Originally published MAY/JUNE 2016


Look of concentration: farriers look at all parts of a horse before shoeing, especially the way it moves, or “travels.” By analyzing the horse’s conformation and movement, shoeing techniques can be adapted to obtain optimal athletic movement to increase performance and maintain “soundness,” or health of the limbs and joints. Pictured are apprentice Allen Bruffy, Scott Brouse, and their client.

fore, a farrier’s reputation spread by word of mouth, through loyal veterinarians and satisfied customers. He’s been approached in stores and even flagged down and pulled over at a stop sign. Simply put, there are too many horses in this area, which ranks as one of the top five hotbeds for farriers. There are barely enough farriers in the area to satisfy the demand, and some of farriers can’t assure quality. Farriery is not as regulated as it is in the UK, where the Worshipful Company of Farriers has existed since 1356, and enforces the 1975 Farrier’s Registration Act, which prohibits shoeing by unqualified

persons. There is no organized educational system (e.g. veterinary school, for comparison), nor any legislative requirements or registrationsin America. The American Farrier Association (AFA), established in 1971, has pushed for increased regulation, while also offering and overseeing voluntary certifications since 1979. The highest level of certification in the U.S. is journeyman (CJF), which requires forging four shoes and shoeing a horse in under two hours. “Certification doesn’t necessarily mean you do good work. I’ve seen it go both ways,” Brouse says. This uncertainty is what makes apprenticeships so vital to the trade.

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Megan, who graduated from Montana State’s farriery program in 2015 before beginning her apprenticeship with Scott the following July, says, “Before going to school, I was familiar with the process, but I wasn’t able to shoe a horse on my own. It’s like watching a sport you haven’t played; the professionals make it look simple.” The apprenticeship is necessary not only to teach the skills one learns in the classroom, but to build a clientele. Apprentices assist the farrier, gradually taking on more duties and jobs. Eventually, they are assigned entire visits, and begin the client-building phase of their business. Brouse works with approximately 300 horses (“Or 1,200 hooves, if that’s how you’d prefer to look at it.”), more than one farrier can handle alone. “I’m still learning a lot more about how to use the tools. School can’t teach you all of that. I’m not in any hurry,” Megan says. Apprentices also lend another set of eyes, a necessity for a job as dangerous as a farrier’s. “You don’t always know a horse’s past. Maybe they were handled roughly. If you’re not careful, the situation could escalate,” Brouse says. The profession is inherently dangerous, Brouse notes, “They’re so much bigger. They don’t mean to hurt you. “You get hurt all the time; it’s a matter of how badly.” In the 28 years since he began, he has had his left bicep reattached, torn the menisci of both knees, broken several fingers and toes, and been bitten innumerable times. And those are just his injuries. Anecdotes, told like ghost stories and exchanged like urban legends of hookhanded hitchhikers, feature impalement, iron fragments barely missing the jugular, and a severed finger wriggling by a water pail, immortalized in Henry Taylor’s Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection The Flying Change. “My hands are constantly bleeding. I don’t even notice it anymore,” he says. “We make it sound bad. You couldn’t do it if it were that rough all the time. Horses are almost always well behaved. Still, you can’t get used to it. Everything is routine and in the blink of an eye you’re praying and calling a vet.” Despite the injuries, he’s still in the stalls day in and day out, refining his craft, 54  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

Often, especially with a young horse, shoeing is a two-person job; a second person is needed for many things, sometimes just to hold the horse’s head and calm him to avoid injury to the farrier or the horse himself.

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learning, and passing his wisdom down to future generations of farriers. He’s worked with “prize-winning horses, backyard pets, and Przewalski's horses from Mongolia, the last truly wild horses in the world,” and everything in between. At his final visit of the day, the smell of burnt hair seems to gather the air around it. The smoke is blue-gray, acrid. Hunched, with the hoof delicately in his lap, there is a feeling of timelessness, of permanence. As much as the world changes, it seems there will always be this.


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Originally published SUMMER 2008


On The Farm with Sandy Lerner

For this extremely successful high-tech entrepreneur and California transplant, organic farming and restoring the local food chain may be the next new thing. PHOTOGRAPHS BY NATE S. RHODES

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Shire draft horse, Gronant Aristocrat (Izzy) at 18 hands, stood tall, typical of the breed. Sandy Lerner brought Izzy, now deceased, with her when she moved to Virginia from Callifornia

hen Sandy Lerner purchased Ayrshire Farm in in 1996, the 793-acre, Upperville estate possessed “all the old neglect of prospect.” That poetic, lateeighteenth-century phrasing is from Jane Austen’s Emma; and spending time with Sandy Lerner, as the magazine’s editors did recently, is to time-travel: not only backwards into an earlier century, but also forward into an environmentally conscious, sustainable future. “It was overgrown land,” she said of Ayrshire when she bought it, but Ayrshire enabled her to farm. “I wanted to farm,” she said— not just own land. And by farm, she does not mean what she calls the “industrial production” of most food that is produced in the United States today. In 1992, she established a foundation to lease Chawton House—the 400-year-old Austen family home in Hampshire, England—and to establish the Centre for the Study of Early English Women’s Writing. But, as the co-founder of Cisco Systems, Sandy Lerner is perhaps best known as a high-tech entrepreneur. She also founded Urban Decay cosmetics, which never used animal testing and whose edgy promotional slogans included, “Does pink make you puke?”

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017 A long-time philanthropist and advocate of animal rights, Lerner remains passionately committed to organic, humane farming and the preservation of farmland and open spaces in Virginia’s Piedmont. The Virginia Organic Producers and Consumers’ Association is her creation. Ayrshire Farm’s magnificent fieldstone manor house, which she restored, has become the site for her annual “Beastie Bazaar,” a benefit for abandoned and neglected animals, as well as for special events showcasing organic farming—most recently Heritage Turkeys. Ayrshire Farm also hosts cattle-farming association meetings and equestrian events, including carriage rides.

In nearby Upperville is her restaurant, Hunter’s Head Tavern, whose most acclaimed dishes are fresh farm products direct from Ayrshire. In Middleburg, her Home Farm Store (now located in Marshall as Gentle Harvest) offers farm-fresh organic products for home dining. To have made all this happen—often in the face of huge obstacles—requires “bloodymindedness,” a British expression of which Lerner is fond. Without that trait, Ayrshire Farm might now still be run down and overgrown or, worse, carved up into residential housing lots. And all farms throughout the Piedmont would be the poorer without Sandy Lerner’s wit and wisdom on their side.

So, how do you go from Silicon Valley entrepreneur to Virginia Piedmont farmer, from Cisco to organic farming? Actually, the big transition was from farming to Cisco, or at least from our small farm in the Sierras to graduate school in Los Angeles and then Stanford. Moving back to a small town and back to farming was the easy part. But why Virginia? Why not go back to farming in California? A lot of reasons … I like the font on the license plate. I am a jouster and the state sport of Maryland is jousting. But mostly because there is water here and farms that are large enough to farm but not large enough to be interesting to the agribusiness cartel. But why go back to farming? Farming is generally not considered a sport of the idle rich. Roger that. In America today, 14 percent of farmers live below the poverty line, and it’s getting worse. In the last 10 years, prices at the farm gate have declined 9 percent, while consumer food prices have risen 30 percent. Like everything else, farming is a lot more fun without a budget. However, I do think I’m a pretty typical farmer in that there’s no way to quit once you start—it’s in the blood. So, until someone comes up with a 12-step program for us, we are probably going to be farmers. Having said that, America loses 1 percent of its farmers each year. Think about it: in the next century, the U.S. will be entirely dependent on foreign food. In 1900, 45 percent of the population was working in agriculture; today it is less than 2 percent, and the census bureau no longer counts farming as a separate occupational category. Farms and farmers should be considered a rare and valuable national resource; regrettably, this is not the case. And the only segment of the farming population that is actually increasing is the number of women going into farming … Go figure. But if farming takes money rather than makes money, why do it? That’s about eight good questions. I’ll address the one about why I farm, given the postwar farming economy. From my

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No longer neglected, the manor house at Sandy Lerner’s 793-acre Ayrshire Farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

point of view, there is both a historical and a moral imperative: First, historically, it was the wealthy landowners—in America, think George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—who could afford to conduct experimental agriculture. People who were trying to eke a living out of the land could not risk trying new theories or technologies. Agricultural research has always been the responsibility of landowners with disposable income. From a moral perspective, if you count all public and private sector money spent on agricultural research, a small fraction of 1 percent in the United States goes toward the development of sustainable agricultural models. To those of us who believe that sustainable agriculture is the only viable long-term agricultural model in terms of the land and our health—which really are the same thing as, like it or not, we really all just eat dirt in one form or another—the galling thing is that we have to pay taxes to subsidize chemical agriculture and then pay personally to fund research into new tools to help us undo the ravage to our environment and our health caused by chemicalbased agriculture. And even this doesn’t address the moral outrage of the factory farming of food animals. What about farmers’ markets? Prices are pretty high there, at least a lot higher than the supermarket, right? And the

price of organic food seems a lot higher than conventionally produced food. Let’s first address farmers’ markets: The average farmer in America is now over 60 years old, and 59 percent of farmers have full-time, off-farm employment; the median farming income is around $11,000 a year. So, this means that older people who are already working two jobs now have to haul their produce and stand outside for hours on their day off and hope someone comes and buys it. This seems a bit speculative on all counts and probably not likely to be a significant part in the restoration of the local food chain. The other short answer is that farmers sell at wholesale and buy at retail. Surprisingly very few farms actually produce food—they produce “food components,” like soybeans or corn or wheat—today’s farmers have to buy their food just like the rest of us. This has always struck me as rather surreal. As to prices for organic food, if you consider the subsidies paid to the agricultural conglomerates and the public money which pays for everything from research into herbicides, pesticides, and the antibiotics (70 percent of which end up in animal feed) to the highways used to truck the food, to the environmental clean-up of our air and water caused by modern agriculture, I’m not sure that organic food is more expensive—you just pay all of the bill at the cash

register. And, again, this doesn’t count the cost that we all pay in the loss of life and productivity from illness caused by systematically poisoning the earth with pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, all of which ultimately end up in the air we all breathe and the water we drink, and the concomitant loss of antibiotic drug effectiveness against those illnesses by overuse in the food chain. My personal guess is that organic food is a real bargain, if one fairly counts all the costs. Is it very different farming in Virginia, say, than in California? I was farming in California in the 1960s and 1970s when there were still enough family farms to keep FFA (Future Farmers of America) in the schools and 4-H Clubs going in the rural counties. In that sense, it is like Virginia in that 95 percent of farms here are still family-owned. My family farmed in the Sierras on essentially a vertical rock with very little rain. Here the land is gently hilly, and on average we get enough rainfall to farm, although I hope my neighbors don’t think I brought the chronic California drought with me. On the other hand, today California is probably the most progressive state in terms of its turn toward sustainable methods and the support these farmers get from the state and the land grant universities there. However, South Dakota, Wisconsin, New York,

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and Massachusetts are also very strong. Virginia has been somewhat “reluctant” to change its focus away from chemical, commodity agriculture, even though we are losing farms at the rate of 1 percent a year—that’s almost 10 farms or 2,000 acres lost each week. And Governor Kaine has just appointed a marketeer from the tobacco industry to be the Agricultural Commissioner, so I wouldn’t look for leadership or change anytime soon. What do you mean by “restore the local food chain”? America is probably now a net food importer—it’s a little hard to tell because of how the government keeps statistics (for example, meat is not counted as a “food import”). This situation, importing food, I find disgraceful given the vast extent of this nation’s farmable land. I don’t know about you, but I’m a whole lot more worried about being dependent on foreign food than foreign oil; you don’t have to drive, but you do have to eat. The local food system broke down in this country after World War II in the form of industrialized, monopolized agriculture that is now completely vertically integrated. This agricultural cartel (and there is really only one) wants “free trade.” “Free trade” in here really means that the cartel is free to buy cheap foreign food that has been produced with little, if any, regulation as to its safety—as we see now with the recalls of food from China. This drives our own farmers out of business since we have to comply with all of the workforce, environmental, and food safety regulations. With food, too, one gets what one pays for. On the other hand, our grandparents bought local food as there was not a means to transport it long distances, and they were healthier than we are, and the economy was healthier as well. It’s not just Wal-Mart that is driving up the national trade deficit, although it’s certainly leading the way. The only solution to saving farms, farmland, and farmers is if people will, again, look to local, seasonal food. Keep food money local, and you’ll keep local farms. You’ve put your whole 800-acre farm 60  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

the land, literally and figuratively. If I had children, I’d farm just to give my kids a love for the land.

Happy inhabitants of Ayrshire Farm.

in one easement. Why? Given your animal rights stance, it’s obviously not to keep open space for foxhunting. I really don’t believe there is either a conceptual or observed linkage between one and the other. Open space is open space. The ex-Hunt Master who lived near my farm sold his farm to a developer. Yet other foxhunters have been leaders in not only putting their land into conservation, but also encouraging their neighbors to do so. The two farms right next to mine are not in easement; one used to rent the farm to the hunt, and the other still actively hunts, so it seems to swing both ways. A lot. In my view, preservation seems to depend more on kids inheriting land who have an emotional attachment to the land. One thing about farmers: They are attached to

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How do we turn farming around and help it become “the next new thing,” or at least profitable enough to keep families on the land? There are success stories out there— New Zealand and England for starters, and the Champlain Valley and upstate New York here at home. The organic dairy industry in Wisconsin is thriving, while Loudoun has gone from over 400 dairy farms in 1980 to just one in 2008. South Dakota has a very successful beefmarketing program that Virginia would do well to emulate. California, North Carolina, and even Missouri have welldeveloped state programs for helping farms to diversify and turn away from chemical commodity agriculture. There’s also quite a bit of money out there, if one looks, including Department of Defense (DoD) money, which seems to indicate that food security is surely a big part of national security. I’m reminded about the early internet, another instance of DoD foresight. The information is out there to save farms. It would be nice if Virginia Tech or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) would be more in touch with these issues, but as I’ve said, that’s not likely. Out of 551.5 people employed at VDACS, the .5 is that one half-time person employed to support ALL of “specialty” agriculture, meaning anything other than chemical commodity crops of factory-farmed poultry. The other 551 are mostly oriented toward exporting our produce internationally, but that’s pretty pointless since Europe and Asia are actively banning genetically modified and cloned food, which is what the majority of farmers in Virginia grow. That’s one reason I started the Virginia Organic Producers and Consumers’ Association (VOPCA): to try and do what I think VDACS and Tech should be doing to save farms and farmers in Virginia. Frankly, I’d rather they did it as there’s a whole lot more of them than me.


With Ayrshire Farm, Hunter’s Head Tavern, and the Home Farm Store, you’ve in effect created your own local food chain. Are there any missing links? Gee, I’d like to think I’ve done what you just said, but what I’ve really done is create my own vertical monopoly. To restore the local food chain, we would need capital and social investment to resurrect processing and packing plants, grain mills, regional distribution systems, as well as local educational, information, and labor infrastructure, all of which support the rural economy. It’s kind of like putting the trolley system back into the center of the city— a lot easier if you never took out the tracks. We have no rural economic infrastructure left to support local agriculture in this part of Virginia; no extension agents who are able to assist farmers with issues ranging from organic methods of worming livestock to viable, diversified economic models; no local feed stores who have people who are knowledgeable about a broad range of animal and soil nutritional issues,

“I’m only trying to get my neighbors to see what food used to be and what it can be again.”

natural weed management, local planting seasons, etc. Those people have all moved out of agriculture or died. I’m only trying to get my neighbors to see what food used to be and what it can be again, and for food security to spend a little extra energy and money to seek out better food and to build a habit of adding good food back into their daily lives. As to the big issue, the regeneration of those rural enterprises such as baking, milling, dairying—including cheese and ice cream—slaughterhouses, packing plants, warehouses, small equipment parts and repair, welders, commercial refrigeration and storage facilities, even vets who know how to treat farm animals without the drugs prescribed by the U.S. organic standard— in short, rebuilding the local rural economy by rebuilding the local food chain—that’s going to take a lot more than a one-horse team. Other places have done it and we can too if the future we want for Virginia includes open, productive land. The alternative is sprawling everywhere around us.

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“A Sport and a Pastime” Photographer Douglas Lees: His lifelong hobby of capturing the chase BY MORGAN HENSLEY • PHOTOGRAPHY BY DOUG LEES

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ince he began taking pictures nearly 50 years ago, Douglas Lees has garnered accolades and awards as one of the nation’s most distinguished and prolific steeplechase photographers. A lifelong resident of Warrenton, Lees inherited his parents’ penchant for photography and foxhunting. Lees began shooting and developing pictures in the late ‘60s, and in 1967 at the age of 17 scored his first cover story for the Fauquier Times-Democrat. The photo, which was taken on a “miserable, terribly cold Saturday in March,” Lees says, depicts a riderless racehorse who, in its bewilderment, wandered back toward the other horses. He met renowned sporting photographer Peter Winants in 1971, and Lees’ approach to photography changed immediately. “He took me to his studio and loaned me a lens for the day. I studied his photographs and thought, ‘This is what I need to be doing.’ I’m still operating under a lot of his theories,” Lees says. He admired Winants’ approach to sporting photography, which used large telephoto lenses to capture wide, vivid images. Lees experimented with different equipment and techniques, placing cameras under fences to capture the horses midair. “He told me to buy the best equipment that I could. It allows you to reach way out and capture the scenes that others maybe don’t see.” In 2005 Lees switched to digital cameras. “The transition from film to digital is amazing. You can do so much more now, it’s so much sharper,” Lees says. “You can make adjustments in the field. Back in the day you couldn’t fix the problem because you didn’t even know if there was one.” Lees has won two Eclipse awards, the first in 1978 and the second in 2007, received three honorable mentions, and is one of only eight to win the honored award more than once. Both winning photographs capture accidents—that moment of uncertainty and stillness, the outcome forever suspended—and in both cases jockey and horse were unharmed. “I can count on one hand the number of times horses have been injured,” Lees says, “and I don’t even think I’d be able to name five.” In the offseason, Lees photographs fly fishing, his other passion, and foxhunting. “The hounds and the horns, that’s powerful stuff. Even better when you can capture it,” Lees says. Now retired from a career as an insurance agent for Carr & Hyde, Lees continues to develop his craft, learn new techniques, and compile his lauded photographs into a book.

BEYOND POINT AND SHOOT

Established in 1971 and named after the great 18th-century racehorse and sire Eclipse, who was undefeated in 18 starts, the Eclipse Awards are presented annually to recognize Thoroughbred horses and individuals whose achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories, and to members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. — National Thoroughbred Racing Association In 2007, [Lees] won his second Eclipse Award for photography for doing what veteran photographers do best: putting themselves in the right place at the right time. — Matt Hegarty, writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader

LEES’ ECLIPSE HONORABLE MENTIONS

Top: Series of two photographs: David Bourke riding Political Angel in the 1994 Internatioal Gold Cup. The left photo was awarded the Eclipse honorable mention. The horse was not hurt, and the jockey made a full recovery. Bottom: 1980 Eclipse honorable mention photograph. Hurdle race at the Virginia Gold Cup.

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Originally published MARCH/APRIL 2016


LEES’ ECLIPSE AWARD-WINNING PHOTOGRAPHS

“Both of Doug’s Eclipse-winning photographs capture accidents that moment of uncertainty and stillness, the outcome forever suspended — and in both cases jockey and horse were unharmed.” Above: 1978 Eclipse-winning photograph Mrs. R. H. Crompton III’s Master’s Degree, ridden by Buzzy Hannum during the timber race at the Foxfield Races. Right: 2007 Eclipse-winning photograph Navesink View, ridden by Will Haynes, in the International Gold Cup.

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Disney

“Virginians should be so lucky as to have Orlando in Virginia.” — Walt Disney Company Chairman Michael Eisner on CBS This Morning, June 2, 1994

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Originally published SPRING 2008


Revisited It’s been almost 15 (now 25) years since an unlikely band of concerned citizens defeated one of the world’s most powerful corporations. But did they really win? The author, an anti­-Disney leader, looks back ... and ahead. BY NICK KOTZ

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ike a ghost, Disney’s America—the theme park that almost, but never, was—hovers over the mists and rolling landscape of the Virginia Piedmont. Almost 15 years since the Walt Disney Company announced its controversial plans to create the theme park outside Haymarket, the outcome of the fight still informs and shapes virtually every land-use debate where history, nat­ural beauty, and rural values are at stake—not just in the Piedmont, but around the country. At the heart of the Disney dispute was whether Virginians really wanted their northern Piedmont to become like Orlando, the Florida city whose sprawling growth was ignited and fueled by Disney World. While the struggle ended in 1994 with Disney’s withdrawal, the retrospective question lingers: by fighting off the development dreams of Disney, what did the Piedmont accomplish exactly? Growth and sprawl continue to push relentlessly westward from Washington—bringing more of the very congestion that Disney opponents predicted would accompany Mickey Mouse. In the last 10 years, Prince William County alone has added 100,000 new residents, including thousands of families who have settled in the Gainesville and Haymarket areas just east of what would have been the Disney project. Development is inevitable at the edges of any rapidly growing urban metropolis such as Washington. The more relevant question today is how residents of the still semi-rural Piedmont can best manage that growth. As it turned out, the Disney fight itself actually revealed some promising answers. The victory spawned the rise of a broad-based, determined, skilled grassroots conservation movement. Since Disney, highly experienced citizen activists in Prince William County and throughout the Piedmont have been reshap­ing Virginia politics from the statehouse to the courthouse. Their efforts today are yielding results. They offer hope for the continued preservation of much of the historic character and scenic landscapes that for cen-

turies distinguished Virginia’s north­ern Piedmont from the falls of the Potomac River to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Old Waveland Plantation spreads out over 3,000 acres of farmland bordering the Bull Run Mountains, just north and west of the strategic intersec­tion of Route 66 and Highway 15. There Disney planned to build a 200-acre, $650 million history theme park, where visitors “could get a taste of what life was like during the Civil and Revolutionary Wars.” as well as vicariously experience other memorable moments in American history on an Industrial Revolution roller coaster or a Lewis and Clark raft ride. The park was only a power­ful magnet at the heart of a huge real estate development. More than 2,000 additional acres would be dedicated to the development of high-rise condominiums, offices, shop­ping malls, resort hotels, golf courses, a campground, and as many as 6,000 units of housing. The total effect would have been to cre­ate a new “edge city” akin to Tysons Corner—or bigger. Dazzled by visions of what Mickey Mouse could deliver in jobs and tax revenue, then-Governor George Allen and the Virginia state legislature quickly sealed the deal with $163 million of taxpayers’ money to pay for roads and other infrastructure. A bruising nine-month battle ensued. It pitted neighbor against neighbor; historians and conservationists against developers and earnest citizens hoping for an economic boost. In the end, Disney abandoned the project, for reasons that we will explore later. Instead, Toll Brothers, the nation’s largest builder of luxury homes, bought most of Disney’s land to develop Dominion Valley Country Club, a gated residential community with schools, commercial shopping, golf courses, trails, and sports facilities. The western end of Disney’s projected domain is still rural, with a 600-acre Boy Scout campground and conference center and with the Silver Lake recreation area. While Dominion Valley strains surrounding highways and roads, its impact pales besides the stresses that Disney, with its es-

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Editorial cartooists around the country often played off the rich Civil War history near the theme-park site and had great fun at Disney’s expense.

timated six million annual visitors, would have imposed on the region and its resources. A national urban planning firm calculated that within 10 years the collateral growth generated by Disney’s America would have overwhelmed the Piedmont, much as Disney World has spawned endless develop­ment around Orlando. It was that concern more than anything else that sustained the fight against Disney in Virginia. After Disney withdrew from the fray, then-chairman Michael Eisner attributed the company’s defeat to the power and money of the Mellons, duPonts, and Harrimans, all powerful families with homes in the Piedmont. Eisner’s stereotyped concept of the Piedmont—a foxhunting retreat for the super rich—was ill-informed. He sim­ply did not understand the region, its historical significance, or its diverse population. Eisner did not factor in the talent and skills of the residents of the Piedmont’s towns and countryside, nor did he fathom the depth of their commitment to defend their home. All that talent and commitment were urgently needed after Disney struck in a real estate play, Pearl Harbor style. Acting with total secrecy and in corporate disguise, Disney executives secured 66  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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options to buy the site outside Haymarket, and started lining up support from Governor Allen and top state and local officials. The Disney announcement in November 1993 took the region by total surprise. With Prince William officials envisioning an eco­nomic bonanza to bail out their budget-strapped government, rapid approval of the Disney plan appeared likely. Five days after Disney unveiled its plan, worried Piedmont res­ idents jammed into Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains to attend a meeting called by the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC). As they discussed what, if anything, they should do, lawyer and chairman of the Fauquier Board of Supervisors Georgia Herbert, whose Beverley family had lived at Avenel farm outside The Plains for almost 200 years, said: “I don’t know how yet, but we will beat Disney.” Retired advertising executive Bill Backer suggested the slogan “Disney, Take a Second Look” for an instant advertising campaign that was rolled out on a shoestring budget. Its intent was to slow down the Disney juggernaut long enough for a careful consideration of its proposal and to allow time for opposition to jell. Backer is just one of scores of talented Piedmont residents


who were first energized by Disney and now lend their time not only to the PEC, but to many other citizen organizations that either first sprang to life or matured during the Disney fight. In 1993 BD (Before Disney), the PEC was an environmental and land conservation organization with a staff of nine, an annual budget of $350,000, and about 1,000 members. It had never faced a project as daunting as Disney. The PEC received financial help through two duPont and three Mellon fortune heirs, as well as the Chicago-based land planning and conservation foundation Prince Charitable Trust, whose tie to Virginia was foundation president Frederick R. Prince, who loved the Piedmont and had a vacation home here. The work rested primarily on 28-year-old Christopher Miller, who quit a large law firm to offer his services, and 26-yearold Hilary Scheer, a reporter for the Fauquier Times Democrat who had grown up on a Fauquier County farm. Disney chairman Eisner’s portrait of himself as being up against “some of the most powerful families in America’’ with matchless power “to lobby a cause with government” must have seemed amusing to young Miller and Scheer as they tried to counter the army of Disney lawyers, political advisors, lobbyists, and public relations firms. With Miller at the helm, PEC came of age during the battle with Disney. In the last 10 years, the organization has grown into the premier regional environmental group in the country, a model that others have come to study and emulate. Its membership has soared from 1,000 to 5,000 and its budget and staff have quadrupled. Its ability to mobilize members to their cause rapidly has been perfected. With its 40 staff members working out of offices in nine Piedmont counties, the PEC has since successfully taken on one major environmental and conservation issue after another. Additionally, the PEC’s activities since Disney include programs aimed at long-term gains in conservation protection. The amount of land in Piedmont counties protected by scenic or con­servation easements has quadrupled from 76,000 acres to nearly 300,000 acres—the single largest concentration of easement-pro­tected land in the nation Experts were needed to lead the charge, but the Disney battle and subsequent fights would have been lost without the skills and dedication of veteran community organizers. When Disney announced its plan, the PEC lacked the infrastructure and experience to mobilize members rapidly. The pioneering work of veteran organizers was critical, and was shouldered by Warrenton’s Hope Porter. When Disney offi­cials showed up for the world premiere of the Lion King at Washington’s Uptown Theater, Porter organized a protest with dozens of participants waving signs, local puppet artists with effigies of “Mickey the Rat” and “the Lyin’ King”, and children chanting “Hey hey! Ho ho! Mickey Mouse has got to go.” At an event at the National Zoo, she even managed to decorate EisWith the Disney fight (and Thoroughfare Gap) behind them, victors survey the field of battle. As a freshly minted environmental lawyer, 28-year-old Christopher Miller, assisted by Hilary Scheer Gerhardt, represented the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and took on Disney. Miller is now PEC president. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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Right: The western end of the envisioned theme park area remains rural with a Boy Scout campground. Below: Where Disney would have been: Dominion Valley Country Club, a gated residential community with its own schools, retail centers, golf courses, and other luxury facilities, developed by Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s biggest builders.

ner’s limousine with a “Disney Take a Second Look” bumper sticker. She also commissioned a small plane to pull a banner saying: “Governor Allen, Don’t Sell Out Virginia” at the May 1994 Gold Cup before a crowd of 50,000. In the summer of 1994, several thousand protesters from Prince William and the other Piedmont counties staged a “March on Washington,” parading past the White House, around the Capital, and ending in front of the Washington Monument. Demonstrators included farmers, teachers, carpenters, lawyers, and other locals, all carrying protest signs with slogans like “Disney Destroys Farm Land,” as well as a card­board coffin with the name “Michael Eisner” on it. Porter was joined by the late Annie Snyder, who reenergized the Save the Battlefield Coalition. Working together, Porter and Snyder collected 40,000 names on a petition opposing Disney that they circulated to conservation groups, gar­den clubs, and Civil War organizations throughout the nation. Stirred by the Disney fight, Piedmont citizens now meet in dozens of new grassroots groups, unifying through umbrella organizations such as The Coalition for Smart Growth. Chris Miller and 17 other leaders of the Virginia Conservation League came together in conference calls twice a week to compare notes and coordinate their actions on state policy issues. This collaboration set the framework for today’s efforts, when issues range from maintaining a state moratorium on uranium mining to opposing the reduction of new development fees. These grassroots efforts have paid dividends. In Prince William, the board that uncritically cheered on Disney was replaced with supervisors attentive to conserva­tion supporters. Effective new citizen groups include Advocates for the Rural Crescent, the Rural Preservation Alliance, and the Prince William Conservation Alliance. Responding to citizen demands to protect open spaces and carefully plan growth, the board created an 80,000-acre rural crescent at the western end of the county to limit development there. In 2003, Prince William Board Chairman Sean Connaughton declared that the county was better off 68  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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economically than it would have been with the Disney theme park. “We’re finally starting to break ourselves out of being completely dependent on a service economy and moving into the high-tech and biotech worlds” he told The Washington Post. “I don’t think we ever would have done that if Disney became the driving force in the economy.” In Fauquier County, the board of supervisors is actively pro­moting land conservation by spending county funds to buy “devel­opment rights” from farmers to help keep land in agriculture. Former Governor Tim Kaine also pushed hard to protect more agri­cultural and forest land from development. By early spring 1994, PEC and its allies had battled Disney for six months with mixed results. They had challenged Disney’s rezoning application with every available federal, state, and local requirement for zoning and environmental and conservation protection. Disney had been forced to refine the details of its proposal. Yet final approval by the Prince William government of the Disney project seemed inevitable. A drawn-out, costly legal fight—most likely ending with Disney as the victor—loomed ahead. At this critical point, Fauquier resident Mary Lynn Kotz, an author and former magazine editor, fastened on what she had decided was the missing element in the Disney fight. None of Disney’s opponents had effectively publicized the most valuable and best-known resource in the Piedmont—its rich history! This history of the Founding Fathers and of the Civil War was a com­mon heritage shared and valued not only by local residents, but by people throughout the nation. Yet the Disney fight had been waged like any other conven­tional zoning dispute, pitting land conservationists and environ­mentalists against developers. Americans outside of the region needed to be made aware of their stakes in the issue. On a misty spring night, four of us decided to put history on the front burner. Meeting in the parking lot behind the Fauquier Middle School, Mary Lynn Kotz and I, and old friends


Julian and Sue Scheer, decided to start a new front to engage the entire nation in the fight to protect the Piedmont. We would ask the country’s most distinguished his­torians and journalists to remind Americans everywhere that the Piedmont was not just our home, but was home to Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe and the scene of the most bloody fighting of the Civil War. The next day, we created Protect Historic America. Within a month, we had recruited 200 of the nation’s histori­ans and writers to serve on Protect Historic America’s national advisory board, including veteran journalists Bob Walters and Rudy Abramson, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Richard Moe, author David McCullough, and Civil War historian James McPherson. With the help of former Reagan campaign manager Peter Hannaford and attorney and history buff Harry McPherson, we introduced them and other board members at the National Press Club. The conference was attended by the nation’s major news outlets and networks. In a matter of days, the dispute about Disney’s proposed histo­ry theme park had become national news. The late C. Vann Woodward, dean of American historians and co-chairman of Protect Historic America, described the Piedmont’s essence: “This part of north­ern Virginia has soaked up more of the blood, sweat, and tears of American history than any other area of the country,” he wrote in The New Republic. “It has bred more of the Founding Fathers, inspired more soaring hopes and ideals, witnessed more triumphs and failures, victories and lost causes than any other place in the country.” Woodward, David McCullough, and the other historians feared that Disney’s sprawl would despoil the Hallowed Ground’s battlefields and destroy the open landscape and historic buildings from the Virginia of Thomas Jefferson’s time. Politicians from other states, newspaper columnists, editorial writers, and cartoonists joined the cause. In four months, the files of Protect Historic America accumulated 15,000 news arti­ cles, editorials, and cartoons, several of which portrayed a sad President Lincoln wearing a Mickey Mouse cap. Television cover­ age reached Europe and Japan, whose representing reporters were guided around the endangered battlefields by advisory board member W. Brown Morton III. Growing irritated by the mounting volume of crit­icism, Eisner lost his temper. In a series of incidents, he told CBS that Virginians “should be so lucky as to have Orlando in Virginia” and The Washington Post that he had expected “to be taken around on people’s shoulders.” He fol­lowed by deriding his historian critics: “I sat through many histo­ry classes where I read some of their stuff, and I didn’t learning anything. It was pretty boring.” Looking back, Eisner would lament how his imprudence had hurt his own cause. In late September, Disney announced it was pulling out of the Piedmont. In the new barrage of public criticism, Disney executives decided that even if they won approval for the theme park, it might become a Pyrrhic victory. Having suffered from the lampooning of its treasured trademark symbols, Disney decided not to risk the seri­ous, perhaps permanent, damage to the company’s reputation. In the Piedmont today, there is a new pride of place in the nation’s history. Fauquier resident Janet Whitehouse led the effort

that created the Mosby Heritage Area, an educational program to provide awareness of the cultural and his­toric resources of the northern part of the Piedmont. Local governments, led by Fauquier County, are commissioning studies of their counties’ history and adding more sites to the National Register of Historic Places. Protect Historic America executive director Rudy Abramson celebrated region’s history and preservation in Hallowed Ground: Preserving America’s Heritage. A new organization, Journey Through Hallowed Ground, is working to imprint the region’s historic iden­ tity along the route from Charlottesville to Gettysburg. “The most significant effect of the Disney fight,” said PEC President Chris Miller, “is that it told people that they could fight back—and win!”

ALMOST 25 YEARS AFTER THE “THIRD BATTLE OF MANASSAS” As this article from 2008 mentions, some of the best thinkers in conservation and historic preservation came together to fight Disney. And they won! “Beating Disney showed the entire nation that a grassroots movement is capable of taking on the Goliaths of the world,” says Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council. Since the colossal theme park never made it to Haymarket, Miller says he is asked about the largescale residential and commercial development that has occurred in the area. “I’m approached with a hard-hitting question: Do I believe that Northern Virginia and the Piedmont really won the fight? And I understand the frustration some feel as they drive past thousands of houses on either side of Route 15 and the Wal-Mart shopping center. But my answer is unequivocally, ‘Yes!’ ” The level of development in and around Haymarket today is consistent with what was planned and zoned for the area before Disney announced their plans, according to Miller. “Our concern was that Disney would attract even more sprawl in the surrounding region—as has occurred with their other parks. If Disney had come in, we wouldn’t just be dealing with the development in Haymarket, but a 20–50 mile radius of impact that would have swallowed up much of the Northern Piedmont,” says Miller. Post-Disney, there’s been increased engagement and empowerment of Prince William County residents who continue to battle to preserve the Rural Crescent, with assistance from groups such as Prince William Conservation Alliance, the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Paula Combs Piedmont Environmental Council

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Evergreen Meadows

Loudoun County’s population was relatively stable at about 20,000 for two centuries up to the early 1960s. Since then, its population has grown over tenfold mainly driven by Dulles International Airport, rapid growth of the Washington D.C. area and major road improvements. Many believe that Loudoun today offers a rich balance between a robust urban environment and a precious rural culture of benefit to all residents. But, with the population projected to nearly double once more by 2030 with an added 200,000 residents, can it be maintained? 70  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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Rural Culture

on the Edge PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM HANNA PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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L

oudoun County’s struggle to maintain its rich natural environment in the wake of the fastest urban development in the nation is illustrated in a photo essay by regional photographer Jim Hanna. This essay/exhibit—titled Rural Culture on the Edge—originally contained 23 images. Here and on the following pages are 11 selections. All the images, separately and together, create a palpable tension between stunning rural landscapes and the advancing wave of urban development. Hundreds of thousands of acres of open space and farmland have disappeared from Loudoun County’s landscape in the last decade despite the efforts of citizens and organizations to sustain their rural heritage, culture, and small-town environment through historic preservation and restoration, ecological stewardship, and nurturing of the vibrant rural economy. The good news is that still more acreage was not forever lost. In addition to this exhibit, Jim Hanna’s photographs have been recognized in a number of juried shows, including the Waterford Art Fair, the Four Seasons of Oatlands Art Show, and the Loudoun County Landmarks Exhibit. Photography is, and has always been his passion, and after retiring from The World Bank in 2005, he fulfilled a life-long dream by establishing Jim Hanna Photography, LLC. A resident of western Loudoun County, Jim’s recent focus, as this photo essay makes abundantly clear, is the appreciation of the area’s rural lifestyles and natural beauty as well as the efforts of the local community to maintain its existence. He plans to publish one day the ever-expanding photographic collection of Rural Culture on the Edge in book form. The struggle to strike a balance between urban development and rich rural culture always makes for a powerful theme. Jim’s images convey even more power because of his objective perspective, not clouded or

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The Transition Area

6 a.m. Monday Morning

narrowed by a particular point of view or angle of vision. Sometimes he’ll hire a pilot to get a truly objective, bird’s eye view— and shoot through open window of a Cessna helicopter. Hanna’s power derives from his keen eye for light and dramatic visual relationships. In self-deprecating fashion, Jim gives credit to his compelling subject matter: “You can turn any direction in Loudoun and get a good picture.” He recalls that his “first deliberate steps beyond snapshots, which I began taking about the time I was old enough to hold a camera, were in the 1970s in New York. I became engrossed with reflecting people in their working environment—surroundings that conveyed and enriched understanding about them. I went on to do more of this as I traveled and worked in Africa and the Middle East.” Jim’s father is the one who first intro-

duced him to photography. “I am the grateful recipient of his photo archives that chronicled our family life, and particularly his overseas photographic work. What I appreciate most about his photography was his ability to use one of the medium’s strongest features, capturing a split-second moment, and to make portraits that transmitted subtleties of a subject’s character and trust between them.” When asked to talk about his work, Jim’s words can seem almost as poetic as his images. “Photography often animates me, leads me to new discoveries, to a higher level of sensitivity to our environment, and puts me into a living-for-today appreciation mode. “In practice, my photography is driven by the moods of light and the motions of life. For I have found that, while on the surface life often seems repetitive, it seldom is.

The growth engine in Loudoun has often been invasive rather than supportive of County residents. Still, residents and leaders are gaining new control over the process, as in the case of power transmission. In the long struggle to raise the priority according protection of the environment and viewshed along the W & OD Trail, the state agreed in April 2008 to four pilot projects in Virginia to put high-voltage transmission lines underground, the first of which will be along a 2.5-mile segment between Leesburg and Purcellville.

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Hillsboro lies on Route 9, which is classified as a “scenic route” and a rural road, yet carries average daily traffic of about 17,000 vehicles within Loudoun and over the Blue Ridge Mountain. This scene is repeated daily, of course, across many parts of the County. In western areas, it is creating major disruptions to the rural culture and generating a variety of proposals to build new roads in the absence of solutions that reduce long-distance job commutes and increase public transport options. The County already rates much of Route 9 an “F” (consistent stop-andgo). …What’s next?

Originally published SUMMER 2009


Changes are constant and there seems to be no going back.” This notion of change is embodied, of course, through what’s happening in Loudoun County. “The development process constantly changes our physical and emotional environment, Jim says. “Photography is one of our tools that can ‘stop the music’ momentarily to help us see where we may be headed.” Most gratifying, says Jim, are viewers’ reactions to his photos, which he welcomes. “They put another layer of reaction and thought on top of what I saw, frequently finding interpretations more interesting to me than what I myself found! In my work on Loudoun, it has been a great way to begin to know the many facets of its ‘personality,’ and particularly to connect with and appreciate so many wonderful folks in its communities.”

Sage Hill Farm

There are tools protecting rural land. This farm was selected in Loudoun County’s Purchase of Development Rights Program in 2002. Established before the Civil War, this 125-acre farm has been part of the Rene and Sherry Dennis family since 1938. It is now in conservation easement.

Drilling for Water

Loudoun’s water quality is degraded in many areas and will require attention to redress ongoing threats from an array of sources such as eroding streams, loss of tree cover, and toxic chemical runoff. Loudoun’s projected population growth implies that the County’s water utilization will grow to 33 million gallons per day, putting further stress on watersheds and the environment.

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Catoctin Morning

Protected by fencing from livestock and related bacteria, this tributary of the Catoctin Creek watershed flows into the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia state reports show that the health and water quality of the Creek is impaired in many places from livestock, failed septic systems and wildlife, as well as from impervious surfaces as development continues.

The Lake at Wheatland Manor

The swan found in this place is the result of environmental and wildlife habitat restoration in front of Wheatland Manor. 74  PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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Right Top: Oakland Green B&B

Oakland Green is another successful example of building the rural economy to sustain heritage. Located in the Goose Creek Rural Historic District, the main log house was built in 1730s by Quaker farmer Richard Brown and restored in 1969; the stone house was built in 1740s; the brick house built in 1790. The farm remains in the Brown family after 10 generations and continues to raise Black Angus cattle. The B&B has operated for over 20 years under the management of Jean Brown, attracting visitors from across the country and overseas.

Right Center: Dahlias at Fields of Flowers

Innovation and new agro-business is an important ingredient to sustain the rural economy. Established in 1995 by Robbie and Dennis East, Fields of Flowers enables the public to select and cut their own flowers. Originally part of a large tract owned by Elijah James, the land served as a farm and later as a boarding house. The Easts have reshaped it again, utilizing the pre-Civil War barn as a garden and gift shop, selling dried flowers, wreaths, and fresh and dried floral arrangements for a wide clientele across the DC region.

Right Bottom: Tulip Poplar at Glenstone Farm

This is the largest tree in Loudoun County (29’ in circumference) and the third largest poplar in Virginia. Glenstone was founded in the late 1700s by the Turner family, which has tended mainly pure bred Angus cattle and horses over 500 acres on the slopes of Bull Run Mountain. The farm has been a sanctuary to this tulip poplar under the love and care of current owner Dr. Turner Reuter and five generations of his ancestors.

Following page: Willow Creek Farm

This barn, located in Broadlands adjacent to the Dulles Greenway, was photographed in August 2006. It was painfully obvious that it was destined to suffer the same destruction as so many other farm structures in Loudoun County. However, thanks to the investments of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group in a new restaurant on the property and in the restoration of this barn, it has new and sustainable life today as it is used as part of a working farm operated by Clyde’s to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for the restaurant. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |

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I

drew up my camera in flight on August 1, 2008, to capture an image of lush green fields and meandering creeks etched with beautiful tree lines. By the time I snapped the shutter at 100+ mph, I recorded a different view— sliced in half with row after row of houses appearing as if placed on a cookie sheet. From a unique perspective high above the ground, I felt I saw nature’s artistic designs posed against a parading army of houses. This marked a shift in my photographic focus in Loudoun County from a visual appreciation of its ecological and historical beauty to the harder “edge”— the process of the progressive dissolution of farms, habitat, and land in the west and their displacement with power lines, roads, and quick-hit developer housing. Or, fundamentally, the struggle to balance the positive strengths of the east bringing its high-tech, highly skilled economic growth—the highest rate in the U.S.—with the ageless and stunning ecology, heritage, and view sheds of the west. Today, nine years later, all of the trees below the road seen in the upper part of the photograph have been cut down and the terrain of fields re-graded by bulldozers into parcels readied for a new round of cookie-cutter homes produced by developers. This development is emboldened by an underlying strategy for Loudoun County framed in its recent “Envision” planning process, which emphasizes that in the substantial absence of land for new housing developments in the east, a revised policy is needed in the County’s transition and rural areas to enable higher residential density in the west. Without strong, enlightened, and vociferous efforts to maintain the beautiful balance between Loudoun’s eastern and western cultures, it seems that the “Edge”will keep moving westward. — Jim Hanna

2008

The ‘Edge’ Creeps Further

2017

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OUR FAVORITES | 2007-2017

Fauquier County’s Virginia Fiddler, George Everett (Skip) Ashby BY MARIA NICKLIN, PHOTOS BY BENJAMIN C TANKERSLEY

W

hat is your instrument of choice and what attracted

you to it? I play the fiddle. My dad, John Chilton Ashby, was a great long-bow fiddle player for many years. He started the dance band, the Free State Ramblers, in 1937. I started out playing guitar and bass. We got to the point where we had to have another fiddle player when dad died so that’s the reason I started fiddle; I loved it, too. The fiddle is not an easy instrument to play, there’s just no frets, there’s no place to start really. You just have to kind of find your way around. I never had any lessons, so it was a trial-anderror thing for me for many years. I listened to Dad’s recordings, and of course, I listened to him most of my life so I knew most of the tunes I wanted to play; I knew how they went. Tell us about one of your favorite songs and why you like it. “Blue-Eyed Girl” I like as well as any. There are numerous tunes, dozens, it’s hard to really know. There’s another one my dad played a lot–he wrote it–called “Ashby’s Breakdown.” I don’t know if I have a favorite tune. I like the tunes that you can square dance to and those for the Paul Jones

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Originally published AUTUMN 2012


dances, contra dances. Paul Jones dances are big round circle dances.

own thing going on. All the guys who used to come came around, they all influenced you, and you had a great time being with them playing music. The only person that I’ve tried to pattern, what little bit I can do, is my dad’s fiddling style. There was R.B. Frazier–I learned a lot of his music from Dad, and Pete McMahan, a Missouri fiddler. August Smith was another one though he wasn’t from around here. There were a lot of them at one time; guess I don’t travel in the right circles now.

How did you get into playing music? I grew up with music, my dad and all my uncles played too. We had mini sessions right in this room [the living room of his house]; after my grandmother died, we played in here for years. . . . Lots of music has been played in this old house. What is the musical community like to you? It has been great, it really has. I have met lots and lots of people over the years. We [Free State Ramblers] played for the folk festivals in D. C., at the Library of Congress, and the Fourth of July dances at the Smithsonian. We played for Senator Byrd, a good fiddler, who played for us some of the time, too. This community has been a real great part of my life. What do you think is the relationship between Virginian folk musicians and the area that they come from, such as the Piedmont? Do you think it influences their musical style and preferences? We’re losing a lot of the traditional sounds of the region because of the internet and exposure to so much music. What we grew up Whether relaxing on the porch (left), enjoying a quiet stroll down the lane, or hanging out in the kitchen (at right), Skip Ashby’s fiddle is a constant companion.

with, more traditional longbow fiddling, is becoming a lost thing. A while ago if someone was from Southwest Virginia or from Missouri, you knew where he was from by the way he played. This is all being lost. At a contest in Clarkesville, Tennessee, there were eight or 10 young fiddle players, really top notch fiddlers. When they went out there on stage to play, you could hardly tell one from the other. When they were outside practicing, one would correct the other [by saying], “No you need to put this in there,” or, “You need to do it like this.” With the older players, they’d hear a tune on the radio, and try to do it as close as they could remember; it may not be exact or have all the notes. It’s just a difference in the way we communicate.

What can save these musical styles? I don’t know what the answer is. A victim of the times you know. Once something like that is gone, its hard to revive it. As far as a person developing his own style, I don’t see much of that happening any more; there’s too much exposure to everything–to all different types music and fiddle playing. What musicians do you think have had the most impact on you and your devotion to music? First of all, my dad, needless to say. After him, there was a wealth of different musicians I grew up around. There was a guy down on the water that played banjo I liked a lot, Hugh O’Bier. He had a different style and his

What makes a piece of music distinctly folk, or Americana, or Appalachian? I think primarily the musician or the person listening to music will categorize it the way he perceives it. I don’t think that any of the old traditional music comes under “folk” music. But, it depends on the person. You can take any one of the old tunes and put it into any format you want– they all come from the Irish and Scottish tunes. I play old time Virginia traditional fiddling oriented towards dances—contra, square, Paul Jones—pretty much dance music. Do you have any of your music recorded? No, but my dad had three recordings, all done with County Records: “John Ashby—Old Virginia Fiddling”; “Down On Ashby’s Farm”; and “Fiddling by the Hearth”; the picture for that one was taken right here in this living room.

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Piedmont Virginian November/December 2017  
Piedmont Virginian November/December 2017